What I’ve learned in my first year of church planting

By Anthony Banks

At Second Baptist Turrell, we’re getting ready to have our first church anniversary in two weeks, on Sunday April 9! When I’ve been asked to share all that God’s done, I’ve shared the good things because He’s been good!

But I also thank God because the road has been a little rough. Some things this past year were hard. Not bad, just hard. If it had not been for the Lord we wouldn’t be where we are now.

One of my goals in being a part of this blog is to come alongside and encourage other pastors and church planters in their experience. So as I reflect on the past year with Second Baptist, here are just a few things I would say…

Remaining faithful

When we started Second Baptist, we were having Bible study. We started our church service earlier than expected because the Spirit led me to do so.  I heard what my pastor, mentor, and other people were saying and could not let it stop me, because when I heard what the Voice of the Lord I had to follow Him.  I would say to a new church plant or a church that is starting: first and foremost, always follow God.

The second thing I would say is to make sure that you have a solid core group. This group is what’s going to keep you afloat. When you’re starting out in Bible study, you won’t have the crowds but you’ll have your core group. These people are dedicated. They are the people coming to hear the Word.  They will be the sheep that begat sheep.behind the pulpit

One of the hardest things for me was having all these people in church—like a tree full of limbs—but then some of the branches were pruned, or they cut themselves off.  I would not see them for a while, and then they might pop-back up. The key is to remember that some will not be as dedicated in the beginning. You must stay humble and focus on the mission of stretching out a helping hand.

Nevertheless, all you can do is preach the Word. You cannot let the amount of people that show up, whether it is large or small crowd, affect your preaching.  I am not a sugarcoat type preacher.  We are still a young plant so I wonder what people think.  What’s in-season, out-of-season? Some people love it when you’re saying things that are “preaching them happy.” However, when you are preaching the wages of sin is death they tend to cut themselves off and hide behind things because they think you are picking on them.

It’s either right or it’s wrong. It’s either holy or unholy. It’s either God or the devil. There is no straddling the fence. You must choose this day whom you shall serve. You cannot serve two masters. 

As the pastor of a church plant, you have to continue. You have to stay faithful to watch, as well as pray, for the Lord to lead you. Just hold on because sometimes it will get a little rough! It is like a rollercoaster: sometimes it feels good, and sometimes it feels like the bottom just drops.

Resisting temptation

Naturally, when you first start a church you’re going to have people come in that haven’t been in the church. Whatever it is that draws them in—that we do not judge, that we are about the community, whatever—that is how it should be because Jesus is bringing them to Himself.

And the first thing the devil is going to do? Attack you.

  • How many people have you baptized?
  • When you started, you were baptizing people every month.
  • People don’t believe.
  • You don’t know how to reach them.
  • Were you really called to pastor?
  • You’re in this alone.
  • It’s too hard, and you will fail.
  • Do you have a plan?
  • Your plan doesn’t seem to be working.
  • Quit! You gave it a try.
  • Well, you might have more baptisms in the first year than you do over the next couple of years.
  • Membership may be slowing down.

You have to rebuke the devil! Otherwise, he’ll run you off track. And it’s not just baptisms and membership. There are lots of things in the new church plant that he will use to steal your focus if you allow him to creep up on you.

When the devil tempts me to focus on these things as I’m doing a report on Second Baptist, I just have to remember 1 Corinthians 3:6-8:

6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.

The key is that it’s only God who sends the increase. It is up to me to know, understand, and focus on what the Word says.  The only way to defeat the devil is with the word of God. Remind Satan that he has no power. It was taken from him over two thousand years ago on the cross at Calvary!

I have to attack Satan with the Word of God just as Jesus did when Satan came to Him and tempted Him three times.  We/church plants must stay rooted and grounded in the Word because we cannot fight with our own power and strength!

God cannot and will not tempt you, but He’ll allow you to be tested. He don’t have a will or desire to test you, because He knows what you’ll do before you do it. Just like when Satan asked God to take His hand off Job. He wanted to take Job. But what did God do? He allowed him to tempt Job but said, “You can’t touch his soul.”

He has no authority to touch our souls! He’s got to knock on the door of the Lord to ask permission. Even with that permission he can’t touch our soul! He’s the father of lies, and even when God allows, it’s up to us to pass or fail the test. And even though we might fall, God is still able to pull us up.

That’s the thing about church planting. You will have doubts. Satan will try to discourage. You will know in your heart that you need to keep working, but you’re crying out for a much needed break.

Satan doesn’t take off! He doesn’t have vacations or take a leave of absence! He’s trying to sneak up on you, moving to and fro, easing his way through the holes.

But the Lord won’t leave you!

Rekindling evangelism

In church planting, you’ve got to have evangelism at your core.

When Jesus came and was calling His disciples, He went out and witnessed. Then they went and got their brothers, their families, and their friends. When Jesus knew everything about the Samaritan woman’s life, what did she do after she met him? She went out and told people! When the Spirit came upon the believers in the upper room, they went out! The church has always had an evangelistic spirit.

I remember when I was on the other side—before I gave my life to the Lord—I always knew that I was doing something displeasing. I was messing up God’s temple. I really didn’t know to describe my body and soul that way, but it was bothering me so much because God was working in me. He had His hand on me the whole time for such a time as this: to tell people how He’s changed my life!

{ When Jesus knew everything about the Samaritan woman’s life, what did she do after she met him? She went out and told people! }

I sold drugs and used them. I used to drink alcohol, steal, fight, and run in a gang. I had been deceived.  Nevertheless, do not judge me by what you last saw me doing.  Look at Paul after the intervention on Damascus road! Do not judge him by what he was doing when he was Saul. I saw my many times when I could have died in my sins. “But God…”

Like the thief next to Jesus on the cross who confessed Him at the last hour. When he confessed Jesus as Lord and said, “Remember me,” Jesus told him, “This day you shall be with me in paradise.” However, I thank God for his mercy on me and calling me to work in the vineyard before my last hour.

We have to quit judging people and help them on this side of heaven.  We will not know until that last hour if some people will confess Him as Lord. Nevertheless, the man on the cross is in paradise!  That’s what we’ve got to think about and focus on! I thank God for the church plant; He has given me the opportunity to serve His people.

In the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord! That is why we should willingly share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

To God be the glory!

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