Monday, July 31, 2006

Whatever It Takes?

Some of the guys in my church have stumbled across a new ministry opportunity to reach men ... paintball. It all started when one of the men in my church, John Fuller, and his son, Zach, set up a small paintball course in the field next to their house. Over time, the course has grown as they added more and more obstacles and cover. They have even extended part of it into some adjacent woods.

John talked to me yesterday morning about the church officially backing their "Paintball Ministry." He reminded me of our motto that we have repeated over and over since we planted the church, "Whatever it takes."

I was intrigued. They invited me to play late yesterday afternoon, and I had a blast! There were thirteen men there, and six of them were not members or regular attenders at our church. John is convinced that this is a huge opportunity to reach out to the men in our community. We live in the hunting and fishing epicenter of the universe! And Fort Campbell is very close by. We have many military men within the vicinity of our church.

John's passion and his obvious success in outreach to men have started us thinking. We are even considering adding a paintball battlefield on the "back forty" of our 39-acre campus. We know that it is very different, and not very churchy. The more traditional churches in our area will probably verbalize a few negative comments about it. But if it reaches the men in our area, isn't it worth it?

What do you think? Isn't this the kind of "out of the box" thinking that we need in planting new and growing churches? What are some other creative, maybe even outlandish, ways that we could reach men? Please share your ideas.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Weekend Feature - Prayer for a Church Planter

This is Jason Burns, Church Planter and Lead Pastor of the Springs Community Church in Newman, Georgia.

Please remember Jason and Springs Church in your daily prayer time this week. Learn more about Springs Community Church by visiting their awesome web site. And be sure to drop Jason a quick e-mail to let him know that you are praying for him this week.

Information on Pastor Jason Burns was obtained from the Georgia Baptist Convention's Church Planting Movement Tracking System. Please feel free to visit this web site and view the public information on Southern Baptist Church Planters in the state of Georgia.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Church Planting Training?

I had a wonderful conversation yesterday with a young man named Joshua. He just graduated from Bible college. He anticipates starting seminary sometime in the future. He shared with me that he feels called to Church Planting. Specifically, he feels called to plant a church in the state of Maine.

He has been communicating with a Director of Missions up there who gave him some very interesting advice. He told Joshua that he should go to some type of school and learn a skill ... a trade ... that he can use to support his family with a good paycheck when he arrives on the field. He shouldn't show up in Maine and expect that other people are going to support him in a full-time work. He should plan to be bi-vocational.

I think that's some pretty good advice. I know that Roger (my Mission M Possible partner-in-crime) and I have talked about this before. Maybe we should rethink everything when it comes to training and deploying Church Planters to the "frontier" mission fields ... even the new mission fields in the south. Instead of paying our Church Planters two or three years of welfare-level (food stamp eligible) "support" through the Nehemiah program or any other program (and expect them to raise the support from somewhere else ... even though the Baptist world thinks they are "funded"), maybe we should use that cash and pay their way through a year of community college to learn carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, medical records, HVAC, or something of that nature. Send them back to another year of school to earn a teaching certificate. Heck, let's think big! Why not make sure that they will never hurt for a job and pay their way through two years of nursing school?

My point? I believe we have to rethink the ways that we will plant churches in the future. And we need to start that re-thinking right now. Maybe the bi-vocational (old fashioned tentmaker) approach is the most practical, most effective, and most biblical. I seem to recall that a fellow named Paul did it that way.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Multi-Site Churches: Good Economy or Big Ego?

As promised, I did a little research on the multi-site church phenomenon. I found this interesting article at Christianity Today. It is full of positive analysis of one particular multi-site church. And it points to the fact that somewhere in the vicinity of 200 churches in the United States were at least considering a multi-site strategy. That was in 2003. I wonder what those numbers are today.

I think that this phenomenon is a natural extension of the mega church trend in our culture. And I struggle with its potential relation to and impact upon Church Planting. Are multi-site churches good economy, or simply a by-product of egotism and control? Are there seriously not enough qualified, gifted pastors to lead these churches? Should we consider our churches as “brands,” like a Wal-Mart or Krispy Kreme donut shop? (Read the article, and you'll understand what I mean.) How does all of this wash with Scripture? What would the Apostle Paul think? What do you think?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Is Bigger Really Better?

I came across this picture while I was doing a little on-line research into the mega church phenomenon. It contained a link that appeared to go to, where you could supposedly buy this game. When I clicked the link, it took me to a page that absolutely looked like an order page. When I finished reading I was laughing so hard that I thought my sides would split open! It is hilarious! Check it out.

