Christmas_LaughterNOTE: It has been far too long since I have posted. Launching a new church kept me busy in 2013. Hope and plan to write more in 2014. Thanks for your patience and for following my blog. This post is modified from something I wrote for our church, but I think it’ll encourage you as well.

Christmas is one of my favorite seasons. This week I’ve laughed with family around the table remembering old times (good and bad), old movies (good and bad), old haircuts (also good and bad). It is rare we all get together, but it is always fun to yuck it up when we can. Christmas gives us an excuse to get together, and that itself is a gift.

I pray that we will be people that laugh. I hope we laugh deeply the big belly laughs of people who know they are free. Martin Luther said, “You have as much laughter as you have faith,” and from the stories that are told about the way Luther lived, he was a man of large faith (and laughs). Those of us who take the Bible, sin, and salvation seriously sometimes seem to forget that the gospel of Jesus is “good news.”

Christmas should be a reminder that God is for us. He wants our good. One man has said that Jesus’ incarnation is God saying YES to the human race. He chose us. He wants us. He became one of us so that he could enjoy us forever.

God Made Us to Laugh

We are creatures designed by a Creator. He might have made us laughless creatures, but he chose to make us laugh. God made people with lungs that push air over vocal cords so that they can sound like Santa. Who taught you how to laugh? No one. Kids laugh without training. They laugh a lot, even when you want them to stop. No kindergarten has ever had a course on laughter to prepare kids for further laugh development. Face it, we were made to LOL (even if we don’t like the overused short-hand abbreviation).

Consider this: God made giraffes. That’s funny all by itself. He made the lady bug and the roly poly. The porcupine and the platypus. He made daffodils and daisies. He made the Alps to rise up and the water of Niagara to fall down. He made tiny turtles to peak out from their hiding place, and enormous elephants that could not find a place to hide. The moose: who can’t laugh at a moose with its overlong legs and awkward oversized horse head that seems to grin at you? I believe God wanted us to laugh with him and all the crazy things he created for us to enjoy.

God Laughs

In Isaiah 65:18-19, God says: “But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people…”

God’s Grace Gives Laughter

Let me give you two more passages that speak to God’s laughter. These are two of my favorite sections in all the Bible, and I think they will radically alter your life if you internalize the important truth they offer to us. I’ve bolded a few of the key statements. The first verses are from Zephaniah 3. I’d love to elaborate extensively on these, but for the sake of brevity, let me just say a couple of things. Can you imagine God himself rejoicing over you with gladness? Can you imagine God exulting over you with loud singing? This is not an unhappy crank of a grandpa disappointed in who you are and tolerating your presence in the house. No, this is a God that loves and laughs over his children. Read the verses for yourself, and ask, “Do I believe these verses to be true? Do I believe God could feel this way towards me?”

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

I can imagine no news that we need to hear more than this: God loves you, and laughs over you with great joy. If this sinks deep into your heart, it will revolutionize the way you view your life with God.

The second passage is from Luke 15. Jesus himself told this story to a group of religious types to show them how they were getting God all wrong. One of the messages Jesus made loud and clear is that our gracious God laughs uproariously when his children come home to him. Jesus leaves absolutely no doubt about it. His grace toward broken and sinful people should always lead to celebration of the most extravagant kind. Again, I’ve highlighted a few phrases to make sure you see them.

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ 

Jesus tells us what our God is like: A father running to greet his son, a giant bear hug, over-the-top gift giving, new clothes, custom jewelry, a perfectly prepared meal, music, dancing, and the loud laughter of loved ones celebrating together. Sounds like a perfect family Christmas to me. The older son missed out because he would not laugh with the Father’s grace. He was too proud for laughter. I pray we laugh freely at the grace of God.

As you celebrate this Christmas season, may you truly celebrate. May you laugh deep laughs at God’s grace and goodness toward you. God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. You can’t hear it enough. Never stop laughing at how good that news is.

5KeysPerseverance

“This is harder than I thought it would be.” We’ve all thought it at one time or another. Difficult tasks that require long seasons of effort can be exhausting. If we lose sight of the goal, we can face discouragement, depression or burnout. Many will veer off course before reaching the finish line. If we are going to persevere, we need to remember five keys to help us along the way.

