Coming to the middle of March means it has now been a full year of COVID restrictions and lockdowns. What a unique experience we’ve all shared across the world. While various places are at different points in continuing or easing ongoing restrictions, and the promise of vaccines gives us hope that the end is finally near, the ramifications of this past year will have reverberations for some time to come.
The isolation experience has been worsened by tiptoeing around the varying assumptions and comfort levels of friends, extended family, and church family. All of this has been further complicated by the reality that there are as many opinions on what the church should or shouldn’t be doing as there are people connected to our churches, let alone the opinions of our communities.
Church planter, if you feel spent and edging on spiritual dryness, you are not alone. You never signed up for a life of streaming videos and Zoom meetings. You have led the way through a grueling stretch. Well done on making it this far!
When we’re finally able to fully reopen, it will feel like planting a church no matter how established or new the church you lead is.
As this impossible season mercifully comes to an end, the demands on your time and attention aren’t going to lessen. When we’re finally able to fully reopen, it will feel like planting a church no matter how established or new the church you lead is. Your connection with Christ is the only hope to make it through, and neglecting your soul in the pursuit of caring for others will have devastating consequences. The great church planter St. Patrick shows us how church planters should pray.
The Prayer of St. Patrick
On this St. Patrick’s Day, we can be encouraged by the church planter who brought Christianity to Ireland. Born in Britain, Patrick was captured and enslaved in Ireland as a teenager. After escaping with his freedom, God called him back to the same place, working to preach the gospel and plant churches for more than three decades. The legendary Breastplate of St. Patrick contains a prayer that ends with this:
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.
This is the prayer of a church planter. Our great reward is not our own notoriety but the presence of Christ and the anticipation of his glory (1 Pet. 5:1–4).
The Perseverance of Church Planters
Christ is our shield and the only hope we have that we can make it to the end of the race to receive our reward and avoid disqualifying ourselves along the way (1 Cor. 9:24–27). There’s a real danger that we might preach the gospel with passion and clarity, lead people to drink deeply of God’s Word, administer the healing touch of right counsel and prayer, and remind our churches of God’s love shown through Christ and his presence revealed through his Spirit, all while neglecting to allow our hearts to settle into the same assured rest.
We must daily recognize that our calling is too big, too heavy, and too complicated to bear on our own. But we are never alone. Christ is with us, before us, behind us, and in us.
Church planters tend to be hard-wired with the same passion, conviction, and faith Peter showed in stepping out of the boat to walk on the water with Jesus, and we’re often just as easily distracted from the only source of our hope. Of course, the past year has been hard, and there are more taxing days ahead. And if we lose our focus on Jesus, the weighty waves of pastoral ministry and its attendant responsibilities will sink us.
How, then, do we make it to the end? It is only Christ who can sustain us. He’s with us, before us, behind us, and in us. We must daily recognize that our calling is too big, too heavy, and too complicated to bear on our own. But we are never alone. Every day we arise through the mighty strength of the Creator of all things, “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
And so today, we can find solidarity with an old church planter named Patrick. As we celebrate, we remember that whatever we do, whatever we eat or drink, we do so to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Today and every day, Christ is all.