Sunday, December 16, 2007

Merry Christmas

This will be my last post this year! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas! Enjoy this video - it's my favorite Christmas video!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Church Planting Is The Happening Thing

Recent research from Leadership Network reveals some exciting new things in church planting. Over the past decade there were between 1,100 and 1,500 new churches started every year in the U.S. However, there were approximately 3,500 churches closing every year. We were obviously losing ground fast. However things are changing.

The latest research shows that there is an increasing interest in church planting all across the U.S. Last year there were approximately 4,000 new churches started! Trends have definitely shifted. There are now an abundance of new books and resources available for church planters. In fact, a google search will reveal more than 1,000,000 web pages devoted to church planting. Interest in church planting is at an all time high!

Unfortunately there are still approximately 3,500 churches closing every year, but for the first time that anyone can remember, we are now planting more churches than we are closing.

Another exciting discovery is that the energy for church planting has moved from denominational structures to local churches and networks. It is estimated that there are now over 100 church planting networks across the U.S.

NCI is helping many of these churches and networks to develop their systems to increase the health and survivability of new churches.

Amazing stuff! If you would like the complete report on "The State of Church Planting in the U.S." go to the Leadership Network website or email me at

Also, if your church, network, or denomination would like help to plant new churches more effectively, our coaching and consulting staff is available to assist you!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Systems for Health - A Leadership Development System

Almost every church I know of compains that "We don't have enough leaders." The truth is that your church can become a leadership development machine! I mean that in the most alive, organic way. If you create a plan (or system) your church can be spitting out leaders on a regular and consistent basis.

The best example of leadership development that I've seen in the business/corporate world is G.E. They have been given the nickname of "The great producer of CEO's." The reason? More CEO's are developed at G.E. than any place else in the country. One example is Jack Welch.

Jack joined G.E. right out of college. He worked his way through their "leadership pipeline" and eventually became the CEO of G.E. However, while Jack was developing through their pipeline, so were numerous others. Now not everyone can be the CEO, so what happened to the others? Several of them became the CEO's of other major corporations such as Boeing and Home Depot. Where did Jack's successor come from? You guessed it, inside.

Why doesn't the typical church have a system for developing spiritual CEO's? Why doesn't the church have a system for developing senior pastors and church planters internally? Much can be learned about leadership development systems from G.E.

As I coach church planting pastors (post-launch), I guide them to create leadership pipeline systems. The only reason your church doesn't have an abundance of leadership (like G.E.) is because you haven't developed them! I guide pastors to create pipelines that develop people. They begin as committed followers of Jesus and move through a process (several steps) until they are leading at the highest level, e.g. senior pastors or church planters or campus pastors.

Do you have an effective pipeline? A good coach can help. If you would like to see a sample of a pipeline in a local church, just shoot me an email at, and I'll send it to you!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Creating a System for Spiritual Formation

The Spiritual Formation System is the process designed by the leader to bring non-believers into a personal and vital relationship with Jesus Christ, and guides them to live transforming, missional lives.

As church planters we need to see that our role in the spiritual formation of others begins BEFORE they become followers of Jesus. They are seekers, curious, and willing to be in a relationship with us and our church. That's when the spiritual formation process begins - when they are willing to be in an ongoing relationship with us (e.g. once assimilated - see post on Oct 28th!) The process we design should effectively take them from this starting point to a maturing disciple of Jesus (see post on Nov 10th) who is reproducing and living a life on mission.

Most established churches do not have a well developed system such as this!

I have deep admiration for Willow Creek who recently wrote about their challenges in this regard in the book Reveal by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson. Few churches seem to be willing to be honest about this issue. Thank you Willow!

My experience has been that spiritual formation typically takes place for a spiritual seeker when 3 factors come together:
  1. The seeker experiences a meaningful (encouraging) relationship with one or more Christ-followers that leads to internal processing and accountability.
  2. The seeker pursues an interactive relationship with God through His Word, prayer, spiritual disciplines, etc.
  3. The seeker engages their natural talents/abilities in service to others to accomplish God's kingdom purposes.

