Wednesday, April 28, 2010

For the Church Planters in the House!

Last night I sat on the Indian River Lagoon and did some reading. The water was beautiful and at dusk the scenery is breath taking. I know my last couple of blogs have been directed at church planters, but it is what I do :)

I am going through a book called, "Ready for Church Planting," that my friends from the Southern Baptist Convention gave me. One of the chapters was awesome. I have not heard anybody have the guts to say what this guy said. I don't have the book on me and cannot remember the writer, but I want to share some of the main thoughts of that chapter. This book is composed of different church planters who have given their lives to start movements.

Recently I had a friend tell me about a huge "church planting" convention that our denomination sent guys to. Of course... Church Planter of ABC Church in Sometown, USA, started a church and with the help of this strategy grew from 10 to 1,000 in 2 years. This planter was in the same town as a friend of mine and one of the conference leaders had the nerve to turn around and look at my friend, like, "See, if he can do it like that, you should." My friend never launched. He started with 1 other family and two single guys. He started 4 satellite Bible Colleges in the region and uses that as his income. He is running 60 people in 2 years. The church is self-sufficient and doing well.

Last night in the book, the writer talked about the difference with every church plant and church planter, even within the same city. The latest stat says that the average church plant runs an average of 44 people after their first year. Why do we promote "Joe Cool" and "Church of the Thousands" if that is not the norm? Many times church planters burn out because of these crazy expectations.

He also shared the story of a new church plant who developed relationships in the community, did service projects, had articles written about them and promoted accordingly. This core team sent out 350,000 post cards; Had the local News Team do a 6pm special on them; Major ads in all the newspapers and a family fun day on the weekend of their launch. On their launch they had...... NO VISITORS show up. That's right, none. What else could this team had done? They followed "Pastor Joe Cool's" model at "Church of the Thousands." Can you imagine the heartbreak and despair?

Starting movements are like planting seed. Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed." It starts small and takes a lot of time. We can plant and water...but God makes it grow. The book of Acts says, "The Lord added to their number daily." The second greatest to ever walk the earth (Jesus being first and said this guy was second) was John the Baptist. When he was approached about ministry numbers he said, "A man can have nothing except heaven gives it to him." King Nebby in the O.T went crazy until he submitted to the fact that, "The Lord is Sovereign and gives kingdoms to those who He wants to." Take all this into perspective.

Today church planter, lift your head up and be thankful. When Jesus fed the 5,000 with two fish and 5 loaves, he first gave thanks for the little that was provided. Andrew looked at the same food and had a cynical attitude toward it.

Look at the real averages of church plants. Don't be fooled by the crazy conferences of the 1 in a million "Joe Cool" church planters. Listen, there is always a story behind how they got there and it is not all told. They paint the picture that they had nothing, well, believe me, these guys had some backing. At this same conference the "Joe Cool" church planter said, "Guys, if you don't have a couple of hundred thousand, then don't try it like this."

Be proud of your ministry and the people. Be thankful. Don't let guys who sit in headquarters of a denomination and make 3 times what you are making put unrealistic expectations on you. They may have experience, but it is not what you are going through. There are no 3 easy steps to church planting. Enjoy the journey with the people that are taking it with you.

At this point, we have not launched yet, so I don't know how this turns out for us. I am currently writing a diary about it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What if Our Organization Stopped Today?

Andy Stanley asked this question in a leadership podcast,
"What would not happen in our city if we ceased to exist today?"

This question will help you discover the source of why you exist.

At our last core team meeting, we took time to go around the table and ask that question to the 11 adults that showed up at Phil's home.

We all had a revelation and rejuvenation of our purpose as we are starting this new church.

Ask all your ministry leaders or organizational leaders this same question that relates to their departments.

Know How to Say I am Sorry

You are probably thinking, how in the world does this have to tie into starting a movement? I am sorry....really?

Some of the most powerful words in a leader's life are "I love you," "You are doing an amazing job," "It is an honor to work along side of you," and "I am sorry."

