Category Archives: Church Planting
I spend a lot of time talking and thinking about church buildings. From older churches trying to rethink their 1960’s built classrooms to new churches trying to fit the nursery into a school hallway. Buildings are important to churches. I wish it weren’t so sometimes. Because they are SO EXPENSIVE! And a church building eats money 7 days per week, when most churches use it 2-3 days per week. Being Portable is a good option to cut cost, but even portable church doesn’t guarantee effective contextualized ministry in a community or the multiplication of disciples. Often times pastors express to me the limitations of the building to ministry and multiplication.
What guidance can we find in the New Testament for the use of buildings for church? Not much. The idea of building a church for worship, etc. had not come into its own yet. We see homes, parties, synagogues (Jewish teaching centers), mountainsides, the Jewish Temple, and lake shores utilized for the ministry of Jesus and the local church. And then one of my favorite spaces mentioned in the Bible is “the Hall of Tyrannus” in Acts 19:8-10:
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, arguing and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.
We don’t know a lot about this lecture hall, but what we do know can give us some principles of thinking Biblically about buildings.
- It was a Public Place – I’ve written about the need for churches to be located in familiar, visible locations HERE. This Hall was evidently in the city center and a well-known place.
- It was a Place for Disciples to Gather – Paul took the disciples from the synagogue, where they were unwelcomed, to this hall where he could train them further in evangelism and life on mission. It was a place for gathering disciples.
- It was a Place to Interact with Unbelievers – Non-believers were invited in and comfortable with this space. Discussions were held that no doubt served to evangelize the lost and equip the saved.
- It was a Place for Disciples to Be Sent Out – All of Asia heard the word of the Lord! Wow! That’s serious multiplication. Who was spreading this word? And without radio, podcast, live streaming? No doubt, those who were being equipped and train by Paul and others at the Hall.
The Hall of Tyrannus was a building that made possible the exponential multiplication of disciples. That should be the goal for every church and the hope of every church building project or meeting space.
What challenges does your current gathering space offer for the multiplication of disciples? Number 1 and 3 are most likely challenges for many churches today.
How can you make your church building more of a public space that is useful to the whole community? A few ideas:
- Starting a Daycare, MOPS, or Mother’s Day Out Program
- Starting a coffee shop or diner
- Opening the building for after school programs
- Holding public forums, training events for the community
- Moving into a public space like a gym or a movie theater or school for worship
How can you make your church building a place to interact with today’s unbelievers? Stained glass and steeples are not the answer that they used to be for people experiencing life. A few ideas:
- Think through service times and styles. Later services are easier for young and unchurched families to attend.
- Offer discussion forums for people with questions about life and God. Check out Life Tree Cafe for starter ideas on how to do this.
- Start compassion ministry that deals with real life issues for unchurched people in your community like addiction, teen addiction, poverty, divorce care, grief care, etc. Get started on exploring needs and resources for compassion ministry here.
What ideas do you have for making church buildings more effective in multiplying disciples? What other takeaways from Paul’s use of the Hall of Tyrannus can you share?
In June of 1998, I joined my first church planting team in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We helped in late stage planting of Celebration Church in Rio Rancho and in starting Bible Studies in apartment complexes in Albuquerque’s north side. Since then, Heather and I have set up chairs for church in Apartment complexes, fire stations, store fronts, gyms, schools, a museum, and an old church sanctuary or two. Reflecting in my journal the past few weeks on some of the tough lessons learned and that I’m still learning along this journey. Here’s 20 off the top:
- Judge each day by the seeds you plant, not the harvest you reap.
- Communities have different degrees of spiritual receptivity or soil conditions (see Matthew 13). Timing of results may be dependent upon how long it takes to cultivate the ground.
- Expect to feel like a failure. Be patient. “patience is better than power” (Proverbs 16:32)
- Failure can be a friend. The best lessons have been learned in my failure and weakness. The first four events I planned as a church planter, no one showed up! Best thing that ever happened to me.
- Church Planting = burning shoe leather. Intentionality, determination, perseverance, relationships.