On one hand this is very simple. On the other hand it may be totally new to think that this process can begin with a pre-Christian. We make a grave mistake compartmentalizing evangelism and discipleship. I see it as all one journey. These 3 things do not all happen at once. Many times a person will experience rebirth before experiencing all 3. But don't be afraid to bring seekers along side with you to just "do life" with you as you do it!

A very good resource and story can be found in Bob Roberts' book Transformation. Think about the T-Life Model that he has developed at his church.

Now your challenge is to think through all the steps that need to take place between assimilation (connected in relationships) and mature disciple. Keep it simple, but design experiences (not just classes) for people to plug in that challenges them to the next step. Finally, measure everything! A good coach will help you design, implement, and measure the effectiveness of your system! IT'S A MUST!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Systems for Health - A Spiritual Formation System

Another system that needs to be in place for a healthy missional church is a spiritual formation system. Sometimes church planters are so consumed with "gathering" that they forget what they are gathering people for. Our mission is to make disciples, not just gather people. So how do we do it?

The place to begin is to focus. What does a real disciple look like? Dallas Willard calls this an "Apprentice of Jesus." What does he/she look like? I like to guide church planters through a Biblical study and personal reflection process. You can download my worksheet at

Steven Covey tells leaders to "begin with the end in mind." This is critical if we are going to have an effective spiritual formation system. Begin there and then work backwards.

After a church planting pastor completes the worksheet he typically concludes that you can't work on everything all at once. So I suggest that you identify the top 4-6 qualities that need to be focused on in your congregation over the next 12 months. Then refine your qualities by stating them on very concrete objective statements. Once you get your spiritual formation objectives clarified, identify 3-5 measurable behaviors that will give indication that these objectives are being achieved.

Remember, if you can't measure it you can't manage it. A good coach will help you with this. Your coach should be able to guide you and help you define with clarity what it is you're trying to achieve. Next post = how to create the system!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Systems for Health - An Assimilation System

Once your new church is launched and you have begun creating a sense of community among the new people, it is important to start developing your essential systems for health. There are three critical systems that every new church needs to develop:
1. An Assimilation System,
2. A Spiritual Formation System, and
3. A Leadership Development System.

What is an Assimilation System? This is your process for connecting with people who are far from God, and bringing them into "connection" with your faith community. Of course this involves everyone in your church! Everyone should be establishing and building intentional relationships with people who are far from God. I encourage every believer to have an "Impact List." These are people who God has place in your path who you will be praying for, investing in, and seeking to have spiritual conversations.

Think now for a moment - what steps does it take for someone who is far from God to become connected with 2 or more people in your church (other than the one who invited them)? These steps make up your assimilation system.

But when is someone connected? I think it requires at least 2 things. First, the newcomer feels mutual care from 2 or more regular attenders. Second, the newcomer feels like they make a meaningful contribution to the group.

We must think of ways to make these two things happen. Be sure to design your assimilation system for results, and then measure its effectiveness at different points. A good coach will help you think these through. They will help you design an assimilation system that connects many new people every month.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Need Help Gathering a Following?

Most church planters have a difficult time with their initial gathering of people. Conventional marketing strategies work in newer communities that have lots of traditional families who have a Christendom worldview (typically in suburbs). It's usually easy to find a lot of church shoppers unless these communities have been over-marketed by other churches! So how do you gather a following?

We have found that "prospecting" is always effective, even in difficult communities. However, beware, difficult areas where there is high resistance requires time and patience and much prayer. But the approach to prospecting is still the same. We teach on this in our Essentials training.

Don't miss our next training coming up in 2 weeks, Nov 1-2. For more information about our next training go to and click on "events."

For some tools to help you with prospecting see our "Essential Experiences" #4, #4a, #4b, #4c, and #4d at

Saturday, October 06, 2007

One Pure and Holy Passion

Possibly my favorite song these days is "One Pure and Holy Passion." It's my prayer almost everyday. You can find it on the One Day Live CD.

I've come to realize the nobody pursues God with passion, no one follows hard after God until they have become thoroughly convinced that there is absolutely nothing else in this world worth pursuing.

The song says "Give me one and pure and holy passion. Give me one magnificent obsession. Give me one glorious ambition for my life, to know and follow hard after You." I so much want this to be true about me. But I'm realizing that it will never be true as long as there is something in this world that I think is worth pursuing. There has to be nothing else in my mind or heart that is worth being ambitious for.

