Louisiana has 9 METROpolitan areas and 9 MICROpolitan areas. The only difference, according to the Census Bureau is proximity to a large city.
“Micropolitan cities do not have the economic or political importance of large cities, but are nevertheless significant centers of population and production, drawing workers and shoppers from a wide local area.”
These are some of my favorite places in Louisiana – Natchitoches, Ruston, Bogalusa, Morgan City, DeRidder, Fort Polk, Bastrop, Jennings (actually not a favorite place b/c they knocked my team out of the High School baseball playoffs my Sr. year. Yea, I’m bitter. Lol!) And the largest of these is the Opelousas-Eunice Micropolitan Area. It’s also the least churched of these nine as well, with Morgan City close behind.
How do you plant a church in a Micropolitan area? Well, Christ Church Opelousas is doing great job at showing us the way. Stuart Amidon is the church planter and in their 30th month of existence they have over 80 in worship attendance and are looking at expanding their capacity and making other things happen to prepare for the next wave of growth. What’s the story? What lessons can we learn from Christ Church Opelousas?
1. Keep a Positive Outlook
Stuart has a very positive, hopeful attitude. Slow growth can be discouraging and frustrating at times for church planters in small towns. Managing expectations with faith and a smile is essential for leading a church at this level, because the people see how everything effects you personally. Positive attitude inspired by a close relationship with a sovereign God is a must for church planting wherever you are.
2. Reach out to the Downcast
Christ Church Opelousas meets in the chapel of a rehab center in Opelousas, so much of their core group were people at the bottom working their way up. Church Planting works best in the well cultivated soil of people that know they need Christ and other people. Christ Church has developed out of that soil, so life change along with grace and mercy are front and center.
3. Plan on a Bivocational Approach
Stuart serves a local school. Planting in small towns such as Opelousas may require a bivocational approach. Don’t resist it. Much good comes from being in the community and one of the community, in the workforce. Bivocational ministry also forces multiplication of leaders as the pastor is not there everyday to take care of all the work of the church. And the sooner multiplication takes place the faster the church plants capacity for growth can expand.
4. Get Involved in a Good Network
Christ Church Opelousas is part of a network of Christ Churches that work in small communities across Acadiana. Stuart also participates in our Multiply Louisiana network meetings as able. Research has shown the validity of church planting networks. In the Church Plant Survivability and Health Study realeased in 2007, by the North American Mission Board, a survey found that church plant survivability increased by 135% when a planter met with a group of church planting peers regularly. Another survey of 600 church planters revealed that first year attendance was over 50 percent greater in the churches planted by those participating in a peer network. (see my post on The Importance of a Church Planting Peer Network). I like to say, one of the best things that planting a church has done for me is drive away my independence. To plant in a small town you will need others!
I’m excited about Christ Church Opelousas. Pray for them as they continue to reach out to their community. Keep up with Christ Church Opelousas on Facebook.
When I get stuck as a parent, leader, or pastor I’ve learned to ask, “Where’s the low hanging fruit?” In other words, what’s one or two simple things I can do to make a difference right now, without a lot of effort? There are usually 2-3 things that can be done, no matter how tough the project or issue.
In trying to move a church plant to break that next growth barrier, or get unstuck from where you are, learn to look for the low hanging fruit. Here’s three great questions in that regard, inspired by the Malphurs Group recent post on Maximizing Fall Church Attendance:
1) Are there any fringe attenders that we have been praying would become regular attenders?
Make some extra effort and call them and make a lunch appointment. Send them a personal hand written note letting them know you’re praying for them. And make sure they are invited to every special event or fellowship opportunity.
2) Are there any regular attenders that we have been praying would become leaders?
I’ve heard you have six weeks from a time a person ready to lead comes to your church, to the time they check out, if you don’t get them plugged in. Make the ask. Make some extra effort and find out what their spiritual gift and passions are and invite them to be on a ministry team. Or design a project or ministry to get them involved.
3) Are there any new faces checking out our church for the very first time?
Hopefully, you’ve got a process in place to follow up with first time guests. Make some extra effort with a personal phone call.
The challenge is to not put the work on them to get plugged in. Low hanging fruit can be easier because its low, but you still have to pick it. I’ll be making these three list today.
It’s that time of year again! The squirrels are out in force tearing up our landscaping, burying every acorn or other nut they can find to get prepped for the winter. I’ve heard that 25% of the nuts squirrels bury are harvested by other animals. Another 25% are never found and have a chance at becoming trees one day that provide homes and nuts for another generation of squirrels. So squirrels work hard in order to provide for their future and unknowingly provide for other animals and for future generations.
