Church planting is…difficult

I posted two days ago on some of the benefits of church planting. One thing I failed to mention was a negative of church planting. It is extremely difficult! Paul told the Corinthian church that he came to them in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling (1 Cor. 2:3). This is a powerful statement. You may say he used this expression in other instances in some of his other letters to address an urgent issue he was struggling with. But we do know that he had been beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, run out of Thessalonica and Berea, and mocked at on Mars Hill in Athens. This guy knew how difficult it was to do what he did. And what did Paul do? He planted churches. And sometimes he had some natural human inclinations to be fearful. He knew how difficult it was.

As my dad was writing the curriculum for a church planting course he designed entitled “City Change” (found here), he decided to address the issue of fear first. There’s a reason for that. How many times in your life have you been in a new environment? Whether it was going to school for the first time, moving to a new town and transferring schools because your dad’s job re-located the family, going off to college, working your first job, etc… These, and many other instances that push us into a new environment can be very fearful events.

Now imagine going to an unfamiliar city; a place where not a single person you know can be found, and attempting to plant a church from nothing. Sounds scary? Because it is. Paul went into Corinth by himself, knowing not one person, and began to build a church. This was unorthodox for Paul because he never went to a location without a team. Corinth was an exception but not for long because as we read in Acts 18, he joined forces with Aquila and Priscilla in verse 2 and then his boys Silas and Timothy joined him in verse 5 and then some great stuff started happening.Paul did everything he could to eliminate fear and a big part of it was to surround himself with a team. Maybe it was his lack of a team that caused him to be so fearful…just a thought.

I know the feeling of going to a city in which I can’t find a single person that I know. In 2001, my dad and mom and a good friend of mine packed up our stuff and moved from Southern California to Harrisonburg, Virginia to start the first Aletheia Church. I couldn’t have imagined doing that alone like Paul did. Even with having family and a good buddy there, I still had many fears. I left everything that was comfortable and convenient. I left my friends, other family members, my job, my ministry, and other opportunities, to go to a small Virginia town and start a church from the ground up in a city where nothing felt familiar. I was 2,500 miles from home and it felt like that in the beginning.

And the process to build the church wasn’t any easier or less fearful from that point on. We started that church with four people in my dad’s house. I remember many weeks thinking “are any of the people that we invited this week even going to come?” We spent so much time, energy, and resources trying to connect with the people in that college community. We made thousands of door-to-door visits, took dozens of people out for meals, and had hundreds over to the house for dinner. We invested in people’s lives and began to build friendships. The end result was wonderful but the process was painful and arduous. We didn’t really start seeing big time momentum until years after we began. There were many times we wanted to give up and throw in the towel. It was absolute torture on many instances.

Church planting, for the most part, is a process. That’s one of the biggest reasons why it is so difficult. We live in a culture that is so have-it-now oriented and everyone is so used to obtaining things immediately. Well, other than a few rare occurrences, it takes years to build a church off the ground. For this reason, I feel like church planting is the most difficult ministry endeavor in America. People (myself included) are too impatient. We don’t want to persevere because we hate the idea of doing something that is fearful at times and risky, and we certainly don’t want to be a part of something that requires years of huge amounts of effort, with little to no results.

What are your thoughts?


  • Kevin says:

    AP, thanks for writing these blogs man… money stuff. As my wife and I pray with our team about this I can honestly say that I am fearful. There is a calming sensation though that God brings when the weight of it all seems so large. It is HIS church, it will come in HIS timing, and HE will build it. In reality, knowing and understanding God’s sovereignty is the only thing that makes the task and calling not seem insurmountable. Thanks so much bro. We love you guys!

  • Jamie Limato says:

    Ap, Thanks for your friendship, partnership, and allowing me to be one of the Pastors in our network. The work you are doing through this blog is so helpful. Great to hear you put your thoughts, fears, and leadership insights out there. You truly are a gift. Blessing and love you man. The fear that we experience is only a part of the process and the reason why we must persevere in prayer.

  • CM E says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhh….and yet, God ALWAYS provides when we are in His will. Don’t allow psychological warfare to get in your head, Thanks for being real…and check your paypal account…

    Cindy and Bill

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