Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying a church plant isn’t a church. It certainly can be in every way. There comes a time, however, when the honeymoon is over and the “fun” of being an established church begins.
For one thing…
It’s no longer easy.
Okay, truthfully, it was never easy, but in the early days, there was so much enthusiasm. Volunteers were excited. Everyone couldn’t wait to get to church an hour and a half early to set up and enjoyed the fellowship of tearing down after church. These were good times of relationship building and Kingdom investment. There were few complaints and everyone bragged on the newest church in town.
Sure, we had problems with marriages and people with messed up stories were among us. That’s one of the most attractive parts of church planting. We tend to reach people who would never attend an established church. But, all our problems seemed minor compared to the good things God was doing around us. I’ll never forget some of the firsts…first baptisms…first communion…first time a visiting family came because someone standing in the line at Wal Mart invited them. Those were golden days and precious memories.
Something happens when a church plant gets to a certain age….when we become…as some have called us now a “real church”.
At some point, it isn’t “fun” anymore.
Again, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying we aren’t having fun anymore or that God isn’t continuing to do amazing things. In fact, numerically speaking, God is doing far more today than He was then. Our baptisms are up. Attendance is up. People are still showing up who had said they would never enter the doors of a church. Volunteers are still getting up early and staying late (even earlier and even later) and powerful relationships are still being formed.
It’s just harder some days.
Watching a couple that has been with us all six years; go through a divorce is heartbreaking. Having core members leave the vision is devastating. Watching committed members of the church have personal conflicts within the church hurts.
Becoming an established, growing church, means we now have more people, but we have more complaints. We now know we can’t please everyone. (Ignorance is often bliss.) Where in previous years, no one would have questioned leadership or direction, now that’s a more common occurrence.
Somedays I wish we were a baby church again.
Writing that makes me reflect on parenting. Although it doesn’t seem easy at the time (or even fun somedays), parenting seems to have fewer challenges when the child is in diapers as opposed to being in middle school. (Parents who have had a middle schooler will understand that statement.)
I wonder, too, if it was like that in Jesus’ ministry. In the early days, full of the miracles, when the crowds were at capacity and Jesus bacame a household name in a positive sense, things were good. Everyone wanted to be near the new Rabbi in town. As Jesus stepped His challenge of the disciples and the crowds, the challenge to His ministry and personal life also increased.
I’m being reminded daily that if I want to walk like Jesus, I have to be prepared for all that comes with that commitment.
After all, we aren’t a church plant anymore. We are now a “real” church!
Any church planters out there? When did it stop being “easy”?