Posts Tagged church planting

Thankful for Acts29

It has been a joy for me to be part of the Acts29 Network, an international network committed to gospel-centered church planting. The main advantage of being part of Acts29 is that I get to be connected to a number of solid men who care deeply about the most important aspects of theology and gospel ministry. Guys come from a variety of backgrounds and methodological perspectives which makes it a great network of men to learn from. Additionally, there are 8 other Acts29 churches in Phoenix and the pastors regularly get together, work together and help each other. It’s refreshing and rare.

Second Mile has also benefited greatly from a number of people who were relocating to the area and found us through Acts29. I can think of at least 3 families that serve in key ways who came to us via Acts29.

Second Mile Church was recently featured at Acts29’s website. Check it out.

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10 Ways to be a Great Church Plant Core Group

We’ve been so blessed at Second Mile to have such a great core group — we called them the “launch team” — who have done so much to help us start in strength. Tomorrow morning I’m going to be sharing with a group of men from the core group at Christchurch of East Mesa, a new sister church of ours (both of us were launched out of East Valley Bible Church in Gilbert). My contention is that it doesn’t matter how gifted or called the church planter is if his team is not on board in living out the vision of the new work.

So I made a top 10 list to help these guys start the church in a healthy way:

1. Your primary job is to create a culture that you and God will be happy about 10 years from now. This is a difficult thing to do, and part of the goal behind our current Core Values series. Who you are in the early days is who you will be later. Sure, some things change. But the DNA of who you are as a church and what drives you is formed quickly. Even though many core group members eventually move on, their role as culture-creators is essential.

2. Your new pastor and church will eventually disappoint you and let you down. People get into a new church thinking it will be utopia. It isn’t. Even if it is for a while, eventually the glitter rubs off. If you find the perfect church, leave because you will ruin it.

3. Work to create an evangelistic texture to every ministry environment. Evangelism is not just one program or an event. It happens all the time as people feel comfortable inviting friends and welcoming them into the community. Tim Keller’s resource on Evangelism & Church Planting in Postmodern Cities is very helpful here.

4. Always talk as though nobody knows who your heroes are. Christianity has its own little subculture, and different churches have their own set of “heroes” that they admire and talk about. But if you mention “Piper,” “Keller,” “Crowder,” “Luther,” etc. without explanation and assume everyone knows who those people are, it creates insiders and outsiders in a way that isn’t helpful. For us, and for Christchurch, it’s important not to assume people know who “East Valley” (our sending church) or “Tom” (our sending church’s pastor) are. One lady visited a group, kept hearing from an older woman about all the things “Tom” used to say and assumed that he was the lady’s deceased husband! Either way, to people who are far from God or not from your tradition, this is unhelpful and alienating.

5. Be known by what you’re for, not what you’re against. Is the church started from a positive vision for something or as a reaction against something? It makes all the cultural difference in the world.

6. Don’t moralize your personal preferences. Sometimes people are drawn to a new core group because they think it’s an opportunity to “create the church I’d like to attend.” But if those preferences (styles, times, songs, programs, plans) become sacred and moralized (i.e. “this is the right way to do it”), you’ll be disappointed (at best) or divisive (at worst), convinced that everyone else is sinful and bad.

7. Leave your current church on great terms (or go make it right if you didn’t). For a Christian who’s joining the core group of a church plant, this is really important. Don’t leave with baggage from your last church. If you’ve been in a position of leadership or responsibility, communicate with the people you’ve been working with. Don’t disappear out of nowhere, don’t drop the ball, and don’t smear mud on people or things that you didn’t like there. If you’ve already left and you’re guilty of division or gossip or dropping the ball, go apologize, ask for forgiveness, and make it right. Don’t bring your personal junk into this new work and think it won’t negatively influence the new work.

8. Relentlessly involve new people. I’ve realized that, in general, the “80-20 rule” where 20% of people do all the work is not the fault of the 80%. They would like to be involved. But once the 20% know each other and who they can count on to get things done, they stop asking people outside that circle. That’s why it’s huge to constantly be meeting and involving new people.

9. Be ready for change. I call this the “Brett Farve Retirement Principle” or the “for now” principle. One of my mentors says you should end every sentence with “for now” because the only constant thing in a new church is change. We’ve followed this advice and it is very good (for now).

10. Direction, not intention, determines your destination. This line was stolen from Andy Stanley’s “Principle of the Path” and simply means that where you’re headed is where you’re headed, even if you’d like to be headed somewhere else. The implication is that the things you want to be true of you in the future have to be part of the equation now or they will be very difficult to implement to the culture someday.

These are things that we’re still working on and trying to develop, and I’m thankful for the men and women who are striving to make them a reality in our church. It’s made the early days of this effort a sincere joy.

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What Eternal Impact?

I’ve just finished reading the book Madness by Jossy Chacko, the founder and president of Empart International, an organization that has planted more than 1,100 churches in India in the past 10 years. It was a great story of God’s work in his life and of the beginnings of a true church planting movement that is, even now, experiencing intense persecution in cities like Orissa. Pray for them.

One of the most challenging quotes for me and for us was this:

“Why do people go to church on Sundays? For many it’s to get pumped up for another week so they can go out and do their own thing. Is this our purpose as Christians — to come together once a week for a lovely time of prayer and worship and teaching? We accumulate books and DVDs and tapes and go to our graves with all these teachings in our heads. But what have we done to reach the unreached? How many will be in heaven because of our time on earth?”

May God bless Second Mile to be a church that is more than just Sunday and is filled with people who are making an eternal impact for King Jesus.

