Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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!

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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! 

Posted on Leave a comment

Where the Dirt and Divine Collide

The Case for Following Your Heart

The heart is where the dirt and divine collide in mystery and splendor. It is often that most tangible way we can sense the spiritual while still confined to the realm of the natural. Even so, the heart sometimes gets a bad rap. The messiness of the human heart has led many to believe pursuing its inmost desires is wrong.

I have wrestled with these thoughts for a long time and have come to this conclusion. Your heart is not evil. Following your heart is not only a good thing; it is how God guides us through life.

Let me explain by covering five misconceptions about following your heart.

5 Reasons to Not Follow Your Heart

Don’t Follow Your Feelings

I often wonder when people say it is a bad idea to follow our hearts if they really mean, “It’s a bad idea to always be led by our feelings.” Of course, living that way would be a disaster. It is why I have to explain to my three-year-old that not wanting to take a bath is not a good reason to not take a bath.

Caving into what our impulses tell us we want in the moment is not the same as following our heart. Following your heart always requires doing things you don’t “feel” like doing to achieve the dream God has given us.

Don’t Give in to Sin

Could it be that when people say we shouldn’t follow our hearts, they mean we shouldn’t follow the desires of our flesh? If that is the case, then again, I would have to agree.

Pursuing the desires of our most authentic self (healed and lead by the Holy Spirit) gives us a reason not to sin; not an excuse to sin. Our hearts, what God draws to Himself, speaks to, and places desires in, is not the same thing as our sinful nature. Following our hearts is not the same as giving in to sin.

Don’t Be Deceived

Maybe you have heard that our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” But what about this verse:

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”

‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭36:26-27‬ ‭(NLT)‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Is it possible that this “deceitful and desperately wicked” heart is describing our condition BEFORE being redeemed by the grace of God? Couldn’t we describe every part of our lives in this way before Christ entered the picture?

Check Your Heart

I also know the phrase, “I’m just following my heart” has been abused. It has been used as an excuse to ignore common sense and do foolish things. Sometimes this a way for people to state they don’t want to be questioned about something they have already made up their minds to do. But that’s not following your heart. Taking directions from temporary feelings rarely lead us anywhere worth going.

This distortion is nothing new. God addresses this twisting of truth in Jeremiah 23:36.

“But stop using this phrase, ‘prophecy from the Lord.’ For people are using it to give authority to their own ideas, turning upside down the words of our God, the living God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

Jeremiah 23:36 (NLT)

Cross Over Fear

There is one more reason why we may not follow our hearts, fear. Just because you are afraid, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow your heart. You will always have to cross a bridge a faith if you are going to obey God. The argument that you shouldn’t follow your heart is just an excuse to avoid doing so.

In actuality, a lot of the idea of not wanting people to follow their hearts is based on a misunderstanding of semantics. Following your heart is not following your feelings. That is an oversimplification. It is not permission to give in to your sinful desire or an excuse to ignore wisdom and wise counsel. In fact, following your heart involves the opposite of these things.

Following your heart is having the courage to follow the dream(s) God has planted deep into your soul until it blossoms into something that benefits others. It is not self-centered. It is being true to yourself in a way that benefits others.

Following our hearts require we…

Listen to our feelings, but also be able to say no to things that bring temporary pleasure at the expense of our long-term God-given goals.

Trust God’s strength instead of our own, because we will never accomplish the dreams He places in our hearts without His help.

Seek wise counsel and take on more responsibility; not less.

Be willing to wait instead of having our desire met now. Following our hearts will never conflict with producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

Have the courage to overcome the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, the fear of change, and other fears that would keep us in our comfort zone away from crossing the bridge of faith.

Keep our eyes on pleasing God even if it means making those around us unhappy by becoming and pursuing something different than what they had imagined for us.

I know for many; this will not be enough to justify following our hearts. While I wish I had more time to discuss this, here are a few scriptures that help make the case to follow our hearts.

“‘But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'”

Jeremiah 31:33 (NLT)

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

“You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.”

Psalm 21:2 (ESV)

“They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”

Romans 2:15 (NLT)

If Christ has come to live in us (Galatians 2:20), has given us a new nature (sit on the throne of our hearts Ephesian 3:17), then why are we still saying that we cannot trust our hearts. It just doesn’t make sense.

Guard Your Heart

You may notice none of these verses permit us to follow our hearts without any thought about the future or consequences. There is a tension that exists between liberty and responsibility. We are free to follow our hearts, but we also have an inherent obligation to maintain the condition of our souls.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)

There are many different ways to “guard your heart,” but one of the most important is often the most overlooked – follow the peace.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7 (ESV)

What often accompanies following God’s will is a sense of peace despite uncomfortable circumstances. God wants His will for us more than we want His will for ourselves. We must trust that God loves us enough to still be pleased with us when we pursue His will with a limited understanding.

Your heart is not evil. Following your heart is a good thing and is often how God guides us through life. Have the courage to follow it.

Here are a couple of books I recommend about following your heart.

Posted on 1 Comment

The Best Kept Secret of Church Plant Team Building

Do you have a talent for getting people to quit their job and sale their home at the same time? Neither do I. That shouldn’t discourage you from stepping out to launch a church though. Asking people to leave their family and friends to start a new church is a big ask. Don’t get discouraged if everyone you know isn’t ready to jump on the church planting train and travel across the country with you on the railroad tracks of faith. This may be the best thing for your future church because the team you build is more important than the team you bring. 

Parachuting into a city where you have no relationships to start a church can be one of the scariest things you can do in ministry. There’s no “but” followed by a comforting remark here. It’s just kind of a scary deal! Trying to connect with people in a place you have never lived to start a church with a limited budget and a fixed timeline takes nerves of steel.

