An invitation to walk with Jesus

By Izah Broadus

Easter is a special time, and it’s a special time for New Faith, as well. The first service we ever had was Easter Sunday morning in 2016, and since that day I’ve watched the Lord and His Gospel work in the lives of people who have walked through the door.

Deborah is one of those people. She would come every Sunday, but we couldn’t get her to say anything to us. Within two months of being here, God just started touching Deborah’s heart. She began asking what she could do and how she could serve, and then she accepted Christ!

It’s just awesome what God’s done in Deborah’s life and the change I’ve seen in her over a year’s time. Last year she was so shy, and now she is the main usher for the church building, she helps run our after-school program, and if anything needs cleaning she’s on it! And for Easter this year, Deborah is going to be one of the tour guides for New Faith’s first Walk with Jesus. Walk with Jesus ad

On Good Friday we will be introducing people to Jesus through re-enactments of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, Good Friday, and the Resurrection. When people first come in the door they will be registered and put into groups of five or seven. As they wait, someone from the church will be inviting them to Jesus and telling them what they are about to go through.

A tour guide will then lead each group to different scenes around the church. For Palm Sunday, they’ll see Jesus and lay down palm branches. Next they will see the Last Supper performed, and instead of washing their feet we’ll have hand wipes for them. Then we’ll take them to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prays before He is arrested. The final scene will be the Resurrection. This is where we will give them a chance to write down their sins on a strip of paper, and the paper will dissolve when they put it in a bowl of water—just like the blood of Jesus washes away our sin! (Check out our Facebook page after Good Friday for pictures!)

Please pray for the people of West Helena who might come to Walk with Jesus! Our hope is that those who come on Good Friday will leave with our invitation to come back on Sunday for the Easter restoration service.

The Word Church 2

The Lord has definitely been around as New Faith prepares for Easter. It was actually The Word Church in Jonesboro that had the idea for us to host Walk with Jesus, and last week we went out in the community together to pray with people and invite them to New Faith. Altogether there were almost 70 of us doing outreach!

new chairs

And I thank God because He has also recently remodeled our sanctuary. The BCM at Arkansas Tech had some church chairs, and they offered them to us last week! As I was wondering what to do with our pews, the man who cuts the grass for us said his church, Morning Star, could use the pews because theirs were old and had no cushions.

There’s no telling what the Lord will do when you’re walking with Him! 


Core competencies of a church planter (2)

By Andrew Munneke

This might surprise some people, but I have a bit of a green thumb. I am one of the few people that complain HGTV is a little bit more “Home” than it is “Gardening” television. So as spring has come upon us and the grass seed we planted back in October has developed deep roots, I’m starting to get excited about cultivating and nurturing my lawn to the award-winning lawn it deserves to be.

Now besides the planting aspect of gardening, you might be wondering what this has to do with church planting. Well, here’s the thing…I might have the greatest passion and vision for my lawn. I can see the corner where I’ll start to mow, how short and thick I want my grass, and the type of flowers that need to bloom in direct sunlight and those that will thrive in the shade. But my vision and passion for my lawn is not going to take me anywhere in cultivating it if I do not have the right equipment.

You see, I know many church planters that are high on vision and are passionate about the Gospel, but they become ineffective because they didn’t take the time to assess if they had the right gifting and knowledge for the ministry.

Passion and enthusiasm for the Gospel is absolutely essential—and it’s good!—but that in and of itself is not qualifying. I could be passionate about singing and dedicate my whole life to it, but because I am not gifted in it I doubt that Blake Shelton will twirl his chair for my voice.

In my last blog I addressed the question, How do you know if you’re qualified to be a church planter? We looked at the characteristics of a church leader and discovered that only one of those characteristics is a skill—teaching—while the rest are about your character (1 Timothy 3). If you haven’t read the previous blog, check it out real quick then come back.

Now that we’ve tested your character and calling, let’s test your gifting.

Theological clarity

For me, the first core competency is theological clarity. By that I mean do you know the Scriptures? Can you answer doctrinal questions? Can you bring the Gospel forth in every Scripture? Do you know what you believe and can you apply it to all circumstances?

If you’re counseling someone who’s had a miscarriage, are you sympathetic but also grounded in Scripture as you counsel? Or if someone comes to you and they’re in debt, can you resist the temptation to give them great principles (like cutting up the credit cards or taking a Dave Ramsey class) and instead say, “There will be a time to cut-up those credit cards, but let’s look at the heart of why you keep running to materialism rather than finding joy and satisfaction in the Lord”? 

