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Church Planting 201

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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.

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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.

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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.

  •  Passion. The church planter must have a passion for the area God has called him to. A burden and desire to plant a gospel center is a must. If a boxer doesn’t have a passion to fight, he will get cold feet when he enters the ring. The apostle Paul had a passion for lost people to meet Jesus. John the Baptist had a passion for the hearers to repent. The apostle John had a passion for the Jewish community to learn of Jesus. This passion will keep you up, help you up, prop you up and can only be fueled by God. Either you have it or you don’t.
  • Theology. The church planter had better know the book. Seminary isn’t a mandatory, but it should be. How stupid is it for someone to want to be a pro baseball player, but doesn’t know what a balk is? It’s ludicrous that some guys want to plant but can’t articulate their faith in a short conversation. Read books. Take some classes. Learn.
  • Entrepeneur. Have you ever started anything from scratch that has lasted? Ever run a lemonade stand? Have you ever coached little league? Have you ever managed a store? Have you ever opened and closed a business? I just described to you what a church planter does. When you start, most likely you have very little to start with. In the early months you will attract people with problems, lots of problems and mostly baby Christians. You will learn to answer questions about concenrs you never thought of before. You will have to balance bills, projects, materials, personnel and quality control.
  •  Fundraising. News flash: church planting cost money. So after you call mom and ask your neighbors for money, you had better have a financial plan to help start your gospel center or else you are done in 3 months. Think about it like this: why should anyone give you money to help you start a church? If you can’t answer it with a thought through financial plan, then you have some homework.
  • Community. Loners can make great people, but not always great leaders. Can you find 3 to 5 people that would drop everything to help you? If not, you might not have impacted others lives as much as you think you have. You don’t go to war with just anyone. The same is true in church planting. You need seasoned veterans on your team and people that will go to bat for you, with you and at you. I’m sorry guys, the days of just doing it yourself are over. Odds are against you already, work on being friendly and make a difference in your close circle…then tackle the circle of church planting.
  • Home. There is no off switch to church planting, but you had better have a safe zone with some backup. If your family isn’t on board, do something else. Church planting, like pastoring, requires a balanced life which includes the home. Your marriage will be tested, your kids will be put on display and your life is now a book for others to judge. How do you expect to give marriage counseling if your marriage is a wreck? How can you get up on Sunday and teach on raising your kids if they are burning your house down? You can you preach on trusting God in your life if you don’t want to go home? Balance guys.

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.

-jon

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Detroit Live Podcast – Episode 9 – Interview with Josh Carter Part 1

Episode 9 – Interview with Josh Carter Part 1 – Detroit Live Radio Podcast – March 17, 2014

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In This Episode:
Jon talks with Josh about pastoring, worship music, ministry and life in the 313.

Subscribe to Detroit Live via Itunes: http://feeds.feedburner.com/JonJacksonDetroitLiveRadioPodcast  

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Food Stamps…

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Food stamps get a bad rap. People who use food stamps are often looked down upon as being those who “don’t work”, “mooch the system”, and “are lazy.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

This past week it hit headlines that the Pentagon is proposing to make cuts. When this hit the news I was intrigued to see what some would say and not to my surprise in a Fox News interview former VP Dick Chaney said of the proposals that…

“It’s driven by budget considerations. He’d (Obama) much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.”

The narrative is this (it is a common belief and it is a myth)…we either need to support the military or give those poor, undeserving, lazy people free food stamps. I used to believe that was the case, but 6 years running a mission, Church, multiple drug programs and a food pantry in Detroit changed all that.

The truth is that it is not just poor black people on food stamps. It is not just minorities that need help. There is more to the story than is being told. 

In a 2012 CNS News report, my city of Detroit had nearly 40% of my people getting food stamps. Nearly 50% of the city population wasn’t working. Of the 363,000 housing units, around 100,000 of them were vacant. Nearly 75% of babies born are raised in single mother homes. Around 30% of homes have no father figure. The city used to have nearly 1.8 Million people (1950), today just under 700,000.

