Saturday, December 27, 2008

Branding Faith

I have to confess that I was inspired and enthralled with the "Missional Church" movement as I began to see it emerge about 10 years ago. I've pretty much been on the bandwagon ever since, although I have been hesitant in more recent years because of the "popularity" of the word "missional." It's now the marketing buzz word among evangelicals, meaning different things to different people. It's still a great word and I use it, but I try to define it now.

In my pursuit of authentic "missional" ministry I went through a phase of totally rejecting anything related to business or marketing, even though that was my background. More recently I have moved back into the business world and have been asking the question "How do we live and work Biblically in the business world?" For too long we've tended to compartmentalize our lives. I've been pursuing a more holistic mindset that's grounded in the Scriptures.

Recently I've come across Phil Cooke, initially through his excellent book Branding Faith, and then through his blog. I highly recommend him to you! He is not only a good theologian, but he understands communication - which is what we're focused on in ministry! If you want to truly impact culture, read his book. Check out his blog too at He has helped me gain a more Biblical perspective on the subject of "Branding." Thank you Phil!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sticky Church

I have to give a plug today for Larry Osborne's new book Sticky Church.

For those of you who know me, you know that I've been around churches, ministry, and small groups for a long time (I mean, a long time!) I think I have read most of the literature out on small groups, cell multiplication, etc. I want to tell you that I think Larry has written the best book on small group ministry in the U.S.! This is a must read for every pastor doing small group ministry in the U.S.

Larry is strategic and practical. He is honest about what works and what doesn't work in the U.S. culture. He's a "no nonsense" kind of guy!

Have you ever wondered why most small group ministries don't assimilate people very well? Have you ever wondered why most attempts to copy Cho's model in the U.S. fails? Have you ever wondered why it's difficult to get leaders to faithfully attend leadership training or why they burn out so easily? Larry does a marvelous job of explaining why. But best yet, he shows us from years of experience how to be effective and how to use groups to "velcroe" people to your church.

Way to go Larry! Thank you, once again, for another invaluable contribution to pastors and to the church in America.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Making Them Stick!

As you think about "Assimilation" be sure you understand the difference between assimilation and spiritual formation. I define assimilation as the process of getting people who are far from God and far from the church "connected" to a local Body of believers. If done well, this will happen before they even come to a personal faith in Jesus.

Once someone is "connected" to us, then we have the opportunity (and responsibility) to engage them in an intentional process of spiritual formation. However, the first goal is to assimilate them, or get them into a relationship with us. Of course they have to choose to be in this relationship, but we should do everything within our power to reach out, invest in them, shower them with the love of Christ, and establish a definite bond.

Too many times we focus on worship attendance as our measure of success. Truthfully, many people who attend worship services are not really assimilated. I encourage you to create a practical, realistic, measurable system for assimilating new people into your fellowship. If you need help give us a call. This is one of the three critical systems that every church needs to have to be healthy.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Start Assimilating New People

There are several books written on the subject of "assimilation" and I've found that all of them have some helpful information. However, they all come from the assumption that the assimilation process begins in the parking lot or at the front door of your church. Most pastors/church planters I talk to have the same assumption.

I want to challenge that assumption!

We must realize that to "make disciples" as Jesus talked about in Mt 28:19, we must begin with people who are far from God and far from the church. THAT is the starting point, not when they drive into the parking lot. This is a profound difference in the way we need to think about assimilation!

If our people are not connecting and building loving, credible relationships with people who are far from God and far from the church we are giving them the wrong mental model about disciple-making! Disciple-making begins with each believer building relationships in their workplace, their neighborhood, and in their normal course of life. Mt 28:19 literally says "As you go, make disciples."

The first half of your assimilation process should be getting them to the parking lot. The second half should be "being sticky" when they get there. What does your assimilation process look like? Have you documented it? Are you measuring it? Is your process improving? We coach pastors/church planters on how to have exceptional assimilation systems!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's Going To Space!

I love this clip I found on the Thinklings (!

Are we spoiled or what?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Death By Suburbia

For the past few weeks my pastor, Chuck Land, has been teaching on the topic "Death By Suburbia." He has been pointing out some of the unique dynamics in the suburbs that kill our soul. These have been very powerful messages.

I appreciate that fact that he has not shamed or criticised us for living in the suburbs. He has pointed out that wherever you live, suburbs, city, or country, there are forces at work to kill our soul. Since we mostly live and minister in the suburbs that's his focus.

If you would like to listen to the podcasts go to

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A New Generation Shapes America

As I watch the election returns and listen to the analysis it seems clear: The deciding factor in the presidential election was the new, younger voters!

The emerging younger generation has "emerged" as a strong and powerful political voice in America. The new, younger voters engaged like we have not seen in some time (maybe even since the 60's). They want to have impact and they want to shape our nation. In this election they proved that they can influence an election.

This behooves us as Christian leaders to pay very close attention to this segment of our society. Most churches in America are not reaching or discipling the 20' somethings. The reality is that the 20' somethings are the most unreached segment of our society.

