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10 Live Streaming Solutions for Churches Adjusting to COVID-19 Outbreak

How to Connect with Your Church Online During Social Distancing

Some churches are adjusting to holding services online for the first time now that social distancing guidelines are in place across the country. How can we help pastors live streaming for the first time avoid mistakes and interruptions to their broadcast? Here is a list of tips and insights to help make the transition smoother.

  1. Avoid being kicked off of Facebook and Youtube by not playing copyrighted music in your pre-service buffer video.
    • For example: if you are playing Hillsong on your pre-service countdown video you can get kicked off for copyright infringement.
    • Live music is fine, but playing tracks could cause the music to be picked up as copyrighted.
  2. Combine your efforts. If you do not have a permanent location or equipment team up with other churches that do.
    • Maybe one person has the equipment and the other has the permanent space. Or maybe you have team members that can do worship that will be used by all on the team-up. What a witness this could be for your community.
  3. Encourage people to share the premier instead of hosting multiple watch parties for greater interaction. 
    • “For greater interaction on Facebook live (both live or pre-recorded)… watch parties and multiple services actually hurt interactions. Doing just one 10am service allowed us to exceed all my expectations with interactions online. Watch parties took people away from the momentum of numbers in our primary group chat and viewers.” Contributed by Brad Hampton, Soco Church, Bentonville, AR. 
  4. “Designate someone to run and man the stream chat as there were questions and comments in real-time that needed to be addressed and or deleted.” Contributed by Michael Matthew, Eternal Rock Church, Houston TX 
  5. The benefits of pre-recording vs live streaming.
    • “Higher resolution on broadcasting prerecorded. Post-production editing. Adding text, videos, slides in post-production editing, for churches that are unable to steam that content in real-time. Broadcasting prerecorded overall decreases the room for error.  We have the ability to live stream. But just pre-recorded last night for this weekend. And they’re going to pre-record for the next two or three weekends Starting tomorrow.” Contributed by John Pomeroy, New Anthem Church, Mount Clemens, MI
  6. Free live streaming is available. Church Online Platform from Open Church (Life.Church and the Bible App) is totally free and will always be free. You can find out more here: https://churchonlineplatform.com.
    • “At Life.Church, one of our core values is irrational generosity. We’re committed to equipping the “capital C” Church in every way we can. That’s why the Church Online Platform is available completely free of charge. Our definition of “free” extends to support and updates, too. You’ll get personalized customer service, software upgrades, and new features for the life of the tool.”
  7. Free Resources for Kids:
  8. Worship Solutions from Substance Church
  9. A Church Communications Strategy/Calendar during Covid-19. Live Stream Content Starting at 9:44 https://youtu.be/35QtLDdLrsM  (Contributed by Jon-Michael Sherman, TheRocket.Media)
  10. More live stream options:

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Outreach Ideas During the COVID-19 Outbreak

How to connect with the needs of your community during social distancing.

Outreach can be challenging with social distancing guidelines in place. You need to make sure you are considering your community’s guidelines for social distancing and that you are staying up to date as things are continuing to change so quickly.

A new obstacle also means a new opportunity to meet people’s needs. What are the new needs being presented as a result of this outbreak and how can we reach out to help during this time? Here are some things church planters are doing to reach people in need as a result of COVID-19.