Most great rewards demand long diligence before they can be seized. This is true in nearly every area of life. Family, work, sport, or cause: all require great patience and long toil before they yield results. In my current role, I am constantly reminding myself of these things and adjusting both my heart and my routine as needed. I hope you find these helpful as you engage in the battle to persevere.

1) PACE
As the saying goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself. 80 hour weeks don’t pay off in the long run. Get plenty of rest. For me, this means avoiding late night diversions that keep me from getting to bed on time. The Bible speaks of a time of sabbath rest, where we set everything aside for a day to recoup and refocus spiritually. When I say “set everything aside,” that likely includes cell phone, tablet and laptop. This is not easy, but God himself set this pattern of rest in order. In Genesis, after six days of creating, God rested from all the work he had done. And just in case you were wondering, God never tires. God did not need a siesta. No, this was an object lesson for our benefit. We need to incorporate this pattern into our weekly schedule. What 24 hour period per week have you marked on your calendar for sabbath rest? When I’m at my best, this rhythm of rest is a part of my routine.

2) PRIORITIZE
Ever sprinted through a week or two on a project and suddenly realized you’ve barely connected with Jesus or your spouse? Have you started calling your kids by the names of your co-workers? Not good. The busier you become, the more important it is to prioritize your schedule.

In college, I read an article called “The Tyranny of the Urgent” by Charles E. Hummel. I’ve never forgotten the simple distinction it made between the truly important things in life and the urgent tasks that clamor for our minutes, hours and days. Hummel writes:

We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that the impor­tant task rarely must be done today or even this week. Extra hours of prayer and Bible study, a visit with that non-Christian friend, careful study of an important book: these projects can wait. But the urgent tasks call for instant action—endless demands pressure every hour and day.

Like the busy, distracted priest in Jesus’ story of good Samaritan, we become so busy with the urgent tasks at hand that we often miss the truly important stuff. If we are to weave perseverance into our lives, we must prioritize the important stuff so that we thrive over the long haul.

3) PRAY
Trying to live as a Christian without prayer is like trying to live without air. You aren’t going to make it very far. Martin Luther famously said, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” Prayer confesses for us our dependence on God. Prayer sustains us during difficulties. Prayer provides strength to take the next step. Prayer humbles us in success, and prayer comforts us in failure. Prayer emboldens us to take risks. Prayer offers friendship with our most loyal companion. As we travel the road of life, prayer centers us on what, or who, is most important.

4) PLAY
Have some fun. Find a hobby. Play some golf. Go to a movie (by yourself). Go fishing. Build something. Shoot something (but not someone). Go to a concert. During a season of life transition, a wise woman said to my wife, “Stop doing so much, and go read some fiction.” Pastor Tommy Nelson used to tell us to”go get some rocky road, and be sure you get two scoops.” Do whatever it is that you do when you are having fun.

A counselor friend once gave me an assignment to carve out an undisturbed three hour block each week to do something I enjoyed. This was harder than I thought it would be. In my college years, three hours of play would have been cutting back, but at this stage of life finding three free hours in a week meant saying a firm “no” to other things. For some, this may feel impossible or even selfish, but I’m learning that self-care is critical to staying power. Play promotes perseverance.

5) PLOW
This last key will require a little more explanation, but I am currently finding this to be incredibly helpful. In a letter to a younger leader, the Apostle Paul wrote:

It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Let me shoot straight with you: I’m a city boy, not a farmer. But I have been thinking lots about what Paul said, so I’m going to offer a few thoughts about it anyway. Farming itself is an act of faith. A farmer works long hours for a long period of time before he reaps any benefits from his labor. He shows up day after day and puts in a good day’s work trusting that it will all eventually produce an abundant crop. This requires a unique combination of diligence and patience.

There are two things I will point out about the farmer. First, stuff grows when it grows, and the farmer must trust his crops to appear when the timing is right. Second, there is nothing he can do to speed up the process. Working harder or faster or longer will not change the rate of growth.

What’s the point for us? When I remind myself to “plow,” it is a reminder to work hard and to trust the growth process, no matter how long and slow it seems. Show up like a farmer and do work, and then put your head on the pillow at night trusting something good will eventually grow. When I start to get overwhelmed with all that I have to get done, I find myself saying out loud “just plow the field today.” I can’t control the outcome, so I try to “do a good days work and leave the results to God.” Perseverance requires that we balance diligence with patience.

