Walk and Talk

Church Planting, Urban Ministry

Nilofer Merchant suggests a small idea that just might have a big impact on your life and health: Next time you have a one-on-one meeting, make it into a “walking meeting” — and let ideas flow while you walk and talk.

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Kindness

Church Planting, Rambling Thoughts, Scripture

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see” (Mark Twain).

I like that. Have you ever stopped to think that ‘kindness’ is a universal language? Each and every person understands and speaks this language. An act of kindness is never futile. If you are kind to someone it will reflect in your and their behavior. Being kind instills a positive feeling and makes your, and our, world a better place to live. Kindness can be defined as a caring attitude. But the definition of kindness does not limit it to ‘caring’ only. No, kindness is a complex word in that it varies with the circumstances. Kindness is being affectionate, caring, courteous, gracious, favorful, boonful, generous, understanding, sensitive, respectful and on-and-on. Showing kindness usually provides a feeling of joy and mirth to the recipient; and, the kind person is satiated with a feeling of warmth and satisfaction. Why? Because, kindness is a basic driving force of creation. God was kind to us by flourishing civilization through His kindness; and, then by instilling it in us through His creative order, making us in His own kind image.

Each of us has been taught to express kindness towards others. It is in our DNA. In fact, kindness is not restricted to human implementation. Even animals wave their tail as a return gesture to kindness shown to them by humankind. Similar responses can be seen in plants. They grow large and bear fruit in response to the kind behavior of their caretaker. All of nature has its own ways of expressing gratitude for kindness.

Kindness is not a virtue to be adopted or showcased just in specific situations; rather, it is be imbibed as a basic behavioral attribute. Kindness is well adjusted to all spheres of life. Being kind to your siblings or spouse or children helps to build a strong family foundation. Showing kindness to neighbors and colleagues helps in developing a positive social environment. Small considerations and selfless acts of kindness may even help in growing one’s business to significant profitability. The language of kindness is comprehended by each and every living being. If you have been kind to someone by ignoring their small fault or simply said, “Never mind, it’s okay,” will always be remembered by that person. In fact, selfless deeds often result in the most favorable and flourishing ‘deals’ of life.

The Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, Jesus Christ). So, be polite and kind in your behavior. It is what God the Creator intended for us. One last note: being kind to self is equally important as being kind to others. Don’t be too harsh on yourself; give space for the trivial mistakes you make. Learn from the experience, thanking God for a second chance, and move ahead being kind.

Blessings…

How Modern Evangelism Creates Consumers

Church Planting, Other Authors, Urban Ministry

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Alan Hirsch speaks about HOW MODERN EVANGELISM CREATES CONSUMERS. Hirsch says, “The reason why this is the case, is because the church growth movement and the way we do evangelism, catered to the very thing we need to work against—consumerism. Consumerism, folks, is an alternative religion. It’s not just buying goods and services. People go buy in shopping malls things other than feeding their body and basic needs. They’re looking for purpose, meaning, significance, belonging, community. That’s what it’s called—brand community…In other words the very thing that religion offers to us, or ought to, is being sought in consumption…

“You can’t make disciples out of consumers. You can’t consume your way into the Kingdom. It doesn’t work like that. Jesus says die…You come to the cross. Now who said you can take that out of the equation and expect the results that Jesus points to later on in the piece. If Jesus says it’s good enough to go through the cross upfront, in the beginning, who are we to make it different.”

Listen to Hirsch

The Critical Role of Evangelism and Discipleship in Church Planting

Church Planting, Other Authors

Evangelism and discipleship does not automatically happen in a new church. That is unfortunate for some aspiring planters. All of us struggle with our view of lostness no matter how long we have been in the faith. Too many planters think that the reason lost people have not come to Christ is because they have not found the right church yet. Thus, a mythological equation is formed: lost culture + relevant church plant service = instant harvest.

So, they sincerely set out with a new formula that will fill the local middle school gymnasium or movie theater with lost people. They have a vision of lost people streaming en masse through the doors on launch Sunday shouting, “I found it!” No wonder that planter will spend the majority of the week getting the production ready. The band, slides, movie clips, coffee and donuts, are all a part of an environment that helps people feel at home. But at the end of the day, the demanding grind of an attractive church can potentially take away from the pursuit of those far from God. Simply put, when you have an attractive plant it can end up solely with an attractional strategy. The end result will be that you “sell” a new and better church (product) to consumers of religious goods and services.

It is possible (and even common) to spend too much energy focused on only one aspect of the church plant: the Sunday morning crowds. There are many solutions, including opening up new lanes to all kinds of church planting, something Warren Bird and I discuss in Viral Churches.

