"Your church is going to die."
Those were some of the very first words spoken at a church planting conference I recently attended. Talk about a morale booster. One of the main reasons why church planters attend conferences like these is to be encouraged and pumped up for the adventure ahead. When this particular speaker began with those words, it wasn't the encouragement I was hoping for. "Your church is going to die." He said it a few times in a row. Then he asked a profound question. "How many of the churches planted by the Apostle Paul are still around?" At that point the room got quiet. It was like we all got it at the same time – our churches are going to die. Every church has a life cycle. If the churches Paul started didn't last forever, who are we to think that ours will?
At first it was really disheartening to hear those words, but after the initial shock wore off I began to think about it in a different light. It was kind of freeing to think about it from his perspective. One of the greatest fears of every church planter, including me, is failure. It's the fear that my church plant may not make it or that it won't last. But the truth is, no church does. Not forever anyway. Not even the Apostle Paul's churches lasted forever. So looking at it from this angle honestly took some weight off my shoulders. It also challenged me to look at my church plant in some ways that I hadn't before. I was really challenged in three specific areas that I'll share below. If you are a church planter, or a church leader in an established church, I hope this can be helpful to you as well.
1. Knowing my church won't last forever gives me a greater sense of humility.
One of the dangers of planting a church or leading a church is that you can become arrogant in your successes. But when you realize that no matter how "great" your church is now, at some point you and your church will be long gone, it gives you a greater sense of humility. The truth is it's not about me, and it never was. It's not about my church either. It's about the (capital C) Church and God is building that Church in His own way. I just get to be a small part of what he is doing, and the church I am planting is simply one building block, not the whole Kingdom.
2. Knowing my church won't last forever gives me a greater sense of urgency.
When you realize that your church has a life cycle, it gives you more motivation to advance the Kingdom of God while you can. There will come a day when my "cutting edge" church will be outdated and out of touch. My hope is that it will be a long, long time from now. But it will most likely happen. Therefore, I want to take advantage of the time I have to influence the world for Christ, while I still have the leverage to do so. There's a passage in Ephesians 5 where Paul writes, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." I love the last part of that verse, "because the days are evil." Time is not working in your favor. It's working against you. So be wise. Get after it. There's a world in desperate need of the good news of Jesus Christ and He's chosen the church as his primary tool to reach the world. What an opportunity. Don't waste it!
3. Knowing my church won't last forever gives me greater motivation to multiply.
Even though the churches Paul planted aren't all still around, the truth is just about every church that is around today is here because those churches planted other churches. Sometimes it was intentional. Sometimes it wasn't. But either way, the church spreads when people are sent out from one church to plant more churches. This is why I'm so excited to be working with Pine Hills Church to plant a new church. This will be their fourth church plant in about a two-year span. That's pretty incredible. There will come a day in the future where all of the churches Pine Hills is planting will be planting churches too. That's something to get excited about! Because one day, people will never remember Pine Hills or any of their church plants, but they will be impacted by the churches we've planted together. And at the end of the day it's not about Pine Hills, and it's not about any one church. It's about Jesus and building His church together.
So what about you? When you hear that your church is going to die, what does it make you think about? What does it make you want to change? How does it change your perspective? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to comment below.
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