From the outside, Church Planting seems sexy.
You don’t have to deal with stuffy old churches. You can be creative and share the gospel with people who might otherwise be ignored.
Every week I hear about a new church planting conference or training organization. More and more individuals are considering “church planting” a realistic and important direction for their life. More churches and denominations are getting into the game.
I believe that Church Planting is so vitally important that in 10 years, it may be the only thing we have left. It’s also hard work. In fact, I can’t think of a single book, resource or speaker who doesn’t say “this is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.” The fact is that forming a community of Jesus followers in a certain time and place is full of normal, day-in and day-out realities, just like any other vocation.
Church Planting is also a long game. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Those of us who embrace this vocation need to be prepared for five unsexy details.
Detail #1: Meetings
You can’t church plant alone. In fact, most of what you do will take place over lunches, coffee or drinks.
So, you spend a lot of time organizing meetings.
Sometimes, these go great. People come, get inspired and get to work. Sometimes they don’t go the way you want. Sometimes you get stood up altogether.
Detail #2: Space
There’s no scriptural justification for a church building. Many a movement has started without them. They cost a lot to maintain and keep up.
But they sure are convenient.
A lot of energy in Church Planting is spent finding a location to meet. Then, when you find it, there’s just a lot of setup.
Chairs. Sound. Schematics for chairs and sound.
Don’t get me wrong, set up is actually one of the unexpected joys of church planting. But it sure ain’t sexy.
Detail #3: Spreadsheets
You can’t plant a church without a spreadsheet. Somehow the Apostle Paul did it. This remains one of the great miracles of our faith.
We have spreadsheets for contact info, volunteering, hosting, attendance, allergies, events and budgeting.
Church planting isn’t limited to spreadsheets. The work of the Holy Spirit among us cannot be captured in a spreadsheet. There are just a lot of details.
We serve a God of order, not disorder. So make your spreadsheets and update them often.
Detail #4: Language
A few months back we’d tried to block out time to focus more on discipling conversations. Surprisingly, we got a fair amount of pushback.
At first this caught me off guard. “Here’s my brilliant idea! Why aren’t people embracing it?” Then it occurred to me: If you don’t come from a discipleship culture, of course, you’d push back against it.
This goes for everything we try to do. Following Jesus is a matter of constant, ongoing conversion. We are going from one version of ourselves to a better one.
A very necessary, and totally un-sexy building block of this is language. We need clear, concise and evocative terminology to describe who we hope to become.
In my writing work, I often sit down and write a sentence. Then I rewrite it again with a few less words. Then I rewrite it again.
Words make worlds. Our language will shape who we become. Finding those words is valuable, but it can be laborious.
Detail #5: Preaching
“Preaching isn’t sexy?!” you say.
Not for me, at least.
Don’t get me wrong. I love public speaking. I love telling stories about Jesus. I love crafting the perfect analogy to bring it home. I love improving my presence.
But preaching is a lot of work. It doesn’t help that many of us hold up the example of large church leaders who can spend 80 hours crafting the perfect talk.
I’m a part of a bi-vocational church planting team. This means (a) I don’t often preach and (b) I have to prepare in the midst of doing everything else. This means it’s going to be awhile before I ever get my “10,000 hours.” Preaching is work. You need a system for meditating and studying scripture, another system for collecting ideas, and a framework for organizing your thoughts. If you do the work, you can come across clear, thoughtful and even natural. Getting to that point will require some work, and it ain’t sexy.
What unsexy work does your vocation require?