I talked a little bit in the last blog about the only “skill” is the ability to teach, so obviously the ability to teach is important. So you can ask yourself, your mentors, and the Lord if you need to grow in that, and perhaps even consider more education in that.

Leadership ability

The second one would be your leadership. Do people follow you? Do you have a history of starting things from scratch? Do you live a lifestyle worth following? How you lead people in the microcosm of your family?

Just saying this now, but as the pastor of a church, your marriage is going to be the lead example for your church. Paul says this in (1 Timothy 3:1-5). The first thing you can do is examine if your household resembles what your ministry should look like.

What about other aspects of leadership like casting vision, or attracting and building and connecting leaders? How do people react under you? Do they feel squashed and stepped on?

And something that’s really important before you tackle being a lead pastor: do you have any experience in leadership? If not, let’s get some more reps under you…

{ …in a microcosm you definitely learn what it’s like to shepherd people through hard times. }

In a microcosm like your family or a small group, you learn how to communicate, “This is when we’re meeting. This is when we’re hanging out outside the group. This event was cancelled. Here’s what we’re studying…”

And, more than just logistics, in a microcosm you definitely learn what it’s like to shepherd people through hard times. Hopefully you’re getting people to come and talk to you about their heartbreaks, doubts and struggles, and because of this you’re learning how to shepherd.

I do want to say this about leadership in a microcosm: when a small group shrinks or grows, it can be for many different reasons. However, there is a point where it is an indicator of your leadership.

Making disciples

The third competency I would mention is discipleship. That might seem like a no-brainer, but what I’m talking about is not just teaching someone but walking the whole spectrum with them—taking someone from being an unbeliever to being a disciple and an elder.

So there is evangelism (which is preaching the Gospel), and obviously unbelievers need to hear the Gospel. But if you take a look at the life of Jesus, He had that missional-relational kind of living life with people and brought them into the body of Christ.
empty church

Can you do this? Maybe you’re a little socially awkward or shy, but can you connect with people? Can you walk with them daily and speak the truths of Scripture into their life? 

At the same time, I also believe that discipling an unbeliever to the point of a devoted Christ follower is more of a community effort than individual effort. I think where we have crippled ourselves is when we say, “Bill, it’s up to you to lead your neighbor to Christ,” but Billy’s not the best at presenting the Gospel in a way that’s compelling for his neighbor.

This is where I want to say, “Bill, that may not be you; it may be Sally who has that gift set. But your job is to invite him to our church, and once he’s here someone else can talk with him about what he believes, why he believes it, and then present him with the Gospel.”

So what camp are you in?

Maybe you’re not cut out for church planting. If you’re thinking this or someone close to you says this, it should not be an identity-crisis thing. For most people who don’t have the gifting of church planting, that absolutely does not mean that you can’t lead a small group or spend time with non-believers!

On the other hand you might have the gifting of church planting, but you’ve still got to establish the groundwork and framework that will drive you even when the passion leaks out.

So if we were talking face to face, I would expect to see one of three reactions. So let’s figure out where you are and consider your next step…

  1. Absolutely this is not for me. I know I’m not a church planter. I like the Bible but it’s confusing to me, or I don’t have a strong leadership profile, or I’m a follower more than a leader.

That’s okay! You can still be passionate about church planting and contribute in so many ways without being the pastor of a church plant. The person who’s great at one-on-one or who is more reserved when it comes to the crowd is just as needed for building up the church. Church planters need you as a team member and to excel in your gifts—especially in the gifts that we don’t have!

I would say your next step is to serve your church plant or team up with someone who has the gifting. There are plenty of avenues for you to be a part of the missional strategy of church planting.

  1. I don’t feel the passion, but I’m seeing some areas to assess and work on.

This is a good place to be. First, have you told your pastor and people who can speak into your situation? Second, have you looked for opportunities to help you grow in your leadership ability, to meet lost people, to make disciples? Consider getting involved with a residency or pursuing more education.

  1. I know church planting is for me! I think I have the right stuff and I’m ready to move forward to the next step.

Awesome! For that next step, read blog three in this series.

