The Process that is Church Planting…

As I alluded to in my last post, church planting is a process. I love doing what I do but I have really had to learn something over the past decade of doing this…planting churches takes time. I am naturally a very impatient person so this often times doesn’t bode well for me. This is something that I constantly have to work on. I have a vision for what I want to see accomplished, and I can even see the end result, but to go from brand new to fully grown is a long drawn out process that (for 99% of churches) takes years to see accomplished.

Take the first Aletheia Church for example. In August of 2001, 4 of us moved from Southern California to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to start a collegiate church at James Madison University. God told us to do this. We had no doubts this is what He wanted. We even had a Biblical model from which to do things so we weren’t guessing. Sure some of our methods were dated and ineffective, and we definitely could have been more intentional about recruiting more team members, but what we lacked in methodology or numbers, we made up with passion, zeal, and lots of energy. And we had tons of ministry experience too so doing something this radical wasn’t foreign to our team of four. We had even raised enough start-up funds to rent a room, purchase sound equipment, and print design materials. Everything seemed to be in place. We got on site, began to cultivate relationships, started a Bible study at our home, invested in people, met needs, knocked on thousands of doors, handed out thousands of sweet designed invites, cultivated a core group, launched services at the right time, had great Bible teaching, had a full band, etc…

And six months into it we only had 35-40 people coming out. I remember countless times beating my fist on the roof of my truck, screaming, crying out to God and wondering why things weren’t progressing quicker. Then I would be reminded quickly that church planting is a process. Hindsight is always 20-20 but here we are nearly 9 years later, and Aletheia Harrisonburg now has over 600 people at a worship gathering on any given Sunday. The church continues to grow long after my departure, there is strong leadership, and the church is completely self-sustaining.

We hear stories of churches that sprout up and after a year they have 500 people, after two years, they have 5,000 people. But these are very isolated instances. For the other 99% of church plants, numerical growth takes place at a slower rate. Much of this probably has to do with the personnel. Those churches that explode out of the gate have guys in charge that could run any Fortune 500 company in the world. These guys are sharp. They know how to build things from the ground up. But these types of personalities are few and far between. For the rest of us who aren’t as highly gifted, we have to go through the process.

This process sometimes takes years and even decades. It takes having the right leaders who are praying. It takes dedication. It takes commitment. It takes faithfulness to see the process through. Many people give up because of impatience after only a couple years. And if the timing is right, and God’s hand is in the church plant, and the right people are in place, then growth will start to happen, and a church will be cultivated.

I am now in Tampa, starting the fifth Aletheia Church plant, I’ve been here a year, we launched our services at the end of August, and we only had 70 people at church this past Sunday. Many of you will say, “wow 70 people, that’s pretty good!” I have high expectations and that is a topic for another day. But my point is that here I am again, a decade later, still in the same position…having to submit to God and see His process through!

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