BIG NEWS for StretchyChurch!

StretchyChurch has officially moved to WordPress! Why? Just because WordPress makes it a little easier to customize StretchyChurch.

So from now on, StretchyChurch will be located at www.stretchychurch.com. I'll probably be fine tuning it for the next several weeks, but everything is fully functional.

If you have a link to StretchyChurch using the old blogspot URL, I'd appreciate it if you could update that URL to reflect the change!

I'm looking forward to continuing what I've been doing as always--just with different software!


Church Website = Church Growth

A friend of mine alerted me to this article entitled Churches with Websites are More Likely to Grow. It's an article definitely worth checking out.


What Kind of Person am I?

I’m reading a book right now called The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California and a Christian.

I gotta tell you, this book has been pushing me and challenging me theologically more than the past ten books I’ve read combined! And I’ll tell you why.

The Divine Conspiracy focuses largely on The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 and 6. Most of the time, when we read these teachings of Jesus—teachings like: do not be angry, do not lust, do not swear an oath, love your enemies, etc., etc., etc.—when we read these, we assume that Jesus is giving us laws to obey. But Willard argues that these are not laws; these are illustrations of how a certain kind of person lives.

And what kind of person is this? A person whose life is completely submitted to God. A person who lives and breathes the life of God. A person whose feet are covered with the dust kicked up by Jesus’ feet because they are following so closely.

This kind of person does not simply obey a law that says “do not be angry with your brother or sister” (and, by the way, Jesus doesn’t exactly say this, but this is how we often understand Matthew 5:21-22). The kind of person that Jesus is talking about does not get angry or bitter because their life is filled with the love of God.

This kind of person does not simply obey a law that says “do not lust” (again, not exactly how Jesus put it). This kind of person will not objectify anyone sexually because they understand a person’s value the way God understands a person’s value.

This kind of person will not merely obey a law that says “do not swear.” This kind of person will be a person of integrity and honesty; a person who does not need to swear or promise or make an oath because this person always means what he or she says—and follows through.

I hope this makes sense. I’m still learning to grasp this way of reading Jesus’ words. And I’m struggling with this question: “Am I that kind of person? Or am I just trying to obey what I think are the rules?”

Let me end with these two paragraphs from The Divine Conspiracy:

Is it then hard to do the things with which Jesus illustrates the kingdom heart of love? Or the things Paul says love does? It is very hard indeed if you have not been substantially transformed in the depths of your being, in the intricacies of your thoughts, feelings, assurances, and dispositions, in such a way that you are permeated with love. Once that happens, then it is not hard. What would be hard would be to act the way you acted before.

When Jesus hung on the cross and prayed, “Father, forgive them because they do not understand what they are doing,” that was not hard for him. What would have been hard for him would have been to curse his enemies and spew forth vileness and evil upon everyone, God and the world…. He calls us to impart himself to us. He does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.


Hip Hop Yoda

Just another fun treat from the Star Wars geek!


Post-Easter Treats

If you're anything like me (a pastor) you were incredibly busy last week! And that's my excuse for not posting for a couple weeks... Heh heh...

Anyway, I hope everyone had a great Easter! I came across a couple things that I wanted to pass on to you:
  1. 10 Ways to Keep Me From Discovering Your Church - This blog post at Church Redone is a great tongue-in-cheek description of ten things churches should do keep people from finding them. Good for a laugh; better for some good insight.
  2. Mr. Deity - Our Interim Pastor told me about this one. Really funny! Not always the best theology, but still good for a laugh. There are ten episodes so far, and I'm including my favorite right here. To see the rest of the episodes, click here.


How Should Churches Use Their Money?

To follow up on my last post, let me ask the question that Steve asked in his comment: Is this what God wants from his church? That is, does God really want churches giving their money to gas stations so that people can save money on gas?

That's a really good question, and one that I've been wrestling with for the past hour or so (I was already in bed, but had to get my thoughts out in writing). In my last post, I say that it's "awesome" that a church would do something like this. Is it awesome, or should churches spend their money on more significant causes?

So, here's what I'm thinking....

Steve (I hope you don't mind that I'm quoting you, Steve) suggests that "we're playing up to our consumeristic mindset." That may be. Without a doubt, we live in a consumeristic society. I'll admit it--when I see cheap gas, I pull over and fill up!

But what on the one hand may seem like "playing up" might on the the other hand be a contextualization of the gospel.

I know, I know... I can hear a bunch of you already saying that this isn't quite the same thing as contextualization. Point taken.

But how does the church get people's attention in our culture? More specifically, how do we get the attention (I'm talking about positive attention) of suburban, middle-to-upper class people who think they don't really need anything? Well, heck... Do we even need to get their attention?!

Believe me, I'm sure there are billions of people who could be better served by $1500 than those in West Chester, Ohio. But can we say that this is something that God would not have us do?

We could also say that a church should never spend money decorating its worship space. Is it wrong to spend $1500 on a beautiful, decorative cross to enhance one's worship experience?

Y'know, I don't think God is utilitarian when it comes to money. I don't think he looks at money and thinks, "How should we use this to make the most impact on those who need it most?" And here's why I say this.

In John 12, we have the story of Jesus being anointed with perfume by his friend Mary (the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus had just raised). She comes into the room, pours perfume on Jesus' feet, and then wipes his feet with her hair.

And this perfume wasn't the cheap stuff. How do we know? It was worth a year's wages! So, let's say it was worth $40,000--that's expensive perfume!

Here's how the conversation goes from this point:
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages."...

"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."

Now, I'm not saying that donating money to a gas station is the same as anointing Jesus with perfume. And I'm not saying that Jesus doesn't care about the poor (I don't think that's the point of this passage).

What I'm saying is, Jesus doesn't think about money the same way we do. And I think each church (and each person) is responsible to hear God's leading in how they are being called to use the money God has given them. They may not be using the money the way we think they should, but lucky for them we won't be judging them on the Last Day!

God Gas!

No, I'm not talking about flatulence! I'm talking about plain old gasoline.

Last night I saw a news story on one of the local Cincinnati channels about a gas station where the price was only $2.07 per gallon. I was floored when I saw that because gas prices have been hovering at around $2.45 for the past week or so.

Here's what was so cool about this: the reason the price of gas was so low is because a local church donated $1500 to the gas station so that people in the community could save money! That's awesome! And while people were getting gas, church members were checking people's fluids, washing windows, etc.

What a great way for a church to bless its community--with no strings attached!

Click here to see one of the news stories that aired (you'll have to watch the commercial first; then the story will play). Check out the church's website here and the pastor's blog here.


Wanting Good to Win

In a post titled The Siren Call of Truth and Goodness in 300, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, (hmm... looking for some Google surfers? heh heh...) Jonathan, at The One Ring Blog, makes a great point: films like the ones just mentioned are popular because they satisfy our innate desire for good to triumph over evil.

Check out Jonathan's full post here.


Real Reality

I'm reading a book right now by Chuck Palahniuk called Haunted, a strange story about a bunch of writers who have gone on a retreat, only to find themselves locked in an old theater with no windows, limited food, and no way out.

