Your Church As a Greenhouse

GreenhouseI enjoy gardening. Even though I’m not very good at it. Why? I don’t always have the time to do what’s necessary to grow and multiply plants to their fullest extent. The best gardeners know how and put in the time to create the right conditions for growth and multiplication. The very best gardeners will start with a greenhouse to nurse the plants in early stages before they are ever put in the ground. A greenhouse is a tool where you can create the perfect conditions for multiplication & growth of plants at all different stages and with various needs.

I enjoy gardening in part because of the many parallels it has to church planting and ministry. I’ve began to see church as a greenhouse – a tool to create the right conditions for multiplication & growth OF DISCIPLES. Here are five truths I’m learning on church as a GREENHOUSE:

1. Disciples must be nurtured.

Like plants, like a garden, like a greenhouse, disciples need time and attention. One of the greatest books on discipleship has in its title a reminder we constantly need – Disciples Are Made, Not Born. While we are not completely responsible for the growth of a disciple, part of our commission from Jesus requires time and attention and energy and prayer, etc., etc., etc. One of the greatest disciple makers, the apostle Paul, said it like this in Colossians 1:28-29,

“We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.”

If we’re going to make disciples, we must expect to give much time and attention to people from sharing the gospel, teaching basic truths, responding to questions, correcting, forgiving, etc., etc.

2. A Disciple’s needs change over time.

A greenhouse or a garden is organized based on maturity and needs of the plants. Expectation are based upon time and stage of growth. Just like this, as churches, we need to provide a variety of opportunities for growth for people at different stages of maturity. And we need to teach our leaders what you can expect from people as they grow. The best tool I’ve seen that helps with this is Jim Putman’s great book Real Life Discipleship and the Real Life Discipleship Training Manual. Putman guides readers to understand where people are spiritually based upon what they say, and then how to respond and what to provide for them at that stage. (See my post Things Spiritual Infants Say for a run down).

3. Disciples will eventually need to be sent out from the greenhouse to multiply themselves.

The Greenhouse is not the final destination for a plant, nor is the Sunday worship service the climax of maturity for the disciple. Just like plants are meant to be outside, producing fruit and multiplying, disciples should be trained, equipped, and released into this world for maximum fruitfulness and to multiply the gospel in their sphere of influence.

4. Not all disciples will respond to the conditions you create.

A hard reality to face for the gardener, and much harder for the disciple maker is the truth that some plants and some people just won’t respond to the conditions you create. It hurts when a disciple doesn’t respond to God’s word. It hurts when a disciple leaves your church, but maybe they needed conditions you couldn’t provide at the time.  Jesus even said that perhaps only 25% of disciples would become fruitful (Matthew 13). It’s important to remember that we’re responsible for our faithfulness, not everyones response.

5. The church is the perfect tool to create the conditions for multiplication & growth of Disciples.

The church, with all its imperfections, does provide a perfect environment for growth of disciples. A church offers opportunities to learn from those walking with God for years, opportunities to get involved and serve in various capacities, opportunities to have relationship wins and losses. These and other conditions help us grow. A lack of desire to learn, serve, love, and forgive REVEALS a lot about where we are spiritually and our potential for fruitfulness, maturity, and multiplication.

Does your church function as a Greenhouse? How are plants maturing? Are you providing opportunities for people at different stages of growth? Are you training your leaders to know what to expect as people grow? Are you moving people out to multiply in their world? Are you spending time with people that just refuse to grow & may need different conditions or to be let go?

Greenhouse: Basic Training for Church Multiplication

GreenhouseWalkerI’m humbled & excited to be involved with training church planters in Louisiana & our latest training is now called Greenhouse: Basic for Multiplying Disciples, Leaders, Groups, & Churches. Next one is right around the corner, September 15-16 at Acadian Baptist Center in Eunice, LA. It’s free. You can join us & work on your GREENHOUSE. Register HERE.

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It’s What We do

Love these attitudes toward affliction for the Christ follower that Paul lays out in 2 Corinthians 4-5:

“We do not give up…”

2 Corinthians 4:16. I might would give up, if this life was the end of the story. But much more awaits the faithful. This is only the first mile.

“We do not focus on what is seen…”

2 Corinthians 4:18. My faith in God is not determined by what I see.

“we walk by faith…”

2 Corinthians 5:7. Whatever happens, I know that God is not finished yet. My faith is in Him, not in comfort.

“we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him.”

2 Corinthians 5:9. Making self happy is never the goal of the Christian life. Our purpose & pleasure is tied up in His glory & His pleasure.

So…

  • I will not give up.
  • I will not focus on what I see around me.
  • I will put my faith in God.
  • I will purpose to please God.