New churches and established churches are going to have to think differently and operate differently if they want to have any hope of reaching this new generation of policy shapers! My aim has been and continues to be to help congregations think deeply about how to engage and impact this generation. Let me encourage us all to give careful thought to this call!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

How Is My Church Really Doing?

We should periodically take time to assess how our church is really doing, but what do we assess? As I've studied the New Testament I've come to the conclusion that a NT church is simple a community of Christ-followers continuing the mission of Jesus. That's what a church is (and should be) in its simplest form.

With that in mind, here are the three components that we should assess. First, we should assess how we're doing as a community:
  • Are there strong relational connections between the members/attenders of our church?
  • Is there a high degree of fun and fellowship among our people?
  • Are new people being assimilated into our community?

The second component that we should assess is mission:

  • Do we have a sense of momentum?
  • Are individuals joyfully engaged in missional activity?
  • Do we as a Body have a clear, focused missional vision that is shared by all?

The third component that we should assess is disciple-making (Christ-followers):

  • Do we have weekly/monthly stories of life-change?
  • Do we have an effective system for spiritual formation that produces disciples and leaders?
  • Are our people engaged in disciple-making relationships?

Let's not beat ourselves up for the areas where we see deficiencies, but lets work toward continually improving our life together as the Body of Christ. Let's always be working toward being the church that Jesus desires.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Leverage: The Focus of Strategic Leaders

As I work with post-launch planters the concept I try to help them understand is leverage! Leverage is getting more accomplished with less effort. Leverage is working smarter not harder. Leverage is about exceptional impact!

Most church planters do way too much of the work themselves. They all think they delegate well, but very few do. (This is true about pastors in general.) There are four major ways we achieve leverage:
  1. We can leverage communication. Think strategically about how you will use your pulpit, your Sunday service, your weekly communication vehicles, etc. Think strategically about how you will communicate to the community (often referred to as marketing - but it is much more than our traditional mindset about marketing.) Think about other strategic opportunities you have to communicate.
  2. We can leverage the gifts of our people. Think about everyone (not just your favorites) in your congregation. Who is not engaging their gifts or talents in significant ways? Brainstorm on ways to engage the talents of newcomers & prospects too.
  3. We can leverage systems. Think systems. Learn to develop systems. Implement systems. Measure the effectiveness of your systems.
  4. We can leverage technology. How are you using your website? E-marketing? Blogs? Facebook? Linked In? etc.

Don't miss the opportunity to multiply your impact and effectiveness through leverage. Need help? Get a coach!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Don't Stop Doing Evangelism!

One of the major mistakes I see church planters making in their first and second year is that they stop engaging aggressively in outreach and evangelism. This is a mistake!

In our Essentials Training we talk about "How to do the work of an Evangelist." Let me remind us all of a few key points:
  • We must continue to build intentional relationships with people who are far from God and the church. We must continue to encourage our Core Team to do this as well. We must never stop initiating this!
  • We must continue to pray for open doors. Opportunities don't just happen. As we pray, God opens doors for conversations, outreach, and assimilation.
  • We must continue to gather non-believers around us. They may not be ready to come to church, but they will come to your house for dinner, go to a movie with you, or do something fun. Every leader on your team (and especially you as the planter) must be doing this.
  • We must look for the best ways to leverage our time to build more relationships. This is the biggest problem of all. Once our new church is launched, we get busy. Our busy-ness is what robs us of time and energy for evangelism.

Remember, as the church planter, it is your responsibility to keep the evangelism temperature high. No one else can or will! You must set the example. You must be telling fresh stories every week. You must be challenging others and holding them accountable to this. It is the life blood of a new church.

Are you needing help with outreach and evangelism? Get a coach!!! To know more about our coaching services email me at

Saturday, October 04, 2008

God's Favor in Church Planting

"But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as a shield." Psalm 5:11-12

Church planting can be very discouraging at times. Many planters describe their experience as providing them with their "highest highs and lowest lows." These words can bring comfort, encouragement, and hope. I pray that every church planter will feel God's favor; that you will feel His favor surrounding you!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Church Planting Movements or Jesus Movements?

Recently I have been reading two excellent books, The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, and The Multiplying Church by my dear friend Bob Roberts. I recommend them both.

One of the key things that both of these men tell us is that the early church and the dynamically expanding church these past decades in China were not focused on creating a "church planting movement." Their focus was making disciples who knew and were passionate about Jesus. What they created were "Jesus Movements."

Sometimes I think we today miss the point when we focus on church planting movements. Authentic cpm's are the result not the goal. The goal is to make authentic disciples. When we do that we create a Jesus movement and churches are naturally born.

The central question and issue is this: Are we making passionate, missional Christ-followers? Or another way of saying it is are we making authentic disciples? Multiplication, movements, and church planting is the by-product. Let's be sure our focus is right and clear!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What Are You Trying To Accomplish?

Recently we have been asking ourselves the question, "Are we being successful as a church?" I serve on the elder team of my church and we are clear about our mission. It is Mt 28:19-20. The way we say it is "To honor God by making growing followers of Jesus Christ." But how do we measure that?

