Monday, April 28, 2014

Why I want to know every pastor in my new town.

Every time I start coaching someone who is seeking God's direction on whether or not to start a new church, I ask them to first practice the following in faith:

1). meet and pray a blessing over every pastor in town, along with school principles, fire and police chiefs, the mayor and a variety of business people.  Why?  To get to know them and vice versa.  To develop a working relationship, or at the very least--- trust.  Ask them what problems they are facing that will require a miracle!

2). in doing so, also "pray walk" the city to release God's light over any areas of entrenched darkness.  This, to change the spiritual climate and put the ball back into your favorable court as you look to start a new ministry.


Scripture is clear that God's heart is for the nations.  A nation is built and sustained by its city's government, education and business spheres.   Therefore, when the Christian lifestyle positively impacts those three elements of a city, God is glorified and the city is transformed in the likeness of Christ!  We American churches aren't currently seeing this happen, mostly because we have been segregating church life to a particular church building and program, and away from the church life in the marketplace.  Biblically, the church is the people who live, work and play by faith in the daily marketplace: government, education and business!

Never wanting to be accused of hypocrisy, I am in the process of practicing points 1 and 2 in my new city of Prior Lake, MN.  I have already spent at least 8-hours introducing myself to the other pastors in town.  Some were very welcoming, others seemed a bit suspicious.  Hmmm.  My biggest hope is that the local clergy come to realize that I live in their town and I am praying for them, whether I agree with their theology or even like their personality.  My hope is that prayerful relationships will open a gateway to God's Spirit of reconciliation amongst the clergy.  For example, I met one pastor that has been in town for 24-years and another pastor who has been serving just down the street for 18-years.  Yet, they had only met once.  Once!!!!  That denominational pride amongst clergy must change for Prior Lake to operate in the fullness of all God wants for it.

Still to come for me, meeting local authorities in education, business and government.

Friends: whether you're a new planter or have led a congregation for years, I invite you to empower others to join you in praying for your city.  For as you do, your congregation will start to turn out and have an even greater faith impact in your collective spheres of influence.  God declares this to be true, so let's find out together!

NOTE: I send you this note from Orlando, Florida where I, along with 8 other LCMC planters, are enjoying the annual Exponential Conference.  It features this nation's top missionaries through 125 workshops on planting and being missional for the sake of discipleship.  From this gathering, I will most likely be sharing some new insights with you over the next couple weeks.  If you wish, go to and you'll be able to take-in a live-stream of the main auditorium presentations.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Now What? What to do with the Resurrection...

One of the great breakthroughs I've personally experienced over the last year is the realization of how much I was trapped in Church Growth mentality, over the missional mentality of Kingdom Growth.  
Obviously, we all want our churches to grow in numbers, but the key is to also grow healthy--- for the sake of impacting great numbers of transformational faith into the marketplace of every day life.

Some churches can grow in numbers and become big religious organizations, attractive to our culture's consumer-minded, what's-in-it for me, mentality.  The numbers then become a show case, focused only on Sunday worship and inside programming attendance.  I believe that when Jesus said "Go and make disciples", he wasn't referring to building bigger buildings, programs or worship seating, but rather to equip a big army for greater outside impartation.   In other words: Church Growth mentality grows a congregation's membership, while a Kingdom mentality transforms a whole city!  There's nothing wrong with growing a congregation, so long as its vision is to grow the city.

Now that I am getting out-of the Church Growth box that I thought marked success, I'm now noticing how many of my fellow pastors are trapped in the same dead end.  While it is certainly great to want grand numbers at our Easter services, and I hope you all did, the greatest move we can do post-Easter Day is to take on the "Now What?  What are we to do with the resurrection?  

We could return to status quo of the church calendar and lament why worship attendance goes down in the summer after setting records on Easter Day.  Or, we could lead our ministries towards the same vision Jesus had when he walked out of the grave and into the world.  He was now light to break darkness.  He was now a walking billboard for real hope.  All his training of the disciples in the flesh was now to be compliment by the giving of his Holy Spirit.

