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Looking Ahead from CCPN Roundtable, Cuernavaca, México

Update on a Calvary Church Planting gathering in Cuernavaca, México:

This gathering was part of a regional retreat for Calvary Chapel affiliate churches, pastors and families, and ministry teams. Those attending came from hours away: Acapulco, Veracruz, Taxco, Puebla, Cuernavaca, and Mexico City and its metropolitan area.

Most of us have known each other for some years; a few are recently starting out. I write this looking back almost four months, still thinking about what we saw.

By the time we got to where we would have a “meeting” about church planting, it was clear that the whole retreat was essentially about ALL the aspects of church planting within the Calvary Chapel framework. Conversations and fellowship time was pretty much about what each church, pastor, or ministry team member is learning, and their questions and things they could share with others. There was really no need for “directed” dialogue or presentations: all the diversity among those attending nevertheless have found themselves moving constantly within the realm of church planting.

The two “moments” that allowed us to identify where we are, and where we are headed, involved passing a wireless microphone from person to person: first answering—in one word—the question, “Where have you had the most hardship in ministry?” and later, “Where do you find the greatest joy?”

The responses from about 100 attendees were deeply personal, yet not that varied; first of all the most hardship had been with family/ministry issues, a sense of not getting anywhere, patience and endurance, and health problems. It made us pause a bit to see that the second string of answers showed that the greatest hardship—and the greatest joy—are linked. We then went on with the retreat with that in view, as a clearer perspective for what is ahead.

Pastor Jim Foote serves at Semilla Cuerna in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. You an follow the church at @semillacuerna or on Facebook. Pastor Jim is at @jaimefoote.

Eschatology & Church Planting

Much like the servant who received five talents in the kingdom parable (Matthew 25:16), on numerous occasions I have found God using me far above my pay grade. At one of the early Calvary Church Planting Network conferences I was asked to be part of a panel discussion on church planting. I could see my wife praying at the back of the crowded room because she knows I get very nervous in extemporaneous settings. She knows, I know, and too many others know, I tend to ramble and repeat myself in these types of settings. To rattle me more, I was among five giants; the panel was with pastors and missionaries I highly respect and count as my mentors.

Questions for the panel were submitted digitally for the moderator to field. With each question he gave the panel a moment for one of us to respond. It seemed to work and I could simply work out a response that hopefully edified the audience and those listening online. It was way less stressful than I had predicted, and maybe I even enjoyed it. That changed about 40 minutes into the questions. That is when someone asked if the contemporary church had lost its emphasis on reaching the lost because it had lost its emphasis on eschatology. The question was just sinking in when moderator quickly turned to me for a response. It was the very definition of extemporaneous and my gut turned a bit.

Nerves hit me and I responded by rambling and misquoting Revelation 7:9, “We want to reach every nation, tribe and tongue that will come worship the Lamb that was slain. That’s eschatology, that’s our end game.” I said a few more things, but it was just variations of my first statement. That setting may help explain why I hope to clarify the response to the question because that is immensely important  in considering the completion of the mission of God.

On a few occasions I have had the honor to be with a fellowship of God’s people as they launch into a fully functioning church. I’ve told them Jesus has built them together as His community, His own special people to worship Him. I’m confident to tell the fledgling congregation that though there is great conflict among principalities and powers in the founding of a church, Jesus promises the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. Finally I tell them because of the protection Jesus offers, some version of that church should be meeting until Jesus returns for them. When I share these things it is everything I can do to not be overwhelmed with emotion. It’s emotional to me because as God gathers His people to build His church it touches eternity, and in return He allows us to touch eternity.

…as God gathers His people to build His church it touches eternity, and in return He allows us to touch eternity.

God is an excellent mission leader and we know He will excellently complete His mission. We read of the last moments of His mission in the judgments of Revelation 20. There, only a few pages before the concordance in your Bible, the whole storyline from when the Lord cried out across the separation, “Where are you?” is almost complete. All history is converging and the end is a page away. But there is one last thing.