  1. Offer free grocery, toiletry, and medication delivery for those most vulnerable. Getting payment from them via Venmo or picking up cash before shopping. Contributed by: Austin Coleman, HEART and SOUL, Knoxville, TN, @heartandsoul.church
  2. Offer free coffee at a local coffee shop for medical professionals. Contributed by: Andy and Christy Cass, Echo Church, Rochester, MN, @wearetheechochurch
  3. Have your Children’s ministry organize making cards for those in assisted living facilities that can’t receive guests. Contributed by: Chris Shinnick, Manna Church West Florida, Niceville, FL, @MannaChurchFL
  4. Buy grocery store gift cards (can be as small as $5) and hand them out with God loves you cards or church invite cards at gas stations to help with those struggling financially. Contributed by: Chris Shinnick, Manna Church West Florida, Niceville, FL, @MannaChurchFL
  5. Assist with local food pantry as a drop off point. Contributed by: Chris Shinnick, Manna Church West Florida, Niceville, FL, @MannaChurchFL
  6. Call senior citizen members of your church. Just check-in, pray with them and find out if there is any need you can meet. Contributed by: Chad Fisher, Rock City Church, Columbus OH, @rockcitychurch
  7. Set up a Facebook group connecting parents and teachers to help with homeschooling. Contributed by: Angela Mooney, Relate Community Church, Spring, TX, @relatecommunitychurch
  8. Offer a drive up with non-perishables for people to pick up. Contributed by: Laura Strand, The Bridge, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, MO,  @thebridgechurchmo
  9. Leave a card with a note of encouragement or free coffee on the cars of healthcare workers. Contributed by: Laura Strand, The Bridge, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, MO,  @thebridgechurchmo
  10. Let your neighbors know times you are available to pick things up for them with a God loves you card. Contributed by: Laura Strand, The Bridge, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, MO,  @thebridgechurchmo
  11. Collecting items to deliver to medical workers on duty (granola bars, bottled coffees, snacks, gas gift cards, etc). Contributed by: Betsy Davis, Hope Church KC, Kansas City, MO, @hopechurchkc
  12. Help with food distribution via local organizations or schools to reach the kids who won’t have access to food while schools are closed. Contributed by: Betsy Davis, Hope Church KC, Kansas City, MO, @hopechurchkc
  13. Buy gift cards for gas and hand them out with God loves you cards or church invite cards at gas stations to help with those struggling financially. Contributed by: Ana Silvestre, Venture Church, Salinas, CA, @Venturechurchsalinas  
  14. Provided lunch for people working overtime at school administration building (eLearning, cleaning, communications, etc). We showed up with box lunches from a local restaurant. Contributed by: Chad Lunsford, Echo Church, Avon, IN, @EchoChurch.cc
  15. Offer online financial crisis coaching (and prayer). (the leaders of our financial peace university are doing this for people in our church) It would be cool to offer this to the public based on Biblical principles. Contributed by: Amreitha Jeeva, Kalos Church, Bellevue, WA, @kaloschurch

Remember the kids:

With kids at home, this is a great opportunity to minister to families. You can post a new activity to your social media each day that families can do at home. Have someone from your children’s ministry shoot a quick video talking to kids. Post resources that families can use that would be helpful during this time.

More Resources:

ARC Resources and Support

COVID-19 and How to Serve Your City By Serve Day

What Do We Do Now? By Serve Day

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15 Things Church Planters Can Do During COVID-19 Outbreak


Strategies for Church Planters Adjusting to COVID-19 and Social Distancing

What do you do if you are a church planter preparing for a launch day later in 2020 or 2021? The landscape is changing day-by-day right now. Things may look different a week or two weeks from now. Even so, I wanted to share some things that can help church planters move forward in a time where social distancing is the rule and there is a pandemic impacting people’s live like we have not seen in recent memory.

If you are a church planter here are 15 things you can do right now:

  1. Pray –
    1. That the spread of this virus would be contained and that we will see a turnaround in the number of people being infected and dying from this disease.
    2. For healthcare workers.
    3. For wisdom for leaders.
    4. For those impacted by the virus.
    5. For people to place their trust in God.
  2. Follow Community guidelines regarding social distancing. Educate yourself on what others are doing to implement these guidelines and learn from their messaging.
  3. Have contingency plans for launch day. Have three timelines. For example:
    1. Plan for your September Launch Day.
    2. Have a backup plan to launch in October
    3. What would it look like to launch at the beginning of November or in 2021?
  4. Website – Make sure to have a landing page if not a recruiting website up as soon as possible.
  5. Giving – Make giving easy by having online options available. Some platforms will offer free use of their giving platform for church planters for an introductory period. 
  6. Go online with your message now. Don’t wait for Launch Day or Sunday to start offering hope and prayer. Take advantage of social media platforms to offer messages of hope, pointing people to God, encouragement, and prayer.
    1. Offer online prayer meetings.
    2. Offer daily short encouragement.
  7. Offer a listening ear. One of the greatest gifts we can give someone is the time to hear them out. FaceTime or call people and just check-in, ask questions, listen, and offer to pray with them.
  8. Stay informed. Be in touch with what is happening in our nation, your state, and your local community. What guidelines are being given and what needs are being presented that can be prayed for?
  9. Be Others Focused – Make everything you do and say is about the people you are serving and not about you and your church or your unique needs in this uncharted landscape of church planting.
  10. Prepare the things now that don’t involve meeting with people or will take away from your time focusing on people once some of the meeting guidelines are lifted.
  11. Look for the opportunities to serve that are being presented that may not be available if circumstances were different. Serving local business and medical professionals For example:
    1. Offering free coffee in the drive-through at a local coffee shop to medical professionals.
    2. Support for families at home with kids.
  12. Stay connected to your church network and other ministry leaders for encouragement, resources, and new ideas to continue moving forward.
  13. Broadcast – Learn how to use live streaming platforms for online presentations. For example: 
    1. Quick Guidelines for Live Streaming a Church Service
    2. Zoom
    3. Facebook Premiere
    4. Youtube Premiere
    5. Church Online Platform
  14. Use money wisely. Make every dollar count and save when you can and spend only what is necessary. Wait when you can, and trust God with your financial preparations.
  15. Use technology to stay connected to your team during social distancing
    • Group Messaging Apps: Slack and GroupMe
    • Cloud Services for collaboration: Google Drive & Evernote
    • Video Messaging: Marco Polo & Google Hangouts
    • Facebook: Groups, Page, Chat, & Messaging
    • Instagram
    • Twitter
    • Youtube: Public Videos, Private Videos for Your Team, & Past Broadcasts

What else would be helpful? Add to the list in the comments below. Thanks!

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Enjoying the Journey

A story of happy accidents.

Do you have something you are passionate about but maybe are not the most talented in that area? For me, that is running. I started running almost by accident. One year, after moving to a new school, I found out I had missed football tryouts. Instead of sitting out of sports completely I decided to look for another option. That’s when I found out the Cross Country team doesn’t have tryouts. They will take anyway willing to suffer a hilly trail, blisters on their feet, and constantly sore calf muscles. While running through country roads, winding paths, and quiet downtown streets I fell in love with running. It was a hobby birthed almost on accident.

If only all accidents had a happy ending.

I heard the sticky note was created by accident. I wish I had more accidents like that. Most of my accidents would lead to me giving up on creating, not creating something that changes a company for the better. Most times in life an accident means trouble, pain, or at least a change of plans. 

Have you ever had an accident slow you down?

I set the goal of finishing a half-marathon under two hours. About six months later I finished a half marathon at 2:00:44 (Two hours and 44 seconds). I started slow and missed my goal by 44 seconds. I wasn’t exactly happy about this, but at least I was getting close. It seemed inevitable that I would break two hours at the next half marathon. When the next race came a few months later I finished at 2:00:04. Four seconds people!

At that point, I wanted to throw my running shoes over the nearest powerline (ala Marshawn Lynch) and give up forever. I would let my running dreams hang over the neighborhood by their treacherous laces as a reminder to all who saw them to never run. Running will break your heart.

Instead of giving up though, I doubled down on my efforts. I found a partner who was a Boston Qualifier, aka much faster than me. I went back to the gym and committed to a cross-training plan. I showed up early mornings at what I call the unforgiving circle of torture or what you may know as the local track. I put in the work. I even took it easy when I got too soar. I did everything right, and you know what. I was running much faster than a two-hour pace.

Everything was working according to plan until another accident found its way into my plans. Seven days before my race where I was almost destined to obliterate my two-hour goal I allowed my momentum to carry me down a hill too fast and twisted my knee in an awkward way.

I wouldn’t be able to run my race. I wouldn’t make it to my goal.