Love this as a metaphor for the work of church planting.
- Church planting is about planting and burying seeds.
- Our hard work, our passion, our rushing around should be to plant as many seeds as we possibly can in the hearts of people on our way to a healthy, evangelistic, self-sustaining church planted.
- Our own harvest will relate to the number of seeds we plant.
- As we go, we should know, some seeds planted will result in a harvest for other churches. Praise God!
- And some will not be harvested for years to come and may never connect the dots back to us. Praise God!
Don’t see church planting as primarily about you and your survival. It’s about the kingdom and the work of church planting may grow your church, but if not, it will provide for others and for the future. Now let’s go bury some seeds!
75% of 2016 is in the can. Here’s a report of this years Church Planting efforts among Louisiana Baptist Churches:
- We’re at 29 Church Plants for the year. Just 1 away from our annual goal of 30. We should finish the year with 34-36. Making 2016 another record year for church planting in Louisiana.
- 2 in North Louisiana, 27 in South Louisiana.
- 13 in New Orleans, 7 on the I-12, 3 in Baton Rouge, 2 in Lake Charles, 2 in Central LA, 1 in Lafayette, 1 in Houma/Thibodaux.
- 12 Anglo, 11 African-American, 3 Multi-Ethnic, 2 Hispanic, 1 Asian.
- 7 Multi-Site Developments, 6 Re-Plants
- $1,023,117 in Cooperative Funding invested in Church Planting supplements so far in 2016.
- $220,000 in Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering Grants invested in Church Plants so far in 2016.
- 1,004 New Commitments to Christ & 292 Baptisms reported by our Church Planters so far this year.
Grateful for the work God is doing through our church plants & our together giving through Cooperative Program & State & National Missions Offerings.
Check out some other things happening with Church Planting in Louisiana in our October E-Newsletter.
How we see people is a good test of our heart for God and the Gospel. Do we see people as objects of His love and opportunities for us to show His love? Do we see their spiritual needs? Do we see potential or problems?
Gregg Matte in Unstoppable Gospel: Living Out the World-Changing Vision of Jesus’ First Followers, his great book on the book of Acts, gives three categories of people in our everyday lives and how we see them:
1. SCENERY. Passersby. Shoppers ahead of us in line. People in our way. People who are scenery are not really seen as souls in need of Christ.
2. MACHINERY. People that are necessary to us. Clerks, waitresses, attendants. We may see them as just nuts and bolts. The focus is on what we need from them, not who they are or what they need from us.
3. MINISTRY. No person should be just scenery or machinery. People are God’s creation whom He desires a relationship with. Every interactions should be seen as divinely appointed opportunities to minister to them and deliver the gospel to their thirsty souls.
How big are these categories in your life? How will you see the people you intersect with today?
Our task is to Make Disciples. How? Here’s a great list of to do’s from the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13.
1. Share the Gospel
“we preached God’s gospel to you” – Discipleship starts with evangelism. No gospel sharing will lead to no disciple making.
- Who have you shared the gospel with recently?
- Who are you praying for that needs to hear the gospel?
2. Conduct yourself with Honesty & Devotion
“You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers.” – The conduct of the disciple maker sets the example for new disciples.
- Does your conduct match your conversation?
- Are new believers drawn to you?
- Are you living as an example that someone else should follow?
- What gaps do you need to close in your life right now in the area of conduct, habits, words, attitude?
3. Encourage, Comfort, Urge the Disciples On
“we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God” – Constant contact, encouragement, difficult conversations, patience, love.
- Who needs encouragement today?
- Who is in danger of slipping away that needs a phone call?
- Who is doing great that you can write a note to?
- Who are you ready to give up on? Pray for patience & the right words for that person.
4. Give Thanks to God for Any Progress
“we constantly thank God, because when you received the message about God that you heard from us, you welcomed it” – The disciple maker must recognize God as the giver of the increase. We are His instruments to plant & water the seeds.
- Look back over the last year & think about who in your life has grown the most. Thank God for them. Encourage them with what you see in their life.
- Think of those who are on their way. Imagine where they may be with the Gospel, a great example of faith, encouragement & regular contact, & a humble grateful friend in their lives.
- What if you didn’t hesitate?
- What if you lived with no regrets?
- What if you quit putting it off?
- What if you quit goofing off?
- What if you just WENT FOR IT?
- What if you forgot the odds and the limits and all the reason why you can’t?
