How to Really be Inclusive Like Jesus

By Derek Rishmawy

For some, the gospel narrative means Jesus came to end exclusion and preach God’s inclusive kingdom. This was certainly part of his ministry and is arguably the most appealing aspect to our culture’s moral sensibilities. In Jesus, the outcasts of society have hope. Those long marginalized and kicked to the curb (figuratively and literally) can find him extending a hand, inviting them back into the community of the truly human as objects of dignity and divine affection.

Issues of inclusion and exclusion lie at the heart of our society’s most contested social issues. Whether it’s part of the dynamics underlying the racial tensions dividing our cities or our country’s heated discourse on sexuality, we need to deal with the realities of inclusion and exclusion. This is why I recently revisited Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Abingdon, 1996). It’s a fascinating theological account of forgiveness, truth, justice, and exclusion. Volf’s account has a particular poignancy as it’s set in the context of the exclusionary violence that destroyed his own home in the Balkans.

Nuancing Inclusion

I was immediately struck by Volf’s nuanced treatment of Jesus’s ministry of inclusion—or rather, ministry against exclusion. According to some accounts of Jesus’s ministry of radical inclusion, he offered his invitations to all without requirements or prohibitions, except for those sinning by exclusion. Exclusion is the aboriginal sin. The gracious kingdom of God, therefore, eliminates any construction of binaries. Following Jesus means rolling back boundaries, deconstructing categories, and flattening every moral and social hill in light of our inclusive God.

According to Volf, though, it’s not that simple. While it’s true some of Jesus’s work included transgressing “social boundaries that excluded the outcasts, demonstrating that these boundaries themselves were evil, sinful, and outside of God’s will” (72), Volf writes:

It would be a mistake . . . to conclude from Jesus’s compassion toward those who transgressed social boundaries that his mission was merely to de-mask the mechanisms that created “sinners” by falsely ascribing sinfulness to those who were considered socially unacceptable. He was no prophet of “inclusion” . . . for whom the chief virtue was acceptance and the cardinal vice intolerance. Instead, he was a bringer of “grace,” who not only scandalously included “anyone” in the fellowship of “open commensality,” but made the “intolerant” demand of repentance and the “condescending” offer of forgiveness (Mark 1:152:15–17). The mission of Jesus consisted not simply of renaming the behaviour that was falsely labeled “sinful” but also in remaking the people who have actually sinned and suffered distortion. The double strategy of renaming and remaking, rooted in the commitment to both the outcast and the sinner, to the victim and the perpetrator, is the proper background against which an adequate notion of sin as exclusion can emerge. (72–73)

Grasping this duality of renaming and remaking is vital if we’re going to follow Jesus well and think rightly about what being an inclusive church really means. So what does Volf say about these two components of Jesus’s ministry?

Renaming

First, he tackles the issue of renaming. When Jesus declares all foods clean (Mark 7:14–23), or heals the bleeding woman (Mark 5:25–34), or teaches the inclusion of Gentiles into the kingdom, he ends boundaries that place people in categories of clean and unclean: “By the simple act of renaming, Jesus offset the stark binary logic that regulates so much of social life: society is divided into X (superior in-group) and non-X (inferior out-group)” (73). Jesus upsets a false system of exclusion—one that divided people he was equalizing and bringing into the mutual community of the clean.

Something’s missing from Volf’s analysis, though: the dual dimension in which Jesus’s work of renaming functions. His renaming often works at the simultaneous level of correction and covenantal dispensation. Jesus aimed some of his acts of renaming at correcting distortions within the rabbinic and pharisaic halakhah, which aggravated the exclusivism inherent in the ceremonial law of Torah. (This type of exclusivism inevitably continues to happen in almost every church situation.) But other acts of renaming declared clean what was ritually unclean under the old covenant. Previous distinctions (Jew and Greek, kosher, and so on) had served their purpose in pointing to Christ and were now over in the new covenant age. Jesus renames the distinctions as covenantally irrelevant (Acts 10:5).

Remaking

What about the issue of remaking? “In addition to removing the label ‘unclean’ placed on the things that were clean,” Volf observes, “Jesus made clean things out of truly unclean things” (73). Jesus casted out unclean, sinful, tormenting spirits that held people captive and caused behaviours that excluded them from community (Mark 5:1–20). But he also dealt with “people caught in the snares of wrongdoing”:

People who, like tax-collectors, harm others in order to benefit themselves; people who, like prostitutes, debase themselves in order to prosper or just survive; people who, like most of us, are bent on losing their own souls in order to gain a bit of the world—such people were forgiven and transformed. (73)

In other words, Jesus ended their exclusion with a grace that acknowledged a self-excluding condition, habit, disposition, or behaviour that needed regeneration and forgiveness. Indeed, forgiveness is an including act that inherently contains an act of condemnation. But Jesus doesn’t just simply rename evil as good or indifferent—he tackles it head-on by destroying its roots in the human heart.

This is the more fundamental dimension of Jesus’s ministry of inclusion. Many suffer from regimes of unjust exclusion on the basis of gender, socio-economics, race, or stigma attached to a mental disorder. Therefore, we should praise God that Jesus offers hope and commands us to proclaim that social divisions are obliterated in Christ (Gal. 3:281 Cor. 11). But not everyone was—or is now—in a situation needing to be renamed. That said, we all fall short of the glory of God and exclude ourselves from communion with God (Rom. 3:236:23), and so we all need Jesus to remake—reconcile—us through the power of his blood. Everyone—rich and poor, black and white, male and female, Jew and Gentile—needs Christ’s ministry of remaking in their lives. Indeed, one of the main ways Jesus and the apostles undermined systems of exclusion built on false social categorizations was through a shared new name that signaled a shared new heart. Christians move from being together “in Adam”, to being together “in Christ.”

Two Kinds of Inclusion

I fear a failure to appreciate or apply the distinction between renaming and remaking in the church’s call to practice inclusion lies at the heart of so many of our hottest disputes. The dispute on human sexuality is burning particularly hot right now.

Progressives too often paint it as a debate between those who truly understand Jesus’s radical message of inclusion and those want to hold onto the old, exclusionary binaries of the Pharisees and Judaizers. We get to pick between being those who want to exclude and those who want to include—and how fun is it to play Jesus versus the Pharisees, right? Volf’s categories, however, show a more appropriate question: what is the method of inclusion that applies in this situation? While progressives see a situation of renaming akin to the Gentiles, the church has traditionally seen a situation of remaking (which, connected to sexuality, needs careful parsing—don’t read certain psychological programs into my use of the term). Still, according to the historic position, renaming would mean calling evil good.

