I love being able to chat with/dream with church planters … and one of the questions often asked by them is, “What is the one thing you would have wish you had known before you started?”
My answer is simple … I wish someone had told me the decision to launch the church was actually going to be the easiest decision in the process, that during the next year or so I would face five critical tests I believe every church planter goes through … and failing these tests is NOT AN OPTION if I really wanted to see the church achieve its maximum potential.
Test #1 – The Financial Test
I believe God tests every church planter when it comes to money within the first 12-18 months. I cannot tell you the number of conversations I’ve had with people who have said, “Things were going great until the biggest giver in the church got upset … and now I don’t know what to do because what he wants isn’t the direction I feel God is leading the church … but he gives a huge percentage of the budget.”
First of all—EVERY church planter/pastor needs to understand that GOD IS THE BIGGEST GIVER IN YOUR CHURCH! If it’s God’s will, then it is God’s bill … He knows how to take care of what belongs to Him. AND … if you sell God out and put your trust in a dude with a HUGE checkbook (and usually an ego to match), then you are nothing more than a prostitute. (Someone who is paid for a service in order to make another person feel good.)
We faced a financial test EARLY on when we started NewSpring Church. The people who were literally giving 65 percent of the budget and who were fully on board at the beginning began to back off as the vision of what we were going to do as a church became more and more clear. One night they asked me to come to their home, shared their feelings with me and let me know they were no longer going to be a part of the church. (BTW … they did this in the godliest way possible, there were no hard feelings and verbal jabs on either side … and I still highly respect them to this day! AND … another btw … we hadn’t even had our first official church service yet!)
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have an “oh crap” moment while hearing them share their hearts; however, I had made a decision early on that the vision of what God had placed in my heart was not for sale … it never has been and never will be.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen so many pastors fail this test because they depend on people way more than they depend on God. When your biggest desire is to keep the biggest givers in your church happy, you have ceased to lead and are actually being led!
Test #2 – The Critic’s Test
One of the verses that has always amazed me is found in the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah is a guy who gets broken by God … who gets full of vision and passion … who risks everything to do a great work for God and provide help to a group of people who had all but given up. He wanted nothing more than to see the “impossible” happen and people have their hope restored … and yet some people had a problem with it! (See Nehemiah 2:10.)
Dear church planter … you are foolish if you actually believe everyone thinks what you are doing is a good thing. So … you had better learn early to develop thick skin and not lead through reacting to everything but rather by being proactive and moving on with what God has said … no matter what “they” say.
Your dream will be criticized … early and often. But … if God has set your heart on fire, then DO NOT let those who have never actually done anything for Him define what they believe you can or can’t do in His name!