The Comparison Trap

One of the greatest traps I’m tempted to fall in to as a church planter is the trap of comparison.  I have done my best to study models and methods from growing churches.  I’ve read books, blogs, and online articles.  I’ve attended seminars and talked to other pastors.  One thing that I’ve realized is that many of us are participating in what I once heard described as “church conference porn.”  It’s the unrealistic portrayal of something desirable.  It’s the idea that all churches should be like the megachurch.  It causes great discouragement when my church doesn’t match the bigger church down the road or that I haven’t published any books like some church planting rockstar.

God is teaching me that He has ordained my church for my community and the particular ministry that reaches them.  I shouldn’t want to be just like some other church.  My culture is different.  My congregation is different.  I’m different.  I need to be willing to be whatever God has called me to be.  I was encouraged by a great post title “A Toolbox With All Hammers” by Kent Shaffer at churchrelevance.com.  I hope it encourages my fellow church planters to accept what God has ordained for you to do and who he wants you to be.

A Toolbox With All Hammers

toolbox

In the big picture, a toolbox with all hammers isn’t very effective. You can hit nails, pry, and not much more. A good toolbox has hammers, wrenches, files, and screwdrivers. It has a drill, some pliers, and plenty of other tools. So why do so many churches try to be a hammer?

We each have a unique God-given calling, but many of us want to live the calling of  the ministers in the limelight. Likewise, each church has a unique God-given calling, but too many churches distract themselves by pursuing the calling of famous megachurches.

To clarify, I do think it is good to study successful churches when the principles learned are considered within the context of your church’s unique calling. And I do believe that good ministry typically grows churches. However, some of the greatest ministries have the smallest numbers. Sometimes small is needed to be effective. Sometimes huge is needed.

I recommend that you study them all. Learn from megachurches, house churches, rural churches, and the rest.

Above all else, never lose focus of staying true to your church’s purpose. If God wants you to be a hammer, be a hammer. If God wants you to be a wrench, be a wrench.

[Photo credit: dipster1]

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Abortion Debate Changing

1170952_pre_natalDavid Harsanyi is a staff columnist with the Denver post who claims to be “an atheist and secular kind of guy.”  He writes in an opinion piece for the post, “I practice moral relativism regularly. Still, I’ve always struggled mightily with the ethics and politics of abortion. Apparently, I’m not alone. ”

Take a minute to read his article and let me know if you think that our country’s opinion of abortion is truly changing.

Church Planting in Rural Communities

Doug Foltz wrote a post on his blog that really got me thinking.  He is submitting a concept about church planting in small towns to Leadership Network for their Ideation Experience.   Doug asked for comments on his thesis for promoting rural church planting and I felt compelled to reply.  I have faced some very unique challenges and rewards as a rural church planter and have found few other planters that could relate to my experience.  Most planters are starting church in urban or suburban settings and so their methods and models are different.  Here are Doug’s ideas and my comments are below:

There is an endless supply of video based content for services being generated by multi-site churches.  We need to create a distribution platform for that content and provide it for free to church plants with leaders who adopt best practices.

We need to utilize social media to create online learning communities for coaching and peer support.

We need to recruit a new type of leader.  Leaders that are bivocational.  Using video based content makes it possible for a planter to start part time.

Recruitment should shift to successful campus ministries and half timers as a source for such leaders.

We should engage Bible Colleges to provide student internships.

Funding needs will be substantially less.  You significantly limit the biggest expenses of salary, marketing and facility.

Use national platforms such as Exponential to spread the idea.

As a church planter in a rural community with a population of about 5,000, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that we need more small town church plants. I felt compelled by God to plant Mountain Valley Church (www.mountainvalleychurch.net) two years ago in Montevallo, AL.

I’m a bi-vocational church planter who hasn’t finished seminary. I work full time as an engineer and full time as a pastor :) It has been a great privilege and incredible challenge to start a church in this town. I’ve rubbed shoulders with many church planters and found very few that were crazy enough to plant in small town! I’ve attended many conferences and found that the “typical” church planting model doesn’t apply to me.

I have considered becoming a multi-site of our parent church in the suburbs. I’ve discussed it with our core group and they unanimously feel that it isn’t the right fit for us or our community. I see the value of utilizing a video venue to lighten my load, but consider it an essential part of connecting with my people. We have used video teaching extensively in our small groups which has lightened my load considerably. I think each planter must analyze the culture and determine if it would accept a video venue.

I would agree that more material could be distributed to church planters for free or reduced cost. I’m constantly balancing the need for resources to teach or lead with the limited budget I have. I’ve been frustrated by tools that can really make a positive impact on our church that are too expensive for us to use. I’m working to utilize open source alternatives to cut costs (ie. WordPress, OpenOffice, etc.). I would love for some of the greater minds in software, video production, internet development, social media, etc. to help us utilize free and/or cost efficient resources to organize and spread the Gospel more efficiently.

You’re right on with coaching/mentoring. I’ve wanted to be involved with coaching to a greater degree, but have been limited by my full time job. I can’t travel much or attend local seminars that happen during the week. I’d love to see a coaching network that used off the shelf video conferencing (like TokBox) and networking tools to share ideas and troubleshoot problems. Most resources put out by planting networks and our denominations favor the full time pastor.

We need to rally around bi-vocational church planters. Not everyone is called to give up their secular job. In fact, I think there are significant factors in favor of planting as a bi-vocational pastor. That’s for another post for another day….

Funding is less, but not as small as you might think. While we don’t need $100,000 to get started, there is another dynamic at work. We are serving and reaching a low-income demographic. While we have successfully assimilated these people into the church, they don’t bring a significant financial resource to the church. We have survived on minimal funding, but are very limited in the ways we can reach out to the community.

More thoughts to come…

Somebody's Watching Me

We often forget that we have a powerful influence on the first impressions people have of our church.  Flamingo Road Church has a great video to remind us that we are ambassadors for our Lord Jesus Christ and that even the small things make a difference.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=4472749&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Potential – First Impressions from Flamingo Road Church on Vimeo.