The Crazy in Church Planting

10 Years Ago...

  • We felt God tugging on our hearts in regard to church planting
  • Attended a Weekend Church Planting Q&A through Ozark Christian College

8 Years Later...

  • We felt God leading us to plant a church in a city where my husband worked
  • Realized- we would eventually have to leave our recent “home” church in order to plant God’s leading only 25 minutes away
  • Had a family uproot themselves from out of state and move into the area to help us plant
  • Got pregnant (whoops… there goes smart planning…)
  • Dreamed about where to plant, prayed about where to plant, talked about where to plant…
  • Began meeting with our team (at the time it was a total of 7 adults…)
  • Had TONS of prayer teams all over the country begin to pray for our team
  • Joined Nexus Church PlantingMichael began to be coached by an experienced church planter
  • Had our 3rd baby boy (people were not joking when they warned us that going from 2 to 3 was “a whole ‘nother ball game!")
  • I began battling post-partum depression (1st time ever… our crazy life definitely wasn't to blame… ha!)
  • Attended a weeklong assessment process with Nexus (making sure we were actually adequately prepared to plant a church.)
  • Had our first Outreach Event… and the only people that attended were… OUR TEAM. (We were literally giving hotdogs away to people that walked by our Pavilion at the park… sad.)
  • Had another Outreach that was more promising… I think there were 13 people there that were not comprised of our team??
  • Lost part of a salary that we had “in place” for our first hire due to a change in support from a church
  • Was given a warehouse and space in a strip mall for next to nothing
  • Lost 3 of our team (I cried a lot during this time) but gained 4 more team members
  • Had our first church BBQ. It was a hit and I began to have hope (not like I’d ever questioned God or anything- that was sarcasm.)
  • Gained a worship band… and we were two weeks from our “Pre-Launch.”
  • Spent an insane amount of hours:
    • Cleaning the building
    • Re-drywalling an entire room (there was carpet on the walls.)
    • Peeling glue off the cement floors (several times)
    • Primed and painted every single wall in those areas
    • Cleaning more…
    • Painting more…
    • Scraping dog urine and feces off the warehouse floor with this crazy rented floor scraper (It had been a doggie hotel. Yes, I am serious.)
    • Climbed up into the dropped ceiling in the warehouse to discover… wait for it… PILES of dog hair from a dog hair vacuum vent. Took several trash bags to dispose of it.
    • Cleaned out the ductwork (think hair…)
    • Glued down carpet squares in two rooms
    • Scoured 4 bathrooms (one with a weird shower…)
    • Procured a stage and then had to fix it due to huge holes in it.
    • Stained the concrete floor upstairs
    • Had random worship practices while sitting on the concrete floor or upside down paint cans
    • Found huge cable spools for tables
    • Borrowed a sound system… and

Take a Breath... I think that's it.

My emotions during this time? Numb. There wasn’t time to pause and think about it. It was constantly… GO…GO…GO.  And then the doubt crept in. We lost our first hire within two months. We lost most of the worship band but gained a dedicated worship leader. We lost support from those close to us. Previous friendships faded and almost ceased to exist when our lives became fast-paced with the church plant. We saw people walk in the doors, tell us that they would be back- and then they wouldn’t. On our actual Launch day, a woman stood up and walked out during the sermon. (When there’s only 16 people in attendence… you kinda notice.) And all this time, I am weeping inside, mostly because of my pride and insecurity. I wanted to run. I wanted to leave. I had thoughts of loading up my car with my children and driving 7 hours to my parents just to escape the constant drama of church planting. We (as a church) were accused of: 
  • Being too young
  • Putting our young family in danger because of the workload of ministry
  • Being egotistical to think that we could (even with God’s Help- goodness!) plant and grow a church
  • Planting a church in a city of churches
  • Trying to be too forward thinking in regards to how church should run
  • Trying to run the church like a business
  • Not giving clear expectations to our first hire
  • Not fulfilling expectations of what a church plant would look like to our original team
  • Miscommunication… a lot.
  • Unorganization
  • "Playing" church instead of being the church
I still wrestle with the pain of all those accusations. I feel deeply about this church that God grew in our hearts to plant. And because I feel deeply, most all criticism hurts. That and the complete and utter physical exhaustion of planting a church can wear on a person. But God has assured me of one thing over and over. He is there. Forever. And he hears my cry for help. No matter how many times…

