On Sponsoring a New Church (Pt. 2)

In case you missed it, read Part 1 here.

 

How does the sponsor church relate to the new church?

An area that sometimes creates conflict is the relationship between the sponsor church and the new church.  A lack of clear expectations, mutually agreed upon lines of accountability, and good communication could turn the church planting experience from a blessing into a disappointment for both the sponsor and the planter.  Before a church decides to enter into a partnership to plant a new church, the following questions should be addressed:

  1. Doctrinal and methodological issues:
  • Are the planter and the new church in doctrinal agreement with the sponsor church? Has the planter read and understood the Baptist Faith and Message 2000?
  • Does the sponsor church understand and accept the methods and style of the new church regarding worship, outreach, discipleship, etc?
  1. Facilities, finances, and legal issues:
  • If the new church is meeting in the sponsor’s facilities, have logistical issues been discussed and agreed upon?  Will rent be paid?  Will help with utility bills be expected?  Is there a plan for the new church to grow into greater responsibility?  There needs to be an understanding about use of facilities, when they are available, who can have keys and access, scheduling of facilities, maintenance, etc.  Is a written agreement in place?
  • Who will handle the new church’s finances?  Is there someone (other than the planter and/or his wife!) who is qualified to handle money?  Is the new church ready to have its own bank account?  How will tithes and offerings be handled?  Is there a plan for the church to take over its own finances?  Who will approve the new church’s budget and expenditures?
  • Who will handle Cooperative Program and other missions giving?
  • What kind of access will the planter and the new church have to the office equipment, telephones, and supplies of the sponsor church?  Is this clearly understood?
  • Do any insurance, liability, social security, annuity, or legal issues need to be dealt with?
  • Is the new church ready to legally incorporate?
  • Is there a clear understanding on how and when funding checks from the sponsor, the association, and the state convention will be handled?
  1. Accountability:
  • What will be the planter’s relationship to the sponsor church’s staff?  Will he be considered a staff member?  Will he be expected to attend staff meetings?  If not, is there a time and a person the planter will be meeting with regularly?
  • If the new church is not meeting in the sponsor church’s facilities, is distance a factor in accountability?
  • Are there other partners besides the sponsor church involved, i.e. co-sponsor churches, local association, state convention?  Are expectations and relationships clear to the planter and to the primary sponsor?  Is the planter free to seek other churches as partners?
  • Does the planter have a relationship with a church planting coach?  Does the sponsor understand this?
  1. Cultural issues:
  • If the new church is of a different language, ethnic, or cultural group, has the sponsor church made every effort to understand cultural differences?  These issues may include communication styles, worship styles, decision making styles, time perspectives, accountability and responsibility perspectives, perspectives on planning, scheduling, and setting goals, discipline of children, dress, use of facilities, food, and many others.
  • Have the sponsor church and new church agreed to seek to understand each other’s differences?  Do they both agree that all cultures are under the judgment of Scripture?
  • If language is an obstacle to communication, is there someone available to act as a translator?

It should be emphasized that every situation is different.  It is important for the sponsor, the planter, and all other partners to discuss these issues before the church is launched and funding begins and to regularly review progress and challenges and to make adjustments as necessary.

On Sponsoring a New Church (Pt. 1)

Too often churches assume that it takes a lot of money to be a church-planting church.  The reality is that any church, no matter the size, the age, or the socioeconomic level, can be involved in some way in church planting.  Some sponsoring opportunities involve:

When we have little to no financial resources to contribute: 

  1. Prayer:  A church can join a planter’s intercessory prayer team.
  2. Encouragement:  A sponsor church can offer encouragement to the planter and his family by writing notes of encouragement, by providing support during difficult times, by having them over for a meal, etc.
  3. Legitimacy:  Since a new church is required to have an official primary sponsor church, sometimes a church with limited financial resources can serve as the legitimizing spokesperson for a qualified church planter.
  4. Space:  Many sponsor churches can offer meeting room in their facilities, especially for a new ethnic church start.
  5. Material Resources:  Sometimes a sponsor church can offer a one-time gift of Bibles, discipleship literature, sound equipment, chairs, etc.

