Being not even four years into my journey in the church planting world and having come out of 17 years in the business world, I’ve learned some pretty difficult, valuable, and precious lessons so far.
Here are three…
1- I learned to love the church — To put it bluntly, I knew all the ecclesiological answers, I just didn’t trust their timelessness. I helped create and lived in a world that held the standards of Church very loosely, all the while boasting of my love for Christ and His church. I preached the authority of the local church while myself being exempt. I was asked by one of our churches in the Twin Cities to preach on the church. As I rounded out my sermon, they asked that I change and preach on forgiveness. What no one knew was that God had dismantled me while I prepared the sermon on the church. I sensed the constant ringing of “Stop persecuting me.” That may seem silly, but I became overwhelmed by preparing to ask a congregation whether they were building up the church or tearing it down. That question then turned on me, and I could not escape it.
2- I learned who Christ is looking for — I may have once said, “I learned who I was looking for” in church planting, and that was wrong thinking. Like many, I looked for the guy with high-capacity leadership, vision capacity, and any number of other buzz word characteristics. The problem was that in the weeds of all these “leadership” characteristics there seemed to be very little emphasis on “Biblical saturation.” Biblical saturation seemed to be the one domino that knocked all the others over. When I began to look for and encourage this trait, it seemed to be most in line with what Christ was primarily looking for. There are a lot of things that can be faked in ministry, a transformed life is not one of those.
3- I learned to be vulnerable — This was and continues to be difficult. Growing up in a “we don’t ask for help. Do it yourself culture” that pressed toward perfection, I leaned into my strengths and competencies. The more I leaned in, the more inadequate they seemed to be. Fortunately for me, I knew the tricks. Foster your strengths, and work on your weaknesses. Which isn’t bad by the way. However, it’s all centered around MY strength, but Christ seemed to be saying something different. It was in my weakness that He was made glorious. As I geared up for 2017, I had my leadership growth plans in place. In fact, I even started before Christmas this year, 2017 will be my greatest year of leadership growth ever. Well, that has proven to be true, but it was more like Jesus’ model of leadership and much less like how we generally believe leadership growth happens. January 3rd of 2017, I entered the hospital for a routine med check. They wouldn’t let me leave because my blood pressure was 132 over 102. January 16th of 2017, I freakishly slipped on black ice and cracked the back of my skull on the corner of a cement step. What the blood pressure didn’t teach me, the step certainly did, but not at first. After all of this, I was still trying to press the right buttons and do the right things. In the midst of hosting an event in which I spent most of it nauseated and near exhaustion due to the head trauma, a faithful pastor and friend looked at me with my wife by his side and said these words that made all the sense in the world to me. While affirming all I had done and was attempting to do, he said these five simple words.
“He will build His church.” Matt. 16:18