Tag Archives: Religion

Church Planting

Today I am posting an article from Ed Stetzer. I was intrigued by it because as a church planter, our church never officially launched with a big hoopla. We started in November and God has been so gracious to us.

Church-Planting Shifts, Part One: The Launch

Consider your people group and the time of year.
Church-Planting Shifts, Part One: The Launch

Church planting is somewhat of an entrepreneurial enterprise that tends to be on the front end of change, both catalyzing change and being catalyzed by change.

This is the crux of what I want to discuss in this four-part series. The series is intended to keep grounding us in the realities of church planting while helping us seek creative ways to engage with our specific contexts.

Let me be honest, church planters tend to think that their individual and local church-planting model is the norm globally. That’s not the case.

Furthermore, our tendency is to cling to whatever conference we attended and mold our plant around a personality, model, or successful movement. That also makes it hard to think about different methodologies being helpful and appropriate.

For example, let’s looks at the church planting launch service.

The methodology of starting a church with a publicly announced beginning has probably influenced all of us. Even if we are doing a missional incarnational approach to church planting, at some point we realize that there is value in inviting people to our community. This may not be at the scale of the traditional approach, but because people are intrigued to check something out the first time, most church planters have a grand opening of some type.

One of the lessons we have learned is that big beginnings are now becoming less common. Although many still have ‘grand openings,’ since the 1980s and the 1990s there has been a decline in the size and audaciousness of large launches when planting new churches.

But large launches are still out there.

Large launches tend to be successful when we consider a few factors. These factors are not things I’m saying are good, but things I am saying help promote a large launch.

First, it helps to have clearly identifiable people groups living in relatively close proximity if you are planning a large launch.

In addition, large launches also benefit from new people moving into a community or sufficient homogeneity that gives the church traction and acceptance within a certain subsection of the community population. Let’s say the community is predominantly Haitian and there are not a lot of Haitian churches. A larger start to the church might see more success because of the need and void present.

Second, it is critical to consider what time of year is best to launch in your context.

Let me give you a helpful example. Many churches aim to launch around Easter. Although this may seem like the ideal time due an openness to the gospel this time of year, the proximity to summer (a down and travel time for many) and inflated numbers may lead to discouragement shortly after the launch. In my experience, fall is the best time to launch a church plant.

You typically have a three to nine-month window to launch the church and get the small groups and other ministries going. If you go longer than that, you will lose people who fear the church will not be sufficient for their needs.

Another rule of thumb when it comes to timing: you also have three to nine months of preparation and meeting before you need to officially launch the church, so plan accordingly.

When it comes to reaching people in our community, we always need to celebrate new beginnings when our core team is ready, but the prevailing trend is to downplay the launch somewhat and build in core strength for the long haul, where real growth occurs.

More on that next time…

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Assurance Sermon Series

letters-of-john-assurance

Today, as I write this post, I am reminded of the great gift God has bestowed upon us-assurance. We are allowed to live out our life in assurance. We can know who Jesus is and who we are in Him. This aspect of the Christian walk can transform our being. We no longer have to be intimated by a society that believes we are the ones who have lost our way.

The letters of 1, 2, and 3 John are what I like to call the black and white, cut and dry, and zero gray areas of Christianity. There is this a theme throughout that says it either this or that with no in between.

Light or dark, good or evil, love God or don’t love God, heaven or hell, Jesus or Satan, righteousness or sin, life or death, eternal or temporary, and truth of false.

This will be an 8-week series leading up to Easter Sunday. I look forward to our time together as we journey through another book of God’s amazing Word of Life.

I plan on posting some notes each week for each of the 8 sermons here on this blog.

In the meantime, stay in the light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Leading a Church of Less Than 100

Are You on Track if You Lead a Church of Less Than 100?

Most of the time church planting is a long, hard slog.
Are You on Track if You Lead a Church of Less Than 100?
I came across this article and really thought of this as reality. I lead a church of 80 or so at the beginning stages of year 2. I sometimes feel as if the growth isn’t going fast enough and as numerically as it should be. You too may feel that way too. Read the article below and be encouraged if you are a church planter!

Every church leader or pastor desires ministry to be fruitful and to influence their community. But we need to be reminded that we can no longer depend on the success of the past to be the shelter of our future.

While leadership is important, a church’s size can change frequently, depending upon other factors like changing demographics of the community or cultural shifts. But how do we respond when the previous generation was much more numerically effective than we are? What do we do when people ask, “Why don’t you have the results they had before?”

Older members of any given church typically seem more nostalgic about the past and use that as a measure of success in the future. It is important to remember, however, that culture has changed in such a way that it becomes misleading in many places to expect the numerical success of the past for a new generation.

Reaching for the Unattainable?

Several years ago, at a conference at Saddleback Church, I noticed that all the other speakers were pastoring a church between 5,000 and 25,000. However, what they also had in common was they had planted churches in another era.

At the time, I was pastoring a church whose size was far less than 5,000. When it was time for me to speak, I kept looking at Rick Warren out of the corner of my eye. I was scheduled to preach at Saddleback on Sunday, so I did not want to tick him off!

But I also had something to say.

I told listeners that conferences like this are great, but that they can also be really confusing and disheartening. When you drive onto Saddleback’s property, if I recall correctly, you drive up a four-lane highway called Purpose Drive and then you come to a stop light at Saddleback Way before parking your vehicle and entering one of the many entrances into the main sanctuary.

People came into this conference and heard speaker after speaker tell implausible stories of preaching and teaching only to see thousands of people showing up. I reminded those in the crowd that this conference could help them, or it could hurt them. “If you aren’t careful,” I told them, “this conference can be ministry pornography for you. It will be an unrealistic depiction of an experience you’re never going to have that distracts you from the real and glorious thing.”

