Sunday, February 23, 2014

Show me the Money...I mean, the Mission!

Perhaps you've heard the old saying, "Money follows mission."  In other words, when the church does what it is really suppose to do (go and make fellow disciples), some how, some way, God provides.

The Bible tells the story of the disciples fishing one long day, but its not going well.  The professional anglers are getting shut out, which is not a good thing since that is how they financially support themselves and the community.  In the midst of this despair, carpenter Jesus chimes in with his own fishing-tip-of-the-day, saying, "Hey guys, you should throw the nets to the other side of the boat!"

I'm pretty sure the bubble over everyone else's head read: "Thanks, carpenter, like you know anything about fishing."  Peter, however, takes a different direction.  He innovates, saying to Jesus, "Its tough out here...and your request goes against the common sense of the world, BUT since YOU said to throw the nets a few feet in a different direction, we will do so!"

HOLY TUNA FISH!  In a moment's time the nets are so full of fish the nets begin to tear....

Friends: like the alphabet where O comes before P, the same is true when we are planting (fishing) churches.  Obedience comes before Provision.  Jesus sets the stage for a miracle.  He then invites us to participate with him.  As we trust and obey him, it breaks open the flood gates of heavenly provision!

Get it?

Here's one example: I'm always hearing church planters and even existing churches lament about their lack of money (fish).  They are trying all their old methods of catching, but the lake seems to be dried up.  I USE to say to God, "If only I had more money, THEN I would be able to _______(this is where you can fill in your own wrong answer).  I always did...that is, fill it the wrong answer.  I have discovered, however, that when we do what we are suppose to do (do mission as a lifestyle that leads to discipleship) God ALWAYS does what He promises to do (the needed provision!).

So, here are some thoughts for you to bait-up and throw into the waters:  Instead of adding another full-time employee for working inside the temple, implement a training to send more equipped fisher people into the lakes.  I have found that all sorts of folks WANT to be equipped to do ministry in their own spheres of daily influence.  Their occupational pay in the marketplace now becomes the funding means for their Christian vocation!  Likewise, instead of spending hundreds-to-millions by adding onto your existing facility, be innovative in how you can build your influence into an existing city facility or program that is already standing in the community.  Yes, its more inconvenient, but it will also produce greater results in reaching the unreached.  Again, I invite you to see yourselves as pastors that equip other anglers to be pastors.  They have, after all, greater assess to the marketplace's fishing holes than pulpit pastors do!  When we obey Jesus' Great Commission to GO TO the people as nets of grace, we will make the catch.  This is crucial to obey since no longer are people just jumping into the boat (our Sunday morning gathering time), no matter how professional the anglers are.

In other words, I am inviting you to stop thinking that people showing up for Sunday morning worship is your only means of having a major net breaking catch.  Instead, throw your net OUT and in a different manner.  Obedience will over-come your own sense of what is "normal."  Our God of the abnormal, will then supply the provision--- which is changed lives and transformed cities...not just more butts in the bleachers.    

Money (or provision), will always follow Mission (or obedience) to Jesus.  Try it.  Throw to the other side...

NEWS and NOTES:  The movie, Son of God, opens in theaters this Friday, February 28th.  I have already heard great reviews!  Also: I would appreciate your prayers as I travel this coming weekend to Salt Lake City to be the keynote speaker and workshop presenter at the 2nd annual Intermountain District meeting for LCMC churches in Utah and Idaho.  On another note, do YOU have any prayer concerns you want others to pray into?  Feel free to share on this blog as you see appropriate!

Sunday, March 2nd: Destaye Crawford is ordained.  She is the planter of Every Tribe and Tongue in Minneapolis, MN.  Also March 2nd: Hosanna! Lakeville, MN is launching its new satellite in Shakopee, MN.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Innovative Minds: part-2

Church Planter's Blog:

"...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
(The Apostle Paul, as recorded in 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Being irrelevant should be a Christian's worst nightmare.  After all, we have the greatest message of life-blessing power in the history-of-all-history, and to dumb it down or relax it up is unthinkable.  Yet, our faith can often hit the snooze button and a person (or a church) that was relevant 20, 10, or even 1-year ago, can now be irrelevant within the culture.  I've seen it, experienced it, and I bet you have too.

Rick Warren describes irrelevancy in the church as this: "Irrelevance comes when the speed of change in a church is slower than the speed of change in culture."  Of course, that also means the opposite is true--- and that's our hope because the Church is made for Gospel-relevant speed!  Repentant, needful hearts for Jesus will always be changing...making us new creations in Him.  When we are new creations in Christ, we are now world changers!

