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