Sounds kind of disturbing, doesn't it? Well, it is kind of disturbing. But then, Chuck Palahniuk is known for writing on disturbing subject matter--he's best knows for writing the book, Fight Club, on which the movie of the same title is based.

So, why am I reading this book? Because I like disturbing subject matter? Not really.

I'm reading Haunted (aside from the fact that's it's an engaging book) because I believe Chuck Palahniuk is a window into the world of our culture, especially the world of Generation X and younger. A world filled with despair and hopelessness. A world that is desperately searching for meaning beyond itself. A world that wants more to life than just wealth and good looks.

The book itself is made up of short stories "written by" the writers who are stuck in the old theater.

Last night, I read a story called The Nightmare Box, in which a young woman looks into an antique box called a Nightmare Box. The Box itself continously ticks (like a clock), and then at some random point stops ticking. When it stops ticking, the first person to look into the box sees something that drives that person to utter despair.

What is it that people see in the Nightmare Box? What could be that terrible, that awful, that horrifying?

By the end of the story, we learn what the Nightmare Box reveals:

It's something that goes beyond life-after-death. What's in the box is proof that what we call life isn't. Our world is a dream. Infinitely fake. A nightmare.

One look, Rand says, and your life--your preening and struggle and worry--it's all pointless....

All your problems and love affairs.

They're an illusion.

"What you see inside the box," Rand says, "is a glimpse of real reality."

I don't know about you, but I see truth in these words. When we understand "real reality" we discover that all our "preening and struggle and worry--it's all pointless."

But what's "real reality"? If we caught a glimpse of "real reality," would it really lead to despair? Or would it lead to hope?

I'm also reading another book right now, this one by Dallas Willard, called The Divine Conspiracy. In this book, Willard delves into the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount (or, as he calls it, the Discourse on the Hill).

In his chapter on the Beatitudes, Willard challenges the common notion that the Beatitudes are instructions on how to live. When Jesus says "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," Jesus isn't instructing us to be "poor in spirit." Jesus isn't saying it's a virtue to be "poor in spirit."

On the contrary, Jesus is saying that the "real reality" is that those who are "poor in spirit," those who are "spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of 'religion'"--theirs is the kingdom of heaven!

Here's how Willard puts it:

Those poor in spirit are called "blessed" by Jesus, not because they are in a meritorious condition, but because, precisely in spite of and in the midst of their ever so deplorable condtion, the rule of the heavens has moved redemptively upon and through them by the grace of Christ. (italics Willard's)
See, that's "real reality"! Jesus has brought into the world a new "real reality." A reality in which the kingdom of heaven is here! Among us. With us. In Jesus.

We are living in the midst of the kingdom of heaven because Jesus has brought it near. And all can experience that "real reality" because of the grace of Jesus.

So here's the question: Would the Nightmare Box really lead a person to utter despair?

I don't think so. Not if it revealed the "real reality" that Jesus revealed.



I haven't posted in over a week! Bad Markus!!


Information Overload?

I just saw one of the worst movies ever. The movie is Johnny Mnemonic, with Keanu Reeves in the title role.

The acting was bad. The story was bad. The effects were bad. The futuristic make-up was stupid. And the characters were silly (imagine Dolph Lundgren as a long-haired psycho-priest assasin called Preacher).

But it's always kinda fascinating to watch an older movie about the future. The movie came out in 1995 and is supposed to take place in 2021--which means that right now, in 2007, we're almost halfway there.

In 1995 the internet was still in its infancy--ok, maybe at its toddler stage. But clearly the world was changing dramatically. All of a sudden, you could get information about almost anything, anytime, as long as you were connected to the internet.

With all these changes, there was a growing fear that people would begin to suffer from information overload.

And that's the theme that Johnny Mnemonic picks up. In the movie, which has a film-noir, post-apocalyptic feel, half of the world's population is suffering from a plague called Nerve Attenuation Syndrome (I really have no idea what that means). Halfway through the movie, we discover that you get NAS from...well...from everything--from all the computers...and stuff.

What they're trying to say is "information overload."

And then there's Johnny (Keanu's character). Johnny is an information courier with a chip in his brain that can hold--are you ready for this--a whopping 80 GB of information! Wow! And with a little tweaking he somehow crams 320 GB onto his 80 GB chip. Not really sure how that works. I don't know about you, but I have a feeling that in 2021 we're not even gonna be dealing in gigabytes anymore; we'll be way into (or even beyond) the terrabyte age.

So, anyway... overloading the chip in his brain can be fatal after a few days, and Johnny spends the whole movie trying to get the info out of his head.

So, again, there's the theme of information overload.

Of course, in 2007, we now know that there's really no danger of information overload. I'm not even sure how it would be possible to be overloaded with information. All that can really happen is that, well, you know a lot of stuff.

Instead, what we have is complete freedom of information. It is a different world than it was in 1995, and way different than it was in 1985. But clearly, open access to information is something that we (the human race) have not only adapted to and embraced, but we love it!


Launch Conference, Part 11: Breaking Barriers for On-going Growth

Can you believe it?! This is my last post in my series from the Launch Conference!! It only took me a month and a half!

Drumroll, please.........

Breaking Barriers for On-going Growth

In his book, The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren explains the wrong and right questions to ask in dealing with growth barriers:
  • The Wrong Question: How do I get my church to grow?
  • The Right Question: What is keeping my church from growing?

The Top 3 Growth Barriers Every New Church Will Face

Growth Barrier #1: Space
  • The 70% Rule: When a room is 70% full, it's full!
  • At 80% your church is stangled and it will not grow.
Growth Barrier #2: Self-Development
Growth Barrier #3: Evangelism
  • Keep the focus on evangelism hot!
  • Teach on relational evangelism.
  • Set an example by telling stories of how you've invited people to church.
  • Kick off a new series with a special challenge for people to invite their friends.
  • Hold a prayer walk or servant evangelism outreach.
  • Talk to staff and volunteers about the importance of reaching friends.
  • Read an evangelism or church-growth book with your staff.
  • Develop training materials that will help your members invite their friends to church and share their faith.
  • Ask someone who has experienced life change to share his or her testimony.

Overcoming Spiritual Barriers to Growth

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." --John 15:5

Abiding Area #1: God's Word
  • Spend time in God's Word every day
Abiding Area #2: Prayer

Abiding Area #3: Fasting

And that's it!! Hope these notes were helpful. Certainly, they were at times controversial--and even I don't agree with everything. But I think you can always learn something, even when you don't agree 100%.


Launch Conference, Part 10B: Building Systems for On-going Growth

Ok... Part two of this section of my notes from the Launch Conference:

4. Baptism

Be able to answer these questions:
  • How do we make sure people understand the meaning and significance of baptism?
  • How do we capture our first baptism on video or with photography? How do we get the video or photos out to the entire church in the coming weeks?
  • How do we capture the stories and testimonies of those being baptized? How do we maximize these as celebrations of what God is doing in our church family?
  • How do we signify the event for those being baptized? Do we give them certificates? Framed personal photos? Group pictures?
  • How do we promote the next baptism at our first baptism?

