SOS Steve Pike

Steve Pike currently serves as the National Director of Church Multiplication Network, a ministry of the Assemblies of God whose mission is to equip, fund, and network church multipliers in the United States. Over the past five years CMN has helped to start over 1500 new churches.

Having served in ministry for 30+ years, I’ve been sifted numerous times for various reasons. But the sifting that occurred during the process of planting my first church may have impacted me in the most profound way.

My wife, Cherri and I were called to raise up a new faith community in Ogden, Utah. Our call was definite and clear to us. We knew that we were supposed to transition from our role as Senior High Pastor at a Chicago-land mega church to go to a place where the statisticians of the day said only half of a percent of the population were Evangelical Christians. And so, bolstered by a sense of destiny and confidence in the call of God, we packed up our stuff along with our two kids and headed out to take on the very challenging task of planting a church in Utah.

Part of the startup process was building our financial support base. We traveled to churches all across America inviting them to be part of our support network. Quite often I found myself in front of hundreds and even thousands of people, confidently proclaiming that God had called us and was with us and if He was with us, who could be against us. People responded with generous gifts and I promised them that I would keep them informed about our progress through newsletters.

Three months after arriving in Utah, we held our first public service. In the weeks leading up to our launch we had held some Bible studies, knocked on hundreds of doors, passed out fliers, and bought newspaper ads. We were thrilled when over 50 people showed up to our first service! But during our after-service fellowship time, we discovered that most of the attendees were visiting from other churches “to help us out” and had no intention being part of our church long term.

Over the next several months, the church grew slowly in the wrong direction. Our average went into the 40’s, the 30’s, and then the 20’s. Writing our newsletter to our supporters was a nightmare. How do you put a good spin on “our church is 25 percent smaller than last month”? I started to wonder how God could let this happen. After all, we were just doing what He had told us to do.

The penultimate “sifted” moment came about six months after the public launch. Only six people showed up for our weekly public worship service and four of them were my family and I. I preached my carefully prepared message to my wife, our two kids, and the other two folks in the room. It was pathetic. I was devastated. I felt like a total failure. I hadn’t planted a church. I hadn’t even started a decent small group.

I dejectedly loaded up the equipment and headed for home. I truly thought it was time quit. How would I explain this failure to my supporters, my friends, and my fellow pastors? I thought about that stupid newsletter which I had planned to write the next day. What would everyone think of me? I even started to fantasize about painting houses for a living. I knew I could be a success at house painting.

Then I felt and heard that Still Small Voice in my heart. He asked me a powerful question. “If I asked you to pastor six people for the rest of your life, would you do it?” I was stunned. I had left a mega church youth ministry position to come to Utah and plant a church. Why would God want to waste my talents on six people? Surely I was destined for more than providing small-scale spiritual leadership for a handful of disciples. I wrestled with God for what seemed like an eternity. But in the end, the motives of my heart and the aspirations of my humanity were laid bare before me. I came face to face with a painful reality. I actually cared more about what people thought of me than whether or not my actions were pleasing to God.

“Yes.” That’s really the only right answer to the question. “Yes, Lord, if you want me to pastor six people the rest of my life, I’ll do it!” It all became so clear. My idea of success had been hijacked by my own pride and arrogance. I was actually planting a church to impress people and prove that I could do it. I repented and asked God to give me strength to be a great pastor to the people he had given me to lead. I decided to stop trying to impress everyone else and focus on pleasing God. I realized my job was to plant and water and let God give the increase.

An interesting thing happened. As I shifted my focus toward obeying God and serving his people, I found that God gave me more people to lead. Over the next six months and the years to follow, the ministry reach of our church plant continued to expand. And writing those newsletters got a lot easier!

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