How’s your heart? The health of your heart and soul and the health of your church are directly linked. A primary focus of Acts 29 this year is to nurture healthy leaders. “It is a vital topic and one we overlook at our peril. It’s too easy for leaders to become unhealthy, and that will always cause collateral damage.”
One evening, I was sitting with a couple who wanted to put the pieces back together after the husband confessed to having another affair. With a blank stare towards the wall, the wife asked her husband, “Why?”
His response, “I don’t know; she was in the office with me all the time… working late with me…”
I pressed him more with his wife’s question, “Yes, that’s the opportunity, but why the affair?”
He answered, “I guess I was looking for fun.”
Again I asked, “Why were you looking for fun?”
We went back and forth like this. I could see he was getting agitated.
He sidestepped the question saying, “You keep asking why. Won’t this ‘why’ stuff just go on and on forever?”
Like that husband, most of us are not adept at answering that little question, “Why?” for ourselves. Most of us are not consciously and regularly self-reflective. Like that husband, most of us avoid that simple question to protect us from what we know deep down might be dark and painful.
The question, “Why?” is so simple, yet so powerful. It is one word that has the power, by the grace of God, to unearth some of the deepest motives of our hearts.
Proverbs 4:23 states, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life” (ESV). I like the way the NIV puts it, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Before you plant your church or dream huge visions, you need to guard your heart.
“Above all else…” Before we plant our churches, before we dream huge visions, before we study for a message, before we lead another meeting, before we answer emails, before we counsel, before we discuss an issue with our wives… There is something we are invited and called to do before anything else.
In 1951, C.S. Lewis wrote a letter to Dom Bede Griffiths where he said, “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”
That thing we are called to do first is “guard your heart.” I don’t know about you, but I rush head long into my day so easily. There are appointments and tasks. There are phone calls, texts, and emails. Those are great things, necessary things, but they aren’t among the “first things” we are called to, especially in church planting.
What does it look like to guard our hearts as church planters? There is no strict formula, but by God’s grace, we are shown different ways it played out in Scripture. From there we can apply them to our lives.
Our hearts are guarded in…
What freedom, peace, and assurance to know that in Christ, our hearts are guarded and kept forever!
… treasuring Jesus as the only one who has ever perfectly guarded his own heart.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is the fulfillment of the call of Proverbs to guard our hearts. The good news is that Jesus fulfilled every call and command of God perfectly on our behalf. As we are united to and found in Christ by grace through faith, our hearts are guarded and kept by the power of the same Spirit that guarded the heart of Christ. What freedom, peace, and assurance to know that in Christ, our hearts are guarded and kept forever! Will you daily fix your eyes on The One that Scripture shows has perfectly guarded his own heart and perfectly guards your heart?
To seek God’s Kingdom first is to celebrate where we see God working beyond our own ministries.
… seeking God’s Kingdom before all things.
Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” God and his kingdom are first, and they will be first for all eternity. To “seek first the Kingdom of God” and to “above all else guard your heart” are not in competition with one another. One allows and fulfills the other. Our lives, church plants, visions, and everything else are put into their God-ordained places. To seek God’s Kingdom first is to repent of those things that we place above God’s Kingdom. To seek God’s Kingdom first is to celebrate where we see God working beyond our own ministries. In seeking God’s Kingdom first, our hearts are guarded above all else. Will you guard your heart by seeking God’s Kingdom first in gospel-centered repentance and celebration?
Church planter, you need to run down the rabbit hole of your heart and ask: “Why do I want to plant this church?”
… relentlessly asking, “Why?”
Don’t simply ask, “What?” or “How?” but ask, “Why?” And don’t just ask, “Why?” once. Run down the rabbit hole of your heart by asking, “Why?” multiple times. Why do I want to plant this church? Why is my answer to that question so important to me? As we ask, “Why?” over and over, our motives and our idols are surfaced. The good news of the gospel is that God smashes idols and gives new motives. That leads us into his glorious freedom. Will you ask, “Why?” over and over to dig deep into your heart?
The good news of the gospel is that God smashes idols and gives new motives.
…inviting trusted, Christ-centered friends to see our unfiltered hearts and speak into our lives.
I interned under Pastor John while in seminary. John married Kristen and me. John became a great friend and mentor to me. For the past fifteen years, John and I have had a standing phone call every month so that he can ask me the hard questions. I can fake it a few times, but not for fifteen years. Do you have someone like that in your life to help you guard your heart? Going through assessment before you get too far into planting is a powerful way to allow others to help you guard your heart. A close church planter friend of mine goes once a month to see a counselor with his wife. Nothing is imminently wrong with their relationship. They simply want another person alongside them helping them guard the heart of their marriage. Who really knows you and has permission to show you your heart? Will you invite someone to do that for you?
Church planter, guard your heart by preaching the gospel to yourself.
…we preach the Gospel to ourselves.
Our hearts are guarded as we tell ourselves The Great Story of how God created us out of love, how we rebelled against God in sin, how God sent his long promised Redeemer, Jesus, at just the right time, how Jesus lived the life we should have led, died the death we should have died, was resurrected to everlasting life, and how he calls us to that new life by faith in him. Repeating to ourselves the gospel of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation is one of the greatest ways to guard our hearts. As we preach the gospel to ourselves, God guards our hearts. Will you preach the gospel to yourself over and over?
What is the big deal about guarding our hearts? Proverbs says it’s because “everything you do flows from it.” Jesus echoed the idea when he said, “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). All of life, including church planting, is from the inside out. What is going on inside of us will come out in our own lives, families, and church plants. Our hearts are a wellspring. The condition of our hearts will effect the words of our mouths and the actions of our lives. And those will effect the churches we plant. Guard well your heart because what is at stake is more than you can imagine. Guard well your heart for in doing it, you will see the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ firsthand like you will in no other way.
In Acts 29, we want to plant thriving and healthy churches. That includes you being a thriving and healthy church planter. As you guard your heart and you discover you need help, allow us to walk alongside of you to help you experience the healing grace of Jesus in your own heart.
Adam Flynt lives in Jacksonville, FL. He is married to Kristen. They have two kids: Gavin and Sophie. Adam planted The Crossing Church, raised up a new lead pastor from within the church, and now is the Pastor of Church Planting with The Church of Eleven22. He also finishing his doctoral work on discerning the leading of the Holy Spirit. You can connect with Adam at Adamsflynt@me.com or on Instagram @AdamFlynt.