As we wrestled with this question, we went back to define "What is a Disciple?" and "How do we know when we've made on?" This led us to do two things:
  1. Create a Profile of a Maturing Disciple (e.g. a growing follower of Jesus Christ), and

  2. Clarify the process of spiritual formation, beginning with the "pre-Christian" (e.g. how do we turn someone who is far from God and the church into a growing follower of Jesus?

What we have defined as our target (end goal) is a person who is pursuing:

  • Spiritual Intimacy

  • Biblical Community

  • Missional Living

We are now in the process of placing behavioral identifiers on each of these charactersitics, ways that we can know that this person is becoming a growing follower of Jesus. We are also defining the steps along the process -

Far from God & the Church ---------------->Growing Follower

We are identifying our metrics so we can evaluate how we are doing along the way. We are identifying the knowledge, character, and skills/practices that we want to develop in our people. We are also continuing to refine our profile of our outreach target group.

Are you making disciples? How do you know? You cannot manage what you do not measure. But what you measure will be your mission. Are you measuring the right things?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike - How Leaders Deal With the Unexpected

This past weekend we got visited by Hurricane Ike. We suffered some minor damage but many residents in Houston have suffered a lot. Yesterday one of our church plants was to have their final pre-launch Preview Service. It didn't happen. He called me and said none of the books talked about what to do if a hurricane hits on launch week. We talked through his NEW strategy for launch!

That's just one value of coaching. Unexpected things happen. However, leaders take the unexpected and turn it into a victory! That's what my friend is doing. What unexpected challenge or set-back are you dealing with right now? How can you turn it into a victory? That's leadership!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Protect Your Marriage While Church Planting

I'm back after taking a couple of weeks off. My recent reflections have been around the need to guard our marriages.

In church planting the work is never done! At the end of the day there are still more people to see, more details to cover, more strategy to plan, more projects to manage, and more ideas to create & develop. Plus we must always keep evangelism as a central focus, be discipling new and very immature believers, not to mention recruiting and developing more leaders. The work is never done.

Here's the issue: Can you say "no?"

Do you know when to stop? Are you monitoring the balance between work and family? Do you maintain enough margin in your life so that when those most critical relationships (e.g. spouse and children) need more time, attention, and energy from you - do you have the margin necessary to give them what they need without creating a crisis in the other areas of your life?

I have 3 suggestions:
  1. Reflect and journal about this aspect of your life. Pay close attention and be brutally honest with yourself. Remember, we lie loudest when we lie to ourselves (Eric Hoffer).
  2. Discuss it openly and honestly with your spouse. Give them permission and space to express fully their thoughts and feelings about this. Make sure you know their honest perception about how well you are present for spouse and family.
  3. Discuss it with an accoutability partner. To be honest, sometimes our spouse is so committed to us and what we're doing that they are not honest with themselves about personal needs and desires that are going unmet. Have an outsider asking you tough questions and challenging you about your marriage and family.

Church planting is demanding! It is very hard work. But it is something we are passionate about; so passionate that sometimes we lose perspective about our personal reality. It's easy to become obsessed with our "mission."

Don't fool yourself and don't lie to yourself. Make sure you have a firm grip on reality in your marriage and family. Be intentional. Always be taking action to nurture and protect your marraige while church planting. What are you going to do today?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Perseverance in Church Planting

It has been very inspiring to follow the story of Michael Phelps in the Olympics this month. He is a great testimony of perseverance. In fact, all of the athletes that are competing have stories of perseverance - without it, they would not be in the Olympics.

As church planters, we must be examples of perseverance as well. Church planting does not come easy. It takes enormous work, devoted (sometimes desperate) prayer, and perseverance to succeed.

This morning I was preaching at a 6 month old church that is doing very well. My text was James 5:7-12, "Be patient, then, brothers until the Lord's coming." James was encouraging these believers to persevere in difficult times, and I wanted to encourage this new church to persevere as well. He gives 3 examples that would be worth all of us considering, the farmer, the prophets, and Job.

From the farmer we learn that we need to persevere through the difficult seasons of life. From the prophets we learn that we need to persevere even when others attack us. From Job we learn that we need to persevere in the midst of spiritual battle.

We can also observe from this passage that our perseverance should be with a good attitude (v.9), with worship (v.11b), and with integrity (v.12). The mark of a great church planter is perseverance!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Benefits of Trusting

Many of us have difficulty trusting others. Some of us were trained to not trust. Some suffered greatly during their childhood and decided that they could not really trust anyone. All of us have experienced relationships where trust was broken. So why trust at all?

In his excellent book The Compassionate Samuri, author Brian Klemmer identifies five benefits that motivate us to trust.

1. It's the only way to access the synergistic power of teamwork.
2. It builds relationship and intimacy.
3. It releases time freedom and efficiency.
4. It's the primary tool for making a difference and being of service.
5. It gives you a feeling of exhilaration.

