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The Importance of Pace
- In many sports, people realise how important the idea of pace is. It is equally true in church planting.
- Church planters are extremely vulnerable to having a long period of intense pace, leaving them short of emotional and physical energy when the opportunity to gain momentum arises.
- The Bible has a lot to say about pace. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that there is a season for everything.
- Seasons give us a clue to the rhythms of life.
- Church planters need to understand the season they are in – they have a bearing both on what is happening with the church plant and on the work and family life of the planter.
- Trying to keep a constant pace through all seasons of life is neither Biblical nor sensible. It will lead to frustration and often burnout, which is the body’s way of forcing a different pace.
- Sometimes the seasons seem to blend into one – and this is a time of revival (see for example Amos 9:13).
- Some of the festivals in the Old Testament actually enabled God’s people to take holidays (see Deuteronomy 14:22).
- Built into the instruction was the allotted time to be taken off work, plus guidance on how to budget money so that it would be a great experience.
- Breaking up the year with good rest and relaxation and building memories is just what is needed in the midst of church planting.
- Sabbath is a foundational principle laid out in Genesis 2.
- Over the centuries, this day of rest became a law of diminishing returns as it was turned into a minutae if rules that bound up the people – not at all what God had intended!
- Jesus explained the right perspective of Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
- Making the Sabbath work for you is important for church planters who hold down a job Monday to Friday and are busy on Sunday making church happen. Make sure your church calendar is free on the majority of Saturdays and that your spouse and children understand that this time is for them.
- Sometimes, when you are paid by the church, taking a day off midweek is a good option.
Times of Waiting
- We see examples of this in Psalm 37.
- There are times when we need to stop. These times can feel very frustrating, but they are times that we pray and wait for God to act.
Lessons From Babylon
- When you are moving to a new city, it can be very exciting and rewarding, or it can be the source of much frustration and pointless emotional cost.
- Jeremiah’s words to the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:5-7) are very helpful.
- It is very important that you enjoy the city and country that God has called you to live in – immerse yourself in the culture.
Lessons From Corinth
- A good example of pacing yourself as a pioneer bivocational church planter is Paul in Corinth (Acts 18 and 19).
- When he first arrived he was on his own, and (like many pioneers) was waiting for his team to arrive.
- He used this time intentionally and profitably, finding a couple to set up a business with. As he was making money, he trained up this couple to join his apostolic team. He limited his evangelistic activity to reasoning in the synagogue every Sunday. This is a helpful reminder to enthusiastic church planters not to try too much, too early – especially when time and resources are limited. He didn’t even create a new event as he would have been going to the synagogue anyway.
- When Timothy and Silas arrived, Paul then increased the pace and devoted himself exclusively to preaching. There are moments when you need to give a big push to a church plant – this could be when a team arrives, at the start of an academic year or as a new venue becomes available.
- Having given a lot of time and energy to get the church plant to its next phase, its important to take stock and ask whether to continue at that pace or take a break. For Paul this happened when God gave him a vision – when God speaks it can give us the faith and energy to keep going at a great pace.
- Medium pace can seem boring but it is often the most appropriate. This could involve meeting on Sundays and some sort of midweek meetings. Resisting the call to do everything can feel negative and frustrating, but it is during these times that discipleship, leadership development and helping people to belong can become a priority.
Lessons From Ephesus
- In Ephesus, Paul had sent Aquila and Priscilla to be a bridgehead into the city. (Acts 18:19-20)
- They trained up a key itinerant leader named Apollos. (Acts 18:24-26)
- On Paul’s return, he increased the pace. (Acts 19:8-10)
Lessons From Troas
- Looking at who is with us is a key question to ask (see 2 Corinthians 2:12-13)
- Many of us scared to miss opportunities, but Paul had a door opened by God and walked away because his team were not with him.
How do you work out whether you need to go faster or slower?
- It depends a lot on your circumstances.
- How are you feeling yourself?
- How are things with your family?
- A big clue is whether you have the right people in the right place.
- Knowing that God has spoken makes a difference.
- Be wise and get wise counsel. Listen to people.
- Sometimes you can up the pace for bursts.
- Everything is situational, but it comes down to being wise.
- Don’t be scared to go the extra mile sometimes.
How do you help other people to up the pace or slow down as you feel it should be set?
- When Colin talks to leadership teams about delegation, they often say ‘everyone is too tired’. He then tends to ask them when they grow the most and they realise that this is exactly when they are under pressure and stretched.
- Too much pressure snaps people, but too little pressure makes them bored.
- You can be as tired being bored as you can under pressure.
- Often it’s because they’re not seeing the fruit – hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.
- Often, upping the tempo and getting some momentum and wins can create energy.
What should you do if some people who are coming with you want to go faster than you do?
- This will almost always be the case.
- You have to give permission for people to go at their own pace.
- Do things in a way that allows those that need a rest to join in – not everybody needs to be present at everything.
- Sometimes you can make the ask of people to up the pace for a short burst – but you can’t do this often.
- When people want to do too much, you need to rein them in a bit. Help people to see that there are times and seasons.
- You can bless people to get on and do things on their own steam, as long as they’re not going to get upset if everybody else doesn’t.
- You don’t want to be going at the pace of the very fastest, or be held up by the very slowest.
How does momentum relate to pace?
- Momentum is hard to get and easy to lose.
- The temptation is to keep pushing hard because you are scared of losing momentum – but this is a killer.
- You can have breaks and not lose momentum, but you will need to work hard when you start back after the break to get the momentum back.
- You can do things like socials and barbecues that can be a bit of a break but not completely lose momentum.
- People sometimes go from fast to stop, but you can be cleverer about it.
- You can also use things like this to engage other people.
What do you mean by burnout?
- A breakdown is the ultimate burnout.
- People can get emotional burnout.
- There are different levels of burnout.
- Sometimes you can feel like you have nothing else to give and you are just going through the motions.
How do you avoid burnout in times of quicker growth?
- Holidays are important.
- Let the holidays shape the year for you rather than fitting them around the church – otherwise you will suffer all the way through.
- Knowing who you are and what season of life you are in will shape this.
What are the key things to think about with bivocational ministry? What kind of jobs work best for it?
- Not everybody has the option of what job they do.
- Jobs that allow you to go part time are good options.
- Jobs that are less demanding are good as they give you more head space and emotional energy for ministry.
- Your church planting speed will be in proportion to the time and emotional energy that you can give it.
- Sometimes we put too much weight on time – it doesn’t matter if it takes a long time to get going.
When things are going slow, are there things you can do to increase the pace, or is it just a case of waiting?
- Get outsiders in to talk about it with you.
- Sometimes you are so immersed in it that you can become either fatalistic or frustrated.
- Sometimes you just need some keys to change. A building is a good example of this.