How Rejection Develops Flexibility in Church Planting
September 23, 2022

Flexibility in church planting is key. Embracing this fact will mean fewer surprises along the way.

When Wayne Northrup, Senior Pastor of Saints Community Church (SCC), set out to find a rental facility for his mobile church, he didn’t think that it would be difficult, nor did he anticipate being rejected more than 50 times.

After all, he’d been a traveling evangelist for years. How much harder could this be? Before SCC found a home, he would have visited and had talks with more than 50 facilities in and around New Orleans — that’s how hard it could be.

It is crucial that church planters continuously learn from others who have gone before them and make every effort to avoid the mistakes that others have made. This helps set a solid foundation in our own church planting journeys. In this article, you can read about Wayne’s challenges and victories, and seize this opportunity to boost your church planting knowledge.

How Rejection Develops Flexibility In Church Planting

Northrup never imagined he’d be a church planter – he was quite comfortable being a traveling

evangelist. However, since visiting New Orleans in 1997, his fervor and passion for the city had grown; he couldn’t get New Orleans out of his heart.

Eventually, Northrup relocated and answered God’s call to plant a church in New Orleans. He was supported by the Church Multiplication Network, which meant that he was well-mentored and well-versed in the required next steps: 

Assessment? Check. 
Launch Team? Check.
Funding? Check. 
Building? Problem.

Plan on exercising flexibility in church planting and you will have fewer surprises along the way.

Photo courtesy of Saints Community Church / Instagram

Challenge: Pitching a new concept

In New Orleans, the concept of a church renting a building was virtually unheard of by everyone Northrup talked to. 

“Once I explained it to them, they could understand not wanting to have a mortgage, but that didn’t mean they wanted to rent to me,” he said.

For Northrup and SCC, that meant they weren’t just pursuing a meeting space, they were pursuing a new concept for their area of New Orleans. However, Northrup was confident that after visiting 3–4 buildings, one of them would want to work with SCC.

He was quickly turned down by a local public college but soon after, a Junior Achievement Center (JAC) that was kid-friendly, in a great location, and had ample parking, agreed to rent their building to SCC for church on Sundays. 

Northrup, his wife Kristi, and the rest of his launch team set about making plans for their first preview service in May. 

“Our plan was to have four preview services – one in May, June, July, August, and then an official launch in September.”

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Challenge: Left in the lurch

Everything was going according to plan until three days before their first preview service. Northrup received an email from the JAC stating some concerns and ultimately denying Saints Community Church the facility for the church.

“I was so disappointed,” said Wayne. “I called them and basically begged them to change their minds.” Their answer was a resounding no.

Northrup began hitting the pavement and approached every facility he could think of that would accommodate church services and gatherings. Public schools, community centers, public parks, private schools, outlet schools, banquet halls, hotels, movie theaters, and even a garden conservatory were approached by Northrup.

By the end of his endeavors, Northrup had been turned down by no less than 22 places. But Northrup remained unfazed. 

Finally, a funeral home agreed to rent their facility to SCC. However, after much consideration, they turned down the offer. As Northrup explained, “This is already a very superstitious city and we just can’t ask people to come to the same place they said goodbye to their aunt last week.”

It was back to the drawing board for SCC. Eventually, Northrup started looking outside of the Lakeview area that they had originally targeted. But the further they went out of the city, the more they got turned down.

Plan on exercising flexibility in church planting and you will have fewer surprises along the way.

Photo courtesy of Saints Community Church / Facebook

Challenge: Keeping focused

By this point, Northrup’s confidence was waning. At the weekly launch team meetings, Northrup could tell his team was getting antsy about not having a meeting place. He kept his concerns under wraps and kept repeating “God is in control. Don’t even worry about it” to his launch team.

SCC missed its first and second scheduled preview services, yet Northrup was determined to keep searching. “Going backward wasn’t an option,” he said. “We were going to launch this church.”

Challenge: Identifying the spiritual battle

Northrup soon identified that the struggle was bigger than just finding a building. It was spiritual. He felt that if he wasn’t spiritually aggressive, he would never overcome the natural suspicion and inherent opposition the New Orleans community had towards Jesus.

When it became apparent SCC would also miss their preview service in July, Northrup was tired, humbled, and frustrated, which led him to make an unusual decision. Northrup stood up at a Sunday night launch team meeting and announced his resignation.

He said, “I’d like to resign as the Senior Pastor of Saints Community Church. I’m turning over the leadership of this church. Our new pastor is Jesus.” 

Northrup’s bold move unleashed authenticity and vulnerability that had not yet been seen in their launch team meetings. “It unleashed everyone’s struggles, not just mine. It was a real God moment,” proclaims Northrup.

Planting a church is not just about finding a building. It is also a spiritual battle to reach the people in your community. Above all, let Jesus lead you. Click To Tweet

Break-through: Flexibility in church planting is key

A few days after his “resignation”, Northrup stopped by a Middle School near their rental home in Metairie. “It was a building I drove by every day, but I didn’t even consider it because I had been turned down by every single public school,” he said. On a hot summer’s day in July, Northrup filled out a Facilities Request Form, with no great expectations.

Two days later, he got a call from the school’s principal. He was not only interested in renting out his school to SCC, but had already had it cleared by the school board!  SCC finally had a home and not a moment too soon. 

Northrup only had one week to get together his official advertising blitz for the community if they were going to keep their October launch date goal.  On October 2, 2011, Saints Community Church officially launched in TH Harris Middle School in Metairie, LA.

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Plan on exercising flexibility in church planting and you will have fewer surprises along the way.

Photo courtesy of Saints Community Church / Facebook

Lessons learned: Flexibility in church planting

It goes without saying that Northrup learned a lot on his journey to finding SCC a suitable building to hold their church services every Sunday. 

The key lesson he learned was the importance of flexibility in church planting. 

“I bombed the flexibility portion of my Church Planter’s Assessment,” he laughed.  “Now, I preach about flexibility – it’s become my bandwagon.”

He also realized that he “needed to go into pastoring with the right heart.”

“I needed to learn how to include God in the details. My dependence on God has skyrocketed because of it.”

Flexibility in church planting is key. Our original plans seldom play out. Bargain on needing to be flexible and you will have fewer surprises along the way.  Click To Tweet

ADVICE FOR MAINTAINING FLEXIBILITY IN CHURCH PLANTING

It is important that you manage your expectations and anticipate the need for flexibility in church planting. Above all, let Jesus lead you.

“When I resigned that Sunday night, it took the pressure off of me. All of a sudden, it wasn’t my burden, it was God’s burden.”

Learn more key lessons about church planting when you check out 10 Valuable Resources for Portable Church Leaders.