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7 Things I Miss About Church Planting

How leading an established church is different than starting from scratch


only have four church experiences in vocational ministry. One was a traditional church where God allowed us to bring renewed energy and growth. I was also a part of two successful church plants. And for the last several years, I’ve been involved in the revitalization of a historic, established church. God has been so good to us in each of these churches—we’ve seen growth in the churches and the people. We have loved every experience. Recently, I was reflecting with one of our staff members who has never served in a church plant. As we shared stories, he was fascinated by how different things were at times in church planting versus the established church. Our conversation reminded me, as much as I love the established church, there are some things I miss about church planting. Here are seven things I miss: There are few “pew sitters.” Everyone has a job in a church plant— especially early in a plant, everyone feels needed. They know if they don’t do their part, Sunday will not happen. There’s an “all hands on deck” attitude each Sunday. Ownership is a shared mentality. People far from God feel welcome. People come to a church plant with fewer reservations or concerns that they won’t be accepted, even though most—or at least many— established churches would welcome them just as easily. I know ours will, thankfully. But perception can be a huge front-door barrier. I’ve stated numerous times in our established church that sometimes the steeple can be the biggest hindrance. Don’t misunderstand, I love and appreciate our building and the opportunities it affords us as a church. I even love our steeple, and I’m thankful for the sacrifices of those who built it long before I arrived. Great tradition and symbolism are involved. But there is something about the rawness of a church with no building, meeting in a high school, theater or rented storefront, which invites people who don’t feel they “fit in” a traditional church setting. You see people raw. I heard a cuss word almost every other Sunday in church planting—and it was a part of normal

conversation. They didn’t know “church” was a place for “nice” language. If they got drunk the night before, they told you. If they were struggling to believe in God, you knew it. There was no pretense. I would rather we all had “clean” language. Drunkenness is a sin. God can be believed without reservation. But it was refreshing to know where people really stood. There was no passive aggression or pretense— something I see often in the established church—afraid, perhaps, they wouldn’t be accepted otherwise. People bring visitors every week. People were so excited about the church they brought their friends. What a novel idea! Sure, it happens in the established church too, but it seemed to happen more frequently in a church plant. People in the established church often feel they’ve exhausted their contacts, all their friends are already in the church, or the newness and excitement of inviting has long since passed. (Obviously, this is one of the major mindsets to challenge in church revitalization.) Small steps are celebrated. In an established church, there are so many “mature” Christians—certainly people who know all the expectations of the church and appear to follow them—a newcomer far from God can often feel they don’t measure up at all. In a church plant, which often reaches people far from God, every baby step seems to be a major step. Change is expected. It’s not rejected. It’s not resisted. There are no politics or the “right people” you have to talk to before you implement. Everyone knows it’s part of the process. It’s in the DNA. Rules are not cumbersome. Granted, there were times we probably needed a few more rules. As our church and staff grew, we needed more structure. But the longer we are together as an organization, the more structured we become. And sadly, the more protective we become of the structure. It’s much harder to adapt. Those are a few things I miss about church planting. It’s an exciting time in ministry, and as hard as it is, it’s very rewarding. My prayers go out to my church-planting friends.

“People were so excited about the church they brought their friends. What a novel idea!”

72 MinistryToday May // June 2016

This article originally appeared at Lightstock

Ministry Today May/Jun 2016  

Serving rising leaders within the church by empowering them with effective tools for Spirit-led ministry.

Ministry Today May/Jun 2016  

Serving rising leaders within the church by empowering them with effective tools for Spirit-led ministry.