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The Drivers Destroying Church Planters

The Drivers Destroying Church Planters

The battlefield of church planting is littered with burned out bodies. Long hours, immense stress, and constant pressure have caused more than one well-intentioned church planter to wave the white flag. 

Even if they don’t quit, church planters struggle to manage the war within. 

Church planting is difficult work. It takes an tremendous amount of spiritual, physical, emotional, and relational energy to build something from nothing. These first five years of getting Redemption up and off the ground have been some of the most personally taxing of my life. The difficultly is often a direct result of the spiritual war being waged, in which we stand on the front lines. 

Yet, much of the pain planters experience is self-inflicted and unnecessary. Church planting demands a unique wiring - you have to be one part called and one part crazy. I wish I could say that it was only the clear call of God that drove me and others like me, but I’d be lying. Often times there are drivers just below the surface impacting church planters. 

1. Ungodly Ambition

It’s not that church planters don’t want to make Jesus known, it’s just that we often want something more. I’ve been guilty of trying to build something that will validate my existence. The problem is, no matter how hard I work and how many barriers we blast through, I can still find it all horribly dissatisfying. There is no joy in pursuing the god of personal ambition. Church planting is and must remain about making Jesus known, for the glory of God alone. The moment it becomes about anything else is the moment my joy in God begins to melt away.

2. Unchecked Anxiety

Church planting is not for the faint of heart or the risk-averse. You start with no people, no money, and no guarantee of what the future will hold. This uncertainty most often births anxiety. The anxiety can produce an obsessive pace of work that pounds many planters into dust. We forget that God intends anxiety to push us to prayer. Instead of trusting Jesus to build His church through us, we foolishly fight to build His church by our own effort. 

3. Unhealthy Approval

Daddy-issues are a dime a dozen in church planting. If it’s not a daddy issue, it’s often a dysfunctional relationship with a pastor or authority figure from the past that puts a planter on a quest for approval. We end up striving for praise or a pat on the back from nearly everyone around us. Until we rest in the approval of our heavenly Father, poured out in the perfect and atoning work of Christ, we will run ourselves ragged for approval that will not come.   

If these motives go unchecked, it’s only a matter of time until the planter comes undone. The work is always difficult, but doing the work for the wrong reasons will destroy us. Allowing ambition, anxiety, and approval to drive our mission of disciple-making robs God of the glory He deserves and the joy He desires us to experience in Him. 

Church planter, the greatest discipline we must develop is not preaching, leadership, or counseling, but repentance. We plant churches to make Jesus known. We plant Jesus’ church and trust Him to do all we cannot. We plant from, never for, God’s approval. When we forget this and function for any other reason, we must repent and return to the true mission of making Jesus known. 

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