If you are going to plant a church without it killing you, you’re going to have to develop two things:
- Thick Skin
- Soft Heart
You’re the one who had this brilliant idea that there ought to be a new church and you ought to be the one to get it going. You’re asking for it. If you’re going to move this brilliant idea from safe ideation to something vulnerably concrete , then you’d better have thick skin.
Thick skin develops, in my experience, in only one way: people knock you around, it hurts, you feel like crap, and you go running to Jesus. Lo and behold, you find that Jesus has been there, felt that, and persevered. You also realize that his perseverance was (oddly enough) motivated by his stubborn determination to save a goober like you. Eventually, you figure that if Jesus, who had never experienced anything but affirmation, love, and life-giving encouragement from Father and Spirit, was willing to get knocked around and then some for you, you can probably endure a bit of it too, in his name and in his strength.
People are going to mess with you. At first lots of it will just be in your head. But eventually you’ll have enough of it in actual reality that your head won’t have to make any of it up. Get yourself some thick skin.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
“I want to feel, and then some. I have 5 senses—I need thousands more, at least.” – Over the Rhine
The temptation is to harden your heart instead of thickening your skin. Don’t do that.
The content marketing gurus tell us that if you want to get the highest “open rate” on an email marketing campaign, simply put the phrase “You Are Not Alone” in the subject line. If you want to get the highest “open rate” on your preaching, your small group fellowship, your discipleship, and your engagement with your neighbors, “You Are Not Alone” has to be the heartbeat of your life.
Conversely, if you want the “open rate” of others’ hearts to drop to near zero, let the subject line of your life be “You Know What? You Actually Are Alone. Or At Least I’m Not With You”.
THE MARK OF MATURITY
I’ve heard it said that maturity is learning to take yourself less seriously, while learning to take Jesus more seriously. A quick Google search for “thick skin soft heart” turned up an even better definition of maturity:
“Maturity is moving from a thin skin and a hard heart to a thick skin and a soft heart.” – J. Oswald Sanders
This brand of maturity is not developed by doing Bible studies or attending the Exponential conference. It’s not imparted in church planting boot camps or infused into your character through the laying on of hands. It only comes when you’re knocked around for Jesus’ sake, and when you get up again for another knocking-around because Jesus’ love compels you.
Be ready to get some thick skin and a soft heart.
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