What is the difference between a church plant with a weekly one-hour show and a church plant with a rich communal life?
The church planter’s sanity.
Let’s consider the alternatives:
How to go insane:
Plant a church in which everyone is supposed to show up at the same time on Sunday for roughly an hour. Ramp up toward the Sunday service all week. Scramble to get the bulletin formatted just right. Scour the music repertoire for just the right songs to pull just the right heart strings — the same ones you’ll be tugging at in the message.
Oh yes—the message! Write the sermon. Then revise it 45 times. Then memorize it. Then practice it in front of the mirror. (No, seriously. I know of a pastor who does this. He’s good. Every facial expression and gesticulation counts.) Don’t forget to submit it in time for your production team to create gripping visuals and snappy bullet points for the projector-and-screen rigs (which cost more than your car).
By any means possible, don’t screw up. Don’t be “off”. Don’t take a day off, either. Like on Wall Street, every hint or whiff of not-quite-rightness spooks the market, and your offerings and attendance will suffer.
If you think this is an exaggeration, you’d be wrong. This is reality. To the degree that your church plant (or your established church, for that matter) is focused on the production of a Sunday service, the planter/pastor’s career, identity, and sanity rest on how well it goes. There are planters who pull off the road 3 times on the way to the Sunday service to barf. There are mega-church pastors who fret for hours in their office on Sunday afternoon because attendance was only 13,000 instead of 15,000.
Do you really want to go anywhere near this treadmill of insanity and death?
How to temporarily avoid insanity:
Want to not have that happen? Me neither.
Look, we have Sunday services. I want them to go well. I want people to come. I want my preaching to hit the mark. I want the music to connect and stir people’s souls.
But I just won’t survive if my life is built around the Sunday stats. I’ll go insane faster than most.
How am I doing?
I’m doing alright.
Because my church plant is built not upon the one-hour Sunday event, but upon the thick, rich bonds of shared life.
And it’s not because the people in our church plant are super-duper mature. They’re not the spiritual superiors of any of the people in the one-hour Sunday show churches. They’re busted and bruised, broken and bandaged.
But they know one another well, and the more they know one another, the less afraid they are to be the broken people that they are slowly-but-surely realizing that they are. After all, the people they are sharing life with are just as broken, and it’s becoming more evident all the time.
What’s the cash-out for the church planter?
The church planter gets to be broken instead of going insane. He gets to have a crummy day instead of being propped up as the slick, rock-steady, fearless leader. He gets to repent. He gets to try and fail. He gets the satisfaction and assurance of knowing that if Sunday attendance is down by 50%, that simply means that half the church has taken a camping trip together.
Even if there is no camping trip to explain the low offering or dip in attendance for a week or two, the planter gets the assurance of knowing that the church is both gathered and scattered plenty of times quite apart from the 11 o’clock and 12 o’clock hours between which he is “doing his thing”.
So, the choice is kind of yours.
Go insane or not. Your call. I’d suggest the latter.