11 Things You Can’t Find in Church Planting Textbooks

1. You can do anything you can pay for. This is actually something I learned from my pastor, John Breitmeier. It may sound crass, but it’s really true. You might have the biggest ministry dream in the world, but if it’s not funded, it doesn’t move. As a church planter, you are the main fundraiser and you have to be alright with straight up asking people to fund a church that doesn’t even exist yet. You dream first, but then you have to take a look at the budget and adjust accordingly; God will provide all the money He needs to do what He wants to do.

2. If you send out mailers/postcards/door hangers expect to see the kinds of people who choose churches by mailers. Honestly, what kind of a person gets a postcard in the mail and then makes major spiritual decisions according to what it says. 9 times out of 10 it’s crazy people. There’s the odd person who has been praying and asking God for a sign and then this is how God leads someone to a church, but mostly you are going to see crazy people. The crazy people will also call you and get mad at you for inviting them to your party in the park. It’s awesome.

3. Satan will come against you by coming against everyone close to you. When the devil comes against me it’s no surprise and I am able to stand strong. When those I love most suffer, it hurts in a completely different way. I can point to too many “coincidences” of extreme difficulties and trials in my immediate family, in the lives of my close friends and in my extended family. You may seek prayer cover for yourself, but I think those closest to you need it also. It’s important to not be surprised by opposition, when you make aggressive moves for Jesus, it’s going to be noticed by Satan.

4. Those first two years when everyone thinks you are the greatest invention since velcro shoes…don’t get used to it. In the first place it’s an easy time to get a big head and start believing your own hype. Even more, the third and fourth year is when opposition that has been simmering under the surface finally comes out and tries to kick you square in the face. It’s a special feeling to have someone tell you that you are absolutely terrible, that you are the primary reason that people don’t go to church (I think they meant all people everywhere, which is quite a compliment if you think about it), or have people dedicate their internet chatter to talking about your failings. So, it’s important in your first couple years not to get used to people thinking you are awesome – because some people don’t think that and they are just waiting their turn.

5. The church plant rises and falls on the preacher. People will be extremely patient and generous with pretty much everything about your church except the child’s safety and the preaching. If your chairs are uncomfy, it’s ok. If the school you are renting accidentally forgets the heat over winter break people will keep their jackets on. Even if your band struggles to find it’s voice the people will still worship and love it. But, if your preaching lacks fire people will burn a trail to the exit. Having all those other frills is great, but child safety that allows parents to focus and honestly strong preaching will have people showing up and growing! Also, pretty much all the research on church planting points to the major determining factor of success being the primary vision casting leader.

6. Having a killer band basically makes every Sunday easier. If you are able to create a culture where musicians have the opportunity to grow and play awesome music, they will show up and they will play magical music. Senior pastors who are terrible guitar players (I’m talking to you James Carmichael!) will do the gospel well by getting out of the way and allowing awesome musicians to be awesome. This should also inform the culture shaping process of what you chose to center your service on. Most churches are sermon-centric, but is that the way to be the church in your neighborhood?

7. Set the culture and allow the strategy to flow from it. Culture eats strategy every single time. You can copy the very best ideas from the very best churches and leaders, but if you fail to create a dynamic culture your strategies will be out of style quicker than crocs. Wait, they never were in style. And that’s the point. Let the leaders lead. Great churches have great leaders at all levels of the organization. If you are blessed with great leaders, don’t just delegate responsibility – also give them authority to make important decisions. If you’ve built a str0ng culture, they will be able to know how to make decisions that align with the organization.

8. Church planters need a community of church planters. The second most determinate factor in a church planter’s success is being in relationships with other church planters. The encouragement and mutual support of other planters is such a major factor that most planting organizations require it. This comes in the form of more experienced coaches and/or current planters. Finding and investing in those relationships make a huge difference in your church.

9. Be where the people are. For the Grove, this meant being outside at community festivals all summer long because these were the biggest gatherings of people in our city.  If we believe that God loves people and is working in their lives and we want to be where God is working, then we have to be where the people are. We do not set up shop, advertise and expect the people to come to Jesus because Jesus has already come to earth and the Spirit is at work!

