It’s Halloween. If my youngest son has his way, he’ll scare me by the end of the day. When we go Trick or Treating tonight he will burst from behind a bush and say boo! Or he’ll try and sneak up on me and I will catch him before he does.
The fact is fear exists in the hearts of church planters as well. Over the past few months I’ve had conversations with many planters. Here’s some of the things they’ve told me they fear:
- I lack funding.
- People gather but they don’t scatter.
- I will lose my focus on helping people find their way to God.
- I am overwhelmed by all of the details and things to do.
- What if my leaders don’t lead?
- What if my family falls apart?
- Giving won’t be enough.
- People won’t connect in small groups.
- Our church won’t matter to the community.
- What if my staff gives me trouble?
- Our location isn’t great (or I don’t have a location).
- I really don’t know what I am doing and someone is going to find out.
- What if our leaders don’t reproduce?
- I am not on mission. I am just creating another attractional church.
- etc., etc., etc.
What about you? What do you fear? What is that thing in the pit of your gut that is scaring you this morning about church planting? The fact is fear paralyzes us. Fear is not from God. So this one is for you:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6).
May I encourage you to pray through one fear today. I know that may sound trite. But it’s not. Being afraid is human. And drawing closer to God will give you peace and dispel the fear.
Vision is the ability to see the world around you differently. Some church planters struggle to understand their vision. Here are some questions that might help:
- Where is God already at work in your community?
- What is the already/not yet around you?
- Who are the persons of peace in the community and how are you going to connect with them?
- What do you need to pray about for your community?
- How will your community be different because of your church.
- Who can you partner with?
- What is God calling you to be about?
- Who are the people God is calling you to serve?
- Who are the marginalized in your community? How are you uniquely qualified to build relationships with them?
- What does a ‘win’ look like?
- What are you trying to accomplish and how will you accomplish it?
- What are you uniquely called to do to impact your context?
Of course there are many other questions you might ask. Maybe I’ll get to more later. For now, happy visioning.
I had two conversations at the launch One Life that stood out to me.
I talked to a launch team volunteer serving in hospitality. She’d been with a church for a long time before joining the launch team. She felt the church plant was giving her new energy and focus for the Jesus mission. Meeting in a high school would help people in her community know Jesus. She was excited that One Life served the community. She was excited that One Life was on mission to reach her friends and neighbors. And she was really excited she had a role to play in all of it.
I talked to a young man who hadn’t been to church in a long time. He had several little boys in to as we talked. He had heard about One Life and was attending the launch because he wanted to be involved in something. He talked about needing something in his life to help him and his family connect with people in their community. He felt he’d found what he was looking for at One Life.
My conversations at One Life reminded me that people need a mission and they seek relationships. A church plant provides both of these.
What are you doing in your church plant to help people get on mission and build relationships? I’d love to know.
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know (Job 42:2-3).
You’re church planting but you’re in the way. You’re thwarting something that needs to happen. You’re bottle-necking something that needs to be freed-up. God is at work. People are growing. The Holy Spirit is throwing down. But you’re ego is getting in the way. And things are stuck.
Your task today is to identify whatever it is your blocking and get out of the way.
Church planters are eager to control (be honest) and when forced, can fall into manipulating outcomes. Never forget Jesus is the head of your church. Not you. When we get in the way we slow down the expansion of the Kingdom.
So step aside. Repent and let God do his thing.
God has called you to plant this new church. If it’s his will then it’s gonna happen. Don’t fall trap into believing it’s all up to you. I want you to have a healthy respect for stuff of church planting. But it’s not dependent on you. So get out of the way already!
If you’re willing to confess here, I’d love to know how you’re getting in the way.
What are you doing to intentionally connect with people who visit your church? What are you offering them so they can learn about your community and how they can partner with you? So many planters miss this opportunity to connect with visitors because they haven’t thought through these questions. And missed connections with visitors means they won’t stay very long.
One way we try to connect people at Restore is Newcomer’s Gathering. It happens every third Sunday of the month and we pull out all of the stops.
Here’s what we’re trying to do during this meeting:
- Offer your Newcomers food. Don’t be cheap or lazy. Serve some freshly baked pastries and good coffee.
- Tell your story. Tell them the story of the plant and what God’s doing in and around your community.
- Listen for stories. When people show up to your church you must understand you’re inviting them to join your community. You’ve got be intentional about getting to know them and the best way to do that is listen to their stories.
- Introduce key leaders. New people want to know who is in charge and they want to meet people in charge. We expect all of our staff ministry leaders to stop by the meeting so new comers can get to know them.
- Answer the question every new person is asking: What’s in this for me? It’s OK. You would ask the same question. So answer it for them. We tell people that they will meet other people and get on mission with them. (This answers the larger question of ‘purpose’ but that’s for another post.)
- Help them understand the vision and mission of your church. New people want to know what it’s all about and what you’re trying to accomplish.
- Connect your newcomers with each other. Newcomers are looking for relationships. Get people talking to each other.
None of this guarantees your visitors will connect. But you must have something. (And I would urge you to create something that is both intentional and relational.)
So what about you? What are you doing (or going to do) to connect with visitors? I’d love to hear about it.