The Pain & Joy Of Planting

The Pain & Joy Of Planting

John McGowan
Lead Pastor, Restoration City Church (Arlington, VA)

This past Sunday we took an exciting step at Restoration City Church – I did my best to get a bunch of people to leave!  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve unintentionally gotten plenty of people to leave our church since we were planted two years ago.  But this wasn’t about bad jokes or unintentionally offensive comments in the sermon.  This was about asking our congregation to buy into the vision of helping plant Grace Hill Church in Herndon, VA next year.  I’ll be honest, asking people to leave our church is one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever done as a pastor.

It’s a really big deal for us as a church to be a part of gospel multiplication here in the DC area and that’s what church planting is all about.  We don’t plant churches to give Christians new Sunday morning options.  We plant churches to reach people who don’t follow Jesus.  As pastors and leaders, we’re really good at telling our people the mission of God is worthy of sacrifice.  Being involved in church planting is a way to lead by example.  People will know you’re serious about the mission of God when they see you gladly sending bodies and dollars out the door.  As leaders, we have the joy of being reminded that THE church is far greater than OUR church.

At the same time, it’s hard.  Primarily because of the kind of people who get involved in planting a church.  I told our congregation they should be a part of Grace Hill if:

  1.  It will make you more effective in reaching people for Jesus.  Deciding to join a church plant team really isn’t about you.  It’s about the people in your life who don’t know Jesus.  It’s about making it easier to invite them to church or into community.  Yes, that often means geography.  But not simply from a “it’s a shorter drive for me” perspective.  It’s from a “my family and friends would be better served by this” perspective.
  2. You are willing to sacrifice for gospel multiplication.  Planting a church isn’t about your comfort, your convenience or your consumption.  Don’t join a launch team to be served, join one to serve!  The first days of any church are a struggle – there’s never enough resources, never enough volunteers and so much to do.  If you aren’t willing to offer your hands, your heart and your resources to the plant, don’t go.  But if you’re willing to lean in, put on a serving towel, give generously and champion the gospel, you’ll do just fine!
  3. You are committed to the plant’s leadership, vision, mission and culture. Church planting isn’t about you.  On the other hand, it is about creating a community that you’ll likely be a part of for a long time.  So, you need to buy into the leadership, vision, mission, and culture of the new plant.  Don’t go to be the dissenter who’s constantly trying to force change.  If you can’t enthusiastically embrace the leadership, vision, mission and culture of the plant, it’s going to be a bad experience for you and the rest of the team.
  4. You have confirmation from your Community Group Leader or Pastor.  Don’t make this decision on your own.  Talk to your Community Group Leaders, your close friends or one of our pastors.  We would be honored to pray with you, to process with you and speak into the decision any way we can.

Here’s what all of that really means: that pain in the neck who never gives, never serves but always complains about the depth of your sermon isn’t going to leave!  He’s just going to keep on grumbling at your church until he takes his consumerism down the road to another church.  It’s the people who prayerfully make decisions with wise counsel motivated by the glory of God who get involved in church planting.  It’s the really good people who go!

Which brings us back to where we started.  Planting a church isn’t about your convenience.  It’s about God’s mission.  It’s about the lost in our city.  It’s about the hope of the gospel moving into our neighborhoods.  That’s why, no matter how hard it is, it’s worth it!


OneHeartDC is a network of churches committed to working together for gospel saturation of the metro Washington, DC region (DMV). Along with our sister cities in the Christ Together network (, we employ four strategies to accomplish our shared vision of consistently demonstrating and communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ to every man, woman, and child.

  • Mobilization – God’s people owning the lostness of the DMV.
  • Collaboration – God’s people partnering with all expressions of His Body for the Gospel saturation of the DMV.
  • Transformation – God’s people, empowered by his Spirit, growing in the character and competencies of Jesus.
  • Multiplication – God’s people prioritizing church planting as foundational for the full evangelization of the DMV.

Church planting is essential to ‘fill holes’ where people and geographies are unreached or under-reached. Only two years old itself, Restoration City Church ( through their mentoring and stewardship of the Grace Hill Church plant ( is a wonderful example of a church practicing Multiplication. Importantly, they are building this into their missional DNA early! We encourage our churches to plant themselves or to partner with others to plant.