In Revelation 21 a loud voice from haven proclaims the end of the mission of God by saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev 21:3). That’s it, the story and mission are complete, His people are gathered.

I should have responded to the question about eschatology to the panel by saying; “The questions of eschatology being the driving force in outreach is backwards. It is the mission of God that drives eschatology and will bring about the worship of the Lamb that was slain by people from every nation, tribe, peoples, and tongues.” Of course that answer came to me later that night, just before catching our flight back to Kenya, but I’m writing the book and get to say it here.

It is the mission of God that drives eschatology and will bring about the worship of the Lamb that was slain by people from every nation, tribe, peoples, and tongues.

Ed Compean is a church planting coach based in Nairobi with his wife Kelli, but soon to transition back to the States to serve as director with SSMF. You can read their blog or follow him on Twitter @Ed_Compean.

Lessons Learned When Launching Out

I don’t know anything about planting a church. We’re only eight months into this and we are learning new things every week, praise the Lord; and there’s so much to learn.

One of the best pieces of practical advice I got was, “When you think you finally have this thing figured out it’s time to quit because the Lord is no longer in it.” There are countless books and classes and webinars and manuals and experts and conferences on church planting. These things can be great, and they can be detrimental depending on how much hope you place in the process or formula. I’m not really one for process or formula. What I do know is me, and I know that I am nothing more than an untrained and uneducated fisherman (literally) who knows and loves Jesus.

When my wife and I got married ten years ago we were flooded with unsolicited advice on marriage. It came from all over. Some advice was sound and could be applicable. Other advice was obviously less than sound and was quickly dismissed. When our first son was born we were given parenting books and we were encouraged to take parenting classes. It was a very stressful and confusing time, especially when we’d get conflicting advice more often than not. A doctor would tell us one thing and a family member would tell us something else. Here we were, brand new parents just trying to make it from day to day, being overwhelmed with advice that may have worked for someone else but wasn’t working for us. We could drive ourselves crazy trying to follow everything we read and heard, or we could pray and figure it out.

When the Lord placed it on our hearts to plant a church it was no different. I was given advice in every area you could think of, and from everyone. I was told that we should look to plant in a more affluent area so we wouldn’t have to worry about money. I was told how long or how short I should teach for and what book to teach from (sometimes that was even a book of the Bible). I was told what instruments we need for worship and how many songs we should play. I was told how we should set up chairs and what kind of coffee we should have. I was told what authors to read and what teachers to listen to. If it sounds churchy, I was told how to do it. A lot of information came from great, well intentioned non believers. A lot of other advice came from people wanting me to know how they would do it. Yet other advice came from men I respected and I actually wanted to hear what they had to say. Just like with the marriage and parenting advice, though, I found myself frustrated. Please don’t get me wrong, good counsel is crucial and should be sought after and rarely will someone who wants you to fail offer advice. However, your marriage is personal and unique and will only grow and prosper when Jesus is the head. And likewise, your children are going to learn how to tie their shoes when it’s time to tie their shoes and they will be potty trained when it’s time. Don’t labor and sweat over that stuff. Frankly, they don’t need to be groomed to live the American Dream, they need Jesus and that’s between you, your wife, your children, and the Holy Spirit. Labor over your children in prayer, preach to them the Gospel. Let the other stuff sort itself out.

There’s no formula to church planting. Obedience and service is extremely personal. At the end of it all Jesus is going to ask, “Who do you say that I am?” What I see in the Bible, and what I’ve dedicated my ministry and my church to, is to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer. Trying, and falling so short, but still always trying to give myself continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Like I said, I’m brand new to this and I’ve been overwhelmed by all of the things I “should be” doing. My inbox has been flooded with promises from church growth services and every article I’ve read tells me I need to be culturally relevant, wear tighter jeans, and drink more coffee. As I fail to find mention of these “ministry aids” in scripture, I read in Psalm 127:1, “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

My goal in ministry is to be found faithful. You’re not gonna catch a fish sitting on the couch. My prayer is that I remain sensitive and flexible to the leading of the Holy Spirit while I remain busy, redeeming the time in the city that the Lord called me to serve in. Stay in the Word, surround yourself with people who love Jesus, pray hard, and give thanks through everything. Trust the Lord because He cares about His church and my wife and my kids more than I do. Block out anything that distracts or takes away from you being found faithful. I reckon we’ll figure the rest out as we go.

