5 Characteristics Needed to be a Church Planter

Recently I posted a funny video about what it takes to be a church planter. Want a laugh? Watch it HERE. I decided it might be a good idea to share what I really believe is necessary to be a church planter. Church planting is a difficult, but rewarding assignment in ministry. All pastors and planters should operate under a calling of God, but it does appear to me that there are some unique qualifications for church planters.

From experience, here are five characteristics I believe it takes to be an effective church planter:

Love of risk – There is an entrepreneurial heart in most church planters I have met. Church planters love things that are new, changing and growing. They have an entrepreneurial spirit about them, embrace change readily and get bored with status quo. This characteristic can bring it’s own problems, which leads to number two.

Willingness to be patient – Notice I didn’t use the word patience, even though that’s part of the fruit of the spirit all believers should be developing. Effective church planters are willing to be patient for God to do His work. The balance between these first two is a constant challenge, because church planters are wired for growth, but effective church planters develop a good plan, surround themselves with the right people, and then wait as God works.

People who believe in you – Church planting is not to be a lone ranger activity. Without the structure of an established church, church planters must depend on people to help develop ministries and systems. Effective church planters learn to rely on volunteers for success and are willing to share leadership and responsibility with others to plant the church.

Healthy family life – Church planting is a family activity. If a planter wants to be effective, he or she must have a healthy family life. Ministry is tough, so this is true for all ministries, but church planting, because of the unique uncertainties and risks involved, places additional stress on a marriage and family. Effective church planters begin with and maintain a healthy family life.

Close walk with God – Church planting will test a person’s faith many times. Church planting is not always popular in some church communities and can make a planter feel like an outcast in the church community. The risks involved and the waiting process challenge a planter. Church planting, like all ministries, is an act of faith and requires constant communication with God. Effective church planters continue to build and draw upon a strong relationship with Christ throughout the process of planting.

Again, many of these may not be unique to church planters and are possibly shared by others in ministry, even in many secular settings, but my experience as a planter of two churches leads me to believe these are critical needs for a church planter.

Are you a church planter? Have you ever considered church planting? What would you add to my list?

4 Times a Leader Should Strategize on Making a Decision

This post continues the thought of strategic thinking in the moment. To completely understand this post, make sure you read the first two posts in this series HERE and HERE.

Strategic thinking comes naturally for me. I have tons of weaknesses, but thinking in a strategic sense is not one of them. If anything, I’m so strategic that it becomes a weakness. I’m not sure, however, that all leaders naturally think strategically. For defining purposes, I’m using the word strategy to involve thinking through the how, when, where, who and what questions when making a decision.  

As a leader, I am very familiar with the “gut call” of leadership; where a leader must make quick, decisive decisions.  (I even wrote about that concept HERE.)  All leaders, however, if they want to be successful, must use strategy when making decisions.  Developing loyal followers and protecting the organization’s future demands strategic thinking, so all leaders must learn to think strategically. Often that comes through discipline, if not through personal wiring. Thankfully, not all decisions a leader makes requires using strategy, but when it does…

Here are four times the leader must think strategically:

The answer is uncertain - I love risk, but the leader must weigh the risk with the future of the organization. Ultimately the leader has responsibility for the success of the organization, so a leader has to make final calls as to whether or not a risk is worth the risk. That requires strategic thinking.

The issue affects more than the leader - One flaw in leadership is when the leader thinks only about how he or she views the decision and not how the decision affects other people. The wise leader thinks strategically to determine the people aspect of a decision.

The issue is subject to resistance – Most change is subject to resistance, but if a decision is automatically going to involve a battle for acceptance, then a leader must strategically plan the way the decision is introduced and implemented.

The issue changes an agreed upon direction – When people get excited about a direction the organization is going and they invest their heart and energy into heading in that direction, they are naturally more resistant to a change in the direction. Good leaders think strategically how this change will be received and how it should be communicated so people transfer enthusiasm for the new direction.

Leaders, what do you think? Are you strategically thinking through important decisions?

Followers, have you seen these areas backfire against a leader who fails to think strategically?

What would you add to my list?

Addressing a Porn Generation

When I was a teenager, if I wanted to view porn, I would have had to find a magazine. Honestly, even though I may have wanted to, I never had or found a “stash” of porn. I knew everyone in stores where I might have bought some and if my friends had their own stash of pictures, they never shared them with me.

