We live in a healthy tension of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. It doesn’t matter if you’re planting a church or a garden, sowing seeds of the gospel or sowing wheat into the ground. The Lord has created the world to work a certain way. We work hard, as we were designed by God to do so. We pray, as it is the Lord who gives and takes away. And we wait. These may seem at odds with one another, but they all work together—by design—to accomplish the work of planting a church.
Prayer is the heaviest lifting of all that we do. Fundraising, evangelism, vision, emotional health, church unity, effective preaching—it all comes down to prayer. Jesus said “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The Holy Spirit is at work. He is continuing the work of Jesus all around us. And the Father has rigged the mission in such a way that he wants us to ask him to bless it. Prayer is not what we do when nothing else works. Prayer is the work.
A good friend of mine, Joe Ligon, pastors a growing church in rural Oklahoma. The Lord has grown FBC Marlow from about 300 attenders to over 1,000 attenders in multiple services across 3 different campuses. Marlow, OK is a rural town with only 4,000 residents. Joe is often asked, “How did you do this?! What’s the trick?” His answer is, “We work really hard around here.”
When planting a church, you will need to capitalize on the opportunities that the Lord sends your way. Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Church planting can’t be your hobby. It can’t be something you do in your free time. It requires an entrepreneurial gifting and a strong work ethic.
At Valley Life Church | Surprise, we have an Easter push, a Vacation Bible School push, a fall push, and a Christmas Eve push. The truth is, we are always pushing. Here’s why: we have asked the Lord to move, and we expect that he will!
Patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s also a spiritual discipline (Isaiah 40:31). The church I pastor recently went under contract on a new space. We have been praying for the Lord to run ahead of us and provide a building. We have been pushing hard to grow new believers into generous givers so that we can afford such a move. And we have waited for three years for the Lord to provide our opportunity. This disciplined us to be patient and trust in God’s provision.
Church Planting Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
There will be seasons of suffering: things will not go your way, people will leave, and your heart will be troubled. You will ask for the Lord to heal, and he will—in his time. And, in that season, you will wait on the Lord.
There will be seasons of pleading for the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of your friends and neighbors to the gospel. There will be times that you wonder how this powerful truth that is changing lives all over the world is falling on deaf ears. But it isn’t falling on deaf ears. Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word is accomplishing its purpose.
Pray because that is the work. Push because the Holy Spirit is always on the move. And don’t grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). The Father has designed seasons of waiting so that we will press in to him. In these seasons, he has us right where he wants us (James 1:2-4;12). It’s all by his design.