Archives For Church Planting

Several weeks ago, I posted about a video I had seen detailing the violence that many Christians are experiencing in parts of India, and I shared about some of my experiences in India. You can read that post here – Violence Against Christians in India. At the time, some footage of the video was in question. The video has now been released with confirmed video of violence against Christians. I warn you that this footage is raw and brutal. I personally believe that those of us who live in comfort need to be jolted by its awfulness, but it may not be for everyone.

As I said in my previous post, I was moved to tears by the video, but I hope we will also be moved to prayer and to action for our friends who are suffering for Christ.

Persecution in India: Francis’ Response from Cornerstone Church on Vimeo.

Footage courtesy: Voice of the Martyrs
Music courtesy: The Champion and His Burning Flame

-jdl

When the Apostle Paul was planting churches in the first century, he wrote a letter to a church-planting partner named Titus. He wanted to make sure Titus had not been distracted from first-order business in the church. In the letter, he wrote, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained in order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.”

Global-mission-of-GodThree quick observations help us learn something about the appointment of elders in church plants.

First, there was something that remained undone in the preparation of the church until elders had been put in place. This was not optional, supplemental or secondary. The local churches were incomplete until they had God-ordained leaders.

Second, there was period of time that passed from when these churches were launched and when the elders were in place. Presumably, this allowed time for church health, spiritual growth, character evaluation, doctrinal training, and missional living to develop within the people. We are not told what period of time passed before the establishment of elders in each church, but it is clear that a period of leadership transition is normal for most church plants.

Third, Paul (the visionary leader for the church planting movement) designated a trusted leader named Titus (a regional pastor) to appoint elders for the churches. Paul writes to Titus: “This is why I left you in Crete…” It was a priority for Paul and for Titus in the launching of new churches. Most church plants follow the pattern of a leader or leaders, often from outside the core group, who oversee the church until elders have been raised up from within the new church.

The Global Movement of God

When you step back and look at the big picture, this pattern makes sense. A church is not a stand-alone organization designed for its own good. A church is a part of The Church, a global movement of God to replicate the life and mission of Jesus in people of every tribe. The movement strategy is to launch new local churches that will reproduce authentic Christ-followers in every people group. For the movement to reach its full potential, each new church must join in the global multiplication of churches.

If a new church is indeed part of this global movement, it is clear that establishing healthy leadership in each church is essential to success of the movement as a whole. It is also clear that the elders of the local church should see themselves as leaders in a movement that extends far beyond their local community. They are a team of leaders on assignment in a local church to further reproduce the life and mission of Jesus in a specific place, with the purpose of furthering the global mission of God.

Churches often lose sight of their role in the global mission of God, and a new church struggling to reach the lost, update the website, pay the bills, and survive the next Sunday is especially vulnerable at this point. It takes just a few people to distract or derail a church in its early years. This is why transitional leaders must guard the gate closely and prioritize the training and appointing of elders in a church plant. This is also why the initial elders must understand and embrace their role in God’s movement called The Church. The first elders in a church bear a great burden to keep a rapidly-changing and often immature church on course so that it can maximize its redemptive potential in the world.

-jdl

We launched our church because of the great need in our area for churches with both deep belief in the gospel of Jesus and deep love for the people in our area. Rather than retreating from our world, we wanted to be a church that engaged our world for good. It is hard to deny that the South is littered with the bones of dead or dying churches that are failing to positively and significantly impact our world for Jesus. That’s not to say that every church is a bad church, but it does point to some major issues at play in many churches. Two years into our church plant, I am more convinced than ever of the need for new and renewed churches to meet the challange of a rapidly changing culture. Statistics also bear this out (see the map below). For the first time in 200 years, the church in the South is on the decline by attendance.

April 26-27, I will be attending a conference that will address these issues and call us to make a difference at this critical time. I want to invite you to join me at the conference. It would be a blast to have a bunch of us dreaming and praying together about how God might use us to engage our world with the gospel. If you are interested, you can register at www.advancethechurch.com. Please let me know, and we’ll plan to connect.

     ———————

The following was posted on Pastor J. D. Greear’s blog (jdgreear.com) and is reprinted by permission.
Guest Blogger:
Mike McDaniel, Director of SendRDU
Map Source: American Church in Crisis by Dave Olsen

That’s the title for this year’s Advance Conference, April 26-27 in RDU. Last year we called for a resurgence of the local church. This year we’re focusing on the major issues that are standing in the way of that happening here in the South.

The South is changing. Urbanization and the vibrant growth of our cities have transformed the cultural landscape. Cities like RDU have become new centers of business and education, places where culture is being formed and made. And yet as our cities are advancing, the church is shrinking. For the first time in its history, the church in the South is declining at a rate faster than anywhere else in the country.

