5 Lessons Learned in ATL Church Planting [Part 1 of 2]

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It all started in Spring 2013 as a Bible study with a handful of people, about 6 months later we were in a rented church building holding a launch service, a few months after that we moved to another rented church building where we have been for a year. God has done some great things in our midst both numerically and spiritually. I could give you the many stories, but for today I will share five specific lessons that God has been (and still is) teaching me about ministry!

I hope this will connect with many of the readers of WorldEvangelism.net as these lessons are not revolutionary or new. They are timeless lessons that God has been teaching me through his word and also using the mentors that God has placed in my life. You have either already experienced God teaching you these lessons, are in the midst of God teaching you these lessons, or soon will have God teaching you these lessons as you serve him. My goal is that this short article would encourage you knowing you are not alone, inform you to some of the fundamental principles of ministry, and motivate you to get out, go beyond and serve the Lord.

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One of the many thousands of invitations that have been distributed!

Work Hard

WARNING!! These first two lessons will almost sound contradictory! First I want to share with you how God has continually reminded me of the necessity of hard work. Real ministry is work, contrary to popular opinion it is not a free ride, it is not a cushy career path, it requires work. There are sermons to prepare, tracts to distribute, people to meet with, various random tasks to be done, etc. Personally, this was brought more into focus since I had to learn to set my own schedule. Moving from a Bible college experience of a determined schedule of classes and a determined schedule of work, I had little latitude to make decisions on what I Had to do! However, quitting my job, moving to a position where there is virtually no schedule, no quota necessarily, I had to learn to get up and work hard!

My dad had always taught me to work hard, it was simply the culture of my family and a culture that I greatly appreciate looking back even though I once detested it. However, moving into ministry I had no boss to give me my list of responsibilites for the day. I would even venture to say that this kind of work where you have no pre-determined schedule is even more difficult because you have to become self motivated. You have to learn to get up at a certain time, go and do the work that is uncomfortable even though no one is forcing you.

I tell you, one of the things that is very uncomfortable in starting a church is going out door tagging or door knocking alone. It is so easy to come up with reasons and other things that need done so you won’t go and invite people, you won’t go and reach people. Perhaps some people are more spiritual that me, but I am an outright introvert (kinda sounds like an oxymoron) I do not like talking with people and I can think of 13 other tasks that I could occupy my time with instead of going out and talking to complete strangers, but it must be done!

We have to learn to go do the hard work.

Without much imagination, I can hear the replies and rebukes of those who would say I am putting too much emphasis on what I do and not enough on the work and blessing of God. They will say, “you are leaving God out of the equation! He is the one who does the work!” I reply, yes I completely agree! Please hear me out. Without God working, we have nothing, are nothing, and will acomplish nothing! However, if we do not obey his command to go reach the lost, God will not accomplish anything through you! Consider with me Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

There are two aspects here, Paul says I am what I am, an apostle, a servant of Christ working to take the Gospel to the world by the grace of God. Completely God working in my life and God working in reaching people with the Gospel. Then he adds, but this grace, this gift, was not given to me in vain! It wasn’t useless, it wasn’t a waste! The question we must ask then is How? How wasn’t it a waste? Why wasn’t it in vain? Paul says, well not to brag, but I did work harder than anyone else out there!

What is the truth here? Without the grace of God, we are absolutely nothing and will not be able to accomplish anything. However, without you and I working and using the gift that God has given us, it is given in vain.

What does this mean for our ministry? Yes, God is working in my life. Yes, God is working in the lives of men and women. But if I am not obedient to his command, the grace he has given me will be worthless, nothing will be accomplished. So I say to you and remind myself, get out there and work hard!

Trust God

Now comes the second part of this contradiction! I have learned that above all else, I must learn to trust God and know that he is the one doing the work.

What do I mean by this? I mean that as we go out and seek to reach people with the Gospel, I am constantly aware that without God, without his blessing, and without him working, nothing will be accomplished. I mean that as I am walking down the street with a stack of tracts in my hand, I am asking God to work in hearts, I am asking him to direct me to the right place, I am asking him to use me in conversations to share the Gospel.

I have found that in ministry, when I attempt to do the work without trusting, relying upon, and finding my strength in Christ, I become highly frustrated and irritable. I begin to find my worth in what I am accomplishing instead of finding my identity in Christ and what he has done for me. I become stressed to the breaking point because I think the work depends upon me and my efforts when I should be relying on Christ. My attitude rises and falls with the tides of ministries. We have some visitors and I am on top of the world, we have a low Sunday and I’m down in the dumps.

All ministries and works for God have up and down times. If we are trusting in ourselves and our abilities to bring people, then we are constantly worried about whether or not people will come. We see ourselves as successful or failing based upon the results. Trust in God helps us have a more even keel! We know that God has promised that he is going to work so we rely upon him and his word.

We know that this is a necessity in ministry, without God, we can do literally nothing of value. There is nothing in us that makes us effective ministers of the Gospel. As we are going to reach the world with the Gospel, we must know that the Holy Spirit is the on who convicts and works in hearts, it is not in my power to people change, it is not my ability or words that cause people to be converted. John records Jesus words on the Holy spirit in John 16. One of the things that Jesus speaks about is how that the Comforter comes and convicts men of sin.

John 16:8–11 – And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

We find that when the Holy Spirit comes he is the one who reproves the world of sin, he is the one who works in lives. Also in the Gospels, we find that Christ builds his church!

Matthew 16:18 – And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

As we are planting a church in ATL I have had to learn to remember that this work does not rest upon my shoulders! Christ has said that he will build his church. The Church is built and founded on Christ. He is the chief cornerstone. This means that as we go out and serve the Lord, He is the one doing the work. I can trust that he will keep his word. We go out and labor in the harvest trusting that God will bless and work.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this post next week!

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