Ed Stetzer’s article about losing the soul in the church planting process is worth reading for all who (1) are church planting, (2) struggling to get a church self-sustaining, or (3) who are involved in a church plant.
What is your wisdom here?
Alan (not his real name) started a successful church in a large Northern California community. He worked hard, built up his core group and drew over 300 people to his launch service. By the end of his first year, Alan’s church averaged over 200 in worship. By the end of his second year, his church averaged nearly 400. Alan became a hero to his local denominational leaders. Northern California is difficult soil and Alan’s new church was their most successful start in over 20 years. His ministerial star was rising.
Then Alan resigned at the end of his third year. He was not leaving to lead another church. In fact, he was completely leaving professional ministry to enter the management trainee program with Taco Bell Corporation. People were shocked.
His friends, colleagues, and even a few fans tried convincing Alan into giving ministry another chance. Their reasons were admirably motivated: God equips gifted people like him to advance the kingdom. Alan understood and appreciated their concerns. But he was not budging. The reasons he cited are all too familiar. The pressures to succeed made him miserable, the church increasingly demanded more time away from his family, and he felt spiritually barren. Furthermore, Alan did not like what he or the church had become. The church was like a spoiled child demanding their needs be met and giving nothing back. Alan drew a large crowd, but felt like he was doing it alone. He was seeing very little life change in an outwardly growing crowd on Sundays. Physically, emotionally and spiritually disillusioned, he had enough. He wanted out, so he quit.
Most, if not all, church planters wrestle with at least some of the issues Alan faced. Admittedly, most don’t quit. But many limp along nearly broken under the pressures to succeed. Some church planters so singularly focus on the task of creating a congregation that they forget to build a church and guard their own spiritual lives. When this happens, both the planter and his church suffer. Let’s look at two practices that can help planters avoid a spiritually dry and disillusioned ministry.