Church Planting 101 (For Leaders)

Church Planting 101

City Church Canton

For as long as I can remember I have been involved in the ministry in some capacity, especially church planting. As a kid, I grew up in it. My dad was a church planter and from an early age I can remember setting up chairs, passing out invites and entertaining other people’s kids while my parents talked to them. Then in college I was apart of two different teams that helped launch churches in California. Now I find myself as an adult (some would argue that) doing the same thing…starting churches.

I have been apart of so many first days and launches that my mind gets fuzzy remembering them all. I say all that to tell you, I am not an expert nor am I telling you what to do, but rather wanting to put down what I have seen work and not work in my own experiences. Enjoy!

Note: This isn’t comprehensive and it is not a book. Just a few thoughts on the basics of church planting so please don’t send me hate-mail. 

What Works:

  • Teams that have a clear vision and planned timeline for the immediate and long term future. (I have been apart of teams as a kid, intern, assistant, pastor and planter. There must be a plan not just for the day of the launch but for a year after the launch. Have a detailed thought out process on what you want and what you don’t want.)
  • Slow sell soft services (this is where you don’t blow up with lots of people but rather take your time and organically grow the church over a period of time in anticipation of a launch day. Currently we are doing this in Canton. Instead of trying to pack out our small building every week, we are trying to grow the leaders we have there and develop a team so that when we get more people we are ready for them. I’ve been apart of a plant in college where a lot of people showed up and we all celebrated but we weren’t ready for that many people and didn’t know how to assimilate them. We never saw many of them again.)
  • Community Day Events, Block Parties, Life Group Dinners, Kids Bounce Houses and Giveaways. (This is huge for me, church needs to be fun and family oriented. Have a carnival day and be Disney World to your community.)
  • Concerts, Great Bands/Artists, Clear programs and clean print media. (JW’s come door knocking with nice full color handouts, why are you handing out those cheap homemade flyers? Now, I know that I have too have been short on money and used cheap handouts but if its cheap it will get thrown away. Find a way, use good print materials.)

City Church West Campus

What Doesn’t Work: 

  • Special Guest speakers on launch day. (It’s the big day for your church plant, your church needs to see a face that they will see again the next week. The problem I have seen with special guests speakers on a launch day is that people might come to hear someone they know but they won’t stay. The goal of a launch day shouldn’t be just to get a large crowd, but should be for retention.)
  • Being culturally irrelevant to your community. (I was apart of a plant where the community was very poor but the church plant was very classy. It just seemed out of place. I am all for everything being professional, but don’t launch a “Starbucks church” next to homeless people that need blankets and food. Be relevant to your community, not relevant to where you came from or your previous church.)
  • Rambo-style church planting. (You are not that great, sorry to bust your bubble. Call your mom if you want applause, you need people around you that will say no. You need help and others to make the wagon go and keep going. I have seen plants personally fail in my zip code because they did it on their own. If you are going to plant a church, you had better talk to the pastors in the community to see what the needs are and to get a feel for whats working and whats not working. Don’t just ask pastors that are like you, ask some small and large churches and even some of a different faith. Talk to the missions/chapels in the area. Don’t just show up and proclaim yourself “fixing” their city.)

City Church Food Drive

Now while the goal of church planting should be basically understood and appreciated, I have come to see that some don’t fully grasp it. The goal of church planting should be to start gospel centers that help start other gospel centers of Jesus believers and disciples that help their community. Existing churches don’t exist to get bigger, they exist to help the great commission get accomplished. We should be for multiplying churches rather than just increasing numbers in one specific church.

The church is a group of people who come together to worship Jesus, preach the gospel and help those in need.

Jon & Keiki Jackson at City Church West Campus

 

Currently, we are starting two churches and am planning three more launches for next year. My prayer for Detroit is gospel centers that make a real impact in the community and not just have a bunch of church people show up on the weekend. So whatever you do, don’t quit. If God called you to help people, then suck it up, get some help and keep on pushing. Church planting (like starting a small business) might be a science and it is certainly difficult and tough, but for you to succeed it at…#push.

-jon 

Here are some great books to read on the subject:

  • Planting Missional Churches – Ed Stetzer
  • Launch: Starting a New Church From Scratch
  • Church Planter: Darren Patrick

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I don’t look like a pastor…

I don’t look like a pastor…

Detroit Christian Rock Band "Sinned & Saints"  -Jon Jackson (me) -Joe Gibes -Kyle Gross -Joe Nemanis

Detroit Rock Band “Sinners & Saints”
-Jon Jackson (me)
-Joe Gibes
-Kyle Gross
-Joe Nemanis

I get asked quite often questions like most do “What do you do?” My answer normally of pastor & church/mission planter shocks religious people, but to those I hang out with… not so much.  Let me explain with two thoughts: people have a Western Christianity paradigm of what pastors should look like & Jesus should be the example to Christianity, but he really isn’t.

