Pick a Church

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When I spoke at Exponential on the topic of how to transition a church from small groups to missional communities, the question of attending two churches came up. This happens a lot in church planting circles. It goes like this, “Can I or someone attend a church on Sunday, but then attend a small group or missional community at another church?”

The reasons people do this are many, but the answer to the question is simple.

No.

Many times, someone will attend a larger church on Sunday or a service they like and then attend a group at a smaller church because “it is easier to get connected and cared for at the smaller church.”

This creates a weird tension for people in the group or MC.

At a church like Revolution, where we discuss the sermon, if you don’t hear the sermon you won’t be able to add to the discussion. So, now you are silent attendee. The other aspect that is incredibly important and this is the real reason people do this (even though they would never tell you this). Attending a church and an MC at another church keeps a person from having accountability in their life or having to submit to authority. They are able to skirt it at both churches, get what they want and go home.

No one holds them accountable, gives them pushback for not serving (because they aren’t), not giving (because they usually aren’t because their heart isn’t at either church) and ultimately, they are simply being a consumer at two places and taking it all in instead of giving to anyone through care and serving.

On a larger level, this keeps the church who has the MC they attend from growing their church. The consumer getting the best of both churches is taking up a needed seat for someone to get connected at the church.

I know what you will say, “But they want to be there. They need to be connected. This is uncaring.”

I would say, “It is uncaring to say no to someone who wants to be in an MC at the church they attend that you can’t because we don’t have room because of this person who doesn’t attend our church, doesn’t want to attend our church but wants to be in an MC.” It is uncaring to the person waffling because they are missing the crucial element of accountability that is so important to relationships and community because they go to this place on Sunday and then to our place on Thursday.

You can’t have it all and by trying to have it all (attending a church service and an MC at a different church), you actually end up missing the thing you are trying to get.

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How to Transition a Church from Small Groups to Missional Communities

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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve shared 7 things that I and my church has learned since we transitioned our church from small groups to missional communities. At the time, things were going great. We had over 85% of our adults in a small group, but it wasn’t producing the change, discipleship and leaders we hoped it would. So, we made the change to missional communities. Below are 7 things we learned in the process:

  1. Always Start with Why
  2. Get Essential Leaders on Board
  3. How to Handle Someone who is not on Board
  4. Leaders Lead by Example
  5. Remove Barriers to What is Most Important
  6. Prepare for Losses
  7. Celebrate Small Wins
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Celebrate Small Wins

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. Next you need to handle leaders who do not get on board in a loving way, how leaders lead by example in showing a church what is most important and how a leaders shoots themselves in the foot by having too many options. Finally, when making any change a leader must learn how to grieve losses personally and help others grieve losses.

The last thing to keep a transition moving is to celebrate wins, no matter how small.

You may be great at celebrating things, but most pastors I meet, they are terrible at celebrating things. Part of it is personality, part of it is that they are trained to look for things that are broken and fix them, so they tend to focus on the negative. Many of them are big picture thinkers so they struggle to see how small things add up to big things, they are only looking for the life changing, new church, huge growth instead of the small, everyday life change.

If you don’t learn how to celebrate small wins, you will burnout and miss what God is doing. Your church will also wonder if it is winning.

One of the benefits to using the umbrella of discipleship as the win for your church and MC’s is that almost anything can be a win. That is a good thing. I also think that is how God wants the church to be. Baptism, people taking the step of following Jesus are win’s. But so is someone joining an MC, giving for the first time, reading their bible for the first time, sharing their story at MC, letting someone serve them when they have a need, serving someone when they have a need. All of those are wins because all of those steps are people taking steps to be more like Jesus.

To make any successful change, celebrate any win possible. To keep your church moving forward, having momentum, look for anything to celebrate and share it. Always point out to your people, we are winning, we are moving forward.

