Monday, September 29, 2014

A Large Audience ≠ A Successful Church Plant

Recently a new Starbucks opened up in Raleigh in an area already populated with many Starbucks, and other coffee shops. Since the opening of this store, I have noticed that the overwhelming majority of the customers are not new coffee drinkers, in fact I would go as far as to say that most are already Starbucks patrons. Then of course there are some patrons of other coffee shops such as Caribou, Dunkin Donuts, and other places that serve coffee beverages like McDonalds who are coming to check out what this new and convenient Starbucks has to offer. So what defines a new Starbucks as successful? Money, of course, but it does not matter where the customers were drinking coffee before as long as they are drinking Starbucks now and particularly from this new location.

This got me thinking about church plants and when a new church gets started in a city, what it is exactly that would define a successful church plant. Many define a successful Starbucks the same way that they would define a successful church plant. It doesn't matter where the people come from, whether they are members at another church or not, but as long as they are now attending our church, drinking our coffee and we are filling the seats then we are successful. 

An example of this would be a new church plant comes to Raleigh and almost over night it is full of people, busting at the seams, and in need of a new meeting space. This church may even be featured on the top fastest growing churches in America list. A successful church plant, right?

Well no, because if the criteria for a successful church plant were the same of that of a new Starbucks then you have no success at all and my issue is that some church plants go in with the same or similar criteria. I have no issue with a church having many people early on, or experiencing growth issues, but if a church plant has growth because they are the new church in town and all their people are just from other churches then I have an issue calling that a successful church plant.

Why? Because that is not organic growth and it doesn't represent changed lives, but rather people that were tired of their current church not catering to all of their needs, who wanted to try something new or maybe more convenient. This has and can easily happen with new church plants in the South especially where there is such a religious spirit in the culture.  

But that still leaves us with the question then, what defines a successful church plant? Is it the amount of people that are attending from other churches? The amount of services? Or is it something else? I would love to hear some of your thoughts and feedback on defining a successful church plant.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Church Formed Around God's Mission

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47

This Sunday I am preaching on the fellowship of the believers from the above passage with an emphasis on what a church formed around the mission of God looks like. The early church was known for being a movement that gathered around a mission as we should be, but often are not today. If we look back at Acts 1:8 the mission was given first and then the church was formed for the mission in Acts 2. 

In verse 42 it says that they were devoted to four things. Devotion is a strong word, and it would do us good in the Western church today to look at our own lives and the lives of our churches to see if we could say with the early church that we are devoted to these things that mark a church formed around the mission of God.

1. The Apostles Teaching
  • These people knew and loved their Bible.
  • Obviously included teachings of Jesus.

2. Fellowship
  • Encompassed participating and sharing in all aspects of life, including material things.
  • Both large and small group meetings.

3. Breaking of Bread
  • The Lord's Supper.
  • A larger meal of fellowship that likely included the Lord's Supper.
4. Prayer
  • The early believers expressed their dependence on God both at home and in the temple.
  • When faced with any issue these believers prayed.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Urban Missionary Jason Mitchell

Jason Mitchell has been a good friend of mine for several years now and God blessed me by allowing me to partake in some of the early discipleship of Jason. It has been amazing to see him grow in his faith over the years and the calling that God has on his life. Jason recently became a full time urban missionary with Vigilant Hope, a nonprofit organization that has served Wilmington since 2006 by creating new programs for relations in the homeless communities, participating in existing programs in low income/homeless areas as well as implementing fresh ideas to bring change through partnerships with local churches. Please take a couple of minutes to hear from Jason and support him prayerfully and financially if able.

Meet Jason from Vigilant Hope on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Loving People Like and Toward Jesus

The other day I encountered a transgender individual and instead of loving this person toward Jesus, I noticed my thoughts immediately begin to be disgusted and I started making numerous judgements in my head. At that moment I was convicted to the core as I asked myself if I was viewing this individual with love and as Christ would view them? 

My answer of course was no because at that moment I wasn't disgusted by the sin of the individual, but by the individual, and there is a difference. So during the course of our interaction with each other I began to ask myself how then would Christ have responded? 

My answer is that Jesus engaged with the people of his culture, all of the people, including the ones considered sexually immoral. We see numerous examples of this throughout the New Testament, but some of his more popular interactions are with the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50); the woman at the well (John 4:13-26); and the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 3-11). 

So over the course of our interaction together, my heart began to change and instead of looking on the individual with judgement and disgust, I started to see them through the lens of the love of Christ. I was then saddened and disgusted at the sin in their life because of their individual choices; but I had complete love for this individual as my desire was and is to see them freed from the bondage of all sin in their life. Instead of continuing to have a heart of judgement towards this person I prayed for them that their eyes would be open and that they could be released from the power and penalty of sin.

My point in sharing this is because I believe that my initial response is the initial response of many within the church, which doesn't display an attitude of love towards others. I once heard a Pastor proclaim in front of his congregation how disgusted he was of gays and lesbians and his lack of desire to interact with them. This is not the right response and I called this pastor out in love and to my knowledge he repented of his actions. 

Instead of judging these individuals and condemning them, we should instead be loving them toward Jesus. A relationship with Jesus is the only hope for people who are caught in their own ways. Typically there are two groups when it comes to sexual sin, the permissive and the judgmental, but instead we should point all people to Jesus and the gospel as in and through him only true transformation can take place. 
This post originally appeared on in September 2011. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pray for the Hindu World

Over the weekend I came across this video that was a great reminder to pray for the Hindu world. Most of you know that my family spent two years serving as church planters in a majority Hindu context and I long to see the Holy Spirit move throughout this religion to capture the hearts and lives of the people. Would you join me in praying for the Hindu world?

Pray for the Hindu World from Team Expansion on Vimeo.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fall Reading List

September is here and schools are back in, which means it is time to put together a Fall reading list. This list is a mix of books that I am currently reading, plant to reread, and one book that I am receiving an advance copy for review on my blog. Happy Fall reading!

Recommended Fall Reading

Fast Forward to Mission: Frameworks for A Life of Impact by Alan Hirsch

The 40 Most Influential Christians...Who Shaped What We Believe Today by Daryl Aaron

Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots  by J.C. Ryle

Beat God to the Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life  by Eric Mason

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

David Platt on Becoming the New IMB President

I am excited to watch David Platt transition into the role of the next president of the International Mission Board and even though he is still only one man I believe some radical change may be on the way. Hear from Platt below:

A Message from David Platt from Radical on Vimeo.