- What’s the biggest obstacle between you and IT, i.e. what you know you should be doing?
- What’s keeping you from putting everything into life?
- What would IT be?
- What if you quit worrying about what might happen?
- What if you quit worrying about what others might think?
- What if you believed IT was possible?
- Make that call.
- Fill out that application.
- Set that appointment.
- Join that group.
- Download that plan.
- Quit that addiction.
- Change the attitude.
- Turn off that TV.
- Write that email.
JUST GO FOR IT!
“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men” Colossians 3:23.
How many disciples have made disciples? Great challenge from Alan Briggs in his new book Guardrails: Six Principles for a Multiplying Church.
Reproducible discipleship looks beyond numbers to count generations – it measures how many disciples have made disciples… When we aim at mere numbers, we will rarely multiply disciples, but when we aim at generations, numbers come naturally.
Love this thinking! If church is about making disciples and one thing disciples do is make other disciples, we should be able to begin measuring generations within the first few years of our church. Take a look at your church roll and see how many generations deep you can go. If not far, examine your goal for people. Are you making disciples or just attenders? This is a mistake I have made in ministry. Attendance makes pastors feel good and populates the chairs on Sunday’s. Disciple making makes the kingdom grow and populates heaven.
Guardrails is a great book to help you get back to the simplicity of discipleship. Here’s a few other great quotes:
- healthy ministry always centers around making disciples.
- Our mission is to make disciples. That’s what missional people do.
- Spiritual leadership is not about gaining followers; it’s about making disciples.
- Disciple-makers are very ordinary people who take God’s mission seriously.
- Discipleship is a beautiful and rugged journey into living like Jesus.
- Discipleship is not something to be comprehended and mastered by something to be lived out and passed on to others.
- Every follower of Jesus has the capacity to become a multiplier of the message.
- When we portray discipleship as complicated, ordinary people leave discipleship to the experts, and reproduction is killed before it starts.
- We simply cannot afford to choose building our churches over making disciples. We must follow the progression of making disciples, developing leaders, and leading churches – in that order.
Grab a copy of Guardrails. Refreshing, challenging book to fuel the mission of making disciples. See the Trailer for the book HERE. Looking forward to having Alan Briggs as one of our Equippers in 2017 & 2018 for our Multiply Louisiana Church Planting Network! More info soon.
Today we celebrate a significant milestone for Louisiana Baptists: 150 churches planted since 2010. Our goal is 300 by 2020, so this puts us at the half way mark. Proud of our planters & their families who have risked much for the Gospel in some hard to reach Louisiana communities. Grateful for sponsor / sending churches that have given of themselves to help new works start. Also grateful for Southern Baptist churches who have given generously to the Cooperative Program & state & national mission offerings to help provide resources & training for these 150 church plants. We look forward with great anticipation to the next 150. Join me in praying today for laborers, partners, & planters for the next 150 new churches & beyond!
Here’s a breakdown of the 150 that shows a bit of the impact of church planting in our state:
- The 150 churches were planted in 75 Different Towns or Cities,
- 21 of the 32 Baptist Associations in Louisiana were involved in church planting since 2010.
- Church Plants engaged 13 different people groups in Louisiana since 2010.
- The 150 churches included 31 in North Louisiana (21%) & 119 (79%) in South Louisiana where the majority of population is.
- The 150 church plants include 58 Anglo (39%), 49 African-American (33%), 25 Hispanic (17%), 8 Asian (5%), 10 Multi-Ethnic by design.
- 17 of the 150 (11%) churches planted were Multi-Site Campus Multiplication of other healthy congregations.
- 20 of the 150 (13%) churches planted were RePlants located on Baptist properties that had been or were very near closure.
- 12 of the 150 (8%) closed after 1 year.
- 129 of the 150 (86%) received cooperative funding through the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
- The 150 church plants have baptized at least 2,535 new believers. .
Grateful for the work God is doing through our church plants & our together giving through Cooperative Program & State & National Missions Offerings.
Too Many Churches?
Every now & then, someone comments to me that we are planting too many churches in Louisiana. My answer:
- Church to Population Ratio. South Louisiana is well above national levels of church to population ratio with some communities, like the Lafayette area, near 1 church to every 10,000 residents. Our state goal is to get every association to our state average of 1 church to every 2,850 residents. Many north Louisiana communities are well below that. Church planting helps us close this gap.
- Percentage of the population actually attending churches are sinking across our state. This reflects the fact that many churches are in decline &/or churches are not growing as fast as their populations. Church Planting is needed to help close this gap, create more capacity for evangelism, & reach every people group & population segment in our community.
