Reflecting on God-Directed Transitions

Transition: a change from one state or condition to another.

Look, what do I know? I am not even gonna begin to pretend I understand how God works in our lives. But I am trying and one of the ways I do that is to keep this blog.Transtions

What I do know is that God will ask you to transition. It might mean you need to move in a small way–join a small group or start being REALLY generous. It might also mean that God asks you to move in a big way–adopt a child or start a church. No doubt about it, God asks all of us to move.

God asked my family to move–no literally. We’re moving to Chicago this week where I will become the Director of NewThing. (I know–it’s insane.) And so I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on our time in KC.

It’s been awesome. Kansas City in general (and Restore in particular) has changed our lives. We will never be the same. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a great team with a mission to help people find God and change the spiritual landscape of a city. Can I be honest, its down-right fun to do life with people who really believe they can change the world.

So to mark this transition, I was thinking of a writing something a bit involved. I thought it might be a kind of farewell. But I quickly realized that I don’t have the necessary perspective to do justice to my time in Kansas City. I have learned so much about God, myself, and church planting that I could write for days and barely scratch the surface.

I thought it best to not waste your time with my ramblings.

Instead, I wan to focus on you. I imagine many of you reading are in a season of transition. I am not sure of the details but one thing is clear, as a Christ-follower you are marching to the order of the King. And frankly, that can take you lots of places you never imagined.

No, I realized the best way to mark this occasion is to offer you FIVE THINGS to ponder to confirm God is directing your transition.

  1. Be prayerfully aware of how God is working in your life. Chances are God isn’t going to ask you to do something radical and insane–at least initially. The best tool I know to help you do this is journaling. Writing down your life and reflecting on it is the best way I know how to be aware of the way God is moving in your life.
  2. Listen to wise-counsel. If you’re telling people who God is telling you to move, give them a real opportunity to confirm it. God has placed certain people in your life to help you discern His ways. Pay attention to what they’re saying.
  3. It’s all about the seasons. God asks us to live life in seasons. The longer I am a Christ-follower the more I realize when God asks me to do something my role is to be obedient for a season. It’s not my job to plan my life–I leave that to God.
  4. Stay close to God. Transitions come when you’re close to God. One thing I’ve noticed is that when God shows up in my life and asks me to make some changes, it’s during a time when I am really close to Him. I don’t know about you but my relationship with God ebbs and flows like all of the relationships in my life. But when God has asked me to make a change it’s been during a season when I am spending lots of time with Him.
  5. Expect Peace. I know it might sound crazy (believe me I know what it must sound like to hear from a guy that claims to hear from God) but when I hear from God there follows a time of great peace. I know on the outside that life is gonna get crazy and chaotic, but in the midst of the mess I have peace. It’s a deep and unshakable peace. As best I can recollect, I’ve known the peace of God in this way three times now and this peace always comes during a significant transition.

I hope these help you reflect on the way God may call you to transition. Oh yeah–one last thing: When the path becomes clear and you know it, don’t flinch. That’s nothing but fear and we all know where that comes from.

To all my friends in Kansas City–I love you guys. It’s been a blast and I am grateful beyond words. To all my peeps in Chicago, God told me to come back home–and so get ready. 🙂

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Learn to Finish Well!

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).

In any transition, learn to finish well.

In case you hadn’t heard, I have transitioned from Restore to that of NewThing Director. It’s crazy. I am humbled by the opportunity. You can read more about it here.

Indeed, it has been a season of transition for me. I love my Restore team and it was very hard to get my head around the fact that God was calling me to start a new chapter with NewThing. But once I did I wanted to honor them by finishing well. Runners Falling Over

Let’s face it, transitions are a way fo life in church planting. God is at work in our lives and orchestrating the details. People are going to transition into and out of our teams. In Kingdom work, we cannot hold on to each other too tightly. God is always shuffling the deck.

And transitions can be either positive or negative. Choose to make a positive transition by finishing well.

