One of the really exciting things about church planting is the ability to go into an environment and see something be created from nothing. Especially if you are a visionary or creative thinker, seeing what could be is a really exciting thing. What often pairs with that personality type is that the visionary or creative can often see many of the “problems” of the church in which they are a part. This can be both a good and a bad thing. It’s good in the sense that I believe God uses that in a pastor or planter to help establish a church that glorifies God. It can be a bad thing in that the planter or pastor is never satisfied with the status quo. Their lack of satisfaction can zap their joy and make them miserable wherever they are. It can also be a burden to those around them because they will constantly be pointing out all that’s wrong with the world.
I definitely resonate with this personality type. I’ve always been one to be pointing the finger at how things can be done better. Again, I think some of this is good, but it often can be destructive if not handled in the right way. After planting a church, I’ve realized that there is no such thing as the perfect church. Even though, I wanted to be the one to bring it into existence. I fail because I cannot build the perfect church. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” How presumptuous of me to think that I would be the great builder when that job alone belongs to God. Here are several other thoughts related to the “Perfect Church Syndrome.”
1. Every church has flaws.
No matter how much you believe it doesn’t, it does. I mean, look at the beginning of Revelation and see what John has written to the churches. Many of these churches were planted by the Apostle Paul himself! How crazy would it be to have that kind of lineage! Surely, that church would not drift away from the Gospel or the mission of God, yet that is exactly what they all did. You will not find one of those churches in existence today in an unbroken line from Paul.
Your church has flaws too, and the church you want to plant will also have flaws. This isn’t an excuse not to address them. It’s just a realistic picture that you need to take into account before planting.
2. Every planter leans into his strengths and interests.
A baseball team has nine guys on the field at a time. They’re all performing different roles with very different skill sets even though they may be similar. You also have designated hitter, pinch runners, and all types of pitchers. Each one of them has very different strengths and abilities. That is a good thing. It allows the nine to work as a team. As a church planter or pastor, you have been gifted with unique strengths and abilities that are not going to be able to stand alone. You are going to emphasize various aspects of your strengths and interests. So, when that translates into a church, you are going to naturally focus on those. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you don’t put the other eight around you, you will be an unbalanced church.
Have you ever seen guys at the gym that spend five days a week lifting on their upper body but nothing on their lower body. They look like cartoon caricatures, and that’s what you have a tendency to do in your church. Balance is key.
3. Semper Reformanda – Always be changing
One of the marks of the Reformation is to always be changing. This refers to the idea that you’re never going to have it all right. Sin creeps in or idols sprout up, and a vigilant pastor must stay on top to make sure they are always changing to conform more and more to the image of Jesus.
However, this does not mean that your theology should change every five minutes unless it’s completely out of whack biblically. Theology should be grounded in the Bible and the Gospel. It shouldn’t be about the newest wind that blows us from one spectrum to another but a healthy grounding and rootedness in Scripture.
4. Be careful in criticizing other ministries and churches.
It’s very easy to look at other ministries when you think you have it all right and think negatively about those ministries. Unfortunately, this is something where I am just as guilty. It’s a part of our sin nature and pride that makes us think we have it all together. I like to be right! Just ask my wife. Sometimes, we get into the most ridiculous arguments over small issues. In the church (universal), we can have similar attitudes of wanting to be right and criticizing other churches over small issues.
However, if a church truly has heretical or unorthodox theology, it’s our duty as pastor to warn and protect our flock from dangerous teachings. Just make sure they are truly issues that need to be divided over.
As a part of my flesh, I feel as though I struggle with the “Perfect Church Syndrome” all the time. Keep focusing on the Lord and His word, and make the main thing the main thing!