An exam for potential church planters (3)

By Andrew Munneke

So this is the third in a series of blogs to discern if you’re called, gifted, and able to be a church planter. In the first blog, we covered identity and the motivation for why you’re really pursuing starting a church. The second was about the core competencies of a church planter, and recognizing if you have them or need to grow in a few areas.

This blog is a bit more diagnostic. I’m asking you to do a candid self-examination as you read. Here are the three questions you’ll want to answer: Would I follow me? Does my household follow me? Do leaders follow me?

Would I follow me?

Trust. That’s the first step in a relationship with someone. If there can be no trust, there can be no relationship.

What we’re doing when we ask people to follow us is actually asking them to trust us. And that’s a huge thing! When you’re asking people to let you be their pastor, there’s a trust that needs to be there. This thought goes back to the character discussion we got into a little bit in the first blog.

So, if I know me—and hopefully you are self-aware enough to know your heart and its motivations and affections—and I was asking me to go and be a part of this new church, would I actually do it?

Let me ask the question this way: If you knew someone who had the same experiences, the same leadership track record, and the same heart motivations as you…would you follow that person? If you answered “Yes,” then let’s take this a step further.

{ If you knew someone who had the same experiences, the same leadership track record, and the same heart motivations as you…would you follow that person? }

The best leaders also make the best followers, so another good question to ask when considering your own leadership is: How well have I followed other peoples’ leadership? 

Do you frequently question others and think, “I could do it better…”? If so, as a leader you’re likely to lead more of a dictatorship because you don’t know how to work with people to achieve a common goal. People will become more like commodities to you to fulfill your vision rather than partners.

In the same way, if you can make a collaborative vision within the whole—not depending solely on yourself—then people will want to share this vision for your church and trust you to lead them.

And the last question I will ask you: How well do you lead yourself? Do you accomplish goals that you set for yourself? Do you show up on time? Do you fulfill your commitments and obligations? (Ok, so maybe that question actually consisted of three more questions! But, I think you get my point.) If you cannot lead yourself, then how can you expect to lead others?

Does my household follow me?

Obviously, this is taken from Scripture itself (1 Timothy 3:4). Your family is the group of people who know you and love you the most. If they aren’t willing to follow you, or you do a bad job of leading them, there are different caveats to what that means.

Is your wife on board? Sometimes we’re tempted to use our “calling from God” as an excuse to drag our wives into something they don’t really want to be a part of. Word to the wise, you should listen if she’s saying:

“I know you have a heart for New York City, but that will squash my soul.”

“I need you to be home more than the church/ministry will allow you to be home.”

I’m definitely not saying your wife can’t have insecurities or questions about going into ministry. Honestly, I think it would be unnatural for a wife not to wonder, “How are we going to pay the bills? Is this best for our kids?”

As a pastor, your job is all about dealing with people’s pain and how the Gospel speaks into that (this includes Christians and non-Christians, by the way). When your wife is in pain not knowing where the money will come from, or worrying about you being bi-vocational and the stress that comes with that, how do you speak the truth of the Gospel and shepherd her through those “red flags” and fears? How you shepherd your family is a reflection of how you will shepherd a church.

Your priority is to your family first. And nothing will disqualify you from church planting faster than if your marriage is crumbling and falling apart, or if you aren’t loving your kids well.

Do leaders follow me?

Let me say first that it’s great if you’ve had experience leading a small group. Like I mentioned in the second blog, leadership experience is necessary, and leading a small group is a good place to start.

But I also need to point out that leading a small group is different than leading a small group of leaders. As a pastor, you will need leaders (you could also call them key people) to follow you, and this requires a totally different skill-set.

{ Leading a small group is different than leading a small group of leaders. }

There are usually a few different leadership groups you will need: a core group, a financial support group, and (my personal conviction) a church or church network to support and send you out. How you lead and cast vision for each of these groups will be different.

Sidenote: I both like and hate the term “core group” because there’s the danger that they think they are the influencers. But if you communicate to your core group that they are carrying the DNA of the church, then this group will hopefully multiply itself into different ministries and leadership roles within the church in a way that new leaders will embrace and multiply. For example, if your core group is missional, then when they multiply themselves the goal is that your church as a whole will be missional.

And similarly for your financial group and church network, you must be able to cast a compelling vision so that they want to support you.

To be continued…

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Stepping out

By Izah Broadus 

At New Faith we teach “come to Jesus right where you are, and let Jesus change your life around.” People who were alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless—we have loved them and introduced them to Jesus. But most of them didn’t just walk in the front door.  

