The Shoes of Clint Clifton – Thoughts from Jennifer Clifton
By: Jennifer Clifton
There is a big hole in the church-planting world of the Praetorian Project with my late husband Clint Clifton gone–but that doesn’t mean we get to give up. What it means now is that, as a network of church planters, pastors, and families, we all have to step up, push harder, and stretch ourselves to continue the task Clint spent so much of his life doing. This looks like encouraging others to plant churches, training them so they are ready for the difficult task at hand, and sending them out encouraged, loved, and supported. We can’t give up, my friends. Jesus is worth the long, hard days of this ministry.
What’s it going to take? We need individuals stepping up into the role of challenging the men in our congregations to see that they too can be church planters. We need to go after the able and willing leaders with teachable attitudes who maybe are not quite sure they are capable of such a task as church planting. We need to push them to explore and pray about being a church planter. We need to point out to them their God-given abilities to lead others in knowing Jesus and making Him known.
We need to be continuously encouraging those we have already sent out. Not only encouraging the planter but also his wife and kids–that they would know they are just as important to the planting team as the church planter. They have one of the most challenging jobs of the planting team: to encourage, love, and pray for their planter husband/father even as they face ministry trials or family difficulties. They need to know he can’t do this job effectively without their constant support.
It reminds me of the story of Moses when Joshua and the Israelites were at war. As long as Moses held his arms up, Joshua and the Israelites were winning the war. But at some point, it gets to be too much and Moses can’t hold his arms up. As his arms would drop down, they begin to lose. That’s when Aaron and Hur come alongside Moses, bringing him a rock to sit on, and standing beside him, they held up Moses’ arms. When that happens, the Israelites start winning the war again; eventually claiming total victory.
The wives and children of our planters sometimes have to hold our planters up because they get discouraged, tired, or run over by the sinfulness of others (and sometimes it’s all of those things at once). We need to be encouraging these families and holding them up so they feel equipped to also help hold up their planter husbands/fathers.
We need to be providing training in our churches so that when God sends us that able, willing, teachable planter we can send him out as prepared as possible for the difficult task of planting. It’s not easy church planting and no two areas function the same way. It’s not a cookie-cutter task. However, if they have a good foundation of what they should expect because they have been shown what kinds of things they need to be thinking about or looking for, they will be able to adapt to their specific areas of ministry and be able to make Jesus known to those around them.
I have had a few brief conservations with some over the last few months where I expressed my fear of Pillar’s church-planting zeal dying off with Clint. Not that he was the only one who could do it, but he was the type of person that lived and breathed church planting. He was the huge push for all the crazy things we were doing as this network of church plants was established. He wanted to see each of our planters succeed and have whatever it was they needed (resources, finances, help, encouragement, or a push to get started in the right direction). He would do anything for his planters.
We, as Pillar and the Praetorian Project specifically, have big shoes to fill. It may take time and lots of prayer, but we need someone to step into that role of encourager and helper that Clint filled so well. Maybe it’s not one person either. Maybe it’s a combination of a few people (kind of like our planting partner system) who continuously focus on these specific tasks to help make sure our current and future planters are always encouraged, trained, loved, and supported.
In the meantime, may we all “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25