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Be Excellent

“That you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…” [Phil. 1:10]

“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude” – Ralph Marston

Your excellence is important because it tends to influence other people’s perception of your God. Consider the Queen of Sheba’s encounter with King Solomon. She was drawn to Solomon’s fame for wisdom and sought answers to the mysteries of life. Solomon gave wise answers to her most challenging questions [2Chron. 9:1-9]. The Queen was impressed regarding his wisdom, palace, food, the seating of servants, service and apparel of waiters and cupbearers, as well as the entry to the temple of God. Thus she was impressed by Solomon’s wisdom and the overall excellence that she saw. The Queen was extremely wealthy and presumably encountered excellence in several arenas of life. Nevertheless, she praises Solomon’s wisdom; and praises the God of Israel for what she heard [God’s wisdom] and what she saw [excellence]. The moral: excellence in life and ministry attracts people to receive the wisdom of God, and results in being drawn to God and glorifying Him.Conversely a disregard for excellence can create stumbling blocks between people and God.

In the context of the local church, the perceived quality of various elements of the worship service likely impact people’s receptivity to the word of God. For example, people form opinions about the facilities, greeters and ushers, children’s ministry, praise and worship, hospitality, prayer, outreach, missions, community service, etc. If people perceive that things are generally done excellently than they are likely to be more receptive to the teaching of the Bible. Furthermore, the teaching of the Bible should be excellent to encourage people to submit to God and to live His word. Looking to improve and do things excellently doesn’t mean you are not: loving gracious or led by the Spirit. You can rejoice and celebrate your current status, and move forward towards excellence. Furthermore asking, “Where can we improve?” is not necessarily negative. Especially when a discussion of what is being done well or excellently precedes the critique of areas needing improvement.

If people perceive that things are generally done excellently than they are likely to be more receptive to the teaching of the Bible.

Paul encouraged the Philippians to approve the things that are excellent, “That you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…” [Phil. 1:10]. The context is a prayer and exhortation for spiritual growth to distinguish good doctrine from poor doctrine. The Greek term deafero means, “to differ.” By implication, it means to surpass, be better, differ from, be of more value, and be more excellent. The term was used in connection with testing metals. Paul urged the church to know the difference between good and bad and the difference between mediocre and excellent. Paul is a man who worked hard to live a life that was excellent for Jesus, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” [Phil. 3:12]. Solomon expressed a similar thought: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” [Eccl. 9:10].

Excellence is an attitude and the attitude is displayed in the process. Excellence is not perfection. Excellence is not an achievement since we never arrive. Excellence tends to sees obstacles as opportunities.

What is required for excellence?

1. Motivation: We should desire an attitude of wanting to work harder for the Lord than for any other relationship. When we serve God, we want to give Him our best. The Mosaic Law provides that an animal sacrifice had to be without blemish or imperfection. Imagine a shepherd with two lambs. One of the lambs is blind and has a broken leg and the other is excellent. It would not be difficult to imagine that the shepherd would want to offer the significantly less than perfect lamb as a sacrifice. Yet, God says it is unacceptable. He effectively tells us that if we love Him, then we want to give Him our best. The motivation to give God our best is not to impress people that we are excellent we desire to give Him our best because He is worthy and we love Him. It is love for God that should motivate us to excellence as we minister to Him and His people.

2. A standard: Excellence needs a goal. There must be a description of the standard. Since excellence raises the standard we need to determine how high the bar is to be raised. When is it good enough? We know that excellence is not perfection, but what is the standard? For example the Raiders football team says they have, “A Commitment to Excellence.” What does that mean? No team will have a perfect season. A team may go undefeated, but it will not be a perfect season as there will be countless plays in every game that could have been executed better. Perhaps the commitment to excellence relates to winning the Super Bowl, or maybe getting to go to the Super Bowl or even the playoffs. Once you have set a standard, you can work toward the standard. A simple reference to a grade scale where “C” is average, “B” is above average, and “A” represents excellent can be a helpful starting point. Asking the question, “What needs to change for this to move from a “C” to an “A”?” can be helpful.

3. Discipline: To become excellent, you need to work towards the standard. Athletes wake up early and train hard to improve their skills. They learn to avoid staying out too late and avoid certain excesses in order to be excellent. No one becomes excellent without self-control diligence and effort.