- If you’re not successful, someone behind you probably will be. We all stand on the shoulders of those before us, or we prepare the ground for the success of those who will come behind us.
- If God called you, he’s calling others to partner with you. Believe it!
- God has no small churches, and no big pastors. When you have 25 people, you should preach and serve just like there is 25,000.
- Persons of peace make ministry possible and show God’s favor. Pray for them. Watch for them. From Apartment complex managers, to fire chiefs, to restaurant owners, to community leaders; a successful church plant will have a long list of community people that opened the doors for ministry. Remembering these names and faces along our journey.
- It takes all different kinds of churches to reach all different kinds of people. One church can’t reach everyone around them. Many Christians don’t understand the gap between some lost people and attending their church. We. Must. Plant. More. Churches.
- The value of a godly, faithful wife along this journey is incalculable. I would have quit a long time ago were it not for the faithful love, prayer, faithful service, and counsel of my godly wife.
- Expect criticism. And don’t expect it to ever get easier to digest.
- Don’t compare your work to others. No two church planting scenarios or ministry settings are equal.
- If it seems like God is trying to kill you, He is. Death to self will be an outcome of faithfulness in church planting.
- It’s about the whole world, not just your church. From the beginning, get a vision for the people your church will impact all over the world.
- Expect pastoral competitiveness. Many pastors have had joy at my presence and success as a church planter. Some have sounded like David’s older brother, “with whom did you leave those few sheep?” (1 Samuel 17:28)
- Don’t ignore longstanding rules of thumb as a rule. The things wise, experienced leaders told me that I ignored, almost always came back to haunt me.
- Faithfulness trumps talent on a church planting and leadership team. Look for faithfulness and character first, talent second.
- The resources are in the harvest. The quicker you can turn the harvest (i.e. people reached) into the resourcers of the ministry the better. Mobilize immediately.
- When there are no other answers, perseverance is the answer.
I love church planting. I’ve also hated it a lot of times over the past 20 years. Lol! I’m stilled convinced of something I heard at the very beginning of this journey – “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven” – Peter Wagner. I hope and pray that God allows me to be a part of many more new starts over the next 20 years.
Recent Question from an honest member of a local church. “What’s the thinking of the Louisiana Baptist Convention (my employer), behind planting all these new churches? Why not just send more people to great churches like mine?”
Answer: There are Three Major Problems with this kind of thinking as I see it.
1. The problem of the numbers. How many does your church seat? “1,200”. Let’s say your church fills its building 4 times each week. That’ll be 4,800 people attending church. Praise God! I’ve studied your community, and there are actually 125,000 people that live there, and after much research, liberal estimates show that only 10% of them attend an evangelical church. Another 10% attend Roman Catholic churches based on research and liberal estimates. That still leaves 100,000 people that are not going to church anywhere. Where are we going to put that many people? If all the current evangelical churches in the community filled their facilities twice each Sunday, there would still be no room for the majority of these people.
2. The problem of the people. I’ve been to your church and I like it. Most of the people look a lot like me and dress like me and the music fits what I like to listen to. I feel very comfortable there. The preaching speaks to me, because I’ve been in church all my life and I like good Bible preaching. However, did you know that there are a lot of those 100,000 people who have never been to church. They don’t know who Noah or Abraham or Moses are, and they would be a little lost just opening a Bible for the first time. They also listen to different kind of music, their lives look a lot different than mine and yours because of race, upbringing, past mistakes, etc. So, we need to start ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF CHURCHES, FOR ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF PEOPLE along with making our churches more comfortable for everyone.
3. Saturation vs. Parish Strategy. Louisiana Baptists and most evangelicals have a saturation strategy of evangelism and church planting. Until EVERY PERSON has had the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel, we keep doing EVERYTHING we can to deliver the gospel and disciple them. And the Evangelical community has found that church planting is one of the most effective means of doing that. Roman Catholics and other liturgical churches have a Parish Strategy, meaning, we’re going to plan to have one church for an area or part of town, and assume that everybody that needs the gospel will respond at or through that church. It doesn’t consider the number of people, or types of people in the strategy, limiting the number of people that can be reached through the church.
