I am not a fan of the emphasis that seems to be encouraged, or rewarded in many church-planting circles today. We love numbers…big numbers that is. When they’re up–we rejoice. When they’re down–we feel like incompetent failures. We are encouraged to chase programs and events that draw a huge crowd. I have seen many church-planters who get a huge flash in the pan with big numbers and they stick around between 1-3 years before moving on claiming they are “Paul’s” who plant and move on. These types love numbers that show many people came, many professed, and many were dunked–regardless of how shallow any of these events were in reality. Sorry if I seem critical, I know their are people who do this well, but I just don’t think this is a model we should strive for.
What should a church-planter, church-restarter, or leading pastor focus on in His journey? I don’t know that I have the answers, but I have a few principles that have guided me along this journey.
1. Plan on plowing this hard path for the long haul. I have read a number of church-planting books that suggest the planter buy a cemetery plot in the town he is pastoring. This shows himself and the community that he isn’t just passing through, but he is committed to sticking it out for the long haul. While I haven’t bought a plot in Valley Center, I have taken this principle to heart by trying to make decisions that reflect a person who is sticking around.
2. Preach the Word faithfully and a book at a time. I think I apply this point to just about everything relating to pastoring because this is the critical element in all that we do. I don’t do altar calls (not that I am against them), I don’t lead “the sinners prayer” after every sermon. But I try to convey a biblical worldview through the preaching that ultimately changes the person’s worldview with one that corresponds to that of the Bible. I often don’t know when, or how many people, have accepted Christ as Savior. But what I do notice after four years of preaching like this, there is a large crowd of people who love Jesus, take His Word seriously, and about 30% of the body have been baptized at the church over the last four years. I prefer people to process and wrestle through the text and then follow Jesus, rather then “follow Him” after an emotional response.
3. Prefer slow growth with lasting results over flashy results that fade over night. I think many planters feel rushed to push and force things to happen quickly because they are chasing the clock with support. Money should never be a motivator, but money will always be tight for the life of the pastor in the early stages when he is trying to create something out of nothing, or something from something that is broken. Therefore get your financial life in order. Get out of debt, save, spend less than you make. Do whatever you can to remove money from being a driving factor in your decision making process.
4. Invest in people. This is sort of a sub-point of the previous paragraph. Get to know people, invest in their lives, live out Christ before them. This takes time. If your goal is to change a person’s world view from that of humanism to that of a biblical model it will take years, not in one message. Don’t fall for false expectations that you are going to roll into town, preach a few messages, and then see radical life change. Sure it can happen, but the reality is that it takes time to see change. I think this is why Paul tells Timothy to serve “with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).
Hopefully this makes sense as these are just some ramblings I am feeling in my heart at this moment.