Share The Good Things

Sometimes it can be difficult to live in a hyper-connected world. There are so many benefits that come along with advancements in technology, but there are some downsides as well. One of the downsides is that we are inundated with bad news. I can't get on Facebook or Twitter, I can't turn on the T.V. or radio, without seeing or hearing something heartbreaking. We see it all, from hurricanes to hate crimes, from terrorism to human trafficking. We are constantly being informed of tragedies all over the world.

Having access to bad news isn't always a bad thing. One positive is that it gives us an opportunity to do something about it. When we see the devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma it can move us to give and to help those who were impacted. But on the other hand, the constant bombardment of bad news can also numb us to the problems of our world and sometimes even paralyze us. We get so overwhelmed by all of the negativity that we feel like there's no point in doing anything because we'll never be able to fix everything. I know that I've felt this way many times.

But recently I started doing something new. It's been really good for me, and it's helped me change my focus and my mindset. So I wanted to share it with you and encourage you to try it out. O.k., so here's what I've been doing...

When I see something good, I share it. If I'm on social media and I see a story that's encouraging, I share it. The other day I saw an article about how churches and faith-based organizations provide the bulk of disaster recovery in the aftermath of major natural disasters. It was a really inspiring article so I shared it on my Facebook page. Whenever I see good news, I am trying my best to notice it, to acknowledge it, and to share it with someone else. It's not limited to social media though. I am trying to do this in my conversations with friends and family. When I'm at the coffee shop or the grocery store, when I'm out on a run or at the park with my kids, I am looking for something good to share. And the rule is, when I see it, I share it.

 I saw this awesome sticker on a friend's water bottle so I shared it on Instagram.

I saw this awesome sticker on a friend's water bottle so I shared it on Instagram.

I've been at this now for a few weeks, and I've noticed a pretty big change in my focus. I'm finding that the more I do this, the more natural it becomes for me to look for the good things in life. At first, I had to really work to find something positive to share. But in only a few short weeks, I'm seeing good news everywhere I go. Most often it's little things. Like yesterday when my son was crying and my daughter gave him one of her favorite toys to help him calm down. When I saw her do that, I stopped and told her how proud of her I was for being kind and generous. When I see something good, I share it.

The truth is, I still see the same amount of bad news that I've always seen. That's not going to change any time soon. But looking for good things and then sharing those things has actually made me care more about the bad things. Here's why. Because when you know how good life can be, you want that good life for those who don't have it. Searching for good doesn't mean you hide from the bad. It just means you refuse to let the bad keep you from finding good, sharing good, and doing good.

So ... what about you? What good things have you seen lately? What good things do you need to share? The world is desperate for some good news. So go on. Share yours with the world.

What Do You Really Want?

Over the last two days, I had the privilege of hanging out with several other church planters in the FEC. This morning we began our time together by studying the passage from Mark 10 where Jesus heals a blind man named Bartimaeus. If you are unfamiliar with the story, you can read it here.

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:46-52 NIV)

Near the end of the passage, Jesus asks Bartimaeus a profound question: "What do you want me to do for you?" As we were studying this passage together this morning, my church planting coach asked all of us to stop and answer that question for ourselves. I don't know if I've ever done that before. I mean, I've asked God for lots of things in my life, but I don't know if I've ever looked at this passage in a personal way before. Like, what if Jesus were to ask me the same question. "Chris, what do you want me to do for you? What do you really want me to do for you?"

How would I answer?

How would you answer?

What if Jesus asked you the same question?

What would you say?

This question has been consuming my thoughts all day long. It reminded me of when I first started out on this church planting journey and I wrote a blog about my prayer for that year. It came from this quote from a Jewish theologian named Abraham Heschel. He said, "Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me."

Today, I was reminded of that prayer I prayed at the beginning of this wild ride and how God has been so faithful to answer that prayer. Now here I am six months in, leading a healthy, growing church, and yet the answer to the question hasn't changed. I want Jesus to give me wonder. I want to be amazed by God. I want to be blown away by what he does and how he does it. I want to be in awe of God. I want this for Pine Hills City Church. I want this for the city of Fort Wayne. I want to experience this in my own personal life. I want to see this in my family. I want to see it in my marriage. I want to see it in my kids.

I am asking for wonder. That's what I want. That's what I want Jesus to do for me. Not success, not wisdom, not power, not fame, not fortune, not influence, not anything else. Just give me wonder.

