Church Planting Lesson #1 – don’t plant

Some day I’ll probably write a book.  I don’t want to write a book so that I can make a name for myself, but becuase writing is how I process. You ask me a question, I’ll respond with a 10 page paper.  It is what I do.  So, in the next few weeks I am going to process online the goods and bads of church planting over the last three years. Who am I kidding, most of the “lessons” we learnthat actually stick are the hard ones.  So, if no one reads this or if everyon reads this, I don’t really care…it’s cathartic for me.

LESSON #1:  IF YOU CAN DO ANYTHING ELSE, DON”T PLANT A CHURCH. 
Planting a church is the most horrible wonderful thing anyone could do. And I will take every opportunity to tell people NOT to do it.  I used to think that planting a church would be “fun”. Fun is so superficial. Anything worth anything is never easy, rarely is it fun, and usually it is deeply pleasurable and painful all at the same time.  If someone cannot say without blinking an eye that “I will be disobeying Jesus if I don’t plant a church” then they shouldn’t. 
And then, if they really want to plant a church that makes much of Jesus…prepare to suffer like him.  Before planting a church I knew what my next 10 years looked like.  Before planting a church I knew I’d be able to pay my bills.  Before planting a church I didn’t have to act like I was part of the church.  Before planting a church I was never depressed. Before planting a church most everyone I talked with like me.  Before planting a church I never thought about work outside of “work”.  Before planting a church my family got every minute of my free time.  Before planting a church I didn’t have too many people counting on me so that, if I screwed up, it impacted a lot less.  Before planting a church people did not look to me for an example for much of anything. 

At the same time, despite all the pains, confusions, fears, doubts, and criticims from me, my friends, my family, and my enemies, I have never found more joy in the glory of God in my life.

Tattoo’d like Jesus

After all the talk, I finally got my first tattoo.  Until I planted a church I never really considered getting tattoo. In other words, this wasn’t an event I have been looking forward to for 15 years.  It seems that tattoos have become a bit more culturally acceptable which has resulted in everyone getting really stupid things permanently embossed on their bodies.  As a high school English teacher, I used to make fun of students who got tattoos, the ones who got their names on their butts, barbed wire on their arms, clovers on their feet, or Betty Boop on their…well.. let’s just say that in 10 years it will be “Betty Droop”.  People have asked me as a pastor if it is “ok” to have or get Tattoos.  They ask because some argue that the body, “as the temple of the Holy Spirit” should be treated as such and Tattoos are like grafitti.  Other argue that Jesus is going to return with Tattoos on his body so do what you want.

I agree that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but I also believe there is such thing as “good grafitti”.  I cannot disagree that we  abuse the gift of our bodies many ways: some by putting sin-glorifying images on their bodies, others by piercing themselves in places that should scare us, others by drinking to drunkeness, and others by stuffing our faces with fried chicken.  I am in no position to judge why anyone got a specific tattoo or why. I do, however, believe it can be something God glorifying.  Here are my decision making guidelines for my permanent tattoo decision:

1.  It has to be a personal decision:  I don’t think it is wise to get a tattoo because everyone else has.  That is pretty much a bad reason to do anything.

2.  It has to be a unfiied decision:  In other words, if you’re married, you’re now one flesh.  I don’t own my body, God and my bride do.  So best I ask Him and her becuase it will honor or dishonor them both.

3.  It has to be a theological decision:   If we’re following Jesus example, his says “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords’.  If my tatto is going to be self-descriptive of what I am in light of Scripture.  Saved, yes.  But a sinner first. 

4.  It has to be a visible decision:  Though most Tattoo artists will tell you that your tattoos are for you, I disagree.  Our clothes are for “us” to, but quite honestly, most of us dress to project an image.  Having a Tattoo hidden in your armpit or the bottom of your foot isn’t visible to many people…even you.

5. It has to be a missional decision: This means that it has to be visible and cause someone to ask why?