I was recently on the Bridgecast Podcast with Pastor David Lewkowicz. We met an ARC event last year, and he has been a huge blessing to have as a friend. I am so glad he asked me to be on Season 3 of his podcast to talk about Believe Again and church planting.
It was a lot of fun recording this episode. We talked about my favorite superhero (no way you guess who it is), I tell a Boudreaux and Thibodeaux joke, and David does a pretty amazing Coach O impression. You will also hear us talk about disappointment, burnout, and religion. I share some lessons learned from my book, Believe Again, and also include some stories I wish I could have included in the book.
This was a lot of fun, and I think you will enjoy listening.
It took eight years to write Believe Again: Finding Faith After Losing Religion. You see, I type very slowly. I’m just kidding. It’s because I am not a very good writer. Also, kidding. At least, I hope that’s not true. I have been writing and sharing stories since high school. So, why did it take so long to get this into your hands?
This book shares intimate and often embarrassing moments in my life. Just the process of revealing these details is enough to cause almost anyone to pause and reflect before pressing send. The struggle to believe enough in myself to write this book is the story within the story.
Am I Crazy?
Multiple times, I have had to Believe Again that I could finish this project and that it matters. First, I had to convince myself I was not crazy to write these experiences down. Then, I had to overcome the insecurity of feeling I was not good enough to write publicly. This involved dealing with thoughts like, Who am I to think people would want to read what I write? Is my story even interesting to begin with? After that came the fear of people misunderstanding me and my intentions.
Once I cleared those hurdles, something else began to happen. I grew spiritually, emotionally, and as a writer. Through this, I would review each current draft and think, “I have to change this. I don’t even write or think like this anymore.” During this time, God transformed my perspective on the situations I share in this book. What I thought was important was not. Other parts needed more emphasis than I realized at first. This story is so personal to me. I knew time would have to pass for my perspective to mature. This all led to more rewrites. Many times, I wondered out loud, “Will this ever get to a place where I could say it is finished?”
The Shadows of Fear
My circumstances have told me that I am not a writer every day since I began, well, writing. There has continuously been something else I was always supposed to be or do. But when I closed my eyes at night and opened them again in the morning, I knew something different. I am a writer. The question was, would I pass the test, believe again, and take another step? Or would I hide from what was in my heart? If anything, that is the lesson of this book. Believing again is not a grand gesture. It is a commitment to take one step at a time towards what God has put in your heart. To do this, you also have to have the courage to move away from the shadows where fear allows you to hide.
I hope Believe Again will help you let go of every substitute and find authentic faith. By the time you are finished reading it, I want you to realize that who you are in Christ is more important than where you are in life. This is crucial in our journey to living out an enjoyable, meaningful Christianity.
Believe Again: Finding Faith After Losing Religion will be released on October 4 on Amazon. In the meantime, you can pre-order it at joshroberie.com/shop at a 20% discount. You can find out more about the book and get Believe Again merch at BelieveAgain.net.
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.
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!
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
Prepare for a fundraising meeting by finding out about the person you are meeting with.
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.
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?
It’s always good to follow up and thank the person for their time with a personal note.
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.
Reclaiming Spiritual Health After Experiencing Dysfunction
Have you ever experienced hurt, disappointment, or burnout in church ministry? What do you do when you discover that, while you may be producing good works, your soul is beginning to get sick in one way or another? Maybe you realize you are not a fit for the current ministry culture you are serving in and want to make a change. Many people struggle with moving forward when they have experienced dysfunction or want to find their best fit in church life.
It is possible to have a beautiful garden, but still, need to pull weeds. Pruning, trimming, and removing weeds is the only way to keep the plants healthy and the garden vibrant. In the same way, we can experience dysfunction in one area of a ministry while the ministry is still making in an impact for the Kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean the problem should be ignored. We need to pull the weeds so the garden of our souls can continue to thrive. As uncomfortable as it may be to bring these areas into the light, reclaiming spiritual health after experiencing dysfunction, is not only crucial to the Kingdom of God but for your soul and future as well.
This collection of blogs I will be posting over the next several weeks will show you how to find your personal path to health and also offer five principles for navigating a dysfunctional church culture. While it is easy to blame others when we experience hurt, the best response is to change the culture of our souls before we try to point out the problems in others.
Through the years, I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to a variety of leaders with different styles and perspectives on ministry and leadership. One thing that has most interested me in these conversations is church culture because this is what will inevitably impact the condition of our souls. I believe a healthy culture can make up for a lot of other things. It can help heal broken souls and create an environment of hope and expectation in the church, even if everything is not perfect. On the other hand, a poor culture can drown out even the best intentions and lead to wounding people and ministry burnout.
It is from these experiences I have decided to share some thoughts on what to do if you find yourself working or serving in a dysfunctional church culture. Maybe your church culture is not dysfunctional, but just different, and not a fit for you. What do you do when you want to embrace something new? The steps you take once you realize you want to reflect a new perspective in your leadership is vital. It is something I get asked about from time-to-time, and I think a conversation on this topic can help some people.
A Personal Journey
What I share in this collection of blogs will not be about changing the culture of an organization. Instead, we will talk about changing the atmosphere of our hearts. I will not point out what any organization can do differently, but what we can improve in ourselves to create a healthy emotional and spiritual life.
Dysfunctional, Different, and Dynamic
Working at the Association of Related Churches (ARC), I have come across many leaders who are looking to learn, live in, and lead a life-giving culture. Their previous culture isn’t always necessarily bad. They may just feel a kindred spirit or divine-connection with the relevant and refreshing way many pastors lead in ARC. Just because a culture is different doesn’t mean it is harmful or wrong.
Culture changes, and with it, church culture should change as well. What was effective in a previous generation of ministry, may not be able to get the job done in a new generation. For many, this is a contributing factor for reaching out to something new.
Some church cultures and leaders are dysfunctional in some ways but helpful in others. Leaders in this situation may know something needs to change, but not be able to figure out precisely what that is. I want to help with that by offering some guidelines on what to focus on and what to allow God to handle.
Last week’s post, There’s Something I’d Like to Say, was the first in the collection on this topic. Make sure to check it out if you have not yet. Next week we will walk through five steps to reclaiming spiritual health. After that, I will share five principles that will help you navigate a dysfunctional church culture. I hope you join me in this journey as we do some soul gardening!
The Soul Gardening Collection includes the previous post:
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!