I was recently reminded by God that the church, his church, is his bride. He is the bridegroom, who gave his life for her and is the head of her. I have read and heard this a thousands time before, this time was different tough.
I really spent some time praying in my spirit about the bride part. I reflected back on my own wedding day, my bride, and how after the wedding day my bride became my wife. The difference being that my wife has never looked as stunningly beautiful as she did our wedding day. Now don't read into this what is not there. I think my wife is beautiful and she takes care of herself and is intentional about dolling herself up with makeup, and doing her hair and everything else a woman does to make self look beautiful. However, there is no comparison to the level of intentionality, focus to every little detail, & the desire for everything to be absolutely perfect as there was on our wedding day.
Like all brides getting ready for her wedding, everything has to be perfect and just right. Nothing out of place, everything matching to set the mood just right. The flowers, candles, table setting, pictures, aisle, the stage, every detail carefully and intentionally reviewed and re-reviewed to ensure a perfect unforgettable day, a day to be remembered forever. The bride will go out of her way spending countless hundreds if not thousands of hours planning her wedding day. Many a bride has planned her wedding day years before she ever even met her husband. From childhood, she played with barbie and ken imagining her own wedding day.
There is is something to be said about the wedding day. There is also something to be said about the difference in intentionality between a bride and a wife. This plays into the church. It's easy for the church to forget we are the bride on our wedding day. We become settled in our attitude, we loose that edge of intentionality and begin to allow corners to be cut. Our focus of everything being perfect, to creating the right environment for an unforgettable experience dwindles with each passing Sunday. Little by little our hearts become less concerned about creating an unforgettable experience on Sunday, and we become more concerned about just simply getting through Sunday.
Our attitude every Sunday should be one that is dressing for the occasion. Every detail checked and re-chekced. If extra effort is needed, extra time is needed, extra anything needed, to create the perfect unforgettable experience then let it be done. Truly the church's job sunday is really that of the wedding planner. It is our job to create the perfect wedding day for the lost that may come to church to walk the aisle and find Jesus standing at the alter waiting for them. Our job is the create to the perfect wedding day for the lost.
Next time you are at a church, look around and ask yourself...is this church doing all that it can, focused on every little detail, desiring everything to be perfect, am I serving with the right attitude, the right desire, the right intentionality....for someone like me to walk through the doors of this house who may not know Jesus to get married today.
Am I dressing for the occasion.
How God moved in all of this. (Part 1)
Prior to going to the Expotential Conference in Orlando, Fl in April, most of Reaction Church was a dream. I took a job in the area for 4 months whereI thought (key word "I") God would be planting Reaction Church. I did this to get a better feel for the needs of the community.
I had been praying for the community, the specific spot God wanted us and how he was going to pay for his bill. I also had been praying for God to place in my path the right people I needed to meet at Expotential
Where I worked is important... because there was a church there that I had been wanting to connect with. God is really blessing them and they were a portable church like we are. In addition, during my research of church planting on line, I came across another church that I wanted to connect with as well as they were influentiall in the shaping of our launch plan.
I had a round trip ticket purchased for me to attend the conference but my grandfather came up from FL and asked me to drive back down there with him, which meant I would miss the flight down. So I did, no worries right....wrong! (As i would later find out) but I get to the conference and reveiw the schedule of the breakout sessions I wanted to attend. On the last day, I was praying thru the break out session for that day and felt like I needed to make a last minute change. So I did, and went to a break out session different from the one I had planned to attend. I get to the break out session a few minutes early and began to talk to the speaker of the session...the usual small talk, where are from....that sort of thing. Well they said NOVA, I said I was from NOVA. They said where, I said we would be planting in Gainesville, they said that is we are at! I asked what church... and when they said their name....it was the very church I was praying about to connect in regards to the launch plan.