Using City Momentum to Build a Launch Team

The solution may appear to be to recruit as many people as possible to move with you from other places. While this is helpful, there is also something called, “city momentum” that you need to consider. 

City momentum is when people in your new community bring awareness and more people to your launch through their network of relationships that existed in the area before you even moved there. It’s the buzz created by the locals. 

Every person you add to your team, gives your team momentum. It does not matter if they move with you or not. When someone from your new city joins your team it gives you “city momentum” as well. Launch team members who already live in the community have built-in equity with existing relationships. They don’t have to earn people’s trust to invite them to your interest meeting or church launch like your other team members will. 

We can see a similar promise of influence for the gospel in John 4:37-38. Here Jesus says, “Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” City momentum is just a practical way we can see this promise play out in church planting.

So how do you create city momentum and what should you avoid that may squash it? 

5 Steps to Creating City Momentum

Leave some key roles open 

You may not know the highest contributors on your launch team yet. When you give away your top leadership roles before you move, you lose the chance to connect with the influential people in your new city who may be a better fit for those positions. Doing this makes it challenging to recruit gatherers who can multiply your city momentum.

Give responsibilities instead of titles

Asking for commitment to specific duties over a particular period gives everyone freedom. The first way is by creating a natural exit ramp for the volunteer to move on to something else if they decide they are not a good fit. The other way, is it frees you up to put someone you already trust into a much-needed position while you figure out who may be the best person to carry the title long-term. 

Know the difference between pioneers and settlers

Pioneers like to start new things. It excites them. They are not intimidated by the hard work and sacrifice it takes. Others are pilgrims who come along once there is already momentum, but end up staying longer. This is why arc church planters start with a “launch team” and don’t transition to a “core team” until after launch. Forcing everyone to be a pilgrim is to not appreciate how God has wired people and may lead to burnout on your team. 

Get out of your relational comfort zone

Familiar relationships can be a safe place for church planters when everything else seems chaotic. Understanding city momentum can be a way for you to grow your friendships outside of your existing circles even when it is uncomfortable.

People in your city are not just looking to be a plug that fills a hole in your team. They are looking for a genuine relationship with you. This means you will need not only new team members to launch your church but also new friends that you have opened up and allowed into your life.

Prepare for the unexpected

What if God has something better for you than you have planned for yourself? That fantastic worship leader you wanted to move with you and ends up taking a full-time job at a mega-church may just be making room for someone better. Maybe the person you meet in your city that becomes your worship leader will one day become an executive pastor whose spouse is also amazingly creative and has a friend who is an amazing photographer whose parents own Pepsi and will start tithing before you even launch? Ok, I maybe took that one a little too far, but you get my point. God can do much more than we expect. This includes providing a team that is much better and bigger than we ever imagined.

A Strong Team = A Strong Launch

We need to have people we trust helping us in the church planting journey. As they say, “your network is your net-worth” in more ways than one. While bringing team members with you is a huge bonus, ultimately it will be continuing to build that team with city momentum that leads to a strong launch.

What do you think? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or send me a message!

Posted on 1 Comment

You Might Be A Pharisee If…

Six Signs of Imitation Christianity

No Soup For You

This morning I was reading about Saul. The story reminded me of how even with the best intentions we can slip into legalism. During a battle, he made a rash vow. The soldiers were pursuing victory. Honey was dripping all around to refresh them along the way. The only problem was Saul refused to let anyone eat until their enemies were defeated.

It may sound radical and inspirational at first. Maybe Saul thought this would rally the troops’ commitment. Instead, it left a mess. People were confused and discouraged. This is often the case with immitation Christianity.

So how do we know when this type of thinking creeps into our spiritual life? Here are six signs you might be a Pharisee and don’t even know it.

You do not think you are a Pharisee

Did you hear about the latest Pharisee convention? Me neither. That’s because no one went. No one put it on. Because no one thinks they are a Pharisee. Pharisees are too busy pointing out other people’s fault to take the time to deal with their own.

You subscribe to radical Christianity

I used to be a radical Christian. I took pride in that. Now I realize “radical”  was just a code word for legalism. Radical Christians go to the extreme and believe everyone else is not “really” serving God with all of their heart until they are making the same sacrifices as they are.

You believe you are an elite Christian

If you think there are classes of Christians, then you may subscribe to the false brand of Christianity called legalism. Do you look down on others who do not share your same convictions? Then you misunderstand that convictions are for you and the gospel is for everyone.

You misunderstand holiness

If your priority is outside appearance, then you misunderstand holiness and may be stuck in a Christina performance trap. Jesus called people like this whitewashed tombs. They look good on the outside but are dead on the inside. True holiness begins with grace, is maintained by grace, and works its way from the inside out.

You question other people’s salvation

Do you take snapshots of where people are in the exact moment you see them or do you view yourself and others in a process? Have you ever wondered out loud, “How can they love Jesus and do _________.” Or “If they loved God they would do ________ more.” A Pharisee always questions those who sin differently then they do instead of patiently helping them address the root of the problem.

You serve under a Saul

The thing that made David “David” was he saw Saul as someone worthy of grace and honor.  Instead of focusing on Saul’s faults, he saw himself as the one who needed to become more godly. A Saul sees a Saul in everyone else, while a David is continually looking for the “David” in others, and is aware of the “Saul” in himself.

Only One Good News

In the Book of Galatians Paul warns sternly that anyone twisting the good news would be in danger of judgment. It is one of the harshest warnings in the New Testament. He says, “It pretends to be good news, but is not good news at all.”   

Still, High-Performance Christianity has a way of slipping into the lives of the most well-meaning people. We must keep our eyes, hopes, and security in a love relationship with Jesus and continue to humbly extend the same grace that was given to us to others if we are to avoid this trap.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.