As church leaders, we must be looking for people who are trustworthy to partner with in ministry. The average person plays not to lose by not trusting. Extraordinary leaders learn when and who to trust and seek to build trusting relationships.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Men and women of character say what they mean and do what they say. They make bold promises and keep them. Their lives are characterized by commitment!

The average person today doesn’t care much about keeping commitments if their commitments are not convenient. The value of his/her word has become so cheap that they break it almost every day. Average salespeople promise things they can’t deliver just to make a sale; average parents promise their children that they’ll tuck them in or take them to the park, yet feel no remorse when they fail to follow through. When average people are late for an appointment, they don’t consider their tardiness to be a broken commitment. I’ve seen many church planters who were guilty of this.

Commitment is the basis for trust, which is the foundation of all relationships. Therefore, breaking it equates to destroying trust. When trust is broken, relationships inevitably become shaky. More than that, when commitments aren’t valued and honored, it undermines the possibility of creating community, which is the essence of what the church is to be.

As church planting leaders, let’s make bold commitments. But let’s stand behind our word, even in the small things. Let’s disciple our people to do the same!

Monday, July 21, 2008


Wisdom is the ability to see life events from God's perspective, and the skill to act accordingly.

It is very important for us to be looking for God in every situation we face in our church planting experience. We ascribe meaning to every significant event of our day. The meaning we ascribe determines how we feel about the event and how we respond to the event. If we can begin to see God's hand in our daily and weekly activities we will be able to maintain the focus that we need to press ahead toward our vision.

The problem each of us faces is that we see life through a filter. This filter has been created by our past experiences and interpretations of those experiences. We can easily miss God when we see current challenges through filters of past disappointments which shaped false beliefs about ourselves and God.

God is at work. Keep your eyes open for Him. Learn to see every event from His perspective. He has purposes in every thing we are going through. Don't miss Him!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Unexpected Events in Church Planting

It has been many years now, but just prior to my first church plant, my father came to know the Lord. To be honest, this was an incredible answer to years and years of prayer. It was a tremendous blessing to be launching my new church and to be able to talk about it with my new Christian father. There were so many blessings surrounding that experience that I can't begin to describe them here.

It was after the launch of my church, but during the first year, that my father discovered he had cancer, and soon died. It was a tremendous gift from God to get to have conversations and connections with Dad on a spiritual level that year. However, he had only been a Christian for a few years before his death. It seemed so premature, in some ways unfair. But God is always just and faithful.

A few months before his passing, my dad confided in me that he struggled with tremendous guilt over the life that he lived prior to coming to faith. As we reach adults with the gospel we discover that this is not uncommon. The scripture that the Holy Spirit led me to and that we read together was Psalm 103:8-13. You may find this helpful for yourself and for those new believers you are discipling:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

These words gave my father hope and peace as he faced eternity. They give me that same hope and peace today. Church planting brings many surprises and unexpected events. I hope we can learn to see God's hand in every part of it, and that we can give this kind of hope and peace to a vast world that does not yet know our compassionate Heavenly Father.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Overcome Fear; Accomplish Something Extraordinary

“The history of the human race is the history of ordinary people who have overcome their fears and accomplished extraordinary things.”-Brian Tracy

Are you worrying or experiencing fear on a regular basis? Don’t forget that 95% of fears never materialize. Here is a thought for applying FEAR as an acronym:

False Expectations Appearing Real.

Worrying accomplishes absolutely nothing! In any situation, just face the worst case scenario, accept it, and then improve upon it. Don’t let this limiting emotion called fear hold you back!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Looking for the Kingdom

Jim Peterson and Mike Shamy in their excellent book The Insider, state:

God is at work, creating....He is creating a people, an eternal people! He is gathering them out of every nation and from every generation - to present them to his Son as "a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." What an astonishing metaphor for an even more astonishing work! ... If that is what God is doing, if in these days he is creating such a people, should we not expect to see signs of this activity all around us every day? ... We need to train our eyes to see the kingdom of God.

I couldn't agree more! I have spent a lot of my recent years training churches and church planters how to analyze (exegete) their culture. We need to know the community and the people we're trying to reach. But we must also learn to look for evidence of God's kingdom in our midst.

I believe that Jesus wants us to be instruments of His kingdom. He taught us to pray "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." I believe that He specifically wants us to look for evidence of His kingdom as well as be channels of His kingdom. As we pray and do the works that Jesus did we will become channels, and the end result will be that there is an increasing evidence of His kingdom on earth.

How will we know? The answer is "His will is being done," in the lives of individuals and in the community. Are you a part of His creative activity? He is redeeming individuals and transforming communities. Let's be looking for the kingdom. It is manifest now in part, and we are His channels. But one day, He will return and it will be evident in full!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Agents of the Kingdom

Acts 1:3 tells us how Jesus prepared His disciples to start the very first church. It says that he schooled them for 40 days on the Kingdom of God. That's right. Jesus knew that if His disciples could capture His heart and vision for the Kingdom, once empowered by the Holy Spirit, they would turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

It has been my growing conviction that Western churches, for the most part, have not been having the kind of transformational impact on society that they could (and should) have. I believe that this is due (in large part) to our lack of understanding about the Kingdom of God.