Options when some regular monetary support can be provided:

  1. Sole sponsorship:  One church takes on full responsibility for planting a new church.  No help is needed or sought from other churches or denominational entities.
  2. Sole sponsorship with partners:  One church takes on the primary responsibility for planting a new church but also seeks financial assistance from denominational partners.
  3. Multiple sponsorship:  Several churches in a particular area join efforts as a cluster to plant new churches.  They share financial support at varying levels.  This option may or may not involve denominational partners.
  4. Networking:  Several churches spread across the state may agree to join efforts to plant churches in strategic areas.  Again, they share financial support with or without denominational partners.
  5. Adoption:  A church may choose to join an existing sponsorship arrangement by financially supporting a new church already in progress.
  6. Church Planting Center:  In a few instances, a church or network of churches may want to establish a center for church planter discovery, development, and deployment.

There’s no right or wrong way to get involved in church planting. Jump in as God leads your congregation. Contact us about church plants that are in need of partners.

Read Part 2

Three Marriage Rules to Break

I recently ran into someone I knew in high school at the mall in my home town. He was THE DUDE on campus. At college, he married the campus beauty and received an assistantship at a prestigious law school in the northeast which allowed him to return home and begin a successful law office.

Amazingly, he remembered me. (I wasn’t THE dude. I was a lower case “dude.”) We decided to grab some coffee and catch up for a minute or two. He told me about his practice, his amazing house and two kids.

And I couldn’t help but notice the gaping hole in his story. What about his wife– that amazing wife he married shortly after we graduated?

I didn’t remember her name. Seems like it started with a “J.” Do I ask or do I leave town with this question bothering me for days? I thought, “What will it hurt to ask this guy about his wife?” So with as much ease and casual grace as I could muster I asked, “So how’s um … Jane doing?”

“Jill?”

“Right! Jill.”

John took a deep breath. “It ended after our second child was a toddler. She wanted way too much from me. I felt smothered and my personality just wasn’t connecting with hers. Jill was impossible. She got upset when she didn’t know where all my money was going. She constantly questioned my schedule. If I was a few hours late or had to stay at the office overnight without telling her, she’d freak. And she became very paranoid when I struck up friendships with the opposite sex. I felt like she assumed she married an Amish guy who signed an agreement not to have a life.

This was an uncomfortable situation for me. I hate people who judge others as much as anybody but I had huge alarms going off in my head.

How could someone so smart, be so far adrift in the oceans of relationships and marriage?

The three objections that he mentioned in his terse explanation created the perfect storm which led to a bankruptcy, joint custody, and many complicated, awkward conversations – like the one we were having.

You see, John had some rules about his life and his marriage. These marriage rules must be broken if your marriage is going to be everything you, your spouse and God desires it to be.

By all means, let your freak flag fly and break these idiotic rules our culture values.

Your money is your money.

Many couples I counsel fail to recognize that marriage is a financial partnership. God wants you and your spouse to work together and He’s quite interested in the way you handle money in your marriage.

It’s a tool God uses to teach us about sacrifice, unconditional love, communication, cooperation, trust and stewardship.

We learn these virtues in the classroom of finances.

The idea of separating the money that comes into the home is a dubious proposal. Leave a legacy of growth and sacrifice by working together as a family to achieve financial decisions and goals.

Your time is your time.

Every person needs time to be alone. It’s essential for prayer, reflection and restoration of mind and body. But to assume that your time is your time is to miss the entire message of a covenant marriage.

I know. You’re busy. But you’re married, too! Your time is no longer just your time. We have to learn balance. If you don’t have balance in your schedule, find it!

If you are making decisions alone regarding your time, your marriage can become toxic fast.

The issue of time and money can present the greatest threats to your marriage. Remember: the greatest barometers of your love for your spouse and your love of God are money and time.

In fact, Jesus felt so strongly about these two life values that He spent more time on them than He did on anything else.

Your friends are your friends.