One solution is to personally invest significant time in relationships with lost people and new believers. The sermons may need to be simpler with less “special effects.” The band may need less programmatic direction and more relational investment with you. At the end of the day, the core team and lead planter must personally invest heavily in the harvest. Not only is that great for the moment (for those lost people, etc.) but it creates the culture for the future of every person who connects with your church. The long term future of the new church is in the harvest, not a Disneyfied Sunday morning experience.

Most planters I know start new churches to reach lost people and grow disciples. Planters we talked to highlighted five challenges to evangelism and discipleship:

(1) Multiple time demands detracted from time needed for evangelism and discipleship.

(2) Discerning how to practice faith (James 1:27) in a way that represents all God is doing in world not limited to direct evangelism only. Examples include hunger relief, assistance and adoption efforts.

(3) Living incarnationally and engaging in today’s culture.

(4) Implementing a deliberate evangelistic and disciple-making strategy.

(5) Making small groups work.

Here are two observations that will help you work through these challenges to evangelism and discipleship:

Distracted by the Planting Process – The paradox for the planter is that what drives to plant — a heart to reach lost people — is often hindered by planting the church. Challenges cited by planters in this area appear connected to the first five issues in this report. Specifically developing leaders, mobilizing volunteers, building teams, financial resources, and building healthy systems all divert a planter’s focus to things other than evangelism and discipleship.

They are a part of making disciples but can be programs executed with a focus on process rather than on people.

The desire to engage people incarnationally and build relationships is met with the reality of the challenges that tug on the planter’s time, energy and focus. Yet as previously mentioned, these values must be lived out. Difficult decisions need to be made about what will really be important. It is essential to keep the unchurched before you and your team. Keep the issue on the table for everyone in your core team — make yourself accountable to them as well as making them accountable to you.

The Internal Scorecard – A nagging sense of falling short of the dream in the area of evangelism and discipleship can significantly contribute to a planter’s discouragement. The planter’s tolerance level for the pressures and disappointments of planting is higher when lives are being changed.

In some ways, it’s like parenting. When our kids respond by grace and through faith to Jesus and live for Him, it’s easier to deal with disappointment over less important areas of their lives. Evangelism and discipleship are core values for most planters and should bias the internal scorecard more than many other factors.

Church planter networks that value reaching people provide great environments to help. The tension planters feel to get it all done and invest in lost people is common (thus Top 7 material). The great news is that in every region, somewhere there is a planter being used by God to get it done. Time with someone like that will give you insight on how to stay focused and work toward gospel impact.

This blog was written by my friend, Ed Stetzer. His partner, Todd Wilson (Director of Exponential), also helped on this project. http://www.edstetzer.com/2011/02/7-top-issues-church-planters-f-3.html

Tips for Church Planting

Church Planting, cities, Other Authors, Urban Ministry

I found this article titled “Tips for Church Planting” insightful. The author, Dr. Patrick O’Connor is with Action International Ministries. http://www.actioninternational.org

He shares the following tips for church planting. Please comment with your thoughts or additional ideas:

1. As you start new flocks, be sure to follow the Spirit and His Word in obedience, using His Spirit-given gifts to start your church.

2. Let church organization develop not from a preconceived ideology or structure, but from relationships as they grow with God’s help.
Show your disciples what to do (1 Cor 11:1; Phil. 3:7). Do not simply tell them.

3. Ask the Lord for heads of households with whom to share God’s love, so as to reach entire families. Jesus let Zacchaeus and Levi gather their friends at once in order to let the gospel flow to many. Likewise, the apostles always went at once to seekers’ families.

4. Do not simply hold public meetings. Avoid preaching points or missions that are not real churches. Sometimes outside workers merely preach weekly without forming a congregation that obeys Jesus’ commands.

5. Baptize repentant believers without delaying because of man-made requirements and celebrate communion.

6. Train local leaders from the beginning to gather and shepherd their family and their own flock. Training local leaders in their context should be the goal of every church planter (Tit 1:5, Acts 14:23).

7. Hold regular public worship meetings only when local leaders can lead them.

8. Remember to name mature adults as leaders (Acts. 14.23). Give these men the responsibility for further growth and edification of the group.

9. Cheer on the new flocks to establish daughter churches without delay. Do not wait! As soon as a flock is born, church planters should help it reproduce new flocks nearby. Do not let their enthusiasm cool.

