Pro Tip: Stay Married

I’ve got two goals for every church planting couple that I coach: Stay Married.

Do we really have to state that goal? Yes. Yes we do.

  • 80% of ministry spouses report that ministry is hazardous to their family.
  • 1500 pastors leave the ministry every month. Planters included.

Church planter types are awesome. Bold, risk-takers, full of faith in God, ready to storm the gates of hell with a super soaker! We are like the Marines of the church. We go first into harm’s way to fight the good fight and see God’s Kingdom advance!

Only you know what? We aren’t Marines. We are, for the vast majority, married and Marines don’t re-locate their families to the front lines of a battle! We do. And it’s dangerous up here. There is a real enemy and he’s mean, he cheats and he wants to destroy you, your family and that church you dreamed up at the coffee shop when you were amped up on your third doppio espresso of the day.

The church planting battle field is not friendly to marriages. So you need a gospel coach that is going to keep you focused on your marriage amidst all the other demands. Twice in one week this month, I heard of two planters I know personally in different states whose wives had affairs. They were successful. They were ‘too busy’ to get a coach. Part of big name ministries, writing and speaking. But they neglected their marriages. How incredibly sad.

Listen, I know planting is a demanding call. There are no distinct time or space boundaries between work, home, marriage and friendship. It’s easy to get busy! It’s easy to forget about your spouse and your marriage. I got busy serving God, winning the lost, starting Bible studies, gathering, networking, marketing, speaking, raising money and planning (and this was 12 years ago before social media and the cloud!) The kind and firm questions of my church planter coach steered me away from the dangers I see so clearly now but couldn’t during the fog of the start up battlefield.

Church planter, you are different. And it’s not because you are better. It’s because you are a marked man on our enemy’s hit list. If you or your wife fail morally, then you and your family will need to step off the front lines for a long time. Neglecting your first ministry to your family is very easy to slip into but its wrong.

According to 1 Timothy 3, a qualification of leading a church is that you are to be the husband of one wife and manage your household well. The reality is, you lose in marriage? You take a seat. Or at least you should.

My wife and I at the CMM booth at an annual church event. We’ve been married 28 years. As cheesy as it may sound, I hope every church planter couple ends up like us – more in love during and after the hard work of planting a church.

So what should you do? Stay married.

That is a moralist statement. There is no power in that advice. You need to put your faith in the power of who God is and what Christ Jesus as done and will do. And you’ll need a coach who will point you to Jesus – not his great advice or expertise.

What should you look for in a church planting coach?

1. Get a coach who will remind you to whom you are married. As a member of the Body of Christ, we who put our faith in Christ are His Bride. You can’t lose your marriage to Him. He’s the best husband you can trust to protect you and yours.

2. Worship God, not your spouse or your kids if you have them. Worship Christ and ask Him about everything. Everything. You’ll want a coach that prompts you to pray. A lot.

3. Work less not simply more or harder. Minute-by-minute dialogue with God requires much more listening and less hustle than you probably tend toward as a church planter. Most of what I did racing around making it happen was my own willful self-effort. Not good. I needed a coach who’d been close enough to burn out that he warned me of the signs he saw in my own life. I had to learn to Sabbath. To cease. To stop. To be human.

4. Depend on the Holy Spirit. There are mountains of great church planting resources and wonderful subject matter experts, mentors, trainers and coaches available. Not one of us will be better for you as a planter than deep, old-school, radical humility and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

If you are stuck or struggling, get a gospel coach. One of our team can and will help you find out why you’re stuck and help you follow Jesus and stay married as you plant a church for the glory and by the power of God.

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Mr. Church Planter: Front Seat on the Roller Coaster

Over the years, when people ask me what it’s like to be a church planter, I’ve said often,

“Like being in the front seat of a roller coaster! God’s doing amazing and terrifying things and I’ve got a front row seat!”

Not sure why, but this picture resonates. Mr. Church Planter, ever felt this way?

sad clown on a rollercoaster

Thankful for God’s patience when I was not enjoying the ride…. The ride is long and hard. There is a huge temptation toward cynicism. It’s easy to loose joy along the way. I’m still unpacking baggage, taking off the masks and learning to rest in the ups and downs.

If you want help learning to enjoy the ride God has you on, let me know. Maybe we could learn together.

Opportunity for Gospel Coaching a persecuted church

Spent last week on a strategic island nation near Florida that rhymes with ‘tuba’. And it’s changed me. Hope it will infect us all.

You may have heard God’s at work there. It’s true in the Los Pinos Nuevos (LPN) denomination. Thousands are turning to Christ through the faithful witness of this formerly inward, legalistic denomination that is now gospel-driven, missional, fruitful in evangelism and reproducing like crazy.

Big picture data from LPN. In 1978, according to their government reports, there were only 120,000 evangelical Christians on an island of 11 million. That doubled by 1993 then doubled again by 2001. By 2011, the number had more doubled again. Now if you are good with math (I’m not) then you’d realize there are over 1 million ‘evangelicals’ now. Wow.

Image

Church is different there. Resources more difficult to find. Hostility toward Christianity has slackened but there is still much government control. With no permission to build new church facilities, LPN took reproduction into ‘casa cultos’ (legally recognized house churches) and cell groups. It’s all legal and out in the open. In fact, switching to house churches and cell groups out of necessity has accelerated evangelism. It’s opened the door for many spiritually seeking neighbors (who would never be seen at a church for fear of losing their jobs) to just come over, be welcomed and investigate Christ. Is there something for us to learn here?

The LPN denomination has been working hard in the power of the Spirit and the truth of the gospel. In 2007 there were 187 churches. Same as before the troubles. Now there are 27 training centers, 3000 pastoral leaders learning the doctrines of grace in over 30,000 different house churches and cells. LPN can count over 300,000 people in their denomination now. Wow!

How did this happen? The need for and power of the gospel is spreading deep and wide in this movement.

Though pastor/leaders there have been raised in a culture of suspicion and mistrust, a small group of wise leaders there and stateside have been implementing a God-sized strategy of evangelism and training leaders in trust-building, gospel-centered workshops like CMM’s Gospel Coach. They transformed their seminary into a training center and have pushed out and pressed down training to indigenous leaders who are using tech tools like ThirdMill (Biblical education. For the world. For free.) for  training in systematic biblical grace-focused theology.  

Most importantly, the key leaders, from the president of LPN on down, have been blown away by God’s grace personally. I was honored to lead the top 13 key leaders from LPN through an adapted and extended Gospel Coach workshop to help them coach the hundreds of leaders they work with in the gospel. Then participated in another two days of strategic planning that was so clearly dependent upon God’s Spirit and His provision that it brought tears to our eyes. There God has to work and they have to depend on Him.

How I long for more of us to feel our need for the gospel, for more dependence on Christ and more urgency in our mission like these brothers and sisters!

That is a dangerous desire and prayer, but the opportunities are too big not to pray.