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How to Prepare for Losses in Leadership

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. Next you need to handle leaders who do not get on board in a loving way, how leaders lead by example in showing a church what is most important and how a leaders shoots themselves in the foot by having too many options.

What I wasn’t prepared for as our church transitioned to MC’s and what I think many leaders are not prepared for when a change occurs is the losses that come with that change.

This isn’t just about losing people, although any change is such that not everyone will go with you, but also as a church grows and MC’s multiply, there is excitement and pain associated with that, which is often not discussed in church circles.

First, to lead any change, a leader must be prepared for not everyone to go with them. Some leaders will feel this more personally than others. Some will feel paralyzed with the fear of people leaving, others will try to move past it “for the sake of the vision.” Regardless of your personality, you will feel this personally. Every person who leaves Revolution Church hurts personally on some level to me. I want everyone to be a part of what we are doing, but know they can’t.

Leaders do not grieve well. When someone leaves your church, regardless of the reason, grieve it. Allow yourself to feel it before moving on. Too many pastors try to move on quickly and then as losses pile up they eventually snap. If God has called you to what you are doing, then losses will occur, they will hurt, but you will be able to move forward.

Men, this is an opportunity to shepherd your wife. She will feel the loss of people more than you do. When people leave a church over something the pastor does, he is able to shrug it off, get back to work or chalk it up to “they weren’t on board.” Your wife can’t do that. She will often think about it. She isn’t able to compartmentalize it and get back to work. She can’t write a sermon about divisive people and take out her frustration (although I wouldn’t recommend doing that when people leave your church).

The last loss I was not prepared for when it comes to MC’s is the loss that comes from multiplying MC’s. The reason is, no one talks about this pain. The focus is on the mission, the excitement, the moving forward, new leaders developed, new spaces for people to get connected, disciples are being made, people are following Jesus. This is all exciting and should be the focus. But multiplying hurts. Friendships change. People who you used to be with, you no longer see. We’ve been doing MC’s for 3 years now and have launched 4 MC’s out of ours in that time. It is exciting and it hurts. If your MC multiplies, you must create relationships outside of your MC that won’t change regardless of how many times your MC does. This has also caused me to be slower about pushing leaders to start MC’s.

A leader must also prepare other leaders for this. Multiplying is the goal and is exciting, but can also hurt. A strong, healthy MC should multiply out a new one once ever 12-18 months. I think this is a good ratio because it doubles your MC’s each year, but also keeps your leaders sane and relationships close.

I realize unlike the other posts in this series, this one ends on a downer, but stay tuned. The next post is how to celebrate what God is doing in MC’s.

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Leaders Lead by Example

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. At this point, step 3 happens (though it is often skipped or a leader pushes through it) and that is to handle leaders who do not get on board in a loving way.

Consider this conversation I have on a regular basis as to why this step is important. The pastor or leader in charge of small groups or MC’s will call me and say, “I can’t get people in my church to get into a group or an MC.” They share their frustration and how hard they have worked and all the ways they have tried to motivate their church and nothing happens. The question I ask them after they share their story is one I know the answer to or else they wouldn’t be calling me.

It is this: is your lead pastor and elders leading an MC or in one?

The answer is always no.

This is a requirement for us at Revolution: an elder or pastor must be leading a missional community.

This doesn’t have to be the case at every church, but if you want people in your church to know something is a priority, leaders lead by example.

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How to Handle Someone who is Not on Board with a Change

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board.

The moment you begin to get essential leaders on board with any change or transition is the point of no return for a leader, they have now gone public.

I would say this is one of the most crucial moments of a change because of this. It is also when leaders derail themselves without realizing it and it is because they don’t handle someone who is not on board correctly. 

Think of this scenario: a leader has spent weeks, months and some times years thinking about a vision or a dream, a way forward. They begin sharing this dream with leaders and decision makers. Most people are excited because they love the leader or the direction or both.

Then, something happens: they meet someone who is not excited.

