What are we doing?

In February, our family is moving to northern Virginia where I will be working out of New Life Christian Church with Passion 4 Community, while identifying the city for our future church plant. At the end of our first six months in Virginia, we will move to the city we identify for the church plant. The corridor for selecting a city is from DC to Charlestown, WV, and from the Potomac River south sixty miles.

We have discovered that most church planters (1) go to a city, (2) start a church, and (3) then ask the question, “How is our new church going to serve the community?” Our approach is the exact opposite; we are (1) going to a city, (2) asking the question “How can we serve the people of this community?”, (3) starting a faith-based organization to serve the people in that community, and then (4) planting a church that partners with the recently started faith-based organization to continue meeting the needs of people in the city. I will be the lead pastor of the church plant with an initial staff team of two or three other pastors. One of these pastors, from our team, will be with us for two or three years prior to being sent out to plant another church.

Once we move to the location of the church plant, I will start a three step process:

Step 1 –
I will answer the question, “How can we serve the people of this community?” by taking six months to meet with 150 city leaders to assess and identify the greatest needs of people in the community.

Step 2 –
I will hire a strong, missional leader to build and lead a new Passion 4 Community faith-based organization that meets the needs of people in the community that meets the identified needs of people in the community. For example, if the community has a sizable population of single moms, then we will build a faith-based organization to come along side single moms to help meet their relational, physical, parental, financial, emotional and spiritual needs.

Step 3 –
After starting the faith-based organization I will focus my full energies on establishing a new church in late 2009. This new church will partner with the new Passion 4 Community organization it birthed from to meet the spiritual needs of people in tangible ways.

What is the vision of the church we are planting?

The church we are planting is a church of irresistible love that restores people to God and others; a church whose people are just as committed to worshipping God in the marketplace as they are to worshipping God in the sanctuary; a church that births out of relationships and the shared mission of touching the contagious, befriending people who are lonely and relationally isolated, and partying with people who are far from God; a church that is committed to meeting the holistic needs of people; a church that goes to the people it longs to restore; a church that is committed to equipping and resourcing parents to be the primary spiritual influence in their children’s lives; a church that births out of living Jesus’ mission together.

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God’s Orchestration

Last night a friend unexpectedly showed up at our home for dinner. After sharing with him how God is leading us to start a Passion 4 Community faith-based organization, that births a new church, that passionately meets people’s needs while restoring them to God and others, I asked him to pray about seizing the opportunity to financially partner with us in this new work of God. His reply just about knocked me off my chair. “Ron, this opportunity is an answer to several weeks of prayer. I haven’t tithed in the last year-and-a-half. Recently, I’ve been asking God to show me where to begin giving. He just answered my prayer.” God is so faithful in providing the resources to fulfill His mission.

Incarnational Living

He touches the contagious (Luke 5:12-16); befriends the marginalized (Luke 5:17-26); spends time with social outcasts (Luke 5:27-30); recognizes the elderly, handicapped, poor, orphaned, and widowed. He restores those who know they have a need and drops the A-bomb on those who defiantly reject him (Luke 5:31-32). He restores the self-made man who recognized the need for God while rejecting the self-made man who perceives no need for God. This enables Him to passionately pursue those who know they have a need for someone greater than themselves.

Who is contagious, marginalized, and outcast in American society? For church to be incarnational, we must passionately pursue those who know they have a need and are looking to be restored. The church has more to offer than any government agency or social injustice group.

How will the church pursue those who Jesus pursued?

Our Story in God’s Story

Eight years ago, God spoke clearly to Stefani and me – independently, yet simultaneously. His message, “You are to plant a church.” In the months that followed, a vision for this new church ignited a burning passion in our hearts to meet the emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual needs of people while restoring them relationally to God and others.

In October 2006, we asked God to ignite in us the desire of His heart for the next season of our lives and ministry. My prayer became, “God, call me to a vision that is bigger than me – a vision that You must be present in for it to succeed. Then prevent me from taking ownership of what You have done, so that You truly will receive all the glory.” Within weeks, the call to church planting was rekindled into a passionate fire.

