It’s difficult to determine the viability of a church plant from early on. In fact, sometimes it takes several years to get a clear bead on what God is up to with a church plant. We can become distressed at initial signs that seem to indicate we are failing such as no one is showing up! But sometimes we need to withhold judgment. In one of my plants, in Cincinnati, where many know me from, we got an incredibly slow start. At about the two-year mark we had a little less than 50 people. That may not seem like such a distressing number to some but it was to me considering I had personally connected with well over 1,000 with what we were doing. I not only received a cold response, many essentially flipped me the bird as they say. They told me flat out to return to California – that a church like the one I was describing would never, ever in a century make it in Cincinnati. To speed up the story, after an amazing amount of work (and probably shortening my lifespan by a decade) we had over 1,000 people. A few years after that we had over 6,000 on weekends and were planting churches all over southwest Ohio.
So what ought you take into consideration when you evaluate your tough times in getting started – because tough times are guaranteed to happen, especially if great times lie before you. Consider this:
Revisit your original call. What did God say way back when? What did you journal back then? No church planter is a cessationist. We all believe God speaks today. Pay big time attention to what he has said and what he continues to say. Tell God you are in it for the long haul unless he releases you. If all of your support evaporates that will be okay – you’ll just get a job on the outside. You’re smart and for Pete’s sake, you can work hard. That will just make your story all the more interesting in the long run when bigger success hits.
Recommit to outreach. It might be that your tough time is simply a wake up call to get your eyes off yourself and onto the Lost. Serve like crazy. Open your mouth and share the Gospel.
Recommit to having fun. Don’t run too hard too long.
You are needed where you are. You are vital to your city whether anyone can see it right now or not. One day many will see it. Persevere.