How do you start a church?

You don’t.

Six years in, I find myself still trying to make it happen. Striving to create. Carrying the burden, the weight of the success or failure of the thing.

Six years of misplaced anxiety. I know better but it doesn’t change my modus operandi.

When something doesn’t go perfectly, I pull up my bootstraps and fix it. I make it perfect and that, to me, is success.

Again, I know better.

Starting a church is a tricky cocktail of God’s work and our work. Is it God’s work alone? What role are we meant to have? Are we responsible for the success and failure?

Naturally, it is here the wisdom of Tommy Boy speaks to us.

How easy it is to love it to death. If you have endeavored to start a church, of course, you care. That’s a given. We want the church to succeed, to thrive. But it’s a very fine line between nurturing growth and strong-arming the thing to death.

In college, all my friends were talking about going overseas, to “the mission field.” It was the cool thing to do and I never had the least bit of interest in it. I felt insecure because I didn’t feel that same excitement. I felt called to the local church and I felt alone in that calling. Paul’s explanation to the church in Corinth about the division of labor was a comfort to the insecurity I had in my calling.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

I’ve always had a hard time identifying with Paul, partly for this reason. He had a different calling than me. But Apollos…Apollos would be my homie, my role model. If only he was as major a player as Paul in the formation of the New Testament. Alas…

Here, we gain an understanding of the indispensability of collaboration and the diverse contributions necessary to partner with the work of God. And while there are practical lessons to learn in the division of labor, the perennial lesson for me is this: God makes it grow.

I can tend. I can cultivate. I can nurture. And God makes it grow.

Faithfulness is my role. Success is God’s.

So, how do you start a church? Well, I’m pretty sure you don’t. God does. And when it’s all said and done, I think that’s for the best.