Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Prayer for Nashville

When you think of Nashville, what do you think of? Country music, Grand Ole Opry, Music industry, Tennessee Titans or capital of Tennessee?

Most people think of Nashville they think music especially country music. They also think of Nashville as a "southern city." Yet there is so much more to this city. We are both an international and a urban center.

If you been in my office, you would see the view that you see in the picture up above. This view reminds me as a strategist that the first part of any strategy to reach an urban population is to have a compassion for the city and the people in it. Scripture tells us that Jesus looked out of Jerusalem and wept over it. He had a love so deep for Jerusalem and the world that He wept and died for it.

How do we get a passion for our city? The same way that Jesus did. He had the heart of God and He got that heart by Him and the Father being one. That being one came through prayer! Jesus went to His Father in prayer and did what His Father told Him to do.

We have the heart of the Father by being with the Father in prayer. We have the heart of the Father for our city by spending time with the Father talking with Him about the city.

Let me encourage you to do two things:

1.Search the scripture. Look at verses that deal with the city. One you may consider is Jeremiah 29:7.

2.Pray the Lord's Prayer and when you get to "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in (put in the name of your city, town or neighborhood).

If we are to reach our cities for Christ we must begin with praying for them. My prayer for Nashville is thy Kingdom come thy will be done in Nashville. Why do I pray this? It is my vision that one day Nashville will not be known for country music, Grand Ole Opry, Music industry, Tennessee Titans, home of the Southern Baptist Convention or Lifeway. My vision is people will say "Nashville, that is a city committed to Jesus Christ!"

Is this your vision and prayer for your city?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why Are You Here? Part Two

Ever ask yourself "Why am I planting a church?" You probably ask that especially after a hard day. But it is a good question to ask oneself. As a church planting strategist, this is a question I ask potential church planters. I am amazed at the answers I get to this question and also amazed at the number of potential trainers will use the term "called of God" to describe what is sometimes a whim or personal dream.

It is amazing what we define as "the call of God." Like many words in our language, the word call has come to mean different things. In most cases, when we refer to the Will of God with reference to vocation, career or jobs we commonly use the term call. If we were to ask people to define the term call, many would describe it as inner leading or a sense of conviction that God is designating a particular direction.

However, the above described definition is not true to the original biblical meaning. The definition also does not portray a true picture of the Call of God upon the life of His people or His church.

Biblically, the meaning of call has several meanings or levels. First we must understand that call is not to a place or a task. Rather it is God calling us to Him. God calls each of us to a relationship with Him. It has been the desire of God since creation to fill the world with His people and have a relationship with them.

With this purpose in mind, God provides a call to come into a loving relationship with Him. In the New Testament this call of God is synonymous with salvation. The call is to repentance, salvation and sanctification. This is referred to as our “primary call” (Matthew 9:13, Romans 8:28-30).

Specific calls, as described in the Bible, to a place, such as Abraham’s call to Canaan or Paul’s Macedonian call, are rare and not the norm. In those cases when God called one of His servants to a particular place or area of service is because of their relationship to God that God led them to a particular place of service. Out of their obedience to God, they were willing to accept His will.

Many of my Baptist brothers and sisters would say that their idea of calling can be traced back to the New Testament and the call of Christ to the disciples, Paul, and others to a specific task or ministry. However, for earlier Baptists calling was thought to be to a relationship to God and salvation in Him.

Baptist thinking on this can be traced to Christian convictions during the time of the Reformation when Martin Luther makes the distinction between sacred and secular. Luther defined “good works” as being chosen by God and “comprehended within the bounds of a particular calling.” John Calvin would later expand upon Luther’s thinking. He used the term call (vocation in the French language) in two senses: the primary call, a call to God from God; the secondary call to a particular work or occupation. The purpose of work according to John Calvin was to glorify God and be a service to Him and mankind. Calvin exalted the common and refused to give preference to a particular religious vocation, which he viewed as giving esteem above others. According to Calvin all work was to be a service to God.

William Perkins, a Puritan preacher and writer in Elizabethan England, refined the concept of calling further by distinguishing between the general call and a particular call. The general call was common to all Christians. The particular call was to a specific person because of his or her character and gifts.

According to Perkins, work would be defined as vocation or career, a life task or general direction. Within this "vocation," even numerous "jobs" should form a pattern, a continuity that contributes to our broader vocation or our particular calling. Perkins even outlined a series of rules to govern our choice of a vocation, declaring that in our personal calling we must:

1. Have a particular calling.
2. Choose an honest and lawful calling.
3. Base our call on public need rather than the desire for personal gain.
4. Stay in it once chosen.
5. Avoid covetousness in our calling.
6. Be diligent in our calling.
7. Fit it into the framework of the general calling.