“My prayer is that I remain sensitive and flexible to the leading of the Holy Spirit while I remain busy, redeeming the time in the city that the Lord called me to serve in.”

Pastor Ryan Saul was on staff at Calvary Chapel Palm Harbor when he and his wife Rachel began praying about planting a church. They left for Tampa in 2012 and were used to launch Calvary West Tampa.

Kevin Utile: Calvary Chapel Aurora Roundtable

Pastor Ed Taylor from Calvary Chapel Aurora recently hosted a Calvary Church Planting Roundtable with 38 pastors and wives which he described as, “Fruitful and encouraging.” Below is the takeaway from church planter Pastor Kevin Utile from his experience at the Roundtable just days after a church launch.

As I sat at my table listening to each pastor introduce himself I was so blown away that I was actually there. The Lord had removed every obstacle so that my wife and I could come to the CCPN Roundtable, a mere two days before we had our first service at Reach Boulder beginning this journey of church planting.

Pastor Ed of Calvary Aurora and Pastor Eric of Rocky Mountain Calvary shared from the Word and then opened it up to the group for discussion. After hearing everyone’s questions and listening to the wisdom from the pastors that were there it seemed there was a common thread throughout the whole meeting. Towards the end of the meeting pastor Ed said, “The two things every pastor will struggle with and battle through is the Fear of Man and Insecurities.”

Despite all of the questions I brought and hoped would get answered, the Lord ministered to my heart in a different way. He wanted me to know that HIS opinion is what matters most. I should not value what other people think above what the Lord thinks. Waiting to hear Him say the words “Well done, good and faithful servant,” must be what motivates me and causes me to run this race.

He wanted me to know that HIS opinion is what matters most. I should not value what other people think above what the Lord thinks.

As I continue to follow the Lord and plant a church in Boulder, Colorado, a place that most say is the “graveyard of churches,” I have to rely on the Lord and be secure in Christ. When I focus on Jesus and fear Him all of the insecurities and fear of man fade away.

I am so grateful to have been encouraged and equipped in this way right before our church was planted. God is moving in Colorado and I’m hopeful that when we have our next meeting there will be new faces of passionate men that want to reach the lost and plant more churches.
Pastor Kevin Utile and his wife were used of God to launch Reach Boulder, a new church near the University of Colorado Boulder. You can follow the church on Facebook.

God Is Not Done in Europe!

Perhaps you’ve been told, as I have, that Europe is “Post-Christian.” Nearly every time I’ve been informed of this tidbit it has been from someone that has (1) not been to Europe in a very long time or (2) never ventured outside of their North American bubble. Often in the same breath I’m informed of “scores of churches being turned into Mosques” in the UK and that the same is just about to happen in the US. Don’t misunderstand, I’m sure that stats would prove that Europe is less “Christian” than it was at the height of the Reformation. Probably even less Christian than it was 100 years ago. But as one who lived in London for a time as a child and then in Germany for a year as an adult, I have a slightly different, and more optimistic outlook.

God is not done in Europe! As the face of Christianity continues to sweep south and east, I am encouraged that the land of the Protestant Reformation is still in need of and ripe for the Gospel and Gospel passionate churches.

At the beginning of May I was privileged to return to Northwest Germany, with a group of Calvary Chapel pastors, to share at a Christian Leadership conference in Siegen, Germany. Once again my heart was full of joy as I worshiped alongside of nearly 500 leaders from churches in Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Sweden and several other Western European nations. God is at work! He has not “left the building.” And one of the most significant proofs that the work continues is a team of Calvary Chapel Pastors in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany that are actively gathering to pray for the 26 largest cities of their region, with the goal of seeing churches planted in each of them by 2040.

