Pastoring a church when it is no longer a plant: Momentum

By Tanner Turley

My father was one of the greatest high school basketball coaches in Kentucky history. After watching the majority of his 600+ wins and planting a church in Boston, I’ve learned the value of momentum. One dunk, one deep three-pointer, one open door in your community, one soul saved can make all the difference in gaining or losing momentum. Momentum can be the difference between a plant thriving or dying, between tears of joy and tears of pain. That is as true today as it was seven years ago when we started.

Why momentum goes MIA

As important as it is, momentum can be exceedingly elusive. Ask a church why momentum walked out their doors, and you will get dozens of responses, but let me try to sum up three areas to watch with all vigilance.

(1) You. It hurts. I know. I’ve been there. God works around us and in spite of us, but it is all the better when He overflows through us. If God is not stirring your soul daily, expect to be part of the reason the momentum of the Spirit is stifled in your church.

(2) Church dynamics. Every church experiences seasons. Some are like a Boston summer — hope-filled and bright. Others are dark, cold, and long, like a Boston winter. Some of your best missionaries, servants, leaders, and givers (let’s keep it real) will transition. Venues will change. Resources will get depleted. What once was a great strategy, unexplainably will lose its impact. Circumstantial factors are sure to contribute to a lack of momentum, but there is one more.

(3) The enemy. Satan hates you and lies to you all day long. His twisted schemes stand ready to oppose the work of God at every turn. He wants to discourage us, and he wants to take more than our momentum. He wants to take us out of the ministry altogether! That’s why we must move forward in the armor and power of God (Eph. 6:10-20).

Igniting momentum

Momentum ultimately comes from the hand of God. We might be able to gather a crowd, but we cannot manufacture a genuine work of God. That said, there are ingredients we can cultivate consistently to see momentum increase in our churches. Here are four:

(1) Pray for it. We say, “Prayer drives mission,” but we don’t pray like it. It’s easier to adjust strategy, try a new outreach method, or (let’s be honest) copy other churches, than it is to pray. Let me ask you this: When people think about you and your church, what makes the Top 5? You may need to hear what God whispered to my soul last summer: “You are a man who prays and values prayer, but you are not a praying man, and you lead a church that reflects you.” That’s the brutal facts. Thank God, His kindness leads us to repentance. Today, we’re seeing doors open, lives change, and the favor of God’s provision through the power of prayer. Prayer, unlike any other weapon, blows wind into momentum’s flame and, more importantly, changes us in the process! (Luke 11:13)

(2) Expect it. Church planters are some of the most faith-filled people on the planet, but we all get hit in the nose from time to time. We need the Spirit to ignite expectations that move us to look for God’s favor with new eyes, seize new opportunities, and move forward with contagious faith.

(3) Lead with vision. Every stage of growth demands a different level of leadership. You remember all that vision you casted to raise funds and convince people to join your team? You need it as much today as you did yesterday! What is God calling you to in this season? What is the one thing you have to see him do this year? How clearly are you communicating and how zealously are you going after God’s vision for your church?

(4) Look for excuses to start fires. Think Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). Every Sunday provides opportunities to ignite momentum. Every ministry highlight, every volunteer push, every song, every sermon, every prayer, every baptism! Every new ministry effort can mobilize more people. Every new leader can breathe new life into those they lead. Every time you celebrate wins, great and small, you hold the potential, in the hands of God, to elevate the momentum in your church.

Momentum matters. Let’s pray for it, expect it, and work to cultivate it for the sake of the people we lead and the cities we are working to reach!

Published February 26, 2018

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Tanner Turley

Tanner and his wife, Marsha, have three girls, Parker, Kesed, & Jordyn. When he is not spending time being outnumbered at home, he enjoys hanging with friends and a good book with a good cup of coffee. Tanner played basketball in college, and is an avid fan of all of our Titletown teams. His greatest desire is to help connect the people of Greater Boston to God’s design for their lives. Tanner holds the M.Div. and Ph.D. in Applied Theology. At Redemption Hill, Tanner takes the primary lead in preaching, vision, and multiplying leaders.