Church Finance — August 9, 2018 at 11:19 am

The Cost of Being Part of the Building Process


by Rev. Jean de Dieu Nzeyimana | ECWA USA DCC Assistant Secretary, Pastor of ECWA II Louisville, Kentucky | Planting a church requires fight, endurance, commitment and courage to dodge Satan’s arrows that come from both within and outside the church! Planting a healthy church requires self-sacrifice.

Building solid church requires planning and preparation. What are the costs related to both planning and preparation? Without going into more details, many of us know how Nehemiah planned, inspected, and prepared to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, despite the opposition from both inside and outside! When he resolved to the rebuilding work, he endured the first cost of being mocked and ridiculed. They (opposition) said:

What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble-burned as they are? …. What they are building if even a fox climbed upon it, he would break down their walls of stones!”, end of quote (Nehemiah 4:1-3.)

This ridicule and mockery may appear the same for someone envisioning to plant a church today and who encounters opposition along the way. The Apostle Paul endured pain in his missionary trips when at several times he was mistreated, ridiculed and sometimes put in prison for what he believed in. But there was a joy in the end to see that the Gospel that started in Jerusalem, spread in Judea and Samaria had reached the entire world. That joy caused the Apostle Paul to say: 2 Timothy 4:7-8:

I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Paul’s crown of righteousness is a result of his commitment to serve hardheartedly, to endure the pain of serving self sacrificially.Planting a church requires fight, endurance, commitment and courage to dodge Satan’s arrows that come from both within and outside the church!Planting a healthy church requires to conquer fear of failure within oneself! Conviction that you are doing the right thing. Conviction that it is not your work but the Lord’s! You must sense God’s presence and his voice repeating the same words he told Isaiah as found in Isaiah 41:10: “Go I am with you”! It requires commitment to follow through.There are many people out there who will always want you to fail because of their own interest and profits! Acts 16:16-24 recounts a story of a dirty and satanic business held by wicked people through a female slave who, through her evil spirit in her predicted future. When the apostle Paul intervened to silence the devil, he was beaten up, dragged out of the city and put into prison. Planting a church comes with cost! It was once said:

There is no growth without change. And there is no change without loss. There is no loss without pain. A church that wants to grow without going through growing pains is like a woman who says: “I want to have a baby, but I don’t want to go through labor.

Planting a solid church requires obedience. Using my own experience, God convinced me to leave a paying job I had to become a full-time pastor without salary! It was crazy in the eyes of other people including those in my church. Some said: “Do not expect any tithe from us. Go in the factories/warehouses and sweat like others. God listened to the ridicule and provided in a miraculous way.  God has many ways to reward people of courage.

Planting a solid church requires trusting God. One day I asked someone to join the leadership of our church. He told me that he was willing to do so with only one condition; to give him a salary! Knowing well that I, myself do not have any salary, but just trusting God, I prayed for him a similar prayer as Elisha’s in 2 Kings 6:17: “O Lord, I wish he could trust your faithfulness!”.

‘Till today, God has been providing for our needs.

Planting a healthy church requires self-sacrifice. In ancient Ugandan kingdom, a young boy whose name was Charles Lwanga; a son of the Ugandan king was persecuted, burned alive in January 27, 1887 in Namugongo province by his own father just because he refused to recant his faith. The child decided to side with other Christians and this cost them their lives as a result! One of those boys, the oldest Matthias Kalemba, exclaimed, God will rescue me. But you will not see how he does it, because he will take my soul and leave you only my body! Out of that persecution sprang a strong church which stands today! Tertullian, one who is believed to be one of our early church fathers once wrote. The more Christians are persecuted the more Christianity takes root; the blood [of martyrs] is the seed of the church. Costs is almost always associated with building a solid church across the ages!

Regarding planting a solid ECWA USA, same above principles should be applied. A healthy ECWA church requires committed sons and daughters who are determined to go and find the lost from diverse cultures. We need to come out of our comfort zone and go where we may be challenged. We must break cultural barriers and allow inclusiveness.

