But sometimes . . . . okay, I’ll be honest, OFTEN, it is exhausting. It is physically exhausting to set up and take down everything needed for a church service week after week until a church gets a building of their own. It is financially exhausting since my tithe is often the bulk of the offering until the congregation gets stronger and more mature. It is emotionally and spiritually exhausting because we have to give of ourselves again and again but there is no one to pour back into us.
I have dealt with these challenges in two ways. First, I try to take a long walk most mornings. During that time I pray, I think about my day and I try to keep my body in some semblance of health. Second, I work hard to forge a coalition of partners that want to help me in my work. Sometimes they are local, but often they are from other places. They pray for and with us. They volunteer to help us do special projects. They give of their resources to help pay the bills until the new congregation can assume responsibility for that. Thank God for partners!
Sometimes people challenge my commitment to church planting. They ask if it would be easier if I just moved back to the Bible belt and served in a more established situation. The answer is yes, but that is not what God has called me to do, therefore it is simply not an option. When I ask individuals, churches or mission agencies to help support our ministry financially, they often ask why it costs so much to start churches in New England. I am reminded of what Jared Wilson says. Wilson, a noted author and a pastor of a rural church in northern New England shares this story:
I attended a speaking appearance by Tim Keller in Nashville, Tennessee a few years ago where the pastor host of the event was remembering being on the board that helped send Keller to Manhattan, lo, those years ago. He said one person spoke up in objection at one point, saying essentially, “I could plant ten churches in Birmingham, Alabama for the cost of this one church in Manhattan,” to which this pastor said, “We don’t need ten more churches in Birmingham; we need one in Manhattan.”
I can totally relate to that story. I know there are many places where the cost of living is much cheaper than Connecticut, where I am currently helping to start multiple churches. Land is cheaper in those places. Christian contractors will build a church for a discount in those places. And there is always an ample supply of Christians ready to jump ship and join the newest church in town in those places. In Connecticut it is a lot harder and a lot more expensive. But does rural Alabama or rural Mississippi, already the most churched states in the nation, really need dozens of new churches? They may need a few, is selected places that somehow got missed, but in general, the churches that are there should be able to finish the job. But in Connecticut, evangelical churches are few and far between. They are underfunded and understaffed. And it will take a lot of money, time and effort to change that. Fortunately, we have a God that provides and He uses His people as part of that system of provision. So do not get frustrated with me when I ask for money, it is just a tool that we use to accomplish God's will in expensive places like New England.
Stephen Um reminds his partners that church planting in New England takes twice as long and costs twice as much, but it must be done if we are to obey the Great Commission of making disciples in all places. If you are interested in providing some practical assistance to come church planters in New England, specifically in Connecticut, click on this link and it will give you a list of current needs, some as little as $10. Come on Church, we CAN do this!