They ask questions, give pushback and generally do not seem excited about what the leader is proposing. The leader, because they are the leader starts to get defensive, pushes back even harder and both people sit across the table and dig their heels in.

Who is right in this situation?

Possibly both people.

Leaders will look at this person, whether they met in person or heard through the grapevine that someone isn’t on board and they will see a person who is being divisive or not submitting to authority.

Leaders forget that they have had the opportunity to process a change of direction or new initiative or ministry for a long time, this person just heard about it and has not had as long. It isn’t that they aren’t supportive, wanting to be on mission or not submitting, they are just reacting to a change and almost always are first reaction to a change is to be defensive.

If the leader fails here, most changes get derailed. For the simple reason that the person who seems unsupportive usually wields greater influence than the leader.

As a leader, here are some ways to handle this person:

  1. Stay humble. Do you need this person to make this change? Who knows. But God has placed you as the leader to shepherd this person through this change, so care for them. Stay humble, otherwise, God will oppose you and that will be worse than this person opposing you.
  2. Ask questions. Ask what their fears are, why aren’t they excited about this. Often, it is the loss of something that makes us defensive about a change, not because we don’t love the possibilities of something new, it is that we are mourning what we are losing.
  3. Listen. Don’t get defensive or seek to win. 
  4. Have resources for them to listen to or read. Have something to give them. Pick the thing that pushed you over the edge, the most influential piece to give to them and say, “This helped me. Before you decide, would you listen to this or read this and consider the possibilities?”
  5. Ask them to pray about it. They may or may not actually pray about it, but ask them to. If they do, give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to do what only the Holy Spirit can do, change them.

In the end, if God wants whatever change you are making to come to pass, it will. The person who seems the most against something at the beginning can often be the biggest supporter of it by the end if they are led well.

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Rethinking Preaching

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Getting to hear Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, James Meeks and Andy Stanley speak about preaching was like a preacher’s heaven. So good. Here are some notes from each talk:

Tim Keller

  • How to persuade unbelievers in a sermon: Learn how to persuade with people’s own beliefs, Use people’s beliefs against them, You have to solve heart problems with the gospel, You have to demonstrate to the non-Christian that you know what it is like to not believe, to doubt, and Speak to non-Christians directly. Talk about what they are thinking in that moment. By doing this, you communicate that you know they are there and that their doubts matter.
  • Postmodern people want to know how the gospel fits.
  • If you preach to the heart every week, the non-Christians will hear the gospel every week.

Matt Chandler preached from Luke 15 to show what happens when preaching happens.

  • When the gospel is clearly preached, the most heinous sinners are drawn in.
  • Gospel preaching deconstructs and then reconstructs at the same time.
  • Jesus isn’t just after the prodigals, he is after the self-righteous hypocrite as well.
  • Don’t live vicariously through someone else or books. Don’t have other people hanging out with lost people’s stories.
  • Trust the bible.
  • If you move from biblical doctrine, you’ll have nothing to save people to because you won’t have anything to save them from.

James Meeks

  • Whatever you want people to know or do, you must preach that.
  • Preach the announcements.

Andy Stanley

  • Your approach to preaching is everything.
  • Your approach is more important than content.
  • If you take the wrong approach in preaching, it won’t matter if you have good content.
  • If you don’t care what people do with what you say, you don’t care about people.
  • Jesus didn’t come to make a point.
  • Preachers aren’t to make a point or be right, they are to win people.
  • The foundation of our faith is not the bible but an event.
  • The problem when you say “The bible says” is what else the bible says.
  • You take the bible seriously because you take Jesus seriously and Jesus took the Old Testament seriously.

