February 3, 2015

The First Few Months As a Church Planter

We are here. Now what?

Lauren and I left Niddrie and moved to Lochee at the end of September 2014. When we left we were two, now we are three as by God’s grace our first child—Talia—came along in November. We are very happy and grateful and have now discovered that all those people who told us how tired we’d be when our daughter arrived were, in fact, correct (sorry for the eye rolling.)

I first heard about church planting eight years ago. Mark Driscoll and the U.S. Acts 29 lads were just hitting the heights of their popularity, and to my recently converted ears, these church planting types sounded like ninjas. Out on the frontlines, preaching the gospel, seeing people converted, the cutting edge of ministry, never a dull moment. I was captivated by the idea and, to be honest, it never let me go.

On the ground in Lochee eight years later, the reality of planting quickly makes a lie of my romantic notions. So, what are a few of the challenges of planting I’ve discovered so far?

Lonely.

Leaving an established community church like Niddrie and coming to Lochee on our own is a bit of a shock to the system. Four months ago, Lauren and I were part of a large team with many pre-established connections to the community. Now we are two outsiders in a tight community attempting to make connections, build relationships, and ultimately become a part of the community. This can be a slow and, at times, discouraging process. We both miss the team banter and the chaos of being involved in an active scheme church. But, most of all, we miss our friends, and with the birth of Talia, Lauren particularly misses her family who live at the other end of the UK.

The recruitment of the launch team is coming along, and we will be joined by another couple in July. There are also several people in our partner church who are expressing an interest in involvement. Indeed, we are deeply grateful to the guys at Central Baptist for the care and support they have shown us so far. We couldn’t imagine doing this without the support and accountability that comes from a healthy church. But, nevertheless, it can get lonely at times.

Should I Be 'Doing' Something?

Most mornings, I wander or drive down to the building for 9am to spend time praying for the community, people we’ve met, and for/about all the things that go into planting: team building, finance, wisdom, etc. Sometimes, Lauren or somebody from our partner church joins me and at other times I’m by myself. After this I usually wander round the town a bit then grab a coffee in one of the cafes. I try to go to the gym at the same time every day. Lauren has her own schedule and goes to various toddlers and book-bug groups with Talia. The reason behind the coffees, groups, and gym visits is we are hoping and praying for opportunities to engage with people. Sometimes they come and sometimes they don’t. A lot of the time the chat, if you get any, doesn’t move much past, “It’s cold out there today”, “Yeah mate, freezing” or some other equally derivative, vanilla effort. Now we know that this is the game and that these conversations over time and by God’s grace will yield fruit in friendships and opportunities. But there is a part of your brain that questions the legitimacy of being sat in a café drinking a coffee, going to the gym, or having a wander round the town then calling it work. I can picture my old man rolling his eyes and smirking as I describe my working day, “You are breaking your back there son, try not to strain something when lifting those heavy coffees.” I have spoken to several planters now and it seems that this is a fairly common dilemma, but it still doesn’t stop me turning to my wife and asking the question that surely there is more to this gig than this.

Staying Disciplined

I am now, for all intents and purposes, my own boss. Sure, I am accountable to our partner church, the guys at 20schemes, and our supporters. But nobody is looking over my shoulder to see what I’m doing or not doing. If I don’t go to the prayer meeting, no one will know. If I skip out on the gym or can’t be bothered walking round town, they will be none the wiser. It’s easy to think that it doesn’t matter or that your efforts are pointless especially if it’s one of those days when conversation isn’t forthcoming and you are feeling sorry for yourself and a bit lonely. Those are the days when you need to man up. Those are the days when you really desperately need to remember why you are here in the first place. As I have written in a previous blog, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Scotland’s schemes have little or no gospel witness and that means that the vast majority of the people living in Scotland’s schemes are heading for hell. They don’t know that they’re in this danger and they are unaware that they need a saviour. Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” If I don’t go, they don’t hear, and the Lord is dishonoured. Lochee doesn’t need me to be a ninja it needs me to be a patient, persevering servant.

  • Andy Mathieson
    Andy Mathieson is pastor of Lochee Baptist Chapel in Lochee, Scotland. He is married to Lauren and they have three children.Read All by Andy Mathieson ›

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