My taste buds expected to feel the cold, tasty coco rush of rich chocolate ice cream. Instead, they were shocked by the warm, grainy thud of beef liver pate. Disappointing? Very.
Most church planters seem to be wired to expect chocolate ice cream when they’re actually about to chomp down on beef liver pate. This is worse than disappointing. It can sabotage a church plant before it ever gets off the ground.
I’ve had conversations with church planters who are depressed because they expected to be running 300 people by the end of their first year, but they’re only averaging 150. Only 150? Seriously? (Do they realize that an attendance of 150 is more than the average size of a typical church in America?) They expected chocolate ice cream, but they got beef liver pate. Too many church planters choose unrealistic expectations, experience profound disappointment and give up way too soon.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Poorly calibrated expectations are self-inflicted wounds. Circumstances happen to us—accidents, deaths in the family, bad storms, etc. We have little or no control over circumstances. But we decide our expectations.
Healthy planters choose expectations that serve them well over the long haul. Their churches become firmly established and produce the fruit of many disciples. Here are some of the expectations healthy planters choose to have.
- Starting a church is hard work. No matter where and how you start, you are going to work hard. The hours will be long. The challenges will be many. Plan on it.
- Satan is going to attack my family and me. Church planting is a direct attack on Satan’s territory. The Enemy is not stupid. He will do everything in his power to discourage, distract and dissuade you. It’s not a matter of “if.” It’s a matter of “when.” Be prepared. (Hint—read your Bible for instructions on how to be prepared.)
- People will surprise me. Everyone has a different perspective on life. This reality makes it tricky to predict how anyone else will respond in a given situation. Church planting is a pressure cooker and people under pressure react in surprising ways.
- Some people will hurt me. You will pour your life out for people. Sacrifice. Work long hours. Study hard. Preach your heart out. After you’ve given your best, people will quit you. They will take advantage of your time and generosity. They will tell you they aren’t being fed. It’s brutal. Expect it.
- Jesus never fails. That phrase may be overused to the point that it’s lost it’s meaning for you. But when the difficult days arrive and it feels like even God is far away, he isn’t. He is the God who is with us! He is especially with us in the valleys that we inevitably walk through. When you look beside you, He’s there. Always.
The cool thing about expectations like these is that they keep you from being surprised by the bad stuff and help you keep your attitude right and your trust firmly resting on Jesus. And sometimes what you thought was beef liver pate turns out to be chocolate ice cream!