This is where the irony enters. Traditionalists are often accused of being gatekeepers trying to keep people out of God’s kingdom. But if they are right—if treating sexual behavior like one of those outmoded sinful categories is a mistake—then ultimately the danger is that people won’t be called to repent from the kinds of behaviors that Christ and his apostles say lead to self-exclusion from the kingdom of God. It’s precisely the traditionalists’ desire to include people in the kingdom that drives their opposition to the wrong sort of inclusion. It’s precisely because they hate the idea of seeing anyone excluded from the kingdom of God that they insist we not offer inclusion on false premises.

One Way

In the end, it’s like two locals telling a visitor how to get into a building. One tells the visitor he must go through the main gate, while the other says to go through an easier side door. The latter fears the main gate is too far away and too hard to enter. Initially, this local appears to make it easier for the visitor to get in, while the other seems to impose a harsher standard—until you find out there’s no side door.

While the easier instruction is well intended, it’s sadly just another way of keeping the visitor out.

Seven Shepherding Questions for Leaders

Seven Shepherding Questions for Leaders

How to Pastor the People You Lead

By Stephen Blandino - May 28, 2017

As pastors, we are called to shepherd the people we lead. In fact, even if you’re not a pastor, there’s a shepherding element to your leadership. Imagine the impact you could have on the people you lead if you didn’t just lead them, but you pastored them. Sound strange, even impossible? The apostle Peter said:

“Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor” (1 Peter 5:2-4, NLT).

Peter painted a picture of the shepherding role of leaders. So, what does it mean to shepherd—or care for the flock—that God has entrusted to you, and how do you maintain this role as the church (or your organization) grows?

Two Faces of Shepherding: Noticing and Developing

There are two faces to shepherding the people you lead: Noticing and DevelopingNoticing focuses on the compassionate side of shepherding. It’s the side of leading that demonstrates care, empathy, and emotional intelligence. The old saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” captures the noticing side of shepherding.

Developing focuses on the leadership side of shepherding. It’s expressed through training, equipping, and empowering leaders. It’s all about delegating and multiplying. A Developing mindset sees potential in the people you lead and entrusts them with greater leadership responsibility.

Both—noticing and developing—are critical to shepherding the people you lead. So, how do you cultivate a noticing/developing posture as a leader? It begins with seven questions.

Four Ways to Shepherd Through Noticing

1. Who’s New…that I should meet?

1 Timothy 3 provides a thorough list of qualities that leaders ought to possess. Words like “self-controlled” and “respectable” make the list. Phrases like “above reproach,” “not given to drunkenness,” “not a lover of money” (and others) all describe the life of a person that is worthy to lead.

But buried in this comprehensive picture of leadership is one quality that is often overlooked in leadership circles: hospitable. 1 Timothy 3:2 says, “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable…”

Hospitality isn’t just a “good friend” quality. Each person we interact with should be greeted with a friendly and welcoming attitude. Without hospitality, you’ll never shepherd your team—or the new people you meet in your church or organization. That’s why it’s important to ask the first shepherding question: “Who’s new…that I should meet?”

That question will help you notice the person on the fringe and widen your net to welcome the outsider. Jesus was a master at this. While the religious leaders of His day were coddling insiders, Jesus noticed the outsiders. Today, even if you’re not a naturally outgoing person, you can still be friendly and hospitable. Who’s new that you need to meet?

2. Who’s Missing…that I should call?

Proximity makes a difference in shepherding. When we ask the shepherding question—“Who’s missing…that I should call?”—we take a fresh step toward proximity, helping us connect personally with the people we lead. Jesus said:

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? (Matthew 18:12, NLT).

Jesus valued the missing sheep. In fact, he said we should “search” for the lost sheep. Searching begins by noticing. As leaders, we have to train ourselves to look for the lost and to notice when somebody is missing.

Truthfully, this isn’t possible for one pastor or one leader. The need is simply too great and the number is too large. We have to develop teams of “noticers” who can stay connected in smaller environments. The larger a church or organization grows, the more critical these “noticers” will be.

3. Who’s Hurting…that I should encourage?

The longer I pastor the more I realize how much people are hurting. Whether it’s physical, relational, financial, or emotional; pain shows up every Sunday at church and every Monday in the workplace, masked by fake smiles. As pastors and leaders, what would happen if we asked the third shepherding question: “Who’s hurting…that I should encourage?”

The apostle Paul painted a pretty stark picture of how we should respond when our brother, sister, or a member of our team is hurting. He writes:

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important (Galatians 6:2-3, NLT).

How many times in leadership are we so busy that we don’t have time to help someone, or we feel too important to step down from our pedestal to serve somebody in need? I know I’m guilty. Paul’s words are a humbling indictment: “You are not that important.” Later he said, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT). Who’s hurting that you should shepherd with an encouraging word?

4. Who’s Serving…that I should thank?

There are three ways people serve in the local church: time, money, and prayer. Some people volunteer their time, serving faithfully to make ministry happen. Others serve through sacrificial giving, investing their resources in Kingdom-advancing ministry. Still, others serve by praying relentlessly for God to bring extraordinary transformation in lives. The question is, do you notice them?

Regardless of how people serve, ALL of them need to be thanked. How easy it is to forget that we wouldn’t be where we are without the people that serve alongside us. Notice the team serving with you. Ask the fourth shepherding question: “Who’s serving…that I should thank?” Grateful shepherds express thanks to those who make what they do possible.

In his letter to the church in Ephesus the Apostle Paul said, “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly” (Ephesians 1:15-16). Paul thanked God, and his letter delivered that thanks to the Ephesians. As a shepherding leader, look around at the people who faithfully serve. Who are they? How can you thank them today?

Who’s new that I should meet? Who’s missing that I should call? Who’s hurting that I should encourage? Who’s serving that I should thank? Four shepherding questions that say, “I notice you.” In my next article, I’ll share three more shepherding questions designed to develop the people you lead.

Noticing focuses on the compassionate side of shepherding, and Developing focuses on the leadership side of shepherding. One emphasizes care and compassion for people, and the other emphasizes the training, equipping, and empowering of leaders. Both—noticing and developing—are critical to shepherding the people you lead.