Then they had a panel discussion and here are some tidbits from that:

  • Churches that create an environment for outsiders are positive. Churches that don’t are negative. Churches that go negatively quickly are inside focused.
  • People aren’t a truth quest; they are on a happiness quest. Preaching needs to start there, embrace the tension people have and then move them to the gospel.
  • If the gospel doesn’t hit on the redemption of all things, it is hard for people to move forward and see the point of things.
  • We need to care about eternal suffering, but also all suffering.
  • A preacher needs to be the most sanctified version of himself, not someone else.
  • A preacher needs to have fun. If you don’t have fun, otherwise people won’t have fun.
  • When you preach, give non-Christians an out and tell them, “you don’t have to do this.”
  • If you give non-Christians an out in a sermon, they lean in.
  • A good critical question for a preacher to ask after a sermon is, “Was the sermon fair in its viewpoint of non-Christians?”
  • A preacher should be prepared.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Don’t forget that the work of preaching is supernatural.
  • Don’t have faith in your sermon, have faith in the Holy Spirit.

Rethinking Witness

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The first session I was able to attend at this year’s Exponential conference was Michael Frost, Hugh Halter and Danielle Strickland talked on rethinking witness, looking at how we share the gospel in a personal way. While not as organizationally practical as the later sessions, it was incredibly impactful and convicting for me personally and how I live out a life that people will ask questions about so I can share the gospel with them. Here are some things they said that stood out:

Danielle Strickland

  • The goal of evangelism is not to show that Christianity is better, it is just to tell people about Jesus.
  • To witness to people, we must change the way we see people.
  • The disciples, when they witnessed, they saw people that everyone else ignored. When others saw invisible people, followers of Jesus see a visible person.
  • We need to see people not as a project, but as a person.

Hugh Halter

  • Our lives should be such that it makes it hard for people not to believe in Jesus.
  • Incarnating ministry means you deeply dive into humanity and the lives of others.
  • Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn but to save. His followers should be known with that message.
  • Being a peacemaker doesn’t always work out.

Michael Frost

  • Missional is not acts of kindness.
  • Unexplained deeds in themselves do not constitute the mission of God’s people. –David Bosch
  • We are called to answer people’s questions about Jesus (Colossians 4), which means we need to live a life that will make people ask questions.
  • If you live this way (Titus 2), you will make the gospel attractive.
  • If no one asks you questions, you’re doing it (living your life) wrong.

Help Me Write my Exponential Talk

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I’m speaking at Exponential East in a couple weeks on the topic: Transitioning your church from small groups to missional communities

The goal of my talk is to share the story of Revolution and our transition and help churches understand:

  1. Why they should transition from small groups to missional communities.
  2. How to make this transition (or any leadership transition).
  3. What are the steps in this transition that must be made.
  4. And help them have a plan on what to expect personally from this transition.

If you were sitting in this seminar or have questions about it, what would they be? If you’ve made this transition or are in this transition, what would you tell leaders thinking about making this transition?

Leave me a comment here, on twitter or facebook or shoot me an email. I’d love your feedback.

 

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My Notes from Preach the Word 2013

I just got back from Reno where I was at the Preach the Word conference through Acts 29. It was so good for my heart and soul to hear some good gospel truths from great communicators.

Here are my notes for each session:

Preaching God’s Two Words: Law and Gospel | Justin Holcomb

The law directs and the gospel delivers.

Missional Preaching | Alex Early

Instead of seeing a sinner, see someone who has the potential to change the world for Jesus.

Preaching as Worship | Leonce Crump

We approach the bible with 3 problems: identity, idols and need and Jesus can fill them all.

Panel Discussion Day 1

Sometimes guys plant churches because they want to have a crowd to preach to. That’s not a good reason to plant.

Textual Preaching | Tony Merida

Great exposition on 2 Timothy to preach the word to yourself, preach the word pastorally, consistently, comprehensively, patiently, and theologically.

Gospel Centered Preaching | Harvey Turner

Great talk on being evangelistic in our preaching and lives. Here’s one line, “Maybe the reason churches swell at Christmas and Easter because that’s the only time most churches preach Jesus.”

Good Preaching | Justin Anderson

This was the most helpful session of the whole conference. Great evaluation stuff.