In regards to the flight home, I was at the airport trying to check in and I couldn't. I had to go to the ticket counter. So I did and come to find out...because I didn't fly down my round trip ticket was cancelled. Originially they wanted $1800 to fly one way home, but I begged and pleaded with them explaining the situtation and they let my fly home for $150.00 but I had to chekc my bag on which costed another $50.00. Well that sucked...or so I thought. Because I checked my luggage on when the other pastors I was flying with didn't, that meant I had to go to baggage claim while they waited. Now here is were God moved again. While waiting for my bags I saw these guys sitting down at baggage claim waiting for their bags. I noticed they had a conference packet like mine. They noticed me and we struck up a conversation. Again the usual small talk...where are you from. I told them and they said, "so are we" I asked them, "what church" they told their church. It wa the very church I was praying about to connect with. The one that is portable. We we all ended up riding the same bus to together because they parked in the same parking section we did.
Well, I connected with them, after the fact and they have been suppporting us since then. We meet once a month in a informal planting meeting. Out of which came the idea for supporting the Grab Your Groceries....
To be continued in Part 2
About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: "This is what the LORD says: "Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness."" When Hezekiah heard this he turned his face to wall and prayed to the LORD… (Isaiah 38:1-6 NLT)
I just really want to take the time today to address an issue that I have personally faced while in the planting phase of REACTION. I also know from talking to several other church planters, that I am not the only one who has faced this issue. The issue I am talking about is this...another Christian, possibly even another pastor telling you…you are not ready for planting the church. Basically, being Isaiah!
And what I have experienced is this, the Isaiah in your life is usually someone you trust to be a great person of God. I have personally experienced my Isaiah telling me that now is not the time for the planting of REACTION Church. I can also tell you that if I had listened to this person’s words, and I trust this person…I would have missed an amazing movement of God.
This is what I have learned… God sets the circumstances of the church plant because it is his to begin with. The church plant is not yours. You may be a part of it, by mans standards you may be almost at the top organizationally, but in reality… the church is Gods. And here's the thing....when you have an Isaiah come to you, you have to be like Hezekiah and not accept the words to be absolute truth. You have to stand strong and not be willing to accept to what could be words of death. Isaiah didn’t walk the same walk with God as Hezekiah. Your Isaiah has not walked the same walk with God as you have. You have to trust in your relationship with God, not your Isaiah’s relationship with God.
This is what Hezekiah did… he didn’t accept Isaiah’s words. He turned from them and went to prayer…
Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you. (Isaiah 38:3)
Hezekiah went to God in prayer about their relationship together and his faithfulness to God, not Isaiah’s faithfulness to God. As a church planter, you have to use your relationship with God for what it is. A relationship!
It is my prayer, that if you are experiencing an Isaiah in your life, trying to hold you back that you not give into his words. In the end, much like Hezekiah… a city was depending on his faith, a city is depending on your faith. I prayer you never lose sight of what God has called you to do. Let your relationship with God be your rock and your shelter. Take refuge it in, because when planting you never know what the next attack will be.
Taking refuge in the relationship.
All I can say is WOW. God has really been moving this week. On Wednesday, Meet with a couple of pastors from a MEGA Church in NOVA. They are some of the nicest most supportive guys you will ever meet. During the conversation we talked about the Concert4Food on 09.10.11 at the Mary Louise Jackson Amphitheater. They are super excited about it and offered up some of their toys for event...i.e moon bounces and such. 09.10.11 is going to be a fun family day. We also talked about a goal to raise 2000lbs of food for Grab Your Groceries. To see how God is moving in all of this is nothing short of amazing. They also have a 12ft trailer which is exactly what we are looking for.
Then I meet with another pastor of a local church that has recently moved into a building, and is willing to give us all their portable church cases for the trailer. How AWESOME is that.
Meet with a DC Marketing Company and they donated the tents, chairs and tables for the PWCSoles4Souls event on 08.20.2011. They also host a farmers market in DC and they are going ot be a pre-vent collection site for shoes.
God is just moving in all of this.
Found out the Soles4Souls just opened up a warehouse in Jacksonville, Fl for our pre-event drop off partners in FL. Saving $thousands in shipping costs.
We also had several other churches sign up tobe a pre-event drop off locations.
