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Amos & Secular Music

Posted by on Oct 29, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

Read Amos the prophet and you see a preacher who surprised the listener at every turn so that his message of law would convict and break. Amos used word pictures to lure in the listener so that when he gut-punched them with the law, they’d be left gasping,”What???”, leaving room for the Spirit.

Only after punching a hole in their cultural wall can the prophet’s message of grace then wiggle in and take root.

In today’s post-Christian world, copying Amos’ method must include more than just words: it must also include the language of music. Music speaks to the heart of the listener, and often pop songs speak to situations of sin and brokenness that dwell at heart-level in people. The latest Billboard chart or Indie release—while not necessarily articulating a hope-filled, Christian message—engages the person in singing along, readying him for gasping, “What???” when the law connect is made.

Only after punching a hole in their cultural wall can the Prophet-Preacher wiggle in and take root. Secular music used strategically allows that to happen.

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Chicken or Pig? pt. 8

Posted by on Oct 27, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

Jeff also preached anytime he had the opportunity.  When he did, the entire launch team would go with him in order to meet people and talk about the ministry.  Some of those preaching locations were in the vicinity of the new plant.  Others were thirty minutes to an hour away.  Whenever he preached, he always asked for names of potential members and prayer partners, and, if the host congregation allowed, money.  While dollars were always welcome, it was the prayer partners and names that blessed the group the most.  Almost always someone knew someone who lived out in Surprise.  All names were added to the database.  The prayer partners received a quarterly partner newsletter. The potential members were contacted first by mail then by phone call and if willing, face-to-face.  They also received a monthly newsletter about the ministry.

Through these efforts, the group slowly began to grow.  “Help us launch a new kind of church” was the mantra.  They invited friends and contacts to house-church worship.  By July, the group numbered almost 30, outgrowing the largest home.  People also began requesting weekly worship.  In August Jeff finally gave in, and they moved into a community recreation center to worship every Sunday.  The location was not great—it was off the beaten path.  But it was almost free and would allow for growth into the 60s or 70s.

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Chicken or Pig? pt. 7

Posted by on Oct 25, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

By March, the seven-family launch team lobbied for weekly worship as a group.  Up to this point, they were all attending their respective home congregations—five different ones in all.  They were ready to cut those ties and begin house-church worship.  Jeff, however, was concerned that weekly worship would take his energy away from being out in the community and focus him too inwardly.  Everything he had read encouraged him to wait on public worship because the message prep would take up too much of his week.  He wanted to do things well and a message would often take 15-20 hours of preparation.  He was not convinced that was the best use of his time at this phase.

As Easter approached the pressure became too great, however.  A compromise was reached: the group would worship every other week in someone’s home.  On those Sundays, Jeff would preach and introduce the type of music he thought the church would have.  He did this using a cd player.  Everyone joked that he played a mean cd and agreed he should not lead the singing. One of the women in the group, Jenny Byers, had a beautiful voice and had sung in nightclubs, so she helped with the worship leading.  It became clear early on, however, the group would need to hire someone to lead this important part of the ministry.

On the opposite Sundays, the team worshiped in one of the local congregations, discovering what God was doing in the community.  Afterwards they would eat lunch or dinner together, debriefing from the experience.  The goal was simple: determine what God is not doing so that they could bring a new and needed worship experience to the community.  For many in the group, this was the first time they had worshiped in another denomination.  It greatly opened their eyes to the differing expressions of Christian worship and helped to bond the group together into one focus.

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Posted by on Oct 24, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

There are just not enough trophies to cure narcissism. The cure is always to find acceptance and love in one’s weakness and failure, and therefore discover that you are not what you do, but who you are. When we are loved for who we are, not for what we do, then we have a character based on being and not doing. That is where the contrast between ‘human being’ and ‘human doing’ comes from. When people are accepted in their failures and find that their imperfect selves are lovable, they are free to own their imperfections and improve. That is why correction that is done lovingly leads to healthier people than shame-based or critical, angry correction. The focus is on the behavior and not the person.” (Integrity, p. 189)

Integrity – Dr. Henry Cloud
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Chicken or Pig? pt. 6

Posted by on Oct 22, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

One such individual was Robert Harris, the de-facto leader and “pastor” of the initial group.  Someone once told Jeff, “Whoever is the ‘pastor’ of the people who are there before you arrive, he’s still their pastor after you arrive. It will take time, lots of love, and wise decisions before they will give you that mantle.”  That was certainly true of Robert.  When he spoke, everyone listened.  Plus he was about 20 years older than Jeff, which did not help Jeff’s confidence.  Jeff made sure that he discussed items with Robert frequently.  While they disagreed on the final outcome of the school decision, Robert understood financial realities.  However, there was one situation—the hiring of the music minister—where Jeff went against Robert’s opinion.  Thankfully Robert respected Jeff’s position and ultimately supported him.

As a way to involve the group in the foundational future decisions, Jeff introduced weekday “work on the ministry” meetings with members of the team who could attend.  They focused on marketing of the new ministry, finding the two other staff members of the team: a worship leader and an administrative assistant, and beginning to design the worship experience.

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Chicken or Pig? pt. 5

Posted by on Oct 20, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

January through August

Upon arriving in Surprise, Jeff continued the meeting schedule the group had in place.  They met every other Friday evening for prayer and study, focusing on understanding the unchurched person and his needs.  Early in the process Jeff also introduced possible core values for the new ministry, along with the mission and vision for the plant.  He had gathered ideas over the years and now had a forum for sharing them.  While he tried to present “straw models,” he had strong opinions about the direction he felt the congregation should go.  Thus some of the launch group felt somewhat disenfranchised after Jeff’s arrival, with his strong driver style.