As believers and as churches we are agents of the Kingdom. To be "missional" is to understand and act on our Kingdom calling. It would be good for everyone of us to spend 40 days really "schooling" ourselves on the Kingdom of God. Sources I would recommend to help us gain fresh insight into the Scriptures are Ladd, Bright, Tolstoy, Glasser, and Willard.

Over the past few years our teams have interviewed many non-churched people in cities where we have been supporting church planting. What we have found is that the non-churched population (for the most part) do not see the church adding any value to society. They often view the church as a "taker" rather than a "giver" to the city. For the most part we are not viewed as "salt" and "light." Rather we are a non-factor or worse, a nuisance.

I want to encourage every new church to see themselves as agents of the Kingdom, bringing blessing and hope to the city! (Jeremiah 29)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Are We Making Disciples?

I love working with church planters and seeing new missional initiatives started! However, I continue to be concerned about the quality of disciples we are making.

Barna has been challenging us for years to address this. The most recent Reveal research has challenged the assumption that participation in church programs result in spiritual maturity. Our standard methods for making disciples do not seem to produce the results we want - nothing near what Jesus calls us to! My fear is that our new churches often replicate the same methods.

Our mission is to make disciples. But what does a disciple look like in Western culture (our context)? Jesus calls us to radical obedience. He really does intend for us to live the way he lived. He said "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father." (Jn 14:12)

I hope that every church planting leader will give serious thought to this! You have the opportunity to do something new and different. You have the opportunity to create a system that will produce missional disciples. Think it through carefully and measure your results. Be ruthless about this! If you need help, get a coach. Don't take this lightly - this IS our mission!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Global Warming Myth

A few years ago when the Global Warming scare was just picking up steam I read an article by a professor at Texas A&M University that directly challenged this idea. I was stunned when I read the article because I had already "drank the koolaid" and begun to believe all the media hype about global warming. After that I began to examine this a little more carefully.

Having been a pilot now for 35 years I am accustomed to talking personally with flight briefers and meterologists - sometimes several times a week. Every meterologist I've approached the subject with has questioned the reality of global warming. Recently I have discovered that there are many highly accomplished and recognized meterologists who serously question global warming. Most recently I've discovered that even meterologist John Coleman, the founder of the Weather Channel, is adamantly challenging this current thinking.

Why is this conversation important to church planters? Because most of the church planters I talk to have also "drank the koolaid." Recently I read two different books related to the subject of discipleship that were propogating the scare! Politicians speak of global warming as if it is a foregone conclusion. Many pastors are doing the same. (There is even a bill in congress this week calling for a "Global Warming Tax.")

Please don't misunderstand me and start throwing stones - I believe very strongly that we are called to be stewards of creation and that we will answer to God for how we steward planet earth. I would just like to encourage everyone to THINK, and to not just buy the media hype and the PC wave. Our stewardship responsibility requires it!

A good resource to give you a more balanced perspective is Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor by Dr. Roy Spencer. Dr. Spencer serves as the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) flying on NASA's Aqua satellite. He is also the co-developer of the original satellite method for precise monitoring of global temperatures from Earth-orbiting satellites.

However, please know that he is just one of many scientists who are calling for a more honest debate on this subject. As Christian leaders, let's be informed and thoughtful about this subject! Let's lead our society in honest, critical, right thinking.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

COACHING: A Valuable Resource!

If you read my blog much you probably know that I place a high value on having a coach! Everybody needs a coach! If you don't have a coach there is a good chance you are not growing personally!

A good coach recognizes that the internal obstacles are often more daunting than the external ones! Coaching is about unlocking a person's potential to maximize their own performance. A coach will help you grow in self awareness. He will also help you chart a course for change, growth, and confidence! A coach will empower you to make choices that will significantly improve your game. Contact us or contact someone else, but get a coach!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Next Generation of Church Planter Training

On May 30-31 we will be hosting our training "The Essentials for Starting a Missional Church." This training is considered "the next generation" of church planter training for several reasons!

First, we begin with a thoughtful analysis of our ecclesiology. What do we really believe about the church? What are we REALLY trying to start?

Second, instead of presenting the latest or most popular "model" of church, we guide the planter through a process to think like a missionary and to design a unique model that fits his/her gifting and that fits the context in which they are planting. We take the planter much deeper in his/her understanding of contextualization. With that said, we will explore best practices, but we will do it with your context in mind.

Next, we place a very strong emphasis on the movement of God which is foundational to any successful church planting endeavor. The birth of a new church is truly a miracle. But it is a miracle that God wants to perform all over the world. We will discover how to identify what God is doing and how to join Him in His activity of giving birth to new churches.

Also, we will give special emphasis to the transformational impact new churches can and should have in their world, both locally and globally.

This training will be unlike most any other church planter training you will experience. Register now and join us in Houston, TX on May 30-31 for "The Essentials for Starting a Missional Church." For more details, click here!