I pray that more than anything else, that the churches we start will produce this kind of disciple.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Do You Value Your Values?

It is common to talk about "core values." Most church planters list their core values in their initial church planting plan. That is important because our values will shape our new church. However, what I see is that most church planters do not go back and evaluate or re-visit their values. As a result, their values cease to be a directional tool and just become words on a piece of paper.

I think it is important, at least once a year, to conduct a "values audit." Every new church (and established church) should step back at least once a year and ask "Do we really value our values? Are we really running hard after what we say we value? Are these things truly important to us, and do they really shape our church culture?"

In my church ( we state that we value 4 things that are core to who we are and who we want to become. Our 4 core values are:
1. Christian Spirituality,
2. Authentic Community,
3. Sacrificial Living, and
4. Faith Sharing.

These were not our original core values when we planted Crossbridge. They have emerged as we reviewed and evaluated over time. Now we must faithfully ask ourselves, "Are we running hard after these things? If not, why not? Are they really core? Do we really value these values?" I would encourage you to do the same!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Keep Your Head Clear

One of the biggest challenges that each of us face is keeping our heads clear. Every week we tend to become consumed by non-essential stuff, what I call "clutter." It's easy to get overwhelmed and distracted by details and low-value, low-priority activity. BEWARE!

Don't waste your time and talents on the wrong type of work! This is one reason why a good coach is important. Your coach will help you evaluate what you are doing with your time. Often we get so "busy being busy" that we lose sight of what's most important in our day and our week. As a result, our lives as pastors & church planters become complex, cloudy, confusing, and stressful. We start to lose focus, we miss opportunities, we develop bad habits, and we make excuses.

I must take the time each week to stay clear, stay focused, and stay organized. I must also take time every day to meditate on God's unfailing love (Ps 48:9). This is required to overcome anxiety and to be effective.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rediscovering Ourselves as Exiles

Recently I have been challenged by Michael Frost and his book Exiles. At times I feel like he takes some unfair shots at the Western church and the U.S.. However, I like reading him because I believe he has a good heart and an important message for believers.

Frost is especially valuable to church planters. He calls us to think and live like "exiles." He equates the Western church today to the Israelistes during the Babylonian exile. He draws some very powerful insights that we need to wrestle with today.

It is very important for church planters (and all church leaders) to think of our ecclesiology in terms of a journey, not a destination. We must see ourselves as "pilgrims" passing through this world, not homemakers. If we do not view ourselves as pilgrims (or exiles), we will assimilate into culture and will have little or no transformational impact on the world. Unfortunately, I believe this is the state of the church in much of the Western world.

As we create new churches, we must emphasize this! We will never be missional unless we see ourselves as pilgrims, aliens, and/or exiles. We will not be the "salt" and "light" that Jesus spoke of in Mt 5. To create a missional community it requires us to have this mindset. Are we training our missional core groups to see themselves as pilgrims, aliens, and exiles?

Many of the Israelites became so accustomed to life in Babylon that they refused to return to Jerusalem even when much later there was an opportunity to do so. In many ways, the experience that faced the Jewish exiles mirrors the church's experience today. We are now exiles from Christendom and we are grieving its loss and struggling with being marginalized in society.

So how do we live? How do we disciple our people? How do we think and act? It calls for abandonment to Jesus and to His way of life! It calls for us to live like Daniel did. This is absolutely essential if we are going to truly make missional disciples.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It's a Work of Faith

Church planting is a work of faith. We do prospecting and "farming". We develop systems and processes for outreach & discipleship. etc. But at the end of the day, we are utterly dependent on God to do the work that only He can do. This is what leads me to believe that the most important task in church planting is prayer. Earnest, fervent, desperate prayer. That is why these verses mean so much to me:

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose HOPE is in his unfailing love; to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in HOPE for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upn us, O Lord, even as we put our HOPE in you. Psalm 33:18-22

Sunday, August 19, 2007

We're Making a Difference

Last month I wrote an article for Rev Magazine telling the story of one church in Austin, TX that was making a difference in their city. The article also showed that there were approximately 3,500 new churches started in the U.S. in 2006 while approximately 3,000 closed.

