Author: Pastor Lewis Hemphill Jr.
This is an exciting time for me as a pastor. The Link Church, where I have the privilege of serving, is celebrating two years of ministry. I can honestly attest that, “Time flies when you’re having fun”. Pastoring requires that you constantly learn from your successes and failures. I believe it’s our responsibility to share what we have learned to make the path just a little clearer for those coming behind us.
Before I share with you what I learned this past year, let me give you a flashback of “Lessons From A First Year Church Planter”:
1. Everyone you think should assist you hasn’t been assigned by God to assist you. 2. Mentors in the same arena are critical to your stability. 3. Peers in the same arena are critical to your sanity. 4. Don’t expect others to eat, drink and sleep your dream. 5. What works for others may not work for you. 6. It will cost more than you expected. 7. It doesn’t always work out according to plan. 8. Mistakes are inevitable. 9. Everybody’s journey is different. 10. You can’t do it alone.
Here are a few lessons from year two as a church planter:
1. Money isn’t the only support you need to be successful. I can recall on several occasions having a pastor say “if you need anything just let me know”. My response would always be “great, I will do that”, but to myself I would say “you know what I need so write me a check”. Two years in this role I now realize that money will solve some problems but it won’t solve all problems. Sometimes, I need prayer. Sometimes, I need an ear. Sometimes, I need advice. Other times, I need encouragement. More money would be great for any ministry, but it’s not the only support we need from others for success.
2. Your church isn’t for everyone. I’ve heard a few opinions about my church that were offensive, at that moment. I have now grown to understand that the church I pastor is not for everyone. I believe church is like ice cream. There are many different flavors and nobody will like every flavor. Just because someone doesn’t like a flavor doesn’t automatically make that flavor artificial ice cream. Some people won’t understand that theory so they will assume something is wrong with a church because it’s not their flavor. I am now completely ok with someone not liking the flavor of our church because I understand that every church is not for everyone.
3. Your church isn’t for everyone forever. The first time someone decided to change their membership I took it personally. How dare you Judas, was my initial response. I have grown just a tab bit since that moment. I now realize that some people are sent for a reason, a season, and a treason. Just like no church is for everyone, no church is for everyone forever. People will join and people will leave. I don’t have to take someone’s leaving personally, because I now understand that seasons change. In one season you need shorts, and in another season you need coats. I will always be sad to see someone go, but I won’t be discouraged because now I understand that one church isn’t for everyone forever.
4. There’s a difference between personal goals & God given vision. At our last location the vision, so I thought, was to lease the space next to us which would double our square footage. Today, I realize that was not a God given vision, instead it was a personal goal. How do I know that? God has recently blessed us with the desired amount of space, but in a different location. I have learned that every desire, even when it’s for God’s glory, is not a God given vision. When you confuse personal goals with God given vision it could possibly cause you to question God when the goal doesn’t come to pass. As a pastor, it’s our responsibility to seek God for clarity and guidance because there is a difference between personal goals and God given vision.
5. You reap what you sow. By the grace of God our church has been truly blessed with amazing people who have become part of making the Kingdom and our church grow. At times, their level of commitment amazes me. One day the thought came to me that you reap what you sow. When my wife and I served other ministries we were as committed as we could be. Whatever was asked of us we sowed, whether it was our time, talent or treasures. We are now reaping the fruit of what we sowed. The same type of members, servants and leaders we were while we served in other ministries are the same type or members, servants and leaders that God is sending to our ministry. You will reap what you sow.
6. Don’t put full time paid staff expectations on part time volunteers. By nature I am a task oriented leader which has its cons. Specifically with the people I lead. As a pastor, it’s very easy to be so focused on getting things done that you forget the people are assisting you out of love and not obligation. A volunteer has no obligation to respond to my email by the end of business day. A volunteer has no obligation to be available at my beck and call. A volunteer has no obligation to be there every time the doors open. If that is what I want then I should give them a job description, a contract and a salary. Until the contract is signed and the salary is paid I have no right to put full time paid staff expectations on part time volunteers.
7. Invest in the art of communication. As a new pastor it’s easy to get consumed in reading everything that has the phrase “church growth” and/or the word “leadership” in the title. We want to attend to every local church growth and leadership conference. While these are necessary, they are not all we need to be great. It’s easy to look back over a period of time and see how you have invested so much time in gaining knowledge that is necessary, but not gaining the tools needed to effectively convey that knowledge to others. At the end of the spring school semester I decided that all my summer reading would be geared toward sermon delivery, speech giving and communication. I’ve determined that this will be an area that I consistently invest in. Preaching is an art so it’s important that I invest in the art of communication.
8. Preaching is the easy part. Believe it or not my greatest fear of Pastoring was not knowing if I could write a new sermon every single week that people would want to hear. Well, two years later I realize that preaching is the easy part of pastoring. If you really love to preach then consider becoming an evangelist. If you really love the people then consider becoming a pastor. If you want to become a pastor so you can preach more often, then you will be disappointed when you find out preaching is a small part of pastoring. True life transformation occurs as a pastor walks side by side through life with the people they have been called to serve. This call is time consuming and emotionally taxing but the joy of seeing people transformed is priceless. The fear of being able to write a new sermon weekly is no longer present because now I know that preaching is the easy part.