Greetings friends, family & peeps! Here is our Winter 2016 Newsletter. If you would like the HD PDF version for printing, Click here: Winter 2016 Newsletter.
Greetings friends, family & peeps! Here is our Winter 2016 Newsletter. If you would like the HD PDF version for printing, Click here: Winter 2016 Newsletter.
In my last post church planting 101, I wrote about some of the basics that I have seen work and some that have failed miserably. In this post I want to talk more about what is required in the church planter himself.
In church planting we need Holy Spirit power, sound and practical theology, future planning, church promotion and quality support to make the church plant into a viable and sustainable church. On top of that, a successful church plant needs a legit leader, this is a must.
About ten years ago, I was asked to help a guy start a church in California. He had financial backing, he had front man skills, was a decent speaker…but was an awful leader. Needless to say, the dude quit the plant less than 5 months into it. I didn’t join the team and that church plant fizzled into non-existence.
Now while there are many reasons why the plant didn’t succeed, the biggest reason was that the dude wasn’t a church planter or leader…he was just a guy who wanted to preach on Sunday. Preaching on Sunday is the cherry on the cake, it’s easy. You read, you prepare, you pray, you practice your delivery, you make programs and keynotes, you wake up Sunday and deliver it. It’s simple.
Church planting is much more complex than just giving a sermon. You are a small business entrepreneur. You are a janitor. You are a counselor. You must become affluent with promotion and fundraising. You will need to understand your demograph and know how to connect with your city. You need to be trustworthy and reliable. You must be a general and also a humble servant. You must learn how to handle extensively troubled people and also learn how to help them without losing your mind. It’s complex.
A church planter must become more than just one dimensional.
I’ve seen plants fail because planters were too one sided. You’re not just a preacher, you are a pastor. You’re not just a speaker, you are a house call medic. You will need to learn when to say no, and when to say yes. You must start thinking like a theologian and living like a missionary. Church planting isn’t done on the side, it takes more than you think and demands your attention. It’s deep.
As we launch out this year to start two more churches in the Detroit area, there are a few points that our Leadership Team at City Church has been stressing with our guys as we go forward in church planting. I pray they help you in your journey. This list obviously isn’t everything you need, but we see them as the basics needed to start a successful church plant. Some of these keys can be taught, others cannot, if you are planter you should know the difference.
There are exceptions to rules, but church planters shouldn’t be looking for them. Work on personal growth, family development, spiritual leadership, theological soundness, business savvy and developing loyalty. I can’t promise you that if you do all of this you’ll succeed, but I can promise you that without it…you will fail.
Church Planting 101
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 Doesn’t Work:
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.
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.
Here are some great books to read on the subject:
I don’t look like a pastor…
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.
Thank you for your support, prayers and financial assistance. Here is our November Newsletter.
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.
In March 2013, after much prayer and Godly counsel, I answered the Lord’s call to preach the gospel. I remember being extremely nervous as I preached three times over the course of that March weekend in the absence of our lead and associate pastors. The nervousness for the most part stemmed from me understanding the weight of this duty I was entrusted with. It was something I most certainly did not take lightly. Since my first sermon last year, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to preach at my church, mainly during our student ministry “Hype Night” services and more recently at our Saturday night services. Each opportunity has been a great learning experience and an opportunity to “hone my craft” so to speak. I generally badger my pastor for critiques and look for areas I can improve. I thank our elders and my church for being gracious and kind to me through my growth in ministry.
I was recently asked to reflect and talk about what I have learned in the last year about pastoring/preaching. As I continue to seek God for direction in terms of where and what teaching role I may have in the future, I hope that what I’m learning can be helpful to a young preacher like myself in the early stages of ministry.
More Than Just Sunday
In football, you often hear coaches or players use the term “Any Given Sunday” (which ironically was the title of a popular football movie several years ago). This means that anything can happen on the football field during a game. Well I’m learning that for pastors that phrase should be “Any Given Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday!” Anything can happen, any day of the week where as a pastor you may be needed. From counseling, to funerals, to weddings, a pastor’s job seemingly never ends! Add to that personal devotion, prayer, meetings and sermon prep and you my friend are one busy fellow!
I’ll admit, looking at pastors growing up, I thought they just threw on a suit, stepped up to the pulpit, and God just gave them the gift of gab. Not the case! Being a pastor is hard work! I often talk to my father-in-law who is a bi-vocational pastor in California and marvel at the fact that he works a full-time job and pastors a church. I seem to always catch my Lead Pastor on the go. Meetings, seminars, trips to pick up food and clothes for the pantries we have at our church, dude is always doing something. I’ve had a chance to tag along with him to some things and I have to make sure my energy level is on “10!” So while most of us see the finished product on Sunday, know that most of the heavy lifting is being done Monday-Saturday.