5. Recordkeeping and Databases
  • Contact information on everyone who attends (name, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, spouse and kids' names)
  • Weekly Sunday attendance broken down by adults and children
  • Weekly offering amount
  • Number of volunteers on Sunday
  • Number of volunteers during the week

6. Basic Accounting
  • Offering collection, counting, and deposit
  • Check writing
  • Reimbursement processes
  • Salaries/paychecks
  • Regular reports (bank account, budget, etc.)

7. Corporate/Legal Structure
  • What's the minimum structure you must have 'by law'?

8. Leadership Development System
  • My personal plan (e.g., conferences, books, podcasts)
  • My plan for staff (e.g., read books together, DVDs)
  • My plan for volunteers (create a culture where there is an abundance of leaders)

These 8 systems are crucial! Everything else can wait 8-18 months! (including membership class and small groups)


Breathe Deep the Breath of God

First I want to give a quick shout out to Johnny and Jonathan, a couple of church planters in Independence, Kentucky. I had coffee with them at (where else?) Starbucks yesterday and had some great conversation with them. Check out their church, Fellowship of Mercy, here.

Anyway, I've been thinking about the whole "stretchychurch" concept lately. Turns out there are more than one way in which a church can be stretchy. It can be stretchy in that it is open to trying new forms of worship.

It can also be stretchy in that it welcomes all kinds of people. It recognizes that everyone is in need of the Savior. And it opens its doors to all of them.

As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of a really great song back in the 90's by a band called The Lost Dogs. The song is called "Breathe Deep (the Breath of God)."

As you read these lyrics, you might be asking, "So are they saying that all these things are good?" Of course not. They're saying that all of these people need to "breathe deep the breath of God."

Everyone--everyone!--needs to "breathe deep the breath of God."

I'm including a YouTube video. The video itself is actually terrible in terms of quality (don't even bother watching the video), but this is an easy way to include the song right here. The lyrics are below the video.

"Breathe Deep (the Breath of God)"
music and lyrics by Terry Taylor

Politicians, morticians, Philistines, homophobes
Skinheads, Dead heads, tax evaders, street kids
Alcoholics, workaholics, wise guys, dim wits
Blue collars, white collars, war mongers, peace nicks

Breathe deep, Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep, Breathe deep the Breath of God

Suicidals, rock idols, shut-ins, drop outs
Friendless, homeless, penniless and depressed
Presidents, residents, foreigners and aliens
Dissidents, feminists, xenophobes and chauvinists

Breathe deep, Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep, Breathe deep the Breath of God

Evolutionists, creationists, perverts, slum lords
Dead-beats, athletes, Protestants and Catholics
Housewives, neophytes, pro-choice, pro-life
Misogynists, monogamists, philanthropists, blacks and whites

Breathe deep, Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep, Breathe deep the Breath of God

Police, obese, lawyers, and government
Sex offenders, tax collectors, war vets, rejects
Atheists, Scientists, racists, sadists
Photographers, biographers, artists, pornographers

Breathe deep, Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep, Breathe deep the Breath of God

Gays and lesbians, demagogues and thespians
The disabled, preachers, doctors and teachers
Meat eaters, wife beaters, judges and jurys
Long hair, no hair, everybody everywhere!

Breathe deep, Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep, Breathe deep the Breath of God


Launch Conference, Part 10A: Building Systems for On-going Growth

I think I'm gonna have to divide this next section up into two bite-size chunks. So... this is the first chunk....

A church system is simply a strategic process that:


Just as the skeletal system provides a framework for our bodies, initial church systems provide structure for a new church. When it comes to establishing healthy systems, you have an advantage in launching from scratch--you get to build the systems without being tied to any traditional ways of doing things.

Eight First Year Systems

1. The Sunday Service
  • Load In/Load Out System - setting up and tearing down Sunday morning equipment, etc.
  • Service Evaluation System - What was wrong? What was missing? What was confusing?
  • Sunday Staff/Volunteer System
  • Worship Planning/Preaching Calendar System - just keep "launching" with new series (to break a growth barrier); launch in February, at Easter, in September, at Advent, etc.

2. Evangelism and Assimilation 101

Be able to answer these questions:
  • How does someone explore or express a decision to follow Christ at our church?
  • What do we say, share or give to a person who is making a first-time decision to follow Christ?
  • How can we help the new Christian get plugged into our church?
  • How do we move someone from first-time guest to full-time member?
  • How do we know who is a first-time guest each Sunday? How do we collect his or her contact information?
  • Are we making our service easy for a first timer to attend? Does that person know where to enter, check in his or her kids, find the restroom, and so on?
  • How are we following up on first-time guests?

3. Website
  • Most church planters spend too much time on the website
  • Spend less time on the website and more time in the community
That said, here are some tips...

Do include:
  • Where your church meets
  • What time you meet
  • Directions to the church's location
  • What to expect at the service (how long, style, dress, etc.)
  • A little bit about you and any staff
  • A short history of the church
Don't include:
  • Too many pictures of the lead pastor
  • Too many pictures of the lead pastor's spouse
  • Music of any kind (you'll get people in trouble if they look at your website at work!)
  • "Under Construction" signs--just leave the area out until it's ready
  • Anything that takes a long time to load on a slower connection
  • Insider language that only seminary grads understand
  • Your personal blog
  • Anything poorly written or of poor quality
  • Outdated content
  • Links to your favorite sites


A Christian, an Atheist, and a Freebie

First, I promise I'll finish the Launch Conference posts real soon. I feel bad that it's taken so long, but I promise it'll be done soon.

Now then... Last year I read a book called A.K.A. Lost by Jim Henderson, a book that questions the way evangelism has typically been done in the past 50 or so years. Jim Henderson also organized the Revolution Conference last fall that D.G. and I attended.

Aaron Klinefelter just informed me about a new book by Jim Henderson and Matt Caspar called Jim and Caspar Go to Church. The tag-line hints at the book's premise: A believer, an atheist, an unlikely friendship...

Here's the basic idea...

Jim Henderson is a Christian. Matt Caspar is an atheist. And together they visit 10 churches, including Willow Creek, Saddleback, The Potter's House, and other smaller churches. Then they offer their thoughts.

Sounds like a really interesting book to me!!

Here's the freebie.... Follow this link and you can read the first chapter of the book!


The Star Wars Nerd

Ok, so this will confirm what some of you already know and others of you may have only suspected. As you can see in my profile, I clearly identify myself as a Star Wars Geek.

How much do I love Star Wars? So much that I waited in line on Hollywood Blvd. for weeks before the release of each prequel to see the movies at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood--in 1999, 2002, and 2005 (hard to believe it's been almost 2 years since Ep. 3!). For good or for bad, doing nerdy stuff like that in public draws media attention.

During the Episode 3 line, Jimmy Kimmel stopped by. I found this video on YouTube today. Hard to believe I got to be a nerd on national TV....