Dr. Os Guinness agrees with Perkins that calling means much more than something exclusively spiritual, like guidance, but rather it is the expression of our personalities, the exercise of our gifts, all that we are, everywhere we go, and everything that we do is seen as a response to the Lord and is done as part of our calling to Him. Guinness believes that in scripture, calling is primarily to someone, in this case, God. It is not to somewhere; and is not to something, or a task. Where we go and what we do is our secondary calling. This secondary calling is an outworking or result of our primary calling, which is to God.

Oswald Chambers states the same thought in So Send I You. According to Chambers “The call of God is the call according to the nature of God; where we go in obedience to that call depends entirely on the providential circumstance which God engineers. The call of God is not to any particular service, although my interpretation of the call may be; the call to service is the echo of my identification with God.” As we grow in that relationship God leads or calls us to various ministry opportunities.

I have said all of this to say that where we go and what we do as followers of Christ should be as a result of our growing relationship with God and our identification with His heart. Our call to planting a church, pastoring or any other endeavor must be in line with God's mission and His endeavor. It is not because we think it is cool or because it is the next step on the ladder to where we want to be or that it will bring me recognition. IT IS LIVING THE HEART RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD!.

Next time you feel that maybe God is calling you to something, instead of looking at what you think the plus or minuses of that endeavor. Ask yourself, "Is this where I am in my relationship with God and is this heart beating through my heart?"

Why are you here? To be the living incarnate heart and relationship of God through Jesus Christ! Anything more is really less!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why Are You Here? Part One

I still remember that question after 23 years along with the context it was asked in and the person who asked it. It was 1986 on an uptown bus in Manhattan. I was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary sent to New York on a 10 week church planting project. I had just boarded the bus and sat down in the seat with a gentleman who I found out later was Jewish.

As we sat an rode the bus, the gentleman said "Hello." In which I responded with my "Hello". He looked at me strangely and said, "Youse (You) aren't from around here?" I guess my southern accent gave me away. I explained to him that I was a Southern Baptist seminary student there in New York. Then he asked "Why are you here?"

That question has stuck with me all these years. Now the simple answer would be: To bring Glory for God." But the answer I gave that day was that I was there to start a church. The next question this man asked was "why?" My answer that I gave Him even astonished me. I didn't tell him the statistics of unchurched people in New York. I didn't tell him that he was destined to hell. I said one simple phrase: " God loves you and so do I!" I was there to start a church were people could come into a loving relationship with a loving God.

Why does these man's questions stay with me all these years. It is because they are questions that we must honestly ask ourselves especially as church planters. Why are we here in this place and why do we do what we do?

Its very easy to say that we do what we do because we love God; we want the lost to come to Christ and we want to bring God glory. However, it is so easy to forget these things and substitute our own agenda and our own plan.

Ask yourself some simple questions about where you are in ministry and life:
1. Would I be where I am at and do what I am doing even if I wasn't paid?

2. Am I serving where I am serving because this is the place where God has led me and has confirmed that through scripture, friends and the PEACE of GOD?

3. Would I do what I do even if I got no recognition for it?

4. The reason I do what I do, where I do it is because if I didn't I know that I would be out of the will of God?

5. Is my discontent because things are hard or because it is really from God and He is readying me to move?

These questions are questions I ask many guys who come to me wanting to plant churches. They are questions I ask because they are questions that I have been asked and had to answer in my own life. They are also questions that I have gotten some surprising answers from others who have told me that they feel called to church planting or ministry. Answers that show a motive or calling other than God's.

You might say by this point what am I trying to say. Here it is: Why you do what you do where you are at should be solely based on God's leading you to that place.

Why are you here? Why do you do what you do? Only you and God can answer that.

Tommorrow: Why Are You Here to plant a Church? Is it a Calling, A Dream or an Escape?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Insights from Thomas Wolf on Reproducible Movements

Today, I got to spend about 3 hours with Thom Wolf. Brother Thom as he is called served as Pastor of "The Church on Brady" which became Mosaic Church. While, serving as their pastor, Brother Thom saw the church grow from 40 people to over 400 and a church that saw at least 16% of their congregation involved in international missions. He served as a professor of missions and evangelism at Golden Gate. He is now international president and professor of global studies of University Institute, New Delhi, India, an Asia-based learning group in, servicing South and East Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. he not a theroist on missions. He has lived it and continues to live it!

