Category Archives: Reflecting

The Church Planter’s Kid

Our oldest, Jack is 15 today. I’ve updated this list over the years. Added a few things this year. It’s not always easy being the Church Planter’s Kid. Proud of Jack and the young man he’s becoming.

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.

Celebrating 17 Years Married Today

It was 1999, the world was coming to an end (remember Y2K? Ha!), but we were getting married!! Grateful for my good thing (Proverbs 18:22), Heather Johnson Corley! 

Church, Let’s Keep It Going!

I am a Christ follower today because of God’s grace and because in hopes that I and others would receive God’s grace other Christians…

>> prepared and taught kids sunday school lessons
>> prepared worship services and sermons
>> got to church early to turn the lights on, make the coffee, get things ready for me and others
>> in relationship ask about my spiritual life
>> opened their home for Bible Studies
>> picked me up when I didn’t have a ride
>> organized youth camps and took a week off to go with me to youth camp
>> gave money sacrificially to their church
>> made Christ like decisions that challenged me and showed me what it means to be a Christian in the daily
>> prepared mission trips and on mission experiences
>> took me to breakfast and lunch and talked to me about what it means to be a Christian man
>> called me when I went through difficult times in my life
>> took a chance and ask me to serve on a church team
>> took a chance and ask me to teach a lesson
>> didn’t laugh when I flopped and failed
>> encouraged me not to quit
>> hugged me and patted me on the back regularly
>> prayed for me when I got discouraged
>> and so much more

Lord, please don’t let it end with me. I don’t want to be a cul-de-sac on the highway of God’s grace. Church, let’s keep it going!

Your Church Can Grow This Summer!

Last year our small church actually grew by 30% between Memorial Day & the first day of school. Here’s what we did that helped us beat the summer slump. And it does not even include VBS!

1. Celebrate Summer

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Memorial Day Outdoor Worship Gathering on the River in Madisonville.

There are at least four great opportunities already on the calendar to build in celebration over the summer: Memorial Day Weekend, Father’s Day, Fourth of July Weekend, & Back to School. Plan on doing something special & unique for each of these weekends. These four Sunday’s were the highest attended weeks of the summer for our church. Sure, some people went out of town, but we made each a special opportunity for people to invite unchurched family & friends & we reached out to each prospect with a special invite. The guests made up for the vacationers. Make the most of the holiday weekends!

2. Break the Routine

When summer comes around, everyone is thinking, “I need a break,” including your church’s teachers & volunteers. Structuring the calendar in such a way that gives some relief to hard working volunteers will help them stay enthused about their teams work all summer. It also builds in the expectation that volunteers will be out of town in such a way that momentum is not lost & relationships are not strained. Our kids ministry combined classes for special days several times & our holiday celebrations were planned in such a way that kids volunteers & setup crews had those weeks practically off.

3. Get Outside

OutdoorGatheirng

4th of July Weekend Worship Gathering at an area State Park.

For Memorial Day & Fourth of July, we held our Worship Gatherings at some of our communities favorite outdoor venues. Every community has a park, picnic area, lake area, etc. where people like to gather & hang out. Incorporate cooking out, fishing, games, water slides, etc. & you’ve got a crowd. Share the gospel clearly & gather info from visitors. And depending on the location, you may can even maximize the hearing of the Gospel with people that show up not knowing that a church would be meeting there that day. Everybody loves being outside in Louisiana & in our case, outdoor worship gatherings have been a great tool for connecting new people to our church.

4. Connect New People

Of course, sustainable growth depends upon the systems you have to connect people to Christ, to one another, & to a mission greater than themselves. Plan for new people by continuing or starting a new comers class & by having special opportunities for connections with small groups throughout the summer. Also, keep in mind, if new families are relocating to your area, it will likely be during the summer. Make your gatherings accessible to new people in the community & plan on helping them feel welcomed & help them make meaningful connections. Our Connections Team prepares New Resident Welcome Baskets for people to give to new people moving into their neighborhoods throughout the summer.

Summer is a great time to grow things. Churches included. Celebrate. Have fun. Get outside. Get ready for new people. Expect God to bring an increase.

PancakeBreakfast

Father’s Day Pancake Breakfast. All you can eat pancakes right through the sermon! Yea!

Church Planting Story: Hope Church of Waldheim

10 Core Group (with Hope Church history).022Was back at Hope Church of Waldheim tonight for a men’s gathering. Heather & I moved to Covington in 2001, to be a part of starting a church in the community of Waldheim. So many great memories in this community. And so many hard lessons. Church planting in Waldheim brought me to the end of myself many times, as church planting will usually do. Wrote about the journey in the post Overheard as a North American Church Planter.

