Monday, January 7, 2013

What I learned in Church: Part IV, the Church Plant

While at the height of our involvement at the Mega Church, we were told that the youth pastor was going to start a church plant nearby. We had grown close to this youth pastor and to the youth ministry at the church so we were left with a choice - stay with the ministry, or leave with the pastor.

We chose the pastor mostly because it offered a new opportunity of unbroken ground in our church experience. Starting a church from scratch was scary stuff, but also fun, and exciting and very genuine. The experience was very much a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, but it was also an experience that would "grow" us beyond our limits in a short amount of time.

The fellowship that we had with this small church family was the most genuine, intimate, enjoyable fellowship that we've had with other Christ-followers. The people around us were real, broken, and simply wanted to come together to worship and grow. Our fellowship started with about 40 people, peaked at about 175 people, and petered out to about 75 people. Once again, the national church average attendance is in this ballpark, so having 75 people come together on a regular basis is by no means a "failure".

The lead pastor - a father figure, mentor, close friend - was a "broken" pastor. He had lived a hard life, had a few setbacks personally and professionally, and had had a couple failed opportunities as a pastor. Because of this, he was able to draw in other people who were "broken" - myself included. This created a congregation that, for me, set the bar for expectations of congregational worship and fellowship. This "church planting experience" has shaped much of our growth as Christians (for better and for worse).

Things I learned from the Failed Church Plant:

1. Church planting is not easy. More money is not the answer to getting a church off the ground and running. Vision and Mission Statements and Statements of Belief are also not the answer. A good business sense is not the answer.

2. Baggage that people bring from previous church experience (especially the pastor), has the potential to undermine the church planting effort from the very start. Along the way, more and more people will show up with their own baggage as well.

3. Drawing people out of the community into a church plant is a great experience. Not drawing them from other churches, but directly from the community.

4. I will always miss this failed church plant that was once our family. (and think on what might have been.)


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