Here’s the final thing I’ve been thinking about over the past six months: being invincible vs. being wounded. This one requires a bit of explaining.
When Beth and I decided to take the risk of planting a church from the ground up, I did some serious research. Besides investigating church planting associations, I plowed through 12 books and manuals on the “methods” of church planting that exist today. I have been a part of two other start-ups (one independent and one SBC), but I still felt I needed some more background info on the whole process.
In one of these books, the author wrote a chapter on why someone shouldn’t start a church. He spent the entire chapter talking about the dangers of starting a church when you have deep wounds from churches – whether it be betrayal or conflict or misunderstanding. Then the author said that the church planter must have a sense of “invincibility” in order to succeed. People find hope in a leader that shows no signs of weakness or past failure. This upset me. In order to appear invincible, I’d have to pretend. I have been a failure. I have been misunderstood. I am awkward. I am full of weaknesses. If anything, much of what I know about the church I hope to build is what I don’t want it to be like. I began to doubt my ability to start something new.
After those books, I started a round of books that deal with grace in some fashion. I picked up Henri Nouwen’s Wounded Healer. I thought Nouwen would be talking about God as the wounded healer. But by page two, I had figured out he wasn’t. He was talking about the pastor as a “wounded healer.” Nouwen says that ministers are only effective when they have been significantly wounded. Otherwise, their words of sympathy and prayers for wisdom sound like trite TV ads rather than deep, meaningful connection. He says the best ministers are those who minister out of their past and present wounds.
Jesus did that. John 16:32-33 says that he was abandoned by those who would follow people who seemed more “promising.”
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
I suppose I could project an image that I have things together. And that would attract some people to a new church. I’m planting in a city that certainly values appearances. That’s what the church planting manuals have told me. But after thinking about it for that past six months, I’m gonna go a different route. I’m gonna take Nouwen’s advice. I believe people are looking for something real. “Real” is not clothes or hairstyles or profanity or Wilco. It’s being comfortable enough with who you are so that it puts those around you at ease.
I’m gonna try that first.