Archives For Church Planting

I recently posted at the For the Church site. I’m including the beginning of the post below with a link to the full article.

.          .          .          .          .

notoverloooked

I was struck the other day by the uniquely odd situation of the almost-an-apostle Joseph (Barsabbas), who missed out on being one of the twelve set apart as apostles of Jesus because of a roll of the dice. We read his story in Acts 1. The resurrected Jesus has told his disciples to wait on the Spirit’s arrival. They were gathered to pray, and they decided it was time to replace the traitor Judas, who had literally spilled his guts over his betrayal. So, his position was up for grabs.

It was kind of like when someone leaves their job, and everyone wants to fight over their office because it has a window. But this was a lot more important. In Acts, the disciples set the criteria for who would be chosen, and they land on two possible candidates: Joseph and Matthias. They cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias. This, of course, had to be a downer to Joseph.

Sure, you can play the hyper-spiritual game if you want, and say something like, “It wouldn’t really have mattered to me as long as the mission of Jesus was advanced.” And of course, that would be partially true. But let’s be honest—a part of you would have been disappointed. Part of you would have wanted to argue for a “best two out of three” lot cast rather than a single cast. You might have made a case that there should be thirteen apostles instead of twelve so that you could be the deciding vote in a tie. Imagine Joseph explaining that one to his family years later when his grandkids say, “Pops, tell us again about the time you almost got to be an apostle.”

I joke, of course, but I also know that many pastors feel overlooked, especially early in ministry…

.          .          .          .          .

Read the full article at http://ftc.co/resource-library/blog-entries/you-have-not-been-overlooked

-jdl

I recently posted at For the Church, a new site that exists to engage, encourage, and equip the Church with gospel-centered resources that are pastoral, practical, and devotional. I am a regular contributor to the site, and I will try to post links here whenever I post something there. I’m including the beginning of the post below with a link to the full article.

.          .          .          .          .

planteractage

CHURCH PLANTER, ACT YOUR AGE

Given the title, you probably expect this post to scold the young, brash church planter, telling them it’s time to grow up. This post is nothing like that. (As a side note, I don’t find this stereotype of church planters to be accurate in my experience, but that’s another topic.) This post is about something entirely different—it’s less “grow up” and more “slow down.”

In our church plant, we are constantly reminding ourselves to “act our age.” We are an infant church, about one year into our existence. We are just entering the toddler season. Toddlers trying to act like adults look pretty silly. Toddlers have different needs than adults, and we recognize that young churches have different needs than established churches. So, we try to enjoy the stage we are in, trusting that the developmental progress of our church body is what it needs to be in this life-stage.

The Temptation of the Fast-Forward Button

One of the temptations church planters face is pretending the church is further along than it is…

.          .          .          .          .

Read the full article at http://ftc.co/resource-library/blog-entries/church-planter-act-your-age

-jdl

 

 

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

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

A DREAM OF A TEAM

October 23, 2012 — 8 Comments

As I am planting a new church, I pray a lot for our future staff. I pray for humble, high-capacity leaders. I pray for the Spirit-led culture that we want to create. I pray for God’s protection and providence. I pray for the men and women who will invest their lives to help Redemption Church honor Jesus and reach many with the gospel.

Last week, I spent four days on a staff retreat with The Village Church. Many are familiar with The Village because of Pastor Matt Chandler (cancer fighter, preacher, author). The Village is one of the partner churches in my church plant residency with Fellowship Associates. We were graciously invited to be a part of their staff retreat with the goal of learning about building a healthy staff culture.

I don’t have a lot of time to fully process this post, but I wanted to throw a few observations down while they were fresh on my mind after being with The Village staff this week. I want to give you a sense of the things we are processing in the residency, and I want to give you a glimpse of my heart for our church. It was good for my soul to see God at work in this group, and it was a good reminder that it’s worth fighting for the gospel to be lived out in authentic community.

