Starting a church is similar to starting a business and neither is easy. If it were easy more people would be doing it, but when it comes to church planting usually men are reluctant. Hard work, sacrifice and prayer all describe the necessary elements to be successful. Anyone that doesn’t know how to work hard should think long and hard about undertaking such an endeavor because planting a church requires long hard hours and considerable sacrifice.
Paul explains in his letter to the Corinthian church how he gave his time and effort for them expecting nothing in return. “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” 2 Corinthians 12:15. This verse is a testimony of the labor of a pastor serving the Lord simply out of love and dedication. Paul’s testimony could easily be the testimony of many preachers who undertake starting a new church. Success will require the pastor to spend and be spent!
Great men of the past voiced their understanding of sacrifice in serving God. The great missionary to India, Henry Martyn, stated, “Let me burn out for God.” Henry Martyn died at the young age of thirty-one. David Brainerd, known for his tireless work among the American Indians, died at the early age of twenty-nine. David Brainerd stated, “Oh, that I might not loiter on my heavenly journey.” Many other faithful servants of God have made similar statements.
Being spent involves physical fatigue as well as emotional and even spiritual fatigue. Some people labor physically and others experience emotional stress but in the ministry it involves physical, emotional and spiritual stress. Any young man that believes he can build a church without tireless work is seriously mistaken. Church planting requires blisters on your hands, holes in your shoes and burning the candle late at night. The sacrifice of personal time, going on few vacations and limiting how you spend your money are all part of the protocol of church planting.
Even in the secular world entrepreneurs have been known to sleep in their office for a number of years, receive no salary and work long hours. If the men of this world can live such a life of sacrifice for worldly gain surely men of God can do the same for eternal gain. Missionary martyr Jim Elliot stated it well when he said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
From my own experience I can say that for several years my family lived on a very meager income. Our children wore hand me downs, our food budget required using coupons and buying things on sale. Seldom did we eat out. Vacations were a week visiting with our family. Nothing else was affordable. Seldom was I gone on a Sunday. A large portion of our salary went back into the ministry. I cannot complain because we have experienced the joy of living by faith and watching God supply our every need.
The great missionary David Livingstone stated it best, “People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.”