We do outreach events like community dinners, block parties, medical and dental clinics, and other things to have a chance to talk to people. After some events, people want to know when we’re going to do something else. I tell them that if it weren’t for Jesus Christ, we wouldn’t be able to do it. We don’t get caught up in the stuff. We do this for free to reach lost souls.

Actually, for a lot of people the first thing they say is, “How much does this cost?” and they’re surprised when we tell them, “It’s free, just come.” We see a lot of people at outreach events and then invite them to New Faith. And they come.

Regardless of where they’re at—spiritually or financially—we don’t treat them no different. We treat everybody the same if they drop a quarter or $50 in the offering plate. They fall in love and keep coming back and end up joining.

{ People who were alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless—we have loved them and introduced them to Jesus. But most of them didn’t just walk in the front door. } 

When I preach, I just compare the Bible and real-life issues that the congregation might be dealing with, and they understand what the problem is about. Like the three Hebrew boys the king put in the fire, I tell them that the fire didn’t destroy the Hebrews. The heat might be turned up in their life, but things that have us bound won’t bind us forever.

West Helena is one of the highest poverty level areas in Arkansas. Within a 20-block radius of the church, there is no gymnasium, no park, no public library. There is nothing for the teenagers. There are no jobs.

Our focus at New Faith right now is to provide things for the community. We live in a community where you can throw a basketball out in the parking lot and kids come out of nowhere because they don’t have anything to do. We want to provide a gymnasium, and we are praying about a park.

There isn’t a local shelter, either. Someone is always at the door of the church when I get out of the car. They want to talk, or they are hungry.

There was a guy eating out of the dumpster over the last few months, and I wanted to share Jesus with him. His name is Arthur, and I just wanted him to know that God still loves him. We invited him into the church a lot because it was cold. This fall, he joined New Faith, and he wants to be baptized!

We’ve made a room upstairs for a library. We are working on opening the room on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays so people in the community can look for jobs.

We are also looking into starting an after-school program, and it will start on February 21, 2017. We are praying for God to provide because we have needs—for more computers, for space, for materials to do things outside with the kids. But what we do have right now are people who love the vision for this. 

church-van
The new church van!

We had a need for transportation, and God answered prayer! We were picking up 20-30 people for our church services on Sundays and Wednesdays but didn’t have a church van. We were picking them up in cars and trucks. Me and two more who would pick them up and take them home after service.

By the grace of God, Brother Dave McClung text me one morning and told me he found us a van! He connected me with Pastor Wyman Richardson of Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock, Ark. It was a blessing that we had been praying for, and I cried tears of joy.

God is showing us that He is with us at New Faith if we stay obedient to Him. The name New Faith speak for itself—a new group of people in positions that we’ve never been in before. People stepping out on faith and trusting that God will provide.

 

If my church shut down, would the community wonder where we went?

By Andrew Munneke

Three people—me, my wife, and a friend from seminary—moved from Dallas to Fayetteville in 2013 with the purpose of planting a church. I didn’t know Fayetteville very well. I had never lived there, nor did I know a lot of people in the city, but we sold possessions and packed up what we had and moved to Arkansas.

Why? Because there were lost people there and the Gospel compelled us to go.

Most people don’t know this, but 18 percent of Fayetteville’s population are church-goers, which means 82 percent are unchurched. This also means 1) there is an obvious disconnect between believers engaging with the unchurched, and 2) there are large pockets of people here who don’t have a relationship with a Christian. That was something I couldn’t ignore.

Fayetteville is also a very global area with Walmart Corp. and the University of Arkansas. People and students come from all over the world, stay here for a short season, and then go back home. the-hill-church-logo

Let the missional opportunity of that sink in. We can impact the nations in our own backyard!

Another major reason we were drawn to Fayetteville is the projected growth of the area. By 2040, Northwest Arkansas is supposed to grow by 58.3 percent, meaning the population of Northwest Arkansas and Little Rock will be the same. Who will win? I don’t know, but that’s the projection. It’s an interesting reality.

Here’s the thing. You can always run stats until the cows come home because, yeah, we can find out percentages about the unchurched. But what’s more important is what is keeping the other 82 percent of people from setting their foot in the church.

{ What are people’s emotional, spiritual, etc. reasons for not setting foot in the church? Those questions can only be answered through conversations. }

What is their reason? Sure, why are the churches there not reaching them, but what are these people’s emotional, spiritual, etc. reasons? Those questions can only be answered through conversations. That was big for us.

