I love mountain biking. It’s probably my favorite pastime. Early in my mountain biking experience, I was riding at a regional park near my home. I was surprised to spot a group of cactuses up ahead and was worried about hitting them. I kept looking over at them, gauging the length of their spikes and thinking how painful it would be to run into them at high speed. And sure enough, I rode right into the cactus patch, punching 20 to 30 holes in my bike tires. Having only one spare tire on hand and needing two, I ended up walking my bike all the way back home.

Later that day a more experienced rider shared with me an important principle of mountain biking: Look where you want to go. “Wherever you’re looking is where you’ll go. What you did was stare at the cactus, so that’s exactly where you went. Instead, put your eyes where you want to go and your bike will instinctively take you there. Keep your eyes on the destination.”

This core principle of mountain biking applies equally well to church planting. Keep your eye on the goal and what you want to accomplish instead of focusing on what you want to avoid. Certainly you need to be aware of the barriers and pitfalls and cactuses along the way, but if you focus primarily on what you want to avoid, you’ll almost surely hit it. I’ve seen this happen over and over again with church planters I’ve coached. Planter A is very worried about financial security, and a debilitating focus on cash flow happens. Planter B desperately tries to avoid conflicts and keep everybody happy, and finds himself right in the middle of a struggle over ministry philosophy and priorities.

When you’re planting a church, keep your eye on the vision. Consistent focus in the right direction will get you where you want to go.