(In other words, there should be no problem at all with husbands having a close female friend or two and the same for wives about a male friend.)

This is a rule that often leads to sticky, complicated messes. John held on to this rule with white knuckles until his marriage imploded.

He fell for a client with whom He spent lots of time. What began as an innocent working relationship grew into emotional cheating.

One may begin a relationship as functional allies. It may begin with an innocent compliment, then giving way to subtle flirtations, discussing marriage trouble, gift giving, sharing meals and traveling in the same cars.

And once that train leaves the station it’s difficult to stop.

Don’t trust your heart enough to do these things. Run away from these opportunities! Nothing good happens when you go there.

And the story continues…

So that’s the story of a friend of mine who didn’t break these insidious rules and broke his marriage in the process. In fact, he married the client.

Happily married today? No.

Believe it or not, she had the same issues with John’s rules as wife #1. They split in less than a year after their marriage began.

It’s the story of so many divorces: couples who were madly in love but refused to break some rules to save their marriage.

And if you want some rules that are truly liberating and provide the greatest chance to have a marriage that sizzles, try these:

  • Love relentlessly.
  • Never let anything stand between you and the love of your life.
  • Celebrate the little things.
  • Say important, loving words to your spouse today because you are never promised tomorrow.
  • Control your work; spend the night with your spouse (not the other way around).
  • Constantly invest in your relationship. The payoff is huge.
  • Learn to forgive, forgive and forgive. It truly is divine!
  • Admit your hurts and faults.
  • Listen with your ears, your eyes and your touch.
  • Open up. Speak the last 2% that you’ve kept to yourself.
  • And last but not least – never, ever give up on your spouse.

Worship is …

The Christmas story says a lot about the nature of true worship. We can say that God sent Christ into the world so that we could have unfettered opportunity to worship Him. However, worship is misunderstood today as a place and time (“the Worship Service starts at…”) or an experience or element of a gathering (“the worship was great today”). We find a great definition of true worship in Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55.

Worship is humble surrender born out of knowledge of God. 

Mary’s worship demonstrated three things:

  1. Humility – “It’s not about me.”

Real worship starts with the reality that life is about HIS value, and then wonder that I can be accepted, cared for, given to, by such an incredible God. Mary says, “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant” Luke 1:46-47. Mary demonstrates for us that the proper attitude in worship and in life is, “It’s not about me. It’s about Him.” And, “Who me? I get to be part of this?”

  1. Surrender – “Lord, my life is Yours.”

Mary was a true worshiper because her heart was surrendered. In Luke 1:38 she said, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your Word.” In Luke 1:48, she again calls herself “His servant.” The word here is literally bond-slave denoting one that has intentionally surrendered themselves to be in servitude to another. To surrender is to make your whole self available to God for whatever He desires. It’s to say to God, “Your way is best. I’m listening. I’m ready to respond with yes.” The opposite of surrender is to resist, to fight, to struggle, to run away, to make our way best and essentially ourselves god, which is idolatry. Mary’s worshiped with a heart that was without resistance.

  1. Knowledge of God – “He has done great things for me, and holy is His name” Luke 1:49.

In this song, Mary shows us that she knows God’s word, has a deep understanding of God’s purposes, knows His work in history, and that she’s internalized His promises to be for her and all that has led her to worship Him.

What has God done for you? How has God worked in your life? You can’t worship what you don’t know. Humility and surrender will open your life to know and experience God, which will lead you to a life of worshiping Him.

So, is life all about you? Is there resistance in your heart when it comes to the will of God? Can you point to God’s work in your life? If not, during this Christmas season, humble yourself, surrender your heart and will, and get to know His story. Worship Him.

God Gave the Gift of PRESENCE

The story of Christmas is foundational for understanding Christianity in so many ways. God sent his very best, his own Son Jesus Christ – the God-man – on a daring rescue mission. In need of rescue was the human race including you and I.

The mission included a display of love that led to the willing death of an innocent Rescuer for the sake of those he loved. In the end, the Rescuer wins the day, defeating all the bad guys, including death, sin, guilt, and Satan (Colossians 2:13-15, Hebrews 2:14-15).

