Sunday, September 30, 2007

Training Church Planters

This past week, I met with some other spiritual leaders in Dallas to pray for and plan for a new church planting movement called Vision360 that we believe may be very strategic in helping to fulfill the Great Commission.

We want to identify and deploy effective church planters who will start reproducing churches with Acts 1:8 missional DNA. We anticipate that thousands and thousands of new churches will be planted in North America. Our dream is that each new church will adopt an overseas city and begin to serve in Jesus' name in the various domains of society resulting in evangelism and church planting.

Part of our strategy is to set up training centers for church planters. We are seeking to set up a training center called LAUNCH here in NE Ohio. We looked over the curriculum for this kind of training that has been produced by Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC and Northwoods Church (Glocalnet) in Dallas.

Before I made a study of the curriculum from the other churches, I thought through what I wish someone had tought me. As a church planter who wants to pass along the lessons I've learned, I thought through what I thought a 30 week curriculum might need to include.

See what you think. We'll take a look at the curriculum from Northwoods and Redeemer as we finalize our curriculum for LAUNCH. Maybe you would have some suggestions that might help us.

Church planter's training

1. Building a God-centered ministry (It's not about the church planter, so get rid of the baggage!)

2. Developing spiritual disciplines personally and teaching spiritual disciplines in the new church

3. Developing dependency/building a prayer covering/personal prayer/teaching people to pray/planting a prayer-saturated church
4. Establishing a church with mDNA - Missional DNA/Purposes of the church - Acts 1:8

5. Gaining vision/claiming promises from God's word/exercising faith

6. Establishing core values and philosophy of ministry for the new church

7. Developing personal evangelistic passion and disciplines/corporate evangelistic strategy and training

8. Developing a personal discipling commitment and strategy/corporate discipling strategy and training

9. Developing an effective follow-up and assimilation strategy

10. Developing an effective connecting/care ministry through small groups

11. Gathering and deploying the core group for the church start/mobilizing people according to giftings, abilities, and passions

12. Exegeting your community/identifying your target audience/gaining focus for outreach and ministry/locating the church plant

13. Developing a logo, a "look," and a communications strategy

14. Finding funding for the church start

15. Establishing an effective children's ministry

16. Establishing an effective youth ministry

17. Designing powerful, relevant worship services

18. Establishing church governance/leadership development

19. Establishing effective pastoral care

20. Developing preaching plans/skills/philosophy

21. Adopting a "simple church" philosophy/strategy

22. Growing in personal character/fighting temptations in the arena of sex, self, silver, sloth/developing accountability relationships

23. Becoming a better husband and father/developing an effective marriage and family ministry strategy

24. Growing in time management skills

25. Growing as an encourager/developing people skills

26. Learning to delegate and manage people/becoming an arranger of care rather than the primary/solo care-giver

27. Learning to deal with criticism and failure

28. Becoming an effective problem-solver

29. Developing perseverance

30. Reproducing your church in your Jerusalem, your Judea, your Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth

Monday, September 24, 2007

Unbalanced living necessary during war

Ken Burns is teaching us about WWII on PBS right now. Tom Brokaw called that generation "The Greatest Generation." I don't think "balance" would be the word I would use for those men and women who fought freedom in the 1940s. It's hard to be balanced in a fox hole.

And Jesus has called us to a wartime mentality. We are soldiers of the cross.

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him" (II Timothy 2:3-4, ESV).

I don't want to stand before God someday and hear that I neglected my family or my health. But, honestly, that's not my greatest fear. A greater fear for me is that I may one day stand before God and hear Him say that I was too casual, too comfortable, too much in love with personal peace and affluence. A greater fear for me is that I may hear Him say that I didn't take up my cross enough - that I did not suffer as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
I think part of the difficulty in thinking and dialoguing about balanced living vs. passionate living is our definition of terms. Balanced living sounds like a peace-time mentality to me, while passionate living sounds like a wartime mentality to me. And I think the church in the west has forgotten that we are in a war.