See for yourself. This map shows you where evangelical Christianity is growing in the U.S. (Pink indicates growth. Blue indicates decline).

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And this isn’t just a problem in the cities, either. These changes are felt in small towns, where small town southern values are clashing with new urban postmodernity, and religion is often more prevalent than the gospel. There may be churches on every corner, but most are plateaued or declining to the point where they will be empty in 20 years.

As we stand at this critical turning point, we must be prepared to respond. We believe that the decline of the church is not due to external factors, but internal failures of the church to faithfully communicate the Gospel and engage the changing culture around us. That is the vision behind the title Contextualizing the Gospel in the New South. We want to equip pastors, lay leaders, and members to respond by engaging the changing culture of the South with the unchanging message of the gospel.

This year we’ve moved the conference to the Summit to be able to offer it the cheapest price possible. Right NOW you can get tickets for a ridiculously cheap early bird rate of $50.

Speakers include: Mark Driscoll, Ed Stetzer, Johnny Hunt, David Platt, Tullian Tchividjian, Matt Carter

You can register at www.advancethechurch.com.

Persecution in India: Francis’ Response on Vimeo.
Footage courtesy: Voice of the Martyrs
Music courtesy: The Champion and His Burning Flame

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=9607938&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=1&color=ffffff&fullscreen=1

A Note about the situation in India:

Orissa has one of the worst records for violence against Christians, due in part to the activities of a religious fundamentalist group. Many churches have been destroyed and Christian workers continue to be attacked. There is a law prohibiting conversion and, since 2000, baptism requires the permission of the government. About a year ago, Hindu radicals went on a “bloody rampage that left 50,000 Christians fleeing for their lives into the state’s forests.” (GFA, 2009). – Cornerstone Church

This afternoon, I watched this video of the brutal persecution of our brothers and sisters in India. I was moved to tears, just as I had been similarly moved to tears five years ago when I taught in India. My hope is that you are also moved, but I hope that we are moved to more than tears. I hope we are moved to prayer, moved to action in our churches, and moved to assist churches in India and around the globe. 

1753172-R1-039-18Five years ago, I had the privilege of teaching a History of Doctrine course to a group of 43 graduate students in India.  As I taught these young students, my heart was jolted by their commitment to Christ. In the course of 18 days, I preached, taught for 5-6 hours per day, graded work late into the night, met with students in my makeshift office, and shared tea and meals with these remarkable students. During this time, I had the chance to be both teacher and student.  

What the Teacher Learned

I had planned my last lecture especially well. In closing, I would give them the charge that they now carried the message of Christ to the world–what had been passed from Jesus to the disciples to the church planters of Acts to the elders of churches throughout the globe now came to them. It was their task to carry that same message into the world.

I barely made it through the lecture as I fought through my tears. I had learned something of the hardship they faced and the enormity of their task, and it was more than I could handle. Knowing that these 23 or 24 year old young men would likely take the message of Christ into a heavily overcrowded and poverty-stricken region where very few Christians lived was daunting. That they would most likely set up their churches in an 8 x 10 ft storefront made of cinder blocks seemed impossible. Yet, there was also hope.

1753222-R1-006-1AI was humbled as I watched G–, a student with a learning disability who had once been rejected by his family as a failure, give up cricket games to study my notes (I was told he had to read them three times in order to understand). G– scored 98% in the course (much better than I had done as a student!). One employee at the school was a wonderful fifteen year old young lady that had recently been rescued from human-trafficking as a bride-for-sale. Another student said he dreamed of turning his tribal people from head-hunters to soul-hunters, and I’m certain that he was being serious. When I witnessed the ridiculous levels of poverty in Delhi, I was undone. It honestly took me six weeks to recover (meaning that it took six weeks to become somewhat numb again to the hardship).

Sharing in the Sufferings of Jesus

1753202-R1-024-10AOne connection that gripped me was a student I’ll call M–. M– is from China, although his father is Burmese.  After pastoring 4 years as a teenager, he snuck across the border from China to Myanmar (Burma) and then into India en route to bible college and seminary. Without any stops, that was a ten-day journey on busses and trains. He acknowledged that he shouldn’t be in India because China wouldn’t give a visa for this, but this was the only way he would become trained as a pastor. He had not seen his mother, father, brothers or sisters in five years. His father died while he was away, and he received a brief phone call from a relative. He planned to return to China and pastor a house church along the China-Myanmar border amongst his people.