Here’s the real kicker: Now God desires that we repeat the process of being sent, loving, sacrificing, and rescuing through announcing/retelling this story to all (John 21:20, Acts 1:8, Philippians 2:3-5).

When God wanted to save the world, he sent himself. He gave PRESENCE. Today, he continues to give presence to the world through those he has rescued.

Here’s three lessons we learn about life ON MISSION from God’s giving to us at Christmas. These can become filters for our lives and our churches as we seek to live with a missionary posture toward our community.

1. God gave the gift of PROXIMITY.

John 1:14 in the Message paraphrase says, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” Jesus laid aside the privileges of deity to draw near to us, walk in our shoes, and die in our place.

One of the great promises of Christmas is that we do not serve a God that’s distant, that’s removed from our problems and trials. He experienced them and He overcame them (Hebrews 4:15, John 16:33).

Does your current lifestyle allow you to live in proximity to the needs of others? Does your church live out its mission in proximity to the needs of the community?

Jesus went so much further than, “They know where we are if they need us.” He was always touching those he wasn’t supposed to touch and sharing life with those he wasn’t supposed to share life with. In a world filled with lonely hearts, we need to give presence and live out the gift of proximity.

2. God gave the gift of RESPONSIVENESS..

God gave in response to our deepest need.

To respond to the needs of others requires you to forget about yourself a bit. That’s exactly what Jesus did – Philippians 2:7 says, “He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.”

Jesus didn’t have an entitlement mentality – and if anyone was ever justified in feeling entitled to privileges and perks it should have been the Son of God – but he had a slavery mentality, becoming the lowest of the low in response to my need.

Does your current lifestyle and church culture allow you to be responsive to the needs of others? The priest and Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan most likely had legitimate excuses for not responding to the needs of the man lying in the road with huge needs. They had busy schedules – there’s no time for this; they were in a bad part of town; they had no training in basic life support.

It was the Samaritan that demonstrated to heart of God and responded to the needs, laying aside self and becoming a servant.

3. God’s generosity was RADICAL.

In the Christmas story we learn that God is a radical giver.

John 3:16 says it best, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And we see in Philippians 2:8, that Jesus willing became a radical giver for you and I – “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

God held nothing back for you and I. He gave it all.

What aspects of our lives can be considered radical? Is it the area of generosity? Desire for God? Desire for others to know the truth?


Presence, proximity, responsiveness, radical generosity – the story of Christ and Christmas.

2016 Lifeway Compensation Study

The 2016 Compensation Study has been released by LifeWay.

Churches personnel and administrative teams will find this resource helpful as they access the salaries of Pastors in southern Baptist Churches.

  • It is uniquely Southern Baptist. All responses included in the survey are for ministers and employees of SBC churches.
  • It is free. The participating state conventions, LifeWay Christian Resources, and GuideStone Financial Resources pay all costs.
  • All reports are available on the Internet.
  • Most compensation studies provide reports based on attendance, budget, etc. The customized report option is unique to the SBC study. This makes it possible to get compensation data based on churches most like your own by combining criteria.
  • Every survey form received is evaluated for valid, useable data and over 20 data integrity filters are used on the data before study results are compiled.

To view the results of the survey, visit the link below.

 www.lifeway.com/compensationsurvey 

Simple Holiday Outreach Ideas for Churches

Here’s a few simple holiday outreach projects that any church, small group, family, or individual can afford. I can testify that these make a big impact with a small investment of time and money.

1. Gift cards for ICU waiting rooms. At any given time in your community there are people reeling from traumatic events or devastating illness. Their families can be found in waiting rooms at your local hospital.

Pick up a handful of gift cards to the closest restaurants and coffee shops, drop by and give them out with a “praying for you” card from your church. Offer to pray for anyone you get to talk with.

This simple act of kindness can breathe life into someone that is overwhelmed with bad news. If no one is there, give them to the nurses desk and they’ll pass them out for you. These nurses could also use prayer and encouragement.

