Is Church Planting Just A Phase?

theStory is about 6 years old. It functions decently and is slowly being taken over by the community that it consists of. We no longer have a ‘senior pastor’ and the leadership team is taking over most of the roles that are needed to help it function well. We don’t have any grants or money coming in from anywhere else. Our community meets our small budget of 60k which is mostly a part time salary and a building. Most of our families have been with us two years or more and we see a few visitors every week, very few of them stick around very long. We see a new family stick with us probably once every six months, and it takes a family close to a year to feel really included and part of what is going on. We just recently got approved and our own charitable status number, our own bank account and membership documents and official board status is all coming. So in terms of a church plant, we are doing pretty well and are established.

The question at the back of my head now is what next? I’ve been trained not to stop. Always have new goals, and be pushing people to tackle task after task and grow bigger and bigger. My head says to do it. Maybe try and upgrade our building with some new lights, or rally everyone up to make breakfast for kids at the local school, or try thirty days of prayer and fasting, or start a take your friend to church campaign (I’m kidding, my head does not say that). I’ve never really been at a place with a church where I didn’t think it was important to keep going. Keep growing, expanding, doing new things, challenging where people are at and pushing them forward –that is all I’ve ever known. I can’t help but think though that the obsession with not stopping and continually growing is unhealthy.

I remember when I was seventeen or so and I challenged my senior pastor at the time on his obsession with constantly needing to be involved in the next greatest thing. God was always in the next event or movement or book or activity. If it wasn’t 21 days of fasting then it was 40 days of purpose or communion once a month or communion every week. There was always something that we needed to get everyone on board for and it got old very quick. I get the temptation now to always be on the move but I’m not sure I want to go in the same direction. It’s exhausting and you constantly feel like you have to convince everyone of everything or else we aren’t doing what we should be doing.

I’ve been told this aching feeling I have is because I’m a apostle of types, always needing to go on to the next thing and start new things. So they would say I’m supposed to hand this over to someone who is more pastoral and then be on my way and plant more churches. That however is a very individualistic and selfish way for me to look at it. theStory doesn’t exist for me. I shouldn’t take my understanding of my own role and infect the whole community. My main concern then is what does theStory do right now so that we are being the kind of church that Sarnia needs? Are we doing those things by owning a building, holding services once a week and paying a part time pastor to organize children’s material? Is that it? What else is the church supposed to be doing? Is it enough to to just sit here now and let everyone who is connected to us continue on in their merry little lives doing the things they think are important? The normal ways of going on about church was so empty to me, it’s what caused me to want to plant a church the first time. But now, I can see our little church eventually spiraling into the same old routines.

So I’m asking myself what my role is but also what is theStory to do now? What are theStory’s tasks and what should they be concerning themselves with on a day to day basis? The church has been planted and is now at a stage where you can’t call us a plant, so what does it look like for church planters to be part of a church that is no longer in planting phase? We don’t want or need more people to start coming, we are there, we’ve reached our goal. I’m not planning on planting any more churches, and I’m not planning on leaving theStory, but it seems like the more and more I look at it, the role of the planter is diminished and there is need for different kinds of people stepping up. What kinds of things do these people do? Do they simply preach, and care for the people in their midst? Do they ‘take’ the people anywhere? Do they cast new visions and get people excited about new direction? What does a church do if they aren’t going after the next big thing or trying to convince people (usually other Christians) to join in on what they are doing? We aren’t trying to attract new families or retain new families or pay off a building or hire a new staff member. We are just existing. Is that OK? Am I missing something? Is the excitement of the first five years of church planting just a phase that eventually dries up and then the church is supposed to be doing something entirely different?

3 thoughts on “Is Church Planting Just A Phase?”

  1. “What does a church do…?”
    “We are just existing. Is that OK?”

    Why did you plant theStory in the first place? Why in Sarnia? Why downtown?

    What does a church do? What a church does. Gather. Baptize. Eat and drink the Body and blood of Christ. Open the Scriptures. Submit to one another in love.

    Yes, it is OK to just exist.

    However, if you’re really interested in trying new things have you guys considered holding a revival service?

  2. I guess the questions make me sound like I don’t know these things. But I know what the church is ‘supposed to do’ but I have no idea how to bring people along to do these things and care about them. I feel like maybe I was successful at ‘planting a church’ which means getting people in the seats, liking each other and sticking around. But in terms of ‘being the church’ – i have no idea if we are doing what we are supposed to.

  3. Same challenge here, except we didn’t start with church people (of any variety). My question for our people… If what we have is so life-giving to all of us, are your friends and family noticing, are they asking questions, are you answeringthose questions, are you bringing them along to taste and see? The word I want to use is flourishing, rather than existing…

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