Does that make any sense?
Response: YES! I understand!
1. I was actually thinking about how many people in my neighborhood don’t go to church. Out of 70+ homes there is only 2 or 3 of us that go to church on Sunday.
2. And you know, you’re right, I wish they would, but they probably would not all feel comfortable in a church like mine.
3. And yes, we believe we should do everything we can to share the gospel with our community.
What are some ways that my church could help??!!
Church planters are seen as a rare breed in the body of Christ, but I don’t think they’re as rare as we think. God still calls & empowers people for this important kingdom role. Many times they’re just not discovered or mobilized because we’re not looking to discover or mobilize them. Knowing church planters & being one, here’s an observational list that you may find true of yourself if you’re thinking you may be a fit for church planting. Not saying all of these have to be true, but they may be true.
1. You made a lot of visits to the ER growing up.
Church planters are risk takers at heart & this probably started early. The desire to jump off of, over, or go through any obstacle to the detriment of personal health is often a characteristic of pioneering church planters.
2. You can’t concentrate in church because of the kids you saw playing in the street on the way.
You’re heart will be with those who are NOT in church on Sunday’s. At times it may consume you to the point that you seem at odds with church leaders. God may put that discontent there if he’s leading you to those outside the camp. (See my post on Sending the apostles).
3. You think Chic-Fil-A would be a good place for a church.
If you find yourselves in different environments & believe that spiritual life could happen there you might be a church planter. The imagination of the church planter is usually full of ideas about creating environments to share the gospel. The new churches I have been involved in have met in apartment complex offices, a fire station, a former bar, a local gym, & a museum. Doesn’t make sense? Made perfect sense to me! And worshipping in Chic-Fil-A on Sunday is a dream of mine!
4. You hang out with the wrong kind of people for the right kind of reasons.
In college, I didn’t play intramural ball with my collegiate ministries intramural teams. I had a desire to use the skills I had to build relationships with non-Christians. The church planter will often be energized more by these relationships than relationships in Sunday School. But get ready…
5. Your Christian friends think your weird for that.
You may even be labeled by religious friends for hanging around sinners & disreputable characters. But seems like I saw someone in the Bible that had the same thing happen. Mark 2:13-17.
6. You get a kick out of calluses on your hands.
Church planting is hard work. Gathering & motivating people can seem like pushing a rock up hill. Setting up church in non-traditional locations is not easy. If you are afraid of physical & emotional calluses & soreness then run the other way. Some go into church planting to avoid what they perceive as hard things in church leadership, but you’ll find many of the same things plus some in church planting. Make sure its a calling.
7. You’ve shared the gospel more times than you can remember.
Sharing the gospel must be a natural part of the church planters life & vocabulary. A church is a church because of the Gospel & the Gospel must be shared. The church planter must lead the way.
8. Friends call you with spiritual questions.
Leadership is innate & merely recognized by others. Do people see in you something that they want & need? Do people seek you out when there are questions about life & God? As a church planter you’ll probably be without title, position, & respect. Your character & ability to earn the respect of people because of leadership ability will be important.
9. You usually travel with a group.
You are more comfortable in a group & with a team, a posse. You will not be able to do this alone. Church planters must love people & believe that everyone is better off sticking together. Lone Ranger Church Planter is an oxymoron.
10. You daydream about solving big problems in the world.
North Korea, the crime ridden multi-housing complex down the street, the high school dropout problem, etc. These issues may cause you to stare off into the future & make list in your mind about how you would go about reaching people & changing the places with the greatest problems.
If this list still doesn’t talk you out of it, find out a little more about next steps here. And feel free to hit me up (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to help you get started on the church planting journey. And there is a community that is needing God’s people to say yes and take the jump into multiplication!
