Jonathan Parnell on the One Thing Church Planters Must Remember

In this video, Jonathan Parnell—lead pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis-St. Paul—shares one very important truth that church planters are prone to forget in the rush and chaos of ministry.

When it comes to the most important thing for me to remember as a church planter, I go to 2 Timothy Chapter 2. There we find the words of Paul to Timothy, the young Pastor. And in 2 Timothy 2:8, there is this amazing verse where Paul tells Timothy:

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel.”

That’s an amazing verse when you think about it. The Apostle Paul is telling Timothy, a pastor, to remember Jesus. And, obviously, the reason he must be saying that is because in the throes of ministry, in the pressures of ministry, we can forget Jesus. And, if that’s true of pastoral ministries, it’s especially true of church planting. There are so many variables, so many things that can go so many different ways. Then before you know it, you can lose sight; you can forget Jesus.

And so, coming back to Paul’s words, “Remember Jesus Christ,” we should begin to ask questions of the text. How then? How do we remember Jesus? We commune with him in the Word. We lean on him in times of hardship and trouble. I think about Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:17 when, in one of the lowest points of his life, Paul says that everyone has deserted him. “But,” he says “the Lord Jesus stood by me and strengthened me.” So, in some way, Jesus the Lord stood by Paul in the midst of his hardship. Which means that for Paul, Jesus was not just an idea, Jesus was not just a character on a page, Jesus was not just some historical figure who made an impact, but Jesus was a real person.

And so, when it comes to how we remember Jesus, I think, simply, we remember that Jesus is real. He’s a real person. And right now in this very moment, Jesus is more real and more alive than you are and I am. Jesus is a real person. We don’t know exactly what he looks like or what he’s like, but we know he’s in a body. He must then have a heart that beats and lungs that breathe, and that’s happening right now. Jesus right now is in a body with a beating heart and lungs that breathe, and he cares about what we’re doing here.

As a pastor and as a church planter, I must remember that reality. This is the prayer that I’ve prayed most consistently every day for the past four years now as a church planter: “Jesus, be more real to me than anything else.” Because that’s the biggest problem, right? The biggest problem we face is when things are bigger to us, more real to us than Jesus. And so my prayer points back to 2 Timothy 2:8, “Remember Jesus Christ.” That’s what Paul tells Timothy. And I think it’s a good advice for any church planter.