On Fear (And What to Do About It)

It’s Halloween. If my youngest son has his way, he’ll scare me by the end of the day. When we go Trick or Treating tonight he will burst from behind a bush and say boo! Or he’ll try and sneak up on me and I will catch him before he does.

The fact is fear exists in the hearts of church planters as well. Over the past few months I’ve had conversations with many planters. Here’s some of the things they’ve told me they fear:

  • I lack funding.
  • People gather but they don’t scatter.
  • I will lose my focus on helping people find their way to God.
  • I am overwhelmed by all of the details and things to do.
  • What if my leaders don’t lead?
  • What if my family falls apart?
  • Giving won’t be enough.
  • People won’t connect in small groups.
  • Our church won’t matter to the community.
  • What if my staff gives me trouble?
  • Our location isn’t great (or I don’t have a location).
  • I really don’t know what I am doing and someone is going to find out.
  • What if our leaders don’t reproduce?
  • I am not on mission. I am just creating another attractional church.
  • etc., etc., etc.

What about you? What do you fear? What is that thing in the pit of your gut that is scaring you this morning about church planting? The fact is fear paralyzes us. Fear is not from God. So this one is for you:

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6).

May I encourage you to pray through one fear today. I know that may sound trite. But it’s not. Being afraid is human. And drawing closer to God will give you peace and dispel the fear.

Mission and Relationships (And Why Church Planting is a Catalyst for Both)

I had two conversations at the launch One Life that stood out to me.

I talked to a launch team volunteer serving in hospitality. She’d been with a church for a long time before joining the launch team. She felt the church plant was giving her new energy and focus for the Jesus mission. Meeting in a high school would help people in her community know Jesus. She was excited that One Life served the community. She was excited that One Life was on mission to reach her friends and neighbors. And she was really excited she had a role to play in all of it.

I talked to a young man who hadn’t been to church in a long time. He had several little boys in to as we talked. He had heard about One Life and was attending the launch because he wanted to be involved in something. He talked about needing something in his life to help him and his family connect with people in their community. He felt he’d found what he was looking for at One Life.

My conversations at One Life reminded me that people need a mission and they seek relationships. A church plant provides both of these.

What are you doing in your church plant to help people get on mission and build relationships? I’d love to know.

Get Out of the Way Already!

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know (Job 42:2-3).

You’re church planting but you’re in the way. You’re thwarting something that needs to happen. You’re bottle-necking something that needs to be freed-up. God is at work. People are growing. The Holy Spirit is throwing down. But you’re ego is getting in the way. And things are stuck.

Your task today is to identify whatever it is your blocking and get out of the way.

Church planters are eager to control (be honest) and when forced, can fall into manipulating outcomes. Never forget Jesus is the head of your church. Not you. When we get in the way we slow down the expansion of the Kingdom.

So step aside. Repent and let God do his thing.

God has called you to plant this new church. If it’s his will then it’s gonna happen. Don’t fall trap into believing it’s all up to you. I want you to have a healthy respect for stuff of church planting. But it’s not dependent on you. So get out of the way already!

If you’re willing to confess here, I’d love to know how you’re getting in the way.

How Do You Know if You’re Succeeding?

Let’s just assume God has called you to plant a church, a missional community, go multi-site or whatever. What are the key metrics you should track in order to know if what you start is succeeding?

I know some of you would tell me: we don’t need no stinkn’ metrics.” You would tell me metrics are the stuff of attractionalism and this is precisely what’s killing the church. That attractionalism has killed the church I would agree. (That will be the topic of other posts so stay tuned.)  But the fact is if your church planting or trying to start a missional community then you have a social enterprise underway. Social enterprises have a purpose. In order to know if our social enterprise is hitting the purpose to which it was created we ought to track some things about it. This holds true for gangs and churches.

Numbers help tell your story. While they must never become the point, understanding them helps you better understand your organizations. But what should we track? Here’s what I believe are essential:

  • Headcount. Otherwise known as attendance. What’s the difference between a church of 100 and a church of 500. Lots I think. And it come down to momentum and energy at our gatherings. People want to be part of something big. So yes, in this case bigger works. Track your gathering numbers.
  • Generosity. Like it or not if you have vocational ministers and you meet in a public space you’re going to need money to make it happen. You ought to measure and track weekly giving. We like to use per capita giving as an additional measure.
  • Leadership development. In our reproducing culture tracking the number of coaches, leaders and apprentices.
  • Service projects. How many people are engaged in serving the community and how frequently. While sometime difficult to measure, tracking the key events and attendance provides you a sense of how many people are seeing themselves as assets to your community.
  • Small group participation. We believe that small groups are a great place for life transformation. We track number of people regularly attending our groups.
  • Baptisms. Yes, baptisms but with a twist. While we count baptisms we also track staff vs. non-staff baptizers. The more non-staff people we have baptizing people, the better.
  • Church plants. We track both the people and dollars we send out to help plant new churches.

I contend you can tell a lot about your church if you measure these dynamics.

What about you? What key metrics are you tracking?

Is it Too Much?

The average church planter is dealing with a ton of stuff like: team building, leadership issues, facility challenges, and finances to name just a few. It’s probably too much. After all, the more I talk to planters the more I am convinced many of them overestimate their own abilities to lead all of these well.

I am convinced that a planter needs to keep the gospel the main thing. That’s what MissionGlue is going to be all about: helping planters navigate the details of church planting so they can keep the gospel the main thing.

This needs to be a conversation and so I invite you into it. If you’re a church planter or on a launch team I want to hear from you.

So what about you? Is it too much? How are you dealing with it?