There are three questions that will help you strategically shepherd the people you lead from a developing posture. These are five, six, and seven of the seven shepherding questions.

Three Ways to Shepherd Through Developing

5. Who’s Emerging…that I should believe in?

Young leaders want somebody to believe in them. In fact, 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (NLT). Yes, young leaders must lead in such a way that there’s no reason for anyone to think less of them. At the same time, we must embrace a developing mindset with the young leaders around us. That mindset begins by asking, “Who’s emerging…that I should believe in?”

Your belief in a young leader is best expressed in three ways: affirmation, coaching, and opportunity. When you affirm potential, provide strategic coaching, and offer new opportunities, your belief becomes a catalyst for development. Each expression builds a flywheel of belief that builds in momentum over time.

6. Who’s Rising…that I should equip?

People rise one step at a time as leaders. Throughout their growth journey, they will need to be equipped with the right tools, training, and mentoring to keep moving forward. This is an essential shepherding role as leaders. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul said:

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12, NLT).

The sixth shepherding question asks, “Who’s rising…that I should equip?” Equipping isn’t optional as pastors and leaders. It’s a mandate. It’s primary to our calling. We are called to equip God’s people to do his work. What is your equipping strategy?

7. Who’s Faithful…that I should promote?

Faithfulness is more than “showing up.” Faithfulness is the stewardship of resources (abilities, time, & money), responsibilities, and opportunities. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the talents. He said:

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip…After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more’” (Matthew 25:14-15, 19-20, NLT).

The master gave opportunities to his three servants. Only two rose to the occasion and were deemed as faithful. Faithfulness was proven through opportunity, and well-managed opportunity opened the door for greater responsibility and larger opportunity.

The same is true today. The best way to develop leaders is to test their ability with new opportunities. In fact, your delegation list is your best leadership development tool. Look around ask ask yourself the final shepherding question: “Who’s faithful…that I should promote?” Once you identify a faithful volunteer or leader, determine what responsibility and opportunity to hand to them next. What roles do you need to promote your most faithful leaders to? What training will they need to succeed in that role?

Seven shepherding questions every leader should ask. Some will help you notice people and others will help you develop people. Both are essential to caring and growing the people you lead. Which quesitons do you need to starting asking today?

Pastors, Learn From Non-Pastors

Pastors, Learn From Non-Pastors

Garrett Kell / May 10, 2017

Most pastors have a right desire to train up future pastors. We realize that one day our ministry will end and that we ought to be preparing the next generation to take the gospel to places we cannot go.

This focus, however, can lead us to overemphasize training future pastors at the expense of training—and learning from—“ordinary” congregants. 

Here are five reasons we must devote some of our best time, energy, and resources to training up and learning from electricians, lawyers, teachers, and bankers.

1. They make up most of your flock.

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

God has called you to give attention to all the flock, not just some of it. The size of a congregation affects how much attention elders can give to each sheep, but each sheep must matter to us because, as Jesus made clear, each sheep matters to him (Matt. 18:12–14).

If most of your time, energy, and effort is given to future pastors, you’ll neglect the majority of your flock. Such a focus could unintentionally stifle the growth of the majority of your members who need discipling, instruction, and pastoral counsel. It could also provoke members to bitterness, causing them to feel like “second-class sheep” compared to those who aspire to be pastors. Satan delights in cultivating distrust between sheep and shepherds, and this is an easy way to do it.

One possible solution to this tension is including aspiring pastors in the work of shepherding other sheep. Jesus and Paul are almost always found with disciples by their side. A wise way to care for all the flock, and raise up future pastors at the same time, is to bring these groups together as often as possible.

2. They can reach people whom pastors can’t.

Before going into full-time ministry, I loved working regular jobs. This is because I’m an evangelist at heart, and those jobs afforded me the opportunity to be around people who didn’t know Jesus. But when someone becomes a pastor, he’s in one sense making the decision to retreat from the front lines of evangelism to equip others who will take the gospel into the world.

As a pastor, I view discipling our members as the development of missionaries who will reach people I’ll never be able to reach. My job is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12). If we’re predominantly spending our time with hopeful pastors, we’ll fail to equip members on the front lines of gospel work in the community.

Again, investing in a financier, construction worker, lawyer, or teacher is investing in someone who will reach those you’re not able to reach. This is part of Jesus’s wise plan for reaching the world; don’t neglect it.

It’s also wise to know that some members can reach other members more effectively than a pastor can. For innumerable reasons, some immature sheep hesitate to receive instruction from pastors but are willing to listen to other members. As you equip “ordinary” congregants for ministry, you develop allies and advocates who can help hesitant sheep grow up into maturity.

3. They will help you be a better preacher.  

Hanging out with aspiring pastors can be rewarding, but pastors need time with “normal people.” When we spend intentional time with members who are dealing with unbelieving bosses, the stress of travel, the pressure to make profits, and so on, God educates us about needs of our flock we might otherwise have overlooked. This shapes both us and also our preaching.

By spending time with our congregants, visiting their workplaces, asking humble questions, and eating meals in their homes, we gain insights into unique issues we must address in our preaching. Texts we preach yield fresh applications because we see how they apply to various situations. Indeed, by neglecting discipling relationships with non-pastoral men and women, we rob the church of rich insights that benefit everyone who listens.

Pastors aren’t just message-givers, but also message-livers. We’re called to be “examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3). Being around the flock, therefore, helps them see what our message looks like in real life. It also helps us avoid hypocrisy. By being among our members, we’ll remember our own sermon applications and ensure we’re applying them ourselves. Not a few times I’ve had a loving sheep say to me, “Now Pastor, didn’t you say. . . .” I love it when friends preach my sermons back to me! This helps me more faithfully live what I proclaim.

4. They will help you follow the Lord. 

Pastors are sheep first, shepherds second. Always. We must remember that. Even though we’re called to lead the Lord’s people, we’re also one of his people. Yet one of our great temptations is to get so caught up in shepherding that we forget we’re sheep in need of care, too. Fellow church members help us remember this.

Just yesterday, I had coffee with a member of our church who works in commercial real estate. We’re good friends, in similar life stages, face similar family challenges, and undergo similar work pressures. We both left our meeting refreshed and encouraged to keep trusting the Lord.

