Monday, September 29, 2014

Churches Planting Churches: a new, old idea!

Prior to 1945, the common method used to plant new ministries in America was "churches planting churches."  My first call in Cannon Falls, MN, was such a situation.  Over a 100-years earlier, one church had planted a sister church about 5-miles away.  That's because at the time, 5-miles was a very difficult trip even for the early pioneers to make.  Therefore, the church pioneered to the people!

Since 1945, however, the denominational top-down method took over and local churches punted their privilege to plant.  It worked, for a while, but as denominations have deteriorated, so has the effectiveness of denominational planting.

Thus, our predicament today where sixty-percent of America is unchurched because churches have stopped pioneering to the people!

The LCMC, however, is changing that course.  Or should I better state it as, "God is changing that course and we are tuning into God's plan!"  We are once again advocating and supporting that "churches plant churches!"  With that in mind, every once-a-blog-in-a-while I'll lift-up specific LCMC churches that are inspiring and modeling how we can ALL become a part of a church planting association.  In this particular writing, I'll start by briefly sharing the missional story of two LCMC churches birthing three multi-cultural churches!

Hope Lutheran in Westminster, California was once a thriving church with mostly Caucasian Lutheran transplants from the midwest.  A couple decades ago, however, the neighborhoods changed and more multi-cultural people began moving into the area.  The all-white church was in decline until Pastor Paul Finley came and cast a new vision to reach the folks in the neighborhood.  From that vision, two new "Hope" Churches have been born!

Esperanza ("Hope" in Spanish) is led by Pastor Sergio Cordero, while Hy Vong ("Hope" in Vietnamese) is led by Pastor Hy Thuong.  Both new churches of Hope are hosted by the original Hope Church facility and mentored by Pastor Paul.  The three are now blessing each other and strengthening "the Hope" of the neighborhood!

FROM CALIFORNIA TO WISCONSIN...Pastor Tom Graves planted  Light of Christ Church earlier this year in the city of Wisconsin Rapids.  The new missional community, however, is more interested in growing it's influence rather than just it's own worship numbers.  That is why Light of Christ is already planting another Light of Christ Church in Ghana, Africa in conjunction with Good News Africa!  

I delight in such missional discipleship.  I believe God's heart is delighted because God loves having a BIG family!  How about you?

Friends: statistics show that if a church doesn't plant within it's first 10-years, it never does.  We, however, can change that.  In fact, I recently made the comment to a large group in Iowa that if a church celebrates it's 125th anniversary but doesn't have any off-spring to celebrate with them, it's a shallow birthday party.  That's when a pastor came up to me representing an Iowa church that happened to be celebrating it's 125th birthday.  He looked mad.  I thought he was mad at my comment, but no, he was mad that his church was celebrating it's longevity but had never had a baby.  He said he would begin casting such a Godly-vision so that by year 130, they could boast like Abraham and Sarah!  Ha!

With that in mind, join me in laughing with all of our Abraham and Sarah churches in the birthing of new churches that reach the nations with the Good News of Jesus!

For information on the 22 newest LCMC church starts in 2014, go to the website.  Click on Mission Congregations, then click on "Newer Church Plants" for contact information. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Receiving, Not Taking, the Offering

It can be awkward, or it can be holy.

I'm talking about the offering time of worship.  One of the biggest reasons new church starts fail financially, is because the planter and launch team fail to speak about money in a missional manner.

With that in mind, here are a few bullet-point tips.  Use them as they strike you best....

* Create an atmosphere of holiness around the offering.  Don't make the offering an interruption, or an apology, or a quick get-er-done moment.  I suggest that in contemporary worship, you build the offering time into the song set.  Equip your worship leader to invite the ushers forward to "receive" (not take) the offering.  After all, you're not stealing from anyone!  Empower the worship leader to briefly, but concisely, express how God is a giver towards His work in us so we can be givers to God's work in others--- then share a specific example of something/someone in your congregation or city.  Don't stop the background music while sharing this invitation as it bridges one song (and thought) to the next.  Don't be rote, be relational!  Work at this!

* Create a flow where a short video can be shared on giving while the ushers move through the congregation.  Have a transition song coming out of the video.  Keep the video short, perhaps funny. Check www.worship for such possibilities.