Remember our friend Martin Luther?  He didn't invent the printing press.  That was accomplished by a fellow German by the name of Johannes Gutenberg.  Luther, however, quickly used the press to innovate the invention.  To innovate is to expand the cause.  Luther's cause was the furthering of God's kingdom presence, so he innovated the printing invention and distributed the printed Bible and other Christian materials to people who had never had such access.  I'm sure Luther would have done the same thing with the invention of radio, television and the internet.  His innovative relevancy is suppose to be the M-O of what it means to be a Lutheran Christian!  Collectively, we are to be a think tank with God's mind to bless and reclaim the world!

Oh, oh....we've been in a pause mode, haven't we?  We are guilty of clinging to our traditions that were innovative in the day, but are no longer relevant.

So what are we to do?  Invent something new?  Maybe...but perhaps more effective would be to innovate something that already exists and reclaim it for God's relevant glory!  In other words,  how about starting by stopping so we can start again?!  Let's stop letting Hollywood do all the story telling, and let's start innovating movies and books and television shows.  Let's stop letting technology be our enemy to our values; and instead, start innovating it to better communicate the Gospel.  Let's stop inventing more government programs to care for people, by starting innovative businesses dedicated to kingdom investment.  Let's stop bowing down to Facebook as people's first choice for relationships, and start innovating face-to-face friendships in our spheres of influence.  Hear me now, I'm not saying the Church should replace those inventions, just be in them to innovate them.  Christians in the marketplace are to become the influencers of culture and the agents of innovative change so the culture desires to follow the speed of Jesus' life changing blessings!

In my last blog I lifted up some simple ideas of what it means to be innovative in a church, and thus lead with Spirit-speed instead of always trying to fix the culture in our flesh.  Therefore, I leave you once again with some faith points to practice: 

1. Think inside the box.  Instead of going outside the box for your innovative answers to solutions, look inside.  In other words, let your church's various restraints foster creativity from inside God!  Ask: how can I/we do a big ministry with a small budget, a small staff, or a small facility?  Instead of looking outside the box for the answer, BE the answer for outside the box.  Yes, it is possible.

2. Fear no failure.  The ideas that are going to best influence our culture are going to involve risk.  So what if something doesn't work the first time!  Ask Gutenberg about that.  There can be no Easter breakthrough without first going through a Good Friday death.

3.  Define who you are.  If your traditions are to run programs, you might be making great consumers.  Trouble is, Jesus calls us to make great disciples.  Be innovative in helping people hear Jesus say, "and teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you."  IN NEXT WEEK'S BLOG, I speak more to that.  For indeed, provision comes when we first learn to obey!

NEWS and NOTES: Destaye Crawford will be ordained on Sunday, March 2nd, at a 5:00 pm service at St. Paul's in Minneapolis.  Destaye is the planter of Every Tribe and Nation, a church aimed at Ethiopians in Minneapolis.  ALSO on March 2nd...Hosanna! of Lakeville, MN is opening up a new satellite campus in Shakopee, MN (about 20-minutes away).  Hosanna! Shakopee is birthed to change the following problem: that Scott County has up to 200,000 unchurched people.  AN EXCELLENT BOOK:  Right Here, Right Now by Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford.  I just finished this book in less than a week's time because it grabbed my attention.  The book is a great inspiration to the importance of developing churches that are biblically missional for today!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What's IN these days for innovation?

Church Planter's Blog
The first of a mini-series on being innovative in the church....

Ever watch the television show, Shark Tank?  I do, and I love it because the show features ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  I'll admit that greed can be involved in the show; but even more so, I see innovative people looking to take a product to the next level of cultural influence.

An invention is often the creation of a new idea or product, but an innovation is to create a better use of that invention.  An innovation is an intentional commitment to designing solutions for real problems or needs.  For instance, thousands of years ago, someone created the cup.  Since then, the cup has gone through several innovations--- including a variety of ways to keep beverages cold or warm or transferable, etc.  Likewise, a few years ago churches were becoming innovative in worship by going with high-tech equipment: lights, sound, video.  All cool stuff, but the question remains: did the cool stuff win more people to Christ, then disciple them to follow him?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Being innovative in the church is when the kingdom is advanced.

Many times I've caught myself saying "I'm innovative."  It sounds good and is probably true to some extent, but if I don't articulate myself well, many church people are simply hearing me say, "I like doing the latest thing."

Being an innovative church planter, however, is more than the latest trend, style or program.  Way more.

Being an innovative church planter means being an agent of change, but not change for the sake of change.  It means leading people into a position to be radically changed by the Holy Spirit.  It means following Jesus as a daily life style that radically shifts a negative tide to the side.  Being an innovative church planter means advancing the cause...but first you have to know what that cause is!  A "kingdom cause" means coming up with a niche that your church becomes known for in your community.  It is a means and a movement of having a heart and a implemented plan for reaching the unreached and then training them to make more disciples!  

