The U-Haul is packed up and we’re somewhere between Grottoes, VA and Greenville, NC. I won’t have time to post for the next few days during the move, so I’ve prepared some posts ahead of time about the lessons I’ve learned during our nine years in VA.
Reflection #2: Only one person is indispensable. It isn’t you.
Most church planters are Type-A Alpha Males with a Messiah complex. That’s me (and God has patiently spent a lot of time breaking me of it… and I’m sure He isn’t finished with the process). We plant these churches, do much of the planning, do all of the preaching, do much of the equipping (if we have time)–we do most of everything, even with staff. Some are micro-managers, others are delegators. In the midst of all the planning, praying, delegating, preaching, and all the stuff church planters have to do, we start believing a lie (even if we’re not totally conscious of it): we believe we are indispensable, that we are irreplaceable. We believe that the churches we plant will crumble to ash if we ever left them.
It’s a HUGE lie. It will ultimately affect our ministries and our churches if we don’t let God break us of it.
I realized this early on, but it took years for me to do anything about it. The first realization that I was replaceable came on August 18, 2002. And it hit me like a sledgehammer. My friend and co-planter, Mike Lease, was killed in a plane crash just weeks before we relaunched the church and just a month before the birth of his son Ethan. In all the chaos that followed, I stayed pretty strong. I had to navigate the church through the tragedy and keep us on track for the relaunch, which I did. I really didn’t deal with my grief for nearly three years. But the one realization I had was that only one person was indispensable, and it wasn’t me. Mike was gone in an instant, and I could happen to anyone. Myself included.
It hit me again when my wife and I decided to follow God to Greenville. I knew that I had to find someone to replace me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far. I had been mentoring several guys in the church for nearly two years, and I stepped up my efforts. The transition went smoother than I could ever have hoped for. One of the lessons that I hope they’ve learned (and I’ll continue to communicate to them) is that someday, they’ll be replaced. They might move away, get sick, or fall in sin (God forbid). Eventually, should Jesus wait long enough, they will die. Someone will take their place. None of them are indispensable. They must start laying the groundwork now for their replacements, even if they have no clue who those replacements might be.
So who is that one person who is indispensable? It isn’t you. It’s Jesus.
So what about you? Are you laying the groundwork for someone to replace you–if it is in your job, your church, where you volunteer, even your family (my wife knows that, in the event of my death, I want her to remarry).
Tomorrow I’ll reflect on what I’ve learned about being “relevant”.