CONCLUSION

It is said that “in comedy, timing is everything.” The same is true of perseverance. Reminding yourself of these things before you are at the end of your rope makes all the difference. Otherwise, you will learn a life lesson the hard way. The athlete who becomes dehydrated during the match will find it impossible to rehydrate until after the game is over.

Personally, I am learning that the more my responsibilities expand, the more I must narrow my focus on these key areas. For me, these are not annual check-ins. They are daily and weekly reminders that help me persevere as I fight to fulfill my calling.

If you practice these five keys — pace, prioritize, pray, play, and plow, you will be more likely to persevere in the days ahead.

Which of the five keys grabs your attention? Which of the five keys do you find most difficult? Would you add anything to this list? What is your favorite quote about perseverance?

-jdl

NOTE: This is a modified, expanded post taken from an earlier piece that focused on my city. When the response to the first piece was so positive, I realized I had made a mistake in not broadening the article for a wider audience. So, I’ve tried to do that here.

iStock_000025083337LargeI heard it again. This time from a pastor who recently commented (not to me) that we don’t need any more church plants in Oklahoma City because we have lots of great churches here. This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this claim, and it won’t be the last. It’s a good reminder to me that we have to continually cast the vision for why new churches are needed in the Bible Belt.

The pastor’s statement reveals both a general lack of understanding of the church planting movement and a specific lack of awareness of the changes taking place in many cities. For years, people have referred to a certain grouping of American states, where church influence remained strong, as the Bible Belt. Some have wrongly assumed this region would not shift, but the data says that change is on the horizon. If Christ’s church is to rise and be all she’s designed to be for the next generation, we need as many churches, pastors and people engaged in the planting of new churches as possible.

I’m convinced that Manhattan pastor, Tim Keller, will go down as one of the most influential church leaders in our generation. His take on church planting? Keller writes:

“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else–not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes–will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow raising statement. But to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.”

[If you read just one article on church planting, read Why Plant Churches, by Tim Keller for more on his reasoning.]

As I continue to explain to others the heart of church planting, here are some ideas I’ve found to be helpful in those conversations.

EVERY CHURCH WAS ONCE A CHURCH PLANT
I think this is an important acknowledgement to demystify the concept of church planting. What about the church where you grew up? Yes, it was once a church plant. The church you now attend? Yep, church plant. The church led by the pastor who made the comment above was also a church plant, and I imagine that someone at the time didn’t think it was needed. Yet the years have shown how much that church was needed, and it has been a tremendous blessing to our city. We need more biblical, healthy, gospel-centered, people-loving churches, not less. Biblical mandate and practical experience both point to church planting as the primary way that Christ’s kingdom advances.

WE NEED TO ADD A MEGACHURCH PER MONTH
Bible Belt cities mirror the rapid growth trends of major cities around the globe. A recent Guardian newspaper article in Great Britain states, “According to the United Nations, almost 180,000 people move into cities across the world every day. That is nearly 5.5 million people a month, or a new San Francisco Bay Area being created every 30 days.” [1] It seems ludicrous to think that our current slate of churches are poised and ready to minister to the 180,000 people per day moving into our cities.

While the global stats are overhwhelming, the cities of America’s Bible Belt are experiencing similar shifts that are the localized versions of these global trends. These changes impact rural and mid-sized towns as well as large urban centers, and the church will have to adjust to meet the needs of each of these communities. Let me offer a couple of examples of shifts in Bible Belt cities.

A recent Oklahoman article (OKC’s rise in population ranking reflects job growth) claims the OKC metro area is growing by 1729 people per month. Yes…per month. With rapid urbanization in our world and a healthy economic outlook, projections say OKC will continue to griStock_000002169697Mediumow at a rapid clip. How will the church keep up with population growth? Numerically, we need to add nearly a new megachurch per month just to keep up with all the new people moving into the area. Add into the equation the vast numbers of people already here who do not know Jesus, and you start to get a sense of the burden we should feel for planting new churches.