Psalm 18:6-19

When I was in trouble, I called out to the Lord.
 I cried to my God for help.
 From his temple he heard my voice.
 My cry for help reached his ears. The earth trembled and shook.
 The base of the mountains rocked back and forth.
 It trembled because the Lord was angry.
 Smoke came out of his nose.
 Flames of fire came out of his mouth.
 Burning coals blazed out of it. He opened the heavens and came down.
 Dark clouds were under his feet. 
He got on the cherubim and flew.
 The wings of the wind lifted him up.
 He covered himself with darkness.
 The dark rain clouds of the sky were like a tent around him.
 Clouds came out of the brightness that was all around him.
 They came with hailstones and flashes of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven.
 The voice of the Most High God was heard.
 He shot his arrows and scattered our enemies.
 He sent great flashes of lightning and chased the enemies away.
 The bottom of the sea could be seen.
 The foundations of the earth were uncovered.   Lord, it happened when your anger blazed out.
 It came like a blast of breath from your nose. He reached down from heaven. He took hold of me.
 He lifted me out of deep waters.
 He saved me from my powerful enemies.
 He set me free from those who were too strong for me. They stood up to me when I was in trouble.
 But the Lord helped me.
 He brought me out into a wide and safe place.
 He saved me because he was pleased with me.

Update 2020:

There's a lot of things now, looking back, that my husband and I would change if we were to go back and have a do-over. We would have prayed more firmly about our original church plant team. We had two couples join us from the beginning, and church planters warned us that our original team would leave us eventually. We were naive and thought, "No way! These are some of my husband's best friends!" One couple left us before the first year was up. The other stayed with us through thick and thin... then left after 5 years. I am grateful for both of these couples... because without them we would have never been able to get off the ground. None of us knew the depth of what we were undertaking until WE WERE IN IT. What we didn't understand was that God would send us the couples and families that we would need to survive past Year Five. These families and couples have been a complete GOD-SEND. They have been flexible... full of grace... and there for us like a true family. These are the people who I call when we're experiencing an emergency, heartache or frustration. Since this post was written, the church God planted has moved twice. We've grown, then lost people, then grown some more. We've gone through great interns and several great children's directors. But through it all, we've stayed faithful to the church that called us to plant. And we're still plugging away......Sharing Truth (through discipleship and teaching)... Giving Grace (learning to accept God's grace and give it to others)... and Loving Others (with our words and actions.)
Called Out.

Called Out.

This oneness seems to be elusive to many churches today. And I wonder if it’s because we are looking for the wrong thing when we look for a church family.

Called Out.

Called Out.

There's an epidemic that is sweeping our nation, and it seems so elusive at times I can hardly put my finger on it. 

  • It comes with a friend bailing on you because another bigger, better party (or nap opportunity) came up. 
  • It comes when marriages break into a million little pieces and call everyone into question that surrounds the broken relationship.
  • It comes when families no longer understand the value of trust and giving without asking for payback.
  • It comes when someone stops shopping at the Mom&Pop shop because a new and better store came into town. 
  • It comes when a friend continues to ghost you and not call, text, or message back with no apology. Even months later. 
  • It comes when a family leaves your church because it's not filling their own needs.

What is this thing that has emerged in our personal thoughts, families, lifestyles, relationships, marriages, and now churches? 

Disloyalty.

Some would call it a lack of commitment. But where did the previous commitment go? Was it even really there in the first place? As I look back at our nation's history... I see a trail of disloyalty within the church. Churches splitting... new denominations created... competitions growing amidst congregations.

Since planting a church, a whole new level of disloyalty has emerged. And this one... scares me.

As I've poured thru scripture, my understanding of what Jesus called the church to, was mostly incorrect. (Here's a hint... the church was called to be a Kingdom.) A paragraph in the 2nd chapter of Acts continues to haunt me as I learn more and more about the Kingdom of God.

Acts 2:42-47 The Passion Translation (TPT)

The Community of Believers

Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. All the believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had.  Out of generosity they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them. Daily they met together in the temple courts and in one another's homes to celebrate communion. They shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility. They were continually filled with praises to God, enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were coming to life.

This oneness seems to be elusive to many churches today. And I wonder if it's because we are looking for the wrong thing when we look for a church family.

I don't believe we are called just to gather to have our needs filled. (Gasp!) If we are only looking to love ourselves... then we will attend a church if they provide: an excellent and entertaining kids' ministry; an uplifting and rocking praise and worship service; bible studies with popular teachers that draw crowds; and a preacher who is funny, yet serious, yet knows his Bible in the original languages and can relate to everyone he comes in contact with.

