Flash in the Pan, not for Me!
I am not a fan of the emphasis that seems to be encouraged, or rewarded in many church-planting circles today. We love numbers…big numbers that is. When they’re up–we rejoice. When they’re down–we feel like incompetent failures. We are encouraged to chase programs and events that draw a huge crowd. I have seen many church-planters who get a huge flash in the pan with big numbers and they stick around between 1-3 years before moving on claiming they are “Paul’s” who plant and move on. These types love numbers that show many people came, many professed, and many were dunked–regardless of how shallow any of these events were in reality. Sorry if I seem critical, I know their are people who do this well, but I just don’t think this is a model we should strive for.
What should a church-planter, church-restarter, or leading pastor focus on in His journey? I don’t know that I have the answers, but I have a few principles that have guided me along this journey.
1. Plan on plowing this hard path for the long haul. I have read a number of church-planting books that suggest the planter buy a cemetery plot in the town he is pastoring. This shows himself and the community that he isn’t just passing through, but he is committed to sticking it out for the long haul. While I haven’t bought a plot in Valley Center, I have taken this principle to heart by trying to make decisions that reflect a person who is sticking around.
2. Preach the Word faithfully and a book at a time. I think I apply this point to just about everything relating to pastoring because this is the critical element in all that we do. I don’t do altar calls (not that I am against them), I don’t lead “the sinners prayer” after every sermon. But I try to convey a biblical worldview through the preaching that ultimately changes the person’s worldview with one that corresponds to that of the Bible. I often don’t know when, or how many people, have accepted Christ as Savior. But what I do notice after four years of preaching like this, there is a large crowd of people who love Jesus, take His Word seriously, and about 30% of the body have been baptized at the church over the last four years. I prefer people to process and wrestle through the text and then follow Jesus, rather then “follow Him” after an emotional response.
3. Prefer slow growth with lasting results over flashy results that fade over night. I think many planters feel rushed to push and force things to happen quickly because they are chasing the clock with support. Money should never be a motivator, but money will always be tight for the life of the pastor in the early stages when he is trying to create something out of nothing, or something from something that is broken. Therefore get your financial life in order. Get out of debt, save, spend less than you make. Do whatever you can to remove money from being a driving factor in your decision making process.
4. Invest in people. This is sort of a sub-point of the previous paragraph. Get to know people, invest in their lives, live out Christ before them. This takes time. If your goal is to change a person’s world view from that of humanism to that of a biblical model it will take years, not in one message. Don’t fall for false expectations that you are going to roll into town, preach a few messages, and then see radical life change. Sure it can happen, but the reality is that it takes time to see change. I think this is why Paul tells Timothy to serve “with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).
Hopefully this makes sense as these are just some ramblings I am feeling in my heart at this moment.
I love your heart Gunnar, may the Lord bless all the work of your heart and hands and in due season give the increase and abundant fruit. I believe that is His promise and we know that He indeed keeps His promises. May the LORD bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and give you His peace.
Good word, Gunnar. Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting!
Thank you Gunnar, this was timely for me, and a good reminder of what’s important.
This is a good post.
But there are differing giftings in the body of Christ.
People need to follow Jesus and not follow programs or others expectations.
I agree that flashes in the pan are not good.
But as pastors, we have to be very careful not to superimpose our callings on others. If we are called to plant a church and die in that pulpit, then praise the Lord.
But don’t look down on someone whose calling is to plant and move on.
As long as people are following Jesus and doing His bidding, all is well in the body of Christ.
Just my thoughts though
1 Corinthians 3 – the planter and the waterer are nothing, God is everything.
In my post I confessed I sounded critical and acknowledged there are people who plant a successful church and move on. Maybe I should have expanded this point for sure. I totally understand that we are gifted differently, but more than that God moves people often. I think my criticism falls on those who follow the “Paul model” but cast big visions and dreams while making covenants about how they are going to change their community for Christ–something that takes time, but then they split when they are offered a position at a big church or other ministry and they seem to leave their flock high and dry without warning. I am associated with a denomination (but I am not really a denominational type guy) and I think my criticism is aimed at those who view their church as a stepping stone in a career path and will split when a better opportunity comes along. I think John Piper addresses this well in his book “Brothers, We are not Professionals!” The bottom line is I think we as planters/pastors need to have the heart that we will staying indefinitely while being open to follow wherever God leads us.
Okay, this response is dangerous as it is early and I haven’t had my coffee yet!