Finishing well helps your team continue their work with minimal disruption and ensures that the relationships you have with your team endure. This honors God.

So what does finishing well look like?

Determine what your team needs for you to finish well. Ask your team what they need you to finish. Once you know what they need, keep asking. Check-in with them throughout the transition to ensure you’re meeting their needs.

Focus on your 15%. Don’t assume everyone know what you did on the team. Approximately 85% of what you do on your team, anyone can do. But there’s that 15% that is unique to each of us. Spend most of your time helping people understand the 15%.

Write it down. This should be obvious but your team isn’t going to have you around to answer questions after you leave. Ensure you’ve set them up for success by writing it down. And I am not talking about a few notes on a Post-It Note. Write down processes and procedures so that they know the details.

Spend time with people on your team. You are more than what you did for the team. This is still all about relationships isn’t it? Ensure your transition plan includes enough time for you to meet with people on your team to talk shop but mostly to tell them how much they mean to you.

Train the new people. Spend lots of time investing in the person(s) who is going to take over your roles and responsibilities. Ensure that you go above and beyond to help them be successful.

Remember, wanting to transition well is up to you. But if you don’t, you’re just going to mess up the race for everyone on your team.

What have you learned about transitioning well that you can share with the rest of us? 

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Warning: First Impressions in Small Groups Matter Too!

I think you’d agree, first impressions matter. sparks

People expect a positive first experience. If they don’t, well they won’t be back.

Most of you planting have a first impressions or front line team to welcome your guests and make a good first impression. (If you don’t you should.) Read this now. This might help as well.

But what about first impressions in smaller communities–say in small groups? If I am honest, I haven’t thought about this much–until recently.

See, I am learning that the first connections people have into a small group are often the most enduring. If this is true, then it’s important we church planters understand how people make first connections and why they make such an impact on people.

We’ve been talking a lot about the power of connecting at Restore these days. Connecting with each other and God is a key value for us. And so I’ve been talking to some of the people who found their way back to God at Restore. What I’ve found is that people talk a lot about their first connections into community.

That led me to ask some people who found their way back to God how their first connections helped them grow. So I had a conversation with my friend James whose first impression in a small group was catalytic to his spiritual growth. He agreed to answer some questions about this last week.

James reveals that this first connection in small group was catalytic. They joined one in the summer of 2011 and were soon baptized. James became an apprenticeship and today he leads his own small group. James attributes his ever-increasing spiritual velocity to those very first connections.  I am grateful to James for his willingness to share his story with us. I hope it helps you think through connecting in your small group context.

“Probably like most folks, a little uncomfortable at first.  I was actually reluctant to go at first, I felt that I wasn’t ready to come to a small group because I didn’t know any thing about the bible and I wasn’t sure I was far enough in my journey and I wasn’t comfortable praying in front of other people and on and on and on.  However I found that many of the people in the group were just like me, not super Christians that were above everyone else, but real people with real world issues struggling to figure out their own journey with the help of the small group community.  The other important piece of the small group was the connection with others that grew into contributing, I’m not sure if or when I would have become involved without these first connections.  It’s been 2 years since we attended our first small group and those first connections that were created are still some of my strongest connections within the restore family, relationships that have truly turned in to Brothers in Christ.”

So I ask you as I ask myself:

  • Should we be paying more attention to first connections in small groups?
  • How should we try to foster better first connections in small communities?
  • Should we value first connections like these over others? Why or why not?
  • Do you agree that some first connections in a spiritual community are stronger than others?
  • How could we better prepare our leaders to be more aware of these first connections?

I’d love to hear from you.

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Interview with Church Planter, Mike Evans — Discover Church

I started Mission Glue for one reason: to help church planters plant healthy reproducing churches. One way to do that is to hear from practitioners. I want to hear from church planters who are actually planting churches. You may not have heard of them but they have learned a ton and can teach us much. MIke and Wendy 6.10

I recently had the privilege of talking to Mike Evans, Lead Planter of Discover Church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

I first met Mike when he arrived at Restore for a Leadership Residency. Mike had been on staff at a mega-church in Wichita and therefore brought some experience to the table. Through relationships with people in Kansas City, Mike moved his family to the Kansas City area with a dream of planting a church for people far from God.