I did some babysitting as a teenager in addition to my grocery store work and I found some magazines at one of the houses where I worked late one night (after the kids had gone to bed). I wasn’t really snooping. They were in the magazine rack, next to the recliner, which I thumbed through while watching Saturday Night Live. (In the golden years of SNL!) Anyway, those images are still with me today. As much as pornography was probably a part of my generation, it wasn’t that accessible to me.

My boys have grown up in a different generation. Since they have been old enough to be curious about such things, access to porn has been readily available if they wanted to look. No, I’ve never had a stash hidden around the house, and we always monitored their activities closely, but our house has always been connected to the Internet and, because of that, pornography has been programmed into their culture. Today’s generation has been saturated with opportunities to experience pornography.  In fact, all of us now have equal opportunity in this area of temptation.

I wish I could tell you this change doesn’t matter, but having sat with dozens of couples whose marriage is falling apart because of an addiction to pornography by one spouse, I have to speak against this part of our culture. Pornography is seldom talked about, but it is rampant and is destroying people and marriages. I consistently talk with young men who have been addicted since an early age. I’m certain that is true for women also, but I mostly have dealt with men about the issue. Pornography causes them to view their wives differently and cheapens the value of sex in their marriage, not to mention the emotional damage it does to the wife, forcing her to question her worth and her husband’s commitment to her and the marriage.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think legalism is the answer, but I believe the church must address this issue.

If this is your issue, before it ruins your life, let me offer a few points of encouragement:

1. Know there is a way out of the hold pornography has on your life if you are willing to find it.

2. Recognize that the consequences of pornography are huge and get help. It’s never too late for God’s grace to rescue you.

3. Get accountability now. You will be embarrassed, but you are not alone in this struggle. (1 Cor 10:13)

4. Ultimately you’ll want to learn to refocus that same passion and attention towards Christ. He is the answer for everything that ails us. Then you can begin to love your spouse as he or she deserves to be loved.

The sooner you start some of these steps, the sooner you’ll break free from the hold pornography has on your heart….and you know you want to be free!

Have you faced this battle? How do you guard your heart here? What should the church be doing with this issue? What suggestions do you have for those in this battle?

5 Steps to Thinking Strategically in the Moment

Recently I posted “Leader, Strategically Keep Thy Mouth Shut“. The title was startling perhaps, but the principle is important. I wrote the post to encourage leaders to think strategically, especially when making quick decisions. Many times a leader says something or does something in a quick response, which can negatively impact other people or the organization. Sometimes it is best to say nothing until the best answer can be decided. This type answer often requires the combined energy and thinking of more than one leader. One blog reader asked me to expand on the phrase “thinking strategically in the moment”, specifically sharing how I do that in practice.

Again, it should be understood that this post addressed decisions which require some thought. Most leaders make hundreds of decisions a day and many of those require very little thought. If a leader is asked a question or has to make a decision where an answer has already been clearly defined, then the leader can move quickly. When the issue, however, has an undetermined solution, especially if the decision could alter the direction of the organization, impact other people or require a change in the organization’s finances, then the leader needs to learn to think strategically in the moment. That may result in saying nothing immediately to allow time for further consideration.

With that in mind, how does a leader think strategically in the moment? Here are 5 thoughts of how I do this:

Take notes - I always take notes while listening. This allows the leader to see the situation in writing and think through a response. If I’m not certain I understand the situation, seeing my notes allows me to ask for further clarification. If taking notes is not an option and the answer is not definite…I postpone the answer. This helps the leader avoid making major decisions on the run.

Listen intently - This is a problem for some leaders, especially busy, highly creative leaders. It’s one I struggle with personally. Many leaders (this one included) have problems with details. Accustomed to making quick and many decisions, leaders often try to solve an issue on the spot rather than have to deal with it later. This is a great approach for the issues that have a defined solution already, but if it’s committing to something that hasn’t been decided yet, it could be dangerous. I try to listen for enough details to make a wise decision, but if I know I can’t make a quick decision based on the information I have time to hear, then I delay making one.

Think “NEXT” - This is really formed by habit, but it involves training yourself to always ask the question,”How will this decision impact other people and the organization?” If I am uncertain, I know it is be best to delay deciding on the issue until I can give it adequate time for consideration. Many leaders make decisions that others have to live with because they didn’t take time to think through the best answer. Thinking “NEXT” means I am thinking of the repercussions that will come “next” after the decision is made.