10. Be a generous church even before you can afford it. To this day, I don’t know of a church that can ‘afford’ generosity. Churches (and people) chose generosity intentionally. From the very start set up your church plant as a source of blessing for others and you will have a lot more fun. Give locally and globally, to Christian and secular organizations, intentionally and randomly. Even while your church plant is being supported by outside organizations, decide to be a giving church and support others.

11. Start a church for unbelievers. Starting a church for church people is as easy as making it a little cooler than the coolest church in town. If the coolest church has a boss youth ministry, hire a young pastor with a mohawk and tattoos – church people will flock to you. Starting a church for people who don’t  know anything about church is stunningly more dangerous. First, it gets messy because they won’t know how to behave, and second, the church people will hate it and start gossiping all over town about how “emergent” your church is. This means you don’t need small groups when you start – only Christians think it’s awesome to meet in small groups to talk about their feelings. It also means you might not participate in the local ‘christian’ festival because all the christians are already there – so your band might need to play at the ‘ungodly pagan heathenfest’.


2 Days with Rob Bell part 4

This is part four of a whole series of posts I’m doing on my trip to go hear Rob Bell in February 2014. If you want, you can start at the first post.

While at the Rob Bell 2 Days event he made mention of the unique loneliness that leaders experience. This isn’t just a pastor issue either, it’s an issue for anyone who leads an organization. It is a strange issue for pastors though. When I was a supporting pastor, if I complained to my friends about my boss, I would be bad talking their pastor and undercutting all sorts of trust. So there’s a strangeness to the vocational pastoral role that’s difficult to navigate.

It makes me think there should be some training for this – like somewhere along in seminary they drop you off in the woods and you have to live by yourself for a month. It would be great training, and it would weed out the ranks in a hilarious way. So this got me thinking of other great classes pastors could use in Seminary:

  • Speaking in Alliteration: The very best preachers always alliterate and have 3 points at a time. Even when asking questions in this seminary class it will be useful to practice and show how smart you are. You were in bible quizzing for crying out loud, let everybody stand in awe at your knowledge of obscure Scriptures.
  • Mediocre Musicianship: Since you own an acoustic guitar, you should probably play it. After all, there’s likely not any good musicians in your church, so you should hold that stage as long as possible. Also included, planning services where the pastor never has to leave the stage.
  • Sporting Illustrations in Preaching: It’s important to be narrow minded and only pull illustrations from sports – preferably college football or NASCAR. God forbid an illustration from art or music or some other aspect of life. Optional seminar on how much people love it when you scold them for cheering at football but not at your church services.
  • Navigating Loneliness: With a special emphasis on woodland survival and a special project involving the ability to stop whining and remember what’s what.
  • Ancient Languages: Sure the Bible was written with Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek, but this class will take you back to the very earliest languages using caveman grunts and hand gestures to find the real original meaning. Class will focus on using “nuances” in original languages to change the meaning of a passage to match whatever topic you want to preach on.
  • Preaching when sick: Any dummy can preach a good 25 minutes when they are solid and healthy. In this class participants will be exposed to near-lethal viruses and still need to give a legible message. Emphasis on maintaining balance during closed-eyes praying and medications which will not induce speaking in tongues.



Irenaeus, Redemption & Divizination

This is an older paper from my master’s program that I had thought I had posted here before, but apparently hadn’t.  It’s sketchy theology, but it’s fun…and I think I might believe it.  A lot.


November 10, 2008

The Secondary Nature of the Atonement

            Born about 130 AD, Irenaeus was the first major theologian to confront heresy for the church.  His motivation was purely pastoral as he sought to protect his congregation from the heresy of the Gnostics by creating a theological system that was intellectually credible and still practical for everyday life.  This system of thought emphasized the aspiration of perfect union between God, as Creator, and all creation, including mankind.  According to Irenaeus, salvation history is the story of God and man growing towards a perfect union; a story which was highlighted by the life Jesus who was the perfect union of Creator and creation.  “For Irenaeus the Incarnation is the key to the entire history of salvation” (Danielou, 167).  God is glorified through the perfect union found in Jesus Christ and creation also fulfills its purpose when it is united to the divine God.  According to Irenaeus, the atoning work of the cross, then, becomes only a mere contribution to a single story of redemption that has been playing out since the dawn of creation.

