Monthly Archives: May 2016

Acuna, Mexico, 1 year after the tornado of 2015

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On May 24, 2016, A small team from Texas Tech University traveled to Acuna with our Missions Pastor, Shon Young, my family, and Arvin Mendez, the Pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Acuna, MX. We are photographed here standing one on of the devastated areas, but now it is a beautiful park area.

We haven’t forgotten the people or the community of Acuna. We have continued to be in prayer and give support to those in need.

Monday, May 25, 2015 was not your typical Monday. The day began with heavy thunderstorms with a magnificent lightning show. The smell of coffee began to permeate the house, and breakfast was about to begin, when I was asked from a friend via text if we had power on at our house, since they had not. I said we did and we invited them over for coffee and breakfast. As we finished up around 9 am, I received notice if I seen the pictures of the tornado damage in Acuna, Mexico which is 6 miles to the south of us. I had not, so we started an internet search and the pictures were very alarming.

13 people had been confirmed dead, and many more hundreds were injured. Reports were coming in and there were missing people. As I was there I was interviewed by a Mexican news station. I was able to speak with a few of those who lost everything and they conveyed to me that the tornado lasted a brief 10 seconds. I later found out that it was only 6 seconds, and it was in fact an F5 magnitude.

Here are some pictures from that day:

May Jesus be the King of Acuna, as recovery is still taking place.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Vacation Bible School

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Vacation Bible School is just around the corner! We at City Church are excited for all of you coming this year to our sports themed VBS. If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so HERE

Hope to see you there!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Who Moved My Pulpit?

Today, I want to inform you of a new book by Thom Rainer. If you want to make a difference with your ministry team, then this book can help you to become the change agents of the church. Change will not happen without the pastor, staff, and elders leading the charge.

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Who Moved My Pulpit? may not be the exact question you’re asking. But you’re certainly asking questions about change in the church—where it’s coming from, why it’s happening, and how you’re supposed to hang on and follow God through it—even get out ahead of it so your church is faithfully meeting its timeless calling and serving the new opportunities of this age.

Based on conversations with thousands of pastors, combined with on-the-ground research from more than 50,000 churches, best-selling author Thom S. Rainer shares an eight-stage roadmap to leading change in your church. Not by changing doctrine. Not by changing biblical foundations. But by changing methodologies and approaches for reaching a rapidly changing culture.

You are the pastor. You are the church staff person. You are an elder. You are a deacon. You are a key lay leader in the church. This is the book that will equip you to celebrate and lead change no matter the cost.

The time is now.

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Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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City Church Baby Dedication


The Lord blessed us this year with new birth and young families at City Church. Mother’s Day is always special when we see families giving their babies to God in dedication to the Lord’s instructions. 

Ephesians 6:1-3.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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THE FOUR-STEP GROUP DISCUSSION METHOD

THE FOUR-STEP GROUP DISCUSSION METHOD
POSTED BY: JIM EGLI

Four-Step Group Discussion Method

A simple but revolutionary way of doing evangelism and small groups is sweeping the globe. It started in India but it’s rocking the world. In suburbs of San Francisco, slums of South America, and Muslim tribes of Africa, the lost are being won, disciples are being mobilized, and churches are multiplying.

It’s called the “Disciple-Making Movement” (DMM). Although it’s a 21st century phenomena, it’s just a return to principles taught by Jesus 2000 years ago.What is a DMM? It’s a combination of several key principles and methods, but at its heart is obedience-based small groups that follow Jesus’ command to teach disciples to “obey everything” he commanded us. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Here’s the four steps to start and multiply a DMM “Discovery Group.”

Step One: Start with Someone Seeking God

First, look for someone that is spiritually hungry. This principle is foundational to DMM. You don’t have to create interest in spiritual things. God is already drawing people. (John 6:44) Find these people so that you can cooperate with God in bringing them into a relationship with Christ. Jesus told his disciples to look for a “person of peace” when they entered a new community. (Luke 9:6) In the same way, in your world look for a person whom the Holy Spirit is already drawing, someone whom God is giving a hunger for himself. You can see many examples of this type of person in the New Testament—people like the woman at the well (John 4) and the centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). They were predisposed to the good news of Christ and introduced new groups of people to him.

Step Two: Invite Them to Study the Bible with You

When you have your seeker, you invite them to look at the Bible with you to discover what God is like and how he might want to speak to them. If you have more than one person, great. But you only need one person to begin. You don’t invite them to a class or to a series, you just invite them to meet with you to explore what God says in the Bible. It can be a small beginning, one or two people for one or two meetings. If that goes well, you invite them to continue looking at the Bible with you.

Step Three: Use the “Discovery Group” Format

When you meet, use the Discovery Group format. Here are the questions to ask:

Opening Questions

What are you thankful for this week? (This question helps teach seekers or those new to Christ how to worship and pray.)

What is a challenge you are facing? Is there some way our group can help? (This guides people into caring community.)