Discipline Mouth -“Keeping a tight reign” on your tongue is actually a Biblical concept. Part of spiritual and personal growth is to mature in the area of what a leader says. The more responsibility a leader receives the more critical it becomes that he or she practice discipline with their words. This is a continuous work in progress for me, but over the years I have learned to hold my tongue until I have thought through a response.

Value Waiting – Waiting is never a bad idea if it leads to a better decision. I realize time is of the essence in most organizational decisions these days, but equally important is protecting the morale of the team or the organization’s future. Plus, I have learned by experience that there is a value in caged momentum. (Read a post about that HERE.) The leader should not be afraid to make someone wait for the best answer.

Does that help explain “thinking strategically in the moment”? Could this be a discipline you need to practice? I’d love to hear your thoughts…questions…criticisms…comments.

What if We Did Church Like This?

I love the partnership I have been able to have with Catalyst Conferences. I enjoyed blogging from there earlier this month.  (You can read my posts HERE.)  One of the things I love most about Catalyst is that I’ve met many of the people behind the scenes.  They are authentic, transparent, and passionate about Christ and helping the church better reach a lost world.

Jesse Phillips is one of those guys.  I’ve had several opportunities to hang out with him and I absolutely love Jesse’s heart.  He has some passionate ideas about the church today. I think one of the thing my generation needs to do a better job with is listening to his generation.  So, recently I asked him to guest post some of his current thoughts on the church here on my blog.  (Help Jesse process by commenting on this post.)

HERE is a guest post from Jesse Phillips of Catalyst:

What if we did church like this:

What if we got a group together on Sunday morning. We’d pool our money – maybe up to half of what we would have tithed that morning. We’d ask around, share needs we knew of, and that morning we would use the money and our time to meet needs around our community.

Maybe we’d buy a new washer for a single mom. Maybe we’d fix a fence. Maybe clean-out gutters for an elderly couple, throw a party for the neighborhood or just go around and pray for people. The more often we did this, the more we’d know people in the community, where to look for needs, and more people would come to us with needs.

Then, that afternoon, what if we got together at someone’s house (or a facility) and had a potluck meal. We could all hang-out, enjoy one another, and encourage one another. Then, after we eat, gather those gifted to teach, preach, prophesy, etc and have a church meeting.

I like this idea for a few reasons:

It engages the community. The unchurched often criticize Christians for not doing much for those around them. Imagine if 10 Million Christians were weekly (or monthly) serving & loving their neighbors in a public fashion. We would be acting as the hands & feet of Jesus in an undeniable way.

It utilizes money to help those in need. Another criticism the unchurched have of Christians is: “they just want my money.” By using our resources to serve them in a significant & regular way, we could fulfill God’s call to take care of those in need while presenting a more Christ-like picture to our neighbors, and removing unnecessary stumbling blocks.

It’s a regular outreach to unchurched people. Not only are you engaging people in need, but you’re also inviting outsiders to join your work party. Many Christians are living in the “Christian Bubble.” This kind of regular engagement with outsiders gives them an opportunity to meet and make friends – creating further opportunities for relationship and eventually, discipleship.

The potluck meal afterward is a natural transition to invite people to “come and see” your community. Also, sharing a meal with other Christians is a great opportunity to share life & fellowship – much like the “love feasts” of the early church. (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_feasts)

Utilizes Pew Sitters. This strategy gets everyone involved. Many Christians are content to sit, hear & pay the tithe. Most ministry work is delegated/entrusted to the paid “professionals.”

Engaging the community as a team teaches Christians how to love their neighbor, empowers them by giving them money to do it, let’s them be creative, possibly let’s them use their gifts to solve problems, protects them from the perils of Matthew 25, and trains them toward a lifestyle of service & generosity.

What do you think? Why is this a good idea? Why is it a bad idea? Grace & Peace to you!

A Strong Message to the Church

This passage spoke to me this week. Pastor, imagine if God had you stand on the front steps of your church and deliver this message as people entered your church Sunday morning…


This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : “Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message:

” ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.

Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

” ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”-safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?

But I have been watching! declares the LORD. Jeremiah 7:1-11 NIV

How would your people respond to that message?

What it Takes to be a Church Planter

This is hilarious. I found this on Ed Stetzer’s blog and I figured if he thinks this is what it takes to be a church planter, then it must be true. After all, he is the expert.

Now, maybe I’ll do a serious post later. Help me write it. What does it really take to be a church planter?

