IMG_0282  So here we are. Year two of our church plant. The excitement of the first year with all the cute little “firsts”(like new believers) and the not so cute little “firsts” (like first demoniacs) is over and we are now heading into life as we know it. A bouncing, budding, baby church.

The constant movement of this teetering toddler, leaves a trail of tired protectors in its wake. Burnout is laying down fresh tracks as it rounds the corner of year two. Now, once fresh-faced servants of Christ, see you approaching and scream, “No!”

But cheer up, as any botanist will tell you, everything with a “bud” is going to have bugs.  Life begets life and both symbiotic as well as leaching relationships are bound to happen to a young church plant. In order for a church plant to survive and thrive, it’s important to be able to define the difference between the two.

What is producing life in our church plant?

What is leaching life out of our church plant?

Here are some examples of church plant “Buds”– Things that bring more life to your church plant.

1. Solid Relationships- Pure and simple. If the church is about Christ, and Christ was about people, then the church must be about people if it is going to be about Christ.

Does your core group know each other? Could they pray at the drop of a hat for one another, knowing the needs, struggles and joys of one another?

2. Ministries that are meeting the physical, and spiritual needs of the people- This is where a lot of relationship building starts. Perhaps it is serving a meal to the homeless together and then spending time praying for one another afterward. Less is more at this stage. If the people are facing burn out, scale back a bit. Doing one thing well is better than five things with no spiritual power.

3. People with the gift of encouragement- I wish there was a mail order catalogue for these precious saints. I’m not talking about “yes men”. I’m talking about Spirit filled, wise believers who know when Satan is kicking you in the teeth and rather than finding fault, they encourage you to kick back.

4.  Gracious attitudes- An attitude that remembers Church is actually not about: hot coffee, sound equipment, a cosy building, silent Sunday school, or any and all of the imperfections that come with building something out of nothing on a Sunday morning.  We all know those Sundays when the hot water is cold, the cold water is hot, and the kids are taping the ankles together of their new teacher. Yet through it all our time of worship and prayer together is from another world. This is the blessing of a gracious attitude.

5. Laughter.- I’m not talking about blowing on one another till we get the giggles. I’m talking about enjoying each other, becoming friends, and ministering to one another. The places where we “get real” as we are discipled toward the cross.

Now for the church planting “Bugs”- Things that leach the life out of your church plant.

1. Gossip – In church plants, gossip wears the cap of “complaints”. If you feel frustrated, which I promise you will, watch out for this one. It usually starts like this…

“I don’t know why we have to…” or

“I don’t know why we just can’t…” or

“I don’t know why they just don’t…”

2.Legalism- Trying to force everyone to be the same, and have the same convictions, will only make them all share the same sin of pride wrapped in legalism. It might sound like this…

“Well they’ve been saved for a year now…. They should know better…”

(How long have you been saved? Do you still get it wrong? Yep.)

or the more insidious…

“I’ve managed to… why can’t they?”

3. Looking to “Egypt”-  Frequent talk about the olden days, old church, past ministries. This is a HUGE bug. The locust  of most church plants. It eats at the core of what God wants to do in the now, with the lives and gifts of those around us.

So it’s time to revaluate. Are we dealing with more pests than praise?

Have we pruned buds while leaving some bugs to multiply?

Have we given too much ear to gossip?

Or given in too much to the pressures of legalism and the opinions of others?

Have we spent our devotion time remembering the lovely small group at our old church?

Identifying and pruning the things that are leaching life out of our church plant, will allow us trade in those “Terrible Twos” for the “Terrific Toddler” years.