Over the last thirty years I have worked with many church planters fresh from seminary. Some have thrived, some have failed to plant a lasting church, but all have struggled with some common issues.
One of these is the feeling that “we are all alone in this” when the adrenalin rush is gone and the reality of the spiritual war for souls sets in. I think of Elijah’s complaint to God, “I alone am left, and they’re looking for me to take my life.” (I Kings 19:14, HCSB) What planter has not had similar thoughts in some dark night of the soul. But we read on to God’s response; “I have kept 7,000 who have not worshipped Baal.” (my paraphrase) We further note that God interacted with Elijah only after He had given time for Elijah to rest, eat, and recover physically. There is a pertinent message here for every couple new to vocational ministry. When the ministry has worn the two of you to a frazzle, you need to
- Get away to rest and refresh yourself. “Away” may mean putting your smart phone in a drawer for twenty-four hours. “Refresh” may mean eating a meal together at your kitchen table with no interruptions, and having a conversation about nothing of consequence. It may mean hiring a babysitter for an evening out.
- Remember God’s blessings and confess that you are not alone. God is for you and He has placed people in your life that will encourage you, if you let them.
I encourage you to find, from the very first, friends that are a source of refreshment, and activities that re-charge your soul. Don’t wait until exhaustion clouds your judgement. One of the key activities of the first days of a church planter is networking for opportunities to share the gospel, find persons of peace, and places to build credibility by serving like Jesus. In the course of this, you will find people, places, and activities that you and your spouse really enjoy. Don’t feel guilty about these preferred aspects of ministry. Return to them again and again to maintain balance in your life, and the recharge that keeps the church planting adventure fresh. Make space for fun; do ministry in a way that introduces some aspect of fun as often as possible.