Counting the Cost of Church Planting
“Have you counted the cost?”
A dear friend posed the question to us as we were preparing to accept the call to plant our church. The words stung. Needling themselves under the surface of my skin, they pulsed there and demanded my attention. In hindsight, I am confident this examination was exposing in my heart some lack of trust in the Lord to provide and to sustain. But in the heat of the moment all I could think of was: “How can I count the cost when I don't exactly know what the cost will be?”
We have spent nearly all of our twenty years of marriage in pastoral ministry. For sixteen of those years, I was blissfully a stay-at-home mom.
How can I count the cost when I don't exactly know what the cost will be?
We budget with the best of them – Dave Ramsey approved – most of the time! It's a skill we needed to acquire to survive with our 5 children on a 1 income ministerial salary. So when Jesus poses the tower building metaphor to his disciples in Luke 14, referencing the cost of discipleship and encouraging his followers to pick up their cross and examine the cost before they get started, I get it! I am that builder! Granted, I’ve never built a tower, but I compute and factor, combing over the spreadsheet multiple times before we decide to buy a house or a car, go on vacation, or send our oldest to college. We count the cost to ensure that we have enough for the endeavor and the necessities in life like groceries, gas, or electricity.
Jesus is asking his disciples to approach their discipleship in this same cross-carrying way; preparing them for the harsh reality that following after him would surely cost them greatly.
Even doing our best to plan for the unexpected along the way. Jesus is asking his disciples to approach their discipleship in this same cross carrying way; preparing them for the harsh reality that following after him would surely cost them greatly. Sitting on this side of church history we know that it certainly did.
Yet, this question paralyzed me. Through tears I would exclaim to my husband, “I don’t know how to do this. We don’t know what it will cost!” 5 years down the road my rebuttal has rung true. In some sense, though we attempted to count it, we were naive. We didn't know the heartbreak we would encounter from falsehood, or the sting left behind from relationships that refuse to reconcile. We didn’t understand that we were moving at the very cusp of a housing debacle where prices would soar weekly, and it would take us 2.5 years to finally land our family in a home. Or that once in that home we would deal with project after project, while parenting our large family, coaching basketball, starting in the workforce again after many years at home, and…oh yes, planting and pastoring our church which is why we are here in the first place! We certainly didn’t know the depths we would face in our own inadequacies and sin over and over again, all while needing to prioritize the care and shepherding of the people the Lord would send to us. It was costly, but we didn’t know how costly until we stood right in the middle of the tower itself.
Where do we land? Jesus himself says to count the cost. We would do well to follow his instructions. So, to the best of your ability; count. But in the end know this: your Jesus, who has called you, possesses infinite wealth and wisdom. If he is the cornerstone of your project, then he will ensure it reaches completion.
Every resource you need is in Him and He will ensure the project reaches completion.
In the moment of your greatest tower building weakness - when the beam is on a yearlong delay, lumber prices are soaring weekly, the emotional toll in accomplishing the project reaches far deeper than you ever imagined it would, remember that He who has called you is faithful, and He will do it! Every resource you need is in Him and He will ensure the project reaches completion.
Pick up your cross.
Count the cost.
Build the Tower.
Jesus will be faithful to provide and to sustain.