Accountability Questions

With whom did you share last week’s learnings?

How did it go with your “I will’s”? (An “I will” is a person’s statement of how they will obey a Bible passage.)

You, obviously, skip these accountability questions at your first meeting.

Bible Discovery Questions

What does it say? (Read the passage several times, perhaps in different translations.)

How would I say that? (Each person tries to retell the passage or Bible story in their own words.)

What must I do to obey what I have learned? “I will…” (Each person crafts a statement or two, to tell how they will obey the passage this week.)

Optional Questions to Use if You Have Time

What does the passage say about humanity?

What does it say about God?

Outreach Questions

With whom will you share what you learned this week?

The heart of the discovery meeting is very simple. It is the three Bible discovery questions:

What does it say? (“It says…”)

How would I say it? (“My words…”)

How will I obey it? (“I will…”)

The other questions lead into or revolve around these questions. To download a one-page handout with these questions, click here.

Step Four: Encourage Them to Start a Group

At some point, it may be soon or it may take some time, people will begin to experience God in life-changing ways. They will discover that he is real, wonderful and trustworthy! Then, they will say something like, “My friends need to experience this. Would you lead a group for them?” Or, “I would like my family to learn these truths as well. Can I invite them to this group?” Your answer to questions like this should be, “No. You should lead a group for them yourself.” There will likely be hesitancy. They will say, “I couldn’t do that.” To which you should respond, “Of course you can. This is very simple. And I will continue to meet with you, to encourage you and help you.”

A person does not need to know the Bible well to lead a Discovery Group. They actually don’t even need to be a Christ-follower yet. They just need to be able to point people to God’s word—to help them discover its meaning and begin to apply its truths in their lives.

As people begin their own groups, you should continue to meet regularly with these new leaders to continue to study the Bible with them and to help them solve problems they might be facing in their own groups.

Key Principles

Keep these principles in mind as you implement the DMM strategy.

Pray. Thriving disciple-making movements are saturated in prayer. The strategy depends on God, not on you. Ask him to guide you. Invite his Spirit to raise up people of peace and put you in touch with them. Pray for direction, insight, and vision.

Experiment. Like any new strategy it takes a while to learn the principles and to discover what works best in your setting.

Learn. The best book to read about this is Contagious Disciple-Making, by David and Paul Watson.

Be patient. It takes time to learn the principles, to apply them, and then to see results. DMM’s have seen millions come to Christ. But, it’s actually a “mustard seed” strategy (Matthew 13:31-32)—something which starts tiny but in the long run becomes very big. It goes slow at first, so that things can move fast later. It focuses on a few initially, because the goal in the end is to reach many. So be patient.

Starting Where You Are

There are two ways to begin experimenting with a DMM strategy. One method is to start a brand new group with one or several seekers. The other approach is to start using the discovery group format with an existing group.

Method One: Start a New Group

My wife has started a group like this, a discovery group with an evangelistic focus. Step one with this, again, is to find one or two seekers and invite them to look at the Bible together with you. I haven’t done this yet myself but intend to do this as I discover persons of peace.

Method Two: Start Using the Discovery Group Method with an Existing Group

This is what I am doing. We use this new format in our co-ed evening group and with an early morning men’s discipleship group. I love the method and the group members are enjoying it, too. However, it requires a change of approach, because we are used to studying and talking about the Bible. But we are not used to immediately applying it, sharing it, and holding each other accountable! But that’s the beauty of this method. It cuts to the chase: What does the Bible say? How would I say it? And what am I going to do about it? It takes effort to change the approach of a group that is already up and running to this more straightforward approach, but it’s well worth it!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry 

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Church Planting Trends 

Ed Stetzer5 Future Trends of Church Planting

In my research role, I’m always taking in data and observing practices and trying to note patterns and trends. This is challenging and fun at the same time. I also see it as informational, as noting trends help churches and Christians see what is current, what practices are working or not working, what we are dealing with, where we are, and where we are headed.

Today, I’m looking at 5 Future Trends of Church Planting. If you’re a new planter, first starting the process, or still praying it through I hope this is helpful to you. (It’s also worth checking out the Church Planter Candidate Assessment tool. It’s “a statistically validated online assessment instrument which helps potential church planters and their respective organizations identify areas of established strength and other areas needing development as they prepare to plant a church.”)

Thom Rainer has stated, “Trend prediction is both an art and a science.” The science is the data and the art is the practice. And by putting the two together we can see current trends and predict future movement.

With culture seemingly changing at the speed of light, church planters (and those who train and support them) cannot be over-aware of the trends new churches will face. Here are five things we are seeing now and will continue to see as we move further along in the 21st century post-Christian America.

Each trend has a brief caution—not to indicate that I do not affirm much of the trends—but to acknowledge possible unintended side effects to consider.

1. Becoming more technical and strategic.

When I planted my first church in Buffalo, NY, there were no church planting assessments for me to take or boot camps for me to attend. In fact, not many resources were available on the subject of church planting. But that has certainly changed over the past 25 years.