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The ramifications of this have been devastating. Many can’t find work, education is lacking, the social programs aren’t successful and the needy class is growing. This results in a growing number of people who need food stamps. With all of this information it blows me away when I see people post pictures on Facebook or give comments seemingly blasting those poor people who are on food stamps. It is saddening to me to see such a blatant disregard for life and respect of persons.

People on food stamps have value to God. We should love, help and support them…not call names, belittle or shame them. 

There are several things you need to know about food stamps and the poor:

  • It’s not just poor minorities that are on food stamps, but food stamps are much higher in minority communities.
  • Many who are on food stamps can’t find work. This is because of a lack of education, lack of jobs and transportation.
  • Food Stamps, Medicaid and Government Assistance is much higher in poorer areas like the inner city.
  • Crime & drugs play a huge role on poorer neighborhoods. If the same crime and drug scene happened in the suburbs (white/rich communities) it would be front page material and handled differently.
  • Base pay for a new soldier with a spouse and kid is around $20,000, just above the poverty line. It’s not just poor black families on food stamps, it’s sons and daughters of Uncle Sam too.
  • In 2013, Operation Homefront received 2,968 emergency requests for food help, more than any other kind of request for help.
  • 61% of food stamp recipients are white. Only 26.4% are Black. 1.5% are American Indian or Native Alaskan. 2.2% are Asian or Pacific Islander, and 2.7% represent people who identify themselves as two or more races.
  • Nearly 900k Veterans live in a household receiving food stamps.

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So friends, please stop posting uninformed pictures, bad taste comments and disgusting posts about how bad some people are for being on food stamps. Just stop it. And for those of you that think you are better because you are not on food stamps, be grateful you have a job and start loving your neighbor. Poverty is real and it is spreading.

One day you might change that tune, when you’re so poor…you are on them too.

-jon

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How to Strengthen Your Family

New Years Party 2014! (Jackson 5, Liz, Loree, Troy, Joe, Jeff & the dogs under the table)

New Years Party 2014! (Jackson 5, Liz, Loree, Troy, Joe, Jeff & the dogs under the table)

By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.  (Hebrews 11:20-21 ESV)

Life can be tough, really tough for millions of families. Detroit is slowly recovering from the greatest downturn in the economy since the Great Depression, the Great Recession. Local Detroit families are on food stamps, working several jobs, making cut backs on things they want to do to pay for things they have to do. Many are worried, frustrated and even depressed over the state of their family. I’m here to tell you that there is hope.

You can strengthen your family even when you are poor.

You may be driving an old car, or no car at all. You might be short on finances or way behind. You probably have gotten used to peanut butter sandwiches and a coneys are a luxury. Bills might be piling up, or piles of bills are falling on you. Your job or lack of a job might be discouraging. Family might let you down, careers don’t pan out, things cost more than you guessed, and everything seems to break…all the time! You are not alone.

In fact, this guy has lived under the poverty line for nearly 5 years. I don’t say that to brag or to whine, rather to open up and share. We don’t make a lot of money, most of the money I raise in speaking out and fundraising goes right back into City Church to help those that need it. We don’t go out to eat like we used to, we shop at thrift stores, we own an old Ford SUV and my boys wear lots of hand-me-downs.

Our family has been hit with hospital bills, theft, and a host of other letdowns. But you wouldn’t have guessed any of that on New Years. In fact, you might have thought we were rich if you came over. We didn’t have a gourmet dinner, we had homemade pizza. We didn’t have expensive wine, we had cheap knockoff cider. It would seem odd and even off to some for us to be celebrating anything. We weren’t at some fancy party, we weren’t living it up, we don’t have lots of things, and Joe’s desert (a cream pie) wasn’t very good. 🙂

Money and possessions don’t strengthen your family…faith and unity do.

How do have a home filled with joy and fun, when there isn’t stuff and things? How is Jesus hope fulfilling, when your kids are hungry and you don’t have any food in the fridge? How do you sing “God is Good” when it seems life isn’t fair? For some this is a really honest question, for others who haven’t lived on the south side of the tracks this is gonna be difficult to fully comprehend until you start becoming friends with those that are struggling and really poor.

