If you preach the Gospel, people will come and people will leave.
Many think, "If I preach it, they will come". Yes, some will come, but some will leave as well. There is in inherent offensive to the Gospel, in particular its implications for life, mission, ministry, values and sacrifice. Many will be attracted by the freshness and purity of the message of Jesus, and many will be detracted by the implications of what it means to truly follow Him. You know you are preaching the Gospel when people are coming because of it and people are leaving because of it.
The guy who comes to your church complaining will probably leave your church complaining.
You will come across chronic church-cynics who never fully invest into a community of people but always stand on the sidelines and critique them. They came to your church complaining about their previous one, and now they will want to meet with you often, expose problems and offer opinions about yours but never be willing to be part of the solution. Love them, shepherd them and pour vision into them, but don't be surprised if they choose to move on. At least let them leave knowing you have done what you can for them.
You will go out of your way for people who will turn their backs on you and walk away.
You will give time, energy and emotion to people, and at times, they will trample it. Leading is not about figuring out ways to prevent this, but figuring out ways to learn how to deal with it in a way that is healthy. Resentment, bitterness and emotional insecurity will harden your heart more quickly than you realize, leaving you unavailable and untrusting of others and incapacitating you as a shepherd. The tough truth is this - you will have to learn how to be betrayed, but not destroyed.
Church planting will be lonely at times.
Everybody around you is someone who needs something from you, and you need something from them. They will need your counsel, your support, your emotional and spiritual bandwith. You will need their willingness to help build the church, be a team player and move the ball forward. Those two dynamics often find themselves in great tension. Real, in depth, honest relationships are difficult when things become so transactional. Anticipate it being very difficult to have friendships that are not church-based and transactional in nature.
Patience is your greatest nemesis, and your best friend.
It takes time to cultivate a group of people, and you will become impatient with them, their growth, the growth of your church, the influence of your church in your city and your city's response to your church. You see a vision in your head with an urgency and immediacy about it. When you're unwilling to patiently cultivate culture into your people you will ultimately use them as commodities to see your vision come to life, rather than co-laborers in whom you want to see the vision come to life. Don't use people to build something; build people to do something.
Your greatest joys and most intense pains will revolve around people.
Those you expect the most from will let you down the most, while those you don't expect much from will carry the load in surprisingly significant ways. People will surprise you, good and bad. Many who are with you during the core group living room phase leave you as things begin to grow and develop. Be slow about assigning people too much authority too soon and appointing them for leadership positions too early. The ones you expect to thrive in those roles will likely be the ones who disappoint you the most, and the ones who will ultimately be in those roles are likely people God has not even introduced you to yet.
Your known weaknesses will be exploited and your unknown weakness will be exposed.
Your church plant will act as an incubator for your shortcomings, constantly pushing on them, prodding them and daily bearing their effects through your leadership, onto your people and into your soul. You will realize you are more gifted in areas you didn't know about and discover you are far more inadequate in areas you were not aware of. Your personality, character, theology, emotional stability and physical health will be scrutinized on every level.
What you think will happen probably won't and what you have no idea will happen most definitely will.
It is important to plan, to be strategic and to dream big dreams, but hold them with an open hand, and don't try to force a square peg through a round hole. God will do what He wants, as long as you are faithful. Your objective is not to manufacture the ministry you envision and expect God to bless it but to steward the ministry God envisions and has therefore already blessed. Have a plan, but hold it loosely.
What was once very black and white will quickly become grey.
Your ideals about church, life, marriage, parenting, ministry, money, mission, people, expectations, responsibilities, leadership and the Gospel will be intensely tested in the furnace of reality. Many of your close-handed issues on day one will become open-handed issues by the end of year one. You will go through an ideals vetting process of sorts, continually discerning what's worth living and dying for and what's not. You will find that much of church planting is about taking the black and white issues and learning how to translate them into a very, very grey world. The majority of your pastoring and leading will occur in the messiness, confusion and ambiguity of the grey. That's where the real lives of most people are lived.
Church planting is always and only and totally about Jesus.
He is worth the risk you take in the beginning. He is good in the struggles and greater than the successes you experience along the way. He promises to be glorious in the end as you persevere and press on from the great goal of planting a church to the higher goal of planting the Kingdom of God. Jesus is worth it. He calls you to Himself before He calls you to plant and pastor a church. Rest in your calling to Him in order to be sustained in your calling for Him. It's always and only and totally been about Him. Always.