This is the first time that I can remember in my lifetime that we opened more churches than we closed in a year. We're making a difference in cities and the nation.

If you would like a copy of this article from Rev Magazine email me at and I'll be happy to send you a copy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Building a Missional Core for a Church Plant

Most of the church planters I work with plan to develop a "Core Group" to help them launch their new church. I affirm this. I believe it is a much healthier and more effective approach to launch with a good "team." But what is a good Core Group?

Most planters are thinking of a Launch Team, a small group of workers to run the Sunday morning program/event. However, I think that is a small part of what you need for a Missional church plant. I like to refer to the core group as the "Missional Core."

What I mean by "Missional Core" is that this is a group of people who see themselves as missionaries, thus they do the work of a missionary in an unreached context. They engage non-believers and unchurched people. They build relationships. They do research into the culture. They think and strategize about how to make meaningful connections with people who are far from God. They draw these people into a friendship and over time, they create a new community of faith explorers.

The most important role of the Missional Core is not running a Sunday program or event, although many of them may help do this. The most important role is to be a missionary & evangelist, to be a pursuer and a gatherer. Their job is prospecting, and they do this by entering the world of the unchurched, by networking, by serving the community, and by building relational bridges. Research, outreach, relationships, prayer, and evangelism are the focus of a missional core.

Yes, you probably need a launch team (depending on your model). But don't settle for that. Build a missional core!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Raising Up Your Own Church Planters

One of the missional practitioners that I admire and respect is Hal Haller in Port Orange (Daytona) Florida. Hal not only teaches and coaches, but he lives church planting everyday. A few months ago Hal launched his 3rd church plant. Here is what Hal recently shared with me:

Birthing, Developing, and Sending out leaders is at the very heart and passion of our church. For us, success is not measured by how many people attend or how much money you take in or how slick your marketing campaign might be. Rather, success is measured by the people we invest in and mobilize out for the sake of the gospel.

One of the things I do at Church of the Highlands Port Orange is constantly scan the people that God sends in our gathering. I’m consciously looking for people who seem to be open, teachable and faithful. I then make time to get to know each one of them. I spend a lot of informal time around meals or golf and my goal is to share with them the things I have learned in ministry and to discover the passion, gifting and desire they have for God. My ultimate goal is to help set their life on God’s mission, infuse enthusiasm for His work, and to show them how they can make strategic investments in the lives of others.

The best way I know to reproduce yourself in others is by simply giving people access to your life. So that at the end of the day, I can hopefully say to each of them like Paul said to the believers at the Philippians church: “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing.” Philippians 4:9 (NLT) This is at the core of reproducing disciples that eventually reproduce churches. Hal

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gathering Your First 50 People

It has been said that the most difficult thing in church planting is gathering your first 50 people. Of course, the second most difficult thing is gathering your second 50 people. It is also vitally important WHO those first 100 people are because they will shape the culture of your new church. Keep that in mind!

The question is, "How do you gather new people?" This requires a lot of intentionality for most planters. A few have a unique gift for drawing people to themself, but most of us have to work at it. We have to think through who we're trying to reach and start attracting people like this. Usually like attracts like, so if you can start gathering the people you are attempting to reach you will be more likely to be successful in reaching your mission focus group. (I have a firm grasp of the obvious!)

Recruiting a group from an existing church can be helpful (given that the existing church is OK with you recruiting people from them). However, be very careful. This is often times counter-productive because the people from the existing church are usually not missional, not evangelistic, and are typcially looking for a new church that is more convienent or more suitable for themselves. You must only recruit MISSIONARIES from existing churches. If you recruit "consumers" they will usually suck the life out of you, and eventually leave because you're not "meeting their needs."

I don't mean to sound harsh or critical, it's just that church planting is hard and requires a lot of sacrifice from a core of believers. Western Christians are not accustomed to a sacrificial lifestyle (which in itself is sad.) While every church planter needs a few "missionary" believers to help them, I encourage planters to look to the harvest to build your initial critical mass. Seek to build relationships with non-churched, non-believers whom you can encourage and disciple, and hopefully assimilate into your new church plant. I hope to talk more in the days ahead about some specifics regarding how to do this. Just remember for now that the first 100 people will shape the culture of your new church. Make it a missional, new life culture! If you already have your first 50 people, ask yourself what kind of culture they are creating!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Why Pray?

