The FREE NewThing Gathering is Monday, November 6 from 10:30am to 5:30pm, followed by an exclusive dinner at EMPIRE at 6:30pm.
I am stoked.
We are committed to building relationships that catalyze reproducing. That’s why we host a NewThing Gathering twice a year.
If you’re in Chicago you are most welcome to join us. See, the Gathering is OPEN. That means we want to invite leaders who are interested in multiplication and church planting. It would also be a great opportunity for you to invite leaders from other churches or ministries who should know more about NewThing. NewThing is a BIG tent!
The Gathering is for everyone on your team because in order to reproduce the BIG you have to reproduce at EVERY level and on every team.
Here are more reasons you should come:
We have leaders from all over North America coming (and a few of our global partners will be there).
We have great workshops planned for everyone on your team. These will be engaging and meaningful training opportunities for leaders.
We have some great speakers who will inspire and challenge you: Albert Tate, Dave Dummitt, Dave Ferguson and Bob Bouwer.
There will be food!
But mostly it will be a great time to hang out and build relationships.
It all culminates with a great night of celebration at Empire.
My kids began another year of school yesterday. My daughter will finish her last year of college. (What!) My son Declan starts his junior year of high school. And our little man, Cormac, heads into 8th Grade.
I’ve given them the same pep talk each year. It goes something like this:
God has created you for something wonderful. He has a purpose and plan for your life. It’s the start of a new year. Last year is finished, a new day has come and it’s choked full of opportunities. The only question is how you will respond to them. What you set yourself to do right now will determine whether this is an outstanding year or merely a mediocre one. Check your attitude right now. Choose to be positive and focused; choose to work hard and pay attention; choose to do your very best in all that you do. Learn all you can, experiment, create, try new things. We (your mother and I) expect your best and want you to know your best. Love God; love people. Honor Jesus in all you do. Make this the best year yet!
I know, I know. It’s cheesy and cliched.
Yet, I can’t help it.
The start of something new is always an opportunity to pause and reflect – to focus on what it’s all about; to savor what could be…
How do you help people at your church grow in their generosity?
I was grateful to be part of Celebration Generosity at Community Christianthis weekend. This once a year event is, well, a celebration of generosity. COMMUNITY gives away all of its offering for the entire weekend to four causes they believe in. For the past five years this has consistently been their largest offering! And they give it away!
NewThing is one of these causes and as the new Director I am humbled and appreciative for the financial support we receive. It’s vital to our mission of being a catalyst for a movement of reproducing churches.
So what’s this got to do with me you’re asking?
I want you to see how generosity increases when you demonstrate radical generosity. You might be nodding your head and saying, yeah–that’s right. And I suspect you’ve had to talk about giving with people and somewhere along the way you’ve told them God blesses generosity. Indeed, he does.
But are you giving people in your church plant the opportunity to see generosity?
If you really want people to grow in their generosity then one of the best things you can do is show them what it looks like. Perhaps it means giving away an entire weekend’s offering…or more. Perhaps it’s committing to a cause in your community with real dollars.
And keep in mind this isn’t about the amount. I know brand new churches that give so much away they have trouble balancing their budget. While it’s not wise to do this, it is evidence they ‘get’ radical generosity.
My point is that generosity isn’t a private affair. The more you can help people see all of the ways God calls the church the be generous, the more you help them see more clearly their own path to greater generosity.
Celebration Generosity is COMMUNITY’s way of being generous and teaching generosity. I invite you to think through what your own radical generosity might look like. If you need any help with that, let me know.
Here’s a bit I did for CelGen casting a bit of vision for NewThing.
Seriously, what would it look like for you to show the people in your church what radical generosity looks like?
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This week, Exponential is on a blog tour featuring several of the leaders speaking at the upcoming Exponential West conference (Oct. 7-10)—where they’ll be talking about the vital need for planting and growing multi-ethnic churches that can make disciples who reach an ever-changing multicultural world.
NewThing will be in full force at Exponential West, (Dave Ferguson, Jon Ferguson and Matt Larson will be leading the Pre-Conference Intensive “Reproducing at All Levels” and NewThing leaders will be teaching a number of workshops. If you haven’t already registered for the conference, I encourage you to come. There’s really no other conference experience like it. If you’re thinking about going, register today before Sept. 30 when the price goes up.