Pastor Charles Starnes went home to be with the Lord on December 29th, 2017. He served as Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Slidell for 32 years. During that time the church baptized 485 new believers and added 733 other members to their roles. They also gave over $1.5 million to the Cooperative Program and other missions causes. I remember Bro. Charles as a great encourager of church planters, which included me, after moving to St. Tammany Parish in 2001 to plant a church about 35 minutes from Calvary. Under Bro. Charles’ leadership Calvary was part of planting six new churches, including the first Hispanic SBC Church on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. I’ll never forget what he said at the constitution service of one of those church plants, Thompson Road Baptist Church in West Slidell. He said,
“Everyone always makes a big deal about Calvary planting churches. Thanks for the kind words, but I just thought that planting churches and missions is what every church was supposed to be doing.”
On another occasion he said it like this:
“Everybody makes a big deal about Calvary being part of planting churches. I always say, I didn’t know it was optional.”
Grateful for Bro. Charles and his vision for multiplication and encouragement for church planting everywhere. May his tribe increase.
With 27 Hispanic Church Plants since 2010, Louisiana Baptists have almost doubled the number of Hispanic Churches in our state through church planting.
Guillermo Mangieri, with Istrouma en Espanol in Baton Rouge, recently shared Four Realities Impacting Hispanic Ministry in the US with our Church Planting Network:
1. Hispanics are the fastest growing population in the U.S. – 50 million. And the U.S. has the 2nd largest population in the world.
2. Hispanics are receptive to the message of the Gospel.
3. 23% of the Hispanic population in the U.S. are under the age of 18.
4. The Hispanic population will continue to grow in the U.S. no matter what.
In Baton Rouge alone, there are 17,000 Hispanics. 4% of the population.
Are there Hispanics in your community that could be reached? Are there enough Hispanic churches and ministries to impact the growing population in your community? Let us know if we can help you assess your community and strategize to reach different people groups around your church.
Check out Dr. Daniel Sanchez’s book Hispanic Realities Impacting America for more info on Hispanic Ministry opportunities: http://ow.ly/6NJS30gCyao
Got to know two of our incredible Louisiana Multisite Campus Pastors a little better at this year’s North Louisiana Multi-site Roundtable. Wade Burnett, with Multisite solutions interviewed Clay Fuqua and Chad Merrell as part of the event. Interesting enough, neither came from a ministry background. Love these stories of ministry trajectory:
Clay Fuqua started a successful restaurant >> went on an overseas mission trip and became passionate about evangelism >> began a mentoring relationship with his pastor Philip Robertson >> began teaching on Wednesday nights and bivocationally at other churches >> Now, he’s leading a very successful multisite campus of Philadelphia Baptist in Alexandria, LA.
Chad Merrell was raised in a pastors home, but committed himself to NOT go into ministry >> started a career in management in the chicken industry, which brought he and his family to Louisiana >> began attending First Baptist West Monroe >> began a relationship with the pastor and other key staff in the church >> began leading a Small Group >> began leading the churches Celebrate Recovery ministry >> Now, he’s leading a very successful multisite campus of First West in Sterlington, LA.
I love the trajectory of ministry engagement that these men took. Common denominators are mentoring type relationships with their pastors and faithful ministry service in their churches for years. Trust developed, faithfulness and obedience observed.
Wade Burnett says that 87% of Multisite Campus Pastors are hired from within the church. This trajectory will no doubt become more and more common. So, if you’re looking for leaders, look around. Who’s growing in their faithfulness, passion for ministry, and mutual trust. Equip and release!
The number one answer to the question, “What is the current greatest challenge in your life and ministry?” on our Louisiana church planting growth reports is some version of Time Management. Everyone seems to struggle with time these days, but church planters deal with the added pressures of usually a second or third job, young children at home, clock ticking on outside funding, little to no administrative assistance, continuing education demands, etc., etc. A few thoughts from my failures of time management as a church planter and small church leader:
1. Learn the discipline of turning it off and going home.
The last two church plants I’ve been a part of, centered ministry around our home. The church office, the church phone, the church leadership meetings, the church supplies were all based at my address for the first 12-18 months. This made it extremely hard for me to ever turn off work. Coupled with the fact that it is never all done in ministry. Two ideas I had to get used to: 1) I will not get it all done everyday. 2) To be effective tomorrow, I need to turn it off and do something else today. The quicker you’re OK with these two ideas, the better off you and your family will be.