For those of you who have heard me train church planters you know how my church planting experience was a dramatic turning point in my personal prayer life. Since that time I have sought to always stretch myself and deepen myself in the area of prayer. Right now I am reading Philip Yancey's book "Prayer." I want to share with you a quote from it that has really spoken to me recently.

"Why pray? I have asked this question almost every day of my Christian life, especially when God's presence seems far away and I wonder if prayer is a pious form of talking to myself. I have asked it when I read theology, wondering what use there may be in repeating what God must surely know.

"...prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. I pray to restore the truth of the universe, to gain a glimpse of the world, and of me, through the eyes of God.

"In prayer I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness. I climb above timberline and look down at the speck that is myself. I gaze at the stars and recall what role I or any of us play in a universe beyond comprehension. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God's point of view. (Yancey, p.29)

I conclude with this thought. Prayer is not so much about accomplishing something through our ministry, but more about God accomplishing something inside me!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A World Class Training Center

A few years ago the Elders from Hill Country Bible Church in Austin, TX embraced the vision of one day having a world class training center for church planters. Today that vision is becoming a reality.

Hill Country has been refining and developing their program now for two years. They have just enlisted a corp of church planting residents for this fall who will be preparing to plant churches in Austin by September 2008. Each year they plan to train and support multiple planters to reach the city of Austin. Their vision is that every man, woman and child in the greater Austin area would hear about the life-changing reality of the gospel through a relationship with someone from a Hill Country church. However, they also understand that a city will not be reached by only one church even if that church has an aggressive church planting strategy. So they are partnering with every evangelical ministry that they can in the city to bring about transformation.

In addition to their partnerships, Hill Country themself is planning to plant 100 new churches in their city over the next 10 years. These will include many different types of churches, a variety of models, and diverse ethnic and cultural focus'.

Hill Country has a 4-phase plan that includes vision-casting & recruitment, immersion & assessment, residency training, residency pre-launch preparation, and a 2-year post-launch coaching plan. If you would like to know more about their plan contact me at or contact their church planting director John Herrington at Hill Country Bible Church (

Friday, June 08, 2007

What is Church Planting All About?

This week was a very encouraging week for me. This week I learned of 2 of my church planters, both in the pre-launch phase, who saw people come to faith in Christ! That's what this is all about! These 2 planters are going to be able to celebrate baptisms either before or immediately after they launch their church. Who know, maybe on launch Sunday they will celebrate baptism.

The most important thing that church planters need to be doing in the pre-launch phase is evangelism! They must be building relationships with people who are far from God, praying for open doors, and initiating conversations that can lead to the gospel. They must also be training and encouraging their core teams in evangelism as well. Church planting is about taking the gospel to people who have not yet come to faith in Christ.

We do not need to force anything are try to manipulate something to happen. We just need to be praying, be obedient the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and be good conversationalists. Of course we need to know the truth of the gospel but sharing it can be as simple as telling our story. Everybody has a story, but not everyone's story has intersected with God's story. Listen to their story, then share your story. Train your people to do the same. That's what church planting is about!

Monday, May 28, 2007


Entrepreneurs are very interesting people. I work with entrepreneurs in both the vocational ministry world and the business world. I love them. It is true that most people perceive entrepreneurs to be “risk-takers” but I’ve learned that most entrepreneurs are also thoughtful planners!

Yes, they take risks that the average person would not take, but they are more like the wise builder and the wise king of Luke 14:28-33 than probably most people realize. The best entrepreneurs that I have known are not fool hearty people who act impulsively, throwing caution to the wind. They measure the risk. They plan. They envision the end result. But what makes them entrepreneurs is they act with courage and determination.

Do they feel fear? Most of the entrepreneurs I’ve know say “yes.” But fear does not stop them. In fact, they find that acting in the face of fear is exhilarating! They are alive, passionate, ambitious people. Most of them think and plan, but then they act. And once they act, they typically never look back. They remind me of Paul in Philippians 3:12-14.

