Church Planting

Still Making Sense of Church: An Interview with Spencer Burke

There once were churches. Then Denominational Churches. Mainline Churches. Traditional Churches. Evangelical Churches. House Churches. After that Seeker-Sensitive Churches. Traditional Churches. Mainline Churches. Seeker-Friendly Churches. Purpose-Driven Churches. Emerging Churches. Missional Churches. Gospel-Centered Churches. Read More

Millions, Church Planting, and Math

What would you do with your next $60 million? My friend Mark Riddle, Founder of The Riddle Group and Redeeming Leadership, took out his pencil and paper and did a little math. After he put the pencil to it he wrote a letter and included all of this at LiquidThinking. I wonder what my statistically minded friends at Lifeway would think about Mark’s thought process in relationship to church planting movements.

Here is the teaser if you still have not gone over for a read,

The next time you raise 60 million dollars to reach more people consider the following idea:

What if you planted 600 churches, giving each church $100,000 over three years to spend however they want?  Think about the impact 600 churches would have on your city.

Seriously.  Take a moment to think about this.

But let’s be realistic.

Let’s say that even if you could find 600 leaders within your community who feel called to live the mission of God in this way, let’s also say in that 450 of the 600 church plants don’t make it and are no longer in existence before or at the 3 year mark.  At $100k per church that would be a $45 million loss over three years, but bear with me.

Let’s say that of the 150 churches who do continue after 3 years, that 140 of these churches only get to the average size church in your denomination: 75 people.

Seventy-five people doesn’t seem like much of a success does it?  But when there are 140 of them, with average attendance of 75 per church we’re looking at 10,500 people.

Wow. This feels like I’m being too generous.

So let’s just say that these 140 churches only reach 30 people weekly.  That’s 4,200 people.  Even with this seemingly low attendance, that’s a 3,200 person increase over the 1,000 persons gained from your last use of $60 million—and we’re not done yet.

Let’s also say that 9 of the remaining churches thrive. By thrive I mean they have an average attendance of 300 people. That’s an additional 2,700 people. Bringing our total to 6,900 additional people attending worship in these churches in the Tulsa area.  If we’re real lucky, maybe one of the 600 original churches really takes off in terms of attendance and gets to 800 people. That’s going to bring your total to 7,700 people compared to the 1,000 person increase that you have experienced.

After you read the piece, come back and share you thoughts on Mark’s off the cuff thinking.

You Won’t Hear Pastor Pedro from the Big Stage

More than 30 years ago, before Southern Baptists discovered Church Planting Movements, CPM’s, and adopted the same for a growth strategy, Pastor Pedro began planting churches. He traveled by foot. He planted thirty-four churches in thirty-two years.

Pastor Pedro

Pastor Pedro

We stopped to meet Pastor Pedro. His son-in-law helped with our translation needs for the Pastor’s Seminar. Pastor Pedro came to the first couple of events associated with the Pastor’s Seminar. He could not make this one. His health would not allow the travel.

He sat in his chair moved by the visit. His tears moved us. We may have not understood his words, but we did understand his heart. Not the one giving him physical trouble. The one that drove his steps, the one that considered the needs of others more than his own.

Quietly and unmotivated by the need to be heard far and wide, Pastor Pedro planted churches.

I recall an event my mentor once shared from his pastoral experience. We Southern Baptists would call it revival that led to evangelism. The church he pastored prayed one million minutes for friends to know Jesus. In fact, they prayed more than one million minutes in the designated period of time.

The consequences of their commitment led to phenomenon that could not be explained by the normal empirical senses. We ascribe such activities to the Spirit. The events were the sort that often keeps the Christian turned skeptic from completely abandoning the thought of God, a person or an event.

News of the revival spread. Soon people were calling. Like Simon in Acts, they wanted the secret to the power. It was and is customary that when such an event takes place we elevate the pastor and consider him especially gifted. Rick had been invited to talk about this event in a number of places, even here in our State. I remember him saying, “You cannot export the activity of the Spirit.”

But, in America we do. We tour and write books about the unexplainable in order to explain how others may do the same. Green rooms are created. Conferences are planned. Books are written. Eager young ministers are lured by the popularity. If we do it like [ ] then one day we too will speak from the big stage.

But, in out of the way places, where men travel by foot for more than thirty years planting more than thirty churches, we find stories that call into question the things we celebrate here in the first world. After all this is our context and that is theirs. We privilege ours and we diminish theirs. We take pride in our theological formulations. We express suspicion of theirs.

If it is all the same, I will find in those steps taken to bear Good News over those years to carry more import that the crowds wowed by the stage and screen. Bill Hybles wrote, Who You Are When Nobody Is Looking. One wonders, with all the fanfare and fanboys, if we would see the proliferation of celebrity if we did not receive our reward here – the praise and adoration of people.

I once read where a leader suggested celebrity is a matter of scale. Every group, small or large, has their celebrity. This leader is himself a celebrity. The move seemed intent to lessen the sting of what is unmistakeable about the American celebrity culture and the way Christians play in the same space. After all, even among Christian writers, there are A-list, B-list, and those who have been told they won’t make the list. There is a difference.

Pastor Pedro, now above seventy, will not make the big stage, in his Country or ours. And, I am glad. His quiet faithfulness speaks louder than the buzz created by our personal or professional PR machines.

May Pastor Pedro’s tribe increase – in his Country and in ours.

Reverse Critique Or, How Our Children Expose Us

“We are going to look for another church.” The words stung the young pastor. He was quite unaware of how to proceed. Should he confront the members on their way out for some explanation? Would it be polite to ask what happened to were considered good friends and church members?

The young pastor did ask. It did not help. While there are lots of reasons people look for another church, in this case the reason amounted to, “They sing the music we sing here much better.” Moving from a church of 300 to a church of 10,000 was prompted by singing better arrangements of the same songs. Welcome to church in the 21st century.

Another pastor recently received word a church leader would be leaving to look for another church. “Our children don’t look forward to coming to church.” Really. David Fitch responds to this sentiment,

Most parents know this instinctively. Read More

Dynamics of Healthy Missional Community – Biblical Seminary

About the time I think I am ready to write a book, I read what I was thinking already published. Call me slow. Maybe it is the temptation to delay finality on a subject. After all, learning is an ongoing experience in spite of references to “terminal degrees.” On education and degrees, Biblical Theological Seminary will be offering the course, Dynamics of Healthy Missional Community (syllabus pdf) beginning January 3, 2010. Yours truly, yes me, will be leading this online learning experience. The course is part of Biblical’s Master’s degree in Missional Church Planting.

Certainly the scope of the course would take in any person interested in exploring dynamics of healthy community from the standpoint of a Christian faith community – existing or a planned church start.

Are you considering church planting? Consider Biblical Seminary. Are you interested in the shape of Christian community? Consider Dynamics of Healthy Missional Community.