I want to give you three practical ways to strengthen your family that we practice in our home. These practical steps won’t solve your life dilemmas, but they can give hope even when its dark…and for most, thats what you need first. For those who have upcoming WIC appointments, work extra shifts to pay bills, have gotten letters about foreclosure and evictions…this is for you.

  • Pray Together

This is more important than you know. Take time dad’s to pray with your kids, your wife and your family. I take Jayden to school most mornings and on our way everyday we pray. I pray for him, and Jay prays for me. It has become such a practice that Jayden gets upset if Keiki takes him to school because that means that we didn’t pray and hang out together.

We pray at meals, we pray before we go to bed. We pray together at church and in the home. Faith in God is important, prayer is the key to a successful Christian home.

  • Teach Together

Right now is a great time to teach your kids valuable life lessons that most will not learn until they screw up or get much older. When things are tough, the kids will see it. Don’t hide it, don’t lie about it…rather talk about it. It is humbling, but every moment you have with your kids is a possible teaching moment. Odds are if you are at the bottom of the barrel, the kids need to learn the same lesson you are learning.

Your kids learn at school, the playground, the block and in life. Make sure they learn at home. TV is teaching them, music is teaching them, movies and stars as well. What was the last thing you taught them?

  • Dream Together

Keiki and I dream for our boys all the time. I see great things for them. My oldest son Jayden is so much like me even at an early age. I wish that he would never make my mistakes, learn more than I did and love Jesus with an abandonment. Jimmy is my dude. He told me this morning that we were a tag team. I see greatness in him. Jordan is the babe still. His love so emulates Keiki. His air time when he jumps emulates mine. He might be President some day or WWE champ.

Keiki and I are planning another honeymoon for several years from now. We looked into camping for the summer (its cheap and we can bring our own food) and we are planning more date nights (hanging out together, cheap movies or a coffee shop). We can’t buy stuff or go places like we used to because the wallet isn’t as big anymore…but that doesn’t mean we can’t dream together.

Life can be about a lot more than just “stuff.” Faith, values, integrity, honor, hard work and dreams are so much more fulfilling anyway. Even though things might be tough and money can be short…your family can still be strong. Trust me, one poor guy to another.

-jon

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Thanksgiving Food Drive 2013 Recap

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Thanksgiving Food Drive 2013

I am jacked about the things God allowed us to do this Thanksgiving for the people of Detroit! Through the sacrifice of our people, the help of our supporting churches & sponsors, and donations from a few local businesses, we were able to raise over $2,000 in contributions and over $3,000 of donated canned goods and turkeys.

On Sunday and Monday, while we were putting together baskets of food to deliver, we had a line of people waiting outside of our church front door to see if we had enough for their family as well. We had to take our signs down early on Monday after running out of food.

We were able to make 254 deliveries and feed over 2,500 people! This Thanksgiving marks the largest food drive we have been able to do to date at The City Church! Praise God for the opportunity to help so many hurting families this year.

A lot of families in Detroit are hurting a little more this Holiday Season, as cuts to Food Stamps and benefits have just been put into place. Many families with lost benefits and low income have suffered and have been put into very tight spots financially. On Sunday evening, my wife, Keikilani, made a delivery to one of our neighbors. There were at least five people living in the house with no heat or electricity and most of the windows were busted out. One of the young children were sent out to help bring in the food. Not wearing a coat, hat or gloves in 22˚ weather. The mother of the family had tears in her eyes as she accepted the food at the back door and could barely whisper a “Thank you”.

On Monday, myself and a group of volunteers, delivered food to a family we often help in my old neighborhood. A 700 square foot house, holding 14 people. We were able to give that family 2 Turkeys and 7 bags of groceries!

There are many more stories I could tell, but the most prominent story is the story of HOPE. Each one of those families had a little more hope this Thanksgiving. We brought a little bit of Heaven down to people’s Hell. My family and I are so thankful that we were able to bring hope and Jesus to a few people who needed it the most this Thanksgiving.

-Jon

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How I Deal with Depression

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Today I got a phone call from a lady getting evicted from her house. She is out of work, single mom with several children needs: money, food for her kids, a vehicle and now a place to stay. While on the phone I opened a letter  from a local lady who is rehab, when she gets out she will have nothing. When I got off the phone, I had a voicemail from another needy family who is out of work and heard I was giving out food for Thanksgiving.