For more information on our ministry go to!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Learn to Delegate!!!

Almost every church planter and pastor I talk with seem to think they delegate well. However, upon deeper probing I discover regularly that they do not leverage delegation well. In fact, my experience is that they are only getting 10% of the leverage (at best) that is possible for them!

Recently I gave a message at a church on the topic of Professional Margin (primarily aimed at business professionals, but very much needed by pastors.) My text was Exodus 18:13-26. This would be worth your focus for a season!

One of the key factors in delegation is training people to make decisions. Having to make all the decisions was killing Moses, and it is killing many church planters. We have to be training others to make decisions. If we need to control all the decisions, we are stunting the growth of our people, the growth of our church, and our own personal growth as a leader. Many church planters are scared to death of letting someone else make decisions. Of course, you should not delegate decision-making to someone who you have not trained and who you do not have confidence in. But with that said, you must let others make decisions, which means they will have some part in shaping your organization! Can you trust them and can you trust the Lord?

In assessments, most pastors score very low in delegation. I want to encourage you to make this a high priority for you! Don't let yourself feel guilty by having more free time to think, read, and rest. Guard the gate, but give the ministry away! I want to challenge you to become the most effective delegater you can be. Until you delegate, you have not "equipped the saints!" But don't delegate until you DO equip the saints to whom you are delegating! If you need help with this, get a coach!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Managing the Roller Coaster

Church planting can be a roller coaster! Some days you're on top of the world, feeling like there is absolutely nothing more significant or fulfilling that you could be doing. But other days can be the pits! One passage of scripture that always encourages me is Philippians 4:4-8, 13. I have just recently started committing it to memory (again). Reflect on this:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - thin about such things. ...I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Maintaining the right mindset is critical in church planting! Fill your mind with these words, and practice them everyday!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A New Tool For Making Transformational Disciples

Recently I have been working through a powerful new workbook entitled "Gospel Transformation" by Neil Williams. I highly recommend this as a disciple-making resource! Williams takes an approach to discipling that centers on the transformation of Christians by believing the Good News (the Gospel)! It is published by World Harvest Mission.

If you have ever felt like modern Christianity has reduced the gospel, or if you are tired of Bible studies that focus on information more than life-change, you will love this. I am personally being challenged and inspired by every chapter in this workbook. Get it, work through it, and use it with others!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Leverage Your Leadership

“Lead as if you’ll be held accountable, because you will.”-Bobby Bowden

Leadership is critical to your ministry effectiveness and success, your own personal sense of fulfillment, and for optimizing the potential of your team. If you don’t lead more, you’ll never be free from the daily grind and unending demands of ministry. Your critical role is leadership, not doer-ship. Improving your leadership effectiveness is a never-ending growth process. Leadership is everything to ministry effectiveness as a church planter!

If you continue to wear multiple hats in your church, you will continue to be diverted from your primary responsibility … Leading !! A ministry can rise only to the level of the leader’s effectiveness. You are 100% responsible for the condition of your flock - the good, bad and ugly. Leaders create clarity – clarity of vision, direction, goals, focus, expectations, consequences, etc. Leaders also create the right conditions for others to succeed. They get people rowing in the same direction.

Leading others properly is essential to a healthy church. Never lose sight of the fact that your primary responsibility as a Strategic Leader is LEADING!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Build Margin Into Your Life

The conditions of modern-day living devour margin. Modern Christians pack their lives so full of activity that they have no margin at all. The result is stress, poor relationships, and a lack of intimacy with God. Marginless living also leaves us empty and joyless. It commonly diminishes our physical, emotional and spiritual health. It also diminishes our leadership effectiveness.

Dr. Richard Swenson describes it this way:
- Marginless is fatigue; margin is energy.
- Marginless is hurry,; margin is calm.
- Marginless is anxiety; margin is security.
- Marginless is culture; margin is counterculture.
- Marginless is the disease of the new millennium; margin is the cure.

In our coaching we help church planters and ministry professionals improve their ministries. But we also help them BALANCE their life! Part of balancing life is learning to build more "margin" into your day and your week. Here are some facts about time -

Your time is limited. You only have 24 hours in a day. Yet, all your time will be spent doing something! You can't save it, store it up for the future, or postpone. Time happens! And you can't stop it. As a result, somebody is going to determine how you spend your time! It may be your congregation, your leaders, your community contacts, your family, your friends, SOMEBODY!

My encouragement to you is to set limits on your workday! Yes, easier said than done. But we must all realize that everyday has limits. If you don't set limits for yourself you will soon discover that there is no margin, no space for rest, reflection, or relationships. The 3 R's (rest, reflection, and relationships) are what give us energy, purpose, and joy in life. But they are only found in margins.

Build margin into everyday. If you need help, get a coach!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Two New Apologetic Resources

I've just recently read two of the most incredible books related to apologetics. The first is Tim Keller's new book "The Reason for God." The other is Chuck Colson's new book "The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters." Every believer should read BOTH of these!

