December 7, 2009
Let me preface everything I am about to say with this firm conviction: The Local church is the only hope this world has! The church is not a human invention or a manmade organization created to oppress and control the people of the world. It is a divine, God ordained, Christ commissioned organism, designed to be extension of the work of Jesus Christ, offering salvation, wholeness, healing and transformation to a sin-sick world. It is the only hope humanity has of finding forgiveness and proper standing before a holy and righteous God. Without the church, the world has no hope. If you don’t believe that, then there is no use in planting any churches. Close shop, go home and forget you ever considered planting a church in the first place. I can hear a few of you saying, "No, without Jesus, there is no hope." True, but the church has been called ot be Jesus' hands and feet. The Church, His bride, has been called to do "even greater things" than he did. The Church, lives because God called it into existence and ordained it to be His representative. Just as Jesus and the Father are one, a dichotomy does not, or at least should not exist between Jesus and His Bride.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus shared the importance of evangelism as a driving force in the church. The Great Commission in Matt. 28:19 was his call to the church to participate in the practice of evangelism: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Just before his ascension, Jesus reiterated these words: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In my opinion, the Great Commission was understood as a call to start new communities of believers wherever the Disciples traveled.
Any serious reader of the Bible will quickly come to understand that God’s nature is at the root of mission. The living God portrayed in the Bible is a sending God. He sends because of his love for the world. The Church is called to be the living expression of the kingdom of God on this earth and to express the love of God by fulfilling the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18.
However, the Great Commission given by Jesus in the New Testament is not a new calling to God’s people. This commission, given by Jesus, is built upon the call to Abram found in Genesis:
"Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will provide for you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on the earth will be blessed through you." (Gen. 12:1-3)
This call to Abram shows God’s desire for Israel to become a movement that would touch the entire world. God's call to Abram was not a call to become a regional, stagnate, inward focused tribe. God’s design in this calling was to push the future nation of Israel to think beyond socioeconomic and ethnic borders. God’s desire was to bless the world through Abram. Abram’s obedience to God, then, would be the beginning of the people called Israelites and, ultimately, today’s Christian. Clearly, God’s intention, from the call of Abram, was to create a people group that would reach out to every nation. They were to be God's Blessing to an entire universe! So, Genesis 12:1-6 stands as the foundation upon which the Great Commission rests.
According to the New Testament, Israel is no longer those who were, by blood, considered to be of Abram’s linage. Rather, the true Israelite is understood as he or she who receives adoption into the family, through the blood of Jesus. paul stated it best in Romans 9:8 “It is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” Clearly Paul knew thast those who are the followers of Jesus Christ and part of his Church, are now called the “children” of Abraham. This classification becomes significant, as followers understand that the Great Commission is a reaffirmation of the original call given to Abraham. The Church, like Israel, is not to become a stand-alone organization, rather a life-giving organism that can influence the world.
Church-planting is not new to denominational bodies. It was and is the lifeblood mission of the church from the very beginning. Church planting is the “intentional pursuit of lost people” that flows out of the Great Commission. God’s original call to be a blessing to the world is alive in the Great Commission. My firm conviction is that this calling was a call to spread the kingdom of God primarily through the means of planting new churches. As the church involves itself in this work, it is fulfilling the original call, given to Abram, to be a blessing to the nations. ∫Many New Testament Scriptures can be used to show the importance of church-planting. The book of Acts offers the reader a unique opportunity to witness the actions of the early Church in response to the Great Commission. Acts becomes an important dynamic because it best illustrates the early believer’s behavior after Jesus commissioned them.
In essence, the book of Acts becomes the history of a church-planting movement. Although the phrase “church-planting” is not explicitly mentioned in Acts, I believe it is implicitly understood as a “normal expression of New Testament Missiology”. Church-planting was, without question, at the center of early Church activity. It was a primary means of spreading and establishing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
November 25, 2009
New Survey - "The Recession's Impact on Christian Nonprofit Organizations"
How are Christian nonprofits surviving the economic downturn? A recent survey conducted by J. David Schmidt & Associates for the Christian Leadership Alliance discovered the main ways Christian nonprofits are reducing expenses and handling the economy’s impact. Below are the results of “Economic Outlook Survey: The Recession’s Impact on Christian Nonprofit Organizations.”
Reducing travel – 52%
Freezing pay raises – 44%
Freezing hiring – 36%
Cutting overall 2009 budget – 43%
Reducing or eliminating training expenses for 2009 – 29%
Reducing full-time staff – 28%
Freezing infrastructure expenses – 28%
Delaying or eliminating outside counsel/consulting expenses – 27%
Portfolios and endowments reported down from last year – 73% of organizations
Diminishing reserves reported – 51% of organizations
Declining donations reported – 48% of organizations
Have less available cash – 40% of organizations
Annual budget under $1 million – 22% of organizations
Annual budget of $1-10 million – 52% of organizations
Annual budget of $30+ million – 9% of organizations
The Christian nonprofits affected most by the economy where those with annual budgets under $1 million.
