Thoughts

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...

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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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Pig or Chicken? pt. 1

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

Pig or Chicken? Pig or Chicken? is the first of ten case studies I’m writing for CrossPoint’s Leadership Institute.  While true stories I’ve changed the names and settings to keep some semblance of privacy.  The case studies will cover a variety of situations—from start-ups to established ministries—focusing on leading missional change and all that goes with it. I’ll post a portion every day or so.  Once the Institute has discussed the case, we’ll post the case in its entirety on-line at crosspt.org. I hope these equip you and your leaders for expanding God’s Kingdom! The meeting  It was one of the most sobering meetings Jeff Richards had been a part of in the past year.  Planting a church was difficult work.  And when key leaders expressed concern over direction or thoughts of leaving, it took fortitude squared to stay the course…especially when those same voices were fervent supporters in the past. Recently a number of leaders had expressed reservation about Jeff’s desire to push the congregation towards a public launch.  A number had come to him privately; a few had expressed their concern publicly.  But today’s meeting with Wes Martin—one of the leaders who had also coached Jeff over the past year—deposited another layer of doubt in Jeff’s head. Wes and his wife Monica were one of the founding couples, present a year before Jeff and his family arrived.  An engineer by training, Wes was a straight-forward, no nonsense guy.  A life-long Presbyterian, he and Monica were seeking a different kind of Presbyterian church.  They had tried a number of other congregations in the area but for a number of reasons never felt at home.  So for the year and a half before Jeff’s family moved to the Phoenix suburb of Surprise, the Martins had met monthly with four or five other couples praying and studying, wondering what God had in store. Jeff’s arrival marked the beginning of a new season, one filled with action and movement.  Now, just a little over a year after Jeff’s family moved to town, major conflict was surfacing among some of the leaders.  A number of those individuals were major...

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Mothering A Multisite

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

Let me define multi-site very briefly so that we’re all on the same page:  a multi-site is one congregation that worships in multiple locations.Sometimes those locations may be on the same campus.  Other times—and often—they are on different campuses.  One church; many locations. Since it’s one church, it has one lead pastor, one voters assembly, one board of directors, one name, etc. that are all pulling one direction, all going to Florida.  Since it has multiple locations, it needs multiple “pastors” of the locations, multiple staff for the locations, somewhat different feels for the locations, etc., and the understanding that the sites might dance to slightly different music—some doing the cha cha others doing the two step.  But in a multisite regardless of the slightly different dance styles, they all have agreed to dance, and they’re all dancing their way to Florida. So as perhaps you can see by the “both/and” description of what a multi-site is, it’s one of the more complicated ways to plant a mission.  However it is also one of the best stewardship models because of the long-term viability you can help ensure through leveraging system strengths.  Strengths like lay leaders, dollars, name, reputation, experience, and knowledge.   And when done properly, it creates a synergy that is both exciting and powerful. This “both/and” is why I was tempted to title this article “Multi-Site: The Mother of All Missions.”  However you want to take that.  I say this a little tongue in cheek—but probably only a little—because if you simply plant another congregation and turn her loose, it would be similar to raising a daughter on a fast-track schedule and then having her move out of state.  She’s still yours; you might occasionally have her back for vacations and special holidays.  You can definitely claim you daughtered her; but she’s an adult, living on her own.  When she screws up, you can blame her father. A multi-site is more akin to you’ve been the lone princess in the family; you get all of the praise, all of the presents, and everyone thinks you’re pretty.  But all of a sudden mom tells you you’re getting a sister.  Now, you’ve heard stories about sisters.  You’ve seen the movie Carrie.  Perhaps you think sisters can be cool, especially if you have some mothering instinct in you.  But before you know it, you discover they can also be a challenge, especially when have to share the same bathroom and decide who gets to use the car Friday night. So in a church plant where to a great extent that daughter can easily become “out of sight, out of mind,” in a multi-site you may want her out-of-site, out-of-mind, and there will be lots of times you literally forget to invite her to the picnic because she is out-of-sight, out-of-mind.  The reality is, though, that she’s there, growing fast, and sharing your bedroom. So if you want the family to stay happy, you need to pay close, close, close attention to the sibling relationship.  Because in a multi-site, relationship is everything.  It’s everything.  And that’s because relationships and unity are go hand in hand. My sister-in-law and her family have two boys—14 & 11.  Two years ago they adopted two sisters, 2 & 4.  But before they could become foster...

