I’ve gone to a number of church planting conferences that feature plenary speakers who lead large churches who “planted” and “succeeded” in a big way. Maybe you’ve been to the same conferences. I put those words in parentheses because when you dig into their stories it is apparent many of their quick success stories make it plain they didn’t plant their church at all in the sense that the rest of those present at the conference experience the word. Often those guys had pretty much instant, huge response due to unusual circumstances. They were actually “hive offs” – settings where a huge chunk of people left mega-church “A” to become a part of start up “B” down a road a bit. It’s inaccurate to call those bona fide church plants.
When leaders of churches like those speak from their experiences to struggling planters who have, say a few dozen hard-fought people, it’s tough for the vast majority of church planters to relate to the story. Sometimes they leave feeling frustrated or dejected and draw the conclusion, “In 100 lifetimes I couldn’t replicate that guy’s success! Something must be wrong with me.”
God expresses his life in amazing ways and in lots of packages – small, medium, large and extra large. I’ve started and led all of those. At this point I’m not sure which has produced the greatest lasting fruit.
Success is not measured by impressive starts. Victory goes to the ones who walk in an enduring spirit.
William Carey, visionary missionary to India, embodied this attitude as strongly as anyone in church history. It seemed that nothing he put his hand to was anointed. He saw virtually no fruit anywhere. In time he became depressed and began to doubt himself, yet he persevered in obedience in reaching out India. (To get more of the story on Carey read the Wikipedia entry.)
In his diary he repeatedly confessed his weakness along with the secret to his ultimate success. He captured his motto in just three words –
“I can plod!”
Plodding is the secret to your success as well. No matter how things have gone thus far, begin to plod now. Plod and God will show up and his anointing will come.