Planting a church is about being willing to feel weak.
For over 20 years I’ve heard stories of church planters starting brand new churches, launching themselves and their families into an adventure for God’s glory. These men, their families, and the teams that follow them have been my heroes. They sacrificed the comfortable surroundings of outstanding local churches for the certain sacrifice of establishing a new church from the ground up. For years there was a certain assumption of inevitability in this process. Surely this level of faith and joy and partnership and support could only conclude in another outstanding church in the future. But then I heard, for the first time, about a church plant that had to close its doors. Now I know that church plants close their doors all the time. The attempt is not inevitable after all. Perhaps planting a church is not about feeling strong.
Now I am preparing to lead a church plant. The adventure, the vision of serving and sacrificing for the glory of God has lost none of its attraction. To my maturing eyes, God has only become more glorious, the gospel more worthy, the need more desperate, the adventure more honorable. But now nothing seems inevitable at all. I am peering into the future and realizing what all of those teams faced. Planting a church is about being willing to feel weak.
Weakness in the Bible is not cultivated immaturity, nor celebrated laziness, nor whining self-pity. It is the reality of life as a creature and as a sinner. We are not self-existent. We do not create ex-nihilo. We cannot save. Being weak is not an occasional experience but the condition given to us by the Lord. A church plant magnifies the normal weaknesses of everyone involved and invites us to see close up just how vulnerable we are. A church planting pastor can’t save the unbelievers who listen to his messages. He can’t ultimately preserve his dear friends from wandering into unbelief and sin. He can’t bring spiritual revival to his new city home. But these are the reasons he is planting a church. A church planter is called to do, desires to do, what he cannot do. The mountain is too high but we are called to climb, the stream too wide but we are called to swim.
Of course we could give up, turn away, and applaud others from a distance. Or we can be willing to be weak, so that the power of Christ may rest up us. The more we desire to see of his power, the more weak we must be willing to feel. The more impossible the task we accept, the more weak we will feel, and the more we will see the glory of God’s power and the inevitability of his promise.
God is not weak. God’s gospel is inevitable—it will reach the nations. Church planting means be willing to feel weak in myself. Church planting is believing that God desires to reveal the glory of his power, the strength of his gospel. To see that sight, I am willing to feel weak. I am willing to plant a church.