"Lord, do not hold this sin against them." Acts 7:60
Starting churches isn't for cowards. It takes people who are willing to walk into spiritual battle and stay at their post. It's relentless, draining work. It takes everything out of you, and then it demands more.
Church plants begin with vision, but they continue by means of endurance. Starting a new congregation is more like a marathon than a sprint. When we send church planters to pioneer new works, it's as if we put a giant target on their backs. All sorts of spiritual and emotional snipers start aiming for them.
Every new church starts with a passionate dream to reach people with the gospel. Planting team members get fired up at conferences and "boot camps," and they cast their vision on sticky notes, computer disks, and slick brochures. But no one on the team knows how deeply they believe in this vision until they start to suffer. Suffering separates what we think we want from what we are deeply committed to. We don't know how important something is until we suffer for it.
Stephen suffered for his faith. So do people today. In Saudi Arabia, China, Zimbabwe, and California there are church planting teams who suffer for their faith. What keeps them going? Like Stephen, they see Jesus. His call reminds them that their personal comfort is not as important as spreading God's grace.
Father, we are tempted to steer our lives toward comfort. We're tempted to avoid storms and battles. Be our guide. Give us grace, even in our suffering for you. Amen.
See God's love, power, presence, and purpose in your life every day!