4 Ways to Improve Your Prayer Life Today

Speaking to and listening to God should be something that is second nature to Christians. Yet many Christians will willingly admit that they struggle with prayer or at least they see a lot of room for improvement in their prayer lives.

Count me as among those who know they need to be spending more time connecting to their Maker, the Almighty.

1) Believe that PRAYER = DOING SOMETHING.

When I have gotten to speak with ministers about prayer, it seems like one of the reasons they feel they cannot devote as much time to prayer as they would like is that there is just too much work and not enough time. The old to-do list is a monkey on American’s backs. For people in ministry this is coupled with fear and a need to have your people see that you are doing something. This is why we need to really start believing that prayer is doing something.

About a year ago I asked 50 people how they would have me spend my time if they got to choose my schedule for 1 hour in the week. They did not collaborate with each other. If I followed their suggestions, I would spend a typical work-week in 15-20 hours of prayer. That’s convicting and amazingly encouraging.

How might your life be transformed if you waited 5 minutes to cook dinner and instead prayed for 5 minutes for your family?

What if you prayed before logging in to check your email?

Somehow we need to learn how to get over that Satanic message that haunts us that nags in our head that we are not accomplishing anything when we stop to pray.

Consider the famous Martin Luther quote that goes something like this, “I have so much to do that if I didn’t spend at least three hours a day in prayer I would never get it all done.”

Or to have the wherewithal that Jesus had when He would go to a secluded place to pray. He prayed until someone came and retrieved Him.

2) KNOW THYSELF

One of the greatest leaps I made in advancing the quality of my prayer life was the result of (what I thought was) a completely unrelated conversation. I was speaking with a friend about learning styles and how we took notes back in high school. I was always a good listener and processed things best if I took notes – not word-for-word, but the things I thought were the most important. Then a light bulb went on in my head. The next day I got a notebook out and started journaling a prayer. I’d heard the idea before but it just seemed foreign to me. This time everything connected – I love to communicate through the written word – why not communicate that way with God?

I think if someone genuinely wants to improve their prayer life these are some important things to consider:

How do I learn and process information best? How do I communicate best with others? What is most comfortable/natural for me? How do I best express my love for others?

Maybe closing your eyes and folding your hands was effective when you were 5 years old and maybe its not any more. Experiment with styles, positions and communication channels.

3)  MAKE THE MUNDANE HOLY

The Apostle Paul implores us to “pray without ceasing.”

What I like to do when I start my work day is to review anything not completed from the previous day(s) list and to add appropriate items for the day to come. This is an activity I would consider rather mundane. I am now giving it to God. I don’t make the list anymore, WE make it. It is no longer a to-do list, it is a prayer list.

I really started this practice when I got back into running/jogging (and walking) last Spring. Prayer walking was a practice I had heard of but never really tried. I have a hard time listening to music while running. I started praying for my neighborhood and my neighbors.

Human beings are very associative. If I sit down to watch TV at night I feel compelled to get a snack. I have trained myself that snacking and watching go hand-in-hand.

Pick one thing that you do in your routine that is mundane and give it to God. This could be your shower time, your commute, while you are washing dishes, etc. Just pick one thing and instead of just doing it, pray while you complete your task. The goal is that you’ll get to the point that whenever you fold clothes or shovel your front walk you’ll be reminding yourself to pray.

4) GET SOMEONE TO PRAY WITH

I grew up learning that if you had a problem, there is a great solution in the Bible. I loved the Bible and I still do. I love connecting dots and uncovering layers of depth of God’s Word. When I was in college a friend of mine came to me upset and she asked me if I would pray with her.

What? What is this strange thing – praying with another person?

Prayer fit into 2 categories: public and personal. Public prayer was when I prayed up in front of the whole church gathered or my youth group or a men’s prayer breakfast. Private prayer was just me. Praying with one other person was difficult for me because it did not fit well into either of my categories.

