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4 Things You May Not Know About Church Planting

Church planters are like the special forces of ministry. It takes courage to launch out into the unknown to serve people you have never met. It’s a worthy cause and one filled with lots of surprises along the way.

Some of the things I have learned working with church planters at ARC is what you would expect. Church planting is risky. You should get lots of experience leading and teaching in a local church before launching out. It requires a lot of coffee. Others were a surprise to discover. 

Here are 4 things you may not have considered about church planting:

Fundraising is easier and harder than you think.

When you make fundraising about the vision and the people you are going to reach, then it becomes much easier to make the ask. You are not asking for you. You are asking for the people you are going to reach. This frees you up to step out because you know what people are giving to is going to make an eternal difference.

This doesn’t mean fundraising is easy. In fact, in some ways fundraising is harder than you think. It is not something that starts or stops in the launch phase of a church plant. It starts long before you have the need by being faithful and considerate in the way you build relationships. It continues long after the launch because your church will continue to utilize financial resources to grow, reach more people, and serve the hurting and overlooked.

There is a language to church planting.

You must learn and speak the language of a church planter if you are going to start a church. When Jesus spoke he used stories and illustrations that were common to those he was speaking to. Church planters must use the same principle when starting a church.

You speak the language of a church planter when you translate insider Christian language into messaging everyone can understand. One way to do this is by communicating your reason for planting a church in a way that is meaningful to not only someone who already values faith and spirituality, but those you hope to reach as well. 

How you leave one season determines how you enter the next.

If you want to reap in favor, then you need to sow in honor. Even the best transitions can be challenging because a disconnection is taking place. When you speak well of, honor, and respect the wishes of your sending pastor you are investing in your own future by attracting loyal followers yourself.

When you go into your city it can be easy to only think of the needs of your new church plant. But remember, you are entering a community of existing churches. One day, you will be on the other end of a new church planter moving into your area. Lead the way with honor. Create an environment of unity in your city by asking how you can serve the other churches in your community instead of asking what they can do for you.

It takes longer than you think

You may be able to launch your church with ARC in as short as 6 months. This doesn’t mean everything you hoped to see will happen right away. It takes time to grow. Many times God has to grow your capacity as a leader before your church’s capacity to attract people can increase as well.

There are many aspects of your vision to start a church that will not be online for day one. Trying to get everything going all at once can lead to discouragement in you and exhaustion in your team. Dividing your focus prematurely can also lead to you not giving the essentials the attention they deserve. Parts of the vision will be realized on day one, others the next year, and still others in the years to come.

Church planting is an exciting journey filled with unexpected twists and turns. It also brings the reward of witnessing the miracle of new faith community being born first hand. If you like to find out more about starting a new church with ARC, we’d love for you to connect with us. Please go to arcchurches.com and click “start a church.” We have some free resources available to you just for reaching out.

If you are a church planter then I would love to hear from you! What were some things you didn’t expect that you found out after launching out to start a church?

*This post first appears as a contribution on KevMill.com.

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Attributes of a Church Planter

How do you know if you are a church planter? Well, if you like to wear button-down plaid shirts, then there’s a good chance you were born to plant a church. Just kidding! But it is an odd recurring phenomenon I have noticed…

There are lots of personality tests out there, and spiritual gift assessments you can take that can help you determine if you are a good fit for church planting. Ultimately, if God has called you to it, then He will equip you for it. It doesn’t matter if you fit in any particular mold or not.

If you are wondering though, here are some characteristics I have noticed effective church planters possess.

5 Attributes of a Church Planter

Evangelistic
The heart of the Great Commission to make new disciples of Jesus. Is soul winning a burning passion of yours?

Authentic
Are you comfortable being yourself? There is a difference in learning from others and wanting to be like them at the expense of being your authentic self. It is important to know the difference. If you aren’t comfortable being yourself, then others will have a hard time being comfortable around you as well.

Engaging
You cannot rely on marketing tools or other people to build your team. You must be able to attract people to the vision God has given you. This happens through being authentic and speaking the everyday language of people outside of the church. Are you someone who can engage in modern culture, or do you speak in preachy religious terms?

Honoring
You must honor where you came from, and the churches in the area where you are going. You may know “honor-speak,” but do your actions and attitudes match your words? If you are not ready to honor, even when it hurts, then you are not prepared to be a church planter.