I’m encouraged by my fellow elders, too, but they aren’t the only ones I can learn from. Fellow church members—men and women—allow me into their lives, and I learn from them how to be a more faithful father, husband, financial steward, educator, citizen, and more. Pastors aren’t supposed to be experts on everything, and we can always learn from anyone who has the Holy Spirit.

5. Some might end up being pastors. 

I took a moment and wrote down half a dozen men serving as pastors today. What makes these men unique is that my relationship with each began as a normal discipling relationship. One was an oil field worker, another a physical therapist, another a salesman, and so on. These were “normal” men with “normal” jobs who just wanted to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

But God used the time, attention, and focused Word ministry to mature them and crystallize their calling as a pastor. One of the ways the Lord trains up pastors is by taking men who never thought they’d be pastors and giving them this desire. Remember that Samuel thought he knew who God’s anointed was, but God told him: “Do not look on his appearance . . . for the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

Love and be faithful to the sheep entrusted in your care, and you just might be surprised by what the Lord does through some of them—and through you.

10 Signs that say, "You are Not Welcome in this Church".

 

Originailly Posted on churchleaders.com ByJoe McKeever-June 13, 2016

“You shall love (the stranger) as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).

As a retired pastor who preaches in a different church almost every Sunday, a fun thing I get to do is study the church bulletins (or handouts or worship guides) which everyone receives on entering the building. You can learn a great deal about a church’s priorities and personality in five minutes of perusing that sheet.

 

As an outsider—that is, not a member or regular here—I get to see how first-timers read that material and feel something of the same thing they feel. I become the ultimate mystery shopper for churches. That is not to say that I pass along all my (ahem) insights and conclusions to pastors. Truth be told, most leaders do not welcome judgments from visitors on what they are doing and how they can do it better. So, unless asked, I keep it to myself. And put it in my blog. (smiley face goes here)

Now, in all fairness, most churches are eager to receive newcomers and want them to feel at home and even consider joining. And the worship bulletins reflect that with announcements of after-benediction receptions to meet the pastors, the occasional luncheon for newcomers to learn about the church and get their questions answered, and free materials in the foyer.

Now, surely all the other churches want first-timers to like them and consider joining. No church willingly turns its nose up at newcomers, at least none that I know of. But that is the effect of our misbehavior.

Here are 10 ways churches signal newcomers they are not wanted.

1. The front door is locked.

One church where I was to preach has a lovely front facade which borders on the sidewalk. The front doors are impressive and stately. So, after parking to the side of the building, I did what I always do: walked to the front and entered as a visitor would.

Except I didn’t go in.

The doors were locked. All of them.

After walking back around the side and entering from the parking lot, I approached an usher and asked about the locked door. “No one comes in from that entrance,” he said. “The parking lot is to the side.”

I said, “What about walk-ups? People from the neighborhood who come across the street.”

He said, “No one does that.”

He’s right. They stay away because the church has told them they’re not welcome.

One church I visited had plate glass doors where the interior of the lobby was clearly visible from the front steps. A table had been shoved against the doors to prevent anyone from entering that way. I did not ask why; I knew. The parking lot was in the rear. Regulars parked back there and entered through those doors.

That church, in a constant struggle for survival, is its own worst enemy. They might as well erect a sign in front of the church that reads, “First-timers unwelcome.”

2. The functioning entrance is opened late.

Even if we understand why a rarely used front door is kept locked, it makes no sense that the primary door should be closed. And yet, I have walked up to an entrance clearly marked and found it locked. The pastor explained, “We unlock it 15 minutes prior to the service.”

If that pastor is a friend and we already have a solid relationship, I will say something gracious, like, “What? Are you out of your cotton-picking mind? A lot of people like to come early. Seniors do. First-timers like to get there early to see the lay of the land. That door ought to be unlocked a minimum of 45 minutes prior to the announced worship time.”

If the pastor and I are meeting for the first time, I’ll still make the point, although a little gentler than that.

3. The church bulletin gives inadequate information.

The announcement reads: “The youth will have their next meeting this week at Stacy’s house. See Shawn for directions. Team B is in charge of refreshments.”

Good luck to the young person visiting that day and hoping to break into the clique. He has no idea who Shawn is, how to get to Stacy’s house or what’s going on if he dares to attend.

So, the youth does not return. Next Sunday, he tries that church across town that is drawing in great crowds of teens. For good reason, I imagine. They act like they actually want them to come.

4. The pulpit is unfriendly to first-timers.

The pastor says, “I’m going to call on Bob to lead the prayer.” Or, “Now, Susan will tell us about the women’s luncheon today.” “Tom will be at the front door with information on the project.”

By not using the full names of the individuals, the pastor ends up speaking only to the insiders. Outsiders entered without knowing anyone and leave the same way.

5. The congregation sends its own signals.

Is visitor parking clearly marked? And when you park there, does someone greet you with a warm welcome and helpful information? Or, do you find a parking place wherever you can and receive only stares as you approach the entrance?

Did you get the impression that you were sitting in someone else’s pew today?

Did anyone make an effort to learn your name and see if you have a question? Or, was the only handshake you received given during the in-service time as announced in the bulletin? (Those, incidentally, do not count when assessing the friendliness of a congregation. Only spontaneous acts of kindness count.)

This week, a pastor and I had lunch at a diner in downtown New Orleans, which I’ve visited only once and he not at all. We were amused at some of the signs posted around the eatery. One said rather prominently, “Guests are not to stay beyond one hour.” My friend Jim laughed, “I guess they’re saying we shouldn’t dawdle.”

Churches have their own signs, although not as clear or blatant as that. Usually, they are read in the faces, smiles (or lack of one) and tone of voice of members.

6. The insider language keeps outsiders away.

Now, I’m not one who believes we should strip all our worship service prayers and hymns and sermons of all references to sanctification, the blood, justification, atonement and such. This is who we are.

However, when we use the terms without a word of explanation—particularly, if we do it again and again—first-timers unaccustomed to the terms feel the same way you would if you dropped in on a foreign language class mid-semester: lost.

We signal visitors that they are welcome in our services when we give occasional explanations to our terms and customs which they might find strange.

7. No attempt is made to get information on visitors.

Now, most church bulletins which I see from week to week have the perforated tear-off which asks for all kinds of information and even gives people ways to sign up for courses or dinners. But I’ve been amazed at how many do not ask for that information.

