I'm about three years into planting a church, which means I'm not an expert. However, I do trust my Bible, love my Jesus and have some battle scars. I know first hand many of the things, internally and externally, that compete for the church planters heart, mind and soul. Some of those things, include: personal expectations, culturally-informed definitions of success, family health (dating your wife, adequate time with kids, etc), personal health (exercise, sleep, means of grace, etc), counseling, evangelizing, strategy and planning, casting vision, competing visions, second-guessing yourself, philosophy of ministry and model, core group gathering, phone calls, emails, writing, praying, preaching, discipling, personal study and growth, developing leaders, replacing leaders, apathetic and indifferent Christians, pre-marital counseling, church discipline, finding a gathering space, experiencing set-backs, sudden growth, sudden decline, networking, spiritual warfare, hospital visitation, weddings, funerals, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, design, criticism, encouragement, betrayal, resistance from Christians, resistance from non-Christians, personal limitations, personal giftedness, coaching, expectations of others, seasons of lack of conversions, unhealthy and unnecessary comparison, appropriate contextualization, assimilating others, pouring into volunteers, the ever-present "Will we make it?" and on and on. This is a common experience. Unfortunately, the reality is that many, if not all, of these can threaten to eclipse the very thing that our people need most from us. What is that?
Above all else, what your family and church need is for you to be captured and captivated by the King of Kings. You should probably read that again. I need to and I wrote it.
Amidst full Inboxes, fresh voicemails and pending blog posts, our primary concern must be for Jesus Christ to take up more and more real estate of our affections.
Amidst leadership turnover, personal frustrations, and unending to-do lists, we must learn to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to [us]." (Mt 6:33)
Amidst encouragement, conversions and growth we must be able to say "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Ps 73:26)
Amidst countless details and demands, above all things, we must learn to, "Delight [ourselves] in the Lord, and he will give [us] the desires of [our] heart." (Ps 37:4)
Amidst a world that tempts us with all forms of joy and pleasure, we must learn to make our home in the presence of the One who offers us "fullness of joy" and "pleasures forevermore". (Ps 16:11)
We must carry around deep within us a real, sincere, tangible awareness that Jesus is worth giving up all that we have to get (Mt 13:44, 45) - even our churches.
That's what our people need most from us. That's what our people need themselves. Here's the thing. They don't naturally know this, so you have to show them. They know how to delight in numbers and statistics. The world knows how to do that. You need to show them how to delight in the Lord. They know how to find strength in external realities. The world knows how to do that. You need to show them where true strength lies, to have God as your strength and portion. They know how to preserve their self-sufficient lives. The world knows how to do that. You need to show them that "whoever loses his life for [Jesus'] sake and the gospel's will save it." (Mk 8:35) What your people need most from you is for you to be increasingly captured and captivated by Jesus the Christ. Ultimately, nothing matters outside of this. Nothing. If you think that you are called to plant a church some day, start your "training" here and never end. If you're in the middle of planting, return here...every day. Lord willing, I'll be right there with you.