Ten Observations on a Healthy Church Staff

  1. A Staff that Loves Jesus – On the retreat, a real love for Jesus was on display through the worship, conversations, preaching, prayers, testimonies. Forgiven sinners love Jesus.
  2. A Staff that Worships Passionately – I loved the extended times of singing and worshiping Jesus. The emphasis on extolling the person of Jesus is central and carries throughout the staff. It was great to see staff from a church of 10,000 worshipping passionately in a room with 100.
  3. A Staff that Laughs – The Village staff laughs. A lot. At jokes. At one another. At old stories from past retreats. They are committed to having fun. It shows up in the way they schedule their time, play games, share meals.
  4. A Staff that Encourages – I have seen real encouragement, both through one on one conversations and in large group settings. This is a group that wants to spur one another on through words of affirmation and encouragement, which is a practical outworking of “love one another.” The ability to speak the truth into one another’s lives is a powerful tool to edify the church. They give healthy honor to those that God leads them to honor.
  5. A Staff that Generously Gives – The fact that they are on a four day retreat says a lot, but they also play games every day at lunch and give away gift cards–with real amounts of money on them. I’ve had Christmas “bonuses” that amounted to less than the gift card I got for painfully singing “She’s Lost that Loving Feeling” with a group of guys (and it was as painful for me as for everyone that had to listen). One pattern I see over and over is that a church that is generous with their staff is generous toward others. Churches are either generous or they are not–it’s a heart thing.
  6. A Staff that is Kingdom-minded – The staff was publicly encouraged to follow God’s leading, even if it means leaving the Village to plant a church or join another work. They made a real investment in our church planting residents, both in terms of finances, wisdom, and time. It doesn’t surprise me that churches whom God seems to be blessing in terms of conversions and growth are also the most generous with their people and resources. These two are linked: a dependence on God’s work among us to save people and build his church, and a freedom with God’s blessing and resources for the sake of the kingdom.
  7. A Staff that Prays – I appreciate the time spent in praying for one another, praying for those with specific needs, praying for those with sin struggles or faith struggles, praying for families. Gospel dependence produces prayerfulness.
  8. A Staff that is Not Perfect – There is a willingness to embrace the imperfection and messiness of their lives. Not just in a theoretical way, but in real and honest ways. They let their sins be real (see Martin Luther) so that forgiveness is real. This freedom comes from sincere faith in the gospel. Leaders cannot possibly shepherd an entire church toward repentance if they are not authentically repenting themselves. The path to spiritual growth/renewal is always repent and believe.
  9. A Staff that Loves One Another – As a staff, relational connection must be fostered. They intentionally invest time together. On the retreat, every person from every department in the church was invited, including both ministers and support staff. They committed an entire work week to being together as a team apart from any “ministry” activity. They also do this for a 1/2 day each month. They work hard, but they also take time to rest and to connect. They are committed to sharing their redemption stories with one another, moving beyond life circumstances to talk about heart shaping events. They don’t hide the rough stuff, and they receive one another in love.
  10. A Staff that Remembers a Shared History – On the retreat, the staff took time to remember past retreats, recall people and events, reflect on how God had worked in the past. I believe it is important to remember this shared history and to celebrate God’s sovereign hand in the life of the church. God weaves many lives and stories together in a local church, and they make something more beautiful together than they could in isolation. Three benefits I see to remembrance: orienting new people to your culture, stepping back to see the big picture of God’s past work, building hope and expectation of God’s future work among the church.

As I mentioned before, this is not a fully developed summary. These are simply my first thoughts typed up quickly on the day after the retreat. I’ll reflect on these things in the days ahead.

I’m sure I’ll add or tweak things along the way, but if these things come to pass in the life of Redemption Church, I will have a full and grateful heart for God’s work among us.

As you reflect on your church staff, what are they doing really well that you could share with us? If you are not on staff of a church, what is one way you could bless and encourage the staff at your church? If you serve on a church staff, what is one practical thing you could do to become a healthier staff team this year?

-jdl

For the past 20 years, I’ve sought to help people discover what it means to live for Jesus. The mission of Jesus has allowed me the privilege of connecting with many great people in many great places, and we want to let you know what’s next for the Lawrence family.

In God’s grace, we are planting a new church in the great state of Oklahoma! While details are still to be determined, we will locate in the Edmond / Oklahoma City area. Having grown up in Edmond, this is a return to a place I love dearly. With family and friends in the area, Nan and our kids are very excited about the move. We can’t wait to be there!

Oklahoma City is a great city with thriving churches. We are humbled to join that movement of God, doing what we can to help many people in the area experience life and hope in Christ.

