How to Unbuild a Church Planter

From my first days in ministry as a pastor I remember those around me telling me consistently to enjoy the journey, that I need to slow down and enjoy the process. I have always been a high energy, determined, hard-driven, goal-oriented individual.

The Disenfranchised Planter

Therefore, when I entered church planting, I had all kinds of dreams, aspirations, and goals in my head to see us accomplish.

In my head, I had the end goal in mind of what I envisioned could happen, still as hard-charging, high energy as before. The Lord seemed to bring different faces in different places to remind me of the same thing: Enjoy the journey.

Then, year after year after year what I envisioned in my head was not what I was seeing come into existence.

Year after year after year I was becoming more and more disenfranchised with my church plant. All the while, those on the outside were reminding me of how much they were seeing God do. I was hearing people outside our church plant tell me of the wonderful things they saw.

I couldn’t see it, however, because it was not matching what I had in my mind as the end goal. I had not learned how to enjoy the journey. I couldn’t enjoy the journey or the process of our plant until I took a journey inward.

The Inward Journey

I began to realize that God might be teaching me more through our church plant than what I was teaching our community.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized that I was planting the Church in my head and not God’s Church. Slowly I began to realize that by not enjoying the journey that I was on I was not enjoying the Lord and the adventure of his kingdom.

Ironically, I was teaching our community that to follow Christ we had to die to ourselves, all along not realizing that in order for me to enjoy what God was doing with the church plant, there were still portions of me that had to die too.

Through planting, I have had to wrestle with my own demons of performance, proving wrong the ghosts I believed were watching and showing myself I am a church planter! Wow. It feels so dirty to confess the ugly that lies beneath the surface of our souls. But, God had to truly empty me of me by teaching me to truly embody His presence in my life and my presence within a community.

As a church planter, I had to realize that I was not building something, but rather cultivating what God was already up to. No wonder the Scriptures are full of metaphors linking the Kingdom and farming.

Learning To Not Set Goals 

When I first landed in Virginia Beach to plant it seemed like I was always setting goals based upon what I saw God doing in other places. I was setting goals based upon what I was reading and what I desired rather than asking the questions, “What is God doing around me? What do I hear the Holy Spirit whispering?”

In essence I had to learn to stop making premature goals.

I had to learn the importance of having presence, learning to have eyes to see what God was doing and ears to hear what the Holy Spirit was saying. Not for me to set my own goals, but rather, for me to learn to not set goals until I had a clear sense of what God was up to. This could only happen as I learned to stop doing and, instead, learn to be not a church planter first, but a child of the King, passionate about being with Him and learning to rest in Him.

God had to bring maturity within me. There had to be an un-building of my church planter identity that then allowed the building of the inward man.

I had to learn what health and longevity looks like. I had to learn that even as a church planter, when Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, it better apply to me too.

Through much reflection and many conversations with planters, I don’t believe the things I had to die to in order to truly see the glory of the Lord through our plant are unique to me alone. It is easy as a church planter to take the weight of the Kingdom upon ourselves, rather than seeing ourselves as a steward of the things that God is already up to.

All of us have that inward man with insecurities and performance motives and brokenness that we have to allow God to lead our own souls through. We are a part of the community we are leading, being lead by the Spirit. Only when we take the journey inward, can we lead others inward and truly enjoy the adventure God has us on as Kingdom advancers.

Are you truly enjoying the journey and adventure of church planting?

How are you creating margin to allow the presence of God to infiltrate your dreams and aspirations and the depths of your own soul? How are you caring for your own soul? Your family’s soul?

Does Jesus’ yoke feel easy and His burden light in your world today?

Are there dreams and visions in your head that are keeping you from enjoying the present and presence of what God is up to now?

Where does there need to be the un-building of a church planter in order to see the building of the inward man?

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Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey is a church planter, strategist, coach, and cultural architect who works with existing churches and church planters, helping them reimagine what the church can look like in our day. He has worked as a Strategist with the Bridge Network of Churches and currently works with V3 Coordinating a Church Planting Movement within the State of Virginia. Passionate about the potential for movement within the Church, he is constantly looking at unleashing the Imago Dei that resides within all humanity. This has become the constant pulse of Awaken Church, which he planted in the Virginia Beach (Hampton Roads) area, as they have seen the expression of the church extend from the Neighborhood to Navy Ships.
Mike Pumphrey

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