So, a visitor comes and goes. The church had one opportunity to reach out to him or her and blew it.

A church which is successful in reaching people for Christ will use redundancy. That is, they will have multiple methods for engaging newcomers, everything from greeters in the parking lot to friendly ushers to attractive bulletins and after-service receptions.

8. No one follows up on first-timers.

One of the ministers of my church helped me with this. He said, “Asking people to fill out a guest card implies that there will be some kind of contact with them afterward.” He pointed out that our pastor informs them “no salesman will call,” but even so, “Someone phones many visitors and letters go out to most.”

The first-timer who visits a church and does everything right has a right to expect some kind of follow-up from a leader of that congregation.

We’re frequently told that people today cherish their privacy and do not want to give their name and contact information until they decide this church is trustworthy. My response to that is: It’s true, but not universally true. Many people still want to be enthusiastically welcomed and will respond to invitations to give given the grand tour and taken to lunch afterward.

In most cases leaders can tell from guest cards whether a visit will be welcomed. If not, at the very least a phone call should be made. If the caller receives an answering machine, he/she leaves the message and may decide this is sufficient for the first time. (Every situation is different. There are few hard and fast rules. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you.)

9. Intangibles often send the signals loud and clear.

In one church I served, a couple roamed the auditorium before and after services in search of anyone they did not know. Lee and Dottie Andrews greeted the newcomers, engaged them in conversation and quickly determined if an invitation to lunch would be in order. Almost every Sunday, they hosted a visiting family at the local cafeteria. At least half of these joined our church.

In another church, a husband and wife who sold real estate brought their clients to church with them. Some of the most active and faithful members who joined during my years in that church were introduced by Bob and Beth Keys.

Often, it’s nothing more than a great smile that seals the deal. Or a warm, genuinely friendly handshake.

A friendly, “Hey, have you found everything you need here?” may be all that’s needed.

Some churches install a newcomers desk in the foyer, where visitors can meet knowledgeable leaders, pick up material and get questions answered. Those can be great, but there is one caveat: You must have the right people on that desk. Individuals gifted with great smiles and servant spirits and infinite patience are ideal.

10. What happens following the service can make the difference.

You, the newcomer, have enjoyed the service, you were blessed by the sermon, and you would like to greet the pastor and begin an acquaintance with this church. Most churches are set up for you to do just this. But not all.

I’ve been in churches where within five minutes after the benediction, the place was deserted. People were so eager to leave, they hardly spoke to one another, much less guests. The signal they send the visitor is clear: “We don’t care for our church and you wouldn’t either.”

Healthy church congregations love each other and welcome newcomers and their people are reluctant to leave following the end of services.

One wonders if pastors and other leaders realize just how scary it can be for a person new in the city to venture into an unfamiliar church. It is an act of courage of the first dimension.

The Lord told Israel to reach out to newcomers and welcome them. After all, they themselves knew what it was to live in a strange country where the language and customs were foreign and they were missing home. God wanted Israel to remember always how that felt so they would welcome the stranger within their gates.

How much more should a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What Tolkien Did So Well, What We Do So Poorly

Originally Posted Mar. 2, 2017 by Tim Challies

( Original Link: https://www.challies.com/articles/what-tolkien-did-so-well-what-we-do-so-poorly)

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading through The Lord of the Rings, slowly meandering my way through Middle Earth for the umpteenth time. Every time I read the books, I find myself drawn to something different, some new demonstration of Tolkien’s brilliance. One of the strengths that distinguishes his work from other fantasy is its depth. Tolkien did not simply write a story, he created a world. Before he wrote characters and narrative, he created mythology, planets, races, languages, and history. As we read about a small fellowship saving the world from peril, we realize that their actions are the culmination of thousands and tens of thousands of years. It is in their actions that races converge, that prophecies are fulfilled, that ages end and begin again.

In this reading, I have found myself especially impressed by the history of Middle Earth, and I rate this as one of Tolkien’s great successes. But it’s not merely that Tolkien obsessively created a history in its finest details, but that he faithfully sets his characters within it. He makes them small but significant players in a much wider, grander drama. They are always aware of those who have gone before and always thinking of those who will follow. The characters do not stand alone in the story, but always in the shadow of their forebears.

In this way, the narrative often unfolds slowly, looking forward and looking back. Even when there has been the drama of fast-paced action, Tolkien will often slow it right back down. This wonderful, plodding little passage follows close after a chaotic battle:

‘No, you do not understand,’ said Gimli. ‘No dwarf could be unmoved by such loveliness. None of Durin’s race would mine those caves for stones or ore, not if diamonds and gold could be got there. Do you cut down groves of blossoming trees in the springtime for firewood? We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them. With cautious skill, tap by tap – a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day – so we could work, and as the years went by, we should open up new ways, and display far chambers that are still dark, glimpsed only as a void beyond fissures in the rock. And lights, Legolas! We should make lights, such lamps as once shone in Khazad-dûm; and when we wished we would drive away the night that has lain there since the hills were made; and when we desired rest, we would let the night return.

One of the great strengths of Tolkien’s work is its grounding in history. One of the great weaknesses of the contemporary church is its detachment from its own history. Few of today’s Christians have a clear sense of how the church came to be. They know of Acts and Reformation and Billy Graham, but the rest is a blur. They do not know their forebears, the ones who faithfully proclaimed and finally handed down the faith. They have no grounding in history—their own history.

This is not universally true, of course. I have been among some who cling tightly to their history—Reformed Presbyterians who love the Covenanters, Anglicans who esteem Cranmer and many of his contemporaries, Dutch Reformed believers who honor the men who framed their confessions. (I even went to one of their schools, Guido de Brès High School in Hamilton.) But for many others, they are completely unmoored from the past.

There are many reasons we ought to teach believers their history. History gives us purpose. History gives us hope. History gives us theological grounding. But as much as anything, history reminds us that we live in the shadow of those who have come before and that those who follow will, in turn, look back to us.

The characters in The Lord of the Rings know they are set within a wider drama that began ages prior and will continue ages hence. They are determined to act in ways that honor their forebears and leave a worthy example for their descendants. Their valor is motivated by their understanding that history has called them to this time, this place, and this set of circumstances. Their nobility is inseparable from their history. They speak and live as if every word of the mouth and every tap of the hammer will honor or dishonor those who have gone before and shame or bless those who will follow.

