10 Random Thoughts about Following God

For the last 25 years or so, I’ve attempted to listen to, obey and follow the voice of God. It’s been a long road, and I’m still a pilgrim in the process, but I’ve learned a few things.

Based totally on my personal experience…

Here are 10 random thoughts on following God:

  • I’ve never been able to see very far down the road.
  • Sometimes I get a clear vision of a big goal God has for me, but I usually have no clue at the time how to get there.
  • The road to following God has never seemed to be easily paved. (This requires faith.)
  • There are often several options available of “how” to proceed towards what God is calling me.
  • I am often tempted to quit.
  • God doesn’t give up…people do.
  • The greatest obstacles, all of which God can overcome, are usually other people, resources and the battle within my own mind.
  • Satan is the great disrupter.
  • The more I know God and the closer our relationship, the clearer I hear His voice.
  • God calls people to impossible tasks.

Have you had similar experiences? I’d love to learn from and be encouraged by you.

What have you learned or experience about following God?

7 Things I Wouldn’t Do Again if Planting Another Church

I’m a church planter. I love the process of planting. I love the energy and the enthusiasm a new church brings to a community.

Having planted two church, I’ve learned a few things. Some of the things I’ve learned are things I wouldn’t do again if were were planting another church.

Here are 7 things I wouldn’t do again if planting a church:

Limit God’s vision – We started as a church to reach one section of town. Now we are in two locations, reaching two entirely different segments of our community. God has continued to refine and shape our path as a church.

Fail to challenge people to grow in their walk with Christ – I don’t know that I shied away from this; it certainly was my heart and our vision, but in the early days, I was very conscious of reaching the lost, so I may not have been as bold as I wish I had been in saying what needed to be said.  I wrote more about this HERE.

Shy away from money talk – So many people think all a church does is talk about money. We avoided this stigma from day one. In the process, we neglected to develop our core givers, we put ministries on hold we should be pursuing, and we robbed people of the opportunity to become generous givers and consequently to feel the reward of trusting God completely.

Resist leaders from other churches – We wanted to plant a church for non-believers, but we needed leadership to do that. When leaders from other churches came, however, we were hesitant to plug them in for fear we’d be seen negatively by other churches. In the process, we missed out on quality leadership and we denied people the right to follow their heart.

Expect everyone to be as excited a few years in – The fact is, life changes. Some are starters and some are finishers. Some of the original people grew bored with things as they were. They had a great impact in our beginning, but sought opportunities elsewhere in later years…and that’s okay.

Assume everyone is “happy” – I love what God is doing. I love watching lives change. God is doing something amazing among us. Some people just don’t get that excited. It’s not that they don’t care or love our church, they just haven’t received the same call on their lives I have.

Wait long to reproduce – We were 5 years old when we launched our second campus. I see churches do this in their second full year. There are so many in our city who need hope. Taking a risk on my own comes easy. Sometimes I’m too careful when representing God…as if He can’t handle something so large. When God leads, I want to move.

And the bonus…very practical one…

Wait too long to hire a business administrator – With a background in business I was a natural to do this, but I hated it and didn’t do it as well as it could be done. If a church is 400 or 500 hundred in attendance this becomes a full-time job. We were running well over 1,000 before we hired someone to do this and it crippled me in leadership. (Thanks Dennis for making my life better!)

WANT MORE? I wrote similar thoughts about what I’ve learned as a church planter in THIS POST. I also wrote a shorter post on what I would and wouldn’t do in a church plant HERE. Finally, HERE is a post on planting in a new community.

Have you ever been part of a church plant? Anything you could share with us?

Helping Church Leaders Fund Their Vision

You may have seen the news recently that Joe Sangl has acquired the stewardship company Injoy Stewardship Solutions (ISS) – the company founded by Dr. John C. Maxwell. For the past five years, Joe has focused on helping equip people to become personally financially free through his I Was Broke. Now I’m Not. ministry. Joe is a great friend and I’m excited to support him in his new venture. I believe in his heart and ability to help the church. He is a Kingdom-builder.

Joe and his team is passionate about helping church leaders fund their vision and equipping church attenders to win with their money God’s way. Recently, the Injoy team released a free e-report titled “5 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Church Fund Raising.”

Here is an excerpt from that free report:

#1 – Making It All About The Money

THE ISSUE

One big mistake that many churches make when raising money is to make it all about the money. Something has gone terribly wrong if the entire conversation becomes all about how much money is going to be raised and the topic consumes the vast majority of the conversation amongst church leadership and members. When this happens, people are more likely to feel manipulated and guilted into giving. This violates II Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) – “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

THE SOLUTION

Focus on the major initiative as a spiritual journey. Whenever God has called people to take huge steps of faith, it always resulted in spiritual growth when people actually took those steps. Imagine the spiritual growth that Joshua and the Israelites experienced as they crossed the Jordan River in the middle of flood season, and they walked across on dry land!

Instead of focusing just on the amount of money that needs to be raised for this next step, focus people on what this next step will allow your church to accomplish and the life change that will result from their faithful, generous, and sacrificial giving.

