The ONE THING I've learned from Planting Voice Church 2 years ago
Not gonna lie. Today totally snuck up on me. I don't know if it's because of quarantine or the demands of the season, but I completely forgot that there was any significance to today until a friend texted Natalie and I saying happy second birthday.
Two years ago today Voice Church launched our very first public service. It was an amazing day. The team came together. There was excitement in the air. We were overcapacity. People made decisions to follow Jesus. I was on cloud nine.
What I didn't realize was that the months to follow would be full of both electric highs and heart numbing lows.
It's been amazing to see people attend church for the first time in forever, see them cash in relational chips to invite their friends to church, see people make the decision to get baptized, join groups, serve the local community, trust God with their finances, grow in their faith, develop a deep love for others and find true community. There have been so many times in the last couple years where I said to myself, "there is nothing I would rather do than this."
But there have also been so many painful moments. Situations with no win decisions, false narratives spread about us, pain of seeing people we love leave the church for a variety of reasons, financial uncertainty personally and with the church, churches seeing us as a threat and not a partner, and the constant pressure that we don't have enough time/resources to do what we feel called to do.
So many times, all my heart wanted to do was lock itself away in a deep vault and stay protected. You may not feel the energy of relationships but you also won't get hurt again. Countless times, I've had to coax my heart to come out and risk pain again in order to engage with the mission of the church...to build people.
I don't believe you can build a church. I believe you can build people.
If your goal is to make disciples, you'll make a church. But if your primary goal is to make a church, you may or may not make disciples.
To build people, you have to do life with them. You can't build people from a stage only. You have to step down from the pulpit, make space in your schedule and listen. To love someone, you have to get in the mud with them. Sometimes fighting alongside. Sometimes just sitting with them. But you can't do it through a screen. And you can't do it with a mic in hand.
Sometimes they'll reciprocate and show appreciation. Most times they won't and that's ok. Do it anyway.
Creating a safe place through leading a small group will have amazing times full of energy and hope. Other times will be spent healing each other's wounds. Still other times you will be alone because everyone was busy that week and you fight the voices of insecurity in your own head.
As I was thinking about what to say about what I've learned from two years of church planting, I thought about breaking it down into five or ten leadership axioms and maybe I'll do that later, but I believe these last two years has been about one lesson.
I am not in control. My job is not to be fruitful. My job is to be faithful.
Let me break that down.
I AM NOT IN CONTROL
I'm an enneagram 8. Pray for my wife and kids.
My natural posture is to believe that I can control everything in my life. To the nth degree. If I'm a good enough leader. If I hustle hard enough. If I study enough. I can be successful.
If church planting generally and 2020 specifically has taught me anything, it's that control is an illusion. Like a sailor, I can set my sails but I cannot control the wind. Like a surfer I can be ready, but I cannot manufacture a wave.
I cannot control the government. I cannot control how much people give to the church. I cannot control whether someone surrenders their life to Jesus. I cannot control my kids. I have a hard enough time trying to control myself.
MY JOB IS NOT TO BE FRUITFUL.
Define success however you want but usually it's a hierarchy thing. More money than others. Better office than others. Better neighborhood/car/house/vacations than others. More applause and accolades than others.
In the church, we don't use that language. We don't say successful. We say blessed or fruitful. But many times, it means similar things.
Number of people in attendance, offering numbers, building size, and the applause of peers of course.
For literally decades of working in full time ministry, I've chased those.
How much was in offering this week? How can we tweak what we say to see that number go up?
How many people were at Christmas services this year? How can we reallocate finances, raise production value and increase cool factor to see that number go up?
Now, I'm not against money or attendance. I think they both matter. You can't create change without resources and you can't help someone if they're not there. I get that.
Money and attendance are symptoms.
They are the result of vision. They cannot BE the vision.
Sometimes God leads us to greater income and influence. History is littered with countless examples of individuals who have been blessed that way and were able to use their prosperity to build the Kingdom.
But sometimes, God leads us to poverty, pain and anonymity.
For examples, study the first disciples, apostles and the majority of Christians in the first century.
Jesus didn't say, if you follow me, it's all up and to the right.
He said that if you want to be a disciple, you'll have to take up your cross, deny yourself and follow Him.
Wherever he takes you.
MY JOB IS TO BE FAITHFUL
So, I'm not in control and my job is not to be fruitful. Then what is my job?
To be faithful. That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
If He has given me a season of financial and influential abundance, how can I be faithful to Him with it?
If He has given me a season of pain and betrayal, how can I be faithful in it?
If He has given me 200 people to lead or 2000 people to lead, how can I be faithful to lead them to trust Him, not to put their trust in me?
How can I be faithful?
The big question then is "what does it look to be faithful to God in this season of my life?"
And then...am I willing to do that today?
That's the big thing I've learned the last 2 years. Simple, huh?
Control says I need them to...
Focusing on fruitful says in relation to them, I need to have x to be sucessful.
Focusing on faithful says, I only need to do what God is asking me to do. That's it.
So, what is it for you? What does faithfulness to God look like in this season of your life and are you willing to do that today?
I'm rooting for you.