Planting a Church Is Lonely

John Starke at The Gospel Coalition has a good article on church planting in major cities. Here are some things that stood out to me and that I have really identified with during the last five years here in Stockholm.

The Need

Right now, in Manhattan, only 2 percent to 4 percent of the population claims to be evangelical or “traditional” Christian. To get something close to 8 percent to 10 percent, we don’t just need to hear of three or four great stories of growing churches in New York City; we need 600.

Well Manhattan is a similar size in population to Stockholm and we would be delighted to have 2-4% evangelical. I doubt we get 2% of any kind of Christian and less than 1% evangelical. The amount of church planting happening in Stockholm is not going to make a dent.

Transience & Loneliness

The transience is breathtaking, too, which makes “church growth” difficult on top of the already hostile environment. One close friend recently explained he led 75 people through their membership class this year. This sounded like excellent news, since we’d been praying his church wouldn’t have to close because of finances. Yet due to the transient nature of city life, his Sunday morning attendance hasn’t changed from last year.

This transience means church planters and revitalizers often struggle with a strange loneliness. Most friends you make will leave within a few years. I was having dinner with a pastor and his wife, and they explained they lost all of their closest friends the past 18 months. Pastors and their wives constantly have to start again with relationships. That can be extremely wearying.

We’re more suburban than urban but transience is a huge issue and the constant emotional investment in people only for them to move on is draining.

The need for leaders

We need pastors who learn from their mistakes and pray so that they may improve. We need pastors who will be hospitable and listen to their neighbors. We need pastors who pray for their people, pray for their neighbors, pray for the kingdom to come.

Amen.

You should read the whole thing

2 thoughts on “Planting a Church Is Lonely”

  1. George says:

    Phil, thanks for this. It has come at a time when we as a couple have been feeling this so so much! Many of our friends here in Lille are transient (military, contract based work etc) I feel I’m often saying goodbye. It seems often when we take a break or rest for a holiday we reflect and start to feel down about the lack of growth in ourselves, our church members lives, in our evangelism etc etc etc…. you name it we’ll listen to the lie trying to get us down. We as leaders do feel lonely even though we have some lovely lovely people with us. But we feel lonely….it’s hard to describe but kinda nice to know we aren’t alone. So appreciate your honesty, facts, truths! Thanks Rog and George (Lille)

    1. Phil Whittall says:

      Thanks for the comment. Yes it’s tough, it can take such a long time to build that strong and stable community that you long for and it can take such a long time before people say “we’re with you”. Praying for you guys, keep going!

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