Both books are very engaging, filled with stories and inspiration - not your typical apologetics book. These would be great small group resources, great tools for evangelism training, and just valuable resources for every church planter. A must read!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Power of Systems

You've been hearing me talk alot lately about "Systems." This is not just a modern invention. Before God created man He created a universe and a solar system. When God created man, the human body was a system, with many sub-systems. Systems is just how the world functions. We're a part of several different systems all at the same time. The question is, what kind of system are the people in your church a part of?

Sometimes we complain that people don't do what we want them to or what we think they should do. You need to accept the fact that your system is perfectly designed to get the results you are getting. If you want things to be different, analyze and change your system. Systems create behavior, and if you don't address things at the system level, nothing changes.

This week, I want to encourage all of us to begin to think about the outcomes that we see (or don't see) in our ministries. Then begin to think about your system. How is it contributing to the outcomes you're getting? How is it not producing what you want it to produce? If you want something different, change the system!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Faith Journey

Church planting can be the biggest faith challenge our lives. In the very beginning with church planters we ask the question about "calling." Is this something you believe God is "calling" you to? We show planters how to think this through and how to discern what God is saying to them. But at the end of the day, this is a step of faith, and sometimes the risks are very high!

When you go into a new community and start building relationships you begin to discover the "receptivity" of the area to the gospel and to a new church. The truth is that if ANYBODY responds to you and to the gospel, it is because God has prepared or called their heart to respond. So all the prospecting and "farming" and evangelism that takes place in the pre-launch phase is a practice of faith.

Most church planters are raising money and recruiting leaders/workers who will help them in the harvest field. Both of these activites are faith activities. We offer strategies and tactics to help planters, but in the end, God has to provide.

I could go on but I hope you see what I'm getting at. Everyday is a faith journey in church planting. "Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord keeps watch over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late toiling for food - for he grants sleep to those he loves." (Ps 127:1-2)

Start everyday by acknowledging that this is a faith journey. Embrace that reality and draw close to Him!

Sunday, March 09, 2008


"Clutter" is stuff that fills up my day, but isn't really productive. "Messes" are certain things I keep putting off that need my attention. Let me encourage you to regularly (at least once a month) take a day to identify and eliminate clutter and messes. We've addressed this before, but it is such a significant issue I want to mention it again.

Clutter is all the low-value, low priority stuff that seems to fill our minds, our desks, our thoughts, and our lives. Over time, we tend to become consumed by this "non-essential stuff" (clutter). We get overwhelmed and distracted by details and low-value activities.

When this happens we waste our time and talents on the "wrong" type of work. We get so "busy being busy" that we lose sight of what is most important to us in our ministry and our personal lives. As a result, our lives become complex, cloudy, confusing and stressful. We start to lose focus, miss opportunities, adopt bad habits, get in ruts, and then make excuses. Clutter and lack of clarity reduce our effectiveness, productivity, and joy.

I want to encourage you to stop right now and do this: Identify at least 3 types of "clutter" or "messes" in your life. Make a commmitment to yourself in the next 30 days to complete, eliminate or delegate the responsibility to someone else to rid yourself of this distraction and drain on your energy.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Looking for Church Planters for Austin!

Would you like to plant a church in one of the coolest cities in the nation? We are looking for several church planters to start new churches in Austin, TX. We have the most incredible program for support and funding. If you are interested, or you know someone who is interested, please email me at Email me right away!

Also, don't miss the largest gathering of church planting leaders in North America, April 21-24 in Orlando, FL. Check it out at! I would love to see you there!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Unfulfilled Longings

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

"The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust them...For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited."
C. S. Lewis

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Importance of Systems

Systems is one of the most misunderstood and overlooked areas of new church development. Yet systems are relatively easy to implement and will add enormously to the effectiveness of your new church. Systems are also the key to building a strong, effective team!

A wise pastor wants his church to become increasingly more systems-dependent and less pastor-dependent. Ideally, you want your church to get to the point where it can basically run itself, and all you have to do is give it direction and monitor the dashboard!

Could you take a leave from your church for a month and come back to find it operating smoothly and effectively? Could you escape for even 1 Sunday? If not, you do not have an effective system; you are the system!

Your church should not depend upon your presence, personality, problem solving and perspiration for its weekly survival. If it does, your church does not work, you do! If everything in your church flows through you and is dependent upon you, then you are dramatically restricting the growth and effectiveness of your people and your congregation!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Keep Your Head Clear!

One of the biggest challenges in church planting is keeping your head clear! We can get very busy with lots of stuff. In fact, over time, we tend to become consumed by non-essential "stuff" - what I call CLUTTER. When our heads and our lives become cluttered, we get overwhelmed and distracted by details and low-priority, low-value activities.

It's easy to get busy being busy, and lose sight of what is most important to us in our work and personal lives. We end up wasting time and talents on the "wrong" type of work. As such, our lives become complex, cloudy, confusing and stressful. Our productivity and effectiveness diminishes!