So our initial model for a church was building around this question: What would our church look like if we understood that we are sent missionaries to the lost people of our city?

The Vision of Presence

We knew going in that making an impact in Fayetteville was something only God could do. It wouldn’t be my fancy vision, not my zeal for this or that, not my gifts or talents, but only the Spirit of God working.

Step one in reaching Fayetteville was prayer. My wife and I, our friend, and another couple all gathered in my living room to pray just the five of us. This prayer gathering was us literally saying that we believed this church was going to make Kingdom impact, and to do it we needed His Spirit. (And that wasn’t just a one-time prayer; we continue to have these prayer meetings on the first Wednesday of every month.)

The next step was casting a compelling vision for why Fayetteville needed our church. Not that established churches weren’t doing their jobs, but we considered the bandwidths where we could meet needs that other churches’ bandwidths didn’t.

One way we did this was by asking, “What is the brokenness in the city? What are some of the areas that need the Gospel and need Gospel work done?”

{ Step one in reaching Fayetteville was prayer… us literally saying that we believed this church was going to make Kingdom impact, and to do it we needed His Spirit. }

We saw certain areas of Fayetteville that were poor and impoverished and didn’t have a church presence. Churches were going in, serving these people, and coming out, but they were not an incarnational presence. These churches were doing a good job making a needs-transaction, but we wanted to meet a self-worth need. We thought having an incarnational presence could really be a big factor in reaching these people.

From the beginning, our church has had the desire to be incarnational. In our early gatherings, we met in our house. Later, in our first location, we met in a shopping center, but we felt this angst. We were in a very visible spot, but here’s the reality: it was hard to build intentional relationships with people who needed us. This need outweighed our desire to be seen, so we sacrificed visibility to live incarnationally and moved to an old church building in a neighborhood.

So all of that to say, we started what we call Gospel-Communities. We did this first because the Gospel community gathers people and then sends people out. We started in June 2013, and by January 2014 our first Gospel-Community multiplied into three Gospel-Communities and we were ready to launch our services. 

service-launch-january-2014
Our shopping center location at the time of the launch. 

A City on a Hill

This month we are celebrating three years at The Hill Church! We have changed things that we wrote on the whiteboard three years ago, and we might change things in the future. But we know our city, our neighborhood, and who we are called to serve better.

Church planting isn’t what I thought it was—pastors who know more about what they are against than what they are for, or youth pastors who couldn’t be promoted any higher in their church. There is a necessity for it, and the book of Acts explains that clearly.

andrew-preaching-2

Church plants are 60 to 80 percent more likely to reach the unchurched. In other words, church planting is the best way to reach unreached people. Knowing that church planting is the best tool we have to reach the unchurched is a pretty strong conviction for me.

The number one purpose of a church plant should be to reach the lost.

Something we have said since the beginning is this: If our church shut down, who would knock on our doors wondering where we went? That is the city on the hill that vanishes, like a light that goes out in a dark place. This truth has led us to not only build relationships with people across the street but also at the community center next door to us.

I don’t think we shine as bright as a huge light, but the neighborhood feels our presence. I hope that we are being enough of a light for the people around us so that if we were to shut down, the lack of a Gospel presence would be felt.

Sowing seeds with people of peace

By Lee Kemp 

John Maxwell once said that no one succeeds unless a group of people wants them to. I think this is definitely true in ministry because ministry rides or dies on relationships.

Before Forefront became a church, Sarah and I were living in Timberline Apartments by ourselves, and we met a lady named Mrs. Patsy. There are about 1,000 people that live in the apartments, and everyone knows Mrs. Patsy. She has lived and worked at Timberline for 21 years, surviving owners and tenants. She delivers notes for rent, but she is also the apartment watchdog. When she takes her dogs for walks late at night, Mrs. Patsy also carries a baseball bat with her.

Early on, Mrs. Patsy didn’t know what Sarah and I believed in or stood for, but she was glad we were there. She knew we were there for a different reason than just having a place to live.

One day I was talking to a lady in the complex about bringing her kids to our summer program, but I could tell there was a racial barrier. Then Mrs. Patsy walked over to us and said to the lady, “You need to get all your kids to this summer program.” Then she looked at me and said, “This is a good man.” The racial barrier died right there.

