This week, we’re hearing from various voices on the topic of church planting to celebrate the release of the July/August 2017 issue of Outreach magazine, which is all about church planting and multiplication. Click here to learn more.
Recently, a church-planter’s wife was asking me for some advice about her situation. I didn’t really premeditate my answer; it just came barreling out.
“Be flexible or die … those are your options.”
Her eyes got big, and so did mine (the advice was a strong blow to me, too). But, if anyone is looking for a word from a church-planter’s wife today, I guess this would be it.
If we are going to survive the tumultuous waters of church planting, we will have to learn to be flexible.
The definition of flexibility, according to Google, is “the quality of bending easily without breaking.” To be honest, this word hurts my stomach right now. Growing up, I took pride in the range of motion in my joints. I stretched constantly and could bend in any direction. But recently, I tore the cartilage in my hip joint, which has robbed me of all my flexibility. I’m in pain just watching my daughters at gymnastics class.
According to the American Council on Exercise, each group of joints in our body can have a different level of extensibility. We may be flexible in our hamstrings, allowing us to touch our toes, but not in our quadriceps, affecting our posture.
You might think of yourself as flexible, but this isn’t really an all-or-nothing issue. Let’s think about the different areas where we need to stretch in order to develop flexibility.
1. We must be flexible about scheduling.
When something comes up that is unplanned (and it will), are we willing to let our preferences go? Will we hold on with white knuckles or learn to trust God with every moment (I’m preaching to myself here, just in case you’re wondering …).
2. We must be flexible about family time.
Yes, we scheduled Thursday night as “family night,” but if “x-y-z” comes up and prevents this, couldn’t we as easily protect Sunday night? You love your family, but you may need some grace arranging all the puzzle pieces.
3. We must be flexible in our expectations of others.
We have both legitimate and illegitimate expectations of the people around us. While we may argue about which category it falls in to, we can all agree that people will at times fail us. How will we respond? We’ve got to stretch far enough to reach grace.
4. We must be flexible in our expectations of ourselves.
Even as I’m typing this, I’m frustrated because I was supposed to finish this blog post before picking up my daughter from her homeschool writing class. I guess I need to adjust what I think I can accomplish in an hour. Anyone else with me?
5. We must be flexible in our patience.
Not every season is equal. When my husband first started at Pillar Church, he needed more space to figure things out. If we want this church plant to flourish, we’ve got to stretch ourselves to develop patience. Especially when we or our spouses are stressed and fatigued under their heavy load.
6. We must be flexible in our ability to take criticism (real or perceived).
This might be coming from someone in the church or even from someone in your home. We’ve got to stretch in our ability to not be so easily offended. After all, “It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11).
7. We must be flexible in our desires.
We want too many things. Some of our desires are good, some are bad. Many times, these desires are in conflict (i.e., “I really want to finish writing this blog post, but I also really want to exercise this morning”). Everything becomes hard when we don’t bridle our desires and we compare our lives (and our salaries) with those around us. This is so dangerous. We can’t have it all, so we’ve got to learn to be content with what is in our hand (1 Tim. 6:6).
8. We must be flexible in our moral commitments (just kidding … just checking to see if anyone is still reading this).
We all know there are some things we can’t be flexible about. Knowing the difference is key.
Our jobs as church planters and church-planting spouses, and therefore our lives, can be so unpredictable. This is not something we can control. The only thing we can control is how we respond to it. There is great freedom in this. But, we have to get our workout clothes on and do the hard work of training in righteousness. “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s decree will prevail” (Prov. 19:21).
Let’s trust our God and put all our confidence in him, not our perfectly constructed plans.
Annie Garman is a pastor’s wife and author of Unexpected Grace: When Your Child is Born With Half a Heart. She and her family serve at Pillar Church in Northern Virginia. This article was originally published on NewChurches.com.