High impact – 21%
In between low and high impact – 48%
Low impact – 31%
However, despite the poor economy, three-quarters of the respondents remain confident and hopeful, stating that belief in God’s faithfulness helps them through difficult times. “If there was one theme that kept coming through in respondent comments, it is that Christian charity and church leaders have a strong sense of a larger story. They seem less rattled and remain confident in God’s provision and care, despite being stress-tested by their circumstances,” said David Schmidt, whose agency conducted the survey.
November 16, 2009
God is doing some amazing things through the "Power of Ten" challenge. Some churches have adopted the "Power Of Ten" as a church-wide challenge and others have used it as a Sunday School Challenge.
Everday God is bringing us new churches, leaders, and church planting opportunities. God is up to something big and it is exciting to know that we are a part of His great plan. Over the next few months I expect to see our opportunites expand to even greater possibilities.
Don't miss out on the opportunity to be a part of this big vision! If you have not taken the challenge, why not!
Imagine the life-change we will celebrate this year as God continues to work through our movement!
You have an opportunity to be a part of this great vision! Take The Power of Ten Challenge. Be one of the 10,000 people who will be praying for 10 minutes a day as well as giving $10 a month until 10/10/10.
If you would like to sign up CLICK HERE.
October 28, 2009
Handling the ridicule and resentment from your own tribe/family/denomination, can add almost intolerable levels of unexpected pressure. In my case, regular encouragement from the pastors within my district would have given me added strength to carry on when things became unbearable. Instead, the open suspicion and verbal attacks from my colleagues pulled me in the opposite direction. The resistance I felt from my colleagues ultimately led me to question my own abilities. Because of my own experience, and a sneaky suspicion that emotional support plays a big part in success/failure, I sought to discover if science would back up thoughts. What I discovered was significant.
The research can be found in my book Planting Fast Growing Churches. Here are the questions I used to discover the issue of emotional support.
1. How much encouragement did you receive from your superiors?
2. How well did you feel you were supported by your pastoral colleagues?
3. How well were you accepted by surrounding churches in your denomination?
4. Did you have regular fellowship with other pastors?
5. Was your work celebrated within the denomination?
6. How much negativity did you have to overcome from your sponsoring agency?
Out of the six questions asked, five significant differences were discovered in this section. The only question both groups responded equally on was the encouragement they felt from their direct superiors. Overall, planters leading fast-growing church plants experienced higher degrees of personal and emotional support than did those leading struggling church plants.
Planters leading fast-growing church plants felt significantly more support from pastoral colleagues, acceptance from surrounding churches, had more fellowship with other pastors, were celebrated more widely in the denomination, and experienced less negativity from their sponsoring agency. Perhaps this data shows that praise only goes to the victorious. Perhaps it’s easier to support a church on the move, but I don’t really think this is the case, nor does it matter. If a church plant is floundering, it needs support. This data, if only looked at in this way can also show support being pulled out from under struggling church plants because it’s floundering. In any case, more plants that felt encouragement from outside sources thrived than failed. This is entirely clear.
It is vital that planters have adequate emotional support. The implications of this discovery reveal that the emotional health of the planter will have an effect on the emotional health of the entire fledgling congregation. If the planter is depressed, frustrated, feeling a lack of support and encouragement, then the church plant will suffer. Conversely, a strong sense of support from colleagues, churches and sponsoring entities can only be beneficial for the planter as well as the plant.
My wife, usually a very quiet and demure woman, spoke to a group of church planting leaders at a seminar in Jan 2005. She was prepared to make a few clear points about church planting, and oddly enough, I had never really seen things from her perspective until that day. She walked in with a dry erase board and drew two lines, dividing the board in half. Above one of her two lines, she wrote the words “Established Church”. Over the other line, she wrote, “Church Plant”.
“Tell me” she said, “what kind of things happen for the pastor and his family when they come to pastor an established church? What kind of perks do they have right off the bat?”
These leaders bought in hook-line-and-sinker. Like rapid fire, they began to name the usual things.
“Security,” someone answered.
“A new spiritual family,” another offered.
The group continued listing things like: a paycheck, ready-made friends, a social network, and the list went on.
“Now,” she said, “what happens for the planter and his or her family when they arrive on the scene of a new city to begin their work?”
You could have heard a pin drop. Not one positive suggestion was offered, most had never really thought about it in those terms. Unlike transfering from one established church to another, planter's and their families, in most cases, have no support network. Like bricks falling from heaven, her point hit these men squarely over the head. It sunk in that the structures and support systems built-in to an already established church do not exist for the church plant.
