One of the most difficult things in life sometimes is to persevere even in the face of challenges. In church planting, there is a point where the honeymoon is over and the realities of people, expectations and easy solutions can be overwhelming.
Over the past two decades, I have walked with many church planters who were not open to coaching until they hit some walls. When they get the help they need, they are able to grow through the difficulty, move forward and adjust as they fulfill the call they have received.
Recently I talked with someone who seemed to be walking away from their call, and I was reminded of the need we all have to find that call daily and remain in the battle. Paul’s instruction to Timothy lays out key directions for us today.
“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him. And if someone likewise competes as an athlete, he is not crowned as victor unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” 2 Timothy 2:3-7 (NASB).
Though we may quote 2 Timothy 2:2 on disciple-making, there is a need to see the context. Paul addresses a leader and reminds him up front that suffering is a reality in ministry, but we are to endure it as a soldier under orders from the Master. The calling of the Lord in our lives must be the reason and foundation for our service, not anything else.
In church planter assessments over the years, the planter’s call is questioned and affirmed. Christ is the One the planter must be following, and if He is calling him to serve then he must go. The only voice and authority is Jesus. He is the only one who will be the final Judge.
In the second illustration, Paul remarks about the athlete. Only the athlete who plays with integrity can truly win.
In recent years, there have been accusations of athletes doping and doing whatever it takes to enhance their play. The result is that they disqualify themselves from the prize. Similarly, the leader and pastor must live under the power of the Holy Spirit and labor in the love that Christ puts into him. Whatever is not in the Spirit is not leading to the victory. Daily the leader’s task is to submit to the leadership of the Spirit in all areas of life and ministry.
Unfortunately, there has been this voice in the church that as long as the ministry has numbers, your private life and family life do not matter. The lack of integrity will be a present or eventual barrier to the fruitful crown the Lord is leading a leader to live and serve toward.
The last image and example is that of a farmer who waits till it is time to harvest. My grandfather was a farmer in the Midwest. As a kid we would visit in the summers and help out.
I remember him listening to the weather reports on the radio regularly as he waited for the right time to harvest. Too early and the yield would be reduced. Too late and there was a chance of losing everything.
The church planter and pastor look to the harvest and long for it. But waiting for God’s time to see disciples made is vital. Tilling the land, planting, cultivating, waiting and harvesting are all in God’s time.
Remaining connected to the Father while serving in obedience is life giving. The power and call lead to a clearer vision of God’s purpose and a daily directive to live for ONE.
The vertical must determine the horizontal. Our world needs power-filled leaders focused on eternity, living daily in His grace.
- Whom do you work for daily, and what is the call on your life from the Lord?
- How do your private motives align with your call from the Lord?
- What other voices are calling out to you? How can you filter them out?
- In what areas are you tempted to take shortcuts?
- Does the timeline you have put yourself on reflect God’s process and priorities?
- How could you be better aligned?
State Missionary Brian Harper serves as lead church planting strategist at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. He may be contacted at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 2332, or (334) 613-2332, firstname.lastname@example.org.