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John Piper Interviews Rick Warren About Doctrine

For the last year, I’ve gotten daily reports on the mentions of Rick Warren, Purpose Driven, and Saddleback Church. Sometimes I respond in some way, but most of the time we just like to know what’s on the radar. What upsets me is that there are so many believers who sit perched like vultures waiting on Christian leaders to say anything that can be gossiped about in the name of “discernment” or “exposing” error.

I’ve often longed for Pastor Rick Warren to be able, in some way, to set the record straight on what he believes. Thankfully, John Piper has given him that chance. Dr. Piper arrived at Saddleback with 20 pages of notes from The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? and the two talked for an hour and forty minutes about theology.

Sitting in the studio was like sitting in a seminary classroom as each man gave tremendous insight into biblical doctrine and ultimately returned all the glory to God for whom He is. Now… you can enjoy it too!

And even better, the Saddleback team has built an amazing page filled with every possible audio, video, and downloadable version of the entire exchange. Check the John Piper Interviews Rick Warren page out!

Building a Core Group vs. Gathering a Launch Team

Launch TeamMissional leaders understand that there is no faster way to expand the Kingdom of God than planting new indigenous churches, even in communities where established churches already exist. This is partly because new churches tap into new and overlapping circles of relationships. But it’s also because of a simple law of nature – new produces momentum.

Things grow faster when they’re new, then tend to settle into a pattern and level off. With established churches, we can sometimes reproduce that newness by introducing significant changes in leadership or methodologies, but this is much more difficult than it seems. With a brand new churches, it is essential to capitalize on this momentum as much and as long as possible. Therefore, how we start, from day one, is essential to the survival of a new church.

As we prepare to launch Grace Hills Church, we’re researching, strategizing, and refining our specific tactics. One of the debates we’ve come up against is whether to begin by “building a core group” versus “gathering a launch team.” How are they different?

By the way, have you "liked" Grace Hills Church on Facebook yet?

Building a Core Group

The language in “building a core group” suggests that we are bringing people together to become a church. This is done by launching small groups or jumping right into smaller corporate worship experiences. Planters who are strongly relational tend to do fairly well with this approach because of their knack for connecting people to one another.

This might seem to be a wise approach to planting a new church, and it’s certainly been done effectively by plenty of leaders. However, there is a second option.

Gathering a Launch Team

A core group is a church. They want to meet, worship, and act like a church in every sense of the word. While this isn’t bad, it can be limiting. Why? Because the group becomes a group. And we all know how difficult it is for new people to break into a tight group.

“Gathering a launch team” on the other hand isn’t focused so much on having Bible studies and corporate worship experiences as it is on recruiting people who are passionately preparing to launch something that, from day one, is about others. It helps solidify from the beginning that the intended audience is the outside world and that there are no shells to crack for new people to be “in” this new thing.

Gathering a launch team typically means instead of diving deep into the Scriptures for early Bible studies, we’re instead talking a lot about vision, the future, the work, the values of what is coming soon, all with a mind to gather as large a crowd as possible for the “launch” and have a church birthed out of that crowd which can easily and quickly divide into multiple groups while remaining one body.

This is tough work. This is what we’re staring down. I feel confident that we could build a core group and grow it over time (with God’s leadership and empowerment) but I believe we’d face certain barriers early on. Based on my own leadership and communication style, I believe it’s important that we start with an understanding that we’re not a “core group” that has a tough time welcoming newcomers. Instead, we’re a “launch team” building a rocket, checking and testing it, and getting ready for that day when we take off with all of the other people who will become Grace Hills Church.

As a leader, I know it’s essential to my own health and the health of those I lead for me to be a lifelong learner. I’m open. I’m listening. I’m researching and testing different models and approaches. If you agree, disagree, or have another idea, I’d love to hear it!

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

Saying “Yes” and Saying “I Surrender”

are pretty much the same when it comes to our life with God. I’m not sure why this thought didn’t occur to me until I watched this video from Kay Warren…

Say Yes to God - Kay WarrenYou can read more in Kay’s book, Say Yes to God: A Call to Courageous Surrender.

Jim Carrey made a movie called Yes Man in which he makes a commitment to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes along, no matter what it is (no, I’m not endorsing the movie). He learns this technique for living from a sort of whacky guru who winds up confessing that the philosophy certainly has flaws and Carrey’s character experiences the effects of those flaws in the film. On the positive side, he changes radically from being a guy who shuns company, lacks ambition, and turns everything down into a guy who lives with vitality, embracing each new adventure.

It’s a good parable for us. Some of us have gotten into the habit of saying “no” to everything. We desire the comfortable confines of our safe zones. Saying “yes” to God might cost us time, money, our reputation, or our cushy life. On the other hand, saying “yes” also opens us up to the real adventure God intended us to live – the life of chasing Him, risking all for Him, and squeezing life for all that its worth while we’re here.

“Surrender” might sound negative or threatening. “Yes” might sound naive or pie-in-the-sky. But “I surrender” and “yes” make up the core of how we should respond to God, not only in the big things (i.e. moving across the globe for missions) but also in the little things (stopping to offer an encouraged word to someone who is visibly upset). So… what do you say?