Launch Conference, Part 9: Evangelism

Yikes! It's been almost a week since my last post! To be honest, it has something with my Lent commitment this year, but I'll tell you more about that in a separate post.

For now, here is (at long last) the next section of my notes from The Launch Conference. This section is called Evangelism: Reaching People from Scratch. Here goes....

"Your target is not your market." --Jack Trout and Al Reis, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
  • The only way to reach your market is to focus on your target.
  • My target determines my marketing.

Key Question: Who am I trying to reach?

My Target Determines My:
  • Marketing - make sure publicity is appropriate to your target
  • Music - the music you choose is the #1 defining characteristic of your church
  • First Service - where you meet, for example
  • Comeback Events
  • Entire Church

Four Questions to Focus my Evangelism Efforts
  1. Who are the key population groups living in my area?
  2. What population group is not being reached effectively?
  3. What population group do I best relate to? (keep in mind that just because you have a heart for someone doesn't mean you can relate to them)
  4. What is my unique "Sweet Spot"? (the intersection of those first three questions)

Three Evangelism Truths
  1. People are more open to the gospel when they are in trouble.
  2. People are more open to the gospel when they are in transition.
  3. People are more open to the gospel when they are under tension.
Regarding "transition":
  • Moving, marriage, having kids, loss of a loved one, loss of a relationship, loss of a dream
  • What transitions are people experiencing in your area?

Five Ideas for Reaching People
  1. Direct Marketing
  2. Mission Teams (teams from other churches; e.g., to hang door hangers, to "prayer walk" or "prayer drive" an area)
  3. Servant Evangelism (showing God's love in a practical way to the people in your city; e.g., handing out water, granola bars, etc. with invite cards)
  4. Events (non-threatening, easy to enter events; atmosphere of Christian hospitality)
  5. People Inviting People


Snowboarding Blues...

Sometimes I feel like I'm starting to get old. I just got back from our annual high school ski trip to Hidden Valley in Pennsylvania. And I am pooped!! I didn't used to get as tired on these things--but now I do....

But it was definitely a great time! And while I don't want to boast, I must admit that my snowboarding skills increased significantly!! Evidence: 1) I can now get off the ski lift without falling every time, and 2) I can ride down fast and straight without having to carve back and forth (I even outran a couple of buddies who were pursuing me with snowballs!).

Anyway, a great weekend! And a great time hanging out with our high schoolers, too!

I was planning to post something of substance tonight, but I think that'll have to wait till later...

(BTW... No, that pictures is not of me. Neither is it anyone I know...)


More Thoughts on "Magnolia"

It's been a long time since I've seen a movie that has not only forced me to reflect on it, but which has made me really enjoy reflecting on it. Magnolia did just that for me.

To be totally honest, I didn't sit down and intentionally think about this movie, but I did keep coming back to the movie repeatedly over the course of the day. Yesterday I mentioned that the movie is about "speaking the truth, listening, not judging--and things happening for a reason." That's true, but the real focus of the movie is on that last part. Things happen for a reason. Stuff happens that may seem like coincidence, but can't simply be coincidence.

This is what the narrator says at the end of the movie (he also says something very similar in the beginning):

There are stories of coincidence and chance, and intersections and strange things told, and which is which and who only knows? And we generally say, "Well, if that was in a movie, I wouldn't believe it." Someone's so-and-so met someone else's so-and-so and so on. And it is in the humble opinion of this narrator that strange things happen all the time.

Magnolia follows about five different story lines, all of which the viewer eventually discovers are related to one another in some way, and which reach their climax at the same time.

As each story reaches its climax, something amazing happens. Something incredible. Something that is literally of biblical proportions.

I couldn't figure out why this thing happened in the movie. It didn't make sense. Until I had my "Aha!" moment in the middle of the day today. What happens is, I believe, intended to tell the audience, "God is involved in this."

I'm not gonna tell you what happens because it's such a seemingly nonsensical and almost silly surprise! But I'll tell you this. There's a game show scene where an audience member is holding up a sign with a Bible verse. Read that verse, and it'll give you a clue.

Anyway, it's a great movie! Check it out sometime.


Real quick.

Just saw a great movie called Magnolia. Can't remember exactly when or where it was recommended to me, but let me recommend it to you.

It's a movie about speaking the truth, listening, not judging--and things happening for a reason. Stylewise, I'd compare it to Crash, with a little more humor. Also has some pretty intentional biblical/theological stuff going on.

It's one of those movies that deserves a lot more thought than I've given it so far (just finished watching 10 minutes ago). But I wanted to say something about this movie before I let it slip away...


Launch Conference, Part 8: Gathering a Launch Team from Scratch

Finally... the next section of my Launch Conference notes. This section is called Gathering a Launch Team from Scratch.

Launch Team vs. Core Group

Launch Team: A team of committed individuals who will assist you in preparing for and executing an effective launch. This is a team of people currently living in the area where your new church will meet--a team that you will build from scratch. The launch team is in existence only through the first weekly service.

The purpose of a Launch Team is simple and has a clear end. It is:
To Launch this New Church

Launch Team: A time-bound team
Core Group: An open-ended team

Launch Team: Meets to plan the launch
Core Group: Meets for spiritual growth

Launch Team: Involves anyone who is willing
Core Group: Involves only the spiritually mature

Launch Team: Is engaged to accomplish a task (a work team; a get-it-done team)
Core Group: Is engaged to encourage and support

Launch Team: Focuses on those outside the church
Core Group: Focuses on those in the group

Launch Team: Ends with an outward focus
Core Group: Ends with an inward focus

  • The word "core" implies a commitment that really doesn't exist when it comes to a church plant. Often times, the members of a core team will leave the church plant to go back to their church of origin.
  • Have a specific timeline and end-date for every volunteer position.

Five Launch Team Truths
  1. For the first monthly service, you are the Launch Team.
  2. Grow your Launch Team with each Monthly Service.
  3. Give each Launch Team member specific assignments and hold them accountable (don't let someone from another church do something that a local church attender could do).
  4. Thank and disband the Launch Team on the day after the Launch.
  5. Recruit Launch Team members as ongoing volunteers. (for 4-6 months; always give a timeline).

Three Launch Team Temptations
  1. Temptation #1: Change the Launch schedule (never change the launch date if you heard it from God)
  2. Temptation #2: Give my Launch Team too much control
  3. Temptation #3: Merge with another church

Key Guidelines for a Healthy Launch
  • Don't do a membership class until after your Launch (at least 3-6 months after launch; you don't know till later what you're actually asking people to join).
  • Do everything possible to keep your Launch Team outwardly focused (if you think you are doing enough, you're not).
  • Don't vote. You are the leader. Lead.
  • Remember that your Launch Team is a time-limited, single-focus team.
  • The Launch Team will force you to learn how to manage teams. Keep those lessons with you. Everything about church involves managing teams of people.
  • Preparing a Launch Team to maximize your first service is first and foremost a spiritual enterprise. Pray and fast--a lot!

