Why Stability Could Be Poisoning Your Church Plant

Are your big dreams tied to your church or to God's kingdom?

December 29, 2014


Josh Burnett was a high school student when the vision for a church-planting church came to him. And at age 17, he began praying for God to move in this way. When he began working on his staffing plan for the church they would plant, the only non-negotiable on the list was a church planter in residence. At this time, Burnett’s church, Revolution Annapolis, is on target to have two grandchildren in less than seven years since they launched.

In the post below from the sixth eBook in Exponential’s  multiplication series, church planter and coach Josh Burnett challenges planters and established churches to be churches who plant churches and instill that same DNA in the churches they plant. Download your FREE copy of Start a Movement–Plant Pregnant: Leaving a Legacy of Disciples to read nine multiplication tensions, as well as five learned insights Burnett has for planting pregnant. 

So That No One Perishes

Lately, 2 Peter 3:9 has been sticking in my heart. I just can’t seem to get it out of my head:

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Peter does an excellent job encouraging the persecuted Christians he’s writing to, reminding them to stand strong in their faith because one day Jesus is coming back. I’m not sure that there is better news for the persecuted church: One day, Jesus will return and this will all be worth it. But Peter’s message culminates in verse nine when he reminds the church that though they are to be encouraged because Jesus is coming back, they are also to be aware of the reason for His delay. He is waiting patiently because He wants everyone to come to know Him. He doesn’t want anyone to perish.

Growing up, I always understood this verse to mean that Jesus was being patient with those who didn’t yet know Him, that He was waiting on them to get it together, to get their lives in order, and to repent. But that’s not what this passage is saying. Through Peter, the Holy Spirit is telling us, “Church, I am being patient with you … because I have left you in charge of taking the gospel to those people.”

Now comes the application for us as church planters … Jesus is waiting on the church to take the gospel to all of the people that He loves and doesn’t want to see perish.

When You Quit Taking Risks…

Now let me take this one step further because if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re a church planter, potential planter, in a supporting role or considering being in a supporting role. And that’s awesome. I thank God for you. But here’s the problem we’re facing in church planting today. While we’re planting more and more churches, these churches we’re planting aren’t planting churches.

Seems counterintuitive, right? But it’s true. Recently, I was part of a meeting with some leaders at a church plant. The church is already extremely successful in terms of growth, leadership and influence in their city. But I was astounded to learn that this church was not in any way focused on church planting. Since being planted. they haven’t planted any churches.

If anyone should be passionate about starting new churches, it should be church planters—the people closest to the action. The risk takers. The ones who are out there pushing the limits. But all too often, we take this gigantic risk, we step out into the unknown—unsure, often terrified, and totally dependent on God to come through. Then something strange happens. The church launches, and we begin to settle in, to settle down, maybe we even begin to settle. We get focused on stabilizing our church plant and begin to make decisions based on logic rather than faith. Oh, we’re still big dreamers … it’s just that those dreams typically now are tied to a single church rather than the Kingdom.

That said, let me be clear: I do think church planters should be focused on the church they plant and that they should do everything in their power to see their church become a healthy, disciple-producing community. As planters, we should try to become self-sufficient as quickly as possible and work to grow and build our church. But the goal of any church plant or church, for that matter, should never be stability. Stability as a goal becomes a poison that can turn the heart of a church to stone. It relegates a church to small dreams and little impact.

In many ways, we become the very thing we set out to change about the church.

I heard one leader put it this way, “You know when you quit leading? It’s when you quit taking risks.” That insight couldn’t be more accurate. When we risk, we put ourselves in a place of dependency on God. If you’ve ever planted a church, then you know you’re never more dependent on God to come through than the pre-launch phase and early days of the church.

But here’s the problem: No one likes to be dependent on anything or anyone because dependence feels like weakness. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of stability because that’s when we feel strong and able to do more for God. The problem is that’s not how God works. In fact, that mentality is contrary to everything we read in the Bible. God doesn’t want a bunch of strong Christians and strong church plants. He wants followers who are centered and dependent on Him. So how do we stay dependent on God? Risk! Plant more churches even when we can’t see the future clearly.

The bottom line is that none of us set out to become inwardly focused, but if you’re focused simply, or even predominately, on your local church, then just by definition you’re inwardly focused—even if you lead a church that’s reaching the lost. If we are to accomplish the mission that Jesus has handed us, we must work toward what so many of us talk about seeing: a church-planting movement that leaves a legacy of disciples.

I’m sure the overarching thought is that once you get stable, you’ll plant. If you have kids, you know that’s a farce: Once we have enough money… once we’re stable in our careers, then we will have kids … Umm, sorry that will never happen. As my good friend Scott Ancarrow would say, “Don’t have good intentions; be intentional.” Those of us who have planted already would agree that the DNA of your church begins to be set in earlier than you’d think, and at that point becomes incredibly difficult to change. So, I implore you: Start with an outward focus from the get-go—plant pregnant.

Josh Burnett is the lead pastor of Revolution Annapolis, a church for people who don’t like “church.” He spends time working with and coaching planters. Start a Movement–Plant Pregnant is Josh’s first venture into books. Josh and his wife Sarah have “four” children, Savannah, Grady, Madelyn and Revolution Annapolis. In his spare time, Josh likes to think about, talk about, and plant churches while hanging out with good friends. If you’re interested in being a church planter in residence or funding a church planter in residence, Josh would love to talk with you! Connect with him here


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