Archives: Church Planting

It’s Lonely

It’s Lonely

During this blog series I’ve shared what I didn’t know about planting a church when I started the adventure to plant Vortex Church in Albemarle, NC.

Most guys who strike out to start a church come from a similar context to me: they were on staff at a church doing something awesome for Jesus.

It’s so easy to overlook something that’s obvious: when you’re on staff at a church you’re typically surrounded with significant relationships. To be on staff at church, the church would need to be larger in nature. There’s a large pool for relationship. From that, most church planters live in significant community prior to their transition.

That was my story. We had fully integrated into the community we lived. We had a ton of friends in our church and outside of our church.

I played kickball on a league in our city with a bunch of people who never went to church, and I loved it. I played golf with men from our church on a regular basis at their invitation. I had coffees and lunch meetings with people that I was mentoring and leading.

Life was full of significant relationship.

When you leave to plant a church, you leave that behind.

We didn’t fully parachute, but we definitely relocated and left our community behind (a parachute is when you move to a completely different city that you have no relational ties with).

During the first few months, I was excited. I was meeting new people, and heavy into the planning of our new church. There’s so much work to do in a church plant, that it often becomes consuming.

Half way through our launch phase, I noticed it creeping in: loneliness.

As we visited church plants and I talked with more experienced church planters, I asked one question about relationships: “When did your best friends show up to church: before you launched or after?” Invariably the answer was “after”.

That pattern was true for me, as well.

That means between the time you leave and the time you launch there’s a relational gap, and it’s easy to let the loneliness become a negative influence in your life.

Instead, I chose to do something that I honestly still must do…

I must find my most significant friendship in the relationship I have with Jesus.

Jesus, not other people, is always the answer to our loneliness. When we experience that relational gap, it’s important to allow the fellowship we share with Jesus to deepen. If you can’t do that, you’ll set yourself up to fail.

I love that Jesus makes himself so available to us… That we can find Him in God’s Word, and in that He still speaks to us every time we open it. I love that we can find Him in prayer whenever we need Him, and that we can have confidence in knowing our God and Friend hears us. I love that we can listen to His voice and become more acquainted to the whispers of His heart to ours.

I’m not going to pretend I got that right the entire time. For a season I felt the loneliness of the transition, and it wasn’t good for me. I’m thankful that God is patient.

Loneliness is a part of any adventure. If we don’t learn how to address it, it will always have the power to derail the progress we’re making.

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How do you overcome loneliness by leaning into your relationship with Jesus?

It’s Harder Than You Think

It’s Harder Than You Think

Anything worth doing is not going to be easy.

That’s the truth in life, and that’s the truth in church planting.

As I coach other church planters, I’ve noticed that that are a lot of us that approach this without a lot of respect for the work it’s going to take to sustain a move of God.

Throughout history, all great moves of God have been a lot of work for the people involved. In mid-19th century the great preacher Charles Finney led revivals throughout the US in what became known as the Second Great Awakening. During that time whole communities would be converted to active believers.

Before Finney led revival meetings in towns, he oversaw massive efforts of prayer networks throughout the communities. This methodology would later be replicated by Billy Graham Ministries in his crusades.

Too often we’re caught looking at the harvest, and neglect to understand the work that it took to sow the seed and prepare the field.

Here’s a few observations on the work of planting a church…

#1 – You must lay a foundation first.

We often marvel at the architecture of a structure, but the foundation must always be solid if there’s anything that can be built to last on top of it.

The foundation for a church plant is the relationship of the Church Planter with God, and nothing else can supplement that.

A Church Planter must first be fully submitted to Jesus, in every area of his life. He must be growing in his capacity to discipline himself by studying the Scriptures, listening to God’s voice, and be responsive to the direction of the Holy Spirit. He must also be working hard to cultivate the kind of internal life that allows his work to be healthy and sustainable.

If you’re in business, or looking to strike out on your own in a new venture, these principles are applicable to you as well, because as a believer everything flows from our relationship with Jesus.

#2 – Don’t be afraid to work.

Far too many people sit back expecting God to do what He’s already given you the tools to accomplish.

I appreciate the heart that wants to wait on God, because I understand the great respect that accompanies that perspective. Starting something new isn’t a patient endeavor. If you don’t have a “No!” from God, and it’s a good thing to be pouring your effort into… Go for it!

#3 – Don’t be afraid to rest.

If you’re going to work hard, you’ll need to rest too.

A lot of entrepreneurs struggle with rest, and later into their journey they begin to fail in their creativity and production.

As a Church Planter, you must commit to a fast pace. Life will be a sprint. It can’t sustain at that level, though. So your rhythm is going to become, SPRINT… and rest. SPRINT… and rest. (repeat)

#4 – The work is culminating.

Planting a church is a lot like choosing to get healthy.

You don’t go to the gym and get upset because you don’t instantly have big muscles. No… you go the gym, week after week, often for years before you have major differences that are evident.