Life-giving
You must believe the best in others. You cannot claim to have great faith, without having great faith in people. The people God sends to help you launch your church are your greatest assets.

ARC has an assessment process that does a great job giving feedback on people’s readiness to plant a church. We don’t determine your call, because we know that is between you and God. We do our best though to help you find the right timing and circumstances to launch strong. Visit arcchurches.com to find out more about our process and to apply.

What attributes do you think make a great church planter? I know there are more than just what I mentioned. I’d love to hear from you!

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Fundraising Mistakes and Musts for Church Planters

Over the years at ARC I have seen some successful as well as some not so successful approaches to fundraising. Here are a few quick tips if you are looking to raise money for a church plant. 

Mistakes Church Planters Make with Fundraising

The biggest mistake people make is not making the ask at all. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to give to something you know is going to be good for the people you are reaching as well as well the person who is giving. It’s better to assume that people want to have the opportunity to be a blessing and are looking for an opportunity to be a part of what God is doing. 

The second mistake is making too strong of an ask. This can happen in multiple ways. One way is by asking someone for money who you do not have any relational equity with. You start fundraising, not with a meeting when you give a pitch, but by genuine relationship long before you make an ask. You may not always have that opportunity for long term relationship though. In this situation you want to make sure that you ask them to pray about getting involved instead of asking for money the first time you meet with them. 

The key to overcoming both of these mistakes of being too shy or too bold is to not make it about you. Make fundraising about the people you are reaching and the person who is having a chance to get involved with what God is doing.

Practical Steps to Fundraising Well

  1. Prepare for a fundraising meeting by finding out about the person you are meeting with. 
  2. Start the meeting by asking questions about them and their vision. This way you can better connect your vision to what they are already passionate about.
  3. Share your needs, but also share your vision, and your practical plan for sustainability. How are you going to get a return on their investment? 
  4. It’s always good to follow up and thank the person for their time with a personal note. 
  5. Being authentic and truly caring for each person you come into contact with may be the best fundraising strategy you can employ. 

Most pastors don’t get into church planting because they are passionate about fundraising. They step out in faith out of a love for God and people. I think we should keep these two things in front of us when fundraising. God is our source, and fundraising for a church plant is just one more way we can learn to lean on Him more.

If you would like to find out more about starting a new church with ARC, we’d love for you to connect with us. Please go to arcchurches.com and click “start a church.” We have some free resources available to you just for reaching out

*This article first appeared as a contribution in the ARC Magazine.

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Digging Ditches

Inspiration to Reach Your Mountaintop

By: Suzannah Driver

What could go wrong?

If you can do any other job other than church planting and pastoring, do that!” Joe and I looked at each other and joined the chuckles coming from other future church planters sitting in the room. We had a combined twenty-two years of ministry under our belts and knew God had called us to plant a life-giving church in Pensacola, Florida. So, what could go wrong?! The short answer is: Everything

Nearly three years into leading and pastoring Echo Life, I think back on the cautionary statement spoken to the eager church planters. Would we have ever chosen a different route? No. We know through and through this is exactly where we are supposed to be and what we are called to be doing. But this has single-handedly been the most challenging and difficult three years we have experienced in ministry. 

Reaching the Summit

Mount Fuji, though it is a mere 12,388 feet tall, is no joke. I have had the opportunity to summit this mountain twice. On both occasions, we began the ascent at midnight, guided only by our headlamps and a small, braided cord leading to the top. The climb is virtually straight up. The terrain is made up of unstable pumice stones. The air is thin, making it difficult to breathe. Most of my climb was alone, in the dark, feeling light-headed, stumbling my way up, and rolling my ankles at least 30 times. This is also church planting. 

I would love to say that everything has been a beautiful mountaintop experience, but that would be so far from the truth. It has been a lonely uphill climb full of bumps and bruises. For several months now, I have felt like I have been struggling up a mountain and have only seen the light of day for a moment. This is the kind of discouragement that leaves you sitting on your laundry room floor weeping and asking God if this really was the right move (by the way, the enemy is a jerk and loves to kick you while you’re down. Don’t pay any attention to the thoughts you have in these dark moments. Find a friend who can share a light with you and show you that you are still moving in the right direction). 

