Two Years Worth of Advice for the Church Planter

It was a time in the life of my families ministry that seemed to be the hardest for us.  Crystal, our kids, and myself had been called to plant Anchor Church in Sikeston.  We did not know what that even meant for us or what that would look like.  But, we were certain God had sent us on this mission and we wanted to be faithful.

While we were in that season, there were many times we were not sure that we could do it.  We cried many tears over our lack of skill when it came to planting a church.  For twelve years we had served in student ministry.  We felt comfortable with that.  But this was an entirely different ball game.

Now, we are almost two years beyond our official launch (April 13, 2014).  As I look back on that season in my life, I have found that I learned great things during that time.  Now, let me be clear.  It is still very challenging.  We still feel times of anxiety.  We still sometimes crumble under the pressure of the call.  But, we have learned to embrace those things that were discovered as we prepared to launch.  So, if I were to give a potential church planter some advice for that season in their process of planting, I would encourage them in the following ways:

  1. EMBRACE THE CHURCH –  What I mean by this is, recognize the role that the universal church plays in where you are in the process.  I think there is a tendency for planters to go in to the process thinking, “I am going to do it better than any other church has ever done.”  Let me say, I appreciate that, but, graciously I want you to know that you are wrong.  As a matter of fact, you need to realize that the Church is your best ally.  The Church will be you best financial supporters.  They will be your strongest prayer support.  When you have questions, they will be there to help…or at least they should.  So, do not see them as the competition.  Recognize them as the friend that they can be to you.
  2. EMBRACE YOUR FELLOW PASTORS – I know this may sound redundant, but it is not.  As a church planter, you have to understand that you will usually be taking the role of Lead Pastor, or whatever title you will give it.  In other words, you will be responsible for shepherding the flock that is among you.  I can tell you, I had no true idea what that meant.  But, I had about 12 guys who have spent years doing that.  No, they do not necessarily do it perfectly.  No, they may not do it exactly how I would do it.  But, they did it.  And that is golden.  They can give you advice, help watch your blind spots,  and help with accountability.  Find those guys, build relationships with them, and listen to them.
  3. EMBRACE FRIENDSHIPS – There were times I got so tied up in the process of getting ready to launch a new plant that I ended up lonely.  My head for so wrapped in getting it correct, that I had my buried my head in the sand.  Then, when I pulled my head up, I found that I had secluded myself from all relationships.  This is a scary place to be.  Thankfully, by God’s grace, I had great friends, some in our core group and some not even in our group, that I knew I could call on.  I am confident that those friends have become life-long friends and I am thankful that they heard me in some of my darkest times.
  4. EMBRACE YOUR SPOUSE – I really want this to be clear.  Crystal, my wife, is the greatest earthly friend I have.  And when we were going through the process, she was by my side – and still is.  When I would lay in bed, fighting anxiety over my lack of ability, she would grab my hand, wipe my tears and say, “It will be okay”.  I can not even imagine the pressure on her.  I do not remember the roles being reversed, where I comforted her.  Probably because she is the strong, brave, Christ-following woman God put in my life to offset my weak, fearful, failing flesh.  Brothers, keep her close.
  5. EMBRACE THE POWER OF GOD – Finally, realize that if God has called you to this work, He will guide the work for His glory.  Now, this does not mean you will have a mega-church.  As a matter of fact, you may not start a “church” as you know it.  But, if you are faithfully focused on God’s glory, empowered by His Spirit, proclaiming the good news of Christ, God will let you experience joy that you will never be able to explain.  Some of that joy will come in victory and some of that joy will come in failure.  But, all in all, know that your identity is not in the church plant or the people’s idea of “church”.  Your identity is in Christ.  And we can rest in that glorious truth.

I am sure I will continue to learn as we continue to grow in the Lord.  But, as I recall that season in my life, I am thankful for how the Lord spurred me forward in my sanctification.  Press on planter!

Two Years Worth of Advice for the Church Planter

Remembering Sunday, Feb. 21st, 2016

This Sunday I shared with the people of Anchor what God has been drawing my attention to over the last few days.  As a pastor, the gathering has a tendency to become an event that I work hard to plan and structure.  We have a team of Elders that work hard to help prepare the different aspects of the gathering.  But, with all this work comes the urgency to  “look forward to the next thing in the service” without truly hearing from God.

