I am living the dream. Every church planter has said, “If I had to do it all over again, I know what I’d do differently.” For most planters this is wishful thinking or perhaps something you say when you know that you don’t actually have to follow through. But here I am, 9 years since I planted my first church, working on my second one and wishing I hadn’t said half the things I’ve said.
In 2004 I moved from San Diego to plant Praxis Church in Tempe, Arizona. I was 25, newly engaged and had been in full-time ministry for only 3 years. I was armed with a clear vision of what I didn’t want to be and had surrounded myself with a crack team of people who’d never been in ministry, let alone planted a church. I couldn’t possibly fail, right? Well, we didn’t fail but we didn’t exactly succeed either, not for several years at least.
My ragtag core group of 10 people (half of whom were related to me) turned into 75 at what felt like a snail’s pace (about 2 years) before the Lord suddenly decided it was time to grow, and grow quickly. It took us two years to get to 75 people but only four more years to get close to 2,000. At that point, six month’s worth of conversations came to fruition and we merged with two other churches to become one multi-congregational church of 5,000 people.
One year later I found myself in San Francisco, back to 10 people. It’s been a strange experience being back in the plant stage after being at mega-church status only a few months ago, it feels like déjà vu and a whole new world at the same time. I have the opportunity that we’ve all wanted, a chance to start over, right all my previous wrongs, learn from my mistakes and invent whole news ways to mess it up. I am in a new city with new people, new challenges and new opportunities. I am now 34, have been married for 8 years and have three kids and it’s a lot of fun. I went from one of the cheapest places in the country to live to one of the most expensive; from one of the most kid friendly to the least and from a bright red state to the deepest of blue cities.
It has given me a whole new perspective on church planting, on our work in Arizona and how I want to do it here in San Francisco.
Justin Anderson is the lead pastor of Redemption Church in San Francisco, CA. He wrote this post about the lessons he has learned through planting two churches in very different parts of the United States. We hope you are encouraged by his insight and enjoy the post.