I first heard this phrase, “add a megachurch a month,” from Bruce Wesley, lead pastor of Clear Creek Community Church, a church of 5,000+ which just celebrated it’s 20 year anniversary (obviously, a well established church). His region, the Houston area, is growing by about 2500 per month, so Bruce and Clear Creek Community Church are seeking to be a part of a church planting movement that continually sees new churches launched in order to meet the needs of gospel proclamation in this huge metroplex. We need more pastors of established churches with eyes to see the needs of their city and a gospel-compelled passion to launch new churches.

NEW CHURCHES ARE THE BEST WAY TO REACH UNCHURCHED PEOPLE
I said this in an earlier post, but it is worth repeating. Studies reveal that the average new church gains 60-80% of its members from unchurched people. Churches that have existed 10-15 years or more gain 80-90% from people who transfer from one congregation to another. [2]

Because I am planting in Oklahoma City, I have more info on my city than others, but I believe other Bible Belt cities would yield similar results (if you have valid stats on your city, I’d love it if you would post them in the comments below). Statistics vary, but my best estimate based on reports I’ve seen is that there are more than 800,000 people already in the OKC metro area who do not regularly attend church. I’m not happy about that. If we want to reach these people for Jesus, the evidence says church planting is the best way to do so.

I’m not against existing churches. I’ve been doing ministry for nearly twenty years, almost all of that time has been invested in existing churches that ranged from 50 people to 4500 people. I love those churches. In addition to that, let me state the obvious: our new church will become an existing church in a just few years. We will still have the same mission that we have now, but our ministry will work itself out in different ways during those years. There will be things we do better then. And there will be things we likely won’t do as well. Each church needs to enjoy and maximize the season that they are in. Our city needs both of us.

THE “BIBLE BELT” IS LOOSENING
For the first time in 200 years, Bible Belt states have seen a decline in the percentage of people attending church. This doesn’t mean we need to panic, but it does argue against the idea that we only need new churches in other parts of our country and/or world.

A friend of mine pastors a church in an area where the church has been greatly marginalized. In a recent conversation, he mentioned to me that only 11% of the people in his area go to church. He and I both agree that new churches are needed in his city. But it does not follow that towns where 22% of the people attend church do not need new churches. That’s just not a reasonable assumption. Both places need new churches. A hungry person who only had one meal in ten needs nourishment, but so does a hungry person who eats two meals out of ten. Both need to be fed.

We need a multitude of churches planting churches. One of Redemption Church’s foundational commitments is to be a multiplying church. We are committed to multiplying disciples of Jesus, multiplying discipleship groups, and multiplying churches. Our prayer is that we always remain more focused on growing Jesus’ Kingdom than growing a church.

One of my prayers for my city (and the other cities around the world) is that the Holy Spirit would create a movement of Bible preaching, Jesus exalting, self-sacrificing churches who commit to training, resourcing, and empowering new leaders to plant churches all around our city, state, region and world. We don’t just want to plant a church, we want to join a movement of churches who continually plant churches for the glory of God and for the good of our world.

What do you think? Are you surprised by any of the data or information above? Is God stirring your heart to join, financially support, or pray for a church plant? Love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

-jdl

[1] This quote was taken from an excellent book, Why Cities Matter: To God, the Culture, and the Church. If you want more statistics and more clarity on this topic, I’d encourage you to pick it up.

[2] Taken from Why Plant Churches, by Tim Keller

iStock_000025083337LargeI heard it again. This time from a pastor who recently commented (not to me) that we don’t need any more church plants in Oklahoma City because we have lots of great churches here. This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this claim, and it won’t be the last. It’s a good reminder to me that we have to continually cast the vision for why new churches are needed.

The pastor’s statement reveals both a general lack of understanding of the church planting movement and a specific lack of awareness of the changes taking place in Oklahoma City. If Christ’s church is to rise and be all she’s designed to be for the next generation, we need as many churches, pastors and people engaged in the planting of new churches as possible.

I’m convinced that Manhattan pastor, Tim Keller, will go down as one of the most influential church leaders in our generation. His take on church planting? Keller writes:

“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else–not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes–will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow raising statement. But to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.”

[If you read just one article on church planting, read Why Plant Churches, by Tim Keller for more on his reasoning.]

As I continue to explain to others the heart of church planting, here are some ideas I’ve found to be helpful in those conversations.

