In some ways, this could be a daily exercise for anyone – it certainly doesn’t just come out of my experiences as a church planter! And it has roots in monastic traditions, liturgical traditions, as well as a few pastoral theologians. But I wrote it with the specific experience of a church planter in mind.
Find a place where you can have a few quiet minutes to work through the following questions and prayers.
1) Are you holding any grudges?
Against spouse or children, friends or roommates? Members of the church, or folks who have left? Other pastors, leaders, co-workers, or neighbors?
Ask for the grace to let them go, and receive the freedom Jesus promised when he told us that we would be forgiven of our sins when we forgave those who sinned against us.
2) Do you need to confess any sins?
Have you lost the battle with anxiety, anger, lust, or dishonesty? Are there jealousies percolating in your heart, rage nearing out of control?
Receive the promise that the apostle John gave us: If we confess our sins, he is faithful to always forgive them.
Are the ambiguous events in the past day? Things you’re unsure of? Ways you responded that you wonder about? You aren’t sure if they are sin or not? If they are, God forgives them. If they aren’t, receive the freedom to simply let them go. God is bigger than our over-active consciences.
3) Do you know, beyond all shadow of doubt, that you are loved and accepted by God?
Jesus loves your city, he loves your church, he loves your family, but perhaps the most important thing for you to know is that he loves you. Not because you are a great leader or pastor, not because you have achieved any level of holiness or success.
Receive the truth that the apostle Paul gave us, that nothing in heaven above or earth below, no failure on our part, no attack by others, can separate us from the love and hope of God. You are united with Christ in his death and resurrection to new life. You are a citizen of God’s kingdom.
You are uniquely made with gifting from his Spirit. There is nothing about you that will surprise him, or make him decide you are no longer worthy of love.
4) Is there any insecurity, comparison, or discouragement about the church you are trying to plant that is nagging at you?
Are you stressing about Sunday attendance, or bank accounts, or how good your preaching is, or how good the music is, or whether people who come like the programming? Are you wondering if you are doing things right or if you are missing something? Are you struggling because someone else is having more success, receiving more accolades, or criticizing you publicly?
Jesus understands all these stresses. He knows that it’s difficult. He knows that learning to be free of these anxieties is hard. And yet, he wants to take them. They are too much for you to bear. You can only be faithful, obedient, hard-working, and then let him take care of the rest. Obey his command to not worry about anything.
5) Does the good news feel like good news to you today?
Sometimes church planting can feel like a burden. We are trying to do the right thing, trying to relate to others based on God’s love for them, and sometimes we start to wonder what the whole point of this is anyway. The good news can feel more like a really hard project.
Perhaps the most important job for people in ministry is, every day, to realize that the good news is good news for us. In the midst of our stresses, flaws, and failures, regardless of how successful or not we are, we are loved and adopted into the family of God and have an eternal destiny with him.
I would suggest that if at all possible, you don’t move on to your next ministry task until you know that the good news is actually good.
– Jeff Heidkamp