When we get cluttered we start to lose focus, miss opportunities, adopt bad habits, get in unproductive comfort zones, and make excuses. Clutter reduces our effectiveness, growth, and joy. Let me encourage you right now to identify and eliminate at least 3 types of clutter from your life. What are they? What will you eliminate, delegate, downsize, delay, or redesign? Do it NOW!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Coaching for Post-Launch Planters

  • Are you struggling with knowing how to take your church to the next level?
  • Do you feel like you’re doing most of the work?
  • Have you hit a plateau that you can’t get off?
  • Do you have an effective strategy in place to reach new people?
  • If your church did double in size next year, do you have the infrastructure and leadership in place to handle it?
  • Are you satisfied with the commitment level of the disciples you are making?

These are some of the critical issues that we will be addressing in our New Church Coaching Workshop beginning February 12th! Every other Tuesday evening Chad Clarkson and I will be leading this small group coaching session here in Houston from 6:30pm – 8:30pm. If your new church is less than 5 years old, this is for you!

This group will be limited in size, so sign up today! You will receive 6, 2-hour coaching sessions over the next 3 months that will help you move your church forward. You will learn how to create systems for health and growth. You will develop a powerful strategy for reaching new people, for making missional disciples, and for developing leaders.

Do not miss this opportunity! It will transform you and your church! Email me ( if you would like to participate. Space is limited.

If you do not live in the Houston area but are interested in benefiting from our coaching process, contact us at

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Success Factors in Fast Growing Plants

I highly recommend Steven Gray's new book Planting Fast Growing Churches. Stephen compared 60 fast growing church plants and 52 struggling church plants to try to understand the factors that enabled churches to grow larger than 200 in their first three years. Here are a few of the things that he found.

  • 88% of the fast growing churches had church planting teams
  • 63% of the fast growing churches had an initial core group of 26 or more
  • 80% put ten percent or more of their budgets toward outreach and evangelism
  • 63% of planters leading fast growing plants raise additional funding, compared to 23% of those that are struggling
  • 57% of the fast-growing church plants teach financial stewardship during the first six months from public launch; by contrast only 40% of strugling church plants teach financial stewardship.

I would encourage every church planter to study Stephen's book. I would also encourage everyone to go to and download the church planting article "Improving the Health and Survivability of New Churches."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Do You Want More Evangelistic Effectiveness?

In the recent research conducted by Leadership Network, there are certain factors that correlated with higher baptisms/conversions in new church plants. These factors do not guarantee evangelistic effectiveness, but they do help us understand something about the mindset and the behaviors of the more evangelisticly effective church plants. A few of the factors were:
  • conducting a new member class for church members
  • conducting leadership training for church members
  • engaging in ministry evangelism (e.g. food banks, shelters, drug/alcohol recovery, etc.)
  • conducting a mid-week children's program
  • conducting a block party as an outreach activity
  • starting at least one daughter church within three years of the church plant
  • having a proactive stewardship development plan enabling the church to be financially self-sufficient

I have also observed that when church planters make a focused effort to develop a "Missional Core" in the pre-launch stage, this also increases their evangelistic effectiveness. A Missional Core is different than our conventional "Launch Team" or "Start Up Team" concept. A Missional Core is a group of people who have been/are being discipled to be missionaries in the context of the church plant. I encourage every church planter to develop and mobilize a missional core to help gather and evangelize. It makes all the difference in the world.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Survivability: Indicators of Church Health

Size is a common indicator used to evaluate the health of a new church. Though size is not a complete measure of health, achieving a critical mass is essential for survivability. A surprising result of research from NAMB (Southern Baptists) shows that church plants are actually smaller than many imagined. The typical church plant does not pass 100 in attendance after 4 years.

Another indicator of new church health is evangelistic effectiveness. The number of baptisms or conversions has a strong correlation to the evangelistic effectiveness of new churches. The average number of baptisms or conversions is 10 the first year, 11 the second year, 13 the third year, and 14 the fourth year.

Many church planters envision their churches growing much larger, much faster. They also envision their churches having a greater evangelistic impact. This is possible with good training and good coaching.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Making Church Plants Thrive in 2008

A few months ago I had the privilege of compiling research conducted by Ed Stetzer and publishing it in a series of articles for Leadership Network. These articles grew out of the exhaustive research that Ed did last year on the state of church planting in the U.S. Ed's research was outstanding (as usual). These 4 articles are available for download at or you can contact me directly at

One of the articles had to do with Health and Survivability of New Churches. Ed's research combined with Stephen Gray's new book Planting Fast Growing Churches gives us some great insight on how to make church plants thrive in 2008. Over the next few weeks that is what I want to write about.

To help us start thinking this week, here are a few of the findings:
  • The chances of survivability increases by over 400% when the church planter has a "realistic" understanding and expectation of the church-planting experience.
  • The odds of survivability increase by over 250% where leadership development training is offered in the plant.
  • The odds of survivability increase by 178% when there is a proactive stewardship development plan within the church plant.

These are just a few of the things we have learned this past year and are incorporating into our training and coaching systems at NCI. Stay tuned for more!