When you start a church plant, you find yourself looking around at what other church planters have done before. I certainly did this. I read books, visited successful planters and hit the blogs. What I found was hundreds of different ways to skin the church planting cat.
I found the American books a little disheartening. One particular author explained how unchurched his city was, with only 8% of the population attending church. I remember thinking that 8% was a lot of people. His church (along with a lot of other American authors) now had thousands of people. Which is why they get to write books and I have a blog that my mum hasn’t looked at.
So I started avoiding the Americans! Some of them had some brilliant ideas (Dan Kimball and Ed Stetzer in particular), but that country bares little resemblance to 21st Century Northern England!
So I hit the blogs and I started talking to different people and I realised that context was king. Everyone will tell you that you need to contextualise to the culture that you are in. Jesus did it and Paul did it. Those guys could plant churches.
However, what very few people will tell you is that you need to contextualise yourself. You need to realise what sort of person you are and what sort of leader you are. To be in reality about your own level of gifting and ability is essential. If you can work that out then you can play to your strengths and have a real understanding of how well (or not) you are doing.
For me, I realised that talking about planting a big church that was a preaching centre and a regional hub probably wasn’t realistic. Missional Communities probably aren’t me either, because in my heart of hearts I think they sound a tiny bit dull. I ruled out planting a megachurch quite quickly because I didn’t think I’d be able to convince that many people that I knew what I was doing.
You may be reading this and thinking, this is very “Tim-Centred”. Well at the beginning I was the only one who was interested in this church plant, and so if I couldn’t convince myself then who could I convince?
People used to ask me, “What’s your vision?” or “What model church do you want?” or “What will your church look or feel like?” These are the worst questions in the world when there’s only 6 of you. So I started to answer the question by saying “My vision is to see 6 people turn into 7 people“. I did, and still do, have a vision that goes way beyond 7 people. Some of which I will talk about in public, but the rest is between God, me and a few other people.
At the beginning, having vision, adopting church planting theory and using different models didn’t help me. In fact they made me feel a bit hopeless.
What did help me? Short term pragmatism. I realised that a big win was made up of lots of tiny victories.
I needed some of these small victories.