Here’s a few things I’ve learned in my church planting journey:
1. You’re a Limited Leader (Exodus 18:18)
People will want you to be the omni-gifted leader and you’ll be tempted to believe it. It’s important to know who you are and who you are not. The only thing worst than the people wanting you to be omni-gifted is the pastor who believes he is, this will quickly drain you of the joy of shepherding people. Embrace your limits and work your strengths.
2. Process your Hurt (1 Peter 5:7)
Pastors aren’t exempt from hurt and many have ‘daddy issues’ that haven’t been addressed and oftentimes the pulpit is the ‘see I made it’ platform to address the hurt caused by an absentee father or an overly aggressive mother. Whatever the case it’s vital that you realize that you need God’s grace and much counsel. In short get help and embrace your frailty and dependence upon the King. If you don’t you will look for the church to heal these wounds only to find out that the help is not there and these wounds will only be highlighted in your church plant. Seeking counsel isn’t a sign of weakness, but in fact it’s a display of humble strength.
3. You’re not Planting the Church your Family is Planting the church (Ephesians 6)
It’s vital that you don’t make the plant your baby. Your plant could fail and God may very well use that to bring you closer to Him. I’m sure you believe you’re the exception and that’s fine, I want your church plant to thrive, but the reality is that’s not always the case. Church planting is ugly, brutal and tiring,but it has the greatest rewards. If the church is everything, you’ll neglect your family and they don’t deserve that plan for your family prior to planning everything for the church. Don’t fail your family and include your wife in crucial decisions throughout the growth and pains of your plant. Your family is planting with you.
4. You’ll Experience Inner and Outer Prejudice (Galatians 2:11-21)
Many people of your own race won’t understand the theological stances and those outside your race will assume you’re rare because of the lack of exposure to gospel-centered biblically orthodoxed African-American pastors. It comes with the territory, stay faithful to word word and don’t build identity around this, if you do you’ll see yourself as a savior to the context as opposed to be called to the context.
5. Go After Men (1 Timothy 6:11-16)
Men are an apologetic within themselves in the context because this is literally the most fatherless generation ever. It’s vital that you speak to men, encourage men and give men a platform to use their gifts for the King. Nurture the men in your circle and train them to go after other men. Men will bring families to your church and I love my sisters, but it’s vital that we don’t exploit them by having them do everything at the ministry. Get men and get as many as you can.
6. Get a Spiritual Father (1 Timothy 1:2 & Philippians 2:22)
Some see this as charismatic, but the bottom line is its biblical. Get strong men that can speak into your life. Men that you would follow and submit to and allow them access to the you that only your wife and children know. Let them speak into your life about your family, finances, church, sex life and hurt. This will pay HUGE dividends in your life and the life of your church.
7. Date your Wife (Ephesians 5)
It’s easy to replace your wife with the church. Allow her to be honest with you about how she’s feeling and be intentional about dating her, loving her, listening to her and romancing her. Don’t take her for granted she’s worth more than that and deserves your best. Don’t give the church your all and give her your leftovers. As you’re visioneering for your plant be sure to visioneer on how you continue to intentional show and tell your wife how much you love her.
8. Establish Unity with Your Core Team (Philippians 1:27-28)
Have a clear sense of your philosophy of ministry and communicate it well with your core team. You want to be unified on three major fronts: Theologically, Relationally and Philosophically. Define your theological open and closed handed issues, examine how you relate with the leaders on your team and ask explicitly if they embrace your philosophy of ministry. This will ensure unity and a healthy board and longevity for your plant.
9. People will Leave (John 6:58-66)
In John 6 many walked away from Jesus after hearing hard truth and many will leave you too. Don’t trip, but listen to what those that are leaving are saying, don’t dismiss them all because you’re hurt that they are leaving. Some of them will have vital points and people leaving is a necessary thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-10) of a church planter to keep you on your knees. When people leave it will hurt and that’s ok. Don’t pretend that you’re not hurt, but don’t let those that leave define you either. Some will talk to you on their way out, many will just shoot an email or just leave and you find out on Facebook that they’re at a new church. Although you may not want to confront them you should have streams for growth and exits. Conduct exit interviews for people on their way out, you may find some holes in your leadership team that need to be addressed. Lastly it’s rare that people are honest with you about why they leave, but allow this to keep you reminded that Christ will build his church.
10. Fundraise for Longevity (Philippians 4:15-20)
Secure your salary and healthcare and another guy to be on staff on the front end. If you plan on being bivocational for the life of your plant then you can have some leeway with this, but you want secure as much money as possible prior to launching because this is a burden that you don’t need on top of everything else needed for your plant.
In all of this love Jesus and his gospel, your identity isn’t in the success or failure of your plant it’s in Him and as simple as it may sound you’ll be prone to forget this. Remember this; you weren’t chosen because you’re special, you’re special because He chose you (John 15:16). The truth is you don’t have what it takes for what you’re about to embark on and if your joy is in the plant and not Christ, this will become evident quickly and you’ll burnout and quit or abuse your people and make the plant about you. Christ loves you and you’re His son. He didn’t die for you to be a great church planter he died for you to be His son and that’s more than enough. I’m praying for you and wish you much godly success.