Allow me to now suggest that you don't need another small group, big event, or task force to generate a now what mentality.  What you might very well need, however, is a Kingdom Mentality that answers the question, now what?  What can you and your church now do to bless your city in Jesus' name for the sake of the lost?  What city need is currently not being met well by anyone or anything?  How can your now church be like the resurrected Jesus--- as light, as hope and the giver of the life-transforming Spirit?  Whether non-believers know it or not, they are dying, and they need Jesus like never before.

A well attended worship service/revival is great.  It stirs and it awakens...but it's usually not sustainable.  Often times it is self-serving, and therefore unbiblical.  It's focus can be centered on filling-up seats and fueling-up finances so that ministry life will be more enjoyable. Easter's Kingdom revival also stirs and awakens, but it's geared to the day-by-day transformational qualities of the resurrected Jesus.  The focus is on healing the broken and that is never easy...but it is always powerful!  That, my friends, is what Easter worship is suppose to do--- to move the great worshipping numbers from one-day inside the building, to becoming great numbers of kingdom people worshipping God through their daily labors; and thus, changing the lives of others.

NOTE: I will be attending the annual Exponential Conference in Orlando, Florida, April 28-May 1. Exponential is known as the best place for church planters and missional leaders to gather and be inspired by God's Easter work for their own sites.  Going with me will be 8 of our LCMC planters.  Several of them will be bringing their spouse, or staff members and/or launch team leaders.  Please keep the following planters in your prayers as we gather with some 5,000 others for God's Kingdom direction:

Jonathan Haseley: "Barefoot Community" Niagara Falls, NY
Jonathan Kosec: "Waterside" Rockport, TX
Noah Ruppert: "LightHouse Ministries" Polk City, IA
Matt Anderson: "Surprise" Bismarck, ND
Bob Swearer: "Life Journey" Vancouver, WA
Terry Rebert: "Transformation in Christ" Lake Orion, MI
Brian Hughes: "St. John's", Columbia, MD

Monday, April 14, 2014

You can't have a Resurrection Day, without a Good Friday

I was reminded in Palm Sunday worship that we can't receive all that God wants us to receive this Holy Week, if we choose to simply make it another hurry week!  So with that in mind, I ask: what if we were to walk and talk differently this week, in the pace and grace of God's holiness, instead of our own hurry-ness?  What might be transformed in and through us if we were to walk and talk as if God really IS who He says He is...and that Jesus really IS doing what He said He would do?!  Would not Holy Week impart into our souls a new pattern for living every day life?  I do believe so!

ONE way to break the pattern of our hurry-ness in favor of receiving God's holiness, is to make sure we don't shy away from, but walk through, a Good Friday.  Far to often we want to avoid that ugly cross, but then wonder why we are not experiencing a breakthrough on something.  Or, we side step the cross then complain that God is missing, quiet, uncaring.

Friends: We can't have a Resurrection Day without first going through a Good Friday. 

Without death to sin, there cannot be birth to new life.  Without the cross and its spilled blood, there can be no Resurrection Day--- with its conquering glory, its over-the-top forgiveness, its eternal hope of new life.

Case in point: one week after Joanne, Aimee and I moved from Northfield to Prior Lake, MN (just two weeks ago), our next door neighbor, Chris, left his wedding ring and cell phone on his dresser, walked out the door of his home of 11-years, and left behind his wife and three children.  No one has seen or heard from him since.  Its crushing news.

I'm told that Chris had gotten himself into some deep trouble a few months ago.  Obviously it had affected his sense of worth, his marriage and his relationship with the kids.  I didn't know Chris was going through such hell.  I do know, however, that Chris and his wife are non-believers.  Its not my responsibility to eye-guard my neighbor and his behavior 24/7, but the Bible does say it is my responsibility to love him as God has first loved me, 24/7.  So, I'm praying that through this very difficult "Good Friday" experience that Chris is experiencing, he will receive what God has for him on the other side of the cross--- a real and lasting resurrection hope that Jesus makes all things new again.   

Would you please join me in praying that Chris turns to the Lord this week, comes home, goes through his punishment for breaking the law---- and ALL SO THAT HE, HIS FAMILY AND THEIR FRIENDS CAN RECEIVE God's gift of redeeming faith?!  Let Chris represent the many neighbors we all have that currently do not know the holiness of this week, but will, when they see us modeling God's holiness instead of our hurry-ness.

