Many young men beginning the church planting journey find themselves caught in the current of excitement of a new venture. Count me as one of them- we should experience great joy when God invites us to join Him in His activity. All too often, though, we become so enamored with the vision in our minds of what God desires to build that we often miss the importance of considering the cost we’ll incur along the way. Jesus mentions this type of challenge in Luke 14:27-30:
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”
A few of those unanticipated costs or challenges include…
- Reorienting our lives around the rhythms of our community. If planting a church involves moving to a new community, adjustments will follow. Once you begin to recognize these local rhythms prepare to adjust things like your pace of life, where your family goes for fun, when you take vacations, how you plan your ministry calendar.
- Dealing with temporary loneliness and isolation. Many guys planting in unchurched areas deal with the shock of realizing nobody cares that they’ve arrived- no parades or welcome parties. Minimally people may respond with indifference and at worst people may become antagonistic. Developing long haul friendships will take time.
- Opening our homes and lives to those around us. This requires making ourselves vulnerable. People will see we don’t have it all together, but they also get to see how Jesus walks through the mess with us. There’s something hypocritical about trying to minister to others in the midst of their messiness when we don’t open up about our own.
- Entering the messiness of real life-on-life ministry. If we want to lead people to follow Jesus we must meet them where they are, not where we want ultimately want them to be. Jesus clearly stated that He came to seek those who were sick and sinful not those who considered themselves well and righteous.
- Making disciples and developing leaders from within the local community. Planting with a team of leaders makes so much scriptural sense- Jesus led with a team and so did Paul. We need to remember, though, that this leadership team’s long-term goals should always include raising up local leaders- not serving as a substitute.
- Challenging others to make radical commitments and sacrifices. One of the most uncomfortable situations for any leader is asking others to take steps of obedience that you know will cost them. The key is not asking them to make these sacrifices for you- they need to know they’re doing it for Jesus.
- Leading your family through extreme spiritual warfare. Every few months I hear of another church-planter bailing due to marital issues- usually infidelity. Many of these couples entered their ministry with a strong marriage, then years of testing took its toll. We need to remember that Satan is out to kill, steal, and destroy us. We can often miss the attacks on our family if we’re too focused on the church. The question is not whether church-planting will take a toll on our families- the issue is how we’ll lead our families through the tough times.