So, why was I researching mega churches? Well, I just received the latest copy of Outreach magazine. It is a special edition, the 4th annual "Top 100 Largest and Fastest Growing Churches" edition. It contains feature stories on some of the largest mega churches, charts of growth, and plenty of articles from Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer,

After thumbing through the journal, I was a little bit overwhelmed ... and puzzled. I couldn't help but think, "Is this what we are all truly striving for? Is this why so many pastors climb the church ladder of 'success?'" We'll never have a mega church where I live. We would have to import a lot more people. But I love where I live, and I love my church! Does that mean I am a failure as a church planter and pastor? Should I have more drive and ambition? Can I get it if I go to one of the bazillions of mega church-offered conferences that have ads in the magazine?

We need to think this thing through. Is bigger really better? Are we going to reach our North American culture with mega churches, or small churches, or emergent churches (even detergent churches), or house churches? All groups seem to think that their way is the best way ... the right way.

This entire discussion has tremendous implications upon church planting. What do you think?

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Church ... in a Laundromat?

A couple of years ago, while leading a Church Planting seminar for middle school and high school students, one of the pretend "church planting teams" came up with an incredible church planting idea. They posed the question, "What about a church in a laundromat?"

They weren't talking about an existing church with a laundry ministry. No! They presented a clear, well-thought-out proposal for planting a new, collegiate focused church in a laundromat. They figured that, after the initial investment in equipment, the new "church" would basically "pay for itself." Students could bring their laundry to the "Laundromat Fellowship," and while their clothes werein the spin cycle or tumbling toward dryness in one of those big, commercial dryers, they could enjoy times of fellowship, refreshments, and Bible study. Since laundry is (in the very least) a weekly need, it seemed to that group of students to be a perfect match for an innovative church plant.

It was one of the most incredible, original ideas that I had ever heard for a possible church plant ... and it came from a group of students!

Well, imagine my surprise (and joy) today when I came across an internet article entitled, "Detergent Church: Phosphate Free and Full of Life." It is a reprint of a story from a local newspaper in Gemeintown, Manitoba (Canada). The essence of the story is the fact that there is a cluster of churches being started in laundromats, called "detergent churches." (They claim that the pastor, who is hard of hearing, became confused at a conference about the "emergent church," thinking that the speaker was saying, "detergent church" ... but I don't believe it. ) These churches, it seems, are springing up throughout Manitoba.

Pretty cool stuff. The way the Canadians are doing things is just a bit too over-the-top "emergent" for me. In fact, I'm not entirely sure about their theology, because their worship practices are pretty doggone strange ... so I'm not at all comfortable with providing a link. If you're that curious, you can find it on your own, just don't get too caught up in the way they do things.

But the principle remains. Laundromat churches! This is an innovative, "out-of-the box" opportunity for church planting that exists in hundreds of our college communities. Maybe we need to buy a few washers and dryers.

Does anyone have any extra quarters?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday Feature - Prayer for a Planter

This is Pastor Stephen Wood. He is the Church Planter / Pastor at the River's Edge Baptist Church in Suwanee, Georgia. Please remember Stephen and the creative, life-changing ministries of River's Edge Church in your prayers each day this week.

If you would like to know more about him and the church plant that he leads, check out the River's Edge Church web site. And feel free to send him an e-mail, just to let him know that you prayed for him this week. Be sure to let him know that you heard about him through our Sunday "Prayer for a Planter" feature on the Student Church Planting blog. Church Planters have an incredible life of ministry, but many times they feel isolated ... sometimes forgotten. Your prayers and notes of encouragement do make a difference.

To learn more about how you can become involved in church planting, please visit the Mission M Possible web site.

Information on Pastor Steven Wood was obtained from the Georgia Baptist Convention's Church Planting Movement Tracking System. Please feel free to visit this web site and view the public information on Southern Baptist Church Planters in the state of Georgia.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Is e-mail the New Snail Mail?

I have to admit it ... I am an e-mail junkie. I love to receive e-mail messages. I cannot even to begin to count the number of times that I check my e-mail accounts each day.

But I am, after all, one of the old guys. (I remember those glorious days when there was no such thing as "call waiting," microwaves, or home computers!) E-mail, as it turns out, has been labeled the technology of us older folks. It seems that the next generation is not so fond of my favorite way of sending messages.

Joe Ball, Youth Strategist fo the Kentucky Baptist Convention, noted this trend in his blog this week. He included a link to a fascinating story in USA Today. The writer claims that the up and coming generation is much more motivated by instant communication: media such as IM, text messaging, blogs, Facebook, and MySpace.

I was a bit skeptical at first, but after checking the communication habits of my two teen-age daughters, I now realize that Joe (and the USA Today person) is speaking the truth. Neither of them check their e-mail that often, but they will camp for hours in front of a computer, playing solitaire and sending messages through MSN. I can't help but think that all of this will have a tremendous impact upon the church ... and church planting. But I'm not quite sure how it will have an impact, or whether said impact will be constructive or problematic.

