I recently met with a young seminary student hoping to plant a church and he asked me what I thought the biggest challenges in church planting had been. I rattled off a few things that came to mind, but after giving it more thought I landed on the five most difficult challenges I've faced over these past three years.
"Where will the money come from?" "Will anyone show up?" "Is this even going to work?" These are a few of the fear-fueled questions that regularly fill my heart and mind. Though God always proves Himself faithful, I continue to doubt Him and struggle to trust Him.
Like most pastors, I want people to like me. I want people to love my preaching. I want to know that I'm making a difference in people's lives. I struggle with criticism and regularly wonder if who I am and what I'm doing is enough.
On a weekly, sometimes daily basis I face situations I'm uncertain how to handle. I've been uncertain about policies. I've been uncertain about leadership decisions. I've been uncertain about how to best shepherd and lead the people God has entrusted to me. When you plant a church, everything you do is an experiment because you've never done anything.
Yep, Jealousy. I've been guilty of looking at other church planter's stories and successes and desiring them for myself. I've been jealous of other men's buildings and gifts. I've heard stories of God's miraculous provision in other churches and selfishly desired it for myself.
Church planting is nothing if not stressful and my default in stress is irritability. I get irritable with my family, our leaders, even God.
This is probably the point in the post where you're wondering if I'm even qualified to be a pastor and by God's grace, in spite of all these challenges, I do believe I am.
See, what I've learned is that my greatest church planting challenge has been and continues to be my own idolatry. It hasn't been the stress on my marriage, the pressure of raising money, or the lonely nature of leadership. I crave control more than I crave the One who's always in control. I long for the approval of men more than the approval of God. I trust my own abilities more than the God who gave them to me. I constantly desire more and struggle to be satisfied in Christ. I love my own comfort and get irritated with anyone, or anything that disrupts it.
Yet, with all of this as the backdrop, the Holy Spirit is changing me. Grace continues to pervade my heart and is doing profound transforming work in me. Church planting is hard and the pressure of it has brought an unfortunate amount of anxiety, insecurity, uncertainty, jealousy, and irritability out of my heart. But, through it all I continue to see God's Word ring true and His grace remain steadfast toward me.
If you find the pressures of church planting, marriage, parenting, school, or work squeezing things out of your heart you're not proud of and didn't even know were there, be encouraged by God's Word and His grace toward you in Christ...
"But he [God] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." - 2 Corinthians 12:9