INTERESTED IN PLANTING A NEW CHURCH?  The LCMC currently has 5 hot bed cities where the interest and support is high.  For more information, contact me:

Greenville, Ohio (just outside of Dayton)
Fairborn, Ohio (a 4-year old church outside of Dayton that has a pastor preparing to retire)
Oregon, Wisconsin (just outside of Madison.  Eighty people are already set to go)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (just outside of where the Brewers play)
Casa Grande, Arizona (just outside and south of Phoenix)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

One way to start a new church: YOU be the love of Jesus!

I'm back in the blogging saddle again.  My last few weeks have been busy with life stuff--- including moving to a new townhome in a new community!  After 11 wonderful years of serving in Northfield, MN, Joanne, Aimee and I now claim residence in Prior Lake, a SW burb of Minneapolis.

New communities give new opportunities to develop new relationships.  I've discovered over the years, however, there is a better way to start new relationships that help start new churches.

For instance, when I first moved to Northfield with the mission to plant Rejoice! Church, I was completely focused on church growth.  Specifically, "my church's" growth!  For me, it was all about growing more butts, getting better building space and working up a bigger budget.  After all, weren't they the B's of success?  Since then, however, I've come to realize that Jesus never asked me to build and grow Rejoice!, he asked me to receive his kingdom keys and open-up locked doors for the gospel to be heard.  In return, Jesus says he will build and grow his church.

So even as I coach new church starts around the country, I'm also interested in starting a new faith community, in a new manner, in the new place I live--- Prior Lake!  My biblical strategy is not to start by putting together a worship service or a Bible study, but to first model what l want others to be--- a follower of Jesus!  In other words, this new community of faith will start with "me" seeking to live out my own transformed life in Christ.  How?  By taking the time to literally bless and speak peace over the whole city (see Luke 10:5).  Wherever I go, then, I am planting a missional church.  My mission won't just come through duties or planned events, but through me just being missional in all that I am.

The goal will not be focused on butts, building or budget--- but modeling what it means to follow Jesus.  After all, the number of un-churched folks in Scott County is extremely high--- I've heard up to 70%!  Example: on a walk with my wife on Sunday afternoon, we met one of our neighbors--- an unmarried, middle-aged couple living together.  Both were in the emergency medical field.  When he asked what I did, I could tell he was shutting down after I said, "I help others start new churches."  If I had told him I was starting a new missional community in the neighborhood and they were already members, they probably would've faked getting an emergency phone call!  Yet I believe in time they will see that my purpose is not to get their butts into a building to develop a budget, but to demonstrate the love of God that is there's in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, to plant this missional church atmosphere in Prior Lake, I'm starting by simply making trusting relationships.  For example, in just the first few days of living in my new community, I've struck up a meaningful conversation with the guys who work at the recycling center (with all my moving boxes).  I could tell that not many folks give them the time of day.  I've talked baseball and school with two high school baseball players who came to my house to sell promotional coupons.  (and yes, I bought from them too).  I've connected with the Welcome Neighbor lady, a business owner and a nurse.  I've even been to a town-home association meeting to purposefully meet my new neighbors.  You see, I don't want to be known as the pastor living on the block (that might actually "block" some people!); instead, I want to be known as the guy on the block who is living in the joy of Jesus.  My living joy will be the beginning of my new missional church and it will be its ending purpose as well.  You see, whether they know it or not, 33 townhouse units in the Hickory Shores Association are now a part of my missional community.  That's why I will pray walk the area for God to release his grace upon the families and for the families to be opened to receiving such grace.

Planters:  If you want to see something you've never seen before in your community, then do something you've never done before!  How about taking your initial focus away from worship equipment, office space, programming and staff; and instead; start with changing the spiritual climate of your area through the power of the Holy Spirit given to you by Jesus himself.  Start simple, trusting that God IS doing his complex part.  Pray walk your neighborhoods, business areas or government and school zones.  There is zero financial cost to that kind of ministry start!  Let God start your new church by first transforming your heart FOR THE WHOLE COMMUNITY THAT JESUS DIED FOR, thus making you contagious for others to see God's joy on you!  'THAT' is when folks will want to start getting to know you and your message, coming to your worship services, participating in your Bible studies and giving financially to see the mission move forward.