Lessons from a “Failed” Church Plant

Mike Edwards offers some lessons he learned while church planting.  I think they ring true.

  • Plant GOSPEL identities, not programs or services: The reason I put ‘failed church plant’ in quotes is because I do not believe we actually set out to plant a church ( and as if the work of God ever fails). We set out, like most church planters, to actually plant a service or some type of program that we hope one day will help us to graduate to being or launching a real church.  Nothing could be further from the truth. All we can do is plant the gospel AS the church (and embody the identities it gives us as learners, family and missionaries) and only God can grow that church.
  • Plant TOGETHER, not alone: Jesus led his ministry with others. Paul was always accompanied and helped in ministry by other faithful men. Setting out to plant or lead an apostolic ministry by yourself is suicidal. Outside of making sure we understand and apply the gospel faithfully, this is the greatest practical lesson I have learned and the mistake I want to avoid in the future. Planter-you need a committed team; even if it’s a small one. Further, you should have a solid group of believers that can encourage and commission you to the work.
  • Be faithful, not cool-It is popular in many church planting circles today to plant a cool, hip church in the name of relevance. You get extra bonus points for being uber-sexy if you plant “in the city” as well.  While we most certainly must embody the truth of the gospel in every context, we must remember that faithfulness is to be prized and the truth is always relevant.
  • Be humbled, not overconfident: You can have the best laid plans and the best looking proposals, but without true gospel humility, you are destined for a fall. It’s just that simple.  By all means, we should make responsible plans to shepherd people and do the work we’re called to, but structure must always submit to the Spirit.
  • Live it as a family FIRST, don’t use your church as a crutch: If the church, as God’s people, are to be learners, family of God, and missionaries, your family should be able to demonstrate how they are growing more in the Word, how your marriage and parenting is grace centered and how you are loving your neighbor as yourself in word and deed. You can’t hide behind your church plant for long.
  • Don’t go after people, pursue the God who will raise them up: By this I mean that there is a great temptation to recruit ‘the right people’ to your church plant or to re-arrange vision and values based on wanting to keep the people we like rather than to trust that God will bring the right people into your community, even if they’re not the people you would choose first. Remember that he chooses the simple and foolish things to confound the wise and glorify Himself. Christian community is not synonymous with Christian affinity.

I also appreciated these thoughts shared by a reader in the comments:

Our “plant” ran 18 months before I pulled the plug on it. There are things I know now, that I wish I had known then. The importance of prayer. The need for a ‘spiritual team,’ not just a group of people with specific roles. The need to avoid a situation where the group so identifies with me as leader that they cancel a Sunday event because I’m not going to be there. (Really!) The willingness of everyone to reach out to the unchurched in the community, not just coast along on transfer growth from other churches.

On the other hand, I look back with great satisfaction on having tried. No regrets. No feeling I missed a year and a half of something else. Just a whole lot of things I would do differently. We served a spiritual banquet of great teaching and community each week, and helped some people over some rough times in their Christian journey. Just wish I’d known some other things upfront.

Read the entire post here.

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