Church Planting and Infertility
If there seems to be a theme to my last two blog posts it is because I am reliving some experiences with some friends who are planting churches and some who are wanting to have a baby. These experiences are close to my heart because sixteen years ago my wife and I were in the same place—planting a church and wrestling with infertility. If you read my last blog post “Plant a Church; Have a Baby” you know that it all worked out for us. But I want to reflect a minute on the experience for those planters who are still wondering if it will work out for them.
My wife and I struggled with infertility for eight years before we finally adopted a daughter and three years later a son. I can tell you now that it was eight years because in the middle of the experience it seemed like at least twice that long. Adding to the long season feeling of our infertility was that it seemed like everyone else was having babies except us! All our friends, my family, her family, even people we barely knew seemed to be having babies by passing each other in the hall of their homes! Not us.
Sometimes at the beginning of a church plant it feels a lot like infertility. We really want a baby. We want evidence that we have been working, praying and being faithful, but sometimes it seems as if nothing is happening. There are only a few people, no energy, and barriers or problems everywhere we turn. To make matters worse it doesn’t seem like anyone else is having any trouble birthing a church! In fact it almost seems easy for them. Why can’t it be easy for us?
I can’t say that I always know the answers to why people have trouble having babies or birthing churches. I do know that sometimes even when we know the answers it doesn’t make the experience any easier. But here are a few lessons I have learned through my own experience and by walking with others through both kinds of experiences.
1) The difficulty you are experiencing is not from God.
God’s design for the family and for the church is to be fruitful. Whatever is preventing that is breaking God’s heart for you and for his Kingdom. God’s desire and design is for you to be fruitful. This does not mean that God will always intervene in that brokenness. It means that you may have to keep working to find a way to be fruitful. Try something different. One of the truths that my wife and I kept saying to each other throughout both our experiences was that “God has more invested in this than we do.” Know that God is for you, but he may be growing you while he is working out his purposes for all involved through the pursuit of something different than you imagined.
2) It may not always look like you think it will; but I can promise you this: it will be better.
God’s plan is always better than our plan. So don’t fall in love with the way it should happen; fall in love with the outcome. My wife and I always tell couples we cannot promise that you can become pregnant, but we can guarantee you that you can become parents. We are parents to two wonderful children that we would have missed if we had gotten our way.Church planters are the worst at falling in love with the way instead of the outcome. Fall in love with the outcome.
3) Keep on keeping on.
I write notes to church planters almost weekly and the theme of my notes is frequently Galatians 6:9, “Do not become weary in doing what is right for at the appropriate time you will receive a harvest of righteousness if you do not give up.” In order to have a baby, my wife and I tried three different medical approaches and then applied at three different adoption agencies. It took a year to adopt our daughter—but what if we had given up after the second medical procedure? A harvest of righteousness came because we did not become weary but kept on doing the next right thing. This harvest is a promise of God. He does not promise that it will be easy or that it will look like you thought it would, but he does promise a harvest of righteousness—the results of right actions if we do not give up. Keep on keeping on.
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