EVERY CHURCH WAS ONCE A CHURCH PLANT
I think this is an important acknowledgement to demystify the concept of church planting. What about the church where you grew up? Yes, it was once a church plant. The church you now attend? Yep, church plant. The church led by the pastor who made the comment above was also a church plant, and I imagine that someone at the time didn’t think it was needed. Yet the years have shown how much that church was needed, and it has been a tremendous blessing to our city. We need more biblical, healthy, gospel-centered, people-loving churches, not less. Biblical mandate and practical experience both point to church planting as the primary way that Christ’s kingdom advances.

WE NEED TO ADD A MEGACHURCH PER MONTH
A recent Oklahoman article (OKC’s rise in population ranking reflects job growth) claims the OKC metro area is growing by 1729 people per month. Yes…per month. With rapid urbanization in our world and a healthy economic outlook, projections say OKC will continue to griStock_000002169697Mediumow at a rapid clip. How will the church keep up with population growth? Numerically, we need to add nearly a new megachurch per month just to keep up with all the new people moving into the area. Add into the equation the vast numbers of people already here who do not know Jesus, and you start to get a sense of the burden we should feel for planting new churches.

I first heard this phrase, “add a megachurch a month,” from Bruce Wesley, lead pastor of Clear Creek Community Church, a church of 5,000+ which just celebrated it’s 20 year anniversary (obviously, a well established church). His region, the Houston area, is growing by about 2500 per month, so Bruce and Clear Creek Community Church are seeking to be a part of a church planting movement that continually sees new churches launched in order to meet the needs of gospel proclamation in this huge metroplex. We need more pastors of established churches with eyes to see the needs of their city and a gospel-compelled passion to launch new churches.

NEW CHURCHES ARE THE BEST WAY TO REACH UNCHURCHED PEOPLE
I said this in an earlier post, but it is worth repeating. Studies reveal that the average new church gains 60-80% of its members from unchurched people. Churches that have existed 10-15 years or more gain 80-90% from people who transfer from one congregation to another.*

Statistics vary, but my best estimate based on reports I’ve seen is that there are more than 800,000 people already in the OKC metro area who do not regularly attend church. I’m not happy about that. If we want to reach these people for Jesus, the evidence says church planting is the best way to do so.

I’m not against existing churches. I’ve been doing ministry for nearly twenty years, almost all of that time has been invested in existing churches that ranged from 50 people to 4500 people. I love those churches. In addition to that, let me state the obvious: our new church will become an existing church in a just few years. We will still have the same mission that we have now, but our ministry will work itself out in different ways during those years. There will be things we do better then. And there will be things we likely won’t do as well. Each church needs to enjoy and maximize the season that they are in. Our city needs both of us.

THE “BIBLE BELT” IS LOOSENING
For years, people have referred to a certain grouping of American states, where church influence remained strong, as the Bible Belt. For the first time in 200 years, those states have seen a decline in the percentage of people attending church. This doesn’t mean we need to panic, but it does argue against the idea that we only need new churches in other parts of our country and/or world.

A friend of mine pastors a church in an area where the church has been greatly marginalized. In a recent conversation, he mentioned to me that only 11% of the people in his area go to church. He and I both agree that new churches are needed in his city. But it does not follow that towns where 22% of the people attend church do not need new churches. That’s just not a reasonable assumption. Both places need new churches. A hungry person who only had one meal in ten needs nourishment, but so does a hungry person who eats two meals out of ten. Both need to be fed.

We need a multitude of churches planting churches. One of Redemption Church’s foundational commitments is to be a multiplying church. We are committed to multiplying disciples of Jesus, multiplying discipleship groups, and multiplying churches. Our prayer is that we always remain more focused on growing Jesus’ Kingdom than growing a church.

One of my prayers for Oklahoma City (and other cities) is that the Holy Spirit would create a movement of Bible preaching, Jesus exalting, self-sacrificing churches who commit to training, resourcing, and empowering new leaders to plant churches all around our city, state, region and world. We don’t just want to plant a church, we want to join a movement of churches who continually plant churches for the glory of God and for the good of our world.