Honestly, looking at that last statement takes my breath away... and not in a good way. Like someone punched me in the throat kind of way. People are openly choosing to be disloyal to the Kingdom of God... over and over and over.

Commitment Issues

They choose their comfort over maturing spiritually. (It's not easy.) They decide to point fingers of judgment towards others instead of just loving them. They choose to sleep in, instead of investing in those that God has called us to love upon. They decide to leave a church behind without even a word because they weren't given the proper "acknowledgment" that they thought they deserved. They choose to forgo building relationships with friends in the church because it gets real... quick. They prefer to gossip and divide the Kingdom openly with harsh words about others.

That's not right. That's not what Jesus came to establish.

I'm humbled by the simple fact that God has allowed my husband and I to be a part of such a loving and grace-filled community during the last six years. But I hurt when I see people choose to be disloyal to the church over and over and over... and not just our church. All churches, nationwide. 

There seems to be a fear of telling the truth to those we need to be honest with... but more importantly, a fear of telling the truth to ourselves.

We need to ask ourselves... what do we really want?

To be a part of the Kingdom? Because that, people, demands loyalty.

Prerequisites to Church Planters (From a CPW’s Perspective)

Prerequisites to Church Planters (From a CPW’s Perspective)

You have to be willing to get dirty.

Church planting is literally dirty.  You may find yourself with paint, grease, dirt, urine and any number of disgusting things on your clothes, hands and under your nails.  Church planting is not for the faint of heart. If you hate dirt... this is not for you.  There will be times when you are on your own... and there won't be anyone to help you.  You will need to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself.  Toilets will need to be scrubbed.  A/Cs will need to be turned on the night before.  Floors will need to be swept and that gap of unpainted wall at the top by the ceiling will need to be painted.  And its up to you.  It's either your job or up to you to call someone... or the troops...

You need to be uncomfortable in established churches.

This is a hard one to understand, until you find yourself there.  I have no problems with established churches... our world needs them.  But this world also needs churches that reach those who don't feel comfortable or feel like outsiders in established churches.  If you are comfortable in an established church, then you should probably stay.  God will use you there.  But if something doesn't sit right, and your heart goes out to those who feel like outsiders within an established church... then God can use you in church plants.

You need to be flexible (and have an imagination)!

I do not how much more to lay this out, then to repeat myself.  You need to be flexible or in leadership terms: adaptable. Church planting does not go by the book of established churches.  An early church plant will not have an unlimited children's resource closet, more than likely no kitchen, and probably not even an office.  If you can't imagine running a church without these things... then... well... maybe you should ask yourself some tough questions. You must be willing to change your worship set last minute, call up a volunteer an hour before service to ask them to help cover the nursery, and most importantly... you must have an imagination to make the most of something that seems dire.  You must have an endurance that doesn't make sense to the normal Christian.  When things seem disastrous... you must have a "pick-up-and-continue" kind of attitude.

You need to love people. Like really love people! Not just say you do.

You must have a heart for those who are dirty.  And when I say dirty-- I mean all kinds of dirt.  Literal dirt. Dirty mouths.  Dirty jokes. Dirty hearts.  If you cannot imagine giving a hug to a child who hasn't bathed in awhile, walking up to someone who simply terrifies you and carrying on a conversation, or listening to an adulterer's story... then examine your heart for planting. Your heart must ache for those that need to know of Christ's love, no matter who or where they've come from.
Hum-Drum

Hum-Drum

There are cloudy patches in church planting.  The clouds roll in; but it doesn't rain. The air gets thick with humidity, your hair frizzes and suddenly you have curl in your otherwise straight hair. The cloudy nothingness seems to be burdened with dark waters just waiting for something to set them off. You hold your breath waiting for the clouds to burst and pour upon your dry soil. And then nothing happens. Just like life, huh. And all I can think is... why now? Why, when we were just picking up steam? People were actively seeking God out... families were finding healing... lives were being changed because of Jesus' sacrifice. And then... nothing. It is so frustrating.  And disappointing. And in these moments, I ask God, "Why now? What is the point of this cloudy nothingness? Is there a storm brewing? Do we need to hunker down and prepare for battle? Or is harvest around the corner?" (Can you tell I struggle with impatience? And the need for control?) He whispers, "Wait. Abide in Me." Because at the end of the day... week or month... that is all we can do. Wait for Him and His timing. And most importantly, abide in Him.
John 15:1-4, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
Isn't that what it is all about?  Realizing that we do not have control over this church plant and its success or fail. Realizing that it is and has always been His Church. Knowing that He can see all and knows all. And TRUSTING in that. Resting in His Presence with our thoughts and actions... and running to Him with our questions and thoughts.
 John 15:5-8,“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.  Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.  But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!  When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
Am I trusting? Am I truly abiding?
John 15:9-17, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
And here is my answer: In the cloudy times of nothingness...
  • Remain in Christ.
  • Realize, He chose and appointed us for this.
  • Love one other.
Now, to actually do that...
The Busy