The Riches of Relationships

This month, Bridge Church has been in a series called How to Be Rich. We’ve talked about how the Gospel enriches, Generosity enriches, & this weekend, about how RELATIONSHIPS enrich our lives. How do Relationships Make us Rich? Here are 4 Biblical ways:

1. Two are Better than One

Eccl 4:9-10 – Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.

If you’ve ever needed someone than you know the value of relationships. If you’ve ever gone through tragedy, needed to move, or just needed someone to talk to, you know the truth that two are better than one.

Do I have someone in my life that could lift me up when I fall?

Many people wait until they fall, then they start calling. I  “I’ve called everybody & nobody will help me!” If you get involved in a church or group & walk with people, they’ll see you falling & try to help.

The storms of life are never in the forecast, it’s not a matter of IF you’ll need others, it’s WHEN. Get involved. Serve, share, give & be made rich through people that will be there when you need them.

2. Success comes through the Wisdom of Others

Proverbs 15:22 – Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Proverbs 11:14 – Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.

Proverbs 24:6 – you should wage war with sound guidance– victory comes with many counselors.

We need the advice & wisdom that others have to offer. We need a circle of friends to bounce our crazy ideas off of. Our hearts are deceptive (Jeremiah 17:9). Inside our minds & hearts everything can sound perfectly normal & rational. But when it has to pass through our lips for others to hear, the lights come on. And then they can share other ways of understanding the situation or their facial expressions may tell you all you need to know.

Who do you have in your life that you can call & say: “I want to run something by you. Tell me if I’m crazy. Tell me if this sounds dumb. What would you do in this situation?”

Who do you have in your life right now that you are bouncing your hearts opinions off of? Who can tell you that you’re crazy & you not get offended?

We could avoid a lot of foolish actions, just by having a circle of friends that we’re regularly talking to about what’s going on in our lives. Other people’s advice & opinions can make us rich.

Deeper than that may be a circle that we’re accountable to:

3. Relationships EXPOSE US. Our Hearts Need Exposure

Our hearts are deceptive (Jeremiah 17:9) & there’s nothing like relationships to draw our sin & deception out & expose it for what it is. Deeper than just advice & counsel, we need people in our lives that can say to us – YOU’RE WRONG! You need to repent! And let me pray for you right now!

James 5:16 says, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”

These relationships are most often built over time, slowly walking with one another, getting to know one another’s weaknesses & triggers & developing trust so that friction doesn’t cause division but healing.

Do you have these kinds of relationships in your life right now? If so, THAN YOU ARE A RICH RICH PERSON!

Now, this is also the reason many people RUN from relationships. So this is the BEST & WORST thing about relationships. They EXPOSE US.  It’s why only about 2% of the population are involved in a small group right now. Our hearts FEAR exposure. It’s unnatural for us to expose ourselves & trust others. Committing to these kind of relationships force us to deal with our fear, resentments, & sin in a healthy way.

Great poverty of spirit may come at times because of relationships – as I have to acknowledge that I’m weak & wrong – but RICH wisdom & life change will be the reward.

4. Jesus Promises His Presence to those who pursue relationships in His name

Matthew 18:20 –  “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

The least common denominator in Christianity is small groups of people gathered around an open Bible. Gathered around God’s will & His Word.

Who wouldn’t want this? To be have others who will be there for us. Great counselors & advisors. People that help us keep our hearts clean. AND THE PROMISE THAT GOD HIMSELF IS PRESENT! That’s the riches of relationships.

Unless we’re proud, satisfied by our sin, comforted by our resentments, fearful of the change that God might bring. At that point, the wisdom of others & presence of God will be the last thing we desire in our lives.

The riches of relationships START with HUMILITY. Admitting our need of God. Admitting our need of others.

This is UNNATURAL, what I’ve described this morning. It is! It’s SUPERNATURAL. This is the kind of relationships that a relationship with Christ empowers us to have.

Praying that you find the Riches of Relationships.Where do I start?

  • Humble yourself & admit your need. All good things in the Christian life start with humility.
  • Join a Small Group Bible Study at a local church.
  • Ask someone you trust to mentor & hold you accountable.

Get the audio from this & other messages from Bridge Church HERE. Join us Sunday’s at 10:30am at the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum in Madisonville.

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Flood Recovery Outreach Idea

A great Flood Recovery Outreach idea for churches: Zoar Baptist Church pre mixing the very expensive & hard to find mold killer needed in every home & allowing the public to come by & fill their own garden sprayers. Gave away over 200 gallons just yesterday.

35 gallon tank & plumbing cost about $125 max to put together.

 

 

Question: SHOULD I SEND USED CLOTHING TO A DISASTER ZONE?

Answer: ONLY, ONLY, ONLY if requested by a specific partner or organization.

In the first 7-14 days, clothes may be needed in mass flooding situations, HOWEVER listen to those on the ground & double check the list before sending.