4. Discipleship: We need to be disciples of Jesus and learn from Him. But we also need to learn from others who have gleaned valuable lessons ahead of us. Excellence in ministry is learned from others and taught to others. Paul imparted the lessons that he had learned to Timothy, and instructed Timothy to commit those lessons to faithful people who would teach others also [2Tim. 2:2].

5. Accountability: We need to be accountable to other leaders and team members. We need to receive review from others. In this manner, we can better understand the effectiveness of our ministry. Sometimes we are reluctant to receive review because it will undoubtedly include criticism as well as affirmation. Yet failure to be accountable hinders excellence.

In my ministry and life I want to be excellent by giving God my best. To excel in ministry I try to focus my efforts in the areas where I tend to get the best results. My best for the kingdom generally relate to my roles as a teacher, and leadership development. So I try to concentrate my time where I have the most effective results. Generally wherever possible I delegate other functions to other people [they often do as good a job or better than I do]. To work towards excellence I’m intentional about activities and attitudes that help me grow and improve. In regard to teaching I receive critique after each message from capable teachers who are able to provide meaningful critique. This accountability helps me to improve every week. In my roles as a developer of leaders I regularly meet with various mentors, attend conferences, read books and articles, and seek to apply the lessons to improve.

In my ministry and life I want to be excellent by giving God my best. To excel in ministry I try to focus my efforts in the areas where I tend to get the best results.

To grow in life my primary areas of focus are marriage and family. I’m intentional to meet with my wife Karen every few months to receive feedback. I ask her, “How are you doing, and how can I be a better husband to you? How am I doing as a father? Where do you think we are doing well? What are some areas where I can grow as a husband and a father?” I try to incorporate her feedback and look to grow in the months that follow. After a few months we will talk again and I’ll ask similar questions and also ask about the matters that we previously discussed. I want to know if things are the same better or worse. I also started meeting with our sons when they were teenagers to look for their take on how I was doing as a dad and how I could grow as a better father to them and for them. They are now young adults and I continue to have these discussions with them. I want to grow as a dad and represent Christ as excellently as possible to them (and my wife). Finally, I try to remember that excellence is an attitude, not a skill, and my primary motive to give God my best is simply a response to my understanding that He has given me His best [John 3:16].

 Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook and Twitter @BruceZachary.

Book Review: “The Leadership Ladder – Developing Missional Leaders in the Church”

Steve Ogne is a pioneer in developing resources for church planters, and has provided another excellent resource for pastors and planters. In the “Leadership Ladder” the authors provide a meaningful practical tool to develop disciples and leaders who can reach the lost and make mature disciples. One of the great benefits for church planters would be to better understand the issues and develop a culture from the inception of the church that was intentional about leadership development.

We are all aware that there is a crisis in the church in regard to development of mature disciples who are capable of reaching the lost and then making mature followers of Christ. Most proclaimed Christians have never shared their faith [the gospel], don’t engage unsaved people in the culture around them [live missionally], and have no idea how to make mature followers of Christ of new converts. This book is a valuable resource to help change the dynamic and offers a helpful model as a new paradigm.

The authors provide a practical “how to” toolkit that likes the process to a ladder. The sides that support each rung are Biblical knowledge and Biblical character. The book provides practical ideas to ensure these foundational aspects are addressed properly. You’ll likely learn some new skills to ensure that Biblical knowledge is actually being developed in the local church. As Calvary Chapel pastors we can erroneously assume that because we teach the Bible in verse by verse that people in the local church are actually growing in their understanding of theology in a meaningful way. Similarly the need to develop and ensure that the church is growing in Christ-like character is extensively addressed.

The book provides tools to help Christians engage the unsaved people in the culture they live in. The next step up the ladder is the process to make disciples who can make disciples. Once that skill has been learned and applied the next rung is to mobilize Christians for ministry. Then we learn to train those disciples who are mobilized for ministry to effectively lead ministry. The final steps are learning to effectively lead leaders and then to plant churches. Throughout the book the authors provide very practical advice and insights from a plethora of Christian leaders on how to put the principles to work.

I’m blessed to serve at an established church where I believe the majority of the principles have been and are being addressed. Nevertheless, the practical and comprehensive nature of the book has convinced me that this is a must read for our leaders. In the context of a new church plant I believe that it would be especially advantageous to develop this type of process as part of the church’s DNA from the beginning of the church through its maturation. So, I highly recommend this resource to you.

Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook and Twitter @BruceZachary.