In prehistory God existed in a united community of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.  An unfathomable mystery, the Creator God exists as three while existing as one (Deuteronomy 6:4); God is One while God is Trinity.  The nature of the Trinity expresses the characteristic of God as being fully and absolutely united as one.  When God creates man in His image, then, there must be a characteristic reflection of unity.  This is seen in Genesis 2:18, when God remarks, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (NAS)  Adam was not designed for solitary life, so God creates an additional human being to fulfill the design of unity in humanity.  This design for unity continues to spread as Jesus prays in the garden that believers  “may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us” (John 17:21, NAS).  The passionate desire of Jesus (who is fully God) is the unity of all those who follow the ways and teachings of God.

So as God is united and humans are designed for a parallel unity, the story of all creation converges to a uniting of God and creation.  The Old Testament serves as a period of accustomization for God and men, as they grow closer and closer together.  “For Irenaeus…the gulf between God and the world had to be filled in; but it was filled in not by intermediate ‘emanated’ beings [as presented in the Gnostic heresy] but by God’s own word and Spirit” (Smith, 24). The covenants of Adam, Noah, Moses and finally of Jesus Christ continue to point in this direction.  “In the Old Testament, not only does God habituate himself to man, but in addition, man adapts himself to God” (Danielou, 169).  Where the heresy of Irenaeus’ day sought to fill the gap between God and man with innumerable impersonable god-forces, the true nature of God is only served by God and man filling the gap between them with themselves (Smith 24).  God must, by His very nature of unity move towards unity with his creation.  Men also, by their characteristic of a desire for unity have an innate motivation towards their creator.

To further reveal the authentic goal for creation (to be united with God), all creation was originated with immense potential.  All creation was declared good, but not perfect.  It was whole and complete, but not as majestic as it could possibly be.  In order to mature into full unity, mankind had to have free will and the ability to choose growth or not.  Mankind was created “free to choose and God’s purpose brings man from childhood in Adam to maturity in Christ” (Osborn).  Even Jesus “continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom” (Luke 2:40), because of His close relationship to God through the Scriptures.  Creation was given potential so that it could mature through instruction and relationship to the incarnate Word of God.

Creation was not made to sin.  Jesus’ material body was not simply made to atone for the sin of men.  “For if the flesh were not in a position to be saved, the Word of God would in no wise have become flesh. And if the blood of the righteous were not to be inquired after, the Lord would certainly not have had blood” (Irenaeus V.14.1).  Jesus’ incarnation was primarily intended to display the perfect unity of invisible, spiritual God and material creation.  While the Gnostics did not think this was possible because of their belief in the evil nature of all material, Irenaeus did not see salvation as being possible without full unity of God with the material creation; Christ had to live a human life.  In Jesus’ life we see the perfection of God’s design for creation.  When sin slithered into creation, it was like a wall was created in the storyline of God and men.  Perfect unity now had to hurdle this wall in order to reach the goal that God had for His creation.  The atoning work of the cross merely overcomes sin; the cross only jumps this one hurdle.  To see the cross as the high point of all salvation history completely disregards the beautiful union that is the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  The purpose of Christ must be more than death, it must be life; both His own and the life that is found in Him.  “More than a mere ‘reconciliation’ in the sense of putting off of wrath; the expression implies…a readmission in some degree to the privileged position held by Adam as a companion of God.” (Smith 30)  In fact, without a full union of spiritual and material, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is ineligible to atone for the sin that has corrupted.

Much more than just a holding pattern before the event of the cross, the life and teachings of Jesus were instructional for growth and unity.  Holy living is found in the life of Jesus Christ, through which He completely did away with disobedience (Flew, 136).  While his death and resurrection provide an absolutely necessary element to ultimate unity with God, it only works to make the growth possible.  His atoning sacrifice is a path, but it is not the treasure that the path leads to.  While the path is needed to move closer to the treasure, one does not simply celebrate the path and remain there forever.  Unity with God is the treasure that is offered through the cross.  This unity is perfected, though, in the real life of Jesus Christ here on this earth.  Christ is salvation because of the union of flesh and divinity; “For He would not have been one truly possessing flesh and blood, by which He redeemed us, unless He had summed up in Himself the ancient formation of Adam” (Irenaeus V.1.2).  To focus merely on the atonement at the price of the unity that is seen in the incarnation is a grave mistake that denies the divine purpose of creation.

