“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”– Acts 9:16

Nearly a year before we launched our church I remember thinking, “we’re doing it the easy way by not moving across the country”. I watched a friend named Dave Nelson launch K2 The Church and saw a few dozen people move from Troy MI to Salt Lake City Utah. I remember thinking that was the truest test of sacrifice, and the type of plant that would cost the most (and not just in dollars).

Well, one month before we opened our doors my nephew; Landon Hood died on a Thursday afternoon just before one of our first services. There is no place in our minds and hearts that makes sense of death, especially when you carry a 2-foot casket to its grave. The whole experience from hospital to funeral was horrible. I saw and felt pain that I do not know how to describe. One of the most difficult moments for me was when my brother-in-law asked me to help carry the casket. That difficult moment was quickly followed by the reality that in 3 days I had to stand on a stage and preach the hope of the Gospel.

It was a hard blow to a small and a young church, but our family rallied, our church rallied, and after a while even my brother & sister-in-law rallied, and all of us placed our focus back on the mission we felt called to. I even remember thinking that this experience would be the great horror story of our history as a church plant, but it was only to be the first blow. Over the next several years we watched families leave, staff betray their call, more loss of life, the loss of a building, numbers (both financial and people) that didn’t grow like we expected, and at one point even had to I fire my best friend. After each blow I told myself that growth and fruit was just around the corner, but both continued to be allusive. Finally at one point it seemed as if we were sure to become one of the 80% of church plants that don’t make it.

But we did, and more than just survive it all, we grew through it all. We grew more in love with Jesus, we grew more committed to each other, and we grew more focused on our mission as a church to reach people far from God. Our growth in those areas has also produced growth in every other area, and now, 10 years into this thing (it didn’t happen over night) we are healthier than we have ever been, reaching more people than we’ve ever reached, and expecting construction on our first building to be completed this fall.

My point? If you plan to plant a church (or to lead one for the long haul) then plan to suffer. I heard one famous pastor once say, “if you desire God to use you powerfully then first He must wound you deeply”. I think we all know that intuitively, but I have watched person after person walk away when the suffering began and they often conclude some combination of, they aren’t a good leader or God isn’t a good God. What I have started to learn is that the presence of suffering is the evidence of God’s work, not the absence of it.

“I will show him how much he must sufferer for my name”

In our era of pop star pastors and churches we have been fooled into thinking that when ministry is not glamorous either we must be failing God or God must be failing us. But what if the truth is, God is at work and the fruit you’ve dreamed of harvesting is presently growing under the manure of suffering!
Here’s the crazy thing; Jesus even told us there would be a cost to following Him, but we get confused when that bill shows up. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy pain, but I do want to sacrifice for my Lord and King. Think that sounds crazy? Read II Corinthians; that’s a large part of Paul’s message in that book; “I will boast in what makes me weak”. I wonder if the 80% failure rate of church plants would change a little bit if we put less early emphasis on get big fast and placed more emphasis on get ready to suffer.

If you’re in a season of suffering now, hang in, don’t walk away. This is not evidence that God is not at work, it’s likely the evidence that He is! And remember, there IS fruit growing under that manure.

By: Craig McGlassion