We’d do well to learn from their example. We, too, need to set believers within their history. We, too, need to teach them they are small but significant players in a much wider, grander drama. They must always be aware of those who have gone before and always think of those who will follow. They do not stand alone in the story, but always in the shadow of their forebears. What Tolkien did so well is what we do so poorly.

7 Issues that Church Planters Face: Systems, Processes and Cultures

Systems, Processes, and Cultures

Planters usually begin their planting journey with great intentions. Their strengths tend to be relationships and their passion is often looking toward Sunday mornings. With certain exceptions (large start-up teams, ideal locations, well funded) churches will not maintain the momentum that most church planters seek are wanting. Start up is not easy, but it is often when the church has the most receptivity in the community. Openness and response from open people create a sense of momentum. But, that momentum must be transferred to systems. In new contemporary churches, intentional systems, processes, and cultures are critical to long-term impact in new contemporary churches.

My friend Darrin Patrick explains that in an interview we did a few months back. In regards to church planting, I asked him, "Why do most churches stay small?" Darrin explained:

Largely because most pastors don't know how to build systems, structures, and processes that are not contingent upon them. Most pastors can care for people, but don't build systems of care. Most pastors can develop leaders individually but lack the skill to implement a process of leadership development. When a pastor can't build systems and structures that support the ministry, the only people who are cared for or empowered to lead are those who are "near" the pastor or those very close to the pastor. This limits the size of the church to the size of the pastor.


Yet, now it seems that most planters know the importance of creating healthy systems, processes, and cultures in the type of churches we have been discussing. In most cases, their focus is to reach lost and other unchurched people and see the church grow numerically and in spiritual maturity. Nowadays, most planters link a growing church with healthy systems, processes, and cultures. The terms, though different, are often used interchangeably. In this study, the most commonly cited areas of importance for these systems include reproducing leaders; generosity; externally focused, missional living; small groups; worship planning; strategic planning; and evangelism.

Rather than focus on those systems right now since those each require a long blog post, let's look at five key considerations when addressing the issues of systems and processes.

1. God's Part and Our Part -- Healthy systems, processes, and cultures enable and facilitate growth, but don't cause it. The Apostle Paul explained that we cooperate with God in the planting and watering of the seeds, but that it's God who makes the seeds grow. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth" (I Cor. 3:6 HCSB). Establishing healthy processes, systems and cultures is part of that cooperation.

2. A “Fix-It” Mentality -- Most planters tend to ask good questions regarding systems and processes including, "How do we reach more people?" or "How do we keep moving forward? The answer may include the creation or revising of a system or process. But a narrow focus can lead planters down the wrong path when they conclude, "If we just fix [fill in the blank], then we will grow." Issues are often much deeper.

3. Assessing Health -- Systems, processes, and cultures will emerge from the pre-launch phase. The only question is whether they are healthy or unhealthy. Will they create leverage for growth and momentum, or will they create barriers and obstacles, adding to a planter's stress?

4. Pre-Launch Behaviors -- The pre-natal phase in a mother's womb is vital to an infant's health after birth. The things a mother does and does not do during this time have lasting impacts. Likewise, the things a planter does and does not do during pre-launch phase have a lasting impact for years to come. Planters either intentionally create leverage through the establishment of healthy systems, processes, and cultures, or they risk creating barriers and obstacles.


5. Urgency and Accountability -- When building a new house, most localities require an occupancy permit before a family can move in. A permit guarantees that the basic systems (i.e. water, sewer, electrical, lighting, etc.) are healthy and functioning. There is no equivalent standard or requirement in new churches. As a result, many new churches are birthed with the equivalent of no water, no electrical and no lights. Basic systems might include disciple making, evangelism, leadership development, and volunteer mobilization. The "Tyranny of the Now" and the lack of accountability structures impacts a planter's ability to create healthy processes and systems in three ways:

6. Capacity -- Everything tends to fall on the planter's shoulders. Although the planter would like to slow down and "do it right," a planter often gets caught in the urgent accepting, living with unhealthy systems. Many planters recognize the dysfunctional cycle, but get stuck in it, further adding to the stress and discouragement.

7. Choices -- Leaders make daily choices to focus on production or production capacity (in the work or on the work). Sometimes it seems that production never stops, easily consuming all of the planter's time. Sunday to Sunday pressure alone can be overwhelming. Making wise choices is one of the keys to managing the roles. Building healthy systems, processes and cultures is a function of good strategic planning around available capacity.

8.  Time -- Time is one of a planter's most precious resources. Starting a new church involves hundreds of tasks. Most of these tasks do not involve connecting with lost people or building healthy system. That can be a stretch for a lot of planters and a great source of stress.

Systems, processes, and culture are essential. Sustainability and fruit are almost always advanced when a planter understands that importance.

The Least Attended Church Gathering

Originally Posted By Nicholas Batzig - January 24, 2017

Last night, we had a sweet time of singing God’s praises and praying together as a church—prior to eating a meal. We do this once a month at New Covenant. This gathering serves as a monthly prayer meeting. The other times of prayer in the life of our church occur in our morning worship service and during our weekly/bi-weekly small groups. Most of the time, our monthly prayer meeting is fairly well attended. I suspect that it is, at least in part, due to the fact that we have a meal. However, it is a sad reality of the church in the Western world that the prayer meeting is “the least attended church gathering.” I have experienced this sad reality firsthand as a member of a church of 1000+ where eight to 10 people would show up for the weekly prayer meeting. It didn’t take me long to realize that prayerlessness is one of the foremost sins and symptoms of an anemic church. I fight against this sin in my own heart and life. The end result of a prayerless church is that it inevitably becomes a powerless church.

