Today's post is written by Mike Breaux, teaching pastor at Heartland Community Church in Rockford, IL. Before joining Heartland, Mike was teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL, and senior pastor at Southland Christian Church in his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. He is the author of Making Ripples and Identity Theft.
I have a soft spot in my heart for church planters. I love their passion, their sense of adventure, and the way they try innovative things. I love most of all their heart for reaching people who need a touch from the Living God. I love church planters. A lot.
And maybe it’s because my kids are involved in church-planting. Maybe it’s because I have a bunch of friends that have or are currently doing it. It might even be because I’ve been one. To this day, I still drive by buildings with a “For Lease” sign in the window and wonder, “Would that place work for our weekend services?”. I can’t get it out of my system. And honestly, I hope I never do. So if you would allow me to look back, I’d like to throw out a few things that I wish I had known, done, or done better.
Go and Be/Come and See
When we planted the church in Las Vegas we had the philosophy that the church ought to be a place where you could invite a friend to ‘come and see’. It was like that Samaritan woman that Jesus met at a well…the one who ran back into town and said, “You gotta come and see this guy!” Our church was more of (and I hate these tags) an “attractional” model. And we attracted people…in fact lots of people found Jesus there. I’m so grateful for the way God moved.
Looking back though, I wish we would have had more balance on the “go and be” side of ministry. It took a while for our new church to be known as a place that ‘loves and serves our community’. I don’t believe that it’s an either/or when it comes to ‘come and see’ and ‘go and be’…it’s a both/and. But I would have started with “go and be” before we launched the “come and see” phase of our ministry. I love how some church plants are just showing up and building relationships, serving the poor, mentoring school kids, and making a difference in a community for months before they ever have a weekend service. Then the invite to “come and see” flows out of the respect they have earned from serving. Although the church we planted now has that reputation, I wish we would have embraced that sooner.
We had all kinds of volunteer leaders doing all kinds of ministry. I just wished they would’ve have felt more ownership. I would’ve had brought some of them officially “on staff” as non-paid personnel. I wished they could have been in staff meetings where we laughed so hard we about lost our lunch. And those times where we hit our knees and cried over broken families and friends far from God. I would want them to feel every bit of ownership as the few of us on staff felt. And I would’ve used more interns. What a great learning experience for college students that are thinking about ministry. Plus we could’ve used a lot more help… for almost free :).
Raised More Cash
Although God supernaturally supplied everything we needed (it really was incredible), I wish, as the point leader, I would’ve raised more cash than I thought we needed. It was a bit stressful, living one offering away from extinction. Again, God provided and we didn’t really stress out (much), I just wish I could’ve taken some of the burden off of our team by asking others to be financially involved for at least a couple of years. Generous people will be involved if you ask. I just didn’t ask.
A Band of Brothers
While we had an awesome team and great people at our new church plant, I didn’t really know any other church planters. There weren’t the networks, and training, and mentoring that is available now. I would’ve definitely taken advantage of the conferences, retreats, and one on one coaching. I would’ve sought out more friends who were in the same season as me.
It's About People, Stupid
I can remember taking a day of prayer and fasting, on top of a mountain outside of Vegas. It was a great day of writing, journaling, praying, taking a nap, singing, watching mountain goats, hawks, and scorpions. The following day was staff meeting and the team jokingly asked me, “Did you hear from God up on Mt. Sinai?” I said, “Yep. I did.” He told me, “It’s about people, stupid.” We were growing so fast and trying to figure out next steps. I was trying to get my head around buildings, budgets, and strategic five year plans. I lost sight of the hurting people that we had come to reach. You can do that you know. I needed that reminder.
Four of the coolest words in the Bible to me are found in the story of Jesus and the woman caught in the act of adultery. The Pharisees set her up, use her, and throw her down in the dirt in front of Jesus. They incite the crowd to pick up stones to hurl at her for her sins. And while everyone is towering over this broken woman…these four words jump off the page… “BUT JESUS STOOPED DOWN.” He got in the dirt with her. He didn’t condemn her or condone her sin. He just got down in the dirt with her. I never want to get lost in the strategy of ‘church-world’ and forget to get in the dirt with hurting, messy, broken people. And God still reminds me today, “It’s about people.” Maybe you needed that reminder, too.