Church planting comes with its share of challenges and hardships. Sponsorship, facilities, volunteers; among other issues are weekly reminders of how difficult it is. My hat is off to those that are called to this miraculous endeavor. It is a calling to launch out and begin a new work for the Kingdom. At the same time, it is also a calling from God to be a pastor called to help an existing church reach its potential. This could mean coming into a healthy church and guiding it along to a new reality. It could also mean raising the dead. As it is with church planting, challenges await this pastor as well. This is where I'm called; to an existing church. How do I know this? I tried to help a new church plant. I could have titled this article “Things I learn since I found out I’m not a church planter.” That is an article for another day. Let’s look at a few things I have learned over the years that can serve both planter and pastor.
This article is for those pastors and planters that are having a hard time getting a grip on the scope of their church. Over the course of my ministry, I have found a few things that can help. For many of us the term “big picture” says it all; it’s what we are about. Seeing where an organization or a church needs to be, comes easily to most of us. However, getting our ministry to that point is sometimes not so easy. Gaining God’s desires for your particular church is the first step, but what’s next? To quote John Maxwell, “Begin with the end in mind” is where you need to start. The challenge is connecting the dots between the “end”, God’s Vision, and where your ministry is currently? Once you have heard from God, how do you translate His heart practically? There was a phrase one of my preaching professors used in seminary; “So what? Now what?” These are the two questions we should ask ourselves as we prepare sermons. Asking “So what” is the Bible saying and “Now what” do I do with it? The same is true in leading God’s Church; “So what” is God saying to your church? “Now what” will I take to make it a reality? I believe the “now what” can be found in the process of “breakdown”.
A “break down” may be what some of us feel we’re close to as we think about the issues facing us in ministry but hopefully we can make it through. This is one reason I am writing this article. I understand that some of you are frustrated with ministry. Some are on the edge and are slightly tipping forward. Hopefully theses insights will help; I pray they will. The “breakdown” I am referring to is taking the “telescopic view” (God’s vision for your church) and turning it into “microscopic view” (a close look at real reality of where you are). Real reality is an objective look at the strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, and the good and bad of your ministry. I think the best assessment can be obtained through looking at each ministry one at a time. By taking each ministry one at a time or breaking it down, you can get a clearer picture of the real reality. I know as a pastor it is sometimes difficult to observe each ministry, but it is possible. This will take some time to do; time to pray, time to think, and time to observe… This is a process of discipline, not a quick fix. I must pause to say that as you are taking the time to pray, think, and observe, go ahead and preach the vision. Preach what the church “should be” while you are taking time to uncover what “it is”. Never underestimate the time you have in the pulpit. You will never have another setting like it. It is the greatest tool for pastor’s in communicating God’s heart; use it to its full advantage. Now, back to topic… let’s look at praying, thinking, and observing.
As you begin to pray, ask God for wisdom and for Him to help you see the true reality of the church. Ask God to help you appreciate those that serve in ministry leadership. If you have any hard feelings towards anyone, ask God to forgive you and to help you forgive them and to reconcile. Ask God to give you the faith, hope, and love it will take to begin to turn the tide. As you go through the process, you might find that a particular ministry is not working. Ask God to speak to the ministry leader and ask Him to give you wisdom in dealing with the situation. Never stop praying, this will keep you connected to God as you work through the process. The next step is to think.
First, let me say this about thinking. As a pastor or planter, your greatest gift to your congregation besides prayer, is to be a Thinker. Taking time to think through issues will save you money and time. Thinking issues through will also keep you from losing the confidence of your congregation. When it comes to making decisions or working through issues, I use a peace of paper and a pen. On this paper I list the “pros” and “cons” of a particular decision. Once I determine the wisest thing to do, I then write out a course of action. These are the steps I’ll take to make the decision a reality. Take the time to think about what would help each ministry follow the vision. Think through two or three things that will bring each ministry closer to alignment. Someone said “you can not measure ministry in miles, it can only be done in inches.” Two or three things will keep you busy enough, I promise. These improvements cannot be done apart from observation.
Taking time to look at each ministry your self is very valuable. You cannot get accurate information about a ministry unless you see it for yourself. Face it; if we, as pastors, can walk around in denial ourselves, what makes us think our ministry leaders can’t do the same. Besides, God has given us the vision for what His church should be. It’s our responsibility to observe if it is. Observing the leader is important. Are they operating in their giftedness and passions? Also, view the setting. Is the room or the space a hindrance or a help? The curriculum is also important. Does it meet the people where they are and help make truth practical? Effective communication should also be observed. Is the leader informed about the topic and prepared to lead? All These observations will help in uncovering the next steps to align the ministry. Make sure in the observation stage that you make note of the things that are done well. Use this information to encourage ministry leaders.