Kings Digging Ditches

As I have been fighting my way through the deep, dark, discouragement, my time with Jesus has landed me in 2 Kings 3. Three kings have come together to fight against Moab and they find themselves wandering in the desert and completely out of water. They call for a prophet and Elisha shows up on the scene and gives them a word. “Dig ditches all over the valley.”

I imagine these kings looked at each other in disbelief. Surely they knew about the exodus story (kind of a big deal). They knew God had provided water from a rock, manna from heaven, so surely He could do it again! But no, God instructs the people to…digditches.

This is the desert. The sun beating down, the tools are primitive. The prophet continues, “You won’t hear the wind, you won’t see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water…This is easy for God to do; he will also hand over Moab to you.” (2 Kings 16-19 MSG) 

Can you imagine crying out to God for help and then Him telling you to do some back-breaking work in the desert. “Dig ditches.” How many? How deep? For how long? When is the rain showing up again? How are these going to be filled? The people had no answers but instead had an opportunity to operate in faith and obedience. 

Filling Up the Valley

Like many other believers and pastors, I am in a season of digging ditches. I am asking God for provisions, and I know He will provide, but the nagging question of when and how make faithful obedience even more difficult. Add to that the age of social media and I’m over here looking at other churches wondering why they got the provisions and I’m still having to dig with no end in sight.

This is where I have been the last several months. Many days of tears, frustration, anger, and feeling abandoned by God. Then I remember, “ You won’t hear the wind, you won’t see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water…this is EASY for God to do…” My responsibility is to be faithful. My responsibility is to obey. My responsibility is to dig in where I am placed and not check to see whose ditch is already finished. 

Maybe you’ve been digging for weeks, months, or years. Maybe you feel like your ditch is significantly deeper than the people around you. Maybe God is preparing you to be a well of great depth for future generations. Maybe He is preparing you for far more than you could ever imagine. Don’t give up! Don’t keep looking for the wind and rain, but know and believe that He is faithful. He sees you. He will answer you! Keep digging! You are not alone. 

Suzannah Driver

You can follow Suzannah on social media at @SuzannahDriver. You can find out more about the church she pastors along with her husband Joe in Pensacola, Florida, at echolifechurch.com.

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Cultures Problems

4 Keys to Diagnosing Culture Health

By: Tahe Governor

I came across this excellent article recently and thought it would fit nicely with the collection of blogs I am currently writing. I asked Tahe if he would mind sharing it on my site, and I am thrilled he is contributing. You can find the original post at yaresource.com.

How Are You Feeling?

You ever get the sense you don’t like the way things feel in your ministry or on your team?

Maybe you have excellent team members and a well thought out strategy, but still, something doesn’t feel right? It’s nothing you can point to specifically, but something just feels off.

You could have a culture problem. 

Why Culture Matters

Many leaders talk about the importance of culture. Pastor Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands teaches that an organization is built around people, systems, and culture. If an organization isn’t healthy and growing, there is a disconnect somewhere between these three.

People is about recruiting, developing, empowering, and placing the right people in the organization.

Systems are about the structures and processes in place to support, grow, and deliver the vision of the organization.

Culture is the overall feel, mood, norms, and environment of the organization.

Pastor Chris goes on to say that though all are important, culture trumps them all.

Good News and Bad News

Your church has a culture, and your team has a culture. Your culture is either working for you or against you. You can have culture either by decision or default. And when it comes to the culture, there’s good news and bad news.

First, the bad news. The wrong culture can take years to change. Pastor Craig Groeschel has said changing the wrong culture will take two years, and if you can find out a way to do it faster, he’d love to know.

Now, the good news. You can change the wrong culture.

Four Keys to Building Culture

Culture is the product of what we Communicate, Demonstrate, Celebrate, and Tolerate.

Communicate

Culture begins with what you say. Communicating the values you have and aspire to have will give people language and a clear culture goal. 

Demonstrate

Though it is important to talk “it,” it’s vital to walk “it.” We, as church leaders, can, unfortunately, be the worst at communicating values we never demonstrate. Changing culture begins with changing you. People are most likely emulating the environment you’re creating. 

Celebrate

People will naturally gravitate towards what you celebrate. You can say that what matters most is seeing people’s lives being changed until you’re blue in the face– but if all you ever celebrate is attendance – that’s what your team will take note of.

