Archives: Vortex

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?

What I Learned When My Wife Was Pregnant

What I Learned When My Wife Was Pregnant

One, primary lesson in dealing with pregnant women, as a man, is to never tell them, “I know what you’re going through.”

You can’t compare the experience of having a child grow inside you to having a kidney stone, having surgery, or even having ate too much. A pregnant woman won’t have anything of the sorts.

If you attempt such comparisons, you’re likely to suffer the wrath of a woman unlike you have ever suffered before. And for good reasons. What we experience as men, even in ‘similar’ conditions, is nothing like the experience pregnancy provides.

With that risk in play, I would like to share one thing I learned from my wife during her pregnancies:
Growth is uncomfortable.

From my perspective, I’ve never seen my wife happier than when she found out she was pregnant. Those two moments were packed with love and joy and faith and the satisfaction of a promise fulfilled.

But then the baby started to grow.

And as much as she was already in love with our children, the discomfort was evident.

There’s two places that I see this truth emerging right now:

1. In Our Personal Stories.

We all have one common desire: to be comfortable. We want to comfortable in our relationships, in our careers, and in our finances.

“Comfortable” rarely produces the kind of life that we find satisfying. Life requires tension, because all good stories have great conflict.

I’m pretty sure that most of us avoid responding to Jesus because it’s going to be uncomfortable. But… Growth is uncomfortable.

2. In Our Church

We’ve been here before, and by God’s grace we’re there again. Our church is growing, and as it grows it’s going to be challenging.

Growth produces change.

And let me be honest about this… we want to grow!

Here’s a few quick reasons why we want to grow:

  1. God’s given us a message of faith, hope, and love that we want to share with as many people as possible.
  2. As long as there is one more hurting family, one more lost family in our city, our church is not big enough.
  3. We want to invite people that are far away from God to join us on a life-giving journey to be changed by this message.

But change is uncomfortable.

That means that over the next season, as our church continues to grow, you can expect things to become less comfortable.

The first way this will happen is what we call “overlap”. It’s where events happen at the same time, on the same day, or on the same weekend. If you’re the family that’s been attending every event, it’s going to require some adjustment. That change is going to be uncomfortable.

The second thing that will happen is our church is going to become less “personal”. As of October we’re averaging around 250 people in attendance each Sunday. That means no matter how involved you, we are all becoming a smaller percentage of the whole.

I had an incredible moment yesterday: I saw someone at the grocery store wearing one of our church’s T-Shirts and I had no idea who they were! That’s amazing! I love that our churches reach is getting that wide!

So… what do you do when it gets uncomfortable?

I think we could all take a lesson from my wife during her pregnancy: Don’t complain, allow the discomfort to point you to the promise, and trust Jesus with it all.

You can, even in the middle of discomfort, enjoy the journey!

4 Things To Expect As We Go To Multiple Services

Multiple_Services

This Sunday we’re transitioning from ONE service to MULTIPLE SERVICES at Vortex!

We desperately need to increase our capacity to reach more people, so this is just us trying to be faithful to what God is doing in our church.

We want to reach more people, because we believe that there are more people who DESPERATELY NEED to be touched by the powerful, life-giving message of Jesus.

I wanted to share a few things to expect as our services change…

1. Services will not be as long.

We’ve targeted our services up to this point to be about 75 minutes, but now we’ll be shortening them by about 10 minutes to help with the turn-around between two services.

2. We’re tweaking the order of service to make sure the important things stay a priority.

We’ve always done an opening song followed by a small welcome from one of our Pastors. That’s going to change. Now, one of our Pastors will be on stage a few minutes before the service starts to welcome you

Once we start service we’re jumping right into worship. This is actually going to result in a slightly longer time of worship (moving from 15 minutes to about 20 minutes). So, if you’re the person that LOVES worship, get there on time!

3. The sermons will be slightly shorter.

Many of you don’t understand the work that goes into our sermon preparation throughout the week. We rehearse and time our messages so that we can be prepared for Sundays. Typically we’ve tried to craft messages to be around 35 minutes, but we’ll be taking about 5 minutes out of that.

You might be thinking… “Hey, that five minutes is important!” I agree with you, so that’s why I’m going to be working hard to make sure everything God would have me to say be said each and every Sunday. It’s just going to take more time to trim it down and draft the right way to say it all.

4. You won’t see everyone every week.

This past week I asked you to indicate which service you’d be attending on Connection Cards, and the crowd split right down the middle. And… That’s a healthy thing!

If visiting with your church family is a priority for you…

  • If you attend the 9am service, make plans to stay a little later and visit with your friends as they arrive for the next service.
  • If you attend the 10:30am service, get there a little early and greet your friends as the exit the earlier service.
  • We’ll have coffee service during the entire transition between services, so make the most of that time!

One last request…

Would you consider praying daily for our church as we prepare to make this change?

You matter to Jesus, and He will listen to you prayers.

Pray that God directs us, that He uses us, and that He continues to save people and reconcile them to Himself through Vortex.

Thank you so much for praying and partnering with us to see lives changed!

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