I know there are some church plants that just seem to explode into life almost the moment they began. Churches where everything seems to go just right and the line on the growth chart (because that is what we’re thinking about) just keeps climbing.
I’ve never led one of those church plants.
I’ve led teams where my family was the team, where every inch of ground is hard-fought for and growth (because that is what we want to see) happens slowly. It can happen gradually and it can take a long time coming. Or at least it will feel like a long time; a very long time.
I want to separate patience from perseverance (another must have quality in a church planter). Perseverance is that quality that keeps you walking when you turn into a headwind, keeps you going when you’re faced with trials and battles. It is determination to not give up or go back. In other seasons of life perseverance becomes stubbornness.
Patience though is a different kind of waiting – it is not passive but it is not stressed. We live and work in secular Stockholm with a shockingly low proportion of Christians, we knew what we were coming to and we knew we were called.
We run through our mental check-list:
- Praying? Check
- Hospitality? Check
- Sharing the gospel? Check
- Making friends? Check
Your calling is sure and you are sure you are doing the right things but the fruit just isn’t there. We’ve been praying every week for salvation for two years, for people to be saved, baptised and added to the church.
What do you do when it’s not happening for you? I know what I used to do. Check my methods, redouble my efforts, quietly despair and sometimes complain. All of which suggests that somehow the salvation of people depends on me, when I know for a fact I can’t save anyone. Remember, we are doing the stuff.
What I’ve learnt between church plant 1 and church plant 2 is that Jesus promised to build His church (Mt 16:18). We believe that Jesus intends to build His church in Stockholm and has asked us to come and help. So we do what we’re told and we wait.
Hebrews 6:12 says it is through faith and patience that you inherit the promises. Not that we’re sluggish but that we’re patient. Faith should always be in Christ, faith in His goodness, faith in His gospel as the power of God for salvation, faith in His Spirit to lead us, equip and empower us and faith that God’s word will not return empty and void.
So two years on, we’re still praying, still opening our home, sharing our faith, making friends and waiting on His goodness, His plan, His timing.
The difference is remarkable. Not especially in the results (which is what you were hoping for), although we are really encouraged by what God is beginning to do.
No, the real difference is in me. I’m not carrying the load of making a church succeed, it was a weight too heavy and one I was never supposed to bear. I’m not pushing or pressurising, I’m not so frustrated by the pace my companions are moving. I’m at peace. Be patient.