The Roller Coaster that is Church planting

So it’s not typical that I blog about how things are going in the specific church plant I am at. But I am going to that just a little bit in this post because at the end of the day, I am a church planter, one who is daily in the trenches, one who has to continue to endure the ups and downs of church planting.

One year ago this week, Ashlee, Drew, and I arrived in Tampa, Florida to begin planting the next Aletheia Church. What a year it has been. So often with church planting, the church planter is on a constant roller coaster of highs and lows. One week you feel like you really belong, the next you feel like throwing in the towel. And this just doesn’t have to do with the amount of people that show up on Sundays for the worship gathering. No, Sundays are just the culminating climactic moment of either sheer jubilation after an incredible week of ministry, or of sheer disappointment and discouragement after seeing no tangible momentum.

One of the biggest keys in planting churches is to not get caught on the emotional week-to-week roller coaster. Church planters must have an understanding going into it that there will be great moments one week, and horrible moments the next. Inexperience always sets the stage for panic when things begin to go awry. But as I have learned after ten years of doing this, perseverance is vital in church planting.

This past year in Tampa, we have ridden that proverbial roller coaster. We have had extreme highs and lows. For instance, we saw only 1 person accept Christ in February. But in March, we saw 15 come to know the Lord. In the first two months of our ministry we had 6 baptisms. We didn’t see anybody get baptized the next four months combined. By late summer 2009, right before we launched, we had built our core group up to around 50. When we launched our services, our core group was cut in half. Half of those people dropped off the radar! Other than the occasional moment of discouragement (ask my wife or my leadership team), I have maintained a pretty balanced attitude through it all. This is because I’ve learned from past experience. I remember so many times in Harrisonburg in the early years beating myself up wondering why the church wasn’t growing “as quickly as I felt it should have” (there’s the problem). Now, after experiencing the highs and lows already, I’ve learned to take each week and no matter what happens, to keep looking ahead…to the vision that God has given me.

This all brings me back to my original statement. Yesterday evening was an incredible night for Aletheia Tampa. It was a definite milestone day for our church. It was as high of a moment as we have had. After 26 services we had seen God do some great things, but nothing remotely close to what He did last night. We saw 6 people trust their lives to Christ. We had our largest attendance ever, finally reaching that 100 person mark. We had three people commit to getting baptized this next Sunday. We had a ton of new visitors. We actually had people come as a result of our canvassing efforts on Saturday. It was incredible. God blessed on all fronts.

It’s Monday morning now and yesterday is over. It’s a brand new week. There might be some highs this week and there might be some lows. I will stay encouraged about what God is doing, take it one week at a time, not get caught up in the hype, and not get blown away by any discouragement that comes. I praise God for what He is going to do, whether it matches up with my expectations or not.

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