What do you think? Are you surprised by any of the data or information above? Is God stirring your heart to join, financially support, or pray for a church plant? Love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

-jdl

*Taken from Why Plant Churches, by Tim Keller

This video made me hit the pause button on my day. I’ll admit I had to fight back tears. Not much needs to be said. Just watch and consider:

  1. Everyone has a story. When we enter into others’ stories, we connect with their humanity and remember our common Creator.
  2. Use your gifts for good. God has given you talents, training, and experiences so that you can serve and do good in the world. Find the good you were made to do.
  3. Imagine the beauty that God sees. If a talented artist like Rick Guidotti has eyes to see such beauty in the midst of struggle, can you imagine the beauty that God sees in the ones that he himself created?
  4. One day, God will make all things new. May we love and serve others, especially the marginalized, until that day. Come, Lord Jesus.

FashionPhotoGeneticCond

What stood out to you as you watched the video? Did you find the story as moving as I did? If you or someone you love deals with one of the conditions mentioned in the video, I’d love to hear your honest thoughts on this.

-jdl

*Sorry I had to link to an external site; apparently, wordpress can’t embed NBC video player. It’s worth the trouble.

Nineteen years ago today, I married my college sweetheart. When we wed, we had dated for most of three years. I say “most of” because she occasionally got the jitters, but we worked that out (and the making up was always fun). Love grew deep roots in our hearts, and I tired of driving her home at night. She was a beautiful woman who loved Jesus, served others, liked to laugh, and challenged me more than anyone I had known. She still is.

I looked through some old pictures this morning, and I laughed when I saw this one. We are holding on for dear life, like the winds are going to blow us off the mountain if we let go of one another. Through nineteen years, our life journey has led us over beautiful mountaintops and through dark valleys. We have soaked up the sun and laughed some days away. We have weathered the winds and storms when they have come. Through it all, we still hold on to one another for dear life. I think that’s how marriage should be. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

JeffandNan_Wyoming1992Taken near Sheridan, Wyoming, where I served as a student minister during two college summers.

plant growI wanted to post some important ideas related to the new church that we are launching in Edmond / OKC, Oklahoma. God is doing some incredibly exciting things with Redemption Church, and I can’t wait to see what God does in the years ahead. Some posts are more personal in nature, but this one is intended to give you some of our reasoning behind starting a new church. I hope it gives you some understanding of how important church planting is to the mission of God. Every church was once a church plant, and I’m convinced that every biblical church should be involved in planting new churches.

Much of the information in this post is summarized and modified from Tim Keller’s influential article, “Why Plant Churches?“, which I highly recommend. The article significantly shaped my thinking about church planting.

A Personal Passion: With about 20 years in ministry, I’ve fallen in love with the excitement, the possibility, and the challenge of starting a new church. As important as that is for me personally, it is more important that I’ve become convinced that the continual planting of new churches is the way that the kingdom of God will grow its influence in our world. The church thrives when she is a multiplying organization. Disciples making disciples and churches planting churches is not only the best way forward–it is the only way forward.

RC-Logo_VertA Biblical Mandate: We are responding to the biblical mandate to plant new churches. When Jesus sent his followers into the world to “make disciples” and “baptize” and “teach,” he was essentially calling them to evangelize, incorporate new believers into churches, and help them grow as authentic disciples of Jesus.

A Common Objection: Well, I’m sure that made sense in the church’s beginning years, but why do we need to plant a new church today in a place where lots of churches exist already?

Top Ten Reasons to Plant New Churches

  1. New churches are the best way to reach the unchurched. Study after study reveals that the average new church gains 60-80% of its members from unchurched people. Churches that have existed 10-15 years or more gain 80-90% from people who transfer from one congregation to another.
  2. New churches are the best way to reach new generations. Younger generations are disproportionately found in new churches, primarily because older congregations settle into routines that suit their existing members.
  3. New churches are the best way to reach new residents. In a new church, new residents are on equal footing with people who have been around a long time.
  4. New churches are the best way to reach new socio-cultural groups in an area. New churches are much more nimble and able to make cultural adjustments that existing churches would take years to make.
  5. New churches are the best way to reach the dechurched (those that once attended church, but no longer have any interest in church). Because they often feel “outside the box” and incorporate new styles, new churches tend to break down barriers for people who have been previously turned off by church.
  6. New churches are the best way to bring new ideas that renew the entire Body of Christ. These ideas help to breathe new life into existing churches and bring about renewal throughout the area.
  7. New churches are the best way to raise creative, strong leaders for the kingdom. New churches value pioneers, creatives, and innovation, and they create space for new leaders to emerge and bless a city.
  8. New churches remind us to build Jesus’ Kingdom and not our own kingdoms. Churches tend to institutionalize and can become focused on maintaining their own ministries. Church planting renews our heart for the lost and for the mission of building God’s Kingdom.
  9. New churches are the best way to challenge existing churches. Seeing a new church engaged in gospel mission may push an existing church to self-examination so that it changes its heart and improves its ministry.
  10. New churches breathe new life and people into existing churches. Some who start out in a new church will discover they are more comfortable in an existing congregation.

