SOS Tom Nebel

Tom Nebel is Director of Church Planting for Converge Worldwide with a passion to fuel regional church planting movements so that they may be effective in expanding the Kingdom of God.

Leadership Professor, J. Robert (“Bobby”) Clinton, used to say that the difference between leaders and followers is perspective.  And the difference between leaders and great leaders is greater perspective.  Young leaders—for our purposes—young church planters need more perspective.

Looking back twenty-five years ago, I had absolutely no perspective.  The church that my wife, Lori, and I were planting was called “Community Church” and it was in a small college town in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  I was twenty-seven and Lori was twenty-six.  We’d started the church with a rag-tag handful of people who were waiting for us to arrive in town.  None of them had leadership capacity, which (I suppose) allowed me to lead.  But it also meant that we would have to change the feel of the group if we were to attract any people who were more like us.  So, we changed the meeting location and time, and a few other things, and we started to follow up on leads.  It wasn’t long before we had hit the jackpot, or so we thought.  We had a young physician and his family, and we had a college professor of sociology and his family in our group!  We had momentum in those first few weeks, and then, not knowing any better, we launched the church to the public in less than three months.

Things were going well.  We were growing, people were coming to faith and being baptized, and we set up shop as a real church.  It was actually happening!

And then I lost my perspective.  Six months after our launch I had breakfast with the college professor, Craig.  He was now the chairman of our church.  He’d been intimating that he didn’t enjoy his job and was perhaps going to seek out a professorship at another institution.  During breakfast he announced that he had taken another position and would be moving soon.

It almost sounds silly twenty-five years later, but I’d completely lost my perspective.

Church planting is always full of uncertainties.  I’ve told many people over the years how much the emotion of fear pervades the life of a church planting pastor.  I’m sure we had other issues in the church.  What were they?  Money?  Criticism?  Logistical hassles?  I really don’t remember.  What I do remember is maintaining a stiff upper lip at that meeting, then driving home and meeting my wife on the porch.  As I collapsed into her arms, I sobbed “This thing is over; this thing is over!”

But in spite of me, God was faithful. The church added numbers each week, and it continued to grow.  Today the church is pastored by a wonderful couple and has become a multiplying powerhouse.   It wasn’t over by a long shot.

Some types of perspective are only learned by being sifted.  But some are learned through a steel-hearted resolve to not shrink back in the face of uncertainty.  I wish I’d been better at that in my earlier days.

How’s this for perspective:  “…On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  (Matthew 16:18)

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