Give Your People Away

The best thing a sending church can give a church plant is people. Money is good, counsel is helpful, but feet on the ground have a greater impact than anything else. Unfortunately this is often the last thing that sending churches want to give away. You can name a lot of reason like the hassle of having to replace them and the loss of tithing income but what it boils down to is fear.

I was talking with a church planter recently whose church is going great in the very early stages. The only struggle they are having is they don’t have a worship leader. So this planter is setting up and tearing down, leading worship, and then teaching. Way too heavy of a load for one man. As we texted back and forth I asked if there was anyone from his sending church who come along side him and lead worship. He did say there was a guy who was going to come with him but the sending church talked him out of going.

Unfortunately that is more the norm than not. Church planting is the “it” thing to do with churches today and you can be construed as a hip pastor if you are sending out church planters from your church, but to do it correctly takes commitment and sacrifice. One of the biggest sacrifices a sending church and pastor can do is to commit their people to making the church plant successful. Hoarding talent for your own purposes can have damaging effects down the line. We need to create a pipeline of sending people out. If we don’t the church will get clogged with people who are under utilizing their talents and ultimately the kingdom of God isn’t fully being reached.

One of the biggest sacrifices a sending church and pastor can do is to commit their people to making the church plant successful. Hoarding talent for your own purposes can have damaging effects down the line.

When we went out to plant The Village Chapel eight years ago, my pastor Paul Berry, from Calvary Chapel Santa Maria stood in front of the church and challenged people to go and serve for one year. Sixty-Five people took the challenge and went with us! Did it cause a little panic at the mother church? Heck yeah. Did it cause some discomfort in the ministries and in the giving? You better believe it, but it set our church on the path to success and stability because he did that.

As sending churches we need to give our people away. It will grow our faith as leaders, stretch the people who stay back, and create space for people to step up and serve where they weren’t before. Holding on to our people will cause stagnation and eliminate opportunities for them to step up into leadership. When we send out planters don’t send them out empty handed, send a team of people who will labor next to them. It will lay the foundation for a successful plant and will encourage the planter who is faithfully serving.

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.

Conception & Birth

It was mid July in Louisiana when I began coming to terms with planting Vestige Church. My wife called me to the bathroom, waving a home pregnancy test, the look on her face was one of both excitement and fear. She wasn’t the only one that had mixed emotions at the conception of our second son. I was totally ready to be a dad again, but the uncanny timing of Vestige Church’s conception simultaneous to this new baby, had me searching for roots, not the uncertainty of planting a church.

When Lisa was pregnant with our boys, I came to a point where the excitement of their arrival, gave way to the weight of being their daddy. I could describe the calling to plant a church the same way. Initially, you’re full of hope, excitement, love, and anticipation, but concern, doubt, and worry creep in as well. Seeing the little blob on the ultrasound screen for the first time, was like the first meeting Vestige had with fourteen people at a Starbucks. As I gazed at that blob, I wondered how God could create something so beautiful- and that He would use me to do it! I felt the same awe and gratitude when it came to planting Vestige. But in babies and churches, conceiving is the fun part. Each week produces up, downs, and sometimes a sort of gravity-defying combination.

As we got closer to our baby boy’s arrival, I felt something I never expected to feel: loneliness. After my role as assistant pastor for several years, loneliness was something I felt inoculated to. It was like my calling had pushed me to the precipice of some mountain, and I was left feeling uncertain, flapping in the wind. One of my church planting coaches reminded me of when God told Habakkuk to “write the vision…and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” So I began writing –in blogs, in a personal journal, and a plan for Vestige for the days ahead. God used the faithful men in my life, to direct the overabundance of emotion and passion I had (and still sometimes have!), to a task that would begin to bring clarity to the vision God had given us. The more I wrote, the more God gave me focus and certainty in the midst of uncertainty.

With a renewed clarity of vision, we packed up our home, sold it, and moved to city my heart had long since been residing in. A group of about fifteen people helped us unload all our belongings into our new home, which was in complete darkness because the electric company couldn’t get the power turned on in time. We spent the next three nights in a hotel room with our five month old and six year old. The funny thing was, we loved it. It was crazy hard, but we were here.

If you have kids, then you know the way you sometimes convince yourself that after the birth of your baby, it’s going to be better than the pregnancy was. Then you discover that once your baby is able to use the lungs God gave it, you have a whole new set of challenges, not the least of which is sleep. Well, I thought once we moved to Monroe, God would take it by storm. He didn’t. For the first few months, we felt pressed to pray and wait on God to show up and do His part,  feeling we had done ours.

