My wife and I planted City Light Baptist Church 3 years ago today. Armed with the motto “fake it till you make it,” we launch into the most amazing chapter of our lives not fully understanding what we were doing. On the way home from the Grand Opening service, my wife looked at me and said, “What did we just do?” My eyes bugged out of my head as I stared back at her and replied, “I have no idea!” We broke into overwhelmed laughter because we immediately felt the weight of responsibility for maintaining this thing we had just created. Thankfully the church and our family is still going. God has blessed our church tremendously. We are still learning every day, but here are the top lessons we have learned in the last 3 years.
1.God is building his church. In some way, every pastor would like to take credit for all the “good things” that are going on in their church, but the reality is that God is building His church, not me.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Ephesians 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Truthfully, I wouldn’t have put City Light together the way God did it over the last 3 years. I have disagreed with God at times. I really thought it would be best if he brought 150 people the first day, but he didn’t. I would have preferred a better location for our first building, but God gave us the small store front property at 1 Jason Court or something like that). On deputation, I had a list of 60 people, friends from around the country, for which I prayed that God would put it on their heart to help start City Light. (None of them came. If you are one of those friends, no hard feelings…now) He definitely answered my prayers. He said, “No.” At the time it made perfect sense why these people should be here, but God had a better plan. He wanted to assemble a unique combination of people in a way where only he would get the glory for all that is accomplished here at City Light. I’m thankful that God kept His promise to build His church.
2.Any soul-winner can plant a church. I’ll never forget this advice from Don Sisk. When asked to give advice to a few hundred church planters getting ready to start their churches, he stood to his feet and quietly stated, “Any soul-winner can plant a church.” At first I felt cheated at the lack of advice, but God has used that one sentence to keep me focused on my most important task as a church planter-sharing the gospel. If you are concerned for the direction of your church (young or old), start sharing the gospel with anyone you can. You won’t regret the fruit it brings into your life. We have seen just over 100 people come to Christ in the last 3 years. That little advice from Bro. Sisk made a huge impact on me, and I want to pass it on to every believer I know.
3.I couldn’t have done it without my wife. From daily encouragement, to playing the piano, to teaching the ladies, to sharing the gospel, my wife has stood supportively by my side from the moment God called us to plant a church. I don’t want to even think of what City Light would be without her gracious, loving, godly touch. She is a passionate follower of Christ, a dedicated mother, a fantastic pastor’s wife, and my best friend. She does the work of many assistant pastors not for any compensation, but simply because she loves Jesus and loves introducing people to Him. If you are a church planter/pastor, don’t forget to thank your wife for all she does to help you in the ministry.
4.You must know that God called you to do it. If you are not convinced above all that God wants you to plant a church, don’t do it. It’s not that God would punish you for not trying, but it is just too difficult to do unless you KNOW that it is God who called you to do it. I just read Jeremiah 1 this morning and I thought about the challenge of the ministry to which God called him. How was he able to stay faithful to it? I believe that God’s call was something he must have leaned on many times.
5.Listening to the Holy Spirit is a must. A church plant is such a unique endeavor. There are so many varying factors that come in to play: resources, people, finances, city/rural, age, experience, and family just to name a few. I know in the early days, I wanted to keep pace with other churches. I didn’t want to fail and I wanted to do my best. Then God gives you direction and you start to worry about what other churches or pastors might think. There is no doubt great safety in counsel, but at the end of the day you must listen to the Holy Spirit and obey His leading for your church. What worked in the South might not work in the West. What worked 50 years ago might not work today. Get all the advice you can, and then listen to the Holy Spirit. He will lead you in the right direction every time.
6.The Devil is real. If you follow us on Facebook, you might think that only good things happen at City Light. I assure you that isn’t true. The Devil is just as alive and active in greater St. Louis as he is in your mission field. On a regular basis I am reminded that he is a liar, and imposter, an accuser, a thief, and if given the chance he will destroy anyone he can. As I write this, there are marriages in the balance, addictions that hold people in bondage, and materialism that distracts people from finding God. All of these things are tools of the Devil. I have never seen him so active as I have in the last 3 years. Church Planter, the Devil hates your dream of seeing a host of people come to Christ and seeing a gospel preaching church established. He will do every thing he can to oppose you. Just be ready for it and read the next point.
7.God is bigger than the Devil. Don’t be discouraged by the presence of the Evil One. Always remember 1 John 4:4-Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. Each day remember to thank God “…which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place,” and hold on to the promise of Psalm 27:13-I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
If you have ever been involved with a church plant, what is the greatest lesson you learned? I would love to hear what God has taught you.