Today, Eric Marsh visits my blog and we will post the same interview on the NewThing blog. Eric is the leader of PlantLB in Long Beach, Calif., an association of local pastors, business leaders and community leaders who are preparing the soil for planters who come to Long Beach to advance the Gospel in the city.It’s really exciting to see other networks’ around the country, but especially in the West, coming alongside planters with a passion to reach people far from God. In this guest interview, Eric talks about PlantLB’s vision and shares some great stories coming out of PlantLB. I think you’ll be inspired by their work.
Over a period of 10 years, from 2000 to 2010, Long Beach welcomed about 25 church plants to our city. Church planting had become a very cool thing to do, and Long Beach became the coolest of the cool places to plant a church. After a while, one of the things we realized is that most of these planters were 35-year-old ex-youth pastors whose Midwest-based denominations were looking for a city on the West coast to plant a church. Long Beach is a unique bird because unlike LA, you can get your arms around it. About a half a million people live here. A lot of these denomination heads had some good ideas about coming here.
What we chuckle about now is that they were all having this idea at the same time. So we had this deluge of really good planters. Most of them, though, didn’t look like who our city was becoming—a key phrase we like to talk about. Realizing this, a church planter friend and I decided to create a common conversation for the common good to serve the church planters who were coming to our city. We called it “30 Under 40,” and we brought in all these planters, young senior pastors, leaders from the community, business people, etc., and met eight times over two years. In that time, we just really fell in love with one other. For our seventh meeting, I brought in a professional demographer to tell us who our city was. In that gathering, we were really kind of shocked because the poverty numbers came to light, and we could really see the disparity between the rich and the poor. Long Beach is very much like LA and NY, in that there are the “haves” and the “have nots.”
In that meeting, we just realized we needed more churches that look different from the ones we’re planting and the ones we have. We realized we needed to focus on Latino second generation and put additional muscle towards diversifying the planters we welcome.
That was the beginning of PlantLB. Really the things that generated PlantLB were these friendships over 10 years and that demographics report. We all trusted one another, and we all wanted the same thing theologically for our city.
Can you share some specifics of who PlantLB is?
PlantLB is really our board, which looks like our city. Half of the board is church planters. We have all the major cultural groups and age groups (millennials to 60-plus) represented by local planters, business leaders, pastors, etc. We have extraordinary leaders on our board: Josh Chavez who planted Seventh Street Church, a reboot by the biggest church in the city; Larry Walkemeyerwho has planted 15 churches in the last 10 years; Wayne Chaney, one of the top young African-American pastors in the state. John Teter, pastor of Fountain of Life Covenant Church and church planting team leader for the Evangelical Covenant Church. I put the board together and they said, “Eric, we want you to run it.” We’re calling PlantLB an association of leaders helping to prepare the soil for planters. We ourselves are not going to multiply. We believe it’s our job to support those who are coming as missionaries to our city.
What is PlantLB’s vision and initiatives?
Our vision is to see a lot more churches that represent who our city is becoming—young, multi-ethnic and Latino–making and releasing disciples.
We kicked off to plant 50 churches in the greater Long Beach area. We set the goal at 50 because we wanted to do something that would scare us and make us rethink the way we would go from addition to multiplication.
We had to rethink everything we assumed about church planting. By setting 50 as our goal, we knew we had to work together, we had to work with denominations, with local leaders. We couldn’t do it all on our own.
Our mission is to encourage the multiplication of new church plants for the good of the city. We equip pastors by assessing, training and coaching them. We have some financial support we give to some churches. We assist with pastoral care for planters to get planters past what I call “the sexy years.” For example, we’re setting up a fund with local Christian counselors where planters can go individually or with their spouses and get eight to 10 counseling sessions. We work hard on that. We have a monthly roundtable where we bring in someone to talk about a topic, about 15-17 minutes of content. Before that, we hear from a planter for five minutes. So it’s both a training ground and a watering hole for planters.
Additionally, we’re starting a yearlong intensive cohort, meeting once a month to talk about the practicalities of planting a church. We’ll meet once in September, and our second meeting will be the week of Exponential LA. We’re really grateful the Exponential conference is coming to the West, so we’re definitely utilizing the conference as a way of training our pastors. And we have pastoral gatherings of four to six pastors that we’re starting this fall.
It seems like you’re focusing on planting healthy churches as well as growing healthy leaders. Were the churches planted during the boom unhealthy?
Not a lot of those churches have made it. I would certainly say they were not unhealthy.
I just think it’s a terribly daunting and very discouraging process to plant a church. So we’re trying to set up more success factors for them to thrive.
