What I Learned as a Church Planter: Lighten Up!

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Journaling
This post has been republished by the Exponential Network
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A journal is extremely useful… especially if you use it, and use it well. Meaning, it’s not just a place to capture your thoughts and experiences in the moment but something to come back to and reflect upon down the road. It’s a tool that can help you see marked change and transformation in your life, or just how much you haven’t changed. It can even be a tool to show you how much of a tool you were and continue to be…

Recently I’ve been reading through my journal entries for 2011 and 2012 (the last two of four years spent on the ground in San Francisco as a church planter/pastor type), I’ve been shocked at just how hard I was on myself. I mean, really hard (and that feels like an understatement.) They say that there’s no greater critic than oneself and although I’ve certainly lived up to that standard I couldn’t help but step back from my journals and say, “Dude, lighten up!”

Every church planter, every pastor knows that receiving criticism is a big part of the job, from “your sermon sucked,” to the people that want to critique minute details of your theology, to those that are offended you would suggest such a thing, to those that just want to harp on how you dress. Criticism is ever present, and as a lead pastor/church planter I received more criticism than I ever expected (it gave me a newfound respect for the senior pastors I’d worked for in the past). Nary a day went by that I didn’t have to deal with one form of criticism or another from congregants to staff to our venue through email, phone calls, text messages, or in-person ambushes… and that’s not a fun space to occupy. The worst part of it, however, is coming home and doing it to yourself all over again–hijacking the personal/sacred space of your journal to beat yourself up even more harshly.

I wish I could go back a few years and tell myself to lighten up, to not be so hard on myself, whether it was a failed sermon illustration or continually berating myself for my perceived lack of devotion to Jesus (which was borne out of owning overly unfair and harsh criticism from others). So, church planter/pastor here’s something I learned along the way, Stop fighting yourself. Stop beating yourself up. In fact, it reminds me of the scene in Fight Club (I am Jack’s Smirking Revenge) where Jack starts to beat himself up in his bosses office; that’s sort of what we’re doing to ourselves. We take enough body shots throughout the day from others, we don’t need to go home and continue the pounding. Stop fighting yourself; stop abusing yourself.

I know it’s easier said than done. I know that the weight and pressure you’re under is unbearable at times, especially when we continually remind ourselves: “I have to answer to God for this church someday…” And although that is true, can I just say that it is a completely unfair standard of perfection to place on your shoulders alone. There are a lot of others that have to answer for this church someday, not just you alone. All God asks of us is to be faithful: “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

So recapture your personal/sacred space. Recapture your head space and lighten up. Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re doing just fine. Continue to be faithful and let God be God in the church he’s called you to lead.

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