Irenaeus argued with specific regard to the Gnostic heresy, whose main thrusts were a radical dualism, which separated the humanity and divinity of Christ, and a novel view of the creation narrative.  In order to resonate with Adam, Christ had to be human and have a particularly close union with God the Father, just like Adam.  Since Christ was fully God and fully man, He was inseparable from the creation narrative.  “For the Lord, taking dust from the earth, molded man; and it was upon his behalf that all the dispensation of the Lord’s advent took place. He had Himself, therefore, flesh and blood, recapitulating in Himself not a certain other, but that original handiwork of the Father, seeking out that thing which had perished” (Irenaeus V.14.1).  Thus, the biblical account of creation must be held to also hold any effect from the life and death of Christ.

For Irenaeus nothing was more important than helping people live the Christian faith in a manner that was faithful to Jesus Christ and to the God ordained purpose of all creation.  “Perfection is the goal of the human development, the beatific vision when man is finally fit to look upon the face of God” (Flew, 137).  Full growth and development of believers burned in Irenaeus’ pastoral heart.  He desperately sought to strengthen believers, so that they would not be swayed from the truth by the Gnostic heresy that was gaining momentum in his time.  Irenaeus worked diligently to develop a strong theological system that would stand against the heresy of his day and bring people to an understanding of God that would promote unity among God’s people and ultimately with God Himself.  The cross itself was not sufficient if the unity of God and creation was not perfected in Jesus Christ.

Works Cited

HOLY BIBLE.  1995.  New American Standard Edition.  LaHabra, CA.,  Lockman Foundation.

DANIELOU, JEAN A. 1973.  A History of Early Christian Doctrine Volume II: Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture.  Philadelphia, Westminster Press.

FLEW, R.N. The Idea of Perfection in Christian Theology.  New York, Humanities Press.

IRENAEUS. n.d. Against Heresieshttp://www.ccel.org/ccel/shaff/anf01.toc.html.  Last accessed November 10, 2008.

OSBORN, ERIC. 1981.  The Beginning of Christian Philosophy.  New York, Cambridge University Press.

SMITH, JOSEPH P. St. Irenaeus: Proof of the Apostolic Preaching.  New York, Newman Press.

Higher Education needs a Revamping

On October 29th, Seth Godin posted this on his blog and I thought it was so spot on that I had to post the whole thing here:


College costs a fortune. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of money.

When a professor assigns you to send a blogger a list of vague and inane interview questions (“1. How did you get started in this field? 2. What type of training (education) does this field require? 3. What do you like best about your job? 4. what do you like least about your job?”) I think you have an obligation to say, “Sir, I’m going to be in debt for ten years because of this degree. Perhaps you could give us an assignment that actually pushes us to solve interesting problems, overcome our fear or learn something that I could learn in no other way…”

When a professor spends hours in class going over concepts that are clearly covered in the textbook, I think you have an obligation to repeat the part about the debt and say, “perhaps you could assign this as homework and we could have an actual conversation in class…”

When you discover that one class after another has so many people in a giant room watching a tenured professor far far in the distance, perhaps you could mention the debt part to the dean and ask if the class could be on video so you could spend your money on interactions that actually changed your life.

The vast majority of email I get from college students is filled with disgust, disdain and frustration at how backwards the system is. Professors who neither read nor write blogs or current books in their field. Professors who rely on marketing textbooks that are advertising-based, despite the fact that virtually no professional marketers build their careers solely around advertising any longer. And most of all, about professors who treat new ideas or innovative ways of teaching with contempt.

“This is costing me a fortune, prof! Push us! Push yourself!”

Tuesday Afternoon Check-In: April 28, 2009

The check-in had to wait until Tuesday this week, I’ve been a little ill and trying to crank out a report that ended up being 43 pages long…

weekend in review: Had a fantastic weekend. The bummer was Heather being ill, but the kids and I managed with the help of our friend the microwave. Saturday morning I ran in a 5K race. Sunday was a great day too. Pretty basic, low key weekend.