God has ordered things in His church in such a way that prayer is one of the foremost means by which He gives His people spiritual power and vitality for the advancement of His Kingdom through the preaching of the Gospel and the carrying out of deeds of love and mercy. So why does the church in the Western world fail so miserably at coming to the throne of grace in order to receive the grace and mercy needed on a daily and weekly basis (Heb. 4:16)? I would offer the following four reasons:

  1. The Church in the Western World Is Far Too Rich. Just as is true in marriage, money can mask deficiencies and defects in the church. If the money wasn’t there, we would see just what things really look like. Having enough money and resources can keep churches and ministries going for a very long time. Being able to build big enough buildings, staffing well-enough and paying a man who can preach skillfully enough can subtly send the message that everything is healthy. One of the most dangerous places to be as the church is in a place of material prosperity. It is not sin for a church to have large buildings, a robust staff and a gifted pastor(s)—but it is laden with dangers. If this is true of the church in the Western world, then we need to emphasize just how important a prayer meeting is for the life of the particular local church of which we are a part.
  2. The Church in the Western World Is Far Too Ambitious. Prayer is, in one very real sense, a pulling away from the busyness of life and bowing before God the Father and at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the cessation of work and the entering into the presence of the living and true God in order to call on Him to “work for us” (Isaiah 64:4). Our culture is one of relentless production. Many of the churches in our culture are fueled by the quest for more. The end result of such a culture is that the church is infected with a restlessness. Another outreach event, another music production and another special service or service project takes the driver’s seat while we kick the prayer meeting out of the car. We need to put the prayer meeting in the passenger’s seat directly beside the worship service.
  3. The Church in the Western World Is Far Too Frenetic. Arguably, we live in the most active time in human history. When there are hundreds of events happening simultaneously, professing believers often give in to the social pressure of being at the next social event in their community rather than being with the people of God in worship and prayer. The prayer meeting is a glorious corrective to the frenetic culture around us. The prayer meeting helps quiet our minds as we direct our thoughts and prayers up to the God of heaven. After all, He has promised to keep at perfect peace those who keep their minds on Him (Isaiah 26:3).
  4. The Church in the Western World Is Far Too Earthly-Minded. The allure of the frenetic culture is often driven by the fact that the members of the church in the Western world are often far too earthly-minded. There is a serious lack of heavenly-mindedness in our lives. Those who are heavenly-minded long to be with the people of God as they gather to be in the presence of God. They recognize that this world is passing away and that the events of the culture around them are meaningless in comparison with the eternal significance of worshiping and praying to the eternal God who is our everlasting home. They are pressing onto Zion with songs and prayers accompanying their pilgrimage. As the saying goes, we need to become so heavenly-minded that we’re finally of some earthly good. Heavenly-mindedness is fostered and manifests itself, first and foremost, in worship and at the prayer meeting.

There is much more that could be said about this subject, but I would simply raise an appeal to those who read this: Don’t neglect the prayer meeting. Make it a point to recognize that we have the enormous privilege and responsibility of coming together as the people of God to call on the God of all grace for the power we lack to participate with Him in seeing His Kingdom advance through the ministry of the word, prayer and worship. We have a God in heaven who has given us the unparalleled privilege of “casting all of our cares on Him” knowing that “He cares for us.” May He give His church—especially in the Western world—the grace to enter in on this most precious means of grace for His glory, our fruitfulness and the advancement of His Kingdom.

7 Issues that Church Planters Face: Casting Vision and Avoiding Mission Drift

Casting Vision and Avoiding Mission Drift

One recurring theme was around the church plant losing sight of their direction. Respondents expressed vision casting and avoiding mission drift in several different ways. Eliminating pressure from "churched" people; navigating distractions from "good ideas"; making decisions consistent with mission; defining priorities for growth; and balancing evangelism and discipleship were challenges leaders confronted to avoid mission drift.

Here are five key considerations:

1.     Clarity -- The concept of "drift" implies leaving a clearly defined and understood standard. Planters should not assume that because their expectations are clear and compelling in their minds that they are clearly understood by the rest of the team.

2.     Core Values -- Most planters have a strong sense of mission and vision that drives them. These same planters often have less clarity about their core values that shape what they do and how they do it (the compass that guides their north direction). Will Mancini described the task of what he called "High Definition Leadership" as "constantly bringing the most important things to light." [Will Mancini, Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008, p. 52]

3.     Mission, Vision, and Values -- The pre and post launch phases are vital to establishing core values that create a strong foundation. Although not explicitly articulated in their responses, it appears planters tend to confuse or interchange what most people refer to as the concepts of vision (dream of preferred future state), mission (corresponding activity) and values (non-negotiable principles). The result is a lack of personal clarity internally before the external challenges that cause mission drift begin.

4.     Ministry Philosophy -- Mission, vision, values and leadership culture form the foundational elements of a plant's philosophy of ministry. Ideally, a planter's ministry philosophy is clearly defined before starting. However, for many planters, it is a work in progress. As a consequence, the philosophy of ministry can be more influenced by negative shaping factors such as scarcity culture, "church people" on the team, and peer comparisons. In Planting Missional Churches, I call this danger "vision hijacking."

5.     Non-Negotiables -- Most planters do not have the capacity, financial resources or team needed to develop a comprehensive strategy. Instead they narrow their focus to 3 to 5 "table banging" priorities they will be "mean" about in the early days of the church. The limited number of priorities becomes the filter for saying "yes and no" to ministry initiatives and is vital for avoiding drift.

 

Although I have not been prescriptive in these blogs I do recommend taking a look at Will Mancini's free Clarity Quiz to help you continue to assess your work. Accountability through networking is vital to address every issue planters face. Sadly too many planters try to make it alone reading books and websites. A great opportunity to network is coming in Orlando in April. The Exponential Conference will provide numerous next level opportunities for church planters. The conference is coordinated by my partner in this top issues project, Todd Wilson (Director of Exponential).

7 Issues that Church Planters Face: Launch Team Development and Mobilizing Volunteers

Launch Team Development and Mobilizing Volunteers

When starting churches such as those we have discussed, core (launch) team size becomes more important in larger, well-funded starts where more defined ministries are provided at the start. Mobilizing volunteers is an issue regardless of size of the launch team. Whether it is the well-funded, full-time planter or the part-time, bi-vocational planter, both expand their ministries' impact through volunteers.

The research project, headed up by Todd Wilson and the Exponential team, that serves as the basis of this series identified five key considerations in launch team development and mobilizing volunteers.

1.     Healthy Launch Teams are Mission Critical When Seeking to Start in the Way We Discussed. -- In his book, Planting Fast-Growing Churches, author Stephen Grey identified 21 differences between fast growing churches and struggling ones. Among these was the importance of healthy launch teams. Grey found that 88% of fast-growing churches had a launch team in place before launch compared with only 12% of struggling churches.

2.     Church Planting is a Team Sport -- When a planter and family moves into a community without team members, the risk factors increase. The difficult becomes even more difficult. For "parachute drop plants" where the planter has few existing relationships, team building and volunteer mobilization can be slow and difficult.