While trying to survive being a new dad and a bivocational pastor, I realized I was just attempting to make it untill we got past the hard stuff, and got on to real parenthood and real ministry. Watching our baby grow, God clearly showed me we didn’t need to wait for either, they where all around us. Resolving to be what we already were, we adopted the phrase: “be the church”. It was no longer necessary for us to wait for more people, or less difficult circumstances, we just had to find tangible ways to be what God had already made us to be. We adopted a local school that was struggling in a bad area, and committed to praying for the staff and students, as well as blessing them with gifts and treats throughout the year. This has provided us a way of pouring  into our community as a group- being the hands and feet of Jesus together.

It was no longer necessary for us to wait for more people, or less difficult circumstances, we just had to find tangible ways to be what God had already made us to be.
January 2015 we launched Vestige Groups, our version of small groups. They’re the first thing we’ve done that we don’t plan to change. Seeing them take shape, is like watching the first walls of house being erected, or the green of a sapling break from the dirt. Our journey is nowhere near completion, and maybe we’re just waiting for the next hard thing. With our kids, it’s probably the pre-teen years and terrible twos, and with the church, God only knows. But for now, we take comfort in knowing God has our backs. He is building His Church, and He won’t fail.
Church planter and Pastor Caleb Tarr can be followed on Twitter, @PastorCalebTarr, and you can check out Vestige Church in Monroe, LA, online.

How To Let People Leave Your Church Gracefully (Pt. 2)

In the first part of this post we looked at three ways to check your heart when people leave the church you are called to plant. Since it will happen, here are five ways to let people leave gracefully:

  1. Thank them for their contribution. Humble yourself and offer them appreciation for something: how their family has been involved, how they’ve grown during their season among you, the support and encouragement they’ve been to you. Let them know you genuinely care for them and are sad to see them leave. But don’t guilt them into staying.
  2. Offer to pray them off at a service. Sending people with your blessing, and visibly from the stage, gives people closure and communicates to them that even in their departure you are extending Christlike, pastoral grace. Tell the church you are sad to see them go but you are hopeful that God is leading them to a new season and fellowship. This lets the entire body know that their best interests are always in mind from the leadership.
  3. Recommend at least three churches for them to attend. If they’ve been submitted to your leadership, why not offer one last bit of counsel? What are three “safe” churches you can recommend them to attend? Jot them down, and encourage the people leaving to at least consider a visit. And if you (hopefully do) have a relationship with those pastors, call/email them and tell them a great family is leaving and is heading their way. I’ve done this several times and every time the pastor is floored that we would offer such grace and care for our previous members. It’s the high road, and it’s less traveled.
  4. Follow up with them at their new fellowship. If they merely fell out of fellowship, prayerfully consider how you can continue to disciple them to become involved with a local body of believers. But if they are attending a new church, send them a message or a note of encouragement. Ask and inquire how they are doing, what they like about the church, and what God has been speaking to them. This one action alone often reveals wicked jealousy that we are harboring and should lead us to intercede for more churches in our area.
  5. Continue to love them. Not everyone leaves gracefully, and that can sting. I’ve had people send mass emails stating horribly false things about me to our church email list. I’ve had people I was discipling spread lies and slander while still attending and then leave a wake of gossip when they bailed weeks later. I’ve even had people storm out of my house yelling. But most people just quietly slip out the back door and never return. If you (and/or your wife) have any bitterness or unforgiveness against them, pray and repent. Ask God to heal your wounds. If you see them posting about their new church, pray for them. If you run into them in public, don’t let it get awkward. Lovingly smile and ask about their family and how they are doing and how you can pray for them. It isn’t our job to seek justice or to “set the record straight”. Our job is to lay down our lives for our friends, to demonstrate Christ’s love to one another no matter how we are treated (John 15:12-13).

At the end of Paul’s life, even with the dozens of churches that were planted, he finished his ministry desperately alone (2 Timothy 4:9-11). But no matter who had departed or caused pain, his final analysis was this:

“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” (2 Tim 4:16-17)

Pastor, don’t be discouraged if you’ve been deserted. It happened to Paul, it has happened to me, and it even happened to Jesus! So don’t be alarmed when it happens to you. Do your best to be a conduit through which the grace and mercy of God flows to people. That means being a faithful guide and undershepherd to hurting people. And sometimes that means saying goodbye to our most beloved. But no matter how people depart, we can be an example of godly graciousness, as Paul told Titus: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7).

