How to Survive Church Planting: Renounce and Rely
Bruce Wesley, lead pastor of Clear Creek Community Church in Houston, Texas, spoke on "The Enduring Legacy" of a church planter. He talked about "wells" that church planters need to avoid turning to as well as the rhythms of grace to protect our enjoyment of God.
If your goal is an enduring legacy, ask yourself two questions: Will you last? Will your work last?
As a church planter, your walk with God will happen while Rome is burning and an angry mob is at your door. You will walk with God because you choose every day to act in a way where you can be acted upon by God. If you don’t do this, you will flame out and cave in. In 2 Timothy 2, Paul writes, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus Christ.” This strength is something that is done to us, not something we do. To accept this strength, we need to make ourselves available, by faith, to the grace of Jesus. Living by faith requires renunciation and reliance.
We should renounce “wells” that we turn to when thirsty and tired:
- Cynicism. It’s easy to make fun of everyone who’s “not cool” because they do things differently than us. However, it’s only the immature people who do this; it takes no courage.
- Comparison and competition. We resort to this when we think we’re good, or at least better than others. It exposes a huge ego. We have to kill it or it will kill us.
- Anger. Anger is an empowering emotion but is usually a secondary one that we use to cover up others that are “pitiful” or “weak” (such as fear or sadness). Furthermore, anger is omnidirectional: we don’t get to focus it like a laser. It’s like a bucket of acid that we spill onto everyone.
We need to rely on the "rhythms" that God gives life and grace through:
- Reflection. Spend time in the scripture listening to the voice of God. Reflect on how the gospel nurtures your soul.
- Relationships. When you’re completely known, you can be unconditionally accepted. Someone needs to know everything about you.
- Rest. You cannot live without taking a Sabbath.
You also need to ask if your work will last. When you look back at your schedule, who got you (your time and energy) repeatedly? Your answer has everything to do with whether or not your work will last. If you’re a church planter, everyone wants your time like it’s a trophy so you must be very discerning with how you use your time. Paul instructs us to invest in the investors.
Who should not get your time?
- Needy people. They suck the life out of you and then look for another undiscerning church leader.
- Compliant people who do whatever you ask just to feel connected to you.
- Rich people. If people display their wealth to you, they’re probably trying to use it to get something like power or control.
Instead, we should invest in people who are willing to suffer for Jesus. We should share our life and the Gospel with people who are more concerned about the mission than their own comfort. It is your willingness to discern that will catalyze the spread of the Gospel.