While meeting with a potential church planter, some of the words of wisdom spoken to me over the years flooded my mind. I think they are valuable for all leaders, but especially my friends in ministry.
Some of these were given to me by others. Some were learned firsthand by experience.
Here are seven words of wisdom for church planters and leaders:
1. Seek approval among the people to whom God sent you to minister. Obviously, we work for the approval of God, not man, but all of us need assurance at times from other people that what we are doing matters. Church planting is unpopular among some established churches. There may be days when you feel like the "church" community is working against you. When you lead an established church to growth, your critics will be inside the building and those who resist change. Either way there will be critics.
A seasoned church planter gave me this advice. Most likely God didn't call you to your assignment so you could be popular—or even to simply satisfy people who already love their church the way it is. He sent you to reach hurting, broken people—to be His witness to a dark world. My guess is those whom you are reaching are happy with your efforts.
2. Love God and you'll love the people wherever God sends you. This happened to me when I just knew I was supposed to plant a church in New York City. I wanted to. I felt "led" to, at times. But, still, there wasn't the peace or opportunity to do so. While walking the streets of NYC, I asked God to give me a clear heart for the people of New York if it was where He wanted me to be.
This line was one of the clearest words from God to me I've ever heard. If I truly love God, I will love the people and have a heart to make disciples among them, wherever I go. This is true in church planting and in church revitalization.
3. Don't ignore churched people. When I was a new church planter, we ran from anyone who had any church affiliation. They weren't our target. We didn't want to offend other churches. We felt it was the "best" thing to do. In doing so, we robbed ourselves of potential leaders and kept some people from following the ministry God had laid on their heart.
The same is true in the established church. It can't be all about the "new" people. You have to love the people who are already there. They are your best resource and partners to reach the lost and hurting. Learning to embrace them—even in the difficult days of change—is part of your kingdom work.
4. Your wife may have to trust you. My wife has often known we were supposed to do something, but her heart has often been more tender when it comes to leaving the people we love. Her faith follows quickly, but her heart often lingers with the previous church.
At times, I have had to ask her to trust me, and my walk with Christ, when she can't seem to force her heart to shift. (You actually can't force a heart to change.) Unless she has a conviction against moving forward, if she's willing, it is often helpful if she relies on my logic more than her emotions. Her emotional commitment always follows in time.
5. Peace comes through obedience. Sometimes the complete peace in a decision doesn't come until I've said "Yes Lord" to what I sense He's calling me to do. Saying yes before I have all the assignment or all my questions are answered seems to open the door for God to bring peace about the move. And, His blessing and glory.
6. God stirs the nest. Deuteronomy references God and the eagle stirring its nest. I've been told (and read) that eagles build their nest with the roughest products they can find. Then they cover the structure with the softest, most comfortable material available. A baby eaglet never wants to leave the comfort of home, so to teach them to fly, a mother eagle stirs up the nest, uncovering the roughest part.
If things become really uncomfortable where you are, it could be a God thing. He could be "stirring the nest." Don't be afraid of those times—they lead to His best for you.
7. Build DNA slowly. Once DNA is set, it's very hard to change it. My friends in the established church know this one well. Secure senior leaders slowly. Add staff slowly. Add rules and structure slowly. What you repeat very many times will become tradition quickly and when you try to change it there will be resistance. Make sure it's something you want in your DNA before you allow it to get there.
To all my ministry leader friends—I'm pulling for you.
Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.
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