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!