If you have been around church planting for any length of time, you have heard the phrase, “You have begun a work that only God can finish.” We have learned from many past experiences in church planting that there is a whole list of things that can go wrong if it is not being done God’s way. That is why this time when we were asked, “Aren’t you excited?” we asked ourselves, “Why is everyone else is so excited and we are scared stiff?”
Actually, our fears were unfounded. We had learned a lot (and I mean a LOT) of lessons. The experience and knowledge that accompanies it proved to be a good asset. But knowledge and experience are not everything in church planting. In fact, without the Holy Spirit’s leading, they are nothing.
That leads us to the first lesson I learned; not just knew, but truly learned—I cannot help start a church. This is the most stress-relieving lesson I have learned. Even when performing at the top of my game, I fall far, far short of what it takes to help get a church off the ground. So I have stopped worrying if I have said just the right thing and done everything everyone thinks a pastor’s wife should do.
What I do concern myself with is my daily walk with God. Am I bringing pleasure to Him? According to Revelation 4:11, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” THIS is the purpose for my existence. In turn, am I enjoying His presence? John 15:5 comes to life in church planting: without Him I can do nothing, but when I abide with Him, I can do everything, including help plant a church. Why? Because when I abide in Him, in spite of all my weaknesses, I become a clean and useable vessel through which He can work.
Another lesson I found about church planting this time around is that we are a lot older. With age comes a plethora of advantages. We have experience, and with that comes some victories. We have a few failures too, but we have chosen to acknowledge them, learn from them, and go on with life.
Truthfully, it is like being an incumbent with a good track record; people like knowing you are not a novice. Trust comes easier; respect comes sooner. There is a freedom to move ahead with the work that might not come for awhile to a younger family.
We have also found mishaps do not bother us as much. We have seen it all or at least heard about it. For example, in our second week, we could not rent the hotel room that week so we were scheduled to meet in the senior center, which would have worked out great had someone shown up to unlock the doors and let us in! People started arriving. We greeted them and told them we were going to plan B: Church in the park pavilion, which also would have worked out all right had the group that reserved the pavilion not arrived to set up for a birthday party!
Fortunately, about five minutes before church was to start, a very apologetic man arrived with the keys and let us in. People were flying in every direction setting up. My husband recruited a “regular” (a.k.a. a man who was there the first week) to hand out bulletins while he set up the projector and arranged chairs. As it turned out, the nursery met in the wrong room, but, all in all, everyone remained perfectly calm, and we had great day with several visitors that returned in the following weeks.
Lastly, we have had time to learn from experiences—our experiences and those of others. We have learned what works and what does not—what is easy and effective (and by “easy,” I mean it is always easier to do it right the first time) and what is hard and frustrating. We have learned that the key is to learn and never stop learning. We continue to learn. We have learned from experiences and learned from people. Sometimes those people have been much older than us. Sometimes they have been the age of our children. (Sometimes they have been our children!)
Overall, we are glad to be starting all over again. We want to occupy till He comes and we know of no better way to do that than to be instrumental in God’s “Hope for America,” which is church planting.