Tolerate

Whatever you tolerate will dominate. You can communicate, demonstrate, and celebrate the right stuff, but if you tolerate the wrong things, then they will be what will always dominate the culture.

Being Intentional About Culture

It’s essential to see that even Jesus was intentional about building the right culture within His followers.

Communicate – Matthew 5-7; Jesus’ sermon on the mount teaching his followers what the values and ways of the kingdom are.

Demonstrate – Mark 3:14; Jesus called the disciples to be with Him so they would see what He’s like, and He sent them out to do the same.

Celebrate – Luke 10:20; Jesus didn’t want His followers rejoicing in spiritual power, which would have led to pride. Instead, He taught them to celebrate their salvation, which leads to humility.

Tolerate – Matthew 16:23; Jesus wouldn’t allow even wrong mindsets in His disciples. He would deal with it instantly, knowing little problems cause significant dysfunction over time.

Core Values

One of the most effective ways to provide clarity around building the right culture is core values. The core values themselves are not the culture necessarily, but provide accountability and clarity around what the culture should be. Think of core values as buoys in the ocean or guardrails to a roadway. They mark boundaries and keep the culture in check.

Core values can be both observational (things that are already happening and in place) and aspirational (things you desire to be in place but aren’t yet).

Examples of Core Values

Church of the Highlands

Love God
Love People
Pursue Excellence
Choose Joy

Life Church

We are faith-filled, big thinking, bet-the-farm risk-takers.
We are all about the “capital C” Church!
We give up things we love for things we love even more.
We wholeheartedly reject the label mega-church.
We will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ.
We will lead the way with irrational generosity.
We will laugh hard, loud, and often.
We always bring our best.
We are spiritual contributors, not spiritual consumers.
We will honor Christ and His church with integrity.

Culture Questions

Here are some questions to help build values, and move your team or ministry towards the right culture.

1. How would you describe the culture of your team?

2. What would you say are the current values of your team? These can be words (i.e., integrity) or phrases (i.e., presence filled worship) or both.

3. What values are you in lack of that you’d like to see a part of your team?

4. Are you “tolerating” anything in your culture that is working against you? If so, what is it?

5. Think about a brand new person joining your team. What would you want them to feel by the time they left?

6. What’s your favorite thing about your team?

Where Culture Begins

The big takeaway? Culture begins with you.

The most effective tool you have for building the culture you want to feel is being the culture you want to build.

Tahe Governor is the pastor of Collective, the 18-30 young adults ministry of Bethany Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He carries a deep passion for young adults to come to a true biblical understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to lead them in living it out. Instagram: @tahegovernor / Facebook: facebook.com/tahegovernor.

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Developing Leaders for Church Planting and Beyond

You have heard of “ABC: Always Be Closing,” but in ministry it needs to be “ABD: Always Be Developing leaders (which includes recruiting leaders).” While recruiting people for your church plant you should consider reaching people far from Christ, finding people who need a church to grow in their faith, but you also have to have other gathers who can help you support the mission of the church.

“If I were running a company today I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could [because] the single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.”

– Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great

Such a good thought for church planters in the recruiting phase. I believe this also applies to all seasons of any organization. Leaders are the skeleton that supports church growth. You can swell without good leaders. You can gather by taking advantage of seasons and great planning for an event. But sustainable growth requires great leaders and teams of leaders to hold the pieces together. Leaders are the ones who transmit the values and culture into others.

The question is how do we develop leaders while taking care of everyone else in the church? Understanding the 3 phases of pastoring should help.

3 Phases of Pastoring

Reaching New People
If your church plant is not reaching out to those far from God, then you are missing the point. A new church should not just add a new worship service to a community. It should be an outpost of help and rescue. A new church should be actively displaying the love of Christ by helping people meet their spiritual and physical needs.

Caring For Members
This is the group that can be easily overlooked in the mix of starting a new church or growing an existing church. It can also become the total focus of a church that ends up unintentionally ignoring the other two groups. A wise pastor is continuously aware that members need love, encouragement, and correction. We need to cry with them and celebrate them. Our goal with this group is to help them take one step at a time in their faith; patiently caring for them along the way.

Developing Leaders
Leaders require a different type of attention and plan of action. We don’t love anyone more, but to love everyone equally, then we have to love each person differently. As a church planter, you should keep your eyes out for gathers. These are people who carry their own influence and have a desire to share that influence with you to grow the local church. The goal is to let them know they are appreciated, but that they are also carrying the culture. This means they may get more access, but the hope is this will multiply your efforts when you delegate responsibility to them when the time is right.

