5 Legitimate Fears of a Church Planter

Having participated in two church plants as a planter, and now working with church planters on a regular basis in a coaching capacity, I know first hand the fears associated with planting a church. It’s a leap of faith and one God is calling many to these days.

My theory here is recognizing the fear and realizing their legitimacy is part of guarding our hearts against them. The fact remains – for a church plant to be successful, at least in Kingdom terms, God must provide His grace.

Keep in mind, Jesus said not to be afraid. Fear is usually a substitute for trust. But, unless you are perfect – which I suspect you’re not, you’re subject to normal human emotions. The kind church planting produces.

Here are 5 legitimate fears of church planters:

No one will show up.

If we do all this work and it doesn’t work – what will we do? You’ll be thankful you were obedient to what you believe God called you to do and wait patiently for Him to provide. We had to consistently remind our core team that God was in control of numbers. Our job was to be faithful. This doesn’t mean you stop inviting people or investing in the community around you, but you trust God will stir hearts for His work.

We can’t afford it.

You probably can’t. Seriously – not with what you can see. And, seldom there be “enough money” – or so it may seem at times. God calls us to big tasks. Church planting is hard – and not cheap. But, the Lord will provide resources for His vision. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to educate people on the needs or help them understand the command, value and blessing of giving, but it does mean you trust God even when the checkbook balance is low. It also doesn’t mean you won’t have to wait to make major purchases or there won’t be times you have to wait until “Sunday’s offering” to get paid. Our paycheck was delayed several times the first couple years so other bills – and other staff – could be paid, but we were never hungry.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Isn’t it wonderful? It means you’re insufficient without His sufficiency. What a great place to reside! The great news is that many have gone before you. Learn from others and stay on your knees before God.

People will leave

True. Most core teams are cut in half in the first few years. At first I thought we were to be the exception. We weren’t. Other people will come and never return. But, some will stick. And, they will have hearts for the vision. And, in them we rejoice at what God has done. We build our teams around those who God sends to us and who remain steadfast to the journey ahead. The team may change several times the first few years.

We don’t have a building

No, but you probably don’t have a mortgage either. And, you’re raising up an army of volunteers for set up and tear down. You are building service and sacrifice into your DNA as a church. Isn’t it wonderful! Don’t lose that atmosphere and culture of dependency, even when you have a building someday.

Final thought. These fears are legitimate – real fears. Don’t be ashamed you have them. The key is not to live in them, but to live and walk in the faith God will complete His plans and enable those He calls.

What other fears have you experienced in church planting?

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Ron Edmondson

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  • Patrick says:

    I was a church planter. I had every one of the fears you listed. One i did not have that, in hindsight, I wish I would have experienced was that ego and pride would invade the fellowship and lead to a split and eventual death. But that is what happened. We grew from four families to about 95 or so in about 6 months. A man i trusted decided he should be in charge, began to teach a legalistic view of things…well, long story short, the church split and then died about six months later. That church was just 18 months old. If i had at least feared a church split perhaps I would have been more tuned in to the warning signs…{sigh}

  • John Chester says:

    I get the point, and a little over one year in as a planter I have certainly had thoughts that run in this direction. I would even say I have had these fears (and more), but I am constantly repenting of the sin of fear. I think it is wrong to call them legitimate fears. Are they fears, yes, are the legitimate, absolutely not. Fear almost always flows out of a desire to control outcomes and if Christ has promised to build His church (Matt 16:18), trying to control the building of the church is a functional denial of God's sovereignty. The key to overcoming fear in planting is not to embrace them as "legitimate" but to lean wholly on God's sovereignty and learn to be content in all circumstances through the power of Christ (Philippians 4:11-13).

  • Brian says:

    Bears. You forgot bears. They’re heartless killing machines and will literally eat church planters here in Montana.

  • Dear Ron,

    I will start by saying that I love what you do for the Body Of Christ. You are full of wisdom and have a loving heart.

    Your post is interesting, but I would suggest that none of the fears you highlight is legitimate. Why? a) Because fear does not come from God. And b) what is not born out of faith is… sin! (Rom 14:23)

    If the Holy Spirit is leading a believer to plant a new church, then he should do so with faith and ask for his faith to be strengthened whenever fear is about to overwhelm him. He should not spend even one second on a fearful thoughts, just flex his faith muscles.

    If the growth of the church is initially slow, then God is simply tested the patience of the planter and his team. If some people leave, then God is simply testing the planter and see whether he is more interested in pleasing God or his visitors. And so on and on.

    God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love.

    Church planters should ask Jesus to strengthen their faith. After all, the Apostles did it, so they would be well advised to do it as well.

    Keep up the great work,

    Serge RL

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thank you for your reply. We can agree to disagree and it's probably more semantics than anything. What I mean is that the fears are legitimate in that we have them. If you are without fear in your humanity, then you are a far better person than me. Jesus most repeated command was “Do not fear”…He must have thought it was prevalent and therefore needed. Gideon…Moses…David…Abraham…all dealt with fear. Paul…Elijah…dealt with legitimate fears. Fear is a natural human reaction. Walking by faith…above the fears…standing the test of time to overcome our fears…that's the work of the children of God.Denying that fear is real makes no sense to me. That's why I called the fear legitimate. Again, could be semantics, but apart from that choice of a word, I agree with all you wrote.Thanks again.

  • Jason Raitz says:

    Ok, I know I've said this before, but WOW! Yeah, I've experienced all of these! I'm a week and a half from our official launch and we just had our first preview service this past weekend, having one more this Sunday and then boom…we launch on October 6th. I actually woke up this morning with a few of these on my mind and very quickly had to remind my self of the truth and the call that God has given me. As a recovering people pleaser, dealing with people leaving has been tough. It's getting better! Thank you for sharing and thanks for the encouragement!

    • ronedmondson says:

      You can do it. We need a guest post some day on the week prior to the launch and the anxiety, tension and struggles that week provides. Document your week! These are historic moments!  Good times ahead. 

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