What really upset me was that I had never worked so hard, been so consistent, and invested so much time towards a running goal. So many times I got to the finish line and know I didn’t do my best in preparation. This time I had. I truly did my best but wouldn’t get the satisfaction of finishing. It felt like something I paid for was taken from me right as it almost touched my fingertips.

But was there any lemonade to be made from these lemons? The thing that caused me the most pain, the amount of time I had invested in this goal, would ultimately be my saving grace. When I really thought about it, yes it was a sacrifice, but getting up early to run and going to the gym to workout was its own reward. I was healthy, had lots of energy, and felt good about myself. Making new friends and growing in relationship with old ones all came as a result of the journey to get to that under two-hour mark.

I didn’t make it to the finish line, but that was always only 1% of the experience anyway. If you can’t enjoy the other 99% of the process than you probably aren’t investing in the best thing for you. When I looked back over the time leading up to that disappointment I can happily say that I enjoyed the experience of preparation. The final destination was not the two-hour half marathon expected through. Instead, the journey took me to a place that taught me a new lesson in enjoying the journey.

Life is full of unfinished business, unrealized expectations, and unfulfilled dreams. If we measure life by destinations then we ignore the lessons and pleasures of the journey to those destinations. Many times God is not just leading us to somewhere or to do something but to become someone. I want to be someone who enjoys the journey and helps others do the same.

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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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Altar Call Before Protocol

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Reinhard Bonnke

*I originally shared this story on my blog four years ago, but this is an updated version I have not posted before. I have been very moved by Reinhard Bonnke’s example of faith, integrity, and winning souls. I had the chance to host him when he was speaking at Bethany in 2011. It was an amazing experience spending time with someone who is so legendary in Heaven. After that, I read his autobiography, Living a Life of Fire. In this post, I give just one example of how he has inspired me to point people to Jesus whenever I can. For context, at the time this story takes place I had just begun a job working in sales after a year and a half working in retail, and before that seven years in ministry.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Transitioning from retail to my role at a technology company brought about some considerable changes to my daily life. The new position gave me a regular schedule. I was now able to get more involved in church as a leader. It also provided the chance to meet some interesting people.

As part of my job, I attended a networking event called “Around the Table.” I went to many different networking meetings in hopes of generating sales during this time, but this one was different. Instead of meeting at an office or restaurant, everyone taking part gathered in various community leaders’ homes for dinner and discussion. The area chamber of commerce hosted the event, and they decided the house where you would attend, not by who you knew, but by which topics you were interested in discussing. I read through a list of questions that determined where I would have dinner. The one that jumped out at me the most was, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

That question stopped me in my tracks. I had not seriously considered it before. I had stepped out of my comfort zone by taking time away from working in ministry, but so far, it had felt mostly like a failure. It was a question that was painful for me to answer. So why not attend a dinner party with a bunch of high powered strangers and discuss it with them?

I was happy to have Amy with me that night. She dazzled everyone with her charm. She is an elegant, timeless, and beautiful. I’m not just saying that because I will get major points for putting this in my blog. She is the kind of beauty that makes you look twice. She has big bright eyes and thick dark hair. She carries herself with confidence, and I knew she would shine at that business dinner. People probably liked me more because she was there.

About the same time I was hired at my technology job, Amy was asked to work at the church we were attending. The position was to assist with their non-profit organization, HP Serve. I couldn’t think of any better ending to this crazy experiment than to end up working at our new church together.

Instead, it was Amy working closely with the church through the non-profit as I continued to be a fish out of church. Amy is extremely talented. It makes sense why they would want her on staff, but it just seemed like another reminder that my dream of being in ministry was on an indefinite hiatus.

Feeling Out of Place

At dinner, Amy told every business leader about her work to help underprivileged and disadvantaged youth through HP Serve. She had everyone interested in finding out how they could get involved. They didn’t know part of her job included fundraising, which she seemed to be doing an effecting job doing as my plus one. All for Jesus, right? I enjoyed connecting and meeting some fascinating people as well, but I felt a little insecure. Amy had all the exciting things to talk about. I was just a salesperson at a dinner attended by people much higher up on the business food chain.