And I’m the first to say that we’re fumbling our way forward, trying to figure it out as we go. But we’re finding that there are a few consistent things we hear from planters who say, “having this would have been helpful.” The failure rate is well documented. When a church fails—if it fails—it makes it more difficult for us to work the soil for the people who stay. For those who kind of start more small, organic churches built from a cell group, the devastation is not as great if those don’t work out. But if a planter starts with a big attractional model, giving away TVs and cars, and then it fails, the devastation upon followers of Jesus or people investigating Jesus just makes a mess for us.
Share with us some stories of churches that are coming out of PlantLB.
Our first plant we started financially is Chapel of Change. At age 17, the pastor, Brian Warth, became the youngest person in California history to receive a life sentence. He was saved in prison and has been well-discipled. On Oct. 7 2012, he launched Chapel of Change at the junction of Paramount, Long Beach and Compton. Brian is obviously a huge success story for us.
City Church is multi-ethnic and part of the Reformed Church in America. It was planted by Bill White and Jason Brown. City Church is on the west side of Long Beach, which is not the destination everyone’s looking to go to, but it is so emblematic of what Christ would do if He was coming to Long Beach. Six months ago, Bill and Jason sat in my office looking at a map of the city asking, “Where is the Gospel needed?” We picked this one neighborhood in West Long Beach, and they said, “OK, we’ll go buy houses there.” So they went to go buy houses in West Long Beach because that’s where the Gospel was needed. And they started an Alpha course and had 42 people come. They had 45 people come on their launch team retreat, two of which came to Christ on the retreat. They’re not planting because of PlantLB, but they have told me over and over again that the welcome mat we’ve shown them was the kicker to get them to come to our city. We want to help other people be successful.
Would you say PlantLB is scalable for other cities wanting to prepare the soil for planters?
I think it is. I don’t think any of us on the board of PlantLB have visions of scaling. That’s not our intent. We would love to be helpful. It’s been hard not to have associations like this that are farther ahead of us. I wish there were more people we could learn from. So if we can help people learn from what we’re doing, we will.
I have been told that there is no multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-denominational city-centric church planting group in the world like this. So it’s not easy. We have different assumptions about everything—money, the role of women in ministry, how the Holy Spirit is working in our context. But it’s not a loose ecumenical group by any stretch. These leaders care desperately about our city and about the Gospel going forth. It is a reflection, even on our board, of what I would hope the Gospel would look like when we’re with Jesus.
How many church plants has PlantLB been involved in and how many will you welcome in the next few years?
We were part of planting four churches last year. This year, we’re planting three or four. The year after, we’re projecting five or six.
We’re trying to help congregations understand what does is it mean–and I love this Bob Roberts phrase—“to become factories and not produce one car at a time,” but rather to create systems in which they can release lots and lots of leaders.
When Rick Warren came to speak at the Vision 360 kickoff, he insulted us. He stood up and said that 50 churches is not a vision at all; 1,000 churches is a vision. I love what he had to say. He said as he looks forward into what church planting is going to look like especially in a place like LA where property is so expensive, you’re going to have rabbits, tigers and elephants. I think a lot of leaders come in thinking, often not wanting to say it aloud, that they are going to start a movement and plant an elephant. And the reality is most pastors are going to plant rabbits or tigers.
So our goal is to make the soil ready for these leaders when they come in. One of the best ways to make the soil ready is to have receiving churches that can both release the people who have been discipled in their midst and/or receive planters. Long Beach is the proudest city I’ve ever been part of. It is the only city in the world where half the residents proudly own a piece of clothing that says Long Beach on it. People love this city, but it’s a hard city. There’s a lot of ground to be tilled.
Eric, what is the need, both spiritually among the people of Long Beach, and for planters who will serve them?
The majority of the city is in need of the Gospel. The numbers change quickly because urban environments change quickly. We think there’s a good 50 percent of the population that have not heard the Gospel in a way that they can culturally understand. About six to eight percent of the population still lives in the Christendom paradigm. There are a lot of really good churches in Long Beach. I don’t want to make it seem like there aren’t. But there’s a great need for more churches that look like who our city is becoming. As people have that disruptive experience of coming to a city, I think they’re primed for the Gospel. That’s what we’re trying to help increase—to give them a chance to hear the Gospel, to become followers of Jesus, to become disciples of Jesus. We think we have room for 100 more churches.
To see what workshops Eric will be leading at Exponential West, visit the conference’s mobile site. Find more information about Exponential West here.
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