Jana and I prayed together in the back of the chapel that day. We continued to meet once or twice a week in the morning to share prayer requests, pray together and commit to pray for one another. I found myself praying a lot more after I started praying for my friend. I would see or hear things throughout the day that would remind of something she had asked to pray about and I would pray right there and then.

If you want to pray more and better now, call a good friend and see if they will join you in making a regular effort of it.

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What I Learned from The Discovery Bible Study

My wife and I traveled to Harding University in Searcy, AR the week after Thanksgiving in 2014. Our intent was to speak to as many students as we could to encourage them to join us in working to start churches in Central New York. We got to interact a lot with one Marvin Crowson who works at the school with a lot of domestic missions efforts. He tries to assemble teams of students who will move somewhere that needs a church and start a church. Crowson gave me some names (David Watson, Paul Watson, Dave Hunt and CityTeam.org) and told me to explore the “Discovery Bible Study”

So I did… and here is what I have learned:

Typical Bible study in America falls short in 2 major categories. The first is in their function and ability to promote obedience. The second is their function and ability to promote growth. What we do a good job of (sometimes) is digging deep to gain understanding of a particular text and then working hard to find a person application to that Scripture, i.e. “How does it apply to me?”

The DBS steps in with a simple approach that targets these shortcomings. In regard to obedience the study asks the question of the text, “If this is indeed from God, how will you obey it?”

Everyone makes some kind of commitment to what they can do in the next week to obey what they have just learned. Then when the group meets again the next week the facilitator will ask, “So how did it go this past week?” There is a level of accountability built in. People are not punished or shunned for not following through, but the hope is that a culture develops amongst your people of doing what they set out to do.

The next question that comes at the end of the DBS is, “Who can you tell?”

This can be an invitation to the study or it can be something like, “I am trying to be more thankful because I was reading in my Bible the other day that Christians should be overflowing with thankfulness.”

If you have a group of 8 people and every week they are sharing what they are learning and inviting others to join them, this group should grow.

 

The Discover Bible Study process has been implemented on foreign mission fields with great success. Missionaries are able to quickly train new Christians in this technique and send them out to start new churches. The excitement has made it home and many of these missionaries and groups are trying to start similar movements in America.

There’s a lot to learn. If you are interested in going deeper, here are some introductory materials:

YouTube Video on Disciple Making Movements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJq1N4PiH28 

PDF file of DBS in a nutshell: http://www.lipscomb.edu/

Here is another simple explanation with a Scripture guide: http://worldmissionsevangelism.com/discovery-bible-studies/

Lastly citychurchmovement.com has a couple of great infographics:

dbs-method dbs-questions-steps

What I Learned from the Art of Neighboring

What I Learned From The Art of Neighboring by Pathak & Runyon

December 30, 2014

The Art of Neighboring: building genuine relationships right outside your door by Jay Pathank and Dave Runyon begins with a really neat story. Churches looking to band together to transform their community look to their mayor for some guidance. The mayor essentially turns these churches back to the Bible and tells them that what the city really needs is for people to simply be better neighbors to one another. Kudos to Denver or whatever nearby town this government represents because they discovered this simple truth. A lot of the programs that people demand would be unnecessary if people, especially Christians, did what God has been calling them to do for the past 6,000 years.

I’ve been listening to Bonhoffer’s “Cost of Discipleship” on my phone these last couple of weeks. In the second or third chapter he points out a general eagerness we have as Christians to try to avoid the cost of commitment. We try to figure out what Jesus really meant in order to absolve ourselves of responsibility. The Art of Neighboring sheds similar light on Jesus’ regurgutated second greatest command, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Do we forget to do that? Do we ask the same question as the lawyer did 2000 years ago?

 “Well, Jesus, who is my neighbor – really?”

 Next we are challenged – how well can you love your neighbor if you don’t really know them?

Fill out a chart and list names, jobs, realtionships, etc.

The charge is then to go out and get to know your neighbors, find out how you can love them and get them to join you on this little mission.

The rest of the book serves as a helpful guide from a couple of guys who have been navigating these waters for the past several years. I found it to be full of wisdom, exhaustively covering situations you will probably encounter on your journey.