Sounds pretty easy, just two words. Try again.

My wife, Dianna, and I were arguing one day. Afterwards I said, "I am sorry. (then here it comes) BUT, I did it because...." I started to defend myself. My wife looked at me and said, "Are you really sorry or just making an excuse?"

How do you apologize? If a leader misunderstands you or you say something to one of your leaders that offends them, how do you respond?

Here are the levels of "I am Sorry:" (3 being the worst and 1 being the best). This is your response to a leader confronting you because you hurt them:
  • 3) Well, I did it because of ______________. If it hurt you then, I am sorry, but I said or did it because of_________. (this is terrible, really)
  • 2) I know I hurt you and I am sorry. But, here is why I HAD to do this. If you were in my shoes, you would feel the same way. (a little better than #3)
  • 1) I am so sorry. I have to apologize that my comments hurt you. I may have not meant them or this action that way, I but I see that you are hurt and offended. I am sorry and I ask for your forgiveness. (not with a "smart-allic tone")
I recently heard a friend tell me how a leader tried to apologize and he said to me, "I think he tried to apologize, but never really did and kept giving reasons and defending himself."

Just two words. You don't need a disclaimer. Drop the defensiveness. Don't go to all your friends or church members and try to justify yourself.

People will be more likely to follow you and work with you if you do this.

Why Church Planting is Not Working in America

My friend Billy Mitchell said this on his twitter account, "Sow the gospel reap a church; sow a church and reap an institution."

I know you most of you may not be a "church planter," but I think there are principles we can all gain about starting a movement.

This is my 3rd plant since 2005. I served as an associate/youth pastor in the previous two in GA. I am the lead pastor at The Well. The first two church plants do not exist today. Only 10% of church plants in America actually make it.

Common questions and phrases to and from church planters:
  • "So, when are you going to launch?"
  • "Who is your mother church and how are they supporting you?"
  • "What type of church are you going to start?"
  • "Do you have a building yet?"
  • "How many are you running?"
  • "I am planting a church."
Now, please understand, I am not advocating a model for starting a church. I am in the midst of building a strong core team in Port Saint Lucie. I don't know which route we will go. We can do the "Launch Strategy" where you build everything toward one big Sunday launch or we can do the "Slow Growth Strategy" where you take a handful of people and "grow up."

Here is what every church planter must keep at the forefront of his or her philosophy (and as a matter of fact, every Christian, leader or pastor)-
  • The Call Does Not Change: We are called to make disciples. This means developing people to their fullest potential. How are you personally (one on one) intentionally developing people in your ministry? Your focus may be to gather a group to do a launch and have a big crowd there. It is not wrong to have a big launch, but what is the underlying focus? Crowds or Development?
  • Your Attendance is not a Reflection of Your Impact: "How many are you running?" This question does not hold a lot of weight unless you follow it up by, "What is your plan for developing all these people into disciples?" What is your plan to impact the community? Do the community leaders view this as impact?
  • The Focus Should Not Be on a Building: Right now we are meeting on Sunday nights at 6pm at Another Church Building. We are not holding to the "sacred" Sunday morning hour or having our own personal building, but we are sticking to the first call- "make disciples." I heard one pastor say, "I will never use people to build a building, but I will forever use a building to build people." Don't let all your resources be sucked up by a building.
  • Take Care of the People and They will Take Care of the Ministry: Take time to write thank you cards to those who serve. This little bit of time and money is like filling your people's gas tank up. Put something specific that they have done. Encourage people specifically and privately.

Finally, listen to the voice of God. There are so many avenues and things I want to do right now, but God is speaking to me and guiding me. He sees next year, I cannot see it yet. He sees people who have not come yet and He is preparing us for those people.

Church planting is not working in America because we are not set on starting a movement where people are developed and deployed, but rather we are starting institutions with different names and programs. Paul told the Philippians that they were his hope and crown of rejoicing. He had developed them in Christ.

