One of the themes that continues in my “church planting adventure” is the necessity of staying encouraged. My mentor and coach says that in ministry, and especially in starting a new church, you’ll keep getting knocked down. Whether you can stay encouraged will determine your quality of life and your ability to survive, because without encouragement you won’t want to get up.
One of the ideas I came up with a few weeks ago, was a reminder of the different reasons why I should be encouraged.
1. Poking Holes: Robert Lewis Stevenson, best known for his adventure story Treasure Island, was in poor health during much of his childhood and youth. One night his nurse found him with his nose pressed against the frosty pane of his bedroom window. “Child, come away from there. You’ll catch your death of cold,” she fussed. But young Robert wouldn’t budge. He sat, mesmerized, as he watched an old lamplighter slowly working his way through the black night, lighting each street lamp along his route. I first heard this story from my coach, though I found the text here. Jesus, says “I am the light of the world” and then tells his followers “you are the light of the world.” So starting a church is this astounding work of poking a hole in the darkness. I need to remind myself of the big picture in which I will look back from eternity and say, “wow, what a privilege to help poke a hole in the darkness.”
2. Progress: I was talking with a pastor in his sixties who has faithfully served God and is near the end of his time in vocational ministry. He spoke of the life long challenge of feeling inadequate for the great task of serving God and his people, then mentioned 1 Timothy 4. There Paul charges Timothy, to let his progress be seen. There is not some magic destination at which you arrive and have it all figured out, but a life of demonstrating progress. This pastor told me how helpful it is to have progress as the goal and I see that myself. I feel like I’ve learned and grown in many ways over the past few years and even though there is so much that I “don’t know” yet, but I am making progress.
3. It is a privilege to serve as pastor, provide for my family, and do what I love. Though at points I can be overwhelmed with the challenges of church planting, it is a great way to spend my life. There are many guys who would love to be pastor and have it as their full time job. I should not have a “woe is me” or “I have a hard job” attitude.
4. When I live by faith, believing that God will build his church, touch people’s lives, and bless this city through our efforts, I am lifted up and energized. As I talk with other church planters and pastors we all have our fears and “failure scenarios” in which if ______ happens (or doesn’t happen) it will all fall apart. The solution is to look with faith (not naive blindness), but to see the indications that God is at work and continue trusting that he will build.
5. One of the indications that a church is fulfilling its missions is whether it would be missed if it weren’t there. Right now I can yes, our church would be missed, not only by people in the congregation but in the city. In our short existence in Worcester God has provided inroads for ministry we’re excited to see how it will develop.
The list continues and one of the pieces not pictured above is a collection of names and stories. These are people that God has touched through our ministry, some of whom are part of the church and others who are not.