Archive for Church Planting
I have heard from many pastors about how the church they work at, they would not personally attend as a parishioner. This is a sad state of affairs. It signals Read the rest of this entry »
As the hot summer season rolls around here in the suburbs of Houston, and many people take vacations and attendance dwindles at church, I find I have to check myself and maintain equanimity Read the rest of this entry »
I have found myself laboring and complaining. Looking up at God and wondering worrying fretting about the fruit and the Harvest. I wonder why toil is so… toilsome. I wonder why by the sweat of our brow we make our bread. I wonder and question God, more than a little resentful. Exhausted. Tired. And with no choice but to press on.
But then I look at my hands.
They are bronzed and hardened and strong. They have worked the earth and tilled the soil. I look at my faith. It has worked wonders, seen miracles because it has learned to extract Self from the equation of life. I have grown stronger through such seasons of life.
I am learning that the secret to being content is serenity in the midst of all and any of life’s storms. I’ve given up trying to avoid storms or control them. Futility. I merely accept them now, and walk the path I must follow today with whole-hearted acceptance. Thank you God for serenity. Thank you that I am not afraid anymore. Thank you that i am stronger.
The Concluding Prayer of the Church
God, you have prepared in peace the path I must follow today. Help me to walk straight on that path. If I speak, remove lies from my lips. If I am hungry, take away from me all complaint. If I have plenty, destroy pride in me. May I go through the day calling on you, you, O Lord, who know no other Lord.
It was almost a year ago, back in December 2013 when the thought first entered my mind, and it was not a welcome thought at all.
I was serving at a solid church and had a stable position there as senior pastor, was getting settled in Katy, and together with my wife and kids, were building a life out here in the ‘burbs of Houston. Everything was going right. But on the wrong track, it felt like, and a radical course adjustment was needed. I remember reading the words of Peter Drucker, “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” And while the church is not a business, the principle still applies: if your org is going down a different track than what you envisioned, then either get ready for a long ride, or prepare to make a courageous decision – to get onto the right track headed for the vision you have for ministry.
And I knew that it had to be a multiethnic vision reaching all people in Houston.
So as I faced what was then a daunting task, I put my head down and waded right in. I took a lot of heat and had plenty of sleepless nights. I lost my appetite for a while. My ears itched, a lot. Still, I continued through. I had key mentors assure me I was doing the right thing. That was a big confirmation for me; that if these people – who have no qualms about telling me I’m doing something wrong and in fact have done so in the past – if these people who can tell me straight up can say that I am on the right track, then maybe indeed it is a God-thing, and not yet another of Wayne’s darn-fool idealistic crusades.
So I asked God for the courage to persist – alone, if need be, and to my surprise, I discovered that people were seeing the same vision, the same track, and were even prepared to jump onto it with me. That brought tears to my eyes, often. And even those who weren’t on board with it, understood it, and even blessed it, for which I am never sufficiently grateful.
So on July 20th we began gathering in my living room, a core group of 30 adults and 20 children.
We named ourselves Woven Covenant Church.
We came up with a financial plan, as well as a launch plan for this new church.
We formed committees and task teams, working on location, staffing, hiring, marketing, branding, welcoming, programming, etc.
I stepped back, sat down in my chair and watched it unfold(ing) before my eyes. I didn’t have to do much. The people are doing it. It’s high collaboration, and requires minimal management, because we all are heading down the same track: that of a missional church with a multiethnic mission in the suburbs of west Houston.
I sometimes don’t feel like a church planter. In fact, often. I know my skill and gift set does not match that of charismatic leader who is a strong people-gatherer. I’m more of a Russian novelist. Bookish. Alone. Pensive. Reflective. Introspective. Charismatic church leader? Enter identity crisis. I have a lot of pain about this. Really. And I am trying to come to terms with it; that while I must – and should – build up the weaker parts of my personality, I can only naturally lead with my strongest leg. And I can also allow others to operate out of their strengths, leading in ways that I cannot.
So I am thankful for my core team, in knowing me and accepting me as their shepherd, trying to fumble around figuring out Texas football, with my endless Lord of the Rings analogies, and pie-in-the-sky idealism.
I’ve been preaching a series through Mark this season at my church. Truthfully it’s been a difficult process – not in the work behind crafting and preparing for it, which I enjoy – but in the eery way the Journey of the disciples has been too similar to that of my church to be coincidental. It’s almost prophetic. I’m talking about the ups and downs of it all, the flagging understanding, the desertions which dishearten, the opposition of opponents voiced amidst stalwart supporters (“where else shall we go?”). The joys and the small victories (“we healed many!” of 6:13) and yet the setbacks of unbelief (“he could do no miracle there”).
It is too much drama for one pastor to behold in a season.
When I stumbled on the above words by Parker Palmer, voiced by Pete Scazzero, about how we persistently try to push through our requests to heaven, I had in back of mind the passage I was working on for Sunday: 9:29 “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer (and fasting).” Aint that the truth. You can’t push thru something if the door is locked. And sometimes that is an indication that you just have to try a different methodology.
After all you’ve heard the adage; “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So maybe persistence is not the key but approaching the same thing differently.
I think that’s what the prayer and fasting is about.