After Hurricane Katrina, so many clothes flooded into the area. The Fire Dept I was working with took them in, hoping to be helpful. They devoted one entire station to clothing & created a mountain of used clothes. The mountain never moved. We ran ads in the newspapers for weeks offering FREE clothes. We called non-profits all over the country trying to get someone to come get them. The answer was always no. Sadly, because the station was needed, the clothes had to be disposed of. Don’t assume clothing or anything else for that matter is needed. Look at the list being distributed, or call or text & ask what the top 1-3 needs are at this time & send that.

Better still, may be to send gift cards to local department stores. It allows the people to shop for their own new clothes & can help jump start the local economy.

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Disaster Relief Leadership: My Week with Incident Command

What an incredible week in Louisiana! Flash floods, roof top rescues, shelters, gutted homes, & now months of recovery efforts ahead of us. I ended last week thinking that I was going into a couple of weeks of heavy promotion for our Multiply Louisiana Conference & I’d keep pushing toward 40 church plants for this year in Louisiana, along with helping my kids get settled into new routines in school & prepping for a big fall with my church. But with the 1,000 year flood that hit over the weekend, I’ve had the opportunity this last week to help Southern Baptist setup Incident Command Operations for one of the worst disasters in Louisiana history. It’s given me the opportunity to see a different side of SBC Disaster Relief operations. I’ve been on chainsaw crews, mud out crews, Assessment teams, & chaplain teams, & I knew about Incident Command, with little knowledge of what went on. Still don’t know much, but here’s a few observation & takeaways from shadowing Incident Command this week:

1. Just like everywhere else, it’s led by volunteers

Incident commanders are trained & equipped a little differently. A communications trailer, laptops, 3-5 phone lines. All managed by volunteers. DR staff from NAMB & the state convention assist them, but they are IN COMMAND of the situation. And remember, these are men & women that are members of churches just like yours & they have given up 1-2 weeks of their time to help us recover. 

2. They build a support system for volunteers responding to disaster

The genius of SBC Disaster response is that when a certified mud out or chainsaw team responds, they can expect a place to stay, a place to shower, a place to get laundry done, & a place to get meals. But this system has to be built through local churches & other volunteers coming in first from the local area, then from surrounding states. That’s part of the job of Incident Commanders. They can’t tell people what to do. They must ask & wait on people to respond with a yes.

3. The work load is overwhelming

Brand new phone lines are setup & made available & immediately these phones start ringing. For this disaster we have a Help Line for the public, Help Line for volunteer teams, & a Help Line for Local Churches. While those lines are constantly ringing, maps are being drawn up, collaboration is happening, scribble notes are everywhere. It’s a maddening adrenaline rush! Lol!

4. They are most of the time on the defensive

It’s never enough & never fast enough the first week of a disaster. And the fluidity of the situation is such that information given out on one phone call is changed by the next phone call. And “I need to call that guy back & tell him that” gets interrupted by the next phone call, that HAS to be responded too. I hardly broke a sweat, but was 10x more exhausted every night than my chainsaw crew days. Lol! The Incident Commanders are trained to expect stress. And they are trained to be the bad guy & the bozo sometimes, which I witnessed & felt this week.

5. The first week is frustrating, but ESSENTIAL

After a week of frustration, I can say that our incident commanders have built a web that will support a long term volunteer response across Louisiana. We are responding to a disaster that includes at least 29 parishes, including Louisiana’s most populated (East Baton Rouge) & fastest growing (Livingston & Ascension). The Incident Commanders have a lot of support to provide. I feel very frustrated tonight, because I’ve already heard local pastors criticizing & saying things like, “the SBC Disaster Relief has been slow &….” I may have said the same thing when I was 6 days in trying to recover from Katrina, Rita, Gustav, & Isaac. But I’ll never say it again! Because I’ve seen the Incident Commanders work & I’ve seen the result. It just takes time to build the system that will support sustained response.

As of Friday, we had 14 State Conventions on the ground or en route, & others are mobilizing & recruiting. Last Spring, 30 out of 42 State Conventions responded! REMEMBER, these are volunteers, who are preparing to put their lives on hold for 1-2 weeks to come to an uncertain environment! Could you do that in 1 week?! Maybe you could, but lets not criticize them for being slow, when they’re preparing to come here on their own time & their own dime to serve! And let’s remember that we’re not the only disaster. California & Colorado Baptist are feeding thousands of people affected by forest fires in the west. West Virginia & Washington are still recovering from flooding. And there are others. When our people are back at work, these teams will still be coming in & working our fields. Let’s be grateful. This system works! These are incredible people working on our behalf! I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of this week of planning & preparing by our Incident Commanders.

