Have a Soft Heart, Tough Skin & Other Things I Have Learned Planting a Church

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Church Planting Is Tough!

  • A couple of years ago, after going through a tough time in church planting, Rich was on the phone with his friend Neville Jones and was told that there are two things that really shape our character – marriage and church planting!
  • We need to reach the point where we truly believe that Christ is enough!

Tomorrow’s Leaders May Be Today’s ‘Problems’

  • The strongest leaders tomorrow are probably the ones who are driving you crazy today!
  • The disciples of Jesus were very far from perfect when Jesus gathered them and built with them.
  • Be patient to let God do the work in people.
  • Don’t just look for those who seem to have it together – often such people can be too risk averse.
  • Risk in faith is an important thing.
  • Look for people willing to go beyond what the rest of the room is saying.
  • It is worth going through this process with people and not give up on them quickly – Jesus didn’t give up on his disciples.
  • It’s not always youthfulness that is the issue. Sometimes it is just inexperience.

It Takes Pillars and Scaffolding

  • There are some people who God has joined to a church plant as scaffolding. It goes up quickly and comes down quickly, but something emerges behind it.
  • This can hurt – especially when there is someone who you think is a pillar and they turn out to be scaffolding.
  • As leaders we can often be too quick to label people as one thing or the other.
  • There will always be people in our churches who won’t be with us for the long haul – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for them.
  • If someone decides they want to leave at least ask if they are willing to journey with you on it and be won over.
  • In some situations this may not be wise – trust God with it.

The Issue Is Rarely the Issue

  • Doctrine matters – but often when people raise doctrinal questions the issue isn’t theological one, but may come from something such as fear.
  • We should be prayerful and lead by the Holy Spirit to make sure we are answering the right questions.

Don’t Confuse Bad Intentions With Bad Timing

  • Often people can want to do things – and they are often good things but not always the right thing for now.
  • We should affirm people in what they bring.
  • There can be big wins in the process of saying no to people.
  • Experienced leaders take the time to ‘ready, aim, fire’. This can come through a process with younger leaders of ‘ready, fire, aim’.

Affirm, Affirm, Affirm

  • Western culture is a culture of compliments and flattery.
  • There is a big difference between giving a complement and affirming.
  • Complements are superficial. Affirmation goes right to the core of who the person is.

Church Planting Is Personal – Don’t Take It Personally

  • When you start a church you bring a vision that has been shaped over many years with many people speaking into you.
  • On the ground, what people hear is YOUR vision – they don’t see how it has been shaped by many others who have helped to send you.
  • This means that when people take an issue with the church plant or with the vision, it feels like they are taking an issue with you.
  • It’s not always a personal thing against you.

Be Angry & Do Not Sin

  • … also do not text, do not use Facebook and do not email.
  • So many small issues become bigger because of how and when things were said.
  • We all have mobile phones – but they are also restrictive.
  • Don’t do pastoral care or conflict resolution through your phone – get in a room with people.
  • Our body language speaks volumes.

Find Your Sailboat and Sail It Often

  • Find out what helps you to switch off.
  • What restores you? Make sure you are doing it.
  • There is a sabbath gift that is given to us from God.

Neglect Your Church and you Marriage MIGHT suffer. Neglect your Marriage and Your  Church WILL suffer.

  • God will ask how you loved and served your wife before he asks how you loved and served the church that you planted.
  • We have all heard stories of people who have prized ministry over a spouse – we need to be very careful with this.

People In Your Church Will Come and Go. Jesus Will Never Leave You.

  • Is Jesus enough for you?
  • Even in church planting there are times where we can live as though Jesus isn’t enough.
  • Jesus will never betray you.
  • We need to be proclaiming the gospel from our experience as well as theoretically.
  • Our sonship in God is not determined by our success or failure in church planting.


1. How do you create a culture where risk-taking is encouraged?
  • You need to be okay with bumps on the way.
  • There are churches that run a big production on Sundays. It is hard to develop leaders in this kind of setting.
  • To give people opportunity to grow we have to be okay with wobbles on the way.
  • This is consistent with how Jesus developed his disciples.
  • We have to be okay handing things over to others – and encouraging people to do so in a way that is aligned with their own strength and styles.
  • Tools like Strengthsfinder help with this.
  • Make sure people are in the ‘right lane’.
  • Have a culture where its okay to make mistakes – applaud people for taking shots even when it doesn’t go as we hoped.
2. Are there any differences in building with people who you think are scaffolding and those you think are pillars?
  • Why do you think they are scaffolding?
  • If it’s theological differences – be careful.
  • This doesn’t mean don’t build with them – if they are for you and happy to be honest and trust you it’s different to people who you feel don’t trust you.
  • Sometimes people are with you temporarily for very understandable reasons – but if those reasons cause you pastoral concern then move carefully.
3. How does the dynamic change as your team grows?
  • One of the best ways to love and serve people as you grow is raising up more leaders – because you only have a certain amount of capacity yourself.
  • Life group structure helps provide the relational closeness as you grow.
  • It’s so easy on Sundays to default to speaking to the people who you know best.
  • People are no longer looking for Sunday experiences as much as they once were – people are coming in who are simply lonely.
  • When people hit trials in life, the Sunday experience just doesn’t provide what is needed – it is the depth of relationship.
  • And this doesn’t cost anything. Your church can provide this for a city that is desperately seeking it.
4. What are some tips for church leaders and social media?
  • Use social media as a window for the city into the church.
  • Most people who visit on a Sunday have already been on your website, Facebook page or Instagram page.
  • SEO isn’t the gospel, but it does matter.
  • Use it for people who are looking into the church.
  • For internal things use text lists instead – this is the best way to get your message read. It is also cost effective.
  • Whatsapp Broadcast groups are also pretty good.
  • Also Slack can be helpful if you have a lot of people who use it for their work anyway.
5. What is the best piece of advice you were given before you started the church plant?
  • Someone once answered this with, “Don’t do it!”
  • Play out in your mind, what would be the worst thing that could happen, and how bad would it really be? If this happened, would Jesus be enough?
  • If not, you need to walk this out and bring it to God and get firmly routed in Him before you go.
  • Church planting can show you your own emotional immaturity.
  • Pete Scazzero’s ‘Emotionally Healthy Discipleship’ can be helpful with this.
6. What have you enjoyed most about the journey so far?
  • Family – seeing his children growing up and seeing a church being born.
  • Church – baptisms, and seeing people coming from broken church backgrounds coming to a place where they are in awe at the grace of God.