Pain as a Church Planting Asset

Have you run short of funds, held a bummer event or felt betrayed by someone you trusted? Welcome to the club. You stand in the company of the apostles and of probably anyone you look up to.

Pain is an asset if you value it as that. Or, it is a stumbling block if that is how you choose to regard it. Chuck Smith used to say, “Pain can make you bitter or it can make you better.” You choose! Several times I’ve suffered major disappointment with people that I thought I knew. The temptation to ‘woe is me’ reared up and bit me, but I chose to see it through the lens of Romans 8:28—I found the silver lining when I did. You can too.

Pain Happens

I’ve planted three churches and multiplied a lot more. Financial reversals, letdown events and human failures accompanied each one. But we somehow managed to see God working for good in every situation. Not in a ‘rosy’ way, nor early in the process. But, our teams eventually recognized the Master’s ability to use unfortunate events as pruning tools in our lives. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2 ESV). I hate the process but have learned to anticipate the results. When you prune a vine, or a bush, you get more branches and more branches generate more fruit. Since fruitfulness is the core purpose of all this we need to get used to the pruning. It’s going to happen.

Exploding With Fruit

The church in Jerusalem got pruned in Acts 8. The fruit included ministry in Samaria, Ethiopia, Phoenicia, Cyprus, Cyrene and of course Antioch. When pain prevented public ministry in the region of Lystra and Derbe, Barnabas and Paul ‘knighted’ disciples as elders, planting churches throughout the region. Painful pruning produces fruit if you let it. Learn to see pain as an asset that drives you closer to the heart of God. “Bless the Lord at all times…”

So, am I blowing smoke or is this real–share your experience, or insight, in the comments section below.



10 thoughts on “Pain as a Church Planting Asset”

  1. Thanks for reminding us all of the precious worth of pain. I’ve found encouragement in D.L. Moody’s observation that “everyone who serves God well walks with a limp.” Keeping on keeping on!

  2. Thanks for this article, there are truly burden and pain in church planting and yet great joy awaits us all

  3. Hi Ralph,

    No. You are not blowing smoke, and this is for real.

    I’ve heard it said, “Don’t waste your suffering. Don’t waste your pain.” As counterintuitive as those statements may be, I have concluded that all of this is a matter of perspective. Put simply, my vision, viewpoint and perspective are so very limited. I barely see in the moment what G-d sees clearly through eternity. A grapevine is an awesome example.

    How much do you know about the art of pruning grapes? Check-out Youtube for a quick education. You may be shocked! Look for proper seasonal pruning and just HOW MUCH you end-up chopping off! It’s more than you may think!

    Apply this knowledge to scriptural examples and daily life. Then take a look at yourself and prayerfully turn to the LORD and inquire of Him, is this what it’s like? Is this what it takes? Am I missing out on the WIN when I shrink from the pruning shears? Am I making it all about me, or do I recognize that it’s all about You Father?

    What can we learn in these times? About our Father? About ourselves? About each other?

    How willing we are to reach the finish line is directly proportional to how willing we are to endure the pain of training. How great the harvest is directly proportional to the branches and vines that are cut from us so as to let in the light to nourish more fruitful vines. Whatever may come, it is G-d that brings the increase. To Him be the glory.

    I think Spurgeon said it best,

    “God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.”


  4. Growing older, and even in the Lord, I’ve learned to never assume anything based on mere assumption even to what I believe is a possible calling. It reminds me of a similar saying; pain (disappointments) will either draw us closer to God or further away. It brings me to thinking of Saul’s (Paul’s) first attempts in convincing the Jewish people of who this Jesus really was only to receive crude rejection yet in the process of pruning he receives vision, direction and purpose from Jesus Himself (Acts 22:18). I believe at this point of ministry Saul was in prep school broadening his view for a wider real estate that reached beyond his own and into the Gentile nations. I think it wasn’t so much of what Paul was putting out in terms of ministry but more so in what God was putting inside of him during those early pivotal years of preparation for the bigger picture. I’m thinking if I can hold to the concept of pruning with all that it entails, then I may have a better chance in pressing forward through the pain of disappointment. Thanks for the thought provoking post. Just my thoughts.

  5. Great reminder to look for God in the pain and anticipate in faith that He is working for us. This pain produces good fruit for others as we share the redemptive stories that comfort, remind and encourage…just as this article does for so many. Thank you!

  6. Thanks Ralph,

    Just received your email and need this, timing is perfect!

    I’m facilitating a small group study that’s been meeting for about 10 months and had to ask a new friend (of 16 months) to hold off on continuing his sharing as the topic would be better shared after group and discussed then with those who wanted to discuss more.

    The very next day (yesterday), received a call from him asking who I thought I was and who am I to control the group and tell people they couldn’t talk. He used words like being a dictator, insensisitive, controlling, he continued with saying not everybody has to have your same level of spirituality, and that if he left the group, he would take lots of others with him.

    We’re studying Spiritual Gifts (Romans 12, 1 Cor. 12&13, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4.)

    Oh also, it occured in the last 5 minutes of the groups planned time together.


    1. We learn from our pain. It’ll be cool if you can somehow bring that guy alongside you. Some of our best leaders first showed leadership by acting up. But it takes lots of patience and a high tolerance for pain to bring them into a place you can work with them.

  7. Tomohiro Sano

    Christ is not changing, but we who live in this seen world goes rotten.
    Fading away from this world leaving wealth but instead of everlasting life.
    I don’t trust the church leaders who are payed by their churches.
    Mamonizm has taken over Christ Church.
    Raising churches should mean to increase poor groups.

  8. Robert Newton

    This is a very encouraging article and a reminder to press on and stay on course no matter what obstacles are put in our way.”You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (Gal. 5:7).
    Kindest regards,

  9. I love it! Thank you for sharing your heart with us Ralph! I am on the cusp of planting but am very fearful of planting. Those fears you shared are some of the fears I am currently having.

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