What a great reminder this book was for me.

Many times in thinking about evangelism I have struggled with conversations and relationships feeling unnatural. I want there to be some point of commonality to rally around or get started with. Geographic proximity is one of those things.

I appreciate the effort the authors made as well to add suggestions in the back of the book on how to use the book in a Bible class setting. They include additional Scriptures and questions for each chapter of the book.

Cassie and I are committed to our neighborhood. We have been living in the same house for 9 years and only know a handful of our neighbors. Half of them do not speak English but that needs to be seen as an opportunity and not used as an excuse. We invited everyone on our block over for a holiday party. One family showed up and it was the people we know the best. We know it will take time but over the next couple of months we will try to build up those relationships and do some kind of block party in the Spring.

What I Learned from Organic Community

What I Learned from Organic Community by Joseph Myers – November 5, 2014

Organic Community: creating a place where people naturally connect by Joseph R. Myers

This book pits the idea of master planning against organic order. The overarching analogy (in my mind) is that of a city whose architects have a master plan. They design parks and business districts, they map out neighborhoods and roads and for everything to be successful, everything must submit to the master plan.  Organic order is not chaotic but follows the flow of what is happening naturally. So it is about building the playground close to where the kids live rather than forcing the families to move to the neighborhood with the playground.

The master plan is paint-by-numbers; organic order is the blank canvas of the artist.

 In organic order, patterns are descriptive not prescriptive. In the church world this relates to the oft referred to passage from Acts 2:42-47. The early church was devoted to the Apostle’s teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. That is descriptive, it is telling us what they did. It is not telling us that we have to do that or more specifically it is not telling ushow we have to do that.

 As a side bar Myers throws in something that he learned from Edward Hall’s theory of proxemics, which is that people relate to others in terms of their spaces. We have public, social, personal and intimate relationships with others.

Public connections would include people who root for the same sports team. We may not even talk to one another but when they pass by someone in the mall who is wearing the jersey of their favorite team they know they are a part of that invisible community of fans.

Social connections go a little deeper. here we start to share little bits of information about ourselves and exchange small favors. This would be the neighbor you borrow sugar or a rake from but whom you would still not consider a friend.

Personal space is for friends with whom we share even more of ourselves and lastly, the intimate space is reserved for only a few who get to know all of who we are.

These definitions are not made so that someone would create a process for moving another down a relational assembly line until they are intimate with everyone in their group. This is just about having an understanding of the different ways that people do relate to one another.

 Participation is key to organic community. In the church programs and systems (master plan tools) are often relied on to get people involved. There is a sense of safety there and less risk. But ultimately this system sees people as commodities and limits people’s ability to really participate and contribute. It puts more trust in a program than in a person.

 In organic community the groups health is not measured linearly but narratively. Look again to the book of Acts. There are certainly times in which we are told about some numbers of people who were praying together or converted on a certain day. The power in the book of Acts however is not via linear measurement, it is the stories of the Holy Spirit working on and through the Apostles to birth the church and spread the movement througout the world. It si about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. It is about Paul and Silas and the Philippians jailer. Linear measuring makes us anxious, depressed, panicked or proud and self-reliant.

 Growth should be sustainable and not sterile (Myers uses the term “bankrupt”). How I understood this chapter was in line with what we are trying to do with this church planting effort. We had a problem at the Utica church: a full parking lot and a building that could not handle further growth. We had to consider building an addition or relocating to a larger facility but in the end those would (hopefully) only be temporary solutions. Let’s say we a bigger building and parking lot were made and the cost to the church is $200,000. In 3 years we are filling the new lot but because we are still in debt from the last project we cannot continue to grow that way – we will have to wait to build bigger. Momentum is lost and this growth strategy becomes sterile or bankrupt. That’s not to say other solutions cannot be found, we could then go to a second service, etc. But what if we could grow and keep growing in a sustainable way? I believe it was this type of thinking that made the cell-celebration model of church so attractive to me.

