Unconventional Truths: The Untold Realities of Church Planting

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Church Leadership, Church Planting

Embarking on the journey of church planting often evokes images of dynamic worship services, community outreach, and the thrill of exponential growth. However, beneath this glossy exterior lies a less discussed, more complex reality. This blog aims to uncover the layers often missed in the usual success stories, presenting a raw and real look at what it truly involves. We’re talking about the silent challenges of leadership, the unexpected value of setbacks, and the transformative power of questioning the status quo. So, let’s get started exploring some of these unconventional truths.


The Solitude of Leadership


When you picture a church planter, you may have this image of a dynamic leader, surrounded by people and constantly in community. Yet, one of the less talked about aspects is the profound loneliness that can accompany church planting. Leaders may find themselves isolated due to the unique pressures and responsibilities that set them apart from others, even within their own teams. It’s a solitary path that requires finding strength in solitude and developing a deep, personal reliance on God. I highly recommend finding mentors or fellow pastors to speak with regularly. This is your “small group” – a safe place to vent, ask questions, and be vulnerable.


The Myth of Constant Growth


Conventional wisdom suggests that a healthy church plant should experience steady, upward growth. However, the reality is that growth can be erratic, plateau, or even decline at times. Success isn’t always linear. Church plants might see bursts of growth followed by periods of plateau or decline as they navigate the intricacies of their unique contexts. This challenges the notion that numerical growth is the primary indicator of a church’s health or success.

Here are a few articles on churchplanting.com that address church metrics: Metrics of Healthy Church, The Metrics of Mission – How to Count What Counts, and Defining Success for Church Plants.


The Importance of Failure


In a culture that often stigmatizes failure, it’s rarely acknowledged that failure can be a powerful tool for learning and growth in church planting. Mistakes and missteps are not just inevitable; they are invaluable. They provide real-world lessons that no amount of theoretical preparation can offer. A failed outreach effort, a poorly received sermon series, or a community event that flops can all serve as critical learning moments. These experiences can refine strategies, deepen humility, and foster a reliance on God’s guidance rather than human effort alone.

John Maxell has a great book about this titled – Failing Forward. Failing Forward is about shifting one’s mindset to see failure not as a blockade but as a stepping stone. It encourages embracing failures, learning from them, and persisting despite setbacks.


The Role of Questioning Everything


In the dynamic landscape of church planting, embracing a mindset of questioning everything can be a game-changer. This approach isn’t about harboring doubts or fostering uncertainty; rather, it’s about rigorously examining every aspect of the church plant to ensure it aligns with best practices and effectively meets the community’s needs. By adopting this mindset, church planters and pastors set themselves on a path of continuous improvement, where every strategy, message, and outreach effort is carefully scrutinized for its impact and relevance.

This process of relentless questioning leads to a culture of innovation within the church. It encourages leaders to constantly seek out better, more effective ways of engaging with their congregation and the broader community. It’s about asking: How can we more effectively communicate our message? Are our programs and services truly resonant with the lives and struggles of our community members? What new methods or technologies can we utilize to deepen our outreach and impact?

Moreover, this ethos of questioning and continuous improvement fosters an environment of openness and adaptability. It signals to the congregation that their feedback and insights are valued, creating a collaborative atmosphere where everyone is invested in the church’s growth and success.


The Impact of Cultural Contextualization


While the importance of understanding and engaging with the local culture is often acknowledged, the depth of cultural contextualization required can be underestimated. It’s not just about language or superficial customs; it involves deeply understanding and integrating into the local narrative, values, and struggles. This might mean adopting contrarian stances to traditional church models, rethinking outreach methods, or even altering the ministries offered within the church to better align with the community’s context. Such deep contextualization can challenge the planter’s preconceptions and require a level of flexibility and adaptability that is often unexpected.


The Power of Small Beginnings


In a world that celebrates big numbers and rapid expansion, the power of small beginnings is frequently overlooked. Small congregations can enable deep, transformative relationships and create a sense of family that larger groups might struggle to replicate. They can be flexible, adapting quickly to community needs or new opportunities for ministry. Moreover, the impact of a church plant is not merely measured by its size but by the depth of its influence within the community and even the world. I know a small church in NC that is 40 in number but they are involved in local homeless outreach as well as international church planting.


Navigating Success


Finally, how success is defined and navigated in church planting can offer a contrarian viewpoint to the dominant success narratives. Success might not be in the number of services, the range of programs, or even the number of baptisms. Instead, it could be in the silent victories: the personal transformations, the slow but deep community integration, and the quiet yet profound influence on local culture and values. This redefinition of success challenges the conventional metrics and celebrates the unseen, yet eternal impacts of faith in action.

Understanding these lesser-known aspects of church planting provides a more nuanced picture of a church planter’s journey and what it truly takes to launch and grow a church. It’s an adventure marked not just by the milestones of growth and community building but also by the internal transformations, the unseen challenges, and the quiet victories that define the true essence of planting a church.

Always remember – It’s about people. Yes, it’s Jesus’ command and Great Commission, but the “going and making” is all about the people that He loves, and He is using us to reach them with the Good News. What an honor it is to be a part of what God is doing on earth.

Read More Blog Posts by Jeff Hoglen, D.Min.

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