Pastor Pilgrim Benham is a church planter in Bradenton, Florida. He is currently planting Shoreline Calvary Chapel in Bradenton and has previously planted Calvary Chapel South Tampa. He is a blog contributor at Calvary Church Planting Network and writes on his blog at pilgrimbenham.com.

How To Let People Leave Your Church Gracefully (Pt. 1)

On my personal blog I recently wrote, How to Leave a Church Gracefully  and pointed out several ways for church members to leave a church when they believe God is calling them out. As awkward as these moments can be, the reality is sometimes God simply calls people to move onward and I explained that this should always be done carefully, prayerfully, and completely.

In this post I’ve been asked to offer the direct opposite position; that is, what is our response as church leaders when someone leaves our church? How do we let someone leave gracefully when we’ve invested our time, prayer, love, concern, and very lives to people who bail because they “aren’t being fed”? What is the Christ-honoring, Biblical response as church leaders?

(I will begin this post in a similar way as the previous one, pointing out that in this volume we won’t dive into the theological arguments for why people should commit to a local expression, how important church attendance is or why people must stay connected to the body. Those truths are already implied and now suggested by myself to you. Also this is presupposing that the church you pastor/lead is Biblically-sound, is not covering up sin or crime, and is above reproach in the community.)

So how do we handle people who leave? Let’s start with three arguments and later we’ll review five graceful ways pastors can allow people to leave their churches.

First, it is helpful to remember that these are not your people, they are God’s. Our identity can often be wrapped up in our churches, especially church plants. After all, we’ve invested our time, finances, prayers, blood, sweat, and many tears to build people and advance the Gospel in our fellowship. If things are going great and people are excited in our church, we can begin to root our identity in the acceptance and approval of men. But when people leave, we can get discouraged and believe that we are being rejected personally. I know when we planted Reality Church Tampa (now Calvary South Tampa), I was quickly discouraged when people left, for any and every reason. I learned quickly, however, that I must hold people with an open hand, not a closed fist. They are God’s children, God’s sheep, the members of God’s household, the various parts of Christ’s body. I have learned to cherish the short seasons that I am able to bring the Gospel and the Scripture and maturity into people’s lives and have learned that seasons begin and end. And no matter how long they are among us, they don’t belong to me any more than the church does. The church, and they, belong to Jesus.

Secondly, we need to realize that we can’t be everyone’s pastor. Some people connect better or identify greater with different groups of people or ministry styles. This shouldn’t discourage us but can bring needed clarity if we are ministering in a style that is contextualized to a particular group. Paul pointed out to the Corinthians that a proof of their carnality was their sectarianism. Some of them preferred Paul, others Apollos, still others Peter and the super-spiritual preferred Christ (1 Cor 3:1-4). Even in first-century Corinth people had their favorite pastoral preferences! However, Paul communicates in verses 5-9: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

In other words, pastors are merely servants that have a part to play in the harvest of souls. Some people will be planted by your ministry, but will leave to get more water and nourishment elsewhere. The point is that we will receive our wages according to our labor. So work hard, allowing the grace of God to work effectually in and through you (1 Cor 15:10-11).

Thirdly, it is important to pay attention to the reasons people are leaving. I have dismissed some of the silly reasons people leave. Remember, people are fallen, sinful, and their hearts are deceitfully wicked. They may believe they are hearing from God and really aren’t. They may have a depraved consumeristic hunger that can’t be satiated by your church’s programs. I call those people who leave “blessed subtractions.” I have said goodbye to people who literally left our church plant because they expected it to immediately have youth ministries, full worship teams, live streaming and podcasts and sermons uploaded by 1pm on Sunday, fully staffed nurseries at every holiday church service, people who expected my wife to be discipling them weekly, more people with daughters aged 2-4 for their girls to interact with, a church with a permanent location, a church with a staff of elders, a church with fresh coffee each morning, and a church with a professional safety team to help with the homeless lady who kept disturbing the services. Those are not sufficient reasons to leave a church and we should appeal to these people to deeper maturity and faith, and if they refuse, pray them out! If, however, they are leaving for something prideful in the leadership, for a loss of your original vision, for the church not reaching lost people or making disciples, or another valid reason, then pay attention. God may actually be using their exodus to refine and discipline you and your leadership.