Großstadtliebhaber is an initiative, in partnership with CCPN to strategically visit and pray for each of the 26 cities over the next 52 weeks. I know that the team in Germany would be blessed if you would remember these cities in your prayers as well. May the Lord do exceedingly abundantly above all that we are asking and imagining!

Weeks | City
1 / 27 | Aachen
2 / 28 | Bergisch Gladbach
3 / 29 | Bielefeld
4 / 30 | Bochum
5 / 31 | Bonn
6 / 32 | Bottrop
7 / 33 | Dortmund
8 / 34 | Duisburg
9 / 35 | Gelsenkirchen
10 / 36 | Hagen
11 / 37 | Hamm
12 / 38 | Herne
13 / 39 | Stadt nach Wahl
14 / 40 | Krefeld
15 / 41 | Leverkusen
16 / 42 | Moers
17 / 43 | Mönchengladbach
18 / 44 | Mülheim
19 / 45 | Neuss
20 / 46 | Oberhausen
21 / 47 | Paderborn
22 / 48 | Recklinghausen
23 / 49 | Remscheid
24 / 50 | Solingen
25 / 51 | Witten
26 / 52 | Wuppertal

Pastor Miles DeBenedictis is the Senior Pastor of Cross Connection Church in North San Diego, CA. Besides having a passion to equip and train leaders in the local church, Pastor Miles is one of the founders of the Calvary Church Planting Network. He also teaches church planting at Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, CA. You can follow Pastor Miles on Twitter.

CCPN Central Coast Roundtable Roundup

The Calvary Chapel Church Planting Network held a regional roundtable earlier this month for interested church-planters at Calvary Chapel Nexus in Camarillo, CA.

Pastor Bruce Zachary, Lead Pastor at CC Nexus, the host of Roundtable, began the time by addressing the urgent need in being intentional in church planting. He laid out a compelling case for the call to plant churches. Pastor Bruce has a gift in making the complex simple and readily accessible. He spoke to some church-planting myths that keep some current and potential pastors staled in getting started in this important aspect of discipleship.

In a short time, Pastor Bruce amply covered 1) Why We Should Plant, 2) Obstacles to Planting, 3) Resources for Planting. Several times he referenced the CCPN Church Planting Manual as a tool for mentors to equip future church planters.

Pastor Lance Ralston, Lead Pastor at Calvary Chapel Oxnard, in Southern California was the other Roundtable presenter. He spoke to the importance of quality leadership and the vital role of a well-articulated vision for church planters. Pastor Lance defined godly vision as, “A Spirit-inspired picture of a preferred future. It describes what we will be when we arrive at the destination God intends.”
Through his message Pastor Lance expressed church planting rises or falls on godly leadership and those who are leading need to know where they’re going. He said vision is the “Where” a leader needs to develop and share with those he’s leading. To help Church-Planting Pastors & Teams to know where they’re going and VISION for the church plant, Pastor Lance has developed a vision development tool free (like all CCPN resources) for download through the CCPN website.

What makes these Roundtable settings valuable is the connections that are made with potential church planters. Connecting planter with resources is an important part of expanding God’s kingdom. The opportunity for questions and answers that wraps up the session provides people with helpful insights and encouragement. Often people voiced a question, and discovered there are several others with precisely the same concern. With a room of several dozen mentors, fellow church planters and experienced senior pastors, the wisdom to be gleaned is considerable.

The feedback from the Roundtable in Camarillo strongly supports the idea these regional gatherings are integral to Calvary Chapel’s church planting mission. A schedule of future CCPN Roundtables across the globe and other opportunities to gather are on the CCPN website.

Many thanks to Pastor Bruce, Pastor Lance and the people of CC Nexus for hosting this CCCPN Roundtable.

When Should I Go Full Time?