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My New Church Plant

I was blessed last night to share and encourage the East Valley Bible Church home group leaders at their kickoff rally. It was a joy to see so many people who have really blessed me over the last four years there. At the end of the evening, they prayed for me, Molly, and our new church and then they gave me a send-off gift…a church plant!

It’s a grapefruit tree, signifying their prayer that, like the tree, our new church will bear much fruit. It was very thoughtful and a meaningful encouragement for us.

Also, since we just moved into our house yesterday, it’s fitting…we were hoping to plant a tree in our back yard anyway. Now we’ll look out on this one with special significance. Thanks EVBC!

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GCA Seminar Day 4

This is the fourth post in a series of recaps from the GCA Church Planting Seminar (click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3).

Session 10: Planning
This session helped us begin to implement all the previous things we had been working on and set key milestones that will help us get done what needs to get done before we plant. It’s both encouraging how much we have already done and discouraging how much there is to do. We’ll try to hold these plans loosely as they will surely change.

Session 11: Priorities
For this final session, anticipation was high. All week we had been told, “Don’t leave early. Make sure you stay for the last session, it’s always the best.” We were not disappointed.

In this session, Dr. Steve Childers (President of GCA) presented his “Eight biggest mistakes…that he can share publicly.” The gist of this session was that personal spiritual renewal and health is far more important than some version of of earthly “success” in church planting. This was a sobering session that caused both Molly and I to really think seriously about what lies ahead. Here are a few of the key takeaways for me:

  • I have views of what “success” is and most of them are illegitimate and not based on faithfulness to God’s call.
  • Joy comes from who I am in Christ, not what I do for Christ.
  • At the root of my frantic propensity to overwork is usually the sin of pride and an exalted sense of my importance in the kingdom of God.
  • Goals are things I can influence and control. Desires are things I cannot. Therefore, I should work toward my goals and pray for my desires.
  • God’s goal for my life is not merely to serve him, but to know him, love him, trust him, glorify him and enjoy him. God is not a means to another end–he is the goal of everything.
  • God loves me. Really. A lot. “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
  • I need people who don’t just tell me how to live and do ministry better, but also point me to the truth of the gospel.
  • I can choose to be content and enjoy life now, or I can put my hope in “I’ll be happy someday when…” and never actually get it.
  • I have an amazing wife who needs to be treasured and not sacrificed to the idol of “success.”

As you can tell, this was an impactful session. We’re so thankful to EVBC for sending us to this seminar. We learned a lot and were truly refreshed in many ways. May God be your joy and may you know the power of his amazing love.

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GCA Seminar Day 3

This is the third post in a series of recaps from the GCA Church Planting Seminar (click here for part 1 and part 2).

Session 7: Styles
This session was trying to uncover the particular styles that are necessary for doing ministry that will faithfully reach the culture of our community. Two dangers were discussed: 1) Under-adapting to the culture (ethnocentrism) and 2) Over-adapting to the culture (syncretism). Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own culture, race, or nation is superior to all others and that one’s cultural ways of doing things is the correct and only way (ex: “Hymns are the most worshipful form of music in the church because that’s how I’ve always worshiped most fervently”). Syncretism is the contamination of Christian faith, ritual, or beliefs through incorporation of inappropriate cultural components (ex: “Most people co-habitate before marriage, so the church shouldn’t have a problem with it”). We talked about how worship style, learning style, community formation styles, and outreach styles all have to be faithful to biblical teaching and relevant to the culture that a specific church is in.

Session 8: Ministry Model
This session was one of the most helpful, and I look forward to sharing some of our insights in the future. The key question here was, “How will the church ministries work together?” This is an important question so that the whole church has focus, synergy and doesn’t let good things get in the way of great things. During this session, we worked to put together a flow chart that shows how all the church’s ministries work together. Very helpful.

Session 9: Finances
This was a practical session about the steps involved in fundraising and managing money. Fortunately, we have some good people already in place to handle the managing of money (I don’t want to be anywhere near it for many reasons). This session emphasized that as a pastor, even the accusation of improper use of money is as devastating as actually screwing it up. Nonetheless, we will need to raise a significant amount of money in order to start in strength. If you’d like to partner with us, click here.

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GCA Seminar Day 2

This is the second post recapping our lessons from the GCA Church Planting Seminar. Click here to read part 1. Don’t forget to comment!

Session 4: Philosophy
The key takeaway from this session was that in order to reach the community that God has put you in, you have to have a ministry philosophy that appropriately speaks not just to the behaviors of the culture, but to the beliefs, values, and worldviews that are truly the roots of the behaviors. We need to give gospel-based answers about the origin of the world, meaning of life, problems of evil and pain, hope of forgiveness, and promise for the future.

Session 5: Discipleship
To be honest, this session was the downer of the day as it lacked much practical help. I suppose the main take-away is that a church needs an intentional process that patiently helps people become more like Jesus.

Session 6: Values
This session asked the question, “What are your core motivations for ministry? What will you die for?” These are questions I’ve thought about quite a bit, and this session helped me understand how these values should begin to be integrated into the life of our church. A key lesson was that it’s important that the stated values of the church become the actual values of people in life. Lyle Schaller had a helpful quote here:

“The most important single element in any corporate, congregation, or denominational culture is…the value system. The values of any organization control priorities, provide the foundation for formulating goals, and set the tone and direction of the organization.”

Then the GCA handbook said:

“Church values normally take a long time to be truly owned and an even longer time to change later.”

I’ll post more in the future regarding our values. In the meantime, pray that the people in this new church will embrace the value system, join their hearts to mine, and live them out together in the power of the Holy Spirit.

More to come tomorrow!

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