First, many people have a Western Christianity paradigm of what Pastors should look like.

Most people have a view or paradigm of what a pastor should look like, do, and behave. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of our western cultures influence on church and perceived holiness. Most who grow up in church think of a pastor or priest as a holy man, a clean cut gentlemen who studies in an office, counsels, marries and buries people and then speaks on Sunday’s at 11a.

Most people also picture pastors as men in suits, standing behind a pulpit and speaking loudly about subjects from the Bible. Criticism is also prevalent when viewing western Christianity “pastors” as many people immediately think of tv evangelist or faith healers who are out for money and who drive a Benz. (preachers of Detroit anyone?)

Honestly, most pastors are not just a little culturally irrelevant, but they are also about 300 years late to it. Today, people have more respect for people who are like them and are succeeding rather than someone proclaiming a different way to do it from a high and lofty perch.

Secondly, Jesus should be the example to Christianity but sadly, he really isn’t.

When Jesus came to earth he invaded human culture. He did not bring his attire or ways of heavenly doing things with him. He wore the clothes of a normal Jewish boy raised by a single mother. He worked a blue color job and lived in poor Galilee. He hung out with fisherman (low job with no benefits), became friends of drunks, theives, prostititus & traitors (disciples & followers).

Jesus did not impose his culture on others…rather he saw lives transformed by the gospel. If the disciples were around today, most would see them as too dirty to pastor. Most would only see Peter as a hot head who had a rough background who shouldn’t be trusted, rather than the saint most have made him into.

The disciples were hazardous, rebels, dirty and didn’t look anything like “pastors”. Paul was a hired gun who put people in jail, Matthew was a Jew who worked for the Romans, Philip was a dude who hung out with people of a different culture, Mark was a quitter and I could go on.

The gospel transforms you into the hands and feet of Jesus…not into a cookie cutter mold of American culture from the 1900’s. Hear me now, I’m not against peoples culture if it’s old or different…I’m for diversity!

The problem with much of Christianity is that it is too isolated.

We need more color in our Christianity. We need more differences embraced, convictions challenged and preferences pushed aside for the gospels sake rather than a holding onto traditional things for traditions sake. I’ve heard my whole life from “traditional” pastors that we shouldn’t be like the world…but they themselves were just imitating the old world.

I have tattoos, piercings, listen to hip hop & rock…so do my people. I eat at coneys & love “Slows BBQ”…so do my people. I hang out at the gym, the corner store, the cigar bar and the neighborhood park…so do my people. God called me to be his hands and feet in my community to my people. I can do this best by being like those whom I am called to serve.

To be more missional is to be more like how Jesus was when he came to earth rather than being like “how we were taught”, “traditional”, “old-fashioned”, or even “contemporary”. If your people or community looks a certain way, be like them like Jesus did and not like your professor at bible college or like the pastor you worshipped.

I don’t look like a pastor…I look like the guy I talked to on Sunday and like the guy I lifted weights with this morning, and like the Detroit bad ass who needs Jesus and not a “Western American Culture pastor”. I am a representation of Jesus, and if your culture prohibits you from reaching people…ditch your old ways and embrace a missional lifestyle.

Being more like Jesus means you become more like the world around you, not less like the world. When the Bible says “not be of the world” it was speaking specifically of sins and the fake human way of living including religious Pharisees & false cults. Don’t take things out of context, being like Jesus means to be like the people around you and letting the gospel transform them.

If you were raised in a traditional or legalistic church they taught the exact opposite of this. They put parameters & definitions on holiness. They made a suit and tie and a bible under your arm the standard for obedience…when Jesus said “love your neighbor.” Legalism teaches rules and guilt…Jesus said the “burden is light and easy.”

So either Jesus is wrong or the paradigm in which much of Christianity thinks today is off and needs some adjusting. I beg you to be more like Jesus. Embrace culture. Love people. Give more grace. Don’t judge. Forgive often. Hug the hurting. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked and embrace the orphans.

Pure religion is like this. Legalistic religion is rules and performance. Pure religion is grace to the women at the well, stopping the stoning of the adulterous woman, having dinner and a party with the lying cheats and drunks showing them God’s love. Legalistic religion is human worship, throwing stones by holding signs boycotting & shaming people.

