It was a cold night in Feb 2010. We had been attempting this church plant for 6 months.
As church planting attempts go, it was a mixed bag. A few people had joined us, a few more had laughed at the idea of joining us and even more people had just backed away slowly desperately trying to change the subject. To be honest, I was close to sacking off the whole thing. We had very little community to speak of, and those that we had wouldn’t have minded too much if we had quietly shut it down.
It was Valentines Day, and I had written what I am sure was a fantastic sermon (this may or may not be true). We had a cracking worship leader and we had a big vision to change Manchester for Jesus. Unfortunately, we only had 4 other people. Thankfully, they were all good people who wanted this thing to work, so they were quite polite and didn’t point out what was glaringly obvious. This small function room felt cavernous with 6 people and an acoustic guitar.
One of the great lies peddled by church leaders is that numbers don’t matter. All the leaders that have said this to me have loads of people in their church, and it drives me crazy. The number of people in the church do matter. People mean missionaries. Missionaries mean mission. Mission means people hear the gospel. No people therefore means no mission.
So I looked around at 5 people on Valentines Day and I honestly wondered what I was doing. Was I planting a church or was I just stopping 5 good people from having an evening off? It was one of those times when you wonder if it will soon become a funny story. It hasn’t yet. Every time I meet a church planter at the beginning of their journey and they have that shell-shocked look in their eyes I flash back to that empty vodka bar.
That night I came so close to giving up. I am not sure I slept much as I turned it over in my head. Why didn’t I give up? That night I broke, and I discovered a few things about myself.
1. I needed help. I’d rejected most advice I had been given up to this point and even banned my church leader from coming along (I still can’t believe I did that!).
2. This was personal. I wanted this thing to work and I felt it at the core of who I was. It’s hard to explain this but I knew that I wouldn’t forgive myself for walking away. I still feel that now.
3. I needed to work harder at the right things. What were the right things? Click here.
4. I needed to catch a break. Every church planter knows that moment when they have nothing left and they need God to bless them. It doesn’t need to be much, just a hint to keep them going.
For me, at this point, everything changed.