[Summarized and modified from Tim Keller, “Why Plant Churches?” at redeemer.com]

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What surprises you as you read this post? What most resonates with you? Would you be interesting in helping to plant a church? Leave a comment below.

-jdl

As I talk to people around the United States about the new church we are launching for the Oklahoma City area, it has been fun to tell them about the exciting changes that have taken place in OKC in recent years. When I saw this video recently, I thought it captured some of the excitement, growth, and transformation that’s been taking place. It is a city I am proud to call my home.

I was also reminded of the privilege and the opportunity we have before us.  An influential city throughout this region and increasingly throughout the Western US, we believe this is an important and strategic city to reach. A great place to live, work and study, the OKC area is also a broken place filled with people that are seeking pleasure, fulfillment, success, security and identity in life apart from the God that created them. Hundreds of thousands of people here do not know Jesus.

As you watch, I hope it will stir your heart with excitement for Redemption Church and cause you to pray for our work. This is our mission field. I love this city.

-jdl

traveling

AMNOTE: This post originally appeared at authenticmanhood.com. I have contributed to their men’s curriculum called 33 The Series. If you aren’t familiar with 33, I hope you will check it out at 33series.com. If you want a discount code, email me at jeff@redemptionokc.com. By way of transparency, I get a small cut if you use my discount code when you purchase the curriculum, but I’d promote it even if I didn’t.

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Most of us struggle to find the balance between work and home. We feel like we are stuck in the middle of a tug-of-war between the office and the house, and we can only win at one or the other. Many live with a constant low-grade guilt about the lack of time with their kids. This struggle seems especially strong for those that travel.

Iʼm not a normal business traveler. In fact, my routine typically keeps me busy but close to home. Over the last few months, Iʼve found myself in a pattern of traveling every other week. This new rhythm of life has got me thinking. What does it mean to reject passivity and accept responsibility as a father who is on the road?

First, know this: your work matters. We often overlook the spiritual value of hard work, but we are called to provide for our families, to make a positive contribution to the world, to honor God by doing our jobs well. Just donʼt allow work to matter too much. When your job consistently limits your investment with your children, it might be time to recalibrate.

Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” With that in mind, I hope you will consider this post more of a digital roundtable on this topic. These are ideas Iʼve had. Iʼve tried some of them. Iʼve failed to try some of them. Some of you have traveled with greater regularity, and you will have even better ideas. I would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Seven ideas for fathers who travel…