Giving thanks when the road’s rough

By Anthony Banks

At Second Baptist Turrell, we’re getting ready to have our first church anniversary in two weeks, on Sunday April 9! When I’ve been asked to share all that God’s done, I’ve shared the good things because He’s been good!

But I also thank God because the road has been a little rough. Some things this past year were hard. Not bad, just hard. If it had not been for the Lord we wouldn’t be where we are now.

One of my goals in being a part of this blog is to come alongside and encourage other pastors and church planters in their experience. So as I reflect on the past year with Second Baptist, here are just a few things I would say…

Remaining faithful

When we started Second Baptist, we were having Bible study. We started our church service earlier than expected because the Spirit led me to do so.  I heard what my pastor, mentor, and other people were saying and could not let it stop me, because when I heard what the Voice of the Lord I had to follow Him.  I would say to a new church plant or a church that is starting: first and foremost, always follow God.

The second thing I would say is to make sure that you have a solid core group. This group is what’s going to keep you afloat. When you’re starting out in Bible study, you won’t have the crowds but you’ll have your core group. These people are dedicated. They are the people coming to hear the Word.  They will be the sheep that begat sheep.behind the pulpit

One of the hardest things for me was having all these people in church—like a tree full of limbs—but then some of the branches were pruned, or they cut themselves off.  I would not see them for a while, and then they might pop-back up. The key is to remember that some will not be as dedicated in the beginning. You must stay humble and focus on the mission of stretching out a helping hand.

Nevertheless, all you can do is preach the Word. You cannot let the amount of people that show up, whether it is large or small crowd, affect your preaching.  I am not a sugarcoat type preacher.  We are still a young plant so I wonder what people think.  What’s in-season, out-of-season? Some people love it when you’re saying things that are “preaching them happy.” However, when you are preaching the wages of sin is death they tend to cut themselves off and hide behind things because they think you are picking on them.

It’s either right or it’s wrong. It’s either holy or unholy. It’s either God or the devil. There is no straddling the fence. You must choose this day whom you shall serve. You cannot serve two masters. 

As the pastor of a church plant, you have to continue. You have to stay faithful to watch, as well as pray, for the Lord to lead you. Just hold on because sometimes it will get a little rough! It is like a rollercoaster: sometimes it feels good, and sometimes it feels like the bottom just drops.

Resisting temptation

Naturally, when you first start a church you’re going to have people come in that haven’t been in the church. Whatever it is that draws them in—that we do not judge, that we are about the community, whatever—that is how it should be because Jesus is bringing them to Himself.

And the first thing the devil is going to do? Attack you.

  • How many people have you baptized?
  • When you started, you were baptizing people every month.
  • People don’t believe.
  • You don’t know how to reach them.
  • Were you really called to pastor?
  • You’re in this alone.
  • It’s too hard, and you will fail.
  • Do you have a plan?
  • Your plan doesn’t seem to be working.
  • Quit! You gave it a try.
  • Well, you might have more baptisms in the first year than you do over the next couple of years.
  • Membership may be slowing down.

You have to rebuke the devil! Otherwise, he’ll run you off track. And it’s not just baptisms and membership. There are lots of things in the new church plant that he will use to steal your focus if you allow him to creep up on you.

When the devil tempts me to focus on these things as I’m doing a report on Second Baptist, I just have to remember 1 Corinthians 3:6-8:

6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.

The key is that it’s only God who sends the increase. It is up to me to know, understand, and focus on what the Word says.  The only way to defeat the devil is with the word of God. Remind Satan that he has no power. It was taken from him over two thousand years ago on the cross at Calvary!

I have to attack Satan with the Word of God just as Jesus did when Satan came to Him and tempted Him three times.  We/church plants must stay rooted and grounded in the Word because we cannot fight with our own power and strength!

God cannot and will not tempt you, but He’ll allow you to be tested. He don’t have a will or desire to test you, because He knows what you’ll do before you do it. Just like when Satan asked God to take His hand off Job. He wanted to take Job. But what did God do? He allowed him to tempt Job but said, “You can’t touch his soul.”

He has no authority to touch our souls! He’s got to knock on the door of the Lord to ask permission. Even with that permission he can’t touch our soul! He’s the father of lies, and even when God allows, it’s up to us to pass or fail the test. And even though we might fall, God is still able to pull us up.

That’s the thing about church planting. You will have doubts. Satan will try to discourage. You will know in your heart that you need to keep working, but you’re crying out for a much needed break.