John Piper says, "More than ever in my life the stark reality of thousands of people groups unreached by a 'peaceful' western church has been branded on my brain... The blinders are beginning to fall off of my eyes and the bombshells of the unseen war are beginning to explode with terrible brightness all around me. I am coming to see the peacetime mentality that dominates our church... as a tactical victory of Satan—the result of a kind of nerve gas from Satan's arsenal of chemical weaponry that gives the soldiers of Christ a kind of stupor in some and religious euphoria in others, and eventually puts them to sleep at the gates of the enemy, and makes them utterly oblivious to the cries of the P.O.W.'s behind the wall. Who but Satan could devise a chemical weapon which when spread over the army of Christ would make them content simply to hold worship services and support groups at the door of Satan's dungeon? "

We are in a war. And the pursuit of balanced living won't win it.

I've found that whenever I challenge the concept of balance, some people tend to think that I'm somehow advocating the neglect of family, health, friends, or physical needs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I'm actually advocating being passionate about all of the above. And I'm merely pointing out that, for me, "balance" is not a helpful concept in moving me to passionately pursue the will of God for my life.

Today, I'm off. And I want to be passionate about my Sabbath, my day of rest. It's a day to connect with God with some extended time with Him. It's a day to connect with my family more deeply without the distractions of "church life." I'll get in a little unhurried exercise time. God willing, I'm going to watch "Heroes" tonight with my boys. And I try passionately not to do "church stuff" on my off day.

But tomorrow, we have a staff meeting to do some praying and planning for our church about 2008. Our church is key in the spiritual warfare that is going on in NE Ohio. I don't think I'd be doing justice to my calling or to the staff if I show up to that wartime planning meeting with a "balanced" approach. If I stopped the meeting every hour or so and said, "Excuse me. I have to call home right now to let Maryanne know that I love her." Or, "Let's stop this discussion because it's time for me to exercise." Or, "I'm sorry. I have to call my financial advisor right now so I can keep my financial life under control." No. The Lord, the staff, and the church need me to be fully there tomorrow.

So, in some ways, I'll be unbalanced tomorrow because I'll be committed to to seeking God's vision for the warfare for our church. We want to storm the gates of hell. And I trust God will give me future time for passionate focus on marriage, fitness, and finance.

If being balanced means that one should give measured, equitable attention to all his roles and responsibilites every day or even every week, then I guess many who have done the most for God were failures.

I'm not one of those who say, "I'd rather burn out than rust out." Because either way, you're out! Let's get real, though. Too many people in our pews are rusting out. And the call to balance may not be helping us.
What does being a warrior look like? For me, part of what it looks like right now is seeking to help establish Vision 360, a church planting movement here in NE Ohio. I'll be in Dallas for a few days to help make this happen. When I'm there, I won't be with my wife or sons. And when I get back, I won't likely be able to somehow "make up" for that time that I'm gone. They will be doing what's next on their "to do" list and and I will be doing what's next on mine. I'm sure we'll hang out some after my trip. But let's be honest. We won't be likely to get all that together time back.

But I don't think that means that I've necessarily been disobedient or displeasing to God. I believe I'm doing what God has called me me to do to be "on mission as a solidier" here in NE Ohio. And I believe that absolutely the best thing for my family is for their dad/husband to do what God has called their dad/husband to do. What He's called me to do is the best thing for them to experience even if it means my absence. I have to trust Him with that.

My dad fought in "The War" - WWII - in the Pacific. He wasn't home with my mom or my brothers. But I've never heard any of them complain about his lack of balance during those years. He was away from them, but fighting for them - for freedom. He drove those boats from the ships to the beaches. He was wounded. He wasn't balanced. But like so many of those men and women in that generation, he was a hero like so many others in his generation.