So to sum things up, we need to always be recruiting three types of people. 1) New People – through serving and outreach 2) New Members – through gatherings and pastoral care 3) New Leaders – through access and individualized plans. This is not just something that is important for church planting but is also a great way to “get and hang on to the right people” to help your ministry achieve its mission of reaching people and growing Christ-followers.

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5 Essential Principles for Ministry

Lessons Learned at ARC

If you had a leadership toolbelt that held your most important lessons in ministry, what would be on it? These are the things you know you are going to need every day. You don’t keep those in a toolbox. You need them close by for easy access.

This month will be five years since we moved to Birmingham and joined the team at ARC. It has me thinking about how my ministry toolbelt has developed during this time. I am incredibly thankful for our team and the fantastic friends and ministry I get to enjoy as a result of being a part of ARC. I am also grateful for the things God has taught me concerning my calling, leadership, and ministry while working at ARC.

In this post want to share some of the ministry essentials I have picked up over the past five years. These principles can help you no matter what season you are in right now. They are the tools I have begun keeping close at hand on my ministry toolbelt.

Sometimes Your Fruit Grows On Other People’s Trees

At ARC, I have learned to find my success in helping other people find theirs. This statement has become my life’s mission. I discovered this truth right away after joining the ARC team. I wanted to find out as much as I could about Billy Hornsby. So, I started watching all the videos of him I could find. He shared this in one of them, and something clicked for me. This is what I want to spend my life doing.

Follow the Street Lights  

What if closed doors where just the end of one street light before you moved into the illumination of another on your path to follow God’s will? My life looks much different than I imagined it would at this stage. Helping church planters was not on my radar as a career possibility. I would have figured God had other plans for me. I arrived in this unexpected destination by following the street lights.

Street lamps light up only a small part of the road before you need another. This illustration is how I imagine God leading us through each season of life within the limits of our understanding. He speaks to us in a way we can understand to get us to take a step towards what will be more evident once we get to the next street light. 

In the process, we have to be willing to let go of what we thought things would look like to enter the next part of the journey. Closed doors can feel devastating at the moment, but most of the time, they are just the edge of the street light on your way home.

Run to the Shortest Line

Pastor Dino told a story one day that I think about all the time. He talked about his son being new at school and trying out for the football team. He wasn’t getting any reps in his desired position. So his dad advised him to try something new, “Tomorrow at practice run to the shortest line. At least that way they can see what you can do.” That’s what he did, and he ended up getting a college scholarship in that position.

Most people think the best way to gain influence is from the stage – in front of people. That’s the long line. Everyone is trying so hard to get there; they are missing out on other ways to make an eternal impact. 

The shortest line is the line of serving people. You can gain more influence behind the scenes than you can from the stage if your goal is to add value to others. Speaking to a crowd pumps up our egos, but influencing one leader can have a much more significant impact because of what that leader will do with what you give them. This principle is one of the main reasons I enjoy serving church planters.

Start With Why

This one is more practical than anything else. Simon Sinek does a TED Talk on this topic. Anyone who hopes to influence others should at least watch this TED Talk if not read his book, Start With Why. It has impacted just about every aspect of the way I communicate, delegate tasks, and recruit.

Here are three ways I start with why. 1) When recruiting someone, I begin the conversation by asking about their “why” for life and ministry before asking them to join my “what.” 2) When delegating a task, I explain steps and then share the “why” behind the job by showing who the results will impact. 3) I start presentations with “why” to create buy-in for what I am going to say. Even this post started by engaging the reader with questions about themselves. Doing this keeps us from the common problem of presenting our “what” really well without anyone listening.

Be Opened Handed

ARC has taught me to be open-handed in more ways than one. This does not mean just being generous with resources, but also with praise, kindness, and sharing the credit. It extends into leaning towards forgiveness and honor over getting even and being right. We should give people, even the difficult ones, the same grace and kindness God has given us. Doing this requires humility, which I guess is why we all struggle with it so much.

What are your most important ministry lessons? Did any of these stick out to you? Why? I loved to hear from you! Leave a comment or send me a message! 