Satan doesn’t take off! He doesn’t have vacations or take a leave of absence! He’s trying to sneak up on you, moving to and fro, easing his way through the holes.

But the Lord won’t leave you!

Rekindling evangelism

In church planting, you’ve got to have evangelism at your core.

When Jesus came and was calling His disciples, He went out and witnessed. Then they went and got their brothers, their families, and their friends. When Jesus knew everything about the Samaritan woman’s life, what did she do after she met him? She went out and told people! When the Spirit came upon the believers in the upper room, they went out! The church has always had an evangelistic spirit.

I remember when I was on the other side—before I gave my life to the Lord—I always knew that I was doing something displeasing. I was messing up God’s temple. I really didn’t know to describe my body and soul that way, but it was bothering me so much because God was working in me. He had His hand on me the whole time for such a time as this: to tell people how He’s changed my life!

{ When Jesus knew everything about the Samaritan woman’s life, what did she do after she met him? She went out and told people! }

I sold drugs and used them. I used to drink alcohol, steal, fight, and run in a gang. I had been deceived.  Nevertheless, do not judge me by what you last saw me doing.  Look at Paul after the intervention on Damascus road! Do not judge him by what he was doing when he was Saul. I saw my many times when I could have died in my sins. “But God…”

Like the thief next to Jesus on the cross who confessed Him at the last hour. When he confessed Jesus as Lord and said, “Remember me,” Jesus told him, “This day you shall be with me in paradise.” However, I thank God for his mercy on me and calling me to work in the vineyard before my last hour.

We have to quit judging people and help them on this side of heaven.  We will not know until that last hour if some people will confess Him as Lord. Nevertheless, the man on the cross is in paradise!  That’s what we’ve got to think about and focus on! I thank God for the church plant; He has given me the opportunity to serve His people.

In the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord! That is why we should willingly share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

To God be the glory!

Listening: time well spent

Have you ever listened to someone talk for what you thought was a few minutes, but it turns out you had been listening for an hour or more?

It happened to me recently as I sat-in on a recording for The Grind, an Arkansas Baptists podcast where church planters share their God-stories, planting strategies, and their heart for reaching the lost. I had never been a part of a podcast before (and really, I didn’t contribute to the conversation! I was just present for the recording), but I have to say my first time was a memorable one.

For this episode, The Grinds hosts (Dave and Chad) invited a local, seasoned church planter from Hot Springs named Mike Prince. A soft-spoken man with a calm demeanor and firm yet gentle handshake, Mike seemed to have everyone in the room listening for the wisdom he might share.

He talked about hanging out at McDonald’s as a way to try and have Gospel conversations. He talked about wrestling with the people God has called him to. He talked about “coincidences” that in the end proved to be divine appointments. He talked about God saving people’s souls and changing their lives.

All the while I was thinking, What’s keeping me from doing what Mike is doing? Is it because I don’t have the burden for the lost that I think I do? 

As if to answer what I was thinking, Mike said, “Right now we have so many opportunities, but we need the workers…people who will be all in.” How appropriate it was that this was one of the last things he said for the podcast. It was like a call-to-action.

{ “Right now we have so many opportunities, but we need the workers…people who will be all in.” }

~Mike Prince, Garage Church Hot Springs 

What had felt like a few minutes in the podcast turned out to be much longer, and I think time spent with God tends to be like that sometimes. I might not have physically seen Him in the room where we were recording the podcast, but His presence was there in the words Mike shared.

Mike was speaking of His redemption for His people. Mike’s heart was echoing the Lord’s heart: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

I left thinking about what years in a prison cell must feel like to a person without Christ. This is what it’s like for the people Mike ministers to in prison. Then I thought about what a day in heaven must be like, when Scripture says, “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10a). What a gift not just for the prisoner but for a sinner like me.

I may not be a church planter. But I’m a believer. And sitting in on this podcast was a reminder of the work that I’m called to do, too.

Listen to The Grind episode with Mike here:
By Rachel Gaddis
Rachel is a member of the communications team for Arkansas Baptists

A chat with the bloggers of “A Day in the Life of a Church Planter”

Have questions for the bloggers as you read? Connect with them by sending us a message!

How do you respond when people ask, “What is church planting?” 

Izah: I respond that church planting is a group of faith-believing Christians who have the intention of growing the Kingdom.