Every life tells a story, and each of us need to encounter God in a way that rescues our story, restores our soul, and relaunches us to live for Jesus. I believe many people long for a authentic connection with Jesus and the life he dreams for us. We can’t wait to see who God brings to our community to walk with us in this journey.

We hope that many of you will jump in with us to help make this dream a reality. Like any start-up venture, we need to raise a significant amount of money in the initial stages of our launch. Would you be willing to partner with us?

I’ve included a description of ways you can help below, as well as links to our partner organizations who oversee our ministry and finances. We would love to meet with you to tell you more about the vision God is calling us to accomplish.

If you subscribe to my blog, I’ll send you updates so that you can stay engaged with our journey.

We can’t wait to see what God has in store for us all,
Jeff, Nan, Mike, Luke, Jake and Kate

          ✮          ✮          ✮          ✮

4 WAYS YOU CAN HELP

PRAY
Please pray: (1) our house to sell in Chapel Hill, NC, (2) a smooth transition for our family, (3) a fantastic ministry team to come together, (4) hundreds of financial partners who catch the vision, (5) God’s glory to be made known every step of the way.

GIVE
We are trying to raise three years worth of salaries and ministry budget so that we can do the hard work of missionaries. Please consider supporting us monthly for one to three years, or supporting us with a one-time gift.

GIVING OPTIONS: Go to http://redemptionokc.com/give/

JOIN
We believe that God will lead many who already live in Oklahoma to join our new movement, and we also believe that he may prompt some people to move to Oklahoma to join us as missionaries on the ground. If this is you, email me at jeffd.lawrence@gmail.com.

SPREAD THE WORD
Do you know anyone who would be interested in our work? We would like to make as many connections as possible with pastors, Christians and non-Christians, so please let us know if you think of someone who would enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal with us. Also, please share this news with your friends and followers via Facebook, Twitter, Email, and more.

          ✮          ✮          ✮          ✮

OUR PARTNERS:

FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATES
We are partnering with Fellowship Associates as I join their Church Planting Residency Program in August. This will provide us with great coaches and partners from fantastic churches like Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock, The Village Church, The Austin Stone Community Church, Fellowship Church of Memphis, and Fellowship Church of Denver. Fellowship Associates will also oversee our finances.

ACTS 29
We are partnering with the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. Part of our dream is to be a church planting church. By this I mean that we are committed to helping other new churches get started in the future. Acts 29 provides church planters with training, resources and a network of gospel-centered, missional churches across denominational lines.

-jdl

If your life is like mine, the Easter season is very busy. Our days are consumed by an all-hands-on-deck time of planning special worship services and additional outreach efforts. You stack this on top of the probable heavy load of family responsibilities, counseling needs, leadership issues and other burdens that are typical for pastors. This is Superbowl week for churches, and we want to make the most of our opportunity. I don’t know of any pastor that is spending this week melting into the sofa watching lacrosse on ESPN12, playing Angry Birds and downing multiple bags of 1st Degree Burn Blazin Jalapeno Flavored Doritos.

As busy as we are, we need to remember, especially at Easter, that we have a holy calling for which we need holy preparation. It is easy to devote more energy to preparing song lists and sermon slides than we devote to preparing our souls. But before we can pour ourselves out in service, we must fill ourselves up with the love of God.

I find a good reminder of both our call and our preparation in the short letter of Jude.

The pastors’ call (what a daunting task!): “have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy w/ fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude vs22-23).

The pastors’ preparation (what a blessed provision!): “build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude vs20-21).

We need both. To enjoy the benefits of holy preparation w/out faithfulness to your holy calling is selfishness. To attempt your holy calling without holy preparation is foolishness. You cannot have one without the other.

So, I’m preparing my soul for Easter. In the hurried days, I’m trying to be still at different times throughout the day to preach to myself, or just to let the beauty of Jesus death and resurrection sink a little deeper into my heart. And I’m trying to find one elongated time of silence and prayer so that I can feel the pain of the bloody cross and experience the joy of the empty tomb.

As I walk into the greatest event of the year, here is my prayer: may I feel the passion and weight of holy calling more fully than ever before, and may I experience the blessing and encouragement of holy preparation more deeply than I imagined possible. I need both.

Pastor, do you feel like you get lost in all the planning for Easter? What do you do to help nourish your soul in this season?

-jdl