Pastor Pilgrim Benham is a church planter in Bradenton, Florida. He is currently planting Shoreline Calvary Chapel in Bradenton and has previously planted Calvary Chapel South Tampa. He is a blog contributor at Calvary Church Planting Network and writes on his blog at pilgrimbenham.com.

If I Did It Again…

“If you planted another church, what would you do differently?”

That’s a question I’ve been asked since year one. I charged into church planting with a very positive, optimistic, if-you-build-it-they-will-come mindset, which I’m thankful for. I know other church planters who went out burdened with church plant failure statistics, wondering they would become another statistic. I didn’t know the stats, or the struggle, and I certainly couldn’t have predicted the events of the first year (deployment, flood, 3 jobs…).

However, through all of the challenges that the first few years held, I have no regrets. Even the things I’d change became valuable lessons for me.

If I were to plant another church, here are two things I’d do differently…

I would not over-commit.

I’m all about raising up a team, preparing, strategizing, and the like, but don’t wait too long. Hit it! You’ll have time to learn, grow, and re-strategize as you go. On the other hand though, it’s easy to over-commit, stretch yourself thin, and run the risk of burnout at church or at home (neither of which are options).

The main way I over-committed was by launching with a weekend and a mid-week service. Mid-week services are nice, and I’ve always gone to one in every church I was in. A mid-week study was never part of our launch plan, but when enough people requested, it seemed harmless enough. Then by the time we were ready to launch, it felt too scary to cancel something that was working so well. So, in addition to our planned weekend service, we launched with a Wednesday night service as well.

I don’t regret Wednesdays. People grew with each other and in the knowledge of the Word. However, it was way too much commitment early on. I was working 3 jobs in addition to the church, and studying for 2 unique message every week was a huge task. By God’s grace, I survived, my wife and kids still love me, and the church is still growing…but I would do it differently!

I would not try to reproduce.

Coming from a 15,000-member megachurch, our natural tendency early on was to try to replicate what they did so well.

Good Friday? A Good Friday service happens at noon on Good Friday…or so we thought.

Although thousands turn out every Good Friday at our church in New Mexico, when we tried to replicate it at noon in an Army town, a few unemployed people and some moms showed up. Good Friday at noon fit them – not us.

 

Easter is coming? We should probably rent an outdoor venue and do a sunrise service. That is how Easter services are run, after all…or so we thought.

We had seen it done that way so successfully for so many years in New Mexico that we didn’t even stop to consider any other way of doing Easter. Without considering context, culture, or the unique people we were reaching, we attempted to reproduce their success. Our first Easter was one to remember, but we don’t plan to do it that way again!

Transitioning from Local to Kingdom Leadership

One of the greatest needs in the Church today is for Kingdom leaders. Church leaders’ desire to build up the local church is certainly noble and critical to mission. However, it’s critical not to focus on our immediate community to the extent that it overshadows God’s greater Kingdom. The purpose of this article is not to swing the pendulum from one extreme to another, but to move towards a healthier balance between the local church and the broader Kingdom.

Have you ever met a church leader who seems focused on building the local church? Of course you have. Almost all of us have a desire to equip and edify the local church. Have you ever considered how the focus on the development of the local church could potentially cause us to neglect the greater Kingdom? Over focus on the local church is an obstacle to healthy advancement of Christ’s Kingdom when resources are heavily allocated to, what is essentially our small piece of the puzzle, forgetting the big, Kingdom picture. Kingdom initiatives that seem to transcend the local church include, but are not limited to: global missions, church planting, para-church ministries, engaging or reaching unreached people groups, developing leaders for Kingdom service beyond the local church and benevolence, especially beyond the local church. Anecdotally, the percentage of resources (time talent and treasure) that are used for these Kingdom initiatives in the typical local church is often very small. We need to realize that the tendency of church leaders to focus on developing the local church can cause us to neglect the greater Kingdom. The transition to Kingdom leadership is a process that every local church needs engage in.

Over focus on the local church is an obstacle to healthy advancement of Christ’s Kingdom when resources are heavily allocated to, what is essentially our small piece of the puzzle, forgetting the big, Kingdom picture.