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How Close To The Edge Do I Go?

Posted by on May 4, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

Early on in the planting of CrossPoint, I met with two planters from other denominations. One from a Southern Baptist plant; the other from a Presbyterian plant. The SB plant began with a rock band, in a school. It was a hive model from a local congregation. It was loud and different and spoke to all of the folks who had loved the rock group Boston in high school. The planter encouraged me to go as far as possible to the edge of my comfort zone. Fourteen years after planting, this congregation worships over 2000 a weekend, is located on 100 acres of land, and is known as a vibrant, sending church. The Presbyterian planter spoke with me at length because his plant, after an auspicious start of 900 the first Sunday, imploded after his subsequent moral failure. (His affair was actually more a symptom than a cause of that implosion.) Three congregations had sent significant numbers of launch team members, thus the second Sunday of worship—typically about half of the first—met that goal. Over 450 people were there to stay. The problems began immediately, however. For whenever something “edgy” was attempted in order to reach lost people, at least one of the culture-groups would object and immediate conflict began. This constant conflict led to tremendous pressure on the sr. pastor and contributed to both his and the congregation’s demise. That congregation no longer exists. I am unsure of his whereabouts but know he was defrocked for some period of time. I remember well his words to me as we drank coffee in a local Starbuck’s. They, too, included the “edgy” word. “You want your ministry to be edgy. If you’re comfortable going this far,” as he drew on a napkin, “then push it this far,” as he drew a mark on the edge. “Had I done that from the beginning, I might have jettisoned some of those who didn’t like it early on and thus saved myself a lot of headache.” I know there were lots of variables to his story. But I found the similarity of counsel to be wise…and took it to heart. It boiled down to “How far to the edge am I willing to go?” as I plant this church? It reminded me of an account in Jesus’ life. You know the beginning of the story: Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment. He answered Mark 12:29-31 (NIV) “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. [30] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [31] The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Jesus joins the two into one. He makes them the two sides of the same coin: to love God means you will love your neighbor. “Can’t do A without B.” But then the story continues. That teacher who asked that question responds, “You are right.” And he repeats what Jesus said, affirming Jesus’ teaching. To which then Jesus responds: Mark 12:34 (NIV) … “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions....

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How do I disciple AND reach out?

Posted by on Feb 26, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

One of the many challenges in starting a church is the tension between spending time discipling the saved and spending time reaching the lost.  The planter has limited time resources—as well as energy—which demands wise stewardship decisions.  Add in the oft-heard churched-voice of “Where’s my Bible study?” and it is easy for the planter to lose focus (from external to internal) and create a congregation that never gets going into the community nor gathers much of the community into the congregation.  It remains a small church, a congregation for those seeking a new congregation, striving for the admirable goal of making deeper, stronger believers.  Yet the missional aspect of being a local community church is never lived out nor evidenced by much of the local community becoming believers. Try this: Disciple the current congregation by presenting them (1) a Bible reading plan they can do on their own; (2) small group non-Sunday-morning Bible studies led by you (and once the group is larger than 12-14, led by others); and then (3) serving opportunities, especially regular, entire-congregation community serve events.  This way you disciple them into a person who loves Christ by loving his people, especially his lost people. Talk openly of how Sunday morning is a time for worship and for some type of serving—welcoming, assisting guests and single parents, playing instruments, setting up chairs, teaching children Bible stories…  And this type of serve is critical.  But at the end of the day, it does not do enough in getting the congregation into the community so that the community can see the Jesus it needs. Also and especially needed are consistent, monthly entire-congregation serving events.  These events should (1) go to where the community already is (soccer fields, day-worker hangout spot, busy intersection, trailer park…) rather than require the community to come to the congregation; (2) meet some need or value in the community (acceptance, refreshment, fun…); (3) be organized around the concept of “High impact/Low threat,” meaning that it touches as large of a crowd as possible in an unexpected way (buy everyone a pair of shoes in the shoe store, give everyone in the car a free coke) yest is not intimidating for the server to perform or for the receiver to accept (no calls to repent on street corners or handing out tracts); (4) expect the participation of everyone in the congregation, especially all of those in leadership.  This last expectation helps the congregation see just how it is larger than the individual while also building momentum and significant awareness in the local community. Do this all-congregation, local community serve event monthly for at least the first year.  You will be pleased how this process creates followers of Jesus who love both Jesus and the people in the local community, a key mark in growing, healthy congregations, and a key ingredient in church plants that move beyond small to...

