Sustaining a Multiplier’s Heart
By: Colby Garman
Virtually every pastor and church planter I talk to these days tells me they want to lead their church to plant churches. Maybe you’re feeling the same.
But have you considered the heart work that will be required for you to lead your church to multiply and to continue to do so for the next few decades? If you want to lead your church to multiply and to keep multiplying, you are going to have to deal with a lot of challenges “out there,” but first we need to start closer to home–your own heart.
What Will NOT Sustain You?
Before we get into the heart posture that you will need to sustain this work, I must first dismantle the things that will not sustain.
1. The Recognition of Others. This will not sustain you. The reality is that most of the work that you will do in leading your church to multiply is nitty gritty, behind-the-scenes work. Just in the past month, I have met with a man in our congregation to compel him to consider the possibility that God is calling him into church planting ministry as a new career path. I met with our church planting residents in our little storefront office. Our church leadership is wrestling through our budget for the coming year, and we’re making cases for ministries of the church and the church planting work that we support. All of these things are things that no one really sees. Fabricating ways for other people to see this type of work can cause it to not be genuine.
But what about those rare moments when you do get recognition for multiplying work? Well, it never comes quite in the way you might imagine. You will always prefer that it came in a different way, or more often, or from a different person. Gaining the recognition of others will never sustain the heart of a multiplier.
2. The Desire to Prove Ourselves to Ourselves. Sometimes, it’s not others’ approval that we’re after, but instead a sense of worth and value within ourselves that drives us. While this may work for short bursts of time, you are probably like me in that your personal will to succeed from within ebbs and flows with other passions in life. There are always other ministry tasks to do, my family is constantly needing my attention, and there are so many fish that need to be caught on the end of my fly-fishing line. An internal drive to be a multiplying pastor will not sustain you for the long haul.
3. The Prospect of Success. I’m using success here to talk about achieving the goals that we’ve set out to achieve. Achieving goals is another short-term motivator that will provide a little shot of dopamine each time you achieve some goal that you have set out for yourself or your church, but it won’t last when things get really difficult. And things will get really difficult. We need something better.
4. The Hope for Early Completion. Sometimes we are able to work really hard based on the belief that there is a long season of rest ahead. Sometimes, my most “productive” days of work are those last couple of days before a long vacation.
This too will only get you a short burst of energy. Church planting is long, tedious work that lasts for years. And that’s just for one church plant. My aim, and I pray your aim, is to be in this work for decades. Dreams of a cushy ministry of not doing this work, or having delegated it to someone else will not sustain the work.
5. The Excitement of a New Venture. I’ve been involved in planting dozens of churches. Starting a new church isn’t new to me anymore. I know, that sounds odd to read for many of you; it’s odd to write; but it remains true. The luster of “new” wears off faster than you might imagine. We need something more.
What Will Sustain You?
For this answer, it will not come as a surprise to you that we will look to a very prolific church planter: the Apostle Paul. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he shows us, in Romans 15:17-21, that he has a reason to be proud of his work for God. And in so doing, he instructs our hearts towards multiplication.
Romans 15:1-7 – Embrace the Pattern of the Cross. Paul has reason to be proud of his work in God because he has patterned his ministry after the ministry of Christ. Jesus did not live His life aiming to please Himself. Instead, He bore the reproach of others on behalf of others and to the glory of the Father.
A multiplying ministry is a ministry of self-denial. You will say goodbye to your dearest friends and co-laborers in the work of your local church. And you will send them to go and do similar things “over there,” wherever that may be.
But we’re not called to live a life of pleasing ourselves. We are called to live a life that is patterned after the cross of Christ. As we do this, we can be proud of the work God has done through us.
Romans 15:8-9 – Energize yourself with the promises of the Gospel. Paul’s ministry was a ministry of bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. There is no ministry that is more “over there” than for someone of Paul’s Jewish education and pedigree to spend his life ministering to the Gentiles.
However, Paul is proud that he has done this, and he is able to boast in the results because he is banking on the promises of God to bring the Gentiles into the family of God. He quotes five books of the Old Testament to prove that the mission that he is on is the mission of God.
Get into the Word and find for yourself the promises that God is taking His Gospel to the ends of the earth through the advancement and multiplication of churches. This is the mission of God, and when we partner with Him in His mission, we can be proud of our work, and our work will be sustained for the rest of our days. In the end, a deeply rooted theological motivation will keep you motivated when other wells of motivation run dry. (Matt. 28:16-20, Acts 1:6-8, Acts 11:19-26, Acts 13:1-3, and Rev. 5 should get you started in the right direction.)
Romans 15:13, 19 – Experience the presence of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember when I said that other people’s recognition won’t sustain you? Thankfully, the Spirit of the Living God will. His presence with you in the work is the only Helper that you truly need to sustain the heart for this work. The people who partner with you in this work will come and go. The Spirit will remain with you forever and He will empower you to this most important task.
Romans 15:16 – Exercise a priestly calling. A priest’s role in the Old Testament was to represent God to the people and represent the people to God. It was a sacred calling to serve the people and worship God through their service. Paul has exercised that calling among the Gentiles. In the end, it is not about strategies and success. It is about people and it is about God. He embraces the sacred service to the Gentiles to prepare them to honor God and that fuels his missionary service. He embraces His calling to exalt God and is motivated out of a desire to worship and demonstrate His exceeding value among the people. When strategies fail, this sort of motivation will spur us onward.
Set Your Eyes on Christ
The heart of a multiplier is prone to wander and prone to be discouraged. The heart is apt to look in all the wrong places for the motivation to sustain this important work. Set your heart and your mind on Christ and His Gospel patterning your life and ministry after His until, like Paul, you have finished the race that has been set before you.