Things That Make Church Planting Hard

plant-growing-through-crack-in-concrete2[The following is a blog by church planter Samuel Scalf. I borrowed it because I liked what he had to say so much. I did omit a couple of his points that don’t really apply to my situation. We don’t have snowmobiles in Gaffney. But, I think most people, including the planter, often look at mega-churches like Mars Hill or Saddleback or NewSpring or Elevation and think those churches just happened. No, they didn’t just happen. They all started somewhere, first with a vision in the heart of the planter, then in the hearts of a small core group, then things began to take hold and grow. The point is, churches don’t just happen overnight or easily. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears stain the foundation of any church plant that survives the long haul. It’s turning out to be very hard work. I’ve never thought of myself as a perfect kind of guy, but church planting has definitely exposed my imperfections… and magnified them! However, I wouldn’t trade what God’s called me to do for anything.]

The realization that it’s not really about you. Everyday. The mail comes around 11:30 in the morning. If you go to the mailbox and there aren’t any support checks there; It’s easy to begin to feel like people have forgotten YOU. When a pastor doesn’t return YOUR phone call it can ruin YOUR week. God doesn’t answer YOUR prayers right now. Let’s be honest, we have all have allowed these thoughts take over our thinking and ruin our day or week.

Realizing that all of the people you KNEW were going to support you… never do. When we set out to plant a church, we all have a top-ten list of people we just know will join your team or support you financially. They almost NEVER do. I don’t know why it works that way. The good news is that God brings amazing people into your life; new people that become a deep part of your life. People that give generously, and work hard.

There is NEVER enough money. This almost goes without saying. EVERYTHING costs money. PO box rentals, website hosting, office space, business cards, cookies for team meetings, sound equipment, and incorporation documents. I don’t think there is a way around it, planting a church is expensive. Say goodbye to your dream of wearing a brand new pair of socks everyday.

In the middle of hard decisions God’s timing always seems off. Way off. Let’s all be honest here. We know what’s best for the church we are planting. We know exactly when everything should happen. The only real question is, how can we get God on the same page? Right? I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed, “God, ok, GO! We need things to move right NOW!” But, I also look back at all the times I thought God should move right now and realize He was protecting me or preparing me or putting all the pieces together.

You cannot MAKE anyone join your team. There are people that you are absolutely sure would be a great addition to your team. Amazing people. Gifted and talented people. People you get along great with. People that aren’t currently committed anywhere else. None of that matters. You cannot force them to join up. If you try, you will destroy your friendship. If you do succeed in twisting someone’s arm into joining your team, you will almost certainly regret it.

There is NEVER enough money. This is still true. Even when you are fully supported, money will at some point or another become the cause of some roadblock.

The people most eager to join don’t really get what you’re doing. The people that do are busy doing it… in Idaho or Texas! Occasionally, you will run across someone that is super excited to be a part of your team. It won’t be long until you realize they really don’t know what’s going on. They constantly are trying to steer you somewhere else. When you talk, they nod like they understand, but then they go and do the exact opposite. Yet, there are other times you will talk to someone who totally gets it. They understand all the nuances of the culture God has called you to. If they were to join your team, you KNOW you could win your city for Jesus. The only problem, they are planting a church somewhere else!

Everyone wants to help you build something… With wood and sheet metal siding… And nail guns… It never fails, when you share our vision at a church after service, someone will come and offer their construction skills to help you build the church. In their mind, step one for starting a church is dig the foundation. This serves to illustrate the constant tension between the understanding of church as a building and church as a community of believers.

The constant tension between pride and self-doubt. I don’t know about you, but I go back and forth between overconfidence in my own abilities and at times crippling self-doubt. One moment I am sure I can make this happen and the next moment, I really don’t know why God chose me for this task. The days where I live, knowing it’s Jesus that builds His church and my job is to be diligent at the task He has given me are the days that are most productive.

Other church planters have messed things up before you. Let’s face it, one reason church planting is hard is because of things that have happened in the past. Everyone remembers a time when it didn’t work. Everyone remembers mistakes made by someone that has gone before you. Congratulations! You now get to prove that isn’t you. Yes, it’s unfortunate and unfair, but it’s the life of a church planter.

Everyone knows Paul was a tent maker. You have sat down to share your vision with another pastor or some one from your home church or your best friend from Bible College. They get excited about the vision. They seem on board.  You ask if they would consider supporting you on a monthly basis. They proceed to put their hand on your shoulder, look you in the eye and say those dreaded words. “Paul was a tent maker, you should consider looking for a job.”

Samuel Scalf is the Lead Pastor at Boulder County Community Church, a church he is planting in Boulder County, Colorado.

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