Church planting can be lonely…
I’ve been in some rough places before, isolated places, literally. . . I’ve done hard time in prison, spent extended periods of time segregated in a cell all by myself as punishment. . . but that ain’t got nothin’ on church planting. Although it can be lonely, and perhaps even seem dismal, that’s not where the story ends, there’s actually hope and lots of it. . . but first, let me tell you a bit of why it can be lonely.
The first and foremost reason it can get lonely is “out of sight, out of mind”. . . we know the deal, right? I think that everyone just assumes you’re doing good and they don’t bother to check in…the second reason it can get lonely is that there are many people you thought would be there for you and even expressed their support no matter what and then come to find out that they in fact don’t have your back. . . And the third reason I believe it can get lonely, is that I’m the pastor, and I can’t open up as easily as others can, so I can again feel isolated even though I’m no longer in a cell. There aren’t many “safe” zones or people for me to be open and transparent with, there are many that want to know your business, but there’s usually some sort of vested interest and they’re not truly concerned about how I am as a pastor/ friend/ peer/ Christian, they’re not really concerned with how my family is doing, how my marriage is, or how my walk with the Lord is going. It’s more of a superficial, “How are ya’?” type of question, or they’ll ask out of curiosity, being a “metiche” or they just don’t understand how one can possibly be doing so much all at once or involved in so many things at the same time and think something just isn’t right, let’s see if we can find what it is. . .
Reason 1 – I guess that because am quite active on social media and people can see what we’re doing, folks will be like, “Ah, he’s okay!” but not really know all it took to make something work out. Truth is that there have been so many ups and down, more so than a heart monitor that goes up and down. There’ve been so many disappointments where I’ve wanted to scream and bash my head against the wall (literally, true story)…and when I’d reach out to someone, most folks wouldn’t have the time, need to schedule an appointment, or really just not be interested. But let me put my big boy pants on. Let me stand upon Psalm 38:9 that says, “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you”. How can a pastor, who serves the Lord, studies the Lord (still in seminary for goodness sake) be so connected to God and yet forget that He is always with me…crazy, right? I know, I can be a hot mess at times…but I’m sure you can relate to this too. But I need to be more cognizant that “He will never leave me, nor forsake me…” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Reason 2 – Well, it’s just flat out hurtful. I guess because of my background, the loyalty one learns growing up on the streets and because I consider myself to be a loyal person I kinda’ expect the same from everyone. . . but I’ve quickly learned that that’s not the case. The love, respect, and loyalty is not always reciprocated! I’ve learned that there can be cultural differences that contrast greatly how people can see the same things, be involved in the same things, or even understand the same situations so completely different. I still can’t understand it…when I start to get upset, or start to get angry (yes, I get angry. . . I know I’m such a horrible person) my wife reminds me to just love these folks, “Just love them Rudy!”… and I do. My pastor Eddy Aleman always modeled that out to me. I never understood how to practically live that concept out, I only knew how to retaliate and respond tit for tat. . . but God has been molding and shaping me so much since we’ve planted RCLA. So I guess I should take my advice that if we place our hope in people, we will be disappointed, right? Because that’s what people do, I know I’ve disappointed many, if that’s you reading this, please forgive me. But even though we know folks will let us down, it doesn’t stop it from hurting when it does. When people you thought were friends and then find out, they really weren’t, well it still hurts. But let’s keep it pushin’ right?
Reason 3 – Pastors are not exempt from sinning, having crazy thoughts, or even doing stupid things. . . I really wish that were the case, but it’s not. As a matter of fact, I think we are tempted even more so, struggle even more, deal with more difficult situations and even absorb other peoples’ pain and suffering, and honestly sometimes it feels like I just can’t catch a break. I’ll look up to the heavens and be like, “Really God!?! that’s how you get at yo’ boy?”. Oh, how quickly I can forget that what I am going through for Him, is nothing in comparison to what He went through for me (Romans 8:18). How quickly I can make it all about me and my struggles instead of being reminded that it’s not about me at all, instead it’s about Him and what I’ve been entrusted to do on His behalf. But since we have this perception of having to “have it all together” it can be difficult to find people with whom we can be open and transparent with. So it can be lonely at times, feelin’ like there’s just nobody you trust that you can share with about how you’re doing…
BUT…like I said at the beginning…there IS hope. You see, there are people who get paid to check in on me, others who do it because they feel obligated to do so, and then there are some people that you know God smiled down upon you from heaven for placing these people in your lives. Those relationships that are organically grown, nurtured, and bring joy to your life are encouraging and life giving. I really love my church family, God has placed some amazing people in our CORE Team that selflessly give of their time and talents for the sake of buiding up the Lord’s church here in Lynwood. There are people that are seriously talented and make no excuse to serve and always remind me of what it is to be kingdom minded and not selfish with how I spend my time, resources, and energy . . . I actually learn from them ALL the time. When things have gone not so well in our planting, I’ve felt protected and cared for. Like back in the days when someone would mess with me on the streets and I’d look back and all the homies are standing there behind me saying, “WE GOT YOUR BACK!” Some of you know what i’m talking about.
But outside of my church, there are also some pretty amazing people that continuously check in on me, ask how I’m doing, care about my marriage, my walk with the Lord, how I am doing personally, how I’m doing as a seminary student, pastor, and whether I’m resting enough, working out enough, or taking care of my health. Some of these people are brand new in my life, others have been there a bit longer and there are so many I’ve been blessed with, but I just wanna share a couple of them with you today and ask that as you pray for me, my family, and my church; that you would also pray for these dudes that are and will be playing a significant role in my life, my self-care, keeping me accountable to how I represent Christ and grow in my love of Him, obedience to Him, and imitate Him at all times. #IAmMyBrothersKeeper If you’ve been one of those people that check in on me, thank you so much! It’s greatly appreciated…If you’re one of the ones that have NOT checked in on me, it’s all good, I still love you…but when you get a chance, holla’ at yo’ boy. Please use this as a reminder that everybody needs love, encouragement, and a call or text every now and then, it does wonders.