So, this weekend, I was compelled to focus on what God was teaching me or reminding me through each aspect of the gathering.  Here is what was revealed to me through our gathering this week:

  • God is the “I Am” – Our call to worship was a reading from Exodus 3:13-15

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus 3:13–15, ESV)

What a great reminder!  Regardless of how distracted we find ourselves, He is the I Am and will be remembered for all generations.

 

  • God came to us – We sang “YOU BLED”.  There is a line in this song that is staggering!

“You left Your perfection
And fought for our redemption”

The incarnation is such a foundational truth to the Gospel, yet, in our effort to move on to the next thing, it seems I have missed the weight of this truth in my worship.

 

  • God is love – To really drive home this reality, we sang “LOVE CAME DOWN”.  Again, the reality that love came down and rescued me is breath-taking.  But then to sing and consider the result of love coming down stopped me in my tracks.  Love came down and rescued me, now I am forever His.

The creator of the universe calls me His.  I am His child.  I am His child forever.  Even in this song, we sing, “remind my soul”.  Why?  Because I forget that I am His…forever.

 

  • God will be glorified – I preached from Judges 4 & 5.  At one point in the story, Deborah tells Barak that God has given the oppressor in to his hand, but that Barak will not receive the glory for the victory.

This is the point in the listening that resonated like a rumble of thunder in my soul.  God sent Christ to overcome.  He gives me and you the opportunity to proclaim the good news of the Gospel to those who need it most.  But, we are not the heroes to those who we proclaim this message.  We have to remember, God obtained the victory and He gives us the opportunity to experience the joy of life-change in our life and the life of others.  But, all of this MUST point to the greatness of our God.

 

I suspect the Lord has gotten my attention so that I can focus less on the show and more on what the Spirit is teaching me.  I hope to hear from others as to what the Lord is teaching them.  Let us not be so quick to rush to the next song or scripture and truly tune in to what God is speaking to our heart.

 

Remembering Sunday, Feb. 21st, 2016

Joy in Trials

Starting the first week in August, I will be preaching through the book of James on Sunday mornings at the Anchor gathering.  I have to tell you, I am very excited for this Fall sermon series.  As I began planning for the series back in March, I planned on the series being a 12 week series.  But, as I began to really seek the Lord and study, I realized that I do not have a chance to finish this series in twelve weeks, so I have decided to extend it at least 18 weeks.

The first chapter of James addresses something that can be tough to swallow.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2–3, ESV)

Okay, so I’m not going to preach my sermon on here.  I’m going to just express some simple truths from these two passages.

First, trials will come in our lives!  James does not say, “if you meet trials”, he says, “when you meet trials”.  I really think this is an idea that the Church must understand.  There are teachings out there today that basically stand on the idea that if you are just “Christian” enough, your life will be blessed.  By blessed, they mean you will not have any trials.  Now listen, that sounds great.  The only problem is that it is not biblical.  James says that we will face trials.  Life is going to happen.  Life is not always going to be smooth sailing.  It is time for us to understand, because we live in a fallen world, trials are coming.

Second, when they do come, we are called to count it as joy – all of it.  This is crazy to me.  Being completely transparent, I have to tell you, I really enjoy rolling around in self-pity.  When trials come, I really need to feel sorry for myself and I REALLY need everyone else to feel sorry for me.  But, James says that we should see these trials as joy.  Why?

Because these trials challenge our faith.  That is a good thing.  Our faith being challenged is not a negative thing.  It is good – it is great.  When our faith is tested we realize some things.  We realize that we may fail ourselves.  We realize that others may fail us.  We realize most things we have sought after for a rescue, end up letting us down.  Yet, James tells us that when our faith is tested, it produces steadfastness.  In other words, when trials come, we are able to experience the reality that God does not fail us.  We realize that He loves us.

James opens the book with a profound truth that drives my worship today.  God has shown me that I can trust Him.  I have a firm foundation in Him.  I do not waver when I am in Christ.  That is joy.  My flesh may fail, but my God never will.

Joy in Trials

The Brotherhood is a Must

brotherhood

One of the greatest things I am learning as I grow in my walk with God is the importance of community among believers.  Over and over in scripture we see that biblical community is laid out as a must for the gathered church.  But, I do believe there has been one group of people within the body of Christ that has either missed the idea of being in community or refuses to believe they NEED biblical community.  Continue reading “The Brotherhood is a Must”

The Brotherhood is a Must