- 3%. Bill Easum has said that denominations & networks must plant 3% of their total population annually just to keep from being in decline. For us as Louisiana Baptists, with 1,600 churches, that would mean having a goal of 48 new churches each year. At that point our goal of 30 is quite conservative & reflects a priority to reach other areas of our nation with much lower levels of evangelical population.
- Saturating Our Communities with the Gospel. Our Southern Baptist strategy & that of other Evangelical partners, has always been a SATURATION strategy. We’re committed to doing ALL we can to get the gospel to EVERY person in our communities. Church plants are evangelistic by nature & by necessity. Existing churches tend to grow less evangelistic over time. We need church plants in every community to stay on the evangelistic edge & saturate every corner of our state with the Gospel.
Check out these resources to help you get started on your church planting journey:
- Does My Community Need a New Church? The Right Questions & Key Indicators
- 10 Biblical & Practical Ways to Get Involved in Church Planting
- Every Church Can Encourage Church Planting and Multiplication
- Every Church Can Be a Church Planting Partner
- Your Church Can Be a Parent to a New Church or Campus
- 5 Things You MUST Do Before Your Plant a Church
For Church Planters, Pastor Appreciation Month can be awkward. Here’s why:
1. New believers don’t know that they’re supposed to appreciate the pastor. They don’t even know there are religious trinkets like eagles wings paper weights or books by Paul Tripp or coffee cups with Max Lucado quotes that they should buy the pastor. The vast majority of the church has probably never been inside of Lifeway or Family Christian Stores. They probably don’t even listen to Christian radio yet. So they miss all the hints to appreciate the guy that makes the coffee, sets up the chairs, shakes all the hands, & teaches from the Bible on Sunday’s.
2. In the early years of a church plant, the Planter is often setting the calendar, agenda, & order of worship for everything. So it’s a little hard to say – “In October, IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.” Or “at this point in the service, you all are going to surprise me with coffee cups & gift cards.” He hopes someone might have gotten the hint, but many a planter has seen October come & go without appreciation. He blows it off, but it does sting.
3. New believers in the church plant are probably still trying to figure out whether they appreciate the pastor/church planter or not. “He’s challenged me to change my lifestyle & to give a portion of my income to God. It sounds right & I’m listening, but buy this guy a gift? Yea right!”
Now Pastors, we shouldn’t take this too seriously. Receive the encouragement of any Pastor Appreciation love, but remember our reward is in heaven. To receive it here may even be a loss for us in eternity (Matthew 6:2-4). And our reward here should be the privilege to serve & see the people grow in faith & knowledge of the Lord (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Pastors should be ENCOURAGED, not ENTITLED.
There is also great value in Pastor’s Appreciation day for our churches, as they learn to obey verse like Hebrews 13:17:
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
And 1 Timothy 5:17:
“The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”
And 1 Thessalonians 5:12:
“Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you”
So, here’s some ideas for helping the church plant learn to appreciate their Planter/Pastor:
- If you’re a sponsor church, encourage your church to remember your planter(s) on Pastor’s Appreciation Month. Maybe lead them to all sign a card for Planters in the area. Send it with a date night gift card to a planter family (I promise they need it desperately).
- If you’re a sponsor church, send a staff member to one of the gatherings of your church plant in October, & take a moment to share about Pastor’s Appreciation Month & lead the plant to give a round of applause for their hard working planter then pass a card to the planter & his spouse. This simple act will probably plant seeds in the congregation for the rest of the month or for next year.
- If you’re a Pastor, take the initiative to show appreciation to a Church Planter by taking them to lunch or coffee during the month of October. Or inviting them to join your staff for lunch. Tell them thanks for the big risk they’ve taken & offer your insights on the community.
- If your church has a large staff, adopt a planter for prayer & encouragement during the month of October to extend the Appreciation that your church extends to you.
- Invite a Planter to share at your Wednesday night or Sunday night gathering during October & let your congregation appreciate them for the hard work they are doing.
This is a starter list. Imagine taking a big risk to start something from scratch, working long hours, having a lot of difficult conversations, maybe working a second or third job, & seeing slow developing fruit for a few years. These guys need & deserve our thanks & appreciation.
- Find & connect with Planters working all over Louisiana HERE.
- Find & show love to planters working in the North American Mission Board’s 32 Send Cities HERE. Pick a city & click the link for Planter Profiles.
- Check out a few Planter Appreciation ideas from our New Orleans Send City Coordinator George Ross.