I had a burning drive to start this church. I was driven by the reality that the best way to reach unchurched people is to start a new church. I was thirsting to be a part of awe-inspiring life change. And it has happened. It's happened in amazing ways. And it's continuing to happen. You can hear one amazing story here (start at the 24:23 mark). To borrow a line from ABC's Wide World of Sports that has now become cliche, I eagerly anticipated and have thoroughly enjoyed the "thrill of victory."
But in no way was I prepared for "the agony of defeat." I wasn't ready to watch as people I'd baptized decided to return to a life of sin. I had no way of knowing that people I'd personally discipled would leave TFC to find a church where they could be "spiritually fed." How was I to know that I'd be capable of both leading someone to faith and then committing an unintentional and unperceived (to me) slight that so offended them they inexplicably cut off the relationship? I didn't know that the high of helping a person push through their personal barriers to faith would give way to the low of watching that person let up on their search. In the midst of the excitement in helping a marriage reconcile, I was unable to see the devestating divorce waiting in the future. And never, not even in my wildest dreams, (though I was warned by other pastors) could I have imagined the incredibly immature behavior to come from people who sincerely consider themselves mature Christians.
I just didn't see any of it coming. And it's taking a lot of work to learn how to sort through it all.
I guess this is just what it means to pastor a congregation. A friend of mine, who also started a new church, recently told me about how he'd experienced the thrill of baptizing his neighbors, only to experience the agony of seeing them divorce a year later. I now understand the ache in Paul's heart as he wrote these words to the church he planted in Corinth, "I wrote that letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you." - 2 Corinthians 2:4
"Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?" - 2 Corinthians 11:28-29
Paul knew the pain of seeing people he loved make terrible choices and even turn away from Christ.
What did Paul do? Did the agony and frustration cause him quit proclaiming the gospel and to give up starting new churches? No. He was doggedly determined to do what he knew deep in his heart that God had called him to do. May I do the same. May I continue to proclaim Christ with boldness and love. May I lead with a soft heart and a thick skin.