The Busy

It never fails... once I begin to feel like I'm getting a handle on this church planting thing, our lives get even busier.  There are rarely nights home as a family... our laptops come out to finish work as soon as the kiddos are in bed... and my hubby and I forget to connect.  It isn't until we are laying in bed, ready to say prayers, that I realize... "I have so much I want to say to him... but he's almost snoring already!  I should have put my laptop down and just forced him to talk to me earlier."  Ha! The thing is, within our marriage, I'm not the only one who notices when we barely have time for each other.  Just the other day, Michael spoke to me, with a slight whine to his voice.  "Hun, are you going to be busy every night this week with meetings?"  He gets it.  I get it. So... when we realized we had to get a handle on our time together, we sat down and made some specific choices that are helping our marriage.

Put Down Technology

For us, after a certain time (decided by both of us), we put down our laptops, phones and turn from the TV to actually engage in each other. We need to talk about anything BUT work.  (And it's usually church work that we want to discuss...)

Family Dinner

This is something that begins to lack noticeably when we began to become more and more busy.  As of now, we've stopped grabbing a bite to eat even when we're running late from soccer.  We go home, make sandwiches (or I prepare something in the crockpot beforehand) and we sit down as a family and talk.  I've seen a huge difference in our boys' lives.  They are more self-controlled, less whiny and are more content than when we're forgoing our dinners around our table.  Plus, we take this time to discuss serious and silly matters that we don't normally talk about (and they LOVE this.)

Regular Date Nights

Many of you may think... "Yeah, yeah, yeah... we've all heard that before."  But seriously people... are you taking dates with your spouse regularly (at least twice a month)?  This is so important!  And they don't need to be extravagent!  We have had a date as simple as putting the kids to bed, grabbing a "redbox" DVD and snuggling on the couch.

Weekend Retreats

No kids allowed.  Seriously.  We have, since we were newlyweds, made sure that we have an escape away from our home in order to reconnect with each other.  Every other year, at least, we schedule a weekend away (using calling our parents to come and stay with the kids) and GO.  We usually take this time to focus on us as a couple... and not on anything else that's going on around our lives.  (Check out a Weekend to Remember... they have great marriage retreats and hotels lined up fairly often.)

Family Vacations

This is extremely important.  My husband and I have decided that we will try to take a minimum of 2 vacations as a family.  Find someone reliable to fill in your shoes at the church while you're gone and go visit family that lives in another state... travel more to stay at a resort hotel with water slides for the kids... or plan a quiet camping trip.  We all need time where our kids will see us "stress-less" or more in tune to them.  Sometimes getting away from your church can be useful.  It will give you a time of rejuvenation, stillness and extra bonding time for your family.  When you return to your church plant, you will be ready to jump back in, fully recharged.

It's Worth It

True rejuvenation will occur when you see the fruit that God has planted within your church.  You will watch as it grows and matures into something beyond understanding.  I love this passage in 1 Thessalonians where Paul is speaking so sweetly to the church there.

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (The Message)

9-12 You remember us in those days, friends, working our fingers to the bone, up half the night, moonlighting so you wouldn’t have the burden of supporting us while we proclaimed God’s Message to you. You saw with your own eyes how discreet and courteous we were among you, with keen sensitivity to you as fellow believers. And God knows we weren’t freeloaders! You experienced it all firsthand. With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life. 13 And now we look back on all this and thank God, an artesian well of thanks! When you got the Message of God we preached, you didn’t pass it off as just one more human opinion, but you took it to heart as God’s true word to you, which it is, God himself at work in you believers!
Keep pressing on, friends.  Remember that God is with you and wants the best for you... no matter how busy you become!