I need some input. Let me pose a few questions:
  • How do you think the established church will deal with the communication habits and techonological prowess of our youth?
  • How can we utilize this trend in communication within the youth culture in a creative, positive way?
  • What do you think will be the impact of instant communication upon Church Planting in the near future?
I'm looking forward to hearing your views.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Student Church Planting 101: Reading Assignment

Roger and I talked today. We realized that we need to give some direction to the many students (and curious adults) who visit our blog each day. It's not enough just to talk about and promote Student Church Planting. We also need the "education factor." Since it will be several months before we will be able to offer a Mission M Possible Training Event, we thought it might be a good idea to refer our readers to some resources that will be helpful in preparing someone for a ministry in Church Planting.

So ... let's begin with the basics. Before you delve too deeply into the subject of Church Planting, it would be best to gain a better biblical understanding of missions in general. I think a great place to start is by reading The Acts 1:8 Challenge by Nate Adams. Though it is not written specifically for a youth audience, the book is very engaging and readable. High school students should have no trouble understanding the content of this book.

Obviously, The Acts 1:8 Challenge is a detailed look at Jesus' missions geography (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Ends of the Earth) in Acts 1:8. Adams effectively connects each geographical principle to our modern church context. He also includes a "Church-Planting Principles" section in each chapter, thus integrating Church Planting within the overall mandade that Jesus gave the church in Acts 1:8.

The Acts 1:8 Challenge is a great read ... and it's a great place to begin your studies in Student Church Planting. Read it, and let me know what you think. If you need a copy, you can get one for less than two bucks (used, of course) at!

Has anyone out there in the blogging world read this book? Let me know what you think. Share your "book review" by leaving a comment.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Doing little things of great importance

Yes, that is a guy in a wheelchair edging the lawn at his church. The title of this picture is No Excuses.

Sometimes the most important thing you can do is free up someone else to do more important things. Make sense? I thought about this as I wrote thank you emails today to the youth groups at FBC Snellville, GA and Oak Hill Baptist in Lawrenceville, GA. These groups came and helped our church plant clean up our property, pressure wash a fence, cut the grass, and clear brush. Not important, right? Wrong. This not only made things look a whole lot better for visitors who might be giving us a first glance, but also freed up me and many other leaders at our church to spend time with people.

So what other little things of great importance can we do? Babysit for a church planting couple and let them take a date or visit with someone in the church in crisis. Fold flyers or put stamps on envelopes so a pastor can pray with someone at the hospital. Set up chairs for a church service so a church planting team member can share Christ with the school janitor.

My point is that when we offer to serve in what we think is a small way with humble hearts, sometimes what we do allows really great ministry to take place. And that means cutting the grass is more important than just a nice lawn. Our efforts are multiplied when they free up others to do the big stuff. There was a song a while back that said, "little is much when God is in it." I want to thank my new friends - Ashleys, Lindseys and all my chainsaw and weedeater-wielding buddies for making the little things count, with smiles all round and for giving me the chance to do some things that really matter this week. Not ready to plant a church? Find someone who is doing it, and cut their grass. That is what partnership is all about.

Oh, and while we are at it, you may not be able to fund a new church by yourself. But that tithe you put in the offering plate or that few dollars you send to a missionary really adds up when added to the gifts of thousands of Christ-followers around the world. My denomination (SBC) calls it The Cooperative Program and when you cooperate with others it gives your little bit a chance to make a big difference. Like I said, little is much when God is in it. Give what you got and see what God does.

For more on this, see John 6:8 and the surrounding story and find out what happens when a little guy gives a little to God. What can you give?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Why Your Generation is Made For Church Planting, Part 2

Geoff is back on vacation this week at the beach, presumably catching more sharks (hum the Jaws theme music here), so I thought I would give you part 2 of my article on how God has prepared the Y Generation for church planting. For part 1 of this article, check out the blog archives. Enjoy!

Why Your Generation is Made for Church Planting
(A Letter to the Y (or Y-not) Generation from an Xer)

Your generation embraces technology.
The first church I served in was a traditional, Southern Baptist church where I was their first, full-time youth pastor. It was part of my job to be young, progressive and creative. It was expected of me. What I did not expect was to find that the church was a technological dinosaur. Our financial secretary kept all the records in paper ledgers. Our receptionist typed the church newsletter on a green-screened, text-only computer and used a clip art book to place, resize, and place again all the column headings and cute graphics. It took 3 days to finish the newsletter. Meanwhile, I was churning out the youth newsletter on my Macintosh laptop in an hour.

Many church staffs today still struggle with desktop publishing. There are still pastors who do not “do” email. And there are plenty of deacons who could no more keep members in a database than they could keep them in a coffee mug. The language of technology has permeated the business world, where you have to keep up. But in many local churches, where we should not only keep up but lead the pack, technology itself is a bad word.