For more information you can visit http://www.pwcsoles4soulsinfo
God started moving early this morning. I was up at 4 am not by the Holy Spirit, but by spirited son. Well after getting up and not being able to fall back asleep I found myself at my desk reading. Reading the word that early in the morning and then having a cup of coffee while watching the sun come up was awesome. What made it even more awesome was the fact that we have been praying about the location for the Soles4Souls event we are having Aug 20th, 2011. As of 6:59 am we still didn't have a location for the event. We have been praying over a specific area and God came thru in a major way. We had a represenative represent Reaction Church to the HOA board for Madison Cresent about using their public park area...which is absolutely beautiful by the way, and in a great loaction off the main rd thru Gainesville...but the board approved the loaction for us to use for the event. Blown away by how God is moving right now. Especailly since, they had no real details about the event other than the pure excitment from the rep. God is awesome.
Just praying to remain humble.
The website for the Soles4Souls event is http://www.pwcsoles4souls.info
Today was a very busy and productive day. Went to Manassas, Va. to meet with the Executive Director of The Prince William Hospital Systems to review our plan for a 5K Run to raise $25,000 to help the under privileged people in our community with the hospital expenses. While in the course of the conversation we discussed several ideas about how the local church could help and partner with the hospital. For example, the hospital spends $80,000 a year just on cab rides home and $30,000 buying baby seats for parents who can't afford them. We also discussed ideas about how the church could help its body be more informed with hospital practices to save them money and the hospital money. All of these were very unique ideas, and I think what struck me the most was the fact that hospitals would welcome the church help with open arms...yet for some reason churches in our community are doing very very little to help.
The more I probe into understanding our community better, the more I realize the need for the collective organization of all the churches in the community. I am realizing that churches are the only ones that see denominational lines….the community does not. The community simple sees the church as a whole. Interesting...
Our outreach coordinator and I got a chance to officially check out the location where we are holding our first preview service in September. It is a college theater... fully set up with sound, video and lights. This is awesome… because it really saves us the money of some of those expenses initially.
Also had a chance to coordinate with the band about the first service order and songs and one special one that fits perfect with the message but will ROCK the house. So I am super excited about that first preview service on Sunday September 11 at NVCC in Manassas.
That was it for today, catch you tomorrow
I promised yesterday to have a list of the books I have read in preparation for the launch of Reaction Church. In reagrds to reading, I try to read a new book a week while going thru this process.
Here is the list of books. I recommend them all.
These are in order as well.
Launch by Nelson Searcy
IT by Craig Groschel
Grow Your Church From the Outside In by George Barana
The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren (Have actually read this one twice and will probably read a thrid time before our first service)
Deliberate Simplicity by Dave Browning
Hybrid Church by Dave Browning
Why Somethings Work and Others Don't by
Building Bridges, The Church of Irrestibable Influence by
Developing The Leader Within by John Maxwell
For the City by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter
Church Planter by Darrin Patrick
AND by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
Purpose Drive Youth Ministry by Doug Fields
Leadership Gold by John Maxwell
IFaith by Daniel Darling
Live Sent...You are a letter by Jason C. Dukes
On The Verge. A Journey Into The Apostolic Future Of The Church by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson
I Talk Back To The Devil by A.W. Tozer
The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
Christian Life by Charles Swindoll
Compelled By Love by Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation
Exponential by Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson
One Great Truth by Jonathan Falwell
Secret Sources of Power by T.F. Tenney and Tommy Tenney
Be Our Guest by Walt Disney
Turning Members into Leaders by Dave Early
Becoming A Person of Influence by John Maxwell
As I read more books between now and then I will update this list. Please know this list of books I have read is not in any way meant to be a look at me thing. I am not looking for your praise. I just wanted you to have a list of what I read. The subjects of these books are spreadout over a wide area from leadership, church administration, church planting strategy, faith, discipleship, customer service, growth techniques, purpose, understanding factors that prevent growth, understand the wow factor, love, charity, missions, power, fighting the devil, doctrine and youth ministry.
I hope you as a church planter are reading everything you can get your hands ons. I am like a sponge for this stuff and so should you be.
Now...as far as today is concerned God moved in a some small ways todays. We have been searching for a location for the Soles4Souls event and have all but given up on one particular location we know would be a prime location for the outreach event, when today I got an email from our contact saying we will have answer by Friday.
