Thoughts from a wannabe Church planter
One of the books on my to-read list is called “Church planting is for wimps”. Somehow the title just really resonates with where I am at the moment. We have completed our 4-year training as new missionaries with OMF in Japan and have been assigned to a task that fills me with both excitement and terror at the same time. Two Japanese words describe my split emotions: waku waku (ワクワク) meaning excitement. And bibiru (ビビる) meaning nervous or frightened. Why feel excited? Well because I believe that Church planting is the best way to reach new people with the Gospel. In a country like Japan where there are so few Christians, church planting provides opportunities to reach people who are not currently being reached by existing churches. For someone who loves the Gospel and longs to see others realise its beauty and importance, church planting is an exciting prospect. I am also excited because I have seen and experienced the life-giving benefit of being part of a Christian community. As a kid who was bullied at school and living with insecurities, church was the place where I felt appreciated and cared for. I have heard many testimonies of people who came to faith because of the love they felt in Christian community. Church is a place where the Gospel is visible in many areas. Through the singing, through the preaching, through service, through fellowship, through giving, through the sacraments, through prayer for one another etc. etc. I think that the gathered church is a place brimming with opportunity. This is where eternal truths are declared, true love is experienced and wounded hearts are mended. Church has been a blessing in my life and the prospect of sharing that blessing with others is exciting!
But on the other hand, the prospect of planting a church also sends shivers down my spine. For starters, I have never planted a church and never had any training in church planting. I have no idea what it takes to plant a church in my own country, let alone a country like Japan! There are so many thoughts running through my mind. Am I a good enough leader? Am I spiritual enough? But I’m not an extrovert. But I’m not yet fluent in Japanese. When I dwell on these thoughts, I begin to say to myself: What on earth did I sign up for! So how do I counter these negative thoughts? Let me share a few thoughts that have helped me.
- Others are nervous with me. I am not alone in this. I remember speaking to the Japanese pastor of the church with whom we are partnering to plant. When I told him that I am scared, he said “I am too. Let’s be scared together”. Just those words were a tremendous encouragement to me. I am not the only scared one, God has given me friends to be scared with me.
- You cannot fail when you attempt something great for God. One of my fears is “what if I fail?” This can be a debilitating thought, but I have been encouraged by another church planter friend who has “failed”. But it’s actually not failure. How can we call it failure when seeds were planted, when people were ministered to and when profound lessons were learnt? What looks like failure to us, is not necessarily failure to God. A great burden is lifted when I confess that “failure” is possible, but even what we call failure can be used by God.
- The most important thing is no good strategy or giftedness. I do not deny that these things are important, but they can be a distraction when too much emphasis is put on it. Church planting is not like starting a business. It is a sacred work that requires the hand of God. (Acts 11:21). I have spent much time fretting about my inexperience, wondering about what training to do, what books to read etc. where I should be spending more time in prayer and placing my trust in the Lord. Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1
Often people from churches we visit ask me; “Are you going to be the pastor of this church?” “What is you plan to reach people?” At this moment I have no idea! It feels like we are on a road that has a turn ahead and we don’t know what is waiting for us there. All we have is a dream to plant a church with our Japanese friends. As we wait on the Lord, we will probably continue with feelings of waku waku and bibiru. We feel like wimps punching way above our weight. But we also know that the Lord of salvation is with us and will guide our steps as we trust Him for this great task.