Pastors Can’t Fly
Pastors are often the “go to” people for life’s troubles. At times it seems that pastors have all the answers. This causes some in the church to place the pastor at an exalted level only meant for God. While most pastors are great leaders and Godly examples in our communities, they can’t “fly.” In other words, they are not superhuman. Pastors are human beings that have problems, get discouraged and need prayer just like anyone else. I remember being a kid and visiting my childhood pastor’s home. I walked into his house, and to my surprise he was sitting in his living room watching the Pistons. I was shocked! Why? Because I had always looked at pastors as guys who didn’t have time for “regular things” like watching sports. I always looked at them as “Holy Robots” who trained in righteousness 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As I’ve grown and matured, I see pastors as men of God who enjoy sports, playing with their kids and going on dates with their wives. I see pastors as men who don’t have all the answers and thus seek guidance and prayer from their wives, godly friends and members of the church. I see pastors as honest men who don’t think they are above confessing sin and seeking help because quite frankly, they aren’t superhuman. Pastors can’t fly.
Readers Are Leaders
If I can be honest, there was a period in my adult life where the last thing you’d see me doing is reading. Between elementary, middle, high school and college, I figured that I had pretty much met whatever requirements I had when it came to reading. At the time, I would have much rather watched a game or play video games. As God began to mature me, even before I was called to ministry, he allowed me to begin to see the importance of reading. I can honestly say that today, I probably read more than I watch television. I truly love to read!
As preachers, that reading starts with the Word of God. All scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). Paul tells the Romans that whatever was written in the past was written for instruction and the encouragement from the scriptures gives hope (Romans 15:4). I believe that holds true to us today. The Bible is a great source of encouragement and hope. In addition, it is your guide to teach and train the people God has entrusted you with.
God has also blessed great people of the faith with the ability to write awesome gospel centered books on a myriad of topics. Whether it’s books on preaching, marriage or biblical manhood and womanhood, I have personally been blessed to read some awesome books that have helped in my spiritual growth.
In addition to topical books, Christian biographies are great reads. John Piper in his book “Brothers We Are Not Professionals” calls pastors to read Christian biography as we continue to develop. Piper states that Christian biography is history and the most powerful kind of theology because it “burst forth from the lives of people.” So in your spare time pick up a biography on Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards or any of the great men and women of the faith who’ve come before us. You’ll be glad you did!
Plan, Prepare, Purpose
I’ve learned that pastors are great men of vision. They generally have a plan for where they see their church going and seek the Lord in seeing the plan come to fruition. Prior to coming to the City Church, our pastor had a vision plan he called “Think Big.” This was a plan that would call for different missions and churches to be established in Detroit and the surrounding area. While it took tons of prayer, assistance, successes and failures, God is working and we’re seeing our pastor’s “Think Big” vision coming to pass. We’ve done numerous feedings, outreach events and even helped a church launch in the past couple of years. It’s been a blessing to see God working through people as we impact our community for Jesus.
Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Pastor Eric Mason in his book “Manhood Restored: How The Gospel Makes Men Whole,” states that “commit” means to roll, as in rolling one’s burdens on the Lord. Any Godly man of vision must have complete dependence on God and if it is in God’s will, his plans will be established. Mason also gives a helpful outline when we are seeking to establish vision and plans of the Lord:
Pastors are men of vision who don’t seek out their vision and plans without direction from the Lord. They are fully dependent on the grace of God and his blessings to plan and cast vision for community impact that will ultimately glorify God.
It’s All About Jesus
Let’s face it; we live in a world where pastors have reality shows, TV deals, book deals and countless speaking opportunities. Some people in the world see church as “big business” and equate pastors to fancy car driving, big spenders who look to take as much of grandma’s life savings as possible. Then there are those who are “called” to ministry who look to attain what a lot of the “TV pastors” have, fame and fortune. Sadly, the mission of these preachers leans more towards attaining wealth than preaching the gospel.
On the other side there are those who are passionate about Jesus, the gospel and making disciples. Those who are passionate about preaching biblically accurate, gospel centered sermons that change lives and reconcile people to God through faith in Jesus Christ. I’ve been privileged to meet many pastors with this goal in mind. I had a cool opportunity to attend a seminar a few months ago on “The Gospel and Money.” This seminar was attended by many metro Detroit pastors and leaders as well as pastors and leaders from Ohio and Canada. One of the highlights of the seminar was intentional prayer time where groups of men and women gathered together and prayed for extended periods of time. The cries to the Lord for the people in our communities really showed me the heart for God that these co-laborers in the gospel have. Also, conversations I had with various leaders during the seminar further confirmed the desire for change and the hearts of those present.
My first year preaching has been challenging, but it has also been rewarding. I’ve learned a lot, continue to grow spiritually by God’s grace and have established new relationships with some great people. I hope to share more of what I am learning in a future blog post. Ultimately, I want to be a preacher whose goal is to not preach messages that focus on me but to preach messages that point people to Christ. Pray for me as I continue on this journey serving God, my family, my church and my community.
Grace and Peace,
Demetrus “Meech” Stokes