Timeline: Started in October 2001 as a Home Bible Study. Began weekly worship gatherings in October 2002. Worshipped in an unairconditioned Fire Station for 2 years. Moved into a former cafe/truck stop in 2005. Survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 55 baptisms in first five years. 1,000’s came on volunteer missions trips from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky,  Mississippi, & South Carolina to serve this community through Hope Church between 2002 & 2008. Grateful to have been a small part of the story of this church that will hopefully be a light to the unchurched in the Waldheim community & beyond for generations to come.

Found an old partner presentation to share with the men’s group:

Top Posts of 2015

Thanks for making it a good year on the blog! Blogging is more therapy for me than for anyone else. I consider it an extension of my personal journaling and teaching opportunities. Here’s the top 10 post that got the most interest this year:

1. Things Spiritual Infants Say – How can I know where I am or where those I’m trying to disciple and lead are spiritually? Try listening.

gator2. Top 5 Places to Plant a Church in Louisiana – Still many cities & communities in need of new churches in one of North America’s most unique cultures.

3. #ChurchPlanting Hack: Proven Ways to Cultivate Relationships & Plant Seeds – When starting a new church or wanting to impact a community for Christ through evangelism, scattering seeds should be one of your primary missions.

4. What’s Up with the Local Baptist Association? a few encouraging observations after attending about 15 Associational Annual Meetings

5. The Church Planter’s Wife – In honor of my church planting wife on our 16th Anniversary

6. Real Life Scenarios for #ChurchRevitalization: Merger and Multisite – 9 Keys to a Successful Church Revi Transition that includes Merging & Multisite

7. 5 Things You Must Do the First Year of a Church Plant

Adventure8. 8 Things You’ll Never Hear an On Mission Christian Say – There’s a marked difference between living the Christian life ON MISSION, & just going to church on Sunday’s. You can tell which side of this equation you’re living on by what comes out of your mouth.

9. Scenarios for #ChurchRevitalization: Refocus and Re-Energize – Three steps to revitalization: Assessment, Alignment, Advancement.

10. What is a Disciple? an acrostic I found and liked

Get updates when I post a new blog by subscribing at the top right or clicking Follow if you’re already a WordPress user. Look forward to learning together in 2016 and beyond.

Things Spiritual Infants Say and other Top Posts for November:

My top posts in November:

  1. What’s Up With the Local Baptist Association?
  2. Things Spiritual Infants Say
  3. 8 Things You’ll Never Hear an On Mission Christian Say
  4. A Few Simple Holiday Outreach Ideas 
  5. 5 Things You Must Do Before You Plant a Church
  6. Church Planter Fit 
  7. Jackson’s First Mission Trip 
  8. The Duty of Encouragement 
  9. Church Planting Makes a Difference 
  10. ASAP in Church Planting: What Should I Do First? 

In the Wake of a Godly Family

WakeI recently became the owner of a small boat that will primarily be enjoyed on a river with many very large boats. So, I’ve had to learn how to maneuver the wakes of these vessels. The smoothest ride is provided when you can be behind a large vessel so that you can be IN their wake. Outside that wake will be a rough ride. There’s a parallel here to life and family. We’re all experiencing the wakes of the people that have gone before us. The Bible says that we can make it easier for those coming behind us, by the way we live our lives.

“the offspring of the righteous will be delivered” Proverbs 11:21

“in the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge” Proverbs 14:26

“The righteous who walks in his integrity – blessed are his children after him” Proverbs 20:7

Last week was the funeral for one of my mother’s older brothers. Marty was 73, and he was the first of Joe & Jack Francis’ eleven children to pass away. This gave me an opportunity to thank God for the grace of being a part of a Godly family and the wake that I now follow in. Joe and Jack, my Grandparents, were married over 50 years. They built a successful business which they were able to pass on to their sons. They served God faithfully as deacon in several local churches. They were known for their radical generosity. They set a compelling example and prayed for their family. Now, eleven children who have been self-sufficient and are living well. Thirty grandchildren and forty-five plus (I’ve lost count) great-grandchildren are thriving. And the great-great grandkids are the pride of the bunch. It’s not perfect, but to be a part of this family is to know that you’re a part of something special.

Joe & Jack Francis

Joe & Jack Francis

Often times, when things go well for me, often in spite of me, I believe that its because God is keeping His promises to and answering the prayers of Joe and Jack Francis, and to those before and around them who devoted themselves to His purposes and to passing on a godly legacy to their future generations. I’m grateful for the kind wake that they have left for me and my children behind me. Praying that I can keep sailing smooth for my future generations.

Consider what kind of wake are you leaving for those who will follow you. God can redeem any story. If your fore-bearers were negligent, let it START with you.

Francis siblings. Last pic with Marty.

Francis siblings. Last pic with Marty.

