Church Planting: Starting, Watching and Leaving

‘Church planting is hard work. It requires prayer. It requires time and energy. It requires the outpouring of oneself into the lives of other people. It requires a strong focus on what really matters. It requires humility – the church planter forever thinks of how other people can take over his job. It requires courage to bring the Gospel to new frontiers. Most of all, it requires love – love for God and love for the people to whom God has sent the church planter.

How wonderful it is to see new life come into being! There’s a thrill in watching a church being born. There is deep joy when new believers are being baptized; when one of those babes in Christ utters his or her first prayer. It is deeply satisfying to watch Christians make choices of obedience in their walk with Jesus.

And it is utterly exhausting to see people become slack, or worse, fall back altogether. Sometimes it feels like sin is almost palpably present in the lives of the people entrusted to the church planter. One feels so very powerless.

And then there is a point in time when the church planter needs to leave. The new plant is now strong enough to carry on on its own. Maybe the church is still quite small. But there is some form of leadership in place. There is a devoted core of people who trust Jesus unconditionally. The church planter worries whether they can go on without him or her. But he’s got peace – and when he doesn’t, he brings the church before the thone of grace.

We, my husband and I, planted a church on the countryside of northeast Thailand. Of course this is nonsense: we did not plant that church, God did. But he used us, somehow. We started six years ago. Now, the church has about 20 adult member and a group of children numbering about fifteen people. The church has its struggles; a good number of its members fails to come to church regularly, most members have little education, and it is hard to be a Christian in a predominantly Buddhist culture. However, the church has a very devoted, reliable elder and some other stable believers.

We will move to a city about an hour’s drive away. We plan to come back once a month to preach, teach and encourage. There is hope in my heart for this church. I hope that they will thrive without us. I hope they will make better choices than we did, when we were still there. I hope they will show commitment to their Lord and that he will bless them by adding to their numbers greatly. It is all his work, praise him!’

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