One early conflict was whether or not the new congregation would have an elementary school.  A number of the families in the initial group had joined with that hope in mind.  They possessed a strong passion for parochial education.  After conducting an independent marketing analysis and creating a business plan for the elementary school, it was determined to be financially unviable.  By that point the team had also narrowed their focus to unchurched people and creating a Christian school with annual tuition near $10,000 would limit the market to those families with strong Christian values, presumably those already having a church home.  Since that was not the congregation’s target, the elementary school was not pursued.  This caused lingering disappointment in a number of the launch team.

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Pig or Chicken? pt. 4

Posted by on Oct 18, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

He approached the Arizona synod, wanting to plant a church in his home state.  The denomination wanted to plant a church in Surprise. Jeff was brought in for an interview with denominational leadership.  He in turn requested an interview with the bishop, where he laid out a three-pronged request: That the new congregation could worship in whatever style it wanted, in order to reach unchurched people; that the launch could be a “large-start,” led by a multi-staff team (as opposed to a solo pastor); and that the denomination would purchase land for the congregation to give it a good footing from the start.

The bishop agreed to the worship style request, stating that worship format is a congregational decision.  He agreed to the multi-staff start “if you can figure out how to fund it.” But the land request warranted more conversation.  “How much land are you thinking?”  “At least forty acres,” answered Jeff.  “Forty acres allows for thousands of people worshiping at one time since one of the key limiters is parking.”  Jeff left the conversation with the amount of land unresolved.  At least he had planted a seed.

Six months later Jeff received the appointment to serve as mission planter for Surprise, Arizona.  Two months after that, in January, he and his family moved to Surprise and joined six couples and their children, anxious to see what God had in store.

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Pig or Chicken? pt. 3

Posted by on Oct 15, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

Think ‘team’

Jeff and his wife Terese had often discussed doing mission work. Natives of Arizona they had considered serving in Mexico or Latin America but that dream never materialized.  For nine years they served two congregations in the northwest.  In both congregations Jeff functioned as Pastor of Outreach while also serving in a variety of other roles including youth, small groups, and executive pastor.  In all of his roles he began ministries, seeking to build lay teams that would sustain them when he left.  These years brought him a range of experiences that would later serve him well, but they also made him a believer in team.  And since the only foreign mission model he was aware of focused on one missionary “parachuting” into the area, with no immediate people support, he grew to think mission work was not in his future.

That all changed one fall, however, when he took part in evaluating a local planter’s mission plan.  The metaphor the planter employed was that of a restaurant.  “If you were going to start a restaurant, you’d at least have two staff, maybe three: a chef, a waiter, and a cashier.”  His plan was built on launching a congregation with a team.  That model gave Jeff a different vision for how to do mission.

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Pig or Chicken? pt. 2

Posted by on Oct 13, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

Presbyterians in Surprise

Surprise, Arizona was one of the fastest growing suburbs in America.  Located about 30 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix, the Surprise area was anticipated to continue a rapid growth path for decades.  With an excellent school district, booming economy, and arid climate, Surprise was a family-friendly mecca, with young families arriving every day.  By all definitions, it was the perfect place to plant a church.

The Presbyterian church had not started a church in the Phoenix area for over a decade, however.  While the Assemblies of God, Baptist, and Bible-based community church plants had flourished, typical to mainline practice the Presbyterians were last in the door.  This was due in part to a previous strategy of aggressively purchasing a number of advance sites for churches.  When land prices plummeted and the planned communities failed to materialize, the state-wide synod lost tremendous money…and credibility.  The failed strategy resulted in a moratorium in planting long after the population growth rebounded.

Internal battles also existed within the local Presbyterian congregations.  Some of those battles revolved around the role of women in the church.  Most of them focused on style of worship and what was appropriate, especially regarding music.  Adding more conflict and confusion into the mix, these congregations came from two Presbyterian denominations that differed in significant issues.  The largest denomination—Presbyterian Church USA [PC (USA)]—maintained a more liberal interpretation of the Bible and allowed the ordination of women into the pastoral office.  It also wrestled publicly with ordaining homosexuals and appeared to be moving in that direction.  The other denomination—Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)—took a more strict interpretation, ordaining only men.

These differences played out in this new plant because while the plant was conservative in its theology—it belonged to the PCA—it worshipped in a progressive format designed for those with little to no church background.  Especially not a PCA background.  Thus there was some confusion among the PCA congregations as to just how theologically conservative Jeff and his ministry would be.  In addition, most of the news in the public focusing on Presbyterians dealt with the social liberality of the PC (USA).  While the news did not directly relate to the new plant, the public perception was that all Presbyterians believed the same thing.  The planting team wrestled with how to avoid that confusion.

Ultimately it became a naming issue.  After months of prayer and discussion, the group chose Lighthouse Presbyterian Fellowship.  Some of the leaders felt Presbyterian should be included in the name: “We are Presbyterian.  We should be proud of that.”  Jeff disagreed but decided not to lose the war over it.  After a few months, however, he and other leaders realized that in addition to the public mis-perception about what their branch of Presbyterianism believed, the Presbyterian label also caused many to not consider Lighthouse as a potential church home.  “I’m not Presbyterian so that church is not for me.”  The decision was then made to drop Presbyterian from the name, calling the church simply Lighthouse Fellowship.

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Thank you, Mr. Gladwell.

Posted by on Oct 11, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

Big thanks to Malcolm Gladwell here for reminding us of the power of old-fashioned organization when calling for life-changing sacrifice and commitment.  Compelling causes can’t be won by Twitter & FB alone.

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