 In regard to power, Myers says that organic community has power that is revolving rather than positional. Positional power is a noun, something to be obtained and had by an individual. That typically brings responsibility, stress and eventually lonliness (because the power is not shared). Revolving power uses power as a verb – empower. Power is shared and whoever makes the most sense leading does so not because they step up and tell everyone to follow them but becasue the group recognizes that in that venture they are the best person to follow. Power is a shared experience.

 I like this quote in the next chapter on coordination (moving from cooperation to collaboration)

“we can be as intentional with community as we are with going to sleep. It is almost impossible to make yourself go to sleep. In fact, the more intentional you are, the less likely it is that you will fall asleep. A more helpful way forward is to create an environment in which there is a good chance you will fall asleep.”

 This was a great book for me. I actually read through it back in June but I’m just writing up this post because of summer camp work I was doing at the time. If anyone is interested in gaining a deeper appreciation for community you should get the book and read it through.

What I’m learning

What I’m Learning from God

November 5, 2014

All the books are great. Webinars are inspiring. Listening to the cell-church planter’s guide on CDs in the car was encouraging. Ultimately what drives the mission is God’s plan and who drives the mission is God.

 ONLY GOD CAN CHANGE PEOPLE.

Racial unity in the church is something that God has slightly burdened my heart with. After accepting that this should be an important aspect of our new church God just kept sending me confirmation. One of those things was a minister’s meeting in Baltimore, MD that I should not have been able to attend, but by God’s providence I was there. Guest speaking was Dr. Jerry Taylor from Abilene Christian University. The topic of the meeting was “racial unity in the church.” In a Q & A session I asked Dr. Taylor what we might be able to learn from the racial divide in the church between Jews and Gentiles. He brought us to Acts 10:34-35 where Peter says, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right (NIV).

Dr. Taylor’s point was that Peter was not accepting of Gentiles. It took a vision from God and some miraculous work from the Holy Spirit for Peter  to change his mind.

What can we learn about the Jews an the Gentiles? Only God can truly change people.

 In the midst of all of the excitement of stragety and models and knowledge and stuff that I CAN DO, it is a necessary and humbling reminder that the only things worth pursuing are the things that ONLY GOD CAN DO. One of the church planting mantras is, “find out what God is already doing and join Him.” So far I have found that to be true.

 When I have gotten to study the Bible lately. When I’ve read and studied God’s Word, I’ve run into a number of Scriptures that I think we use wrong a lot. After reading and re-reading and looking at them in context I am convinved that in our short-cut, give me something I can use right now culture we have abandoned the truth of Scripture for the facade of Scripture. It’s like eating a pepperoni pizza Hot Pocket and when the thin and greasy goodness of the real thing could easily be attained. It is easier to grab the thing from the freezer and nuke it for 2 minutes than to order and wait 30 minutes (and pay $15) or to even go as far as making your own pizza (and then doing you own dishes).  It is easy, it satisfies and it tastes good enough – so for most of us it is not worth the extra work and wait for the real thing.

GOD’S WORD CHANGES PEOPLE.

There are people in God’s church are not being changed. How can this be? Even if one is being exposed to the Word as little as an hour per week, God’s Word is living and active and accomplishes God’s purposes (Hebrews 4; Isaiah 55). It is through God’s Word that we are born again of God (1 Peter 1:23).

 Some critics say that the message is getting watered down. I’m sure this is true in some cases. In other situations the Word is being added to too much. People are not trusting the Word and are seeking catchy phrases, pneumonic devices, anectdotes and the like to enhance what does not need to be enhanced. Those things are preaching and teaching problems. There are also priestly problems as I mentioned above: people won’t take the time to ingest God’s Word and when people do take in what it is saying they are merely hearers of the Word and not doers. They are not putting it into action.

What I learned from Big Dreams in Small Places

What I Learned from Big Dreams in Small Places

 October 8, 2014

Although Utica, NY would not qualify as a “small place.” God has given me a big dream and that includes a lot of the smaller cities and towns that surround Utica. I also believe that the neighborhood I am in in Utica is probably distinct enough from the other sections of the city that many of the principles in this book could be applied.

