“I am more ready than ever to plant a church” -Me (three years ago)
I thought I was ready, but really I was just arrogant. I think more than anything I was interested in planting a church out of selfish desire. Now in the middle of church planting I have a much different perspective. I praise God for the obstacles and opportunities He placed in front of me that forced me to wait.
I honestly feel like planting Ascent now is the will of God. I am not an expert on the timing of God by any means. I can’t tell you if church planting is for you right now or if you should wait. What I can do -and will attempt to do in this post- is share my own journey from a selfish motivation to a sacrificial willingness. In the remainder of this post I will outline four bad reasons to plant a church.
Reason #1: Your church doesn’t do it right.
I am afraid this is a motivating factor for many youth pastors turned church planters. When I was the leader of a youth ministry in an established church I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the senior pastor wouldn’t listen to me. My youth ministry was growing and it was clear I knew what I was doing. I 100% believed that I could turn around our church in no time. If he would just listen to me we’d be growing in no time.
I was just an arrogant punk.
I left the church, because I wanted so badly to do things the "right" way. I didn’t just leave because of that. God made it clear on various fronts that it was time for me to move on, but if I am being honest this motivation was looming large in my soul at the time of my departure.
One of the greatest things God has allowed in my journey up to this point was the opportunity to be a senior pastor in a traditional church. I took the job and thought it would be a shortcut to success. It broke me. I didn’t understand the various pressures that senior pastors face in established churches.
Youth pastor, you don’t know as much as you think. Your senior pastor is caring for the souls of people and attempting to manage the tension between healthy change and outrage. Your church plant ideas may be awesome, but one day you are going to have to care for people and patiently lead them through change. If you are planting a church because you think you know the "right way", you will not last long in ministry.
Reason #2: You need to prove yourself.
I felt like I needed people to know that I belonged. I was passionate about my calling and felt so confident that ministry was what God wanted for my life. The problem was I didn't have a seminary degree or even an undergraduate degree for that matter. I felt like I was not taken seriously by my peers in ministry. I desperately wanted to prove to them and everyone else that I belonged. This motivation led to me working really hard and becoming quite good in certain practical areas like communicating, but there isn’t a level in which you finally feel confirmed. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t seem to find the acceptance I was looking for.
Church planting to prove yourself is so dangerous. We are six months out from weekly gatherings as I write this post and no one is calling to affirm me today. There is a lot of work and sometimes I think people assume I am doing nothing. If I were still trying to prove myself to others, I’d quit. You must be able find your worth in Jesus alone to plant a church. There will be times when everyone doubts you and in those moments all you have is your call from God and your justification in Jesus.
I write this post as a confession, not as advice. If I am honest there are still times that I want people to believe in me. I walk into a room and know that people don’t think I am capable because of my age (yes I am young, thank you) or my lack of formal education. When I walk into an environment like that something wells up in me that wants to prove them all wrong. In those times I have to remind myself that my reputation is not why I do this. I'm not church planting to prove myself, Jesus has died in part so that I could die to my need for self justification.
Reason #3: The mission needs you.
I really thought that by waiting a year I was going to set back the work of God. I know you wouldn’t ever admit this. I never did. But, I bet deep down you think you are about to change your city in a huge way and the sooner you start the better. You think the city needs you.
I don’t think this is all bad. I believe you should have faith that God is going to do big things through your church. I also believe that you need to believe in yourself, because at times the only people that believe in you will be you and Jesus (sometimes just Jesus ha).
But there is a problem if you think the mission of God is dependent upon you. For starters, God did just fine before you and He’ll be just as fine 1,000 years after you are buried. Calm down and try on humility. Besides that, if you believe the mission relies on your church it will crush you when things aren’t growing and changing like you dreamed.
You’d be far better taking on an attitude of gratefulness. “I can’t believe I get to be a part of His mission” is a much different tone than “I can’t believe the mission will be accomplished without me.”
Reason #4: You want to be the authority.
Everyone wants to be in a position of power. This is the very reason many people reject Jesus as messiah. They love the idea of Jesus as savior. The problem is that Jesus is also King and as His disciples we submit to Him. This is a conflict we must all manage as Christ followers. I used to think that being the lead pastor would be so much easier, because I would have authority. What I didn’t realize was that authority also comes with responsibility. When something doesn’t work you can only blame yourself.
Besides that, total authority is a myth. You will always have someone to answer to. We are starting a brand new church and I can’t do whatever I want without consequences. If I disregard the people God sent me and do what I want they will eventually leave. You are only a leader with authority if you have people willing to follow you. If you rule with an iron fist or shut out the opinions of those around you, soon you will have no one around you at all.
If you are church planting because you crave authority you are going to be sorely disappointed. Authority is everywhere and believe it or not, it is a gift from God. On our own we don’t fair so hot (see Genesis 3) we need people to keep us in check and in submission to the only One worthy of total authority.
Remember who this is for
If you are considering starting a new church I pray that my journey would be helpful to your call. These are hard heart issues we often try to avoid, but to be successful you need to honestly wrestle with these. I believe that God will bless you if you do! It is an amazing privilege to be a part of God’s story. We sometimes forget that this is His plan and begin to focus on ourselves to much. My hope is that we would take our eyes off of ourselves and focus on Him.