Francis Family reunion a few years ago.

Francis Family reunion a few years ago.

Katrina Memories

Rode out Katrina’s aftermath in Waldheim, LA while planting Hope Church, between Covington & Bogalusa, LA. The community lost about 30% of its trees. A few memories still stuck in my head:

  • The weatherman saying, “a little jog to the west.”
  • Preaching Sun, Aug 28, 2005, to a small group of people who mostly had their bags packed for a nervous trip north.
  • Seeing my family drive away into the endless stream of cars heading north.
  • The sound of generators running from miles around.
  • The smell of pine sap, sweat, and chain saw bar oil. It’s forever burned into my nostrils.
  • The trees. So many trees….
  • 10 weeks without electricity.
  • MRE’s and Southern Baptist cooked pastalaya.
  • Countless volunteers (I wish I could remember all their names) who cooked, cut, constructed, & deconstructed, hugged, cried, sweated, & bled with Gulf Coast folks for more than a year.
  • Rice crispy treats!!! Our church received a call, “Can you take the contents of a truck from TN?” “What’s in it?” “Not sure.” It was a 40′ truck load of rice crispy treats. Took forever to get rid of them. Still have night mares about rice crispy treats.
  • Saying good-bye to friends who had to move away.
  • The heart breaking sights and sounds in the city of New Orleans & the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.
  • Seeing the heartbreak of St. Bernard Parish residents as volunteers pulled the flooded, molded contents of their homes to the curb.
  • The day my family came home :)).
  • Laying down in my bed for the first night with electricity and realizing the trees were no longer there to cover the street lights. Couldn’t sleep for a week.
  • Hearing my atheist neighbor ask, “What is God trying to tell us, Pastor?”
  • Hearing people say Katrina was a good thing because it helped me realize I needed God and needed others. (Also, see my post on What’s worse than a Cat 4 Hurricane).

The Church Planter’s Wife

In honor of my church planting wife on our 16th Anniversary

Sunday’s have been abnormal for my wife for the entirety of our marriage. They’ve included:

  • never having her husbands help getting the kids ready for church because he’s setting up for church.
  • very seldom sitting by her husband in a worship service because of preaching/sound/nursery/etc.
  • going to church in weird places like apartment complex clubhouses, fire stations, former bars, & gymnasiums
  • not having Sunday lunch till 2pm most weeks because he’s doing teardown & cleanup

Why? Because her husbands a church planter. I’ve never heard her complain about any of this as she has accepted this role as who she is. It’s OUR calling, she says. A calling that’s led her to:

  • Lead worship for a new church’s first worship service in an un air conditioned fire station in August, WHILE 9 MONTHS PREGNANT.
  • She cooked for & hosted the first new members class for a church plant, JUST BEFORE checking in to the hospital to deliver one of our children.
  • She’s started worship teams, children’s teams, Bible Studies, Book Club’s, women’s ministries. She’s painted faces, painted buildings, scrubbed floors, scrubbed toilets, changed diapers, etc., etc., etc.
  • She’s prepared the home for meetings probably a thousand times by now! Many times 2 or 3 times a week. Sometimes twice in one day.
  • She’s never complained about short vacations & creatively inexpensive date nights or about having to work outside the home because the church planters salary was, to say it nicely, below the average income for the area.
  • She’s cooked & cleaned for thousands of volunteers that have served through our ministries. Many of them in the emotional aftermath of Hurricanes that had damaged our property & the property of most of our friends.
  • She’s faced the emotional ups & downs of having a type A church planting husband who has faced criticism, made bad decisions, said yes to too much, & wanted to quit every Monday.
  • And during all this, did I mention WE’VE GOT KIDS! Yep, she’s also an incredible mom, sister, friend, coworker, etc.

Dr. Reggie Ogea, who recruited me to plant our first church tells me every time I see him – “You know we only hired you because of your wife. We thought you were the real deal, but we knew Heather was the real deal.” And she’s proven him right over & over again.

Sometimes as I think about all of this I want to say “I’m sorry.” But she wouldn’t get it. So I just have to keep saying THANK YOU! & giving her the praise she deserves (Proverbs 31:28, 31).

Last year I talked her into telling her story to a group of church planting wives. I told her she should write it up, but she didn’t. However, I hijacked her notes (after 16 years of marriage, we can usually guess each others passwords). Here’s her outline – the commitments of a Church Planting Wife:

  • I will love my husband well.
  • I will not allow chaos, conflict, & criticism to completely freak me out.
  • I will be who I am created to be & not compare myself to other women.
  • I will take a posture of love to the lost in my community.

Grateful that she’s fulfilled & lived these commitments out. And looking forward to many more years of planting, ministry, & life with my good thing (Proverbs 18:22) Heather Corley!

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