What the hell happened? The lead up to failure and the thoughts of a failed church planter

By: Patrick Allen

Breaking the trend

My whole life I have been successful. I was the MVP in Little League two of the three years I played. One of my high school’s greatest Cross Country runners. In the military, I was Soldier of the Year twice and Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year once, and was awarded the Honorable Order in my Branch, and was one of the youngest First Sergeants in the US Army. By the time I was 26 years old I was making almost $150,000 per year as a defense contractor, traveling all over the world training our warfighters. I was one of the premier subject matter experts in Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare and was sought out by many companies and even Allied Nations Militaries… all this without a college degree. Needless to say, according to the world I was successful. But that all changed when God called me out.

Your best life now. Yeah right!

Having said all that, I often look back over my life and see a trail of disaster, primarily because I saw the moral and spiritual failure under the surface of the worldly success. When God called me out, I had hit rock bottom. I don’t know who said it first, but I agree 110% with them when they said: “you don’t hit rock bottom, you hit God.” He gave me perspective in the valley low. I lost my job and was unable to secure another one and then the stock market crashed and I lost almost my entire 401K. It was devastating. I contemplated suicide, many times. My wife got invited to church and eventually, I went with her. Within a few weeks, I was broken and overwhelmed by God’s grace. He saved me! On fire and full of the Holy Spirit I devoured the Word of God and began teaching it in church and sharing with everyone I knew. I was leading Bible studies at work on lunch breaks. It was awesome! Nothing mattered to me except my Lord Jesus Christ and His word. Eventually, I felt a call to ministry and that’s where it gets ugly.

Stupid is, as stupid does.

I founded and led a men’s ministry in the church, which was great, but I felt called for more. I was longing to do more. So I enrolled in a university and started studying to become a pastor. During that point, I took a youth pastor position within a church and served there for 3 years. Then comes the church planting bug. That crazy bug gnawed at me day and night! I felt as though God had confirmed this calling by opening up an amazing relationship and mentorship opportunity into church planting. Then I made the move. I started trying to build a core team. It was great. I loved pouring the vision into the team. We secured a restaurant as a meeting place and we started meeting and planning and praying. We decided to do a soft launch. Unfortunately, not only did no one show up, but even the core team didn’t show up. Needless to say after a few weeks of praying and fasting, discouraged and humiliated I shut it down.

What happened?

Why did God not move? Why did I feel forsaken? What did I do wrong? I felt like a complete and utter failure. These thoughts filled my head continuously and my heart was broken. I wept so much, especially in my prayers. Often times my prayers were just me saying “God…” then tears and unintelligible mumblings. In a lighthearted moment though, my oldest daughter observing my slobbering prayer asked me; “Daddy, are you speaking in tongues?” which made me laugh and snort snot everywhere. I was hurt and deeply wounded. And I am still reeling in the after effects to this day. During my blitzkrieg to try and plant the fastest ever church in the history of Christendom I passed up several career and ministry opportunities, and despite my inner turmoil, it’s my family that was damaged the most. My relationship with my wife suffered and the trust of my daughters was slightly affected. It’s by God’s grace that my family remains intact. I was planting in the flesh. I was trying to please God, but I was leaving my family and Him in the dust. Despite all the wisdom I could’ve and did receive, I ignored it and did what I thought was best and I failed miserably.

But God

I used to jokingly tell the kids in my youth ministry, that God had the biggest “but” in the Bible. It was a great way to point them to God’s grace in Ephesians 2:4-10. The “but God” verse applied to my situation here as well. You see, in my flesh, I had failed, “but God” knew what He was allowing me to fail at, to get me to a deeper relationship with Him. Despite all the mess I have made of my life, I know that in Christ I have gained all things. If I never plant a successful church in this life, I know that I am His, regardless of my failures, because He was successful on the Cross.


Since the failure of the church plant, I have suffered from depression, deep depression. Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in my shame. Then one day God gave me a gift. It was a song by Fernando Ortega, called Sing to Jesus. In the first few verses I was broken and overwhelmed by Christ. It was this verse in particular that did it: “sing to Jesus, Lord of our shame, Lord of our sinful hearts. He is the Great Redeemer.” Completely undone! Christ is the Lord of my shame? I had never looked at it that way, but yes He was and is! Now I honor Him for it by allowing Him to pick up the mess that I had made and let Him mold it into a message.

What now?

Where do I go from here? I don’t know exactly. But I take courage from the verse in Genesis 24:27, particularly a few words from it, “I being in the way, the LORD led me…”. I need to stay “in the Way” and the Lord will lead me, as He led Abraham’s servant. If He leads me to plant again, I praise Him. If not, I still praise Him because He is worthy of praise whether I plant or not. So here is my advice to young would be “church planters”.

1.Give to the needy, Pray without ceasing (your day should be a walking prayer, even your thoughts), and fast regularly. Jesus promised that if we practice our righteousness in secret, the Father would reward us. He emphasized these three.
2.Do not leave the “upper room” until you have received power from the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission.
3.Do not focus on planting a church. A good Soldier knows his orders. Make disciples. Pour into the few people that God will give you and teach them to do likewise. This is the way of the Master. Be faithful with the little first, then He will give you more.
4.Do not neglect your duty as a Christian spouse and parent. This is your primary mission field and where the love of God should pour out of you and overflow through your family. Multiplication should first take place in and through your family.
5.Be as bold as a child in asking God for what you need. My kids are the boldest when they ask me for stuff they want. We should be too!
6.Have faith in Christ, no matter what you are facing.
7.Preach the Word and do the work of an Evangelist.
8.Abide in Christ. His love and His commandments. God will produce the fruit. If He chooses to add to the numbers of the body through you, then He will. “Every believer is an agent of the King.” (Alan Hirsch) This means that God could plant a fellowship through anyone of His Saints.
9.Have a mentor. Even if you have been discipled already, you need to have someone to confess to and share your shame and be an encourager and intercessor for you.
10.Lastly, rejoice always! Because He is alive and He loves you! Yes even wretched failures like me.

Patrick Allen is the founder of R.A.W. Faith a hybrid ministry to help men with the daily struggles of an authentic Christian life and the warfare they face, he is a student at Liberty University, he is the former Youth Pastor of Spotsylvania Baptist Church, former church planter for Courageous Faith Fredericksburg. Patrick is married to Amy and together they have three beautiful daughters. Patrick is a decorated Combat Veteran of the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard. He is also a graduate of New Breed Church Planting Network’s Jump School and is a Contributive Writer for Job 31 Ministries. Patrick is an evangelist with a calling to the church to get the body of Christ to refocus on the Great Commission.
Feel free to contact Patrick at courageous.faith.fxbg@gmail.com for guest speaker opportunities at your church.

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