You Might NOT Want to Join Our New Church

PlantingI know. Risky headline. You’d think that by launching out on a new venture such as church planting, that we’d be begging for people to come alongside us and join up. But the contrary is true. While we want to reach thousands of people for Jesus (by God’s grace), we also want to make sure that, in the initial stages, believers who want to help us want to do so for the right reasons.

I ran across a good list by Justin Buzzard, a church planter in San Jose, of the top ten reasons you might not want to join a new church plant. The list hits the target (my reflections are in parentheses)…

  • If you’re looking for the next cool thing in town.
  • If you’re a Christian and you don’t like your current church (chances are you eventually won’t like ours either).
  • If you have a bad track record at churches of being unteachable and causing problems (You need to grow where you are before carrying those attitudes somewhere else).
  • If you’re a consumer wanting to “go to church” once a week for a nice show (the “show” on Sunday barely scratches the surface of what it means to be a church).
  • If you want religion (We’ll be about relationships, not rules or rituals).
  • If you have an agenda (We have our vision, our mission, and our values – your private agenda does not supersede them).
  • If you’re a wolf.
  • If you think this will be a nice little church that stays the same size, where everybody knows your name and you have my cell number on speed dial and we have a picnic lunch together every week (It will always be about Jesus first, others second, and self last).
  • If you think this will be easy and smooth (This will be hard and difficult; this will be a fight, a battle, a challenging mission).
  • If you want to hold onto your comfortable life (Church planting is quite uncomfortable – a wild ride, an extreme challenge).

David Livingstone once wrote the mainland from his missionary post and asked for help. The return letter stated that quite a few young people were interested in coming, but wanted to know if there were roads leading to where David was serving. David wrote back, “I only want young men who will come if there are no roads at all.”

So, if you shouldn’t join a new church plant because it’s easy, fashionable, or cool, then why should you consider being part of a new church plant? My reasoning would be…

  • If you are ready to join God in reaching people who haven’t been reached before, don’t always act like “churched” people, and have messy lives sometimes.
  • If you’re okay with the idea of starting with no building, few members, little money, and sparse resources. In other words, if you’re daring enough to take a big leap of faith.
  • If you’re humble enough and teachable enough to put all of your personal preferences about what kind of church feels good to you on an altar to die.
  • If your current church leadership is supportive of the idea and is willing to send you with their blessing into this new initiative.
  • If God has specifically tapped you on the shoulder, leading you to be a part of expanding His kingdom through church planting.

If that’s you, contact me.

20 Questions for a Potential Church Planter

As we prepare for the planting of Grace Hills, we’re praying for God to bring together an entire team of people who feel called together for the purpose of seeing a new church born. A few will be seasoned believers with various gifts and abilities to contribute to this new community. As we hear from people who are interested in being a part of things, we’re asking them to pray about whether God has called them, shaped them, and prepared them for this task.

Today, I discovered a great article by Scott Thomas (Director of Acts 29 Network) in which he lists 20 characteristics of a church planter and begins with these 20 questions as a kind of self-assessment. They target the primary planting Pastor who will be preaching, but at least 17 or 18 are applicable to the rest of the team as well.

1. Am I a Christian? (John 3:16)

2. Am I passionately in love with Jesus and is He the Lord of every area of my life? (Personal spiritual dynamics is the second most important area)

3. Do I believe His word and does it affect my life deeply?

4. Am I Spirit-filled, Spirit-directed, Spirit-led and Spirit-controlled? (Acts 1:8)

5. Am I qualified as an Elder? (1 Timothy, Titus)

6. Do I love the local church as the expression of a gospel community on mission? (Matthew 28:18-20)

7. Am I a missionary to the city? Am I sent for the advancement of the gospel in the city (John 20:21)?

8. Do I have a clear vision for this new work? (Nehemiah 1:3, 4; 2:11-18)

9. Am I willing to pour myself out in obedience to the vision? (Phil. 2; Romans 6)

10. Am I healthy? Physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, relationally, maritally

11. Am I the kind of leader many people will follow? Have I served as a church leader successfully? (1 Tim. 5:22; 3:6)

12. Can I preach effectively?

13. Can I guard the doctrinal door with Biblical clarity and tenacious confidence?

14. Can I architect a new work with entrepreneurial skill?

15. Am I called to plant a church at this time and in this place? (Acts 17:26; 1 Peter 5:2)

16. Have my church leaders commended me for this calling? (Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-4; 16:1-2)

17. Am I a hard worker? Am I persevering? (2 Thes. 3:10; 1 Tim. 5:17-18; 2 Tim. 2:3-4; 2:5; 2:6)

18. Am I adaptable to new people, places and concepts?

19. Can I raise the funds needed for my family’s needs? (1 Tim. 5:8)

20. Am I humble enough to learn from others—particularly from those who have gone ahead of me in different areas?

Scott also offers a lengthy expansion of each question with some great conclusions and applications.

Check It Out