Signs of an Emotionally Healthy Team

Do you ever wonder if you serve on a healthy team?

Here’s a quick quiz. The most emotionally healthy teams are:

Able to fight through a decision…

Able to have conflict respectfully…

Able to challenge ideas…

Able to share disappointments with each other…

Able to make mistakes without receiving judgment…

Able to express wild and crazy dreams…

Able to cry…laugh…celebrate…

Together…

And still love working with each other…

How healthy is your team?

What would you add to this list?

Friday Discussion: Racial Diversity in the Church

I’m curious about something. I’ve been curious a long time.

This is not a new subject for me. Over the years my wife and I have visited dozens of churches. We’ve visited in most of the mainline denominations with varied music and preaching styles. We’ve visited predominantly white churches and predominantly black churches. I’m white (in case you didn’t know…and depending on the season, the whiter I become :) ), but some of my very best friends are black. I’ve even been privileged to speak in predominately black churches. I’ve never really understood the whole racial division thing. I love people. I think our culture is, at least in some ways, getting more accepting of other cultures and colors of skin. I know my boy’s generation doesn’t even seem to think as much about this issue as my generation did or certainly my parent’s generation did. I won’t pretend racial prejudice has ended, because I know it hasn’t, especially in some parts of the country and world, but things appear better today than they once were in my lifetime.

But, that’s where my curiosity begins. I see improvement everywhere except in the church. Why is that? Our churches remain segregated for the most part. Recently at Catalyst Conference I spoke with a couple black friends of mine.  I expressed in honesty that many times I don’t know what to say or how to say it when talking about the issue of racial diversity…so I say nothing. They shared they feel the same way. (One of them even took our frank conversation to ask me why white people where long-sleeve shirts with shorts. He said he doesn’t get it. Ha! Love it!) Another friend Scott Williams wrote a book about the subject, because he too sees this divide in the church. Since I first wrote this post, Church Diversity has become a wide influencer of this discussion.

So, today, for Friday discussions, let’s talk about it. Why do you believe the church is still so divided racially? Is it music style, preaching styles, attitudes, culture…what? What can be done about it? What steps can a church take?

Discuss…comment…engage…it’s Friday discussion time!

(It should be noted that some churches are making a difference. Our church is at least seeing some changes and I know our people are open to change in this area. Still there is much work to be done and we know it. We are at least having the discussions. Another friend of mine, Artie Davis, has a church that’s done this well in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Scott’s book engages a dozen or so churches who are doing a good job bridging the racial divide. If you know of a church he should talk to, leave it in the comments and I’ll make sure he gets their name.)

7 Essentials for Personal Success in Today’s World

In case you haven’t been keeping up, the world has changed. To be successful today in any profession takes new tools and skills. I am asked frequently by young leaders what advice I have for those just starting their career. Obviously, if you are a believer desiring to do ministry (which describes many of my readers) then you first need to work through your relationship with Christ to be obedient to God’s call on your life, but even Christian leaders need to think how best to succeed in a changing world.

Here are some “must haves” I would advise young leaders to seek to possess in order to achieve personal success:

Personal branding – I have always kept my resume up-to-date and encouraged others I work with to do the same, but today requires far more than a resume. Today it is easy and therefore important to develop your own identity…your own brand. (I wrote a post about personal branding HERE.)

Connectedness – Social media is not an option, anymore. The use of Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other social media sites is the way networks are built these days. People once traded email addresses to build professional relationships. Now they trade social mediums.

Action plan – You will never reach your dreams without a plan. Those who achieve great things develop a system to implement their ideas. This is not new to today’s world, but it is perhaps even more important now. (Read a post about achieving your dreams HERE.)

Self-initiative - No one is going to script life for you. The days when the organization writes the rules for you are over. The ones who achieve success today are those who are willing to take the initiative to do something without anyone forcing them to do so.

Original thought – Uniqueness sets you apart from the crowd and today that’s more important than ever. There are thousands of ideas in the world and yours is just one of them, but you better have some of your own.

Team spirit - Most healthy environments these days frown on lone rangers. Be willing to humbly submit to others and participate in a team environment. Be likable and work well with others. Collaboration is a key function of today’s successful organizations.

Flexibility – Change is the only guarantee in all this. Today’s leader must remain flexible to a changing environment and wiling to adapt quickly as necessary.

What else would you add to my list (or take away)?