Anthony: I haven’t been asked that question, but I would probably say that it’s the church that begins as a small, core group of believers having a Bible study that will grow in number as they become stronger in Christ.

Andrew: Church planting is the continuing model of missions found in the book of Acts, where healthy existing churches train, equip and send-out healthy leaders to declare and demonstrate the Gospel. Too often church planting is seen as a divisive event in the life of a church that results in splits and fractions among its people. However, when churches plant churches, they participate in the Great Commission by reaching unchurched people who would never enter into their own churches because of location, demographics, or contextualization.


Izah Broadus, New Faith Baptist Church West Helena 


What is the people group or culture you are reaching? 

Izah: We would love to reach all people, but most importantly “the lost” (those who don’t know Christ).

Anthony: It is an African American group; many are unemployed or on fixed income. In our community there is a lack of resources, no local schools, and many are deprived of an education.

Andrew: The Hill Church is located in Fayetteville, Ark., which means we have an eclectic mission field in whom we are called to serve. The majority of our members are college students and young professionals who are joining a church for the first time. In fact, only 5 percent of our congregation was a member of a church before joining The Hill.  However, the people we serve and build relationships with around our physical church location are in poverty and are primarily single parent homes.


Anthony Banks, Second Baptist Church Turrell


What is the biggest obstacle you/your church face in reaching people? 

Izah: Our biggest obstacle is lacking the funds to do a lot of things that we would love to do.

Anthony: The biggest I would say is encountering people with depression and low self-esteem.

Andrew: Our church is intentionally located in a lower-income area so that we can build relationships and love them as people made in the image of God, but—to put it bluntly—we are white and the majority of them are black.  People in lower income areas have been burned by what they call “white saviors,” people who come in, give them some food or resources, and then leave.

I’m not saying these outreaches were bad, but what that has developed in these people of poverty is they think we see them as a project and not a person. It was difficult for us to break that wall of suspension which could only be brought down by a consistent proximity.


Andrew Munneke, The Hill Church Fayetteville


When in your ministry have you seen the direct impact of prayer? 

Izah: In the ministry, the direct impact I have seen was when the young men in the church came to the alter crying out to God in prayer.

Anthony: There was a family whose lights were turned off, and they were about to be evicted from their home.  We prayed and God answered prayers. To God be the glory!

Andrew: Finances are difficult in any church plant, but what we faced as our church grew was that we couldn’t grow as an organization [with the financial challenge]. So last year we said, “How much internal giving can we receive, realistically, if we pushed really hard and effectively communicated our need?”

So we wrote down that number and said, “Ok, let’s double that and start getting on our knees and asking God to provide that amount.” We knew the budget that we prayed for couldn’t come based on our own sales pitch or charts, but only by the Lord providing. By His grace, we received even more than we prayed for!

How can people pray for you? Your church? Your community? 

Izah: Pray that God provide for us so we are be able to do the things we need in order to reach more lost people. Pray that we can give our church a makeover and bring it up-to-date. Pray that the community will join together to seek more of God and truly know who God is.

AnthonyI would say pray for my strength and a steadfast, unmovable love for God and for God’s people. For my church, pray God’s grace and mercy over them. For my community, pray God will send help in the schooling and employment area, and that the leaders in the community would come together.

Andrew: Some specific prayers for us and our community are:
1.    Only 18 percent of Fayetteville is churched. Please continue to pray for the Spirit of God to penetrate hard hearts and dark places.
2.    We are sending our first short-term missions team to South Asia during spring break. Pray for their protection and Gospel ministry over there.
3.    For clarity and wisdom on some important big decisions our elders are making in the next few weeks.

A handful of kids, a church, and Crazy8

By Izah Broadus 

We are just getting a youth after-school program going that is connected with New Faith. It’s been on my heart for over a year, and these kids really do need it. The kids are just running around after school because there is nothing for them to do.  

I just felt the need to reach out because there is no program where our church is. My heart is yes, for the education—they’re going to need it. My hope, too, is to touch the hearts of the kids and that they will want to be a part of the church, and they’ll touch their parents’ hearts to want to be a part of it.

Tuesday, February 21, was our first day. Eight kids showed up; four were kids of members at New Faith, but then other parents found out that we had 30 slots available. Right now there are 13 kids in the program. I knew many of the parents who called to ask about their kid being in the program, but before this I hadn’t had a real connection with them. We have mostly advertised the program on Facebook and during Sunday morning services, so this was the first time really talking to them.