One of the questions I get asked all the time is “When should I go full time at the church?” My answer is always “Wait as long as you can.” There are several reasons for this that are not just financial. Going full time at a church is a dream for many people. Their dream job is either the be a pastor or work in an industry that truly changes lives. I get that, but I have also seen the downside. Remember that working for a church is still a job and still brings with it all the challenges other jobs have. For church planters it is even more so because now you are in charge and all the decisions rest with you. This is why my advice is always wait as long as you can.

Let’s consider some other things too, like the size of the church. When I started with Calvary Chapel you had to have fifty adults before they would consider your affiliation application. They wanted to see critical mass that God was doing something before they blessed it. You don’t see that much anymore and I think that is a bad idea. I’ve seen some Calvary Chapels get their affiliation papers right off the bat and never get above a handful of adults. That is a great Bible study, but not a church. There is something to be said about critical mass. You shouldn’t start your Sunday services without at least 50 adults. I know this flies in the face of a lot of current churches but that mass does several things. It provides credibility for the church. Walking into a rented space with only a handful of adults speaks volumes to visitors. Walking into a space that has over 50 adults provides comfort and energy for new visitors.

Why do I talk about church size before starting Sunday services? Because this will dictate when you start full time work. Every study I read says that a church should hire a full time position for every 100 people (adults & children) in the church. It is more likely the church can support you financially with that many people but it also means that you will be able to fill your forty hours a week with that many as well. Many churches staff at 85 people per full time position and that produces an inward focus on the church because now the staff person is expected to do everything. Keeping it at 100 people will continue to make it necessary for lay leadership and involvement.

I would also add some budgetary requirements before you go full time. First off strive to have three months of expenses, your salary included, in savings before you go full time. This will give you a bumper to allow for any low months but also give you some leverage if you need to take a leap of faith when it comes to a larger facility or costs for an outreach. Too many pastors have started out full time with a very low salary and it has handcuffed the church which prevented it from growing and taking steps of faith. This has left the pastor strapped and often resentful.

So when should you go full time? I would suggest only after your church passes the 100 people mark and has three months in savings. I know that sounds almost legalistic but a shocking figure I heard eight years ago when I planted The Village Chapel was that churches that didn’t reach 100 people by year four almost always stayed that way or closed its doors. On the other hand those churches which got past the 100 barrier by year four were most likely to be successful and last for a long time. Don’t truncate your church by going full time too early. Be wise stewards and make the sacrifices until you can do it. 

Chuck Musselwhite was used of God to plant Village Chapel in Lompoc on the central California coast in 2006. He has been instrumental in establishing Calvary Church Planting Network and has a passion for equipping and sending church planters. You can follow Pastor Chuck and Village Chapel on Facebook and Twitter.

The Fruit of Creating a Church Planting Culture

In February Calvary Chapel Rosarito began studying verse by verse through the book of Acts during our weekend services! As the book of Acts opens in Acts 1:8, Jesus’ final words to the church (before His ascension) were… “And you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth!”

As we read through the book of Acts, the primary way that we see the early church fulfilling the Great commission is through missions and church planting. And as you support our family as your missionaries, you are contributing to the fulfillment of this great commission. On our end, our job on the mission field is to continue to raise up and train up church planters. Now I am well aware that I have been writing a lot of updates about church planting recently, but God has truly been working in amazing ways, and I am excited to continue to update you on our new works.

…the primary way that we see the early church fulfilling the Great commission is through missions and church planting.

In February, we were happy to send out our 10th church planting family in the past 7 years! And in this update, I wanted to tell you a little bit about this family and their new church plant. David and Karen Wilson (and their four children) joined our church staff two years ago after founding two orphanages here in Northern Baja. Throughout that time, David had continuously felt a tug in his heart to plant a church, so their family moved to Rosarito where David enrolled in our church planting program and his family joined our church as missionary staff.