Today we have been putting together an outline for our meeting tommorrow with the Director of the Board for the Prince William County Hospital Administration for the 5K Run in October.
Read an amazing story in the word in Luke 8 about how the women supported the ministry of Jesus. Even his ministry required money. It was just encourgaing to read. Also listened to an awesome podcast by Matt Chandler today as well. He is one of the 15 pastors I listen to for Sermon Ideas but also to glean from their wisdom. Tomorrow, I will publish a list of the pastors I listen to and read their blogs.
Hope this helps for today. More to follow tomorrow.
For the next several months I am going to document daily the journey of Reaction Church as we grow from just an idea to an actual church plant and document the growth between the stages of prelaunch and launch.
I must admit documenting this is something I have struggled with personally, as I have prayed about this for quite some time now and have just now come to have peace with the idea. I think meeting with one of the groups of pastors helping to support us sealed it for me today. Today, a vision was discussed between us that is much larger than any one church. I even dare to say, the vision discussed today is larger than all of us collectively. I realized today that I need to document this process… Not to look back on and say, “Hey look at great we are…” but rather for other new church planters to read a story they can relate to and glean from day by day.
Where to start???
So as I have been extremely busy with the work involved in planting a new church, and have been not quite as consistent as I had initially hoped to be with this blog,. Up to this point I have focused on uplifting, practical ideas for Reacting2Purpsoe. For the foreseeable future...I am committing now to journal on a daily basis our walk with God. I promise to document the good, the bad and the downright ugly. This journal will be used to document our successes and failures. Above all, it is my prayer that this journal will help another church planter with their church planting journey. Today’s journal entry will be rather extensive as I am catching you up on all that has happened up to this point.
I can say at times it is difficult, frustrating, and on several occasions I have wanted to give up. What keeps me in the game, is knowing that God is moving and that the vision he has given me is alive and real. I know that I have to finish this journey, to finish strong with the planting Reaction Church....not for me but his Glory. With this said, today is day one and I have some catching up to do.
In January 2011 the calling to plant a church was reconfirmed and the location of Gainesville/Manassas was where God chose to lead me to. I want to say right from the beginning I am not a huge fan of the area. As a matter of fact, I said in conversation just a week prior to God speaking to me about the location, that Gainesville/Manassas was the last place I wanted to plant a church. I guess God is having the last laugh…
Right from the start I spent a lot of time praying about this decision as I knew the effects it would have on my family. I even begged God to send someone else in my place, especially since I was and still am in a leadership position at another church. I want to strongly, strongly, encourage any church planter even thinking about planting a church that you spend some major time in prayer about it. Planting for any reason other than the Glory of God is the wrong reason. Also right from the start, the church you are planting is not your church. It is Jesus's church. It is his bride… he paid for it with his blood!
I can tell you that I pray daily for humility with Reaction Church. It is easy to begin conversations with “my church I am planting” this is the wrong way to start off. Check your EGO at the door. If you can’t... and you think your building a church for the Glory of You… you are going to have some major problems. As a pastor you need to have a solid support group of people around you praying for you. In addition, you need to have people around you that you have given permission to speak freely into your life. You have to have people that will keep you accountable to God. This is also easier said than done as I have experienced. Thankfully, I am blessed with having a few guys in my life that I now trust enough to tell me the truth. Don’t surround yourself with “YES MEN.” Don’t surround yourself with people that will not allow you to stay humble about the Church God is using you to plant. People like to get on board with a vision and behind a leader that is casting the vision, the issue is...you can quickly find yourself elevated to a position that you shouldn’t be at. This almost happened to me. Thankfully, my core group of accountability partners kept me humble and popped my bubble.
Second, I had to walk thru fire to get to this point now. I can also tell you that I am still walking thru fire although I am starting to get used to the heat. Growth happens under pressure. HUPO MENA. Stay under the pressure, especially when you think you can cut and run. When I first approached the Senior Pastor at the church I am at now, his first piece of advice he gave me... was to look back at my past and to pray to God to show me who in my past I needed to go back and make peace with. This was the same with my wife as she is in this as much as I am.
