Category Archives: Church Planting

Multiply I-20

I-20Twelve Louisiana parishes touch I-20 & is home to 16% of our states population. Two of Louisiana’s nine Metropolitan Statistical areas are on I-20 – Shreveport-Bossier & Monroe-West Monroe. About 83% of the population of I-20 live in these two areas. This area is also home to around 30,000 college students each year, in four great universities – La Tech (12,014 students), Grambling University (4,553 students), University of Louisiana-Monroe (8,800 students), LSU-Shreveport (4,383 students). This part of Louisiana is more true Bible belt than south Louisiana, with evangelical populations near 50% across the I-20 corridor. But many churches in this area are in decline & in need of change to reach younger generations. Church Planting & church revitalization strategies are greatly needed moving forward. Here’s some data for us to get the strategy wheels turning:

  • Population of I-20 Corridor is 737,504. Up 1% since 2010. Fastest growing parishes were Bossier (7% increase), Lincoln – where Louisiana Tech is located (up 2%), & Ouachita – West Monroe & Monroe (Up 2%). The other 9 parishes are projecting drops in population from 1%-6%.
  • There are 364 SBC churches in the parishes that touch I-20 for a church to population ratio of 1/2,026.
  • 47,989 residents worship in an SBC Church in 2015. Only 6.5% of the population. Worship attendance dropped by 7% since 2010. Only three of the 9 associations across I-20 experienced an increase in worship attendance since 2010 – Madison, Concord-Union, & Webster-Claiborne.
  • Only 4.4% of the population attended Bible Study in an SBC Church. 32,604 residents. Bible Study attendance dropped by 10% since 2010. Only one of the nine associations along I-20 experienced an increase in Bible Study attendance since 2010 – Madison.

Current Louisiana Baptists Planters along I-20:

  • Cleto Perez – Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida – Arcadia
  • Miguel Barrios – Filadelfia Baptist Mission – Bernice
  • Barnabas Son – Monroe Korean Baptist Church – West Monroe
  • Richard Thomas – Gethsemane Baptist Church – Shreveport
  • Carranza Johns – Hip Hope Church – Shreveport
  • Trandy Wade – New Life Journey Baptist Church – Bossier City
  • Ivory Jackson – North Star Baptist Church – Shreveport
  • Roy Thomas – St. James Baptist Church – Shreveport
  • Greg Shyne – United Outreach Church – Shreveport
  • Daniel Hernandez – Broadmoor Hispanic Mission – Shreveport
  • Miguel Guillen – First Hispanic Church, Haughton
  • Mt. Kham Nang – First Zo Baptist Church – Bossier City

What should a church planter do THE DAY AFTER election day?

bluedog1. Pray, Pray, Pray to the one who governs the nations. (Psalm 22:28, 47:7-8, Jeremiah 10:7, Acts 17:26).

2. Write notes to any local election winners pledging your churches prayer support.

3. Go share the gospel. Our battle is not political, but spiritual. Our kingdom is not of this world, but eternal. (Ephesians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 9:25).

4. And maybe go to the gym. Healthcare expenses are still going to be killer on the church planting budget. Lol!

What else are you doing this DAY AFTER?

How to Plant a Church in a MICROpolitan Area: Christ Church Opelousas

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.

christchurchopHow 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.

Low Hanging Fruit in Church Planting

Low hanging fruit on our backyard Satsuma tree this year.

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.

Squirrel-Like Church Planting

squirrel-diggingIt’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!

2016 Louisiana Church Planting Update

75% of 2016 is in the can. Here’s a report of this years Church Planting efforts among Louisiana Baptist Churches:

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  • 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.

150 New Churches

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:

Church Planting and Pastor Appreciation Month

For Church Planters, Pastor Appreciation Month can be awkward. Here’s why:

coolestpastor1. New believers don’t know that they’re supposed to appreciate the pastor. They don’t 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, and teaches from the Bible on Sunday’s.

2. In the early years of a church plant, the Planter is often setting the calendar, agenda, and 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 and gift cards.” He hopes someone might have gotten the hint, but planters may see October come and go without appreciation.

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 and to give a portion of my income to God. It sounds right and I’m listening, but buy this guy a gift? Yea right!”

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 and 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, and take a moment to share about Pastor’s Appreciation Month and lead the plant to give a round of applause for their hard working planter then pass a card to the planter and 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 and offer your insights on the community.
  • If your church has a large staff, adopt a planter for prayer and 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, and seeing slow developing fruit for a few years. These guys need and deserve our thanks and appreciation.

Next Steps: 

  • Find and connect with Planters working all over Louisiana HERE.
  • Find and show love to planters working in the North American Mission Board’s 32 Send Cities HERE. Pick a city and click the link for Planter Profiles.
  • Check out a few Planter Appreciation ideas from our New Orleans Send City Missionary George Ross.

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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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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