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Pastor or Planter?

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

One of the biggest challenges in starting a church revolves around your view of yourself.  Are you a pastor or a planter? I understand that most of us who call ourselves planters are also pastors.  In the denomination I run in, a planter is a pastor.  It helps to understand, though, that not all pastors are planters.  Planters are a very unique breed of pastor, to the extent that many of the traits that make them effective planters run counter to being an effective pastor. Both are necessary for the Church to be Church.  But high frustration results when pastors are called to plant and planters are called to pastor. In a recent conversation with a friend considering planting one of our future campuses, I explained it like this: The pastor is focused “in here.”  His vision leans to the congregation.  He possesses a deep calling to care for the people in his congregation.  He is a shepherd in the truest sense of the word.  He is often drawn to discipleship and counseling, perhaps to theology and study, more than to being out and about with people, especially people outside his congregation. If one had to split the percentages between discipleship and outreach, the pastor would lean over 50% onto discipleship.  Significantly. The planter is focused “out there.”   His vision leans to the community.  He is constantly making relationships with people in the community.  When given an opportunity to spend time with people, he chooses the neighborhood party rather than the church social.  While he has friends in the church, he gravitates to making friends who are not yet in the church.  He enjoys being around people who do not yet know Jesus.  He is not intimidated by their use of non-Christian language or habits or lifestyle. While he may have a love for theology and study, it’s probably not his first-love.  And it’s always distilled into common language that connects with those outside the Church. Next time: Starter or...

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Compelled To Go

Posted by on Jan 26, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) In 1995, a church planter from Illinois shared his vision for his church plant.  His metaphor was compelling: if you were going to start a restaurant,  you’d at least have three employees–a chef, a waitress, and a cashier.  Why would you start a church with just one guy (a pastor)? For the previous eight years I had unknowingly served in the church planting minor leagues, getting ready for the big.  While leading the outreach and discipleship of two congregations, my heart resonated most with God’s people who didn’t yet know they were God’s people.  So when Mr. Chicago came to town and played his pipe, I sorely wanted to follow. I went south instead.  Home to Texas and my wife’s hometown of Houston.  Found a cashier, a couple waitresses and some other chefs and started CrossPoint Community Church.  A crazy place full of divinely down-home cooking.  We started another diner in ‘07.  Cafe #3 should launch in January ‘11. In the course of the last decade, I have rubbed spatulas with a bunch of other chefs attempting restaurant starting. Theirs is a difficult calling, creating menus the public desires to taste, yet including the necessary ingredients so they don’t leave feeling empty. Calls for a healthy dose of First Article truths with at least one each of Second and Third. One of the most exciting but exhausting careers Monster.com has to offer.  No doubt. Some of them, like myself, have been fortunate enough to cook in fast-growing suburbs.  Others are planted in some of the most antagonistic communities in the US.  All of them can tell of disappointments that made them question and wonder their ability to cook.  But all of them also have restaurant stories that make diner building the most exciting thing on earth. This blog is a gathering of learnings and insights from the past decade of listening and cooking, of failing and succeeding.  It is written for those who slave in the kitchen, passionately laboring for people they’ve never met. Thank you for the work you do.  Thank you for firing before aiming, for leaping before looking, for being convinced that Jesus died for all, and for responding to His compelling call. You are my dear friends. You are great, great men of...

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