The after school program is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We are using the upstairs facility of the church where the computer rooms are, but we are praying about a new life center and gymnasium.

When the kids first walk in the door, they sign-in and we give them a snack (another organization provides the snacks). We open the program with a prayer and the Bible, and each day I give them an overview of the Bible for about 10 minutes.

After this they divide into classes by their ages, and we help them with their homework. Later we do this program called Crazy8. It’s for reading, English, math, and science. For the last 30 minutes of the day we go to a game room for learning games, but we like to give the kids a chance to play basketball, video games, and table hockey.

{ My hope, too, is to touch the hearts of the kids and that they will want to be a part of the church, and they’ll touch their parents’ hearts to want to be a part of it. }

We are planning to take them on an outing at least one Saturday each month. We are not just taking them somewhere for the sake of taking them out to have fun but doing it so they can learn.

We want the youth to move a step up by being in this program. We’re even going to send a letter back to school for their teachers and ask about what they’re struggling in. The smaller kids will probably tell us the truth, but the older kids will probably beat around the bush.

A deacon and our church secretary are running New Faith’s program, and some of our high school seniors have been trained to teach using Crazy8. Another lady is one of New Faith’s ushers, and she helps in the computer room and with the snacks.

Right now parents are dropping off kids at the church, but our goal is for us to pick them up from school and then their parents pick them up from the program. This is something we are planning to work out with the school system.

The program is working out and I think it will truly make an impact on the community, as well. Please pray that we might know how to really grow this program!

And really, there are so many awesome things that are going on at New Faith. Just this past Sunday in worship service we had more men in service than ever before. I couldn’t past up the opportunity to ask you to pray for all the men there! It was truly an awesome experience. It is something that I’ve been praying for at New Faith: for more men who truly com seeking God.

How do you know if you’re qualified to be a church planter? (1)

By Andrew Munneke

So you are interested in church planting, or maybe even feel the call to plant a church? You marvel at the beauty of the Gospel and are filled with excitement for the potential of what your church may become. There is just one problem: you don’t know what qualifies you to plant a church.

Character and Weakness

A month ago we took our 3-year-old son to a boat show. He loves getting behind the steering wheel, running up and down the aisle, and imagining we are out on the lake having a good time. My imagination ran with him, and for a moment I actually thought about what it would be like to take my son out on Beaver Lake with the wind in our hair and the sun on our backs.

And then I remembered…I know nothing about boats. I don’t know how to take care of them, how to winterize them, or even how the engines work.

Many aspiring planters see church planting like that boat show. It seems fun, exciting and adventurous, but they know very little about how they are wired. Church planting is not for the faint of heart because it exposes our weaknesses, reveals our idols, and tests our faith. What will take you out of ministry is not your vision statement, personality type, or your leadership pipeline—it’s your character.

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul penned his qualifications for a leader in the church. Go ahead and get your Bible and open it (I’ll wait because I want you to make note of this). How many of those qualifications that Paul mentions are skilled oriented? Just one—the ability to teach. All the others are character-driven. It’s 10 percent what you know and 90 percent of who you are. So according to Paul, what qualifies you for leadership in the body of Christ is not your logo or your new cutting edge way of doing church; it’s are you someone who loves Jesus more than anything else? 

{ Church planting is not for the faint of heart because it exposes our weaknesses, reveals our idols, and tests our faith. }

Now take a look at that list again. Do you know where you a weak? Are you self-aware to know what you run to for significance, identity, purpose and hope instead of Christ? Do you know the sin that can take you out of the ministry because Satan knows it, and he is coming after you? In church planting, every weakness is magnified and every character flaw is tested. It exposes the idols of your heart. 

The Heart and Glory

So let’s just pause and ask yourself this question: What is my heart really after? One overarching issue I see with church planters specifically is a kind of glory-hunger. It’s more of an inward focus vs. an upward focus. More than a focus of, “I want God to do a good work in my city,” I’m more concerned about what God has done or will do through me.

In other words, if something was done through someone else, would I still be grateful for that? Or would I give glory to God regardless of if He used me? If we’re honest—both pastors and planters—something we have a hard time giving up is this hope of God wanting to do things through us.

Yes, we want to see God glorified and made known. That is a part of a church planter’s heart, and metrics and numbers tie-in to that. We want to see growth and impact—more missional communities, baptisms, social media engagement—constantly measuring and evaluating our own success by metrics.