That’s what work that is culminating by nature looks like.

One thing I asked myself every day was, “What is one thing I can do today that will get me closer?” You can’t do it all every day, but if you do a little along the way, you’ll get there!

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How has your work ethic impacted the calling that God has on your life?

It’s Going To Hurt (Part 2)

It’s Going To Hurt (Part 2)

When you start a journey, it’s always exciting.

The first few steps of a run, the first few miles of a road trip… there’s always a sense of wonder and expectation.

The same is true of the journey to plant a church.

It started with good dreams: helping people find a meaningful relationship with Jesus, seeing broken families healed, and the lost being found.

I neglected to understand this important fact: to see all that happen we would have to gather a bunch of sinners together, build relationships with them, and watch Jesus move in their lives… since we are practically incapable of doing any of that in their lives!

I didn’t expect to get hurt when we started out in this journey, but planting a church is a journey filled with pain.

Here’s a few observations on how it hurts…

#1 – Hurt people hurt people.   

At a new church, you get a lot of “one more chance” people. These are people who have been hurt at other churches (often for very legitimate reasons), and they are willing to give a brand new church “one more chance”.

The church seems “different”, and at first that’s exciting. It’s not uncommon for the newness to provoke a new level of involvement and renewed communion with Jesus.

That new found devotion also does something I didn’t anticipate… it opens them up to the past hurt from other church experiences.

At this point, these people have two choices: to deal with the past pain or they will inevitably start to displace the past hurt into their present context.

When they don’t deal with the past hurt, they’ll start to find reasons to be hurt at the new church, and when they’re hurt… they’ll hurt other people.

#2 – People don’t care as much about your feelings as they do about their opinions.

Culturally we’ve shifted how we approach those in authority.

Years ago Teachers, Coaches, Pastors, and Police Officers garnered an immense level of respect. You treated them well. You honored them. Not because they were perfect, but because of the honor of the position they held.

This is not the case in our present context.

Sadly, we live in a cultural context that seems to always be working hard to second guess those in positions of authority. This isn’t a simple truth, but it is the context we find ourselves in.

In our current context, those with informed and arbitrary opinions have platforms to spread their opinions without thought to the feelings of the people they are criticizing.

It’s a part modern day leadership, but it is still painful.

#3 – Healthy always hurts.

One of the guys I work out with is somewhat of a freak. While in his mid-50s, he’s in incredible shape (essentially competition shape).

I remember working out with him one time and making this comment,
“Dude, I can’t wait to get to where I’m not sore anymore.” He repield, “Man, I’ve been sore for the last 30 years.”

That moment I learned something that continues to stay with me, and it’s a very uncomfortable truth…

Healthy always hurts.

During the process of planting Vortex, I’ve had to make decisions I didn’t want to because they were hard. They included having hard conversations with leaders, disciplining those in leadership for poor decisions, and even letting some people off the bus.

Those moments hurt deeply. Those moments also lead to health.

You cannot avoid pain, and if you attempt to avoid it… you’ll avoid being healthy.

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How has pain produced a healthier relationship with Jesus in your life?

It’s Not About A Church

It’s Not About A Church

One of simplest, yet most profound questions we’ll ever wrestle with is: “What’s the purpose of my life?”

I believe that Jesus still invites us to follow Him, just like He did His disciples.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where God is going.

I know a lot of people who wrestle with this. The wrestling comes in the form of “calling” and “career”. We want to have a clear roadmap, and too often it just feels hazy for a lot of us. We don’t know what where Jesus is leading us or what He specifically wants us to do.

When God convinced me that He wanted me to move to back to our small, rural hometown and start a brand new church I thought this would all be about a church.

So during the process of preparation I did what anyone would do: I studied, prepared, and planned to start a church. This wasn’t a mistake. It’s what anyone in this sort of venture should do.

If you’re starting a brewery, you need to know how to make beer. If you’re opening an auto shop, you need to know cars. My calling and career has been in church ministry, so I was very devoted to learning best practices for church planters.

I thought it was all about a church.

But it wasn’t.

You see: In a career, you give yourself to a vocation. You work hard to improve your craft. You devote yourself to the opportunities, and you climb the ladder. Success is measured in metrics like salary and sales.

For me, this is not a career. It’s a calling.

Like the disciples who heard Jesus invite them to abandon their jobs as fishermen and to come and follow, I believe there is something vastly greater awaiting those of us who respond to that deep sense of motivation and purpose that is found in calling…

We discover that it’s all about Jesus.

When we chase a calling we get closer to Jesus, and that becomes the greatest gift that all of life could leverage.

For me and my journey of starting Vortex Church, planting a church has not been about a church. Instead, it’s been about responding to an invitation that Jesus has given.  That invitation is simply to follow Him and draw near to Him.

It’s not about a church. It’s all about Jesus.

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How has pursuing your calling brought you closer to Jesus?

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