Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, occasionally shares with business students and budding entrepreneurs musings on starting businesses. An expression he likes to use often is “entrepreneurs must eat glass and stare into the abyss” when starting a company. Future entrepreneurs need to be willing to walk through the impossible. He shares about that here in this video.

I couldn’t help but see the similarities with church planting. Although, in church planting, we aren’t trying to colonize Mars, building electric cars or creating vacuum travel tunnels underground. We’re doing something that is very old and inherently biblical. However, that doesn’t change the difficulty or the impossibility of the endeavor. We also have the Holy Spirit who does all the truly heavy lifting for us. Even in that, it requires much from us. A few of the principles Musk said in his video can apply for church planting too.

It’s incredibly painful

Church planting takes an emotional and spiritual toll on a planter especially if a planter isn’t grounded in his identity in Jesus and his calling to start a church. Emotionally, a planter is often discouraged by setbacks and people problems. Financially, planters struggle to make ends meet from week to week. If a potential planter isn’t good with pain, he shouldn’t plant a church.

Don’t plant if you’re doing it to be happier

If you are hoping church planting will fulfill a need in your heart to be happier or more emotionally grounded, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. In fact, church planting is more likely to zap your happiness than give you emotional fulfillment.

Be comfortable with the unknown

Church planters must make intuitive decisions everyday without a whole lot of facts and research to support those decisions. Those who need more time and data to make decisions may not be ready to be church planters. Those who are often paralyzed when making hard decisions may be paralyzed by inaction everyday when planters make one tough decision after another.

Be prepared for zero leisure time

Church planters must prepare sermons, meet with people, work on budgets, answer emails, coordinate incoming mission teams, communicate with partnering churches, launch ministry teams, start Bible studies, develop new leaders, be social media managers, and much more. They have to focus on being generalists instead of a specialists. Some weeks and months, there isn’t a whole lot of room for leisure time. Those who want an 8-5 job with clear hours and expectations will find it very difficult to start a church.

If you need inspiring words, don’t do it.

Many days, planters will hear discouraging words instead of inspiring words. They will hear more about what isn’t going right than what is. Discouraging words can also take an emotional toll on a planter. He must be able to heard discouragement and still move forward with the larger mission. A planter must continue in the face of adversity and discouragement.