"It is like a person who builds a house on a strong foundation laid upon the underlying rock. When floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built." --Luke 6:48

Article on Mainline Emergent/s Conference

Adam Walker Cleaveland at Presbymergent just posted a link to an article in The Presbyterian Outlook about the Mainline Emergent/s Conference. Just FYI, it sounds like the conference involved more than just Presbyterians, but since the Outlook is a Presbyterian publication, it tends to focus on how Presbyterians responded to the conference. Anyway, the article is posted here as a pdf.


Launch Conference, Part 7D: Planning My First Service From Scratch

Here's the last part of the section called Planning My First Service From Scratch:

6. Risk it all on the Launch.

Your launch day should be promoted during each of your monthly services, on your website, and in every conversation with people that you have--it's the goal so promote it to the max.
  • Spend 50% of your marketing money on monthly services and the other 50% on the Launch.
  • If you have very little marketing money, you might want to save almost all of it for the Launch.

Launch Lessons from Starting Churches from Scratch
  • Have your people commit to inviting their friends.
  • Launch with a new teaching series that hits a high felt-need of your target.
  • Promote the next week and challenge people to come back.
  • Challenge new people to tell their friends about the church.
  • Don't use an outside band or teacher for the Launch service.
  • Ask those who have attended the monthly services to serve at the Launch.
  • Collect contact information on everyone who attends.
  • Count how many attend and distinguish between in town and out of town attendees (don't deceive yourself--count only local attenders who might potentially be/become regular attenders).
  • Serve refreshments.
  • Set up your room so that it feels full (rooms feel full at 70% capacity).
  • Keep the service to one hour.
  • Receive an offering.
  • Meet as many people as possible at your launch.
  • Don't do a greeting line; it's weird to unchurched people. Be somewhere, mill around, and meet people.
  • Thank all your volunteers.
  • Be ready for the Sunday after your Launch!

Launch Day Do's and Don'ts

  • Do: Serve fresh Krispy Kremes
  • Don't: Serve day-old, store-bought anything
  • Do: Offer sweet, salty, and healthy foods
  • Don't: Offer small portions
  • Do: Offer name brand drinks
  • Don't: Offer Sam's Choice
  • Do: Offer water
  • Don't: Have a sign pointing to the fountain
  • Do: Put smiling people out to serve
  • Don't: Let your team eat all the food
  • Do: Provide foot for your set-up teams
  • Don't: Tell anyone he or she can only have one of anything
  • Do: Provide more than enough food
  • Don't: Comment when people take seconds or thirds

"Spectacular achievements come from unspectacular preparation." --NFL quarterback Roger Staubach


Presbymergent or Presbymerging?

I just posted a brief article on Presbymergent titled, "Presbymergent or Presbymerging?" Check it out here if you're interested.

Launch Conference, Part 7C: Planning My First Service From Scratch

Ok, time to get back to my purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive Launch Conference notes! Heh heh... Sorry, couldn't help it!

As it turns out this section is gonna be in four parts, not three. So here goes...

5. Promote Each Service with Greater Intensity

The Four D's of Promotion:

1. Design
  • Get professional help (Note: Match the design to your area and who you are trying to reach!)
Design Lessons Learned the Hard Way:
  1. Make the promotion match your city (Use skylines, meadows, beach scenes--whatever characterizes your city best. Every city has a story; try to match that story to your design/logo).
  2. Choose images that are attractive to your target (In general, target your marketing to men, using colors and images that attract men. Men are harder to get to church, but if you can get the man, you can usually get the whole family.)
  3. Be sure that text makes up less than 50% of your layout--period.
  4. Be clear that you are a church.
  5. State exactly what you want people to do (e.g., "Join us on [date]").
  6. Put your name, website, meeting times and location in a prominent place.
  7. Use full color. It's only a bit more expensive and worth it!

2. Direct Mail
  • Find one of the largest printers/mail houses in your area and ask them for advice.
  • Is there another church doing direct mail? Be careful that your church doesn't get confused with that church.
  • Read The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

3. Display Advertising and Media

  • Press releases
  • Event-oriented newspapers (Creative Loafing, What's Happening, and so on)
  • The top radio morning shows (according to your target group)
  • Sports radio or the sports section of the newspaper
  • Local trade journals read by your target
  • Cable advertising on ESPN, CNN, FNC, and others

4. Direct Delivery

Direct delivery is the highest-risk, highest-return option in advertising. Direct delivery includes everything from personal invites to servant evangelism, or any other type of face-to-face church promotion. It's high risk in that it requires person-to-person contact. If you are trying to make thousands of direct contacts, it will require the involvement of a lot people. However, it's high return in that a personal invitation, delivered by a live person, is the most effectve way of encouraging someone to attend your church.
  • Nothing beats direct delivers, but it's slow.
  • It's important to complement direct delivery with direct mail and display advertising/media.
How to Maximize Direct Delivery:
  • Invite everyone you meet!
  • Ask everyone you know--especially your launch team--to promote your church.
  • Join with mission teams or other outside people to help get the word out.
Which One is right for Me?
  • Direct Mail: low risk, low return
  • Display advertising/media: medium risk, medium return
  • Direct delivery: high risk, high return

Billy Graham on Bourbon Street?

I got a forwarded e-mail today with the inspiring story that Billy Graham recently led 16,000 people at the New Orleans Crusade on a one-mile walk from the Superdome to Bourbon Street. When they arrived at Bourbon Street, people who were at the Crusade supposedly started sharing the gospel with partiers and other onlookers.

Great story! Sadly, it's a hoax. Check out this messageboard thread to read the "article" that's making its way around the cyberverse, as well as an official response to this story from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association itself.


Seeker Church vs. Emerging Church

Kyle posted some comments/questions about my Launch Conference notes that I think deserve being addressed.

First of all, I need to confess that I definitely don't have all the answers. I never have and I don't think I ever will.

I'm drawn to the postmodern/emerging/incarnational approach to ministry. And I wish I could say I was 100% there because I think that this movement really is meeting the needs of people in my generation.

At the same time, I've begun to discover that there's still value in some of the older approaches to ministry (funny--by older, I mean 25 years...). There are millions of people in this country who would get a little freaked out by the idea of becoming part of an "intentional community." I, personally, understand the value of that kind of community, but for many people when someone says "Community," what they hear is "Commune."

Anyway, I say this because over the last year or so I've realized that it's not that "seeker" is "out" and "emerging" is "in." Both are "in," depending on the context and the culture that a particular church is trying to reach. Heck, even old-school, mainline, traditional is "in" for some people.

So, let me address Kyle's comments/questions:

1. Yes, the Launch Conference definitely came from a "purpose-driven, seeker-attractive" perspective. In fact, Nelson Searcy was open about the fact that he used to work at Saddleback with Rick Warren and continues to use the purpose-driven aproach with The Journey Church.

2. I, personally, am not planning on planting a church in Northern Kentucky. I am considering planting a church in another metropolitan area in another part of the country. But that's still up in the air. I'm also in talks with an established church. I had three reasons for attending the conference: 1) Learn about church-planting (in case that's what I do), 2) learn some things that will hopefully be transferable to an established church situation (in case that's what I do), and 3) get some clarity on whether or not I'm called to church-planting (which I'm still wrestling with).