I’d like to propose a four-fold transition process:

Assess

Resources need to be allocated towards Kingdom initiatives in order to fulfill the Kingdom calling of the Church beyond the local church. Yet we rarely actually assess how our resources of time talent and treasure are actually committed to Kingdom works. The first step is to take an honest accounting to assess how resources are allocated. Examine the church budget to see how funds are committed to distinctly Kingdom initiatives beyond the local church. Then consider how people resources of time and talent are designated for Kingdom works beyond the local church. In other words how are people empowered encouraged and engaged in Kingdom initiatives? A reasonable goal would be to work towards ten percent [10%] and then consider moving beyond the 10%.

Align

Consider the question, “What has God called us to do as a local church to advance the Kingdom beyond the local church?” Each local church will have a sense of particular areas of calling. Your church may feel an emphasis towards global missions, church planting, reaching unengaged or unreached people groups, or a particular para-church ministry. It is also very likely that you feel a call to multiple initiatives. We have found it helpful to ask, “If money wasn’t an object and there were plenty of talented people to spare what would we like to do for God’s Kingdom?” Take the time to determine where you believe God has called you to be as a local church in your role as Kingdom leaders.

Accountability

Create a plan to designate resources and prioritize the Kingdom initiatives to move towards the desired destination. This will likely involve shifts in the budget and vision to mobilize people and financial resources. There will likely be resistance to the shift because competing local initiatives will be perceived as threatened. When faced with the challenge of perceived scarcity of resources make the Kingdom initiatives the priority and trust God’s leading and provision.

Assist

Engage the help of other leaders who you perceive as having effectively made the shift from local church to Kingdom leadership. Identify mentors who can help you and your leadership team to navigate the challenges. Then as you transition to Kingdom leadership offer to assist other church leaders in the process.

God Will Finish The Work

If you grew up in the 80’s or 90’s I’m sure you’ve heard of Indiana Jones and his “Temple of Doom”, but chances are you probably haven’t heard of the ‘Hotel of Doom’. In North Korea in 1987, construction started on the Ryugyong Hotel, a 105-floor pyramid-shaped hotel that reminds you of a spaceship rising out of Communist North Korean soil. In 1992 the funds ran out for construction, and the hotel stayed unfinished until 2008, when construction began again. It remains incomplete even today, with most floors still at their concrete stage of the process, and stands as a huge reminder of what Jesus said in Luke 14:28: For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

As a church planter and pastor, this is one of my greatest concerns for the church: That what God began in us and in our ministry won’t be completed. 

When I moved in 2010 to plant Reality Church Tampa, I had no idea what God would do. I stepped out from my hometown to a big city with no job, no home, minimal support, not knowing a single person in the city, and simply faith that Jesus would begin a work. And He did. The Lord opened up a home for my family, I was blessed with an incredible job at a global retailer, God provided a space to meet and a team of people to plant the church with, and people got saved and discipled as ministry happened. And after 4 years we have raised up leadership and God has called us to move to the next city and begin again, learning from the lessons we gained from the first step of faith.

In Philippians 1:6, Paul says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Paul essentially tells the church in Philippi three things about the work of God in Christ in our lives:

1. God’s at work.

Paul says God began a “good work” in you. The phrase has with it the idea of beginning and ending. And it is always used of salvation. Sometimes we aren’t sure if God is up to anything, or if He is, why things are happening the way they are. We ask questions and try to take control rather than resting in His artistry. What does the canvas contribute to the artist? He’s the one doing the work, the creating, the painting, the shadowing, the #awesomeness. What does the canvas contribute? The canvas is merely the object that sits still long enough for beauty to emerge from the surface.

What does the canvas contribute? The canvas is merely the object that sits still long enough for beauty to emerge from the surface.

Don’t take my word for it. Over and over God tries to explain this in the New Testament, that He is doing a work within us and we need to allow Him to have His way (Romans 8:28-30, Ephesians 2:4-6, Phil 2:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24, 2 Thess 2:13, Titus 3:4-7, Hebrews 13:20-21).

2. God will finish the work.

Unlike the 105 Building, God doesn’t start something and then abandon the work. In the NFL there is a penalty for doing this: it’s called a false start. Someone on the offensive line makes a move as if they are going to start the play, but then pull back and are penalized for not finishing what they began.

We often can be concerned that like this offensive penalty, God began a work but won’t finish it, and we will lose yardage.

When God called my family to step out in faith again and turn the work over to the men He had raised up under our ministry, it was a huge moment of trust and wrestling:

Was this God’s will?

What if they weren’t ready?

Would the church continue without me?

How can we leave so early into the church’s development?

