The Emotionally healthy planter: Fear and 3 ways to combat it

By Claude Atcho

Church planting is, in part, fueled by faith—expressed in prayer, godly risk-taking and faithful labor. And because church planting is fueled by faith, nothing undercuts the work quite like faith’s nemesis, fear. To participate in church planting is to go head-to-head in a continual showdown against fear.

Fear is with you every step of the way in church planting. Fear doesn’t fade once you reach that milestone or the one after it. In fact, the more milestones you hit in church planting, the most insidious fear can become. Unless you know how to fight. And the fight starts at the root.

Getting to the root of fear

The fear often an occupational hazard in church planting is because church planting is about stepping out in faith—you have no idea who will show up or if they’ll stay or if you’re a good of leader to push the mission forward. Church planting strips away all our warm blankets of security—knowing we are already have committed members, steady giving, disciples making disciples—and forces you to trust in none of those things but to place our faith in Jesus’ power to produce them in place where those things do not yet exist and among a people that you may not yet even know. So fear will rear it’s ugly head at any opportunity. In this way, church planting pulls back the veil on the subconscious fear and lack of faith we had even before we engaged in the work of planting.

So how do we attack the root of fear so we can be emotionally heathy planters?

1. Name your fear.

We attack the root of fear by bringing it to light in trusted community. We do this by naming our fear. Is it fear of man? Is it fear of failure? Is it fear of conflict? Know the particular type of fear that plague us most and naming it is major step toward growth and change. Name your fear. Share it with your spouse, if married, and your close and trusted peers.

2. Know your triggers.

In addition to naming your fear, we must known our triggers. When does your temptation and struggle toward fear arise most powerfully? For many, it’s Monday morning. For others, its the end of the week when that nagging feeling comes and we stare at tasks undone and think all our work and effort is falling woefully short. Knowing your triggers helps you with the next step—doing battle with fear through God’s promises.

3. Trust specific promises from Scripture.

Common sense tells us that fighting an unknown enemy is fool’s errand. But if we known our opponent—know they fight and when they strike—we stand a chance to win. Knowing the type of fear we battle and the particular times or situations that plague us most acutely allows us as planters to fight fear by trusting specific promises.

  • When you are heading into a difficult pastoral meeting, and you fear what people will say when you are about to speak truth in love, read aloud, rehearse and remember Psalm 118:6: “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.”
  • When you fear all your labor is a waste because of comments of criticism or key people leave the church read aloud, rehearse and remember Isaiah 55:11: “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
  • When you are fearful about decisions to make as a leader, read aloud, rehearse and remember Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
  • What fears are most pressing in your life right now?
  • Which of these promises of God do you need to cling to right now?
  • How might your fears change as you reflect that Jesus is with you and for you?

For reflection

Grabbing hold of these promises and turning them to petitions before God is central to fighting fear. Fear is with us every step of the way in the planting journey but Jesus is, too. He is stronger, able, and faithful. Know your fears and trust in his promises.

Published October 24, 2017

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Claude Atcho

Claude is the lead pastor of Redeemer Church. He's married to Kelsey and they have two sons. Claude worked at a college English instructor before feeling a call to pastoral ministry. Prior to planting Redeemer Church, Claude served as a church planting resident, elder and college minister in Bellingham, Washington. Claude is an avid basketball fan, reader and board game enthusiast, though He struggles to top Kelsey in Setters of Catan (and pretty much every other board game).