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The Case for Critics

4 Ways to Benefit From Your Critics

You may think I am crazy, but I believe there is a place for critics in our lives. We can benefit from them if we approach their feedback in the right way.

Shake the Haters Off?

A couple of friends of mine once asked me to pray over them at their wedding. Let me pause here and say I am not a very ceremonial person. I am, by nature, a little irrerevant. I communicate in a direct, casual way. If you win an award, please don’t call me to introduce you. It would be awkward for both of us.

So back to my friends’ wedding. It was beautiful, and I was honored to have the chance to pray over this couple in such a significant moment. The prayer started sophisticated enough. But towards the end, I guess I got a little excited. As I was wrapping up, I all of a sudden blurted out, “And shake the haters off in Jesus Name! Amen.”

They have not spoken to me since. Just kidding. They thought it was great, at least that it was they have led me to believe…

A lot of advice out there in regards to critics sounds like my wedding prayer – just shake the haters off. I don’t think that is always a great idea. That may surprise you, but here are a few reasons why.

4 Reasons to Listen to Your Critics

What if they’re not a critic?

Not everyone who gets labeled a hater is actually sipping hater-ade. We should be slow to dismiss good advice we may not want to hear because it doesn’t line up with our immediate plans. Sometimes a little constructive feedback is what we need to keep us from taking the next step prematurely. It can also be the very thing that helps us prepare to move forward when the time is right.

Take it as a compliment

When someone criticizes you it means they are taking time to think about you, your point of view, or what you have created. “Why thank you, Mr. Critic. I had no idea you were so obsessed with me!” LOL

But seriously, you don’t have the chance to get criticized if your ideas are not being elevated beyond your existing sphere of influence. Critics show your influence is growing. “Thanks again, Mr. Critic, for that reminder of how awesome I am!” 🙂

Turn lemons into lemonade

A critic is someone keenly aware of your faults. They may not have the most delightful way of bringing them up, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of their fault-finding. Those shortcomings are areas we need to address to get better. We can turn a critic’s lemons into lemonade whenever we ask them, “what do you mean by that,” and learn how we can get better, instead of getting defensive.

Destroy your enemies

I know that sounds kind of strong, but check out this quote from Abraham Lincoln:

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Abraham Lincoln

When this becomes your strategy of dealing with critics, life becomes more fun. You have more friends and fewer enemies. Instead of getting entrenched in your opinion and lobbing online grenades at those who have a different perspective than you, you get to disarm people and possibly turn them into a fan.

What I am not saying

I don’t think you should take all criticism to heart. Obsessing over what people who don’t know you have to say about you is a wacky way to spend your time. On the other hand, offering people grace and understanding, even when they do not give it to you first, is a great way to begin to make a small change in your world. I also think it is a fantastic way to reflect Christ in a moment we can easily make about our feelings.

We shouldn’t ignore everything we don’t want to hear. At the same time, we also shouldn’t take everything others say to heart. We should listen, though. It can lead to some fantastic things.

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Your Story Is Not Over Yet

How to Find Your Happy Ending

What if the movie Rudy would have ended before he played in that final game? Our last image of him would not be of a courageous victor, but rather a bruised and defeated failure. It wasn’t that Rudy was the greatest athlete that makes his story so inspiring. It’s that he finds a way to keep his dream alive when it seems no one else could. His triumph was not in his success, but in his ability to never give up.

That kind of fortitude is hard to conjure up in our own setbacks. It’s like Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

Redefining the Valley

When you find yourself in the valley, it is much easier to just accept the possibility that the best parts of your story have already ended. The peaks never seem further away. The shadows appear to linger so much longer. There is another way to view the valley though. You can see you valley as your lowest point, which might be true, or you can also see it as the halfway point to your next mountaintop. Maybe your happy ending is not in this chapter of life, but will be found in the next.

Whether it is a relationship that did not pan out as you had envisioned, a dream that seems to be delayed, or unfair circumstances, this life provides many opportunities to end our story before the desired conclusion appears. There will always be seasons we wish we could erase from the pages of life. Unfortunately, there is no whiteout for regrets. The good news is our happy ending is not based on our present circumstances, but on how we respond in those situations. You are not the first one to experience difficulty or find yourself at a dead end. Anyone who ever dared greatly, dreamed wildly, or attempted courageously, have all found themselves at those same crossroads.