Things are so good right now Lord are You sure??

After seeking the Lord, He reminded me, and continues to remind me of this verse.

He began it. He will complete it. We are merely along for the ride of our lives.

3. We can be confident in God as a competent worker.

Unlike you and I, ignoring the honey-do lists we perpetually have calling out to us to finish each weekend, God won’t leave a work undone.

The great artisan Michaelangelo was said to have been commissioned to sculpt “David” and found the piece of marble he used outside of a town in Italy, thrown aside. The story goes that a previous artist had attempted a work of art with the same marble but couldn’t do the work and neglected the stone. When Michelangelo found it, weeds were growing on it and it had a reputation of being a neglected object that “could-have-been” a wonderful masterpiece.

There may be something in your life that seems forgotten or neglected by the Lord. You’ve relapsed, or sinned, or you have made a mistake, and you think you are beyond saving or beyond recovery or beyond hope. Whenever you think of your future, or ministry, you just look at yourself as a “could-have-been”.

Paul said he was fully persuaded, fully confident that God will finish the work. And I am as well. What He began in us won’t be forgotten or set aside. God is a master Artisan who always creates something breathtaking and beautiful. And what He begins He always finishes. So don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Don’t be discouraged if you look around on a Sunday and it doesn’t seem like there is much happening. He’s doing a work in you, and He won’t get any penalties for false starts. He promises to do exceedingly abundantly above what we can ask or imagine. The question remains: are we asking or imagining great work to be done?

What He began in us won’t be forgotten or set aside. God is a master Artisan who always creates something breathtaking and beautiful. And what He begins He always finishes.

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Pastor Pilgrim Benham is planting churches in the Tampa region for the glory of God. For more details about his previous church plant, Reality Church Tampa, visit www.calvary813.com.

Why ReEngage 14 Is For You!

Pastor Bruce Zachary (CCPN Director) & Senior Pastor of Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA.


There are several reasons why you should invest your resources and time to attend this year’s conference at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa 9.29-30.14. To Equip — To Encourage — To Engage

To Equip: Starting a new churchis often the most difficult challenge that a church planter will experience in his life. This reality is a catalyst to ensure that we are responsible to invest resources to ensure that they are equipped for the task. Mentors need to be better equipped to train planters and planters need to receive training and resources that are consistent with our movement. We need to ensure the accurate and effective transmission of the Calvary Chapel DNA [our philosophy of ministry and theology] so that healthy CC churches are established. This year’s conference line-up of main session speakers and workshop leaders are well known, gifted, and leaders in our movement. Most importantly they will address practical and critical aspects of the equipping process. Furthermore, they will be available to those that attend to talk, equip, and encourage you in the process. You simply won’t get that experience by seeking resources on-line.

“We need to ensure the accurate and effective transmission of the Calvary Chapel DNA [our philosophy of ministry and theology] so that healthy CC churches are established.”

To Encourage: Gathering with other like-minded pastors, aspiring planters, and other leaders in various stages of the process of planting strengthens each participant. The opportunity to hear from others beyond our generally limited areas provides strength and comfort for the task at hand. The experience of gathering with familiar friends and making new friends who are passionate about church planting, the CC movement, and the greater Kingdom of God – people from all over the globe – is inspiring. You will discover that many of the concerns and fears: it is too complicated, too time consuming, too costly, or it will hurt the sending church were simply lies from the enemy of men’s souls. Until you hear it face to face from peers, and others in the trenches you are unlikely to take the necessary steps of faith to move forward in the process. You will be encouraged to be strong and of good courage and to cross the Jordan River and experience the Promised Land of church planting.

To Engage: There are potential mentors and prospective planters who have thought about the idea of church planting and been attracted to the concept. They have taken a peek at some resources or heard some exciting news and wondered, “God is this something that you are calling me (us) to?” They’ve been curious but have not engaged. Although they keep sensing, “Some day we are going to do that” they haven’t for months or even years. Committing resources for church planting is a catalyst to engage. By carving out time in your schedule and encouraging others to attend you begin to engage in the process and then it is only natural supernaturally to find yourself advancing God’s kingdom through church planting.

“By carving out time in your schedule and encouraging others to attend you begin to engage in the process and then it is only natural supernaturally to find yourself advancing God’s kingdom through church planting.”

So register, bring a team, invite prospective planters, mentors, and their wives, and be equipped, be encouraged and engage in church planting!


 Register for ReEngage 14 here!