 Tom Nebel does a great job of exciting the reader about possibilities of church planting and growth in small towns by likening the church’s situation and emphasis today to that of Sam Walton and Wal-Mart of yesteryear. In a time when Walton’s competitors were fighting over market share in larger cities, Wal-Marts started moving into smaller towns with virtually no competition.

 Small towns may be harder to break into and so it may take a little longer for the church planter to be trusted. But there are also more and perhaps easier opportunities to network with locals and be known quicker. News travels fast in small communities. The church planter must have good moral character and integrity. Being a local should be a priority. The planter should shop locally, work with local funeral homes, etc. Advertising and publicity opportunities are often more accessible and more affordable. One suggestion was to self-write an article and send it along with pictures to the editor of the local newspaper.

 Some statistics:

– Between3,500 and 4,000 churches close their doors annually in the US, while only 1,000 to 1,500 churches are started.

– In the US, churches lose approximately 2.7 million people each year

– The US is the 3rd largest mission field in the world, with at least 195 million people who are untouched by the gospel

– North America is the only continent in the world where Christianity is not growing

– No county in the US has seen even a 1% church attendance increase in the last 10 years

– One study indicates that in churches that are fewer than 3 yrs old it take 3 attendees to reach 1 person for Christ. In churches that are 3-10 yrs old it takes 7 attendees to reach 1 person for Christ. In churches that are older than 10 yrs old, it takes 89 attendees to reach 1 person for Christ.

– A Gallup survey indicates that 44% of Americans were unchurched in 1988. Peter Wagner sets the figure at the 55% in 1990 and George Barna at 65% in 2000.

 The part of the book that had the most profound influence was the end that talks about starting a movement of starting churches in small towns. God really used this to help me realize the vision a little more. From the beginning we had always spoken of starting churches in Central NY but in practice we were always focused on starting one church. This was not bad per se, but without considering the true vision as we begin, I believe we would have ultimately failed.

 There was a strong emphasis on relying on God and the spiritual side of church planting. See what God is already doing in your city or town and follow His lead rather than trying to do your own thing and seeking God’s blessing on it.  Mobilize prayer teams and prayer walks.

What I learned from The Open Church

This was a book I just received because someone I’m connected to was giving away a bunch of their books. It turned out to be a timely read for me as I contemplate the upcoming church plant.

 Rutz is an advocate for an “open” worship service which entails the participation of many congregants. People will share songs, prayers, revelations, etc.  Rutz is convinced that this is a better way to do church but he does not believe it is the only way. The book is very practical for an established church to think of some ways to get people more inolved. One of the more convicting thoughts the Rutz shared was to question what message we send out about people who have been members of the church for 50 years but have never shared thoughts publicly – “You don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute.”

If you liked Viola’s Pagan Christianity, you will probably enjoy this read. It is less academic but gives you more ways to implement a stripped down version of worship.

Books like this are good for stretching my mind. We tend to do what we know. We repeat what we have experienced in the past, perhaps adding a wrinkle here or there.  Even the reformers, as much as they rebelled against Catholocism, and as radically as they would change the church landscape, ended up with worship services that retained many Catholic elements. Rutz questions everything and really challenged me to rethink a lot of what we do in worship and why.

We tend to keep things the same or pretty close to the same so we can have some consistency and control. Worship should be orderly and honor God. Rutz taught me that having open worship does not have to be chaotic. There are ways to get more worship participation without things getting crazy.

What I Learned from Planting Fast-growing Churches

Stephen Gray used his own experience (and struggles) in church planting to research church plants and what makes some grow fast and others plateau and struggle. In this book, Planting Fast-growing Churches, Gray mixes his research, experience and survey analysis to help future planters and sponsoring organization to avoid common pitfalls and give themselves the best chance to succeed.

 Some negatives of the book:

1) I did not like how he differentiated between fast-growing and “struggling” churches.  Just because a church doesn’t reach and surpass 200 members in 3 years does not make is a struggling group. He would finally confess to some of this in his conclusion – that success is based on other things and that context and goals will effect size.