    1. Prioritize focused time with your kid(s). Wise men proactively organize their schedules around what is most important. They fight the temptation to live under the “tyranny of the urgent,” refusing to allow pressing matters to crowd out the most important things. So, prioritize an hour with your kids before or after a trip. Shoot some hoops or take your kid(s) to breakfast on days before you leave town.
    2. Manage the transitions well – For some, this is difficult. My natural tendency is to procrastinate with making my travel plans, but Iʼve found that it is critical to plan and organize my departure and return so that things are not crazy and stressful (for me or for my family). When these times are frantic, it multiplies the impact of being gone.
    3. Write a note to be opened while you are gone. I know, I know. Some of you donʼt think you are a “writer,” but it doesnʼt have to be that hard. Think of one thing that your kid does well, and let him or her know how proud you are. Think of the unique way that God has made your child. Is your kid thoughtful or hilarious or competitive or caring? Highlight one attribute you see in them. Say I love you. Donʼt be afraid to share your heart. Let them know you are happy that God put them in your life.
    4. Find an app or internet game to play. With so many apps and games available, find one that you can play. My 10 year old and I played Words with Friends for a few weeks. He could take his turn after school, and I could take my turn at night so that it was his turn again the next day. Iʼm guessing there are other apps that would allow for these easy touch points to stay connected.
    5. Facetime, skype or call. This seems easy, but Iʼve found it more difficult than I thought. When my kids are available to talk during the afternoon, Iʼm usually pounding away at work or in meetings. When Iʼm available to talk during the evening, my kids are usually in the middle of the dinner, bath, bedtime routine. If itʼs too late, I can hardly get them to answer two questions. I tend to get batter responses if I can sneak in a call before dinner time.
    6. Record a video reading your childʼs favorite book – If your child is small, itʼs hard to beat reading books at bedtime. With phones, Ipads and computers having built-in video devices, itʼs never been easier to record a video. Take five minutes one evening before you leave and record a video of yourself reading his or her favorite book. Your spouse can play it for your child while you are out of town.
    7. Guard your weekends – When you are regularly on the road, you need to especially guard your calendar on the days when you are home. As much as possible, try not to let loose ends linger around on your projects so that they demand your attention later. Discipline yourself to work hard on the road so that you can be fully present when you are home. Donʼt just be home; be engaged at home.

It can be difficult to balance family and work when you are on the road. It will require intentionality. Hopefully, something here got you thinking about your role as a traveling father. Maybe it sparked an idea for you. Iʼd love to read your thoughts.

Any ideas you would share with us? What has worked well for you? What do you find difficult? How do you manage to balance family with life on the road?

Share your ideas in the comment section below.

-jdl

Every now and then I run across something that so hilariously or so painfully illustrates a larger problem that I have to share it. Sometimes, it is both hilarious and painful. Give this two minutes of your time, and I guarantee that you will laugh, and you’ll probably watch it again to make sure it wasn’t a joke. Then, somewhere along the way, you’ll be a little bothered by the tragicomedy of it all.

Only in Texas, right? Kind of reminds you of the verse from scripture that says, “Without elegance, it is impossible to please God.” (If you are looking for this in your Bible, you are going to be looking for a really, really long time).

Leslie, from Big, Rich Texas says, “It is appropriate to have a baptism anywhere. You can actually have it in a church…I prefer a beautiful swimming pool. It’s a little bit more controlled and it’s a little bit cleaner.”

Isn’t that how we’d all like our spirituality–a little bit more controlled, and a little bit cleaner?

You know, a clean place like the manger that welcomed the infant Jesus to the world. Or, a little bit more controlled like the cross where Jesus’ battered, bruised, bloody body bid the world goodbye (or at least “see ya later”). No, there was very little elegance in Jesus’ life, but his life was more glorious than the grandest of parties.

This video is a reminder how easily we can veer off course. Sure, few (if any) of us would throw a $10,000 baptism celebration that completely misses the point, but we are not immune to the temptation to embrace the trappings of Christianity without engaging Christ.

This is perhaps rarely more true than at Christmastime. We go to church without seeking Christ. We sing songs about Jesus without being awed by him. We decorate our homes with heart-warming reminders of the Baby Jesus, but we are not heart-broken over our sin that begged for the Savior to come. We throw office parties in Jesus’ name but never mention him to our co-workers. We too play religious games.

This is what makes Christmas so amazing. God came. In a manger. For people like us.

He didn’t hide until we became like him. He left heaven for us.

He didn’t wait for us to clean up the mess. He entered the mess for us.

He didn’t expect us to become righteous. He offered his righteousness for us.

He didn’t hold our brokenness against us. He was broken for us.

He didn’t hope that we would conquer death. He beat death for us.

Immanuel. God with us. God for us. In spite of us, yet also because of us. Jesus in our place.

The Bible says nothing about our need for elegance, but it says a lot about our need for faith: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6).

My prayer for you this Christmas:

May you believe in Jesus. May you rejoice in the God who took on flesh for your sake. May you leap at the thought that the perfect Savior gave his all for imperfect you. May you rest in the reality that he forgives sins–all of them. May you laugh like a child fully accepted and adopted by a forever Father. May you celebrate Christ, our Rescuer and King.

-jdl