On Saturday we had our last ever meeting for Reconciled Community, the church plant I’ve been working on for the last few years.
I sent out an email a few days ago to some of our supporters explaining what was happening and why we made the decision to shut it down. This is what some of it said:
It has been over five years since I first decided to set about planting a church after hearing what I felt was God’s call. Over the years this dream grew to be few families and Scott Daniels, as my co-pastor, meeting together to plan and pray to prepare to plant this church. As you probably know, we had a crazy dream to plant a church with three pastors in The Ponds and Schofields. We are very passionate about seeing church done well, people come to know Jesus and a church’s local community blessed.
Last year we decided to begin meeting weekly in the area and were blessed by the experience of gathering together and doing church together. We decided to call ourselves Reconciled Community, or Recom for short, because we wanted to be a community whose identity was firm in the reconciling work of Jesus.
Unfortunately since our initial group was fully formed in 2012, we have experienced no growth as a church planting team. We have had very few people visit us, and none of the families, couples or individuals we have invited to join us have been called or able to. In our search for the third pastor we have been entirely unable to find someone suited and able to fill the role, despite extensive searching, advertising and prayer.
This almost complete lack of success led Scotty and I to the realisation that we need to seek God’s will for our church. Last week, after much talking and prayer, we both independently came to the difficult decision that it is time to end the Recom experiment. This decision did not come easily. However both of us feel, out of our commitment to God and his kingdom, that we need to release ourselves and the others in Recom into more fruitful areas of ministry. Were we to continue with Recom out of a stubborn commitment to the vision, we both felt we would be unwisely not using our gifts and experiences to their best use in growing God’s kingdom.
It’s a strange thing, wrapping up a church that never got off the ground. I had all these ideas about how the church would happen. I had ideas about what it might become, or if it folded, why it might fold. I never envisaged that the most basic part of our plan, to have a church with three pastors, would be the biggest thing that would stop us from ever getting going. I figured we’d at least get our three pastors and after that, it would become more difficult.
But I was wrong. About many things I was wrong.
Perhaps what’s been most significant about all this is realising I’m allowed to fail, I’m allowed to be wrong. God never calls us to success, he calls us to faithfulness. Whatever God did or didn’t say to me back when I first felt called to plant, this plant is the most faithful I could be. We did what we thought God was saying and we did everything in the way we thought was most God-honouring. I am only disappointed that things didn’t go the way I had hoped.
Whether you know you’re allowed to fail or not, failing is hard. You don’t want to be the guy who turned his life upside down chasing an empty vision. After all the time I spent explaining and defending the church plant it’s now embarrassing to be proving the critics right. I’m not upset with the people who thought it was a bad idea or had criticisms, but my pride would have preferred to invite them all to our spectacular launch and then our even more spectacular 10th anniversary.
But this plant was never meant to be about my glory. It was always about God’s. And if there is anything we see with God it’s that human failure is never a barrier to his glory. In fact if he chooses to save the world through his naked and defeated Son, of course I have no right to my own success even if I have been the most faithful follower of Jesus who has ever walked the earth (I’m not).
While I never would have liked to have been defined by my success as a church planter, I now can’t allow myself to be be defined by my lack of success. I am defined as God’s servant and God’s child. As his servant I go where I’m called and I serve where I am. As his child I know that my acceptance is not based on grades, KPIs or any other measure of success, it’s based on relationship. Jesus has made me his brother, God calls me his Son. Wherever I am, I’m always home.
So as servant and child, I may go on to bigger and more spectacular failures, it’ll hurt and it’ll be confusing. But I’ll be safe, and I’ll be a success because I’ll still be with Jesus, he left failure in the grave, he’s all the success I need.
My dear Tom,
I am sorry to know that you and your friends are disappointed. I truly am. But look at your failure as part of your education. Maybe the next scheme you become involved with ar the next effort you make towards a goal will be successful. I was often disappointed with my job or with an idea I was striving for, but I just had to succeed . I had two children and a darling wife with an not quite paid house, – I just had to have a go. You will have many a go yet and if not every one succeeds at least some will. You also have your beliefs. Believe in yourself and Em. I believe in youse! SAC
Thanks Tom for providing a beautiful insight into the real life story of vision, faithfulness, creatiivity,clarity of purpose,commitment honesty but unfortunately failure. Well failure to achieve the vision anyway. I find failure stories more inspiring than success stories for some weird reason. I really hoped you’d succeed but as you so eloquently saId that isn’t what happened. Don’t give up on your your faith based risk taking and thanks for sharing this very painful moment.
Hello I have just read your decision to cease pursuing your hope of planting a church. As I read your letter all I could think of was the experience of the early church.
The planting and growing of those churches was very hard work and fraught with the constant threat of persecution. We look back and see the wonderful expansion of Christianity across the Mediterranean and forget what a struggle it was. Churches were planted and some plants failed e.g. note the letter to the 7 churches at the beginning of the Book of Revelation or note Paul’s disenchantment with the Corinthian Church….we really only have the record of those that ultimately continued….many ceased for all sorts of reasons – often persecution, sometimes false teaching, perhaps lack of courage…..or insufficient help…. What I know is, how pleased the Lord is with our commitment through success and failure and that through it all we stay committed to Jesus and put our hope in him. Don’t lose heart. Narelle
As we have stared failure in the eye in these past months, we have had many of the same thoughts, but you put it so brilliantly as only Tom can. Love your work, love your love of God, love your courage, love your commitment to do things well, love that you know when to let it go! So proud of you Tom. So many great things failed before they got off the ground. Take time to recover and grieve, take a big breathe, and leap into the next thing God has for you with all your heart! We are with you in your failure! Well done for ending well. Are you going to have a closing party? Wish we could come to celebrate a great effort with you! SM
Thanks for sharing with such honesty. Maybe later we can share anecdotes of failed endeavours. When afternoon church folded a few months ago, someone remarked that God could still use it somehow for His good; that the past 3 years were not wasted. That is my hope, and my hope for you and the ReCom family. Tonight I read
Habbakuk 3:17-19 and thought of you. Different context, but relevant nonetheless. Take care. Take heart. God is near.