Vulnerability is Better Than Perfection
Planting a church in COVID is no easy task, but thank God the one we serve is in the business of doing the impossible.
When we set out to plant New City Church in Nashville, TN, we didn’t know what to expect. Our neighborhood has an interesting mix of immigrants, refugees, and young professionals, and our heart is to have a church reflective of that community where people can explore faith, find hope in Jesus, and make a difference.
With the pandemic, launch looked a little different. We began with groups in the fall. We did more of a soft launch in late January, with a grand opening on Easter Sunday.
God has done a lot of work on me in the process of church planting. If I was speaking to myself 6 months ago, I would give myself these pieces of advice.
Don’t forget who you are.
Church planting is an interesting profession, where your spiritual, relational, and professional realms all combine into one. Your ministry can easily become an idol if you’re not careful.
Don’t forget that you’re more than a church planter or pastor. You’re a child of God, loved and cherished by the Father, not because of how many people show up on Sunday. You’re loved and cherished unconditionally, and He’s proud to call you His. God doesn’t only have your people on a journey of spiritual formation. He has you on one too.
Keeping a Sabbath has been one of the most important practices in cultivating this for me. It causes me to slow down and remember who God is and who I am. You may not notice at first, but I definitely notice now when I neglect that discipline.
People are lonely (including you)
Even those of us that are introverts (like me) are starving for interactions with other humans. Outside of our grand opening, we’ve actually seen more people get engaged on a weekly basis in our groups than we have on a Sunday gathering. Celebrate this and be intentional to find simple, reproducible ways to get people connected to community, even if they may not come for a Sunday gathering. In fact, they may get more out of that than a Sunday gathering.
Also, make sure not to neglect hanging out with your own community outside of church related things. You also get lonely, and you’re made to crave interactions with others.
Vulnerability > perfection
There is a lot of pressure to produce great content and events that attract many people. While not all bad, don’t let the pursuit of excellence detract you from being the unique person and church God has called you to be.
There will always be people who can produce better worship services or preach better or throw bigger and better events, but there is only one you. God has called you to take part in creating a new local expression of His church, not just a replication of others.
Planting during COVID, we had a hard time doing any big events due to restrictions, which was stressful, but through that the Lord has led us into a different mode of operating.
Rather than seeking perfection, seek to be vulnerable and connect with people. We’re all struggling right now.
Part of my story is that I have struggled with depression as long as I can remember. Through that, I have developed a passion for showing people how God meets us in the midst of pain and not just at the end of it, that He weeps with us, and feels with us.
With how many people struggle with mental health issues, we felt the Lord lead us to lean into those conversations honestly and showcase how the story of the Bible shows a God who repeatedly meets people in the midst of suffering and even suffers with us and for us.
I’m not gonna lie. It felt weird in pre-launch saying, “Hi. I’m Trey. I’m the pastor of New City Church and I struggle with depression.” Doing this puts the emphasis back on the work of God in our midst and gives people of all backgrounds a safe place to voice their doubts, hurts, and questions. There are so many people that are hurting and broken and who may have even been hurt by people proclaiming a message that if you trust God, you won’t be sad or hurt. That wasn’t my experience, and it wasn’t Jesus’s either.
Lean into being vulnerable and real instead of striving for perfection. Excellence is important to pursue, but remember that we’re church planters. There are plenty of people who can “do church” better than we can, but God wants to use our unique strengths and weaknesses to show off who He is. Choose to be vulnerable and real instead of primarily pursuing perfection. Boasting in your weaknesses is a powerful way to showcase the resurrecting power of Jesus.
Be consistent and faithful.
Some days are going to be better than others. Some days you’ll have more people come than you expected. Other days, you’ll be surprised by how few come. Remember your role as a church planter is about more than a Sunday gathering. Your 5 minute interaction with someone on a Tuesday may be more influential than your sermon on Sunday. Be consistent and faithful throughout the week. When lies of insecurity come your way, ask if you were being faithful to who God has called you to be and what He has called you to do.
Trey Hayman is the Lead Pastor of New City Church in Nashville, TN. Trey and his wife, Anna, love having people over for dinner, traveling, and helping people encounter Jesus. Trey is passionate about mental health and showcasing how Jesus meets us in the midst of suffering and not just at the end of it.