When you pull the rip cord from a thousand feet up in the air, you need to know a couple of things, and you need to know them quick! Otherwise, your lunch is going to be all over the jump zone, as well as your internal organs. Telling somebody to pull the ripcord is one thing; but if you’ve never jumped, you start asking some suddenly relevant question. Is there a right or wrong way to pull it? Do you pull it down, the right? Or do you just pull the stupid thing as hard as you can?
In this series I’ll talk about some of the important things to know and do as you prepare to make your jump into your church plant!
Want to take a guess at the first thing you should?
First, pray. Pray hard. Pray without ceasing.
Did I say to pray?
There’s no atheists in a foxhole, and even the hardest soldier learns to pray.
“Trust God but keep your powder dry” is a helpful maxim. After doing everything on your end, it’s time to trust God, and by trusting him, I mean praying.
During your preparation to plant a church you will have seasons in prayer that are like the Autumn season, when fruit seems to be dropping off of the trees faster than you can harvest it. You will have winters where the ground is hard and nothing seems to be growing. Spring will produce new life, fruit, and finally you will have a ripping hot summer complete with spiritual lemonade, fireworks, and watermelon. The important thing is that you keep moving forward through the seasons, even if the one you’re in isn’t your favorite.
Let’s just say it. You pray best and most frequently when you’re scared and desperate. If you aren’t both of those leading up to your launch it’s because you’re stupid. You’re like the guy who launches himself out of the foxhole with a red bandana tied around his forehead because he’s seen too many Rambo films. Except you’ve just read too many church planting books with tales of glory. The “If you launch it, they will come” mentality is a myth. They won’t. Not the lost ones anyways. Not without Jesus stepping in to intervene and bless your puny efforts for the gospel. You sow, another waters, one may harvest, but God alone gives the increase…oh, and that’s not talking about numbers. That’s talking about fruit. I’m afraid that in our age of church planting drawing a crowd is the way that people measure a successful launch. Just remember planter that by the end of your first Sunday, after all that effort, expense, and exhaustion you can bank on one thing…
…you’re not going to see most of those people ever again.
You should be praying that God’s presence overwhelms your meeting and begins doing some soul surgery on the people that were there. Otherwise your “church” becomes an idol, or the thing of importance instead of the Lord. Personally, I’ve never given a rip about any church I’ve planted as an entity or institution. I care about the people. Although I form strong bonds with my teams, I secretly pray that they would have gone a thousand miles in a million different directions, within a year’s time. The launch isn’t endgame, even though many church plants treat it as such. Praying for the work of the Holy Spirit is the most important lead up to the launch. The day of Pentecost happened after 10 days of intense prayer. Your launch should be no different. Should it? If you’re desperate enough, you’ll fling yourself onto God in dependence and powerlessness before your launch, or afterwards wish you had.
Desperate men pray well. Theodorus wrote about Martin Luther, “I overheard him in prayer, but, good God, with what life and spirit did he pray! It was with so much reverence as if he were speaking to God, yet with so much confidence, as if he had been speaking to his friend.” ( Watson – taking heaven by violence). Charles Spurgeon learned to lean on God in desperation after being thrust into Pastoral ministry at the young age of 17, one year after his conversion and quickly becoming a popular preacher of the largest church in London. Dr. Wayland Hoyt recalls praying with’I was walking with him in the woods one day just outside London and as we strolled under the shadow of summer foliage, we came upon a log lying along the path. ‘come,’ he said as naturally as one would say it if he were hungry and bread was put before him, ‘come let us pray.’ Kneeling beside the log he lifted his soul to God in the most loving yet reverent prayer.Then rising from his knees he went strolling on, talking about this and that. The prayer was no parenthesis interjected. It was something that belonged as much to the habit of his mind as breathing did to the habit of his body.” Bill Hybels goes to a lake every morning for his quiet time. There he writes his prayers in a journal to God. He writes about how God moved in his life the day before. So that he can do this, he goes to bed at 10:30 PM, rain or shine.
In the mission field, you seem to be praying more “on the go” and it’s not about your devotional time, but about your devotion. Wesley once wrote, “Frequently, it seems, it was not so much the preaching as the praying of the men that arrested attention. The two men might join a burial party, and in the midst of those kneeling and wailing in the traditional manner at a a graveside, pour out fervent and sympathetic prayers. It was thus that many for the first time heard of eternal life and a loving heavenly father. The missionaries were ready to pray in every place. On one occasion a priest looked out of his church door for an overdue wedding party he was expecting. To his surprise he saw them kneeling on the road outside, with Ouseley also on his knees praying an tears flowing. Long before, Augustine had once said, the Christian teacher will succeed more by piety in prayer than by gifts of oratory.” (Iain H. Murray on Ousely in ‘Wesley and the men who followed’ p152)
I’d suggest getting alone with God together, and praying before your services. Find people who love to pray and get them together on a night of the week. Ask them to go to the mat for you, the church and the community on a weekly basis.
Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.