I want to be a hero - a soldier for Christ. I want to hear "Well done." Don't you? Because the pursuit of balance can be used as an excuse to avoid a true war-time mentality, I'm just not sure that the pursuit of balance is going to help me hear that "Well done" from my Savior's lips.

Monday, September 17, 2007


I have had a friendly feud with several staff members at CVC for the last several years about "balance." Some of our staff members are very, very convinced that the way to live a life that honors God is to live a balanced life. I'm not so sure about that. To me, balanced living has always sounded like lukewarm living. I've felt that God is most honored when we are living with passion and zeal and fire, not balance.

This topic came up again when my friend John Alan Turner started blogging about the issues surrounding balance.

He wrote, "I somehow picked up the idea that balance was the key to life." Some of his blog readers chimed in and said they had learned the same thing in the form of a well-known Greek maxim: "All things in moderation." John continued, "There are some things you can’t do in moderation. You can’t experience a moderate amount of ecstasy. You can’t be moderately heartbroken. You shouldn’t be moderately involved in the lives of your children, and you can’t moderately follow Jesus."

John remembers a conversation that he and I shared about balance. I mentioned that I didn't believe that balance is truly biblical. John writes, "I was totally shocked when [Rick] suggested that the idea isn’t biblical and reflects more of a suburbanite, comfortable, manageable lifestyle than anything we read about in the Bible. I have been to countless retreats and read dozens of articles in Christian magazines touting balance as the Holy Grail of the Christian life. [Rick] might as well have questioned the deity of Jesus! But the more I thought about it, the more I began to suspect that my friend Rick was right. If you just go through a list of the great bastions of faith in the Bible — say, Hebrews 11 — you’re not going to find many characters who are good examples of balance."

What follows are some of my thoughts in response to John's blog. I think a better goal for us is to be what I call "appropriately passioned,” rather than balanced.

For example, I don’t think my wife, Maryanne, would appreciate it if I sought to love her with a “balanced” love. She wants me to be “head over heels” in love with her (which really does descibe my feelings for her!).

In the same way, I don’t think God is particularly moved by a balanced life. Or a balanced love for Him. He wants us to love Him with all [ALL!] our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. That doesn’t sound like balance to me. Sounds like "sold out" love.

Among many, many other scriptures, you can check out II Corinthians 11:24-28 today. Paul is writing: “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
I think we’d all have a hard time calling such a life “balanced.”

And then I think about Revelation 3:15. Jesus, of course, is speaking: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm [think “balanced], and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Wouldn’t we all agree that the Lord wants us to pursue passionate lives, “on fire” lives, zealous lives? It’s really hard for me to see how “balance” is a synonym for “zeal.”

And think about Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:45-46. “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

“What? He sold everything? Wait! That’s not balance!” Exactly. God is looking for people who are “sold out,” not balanced. Those are the ones who get the Pearl of Great Price.

I want to be passionate (not balanced) about all the right things. The Lord. Service to Him. Wife. Sons. Church. Friendships. Health. There may be times when I will have to focus on one at the expense of some others. But that’s OK. I believe that God will give me all the necessary time I need to be blazingly passionate about each area of life when the time is right.

To me, something about “selling out” is just more compelling to me than “being balanced.” I don’t want to sign up for anything that asks for a balanced commitment. Why not? The last I checked, a balanced commitment never won a World Series (Go Tribe!) or a Superbowl (Go Browns?). When I signed up to serve Jesus, I signed up to be on a team that wins it all. And He does win it all. And He's looking not for balance, but for a radical, passionate commitment from each of us.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Last night, the artist Nicole Nordeman was in concert at CVC.
I'm grateful to Brian Howell, our worship pastor, and his team and the many volunteers who served faithfully to put on this wonderful event.

I sat with Maryanne at the concert. And we were both moved by many of the songs. But one moved us both the most. It's her song, "I Am." The music was hauntingly beautiful. Part of the lyric took Maryanne back to the closeness she felt to Jesus during her teen years. And I've been thinking a lot about the names of God this week since I am teaching from the Lord's Prayer - "Hallowed be Thy name..."

