In 2017, I’m going to stop allowing those who know our church the least to define me the most. In church planting, there are going to be those who are your biggest cheerleaders and supporters, but sadly, there will be those from the outside who truly cannot stand the thought of a new church in town that is going to be successful. Unfortunately, it is not the lost or secular world that is going to have those feelings toward you, but rather, pastors of other churches in your city. If your church never grows and just becomes a holy huddle of people who have never met a lost person, nobody will care or say a word. If it takes off and makes a dent in the lostness of your city, you better get some thick skin because the critiques and accusations will start coming full speed. You will hear things like:
- It isn’t deep enough.
- It isn’t multigenerational.
- Real churches don’t meet in high schools or YMCA buildings.
- It is just a big show.
- Have you heard that they do ____?
If you are a church planter, you’ve probably heard similar claims to these at least once since you’ve launched. I tend to dwell on comments from the outside rather than celebrate the great things taking place for the gospel in our church. It is also easy for me to overlook the tremendous support we’ve had from the majority of churches in our area. Usually, those are churches who know what we are about, love the Great Commission and are locked into doing ministry themselves. I want to be protective of our church convictions, vision, staff, members and values, but that doesn’t mean I have to dwell on assumptions made by people who have never had a conversation with me or walked in the door our of church. There are a few principles I’m trying to practice and truths I have committed to reminding myself of daily as I try to grow in this area.
1. If your church wasn’t growing or gaining momentum, no one would care.
That shouldn’t be taken arrogantly, and it’s not even something you should say out loud; it is just reality.
It kind of drives me crazy when people say, “Jesus was misunderstood too,” because well, you aren’t Jesus, and you are a first-world church planter reading this from a coffee shop on your slick device. There is something important to remember though, and that is His love for the lost caused an upheaval from the religious.
“All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”” Luke 15:1-2 (HCSB)
They didn’t get it, and many still do not. Keep following Jesus into the world. This does not mean that your critics are “Pharisees,” it just helps you understand that being white hot on fire for the lost has never been that popular.
2. Give grace.
It is easy for pastors to find identity in the size of the crowd or in receiving recognition from others about the awesomeness of the church. When church planters strategically launch well, it creates a splash. When that happens, it can make pastors fear that people will leave their church for the new church plant. It is a sad indictment on what many think about the kingdom, but we must remember we are just as prone to have our personal kingdom concerns too. I have to remind myself of this and my own need for grace often.
Shortly after planting City Church, I had a pastor tell me he was “insulted” we started a church and found church planting “offensive.” Dumbfounded, I asked why and he answered that it made him feel like it was silently stating that the other churches weren’t doing a good job. No wonder he was such a critic of our church. Insecurities run deep, and we are all prone to them.
3. Examine yourself.
Why do I care? I still don’t have a great answer other than the one I already know: I am not finding my worth, security and validation in Christ. The answers we already know are more times than not the ones we must return to over and over again. As you examine yourself, you’ll quickly find how your reaction to comments from others is more of a “you” thing than it is about “them.” That’s never fun, but it allows you to grow and lock in to the responsibilities before you.
4. Toughen up.
This is underrated. If you can be bold in the pulpit and speak the truth of the gospel in a hostile world, you can handle someone saying you aren’t deep enough, being mad you’re a Calvinist, not a Calvinist or kind of a Calvinist. Pastoral ministry is for people who don’t get blown around by the critical winds. If you are ultra sensitive, it will be difficult to ever be satisfied or take joy in the great things you are seeing the Lord do in your church plant.
As a church planter, you have a committed wife and kids, friends who are behind you, churches supporting you and sold-out believers who have joined you in this mission. Why would you let people who have never even had a conversation with you, affect you the most? I am over that and telling it peace out in this New Year.
Published January 5, 2017