* Inter-weave the worship singing with a person (or couple) on stage ready to introduce themselves and share why they give financially to your church.  Often times these folks need to be coached so their message is to the point.  Empower them to also share a prayer over the congregation.  You're not only allowing people's testimonies to glorify God, but the testimonies are equipping people to be bolder leaders in public faith.  When I first started this manner at my plant, people were hoping I wouldn't ask them to speak.  Soon, however, that changed and people were excited to be asked and coached!  Guess what happened next?  The offerings went up!  People started to give more (or more consistent) because they saw the joy of giving in their fellow disciples!!  

* Replace offering plates or baskets with bags with handles.  This way, no one has to see what's in the bag.  In addition, inviting people to come forward to place an offering in a basket at the front stage is a great idea when you want people to give above and beyond their regular tithe.  This could be tied into communion time.  Communion is a time of receiving, not taking!

* Encourage and show people how to give electronically--- "first fruit giving."  It not only makes your giving way more consistent each month, but it teaches the obedience of giving and thinking of God first.  If some electronic givers still want to drop something into the bag as it is passed by, create and distribute cards that express "I've Given Electronically" or something like that.  I have found this to be a great model.

* Consistently express through preaching, or during the offering time, what the offerings are doing as they are sewn--- either inside the congregation or outside.  Both is best!  In other words, don't do a Steward Sunday, but make every Sunday a time to rejoice in the giving.  You watch, your congregation won't complain about "all the pastor ever does is talk about money" because money will be seen as mission.

* Planter: speak out your gratitude for God's provision and people's faith responses.  You are teaching your folks to be thankful...and how to express it.  I believe making the offering a holy time breaks the curse of greed or fear.  Statistically, 70% of USA church members give NOTHING to their church!  Those that do, statistically, only give an average of 2.5% of their income!  Our churches don't have financial programs, we have faith programs.  So, equip folk in faith and you're equipping them to also be givers!

Friends: When you treat the offering as important as confession and forgiveness, or prayer, or preaching, or singing--- you are creating an atmosphere of holiness in and around it.  It is then no longer taking, but receiving!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Planting and Missional Training at the LCMC Gathering

The 14th annual LCMC Gathering in Des Moines, Iowa, is just a month away!  If you haven't done so, please make plans RIGHT NOW to register so you don't miss out on being engaged in our shared mission to plant 1,000 congregations in the next 10-years!

Here are some plant and missional training possibilities for you in Des Moines...

* Food packaging: Join others (we're hoping for 1,000 helpers) to put together 400,000 food packets in just two-hours to bless those in need (Tuesday, October 7, 5:00-7:00 pm).  For greater details and sign-up, check-out our website for the Annual Gathering Registration.  This ministry moment is for everyone, but what a great way to feed mission into our DNA!

* Church Planter's Reunion Dinner, Monday, October 6, 6:00 pm.  Anyone who has planted a congregation in the past 3-years is invited to enjoy dinner and fellowship time together.  Spouses are welcome!  First, sign-up for what is listed as the District Dinner ($20.00) then CONTACT ME ( to let me know you'll be joining the "Planter's Table."  This way we know how many to plan for.  We'll enjoy sharing the ups-and-downs of church planting to be encouraged and empowered.

* Breakout Session: "Missio Missiles for Taking' it to the Streets!"  During this breakout session, I will speak to how ALL CHURCHES can take on a missional mentality that impacts cities in a kingdom fashion.  (I'm so nice, we're offering this breakout twice!)  You are encouraged to sign-up during your pre-registration time so we know how to plan accordingly.

* Breakout Session: "How we will plant 1,000 in 10."  During this breakout session, I will speak to how EVERY church can participate in a planting vision--- with an emphasis on developing missional communities that can reach more people for Christ in a variety of ways.  Developing an LCMC family tree will not only be fun, but bring city transformation.  Like all breakouts, please sign-up at your pre-registration.  (I'm such a dunce, this is only offered once).

* The Coordinator for New Ministry Development presentation to the gathering at large:  On Tuesday afternoon, October 7, I will be sharing an update on our vision to become a church planting association.  During that time, we will have a variety of planters briefly share what they are doing.  PLANTERS: please let me know that you'll be at the gathering so I can publicly lift you up!

* New Church Planter's Workshop, Wednesday, October 8, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.  This 5-hour workshop is a fast-paced, but very helpful, training time to help you discern God's calling to church  planting, or to assist in a church planting team in your city.  It will be informational and hopefully transformational for you!  There is no charge, but you must register.  A working lunch will be provided for those who register ahead of time.

For registration details, see, then click-on ANNUAL GATHERING REGISTRATION.  See you there!