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.
Our family had a great summer… lazy days… trips swimming, kayaking, biking, etc… and we highly anticipated a trip to Colorado for our family trip. We had it all mapped out; spend a few days with my brother and his family (grab a soccer game), then a few days in the mountains exploring, mountain biking and renting a boat on a lake; finally topping off our trip by staying the night with our good friends in Denver (with plans to take in the town) before we headed back home.
And suddenly, my husband (who is hardly ever sick) was down for the count. And when I say down, I mean- lying on the mattress in my brother’s basement for days, and sporadically running for the bathroom. By the third day, he rolled over and whispered to me, “I think I need to go to the hospital.” That was scary for me, as he hates even going to the doctor for a sinus infection.
Two days later, and a night in the hospital, we still didn’t have answers. (And even two months later, we still don’t.) His body just crashed and couldn’t recover. He still is not even back to 80% of his normal energy level and strength. And this all happened before we were given access to Thrive’s new building. Within two weeks of his hospitalization, we were on full-force at the overhaul of the new building. And I watched, as he tried to help… but he couldn’t. He had to rely on the help of his congregation to do most of the heavy duty stuff. It killed him.
As he gained some strength and energy back, he began to rip some old musty carpet out of the foyer. The next day, he collapsed at the building, all alone… and he called me in a panic. My heart was in my throat. He told me to call his doctor and set up another appointment. I was seconds away from waking napping babies and speeding all the way to the building to check on him- but he assured me he was alright. He had collapsed in the bathroom there and laid there quite some time. Suddenly, the maintenance man dropped in unexpectedly to check on the air conditioner and found him. He got Michael some water and helped him up to his feet. Thank God for that man.
Our church has had to pull together while Michael recuperates. I was blown away by all of the generosity and love that the people of Thrive poured out on us. It literally has brought me to tears several times. Men and women (not to forget the teenagers!) stepped up where gaps appeared. And our church family grew closer, tighter… together in the time of adversity.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
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…
I wanted to believe that church planting was going to be smooth sailing. That I would make solid friends, not be known as the “pastor’s wife” and everything would remain peachy keen.
I seem to have forgotten that I was dealing with human beings. When planting, you are with the same people… A LOT. Meetings, cleaning the church, dinners with the community, events, bible studies, meeting for coffee, play dates, etc… the list goes on and on. I am a person who needs a chill day at least once a week… so when I had been around people non-stop for three weeks at one point in the planting process, I could barely function. (Literally. My brain had decided to shut down and I could no longer remember anything. See ya, short-term memory!)
I remember as a child, my Momma telling me, that when you “hang out with the same person for a long while, you will get tired of them.” Now, whether or not, I truly was “tired” of being around people… I was definitely having a hard time knowing how to act around them. Satan began whispering in my ear, emotions flared (on everyone’s part) and I ran away. (Again, literally… well… at least I didn’t leave my house for a week… not even to get groceries!!!)
7 Ways to Heal When You’ve Been Hurt
Through this time, I sought God’s counsel in knowing how to handle certain situations. These are what He shared with me.
1- Keep Your Cool
- Spend some time in prayer asking God for help before a situation with that person arrives
- Don’t let them “get under your skin.”
- Take a breather. Don’t feel like you need to be around them all the time.
2- Evaluate… am I irritated because we are too much alike?
- No, seriously. Look at this. You may be surprised. (I was!)
3- Am I hurt because of something they did or said?
- Acknowledge your feelings
- Confront the true reason you were hurt
- Prepare to tell them
- Maybe spend more time in prayer and in the Word… ? Just a suggestion…
4- Share with them your frustrations in a loving manner.
- Don’t blame. Don’t point fingers. Just tell them how you feel.
- DON’T (and I really mean this one) bring up times they frustrated and hurt you from further back than one month. Anymore time than this shows that YOU have a problem with HOLDING ONTO GRUDGES. (This should be something that you need to speak with God about if you do in fact have a huge rap sheet of hurt and frustration toward a person.)
5- Don’t expect an apology.
- Just don’t. It’s not your place to convict them. It’s God’s.
6- Ask for any forgiveness that you may need from them.
- You will need to ask God to convict you of something that you may have done to hurt them .
- Be willing to hear from their hurts/frustrations if they voice any. (This is the part that terrifies me…. yes. Me- who’s dishing out the advice. I have a terrible fear of hearing if I’ve hurt someone… mostly because I know that I am not perfect.)
7- MOVE ON.
- This is the hardest part. Once the exchange has occurred (LOL. Sounds so business-like!), you need to work EVERY DAY to forgive and move on.
- Try to act and treat them as you would if they had never hurt you. This is so much easier said than done… but if you succeed you may in fact win a friend for life. Most true friendships are built upon trust… trust in each other… trust to be strong enough to speak up with hurts arise… trust that the other person will not purposely hurt you again… trust… trust… trust…
Proverbs 17:9,17“Overlook an offense and bond a friendship; fasten on to a slight and- good-bye, friend!….Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.”