2. Develop a weekly schedule and stick to it.
Young pastors and church planters get in trouble with time management issues many times because we fail to create the accountability of a weekly rhythm and schedule. THIS STRUGGLE IS REAL!!! A friend of mine in ministry likes to say, “Winging it is not a good strategy.” But many of us wing it when it comes to our weekly rhythms. Your schedule should have flexibility in it because much great ministry happens in the interruptions and spontaneous opportunities, but creating a basic framework for time spent is a necessity. If you start this early, as you add staff and expectations of a growing congregation, you will be better prepared to say no and yes to added responsibilities and interruptions. It will also be beneficial for staff and congregation to know when they can expect to find an open door to your office and when they can call you without interrupting something important. A schedule will also help you make sure you are balancing your time with planting / pastoring priorities – i.e. Evangelism, Discipleship, Leadership Development, Community Engagement, etc.
3. Develop a system for To Do’s, Daily Scheduling, and Keeping up with Contacts.
Whether its Outlook, iCal, Google Cal, Google Docs, an old school Planner system, develop some tools that you can use in keeping the to do’s, appointments, and contacts handy at all times. And the technology out there is amazing in regards to personal productivity. Develop something that works for you and utilize it.
I’ve started accounts with so many different task management and scheduling services online that I’ve lost count. I finally developed my own tool that I print out and fill out each morning or the night before and return to throughout the day. Check it out HERE.
It’s to do’s, appointments on one page. On the back I list contacts throughout the day, with the goal of 20 contacts everyday, which is important to my work and a challenge for my introverted self. This helps me stay organized and focused and goal oriented throughout the day. (An editable Google Doc is HERE. Or Download a Word Doc Here – To Do_s – Editable – to create your own).
What do you use to keep organized and focused? What works well for you in time management? What tips and lessons learned can you share?
Next week I’ll share some lessons learned on managing preaching as a bivocational planter.
He was born 8 days after the very first service of our first church plant in South Louisiana, which started in an un-air conditioned fire station.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, until he was four we would drive past a fire station and he would yell “church” and when we drove by a steepled church building he would yell “space ship.”
- Because his dad’s a church planter, the first time we attended a church besides ours on Sunday, he asked where their fire truck was and why their chairs were so long (pews).
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he likes to hang out in coffee shops and has great bedside manner in hospitals.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he doesn’t have as much as many kids in our area, but never complains.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he doesn’t know that you shouldn’t wear shorts to church or that you shouldn’t be close friends with people of another race or class.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he knows who Rick Warren & John Piper are, & asked every Friday morning, “Do we have a Block Party this weekend?”
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he doesn’t know what it means to be a part of a mega youth group or ride on a bus to camp.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he knows his way around Pro Presenter and online kids curriculum.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he’s handled a lot of pressure to be the good kid, pray out loud, help with the nursery, etc., etc.
Proud of Jack. Grateful for his friendship and partnership in this ministry. It’s not always easy to be a church planters kid. Praying for Jack and all our church planting kids out there.
Wow! It’s been a busy summer! Great stuff, including celebrating 200 churches planted by Louisiana Baptist churches since 2010. Check out the above vid for some great quotes and highlights from the celebration. Here’s a few notes about the 200 plants:
- 200 Church Plants since 2010
- New Churches have been Planted in 91 different Louisiana Cities and Towns
- New Churches have been Planted in 25 different Louisiana Associations
- New Churches have been planted among 13 different people groups:
– 60 African-American
– 11 Asian
– 2 African Language
– 27 Hispanic
– 14 Multi-Ethnic by Design
- New Churches also include 21 Multi-Site developments and 25 RePlants
Great to be a part of this movement in Louisiana and across North America.