Now there are myriads of books, articles, websites, networks, associations, and denominations putting out information on church planting. If you plan on planting through a network, association, and/or denomination you must prepare yourself to be assessed, trained, coached, and mentored. I am grateful for the strides many have made to invest in church planters and help prepare them for the challenges that they will face. However, I have two particular cautions associated with this trend.

First, “A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the LORD” (Proverbs 21:31, HCSB).

Church planting is a spiritual endeavor, not only a technical one. The techniques and strategies that go into preparing and training one to plant are only tools and principles that are meant to equip and aid a church planter; they are not meant to be an idol or a savior.

Second, people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (2 Samuel 16:7, paraphrase).

Assessments are great tools to indicate one’s skill set and giftedness, but they should not be the spiritual litmus test of whether or not one has the call of God on their life to plant a church. There are biblical qualifcations and a spritual call that both matter.

2. Becoming more urban.

It’s not a secret anymore that people are moving to cities. And the migration to cities has led to an urban church planting mission’s strategy among many evangelicals. In my own denomination, NAMB (North American Mission Board) has launched a SEND strategy targeting key cities throughout North America to concentrate its church planting efforts.

Tim Keller is also a big proponent of targeting cities with the gospel through church planting. As a result, Redeemer City to City was created as a missions arm to facilitate church planting efforts throughout the cities of the world. When it comes to evangelicals being urban-centric in their mission’s focus, the thinking goes like this, “Reach the cities, reach the world; reach the cities, influence culture.”

I fully believe in this strategy and actively support it. The only exhortation I would offer is not to be so urban focused that gospel church planting is suctioned out of smaller cities, towns, and communities. There are still areas outside of major urban centers and their metroplexes that are in desperate need of new church plants and church revitalizations.

There is no reason to be either/or on this issue. It’s both/and. I’ll be sharing more about rural church planting in an upcoming post; just know I also fully support prioritizing urban centers.

3. Becoming more modular.

Just as there are different styles for preaching, such as expository and topical, there are also different styles or methods for church planting. Check this series where I outlined five common models of church planting.

Since there are various models to choose from—models that are accompanied with their own resources, proponents, books, conferences, strengths, and weaknesses—church planters have the option of choosing the one that best suits their style, giftedness, context, and resources.

One of the cautions we must keep in mind with regard to models is that they too are only a tool, not something to place one’s hope in.

4. Becoming more bi-vocational.

A challenge that has always existed in planting churches is resources, or the lack thereof. This challenge existed in the Apostle Paul’s ministry, and it continues to exist today. Many church plants and planters are vocational, which means they are funded by a denomination or network (or both) and personal support. However, in recent years the need for a planter to be bi-vocational, or a tentmaker, has increased.

There are two particular reasons for this. First, many denominations and networks embrace more of a shotgun approach to dispersing funds. While a shotgun makes a large impact, in some cases the impact doesn’t go as deep. As a result, many church planters are supported, but are in need of having additional support. And if they are not able to raise the additional support that is needed, they are left with the only alternative—getting a job.

Second, in some cases, due to the difficulty of the context, many church plants struggle to become self-sufficient years into existence. I have said before that if a church cannot become self-sufficient in at least five years then a bi-vocational strategy is almost certainly the best approach.

To help this trend and aid future church planters for bi-vocational tentmaking, I would love to see more colleges and seminaries have educational tracks that equip potential church planters with a theological and missiological foundation as well as a vocational platform.

And, one small caution—we can’t do bivocational church planting and expect the pastors to act like the vocational ones. Training will need to be online, relationships maintained in new ways, and more.

5. Becoming more diverse.

The North American racial and ethnic landscape has dramatically changed over the last few decades. The influx of immigrants and their migration to North American cities has led and will continue to spur the need for church planting efforts to embrace and enact diversity—especially for a church planting effort to be effective in urban and diverse settings.

Some church planting networks have been created to champion multiethnic church planting and development, including Rebuild and Kainos, while existing networks, like Acts 29, make becoming a “radically diverse crowd” a core value. We will continue to see a rise in more multiracial, multicultural, and multiethnic church plants in the coming years.

The only caution I will note comes from Derwin Gray, a multicultural church planter himself, who worries leaders may have a tendency to support diversity for pragmatic rather than theological reasons. As a result, Derwin asserts, “We shouldn’t long for racial [or any form of] diversity—we should long for the proclamation of Jesus, which creates ethnic diversity. The Apostle Paul didn’t start one church for Jews and one church for Gentiles in the New Testament. The Gospel brought people together.”

Only a gospel-centeredness with a missional posture will create authentic, God-glorifying diversity. We must keep in mind diversity isn’t the goal of the church, but a manifestation within a church striving towards its goal. (For more on diversity in the church, read “Segregation and the Church: From Where We’ve Come.”)

Have you seen these trends in church planting as well? What other shifts have you seen taking place?

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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