Laurie walked by my desk and I said, “It would be a lot easier to plant a church if I could just do it on my own strength and didn’t have to lean on Jesus constantly.” She looked confused. “Um… Ok.”
Establishing a new congregation of believers has been totally beyond me to accomplish. From the beginning of fundraising and vision-casting to the team-building and gathering phase we are currently entering––church planting has been “above my pay-grade,” so to speak. The things you think should work, don’t. The people you think will come, won’t. And the “ministry happens in the interruptions,” as my friend Grant Beachy once said. Church planting is a set of circumstances that still feels out of my control. I’ve never prayed so much in my life.
That’s what I was lamenting in that exasperated moment––the illusion of control.
John the Baptist was tempted to do God’s work in his own strength when his disciples became frustrated by the overshadowing ministry of Jesus. But he said, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:28–30).
Does our joy in ministry spring from our increase or our decrease? As a church planter seeking to build a new congregation it is counter-intuitive to pray for decrease. Yet, this is what Jesus has called every believer to do. May the Lord give us decrease!