Depressing isn’t it.

Depression is something that everyone is supposed to understand or least have general knowledge of how to cope with. But the truth is that most really don’t know what do when depression hits them. Most people cave when it hits the fan. Some people become addicts and others lose it all together in times of despair. Detroit has a hovering cloud of negativity that seems to rain on every parade and kicks every person when their down.

This past weekend I talked about what to do when God seemingly isn’t there in your life. This is really common for most people and sadly something not talked about in church. We expect people to get their situation under control, but its not that easy. Life isn’t fair, times are tough and the church has done a horrible job of teaching people what to do when the blues turn to the bottle, and then the bottle runs out. Because of these truths and the constant bombardment of people in need, I talked about it for over an hour…people listened for the whole hour and afterwards many said they wanted more.

Suck!

To help with understanding the basics of depression, I talked about what plagues most Christians before real, deep and heavy depression sets in…a feeling that God has abandoned them. There are times when God can be standing right in front of us and yet, we don’t see Him. In times of a loved one that overdoses, a daughter that gets gang raped and then turns to drugs, when a father becomes abusive, when selling yourself is the only way to survive…it seems like God isn’t just gone or missing, it seems as if He never existed. I talk to people who feel this everyday.

Before people get to the bottom of the bottle (where God seems to not exist), they seem to have some traits in common:

  • Busy – so much happening, but nothing that matters
  • Bored – almost a feeling of lost
  • Bummed – bad things after bad things and then it gets worse
  • Burdened – bad things in other peoples lives (often family) and the ripple effects that follow

To help people deal with this, I took them to Jesus, who is our chief example. He is our shepherd who guides us, our  helper who loves us and our rock who we stand on. John 10 was the text, go read it. In it, Jesus reminds us of who we are (sheep needing help), reminds us who he is (a shepherd and door to salvation), and what we need (to come to him).

Take some of these and call me in the morning.

I’ve sat thru so many sermons that were basic one liners that felt like empty words. This was not gonna be one of those sermons. The difference would be me. I was open. I told the church that we as pastors get depressed. We get down. Phone calls turn into counseling calls, that turn into sleepless nights wondering if you did a good enough job. I expressed to the church that I too get busy, that I find myself bored at times. I’ve been bummed more than I care to remember, and there are more stories I could tell of burdens that would make the hardest person in the room cry. We have lost loved ones, I have seen death up close and personal. People I have spent days with helping to overcome bad habits have overdosed and died. I’ve seen more in my short life than some veterans have in war times.

So, what do I do? How do I deal with the really bad stuff? We have heard the verses, I’ve quoted them. We heard the sermons, I’ve preached ’em. But what does it look like? Here are a few first steps that help you right away that I have implemented into my own life. You will need counseling. I get coached and get counseling. These steps will help. They are not end-alls nor is this a magic pill that fixes everything immediately, but it starts the healing, the coping and breathes hope.

  • Spend time, quality time with a Godly friend. For me this is my wife and sometimes some of my closest friends. I will pour everything out of the table, I can trust them. They will not tell others and they won’t give some quick fix. The other morning I had lunch with a local pastor friend Ben Rathburn. We sat, I talked, & he talked. We prayed and ate together. Not many people understand what I do, Ben does. Find that Christian friend (it can be a pastor or a life group leader) and sit down.
  • Discipline yourself. This will look different for everyone but when moments of doubt come or the flesh starts to take over (which is often the case when dealing with depression), don’t give in to your inhibitions. This takes discipline and often requires help. This is where accountability comes into play. Most people I meet have bad stuff happen and then bad decisions follow. Many times you can’t stop the bad stuff from happening, but with discipline, you can stop yourself from doing things you regret.
  • Find Jesus. Pray some, then read some, then listen to some music. Go to church and get your praise on. Most of the time when we feel like Jesus isn’t there, we need to go back to the place where we left Him. For me this is prayer time and meditation.

How do you deal with depression? What have you seen that helps? Would love to hear your thoughts.

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