And I am believing that God will continue to answer that prayer.

So how about you? What do you want Jesus to do for you? What do you really want?

Top 10 Tips For Church Planters - Part Two

Earlier this week I posted part one of my top 10 tips for church planters. If you missed it, you can read it by clicking here. Today, I'm sharing part two of this list. I hope these tips can be helpful to anyone out there who's considering planting a church.

6. Build a launch team, not a core team.

This may sound like just a matter of semantics, but it's actually a really big deal. When we built a launch team, that team had one goal: to launch a church. Once the launch was over, the launch team was over. It leveled the playing field for everyone else who showed up on our launch day or afterward. The danger with a core team is that you automatically have insiders and outsiders. The core team continues after launch. So anyone who shows up after you launch is automatically a step behind. Now don't get me wrong, our launch team members are still very active in our church. They lead ministry teams. They serve on ministry teams. They engage the community. They are critical to the life of our church. But they are just part of the church. There's no "us and them." On the other hand, some of our key leaders in our church are people who showed up after we launched.

7. Engage the community before you ever plant the church.

A lot of planters have the "if you build it, they will come" mentality. It's easy to think, "we'll engage the community once we launch." The best thing you can do is engage your community before you ever have a regular church service to attend. It builds trust and credibility with your community. In Fort Wayne, there is a huge race called Fort 4 Fitness. Thousands of people run in this race every year, and the race runs right through the community where we planted our church. So a month and a half before launched, we volunteered to work a major water station for the race. We wore t-shirts, we handed out water and Gatorade, and we cheered louder than any other water station for the runners. A few weeks later we held a "Fall Fest" in the neighborhood for the entire community. We handed out invites to area elementary schools and neighbors. We ended up with around 900 people showing up. We had inflatables, kids games, pumpkins, face painting, free food, and more. It was a blast and it gave us an opportunity to meet our neighbors in a non-threatening way. It's critical to engage your community in positive ways before you ever launch your church.

8. Have a Baby Shower.

You are launching a baby church, so consider having a baby shower. This is one way that we fundraised our launch budget. We listed the items we needed to purchase along with the cost of those items, and then we asked our sending church and others to give to the baby shower. We raised around $75,000 from this one event. The amount of money you raise will be dependent on how invested your sending church is in the plant, how many resources they have to give, and how big your network is outside of that church. This was a very creative way for us to engage people who weren't called to join the launch team but did have a passion for helping us plant the church. You can ask multiple churches to host baby showers for you. You can do it online as well. One of the reasons this is so effective is because people like to give to tangible things. They want to know what their money is going toward. It's part of being a good steward. When you tell someone they can give $500 to help you plant a church, they don't know what that means. But when you tell them they can give you $500 to buy safe flooring for kids to crawl around on during church on Sundays, that is something anyone can get behind. 

9. Don't do this alone.

A lot of church planters want to plant a church entirely on their own because they don't want to have strings attached to another church, organization, or denomination. Let me start by saying that I understand why you feel that way. There are risks with being attached to someone else. That's why it's critical that you make sure you are attached to the right people. You have to have unity in vision, alignment, and DNA. More than any other reason, that's why I planted a church with the F.E.C. and Pine Hills. Every planter is going to be wired a little differently in vision and theology. So you have to make sure you are on the same page with the people you are planting with. But the worst thing you could do is plant alone. Listen, church planting is hard. To be completely honest with you, it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. If I was doing this alone I would have given up a long time ago. But having an organization and a sending church behind me, in my corner, rooting me on, supporting me, encouraging me, and helping me along the way has made all the difference. Even with all the risks associated with being attached to another church or organization, it's not near as risky as doing this on your own. So whatever you do, don't do this alone.

10. Pray like you've never prayed before.

Nothing I've said up to this point matters at all if God is not in this. The most dangerous and destructive thing you could ever do is plant a church without prayer. On the other hand, the most powerful thing you can do for your church plant is to pray like you've never prayed before. Pray that God leads you to the right community. Pray for the families in your community. Pray for the schools. Pray for the people of influence. Pray for the broken and hurting people. Pray for wisdom. Pray for favor. Pray for a facility. Pray for the right connections. Pray for resources. Pray for the lost. Pray for the other churches in the community. Pray for people to join your team. Pray for soft hearts. Pray for listening ears. Pray for humility. Pray for courage. Pray for God to move.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV