Hungry?

"It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. I t is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity."
— Frederic D. Huntington, Forum magazine, 1890.

I found this quote in the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  Last week my ministry coach made a statement about hunger… like the "Eye of the Tiger" kind of hunger that drives you go at something with all that you have.  We were talking about some of the challenges of gathering people to launch a new church and wondering out loud about why some churches seem to explode with growth and others seem to meander along at a slow pace.  From his observation, it seems like many of the churches that do well have leaders that have this kind of hunger… this willingness to risk it all for the sake of the gospel.  Now, hunger and passion are certainly not the only factors involved.  There are hungry and passionate leaders who have not seen the kind of fruit that others may, and I'm not sure why that is.  The point, however, is that succeed or fail, win or lose, we are not called to pursue God's dream for our lives with lukewarm sentiment.  God calls us to go all in and trust that he is going to be in the details.  I'm not always good at this… are you?

I sometimes like to watch poker on TV.  It's amazing how compelling it can be to watch a few people sitting around an oval table in a dark room playing cards can be.  The game that they most often televise is called No-Limit Texas Hold Em'.  It is a simple game really.  One announcer says, "It takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master."  I won't go into the ins and outs of the game, but the "No-Limit" part means that at any given time a player can bet all of his/her chips by going "all-in".  It can be a risky proposition to go "all-in" because the game itself can be so unpredictable… and these people (I'm not condoning gambling BTW) are often risking hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars in doing so.  That being said, if you talk to any poker champion they will tell you that to win a tournament and get the big payout you have to be willing to put everything on the line.

So the question for me is, am I willing to go all in?  In what ways have I held back so far in this new adventure of church planting?  Am I hungry enough, or am I resting too comfortably in the things that I can physically see and touch and taste?  Am I willing to risk it all for the sake of the call?

Launching a new church – How do we meet people?

Beyond the "So do you have a building where you will meet?" question, the number one question I have been getting lately as I tell folks I'm preparing to launch a new church is, "How will you gather people? Seriously? You are starting from scratch?" Yeah. I am starting from scratch, but I am already making contacts with folks in the area that I know from my college days and other friends/acquaintances of friends, etc. It is an overwhelming thought that currently Graceway Church consists of me, Michelle, and Zachary, but I really believe that God has called us to be there and if that is the case, it will somehow come together. I do, however, want to be smart and strategic about how I begin to meet folks. Are the traditional methods of knocking on doors and calling everyone in the phonebook still the most effective ways, or are there new ways that other church planters have found to be effective ways of connecting with their communities? I am particularly interested in knowing how folks are using online, social networking resources as well as other innovations. My cousin is a church planter at Great Park Church in Irvine, CA and the other pastor posted this on their blog:

Church Database System vs. Using Facebook & Meetups | Great Park Church

Does anyone have any thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? Warnings?

The Plan So Far

My last post was a brief spot about vision. As much as I am an idealist when it comes to what the vision of the Church should be, I know that there are some practical realities I have to prepare for. It is important to lead with purpose and direction while remaining open to the movement of the Holy Spirit for course correction along the way. So, I am beginningto develop a plan for the first six months (I'm still not exactly sure when we will hit the ground there…hoping for some confirmation soon)and here's what I have so far:

PURPOSE AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES
The Church: To join in God’s redemptive mission in the world.

Pastoral/Leadership: To faithfully proclaim the gospel and administer the sacraments. To equip God’s people for ministry.

Personal:

  • Trust in God’s provision
  • Pray fervently
  • Listen deeply
  • Prepare well

Team Facilitation:
(Identification) Be present and active in the community by serving as a volunteer at Bain Elementary School (a potential large gathering space in the middle of Mint Hill). Meet people by attending and participating in local community events (specific events are not yet identified). Become a familiar presence at local community gathering spots such as Jimmie’s Restaurant and Freshly Brewed Coffeehouse (also a potential small gathering space).

(Identification) Plant seeds for partnership relationships with local congregations who might provide prayer support, financial support and/or “missionaries” from their congregation to provide initial leadership and critical mass to begin

(Training) As potential leaders are identified we will commit to meeting regularly to pray and vision and identify practical steps forward.

(Facilitate) Establish clear, effective lines of communication for ongoing conversation, visioning, and planning efforts. The challenge is to get things done while not further “busy” people’s already busy lives. I will make every effort to communicate through one-to-one conversations, regular meetings, and through online technology.

AREAS OF FOCUS FOR THE NEXT SIX MONTHS

PASSIONATE SPIRITUALITY
Action Plan:

  • Meet regularly with a spiritual director
  • Remain committed to daily time in scripture/prayer/worship
  • Remember the sabbath and keep it holy
  • Begin a weekly home Bible study/small group worship gathering with those who show interest in being part of the church community.

LOVING RELATIONSHIPS
Action Plan:

  • Model loving relationships by putting my family first and faithfully spending time simply playing together
  • Invite families/individuals to spend time with our family in social settings…without focusing on “church stuff”.

GIFT ORIENTED MINISTRY
Action Plan:

  • Regularly encourage people to complete a “spiritual gifts” identification tool, followed up by visioning/dreaming about how they might use their identified gifts for ministry.

Other key action plans “the 1st 6 months”)

  • The following initiatives have high priority in the next 6 months
  • Identify a “person of peace” in the local community who God has placed there to be a welcoming presence in my life
  • Get to know the community by walking the neighborhoods as an active observer. Use the Community Mapping Tool to help gather and process information.
  • Begin to meet with other area congregations to build relationships with area clergy and begin to invite prayer support. Plant seeds for consideration of additional support (financial, people, etc.)
  • Develop an internet community website (including a blog, podcast, community forums, social networking) to begin building relationships with people in the community and invite questions and conversation.
  • Listen attentively to Holy Spirit and pray intently for the community, seeking how I might best begin to participate in furthering God’s mission in Southeast Charlotte.

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That's what I have so far. It is certainly a rough draft and certainly a work in progress. I would love some input from those who have been out in the field. What is missing? What needs tweaking? What is way off base? What is good?