From the Resurgence blog. Great thoughts and reflections on what is really important.
Reflections on Seven Years of Church Planting
Seven and a half years ago, ten of us gathered in my parents’ living room to plant Praxis Church.Now, Praxis Church has become Redemption Church and exists as 5,000 people in four congregations spread across the Phoenix metro area. A few months ago, my wife and I, along with our elders, decided it was time for me to move into the heart of San Francisco, California to do it all over again.
This moment provided an opportunity to look back and reflect on lessons learned and mistakes made. The following are five observations on church and church planting.
1. Make a specific plan for discipleship—and call it discipleship.In Matthew 28, Jesus’ final command was to “go and make disciples.” This was a direct statement of purpose for the church, but in many of our churches, there isn’t a clear definition of a disciple, let alone a plan for discipleship. Praxis was no different. We knew exactly how we wanted to run our worship services and live on mission but had no plan for discipleship.
Most of our churches are doing discipleship, if only accidentally, but few of us call it that. So, instead of spending all your time on promotional flyers, try to craft a simple plan to make disciples of Jesus. Also, stop wracking your brain trying to think of a unique Greek or Hebrew word for it—just call it discipleship.
2. Be honest with yourself about who you are.Church planters often go through phases of mimicking their favorite preachers and pastors. Unfortunately, the guys that get all the attention are the fast-growing, super-talented guys who are the exception to the rule. Most of us, however, are the rule.
“ Develop a clear understanding of who you are and what your gifts are.Furthermore, develop a realistic and honest plan for the growth engine of your church that is in line with your gifts. This will free you up to run hard in the right direction and have realistic expectations for the future of your church.
3. Talk to people personally before you say anything negative about them.Thanks to the Internet, it has become commonplace for Christians to publicly criticize pastors and ministries that they have no connection to. Very little good can come of this, and we come off petty and self-righteous. This only further deepens the spirit of mistrust that pervades our culture.
Your church is not the one answer to all your city’s problems; God uses lots of ministries, and you can learn from their expertise. With enough patience and determination, you can get in touch with anyone. You will find that you have far too much in common with those other churches to risk tearing them down.
4. Act your size.I’ve met two types of church leaders: pastors who want big churches and those who want small ones. Each is convinced that their size is the most God-glorifying and kingdom-building. The truth is that the kingdom needs all kinds of churches and that the pastors who want to be big have to start small and those who want to be small sometimes turn out to be big.
“ The key is to leverage the strengths of what you are and be honest about your weaknesses.Small churches come with small budgets and lack of programs; they have difficulty pulling off quality worship gatherings and are full of those awkward small church moments. But small churches can often do community, pastoral care, and relationships better. They can change faster, communicate verbally, and tend to have a smaller backdoor.
So whether you are large or small, maximize the strengths of your size and mitigate your weaknesses, but don’t pretend to be something you are not.
5. I’ve seen the “promised land” —and it’s just OK.For the last couple years, I have been living the dream. Our church has seen explosive growth, people be saved, baptized, and join groups all the time. We have four campuses, thousands of people, and a great staff. Finally, all the toil of church planting has paid off and the prospect of megachurch stardom was a reality.
Most of us want some version of this in ministry. I finally reached the promised land, and I can report that it’s just OK. Don’t get me wrong: there were parts that I loved, but at the end of the day there is always more to do, always another idea, hill to climb or battle to fight—it never ends.
After several months of reflection, I can honestly say that I will miss the people whom I have grown to love over the last seven years far more than I will miss big budgets, assistants, buildings, speaking gigs, or any of the perks that come with megachurch life.
I encourage you to make goals and strive for them but keep in mind that it’s your relationship with Jesus, your family, and the people you minister to who really matter.