Church planters are kingdom entrepreneurs. They think, plan, and pray. But then they pull the trigger! They step out. They take risks. They trust their calling and they trust God’s faithfulness. Their fear does not stop them or cause them to look back. Their fear keeps them on their knees and pressing ahead with passion!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

How to Train Church Planters

Last fall I had the privilege of doing research and writing for the Leadership Network on the subject of "Models for Training Church Planters." In this article we explored various models that different ministries used around the country. We also touched on some of the critical aspects of planting healthy, reproducing churches. We then explored some of the critical issues surrounding new churches and how these are addressed or overlooked. I concluded with an overview of the Leadership Pipeline that I am helping churches institute in order to raise up leaders from within their congregations.

We've gotten great reviews from readers! If you would like to read this article, email me and I'll be glad to send you a copy. Email me at

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Great Spiritual Formation Resource for Churches

One of the ministries that we partner with is Ascending Leaders. The founder is Dr. Mike Johnson, a great friend. I highly recommend that you check this out. This is a powerful tool for making missional disciples in the church! The website is

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Insoluble Problems

One of our planters just sent me this quote by John W. Gardiner: "We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems." I love that!

One of the challenges that I'm facing right now is helping one of my client churches find 3-6 prospective church planters for Austin, TX. Can you help me? This is for a non-denominational church who wants to resource good candidates! Please reply to me at if you have any interest, if you know anyone who might have interest, or if you know someone I should talk to who might know someone who might have interest!

Hope to see you next week at the National New Church Conference!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Got Time to Plant?

Almost every church planter I work with struggles with time management. That's understandable! We have a dream of something new and hundreds of ideas to implement. Then, of course, there's people! Relationships are the core of what we're about, and relationships take time! How do we find the time?

Scripture tells us to be "making the best use of the time, because the days are evil" (Ep 5:16). Stress is a sign that we may not be making the best use of our time. What do we do?

The bottomline is this. We only have 168 hours in a week. You can't get more. You can't save it up. You can't postpone it. Time happens. God expects us to be faithful stewards of those 168 hours. In other words, God never expects (nor desires) for us to try to do more than we can do in 168 hours a week. And, He doesn't want us to destroy our health by not getting adequate rest, exercise, and proper diet. He doesn't want us to neglect or damage our families. What He desires is simply that I be a good steward of the time I do have, and trust Him for the rest.

So the pressure I sometimes feel is a sign of either poor stewardship or a lack of faith, or both. My daily task is to make sure I am being a faithful steward - of my time, my family, my health, my calling. Jesus did it and I never see Him in the Scriptures running around frantic like I sometimes do. He's not wringing his hands, uptight about me handling all the demands; because those demands that are stressing me aren't coming from Him.

Slow down. Take a breath. Learn to live a quiet and peaceable life in the midst of church planting. It can be done! Need help? Get a coach!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Houston - Emerging Culture Seminar!!!

InterVarsity is sponsoring this excellent seminar on April 10th. Jimmy Long, author of "Emerging Hope" will be presenting on emerging culture in North America. I highly recommend his book and this seminar!

This seminar will be held at Grace Presbyterian Church in Houston. The time is 9:30-3:00. This is a $75 value that IV is offering to pastors, church planters, and Christian leaders for FREE! Thank you IV staff!!!

For more information contact Lanae Webel, the regional IV director at or call 713-426-2871. Also, check out

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Don't Miss the Nat'l New Church Conf.

I am planning to attend the National New Church Conference in Orlando the week of April 23rd. I want to invite you to join me there! This will be the largest gathering of church planting leaders in North America. The line up of presenters is unbelievable. Check it out at

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Some Upcoming Training!

Dear Friends,
Just want you to know that we will have our Essentials - Third Day Training in Houston on March 22nd. We are also having our 2-day intensive "The Essentials for Starting a Missional Church" in Austin on March 23-24. Check out our website for more details,

Also, don't miss the National New Church Conference in Orlando, April 23-26. Click here for more details,

Hope to see you in Houston, Austin, or Orlando!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Powerful God: Draw Close!

O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.

These words are from Psalm 104:1-5. They remind us of God's power and greatness. As church planters, we take risks. We step out in faith trusting God to do things that only He can do. At times we feel fear and anxiety. "What if God doesn't come through?" we ask ourselves. "What if I leave a secure, salaried job and this doesn't work?" "What if no one comes?" On and on our flesh and our adversary put these kinds of questions and doubts in our minds.