In the first few years of planting The Hill, my mood would be swayed based on attendance or the feedback I was getting. It would destroy me if I ran into someone who visited our church wearing a T-shirt from another church in town. Church planting spread my insecurities like a rash that never would seem to go away, and the more it was scratched the wider it spread.looking-down-the-aisle

But the call in Scripture is the call to be faithful, not successful. The call is being what you’re called to be: putting all your faith and trust in Christ. If your identity is not in Christ but in this church plant, then it’s going to unravel you.

I think a desire of humanity is to be a part of marvelous things and see great, magnificent things happen. We love going to Razorback games, and we like it when our friends like our social media posts. We are drawn to this kind of glory. This is engrained in us because God designed us to be with Him, but because of the Fall we’ve lost intimacy and now seek the created world for that glory.

Adam and Eve wanted to seek the glory of themselves, and we can fall into the same sin of glory-hunger. But the beauty of the Gospel is that this desire to be around glory—to be known, approved, accepted, that you matter—can only be and is fulfilled in Christ.

When Jesus gives the analogy, “Come to me you who are weak and weary…” especially for people in ministry, the reason the yoke is easy for us is that Jesus is pulling the weight. We can go into ministry, bring Him honor, and lift Him up without trying to prove ourselves in ministry. It frees us of the weight. The one who fulfills the ministry is not you. You’re just being faithful to what He’s called you to do.

{ But the call in Scripture is the call to be faithful, not successful. The call is being what you’re called to be: putting all your faith and trust in Christ. }

As church planters we get so excited about the potential of what our church can be, or we are in awe of how the church is reaching people. We might have the noble motivations of reaching people for Christ, but are we really in awe of the beauty and power of Christ? Are people being reached, not because of a logo and slick campaign, but because God is honoring our faithfulness to do what He’s called us to do?

There is just as much honor and glory for the church that brings one person to Jesus as there is a church that’s brought 1,000 people to Him. It’s all a miracle, and this should make us all move in awe. Maybe God did give someone a higher domain or blessing than another, but knowing He is working frees you to be the pastor and church planter that God has called and needs you to be.

In church planting we get caught up in, “This is going to be amazing! Sexy! We’re going to solve and we’re going to fix all these issues!” It’s beautiful, but it’s also difficult and hard. Like marriage, it’s not that every day is perfect. It’s that a lot of days aren’t perfect, but going to bed and saying, “I’m fighting for you and pursuing you.” That’s what makes it beautiful—because it isn’t easy.

Identity in Christ

That’s why I want to bring you back to 1 Timothy 3. Instead of looking at what we think qualifies us, even though gifts matter and personalities matter, our character is the first thing that matters. Even for people with the best intentions to spread the Gospel, there still needs to be a season of pausing and using Paul’s character test to go deeper. To ask, “What are my moral weaknesses? What is my heart really after?” instead of asking, “Am I capable of doing this?”

I can truly say there are days in my ministry and The Hill Church that I have marveled at what God has done and what I have done. One needs to be fought for. One needs to be fought against. My feeling goes to the thought of not being successful, or things not going according to plan, vs. doing what God’s called me to do.

So maybe for you, where you are right now, the first step is actually to know that your identity is in Christ and not who you are or what you do—a husband, a baker, etc. The problem with this is 1. it’s sin and 2. it actually takes away your identity. With one change, all of a sudden my identity could be shattered. If my identity is in being a church planter, what happens when the church I planted seeks a new voice? Or if the church falls apart?

{ If my identity is in being a church planter, what happens when the church I planted seeks a new voice? Or if the church falls apart? }

If my identity is in Christ—where it should be, the one thing that does not change—then my identity is never in crisis. My church could be 100 or 1,000 people, or my core group could leave, and I’m still secure!

We all have times when we know the Gospel but don’t believe the Gospel. I can know God loves me and is in control, but anxiety shows because I don’t believe it. I need to remind myself and trust in what I know is true. Anxiety feels lonely, abandoned, but when identity is found in Christ, it’s something we believe but don’t forget.

I’m not sitting here four years into church planting perfected; I still have weaknesses. I know my weaknesses will continue to be my weaknesses, but I need to continue to put my trust in Christ.

Ready for the next step? Start reading the second blog of this series.