Over the past two years, David has not only completed our church planting program but  he also assisted in teaching the course with me last year! Over that time, I also ordained David and he has served faithfully as one of my Assistant Pastors over the past two years. Even though David was a great assistant, he began to feel God’s call and a burden for the city of Playas de Tijuana (“Tijuana Beach”)  This is a border beach city of 30,000+   located 12 miles to the North of us. As David prayed for this city, he realized it is severely under-churched and in desperate need of a Bible teaching church.

After hearing God’s call,  about a year ago David and Karen began preparations for this church plant and building up a planting team. Over time, God provided the finances along with the perfectly located building.  In January, our church held a “Sending Sunday” and we were happy to send out the Wilsons  along with 20 folks from our church to this new bilingual church plant.

The launch service (Sunday February 1st) was a smashing success with well over 100 people in attendance. Many visited from our church in Rosarito, but there was also a large local contingent from Playas as well. The serviced flowed with anointed worship, passionate prayer, and solid Bible teaching. The highlight of the service was the 6 first time professions of faith after the Gospel was presented. We celebrated God’s faithfulness Mexican style with a free all you can eat Carne Asada BBQ after the service.

As a missionary and Pastor, part of my calling is to build-up and send out church planters to reach the nations and fulfill the Great Commission.  And even though every time we plant a church we have to say goodbye to some of our greatest servants and Assistant Pastors, we are happy to do it because we know that God has great plans for them.

This post is taken from the missionary newsletter from Pastor Mike Vincent, the founding pastor at Calvary Chapel Rosarito

Resources to Grow in Preaching

Preaching gives the most ear hours than any other form of communication in the church. By that I mean for all the discipleship, classes, counseling and casual conversations a pastor has through the week; more people are listening for longer periods to his prepared sermons than anything else. This is why I propose it is imperative for church planters to continue to learn and grow in presenting God’s word even after the formal training has ended and the work has begun.

…it is imperative for church planters to continue to learn and grow in presenting God’s word even after the formal training has ended and the work has begun.

While listening to good preaching is a great tool, I also strongly suggest continuing to purposely learn about preaching. Below is a far from exhaustive list of resources that I have found helpful in continuing to learn and grow as a preacher. My hope is to fill the comment section with resources you have found helpful to continuing learning and growing in preaching after initial training. Post your thoughts and resources there.

Three Podcasts

  1. Sermon Smith, John Chandler interviews pastors concerning sermon prep.
  2. On Preaching, H.B.Charles Jr. offers valuable insights.
  3. The Sermonators, Evangelist Scott Smith and Pastor Joel Sutherland have great love for preaching and preachers. 

Three Blogs, and an addition

  1. Walk in the Word with James McDonald.
  2. Biblical Preaching, Pondering preaching that shares God’s heart.
  3. The Short Preacher, Taylor Sandlin (Don’t miss the quotes on preaching).
  4. Special addition: it will be profitable to read Pastor David Guzik’s four part series titled Critical Elements of Biblical Preaching posted on the CalvaryChapel.com website.

Four Books

  1. Calvary Church Planting Manual, has an excellent and concise section on expository teacher training.
  2. Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching: A Comprehensive Resource for Today’s Communicators by Haddon Robinson and Craig Larson is a modern classic.
  3. Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, by Bryan Chappell is possibly the most comprehensive modern book on expository preaching.
  4. Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones an all time classic in which the Dr. reminds us, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching.”

Four Hard to Categorize Honorable Mentions

  1. The Exchange, is Ed Stetzer’s podcast that can keep busy church planters updated with issues affecting ministry.
  2. Rainer on Leadership, is a blog and podcast by head of LifeWay Thom S. Rainer. Recent topics include, Why Preaching is Scary, and 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Pastor Right After the Sermon.
  3. Calvarychapel.com is effectively the clearinghouse for our tribe and a great source of encouragement, enlightenment and edification.
  4. The Productive Pastor, is a podcast from Pastor Chad Brooks offering insight into time management and productivity for the modern pastor in the modern tech oriented world.

Ed Compean is a missionary church planting coach based in Nairobi with his wife Kelli, but they are preparing to move back to the States later this year. You can read their blog or follow him on Twitter @Ed_Compean.