Call ahead and find out when visiting times are so that you know when people are in the waiting rooms.

Cost: $100 for 5-10 gift cards.

 

2. Care packages for the homeless. If you live in a metro area or near the interstate, you probably get an invitation to serve the homeless every day at area red lights. “Should I give them money?” is a constant question.

Few of us carry cash anymore but doing nothing is not desirous for most believers. How about making up some simple care packages with some goodies that that can be passed out the window of a car? Keep 3-5 in your car at all times.

Cost: $10 per bag.

 

3. Christmas decor for nursing home residents. Go to your local nursing home and ask for a list of residents with no local family. The reality for these residents is often few visits if any, few seasonal decorations for their walls, few convenient items like warm socks or lotion.

Offer to pray for them. Find out what they want or need and plan a return visit. Spend some time listening to their story.

Cost: $25 for a few Christmas decorations and simple cards colored by kids.

 

4. Fruit baskets for elderly shut-ins. Local shut-ins are lonely. They often feel trapped. They often have simple to-do’s around their home that can be taken care of in less than an hour.

Making up fruit baskets to deliver to them gives you a reason to encourage them with a visit and find out other needs that your faith community can take care of on their behalf.

Cost:$25 for a bowl or basket & fruit & other goodies to go in them.

 

5. Weatherization for local widows. In every community there are widows and widowers who can no longer take care of simple things like wrapping their pipes or preparing their home for winter.

A great project for the men’s group could be spending one Saturday per year wrapping pipes.

Cost:$100 worth of weatherization supplies.

 

6. Holiday treats for local teachers lounges. We often hear laments about churches not being able to “get into the schools.” Most of the time, we’re trying to get in on our terms instead of thinking of ways to be a blessing.

One way that is enthusiastically accepted 100% of the time at our local schools is stuffing snack baskets full of goodies for teacher’s lounges at the beginning of the school year, holidays, and end of school.

Christmas is a great time for this. Shoot for the week that school is getting out. There’s probably a party going on!

Cost: $50 per Teacher’s lounge.

 

What other similar outreach ideas have you or your church done at Christmas?

What if…

  • Every ICU Patient family got a gift card and a prayer?
  • Every homeless person got a care packet?
  • Every Nursing Home resident had Christmas decorations?
  • Every shut-in got a fruit basket?
  • Every widow had her pipes wrapped for winter?
  • Every teacher’s lounge had holiday treats and a note of encouragement from your church?

6 Steps to Simplify Christmas

Let’s admit it. Holidays can get complicated. If we don’t pay attention, our debt grows, our peace shrinks and our stress expands. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 6 ways you can make Christmas a simpler, more beautiful season.

1. Heighten your gratitude.

Paul reminds us that anxiety and gratitude don’t mix:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7.

Once you enter the festival of generosity, an amazing sense of peace flows into your soul.

2. Lower your expectations.

Christmas is hard for people because they set their expectations too high when they reunite with extended family members. Very few people have perfectly healthy memories with their family.

Family is hard work so lower your expectations that everyone will behave over the next few days. You’ll be glad you did.

We can’t judge our extended family relationships using the scale of a Hallmark movie where everything is resolved in two hours. We must remember that we are all works in progress.

3. Check your wallet.

You can’t spend your way into reconciliation. I know this will come as a blow to the credit card companies but it’s true. Physical, tangible presents will not change a life, but your forgiveness and unconditional love will.

Jesus knew this about mankind: how you spend your money reveals the priorities of your heart.

4. Slow your pace.

  • Find the Power Button. Every remote has one. Enjoy real people- not the ones on TV.
  • “No” is a complete sentence. You’ve heard it before but it’s worth remembering. You don’t have to attend every party or do everything you did last year. Slow down. Breathe. Rest.
  • Be aware of what you consume. Have a brownie – but not the whole pan.

5. Simplify your world.

Most people spend an outrageous amount of time adding to the stuff they already own. Take time to spend less on material goods, give away what you don’t need, and add breathing room in your home.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul.
Psalm 131:1-2

This is a promise to God’s people that less of the unnecessary will quiet your soul.