Why not take some time to read through this lyric prayerfully for yourself? See if you don't worship in a deeper way. Jesus is "I Am" throughout all the days of our lives. And He is enough.

Pencil marks on a wall,
I wasn't always this tall
You scattered some monsters from beneath my bed
You watched my team win
You watched my team lose
Watched when my bicycle went down again
And when I was weak, unable to speak
Still I could call You by name
And I said,

Elbow Healer, Superhero
Come if You can
You said, I Am

Only sixteen, life is so mean
What kind of curfew is at 10pm?
You saw my mistakes
And watched my heart break
Heard when I swore I'd never love again
And when I was weak, unable to speak
Still I could call You by name
And I said

Heartache Healer, Secret Keeper
Be my best friend
And you said, I Am

You saw me wear white by pale candlelight
I said forever to what lies ahead
Two kids and a dream, with kids that can scream
Too much it might seem when it is 2am
And when I am weak, unable to speak
Still I will call You by name

Shepherd, Savior,
Pasture Maker
Hold onto my hand
You say, I Am

The winds of change and circumstance blow in and all around us
So we find a foothold that's familiar
And bless the moments that we feel You nearer
When life had begun, I was woven and spun
You let the angels dance around the throne
And who can say when, but they'll dance again
When I am free and finally headed home
I will be weak, unable to speak
Still I will call You by name

Creator, Maker, Life Sustainer
Comforter, Healer, my Redeemer
Lord and King, Beginning and the End
I Am
Yes, I Am

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A few years ago, I was teaching a leadership class at Cuyahoga Valley Church. I spent some time thinking through what I hoped were the true values of CVC. I've listed them below.

There are values that are on paper. And there are values that are actual. The first can be just a wish list. The second reflects how you really act as a leader and as a congregation. We have lots of room to grow to actually be the kind of church that I dreamed about. I pray, "Lord, make it so!"

May God help us actually become a church with His values. As the church planting pastor of CVC, I am asking God to help us grow a church with a God-honoring, Christ-centered, Bible-based, prayer-saturated, missionary-minded DNA that lasts long after my generation is dead and gone.

* * *

What I pray is in the DNA of CVC

1. Sacrificial, radical obedience to Jesus (A "whatever," "wherever," "whenever" kind of discipleship)

2. Clear, accurate, practical, powerfully anointed Bible teaching

3. A missionary mentality (A true Acts 1:8 kind of church that never forgets we are on mission)

4. God-inspired BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) that require a prayerful dependence on God to do what only He can do

5. Contextualizing the gospel for multi-generational outreach and ministry (Think 707)

6. Starting daughter churches (Church planting in our region, nation, and world)

7. Growing bigger (A regional outreach reflecting that we are never satisfied with the impact we are having on our own Jerusalem)

8. Growing smaller (A small group mentality that encourages real connection and community)

9. Raising up a new generation of leaders (A willingness to "pass the baton" to the emerging leaders)

10. A caring community (A true love for one another that unifies us)

* * *

As I've looked at this list in light of our focus - Love God, Love One Another, and Love the World - I've been thinking about where each of these 10 values can fit.

Love God #1, #2, #4
Love One Another #8, #9, #10
Love the World #3, #5, #6, #7

May God continue to help us be more than we can expect and dream for His glory.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I'm preaching at CVC right now about prayer. I must confess that I feel like such a novice when it comes to prayer. I have so much to learn.

I've been reading and rereading several books on prayer to prepare for the series. One is a book by S.D. Gordon called "Quiet Talks on Prayer." In his book he tells a story about D. L. Moody that truly is inspiring and motivating. We asked a radio personality who attends CVC, Dan Zullo, to record the story. He did a great job and we played it during the message yesterday to illustrate the importance of what Jesus says in Matthew 6 about praying in secret. I thought it might be helpful to post the story. May God inspire all of us to participate in GOd's work in the world through prayer.