When I started Rejoice! Church in Northfield, Minnesota, our initial niche was to be a church that trained people to live the faith and disciple others in the community.  It was for more than just growing our Sunday morning worship affluence, but growing our Monday morning influence.  In other words, Sunday morning worship in the church facility was for the sake of Monday morning worship in the workplace!  We certainly didn't invent the Great Commission, but every year we sought to be innovative in how we were going to advance the cause and impact the city.  Bottom line: the goal of being an innovative church is more than just inventing a new program, but innovating energy to advance scripture's old values of making new disciples.

You may be saying, "But we don't have the money or the people right now to be innovative!"  Wrong!        Being innovative is not about the resources you don't have, but working with the resources you do have!  As believers, we have the Word of God.  We have the supernatural advocate of the Holy Spirit.  We have the promises of the cross and the presence of Christ.  Therefore, we have abundance in Christ!  Scarcity of worldly resources can bring clarity as we ask, "What is it, Lord, that you want us to do and be for you?"  Lacking human resources allows us to depend upon the resources of God--- and when we obey Him to go and "invent" more disciples, we are given exactly what we need for real innovation that reaches the unreached.

To remind you of innovative possibilities, please consider the following:

1. Go to and check out an innovative way to reach the unreached.

2. Calendar time might be running out, but you can still use Valentine's Day (or weekend) as a visionary catapult for a future marriage seminar or retreat for people outside your congregation.

3. The movie, Son of God is about to hit theaters later this month.  Can you rally people to invite others to watch the movie together, then discuss if afterwards over pie?  Can you join another church in your town to buy out a theater and then give away the tickets to those not in your churches?

I'm still looking for a gifted person to lead a new church in Oregon, Wisconsin.  There are already 80 some younger people there to serve as a launch team.  ALSO...the Lord is stirring up movement for a church plant in the Milwaukee area.  A local LCMC leader is looking to rally churches and finances to make that happen.  Interested?  Contact God about it...then contact me!

UP NEXT: More thoughts on being an innovative church leader.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Church Planting: it helps to be a bit crazy!

Church Planter's Blog:

I recently saw a fun sign posted behind the counter of a small town mom-and-pop restaurant.  It read: "You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it sure does help!"

I laughed out loud and then thought, "Hey, that's a slogan every church planter should be wearing on a t-shirt!"

With that in mind, I invite you to ask yourselves, "Am I crazy enough to be a church planter?  Do I know someone else that is?"  Church planters have to be a bit crazy, but not insane.  They don't do something crazy and then expect God to bless it.  Instead, God blesses them to do something crazy, so they do it.  To prove it, here are 5-points and 8-biblical characters who were "crazy in Christ."  (My thanks to Geoff Surratt for the inspiration).

Are YOU crazy enough to...

1) like Noah and Nehemiah, even though everyone else thought they were nuts?  God told Noah to build a really big boat, so Noah picked up a hammer and obeyed.  Nehemiah was told by God to rebuild the Jerusalem wall.  So he gathered together a rag-tag group of non-union workers and they obeyed in record time.  Likewise, crazy church planters see a middle school theater and build a worship center. They find a bar singer and develop a worship leader.  They see dismal stats and say, "We can still do this!"

2) in determination like Caleb and party like Matthew?  Caleb was 80-years old when he demanded his dream of land become reality.  When Matthew was called by Jesus, Matthew didn't sit down to plan a constitution with by-laws, but stood up to plan a party with people--- inviting fellow tax collectors and sinners.  Likewise, crazy church planters are determined not to fail, seeking everyone as potential converts for discipleship and doing it in fun!

3)...lead a team of misfits like David and be passionate like Peter?  David's "mighty men" were really law-breaking malcontents, but he captained them into greatness.  Peter always seemed to move with passion, saying crazy things like "Let's build a tent right here!"  Or, "Baptize me from head-to-toe!"  Or, "I will never deny you, Lord!"  He cuts off a soldier's ear, hops out of a moving vehicle to walk on water and deeply sobs at his betrayal of the Savior.  Likewise, crazy church planters build leaders from soon-to-be former addicts, deadbeat dads and apathetic drifters.  They do it with a cross-and-resurrection-passion because there is no such thing as a stoic church planter.

4)...serve with a soft heart and thick skin like the Apostle Paul?  Paul was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, starved, rejected, jailed and mocked.  Yet, he was determined to move forward rather than quit and stay safely put.  Likewise, crazy church planters are "all in" for their mission.  They have the faith and the wiring to work hard and quickly adapt and change, so that more people can be reclaimed by the Word and discipled by the Holy Spirit.

5) your community like Jesus did?  Jesus wept over the very city that would crucify him, yet he still trained, empowered and sent many teams into the mission field.  Their job was to make contagious connections in the marketplace so the gospel would flourish through the city.  Likewise, crazy church planters know they are not to be lone rangers, but team makers.  They die to their egos because they are obsessed in seeing the marketplace of their city be transformed by a living faith.

Friends, you don't have to be crazy to be a church planter, but it sure does help--- especially when you live out your calling like the above biblical characters lived out their faith.