17 April, 2014 Hugo Charteris
Christ Church (CC) Heaton was a church planted from scratch. That is, it didn’t exist before 2006, nor was it planted by another church. CC Fenham was different in as much as CC Heaton planted it out, albeit with just a handful of people. Both churches know what it’s like to be very small, and to grow from there. That is the context in which my four don’ts come.
1. Don’t think it’s as good as it sounds. I quickly realised, in the early days of Christ Church, that what I was telling people about the church sounded way too good. ‘Exciting’ was the word most often used. The thing was, however much I was enjoying Christ Church, the reality was never as good as it sounded. Why? Because our church was made up of people! Real people. Sinful people. People like me. It could never be as good as it sounded.
2. Don’t think it’s all onwards and upwards. That’s the next thing I realised in telling the story of Christ Church. People heard it as if it was just like building one block upon the next. Well, no! It’s never like that. For again, we’re made up of real people – amongst whom stuff happens. So, in listening to others, it’s fairly safe to assume that there have been significant battles, pain, or setbacks. And if there haven’t been, there will be.
3. Don’t compare your situation with others. Why? Because our contexts are different! Just within Newcastle we’ve experienced substantial growth on one side of the city, and, entirely predictably, much less on the other. Wouldn’t it be bizarre if a church planter working in, say, Mogadishu were despondent because his church wasn’t growing as fast as one in, say, Dallas? For your own sanity, be careful when comparing your situation with someone else’s.
4. Don’t waste your energy thinking, ‘If only, if only’; the classic trap for a church planter. ‘If only the big church in the next town would send us some 20-somethings (they’ve got loads); or a pianist (they’ve got plenty)’. And it’s a waste of energy. For two reasons: first, they’re not going to; secondly, don’t you think that God has given you all you need to get on with the work that he wants you to do? So get on with it. And stop wasting your energy thinking, ‘If only, if only’.