This year I faced one of my greatest fears: planting a church. I sought advice from veteran pastors and church planters. Their counsel has come through classes, formal coaching relationships, and one-off meetings or phone calls.
Now, our church (Immanuel Anglican in Chicago’s diverse Uptown neighborhood) has launched. As I reflected on the past year, I made a quick list of the most helpful advice I was given during this first, vulnerable year of planting. Of course, this list is specific to our church’s context, and most of our story has yet to be written. But I think the advice I’ve received could help others as well.
So without further ado, the top 10 insights I gleaned from others this year…
One. “Sustain high learning agility.” – Mark Reynolds, vice president of leadership programs at Redeemer City to City.
In 2012 I was part of a church planting training. Mark taught several classes. He said “learning agility” (meaning mental and ministry adaptability) so often, that by the end of the course we couldn’t help but associate that phrase with him. But I’m glad he repeated himself. This piece of counsel is the key that unlocks the nine tips below.
Mark warned us that many church planters are not willing to have high learning agility. They are sometimes so enamored with a particular ministry model or idea that when it does not work in the real world, they get embarrassed, defensive, and discouraged. Mark encouraged our class to find good coaches, learn from our mistakes, and constantly adapt to the conditions. At every stage of our initiative, veteran coaches have made adaptation and growth possible for me and our church.
Two. “Go slow to go fast.” – Stewart Ruch, senior pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois (our sending church).
Church planting is this vulnerable, exciting space where something is supposed to come out of nothing. Everyone, including you, constantly wants to know: How’s it going? What’s happening? Where are the results? So when we moved back to Chicago to plant a church, I felt a strong urge to start make something happen—to go fast. And there are many faithless ways to generate activity in the early days. Stewart taught me that building a community is slower than you want it to be. It takes time to develop trust, grow as a leader, and wait on the Lord together in prayer. However, once the community is in place, you have an entire team with gifts and energy that take the church so much farther than you could on your own. Your people will have more enthusiasm about the church plant if they’ve helped you shape it anyway. So go slow to go fast.
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