By Jeff Moss, Church-Planting Pastor of Fellowship Church in Middletown, Md.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9
Last week, this was one of the verses I was studying as I prepared my sermon. As I thought about it, I realized how much this verse applies to the life and ministry of a church planter. A church planter and a pastor of an existing church may both be called pastors, but their jobs are very different. When a pastor is called to a church, usually he already has a congregation, a building where they can meet, an organizational structure, and a tradition with its history that is already in place.
A church planter has none of these. First, he has to find a place to meet. This includes countless meetings and phone calls with potential landlords, possible dealings with the local government or school board, the acquisition of liability insurance, occupancy permits and zoning certificates.
He has to spend lots of time getting to know the people of the community and encouraging them to become part of a congregation that doesn’t yet exist. In some of the more rural areas, the church planter may need to overcome the resistance to someone new moving into their community. A community “set in its ways” can view you as some fly-by-night church that won’t last or even worse, be concerned that you are some new cult moving into their neighborhood.
Once a church planter gathers a core group of people, they will need to be discipled on how to share their faith with their friends and neighbors. For some, the idea of sharing the Gospel with others will be new to them, even if they grew up in a church.
The church planter is also one who is instrumental in forming the church’s organizational structure. He has to train its first deacons and/or elders, along with establishing the financial policies and church constitution. There is also the responsibility of becoming incorporated and recognized as tax exempt in the eyes of the government. On top of all this, he has to do his regular pastoral duties of preaching, teaching, counseling, visitation and other ministries. A church planter truly has to be “a jack of all trades and a master of none.”
If a church planter tried to do all of this in his own strength, he would be setting himself up for failure. There is no way to do these things without growing weary! It’s easy to become discouraged when you continually try to get a church off the ground and you see little or no results.
I’ve experienced this weariness, especially during the first year of planting. We did outreach efforts, direct mail and other publicity, but sadly, no one showed up on Sunday morning. I knew I was supposed to be here. God had shown me that I was doing what was needed, yet I saw no results for all the work.
It was during this time that I learned the meaning of this verse. Like a farmer, all I could do was cultivate the field, sow the seed and water the ground, but I could not make the seed sprout anymore than a farmer can make his seed sprout. Only God makes the crops grow. In His time and in His way, God produces the harvest.
We still have the responsibility to till the ground and plant the seed, but then we need to step aside and let the Lord produce the harvest. If we are patient enough–and are willing to trust Him in this process–we will see that harvest.
Whatever God has called you to do for Him, don’t lose heart. If you know for sure that what you are doing is a calling from Him, then be strong. Hold on! Never give up! Don’t allow yourself to become weary in doing good. Remember, you may cultivate the ground around you and sow the seed as God has asked you to do, but you can’t make it grow. Put that in God’s hands, trust in His timing, because as Paul says, “in due season we shall reap.” That’s a promise that should encourage us all to continue to press forward in the Lord’s fields.
Church Planter Jeff Moss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (240) 818-1446.