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March 15, 2016

A Key Discernment Question in Church Planting

By Drew Hyun

One of the things I love about planting a church is the ability to dream about possibilities.

The primary reason we all plant churches is often the same – so that we can make Christ known through word and deed in a new neighborhood. At the same time, another reason we plant churches is to make Christ known through word and deed in new ways in new neighborhoods.

There’s a thrill in being able to see God do a new thing, something that God is obviously accustomed to doing, as we can see in Scripture when He first created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing).

Now that we’re three years into starting our family of churches in New York City, one of the coolest things has been looking back and celebrating all that God has done because we took a step of faith when…

…we didn’t have any money (beyond our personal finances).

…we didn’t have any people (beyond our family).

…we didn’t have any gathering spaces (beyond our living room).

…we didn’t have an instagram account (because it wasn’t around then).

I remember very early on, one of the primary discernment questions I would ask was, “Can we do this?” As a dreamer, the answer I often leaned into was, “Yes, anything is possible with God on our side. We can do anything!”

Of course, God can certainly do anything–that’s why we say that God is omnipotent, a truth that can carry us in any dark day or season. However, the more I’ve asked the question about whether or not we can do this, the more I’ve realized that has been the wrong question for me and our team.

As a driven person with a verve toward faith–which most church planters can be–my natural tendency has been to push and work until whatever is dreamed about comes to fruition. These ambitions can easily be prodded further by the question, “Can we do this?”

I’ve noticed that the better discernment question for people like me is not a question of whether or not we can do something, but rather, whether or not we should do something.

The key discernment question that we constantly need to ask is “Should we do this?”

In other words, I usually get so caught up in the possibilities that I forget to ask God what He thinks. Or, I forget to ask what my wife thinks (because these questions do affect her and our family too). Or, I forget to ask what our team thinks (because these questions do affect them and their families too).

This is not to say that challenging the status quo is a bad thing. This is simply to acknowledge that challenging the status quo for the sake of challenging the status quo is usually a bad thing.

I’ve come to realize that whenever I ask the question “Can we do this?”, I need to quickly follow up with the discernment question “Should we do this?” More often than not, I’ve been guilty of asking the first question without the latter question, and it hasn’t had the best implications for me, my family, or our team.

With this said, here are three steps that I’ve tried to practice in efforts to carry the tension of “Can” and “Should” in our church plant:

  1. Pray – I know this sounds trite and cliche, but it’s true. One can never be praying enough. If my prayer life is in shambles, then my driven/entrepreneurial side can easily override my ability to hear from what God wants, rather than what I want.
    1. Pray with my spouse – I realize some church planters may be Single, so this may not apply right now, but the principle of making prayerful decisions with invested people is an important one. Obviously boundaries around what I will and will not share with my spouse–regarding church matter–is worth another blog post, but in this case I’m thinking primarily about praying together about church decisions that will invariably affect the time and energy I can give to my marriage and family.
    2. Pray with our team – The same principle with my spouse holds true here. There are decisions that invariably affect the time and energy of everyone on our team and their spouses as well. I’ve made the mistake of often being too myopic in my understanding of what a healthy balance looks like for everyone else. Praying with our team regarding “Should we do this” creates space for this.
  2. If You are a Type-A, driven, and entrepreneurial leader, seek out godly people who will lovingly challenge you with the question, “Should we do this?”

    I notice I’ll gravitate toward people who will applaud my visionary and driven agenda. Although I still make mistakes in this area, I know enough about myself that I’m more in need of people to douse the flames, rather than spark the fire. Now if only I can get myself to listen better…

Ultimately, all of the above stems from a belief that ministry success is not measured by what we can do. Instead, I’m convinced that ministry success is measured by being faithful to what God has called us to do, which is essentially what we should do.


Drew Hyun

Drew Hyun (@drewhyun) is a Church Planter and Pastor of Hope Church Midtown, as well as the Founding Pastor of Hope Church NYC, a family of diverse churches in NYC. He has spent the last 15 years living and pastoring in New York. He loves cities, ESPN, and naps, and finds it a restful Sabbath when all three come together. He resides in New York City with his lovely wife Christina and their son David. Drew is the author of no books and posts things from time to time on Twitter and Facebook.


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