6. Don’t Miss Jesus.

The arrival of Jesus will change everything if we prepare. He will come to give us something money could never buy.

May we not seek satisfaction in the things we touch. He will come to teach us how to live in dangerous surrender.

May we not seek safety in this life.

May we live our lives by the measuring stick of how well we love each other.

May we be the body of Christ.

May we live with each other in the land of grace.

Don’t miss Jesus as we celebrate His advent with simplicity and love.

7 Declarations to Make Every Day Thanksgiving

If every day was Thanksgiving, I think we’d all be quite a bit heavier! Wouldn’t you agree? There’s a reason we should only celebrate it once a year.

Still, for a moment set aside the turkey, the pies, and the cornbread dressing and make a declaration to make every day Thanksgiving day.

In other words, live a life of continuous gratitude and worship.

It’s hard, especially after the floods, elections, conflict and crises we’ve experienced.

Here are 7 declarations that will send you on your way to Thanksgiving every day.

  1. Today I’ll live a life of celebration. The brooding life is not holy. To many, it might look holy but a grave-digger and skeptic do not a Kingdom make.
  1. Today I’ll simplify to remove distractions. Our inability to hear God is directly linked to the static of modern life. It’s perhaps the greatest plague of the church. We are uncomfortable with silence. The things we place before our eyes, the multitude of messages we receive on a daily basis, even the food that we eat potentially blocks our reception of God’s voice. We often expel the voice of God through texts, emails, Facebook, radio, TV, and music.
  1. Today I won’t tolerate negativity. If you find yourself surrounded by negative, whiney, sarcastic people, consider the architecture of you life and think about doing a little renovation.
  1. Today I’ll meditate on Holy Scripture. Don’t just read it.  Become preoccupied with it! Stuff your self full of holy words and you’ll see it bring a blessing of peace over your life because your eyes and ears are open to His Word.
  1. Today I’ll follow God’s heart and not my own. Keep in mind what God thinks of your heart: it is deceitful. Culture says, “Follow your heart.” Please don’t. It’s a dead-end proposition. Discover the heart of God and follow His.  Stop all self-promotion campaigns. We are all involved in a throne battle. Ask yourself: “Who will I place on the throne of my life? To which king will I bow down?”
  1. Today I’ll clarify boundaries in my personal world. The ability to hear God is directly related to our ability to say ‘no’ to lots of things in your life- even a few good things. We understand that we are not capable of doing everything for everybody. Your closest friends will not understand it. Some will be disappointed in you and others will think you are a prude, but celebrate your boundaries. If you understand the purpose you have been created to achieve, saying NO (sometimes in bold and all caps) is not just recommended, it is required.
  1. Today I’ll seek discernment regarding my day. Every morning, ask for wisdom and courage.  You need them both in order to discern the voice of Holy God and to do whatever He tells you to do.

Remember…

The very best moment in life is today. Today is a gift which is moving forward faster than thoughts or plans. Today is where I am right here and right now. Today is an opportunity to change the little things.

Today is closer. Tomorrow is a promise and yesterday is an eternity from anything I could attain.

Today is most noble.

Today is most daring.

Tomorrow hopes but today is.

God holds the future and redeems all of yesterday but today is closer and today is where I find God.

I hope when you read this you will be grateful for this moment … grateful for where you are and what an amazing concept today, right now, really is. I hope that today you aren’t planning a siege on your enemy. I hope you aren’t wasting this moment trying to prove that you are right. I hope you aren’t swallowed up in regret. I hope you aren’t poisoning your time with trivial, toxic thoughts of wealth, vanity or revenge. None of that really works, anyway.

I hope you are in the moment because this moment is sculpting your destiny.

I live therefore I am … here … TODAY!

No matter what the day brings, if I rest in these declarations, thanksgiving becomes a lifestyle – not an annual event.

2016 Convention Recap

Here are the videos from the 2016 Convention.

2016 LBC – Monday evening

2016 LBC – Tuesday AM

2016 LBC – Tuesday PM