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March 1, 2016

One of the Most Depressing Things I Can Do as a Church Planter

By Drew Hyun

I realize this isn’t the friendliest of titles, but I’ve noticed a frequent tendency in myself and other church planters that often robs me of my joy and passion when it comes to leading and pastoring an urban church.

In short, it’s found in one word.

Comparison.

Comparison is one of the most depressing things I can do as a church planter.

Comparison is different than having a posture of learning or collaboration, both of which are essential when undergoing a new church planting endeavor.

Comparison is measuring my own self-worth against another, and in the process of planting a church, it’s easy to compare myself with others.

And what’s probably more insidious about this (more than I’d like to admit), I don’t necessarily measure my own self-worth against another person. Instead, I compare the church I pastor to other churches that other people pastor.

And my self-worth is often intricately tied into how I compare the church plant I pastor to the church plant someone else pastors.

And whenever I fall into this comparison game, a low-grade depression seems to follow.

Because…

…there’s always a church that’s reaching more people.

…there’s always a church that’s reaching more of the kinds of people I wish our church reached.

…there’s always a church with more resources.

…there’s always a church that’s cooler.

…there’s always a church that’s got better discipleship, preaching, music, kids, _______.

…there’s always a church that doesn’t have any of the problems I have.

Now if we were to take a step back, we’d realize the above list should be reasons for celebration, not depression.

With that said, here are 5 phrases that have helped me battle the comparison game:

(Sadly, I still lose this game sometimes – but hopefully less than I used to)

Thy Name, Thy Kingdom, Thy Will. 

The Lord’s Prayer is the perfect model for Kingdom prayer. And sure enough, the first three lines are reminders that it’s not about my name, my kingdom, or my will. One of the best things I can do to avoid the comparison game is to remind myself that my life – and my church plant – are not about me.

“Go, Sit in Your Cell, and Your Cell will Teach You Everything” – A Saying by A Desert Father (Phil 4:11-13)

This saying could mean a lot of things, including the need for silence, solitude, and

“think” space. The way I take the phrase is to focus on what God’s given me to do, instead of peering out over the horizon at what everyone else is doing.

I’ve noticed that when I fall into the comparison game, I lose sight of what God’s called me and our church to do. I can get so concerned with other church plants or the latest trends in church world that I lose sight of our church and our community.

There are so many God moments that I might miss out on because I’m so enamored with what’s happening over there. Meanwhile, all that’s happening right here in front of me is quite sacred and beautiful.

What is This Life if, Full of Care, We Have No Time to Stand and Stare” – WH Davies (Exodus 20:8)

With all the stresses and tasks of church planting, it’s easy to feel miserable. That is only if I don’t take the time to “stand and stare”.

For me, this means Sabbath-keeping and other disciplines that give me space to experience joy and pleasure.Sometimes as church planters we can sacrifice the wrong things for the sake of mission, as if it’s an honor to be a miserable church planter.

I’d much rather be a joyful church planter (who gets miserable sometimes).

There is One Body, Many Parts.  

There’s a church planter in NYC who often signs off on his emails by writing “Same Team”.

I love this.

When you win, I win. When you lose, I lose.

Same team.

Sounds biblical to me.

Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?

Related to what’s above, we all play a different part in the body. This is what makes the Body of Christ so beautiful and diverse!

I am only called to be and fulfill what God has called me to be and fulfill as Drew Hyun.

This is what the gospel frees me toward – a liberation to be one uniquely created as God’s child, called at this time, in this place, for this purpose.

If I can receive this as a gift (which it is), then I can begin to live with a freedom and abandon instead of wistfully hoping I was someone else.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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