If Jesus was to come to America today rather than Judea 2k years ago he would hang out in Detroit with the drunks, Johns, and low income, blue color working, food stamp card peeps. Jesus wouldn’t show up to church on Sunday like most of Christianity,  the proof is found in his example of what he did. He showed up and the church people got flipping mad over his attire, his friends, his way of doing things and his liberal ways…sound familiar?

I don’t look like a pastor…I’m trying to look like Jesus.

-jon

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December 2014/January 2015 Newsletter

Thank you for your support, prayers and financial assistance. Here is our newest newsletter.

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Support Letter Dec/Jan

 

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November 2014 Newsletter

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August 2014 Newsletter

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A Life of Justice, the Gospel, and Detroit – Guest Post by Drew Ansley

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A Life of Justice, the Gospel, and Detroit – Guest Post by Drew Ansley

Every time we visit Detroit, we come back with stories to tell. It’s not just the abandoned, broken down, post-apocalyptic feel you can get traveling through some parts of the city, with its overabundance of overgrown, long-since-left-behind structures.

It’s the lady asked to leave Starbucks by the Police, after holding a 10 minute verbal contest with another patron over her need to just leave when the manager asked her to leave. It’s the church on fire as we drove down the road. It’s the driver beating up the passenger of his car as we passed them on Woodward Ave.

The more time I spend in Detroit, the more clear it is that justice for the suffering must become the constant posture and ready response of anyone who desires to see God made much of in this city. Of course, God already told us this was important to Him. He is a just God who hates unjust scales (Micah 6:11; Proverbs 20:23). It’s Who He is. It isn’t merely something He likes. He IS justice.

That’s why He would have been unjust to let our rebellion slide and pardon our sins without punishing someone – the right Someone, Jesus, to vindicate His justice (Romans 3:21-26). So in order to show His perfect justice and His perfect mercy, God punished His son, Jesus, instead of us and gave evil you and evil me a way to know God and live.

Now Jesus, who suffered the most heinous injustice in history on the Cross, calls His people to defend the defenseless and to be fathers to the fatherless as a reflection of His character. We are the physical, tangible presence of Jesus lived out on earth (Eph 1:22-23; James 1:27). It cannot be merely a peripheral ministry. It is a core issue in the heart of God, and Detroit is one place He won’t let you forget it. Place office hours all you want on your church food pantry, but in Detroit, injustice and great need comes to your own back yard – literally.

While in Detroit a couple of weeks ago, we headed over to Pastor Jon Jackson’s house for dinner. When we arrived, there were extra kids in his and his wife’s arms. This is not an uncommon occurrence for this couple at all, having taken in various teens and children over their 8 years in Detroit, while maintaining a constant life of service to the community around them.

This time, however, Jon explained that he was waiting for the police, which was at that point going on 20 minutes. While grilling chicken in the backyard, he had observed a disturbance in a vehicle stopped in traffic beside his house. It turned out there was a young woman being beaten to a bloody pulp by her boyfriend. She tried to escape by exiting the car, but he pulled her back in and proceeded to choke her with both hands and continue beating her like he was in an MMA fight.

As Jon approached, the man ran, got in another vehicle, and fled the scene. The result was that we waited another 20 minutes for the police, and another 20-30 minutes after that for the EMT. While waiting, we fed and played with her two young, scared children and Jon and his wife spoke with the police and young woman.

So here’s the point: this is the NORMAL stuff, not the exception. I could share a dozen other similar and even worse stories and I have a very limited exposure to the city still. What about all of the progress happening in Detroit now? Sure, Detroit is “coming back” in some regions of the city, but the injustice that has been found there for generations is not going anywhere. In fact, new growth (though not inherently negative) will result in new injustices at various points.

Jesus entered, and even suffered in, our injustice and brokenness. He has called us to do the same for others for His name’s sake. We are the carriers of the hope that can be found in Jesus, and in a city like Detroit, we have no choice but to be ready at any moment to dispense that hope to the broken and hurting, even when at great personal cost. We serve needs not just at the church or community center, but as we live our lives moment by moment. We embody and speak of salvation and life possible through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in and through everything we do, everywhere we go, with every day we live.

What Detroit forces on those who live and minister there should teach all of us everywhere some important truths. The need for the gospel and for hope and for help is far beyond the reaches of our churches and our ministries, therefore our hearts and lives must reflect this broad scope as well. We must allow our own amazement at God’s provision and salvation in our lives to grow, so that in response, we will always be ready to give this Good News to others. The gospel points us to a life of Justice no matter where we live. Detroit just happens to hold us to it.

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