The psalmist goes on and reminds us further that God provides for all His creation. These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. (104:27-28)

As I've reflected on this psalm this week I thought back to significant steps of faith that I've taken in my life. Over the past 15 years I can identify at least 6 bold steps that required me to trust God in profound ways. Church planting was one of those experiences, and they all had to do with obeying God in the start up of new things.

God can be trusted. He is greater than any challenge we face. If He set the earth on its foundations, starting a new church on this earth is a piece of cake for Him. Our fears do not reflect a lack of power or desire on God's part, only a lack of intimacy with Him on our part. Draw near to Him!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Finding Joy & Gladness in Church Planting

This morning I've been reflecting on Psalm 100. The psalmist tells us to "Shout for JOY to the Lord" and to "Worship the Lord with GLADNESS." Sometimes, though, I just don't feel joy or gladness. Why? What do I do?

Verse 5 gives us a clue: "KNOW that the Lord is God." The truth is that God is in control at all times - He reigns, he's all-powerful, and He is good - so of course, I should come to Him with joy and gladness. If I'm not experiencing joy and gladness it is because I have forgotten (or maybe never really known) that He is good and He is in control!

Joy and gladness is not a result of my circumstances but a result of God's nature and character, and my deep awareness of who He is. So the psalmist says "Know that the Lord is God." He concludes with "For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." If I really believe this (deeply), I will have joy and gladness no matter what challenges or trials I face in church planting. Be encouraged! Be joyful! Be glad!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Essentials for Starting a Missional Church - 2007 version

This coming week we will be offering the "2007" update of our core course, "The Essentials for Starting a Missional Church." This will be in Houston on Thursday (22nd) and Friday (23rd).

This training is different from most church planter training in that it challenges you to think about your ecclesiology and to consider what a missional church really is. We make a careful examination of Western culture and it's influence on our understanding of the church. We explore the critical theological issues behind the concept of "missional" church.

What's new in 2007? We have updated our units on "Calling" and "Evangelism," and we have made major changes to our unit on "Putting the Plan Together." Plus all of our bibliographies have been updated with the latest and best resources for church planters.

If you're an alumni, you can attend at no charge, but please make a reservation so we will ensure a space for you. For more information see

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Are We Coaching or Mentoring?

This week a friend of mine asked some questions that provoked my thinking about the difference between “coaching” and “mentoring.” Most people (including myself) seem to use these words synonymously, but is there a difference? I believe there is a difference, as does most of the literature on the subject.

The NASA Business Coaching Handbook gives a good distinction between business coaching, training, mentoring, consulting, traditional supervision, and counseling. See

Their definition of “Business Coaching”: A coach concentrates on personal and professional success. How effective is the individual at achieving their goals and getting what they want out of life? Coaching is future-focused, aimed at identifying and understanding barriers and designing strategies and action to eliminate those barriers and improve effectiveness. Knowledge resides with the individual being coached.

Their definition of “Mentoring”: A mentor provides knowledge, information, and personal advice based on his/her experience. The focus is on passing on guidance that helped the mentor be successful in a similar situation in the past. The experience resides with the mentor.

I like this distinction and it is consistent with other literature on the subject. This is what I teach in our basic course for church planters “The Essentials for Starting a Missional Church.” However, in practice, I am realizing that I probably do more “mentoring” than “coaching.” When I work with experienced pastors and experienced church planters, my role is more of a coach. When I work with inexperienced church planters (which is the norm for me), my role is more of a mentor and trainer. When I am working with churches and organizations that want to become more effective in church planting my role is more of a “consultant.” For more on this see the NASA Handbook, page 4. There you will find an excellent chart describing these various roles. Another good resource is the book Connecting by Paul D. Stanley and J. Robert Clinton (NavPress).

Sunday, February 04, 2007

See And Experience The Miraculous

One of the things I love about working with church planters is that these are men and women who live on the edge, learning to trust God in deep and powerful ways. This morning in my devotional reading I read 2 Kings 4. I love all these stories about Elisha because he too was a man who trusted God in deep and powerful ways.