One of the insights that was shared today was concerning replicating movements. The big idea in church planting is the talk of church planting movements. What is a church planting movement? According to David Garrison of International Mission Board, a church planting movement is a rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment. The interest today is how do we see this happen in North America.

According to Brother Thom each replicating movement has the following:

Essential Outsider: the missionary or church planter that comes to plant within a culture

National Face: The person of peace or person of that culture who gives you credibility in that culture. They vouch for you.

Trainer not Teacher: Not just giving people information, you are training them to use and apply the lessons. In Christian life we teach not for information but for obedience.

Reproducible Pak or Package: The pattern of discipleship and doing ministry must be reproducible in any context.

Yield Lives: There must be transformation in the lives of those the movement has touched.

As I look at thse principles, I see a call for us as church planters and as church members to realize that many of the ways that we have "done" church has lend itself to structures that have stiffled the Great Commission. Let me explain.

I come from a family of church planters. My mom and dad planted churches. Not as vocational church planters but as a heating and air conditioning mechanic and a house wife. Two of my aunts and uncles planted churches. Not as "ordained" ministers but as people working for Bethleham Steel and Frito lay. They went into other context, made friends and aquaintances, taught them about Jesus and saw lives changed. Out of the churches that they planted, other churches were planted. Using the reporoducible techniques that Brother Thom spoke of.

Today if my family was to use the techniques taught by many today they would probably have to have a band, a cool webpage, small group curriculum from a major publishing company, gone to a conference and spend at least $300.00 a session for a church planting coach. Oh! lets don't forget, sometime during all this they need to pray. Usually after the coaching session.

Please don't get me wrong. All these things are good things! As long as they are tools used to be used to see lives and communities transformed. When we focus on the tools and instead of the priniciples of church planting and church reproduction we soon create a system or movement that cannot be reproduced.

Its interesting that Jesus sent his disciples out in twos. No money, no resources, no band, sound system, webpage or even a core group, yet they made an impact. The only thing that He gave them was a commission, His teaching and the power of the Holy Spirit and they turned the world upside down!

How do we see a reproducible movement happen?

Pray that the Lord will make you an essential outsider to a culture. That could be your own family, your neighbors, co workers or friends.

Look for someone to give you credibility: That national face!

Train people. Don't teach people about the gospel of Jesus. Demonstrate it, let them experience it and then let them try it. As Brother Thom says " Teach for obedience, not for information."

Everything you do with people, make sure they can do it. Reproducible: So simple even a caveman can do it. (Sorry GEICO).

Stand back and watch God transform lives!!

You see movements are going to be seen when God's people (not organizations or denominations: these are structures not organisms) do God's work. Thanks Thom for reminding me of that today! Thanks to my family who live it and who still live it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sega Bass Fishing and the Church

For my birthday this year, I got a new Wii game that I love. It is the Sega Bass Fishing game. It is a pretty neat game with an attachment that makes your Wii remote look like a fishing rod. I love to fish so this game allows me to fish while at home.

The other day I was playing this game and the Lord taught me a lesson about the church. Yes, I believe that the Lord can use Wii games to teach people. Anyway this game and its layout taught me that we have mistaken the Lord's command of being "fishers of men". Let me explain.

In the Wii game, the player must choose an area to fish, time of year to fish, time of day to fish, type of weather, a casting spot and the type of bait to use in an area. Once these are chosen, then the player cast and hopes he gets a bite by either playing the line or changing bait. The better the chances by choosing the right spot and choosing the right bait.

What is really interesting about this game is that you never completely fish out a spot! Some fish never bite the bait even when you keep on switching and even when you change the weather or time of day. In other words, you can't catch all the fish.

While playing this game it dawned on me: This is the church today! Many churches are looking for the right bait, the right casting spot, the right season and the perfect fish to catch. Don't believe it. Look at all the methods of outreach. Look at all the books and research. One says we need to do house church; one says need to be large church; one says contemporary music; one says traditional music and so on and so forth. All this and we see churches jumping from one methos to another. All of this in the name of being successful in catching fish or in this case men and women for Christ.

Guess what? I think we have gotten all wrong. One, when Jesus gave the call to be "fishers of men" the Zebco casting pole was not invented then. He was speaking of casting a net! That net is us! It is every believer, every church and yes, every method! You see it is all of us bound together or better yet woven together, to reach the world for Christ. It is large church, small church, traditional, contemporary, house church, church plants and multi-site woven together to make up the net. You see it takes all of us! It takes each part to make a strong net. It takes all of us working together to strengthen the net. When we see a church or Christian weakening, we need to unite to help them because the net is beginning to break. (see Luke 5:1-11).