When it was time to eat, high powered business owners, CEO’s, and influential people in our community all sat around the table with Amy and me. I found it difficult to relate to a group of people who had accomplished amazing things in business. One person shared they had just spent Thanksgiving in New York City watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with iconic giant balloons floating by their hotel room. I wanted to contribute to the conversation, I really did, but then I remembered some words of wisdom someone once passed onto me, “You can be silent, and people may think you are an idiot, or you can open your mouth, and remove all doubt.”

By this point, I was two years away from the ministry world I had left. I had pizza experience and could tell them how to layer the cheese just right so that the bubbly goo baked to perfection. I could share hacks for their iPhones to make the battery last longer, or which data plan would allow them to have cheaper rates while they were in Paris. But it felt like too much time had passed since I mattered as a leader in the community.

Altar Call Before Protocol

I was silent for most of the evening until they got to the point in the dinner party where they asked that question, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” As soon as the discussion began, a phrase popped into my mind, “Altar call before protocol.”

In his autobiography, Living a Life of Fire, Reinhard Bonnke mentioned God speaking this same phrase to him over and over again as he was brought before presidents, rulers, and dignitaries throughout his ministry. I believe God had brought this to my remembrance to give a little bit of confidence for what would happen next.

It was clear that God wanted me to share the gospel with these 25 strangers, and I had no idea how I was going to do that. I was so intimidated by these people that I had hardly said a word the entire night. Then before I had time to put together a game plan, the host turned to me and asked, “Josh, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

I started with a philosophical quote in an attempt to engage the room. “Blaise Pascal says that ‘there is a God-shaped void in the heart of every man, and the only thing that can fill it is God Himself.’ If I knew I couldn’t fail, then I would spend the rest of my life helping people fill that void by connecting them to God.”

The room stared blankly at me. I need to unpack that a little, or they would think a crazy person had been invited to their fancy party.

“I would do this through writing books that show how God really is, and not how we perceive Him to be through religious filters.” Heads start to nod, and I take it a step further by sharing some of my journey to believe again with them.

“Not too long ago, I was a pastor on staff at a church. Then I felt God leading me to make a change. As a result, I ended up working in retail sales for a year and a half before working where I am now. I had to move out of my house and had to sell most of my belongings. Now that I am on the other side of the pulpit, I have had the chance to see things differently. During this time, I began to realize that I did not have a healthy way of relating to God, church life, or others. My old perspective was based on what I could do for God, instead of what God has already done for me. I want to write things that will encourage those who are down and out or feel away from God, that will help them find their way again.”

Throughout the night, people were commenting on how if they knew they couldn’t fail, then they would try and bring about positive social change. Everyone had a long list of what they thought would be the right fix. All of their ideas were admirable and selfless, but they left out the most significant force for change the world has ever known. While I had their attention, I felt it was an excellent opportunity to use that conversation to springboard into what I thought God most wanted me to say that night. “Altar call before protocol,” as Reinhard Bonnke would say.

“Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,’ and the love of God is the most powerful force on the face of the earth. It is our best hope for the troubles our city faces. While improvements in education, law enforcement, and health care are all needed and essential, that is not what is going to change our community. Only the gospel can do that.”

Ah, That’s Nice…

Throughout the evening, after someone shared for a moment, everyone would say something like, “Ah that’s so nice. You should do that!” then move on. That’s not what happened after I shared. Instead, the owner of the home we were in, who happened to be a top executive in a Fortune 500 company, said, “Wait a second, I don’t want to move on just yet. Let’s go back to what Josh was saying. Tell us more!”

I continued, “What I have learned is that many people do not understand the gospel. The good news is not that we can get to God, but that He has already come to us in Jesus. The Bible says that He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. Our part is not to go out and earn the right to have Him come to our house. It’s just to open the door in faith and ask him to come and sit at the table, and join us for dinner.”

After a few “amens” from the room, the host said, “You need to get to writing! That is a message people need to hear.” 

Throughout the rest of the evening, God was front and center and came up throughout our discussions. It was a fun time, and I was encouraged that God used me to share the gospel with people who I probably would have never had the chance to reach from a microphone at church.

