Now that I am here in Lincoln Square laboring to see a family of disciples live out the gospel here and praying that church into existence, here are some lessons I’ve learned the few months I’ve been here.
1. Freedom is found in experiencing failure.
…Failure is inevitable. Accept it. Learn from it. And know there are worse things that can happen. Take a long-term view of planting. Set your pace to plant churches for 50 years, not 50 days.
2. Church planting is much like the old verbage, “Put up your sails and let the Holy Spirit blow them.”
… Reflect on the sovereignty of God. We cannot make the wind blow. We simply get to follow where it takes us. It is our job to be faithful until the wind blows (and while the wind blows) rather than forcing God’s Spirit to move. I spent years reading about church planting (I know, years…weird right?) Relying on academic models isn’t the plan in the New Testament. All the authors you have read never planted a church in your neighborhood with your giftings. Rather than plowing hard to the ground or pulling methods from books, push hard into hearing the voice of God and ask the Spirit, “What’s next?”
3. Church planting is never worth planting a dysfunctional family.
If not careful and guarded, the church will become your mistress. One, the church is Jesus’ bride, not ours. Two, our bride doesn’t want (nor can handle) hearing every detail about church planting. Do whatever you can to leave your thoughts at the door from the day so you can be fully present with your wife and kids. Also, church planter…remember you get to go and meet with several people a day and have meaningful, purposeful adult conversation. Carve out time for your wife to have the same quality time with others.
4. Know your personality and your model.
… There are so many different ways of planting and everyone’s way is of course right. So know your context, know yourself, and know the Scriptures. Be clear on what kind of church you will plant. Whatever trajectory you set in the first year as a church planter is the trajectory with which you will live by forever.
5. You need a team.
… For support, for diversity of gifts, for accountability, for encouragement and for stopping you from doing stupid things.
6. Ideals need to become flesh.
…Some people never move from planting a church in their heads to planting the gospel in their context. We must live out in everyday life.
7. Jesus is your Savior, not your ministry.
… and remind yourself in the hard times.
8. Locals are better than me.
… The men and women who have lived in your neighborhood for a significant amount of time will always be better at disciple-making, introducing others to community, and spreading and showing the gospel. Spend more time equipping them than being the thread to everyone.
9. Read the Parable of the soils
… No matter how dark of a place you live, no matter how broken, no matter how anti-belief, be clear about your conviction that the Word of God, though small, is powerful and will bring life.