ANOTHER BIG TAKEAWAY: “Under promise, over deliver” is a great leadership axiom. In leadership, its easy to over promise. In Disaster Leadership it’s EXTREMELY easy to overpromise, because of the fluidity of information, but also, because the things that seem easy to get are now hard to get because of the disaster. I fell into that trap this week. Big lessons learned. This is one of those weeks that I’ll be looking back on for leadership lessons for a long time to come.

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BASIC MUD-OUT GUIDE FOR HOME OWNERS 

Helpful info for homeowner’s who have flooded – PDF Version – mudout guide for homeowners

MudoutThe removal of wet debris from a flooded home is called mud-out because everything flooded is saturated with muddy water.  The objective is to get the house cleared of all wet debris to discourage the growth of mold and to allow the structure to dry out as quickly as possible so reconstruction can begin.  The following sequence of actions is suggested for your consideration:

1. Look for hazards such as broken gas lines, structural damage and damaged electric systems. Other potential hazards may include contamination by chemical spills and overflowing of sewage systems.   Watch for snakes and insects that may be found in unexpected places.

2. Be aware of personal health and physical limitations. People with respiratory or heart problems should approach mud-out work with great caution.  Furthermore, flood conditions bring increased risk of tetanus and hepatitis. Wear protective clothing such as boots, coveralls, hardhat, gloves and facemask.  A fiber face respirator with N-95 rating is normally adequate for dust and molds, but not for gas or chemical fumes.

3. Open all doors and windows and use fans to help circulate air through the house. Try to prevent any additional damage to the home.  If the roof has suffered damage, temporary plastic roof covering may be needed.  Remember, the home can normally be restored to its previous or better condition.

4. Prevent health hazards by removing perishable foods and any chemicals or medicine to safe areas where animals or children will not get to it.

5. If the flood water was high enough to get the walls and insulation wet:

a. Remove all damaged furniture and wet debris from the house. Separate it on the curb by type, as appliances, furniture, food, chemicals and dry wall (sheetrock).  Put insulation and miscellaneous items in plastic bags.    Please be aware that many of your things can be saved if properly cleaned and restored.

b. Remove the carpets and pads. These can be cut into manageable pieces with a box knife for safe removal.  Some carpet cleaning companies can clean and restore carpets but the wet carpet pad has to be replaced.

c. Remove the baseboard, window and door trim where the dry wall and insulation is wet and must be taken out. Drill 1” holes in the bottom of the wall between each stud to get air circulation.

d. The dry wall and insulation should normally be removed about one foot above the high water level. Moisture Meters can be used to check the condition of the dry wall and insulation.

e. Remove any wet items from fixtures or cabinets. Open all doors to cabinets.  If the water level was only several inches, drill a 1” hole in the bottom of each cabinet so an air flow can me maintained.  Leave permanent fixtures and cabinets for repair or removal by professional craftsmen.  Dry wall and insulation behind or on the opposite wall of a fixture should be removed to allow the dry wall behind the fixture to dry.

f. If the flood water only reached the floor level but did not get the dry-wall and insulation wet you may only need to roll the carpet and remove the carpet pad, as some carpet cleaners can clean and dry the carpet and replace the pad. Adequate ventilation will be needed to remove excessive moisture.  See item c.

6. When an area is drying, do not rewet it with a hose or power washer. Let the area dry out and then sweep up the remaining debris.  Spray with a fungicide such as Shockwave.  If it is not available, a mixture of one half cup of bleach per one gallon of water may be applied where the site is still wet and mold is growing, this may not affect black mold.

7. Allow the house to dry out for several weeks before putting in new dry wall and insulation. The time required for adequate drying will depend on temperature, humidity and how well ventilated the structure is.

Church = Relevant Biblical Community

  • RELEVANT- Speaking the local language & to the local needs
  • BIBLICAL – Impacting souls through the message about Jesus Christ
  • COMMUNITY – Connecting real people to God & others through Jesus Christ.

missional-church-21A local church speaks God’s Word in the local language & to local needs in a way that impacts souls & connects real people to God & each other through Jesus Christ.

Church Planting 101

by the Apostle Paul

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, the Apostle Paul gives five keys to church planting filed under Church Planting 101:

  1. Church Planting = “announcing the testimony of God” to others (vs. 1)

  2. Church Planting DOES NOT include impressing people with human wisdom or persuasiveness (vs. 1)

  3. To plant a church forget everything EXCEPT “Jesus Christ & Him crucified” (vs. 2). Love the Message Paraphrase – “first Jesus & who he is; then Jesus & what he did”

  4. If you’re planting a church expect to feel inadequate, afraid, very afraid (vs. 3)

  5. To plant a church, don’t rely on your ability but on God’s Spirit & power. (vs. 4-5)

Keep these five close by for greater fruitfulness & lesser frustration in church planting.

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No Limits

“You dream. You plan. You reach. There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, with belief, with confidence and trust in yourself and those around you, there are no limits”

– Michael Phelps

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