1753192-R1-021-9In an email to my wife, I wrote, “It is good to be here to learn from as well as to teach and encourage these young men. They truly are young men, which means that I am getting older, but it also means that the task of leading churches in these harsh areas has been left to the young, and that is a little overwhelming for me, as I think of what they will face and the fact that many of them will be forced to face it alone in a village of people hostile to all that they stand for. Gives my prayers a new sense of urgency.” I still feel that way.

A Prayer and Plea

I leave you with an excerpt from my last journal entry from India 5 years ago. May we in our luxury and comfort and silly church battles become broken for those around the world who face such difficulty in being Jesus’ disciples. May our prayers sustain them as we lift them up to our Heavenly Father. May their devotion to our Rescuer spur us on to greater love and faith and ministry.

M–, my new friend from China who travelled 10 days journey illegally to be here, came to see me today. We talked for a few minutes about ministry and he wanted some information that I will email to him. We talked for a few more minutes before I had to turn to some work that needed to get to the copier before close of work today. As our conversation ended, he looked at me and said, “You leave Friday. Tomorrow will be busy day for you. We may not talk again.” I truly thought he was going to cry. I told him that we would eat lunch together tomorrow. I can tell that it feels good to him to know that someone outside of his people knows of his plight. He loves to talk about his people and the ministry he hopes to have among his people. All of the students love to talk about the plight of their people.

Marip Tu is the student on the right

Another student gave me a book today, one that was privately printed by a secret group (he seemed nervous about giving it to me and wanted me to read it “privately” in case someone was offended by the book). It’s over 500 pages long. I leave in less than 48 hours. When in the world am I going to read that? But in a note on one of his assignments, he had mentioned that he hoped to turn his people from head-hunters to soul-hunters. I included a note that I would pray for his people later that day. Two days later, he asks me if I could read this book. I could make no promises there, but it is at my bedside tonight. The students have a great burden for “their people.” There isn’t much national pride for India, but they all dearly love “their people.” And for most, that results in sadness and spiritual burden due to the hardness of the people to the gospel.

Clearly, there will be some sorrow for me in leaving these friends, brothers and sisters. There is much work to do here, and they bear an inordinate burden for the Church. But I will be happy to be home, to be with Nan, to be with the boys. I thought today about being with my church family and longed to be a part of worshipping with them. Going home will be good, but this too has been good.

May God be lifted up in His Church, both here and there.

Jeff

 -jdl

goingsolo(web)In a recent blog posted on the Gospel Coalition site (here’s a link), Tim Keller wrote about the benefits of being a solo pastor in a small church. Two years into a church plant, my experience tells me that he’s onto something.

When I worked in a large church, I learned a certain set of ministry functions, mostly focused on the specific area in which I worked. I dabbled in other areas, but never really “owned” any of them.  There were lots of things I had never done before and never would have done in a large church.

When I decided to move on to a lead pastorate, I had the opportunity to go to another good-sized church as my first “lead pastor” position. Instead, I chose to come to North Carolina and plant a new church in a rural area that was rapidly changing to incorporate new growth. Of course, the economic recession had something to say about the rapid growth and that has modified our timeline. We are still more rural than anyone would have guessed when we launched the church. In time, that will change, but for now, I’m learning a lot in our current situation.

Why Pastor a Church Plant or a Smaller Church?

Well, the first reason is the call of God. When we began exploring options, my wife, Nan, and I sensed that God was calling us to launch a new ministry here in the largely hyper-educated region known as the research triangle. There was a sense that we had the opportunity to do something for the kingdom that no one else was doing in our target area.

Another reason I chose to plant a church was that I believed it would force me to learn new things and become more well-rounded as a pastor. Keller writes about this:   

You can’t teach a younger pastor much about things they aren’t actually doing. And in a large church they aren’t a) bearing the burden of being the main leader, b) leading a board of elders, c) fund-raising and bearing the final responsibility of having enough money to do ministry, d) and doing the gamut of counseling, shepherding, teaching, preaching.

In a church plant setting, I’m forced to learn the full breadth of ministry. There isn’t any place to hide. If something needs to be done, I am usually involved in one way or another. We have a second pastor on the team now, and we’ve got a great group of volunteers that make ministry happen. We wouldn’t be a church without them. But when something goes wrong, I almost always get the call.

Along the way, I’m learning to counsel marriages, share the gospel, wade through personality conflicts, mobilize servants, build a leadership team, work through communication issues, encourage generosity, confront sin, nurture spiritual renewal, comfort those who are hurting, and so many other things. If I were in a larger church, I could delegate, program, or hire to avoid personally doing any one of these important parts of ministry.

I’ll love it when we have more people on the team, but I’m glad that I’m not missing out on this step in the journey God has for me.

-jdl