* * *
Back in the early 1870s, D.L Moody was leading a young church in Chicago. The church building was, in Moody’s words, "not yet up far enough to do much in." Moody wanted to learn from other leaders so he took a trip to London to visit other churches so he could do a better work in Chicago. He wasn’t preaching. Instead, he was listening and learning.

One Saturday, he went to a meeting and felt led to share a few words. Afterwards, a pastor asked Moody to preach at his church the next morning and evening.

Moody said, "I went to the morning service and found a large church full of people. I began to speak to them. But it seemed the hardest talking I ever did. No response in their faces. They were carved out of stone. I was having a hard time. I wished I wasn’t there. I wished I hadn’t promised to speak again at night. But I had promised. So I went back.

"At night it was the same thing: house full, people outwardly respectful, but no interest, no response. I was having a hard time again. But about half-way through my talk there came a change. The windows of heaven opened. A bit of breath blew down. The atmosphere seemed to change. The people’s faces changed.

"When I finished speaking I gave the invitation for those who wanted to be Christians to rise. I thought there might be a few. And to my immense surprise the people got up in groups. I turned to the minister and said, ‘What does this mean?’ He said, ‘I’m sure I don’t know.’"

Moody announced an after-meeting in the room below and dismissed the service. They went to the lower room. And the people came crowding, filling all available space. Moody talked for a few minutes, and then again asked those who wanted to receive Christ to stand up. They stood up in clumps, in groups, by fifties.

Moody said, "I turned and again said to the minister, ‘What does this mean?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’" Then the minister said to Mr. Moody, "What’ll I do with these people? This is something new." And Moody said, "Announce a meeting for tomorrow night, and see what comes of it. I’m going across the channel to Dublin."

The next day, Moody had barely stepped off the boat when a cablegram was handed to him from the minister saying, "Come back at once. Church packed."

So Moody went back, and stayed 10 days. 400 souls were added to that church. Every church nearby felt the impact of those 10 days. Moody said, "At that time in my ministry, I had no plans beyond the Chicago church. But God used that result to give me] a roving commission. I have been working under it ever since."

What could explain what happened on that Sunday evening and in the days that followed? There was some secret power hidden beneath the surface of those 10 days. And Moody made a point of finding out what happened.

Moody found out that a woman in that church had become sick long before he came to London. And she grew worse. The physician told her that she wouldn’t die, but neither would she fully recover. She would be a shut-in. She thought about her life and said, "How little I’ve done for God: practically nothing. And now what can I do shut in here on my back?" Then she said, "I can pray. I will pray." She was led to pray for her church.

Her sister, also a member of the church, lived with her and was her link with the outer world. Sundays, after church services, the sick woman would ask, "Anything special happen at church today?" "No," was the constant reply.

But one Sunday afternoon the sister came in from service and said, "A stranger from America, a man named Moody, preached today." The sick woman’s face turned a bit whiter, her lip trembled a bit, and she quietly said, "I know what that means. There’s something coming to the old church. Don’t bring me any dinner. I must spend this afternoon in prayer." And so she did. And that night in the service is when the startling change came.

Nearly two years before Moody came, this sick woman had found a copy of a paper published in Chicago that contained a talk by D.L. Moody. That talk made her heart burn. And there was that name… M-o-o-d-y. Two years before he came, this sick woman was led to pray that God would send that man Moody to their church in London.

We don’t know her name. But God does. Because of her faithful prayers, many, many lives were changed forever. And Moody developed a very fruitful international ministry. Someday, when we all know as we are known, we may very well find that the largest single factor, in that 10 days’ work and in the changing of tens of thousands of lives under Moody’s leadership is an unnamed woman who learned the secret of praying in secret.

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