Church Planting Burdens: A Desire to Succeed

As I was leaving Wal-mart earlier today, I noticed a woman, in a red and white checkered dress, holding a sign that said, "Success is only mentioned in the KJV once. Check Joshua 1:8." Is that the only time the word 'success' is used in the KJV? Is it even in Joshua 1:8? I have yet to check the King James Version of the Bible to verify her thoughts, but that is not what concerns me. The notion of success is what concerns me, especially in light of how consumed I have been with it lately. In my moments of confusion, the idea of success, particularly as it relates to the church plant, overcomes me and I begin to fear failure and yearn for success even more.

For example, if I do not raise enough financial support, whose fault is it? Will the church be able to continue? If people in the church plant are dissatisfied, who is blamed? If I do not find an appropriate Sunday meeting facility, upon whose shoulders does it fall? If the people are not motivated evangelistically, why not? Is it my failure to lead appropriately? If church attendance does not increase in a 12-month period, what did I do wrong? Is it my preaching? Is it my leadership style? Is it my hospitality or perhaps lack thereof? If the church population does not adequately represent the demographics in the community, have I been talking a big game all this time only to fail? If the doors close, how will I feed my family?

To this, some of you will reply, "Leave the results up to God." Many more of you might empathize with my fear of failure and remark, "Rest in Christ, for apart from him you can do nothing" (John 15:5). I know these things; nevertheless, that does not always make the fear of failure cease. It does always not make my hunger for success subside. 

Is this a normal, however we define that, part of church planting? I know I should be concerned about many of the things mentioned previously, but I wonder if I should be this concerned. I admit my faith is weak. Despite the letters behind my name and the hands that were laid upon me in ordination long ago, I am weak, and I need help.

What should I do? One thing that has helped me, though I still struggle a great deal with fear of failure, is to remain on my knees in prayer. It seems that when I spend less time in prayer, my fear of failure, and correspondingly desire to succeed, increases. Secondly, I need to continually immerse myself in the gospel. More particularly, I need to ensure I sit under the preached word. As a church planter, that can be difficult. How can one remain under the preached word, a word under which we insist God's people must sit, if he is preaching most Sundays? Thankfully, I found an 8AM church service in the area I can attend. That ensures I am being saturated in the gospel. Thirdly, I must remain accountable to other pastors. It is necessary to share one's thoughts and receive prayerful feedback or simply a listening ear. Having brothers in your corner helps a great deal.

What can the congregation do to help pastors who wrestle with unhealthy ideas of church planting success? One thing laypersons can do is express their commitment to the church plant. In other words, assure the pastor you are committed to the work of the ministry with your time and financial resources. Secondly, memorize Hebrews 13:17 and consider that passage as you interact with your pastor. Are you submitting to his leadership? Are you submitting to the other elders? Are you enabling the elder's duties to be a joy? Do you realize that if you burden the pastor and/or elders, it is of no benefit to you? Thirdly, pray for your pastor and your elders. God acts in ways that you cannot.

I only shared a few words with the woman standing on the corner with her sign. She was extremely cordial. I wonder why she was standing there. Was her point to help those driving by cease striving for success? I do not know, but her sign definitely helped me work through some things temporarily. This is just one of many church planting burdens--success.