3. It's true that there will probably be a different kind of spirituality in a "seeker" type of church than in an "intentional community" kind of church. But I think one of the reasons is because of the people that each type of church attracts. Regardless of what you believe, "intentional community" kinds of churches attract a certain kind of person. Likewise, "seeker" kinds of churches attract a different kind of person. And regarding a "core" vs. a "launch team," one of my upcoming posts will explain why they suggest going with a launch team rather than a core.

Like I said, I'm still on a journey. I'm still trying to figure things out. And I think that's why I still like the word "stretchychurch." The church fits all kinds--emerging, seeker, traditional, mainline, protestant, Catholic, conservative, liberal, fundamentalist, evangelical, etc., etc., etc.

The question isn't, "Are they doing it right?" The question is, "Are they helping people become followers of Jesus?"


Indiana Jones 4!!

Exciting news! I just read on Scifiwire that the fourth Indiana Jones movie is set open on May 22, 2008! Woohoo!!!

Set to direct--Steven Spielberg!! I can't wait!

Launch Conference, Part 7B: Planning My First Service From Scratch

Ok, here's the second part of Planning My First Service From Scratch.

3. Secure my Meeting Location.
  • Hotel ballrooms (various sizes)
  • Movie theaters (various sizes)
  • Comedy clubs (approximately 150 seats)
  • Public school auditoriums
  • Performing arts theaters
  • Available church meeting spaces
  • College auditoriums
  • Corporate conference space
Four Space Lessons Learned the Hard Way:
  1. As much as possible, match your space to your target audience. (You wouldn't want the people of a rural, farming community meeting in a downtown art gallery.)
  2. Make sure your space is easily accessible to your target audience. (You don't want downtown businesspeople traveling to the countryside--or anywhere else not easily accessed by public transportation.)
  3. Make sure your space has a reasonable number of seats.
  4. Don't sign a long-term lease.

4. Plan Comeback Events between my Monthly Services.

  • "Comeback Events" are those events you schedule between your monthly services to invite those who attended a service to come back for a non-threatening, fellowship-based event.
  • Continue to cast the vision of the new church at Comeback Events.
Examples of Comeback Events:
  • BBQ at the pastor's house
  • Picnic in the park
  • City events
  • Dinner in the back room of a restaurant
  • Ice skating
  • Swimming


The Egocentric Pastor

[Quick break from my Launch Conference notes...]

Pastors are prone to letting their ego get the best of them. Maybe I shouldn't generalize. Maybe I should say, "I am prone to letting my ego get the best of me." (Hence my picture with this post...)

But I do think that what is true of me is also true of many other pastors. I mean, who doesn't love to hear someone say, "Oh, pastor, that sermon was awesome!"

I love to hear that! I mean I love to hear that!!

Someone said that to me this weekend (I'm letting you know because it boosts my ego...) and it made me think to myself, "Markus... You da man!!!" And then I thought to myself, "Gosh... God sure is lucky to have a servant like me!"

Bad Markus.

So here's why I'm thinking about this. I followed some links on another blog that led me to the website of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas. Now, I don't the know the pastor of this church personally, so please don't hear what I'm about to say as a personal attack. I'm sure that Ed Young loves Jesus and wants nothing more than to see people come to know Him and have their lives and the world transformed by the power of Jesus in people's lives.

But as I explored their website, this is what rubbed me the wrong way:
  1. One of the main menu headings was titled, "About Ed Young." The subheadings are "Bio," "Conferences," "Resources," and "Television." (Did you notice all the pictures if you clicked those links?) What bugs me is that a church should never be about the pastor. The church should be about the people. Sure, you can have a short bio somewhere on the staff page, but...put it on the staff page! Put it with all the other staff members who share equally in the church's ministry, even if they're not up in front of the congregation each week.
  2. Last night they had a promo video for the new sermon series (it's not there anymore). They don't tell you what the sermon series is called, they've just got a big smiley face. It's probably about joy or happiness or something. The video was excellent. I mean the quality of the video was like something you'd see on broadcast TV. But it was just sort of over-the-top. It involved Ed Young interacting with a giant smiley face. Again, just way too much focus on the pastor.
  3. I followed some links to Ed Young Ministries. I know that there are a lot of ministries out there named for the person who started them--but I just think there's something wrong with that (even Charles E. Fuller didn't want Fuller Seminary named after himself, so the board named the school after his father, Charles H. Fuller). I could probably see Paul in the New Testament starting a ministry organization--it just strikes me as something he might do if it meant he could reach more people with the Gospel. But I can't see him calling it "Apostle Paul Ministries." If anything, I think he'd probably call it something like "Worst of Sinners Ministries."
Here's the thing. I love big churches! I love the energy of a big church. I love the resources for ministry at a big church. I love the fact that big churches are usually big because they're reaching people who don't know Christ. My happiest and most exciting time in ministry was when I was on staff at a big church.

But I also think it can be dangerous for pastors of big churches. I think they can start believing that they're more special to God than other people.

And I have to be honest. I really hope that wherever God leads me next--if it's not already a big church--I hope that I can be a part of helping it become a big church. I hope that people who didn't know Jesus become followers of Jesus and grow into faithful disciples of Jesus. And I hope that they begin to reach their friends and bring them to church where they, too, will encounter Christ.

But I hope and pray the God keeps me humble. And maybe... maybe that means that our church will never become a "megachurch." Maybe I'll never get a book published. Maybe I'll never be interviewed on some widely-read blog.

Maybe I'll just be Markus the Pastor. And maybe that's ok...


Launch Conference, Part 7A: Planning My First Service From Scratch

This next section from the Launch Conference is called Planning My First Service From Scratch. It's actually a pretty long section, so I'm gonna break it up into three parts. This will (naturally) be the first part.

1. Determine my Launch Date!
  • Your launch date is the most important decision you will make after you nail down your calling.
  • Once you pick a date, stick to it!
Top 3 Best Launch Dates (#1 is best)
#3 - Easter
#2 - Fall: Just after school starts
#1 - February

Why is February the best time to launch you first service?
  • You get a second "bump" in attendance with Easter 2 months later
  • There's plenty of time for growth to happen before summer (when attendance tends to drop)
  • People are still willing to do something new with the start of the New Year
Top 3 Worst Launch Dates (#1 is worst)
#3 - Christmas (most attenders are visiting family in the area; they won't be repeat attenders)
#2 - Tie: Superbowl Sunday, July 4th, Labor Day, or any other national holiday
#1 - Any time other than Sunday morning

2. Plan 3-6 Monthly Services prior to your Launch.
  • Monthly services are stepping stones to your Launch.
  • Do a minimum of 3 monthly services, a maximum of 6.
The Power of Monthly Services:
  • Attract a Launch Team
  • Build momentum
  • Give you practice and allow you to improve your skills
  • Give you a chance to grow
  • Provide more time for follow-up
  • Enable more efficient use of initial resources
  • Lower your stress level
  • Make your launch day less intimidating
  • Build greater awareness of the church
  • Build excitement within the church
  • Help you stick to your Launch date
  • Allow you to test your meeting location
  • Allow you to test a worship leader
  • Build your database of future weekly attendees
Monthly Service Do's and Don'ts

  • Teach a message series
  • Talk about your future weekly services
  • Receive an offering (unchurched people aren't offended by receiving an offering)
  • Collect contact information (send handwritten notes to everyone who visits)
  • Hold at least three monthly services
  • Only talk about the future vision
  • Tell them you are "practicing"
  • Ask them to join (wait till after your launch)
  • Hesitate to evaluate and improve
  • Do more than six preview services
BUT: How do I staff my monthly services?
  • First monthly service will be you, the worship leader, and possibly your spouse and/or a friend.
  • After the first monthly service, get volunteers from those who attended that service to staff your next service.