I felt like a fish out of water that night, but I was making a difference. It is not only the preacher with the microphone that can make a difference for the Kingdom of God. That alone will never be enough. While that is needed, we also need people outside of the walls of the church, unafraid to be who God made them to be, even if there is not already a model for that. Maybe that is 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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The Path to Healthy

How to move forward when you feel stuck in dysfunction

My youngest daughter hates wearing jackets. Getting her to put one on is always a struggle. On the other hand, she loves playing with dolls and tiny figurines. These two things collided recently when the sleeves of her coat got stuck around her hands that were each holding toy dolls. She couldn’t get the jacket off, which made her upset, and she also could no longer play with her toys, which made her even more upset.

Here’s the problem: she would not let me take the toys out of her hands so the jacket that was keeping her from playing with her toys could be removed. As long as she was not willing to let go of the toys, she could never really be free to play with them.

My daughter’s conundrum with her toys and jacket is how we can be in many areas. It is also an accurate way to describe codependent relationships and unhealthy environments. We feel stuck, but we can’t get out, because there are things we don’t want to be removed from our hands.

If we want to move forward on the path to healthy then there are things we have to let go of first. What are you holding on to that is keeping you in a relationship or position that you know is not the best for you? Usually, the thing we think we are going to lose by letting go is the very thing we are sacrificing by holding on.

Three Options

Letting go is scary. That is why so many people choose a different response. We shouldn’t be a turtle that hides-a-way in our shells and hopes the problem goes away. Avoiding an issue never solves it, and it almost never gets better on its own. Action must be taken, but it has to be the right action.

We also shouldn’t take on the role of crusader and cut down everyone in sight with the sword of truth. It is in this situation that we must be sensitive to building up the Kingdom and not tearing it down. While steps should be taken, they should be done through the lens of humility. This is the only way to guard our hearts and protect those we want to help without responding out of offense or hurt.

The third option is to be a responsible spiritual leader who puts your own health and that of your family (or future family), ahead of your pride, position, influence, and ambitions.

A Biblical Solution

Think about what David did when he left Saul. He didn’t raise an army and split the kingdom. David didn’t harass the king and the people with reports of his mistreatment. Instead, he moved on and allowed God to settle the matter in His own time. It was many years before David was elevated from the time he was mistreated. It took even longer than that if you consider his journey to becoming king from the time he was anointed. The wilderness seasons of his life that caused him to wrestle with God and his soul allowed him to become the great leader he was.

If you find yourself in an unhealthy situation, then the odds are you have become unhealthy in at least some small way yourself, and are probably unaware. That is why, instead of putting your hope in man, you must put your confidence in Christ. That may sound a little cliche, but let me help make this practical. Instead of pointing your finger at others, be willing to expose yourself – to the right influences. You should ultimately find your value in who you are in Christ and not a title or position.

Most of what I have had to say revolves around taking responsibility yourself, and allowing God to handle the dysfunction in others. This may not be what you hoped I would advise, but I promise you this is the best way to protect yourself, the people in your circle of influence, and leave the door open for reconciliation. I am convinced reconciliation is much more of a priority to God than we realize.

Reclaiming spiritual health after experiencing dysfunction in a church or ministry can be tough. With God’s help, and if we are willing to do some soul gardening of our own, then an enjoyable, meaningful Christian experience is possible.

This is my final post in this collection. You can read the entire group of blogs by selecting the “Soul Gardening” category.

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The Messy Truth

The Power of Authenticity and Vulnerability

Today I am going to start something new. Well, in actuality, I guess I am really continuing something old. I want to start posting some Throwback Thursday posts on my blog. These will be posts I have shared in years gone by that you may not have had a chance to read. Our first #throwbackbackthursday talks about messy truths and Instagram. I think this is a fitting way to kick off this collection of posts.

The Instagram Surprise

Instagram, while currently very popular, originally caught many of us by surprise. Who would have thought that an app that distorts your already low-quality cell phone images in an effort to create social media hipster art would become America’s favorite place to view pictures of each other’s kids, pets, and yes, even “selfies?”

