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6. Disappointment – The down side of church planting

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Failure: The down-side of church planting

Allowing our failures to teach us

Dr. Dietrich Schindler

“Our wisdom comes from our experience, and our experience comes from our foolishness.”

(Playwright and actor Sacha Guttry)


Church planters are principally change agents. Leith Anderson writes: “Some persons and organizations try to control change; we call them proactive. They want to be the change agents; they want to initiate. Their numbers are few, their failures are many (my emphasis), and their impact can be enormous. Prophets, reformers, and missionaries are all proactive change agents. They see the way things are and envision the way things could be. They attempt to create a new order which no one else may want.” (Anderson: Dying for Change, p. 140)

I.      “Their failures are many” –  The Treasure in Failure

A. Failure is predicated on hope

B. Failure is proof of faith/works

C. Failure can be the backdoor to success

D. Better leaders before us have failed

In the Bible:

1. Abraham wanted to save his skin at the expense of his wife (Gen 12:11-13) – The sin of expediency

2. Jacob wanted to take matters in his own hands (Gen 27:13-29) – The sin of deceit

3. Peter denied Jesus three times (Matt 26:74-75) – The sin of presumption

In Church history:



II.     The top ten failures in church planting

A. Pursuing success more than pursuing nearness to God (Ps 42,1-2)

(Neglecting the great commandment in pursuit of the great commission)

B. Helping others to flourish at the expense of our spouse’s well-being

C. Evangelizing without Discipling

D. Allowing the gravitational pull inward to hinder going to the lost

(The centripetal pull becomes greater than the centrifugal force)

E. Little time for the spiritual disciplines (Without holiness we become hollow)

F. No system in place for leadership development

G. Getting bogged down with organisation and administration

H. No strategy for timed-release multiplication on all levels

I. Information based communication at the expense of transformation

J. Going it alone – without a mentor.


III.   Learning from one another (Groups of three to five)

A. What are the five greatest failures that your movement has experienced?

B. What lessons/principles are we learning from these failures?


Tip: Notebook of Failure: “Our movement’s Failures in church planting – and what they are teaching us.”



Erwin Lutzer, Failure: the Back Door to Success, Moody Press, 1988.

Jim Griffith and Bill Easum, Ten Most Common Mistakes made by New Church Starts, Chalice Press, 2008.

Tom Nebel and Gary Rohrmayer, Church Planting Landmines, ChurchSmart, 2004.

Darrin Patrick, Church Planter: The Man, the Mission, the Message, Crossway, 2010.

Archibald Hart, Adrenaline and Stress, Thomas Nelson, 1995.

Archibald Hart, Unmasking Male Depression, Thomas Nelson, 2001.

Gordon MacDonald, When Men Think Private Thoughts, Thomas Nelson, 1995.