Revolution Church turned five years old recently and it got me thinking about the last five years, all that God has done, his faithfulness and all that I have learned over that time. I get asked a lot by church planters what I would do differently or what I’ve learned in the process.
Here are five things I’ve learned in the last five years:
1. Your energy (spiritual, emotional, physical, relational) is the most important thing you can give your church and only you can control it. This may seem obvious and all of these will, but this one is crucial. Church planters tend to be driven, entrepreneurial, take the hill kind of leaders. They are also usually young which means they think they have endless amounts of energy. They eat like college freshmen and often sleep like them. The reality is, that is not sustainable. While planting is a busy season—filled with meetings, getting stuff done, making phone calls, rallying a core group, raising funds—you have to hit the pause button. No one can make you sleep. No one can make you spend time with Jesus. No one can make you exercise or eat well. No one can make sure you have friends, and not just church planting friends, but real friends. If you miss this, the extent of the damage can be huge. Most guys who fail in ministry and sin will tell you that it goes back to not managing one of these areas. In 2011, I did not manage my energy well and I hit a wall. It slowed our church down, demoralized our leaders, hurt my family, and it took a year to recover as a church. You as the leader set the tone. The first question I ask my leaders when I coach them is to tell me how they are doing in these four areas.
2. Your family has to come first, they need to know it and so does your church. Every pastor says their wife and kids are more important than their job. We say things like, “My church can get another pastor, but my kids have one dad, my wife has one husband.” This is so prevalent that two recent books on pastoring—The Church Planting Wife and The Pastor’s Family—actually excuse the husband’s sin in this area and say things like, “Being a pastor’s wife means I share my husband at night and he misses dinner or time with me.” While this happens, when this is the pattern, it is sin. One of the things I heard Eugene Peterson say was he started to call everything he did an appointment. If someone asked him to meet and he already had a date planned with his wife, an activity with his kids, he said he had an appointment. No one questions your appointments. Talk about this from up front. In your sermons, lift up your wife and kids, don’t make them sermon illustrations of what not to do. Talk about how you date and pursue your wife, talk about spending time with your kids. You are the model to men of what it means to be a man, a father and a husband.