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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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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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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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What Makes an Effective Church Plant Website?

I get to see over 100 church planting websites every year. I am always surprised by how creative pastors can be with their online presence. I have also been disappointed others hadn’t been more intentional with their church plant website.

Having an excellent church plant website is not about spending a ton of money. In fact, simpler is better for the most part. Here is a quick checklist I have put together to help church planters with their website. I hope it helps.

7 Things to Remember For Your Church Website

The Front Door

The front door of your church is not connected to your building, it’s your website. Church planters should transition to the main site from your fundraising website or your “pre-launch website” 6 weeks out (2 weeks at the latest). This will help with SEO and let people know who you are. Again, Sunday time and location is front and center on the top fold.

Online Real Estate

It is essential to move your front door to the best real estate online. Try to search, “church in (your city name here)” as well as, “(your church name) and (your city name).” How far down the list where you in the search engine? Where you at the top of the list when you put your church name and your city’s name in the search engine? Consider paying for ads to get your name at the top.

Have Good Taste

Outsource the design of your website. Do not do it yourself. The people with the best taste know when to trust others to make them look good. They don’t cut their own hair, make their own clothes, create their own makeup or paint their own art in their house. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on your website, but you should spend some. It is an excellent investment in evangelizing your city.

Show Don’t Say

Instead of long text explaining what kind of church you want to be, show what church you are and plan to be. You can do this by linking your church social media to your website. This will help people who want to keep exploring who you are.

Picture This

The website should have a picture of the pastor (or co-pastors for couples leading together) with their spouse and family if possible. At the very least it should have the couple together. People should be able to navigate to this part of the website in one or two clicks.

Less is More

The pastor’s bio should be about 3-5 sentences, not 3-5 paragraphs. In some cases it feels like 3-5 pages (“I knew I was called to plant since I was 6 years old when I used to preach to my G.I. Joes.”). Give us an overview and if you want to share your story in more detail give people the opportunity to watch a video.

Secret Church

Once you know your location and service time, then put that information on the “top fold” of your website. Make it the easiest thing to find on your site without clicking or navigating in any way. It’s also a good idea to put a picture of the outside of the location as well as a link to Google Maps. The name of the space should be displayed as well as the physical address.

More Resources

There is a lot more that can be said about creating a church website for a new church, but I will stop here. An excellent resource for website and marketing, in general, is the book Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, by Donald Miller. I also found the book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, by Michael Hyatt to be beneficial as well!

I’d love to hear from you if you have any thoughts or questions on this topic! Leave a comment or send me a message! Thanks for reading!

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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!

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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.

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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.