I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. It was one of those turning-point conversations that seemed small in the moment but ended up being very significant. I was finishing up some dishes in the kitchen after a long day with our four kids. My husband brought it up slowly.
I have a feeling God is asking us to plant a church . . . What do you think?
Blank stare. Jaw drops. Anxiety flooded my heart, making me quite nauseous as I loaded the last plate into the dishwasher.
My response: No way.
Having been in ministry for a while, I had seen lots of trying situations for people leading churches. In my mind, planting a church meant work that never ended. It meant struggles, conflicts, disappointment, and hardship. I did not want to go there.
Long story short, after lots of wrestling, surrendering, and seeing God’s vision for the body of Christ, we planted our first church in northeast Indiana in 2008. We were working to plant a community that had discipleship and mission at its core. It was a difficult but amazing journey.
And guess what. We’re planting another church—this time with some good friends in the Indianapolis area. We learned that planting is a lot of work and that there’s real wisdom in going out in pairs.
As I reflect back, here are four things I wish we had known before we planted the first time.
1. It Is God’s Work
It really is God’s work, not ours. I understood this at a head level. However, I saw that deep down I felt the pressure to make it happen. At the end of the day, I found myself striving in my own strength—which quickly became exhausting!
The truth that brought a lot of freedom was that we plant, water, and tend, but God is the one who causes the growth.
Resting in that truth when we didn’t see things growing and felt frustration, impatience, and the pressure to make growth happen brought a new perspective that lightened my walk. It enable me to let God be God and bring the growth that he had planned.
2. Spiritual Warfare Will Increase
I can’t tell you how many crazy things have happened in the process of planting: sickness, nightmares, accidents, arguments, etc. Now, I’m not one to see a devil behind every tree, but the reality is we do live in a spiritual battlefield. By planting a church you are actively extending the Kingdom of God, and the enemy will fight back.
The good news is our God is a mighty God. He is always right by your side. When the struggle comes, run to the Father and lean on the body of Christ. Asking others to pray has been an essential practice. The prayers of the saints are a powerful thing! We truly do plant with others in this way.
3. Your Core Beliefs Will Surface When Planting
By core beliefs I mean what we really believe—whether we know it or not. Core beliefs are revealed in and through our emotions, actions, and those periods when we “lose control” of our lives. It’s where the rubber hits the road.
It can feel like prying open your lid and seeing the mess that’s inside! But don’t be afraid, we are all under construction. You are not disqualified. It’s an opportunity for the Kingdom of God to draw near and grow.
4. It Will Be One of the Most Rewarding Things You’ll Ever Do
Even though there have been difficult times, planting a church had been one of the most fulfilling times in my life.
When I think of the friends that helped us plant the first church, tears overwhelm me. The bonds built between us are for a lifetime.
Our kids have seen faith and community in action. They’ve experienced what it means to be the church.
And finally, seeing others come to faith in Christ and grow in their journeys with him has been an honor that’s brought me to my knees. Joining Jesus in his work in our community has been a tremendous gift that I wouldn’t trade for anything.