My brain is littered with useless television and movie references. I vaguely remember scenes from the 70’s television show, Kung Fu, where a young orphan was taught patience by a Shaolin monk sensei.
What I remember is just scattered black and white images, but I have been quoting dialogue from that show my whole life. This is especially evident when my children seem too hurried to be safe or too rushed to be successful at a certain task. I tell them, “Patience, Grasshopper.” In this small phrase I’m saying, “Relax and take your time to assess the situation, or at the very least, to enjoy the moment,” just like that monk in Kung Fu taught his student to focus on what was lasting. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly like Kung Fu, but you get the point.
Come on, you know we all need to hear it. In fact, “Patience, Church Leader,” might be more appropriate because learning to be patient in any areas of ministry will keep us all sane.
I have learned the importance of patience and perseverance over the past few years as a church planter. In late 2009, we set out to pioneer a new work in Bear, Del. Three other families joined us as we embarked on a mission to start a church that would help people experience the transforming power of Christ’s Gospel in their lives.
One of our first meetings was in the public library. It was a small, poorly ventilated room, but I didn’t mind. I had dreamed of being part of a revival I believe God desires to bring to my home state of Delaware since I was a teenager, so starting small was not a problem to me.
Rather, the actual problem arose in the usual place…my expectations. I was convinced EverSpring Church was going to grow so fast that I’d soon be writing books on how God made it all happen so suddenly. I should have known better, for this isn’t even my first church plant! By now I should have learned that my expectations don’t always match God’s plan.
We are now in our third year of ministry at EverSpring and we are just reaching an average attendance approaching 100. If you had asked me when we were meeting around the table with the core team during those early days, I would have estimated this level of growth in our first six months. Don’t get me wrong; being optimistic is not a bad thing. In fact, we dream too small most of the time. Where our “dream” becomes negative or counterproductive in ministry, though, is when we measure our “success” by some preconceived number or human time frame.
All church planters (at least, the honest ones) want to have the next big cover story. We all want our church to be the next Saddleback, and at least in the beginning that’s what I wanted, too.
Today, though, I don’t ask God to enable EverSpring to be the next cover story. I don’t pray to be the next Rick Warren or the next Steven Furtick. However, I do pray for help to lead my church forward in the best way possible to reach my community and my generation. I do pray for the strength to fight my desire to seek success in light of my own expectations, rather than God’s plan and timing.
Do you want to know how God has been answering my prayers? There has been no audible voice, but in my spirit I have heard Him speak to me over and over again this gentle admonition: “Be consistent. Be steady. Don’t worry. I am with you.” This has kept me going through the months when attendance and offerings were abysmal. This has kept me going when a few months pass without a baptism. This has kept me going when I have felt alone, tired, frustrated and confused (all common feelings for church planters).
God has called me to a ministry of consistency.
So often we read the stories of great men and women of God and forget that between the lines are years and years of consistency. God blesses consistent faith. Your community trusts consistent presence.
Over the past few months, God has been blessing us with new families every few weeks. We have moved into a building strategically located on a main road in the heart of our area of ministry. Just a few Sundays ago God drove this point home in my heart. We baptized 11 people (after about a six-month drought in baptisms)! The majority of those baptized were from families connected to our church from the community that we have been trying to touch consistently through kindness outreach.
I had to hold back the tears Sunday as the video of fathers hugging sons and daughters after their baptisms played during our service. Many of these folks have been attending our church for nearly a year. God made is so clear to me again: we are called to a ministry of consistency.
God is going to do amazing things in Delaware in my generation! I really do believe this; moreover, I believe EverSpring will play a part in that movement. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish it would happen tomorrow, but I hear God’s loving reminder to move steadily forward, “Patience, church planter.”
John Coleman is the planter/pastor of EverSpring Church in Bear, Delaware. John can be reached by phone or text at (443) 523-6878 or by email at email@example.com.