Hey 2012 Ben! I just thought I'd tell you what the world is like three years down the road. You've just made it to Columbus and started meeting people. Consider this counsel as you start out.
1. As hard as it was with Chaia and the 100 day hospital ordeal and moving to Columbus with all her medical needs and the up every few hours for feeding tube stuff for such a long time, and as hard as it is to put in the hours and sweat and tears and prayers to help in birthing a church, two years after launch will be even harder. You'll see some heartbreaking stuff, you'll wonder if you can lead the way God is asking you to lead, you'll contemplate throwing in the towel. The newness and sexiness will wear off. You'll battle with depression and identity things. And I tell you all that not to scare you but to encourage you to keep going. To remember where you've been. To celebrate the wins fiercely and grieve the losses intentionally. Remember the calling. Don't doubt in the dark, what you were convinced of in the light.
2. There are going to be people who over promise and under deliver. They will pledge courageously to die in the trenches with you and they won't even make it to the first skirmish. It's going to be really easy to feel betrayed and hurt by that. Don't. Just realize how many have under promised and over delivered along the way. There will be so many who will go the extra mile, will do whatever it takes, will give sacrificially beyond what you expected! There will be people that their friends will say "they'll never do the church thing or the God thing...they're too far gone" and you'll watch God wreck their hearts and lives with grace! Don't write people off when it comes to God. Remember when your life was worth writing off. Much can change when God is in the equation.
3. Your mom's going to die the day of your first church service. It's going to be hard but what you do with the immense grief will greatly impact your next couple years. You're going to sense the need to bury the grief to keep going with the church. Just know you can't bury it far enough. And your leadership will go to two very different places based on whether you are transparent about adversity or seemingly unaffected by it. Let them see you bleed. There may be some who will jump ship and find that pastor with the swagger and the charisma to tickle their ears. You don't have much swagger or charisma, so let Jesus be enough to build this church. Stay the course. Revolutionary change. Evolutionary pace.
4. The nature of starting something from scratch is very "bottom-line". You're going to see people as potential investors to get this thing bankrolled. Then you'll see people as giving units and households to get you to launch. Then you'll want to see people as butts in seats, whether in communities or in the Sunday gathering. Be cautious in the number game. It turns people into pawns. They which Christ has emptied himself for at the cross are not mere pawns in a grand scheme, they are souls, resurrected from a mass grave. They are people not pawns! Treat them as such. Marriages will be hurting. Fears will be haunting. Pasts will be crippling. Insecurities will be festering. You have the great and burdensome joy of being their pastor. You won't always like it. You won't ever feel adequate. But it is one of the greatest privileges for you in this story.
5. You're going to suck. I know that wasn't in the five year plan. But its true. Not everything will go according to script. The things you thought were important, may not be. You're going to discover flaws and limitations to your leadership and you're going to lead people straight into failure. Remember to be teachable and humble in the suckage. Remember that we may do things that are failures but we ourselves are NOT failures. We are the people of God, fearfully and wonderfully made and the whole Narrative is letting a Better Author tell a Better Story. And sometimes, the best way to learn that is by realizing how bad we are with the pen in our hands. Remember when it comes to leadership gaffs and snafus and whoopsidaisies, If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly. (And in case you're wondering, making disciples who make disciples who make disciples is always going to be WORTH IT!) Repent when you need to. Reflect continually. Adjust accordingly.
6. Have fun. There's going to come a day when you're going to feel stuck and disheartened, don't let part of the conversation that day be about how little joy and laughter were shared along the way. Your identity isn't tied to City Campus Church. As much as others may try to convey that, you are a husband to an awesome wife. Put up with her chocolate on the tooth joke even if to you it is the 578th time the poor dead horse has been beaten. Jump out of planes, get ink done, go to the games, dance and discover whiskey. Obviously in moderation...but discover it sooner than later. You're a dad to a little miracle. Dance with her. Tickle her. Cheer embarrassingly loudly when she makes it to the 8th rung of the monkey bars. Pray with her. Let her listen to Uptown Funk and Love Me Like You Do...even if she starts singing some things that you'd be terrified to hear if she knew what she was singing. Have time with your leaders that is agenda-less. Let them be part of your family.
7. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. Grab onto the positive things, the meaningful gestures, and the encouraging words. Don't go seeking for them, or orbiting your leadership around things that will get you praise, but when people say thanks or tell you about life change they've experienced because of C3 or tell you your sermon wasn't as bad as your other ones, receive the compliments with grace and gratitude. Don't brush them off with humor. Encouragement disregarded leads to a well that runs dry.
I know with stars in your eyes, you're convinced that it's a better way to create a culture that isn't all about you but is about the people of God becoming the Church she was meant to be. A culture where leaders lead. Baptized people baptize people who turn around and baptize people. A culture where the church is actually investing in real issues within her city and seeking justice and mercy and love and second chances...creating a place where anyone despite their alleged level of 'lostness' can find hope. A culture that isn't about hype and polish that will draw a bunch of Christians from other churches to come to your thing because its the trendy thing. I know that's what you're sold out to three years ago Ben.
And you're exactly right.
The way is costly. Not going costs even more.