Spirituality is something I don’t talk about much on this blog, mainly because I want to keep things very nuts and bolts. But I’m realizing that spirituality is about as nuts and bolts as it gets. One thing many people struggle with is self-worship. We put ourselves first in everything. We do what is best for us. We are generous to ourselves. We promote an unrealistic picture of ourselves (I see lots of posts about how far someone has run and very few about the indulgent jelly donut). Here are three ways church planters worship themselves in the name of starting a new church.
- Work too much. Lots of church planters are 9 commandment Christians. Surely, the Sabbath was optional. Without being scientific, I’d say 75% of the pastors I work with don’t take a Sabbath and don’t know how to have fun. Working too much betrays the belief that the success lies on your shoulders. It denies the image of God you were created with. God hardwired in us a rhythm of rest and then work. A pastors motto should be rest, work, repeat. Here’s a couple of questions for self evaluation. Do you have a daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythm of rest? I do good at daily and weekly, but am not that good at the monthly and annual. What do you do for fun that is completely unproductive and not related to growing the church? If it takes you more than a second to think of it, you fail the test. Would your family say you spend enough time with them?
- I can do it belief. Matthew 16:18 makes it clear that it is God who builds the church, not a church planter, not a fancy strategy and not the best worship service around. God does. End of story. Church planters tend to be entrepreneurial. There’s a crazy gene in entrepreneurial people that makes them believe they can start something from nothing. We like to hire those people as church planters because they are risk takers. But let me tell you something, you can’t plant a church. Jesus didn’t even ask us to do that. He said make disciples and leave the church building to Him. Even with all the help and funds that a world class organization like Stadia provides, you can’t plant a church. If you think you can, then you are guilty of self worship. Here are some evaluation questions. When you cast vision to potential supporters are they more impressed with you or do they walk away with a bigger picture of God? Do you seek the Lord for strategy or the latest church planting book? If attendance is up do you get excited? If attendance is down do you get depressed? If so, you’re trying to do it yourself. If you take credit for the church being down in attendance and blame yourself, you’ll take credit when it’s doing well too. Just remember that you are the clay, not the potter.
- Afraid of failure. The best church planters aren’t afraid to fail. They realize that its not about them. Success is not to their credit and failure is not their fault. If you fear failing, if it keeps you up at night, you might be worshipping yourself. I spoke the other night at the Emmanuel Institutes. I was all calm and cool until I saw video cameras getting set up. I had a moment of panic. What if I fail? It will be recorded for generations to mock me and laugh at my pathetic speaking skills. Why did I care? Because I worship myself. I want to be seen as better than I really am. I struggle to be as honest as Paul in confessing my wretchedness. After a quick time in prayer, my bearings were adjusted. Here’s a few questions for evaluation. Am I worried that this church plant will fail? Does it bother me that I’m not “successful” in the eyes of the church planting world? Do I lose sleep over things finances and attendance?
Fortunately there is a cure for self worship. It’s the worship of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Worship regularly. Follow and obey His commandments. Meditate on His word. Confess His character regularly and ask for his forgiveness, guidance and protection. You’re not a very good god. Quit trying to fill His shoes.