10. Start a cluster of new flocks or cells together instead of just one at a time. The apostles in Jerusalem had their flocks meet in homes to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and to embrace the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42, 46). Such clusters can also be seen in Acts 13–14 and in Galatians 1:2. In Galatia, the apostles started several flocks at once. Isolated flocks can become ingrown and defensive, lacking identity with a larger body.

So, if you are a church planter, have ever been part of a church plant or are planning on planting a church, what do you think?

Enjoying a Fulfilling Life

Church Planting, Rambling Thoughts, Scripture, Uncategorized

It seems like every day there’s a new story, an encouragement, about having it all – enjoying a fulfilling career while maintaining what’s meaningful in your life.

Instead of entertaining the debate about whether or not it’s possible, why not just make it happen?

Here are some fun and creative ways to maintain a healthy work/life balance:

1. Multitask
2. Remind yourself to eat (there’s an app for that)
3. Let your phone go to voicemail.
4. Don’t get in bed with your gadgets.

Sure, these are a bit silly—but at least they may make you stop and think about how you can achieve a better balance.

And, above all, don’t forget God.

Psalm 126:3

The LORD has done great things for us; We are glad.

Psalm 4:7

Thou hast put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound.

Romans 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Work-a-holic

Church Planting, Other Authors, Rambling Thoughts

The Work-a-holic by Os Hillman (sent to me by my friend Dr. Duke Heller (www.mayishare.com).

Living a balanced life is evidence of a Spirit-led life. People work long hours for many reasons which can lead to significant problems in our lives.

One reason people over work is that they often think they must work longer hours to keep up with their workload. This is often the surface reason people give to the question of working long hours. Like any compulsive behavior, there is usually something beneath this behavior. As a former workaholic myself, I can tell you the root of overworking is often 1) a fear of loss, and 2) a need for self-acceptance created by performance.

The fear of loss issue can be a fear of what will happen if we don’t work long hours. A fear that there may not be enough money if I don’t work long hours can drive us to overwork. Often an inaccurate view of what is enough makes us drive ourselves to greater levels of achievement, believing a financial reward will insure us against potential financial disaster. This usually operates at a subconscious level. When one operates at this level you often find those around them will feel shamed if they do not work at the same level and can be intimidated by the unspoken or spoken directive that long hours are required. This leads to a whole new set of problems.

The second reason people work long hours is their need to gain self-acceptance and esteem from their jobs. It is rewarding to see something come from our efforts. However, when we begin to be driven to work, it becomes an unhealthy condition. We are looking to gain self-esteem needs from our performance instead of being secure in our position in Christ.

So, in order to avoid work becoming an idol and a compulsive behavior, we must maintain a balance that provides time to spend quality time with the Lord, our families and fellow believers. Sometimes the greatest exercise of faith is to work only forty hours a week. This insures that the outcome of our work is dependent upon God, nor our self-effort.

Kurt’s comment:
Obviously, there is no excuse for being a slackard. One must invest the minimum amount of time required by one’s employer; or to accomplish the project at the prescribed time or level of performance expected by the company or church who has hired you. However, the strive for success can often take over common sense to the neglect of one’s family and relationship with the Lord. Do not become a slave to your work. Rather, do your work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who has set you free!

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship” (Romans 8:15).

Is Your Church Body Strong?

Church Planting, Rambling Thoughts, Scripture

A critical need in the Western Church is a biblical understanding and implementation of Ephesians 4:11-16 through of the use key word ‘equipping’. It seems that many, including us pastors, do not fully understand what is meant by ‘equipping’, and why it is different from preaching and teaching.

Although preaching and teaching are essential elements in equipping, they cannot stand alone. Preaching and teaching are static. Equipping is active; it is not possible to equip without active involvement in ministry. As my friend, Dr. Tom Julien said, “Though the terms ‘equipping’ and ‘involvement’ are not synonyms, they are inseparable. Involvement creates a thirst for learning, and enables one to discover their spiritual gifts. Sitting in a class or taking a spiritual gift inventory both have merit, but do not necessarily equip for ministry.”

Ephesians 4:11-16, with all its implications is the key for the growth and unity of the church, for the development of each member to his full potential; for developing the church’s “joints and ligaments” as leaders through leadership teams. In fact, I contend this is exactly what the Apostle understood and meant to convey. Working in teams, whether two-by-two as Jesus sent the early disciples, or in larger teams of 4 or 5, ‘equipping’ happens through the experience of working together; of trying different things, of using different energies that lead us to better understanding of our own spiritual giftedness; of learning how to work alongside those who don’t always agree with us and finding ways to accomplish the task in unity. One Church. One Body. Strengthened through joints and ligaments firmly attached and functioning well!

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”(Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV)

Is your church body strong?