Entitlement in Church Planting

By Mike Godfrey

Entitlement is a persistent and pesky weed growing in the soil of your heart that will choke out the joy and faith you need in the church-planting journey.

Entering the church-planting world as a potential church planter is an arduous task. Yet, it is a task guaranteed to be ultimately triumphant because of the promise Jesus made to build His church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church (Matt. 16:18).

Sometimes the ultimate success of our conquering King Jesus and our sense of calling to join Him in His mission can blend in unhealthy and even potentially sinful ways. One way this occurs is when church planters fall into the trap of feeling entitled.

Most are familiar with what entitlement looks like in our culture. It’s the person prone to laziness on the job, but expects a yearly bonus and steady pay increases. It’s the person shouting at a store clerk because they desire some discount or benefit they are not eligible for. The list goes on.

Entitlement also creeps into church planters’ hearts and can become a source of great sin and great pain. Let me share three examples:

  • You lay out your plan, clearly and winsomely, to existing church leaders (maybe churches you’ve served in). You state your financial needs. And the only response you receive is “We’ll be praying for you.”
  • You enter into the assessment process and, somewhere along the way, your assessors raise a red flag and you are encouraged to put your church planting goals on hold for a season.
  • You set up coffee meetings, lunches and dinners with potential partners who have connections to others who could help move your vision forward, and their response is negative. Either they aren’t on board with you or flatly say “no” to helping you connect with the people you think you need to build momentum for your plant.

Now, besides the obvious reality of the stinging pain in each of these examples, what can grow within your heart – if you’re not careful – is resentment, bitterness, self-righteousness and often anger. But way before those sins rise in us, we likely aren’t aware of our own internal sense of entitlement.

You see, entitlement looks like this in each of these examples. In the first, I deserve some of this church’s mission budget money because I am about the mission of Jesus and they know me. In the second, the assessors owe me approval because I feel called to plant a church. In the third, this person owes me help in connecting because they are in a position to help and I deserve the help.

Entitlement is whenever you feel like any church, entity or brother or sister in Christ owes you anything. Entitlement is the sense that you deserve what someone else has the power to give.

Friend, they don’t owe you. They aren’t spiritually immature, sinful, deluded, uncaring, unkind or bad Christians just because they do not give you the resource(s) you were seeking from them.

In fact, a good work is being done in your heart by the Lord when you face the all-too-frequent “No.” He may be uprooting pride that led you to think you should receive everything you ask for. He may be preserving your marriage by having you address issues you didn’t know were under the surface. He may be sending you to different, more mutually encouraging connections who will sustain you for the long haul of church planting.

The hard truth every church planter faces is this: No one owes us anything, and Christ has given us everything.

Understanding that no one owes you anything keeps you from becoming insecure, jaded and bitter when you do not receive the resources you need from churches, organizations and individuals. You can be gracious and Christ-honoring, even when receiving a no. You aren’t shipwrecked by every rejection because you remember that you aren’t owed anything.

Likewise, knowing that Christ has given you everything will help you rest in the Lord’s timing to give you what you need. This makes church planting an endeavor of faith and trust. It may be you think you need to plant a church but Jesus knows you need to plant something different – and He’s a far better judge of that reality than we are.

Isn’t this what the gospel has already taught us? We did not deserve the salvation we have received in Jesus (Titus 3:5). God did not owe us redemption through the blood of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7). We did not deserve the death of Christ in our place as the eternal demonstration of the Father’s love (Rom. 5:8). We were not entitled to receive adoption as God’s children, and yet we have received that glorious blessing from God (John 1:12-13). We were not deserving of the gospel God mercifully and graciously gave to us. None of the gospel is owed; all of it is lavished upon us.

Knowing that no one owes you frees you to be resilient in your hard work of planting a church, because a no does not mean the end of your calling; you can trust the Lord is helping you lean on Him. Knowing Christ has given you everything will comfort you when you are not sure how to get the plane off the ground, because you are never abandoned. And if God has called you to the work, He will give you what you need in the way that builds your faith in Him, not in yourself.

Entitlement is like a weed growing in the soil of your heart that will choke out the joy and faith you will need in the church-planting journey. Uproot it early and be on guard for it to sprout, because entitlement is persistent and pesky. When you are rejected and when you are supported, let your heart respond the same way: I deserve nothing, yet in Christ I have everything – praise be to God!

Published July 13, 2022

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Mike Godfrey

Mike Godfrey is a Florida native who was saved in the summer following his seventh-grade year. He attended the Baptist College of Florida and received a B.A. in Christian Education and later The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, receiving M.Div and D.Min. degrees. Mike served on church staff in Waynesboro, Georgia, as a youth pastor for eight years prior to joining Sterling Park Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia, in 2015 as a church planting resident. Along with a team of faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, Mike planted Redeemer Baptist Church in Warrenton, Virginia, in 2016. Mike is blessed to be married to his best friend, Carrie, and the Lord has graced them with two amazing children, Abbie and Caleb.