Mike attended assessment and also spent 5 months as a Leadership Resident with Restore. During his time he did everything right in my opinion. He attended assessment. He leaned into the phases of the residency. He remained teachable and worked hard to reproduce small groups and teams. Mike is also a runner (like me) and so I loved that a couple of our meetings were on the trail.

While Mike was sent by a group of churches for the purposes of accountability/management/funding/encouragement, Mike did plant solo. He’s careful to admit that he wouldn’t do that again–too hard!

Mike launched Discover in November 2010. Mike is also a New Thing church.

Tell us about your family? discoverchurch

I’ve been married for 19 years (20 this summer) to an amazing, gracious, gifted woman named Wendy. 4 kids, Andy – graduating in May, will be attending Univ. of Central Missouri this fall, majoring in Marketing; Katie, 8th grader and the most content, sweet kid in history; Zach, 6th grader and the smartest 12 year old on the planet; and Mindy, 2nd grader and the snuggliest little blondie ever.

How is your family part of your church planting adventure?

This is OUR deal, not mine. Everyone plays a role seemingly every week. I just baptized my 12 year old’s best buddy. My wife leads in kids and helps with admin and women’s stuff. My kids are all in on anything service-oriented we do. I couldn’t do this without their hearts being in it too. Just no way that happens. We never would have even started without the family buy-in.

When did Jesus become real for you?

August 9, 1980, at a place called Vesper Hill on Lake Bridgeport, TX

Why are you a church planter?

Because I couldn’t get on at the railroad? Umm, honestly the vision wouldn’t leave me alone and if I didn’t plant a church or at least try it would have been an act of disobedience to God’s call on my life.

What circumstances led you to believe God was calling you to plant a church?

I was serving faithfully at a church in Wichita, when two friends convinced me to connect with a dude named Justin (The Heartland Project) who directs a church planting organization. We started talking, praying, dreaming, and here we are today.

Where is your 3rd place?

Two of them really Xtreme Fitness and McDonalds down the street. I know, I’m cheap but there you go.

Describe the cultural ethos you hope to create/created at Discover.

We love our Jesus and our city and are very intentional about building a place where people not yet in love with Jesus can take one step closer, and where people who are can take one step deeper.

What difference will your church plant make in the community?

We want to impact the spiritual landscape of LS. We’re very involved in Downtown Main Street, partnering with a local elementary school, a local youth outreach called Pro Deo, lots and lots of stuff. We want the city to be ticked if we ever decided to bail.

How are you developing people? Staff, volunteers, launch team?

Through our small groups, our serve teams, one-on-one discipleship relationships, neighborhood parties, tons of stuff.

What have your learned about raising funds for your project that can help the rest of us?

Get as many churches as you can to come alongside you and then use the Lead Pastors of those churches to serve as your management team until you raise up internal leadership.

What is/was the great challenge you faced planting your church and how did you overcome it?

Licking the challenge of developing leaders when we started with so many people so far from God. So may broken people, so much to do, and it takes time to grow them. We honestly need to do a better job at apprenticing people in all areas.

Who inspires you and why?

My wife. I’ve learned more about Jesus, service, unconditional love, and grace from her than anyone else in my life. She’s so fun and just being with her, well, there’s a reason we have four kids and it’s not because I like kids so much!

How are you caring for yourself while planting?

Taking Mondays as a Sabbath is key. I work out 5-6x/week, running, light lifting, that kind of thing. Just the basics-consistent prayer, Bible study, reading a lot, trying to stay a real person and not play the “role” of pastor.

Do you have a plan for planting more churches/campuses etc. What is it?

Yes. We have a Leadership Resident coming this fall who will by God’s grace launch a new church in Fall 2014.

If you could ask a church planter you don’t know one question, what would it be?

