Get free email updates as I write new articles:

Dear Church… Go and Multiply

My friend, Stephen Gray, has recently made a comment on Twitter that has really hit home with Angie and I…

Church multiplication is a spiritual decision of a church to put the needs of a desperate world before self-preservation.

And that reminds me of another thought offered by my mentor, Grady Higgs…

Churches should be born pregnant.

Multiplying SeedThe book of Acts traces the amazing work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles and it records the numerical growth of the church in its earliest ages. What is interesting to read is that in the first few chapters, God was adding people to the church. Then in Acts 6, there is a division and the leadership gets spread around to seven newly ordained leaders. Suddenly, the church multiplied.

The same is true on a broader scale in Acts 8 when persecution came under Saul and people were scattered around everywhere preaching the Word. The early church was willing (or rather forced by persecution) to lay down its instinct toward self-preservation and begin the work of multiplying.

Multiplying (planting other church-planting churches so that a local church has children and grandchildren) is a scary thing. Why? Because it costs money, takes time, consumes resources, and causes us to devote a little less time to maintaining what we have. But it’s God’s way of aggressively growing His kingdom.

One of the values we’re building into the core of Grace Hills Church is multiplication. We’ll immediately be bringing interns and residents alongside us to learn and grow, whom we will then send out to lead church planting teams elsewhere. We want to be involved in the planning phases of our church’s first baby before our first year of worship services is over. In this way, we’ll be a kingdom-focused “teaching hospital” that has a global understanding of what God is doing in our world.

I’ve already received the question plenty of times, “why plant a church around other churches?” If you’re asking that, you’re thinking too much about geography, buildings, and all the things a church is not. The fact is, there are very few if any places in America where large and overlapping circles of people haven’t yet been reached and changed by the gospel’s influence. And I think we can agree that the number of church buildings physically present in a community is absolutely no gauge of the level of genuine life-transformation that has or has not taken place.

If your church hasn’t been intentional about investing in planting another new church within the last three years, repent and make a change today. Abandon any scrambles for self-preservation and unselfishly invest your resources for the growth of the kingdom of God. I’d hate to be a church sitting on piles of uninvested resources the moment Jesus comes back.

What would we say? “But Jesus… at least we kept our doors open!”

Photo Credit: Raymond Shobe

Ordering the Priorities of Life

Priorities

Priorities are a continuing struggle for most of us. For people in ministry leadership, this struggle usually doesn’t result from a lack of commitment, but from a lack of clarity about our commitments. That is, we’re either over-committed or we’re committed to mutually exclusive priorities. We are all given 168 hours in a week, but some of us use those hours more effectively than others.

So how do you order your priorities in such a way that major areas of your life don’t fall behind? How do you juggle all the stuff of life so that nothing hits the ground and breaks? First realize that you can’t juggle perfectly. No one can, but if practice makes perfect (or at least grows us toward the goal of perfection) then practice we must!

Define Your Roles

You may not like labels, but I do. I don’t want to be boxed in or defined by a limited perspective, but I do like the clarity of identifying who I am and living out my life according to my God-given roles. For example…

  • I’m a disciple. That’s my first role. before anything else, I’m a child of God, which comes with certain realizations (well-stated in the “Radicalis Declaration“). So my priorities begin with who I am as a believer.
  • I’m a husband. God put me into a till-death-do-us-part, one-flesh relationship with the love of my life and I have certain things I need to be concentrating on when it comes to growing my marriage and growing as a husband (and my wife will attest that I have a long way to go).
  • I’m a Dad. God has given me two of the most precious kids on the planet, and they need for their Dad to focus on how to be a better Dad.
  • I’m a Pastor. And as a Pastor (literally shepherd), I have a focus on people – caring for them, teaching them, mentoring them, and I have plenty of room to grow here too.

The list goes on. I do freelance web design work. I volunteer my services for some organizations. I’ve been a member of some boards and committees. I’ve been a speaker at meetings and conferences. Those are some of my labels – my roles – and I could probably come up with dozens, just like you.

Until we understand who we are in Christ and whom God has called us to be and to become, we won’t have a good grasp on what we’re here to be doing each day. Because of my roles, my priorities begin with prayer and reading God’s Word. My priorities include intentionally thinking about the needs of my wife, my kids, and the other people God has placed under my shepherding care.

What about you? What are your priorities? What are the big roles you need to be thinking through?

Photo Credit: Richard Summers

Praise: Life’s Toughest of Tests

Refiner's FireJesus’ followers are constantly being tested – not in the sense that He’s trying to make us fail, but in the sense that He’s preparing us to pass. He tests us through trials and troubles, just as a craftsman “tries” or purifies metals in intense and melting heat. But the toughest of tests isn’t loneliness or loss. It isn’t suffering. It’s praise.

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” ~ [youversion]Proverbs 27:21 NLT[/youversion]

Success brings its own test, and it’s often much more difficult to pass than the test of suffering. Think about it. How many mistakes have you made in your life as a result of hoping everyone around you continues to like you? We avoid painful truth. We become in authentic. We allow pride to creep in, which “goes before destruction.”

If we’re not careful, we will actually begin to believe all the good things others are saying about us in our moments of success. When this happens, we’re in danger of believing that we’re untouchable or incapable of failure. Great heroes are forged in the fires of suffering and I wouldn’t diminish the role of suffering in the believer’s life. But if death to self is the key to discipleship, then death to criticism and to praise is necessary.

We’re living in an age where too many leaders have too much success too early, and too little character to prepare them for handling the spotlight. If you’re in a spot in life where everyone is singing your praises, guard your heart all the more aggressively against pride. Withstand this test, stay humble, keep a right perspective on self in relation to God and you’ll come forth as gold!

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

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