8 Lessons From a Failed Church Planter (pt.2) – Jeremy Austill
8 Lessons From a Failed Church Planter (pt.2)

You can read part 1 of this blog at “8 Lessons From a Failed Church Planter (pt. 1)”

From 2008-2011 we planted and pastored a church. That church (organizationally speaking) does not exist today. In essence, I failed, but I learned so much and my heart was changed. I received new perspective. Below are some of the lessons I inherited.

Everyone has expectations of you

And that’s ok. You can spend your life frustrated by that or simply accept it as fact. Everyone comes to the table with expectations. Those expectations have been crafted through a life time of experiences and information. Unfortunately, I was not prepared to navigate that minefield. As a result, I found myself constantly trying to meet everyone’s expectations, trying to be the pastor they desired. This is difficult enough, but when you plant a church you often have an eclectic blend of expectations. If you aren’t careful, you can become a quite confused as to who you are supposed to be, and when. All of this is tethered to an overemphasis on results, and losing your true identity. You find yourself playing a tenuous version of whack-a-mole, trying to not disappoint anyone. It’s not their fault and we must not lay the blame at their feet. You don’t want to disappoint them because your self-worth is attached to their showing up. Oh, it becomes an unending black hole. I learned, disappointing people from time to time is not the worst thing in the world…for you or them. You will eventually disappoint them anyway. You will eventually do something they prefer you not do, or not do something they prefer you to do…go ahead and get it out of the way early.

What you won’t deal with, God will deal with

The Father is unbelievably patient. The signs were there for years. I had some toxins in my soul. Don’t have the necessary space to address that here. As a matter of fact, I wrote a book that may explain it. It’s called “Let Your Heart Go Free”. Up until the church plant, we had been very “successful”. Whatever we led grew and had impact. The “success” gave me a false sense of security about the condition of my soul. The desperation for accomplishment, insecurity, pride, and negativity, to name a few, were polluting my heart unfettered. God allowed me ample opportunity to identify it and bring it into submission. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully recognize what was in my soul, and I was slow to bring it. into submission. As a result, God let me fail. It was brutal. It was embarrassing. It was painful. It was depressing. He will give us plenty of time to deal with matter of the heart, but eventually, in His great mercy, He will deal with it.

There is no such thing as wasted time

God was dealing with me. The well had gone dry, but I didn’t realize, it needed to go dry for a while so it could be dug deeper. We wrestled with all of the typical questions. Did we miss God’s will? Were we ever supposed to go there? If we weren’t supposed to be there, what did we miss out on? Surely God didn’t bring us here to fail? Did we waste our time? The other questions require some lengthy theological discussion, but one thing I’m sure of…with God, there is no such thing as wasted time. Even the time we don’t spend well, the past that we can’t get back, once placed in his hands, is redeemed for usefulness. First, I will never know this side off eternity what type of impact the church plant had. I said in the opening statement “organizationally speaking” because though Generations Church doesn’t exist as an entity, the majority of the beautiful people are still very much The Church. They are living faithfully, serving His Body, and perpetuating His Kingdom influence. Second, what looks like wasted time in the natural is personally one of the most important seasons of my life from a spiritual maturation standpoint. So much of what we are experiencing now is a result of that season. I have been in my present role for 7+ years. I feel confident in saying, without that church plant “failure” I would not have lasted 7+ years…I would have forfeited at some point.

It’s not as easy as it looks

It’s amazing how many people I have judged through the years with criticism and cynicism. It is easy to have a quick trigger when it comes to pointing the finger and finding fault. In doing so, we often disregard what they have had to go through to get where they are. We see people’s platform, Instagram account, popularity, and accomplishments, and if we aren’t careful, we will take shots at them because we presume they have charmed existence. The odds are high they have fought battles, deal with pressure, experienced pain, and wandered their own wilderness or two along the way. No one does something special without a cost…absent some struggle…minus some failure. Instead of watching with a critical eye…instead of observing to glean from their field…maybe we should consider that it wasn’t easy…they paid a price…they suffered some losses…they attained some scars. That probably says more about who they are than any sermon ever will.

You can read part 1 of this blog at “8 Lessons From a Failed Church Planter (pt. 1)”

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