If you can do anything other than start a church, do that.”

I never wanted to start a church. To be honest, it wasn’t long ago that I thought what many people think and what most church starters have heard many times over: “Why do you need to start another church when there are already so many?”

And yet, here I am, working with a church that I helped start three and a half years ago.

As a naive eighteen year old, when I knew that my life and the life of the Church were meant to intertwined, the dancing partner that I saw before me was the traditional, established church. I knew she wasn’t the prettiest girl at the dance, but I knew she was the one for me.

I remember right after I graduated from college, I asked a mentor who was tinkering with alternative forms of church, “Is it worth my time and effort to work with the traditional, established church?” He thought for a moment because he knew the weight that that question carried in my life at that time. Then, he responded, “No.”

Kayne adequately expresses my feelings by saying, “Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it.”

So, I pressed on toward further training, education, and planning, always with the destination of the traditional, established church ahead of me.

After graduating from seminary, it was finally time for me to step out on to the dance floor. The training was done. The education was complete. The planning was over. It was time for theory to become practice. It was then that an old college roommate called me up and said, “Hey, do you want to move to the Northwest and start a church with some of our old roommates?”

I can’t exactly explain what happened to change my mind but after a trying time of discerning, my spouse and I decided to go for it. We were going to start a church.

We packed up and moved to the Northwest, eventually meeting up with the other five members of our team. As we began the process of starting a church, we decided to meet with as many church starters as possible. We wanted to get an idea of what to expect.

I don’t know if it’s part of the skill set that church starters are supposed to have (see: Josh’s previous post), but almost everybody that we spoke with was extremely demotivating.

“Starting a church is the most difficult thing you’ll ever do.”

“You may like each other now, but just wait…”

“Haha, you’re excited? Give it a month or two.”

And the most remarkable of all,

“If you can do anything other than start a church, do that.”

Needless to say, we began to gird up our loins. We had no idea that what we were getting into was going to be so horrifying, taxing, and unpleasant. But we were committed.

And then something unexpected happened. We took a step forward and it wasn’t horrifying. We took another step forward and it wasn’t taxing. And then we took another step forward and it wasn’t unpleasant.

Sure, we have had difficult moments. We all do. But looking back over the journey of Inland Church, those moments aren’t the defining moments. The defining moments are characterized by something else entirely, mostly God’s faithfulness.

If you are thinking of starting a church, stepping into the pastoral vocation, or just wondering about what life is meant to be like, listen to the voices around you. You might just glean a bit of wisdom from them.

But do not let their story be your story, especially if they are being a Debbie Downer. Receive wisdom where you may find it but do not let the cynicism, weariness, and general melancholy of people deter you from what you need to do.

Allow hope to characterize that next step in your journey, no matter what direction it is, because hope is something that will endure and it will not disappoint. At least that’s what I’ve been told by someone else.

Written by Michael Mills, a pastor at Inland Church in Spokane, Washington.