Throughout the next few months, we sought the wisdom of family, friends, and a few strangers to confirm God’s leading into church planting. The feedback unanimously confirmed the desire God placed within us. We also took this time to determine our preferred strategy to planting a church:  network supported; community oriented; multi-staff initiated. 

Wanting one more voice of confirmation, we attended the Church Planting Assessment Center in August 2007. Wow! Stefani and I have never willingly put ourselves through such an intense yet inspiring process. I liken our experience to NBC’s reality TV show: The Apprentice. After four days of interviews, analysis, and observation, we received our final confirmation for leading a new work of God in church planting.

Within weeks, Tom Jones (Stadia East) connected us with a dynamic network of church-planting-churches in the Baltimore/DC region. After a series of great conversations, the network invited us be their next lead church planters in northern Virginia. This invitation was the answer to hundreds of prayers and the culmination of a one year journey of deciphering and pursuing God’s will. We are stoked over this partnership and God’s leading us to plant a church in northern Virginia, that meets the needs of the community, while restoring people to relationship with God and others!

Now is the time for vision to become reality! A new journey of faith has begun!

Ministry is Relationships Lab

ministry-is-relationships1.jpgOne year ago, Bill Allison came to train 25 of our small group leaders. Our leadership teams’ experience with Bill rocked! This year, as is true to Bill’s heart and ministry, he equipped me to provide this same training to an additional 14 volunteer leaders. These new leaders were equipped by this training to approach youth ministry and small group leadership from the paradigm of “ministry = relationships” while being resourced with practical, everyday, skills for living tuned into other people.

As a trainer, I found Cadre’s materials easy to personalize and present. The care that Bill, and the rest of the Cadre’ team gave to ensure I was fully prepared to lead this training was outstanding.

The training lab Ministry is Relationships is being used by God to transform dedicated volunteers into skilled volunteer pastors. I look forward to using this training lab to inspire and equip many more volunteers.

If you are interested in bringing the training lab Ministry is Relationships to your church, then click here for more information.

Where?

CapitalGod is sending us to northern Virginia to plant a church that is intensely focused on restoring people to God and others. Northern Virginia is the most densely populated and most influential area of the United States, but also, incredibly far from God. Here is how Ben Arment, another church planter in norther Va, describes the area.

There’s a quest for money and power that is unrivaled in any other part of the country I’ve lived. Their god is real and big and powerful to them, but it’s not the one true God. Advertising, attractional services, gimmicks… do nothing here.  I have nothing in common with the fastest growing churches in Outreach Magazine. Good thing is, my kind of ministry context is not unprecedented in Scripture.

Every day of the week, I’m Matthew, sitting around tables with people far from God. In the evenings, I’m Jesus in a Samaritan village, walking across driveways to offer living water. On weekends, I’m Paul, standing in the multiplex-opolis, contending for the unknown God. Churches can’t happen until missions does.

My passion for restoring people to God goes back to my childhood. Stefani and I are stoked about this next season of life and ministry as we move to a region of great spiritual need.

The Un-imagined Miracle

In the story of  Luke 5:1-11, I am captured by one verse that is too often taken for granted (verse 7).

Here’s what can be learned:

Obedience to Jesus’ counter-intuitive wisdom in reaching the spiritually lost, leads to overwhelming miracles of salvation which contain great tension that ultimately attract greater resources.

While reading this story, I envision Peter freakin’ out over the magnitude of the catch. Thinking to himself, “Oh crap! What are we going to do next!” This tension drives his humility to ask for help (verse 7). What’s fascinating here is that the necessary resources to sustain the miracle are leveraged after the miracle has occurred.  As others hear the cry for help, their passion for the lost and excitement in the miracle cause them to stop what they are doing that is good to join what God is doing that is better.

The miracle of unimagined salvation begins when we have the courage to act upon Jesus’ seemingly ridiculous insight and the humility to access greater resources. This requires trust, obedience, and humility.