Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Brief confessions of a failed church planter

"that time of the year" by Katie Landry/Flickr
Is there a 12-step program for failed church planters? Maybe there should be...

"Hello, everyone. My name's Brian, and I'm a failed church planter."

"Hi, Brian."

After a year and a half of making small, episodic attempts at doing "church planting stuff," sometime this summer it just clicked: This. Is. Not. Working.

Maybe it was that I have multiple jobs, including a small business startup, and my wife works her tail off as a mental health professional in our struggling rural community. Maybe it's because we have a teenage daughter that we're trying to raise into the great woman that she's already becoming. Maybe it's because the friends we were connecting with for church stuff were just as busy or busier than us, working our tails off just to get by. Maybe it's because other than mailings from denominational offices that I couldn't use (we don't have a church bulletin board, or mailboxes, or a treasurer, OR a pastor!!), I got nothin'. I missed our denomination's semi-annual church planting conference last year, maybe that hindered the work, but I doubt it; I had plenty of big ideas in my head already and that tends to be what conferences traffic in.

Maybe it's all those things and more. I just hit a wall. I had been running on fumes the entire time anyway, but even the fumes ran out. Nothing left in the tank but dust and disappointment. What do I have to show for it? A book chapter that's heavy on theology and aspirations, but thin on practicality and realism. Oh well, it was a good way to end my theological writing career.

What kills me, though, is that we are essentially churchless. Two years ago I mentioned Jake Meador's notion of "ecclesial deserts," and let me tell you, friends, they're real. I live in one. It's not that there aren't churches here filled with good and wonderful Christians, because there are (case in point). But there aren't any I've found that I can sit in for more than a few weeks at a stretch. I don't fit in here, and "going to church" at all the places we've tried just fills me with anxiety.

So that's my story for now: An ordained, failed church planter, wandering in an ecclesial desert (somewhat of my own making, I admit). Prayers are coveted.

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