3.     Pre-Launch Tasks vs. Relationships - Most planters are good at relationship building. However, planters report that they spend a disproportionate amount of time in the pre-launch phase focused on administrative details (e.g. facilities, marketing, equipment, legal issues, etc). These administrative issues compete with the time needed to build relationships and teams. The paradox is that strong teams can help with the endless details associated with launching a church. However, unavoidable administrative details limit a planter's time available for relationship and team building.

4.     A Core Group of Believers is not always a Good Thing -- This may sound like a contradiction to # 2 but hear me out on it. When partner churches provide core teams it can be a win. But a planter must be aware of the challenges. Having a team of volunteers in place before the planter arrives has its pitfalls. Often the team expects the planter to adapt his or her vision to fit the team's desires rather than submitting to the planter. The planter needs to provide visionary leadership and the partner churches' volunteers must be prepared to operate differently while helping the plant.

5.     New Church Core Teams Experience Fallout -- A painful reality of the early days of church planting is that core team members leave. Many planters report discouragement resulting from the loss of good friends from their core team. Losing half of the planting launch team within the first years is common. Planting is hard work. Weary volunteers can end up searching out existing, stable churches to call home. The planter should be emotionally and spiritually prepared for relational losses.

 

Awareness of the issues and intentional strategies are critical for launch team and volunteer mobilization. Planters tend to put too much confidence in their ability to relate to people as the solution to every challenge in church planting. More is needed, specifically a plan and the development of leadership skills.

7 Issues that Church Planters Face: Financial Self-Sufficiency and Viability

Financial Self-Sufficiency and Viability

Originally Posted by Ed Stetzer

Now, I should not have to add this to every post, but since I am about to talk about funded church planting, there is always someone who comes by and says, "But you don't have to do it with money, you could be a house church." Yes, I get that. I'm for that. I write about that probably more than you have (unless you are Neil Cole or Felicity Dale), and I invite others to talk about that.

But, during small church week, I am asked if I'm anti-megachurch. During megachurch week at the blog, people complain that I don't like missional-incarnational communities. Then, I talk about bi-vocational ministry and "clergification" and people ask if I am against paid ministry. You get the point. So, consider this "contemporary church plant week" and thank God for what He is doing in those kinds of churches. And, if you are in a different setting, listen in and learn about a different way to do things than you are. It will be good for you.

In surveying these leaders, leadership development was the first issue, but finances were a close second in frequency.

In our conversations, the financial issue was a big concern for many planters. We found that money management in the church, and personally for church planters, are ongoing concerns. Internal giving (and the lack thereof) and external fund raising are other concerns. Often these issues are not confronted but avoided, which can lead to all sorts of personal and ecclesial disasters for the planter. And, put on top of all that, for most planters the administrative/financial part of ministry is what they enjoy least.

The financial strains of planting represent one of the most significant challenges for planters. Many planters come from a relatively safe and stable job (including pay) into an entrepreneurial, risk-taking endeavor with an uncertain future. Often planters are thrust into fund-raising for the first time in their lives with little or no training. Many plants take years to become financially self-sufficient, relying on other churches and donors. The journey to financial self-sufficiency often places a heavy burden on the church planting family.

In Viral ChurchesWarren Bird and I talked about the need for financial self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is almost always assumed as a goal (and rightly so, from a missiological perspective). For centuries, it has been a missiological axiom that churches should start and get to the point where they support themselves (and, among other things, reproduce themselves). But, as this chart shows, it can take awhile.

 

The chart shows the percentage of church plants that reported they were self-sufficient at each year mark (assuming they were still in existence, with about 2/3 of those started in year one still existing in year four). (You can see Viral Churches for all the research info.)

So, what are the big considerations? Here are a few based on the interviews and observations. There are several things to consider, but here are five ways to break this down.

1.     The BiVo Challenge - The financial realities of planting leads many planters to be bi-vocational. Let me say that I am a big proponent of bi-vocational ministry. But, that is generally not the goal of most church planters (though I think more should consider it, but that is not this project). Employment presents a unique set of challenges for planters and families. For many bi-vocational planters, fulfilling the work for their full-time position becomes the necessary priority-- you need to be a faithful employee. Outreach, ministry, and service, however, are also important and are limited as a result. A fully-funded lead planter is generally assumed to be the goal and most would say that it is best for the church and the planter when possible. I would say it this way: if the plan is to have a full-time pastor, it is best to start with a full-time pastor, if you have a plan and resources to get to full-time status before running out of full-timefunds. We have some good statistical evidence that there are some positive outcomes with full-time pastors starting churches using this approach.

2.     Tension Over Talking/Teaching About Giving - Tom Nebel and Gary Rohrmayer tagged this one as "Church Planting Landmine #7" in their helpful book, Church Planting Landmines. Often with good intentions, they overreact to the perceptions of lost people. No doubt, money issues need to be handled differently in church. So with those concerns they avoid talking about money at all (which robs people of the giving experience). Conventional wisdom is that people new to church do not give much during the early years. But you have to wonder if one reason they are so slow is because church planters overreact on this issue.

3.     Limited Budget Experience - Most planters lack training and experience in budgeting. While many have been involved in preparing a budget for an individual ministry in a previous job (e.g. student ministry, worship ministry, etc), few have been responsible for an entire church budget including the process of turning vision into a financial plan. Some planters become paralyzed and have trouble moving forward while others blindly move forward without a budget. For bi-vocational planters, the budgeting process is often simply allocating salary to their part-time planting work since there are little to no additional funds to be budgeted.

4.     Flow of Funds Trap - Related to consideration #3, the lack of experience causes another issue. Planters who raise considerable funds for a large launch face a common trap-- misunderstanding the difference between cash flow forecast (i.e., having the right funds at the right time) versus total cash commitments, which are not limited to a specific schedule. The result is that some planters over commit funds at specific times even though they've raised enough total funds.

5.     Personal Financial Impact - Like many who start new initiatives, planters often drain their savings and retirement accounts to pursue their dreams. Putting start-up costs on personal credit cards is also more common than you might believe (and a really bad idea). Not only does this cause incredible stress for the planter and family, but good strategy can be sabotaged. Planters know that the ultimate answer to the financial need is in the harvest. So, launch day is often hurried with an eye toward generating offering to offset personal investments and ministry needs.

Do these concerns resonate with you and how you have handled them?