What did happen that was exciting was my graduation from PESM! Sunday night I received my M.Min. degree, along with all its privileges and responsibilities. My awesome friends who could make it came up too and we had a super fun meal at some restaurant too. Easily a highlight memory for me.

on my list this week: This week I have generated a 43 page report and am going to be presenting in on Thursday to a board in Portland. Also, I’m preaching Sunday, which means an extra 20 hours of study this week. Good stuff.

current books: Working through ReJesus by Hirsch, it just hasn’t lit it up for me yet. Not sure what I need to do with it yet, it kinda feels like he’s saying things I already think so there’s not as much challenge there as I had hoped for…I should just get back to Twilight books. Also reading Brother Lawrence in the car. It is STUNNINGLY good.

current writing: Cranked out that report, now I am writing a sermon.

culture that’s caught me: There are 6 cases of swine flu in Canada. They are calling that a pandemic. Thank Jesus for the news because we simply wouldn’t know what to do without them.
Changing subjects – looking forward to watching the show I DVR’d – the French finance minister was on Charlie Rose last night. France gave stimulus money to banks just like America did, but they did a much better job than America did for two reasons. First, they admitted they were being socialist, where America pretends not to be. Seondly, when they gave stimulus money to the banks they bought shares and were able to fire the executives that ran the industry into the ground, unlike America, who didn’t structure their bail-outs in a way to give them any future influence.

how i’m feeling about this week: I am going to be presenting the Grove to the Board of Church Extension. That’s a riot. The real highlight of my week though is the release of Wolverine this weekend. I have got to be there. Oh, yeah, and I’m preaching Sunday!

quote for the week: “you play mafia wars!?!” ~like everyone…

running report: I ran in a 5K and did it in 25′59″44. That is under 26 minutes!! There was no mile marker until the second mile though, so i ran my first two miles at an 8 minute pace and then slowed down to run the last 1.1 mile in 10 minutes. Great race though, I came 58th overall! All together I ran 8.7 miles, my biggest week so far!

Reading the Bible

Part of my reading commitment this year is to read through the Bible. Part of the commitment counted for my Old Testament class which I had to read through Esther, Psalms, Isaiah and Amos. So, that’s what I read so far. I’m reading it in my copy of The Message, a readable paraphrase by Eugene Peterson. Sometimes that makes it wordy, but it’s also fun.

I love reading the Bible in big chunks for the way that it opens up the whole narrative. It’s not just bits and pieces to use in proofs and theologies. I am also more able to see how seemingly disconnected stories really do fit together in interesting ways.

pages read= 1128 ~ year to date=2194 ~ 2009 goal=18,250 ~ (12%)

MMC: March 9, 2009

weekend in review: Nutty busy weekend but had a highlight of staying home on Friday! Then Saturday included the housework that I missed being away for my final school session. Then we got to go and watch LJ’s basketball game where he played his best ever, scoring twice and he actually shoved a kid’s hand out of his way so he could go to the basket. His aggressiveness shows his increasing comfort level, which is great! Then we did a family outing to Sonic in Salem with stops at Target, Petco and David’s Bridal.
Then on Sunday I did morning class, participated in the service, led a missions trip meeting, napped with Khobi and lead my small group in a discussion of end times theologies. You can guess which was my favorite!

on my list this week: publishing the leadership circles for the Grove, administrating the youth calendar and writing papers.

current books: ReJesus by Frost and Hirsch and finishing up Intuitive Leadership by Keel.

current writing: Doctrinal Statements and about 30 pages of papers to finish up my degree

culture that’s caught me: well, the new U2 album. More specifically, I have been fascinated by their marketing strategies. Interesting stuff.

question i’d ask God: Alright, so which is it = pre-mid-post? and pre-post-a?

how i’m feeling about this week: really good, lots of butt-in-chair work, but it feels so good to finish it off.

quote for the week:
“He can play. He can shoot. He can dribble. He can pass. He’s a great player. Period. No question about it. And if anyone thinks Dirk is not a great player, I’ll punch them in their face.” ~Shaq

running report: went to school and forgot my shoes, so I did one run of 3 miles, after I got home. Experiencing huge buildup in my ankle and it’s hurting all the way up my leg. Still, first race is this weekend!