Diary of a Church Planter

In June 2017, my wife and I planted a church in my hometown. Hope Community Church was a forty-year-old dream come true! I dedicate this blog to church planters everywhere. New church. Old church. It doesn’t matter. The struggles, wins, and failures are the same.

To my great disappointment, I have found that many church-goers are consumers. They feel entitled. They give little or nothing and demand everything be their way. They arrive with certain expectations and when their preferences are not met, they either sow discord and division, or they simply leave. 

Not long ago, I sat at the bedside of a dying man. His heart monitor told the story of his condition. Ultimately, he flatlined. Death came as predicted. In the hours preceding his death, the monitor revealed a high-low range of motion. The line was jagged, and at times, momentarily flat. Then, his heart rate picked up again. 

While watching the monitor, I thought about local church growth patterns. We too, have seen highs and lows. A normal heart rate illustrates a consistent squiggly line. Distress illustrates jagged marks that go high, then low. And of course, a flatline means that death has come. I thought of the many churches across America that have flatlined since COVID-19. Too many!

Planting and building a church is not a romantic venture, as some might suggest. It’s hard work at every juncture. Satan, the church’s most formidable enemy, works tirelessly to hinder the work of God. People have come and gone at unpredictable rates. Sadly, when people leave, the rest of the body is left to wonder why. Speculations abound. During these departures, if the pastor says anything, he’s accused of gossip. However, my experience reveals that individuals in the body are free to speculate or bring accusations without fear of reprisal. I’m not sure how that works! 

In my experience, whether spoken or unspoken, most tend to place the blame on the pastor. “What did he do?” they ask. Or, “What didn’t he do?” I’m biased, to be sure. However, people need to quit leveling accusations against their shepherds and realize that most church exits are multifaceted as to the reasons why. Disloyalty and betrayal toward God-fearing pastors is a scourge in today’s church.

Before I begin, one pattern that has remained the same at Hope Community, regardless of people coming and going is our finances. Our giving has stayed the same and even increased. This tells me that those who left had “no skin in the game.” When looking at giving records, post exit, I discovered that 90 percent of those who left gave little or nothing to the Lord’s work during their time at Hope Community. What does this say? They were takers, not givers. The church was there to please and serve them. They offered little or nothing. How sad and how displeasing to the Lord. 

To my pastor friends and other church leaders, let me provide the top reasons why people have come and gone from Hope Community and why the monitor of the church continues in an up and down fashion. I don’t think our church is atypical. I believe the same patterns exist across the American church.

I present these reasons, not to set the stage for a pity party, but to help us all understand that the fallen nature is a fierce contender and must be righteously confronted.  


1. They visited and discovered that the church’s vision, style of worship, doctrinal stands, and personality did not fit them. This is perfectly understandable.

2. Some did not like me or my wife–our personality and/or ministry style. We are co-pastors. This is a reality we’ve learned to live with. Afterall, it would be nice if everyone liked us, but it’s not necessary. However, to openly oppose the pastor(s) through obvious non-participation, body language, or unkind gestures is always unacceptable. 

3. Some, when discovering that Hope Community was Pentecostal, fled when the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially tongues and interpretation of tongues, began operating in the services. They became unnerved, having been taught that these gifts were not for today. Some left with a mocking attitude. I implore them to be careful. 

4. Some came faithfully for a time, but because they exhibit unfaithful behavior in their everyday life regarding work, family, or keeping their word in general, gradually got on the slippery slide of indifference.

5. Some left because of unrepented sin in their lives. Unwilling to confront their sin, they chose to remain in the world. They left blaming the church, and nit-picking things they disagreed with. I realize this sounds judgmental, but sadly it’s true. Drinking that leads to drunkenness has been a particularly consistent problem by an alarming number.

6. Some began to sow discord, spread gossip, and bring division. Scripturally, I had no choice but to confront them. Most were unwilling to repent and left. We’ve encountered this sad reality in recent weeks with not women, but men. 

7. Some began to undermine my authority as pastor and refused to be corrected. They had rebellious hearts.

8. Some got on social media and maligned Hope Community’s influence in the community. Social media has both good and evil sides, but when individuals use it to damage their church’s witness in the community, they openly reveal their ungodly lives, and prove to all they disdain the fear of God.

9.  Some came with a noticeable critical spirit. These individuals are never welcome!

10. Some, when confronted by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, became inflexible and unwilling to heed the voice of the Spirit. They then left.

11. Some refused to push into the community life of the church, often accusing the body of being unfriendly. However, when individuals and/or families fail to attend outside activities and events, or when they arrive just on time and leave immediately, or when their social skills are sub-level, they cannot fairly blame the church. But they do, and then they leave.

12. Some have feuded with others in the body, mistreated them, lied about them, stolen from them, and then played the victim. Sadly, they leave and spread their poison in the community. This is something that I believe incurs God’s displeasure and even judgment. 

13. Some are “projects,” people who choose to become defined by their past hurts. They are victims, who refuse to forgive their offenders and move on to emotional and spiritual health. When they discover that their “same song-same dance” routine becomes tiresome, they leave.

14. Some, who have unmet expectations, either with friendships or church involvement became unrealistically demanding or controlling. People who try to control others are not trustworthy, and often become mean and hateful. They must go!

15. Finally, some came from other churches, where they were allowed to run “footloose and fancy free” without accepting godly boundaries. Unless they repent and make things right with their former church, and unless they display a humble, serving attitude, they often are forced to leave. 

Sadly, these types of scenarios will continue to plague churches everywhere. May the Lord help us relay the church’s overall message with clarity: that everyone needs a personal encounter with Jesus that needs to be walked out under the auspices of God-fearing, Christ-loving local churches. To expect or even demand perfection from leaders is ridiculous. To malign and undermine pastoral authority without knowing full details is ungodly and hurtful to any church’s ongoing success in any community. May the Lord send a revival of the fear of the Lord when it comes to church behaviors.

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