Now let me say this... at first, I bucked the idea…I just knew the idea wasn’t biblical and I set out on a journey to prove it. I also prayed to God to speak to me about the idea, and I committed to God that I would follow his word if he spoke. 2 hours after the pastors meeting...God spoke! The pastor was right! And it sucked... having to follow thru on my commitment. Well….at first it sucked. I had to make a list of all the people I had wronged in my life and go back and reconcile with those people. This process alone took almost three months. I had to write some hard letters to people. I had to eat some really crappy tasting crow. But thru it all, reconciliation happened and so did forgiveness. As a matter of fact, one of the people I had to reconcile with has actually committed to being a financial supporter. This never would have happened if not for God. I also learned a valuable lesson early on...don't be so quick to dismiss the words of wisdom from another pastor who has been there and done that and has the battle scars to prove it. Just because wisdom rubs you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable about yourself does not mean the wisdom is not valid wisdom. I learned that I had to get over myself in order to get right with God. This can be a hard lesson to learn. I pray you have an opportunity to learn it early on... or if nothing else gleam from my wisdom and battle scars.
So now that the past is the past… I was able to move forward knowing that any skeletons in the closets are dead and buried. If you are planning on planting...as hard as it is, you need to do the same thing. The last thing you want is to be in a position that people look to you as the beacon of honesty, light and integrity and then someone from your past pops up that says and proves otherwise. Now, I am not perfect, neither are you! It is ok, God uses imperfect for his perfect plan. But finding reconciliation and forgiveness with your past will give the freedom you need in your future. I can tell you first hand that Satan likes to use the past against you to make you feel you’re not worthy enough for the task God has placed on you. I can also tell you that early on battled Satan with this issue. I often lost...that is until I was able to reconcile the past. Ever since the last person on the list forgave me, there has been no more fight from that former strong hold of Satan in my life. There is nothing more freeing that seeking forgiveness and giving forgiveness.
next I, started searching for our launch team. I took a job in the area for 4 months to learn about the community and to begin to build some relationships. Although I don't live in the area I am planting, I am only a 1.15 hours away. As of the writing of this entry we are still expanding our launch team, prayer team, youth team, worship team,…you get the point, Once we had a core group of launch team members the planning of the church started to happened. I prayed for the dates to launch, how to launch,…as a matter of fact I prayed for every detail about Gods church to be revealed to me. I didn’t want to come up with a hair brained idea, feel good about it, let my pride set in and then take my focus off of God who is leading this. I am still praying about ideas. I also want to note that when I say we, I am mean...God, my wife and myself. Now the idea of praying to God and waiting for him to speak on every detail may sound strange. I don’t know or care, as this is how we do things at Reaction. I can only hope that if you are planting a church you are listening to God about his desires for HIS CHURCH you are commissioned with planting and serving in. God will speak to you about every detail if you ask him. He did for Abraham, Noah, and Moses.
I was fortunate enough to go to a pastor’s conference called Exponential in Orlando, Fl. I highly recommend going if you can make it. Let me tell you how God moved at this conference. First, the entire conference was centered on the exact purpose God gave to me thru my wife about Reaction Church. Yes you read that right....the purpose of the church was actually given to my wife by God while we were having a conversation about God's will. Just because you are the senior pastor, does not mean God won't speak to your wife. I hope he does because your wife is equally important in the process. Second, I had the opportunity to make some amazing friends at the conference. Third, the materials I came home with were unbelievable. Fourth, the entire conference is centered around planting churches. Fifth, God moved in a major way at the conference in one of the breakout sessions I was attending. It just happened the speaker was from a church 2 mile from where I was planning to plant and it was the exact church I had been praying about…hoping to find a warm way of contacting them. Sixth, at the airport on the way home while collecting my baggage (which is whole another story in itself...God can move at the airport), I meet another pastor from a church 1 mile from our location...there are now one of our sponsors and part of a pastors group I meet with once a month to discuss how we can all work together for new church planters. Needless to say, that connection was nothing short of God.