Launch Conference, Part 6: Building a Staff from Scratch

After talking about funding, Searcy and Thomas discussed Staffing: Building a Staff from Scratch.

The first thing they shared was a quote from John Maxwell, which they claimed was the “Greatest Leadership Secret” (and I agree that this is critical): “Those closest to the leader will determine the success level of that leader.”

And then they moved on to discuss Three Tenants (sic) for Staffing a New Church (I think they meant “Tenets,” not “Tenants”):

1. Determine my first year staff
  • Lead pastor
  • Worship leader
  • The worship leader ought to be a flexible, teachable, moldable person
  • Someone who believes in the vision of the church
  • Who else do I need to staff Sunday Services?
  • Volunteers or paid (children’s staff, ushers, greeters, etc.)
  • God will send the people you need to staff your services

2. Decide how I will make payroll
  • Staff can raise some or all of their own funds to support themselves financially.
  • It’s not a bad idea to pay someone $50 per week to help with certain tasks. This can help develop more leaders in the church.
  • But never pay someone to do something that a volunteer could do.

3. Don’t be afraid of the “Big Ask”
  • That is, don’t be afraid to ask people for big commitments or to take on big tasks. All they can do is say no.

Following these three “tenants,” they gave us 10 Staffing Lessons Learned the Hard Way:

  1. You’ll never have enough money up-front to hire staff.
  2. Hiring staff precedes growth, not vice versa.
  3. Hire slow, fire fast. One bad apple spoils the bunch. (It’s normal to have high staff turnover early on in the church start)
  4. Hire from within whenever possible.
  5. Hiring and firing is ultimately the responsibility of the lead pastor.
  6. Hire part-time before full-time.
  7. Never hire staff when you can find a volunteer.
  8. The role of staff is to find additional volunteers.
  9. Hold weekly staff meetings.
    • Including volunteer staff.
    • You have to meet with your staff in order to lead your staff.
  10. Clarity and accountability are the keys to an effective staff.
Coming up next: Planning My First Service From Scratch.


Launch Conference, Part 5: Raising Funds to Launch a Church

One of the biggest challenges of a new church is money!! So it was great that they included a section on raising funds. They opened with a few quotes:
  • “Money isn’t everything, but it is right up there with oxygen.” --Zig Ziglar
  • “If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?” --Romans 8:31-32
  • “God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s provision.” --Hudson Taylor

Then they talked about Four Steps to Raising Funds. The only thing that really confused me is that they actually had five steps, not four. Oh, well…a freebie, I guess.

Step 1: Create a budget
  • What will the cost of living in this community be?
  • What will my salary be? How about salaries for additional staff? (see www.churchstaffing.com--it’s got a pastors’ compensation handbook)
  • How much will it cost to rent space for the church to meet in?
  • How much will it cost to operate a business in this city (office rent, phones, computer equipment, copy equipment, and so on)?
  • The Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for leads on equipment, office space, etc.
  • Move to an office after the 2nd or 3rd monthly service. It will cause less conflict with your family life.
  • Don’t sign a long-term lease.
  • Buy equipment that’s just a little bigger/better than you need. That way it can grow with you as the church grows.
  • There are basically 2 budgets to keep track of: 1) Pre-launch, 2) Post-launch annual budget.

Step 2: Prepare my presentation

Focus on:
  • My leadership
  • My compelling story
  • My strategy
  • My plan for self-sufficiency

Step 3: Seek funding

Possible sources of funding:
  • Option 1: Personal savings
  • Option 2: Bi-vocational ministry
  • Option 3: Your spouse (i.e., if you spouse earns enough to support your family)
  • Option 4: Your launch team
  • Option 5: Outside funders (individuals and churches)

A Key Question: Who has a heart for my area?

Step 4: Develop a plan for regular communication
  • Share prayer requests
  • Seek mentoring
  • Make additional requests
  • Invite mission team
  • Share results and God-stories

Step 5: Plan an annual partners’ meeting
  • Host the meeting at your location
  • Invite current and future partners
  • Invite spouses
  • Make the meeting fun
  • Ask for the Big Commitment

“And since we are his children, we will share his treasures—for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too.” --Romans 8:17

Presbyterian + Emergent = Presbymergent -- Is it possible?!

Just found a new website as I was browsing Kairos Blog called Presbymergent. It's a website for Presbyterians who are or who want to be part of the emergent conversation.

A couple of cool things I've discovered about the site so far:
  • The site went live on January 26, 2007--that's less than a week ago!--and they've already got all kinds of traffic.
  • Anyone who registers is automatically set up as a contributor. That means that anyone can post an article (once it's approved by the administrator, of course).
  • They are currently covering some of the seminars and sessions from the Mainline Emergent/s conference.
Anyway, give 'em a look-see and see what you think--especially if you're a presbymergent!


Launch Conference, Part 4: Developing a Launch Strategy

Searcy and Thomas were pretty serious about having a strategy for your Launch. They defined a strategy like this:

A Strategy is simply a logical plan to get you from where you are to where God wants you to be.

They said that a good strategy will clarify and quantify what you’re trying to accomplish. And then they gave us Eight Key Elements of a Start-Up Strategy:

1. Purpose, Mission, and Vision Statement
  • Purpose Statement – How you will do it.
  • Mission Statement – What you will do.
  • Vision Statement – What it will look like to do it.
2. Core Values
  • What makes your church unique?
  • The Core Values are the filters through which you do ministry and make decisions.
  • Ken Blanchard says that no organization should have more than 10 values and as few as 5 or 6.
3. Strategic Aim
  • States what the specific aim of your strategy is. What are you trying to do?
  • “Our strategic aim is to effectively launch a new church in Great City, USA, on the second Sunday in September, 2007, with 300 in attendance and average 215 people in weekly attendance during the month of October.”
4. Major Objectives
  • These are the large objectives of your launch strategy.
  • For a church Launch, this includes:
              a. Preparation
              b. Pre-Launch
              c. Launch
              d. Post-Launch
  • Eventually you will determine the specific tasks to accomplish each major objective.
5. Goals
  • Goals have to be accomplished to achieve major objectives.
  • Goals are a subcategory of Major Objectives.
6. Tasks
  • Tasks are clear actions that have to be taken
  • Determining specific tasks makes it easier to get people to help you. You can be very specific about what you need a person to do.
7. Calendar
  • Put all the major objectives, goals, and tasks on a calendar
8. Budget

They made a special note that Objectives, Goals, and Tasks should be S.M.A.R.T.

