If I could sum up planting a church in one phrase it would be this: daily choosing to find growth and success amidst the pain and failure.

Sounds glamorous, right? HA! A wise mentor of mine once told me that the role of a leader is to bear the pain.  Not just to lead the charge. Not to command the troops. But first and foremost to bear the pain of those you lead. 

I had always seen documentaries of grand successes, miraculous growth, from zero to 10,000 in 10 years, internet fame, and the like.  Church planters in recent years have come onto the radar with amazing stories of transformation and growth.  We hear about these sensational leaders who can do it all.  

Yet, we often don’t get to hear the stories of the quiet warriors doing hard work with little to no growth.  We don’t hear about the pastor whose best friend left the church because he didn’t “like the vision.”  We don’t hear the stories about the broken people who come in and succeed at breaking more people. We don’t talk about how pastors are grieving with every congregant’s failed marriage, families who’ve lost a child.  No one addresses overcoming the mind games that you have nothing good to say every week when you step on the stage. It’s hard and oh, so messy. And SO unsexy.

But it’s also beautiful.  I’ve come to identify with the song “New Wine” by Hillsong in a huge way.  When Jesus calls you to plant a church, He calls you to a deep pressing, and even a crushing that’s likened to grapes being turned into wine.  Yes… there is a deep crushing, but that is because you weren’t meant to remain a grape.  You were meant to be transformed into something much more valuable, with new purposes.  You are transformed into a soothing drink. White wine can remove stains. It can even be used to heal bruises.

Church planting will bring out of you everything that no longer serves people, and cause you to be truly pressed and poured out for what truly matters.  Often you will find yourself doing tasks behind the scenes that no one will ever know about.  They are not glamorous. Every second, every moment poured into a menial task that may make a difference for the person who is walking in the doors of your church for the first time or maybe the 10th or even the 100th.  So don’t discount or ever wonder if your work matters. Galatians 6:9- “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

God will grow you into your own specific gifting as you test the waters and try new things.  Every try and fail gets you closer to becoming the “you” Christ intended you to be. Don’t be too discouraged that you can’t do it all.  It’s just a sign that God has someone in your church who needs to be pulled off the bench to flourish in THEIR gifts.  Don’t get caught up in what you think you “should be” or identities others have always placed on you based off their own experiences.  Just simply be you.  The more time you spend trying be someone else is more time flushed away from giving your true value, and allowing others to give theirs. 

I learned this year that the greatest success in planting a church ISN’T necessarily growing, it’s being obedient to Christ and committing to growing yourself and others.  Obedience can often feel dark and lonely. Just like seeds buried in the ground, growth often isn’t noticed until the seed has broken through the darkness. There are no accolades.  No one calling you to say “good job, girl!” no one giving you a plaque or award.  It’s a deep decision to stick with it when you may not see the fruit for many years to come.  

Early on I had to choose that comfort was not going to be a part of the equation, but that I would do whatever Jesus asked of me.  Why? Because the work of church planting is not glamorous.  It’s hard.  It’s often ugly.  It’s choosing to believe in people who don’t deserve it for the simple reason that Jesus made the way for each of us when we didn’t deserve it. Either the message of the gospel is worth EVERYTHING, or it’s not.

It’s putting yourself in a position to be rejected over and over so that if even JUST ONE comes to know the life-giving freedom of Jesus. Even if just one, it’s worth it. 

Natalie Iguchi

Natalie and her husband Taka are pastors at the Voice Church in Orange County, CA. Where they live with their 2 children. Natalie was born and raised in the heart of the Midwest, transplanted to SoCal! Growing up in a city deemed one of the most depressed in our nation, I grew a desire to bring hope to my community in both a tangible and a spiritual way; that need exists in both IL and CA. I truly believe that a life poured out and emptied for the good of others is the life that’s the most full of all. My life’s goal is simply to use my own life to inspire others to be the best “them” they can be… physically, spiritually, emotionally, & mentally through blogging and mentorship.