Reflection on Ecclesia's Genesis Church Planters Training- Gary Alloway
I am a straight-A student. Even though I haven’t been in school for a decade now, that identity remains. I am one who succeeds, who passes the test, who figures out how to solve the puzzle. Its one of the things that drew me to church planting. But the truth about straight-A students is that they are driven just as much by fear of failure than by joy in success. As much as I relished the idea of starting a successful new church, fear of failure was holding me back.In 2009, I attended the Ecclesia Church Planters Training. And one of the lessons that I have kept with me since is that it is okay to fail in church planting. In fact, you can fail in church planting and still be a tremendous success. In the first session of our week, Bob Hyatt led a section on ‘Why Plant Churches?’ and he said: “What is failure? Failure is failing to love those that God brings us, not closing the doors. Even churches that don’t last were probably great adventures of faith for those involved. And God loves it when his people take a step of faith. The greatest failures are the churches that only exist in the mind.”
I have tried to carry that with me ever since. Are we loving people? Are we caring for them and enjoying them and showing them the love of God? If so, we are successful. And if we have a 1000 people, but no love, we are nothing but a failure.
In 2012, our church nearly closed. And while the straight-A student in me was dying, I fell back on these words. In our first 3 years, we had seen God’s love change people. We had helped neighbors find life, put on a wedding for a homeless couple, and we ourselves had been changed. The church had not been a failure. It had been a great adventure of faith.
We pulled through that slump and these days look a little more successful. But in our successes, I still fall back on those words. Are we loving people and showing them the love of God? If not, it is all for naught. Since 2012, we have planted several house churches and helped start a few ministry ventures. And every time we start something new, I pass on those words. Love those in front of you. If you do this, you will always succeed.