2) Gray is a bit whiny. His own story of a “failed” church plant has to do with only being able to gather 75 adults for his launch. That is more than I have in my church now. We tend to only see things from our own context and Gray is guilty of that. Some of it comes from the denomination he was a part of that was apparently putting  a lot of pressure on him and not giving him much support, but “woe is me” comments just get under my skin and this book is not lacking in them.

3)  His stats do no show causation, only correlation. Drawing faulty conclusion could hurt some good ministries and ministers if they hold too fast to them.

For the most part, Gray does use his data well.

Here is what I learned:

The churches that grew fast had the following advantages:

     1) The planters generally scored better on church planter assessment tests

     2) Key choices weren’t dictated by mother churches or organizations

     3) Had significant emotional support from colleagues and sponsoring agencies

     4) Received more than 1 week of church planting specific training

     5) Were a part of a team, not “Lone Rangers” (2 paid staff and 5 or more volunteer staff had the best results)

     6) Launched big – they had a large core group before their first “official” service

Another interesting note had to do with finances. Too little funding can stunt a churches growth, but apparently so can too much money.  One of the largest groups of struggling churches were ones that had $100K+ over what was needed for the church planters salaries.

 I enjoyed this book because it confirmed a lot of what I was thinking (we tend to like those things that make us look/feel smart). I can see where this resource would be just as valuable to a sending church or a planting association than to the individual planter. There is something in there for everyone.

What I Learned from Make Your Group Grow by Josh Hunt

hunt growOver the years I have been very attracted to house church ideas. Small groups in houses make a lot of sense and in developing a strategy for church planting, it seems getting started in homes makes more sense than trying to fill up an auditorium from day one.

 I first came across Josh Hunt’s book called, You Can Double Your Class in Two Years or Less. And through his own website www.joshhunt.com I found two other resources that I quickly added to my library: Disciple Making Teachers and the book that I actually have read first:

 Make Your Group Grow: Simple Stuff that Really Works

Josh has years of experience that started in a Sunday school model rather than in home-based small groups. He and his wife started inviting people from their Bible class over for social interaction and immediately saw spiritual results. Over the years Hunt saw the Sunday school he governed grow tremendously as he and his team of teachers implemented a system he developed called TIGER. This is what the Double Your Class book is about. Make Your Group Grow picks up from there as Hunt questioned his own system, wondering which of the aspects of the system were more important than the others, i.e. what really made the group grow?

Hunt surveyed thousands of small group leaders and in this book he shares the results. He compared groups that were not growing to groups that were and highlighted the differences. Hunt did this in three categories: what makes groups grow a bit, what makes them grow a lot and what makes them grow the most.

Here is what I learned:

1) If you are going to use a multiplying model for small groups, your leadership must truly catch this vision and be committed to it. People do not like change and once a group has been together for a year or two, they will be hesitant to split up. Hunt has found that it is not necessary for all of the people to like the change or even buy into it at first, but that once the change is implemented, when people see the new groups growing they will be excited and buy in.

2) Groups need to have a strong social component. I have been a part of this. Group life works better when there is food involved. What Josh is advocating for though is not to hang out then study the Bible in the same night but to have separate times of fellowship. The group needs to party together.  This was refreshing to read. The restoration movement churches, among others, love to champion Acts 2:42-47 as a formula for effective church. Be devoted to Apostles teaching, breaking the bread and prayer and everyone was giving so generously. The text also says that they were devoted to fellowship. Yet in nearly every church I have been a part of fellowship was rarely something we were devoted to. In the youth group we did it. But even then, there were some who felt we were failing if we did not have some prayer or Bible devotional at every youth activity. Church’s that have fellowship meals usually do so once a month. The sermon, Bible class, mid-week meeting and small groups means that most groups that I know of are 4x’s more devoted to the Apostle’s teaching.

Hunt found that groups that had at least 9 parties a year grew more than other groups. He also suggests having weekly fellowship outside of the regular group meeting.