The single greatest revelation I had at the pastor’s conference was... That I don't need a mega yacht to simply go fishing for people. Way too many church planters at the conference were waiting until they had a mega church on paper and money in the bank to support it before launching. I learned that I can fish from the shore and move up in boats over time. To launch a church all you need is a bible and a mouth. Always keep in mind the basis of church is simply a gather of people talking about Jesus. This will serve you well as you look at all you still have to do on paper. I know the checklists seem like they never end. But if you keep in mind that church is simply at its roots, you can move forwad with confidence knowing that you don't have to have every little detail in order to start. I would go so far as warning you against having every single detail in place before starting. If you so focused on what you can check mark of the list, you leave very little if any room for the Holy Spirit to move. Also keep in mind that church is not the laser light shows, the smokes and mirrors, the world famous...record producing worship bands...nor is it the most dynamic speaking pastor you have ever met. God does not need the next Billy Graham to launch your church. He needs you to be you and for you to have a willingness to tell his story.
I cannot stress enough the importance of prayer partners. We have a weekly email that goes out to our prayer partners. Each week our prayer needs change and it is a blessing knowing that we have a support group of prayer warriors who are praying for us.
I also need to stress that you have to read. There is a lot of wisdom in books from those that have successfully launched churches. Maybe in tomorrow’s blog post I will post a list of the books I have read so far for the purposes of planting Reaction Church. If you’re not growing in knowledge you will have a tough road ahead as you reinvent the wheel.
As far as funding is concerned…this is always the part most church planters hate the most. They love the idea of God, and hate the idea that Gods ideas require money. Let me share with you the most important thing I have learned about the money thing. I learned this from Pastor Perry Noble from NewSpring Church (he is a mentor of mine....although he doesn't it). IF IT IS TRULY GOD’S WILL, IT IS GOD’S BILL! HE WILL PAY FOR IT! He will prepare the hearts of the right financial supporters of the church. You job is to pray for them, for you and to pray that God will lead you on how to approach the people he has prepared. In our case, we are focused on community outreach, and God has focused us on community outreach and awareness events that businesses can sponsor to help fund the start of the church, to brand awareness about Gods new church in the area and above all else... support the local needs of the community. As a matter of fact, our part of the community outreach events is so small that you have to search to find that we are the hosts of the events. The focus is not the church being launched. We know that if we focus our efforts on the community, God will focus his efforts on us. In our case, the community events are Soles4Souls Shoe Drive to collect 20,000 pairs of shoes, a free outdoor concert at an amphitheater to collect food for children in need in the local schools, a 5K run to support the building of a new local hospital, a Coat Drive for the poor and free community holiday photos.
Also we have had to build the website, find the location for service, put together a launch plan, put together a church constitution, put together our outreach plan, worship plan, children ministry plan, and staffing plan. Register our EIN Number, establish our bank accounts, and recording keeping, design all our literature, design all of our graphics for the entire church, develop our database...the list goes on and on. Every day is something new.
Honestly, it can be a lot for a just a few people and can be extremely overwhelming for the senior pastor. My day consists of the excitement to seeing how God moves to the lows of feeling I am not worthy enough for what God is doing and how he is doing it. I often think I don't have the capacity to lead what God is calling me to lead. I think every pastor that is planting a church goes through this. I can tell you the attacks from the enemy are more and more as each day draws closer to that first prelaunch service. The need to spend an obscene amount of time in the word can’t be stressed enough. My day starts in the word during my quiet time, I spend 3 hour each day listening to other pastors messages, I spend 2 hours each day reading, at least an hour praying, then the rest of the time is divided up between various work that needs to be done and family.
Speaking of family, let me just say that it is the first to suffer from planting a church. If your family is not behind you 100% don’t even think about planting a church. I have to be very intentional about spending time with my family. I also have been very intentional about carving out time for the neighborhood youth because of my son. I am able to spend time with him and them and spread the word of God to kids I know for a fact have never been to church. I am always reminding myself that my family spells love... TIME.
I know this a lot for today, I hope this helps and I am looking forward to sharing day by day the journey of the launch of Reaction Church.