Church planters in the early church would use all their resources to sow the gospel and develop people. Our strategy in America is to sow all of our resources in a launch and develop programs.

So, why is only 10% of church plants successful in America?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Great Expectations

Here is the scene from John 4:46-54: Jesus has just done his first major sign in Cana of Galilee. He is traveling back from Jerusalem, through Samaria, when he is met by a royal official. The royal official tells Christ that he must stop what he is doing and travel 20 miles out of the way to heal his son. The official tells him that his "dear son" is near death. Jesus also has a group following him from Galilee that are looking for his next sign. They have heard of his fame and see that he has committed disciples. Jesus also has a young boy whose life hangs in the balance.

Okay, so maybe our lives are not that dramatic, but the point is this: everyone has an expectation of what you should do, how you should do it and who you should be. Jesus faced expectations from every direction.

He maintained poise and followed what God wanted him to do.

Expectations will destroy you and your ministry/life.

Unrealistic Expectations that we put on ourselves to be someone we are not.

Performance-Based Expectations that we have to meet certain numbers or standards to please other people.

Pseudo-Expectations that God expects us to perform for His love.

Leading, especially pastoring, is one of the toughest vocations because of everyone's expectations of you and the expectations you place on yourself.

All of God's expectations for you were met in Jesus Christ. Stop trying to gain his favor.
Stop trying to please everyone. You are who you are. Like yourself. Be happy with who you are.

I refuse to let my denomination, church members, friends or family set expectations of myself that are based on performance. My church attendance does not dictate my signifigance. I refuse to place expectations on myself to impress others. I am who I am. Like it or leave it.

Leaders who start movements crucify the "Great Expectations."

Friday, April 9, 2010

Burn-out and Depression

Leaders who start movements are often very driven people who desire to impact the world. They were usually radically changed and now see everything in extremes. They live fast paced lifestyles. Beware....

The last words of Peter, before denying Christ, were: "That will never happen to me..." (I will never deny you).

I am reading a book called, "Leading on Empty" by Wayne Cordero. It is his story of his breakdown in ministry. He grew his church to become a mega-church, started a bible college and was planting churches from his church. One day he had a panic attack he could not stop it. The doctor had a very interesting answer to Wayne's problem. "Wayne, your serotonin levels have depleted. You have been living on adrenaline. Your only hope to avoiding a premature death is to stop all you are doing for a year," the doctor said. Wayne responded, "Serotonin? What is that?" (order the book for more...)

Serotonin is a chemical that comes from your brain. It pretty much helps you remain happy, hopeful and energetic. When we go non-stop (even for the "work of the Lord") we can deplete these levels. That is why rest is so important. We must protect our time. We must learn to relax. It takes longer to recharge your serotonin levels than it does to deplete them. This is when burn-out happens.

How do you know that you are pushing too hard and may be on the verge of burn-out?
-Your philosophy is, "I must do the work of God and I don't have time to watch movies or relax, I am building the Kingdom."
-You begin to detach from people and social relationships.
-You have a feeling of despair and suffer bouts of secret depression.
-You are easily frustrated and angered.
-You cannot sleep at night. Headaches.
-You feel like you are a big fake and living like a hypocrite.
-You see no way of stopping your pace you have created.
-Physical symptons of pain and discomfort.
-Addiction to prescription medicine, food or pornography.
-Ministry is more of a job and you feel the pressure of having to "perform" each week.

Some of the greats in Christianity suffered depression: Mother Theresa felt God had abandoned her at times. Charles Spurgeon wrote in his journal of the despair and depression he felt. Martin Luther King, Jr., was referred to a psychiatrist by his colleagues because of depression.

Christians get depressed. Christians can suffer from this. We should never start quoting Scripture and blame a lack of spirituality as the source of the depression.

Leaders who start movements pace themselves. You are either in one of two categories: Lazy or Too Busy. Some people need to get off the couch and get off the computer (facebook), while others need to just chill.

It can can happen to any of us.