3) Lead by team. Groups that get people involved in the running and organization of the group do better than groups run by a one-man show or even a 2 person team. You need to put people to work. We get an idea that people are lazy or that people just want to be served. They just want to be entertained. When it comes to small groups, people want to belong and that means having a role to play or a job to do.

4) Be positive. One of the highest determining factors as to whether a group would grow or not was what Hunt labelled “Spiritual Vibrancy.”  This basically comes down to the idea that the group is a good group. In my notes I wrote, “What kind of group do you want to be a part of?”

I think that is a key question to ask the core of the group and get thing started on the right foot. If you have a group of people who enjoy meeting with one another and enjoy studying God’s word together, you will have a group that is spiritually vibrant. Another one of my little footnotes says, “Staying on topic matters.” Have you ever been a group that is dominated by someone’s insecurities, issues or agendas? One that goes way over time? One that seems to have no focus, people are always trailing off topic? I have and these are the groups that the night before or the day of several members are thinking, “Ugh, I don’t really want to go this week.” It is pretty easy to see that those kinds of groups would lose their spiritual fervor and ultimately not grow.

5) Have faith. The #1 growth factor for small groups was that the group believed it could and would grow.  Again, I believe that this starts with the leaders of the group and the core members. If they buy into the vision and strategy they will only stay committed if they really believe it will work.

Overall I learned a lot from this book. I love that it was a healthy combination of Scriptural insight, an experienced man’s wisdom and cold hard survey results. I highly recommend it for anyone who leads a Sunday school ministry or small group ministry or who is in the same position I am  – aspiring church planter.

What I learned from Church planting is for Wimps

church planting wimpsSo far, when I have read testimonies from (successful) church planters, they seem to fit in one of the following categories:

1) Over simplification – this often takes on a “church planting is so easy” kind of feel. It usually goes something like, “We started with 6 people praying in a living room and now we have 60,000 meeting in an arena.” They give you some broad strokes to what they did, but the book is more of a memoir than a teaching tool.

2) Model – perhaps in reaction to the fluffy simple story of the first category are the guys who give you too many specifics. What happens here is they get into the nitty gritty of of what they did and instead of extrapolating the underlying principles, other people just try to copy and paste a model that worked for one guy and hope it works for them.

3) In spite of me. These are as tough to swallow as the first group because they are equally as annoying. Here is everything we did wrong… here is how unprepared I was… here are mistakes that you must avoid at all costs… but even though I am a terrible church planter, our church is growing and thriving. God is good.

In Church Planting Is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things (the longest possible title he could come up with), Mike McKinley actually makes fun of the first two types of books and then continues to write in the third mold. I think I got McKinley’s overall point and goal for the book but something about his writing just didn’t connect with me.

Mike had a couple of absurd “woe is me” moments in the book. He speaks of how run down and busted the church is that he going to go to revitalize. Then mentions that they only identified 103 people from the sponsoring congregation who might be able to help with the work.  He writes this in a manner in which the reader should be thinking, “poor guy, the odds are stacked against him.” This is madness from someone planting a church out of a church whose entire mailing list comprises of 103 people.

In another section of the book the author talks about the toll that church planting took on his marriage. Thankfully they worked things out. But instead of writing something like, “Please, learn from my mistakes.” He writes something like, “Your church plant won’t survive if you have marriage issues. If you have problems in the home, that will cripple your work.” But he had marriage issues and it didn’t cripple his work… it was confusing.

What I learned…

In spite of my being annoyed by the overall presentation of the book, the message that I think was being presented was a good solid reminder. Mike McKinley is not a do-things-by-the-book kinda guy.  At one point in the book he puts down mission statements and vision statements and strategies and a lot of the other things the experts say that you need and Mike advocates for the Field of Dreams approach to ministry (If you preach a good sermon, they will come). I would throw him in the oversimplification category except that his point is not that those things don’t matter at all (vision,mission, etc) but that you have to have the basics first. You have to have solid doctrine and you have to have good sound teaching. You have to be faithful to God and His Word before you are faithful to some church planting handbook.