Obtain the entire e-report by filling out the form below. It literally takes five minutes to read it, and it could substantially impact the next major phase of ministry that your church embarks on.

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My “Favorite” Questions as a Church Plant

I don’t know if we are still considered a church plant at 6 years into this, but we still get some of the same questions today as when we started.

Here are my “favorite” questions as a church plant:

“When are you going to build a church?” – Well, that’s what we are doing now. (Oh, you mean a building…but, of course, you’d also agree the church is not the building…right? :) )

“Are you going to keep doing this?” – For whatever reason, it seems that some believe a church plant is temporary. (Until a “real church” comes along I guess :) )

“What’s your other job?” – I realize all pastors get this one, but many plants start with bi-vocational pastors. Not all do though and sometimes this IS our job. Trust me, there’s plenty to do.

“When you get a building will you quit having small groups?” – This usually comes from someone who is accustomed to Sunday school, but it’s funny their tradition leads them to believe that a lack of space would be our only reason to do church this way. (Meeting in homes during the week…that’s so first century :) )

“How did this thing get started?” – Many times this is an innocent question. I’ve learned, however, mostly because of follow up questions, that sometimes this is a question looking for some inside scoop, a scandal of sorts, a church split…that kind of thing. There’s almost an expectation that a “story” exists with any church plant. In my experience, and in our personal experience, a church plant is far more about what God is calling someone to, not about what someone is running from.

Have you been part of a church plant? What type questions do you receive the most?

Notes: Catalyst Atlanta… #Cat11 – Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll spoke on fear in the opening session of Catalyst Atlanta.

He began by stating: Every leader is afraid of something.

Fear in the mind causes stress on the body.

Your body will start to manifest that stress. Some suffer with depression, can’t sleep, eat or drink too much, they get stomach problems or headaches. Or some just start reading lots of books on the rapture thinking “God, aren’t we done yet?”

Jesus said, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to your life?”

Fear is not always a sin, but it always is an opportunity. We can fear or trust in the Lord.

Questions to consider addressing fear:

What are you afraid of? – Some of you are afraid of conflict or failure.

Who are you afraid of? – Often someone other than God takes that place in your life. We start giving glory to them by attempting to satisfy them. We place people in positions of fear and we make them functional gods. Proverbs says the fear of man is a trap.

To examine that question more consider: Who’s opinion matters way too much to you? Is your appetite for praise unhealthy? Are you committed to people or things that God didn’t call you to?

Mark then shared 5 statements about fear:

Fear is vision without hope – (Fear is how we see things in the worst case scenario. This is the future and it’s going to be painful, so I’m stressed about it and living in dread toward it.)

Fear is not always rational, but it is always powerful – (It has a huge impact on us.)

Fear is about getting what we want or don’t want. (It’s self-absorbing.)

Fear preaches a false gospel – (We look for a solution we must find to save us rather than relying on God.)

Fear turns all of us into false prophets – (We predict a future that will never happen causing ourselves stress.)

Then Mark asked us to consider: What’s the solution?

The Bible gives a simple answer: FEAR NOT

It’s the most frequently mentioned command in the Bible.

God didn’t simply give us the command. Throughout the Bible God reminds us, “Fear not, for I am with you.”

Everything may not be okay in your life, but if God is with you, you’re going to be okay.

Driscoll closed with a story about his son being afraid. He comforted him by reminding him, “Fear not, your daddy is with you.”

This was a great reminder not to live in fear as believers. It’s especially timely for many of the pastors I know…including me. God is calling us to huge tasks. I see fear as a major stumbling block to following God’s will. We must not allow fear to disrupt or derail us.

Since this issue is on fear, and I suspect some may struggle with this, I refer to a couple posts I’ve written on fear:

7 Questions When Facing Fear

5 Reminders for Ridding Your Life of Fear

God Uses Normal People

I love when a verse I’ve read many times jumps out at me like I’ve never read it before. It happened to me this morning. I’m reading through the book of Acts right now and came across these verses:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.

Acts 4:13-14

It was a great reminder to me…God uses normal people!

Don’t feel you have what it takes…

Feel as though you don’t “measure up”…

Consider yourself a “common man” (or woman)…

You are a perfect candidate for God to use in a mighty way!

Consider this question:

Where are you lacking that God can use you for His glory?

That’s not to say we shouldn’t learn all we can, grow in our knowledge and understandings, but it is saying that where we start isn’t as much an issue. When we are called of God, we have everything we need to be successful in His strength!

Free Online Conference Focused on Church Finances

If you’ve attended The Nines or any other free online conference, you’ll know how this works. This free online event is focused on church finances. It’s called Fund Your Church Now and it takes places on October 20. Here are the details:

What is it? Fund Your Church Now is a FREE online event to help your church go from financial breakeven to breakthrough. Some of the top church leaders in North America will talk about the practical things they have done to fully fund the church or ministry they help lead. No travel required…just watch from your computer.

When is it? October 20, 2011 from 1pm – 4pm EST. Register here.

Who is speaking? Bob Franquiz, Dino Rizzo, Carey Nieuwhof, Shaun King, Joe Sangl, Tim Stevens , Pete Wilson, Casey Graham, Robert Morris, and others.