When I read stories like the widow who had to pay a debt (4:1-7) I think of some of the unconventional ways that God provides for the financial needs of church planters. When I read about the Shunammite's son (4:8-37) I think about how God shows favor to his planters and how God performs miracles in families and individuals through the ministries of these new churches. When I read about the "stew" in 4:38-41 I think about how the enemy tries to poison people and undermine church planting teams, yet God brings life out of potentially horrible relational situations. When I see the feeding of the hundred (4:42-44) I'm reminded of how God always provides, always!

Church planters and others who are doing new missionary type works have to live on the edge of faith; and if God doesn't come through, they're sunk! But that's when we see God and witness His miraculous power. I love our sovereign, omnipotent God and I love church planters - a great formula for experiencing the miraculous!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

One Of My Church Planting Heros

This weekend I had the privilege of speaking at the midwest regional conference of the Church of God out of Findley, OH. This is a small denomination that has embraced the value of "Healthy, reproducing churches." They asked me to speak several times on church planting, particularly as it relates to our increasingly diverse American landscape. These were wonderful people and it was a great time.

One of the church planting leaders in this group is Fran Leeman. Fran planted and pastors Lifespring Community Church in Plainfield, IL. Fran is one of my church planting heros.

One of the things I appreciate about Fran is his passion to be the church that God wants them to be. This is sometimes difficult living in the shadow of such mega-churches as Willow Creek and Community Christian. Those are great churches, but all of us have a tendency to measure our success by comparing ourselves to mega-churches. Consider 2 Corinthians 10:12.

Fran has faithfully pastored this young church, experiencing many ups and downs. As I ate lunch with him yesterday in Champaign, IL, I listened to him talk about person after person whom he (and others in his church) have reached out to - men and women who were far from God, some who had no clue who Jesus was or what Christianity was all about. I listened to him talk about the lay leaders (some of whom were also sitting at our table) and he described their journeys from a pre-Christian era to today when they were each taking significant roles of responsibility and leadership in the church. My heart was deeply moved. In fact, my eyes water by just recounting the experience with him yesterday.

In American culture where we measure success by size, it is easy to miss how God measures success. A few years ago I heard of a local pastor who had led his church for over 30 years, growing it from several hundred to several thousand in that time. At his retirement he made a statement like this, "In my 30+ years of pastoring we have learned to grow large churches, but I'm not sure we yet know how to make disciples."

Large churches are a great blessing to our cities in many ways, and I highly value their contribution to Kingdom work. However, I hope we can measure success not by the size of our church but by the lives that are transformed through the power of the gospel. Fran's church is not large (though it may become large in the future), but he is a success. He has story after story of life change that have emerged from his church and ministry, and he shares them humbly. He is one of my church planting heros.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

ACCELERATE! It Happened!

This past Friday and Saturday approximately 150 church planting leaders (mostly from the city of Houston) gathered together for worship, inspiration, and instruction at Accelerate! My friend, Ed Stetzer, was our key note speaker.

Ed challenged us to plant Biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counter-cultural communities of faith! It was a rich and powerful time! However, the most amazing part of the experience was that the leaders of the three largest denominations in our city drafted a "Church Planting Manifesto" in which they covenanted together to plant churches that will transform our city. It was a covenant that honored their differences theologically, yet affirmed their unity around church planting and saturating our city with the gospel. It truly was an historic moment!

These leaders signed the manifesto and then invited everyone to join them in signing it. I do not yet know how many signed on but it looked like the majority of the participants. God was present! I'm still in awe of what happened. May this be the beginning of a new wave of church planting in Houston, and around the world.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Why We Do This

This morning I was meditating on Psalm 84. As I was reflecting and praying over this passage I realized that this is why we plant churches. The psalmist says "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." (84:1-2)

He goes on to say "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked." (84:10) We plant churches so that more people might experience God, so that they might discover and experience His presence forever.

As I read over this passage I realized that something in my soul cried out "Yes, I yearn for God's presence just like the psalmist did." I treasure these moments when I am acutely aware of God's presence. I want the people I minister to to increasingly experience God. I want them to know the joy of His presence and to have the opportunity to experience this for the rest of their life (here and in eternity.) "O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you." (84:12)