Top Ten Mistakes I’ve Made as a Church Planter
10. I thought the people who gave me advice before I got started were idiots.
John Maxwell, in his book, Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, says the number one leadership hang-up is having a top-down attitude. That is an abuse of authority, and the result of an inability to listen. Ultimately, it is about pride. Which means that #10 on this list is actually #1. All my biggest mistakes have sprung from the sin of pride — an inability to walk in the Christlike quality of humility, sharing power and allowing others to speak into my life.
9. I thought the people who gave me advice after I got started were brilliant. And often I measured my work by how good (or bad) it looked next to theirs.
I have also looked too longingly at glaring examples of success and have taken on a sense of failure by measuring myself against them. And I’ve created a lot of failure by trying to be them.
8. I neglected the Sabbath. And my family. And my soul.
I have written about the critical need for Sabbath elsewhere (you can find two articles on this blog site). But suffice it to say that this was a key issue for me, especially in the beginning. As for family, if I could pass along one piece of advice to this generation of church planters, it would be this: Count the cost you’re asking your family to make. It is a sacrifice for them and if things aren’t great right now, it may be that this isn’t God’s time.
7. I have too often been tempted to sacrifice our long-term vision for short-term gains.
Church-planting is a risky venture. It’s risky for you and for the people who invest in your vision. That’s the nature of doing a new thing. And that risk can create a sense of desperation at times that causes us to sacrifice long-term vision for short-term gains. I can testify that whenever I sacrificed in that way, the church suffered.
6. I have been too hard on myself.
Jesus really meant it when he said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your heavenly Father to give you the kingdom.” If he has called you, it’s because he likes you. And he will use you.
5. I have often gauged the success of the ministry by my moods.
This is only for people like me who deal pretty heavily in feelings (I’m an ENFP, heavy on the F). I tend to judge things by how I feel about them. If you’re like that, then the most important thing I can say to you is this: Feelings are not the same as facts.
4. I have relied on my gifts and skills, and have forgotten about the power of the Holy Spirit. (or have not recognized the power of God when it was staring me in the face)
Jesus once told some Pharisees that they erred because they didn’t know the scriptures of the power of God. All my irrational fears and bad questions come out of that same ignorance.
3. I overestimated people.
Do not appoint anyone to leadership who doesn’t understand and live out the vision personally – including small group participation, membership and tithing. Do not apologize for asking others to invest at a deep level in this work.
2. I underestimated the spiritual nature of church planting.
Ministry is a spiritual exercise, not a performance — an act of obedience, not a head-count. In the spiritual realm, there are battles. If your goal as a church planter is to win people for Christ, you will enter into that battle. It can be very intense.
1. I have not spent nearly enough time in prayer (Oswald Chambers says “prayer is the work” – Oct. 16-17)
Most of my big mistakes have happened because I got so desperate to see some movement that I couldn’t wait on the Lord. But waiting on the Lord is 90% of church planting. It is about planning and envisioning and working and pressing in and giving it everything you’ve got …then waiting for the Father’s divine timing. Learning to wait on the Lord is the difference between success and frustration in ministry.