By Peter Meier | September 1, 2017
Labor Day! How do you observe this holiday?
- As the unofficial end of summer, taking advantage of an extra day to play and picnic?
- As an extra day to get some needed work done around the house?
- As an opportunity to consider the contributions workers have made to the strength and prosperity of our nation?
- As a “free day” to just sleep in and relax?
Consider the great labor of kingdom work known as church planting. Jesus invites us to “pray for laborers” in the harvest (Luke 10:2). His harvest fields are ripe, ready, and diverse. We need laborers to gather the harvest in – before it is lost. Start with Jesus’ invitation in mind. Join me in praying daily for those who labor in the harvest, and for those who will be called to join them. I set my alarm to remind me to pray every day at 10:02 (Luke 10:02). Set yours, and pray with me!
Then, realize that church planting is one of those labors for which you can never be fully prepared. Sure, you can be assessed, trained, and have a coach (all are important!) but until you are immersed in it, you simply can’t fathom what it takes. The work of creating new spiritual communities ex nihilo (out of nothing) is hard, but an incredible adventure. The workload is tremendous. The pain can be unbearable, the obstacles seemingly insurmountable, but always, God is working to mold and shape us into the workers He wants us to be.
For those who are planting, for those who love and support a planter, and for those considering whether to engage in this awesome work, here are some thoughts to consider about laboring in this harvest field:
1. Don’t do this in isolation. Network with other church planters in your area. You don’t have to be part of an official network, but you do need others in a similar work environment to connect with. They need you too. Stay in touch. Share your experiences and learning. Texting, phone calls, coffee or lunch, social media, prayers with and for each other, are all ways of dealing with the pressures of your labors.
2. Get a coach and/or a mentor. Statistically, the success rate of church planters climbs significantly when they have regular coaching or mentoring. A coach or mentor will help you work through ministry-related issues and find workable solutions. They will help you discover where God is leading. They love you and the labor you are doing, and they want to invest in your life (personal and family) and your ministry.
3. Training is good. Not only the formal training of a church planting boot camp or a church planters conference, but just in time, on-the-fly training. You quickly realize that you need help in certain areas, and need specialized training. You will be blessed by continued learning and exposure to new ideas. Leaders are learners – that’s especially true for planters.
4. Share the ministry. Planters are gifted in certain ways, but they are not gifted to do everything. From the beginning, look for apprentices. Develop a process for identifying people’s gifts and passions and then invite them to join you in the harvest!
5. Balance is essential. You will never do enough. There are never enough hours in a day to get everything done. The “to do” list never ends. At least that’s true for me. Church planting can be a killer. Take time for your spouse, yourself, your children, your health, your spiritual life, or you will find that your family has become strangers who hate the church, who learn to live without you, you’ve put on 20 pounds, you’re sleep-deprived, and you’ve adopted unhealthy and destructive habits. It’s 100% up to you to make sure this doesn’t happen. Who holds you accountable for balance of your spiritual, family, and ministry life? Early on, you will labor hard, pushing yourself to the limits, it’s true. But take time to nurture those relationships that are life-giving – with the Lord, your spouse and family, and your friends.
6. Have fun. “Fun” isn’t necessarily a word most would use to describe labor. But why not? You love what you’re doing. However, just as Labor Day is a break from the routine, you need a break too. Take a day off or plan a trip with your spouse, engage in a hobby, play hard, read a non-ministry book, take a hike or a bike ride or a run – it’s all about having fun in the midst of your labor. Because you love the labor you’re doing, you also need to look for ways to take the pressure off for your health and long-term sustainability.
Your passion and your labors are all about making disciples who follow Jesus. You want to labor on and labor strong. To maintain your energy and passion and to sustain your strength for productive labor, stop burning the candle at every end and in between. Stop waiting for the day when you’re finally caught up and life calms down. Instead, take a Sabbath. Follow Jesus’ habit and withdraw to a “lonely place” to pray and listen to the Lord. Live daily in His victory, won for you on the cross and the empty tomb.
With these things in mind, dear friends, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain!
Questions for Discussion
1. If you are a church planter, how are you doing on each of the six points? Where do you excel? Where could you use some help or accountability? Who will do that with you/for you?
2. If you are on a church planting team, or a member of a new start, how might you encourage your pastor or planter to labor on, and to labor in a way that is life-giving and is sustainable? What is your role in providing help and accountability for the six areas above?
3. What prayers are you praying as a planter? Who is praying with you and for you?
4. If you are a baptized Child of God, you are called to labor in His harvest fields. What does your harvest field look like? What training have you had? What training do you need right now? Who is laboring with you?
5. The Lord promises that your labors will not be in vain. What do you do when you start to feel that you are laboring in vain? Who do you talk to? Who do you go to for encouragement? How do you handle the pressures that come with the responsibilities of starting new?
Resources You Can Use
The Center for United States Missions is here to help with assessments, training, coaching and more. Check out our website for free resources and for just-in-time harvest field help.
Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions. For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website: www.c4usm.org
Center for U.S. Missions – Contact Information
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