The below are my top three surprising discoveries as a Church Plant Pastor.
1. The Amount Of Spiritual Warfare
In no way do I want to minimize the amount of Spiritual Warfare that is present for all people. The enemy is bent on destruction and we are all targets. Yet it has been my experience that the stakes on my family have been greatly increased since venturing out as a planter. The words of Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” have been far more noticeable. The following are some of the overt ways that I have experienced this.
- Clear and identifiable moments of darkness and attack during the night
- Strange animal happenings (examples being a white cat climbing a tree outside our window and moments later a black cat comes down or consecutive weeks of having bats in our home but only on Saturday nights)
- Weird noises and voices (crying babies when our kids are both asleep)
- Battles of doubts and fear after significant ministry
If I were to try and identify some reasons as to why I would ever quit or choose out of being a pastor I could only come up with one and that would be the spiritual toil on my family. I hate that what I have chosen into will dramatically impact the temptations and journey of our kids.
Closing thought on this – I am so humbled by the number of people who are intentionally praying for our family and I’m sure Jenny would agree that God has divinely protected our marriage throughout all of this adventure and we could not be in the place we are without that.
My advice to any future or current planter: You cannot have enough people praying daily and weekly for you and your family. Have people pray through your home often. Come up with a way to regularly communicate with your prayer warriors.
2. More Acquaintances & Fewer Friends
I have to say I didn’t see this one coming. I think the combination of moving, the nature and reality of this job, and our current life space at home (two young ones and another on the way) all are huge factors in this. I believe I have numerous friends – far more then I deserve but the nature of those friendships fall more in line with what I would call good acquaintances. Prior to moving I had a group of friends that I would hang out with anywhere from 2 to 5 times a week. Obviously since moving I don’t do that anymore and I don’t have anything like that with anyone here in Ottumwa. I think the nature of the job actually plays a factor in preventing this from ever happening. The amount of discernment that goes into each relationship is heavy on every pastor. As a planter I think that weight gets filtered out through keep fewer really close friends but having a huge pool of people who are good friends. For me my greatest friendship is with Jenny and honestly I don’t know that I have room for much more then this.
Now for those who are worried I don’t have anyone to confide into or that I feel lonely I would like to quickly say that I do have three people that I openly share my struggles with and another three people who ask me tough questions. Also, I do feel lonely at times but I don’t know to many leaders that don’t and I honestly am learning a lot about myself in this time and am excited to continue in this posture for quite some time.
Advice for future planters on this would be first make sure your relationship with your spouse is off the charts awesome, second identify a couple key friends who aren’t going with you and stay close to them, and finally if possible have a couple friends join you on the adventure of planting.
3. The Highs are Higher and the Lows are Lower
I am not exactly sure if this is related to planting or just getting older but I am finding my emotions far more volatile. I agonize over different situations and happenings that previously wouldn’t get a second thought. I’m burdened by life situations at levels I’ve never known and I’m also finding joy at such heights that previously I had never before felt. All of this leads to an off shoot lesson or learning and that is you are always on. As a youth pastor I often felt like I was always on. There was never work hours or non work hours. I am experiencing this at a whole new level now. At almost every moment of every day it is on my mind. This leads to the final aspect of this and that is energy output. I am finding that I am extending high amounts of energy output that eventually lead to moments and days of exhaustion. I believe this would be something tough for a non minister to understand and it sounds crazy even typing it but it is a profound truth in ministry.
My advice to future planters is continue to be the initiator of your schedule. Don’t let yourself get hijacked with other people’s wants and wishes it will take away energy and you already know what you are called to be about. Make sure you have healthy boundaries. KEEP THE SABBATH! Take vacations. When you take a Sunday off to preach make it two. That way you actually get a break. You won’t stop thinking about stuff if you are only off for one week.
There you have it – my top 3 learnings after a year of being a planter.