Friday, January 28, 2011


For the past three days I have served as an assessor for a church planters Assessment Center sponsored by Converge.  The goal of the assessment process is very simple: to discern whether a candidate possesses a sufficient number of sixteen key building blocks to serve as the Lead Pastor of a a new church plant.

The whole process took me back to my own experience as a church planter in the mid 1980's. My wife and I did not attend an assessment center. I can only guess what kind recommendation we might have received if we had attended one. Certainly, the assessors would have questioned our plan to co-pastor the new church. They  probably have raised concerns about the common "D" both of us share on the DISC portrait. I can envision recommendations involving the need to visit some church planting models before we began the work, and to have a clearer philosophy of ministry in place.

I don't know how many of the sixteen building blocks were in place in our lives individually and together when we planted Warm Spring Baptist Church. But, looking back, here are some of the factors that I believe were instrumental in the success of this new church.

A clear sense of call. Deep in our hearts, Pat and I knew that God had called us to plant the church. During the tough times we could go back in our minds to the moment when we both heard "God's small voice" inviting us to be part of what He would do.

A deep faith in what God would do. We believed that the God who had called us to this work, was the One who would prosper the work. Jesus was going to build THIS church.

An earnest practice of prayer. Prayer was very much a part of our ministry routine. We cried out regularly for God's direction and help. We desperately needed it.

A commitment to excellence in preaching. Both Pat and I took the task of preaching seriously, and did our best to teach/preach the truths of the Bible with passion and relevance. In the early days, when our music was pretty mediocre,  I believe  the preaching that made the difference.

Persistent and varied outreach. During the early days, we worked hard to get out the word and invite people to attend the church. We knocked on doors, sent out mass mailers, and held special events. Looking back at our efforts today, the attempts seem somewhat amateurish. But, God blessed them, probably because they were done with the right heart and undergirded by prayer.

A ready made launch team. We came to a group of about twenty people who had been meeting in a Bible Study for about two years. Most of them had left other churches in frustration. They were all older than we were. For many aspiring planters the things I have just listed would be warning signs. In our case, the  core team was deeply committed to the success of the new church, and worked hard to help it grow.

Financial support. We planted under the old paradigm in which the denomination provided salary support. In our case, this support was spread over five years, decreasing 20% each year. This was a great blessing. Today, we would be out raising our own support.

Property. Even when the church was meeting in a house, it knew that it would be located on five acres on Warm Springs Road. A sign on the property provided publicity for the new church. Far more importantly however, it communicated permanency to the community.

The right place at the right time. We planted in Las Vegas, right at the beginning of the population boom. You know the old saying: "Location. Location. Location."

I believe that all of the factors above were important in the planting of Warm Springs Baptist Church.
But, the biggest and best explanation for the church is God.  He is behind these factors, in these factors, and bigger than these factors. He is the foundation and mortar for any and all building blocks needed in planting a new church. Assessments are important. I believe in them. I plan to be part of them in the future. But, church's are not planted by candidates who do well at assessment centers. Ultimately, God is the one who gives the growth (I Cor. 3:6-7). Church planters have the privilege of being along for the ride--and my wife, and I can testify: "It's a great one."

Saturday, January 22, 2011


How much do I really want to see the gospel go forward? Am I willing to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel, or am I really wanting to use the gospel in subtle ways for my own glory? These are questions I ask myself after reading Philippians 1:18 this morning. 

Paul pens Philippians while in prison. Instead of griping about his fate, Paul writes of how "his imprisonment has really served to advance the gospel" (1:12). The gospel is being advanced because his chains are encouraging others to share the message of Jesus. He recognizes the mixed motives of these "preachers." Some of them, in fact, are motivated by "selfish ambition" (17). What's Paul's response to all of this? A rather remarkable one in my opinion. "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way whether from true motives or false, Christ is preached, and in this I rejoice" (1:18).
Paul rejoices because the gospel is going forward. He could have complained about his chains. He might have attacked the deceitfulness of those who were using the gospel for their own gain, and, it should be added, seeking to harm him in the process. But his own condition is not important. What matters to him is the advance of the gospel. Christ is being proclaimed--and this knowledge gives him great joy.
Paul had a passion for the gospel. This passion flowed from his life-changing encounter with Jesus, and an ever-deepening love for his Lord. In his must-read book, MOVEMENTS THAT CHANGE THE WORLD, David Garrison notes that historically movements well from a "white-hot faith." Movements begin with a person who is radically transformed by Jesus, and now lives all of life in light of that reality. National church consultant Will Mancini speaks of how churches, more than anything else, need to be fueled in ministry by "redemptive passion." Paul burned with "white-hot faith;" he was driven by "redemptive passion." No wonder he rejoiced when the gospel went forth, even at great cost, discomfort and sacrifice to himself.
That brings me back to me. How much do I really want to see the gospel advance? One thing is clear: My passion for the advance of the gospel will be in direct proportion to my love for Jesus. I want my prayer to be simple and incessant: May I be increasingly infatuated with Jesus. May He increase more and more in my life, even as I joyfully decrease.