Who do you think will make the playoffs again first, the Royals or the Chiefs? Seriously, I’d ask a question about how s/he deals with self-talk and discouragement successfully.

What is your favorite band and why?

Sorry dude but I have a couple. When I’m feeling mellow it’s definitely Allison Krauss and Union Station. Because they just get it done. When working out it’s definitely Rush. Cuz Geddy can sing, Alex can riff, and Neil is the best ever.

I am grateful to Mike for sharing his experiences and insights with us. Will you do me a favor and pray for Mike and the Discover team right now.

You can find more of my INTERVIEWS WITH CHURCH PLANTERS here.

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If you are planting a church or if you’re part of a planting team, I’d love to talk to you about the details. Leave a comment or shoot me an email. Thanks for reading–I do appreciate it.

How to Create a Reproducing Culture — Part 1: Introduction

Reproduce: To produce a counterpart, image, or copy of. To produce again or anew; re-create.

Can I let you in on a secret? Church planters talk a good game when it comes to reproducing. But from my observations many of us struggle to reproduce well.  And yet, if we are to see a movement of churches we simply must reproduce artist, leaders, churches, and networks of churches.

There’s a disconnect between what we want to do: reproduce, and what’s really happening.

Broadly speaking, reproducing is any addition to the mission through intentional means. Ultimately it’s investing in others to carry on the mission of Jesus.

Reproducing is crucial AND biblical.

Paul instructed Timothy to reproduce:

And the things you’ve heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).

But so many struggle to reproduce even on a basic level. Why?

I think it’s because many of us make two key mistakes:

  1. We believe reproducing is easier than it really is.
  2. We don’t build a culture of reproducing.

Several months ago a friend and church planter challenged me to think through this topic. He wanted to help church planters put ‘flesh and bone’ around reproducing. And he wanted more than simply what we do at Restore. He wanted my opinion and insight. I was honored and overwhelmed at the same time. I’ve led small groups and I’ve helped start churches. And yet, there is so much I don’t know about reproducing.

My own tribe, New Thing, takes reproducing seriously. No, seriously. We live it and breathe it. There is some great training available directly from them. I’ve learned a ton and continue to learn from our movements leaders. Reproducing-mandelbrot1_original

So these are just my insights. You should know, I am a practitioner and learner. My thinking in this area is always evolving. What I am offering here is my take on reproducing as a guy that didn’t grow up in church and who tries to execute that vision every day.

Let’s start here. Why is reproducing hard? Here’s what I came up with:

  • Reproducing requires time and effort. We choose to do other things in our church plant rather than reproduce. We say we want to reproduce but we don’t really want to invest the time necessary to make it happen.
  • Reproducing requires risk. We’re afraid to take the risk on people. We are reluctant to get down into the blood and mud with people.  We really don’t want to reproduce because we’re afraid of where it might lead. We say we do but we don’t want to take the risks to make it a reality.
  • Reproducing confuses us. We really don’t understand reproducing. We don’t understand what we’re trying to reproduce. We don’t know what reproducing looks like in our context.

One last thing: reproducing is art–not science. We ‘practice’ reproducing in our church plants. It’s similar to helping people read their Bibles and pray as part of a regime of spiritual disciplines. Reproducing is not a system or model. It’s practice. Just be clear.

Now that we’ve got our junk on the table, let’s move on to the blood and guts. I have tried to reduce reproducing to its essence. It’s a long-shot but I am an optimist. My goal is to equip you with tools and insights to help you reproduce. And I will try to inspire you AND encourage you. Because while reproducing is hard, it’s essential if we want to see a Jesus movement in our time. I am glad you want to even give it a go.

The way I see it, there are three components of reproducing:

  1. Vision
  2. Intentionality
  3. Accountability

I am convinced that if we can build these components into our culture of our church plants, we stand a better chance of actually reproducing something. I’ll take a close look at each of these in future posts.

What have you learned about reproducing that can help the rest of us? Please comment here or email me. I’d love to hear from you.

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