Archives For Fellowship Associates

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]

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.



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?


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

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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.

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.


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

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.

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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.

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.