As a church planter I have read various church planting books, took a church planting class at Cairn University (formally Philadelphia Biblical University), have witnessed my dad plant and revive various churches, and have gone through church plant training through ARC (Association of Related Churches). I have learned so much along the way from all of these great leaders who obeyed God’s calling to go to the front line of this spiritual battle to make Jesus famous. I have learned that you must be strong and be prepared for the storms. I have learned that people will betray you so you have to roll with the punches and develop a hard shell. I learned this very quickly. However, it is not really taught that a church planter must be a good crier.
The book of Nehemiah could be considered a guide to church planting. In the first chapter, before the prophet Nehemiah does any sort of building, recruiting, or fundraising, he cries. In fact it says that he “sat down and wept and mourned for days” (v. 4 ESV). What made him cry? The news that Jerusalem was a broken city. Not only were the people in “great trouble and shame” (v. 3) but the city was physically broken as well. This crying sets the tone of the entire book. It is the very reason Nehemiah risks everything. Why is it so important for a church planter to be a good crier? Here are several reasons.
It Will Get You to Stop!
Church planters are usually type A people. They plan, schedule, make and reach goals. It is very hard to stop and reflect on God. After Nehemiah heard about the status of his city, he fasted and prayed for days. Before he lifted a finger he consulted with God. He leaned on His promises and reflected on everything going on. Church planters need to learn to stop before continuing. We need pit stops: a place to rest, get right with God, and replace our tires. Get right with God? Aren’t church planters supposed to be right with God already? In terms of salvation, yes. However, we see that Nehemiah confessed to God the sins of the people and his own sins. Stopping and crying is necessary for you to recharge and gain strength. It allows you to fully depend on God.
It Will Be Your Souvenir
It’s an unwritten rule that when you go on vacation, you must get a souvenir. Why? So you can have something tangible to remember your vacation by. On my honeymoon, my wife and I took a small liquor bottle from the hotel (after drinking the entire bottle…just kidding. I only had a sip). We filled it with sand from the beach and now we have part of Riviera Maya, Mexico with us. Cool right? Crying does the same thing. Looking back at my entire life, the days I remember so well are the days I cried before God. I remember the day God called me to be a pastor. I cried like a baby. I remember so very clearly the day I was in a dark sinful place and God reached in and grabbed me and said, “I have called you for something bigger than your sin. Remember who you are.” I wept all night. I knew that my sin, my stubbornness, and my shame was keeping me from doing what God called me to do. When I started planting Pure Word Church and things got tough, I remembered those days of crying. When things are shaky I remember the days I cried over the city of Bethlehem, knowing how broken it is and how much it needs Jesus. Those times of crying are souvenirs to me.
It Will Determine If You Succeed
If you are planning on becoming a church planter, figure out what your driving factor is. If it is your desire to become the next Francis Chan, stop right now and do something else. If it is because every other church in your city does it wrong and you feel like you’ll get it right, please do all of us a favor and stop what you’re doing. If you don’t stop yourself, God will. The driving factor for a church planter must be 1) God’s will and 2) whether you can cry over your city. If you can’t cry over your city because of its brokenness, you’ll end up only crying because of how much you hate church planting. Creating a hard shell is very important, but this shell must contain a person who has a sensitive heart for lost people. This will be your driving factor. Crying over your city will be what helps you plant this church. It will be what moves your feet forward. It will be what makes you risk everything and fight for the cause of His Kingdom. It is what brought Nehemiah to approach King Artaxerxes. It is what brought Jesus to crawl onto a cross and die for the world. Luke 19:41 says, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.”
If you are currently a church planter, and you haven’t cried in a while, maybe you need to stop and reflect on what is driving you. Maybe it’s the desire for money, fame, or a bigger church. Look back at your souvenirs. If you are currently thinking about church planting, let God call you first and ask Him to give you a sensitive heart. When you find yourself weeping over a city, then you’ll be unstoppable. You and God will be on the same page because you’ll be weeping with Him. This is why church planters must be good criers.