Who is behind it? Fund Your Church Now is hosted by Giving Rocket.

If you are a church leader, this free online conference looks like it’s worth your time. Register here.

What I Would or Wouldn’t Do Again if I Were Planting a Church

Perhaps it is because I am in my second church plant, but some of the most frequent questions I receive come from church planters. The two questions I get asked most: If you were planting another church…

What would you do differently?
What would you do the same?

Those are great questions, because the first few times I had to answer them it made me think through some of our best practices and some of the mistakes we’ve made along the way (and we’ve made plenty :) ).

So, here are my answers…

The same:

Caged momentum – If I were planting a church again, I would make people wait. I’d make the core team wait to launch, I’d make people wait for small groups until we were ready, and I’d make the students wait for a student service until leaders were in place. Whatever the ministry, I’d make people wait until we had things as planned as possible. There’s also the principle of missing an opportunity, but the power of caged momentum cannot be dismissed and I’d do it again. I wrote more about that principle HERE.

Holy discontent – I would look for people to help launch the church who have a strong desire for something more in their spiritual life, but who haven’t been able to find it. I wrote about that HERE.

Give my vision away – I’d give others ownership in the plant. I’d let them decide how we do children’s ministry or what we do to serve our community. The more they own the more they’ll be motivated to do. I wrote about that HERE

Different:

Not shy away from church people – Early in our church plant, in an effort to stay true to our mission of reaching the unchurched and so as not to offend other churches, we tended to run from those who already belonged to another church. In the process, we injured some people who were also sensing God doing something in their life and we made ourselves very leadership poor. I wrote about that HERE.

Built structure in early – In an effort not to be bound by traditions and organizational bureaucracy, we had little formal structure when we began. As we’ve grown adding structure become unavoidable to prevent chaos. We’ve learned it’s much more difficult to add structure once the organization is established. I would add the intended structure early, but in a way that allows for continual growth. You can read more about that HERE.

Challenge people more – I wouldn’t shy away from challenging people to higher standards in their personal life, even while trying to reach people who may be new to their faith. We’ve learned that people want and need to be challenged, along with feeling loved, accepted, and valued. I wrote about that HERE.

There’s my list. Keep in mind these are my observations. Others on our team may have different answers.

Have you ever started something from scratch? What are some things you would or wouldn’t do again?

Don’t Address the HOW until you Address the WHAT

I’ve seen it many times…

You have an idea…it’s not a bad idea…it may be a great idea…

You just don’t know yet…

Here’s my advice…

Spend your energies at first on deciding whether it’s an idea worth pursuing…

The what…

Before you spend a lot of energy on the mechanics of the idea…

The how…

You may have to talk about some of the how to decide the what, but spend your first, best and most energy on the what…

For example: Let’s say you have an idea to add a third church service to allow for more growth…or maybe you are thinking of going multi-site…or the idea could be to plant another church. Don’t spend too much time on the how…until you decide the what.

Is this an idea worth pursuing?

Are you willing to give it a try?

Yes or no?  

Spending too much time on the how before you address the what:

  • Gets you bogged down in needless details…
  • Wastes energy that could be used elsewhere…
  • Solves problems you don’t yet and may never have…
  • Creates division about change prematurely…
  • Builds momentum before it’s time…

Once you decide the what, you’ll have more passion, clarity and energy to address the how.

Do you often find yourself addressing the how before you decide the what? 

Experiment: The Little Things Matter

In making a first impression…

The little things matter…

A number of years ago, while I was pastoring another church, I felt I needed more buy-in from them in helping to lead the church. They were a great group of people, passionate about reaching the lost, but they had begun to neglect some of the little things that had to keep a church operating. I wanted to encourage them to be more observant about what needed doing. (To be candid, the women did most of the work, so it was the men who needed the most encouragement.)

I conducted an experiment with the male church leaders. I placed a Sunday bulletin on the floor of the men’s bathroom, right in front of the urinal. It stayed there through two Sundays and no one picked it up. At the following Wednesday night leadership meeting, I brought the bulletin with me. I asked, “Does anyone recognize this?” Actually it looked vaguely familiar to most of the men. :)

I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but it was a tangible reminder to them that when making a first impression, the little things matter. This was a church plant. We didn’t have a custodial staff for the building we rented. We were the custodial staff. If the bulletin was to be picked up, one of us needed to do it.

They instantly recognized that every man visiting our church in the last couple weeks had probably seen that bulletin on the floor of the men’s room. We only had one urinal…and we had very good coffee. :) Although it was a minor thing…just a bulletin on the floor…it had the potential to leave a larger impression; especially if that same visitor returned the next week to find the same bulletin still on the floor. (Of course, in a church plant, by the second week we’ll even plug you in to pick up bulletins off the bathroom floor. :) )

From that point, some of the men became more observant about the little things that needed attention. They started to take ownership in their roles as church leaders. I felt I had more participation in leading the church. It turned out to be a very helpful illustration.

Question: Would this same demonstration have worked in the women’s bathroom or would someone have picked it up? (Just curious)

Any other ideas? How could you help your team learn the principle that the little things matter?