My Story of Sifting

I am in Orlando this week for Exponential. The theme this year is Sifted and and they have been publishing some great stories leading up to the conference.


Here is mine:


I said yes to the invitation to plant a church in 1991; I was 26 years old. I was more enthusiastic than experience and was more passionate than prepared. I have had many years to reflect on my experience and I believe two things shaped my sifting.


The first issue was spiritual. I thought I was planting a church for God, instead of understanding that God was building his church through me. Without question I had a pride problem, but mostly I had an identity problem. My self esteem was tied to my performance as a planter and thus rose and fell with every win and every loss. If you’ve planted a church you know there are lots of losses, so I spent a lot of time trying drag myself out of the “woe is me” pit of despair.


The second issue was cultural. I thought if we built it they would come – by the hundreds! My pride probably contributed to that idea, but so did the stories I heard. You don’t read a lot about the church plant that grows to 100 people, but that is normal. You do read all the time about new churches that start with hundreds and grow to thousands. That’s exciting, but it is also exceptional – or maybe it would be better to say abnormal.


God did grow his church, but people came one by one, most with hurts and struggles, and many finding faith and following Jesus for the very first time. I smile every time I think of any one of them. However, at the time, my unrealistic expectations for growth combined with my misplaced identity led me to an unhealthy drive to constantly do more.


After 6 years I was burnt out mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I resigned my role as pastor and took a job managing a retail store. God used that short season to show me who I was and how I could best use my gifts on mission with Him.


Gratefully, he is a God of second chances (and third and fourth and …) It’s now been over 20 years since I took that leap of faith into church planting. I’ve never regretted it, or the sifting God led me through. It is a great privilege today to develop, encourage and train church planters around the world. If that’s where you find yourself, be faithful. He who began a good work in you (and through you) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

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