Yesterday I started writing about some of the things I’ve learned since planting this church (you can read yesterday’s HERE). Over the past few years I’ve recalled, on more than a few occasions, the guy who did my assessment, asking me, “Are you sure there’s nothing else you could do, because if there is….if there’s ANYTHING else you could do…you need to go do it because church planting is not for you.” The dude didn’t even know me, how could he make that kind of statement? Turns out he had a point and I’m understanding it more and more. Let me share a few more things I’ve learned.
Church planting is hard.
That seems like a no-brainer, but it is. Pastoring is hard, but most American pastors have a congregation, a building, an office, a pretty “regular” schedule, a staff, a budget, even some experience, a network, and some people who will do whatever the pastor asks. Even 2 or 3 of those would have been good to start with, but try having none of that. No building to meet in, but no need yet because there’s no people! No office or staff either. Experience? Nah, over-rated (unless you count student ministry, but that’s actually a whole different beast – not bad, just different). We moved here and knew 1 person – our realtor. And actually, I was the only one who knew him because my wife had never met him, had never seen the house I picked out and had only been to Greenville once for about 36 hours! Once we did gather a crowd and convince a few crazies to jump on board, we still needed to find a place to meet, raise money to pay for it, buy everything most pastors already have for a Sunday morning (like chairs) and actively engage the culture around us. But be careful, other churches might not like how you do that (or the fact that you do it at all), which brings me to the next thing I’ve learned…
The “Big ‘C'” church can be really mean and selfish
After I moved here and before we started meeting, I went and met with a number of pastors to introduce myself and let them know that when we did start, I wasn’t trying to steal people from their congregations and I was committed to working with them. Some immediately said things like “We don’t really need another church around here.” while others were nicer and just said, “I’m not sure it will work, but good luck to ya.” So with the backing of the local pastors, I called some to ask to borrow things like tables and chairs or even a $90 Bible study curriculum. Guess what? most said no. And guess why? Because they’d borrowed stuff before and it came back broken or didn’t come back at all. Apparently they thought I was trying to steal and destroy their ‘stuff’. I couldn’t believe that bigger, successful churches didn’t want to partner with new churches to make a difference in the community and the Kingdom! I mean seriously, we have no people, no building, no budget or money, and you feel threatened by us? Right.
Sharing with and supporting others is actually fun
Like I mentioned, a lot of the local churches and pastors didn’t want anything to do with us. There was some occasional support from a distance, but mostly a pretty cold reception. But those experiences caused me to want to do whatever we could to partner with other willing pastors and churches which is why we regularly loan out our “stuff”, have given away our “stuff” and have even invited other pastors starting churches to come in and take over a Sunday or a whole series at Discovery. Why? Because we’re on the same team….shouldn’t we act like it? When I moved here, I heard people saying that there hadn’t been a successful church plant in about 10 years. Since I’ve gotten here, I can think of 5 new ministries that have started up and we’ve been able to be a part of 3 of those. But it’s not just churches. Because we met at a theater, school and now at the Boys and Girls Club, we have lots of portable stuff that we can loan out for community events, to businesses and even a wedding or two. And we only charge…..$0. That’s right, nothing. It’s much more fun to work with people, then it is to protect your stuff and tell people you can’t. And Discovery people understand that too. So much so, that they’ve actually served at the very churches that wouldn’t share with us and didn’t think this town needed another church. Ironic?