Nov 07, 2016
5 Confessions After 10 Years of Collegiate Church Planting
On Friday, I celebrated the anniversary of when I moved to Pullman.
On Saturday, I officiated my 18th wedding.
On Sunday, I sat in the hospital at midnight, with my dear friend while his wife was in surgery.
Those two events—back to back—properly sum up the last 10 years. It’s been hell and it’s been heaven. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ll never forget driving into Pullman, WA ten years ago. The Palouse is charming in the Fall. The pink and yellow sky, the golden wheat fields, the bright leaves and cozy coffee shops make the town feel like something between Lord of The Rings and Gilmore Girls.
I love this town. I love the Cougs. I love our church. And I love that God has allowed me to see weddings and funerals, tears and triumphs, battles and breakthroughs. Together our church has celebrated and suffered. We’ve cried and carried on. And we’ve learned God is faithful. Ever so faithful.
No one told me what it was really going to be like planting and pastoring a church. So, for those who are thinking about entering, here are 5 things I rarely talk about—confessions if you will—after 10 years of church planting.
I HAVE BEEN HURT DEEPLY, AND I HAVE HURT PEOPLE DEEPLY.
People have left our church. Lots of them actually. And when people leave our church, I take it personal. Any they take it personal. There’s probably a book somewhere that says don’t take it personal, but I haven’t read that book. And I would disagree with it anyway.
We’ve had staff members leave because they didn’t feel cared for, and they were right. Some of them left because of me and only me. I have to own that. Repent and bounce back, sure, but I have to own that I hurt them and now they don’t want to work with me.
Worst of all, people have not only left our church, they’ve left Jesus. We have former staff members who no longer trust Christ, who hate the church, and who probably blame us for this progression. It’s terrible, but true.
There are people I see in town and don’t know what to do, because I know they go to another church and I assume they are mad at me.
There are people who see our church name and feel pain. Pain we caused.
I have lost dear friends over the last ten years. People I thought I would grow old with. And it hurts me and it hurts them and it hurts God.
I wasn’t ready for the relational hurt. I wasn’t ready for casualties. I’m still grieved by it.
DEPRESSION AND DOUBT ARE NO STRANGER TO ME.
Somedays it feels like there is a force pressing against my body not wanting me to get out of bed. Somedays I feel like a fake, a phony, a joke, an imposter going through the motions. Somedays it feels like God is gone, everyone hates us, and our church is gonna die.
When I first started pastoring I was fragile. I was afraid. I needed gobs of encouragement and positive self-talk and only happy happy joy joy people around me. Now, I’d rather be honest about the doubt, fear, depression, worry, anxiety, and pressure. It’s easier than faking.
The good news is, depression and doubt keep you desperate. And being desperate means you’re the kind of person God can use. In that sense they are a great gift.
SOMETIMES I FORGET, “I’M A CHRISTIAN TOO.”
Leadership idolatry is a real thing. I can find myself being “always the teacher, never the taught.” I can overly identify with my job and position. I read my bible and think, “Oh this would be good for so and so, instead of realizing this would be good for me.”
Often times my prayer life lacks depth and meaning and richness because I’m preoccupied with “work prayers” or “metric prayers” and lack “intimacy prayers”.
Weekly, the Holy Spirit has to remind me, “You’re an adopted son of God before you are anything else. Your identity is in Christ before it’s in the church. You’re a sheep before you are a shepherd.”
EVERY DAY GOD TELLS ME, “KEEP SHOWING UP.”
Pastors don’t have superpowers. We have a calling. If I didn’t have a calling I would quit. It’s too hard. I believe—truly—God asked me to do this. And I believe he asks me to keep showing up.
Those are the words, day after day, “Keep showing up”…
After leading a terrible meeting, “Keep showing up.”
After preaching a terrible sermon, “keep showing up”.
After hearing the hardest truth, the “My husband has cancer” truth…. “Keep showing up.”
After the most heartbreaking confession, the “Last weekend I had an abortion” confession, “Keep showing up.”
After another story of another miscarriage in our church… “Keep showing up”.
After leader after leader tells me they are too busy to lead and need to step down, God says, “Not you. You keep showing up.”
God knows one of the greatest gifts we can give to our church is faithfulness. He wants His people to know they can trust us to be there, even when we don’t know what to say or do, we can be present. There’s power in showing up.
EVERY DAY GOD KEEPS SHOWING UP.
The movie Fury is about 5 soldiers serving in a tank together during WWII. They have the worst conditions, insurmountable odds, very little pay or food, yet everyday when they mount their tank they look at each other and say, “Best job I ever had.”
How could they say that? Easy… they believe in the mission, and they believe in each other.
So, at the end of the movie when they are stuck without backup trying to hold off 300 German SS troops, do they run? No, all five of them stay and fight to the end.
I’ve worked at Starbucks. I’ve worked at Barnes and Noble. I’ve worked landscaping. I’ve worked at other churches that paid me. But—far and away—serving as one of the pastors of Resonate Church is the best job I’ve ever had.
The people in the tank with me, the mission we are on, the story we are a part of, makes me joyfully want 40 more years. Bring on the dark days, I’m not afraid anymore. I know God is working, and He is with us and where God is, there is life and there is light. And where God is, is where I want to be, both now and forever.
This article first appeared on Josh’s website where you can find more helpful reflections on life, church planting, and ministry to college/university students.