This, of course, is incomprehensible for gen-Y. You check your email several times a day, and many of you have never sent a letter “snail-mail” at all. You don’t go to the post office, but to the Internet cafe or the closest Wi-Fi hookup. And you expect an instant response to your questions. Technology is a good tool for church planting. We can communicate and get information faster and cheaper. And that means more time and resources for sharing the gospel with people who need to hear it.

Your generation embraces global thinking.
My wife’s parents live in the same small town where they grew up, no more than several miles from the houses where they grew up. My father-in-law has never been out of the country and has only flown on an airplane once, just a few years ago. For the builder generation, moving away from family was a slap in the face of your heritage. Today, it is common to disperse throughout the country, or even throughout the world. We all know that email, air travel, and the euro make a global lifestyle easy. And your contemporaries in other countries watch the same movies your do, eat at McDonalds, and shop at Home Depot. There are 125 Starbucks stores in China, with more to come. Its one big homogenous world, so learning the culture is not the challenge it once was, which means being a missionary might just mean being yourself.

Your generation embraces relationships over rightness.
Now I am not talking here about righteousness. I’m talking about having to be right all the time. Why does it seem like that aisle down the middle of last-generation churches is so the “yes’s” can sit on one side and the “no’s” on the other? I grew up in a builder-generation church and remember heated business meetings with much yelling and arguing about issues. Our pastor of fifteen years was “voted out” and about a third of the members subsequently left the church. There was great concern about being right and defending your position, even to the death of relationships.

Your generation is different. Most y-gens would rather preserve the relationship than win the point. Because many of you grew up in broken homes and have experienced divorce of your parents firsthand, you realize the value of compromise, of working together on a solution for all parties, and on taking satisfaction not in winning at all cost, but in counting the cost of these conflicts and keeping the relationship intact.

It probably bears mentioning that over half of our “church plants” in the last fifty years have not been true church starts sponsored by another existing local body of believers. A full 50% of “new” churches are not church plants but church splits. This part of our history of church planting is not so much missional as miserable! As church people disagreed with one another, a group would get mad enough to quit and leave, often starting a new church right around the corner. Thus we end up with “First Baptist” and “Second Baptist” or “Truth Missionary Church of God” and Truth Missionary Church of God #2!”

There’s a great old joke about a navy vessel that cruised by an uncharted desert island. The seaman in the bow spotted someone on the beach. When the boat reached the island, they found not only the required hermit, but a whole town full of buildings. “What is all this?” asked the captain of the vessel. “Well, I’ve been here a long time and I got bored, so I started building a town. This here’s my bank, my general store, my hardware store, and my church!”
“What’s that building over there with the steeple?”
“Oh, that’s the church I used to go to before the split!”

Okay, so it’s not that great a joke. But it does teach a sad truth. The world is full of churches we used to go to before we got offended, bored, upset, too old, or too young; before the church changed pastors, music styles, or locations. As Caedmon’s Call sings, most of us come from a “long line of leavers.” And there are some good reasons to leave churches now and then. But the good news is that most people in your generation value their relationships with their friends more than winning an argument, so that means fewer church splits, fewer disagreements, and more unity in the body of Christ. Congratulations again!

Though I do have some concerns about your generation’s way of thinking, namely your general lack of concern about absolute truth, more interest in questions than answers, and a tendency to think rather than act, overall I am much encouraged by what I see. You are not just the church of the future, you are the church of the present. I want you to know that we X-er church planters (at least all the ones I know) are praying for you, and will do anything we can to help you grow into the leaders of today and tomorrow. Keep reading scripture, hold fast to the truth, and pray with all your might. What you do with your lives matters, and we are watching you. More importantly, your peers and those who come behind you are watching you, too. So step up to the plate. You can do this! God has called and equipped you for church planting, and church being. Let us know how we can help.

With zeal for His glory,
Roger Ferrell

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Our First NOC

Meet Joshua Simmons. He is our first NOC Agent.

So, what exactly is a NOC Agent? It's a cool Mission M Possible idea to connect college students with church planting opportunities in their area. NOC stands for, "Network Operations: Collegiate."

Joshua will be a senior at Appalachian State University (Boone, NC) this fall. He is an experienced worship leader, sound technician, and "whatever-you-need-him-to-do" laborer. Joshua loves to lead people in worship ... he taught himself how to play the guitar. In fact, we hope that Joshua will be able to lead a special "Leading Worship: Guitar" training track at one of our Mission M Possible Summer Mission Weeks in 2007.

Joshua is an awesome young man of God, and will make a great addition to a Church Planting team.

Check out Joshua's NOC page on our Mission M Possible web site. And if you're in western North Carolina, give him a call! He stands ready to serve.

Are you a college student? Would you like to engage in Student Church Planting in your area? We would love to help. Check out our web site. Send us a note. We'll add you to the NOC List.