At the time of this writing, there are over 200 million active users in the photo-sharing network. After only two years of existence, and without generating any income through ads, Instagram sold for $1 billion. That’s a big deal for an app that limits your pics to a square on your cell phone and was mostly used from its inception by people in skinny jeans and ironic shirts to take pictures of their lattes. 

It’s now common to see people both old and young taking pictures of their food at restaurants, and holding their phones high in the air with the screen facing towards them to make sure they get everyone in for that perfect selfie. I have always enjoyed taking pictures and personally took to the fun photo app, well, instantly.

Not everyone was impressed right away though. One friend of mine refused to get on the Instagram bandwagon at first because “putting a grainy filter and adding torn edges to an already horrible photo doesn’t make it creative or art.” He now regularly posts pics of his kids and food. No “selfies” yet though…. It’s only a matter of time.

The Perfect Selfie

For a long time, I have treated the truth of my experiences, disappointments, and failures like Instagram. I have gone out of my way to give the best presentation I can. This requires that I cut out parts of my story, the panoramic view that includes the pain and doubts, in order to fit it in only what I think people want to see; the perfectly filtered little square that is easy to “like.”

No one wants that surprise pic of them just waking up posted online. We want to keep retaking the photo until we get just the right image. Then we slip that perfect filter on there to give it that nice little extra touch. Everything looks perfect. Our lives appear so wonderful, but we lose something in the process – authenticity.

It’s the same way in life. Just as there are different filters for whatever picture you would like to post online, there are also different layers of the truth you generally share with others. 

For some people, life is just a bowl of cherries. You go from one mountaintop to the other, and I’m so happy that you have that going for you. The rest of us though have to walk through valleys in-between our mountaintops. We don’t need a lesson on how to live life on the peak. We need something that is going to get us through the valley.

Authenticity and Vulnerability

Authenticity and vulnerability are what give that to people, but it comes at a risk. The risk is rejection, and possibly some of your pride. The reward is a strength you never knew you had, and freedom to be exactly who you were made to be – an imperfect child of God that walks in the peace of knowing you are His. This liberates you from the weighty limitation of trying to maintain everyone else’s expectations. This is the battle that I had to overcome before I could start sharing my fish out of church story. I have honestly, never stopped wrestling with it.

It was while with a friend in downtown Baton Rouge when I think I first decided to step past this barrier and share my journey in a vulnerable way. We had our cameras with us and were exploring places to take photographs. As the conversation progressed, he eventually asked me why I left the ministry. I told him it was never my intention to be out of the church world, but I that I was glad things didn’t work out the way I planned.

My Messy Truth

Then, instead of putting a filter on things, and summing it up in a way where we could both end the conversation with, “Praise the Lord!” and a smile, I began to share with him my messy truth. I talked about my doubts, disappointments, and unanswered questions. I didn’t share the promises I was standing on at the time, because I had lost my ability to do anything but kneel a long time ago. 

We talked about how I didn’t know what was next, and how things would end, but that I have never felt more satisfied in my relationship with God, and with who I was becoming in the process. He listened unconditionally. He didn’t give advice about where I had obviously fallen short, or how he would have done it differently to avoid some of my wrong turns. Instead, he offered support. At one point he even said, “I hope you are writing this down. This could be a book!” I had thought about writing my story down for others before, but his encouragement that day is what pushed me over the edge. After this conversation, I began to wonder if what I had experienced could encourage others who were in a valley themselves, or ready for a new way of looking at their religious comfort zone.

There is a place for discretion and even Instagram filters. I am all for that. Sometimes though, I want to know what is going on outside of the square. I want the Imax version of the story. The messy truth can leave the hearer flabbergasted. It may even confront their own lack of authenticity, and cause them to reject you. The messy truth does not say how you want things to be; it just says how they are. It is the unwrapped present, the selfie without the filter or the posing. It leaves things hanging. When you are finished sharing the messy truth there are usually more questions than answers. It’s real, raw, but it is also refreshing when Christ is in the center of it.