Not so much more pleading, persisting, cajoling; that would be just more pounding upon a silent door. But I am of the view that actually praying while performing their exorcisms was something they did not do to begin with, and it was actually novel for the disciples; that what was required was not so much more persistence but a different approach; and if indeed Jesus is talking about prayer AND fasting, then what He’s talking about is certainly not an instantaneous transaction. To expect it to be so is childish.
It’s a process.
So as I reflect on my church’s Journey through Mark I am increasingly aware of my own need to be more process-oriented (as opposed to outcome-oriented); to be less future-minded and more here-and-now; to not neglect the relationships in front of me in favor of one more newcomer; because the work of creating culture and discipling the future of the new city is one that will take – in the words of Eugene Peterson – “a long obedience in the same direction.”
I’ve been preaching a 3-part miniseries on “Moneyisms” pertaining to Biblical perspectives on money, giving, and this week, stewardship (1/12/14 to 1/26/14). As I conclude the series this week one image has lingered in my mind pertaining to stewardship; that of wearing someone else’s armor – that we cannot steward what we don’t have and certainly cannot attempt to steward what is someone else’s responsibility and not ours for the time being.
The bane of too many young pastors and planters is the starry-eyed covetousness of the rockstar pastor persona, that someday we wish to shoulder their “burden” of fame and wish it upon ourselves. The problem with that is simply that it is not stewardship. Stewardship of our own lot that God has gifted – yes gifted – us with. The more we look at what others have, the more we wind up neglecting and even burying our own talents.
Need we be reminded that we are not called to fame or fad but to faithfulness, that God respects the one who stewards what THEY have, beit five, or two, or one talent. His expectation is not successful return, but responsible stewardship of what was given us – in the recognition that it ALL – fame, money, success, power, authority, influence – none of it belonged to us anyway. It was granted on loan, with expectation of good and faithful returns – in a word, stewardship.
So I can say with David (and a bit of cheekiness, I might add), keep your armor, I haven’t tested it yet; I prefer that which is familiar to me; the earthiness of the 5 smooth stones – that which I know so well – that is what I will steward. Faithfully. Responsibly.
With the recent hoopla of the new phenomenon of “Atheist churches” popping up in Europe and America, and their very first apparent “schism”, I wanted to offer my (free) professional consulting on how this could be a prime opportunity for “Atheist Church Planting.”
We in the church know how schism can oftentimes be pre-empted or ratified by an intentional redirecting of congregational energies towards positive and constructive outcomes as opposed to negative and destructive ones; that “planting” (or establishing) new congregations is a good way out of such situations in staving off congregational discontent, funneling energies towards more constructive means, and ultimately producing more missional Christians – in your case I’m not sure what that would be – but your version of a people called & sent, who perceive a divine sense of vocation and mission.
So allow for a bit of advice from people who have been at it for 2000 years; you could use a little coaching:
First, you want to evaluate the nature of this “schism” – is it a difference in teaching or in values? Are you hard atheists, or soft atheists? Have agnostics infiltrated your ranks and polluted the minds of your flock? Is it over the need to have drums and guitars in your sing-alongs, or are there people who prefer the solemn liturgy of humanism? Or is the conflict less content-oriented and more about a breakdown in the emotional process / relationship system somewhere? Can you find the means to reconcile and if not, to forgive and to bless?
Second, you’ll need to come up with a plan. How many healthy people, couples, families do you have? You should have upwards of at least 30 to 50 people to produce a beginning critical mass, and it’s important not to plant with angry, bitter people. Can you do that? Because no one likes an angry church, and an angry church cannot retain people for long. It may be evidence of emotional carry-over from the previous congregation. For churches birthed in reaction stay plagued with the toxicity of unreconciled emotional processes. So if you can birth a new, non-reactive atheist church plant, then more power to you.
Third: How are you going to fund this thing? Do you have a way to motivate people to tithe in atheism? Perhaps an appeal that their contribution “goes to a worthy cause” – but the problem with this is we’ve often found such givings come with demands, i.e., “returns on their investment” and this makes for rather selfish giving. You see, the secret in the Christian church is we often preach giving as an antidote to selfishness, not as party to it. If you can find a way to prompt unselfish, generous, and consistent giving, then do it.
Fourth: Wait for the right time. A wise coach once told me, “It’s about the right pastor, in the right place, at the right time.” If those pieces are in place, it births synergy; are you the right shepherd for your people? Do they sense your care, patience, love, forbearance, long-suffering? Are you a forgiving person that can stay decades – 10, 20, 30 years with your congregation? Are you in the right place where you are recognized as prominent within the community, looked up to as a person with integrity, not only well-connected but well-respected and loved? Is the timing right, or will this new plant disrupt the stasis around you? Are there presently other projects you can partner with?
Fifth. If you’ve gotten this far, can you launch well? Methinks you can, from the catchy ad campaigns; it really gets a lot of attention. Once you launch, it should double or triple your critical mass, and you’ve got the beginnings of a church. But the longevity and the depth of the church really depends on how well you worked the first four steps above; because if you haven’t then, well, you’ll have yet another schism on your hands.
God-bless Self-bless and good luck.