I believe that we have missed the boat (no pun intended) by looking for the magic lure that is going to reach people. I believe that we find out what the Lord enables us to do best it be small groups, house church, multi campus, traditional or contemporary worship; determine where He wants us to fish and join with others to make a strong net to reach and transform our community for God's Kingdom.

Enough said! Lets go fishing!!!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Top Ten Reasons for Church Plant Failures

This is a list I have developed over the years and have collected some ideas from others:

10. No Assessment of the Church Planter
"He's a great guy, (we don't need to assess him)."
Lack of assessment is the equivalent of hiring someone just because of how they look, or whom they know…it fails to go beyond the surface. The church planter assessment is an instrument that helps sponsoring churches and others that work with church planters to know how the planter measures in the thirteen most crucial characteristics found in successful church starters. Every sponsoring church needs to be sure that the planter they have selected is assessed, and approved, by our denominational leaders.

9. No Contextualization
"This kind of church will work anywhere."
This statement is na├»ve to anyone who has lived in other parts of the country. The differences are great! While models for starting new work may transcend context (not in all cases, though), the need to modify and adapt them to the particular culture and environment of the new church plant is immense. Sponsoring churches need to be sure that the strategies undertaken are “community-compliant”.

8. No Planning
"Plan??? Are you crazy?
We've got a church to plant." Planning is the bedrock of intentionality, a critical ingredient in almost every successful church start. We have all heard it before: to fail to plan is to plan to fail. Church starters need a vision, values, and a mission to accomplish the vision and goals and action plans to achieve those ends. Anything else is spontaneous, and the odds would suggest, will end up in spontaneous
combustion. Sponsoring churches need to be sure that the new church starter
has a written strategy in place before he starts, and adaptable along the journey.

7. No Covenant
"Don't worry about it, we'll all get along."
Church starters that fail to develop a covenant with their sponsoring church is setting themselves up for difficulty. A wise church starter will use theopportunity to surface expectations and relational concerns that need to be dealt with in advance. These boundaries and responsibilities will keep communication
lines open, and relationships growing. Doing correctly, a covenant can be the most advantageous tool for all parties involved in the church starting process.

6. No Connection with Unchurched People
"We will evangelize later."
A new church start without evangelism is at best, sheep stealing, and at worst, dead weight. Evangelism and church starting are two sides of the same coin; both need each other to continue. Sponsoring churches need to model evangelism and to encourage new church starters in this area, reminding them that church starting is the number one method of effective EVANGELISM in the world today.

5. Premature Public Launch
“We can’t afford to wait any longer to start worship.”
Starting at the right time is an art, not a science. The window for momentum’s sake is usually between eighteen weeks and eighteen months. The optimum time is six months to a year. That being said, the pressure will be great (internal as well as external) to get to public worship quickly. As a sponsoring church encourage the church starter to wait until his core group is above 35, or at the very least 25, before he starts services.

4. No Sharing Ministry with the Laity
"I'm the Church Planter and it's my job to do it all."
Church starters are by nature self-starters. Unfortunately, that usually means they are oblivious to the need to delegate, especially early in the process. Not only is it good theology to involve the laity according to their giftedness, it’s a practical help to the new church starter. A sponsoring church can help keep a church starter from this mistake by providing a few capable people to help assist the starter in the beginning stages of the new work, or by inquiring regularly as to others who are assisting him in the work being done.

3. No Support Network
“We don’t need any help; we can do it ourselves.”
The top complain new church starters have is that they feel so all alone, so isolated, in their work. To that end, our denomination and local entities have worked diligently to provide a nurturing, encouraging support network for the new work starter. This includes a mentor (not the same as the supervisor; his job is to listen and encourage the new work starter), a Church Planting Network (a support group of his peers), a partnership church (s), and you…his sponsoring church. New church starters need to know of your continuing prayer, love, support and encouragement. It makes a world of difference to him.

2. No Prayer
“I’m just too busy to pray right now…there’s so much to do.”
One of the grave dangers in church ministry in general, and certainly in church starting, is the neglect of prayer. The rationalization is usually based on the need to do so much, when no one else is available to help in the work itself. While we may have all felt that way at times, nothing could be farther from the truth of what we need. The remainder of a sponsoring church that this is God’s church we are starting, not our own, can serve as a corrective in this area, as well as accountability in the area of the planter’s own personal walk with the Lord.

1. No Commitment to the Call
“If this doesn’t work out, I can always go back home to minister.”
The number one reason church starters fail, in our opinion, is a lack of abandonment to the call of new church starting. Sometimes the romance of a new church start, or the appeal of no history or tradition to fight, prompts ministers to want to start a new