by Jeff Harris
There are plenty of things I wish I had known when I started out. Here are the Top Four I share with you, the new Church Planter.
Like an episode of LOST you can’t get off the Island. You’re not supposed to! It’s lonely at the top and, in spite of our current emphasis on intimacy, leadership is lonely. Biblical leadership is especially lonely. Just ask Abraham, Joseph, Jonah, David, Jesus (can anyone say Gethsemane) Paul or John, exiled on the island of Patmos. False expectations create painful disappointment. We need to learn to expect seasons of loneliness and feelings of isolation. Embrace these times without despair. Realize you are never truly alone… you are invited to greater intimacy.
Every day with Jesus can be harder than the day before! The faith journey is about trials, perseverance and endurance. We all have Seasons but we also are on an ascending journey. This ascending journey hardens and strengthens us. As you get closer to the tree line, as oxygen is depleted, as the grade steepens, you become ready. You can’t please God apart from Faith.
Your journey may be like that of Abraham – reckoned as Righteousness (Genesis 15), then circumcised (Genesis 17) then asked to sacrifice your only son (Genesis 22). As we learn in II Timothy, we’ve got to keep going; we’ve got to fight the good fight! Again, we must guard ourselves from the expectation of “easy”. This expectation is the enemy’s play-ground. Cling to 2 Samuel 11:1 “In the Spring when Kings go out to war…but David stayed in Jerusalem”. If you’re not being stretched you will soon be sifted.
Jesus’ bride is The Church. Not Yours. A wife, four kids and a thriving ministry is a recipe for trouble. As two of my kids have enter their teenage years, there is less and less margin and more and more gravitational pull toward the poles. My wife’s pull is the welfare and management of House and providing an ongoing shuttle service. My pull is the leading and advancing a large team with a complex mission. Holding these in balance grows increasingly harder over time.
You begin to see how people build separate lives, you begin to see how you could be ready for your kids to launch out on their own. More than ever, you must fight for family unity, relationship intimacy and teamwork over all else. Learning more about your wife, loving her and fighting the drift toward busy-ness that divides is the first step in fulfilling your calling. If you fail her then you run the risk of disqualification. Even with a thriving ministry, get back to the basics of love.
Success means Succession. When Jesus left, the movement thrived. When Paul died, he had planted numerous churches and raised up the next generation of leaders. Today’s churches don’t outlive strong leadership because investment is not made, the young are not empowered with significant responsibility so they don’t grow at the speed of the organization and transitions don’t occur early enough. Drew Bledsoe thought he had more game left when Tom Brady took over. Don’t let that be your story. Identify your replacement. Give your ministry life, long after yours is done.
Keep these four tips in mind as you embark on your church planting journey.