You’ve heard it said that someone’s always watching. That’s true if we are planting a church or not because the lost watch all believers. The Holy Spirit is definitely at work in peoples’ hearts and minds. Whether we know it or not, the Lord is building those relationships sooner than we might think.

Even so, we have to give it time. Mrs. Patsy had to see some of our events before she accepted that what we were offering was something the people of Timberline Apartments needed.

{ Whether we know it or not, the Lord is building those relationships sooner than we might think.}

Mrs. Patsy was a person of peace in the apartment complex. A person of peace is someone who may or may not have your beliefs, but they are volunteering in the community and trying to make a social difference. They also see your character and believe in you.

Without people of peace, it’s really hard to plant the seeds of the Gospel because the soil will be wrong. And what if that person comes to know Christ? They can help you start a movement!

There are people in your community who have the same heart as you and are already doing things for others. What I have found is that if you link arms with community players already playing and cheer for them then they cheer for you!

There are also gathering places in your community where people already like to go for fun, to relax, and to enjoy each other. When we get involved, we naturally meet people.

If I could plant a church all over again, before trying to gather people for worship, I would have pushed to gather people with different beliefs or who had a heart for social injustice. Then once those people had a chance to receive the Gospel, I would have started a church.

Ben Arment talks about sometimes a church planter has to become a missionary before he becomes a pastor, and missionaries center everything around relationships. If people aren’t ready to gather with you for worship, then maybe you have to cultivate the soil. You go back and focus on developing relationships with people of peace. That way when you gather, you are gathering with people who want to make things happen.

How to look for people of peace in your city:

  1. Focus on the major social injustices of the city
  2. Examine these three questions:
    1. Who’s doing what and for whom?
    2. How good are they at doing it?
    3. What do they need to go to the next level?

 

From homeless to homemaker

By Lee Kemp 

A few years ago, the manager of a Motel 6 in Fort Smith called me to refer a lady who could use some help.  We had developed a friendship with Motel 6 through ministering to so many folks, and we had even been able to develop a corporate discount rate to help people.  

I met DeLayne at McDonald’s right next to the hotel. She sat there with me and another elder of Forefront. We filled out this sheet to assess what she needed and figure out if we could meet that need. I could tell she was nervous and had been through a lot. I stopped her and reassured her that she could relax and didn’t have to sell us on helping her. 

DeLayne had fibromyalgia and had been living with her mom for a season to take care of her. After her mom needed to change living conditions, DeLayne moved with her daughter Sarah to Fort Smith. It wasn’t long in their new beginning that Sarah lost her job. Because DeLayne had been completely dependent on Sarah, she became homeless. She had no place to go.

Forefront was pretty limited in what we could do for her right away, but we assured DeLayne that we wanted to be her faith family, and as her faith family we also wanted to do all we could do to help her get back to where she desired to be.     

{ As DeLayne’s faith family we wanted to do all we could do to help her get back to where she desired to be.}

DeLayne went to the Rescue Mission and was able to get a job, but Forefront could do things for her the Rescue Mission couldn’t do. As time went on we would help financially with small needs, and we loaned her a car that we used for local missions. She connected with our church and started coming to worship with us. 

And DeLayne got back up on her feet! She secured a good job, a home, and eventually met a really good guy, Will, who she recently married. Now she is a homemaker, and Will takes good care of her. DeLayne says she is a “kept woman.” 

DeLayne

She is now considering how she can serve others with her free time. One of the things she wants to do is help Forefront Church by volunteering in our office as my assistant. It’s amazing how she was ministered to by our church and is now giving back by serving the church.   

DeLayne is such a huge encouragement to anyone who knows her! She uses these three verses when encouraging folks about what God has done in her life: Jeremiah 33:3, Romans 8:28 & Philippians 4:19.

Forefront wants to be a church the community sees as an organization that meets needs. I have witnessed that we can never go wrong just getting out into the community and developing friendships that the Lord brings our way. It is through friendships with organizations and local businesses like Motel 6 that Forefront has had the opportunity to meet someone like DeLayne.

 {Forefront’s desire is to be at the forefront of what God is doing in changing the lives of those who feel far from God.  Our vision is to Reach the Lost, Equip the saved to reach others, and Serve God by using our gifts to show Jesus to the local community.  Our heart is to maintain an external focus as a church.}

Reflections from a week WITH the Arapaho Tribe

By Lee Kemp 

Since I returned home from Wyoming, I have found myself refreshed and renewed in my commitment to see God move through me and Forefront Church. (Checkout last week’s post to see how God moved during our trip!)  I think that is how almost everyone feels after a productive time on a mission trip in another ministry context.

