It seems like everyone is doing it! Pioneering a church. Did you know that the average church plant closes within the first three years? It is a tough business! The only thing that is tougher is the restaurant business.
Before I get too far into this, I believe we need more new churches.
But if you think you are starting the next Elevation, do yourself and those you serve a favour and don’t!
If you pioneer a church, I hope it explodes! (not literally, that would be awful). I hope you reach billions for Christ.
However, if you only reach a few, would it still be worth it? I hope it would. If you are going to shut things down because you don’t have the numbers you want or the finances aren’t good enough, or life is just hard, please don’t. You need to have tenacity!
There will be struggles in the church. Whether big or small, it is a certainty (about the only certainty).
The hardest part, though, is what happens in your life personally. They are things that no one really cares or thinks about. They are things that will dramatically affect how you do ministry.
I started Life Boat Church 4 years ago. Before planting, there were a ton of things that happened to my wife and me before deciding to move to start a church. However, they were from the outside.
In the vein of 2 Cor 11, here’s my list of things of all that has happened in the last four years.
The gift of blessing, our daughter was born. You’re thinking what, that’s not a difficulty. You’re right. But you’re wrong. Context is everything. At the time, we were living with my parents, which meant 8 people in a house. My parents, me and my wife, our 4-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1-year-old. And now, a newborn. We love our kids. But we also love sleep. Two months before our church launched our beautiful daughter was born, we started a church. We were barely sleeping (even now it can be a struggle). But this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Bedbugs! We presume they came from the hospital. As I laid on the bed after our second pre-launch service, I saw a bug crawl across the bed. FLICK! It exploded–full of blood–all over the sheets. Do you know what it is like calling everyone on your launch team and tell them that they need to check their houses just in case I had transferred some to their homes? Added to the sleepless nights, this meant paranoid sleep (I don’t want to recount the memories).
February, as I did a shoulder press with my oldest son, POP. I tore the labrum in my shoulder (it’s the cartridge) and the nerve in the shoulder that goes up the neck and through the back, somehow, got wrapped around the ball of my shoulder. I was sleeping very little due to the newborn, the bed bugs, and now the excruciating shoulder. While I experienced healing with the nerve, I suffered from this for two years. Two years of sleeping 3-4 hours a night… You try being nice! Of course, when you have a portable church, and you can’t pick up heavy stuff–it doesn’t go over well. People don’t care that you’re in severe pain, haven’t slept, and irritable because of it. They care about the fact that they have stuff going on in their life–parents, work, kids. Real things. They’re hurting. They can’t carry yours too.
The next December right before our big Christmas Eve event my daughter, the one who was born the year before, got sick. I mean like really sick. Pneumonia, strep A, sepsis, fluid in her lung. Literally, she almost died. She was in the hospital for twelve days and had to get a chest tube. It was a terrifying scene. My wife stayed in the hospital with her while I watched the three boys while trying to get ready for our Christmas event. I had some fantastic help during this time. However, as much as the support is appreciated, it was only a mild aid to the extreme stress. It was during this time that I wrote the song, Invite You To Move (which is in my blog on May 24, 2019).
We luckily had a little break, other than my chronic shoulder pain and the odd emergency room visit due to the kids breathing and allergies (3out of 4 have anaphylactic allergies. 2 at of 4 have asthma).
Then came 2018. As I spoke about in my blog “What I learned in Africa…and it’s not what you think” (June 24, 2019, where I go into more detail), I was dealing with a lot of stress due to difficult situations with the church. This was when I ended up with shingles. Stress-induced shingles. I was confined to bed for nearly two months, except for Sunday mornings and important meetings.
You might pause, as I did and reflect on if this is for you, again as I did. Thoughts of something different. Maybe a position with more security and with less stress.
We determined that we had to be faithful to what God called us to. In fact, this was an opportunity to learn to be more dependent upon God–to learn what He wanted to teach us in the midst.
This was when we had a fantastic Summer and Fall. I felt refreshed. I had learned so much about my self and what needed to be changed in my life to be more like Christ.
Then came January 2019…
First, my daughter rolled out of her bed as she slept and landed awkwardly on the ground, breaking her collar bone. It happens to lots of kids. It’s a thing; however, it’s not that big of a deal. Yet, this was the beginning!
9 days later…
I joined a basketball league to get to meet some people. After all, my shoulder, after two years, just started to be pain-free. Seemed like a good idea. Noticing that I was the oldest on the court should have been a warning sign. While guarding a guy 10 years younger than me POP… I ruptured my Achilles. If you weren’t aware, this is a 12 month recovery period. I am currently approaching the halfway point, and it has been a long road. I’ve been worn down physically and drained me emotionally. It has also played tricks on me mentally. Yet it has caused wonderful opportunities for spiritual growth.
February was filled with doctors, appointments and physiotherapy.
Then March… my two oldest kids became very ill. They missed a week of school they were so sick. That’s when I heard my wife scream…
I grabbed my crutches and hobbled as quickly as I could to see my 8-year-old as stiff as a board, eyes rolled back, frothing at the mouth, and a deep moan/groan like sound. He was having a seizure. It was scary. VERY VERY Scary. We called the ambulance.
A couple days later, my middle son could barely breathe. He was admitted for four days with a severe asthma attack.
One child can’t lift their arm, I’m on crutches, one son is seeing the neurologist, and one sitting in a hospital bed hooked up to a ventilator.
It would be really easy to hand in the towel. Life is hard.
We need more churches, but if you are going to fold just because things are hard, that’s a good reason why you shouldn’t plant a church.
Starting a church can be hard. Many struggles will arise from within the new fellowship. They can be hard. If you think the battle stops there, you will be disappointed. Satan will stop at nothing to squash the God-dream in your heart and the amazing work you will do.
It is hard, but it is worth it! So so so worth it.
If you were to start a church, where would it be?