Why Is Planting a Church So Hard?

By Brian O'Day

Here are several reasons that may encourage you!

The only people who think marriage is easy are either dating or engaged. By the same token, the only people who think parenting is easy are those who do not yet have children.

And the only people who think planting a church is easy are those who haven’t done it.

Planting a church is hard. But why?

I’d like to offer four reasons from our perspective and then four others from God’s perspective. I pray it’s helpful for you. Perhaps in thinking these through, you will be encouraged to continue this difficult task!

From Our Perspective

Here are four things you can observe in your experience of planting a church – or in watching someone else plant a church – that confirm your suspicion this work is difficult. I imagine most of these will quickly resonate with you.

  1. Initial friction is real. As with the principles of physics, getting something going is difficult. Whether it’s a business, a sports league, or a church plant, things are really difficult. It is just a fact of life.
  2. The world loves sin. Church planters are aiming to bring a gospel-preaching church into a community with too few healthy churches to meet the needs of the area. Why do they not have healthy churches? Because they don’t want them. They love sin instead.I have friends who recently planted a church in a large city. The neighborhood FaceBook group where they were planting was quite determined that this new church understand their presence was neither needed nor wanted. The sentiment of the post leading up to the church’s first week in this neighborhood was “Let’s show them what we’re about – it’s not evangelical Christianity!”
  3. The church loves the familiar. Church plants are wise to build the core team with committed Christians who will sacrifice for the mission and uproot their lives in order to bring the gospel to a new place. But church people love the familiar. Church planting is new, weird and uncomfortable. These core team members will be going through the grieving process of leaving the Sending Church, while also attempting to plant a new one.
  4. Church planters love affirmation. We want people to tell us we are a good preacher, helpful teacher, gifted leader and tenacious entrepreneur. So we seek this affirmation from the core team, our Sending Church, our missions-sending organization … perhaps even the community! As we have just seen above, this is just a recipe for disaster.

From God’s Perspective

That’s how things look from our perspective. But what does God say about such things? I would like to highlight a few realities in the Scripture to minister to us in this difficulty.

  1. Christ builds His Church. Jesus didn’t talk about the Church much, but one thing he said about it is quite clear. Matthew 16:18 records His words: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (ESV). It isn’t our job to build the church; it is Christ’s job. He has the power to create all things. He will build His Church, not us.
  2. God through Christ awakens dead souls. Yes, the world is walking in their sin, but God makes alive these dead souls and seats us with Christ, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2).
  3. God gives His message to broken vessels. The Apostle Paul is clear in 2 Corinthians 4:7a that “we have this treasure in jars of clay.” So, when you are frustrated with the inabilities of your core team, and they are frustrated with your abilities, turn together to the truth of God’s Word and acknowledge that you all are earthen vessels who, apart from God, cannot do the task before you.
  4. God has the power, not us. Paul continues about why God puts His message in jars of clay: “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7b). It is God’s power that will build and sustain the church, not yours.

Humanly speaking, church planting isn’t only hard, it’s impossible. Christ must build His Church, God must provide the power and we are merely clay jars that all-powerful God is able to use.

Don’t Lose Heart!

What are you to do with all of this? Paul begins and ends 2 Corinthians 4 with a simple, but powerful phrase: “…we do not lose heart…” (vv.1, 16).

Do not lose heart brothers. Yes, the work in front of you is not only hard, it is impossible without God showing up and doing His work. Do not lose heart. Walk faithfully before God and keep moving forward in this important work.

Published November 10, 2021

P.S. Get our best content in your inbox

We send one email per week chock full of articles from a variety of Church Planting voices.

Brian O'Day

Brian O'Day lives in North Carolina, with his wife, Kelli, and five children, Dani, Kristlyn, Trey, Nate, and Ameena. Brian served for nearly 10 years as an active duty Marine, which included deployments to 15 countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. While stationed in Quantico, Virginia, in 2010 and attending Pillar Church in Dumfries, Brian was called to plant Pillar Church Jacksonville. Pillar Jax began in Brian and Kelli’s home on January 6, 2013. In May of 2019, Brian transitioned from full-time pastoring with Pillar Jax to the role of executive director of The Praetorian Project. Brian holds a master's of divinity degree in biblical counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has a passion for preaching God’s Word, discipling men, foster care/adoption, and counseling marriages.