What my wife did was simple enough, but it had an enormous impact on these church planting leaders. Without exception, each of them confessed their need to commit to a higher quality of emotional support for those on the field planting churches. Perhaps a few church planters or denominational leaders will profit from my wife’s presentation. I hope so.
August 18, 2009
From the inner cities to the plains of Mid-America, Volunteers are an important part of our society. Political campaigns, para-church organizations, and non-profits of every form and kind would not be able to function without a good volunteer base. It is safe to say that your church would not be able to function week-to-week without a strong group of volunteers.
August 14, 2009
Our national event, the Missions & Ministry Summit, was a tremendous success. Wednesday night, July 29th, I was given a brief opportunity to share my thoughts and cast cision for what I believe God would do 2010 through National Missions.
If you would like to sign up CLICK HERE.
July 22, 2009
I have spent the last few days in Dallas, TX. at the Ideation Conference hosted by Leadership Network. Sixty of the top church dreamers and innovators were invited to come and be a part of this conference. Several of those present were from across the pond. (England, Germany, Denmark, Australia). It was an awesome experience hanging around with people who have a passion for, and love the church.
July 11, 2009
A church plant is a lot like a boulder on a barren mountainside. You’ve seen this same rock in many adventure movies. Perhaps you’ve seen two nondescript cowboys desperately prying it loose, and then watching it fall. It quickly picks up speed, knocking other smaller rocks loose. Rocks smash against other rocks, breaking them from their resting places. All at once, a clamorous noise ensues, dust rises, and suddenly the entire mountainside is alive with the violent motion of falling boulders and debris. This landslide is what the cowboys were hoping for, and they whoop and holler at their success. A successful church plant is a lot like this scene.
July 9, 2009
As I was doing my devotions this morning I read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. What an amazing story! Just imagine the look on the faces of those who witnessed this miracle. I wonder what I would have thought if I were there? The response of the crowd was mixed. Some hated Jesus and other became believers on the spot.
June 18, 2009
Not much of a blog today. I simply want to share a video with you. A friend showed me this the other day and I haven't been able to get it off my mind. My only thought is that we meed to find a few good men from the middle east to plant a few fast-growing churches here in the states. Use them as training posts to send planters across seas to evangelize the Muslim population.
June 8, 2009
I enjoyed the opportunity to preach at Fellowship General Baptist Church Sunday May 31st. About four years ago Craig Groeschel preached a message to his church called "Dangerous Church." I was so impressed, and personally impacted by the message that I decide to use it as the framework for this opportunity.
Think on this: No movement of God, throughout history, was ever safe, predictable or comfortable. Rather, it was messy, unpredictable and dangerous.
Two thousand years later,however, the church has grown predictable, comfortable and safe. Many churches have simply fallen asleep and slipped into a coma. Many in our churches are Christians in name only. We now live in a country that holds to a civilized form of Christianity. "Having the form...but denying the power."
In fact, we have grown accustom to a culture of safety. We show up sing a few songs, shake a few hands and go home. But this is not God’s design for the church. He has called us to be dangerous for His sake and His kingdom.
I am thankful for the opportunity I had to share God's word with the people of Fellowship General Baptist Church. At the end of each service several people raised their hand to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I hope you enjoy.
March 5, 2009
Over the last few years the fight for truth has heated up between fundamental and postmodern thinkers. Those on the side of postmodernism proclaim that the church has lost its power an influence in our culture. Those in the fundamentalist movement accuse leaders of the emerging church movement of syncretism. So what are we too make of this whole debate? Who is right and how can we find balance in the midst of the chaos? Both are right on some level and wrong on another.
January 12, 2009
In just a few weeks, "Legacy Churches" a book authored by Dr. Franklin Dumond and myself, will be released by ChurchSmart. The main thrust of the book deals with helping churches to close with dignity and yet impact the future with greater efficacy. Is that possible? Can the death of a church have a silver lining? Can a dying church give birth to a new movement of God through one final, selfless act? Here is an excerpt from chapter three that will help you to answer that question.
"Since death is an inevitable fact of life, how is the Christ-follower to view death? What is a proper theology of death? The Apostle Paul believed God was able “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his [Christ’s] power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). Did that refer to life on earth or life beyond the grave? The answer is simple: Yes! God’s power not only gives us life abundantly, but also life eternally. For the Christ-follower, death is not the end; rather, it is just the beginning of something greater. Paul summarized it best: “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). To die, at least for the Christian, is the great adventure all of us wait to experience. The writer of Hebrews penned, “it is appointed for all men to die once” (Heb. 9:27). No one can escape death. It is the great equalizer of all men. And yet, everyone seeks to avoid it.