One of the biggest fears of a church planter is that he/she will become a statistic. The odds of a new church succeeding are dismally low. Statistics say that anywhere from 60-80% of church plants will not make it for the long haul.
The tendency is to play it safe… to hedge your bets… to make logical decisions… to assure as much as possible that there will be money, people, resources, etc. left over for the rainy day.
I feel that pressure. I feel the pressure to make safe decisions. I feel the pressure to give in to fear and make decisions that make sense.
The it-ified ministries that I’ve observed fail often. They’re led by aggressive, do-what-it-takes, thick-skinned people who are willing to make mistakes. They’re not afraid to fail. In contrast, the ministries without it are usually the ones playing it safe, doing only what is sure to succeed. As counterintuitive as it sounds, failing often can help a ministry experience it. Being overly cautious can kill it.
On the surface, these ideas don’t seem to make sense. But they’re true. Aggressive leaders with it are often dreaming, experimenting, and testing the limits. They don’t know what can’t be done and are willing to try things others think aren’t possible.
Because of their conquering nature, these passionate spiritual entrepreneurs take risks and at first glance don’t appear to succeed. They fail often. But when they do fail, they tend to rebound quickly. Temporary failures are often followed by lasting success. They try, fail, learn, adjust, and try again. After a series of accidental learning experiences, these hard-hitting leaders often stumble onto innovative ministry ideas they never would have discovered without rolling the dice.
As we prepare to launch Walls Down Church there are many decisions that give me pause:
- Asking people to move here to be a part of the ministry team. Asking people to come and work for nothing but the vision of what God wants to do beginning in Maineville, OH takes my breath away. What happens if high capacity people uproot their lives, move to Cincinnati to do ministry for no salary, and Walls Down crashes and burns? Scared? You bet… but not enough to not ask.
- Making the decision to invest several thousand dollars into two free Re-Think Money seminars. We’re offering a seminar for pastors and church leaders on Saturday (Dec. 6) and one for the public on Sunday (Dec. 7), and we’re not charging anything! These seminars will cost us several thousand dollars. Are we scared? You bet… but we’re more confident that this is a God thing and so we press forward.
- Making the decision to not supplement my income through other means (e.g. teaching, etc.). To give myself completely to the work of the church when there is no church yet is scary. We have raised funds, but what is going out is greater than what is coming in. It would be quite easy to attain secular employment and divide my time between the church and an outside employer. I’m not doing it. Scared? Sure, but not enough to divide my time between the church and another vocation.
- Asking people to join our launch team which means they will have to leave their church, ministry position, etc. is a big deal. I’m asking them to consider radical life-change. I’m asking them to uproot their families, say “goodbye” to friends (at least for a season), give up their spot in the pew, and the list goes on. I’m asking them to leave the familiar and comfortable to come and work the hard, long hours required to start a new church. I’m asking because I believe that tearing down the walls that keep people from the life Jesus promised is a cause worth sacrificing everything for. Am I scared to do this? Sure. I’ve got the same lump in my throat that you do when I make the ask, but I’m not going to stop asking because I know that this is a cause worth giving your life for.
The list could go on, but you get the point.
Leading is scary. Planting a church is scarier. When you’re just leading, it’s only your reputation on the line. When you’re starting a new church, it’s God’s reputation on the line.
So the question is, will we play it safe or take the risk.
I say if we’re going to fail we may as well fail so badly that everyone will notice and when they notice we’ll ask them to help us start a new church!