Today, I thought I would just drop a few reflections and thoughts here for us to remember and consider as we seek to advance God’s Kingdom and the Gospel.

When we minister, prepositions matter

Something I was trained in but still forget time to time is that prepositions matter in ministry. 

When we do something TO to a people, we create oppressionAlthough this is a silent and an unspoken oppression, people can still feel like we are coming off better than them.

When we do something FOR a people, we create co-dependency. In this approach, even if we do reach the intended people, we reach them in a way where they will need us to continue to focus on the Lord.  Our model can lack the ability to be reproduced within a people group. 

When we do something WITH a people, we create life-transformation. This approach is always slower and takes way more time.  It takes a considerable amount of energy and is usually avoided because it drives on the fuel of relationships. 

It has been said that the reason we don’t tell our people about Jesus is because we don’t tell Jesus about our people. I now add that the reason we don’t reach our unreached people groups is because we avoid the WITH approach in our methods of ministry. 

May we remember that our message never changes, but our METHODS of delivering our message needs to be continually evaluated.

May we all take to time to consider the prepositions within our ministries! 

God is still on the move

By Lee Kemp 

This week Forefront Church is in Riverton, Wyoming! We are ministering to the Northern Arapaho, one of the last critically unreached Native American tribes.

Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith has come here for the last five years, but this year we (Forefront) and Palestine Baptist Church in Greenwood, Ark., have joined them. There are about 45 of us altogether.

Our goal for the trip is not to do a bunch of things but to continue to build relationships with the Arapaho. In the morning we are picking up trash, mowing yards and getting to know the neighbors of the community. In the afternoons we are learning about the history of the Arapaho before going back to the reservation for the evening. We have bought sports equipment and a basketball goal for the kids, and we are beading bracelets with them.

We are sharing the message of Jesus, but we are making sure not to push too hard. We are focusing on relationships.

Please pray for us! God is working, and He was working long before we got here…

A divine encounter

I had driven back to our hotel to look for money I thought was lost. After I looked over the hotel room and climbed back into the bus, I found the money in the dash. I stopped freaking out and turned the bus around to pick up our group at the reservation.

That’s when I see a guy in a wheelchair with a young man kneeling beside him. Both were Native American.

The Holy Spirit nudged me right there and told me to go back and talk to them. I said to God, “I don’t know what they’re doing,” but He said, “It doesn’t matter.”

So I parked the bus, walked up and found that they were praying. I didn’t know if they were praying in Jesus’ name or what, so I just stood there listening and praying, too.

Before the young man finished the prayer, I heard him say, “Where there are two or more gathered in Your name, You are there.”

After I introduced myself and told them that God told me to turn around, the young man—whose name is Joel—said, “No way! I’m a pastor.” Joel is 19-years-old and feels called to ministry. He had stopped to pray for Reggie to be healed.

{ Before the young man finished the prayer, I heard him say, “Where there are two or more gathered in Your name, You are there.”}

We tried to get Reggie up and walking, but he got tired so we sat him back down.

That is when I asked Reggie who he believed Jesus is. He said, “One we can trust in.” When I asked if he had ever trusted Jesus to save his soul, he said, “I wouldn’t go that far.”

I shared with him Romans 5:8 and other scriptures, and how Jesus will create a new heaven and new earth one day because all other things will pass away. I explained that his soul is eternal, how it will never pass away, and he needed Jesus to save his soul. I told him that I loved him, and I didn’t just want to pray for him to be healed but for his soul to be saved.

Reggie and Lee

So I asked Reggie if he felt like that is something he wanted to do and he said yes!  Then he allowed me to pray with him, and he accepted Christ as we prayed together right there on the sidewalk!

God had not sent me back to the hotel to find the money I thought was lost. He was orchestrating this whole encounter.

I told Reggie, “Your people don’t know the good news of Jesus, and they don’t know what I’ve told you today. He wants to use you to reach your people.”

Not only that, but Joel lives in the same Arapaho reservation that our missions team is working in! He is not even Arapaho, but his sisters are!

There is a backstory to this. Scott Ward (with Grand Avenue Baptist) has been praying for the past five years to meet someone who already has influence here for us to partner with. Joel has now been introduced to Scott, and we plan to stay connected with him and foster this relationship.

God is so on the move! It is evident.

{ God had not sent me back to the hotel to find the money I thought was lost. He was orchestrating this whole encounter.}