February 17, 2012

Lora Batterson on Failed Church Plants, Fear, and Fruit

On this blog, I have enjoyed interviewing church planting and ministry wives such as Lauren Chandler, Amanda Jones, Emily Freeman, Jen Hatmaker, Shauna Pilgreen, and Kelly Matte. They have encouraged us to go out on a limb with God, cultivate friendships, reject the island mentality, protect our marriages, battle resentment, and deal with stress and criticism well. But all along, I have most wanted to talk to a woman in ministry that has experienced a failed church plant, someone who can speak to those in our community that are struggling, fearful, or discouraged. That's why I'm excited to share my interview with Lora Batterson with you.
Mark and Lora Batterson planted National Community Church in Washington D.C. in 1996. NCC is impacting D.C. through 10 weekly services at 6 locations and through Ebenezers Coffeehouse, from which all profits go to community outreach projects. But prior to their successful plant, they planted a church in Chicago that never got off the ground. I asked her about that experience:

Long before planting National Community Church, you and your husband attempted a plant in the Chicago area that never got off the ground. There are many church planting wives who experience or are experiencing the same thing: implosions of core groups, a church that isn’t growing, churches that seem to not be “working”. What did you learn through that failed church plant experience that you could offer as encouragement to wives who are discouraged or struggling?

I think we were young enough at the time to just say, “ok what’s next?”  :)  We were just putting one foot in front of the other trying to discover what great thing we could do for God.  But in time, we learned it was all about God using circumstances to conform us to His image.  It has to be the right place, the right time & the right person.  If all of those don’t align, then sometimes the dream has to die... and then be resurrected in different circumstance or at a different time.  But life doesn’t have to end when things don’t work out.  Sometimes, God has something better.

Along the same lines, we believe as church planters that God calls us to plant a church and also that He does the work of spiritual transformation and fruit-bearing. How did you juxtapose those two beliefs when the church plant in Chicago failed?

One of the mantras that my husband and I have learned over the years is that it’s not about what you do, but who you’re becoming in the process.  We certainly go after the dreams God puts in our hearts, but ultimately, none of it matters compared to the journey, the road, the maturation process God is taking us through - that we may become more and more like Christ.

Read the rest of Lora's interview in my book, The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart, where she shares about fear in church planting, maintaining a sane marriage and family life while in ministry, and having a positive perspective toward ministry.