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that everyone in the next generation isn’t going to reach as many people as they would like. There will always be outliers. I know of numerous faithful church planters who are attracting relatively large numbers. There are stories of tremendous, immediate success. We praise God for these situations. But we also need to acknowledge the reality that most of the time church planting is a long, hard slog.

And it is a lot harder than it used to be.

When Smaller Is Better

The typical church plant averages around 100 in attendance until after the four-year mark. Most churches in the U.S., in fact, have 80 people or less attending their weekend services.

Pastors and planters should know the statistical realities of the average church instead of assuming they are a disappointment if they don’t match the atypical success stories they see at conferences or read about in books. It is for this reason that I launched the Breaking the 200 Barrier series. It is time we have more chastened expectations; this, in turn, will make us more likely to succeed. A Lifeway Research study found that one of the four correlative factors to church-planting success was coming in with realistic expectations.

So, you are probably not going to have 1000 in a year, and it will be harder than you think, but knowing that will help you reach people as you grow.

Now, I know that does not fill conferences. People don’t rush to attend a conference with the guy who failed at planting a church or the one who took six years to get to 100. But the truth is, speakers who pastor or lead smaller churches are in the ideal situations to give practical help and encouragement to pastors struggling to reach their community. Having a right perspective always helps.

Let me share an illustration from how I watch television with my daughters. To help them realize that what they see is mostly unrealistic, we actually google pictures of the women on the screen without make-up. We do this so my daughters can have a better understanding of beauty and perception.

(If you have young daughters, try it—you may be surprised by their response.)

Similarly, church planters need to know that the expectations they see on conference platforms are unrealistic. Pastors need to remember that ministry in the past should not serve as the only measuring stick for ministry in the present. If we don’t remember this, then planters and pastors may see the tremendous success on the stage or in the past and assume they are failures if they don’t reach those virtually impossible-to-reach levels.

It is past time that churches measure success based on the current realities of their cultural context instead of past glories or present-day anomalies.

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No More Christmas Stamps, really?

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Today, I am reposting an email from Jim Denison. I guess we can’t even buy a baby Jesus stamp this year for fear of offending the few who want the day off, just not the meaning of it.

While the government in no means should be a particular religious promoter, surely they can sell stamps with pictures on it? Everyone is so afraid of the small percentage of squeaky wheels out there, that we would rather not deal with it then just say, “if you don’t like them then don’t buy them.”

I am amazed that Christianity continues to be the target of so many social status groups out there. Jesus was right when He said, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” This shouldn’t surprise us.

I just thought we could still buy a baby Jesus stamp, now I will have to buy a Santa Claus stamp instead. Maybe Santa ought to be considered on the hit list too, since he is a religion all by himself. Please read the post.

POSTAL SERVICE WILL NOT
ISSUE RELIGIOUS STAMPS
DR. JIM DENISON
SEPTEMBER 15, 2015
“We’re seeing more and more, a government that is silencing and censoring of religious views, of religious beliefs and of religious symbols.” So states Mark Sharp, legal counsel for the Alliance for Defense of Freedom, responding to the U.S. Postal Service’s announcement that it will offer no new religiously themed holiday stamps this year. In Sharp’s view, this is “part of the effort to completely drive religion out of the public square.”

If you’re looking for bad news in the news, you don’t have to look far. California lawmakers have approved legislation permitting euthanasia in their state. The heroin epidemic continues to spread across the nation. The scourge of pornography is growing, especially among children.

It is easy for Christians to be discouraged by the trajectory of our culture. But God is working in surprising ways today.

For instance, Muslim refugees in Berlinare converting to Christianity in remarkable numbers. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article titled “Why We Need to Resurrect Our Souls.” The Atlantic (not typically a defender of orthodox Christianity) carried a fascinating essay titled “The False Equation of Atheism and Intellectual Sophistication.” We often hear that millennials are leaving the church, but a recent study shows that more traditional or liturgical services have great appeal for young people seeking depth and significance.

None of these stories made front-page news. If we base today’s hope on today’s headlines, we’ll usually be disappointed. But it has always been so. Henri Nouwen: “Many people live with the unconscious or conscious expectation that eventually things will get better; wars, hunger, poverty, oppression, and exploitation will vanish; and all people will live in harmony. Their lives and work are motivated by that expectation. When this does not happen in their lifetimes, they are often disillusioned and experience themselves as failures.

“But Jesus doesn’t support such an optimistic outlook. He foresees not only the destruction of his beloved city Jerusalem but also a world full of cruelty, violence, and conflict. For Jesus there is no happy ending in this world. The challenge of Jesus is not to solve all the world’s problems before the end of time but to remain faithful at any cost.”

How do we “remain faithful at any cost”?

In Joe Biden’s recent interview with Stephen Colbert, the vice president was transparent about his grief following the death of his son Beau. He said that he and his wife have taped a Kierkegaard quote to the mirror: “Faith sees best in the dark.”

Here’s the larger context from Kierkegaard’s The Gospel of Sufferings: “The believer humanly comprehends how heavy the suffering is, but in faith’s wonder that it is beneficial to him, he devoutly says: It is light. Humanly he says: It is impossible, but he says it again in faith’s wonder that what he humanly cannot understand is beneficial to him [his emphasis]. In other words, when sagacity [worldly wisdom] is able to perceive the beneficialness, then faith cannot see God; but when in the dark night of suffering sagacity cannot see a handbreadth ahead of it, then faith can see God, since faith sees best in the dark.”

To paraphrase: when we understand God’s ways, faith is easy. When we do not, faith is essential.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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