There is pain mixed with fear for any pastor to see his congregation decreasing! I have a quote from Bill Smalt that illustrates pain/fear of building a solid church:

As the pastor moves down the aisle to great his congregation, he glanced over to the section that, only weeks ago, was occupied by several people who had been under his watchful care for a number of years. The feeling of success about the service he just led suddenly fades away. One of the reason pastors quit the ministry is discouragement. Watching people leave a church prematurely, year after year, wears on pastor’s emotions and can play a big part in feeding feelings of discouragement and failure.

This was our experience in ECWA II towards the end of last year! We saw three diverse groups splitting from our church. The first thought was: Are we the reason of these departures? Fortunately, and we thank God for that, it was not because of us! They just wanted to start their own churches as they claimed to belong to their church denominations of origin and not to ECWA. It was a shock to us to see people queuing in front of church office to inform us of their unannounced departures! We were just left with one option; to pray and let them go! However, I was energized by a quote from the same person Bill Smalt:

Be willing to let people leave the church! People are going to leave your church no matter what you do. But when you define the vision, you are choosing who is going to leave…. You can’t surrender the leadership of your church to manipulators. Jesus invested the maximum time with those who would bear the maximum responsibility.

I agree with Bill that in the church, people go, and new people come. What we should consider is not the sizeable number of people, but few who support our leadership and the direction of the church. After these departures, some people told me that I should thank God for purging his church of those who could hurt it in the end. This thought corroborates with someone who identified three layers of people: The core (genuine followers), the leaning in (those who can follow), and the leaning out (those outside the margin). And he said that we should get rid of those who lean out and remain with the core and the leaning in.

Planting a solid church requires to break the cultural barriers. Last March I visited a healthy church in Pretoria, South Africa and I was amazed by how multicultural the church is. Its members are from more than twenty different nationalities. The whole congregation (both men and women and child) are involved in various church activities. From ushers, to welcome teams, traffic and parking teams, information team, prayer teams, men’s, women’s, and youth programs, etc.

The church has a wing for children’s ministry where church members go to volunteer as teachers, ushers, and baby sitters.

There is no such thing as a South African, Rwandan, Burundian, Nigerian, Tanzanian, Ugandan, or Kenyan church member! They all work as sons and daughters of the Kingdom. I would suggest that this multicultural church did not arrive to this point overnight! It cost their church leadership enough time to implement that effective church structure.

Labeling and name tag calling are other indications of dysfunctional churches.  When we start labeling our churches as Nigerian, Burundian, or Rwandan, the failure is already looming at our doors. And most of the time we are the active agents of that labeling, especially when we seem pushy towards those who do not look like us. No one would tell anyone to leave the church, but their attitudes would convince you that you are not welcomed! My dream is to one day see ECWA USA beyond the cultural barriers mentioned above. Let us use more inclusive terms rather than exclusive ones!

Building a solid church requires investment in time, effort, and energy. Nowadays, many church leaders, especially in African churches here in the USA, have tendencies to consider church like any other duty. They come to church on Sundays and after service they go and stay away from church activities until they come back the next Sunday. I wonder why church members are reluctant to give their tithe because, according to them, they refuse the pastor to get paid twice! The pastor goes to the company/Warehouse like any other person, someone complained! Why would he (the pastor), want us to pay him for the work he did not do!

Some African pastors here in states have tried to make church a business! They take the church for another source of revenue/income! If you believe you can’t trust God to provide for you as you work for him, then get down to business and find jobs like any other person. Pastors should spend enough amount of time performing church duties. If a pastor has a full-time job outside the church, he should not expect that his church would to be sound and strong!

Before concluding my sharing, if everything I said can be forgotten, remember this anchor for a solid church plant, reliable results will not be taking place until godly men and women get on their knees and pray without ceasing. Prayer should not be put on to-do-list. It should permeate all our activities. Prayer must be our lifestyle.

Rev. Jean Nzeyimana

Rev. Jean de Dieu Nzeyimana is ECWA USA DCC Assistant Secretary and Pastor of ECWA II Louisville Kentucky. He is the Executive Director of Gate of Hope Ministries International.


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