S – Specific
  • All of the statements in your strategy need to be written in as precise language as possible. Avoid generalities.
M – Measurable
  • Make sure that you have some kind of gauge for measuring the accomplishment of each objective, goal, and task.
A – Attainable
  • Break your statements into small enough bites that each one is realistically attainable. You can stretch, but don’t overextend!
R – Relevant
  • Make each statement relative to the one that precedes it. For example, all tasks under Goal 1 should be directly relevant to Goal 1.
T – Time Bound
  • Put a projected completion date on every task, goal, and major objective.


Launch Conference, Part 3: The Call to Start a Church

The third section of my notes from The Launch Conference is called Calling: The Call to Start a Church. This was probably one of the most significant sessions for me personally.

They started this section by asking this question:

"Do you know for sure that you are undeniably called by God to start a church?"

After giving us a few seconds to wrestle with that question, they began to talk about improper and proper sources of calling.

Sources of Improper Calling
  • Unemployment (“No church will hire me, so God must be calling me to start a church.”
  • Anger about something (e.g., about your denomination, about a church, etc.).
  • Anger at your Senior Pastor (“I’ll show him [or her] how successful I can be!”).
  • It’s easier than searching for another ministry position.
  • Ego. A lot of pastors want to do something that will make them look good or important—like church-planting. (Ken Blanchard refers to ego as “Edging God Out”).
  • Church-planting is kind of cool nowadays.
Sources of Proper Calling
  • Prayer and Bible study.
  • Surprise (i.e., God surprises you with the call to start a church; it’s not something you ever expected).
  • Holy discontent (Admittedly, it can be hard to distinguish between holy discontent and frustration about something in your denomination or church).
  • Strong burden for the lost.
  • Godly counsel (others have confirmed that God may be calling you to start a church).

Next, they talked about The Four Calls of a Church Planter.

1. My call as to start a church.
  • Keep a journal as you start the church and discern God’s calling. Later, when you get discouraged, looking back through this journal will be a source of encouragement to you.
2. My spouse’s call to start a church.
  • If you’re married, your spouse needs to be called, too.
  • Your spouse’s call may not come at the same time. It may come earlier than yours or it may come later.
  • Since God has made the two of you one in marriage, God will speak to both of you. He won’t say one thing to one and something else to the other.
3. Our call to a specific place to start a church.
  • God’s call to start a church is usually a call to a specific place.
  • God prepares a place for you and prepares you for a place.
  • When you go to that place, it will feel like this is what God created you for.
4. Our call to reach a specific people.
  • In any place you go, there are many different kinds of people.
  • God will call you to reach one of those people groups.
  • However, just because you have the heart for a people group, that doesn’t mean you’ve been called to reach them. Your call may be to support someone else who is called. Or to find someone else who has been called.

And here are four questions they said to ask yourself as you consider starting a church:

1. Is your calling clear?
2. Has your calling been confirmed by others?
3. Are you humbled by your call?
4. Have you taken action on your call?

And then they concluded by talking about Answering the Call: Preparation. They discussed three ways in which we need to prepare to answer God’s call:

1. Prepare to lead.
  • Growing churches have growing leaders. Make sure you’re always growing.
  • All leaders are readers. In other words, read lots of books. Or listen to podcasts. Or listen to CD’s. Or wahtever way you best absorb information.
  • A quote I liked: “God, help me become the leader I need to be to lead this church to the next level.”
2. Prepare to teach.
  • You will be the primary voice for the vision.
  • Listen to people who are great communicators.
  • Have people evaluate your teaching.
  • Our message is too important for people to miss it because we lack clarity in our communication.
  • Videotape yourself so you can watch and evaluate yourself.

There you go. Coming up next—Strategy: Developing a Launch Strategy.

Hollywood's "Living Water"

Tom Shadyac (pictured below) is cool. Tom Shadyac is the director of movies like Liar, Liar, Patch Adams, and Bruce Almighty. Tom Shadyac is a Christian.

His Christian worldview is fairly evident in movies like Liar, Liar, Accepted (which he produced), and especially Bruce Almighty.

But Tom Shadyac does more than include Christian themes in his movies. Tom Shadyac has started a non-profit bottled water company called HtoO, which stands for "Hope to Others." 100%--not 50% or 75%, but 100%--of the profits go to charities like St. Jude's Research Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Operation Smile, The Salvation Army, etc. (Click here for a complete list of HtoO charities.)

I love the fact that Tom Shadyac is using his position in Hollywood not only to present a Christian worldview in his movies, but also to make a difference in the lives of those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, and outcast (see Matthew 25:31-46).


New Lauch Conference post...

For some reason, my most recent post (Launch Conference, Part 2: Eighty Contrarian Ideas) showed up below my last post (Baby Watson #2). Anyway, click here for my second Launch Conference post.


Baby Watson #2

Man, I've turned into a posting fiend again, haven't I?!

Anyway, I've got great news! Some of you will remember that Robin and I had a miscarriage last fall. That was tough. But there's always life after death, and today we got to see the first pictures of the new life that's growing inside of Robin!

Introducing Baby Watson #2!!

Launch Conference, Part 2: Eight Contrarian Ideas

Ok, next section from the Launch Conference….

These are the 8 Contrarian Church Launching Ideas. What that means is that these are ideas that are true of church planting, but don’t necessarily seem intuitive. Here are those ideas:

1. Your call to start a church is the most critical factor to the church’s success.
  • It will be hard. You’ll feel like giving up at times. But the conviction of your call will sustain you.
2. Don’t be afraid to raise funds from other churches.
  • Pursue all avenues for raising funds: individuals, churches, mission organizations, etc.
3. Build your new church from the outside in.
  • Here, Nelson Searcy drew the five concentric circles that Rick Warren talks about in The Purpose-Driven Church. At the center is your Core group. Then moving outward: Committed, Congregation, Crowd, and Community.
  • Don’t start by building your Core. If you do, they will become too inward-focused.
  • Build up from the Community and move them in toward becoming the Core.
4. Resist the temptation to do everything at first.
  • Don’t try to do everything when you start. You’ll spread yourself and your church too thin.
  • Focus on doing one thing well—in the case of a new church, the weekend service.
  • In the early days of the church, don’t do small groups.
5. Use 3-6 monthly worship services to build up to weekly services.

6. Don’t try to gather the churched; stay focused on the unchurched.
  • Church planting is about reaching the unchurched.
7. You can start a church much faster than you think.
  • You can start within 4-9 months of moving into the area God has called you to reach.
8. You can grow a church much faster than you think.


Looking Down

I found this cartoon over on CartoonChurch (which I discovered through Kyle's link over on Vindicated). I thought it was great--definitely a "stretchychurch" concept.

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

And we do this in the church, don't we? Instead of helping people get on the lift, we look down on them for not yet having gotten on it.