In the Bible we get the luxury of knowing how each story ends. As a result, we can sometimes overlook being in the dark hours with some of these heroes of faith. In those moments they did not know if God would come through for them or not. There were no guarantees their stories would conclude with a happy ending.

Aren’t you glad it didn’t end when:

…Moses fled from Egypt in fear and defeat, but rather when he returned in faith as a deliverer.

…the flood waters of judgment fell around Noah, but rather when the rainbow of forgiveness rose above him.

…Abraham doubted God’s ability because of his own limitations, but rather when God did what was not in Abraham’s ability because of HIS promises.

…Joseph was cast into a pit, chased from Potiphar’s house, or chained in prison, but rather when he was put in charge in the palace.

…twelve spies were discouraged by their obstacles around them, but rather when Joshua and twelve tribes were encouraged by their opportunity before them.

…death gained access to man through the disobedience of Adam, but rather when man gained access to life through the obedience of Jesus.

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

Orson Welles

Keep Writing Your Story

We must be careful not to stop our own stories prematurely. Comparing ourselves to others can cause us to quit because we do not get context when we focus on others. We don’t know what storms their ship just came out of or may soon enter. The best thing to do is to keep sailing, and hold on to our anchor of hope, Jesus. He is,after all, the author and the finisher of our faith.

When we focus on the pain left by people in our past, instead of the healing we can bring to others through Jesus, we become a supporting character in someone else’s saga. Turn down the cameo role of the person who falls victim to their circumstances. Be determined to assume the lead in your own story of redemption and healing.

The doubt we have in our most trying hours will one day turn to awe and wonder if we continue to trust the One who has the final say on how our story ends.

This is a repost of a past blog I have written and also shared at youthministry.com and other sites. I thought it would be something good to post as we go into Holy Week.

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The Language of a Church Planter

Why You May Need to Start Watering Down Your Messages

Watered Down Coffee

No one likes watered down coffee or diluting something valuable. That can be what it feels like at times when we try to market what the church offers to the unchurched. This can cause some to wonder if the modern church is just using bait and switch tactics to get more people in the door. Is being relevant the same thing as compromising the gospel for a bigger audience?

Finding the best way to speak to an outsider with insider information is not watering down or dumbing down the gospel. It smartening up to bridge the gap between those who do not yet speak our language but also need what we have to offer. This is what I call speaking the language of a church planter.

1,000 songs in your pocket

“Apple did not invent the mp3 player but is credited for revolutionizing the music industry with it. Creative Technology did that 22 months ahead of time and had much more experience in digital sound. They are the reason we have sound on our computers. So what happened? Creative Technology advertised an mp3 player with 5GB of memory while Apple marketed 1,000 songs in your pocket. The “what” is 5GB of data. The “why” is you want 5GB of data is because it allows you to take 1,000 songs wherever you go. This is why you “start with why.”

Paraphrased from Start with Why, by Simon Sinek.

Is it possible that we need to stop getting discouraged by people not wanting our 5 gigabytes of data when they have no idea what we are talking about? Repeating the same thing over and over that people don’t know they need is frustrating on both ends. Instead, we need to let them know about the fantastic opportunity they have to get 1,000 songs in their pocket.

Speak Their Language

Jesus used the language of the day. He spoke in terms an ordinary person could understand. Our goal isn’t to continue using the same cultural comparisons as Jesus and write off anyone who doesn’t “get it.” Instead, we should use Jesus’ example of sharing Kingdom principles in a way that is relevant to this current generation of people.

Speaking the language of a church planter is to bring eternal truths into everyday vernacular. The truth doesn’t change, and neither does the power of the name of Jesus. How we deliver the truth of Jesus’ message to people far from God needs to change as the culture, and standard practices evolve over time. We need to speak our truth in their language.

Insider language is not the enemy either. It’s a massive help in connecting and communicating with other insiders. If our goal is to reach outsiders though, then when that opportunity is in front of us to speak them (Sunday Morning for example) we need to be creative and committed to doing everything we can to get them that life preserver of truth.

Felt Needs

One practical way church planters can do this is to market to people’s felt needs. We know the answer, but all they are aware of is the problem. Letting people know that the Church is there to serve them will lead to them serving God. Making them a priority gives us the opportunity to share the Good News that will allow them the chance to make God their priority.