What is Success in Church Planting?

While discussing this question, Kevin Haah and I considered how God’s definition of success may be the antithesis of man’s. As men, we easily become caught up in the physical size of the launch team, opening Sunday, one year anniversary, baptisms, and stories of changed lives. To us, success is often measured by what we can count. But God looks beyond the physical realm and considers the attitude of our hearts which leads to the conclusion that success by human standards may often be seen by God as failure. Where as, failure in the eyes of men, may be seen by God as success. It is in our failings and humility that God leads us to a place of greater dependence on His Spirit and power – success.

With this in mind, Kevin captured the meaning of success and ended our conversation with one word – “OBEDIENCE”. When we are obedient to God, physical outcomes are immaterial because God’s purposes are achieved. Success is obedience.

In a recent article in “Mirror”, Patty Park quoted Kevin saying, “Success is not defined by results, how the church does or how many people come,”…. “The definition of success is not about moving up in the world; it’s about obedience. I’ve realized that success just means figuring out what God wants me to do, and doing it.”

You can also listen to a message given by Kevin titled “The Definition of Success”.


Woman at the pool – “Will you come”?

While in Palm Springs, CA, I was talking with a woman while lounging around the pool. She inquired as to why we recently moved to Fairfax County, VA. After explaining our vision to start a Community Based Organization (CBO) and new church, she said, “So your going to be a hip pastor to young adults.” I guess I’m cool and hip – at least to 55 year old women. I smiled and explained our reason for starting a CBO that births a new church is because we deeply believe it is time for the church to leave the building and become actively involved in meeting people’s real needs in tangible ways while sharing the irresistible love of Jesus Christ. The church needs to worship God one day a week in the sanctuary and six days a week in the community. She stated her observation that we are starting a church that doesn’t judge people. I agreed and clarified that we would still address sin for what it is – the violation of our relationship with God birthed out of selfishness – but in doing so, help people understand the forgiveness and grace that God has given us and offers them. Will we judge? NO. Will we offer others what God has given us? YES. She told me about two churches which are actively involved in her community. She has been intending to attend one of these churches with a friend, but just hasn’t found the time yet. I encouraged to her pursue Jesus. As we ended our conversation, she spoke truth into my life as a plea for her life, “You are going to be a great pastor. Will you come start a new church in my city?”

God has lead me to Northern Virginia. Is God leading you to start a new church and CBO in Chico, California?

Rick Warren Video Blog following Exponential Conference ’08

Following the National New Church Conference – Exponential ’08– I had the privilege of sitting in a private interview with Rick Warren and Chris Elrod that is now available as a video blog (click here). I have respected Rick Warren for many years as a pastor and leader, but sitting in with him on this interview gave me new insight into his passion for church planting, effective discipleship, and a second reformation of the church. If you are passionate about any of these areas of ministry, you will benefit from this video blog.

Rick Warren, New Life Staff, and me

Larry Osborne on Multiplying Leaders at Exponential Conference

Larry OsborneLarry Osborne – North Coast Church
Multiplying Leaders

Empower people and then platform people – this gives people power with authority.

Barnabas factor

  • personal financial generosity – if we won’t share our earthly treasures, then we won’t share our leadership resources. If someone is stingy with their stuff, they will be stingy with their ministry. This enables us to raise up people who will raise up people who will fly higher than we can.
  • He looked for anointing and track record – God has a great track record of picking wrong people and making this soar.
  • He looked for people who were different. Defend the right for people to be different withing the vision. Make people color in the vision, but not within the lines. Look for young eagles, but remember they won’t see the world the way you.
  • Be willing to step aside. Don’t raise up helpers. Multiply leaders.
  • Don’t let a favorite child, become a spoiled child. The mission is more important than the relationships.

 Random thoughts and musings:

  • “Ministry is addictive; don’t ask for too much too fast.” Work people into ministry positions slowly – let them grow into ministry leadership.
  • “The ponies are more important than the mail.” Take care of your leaders – they are more important than the people they serve.
  • “Develop a nose for leaders and a heart for the regular guy.” This prevents us from seeing people as leaders and losers.
  • “As you multiply leaders, beware of high passion – high contentious people.” If someone is a pit bull for righteousness, they are still a pit bull. Be careful of people who are contentious for the right reasons. Because when they disagree with you; they will bit you. Pit bulls love to growl. They are easy to identify.
  • “Beware of suffocating discipleship.” The process is intense but no one is becoming a leader. Suffocation happen with too much relationship and training.
  • “Accept the fact that you can’t have both empowerment and excellence.” Empowerment and excellence are always in some tension even when people are operating in gifts. Empowerment doesn’t mean everyone gets a chance.
  • “Have a plan to make room at the table.” Make a plan to get young leaders involved in decision making processes.

Tim Keller on The Gospel at Exponential

Tim KellerTim Keller

“The DNA of a reproducing church must be the gospel.” The gospel is the power of God in verbal form.

Today, the evangelical world is unsure what the “gospel” real is.

So let’s talk about a case for what the gospel is…

“There is one gospel and it takes several forms.”

What is the one gospel?

1. In Jesus Christ, God emptied himself and became a human being.

2. In Jesus Christ, God substituted himself to atone for our sins.

3. In Jesus Christ, God will come back to restore the material world.

To preach just the Kingdom of God is here is not going to change lives.

1. Upside down Kingdom – in our church we are about meeting people’s needs (service / humility)

2. Sin is man putting himself where God should be, Salvation is God putting Himself where man deserves to be

3. Christianity is a fighting religion – that fights to restore the all of the world

There isn’t one form of the gospel that is going to hit everyone between the eyes. We must teach the gospel in all three forms.

The best way to have a diverse congregation is to teach expository. The Bible gets to people. Teach the text. Preach in different ways and preach different areas of the Bible. Keep balancing the gospel.

We must know how to preach the gospel in each way.

1. God has written Himself into the story he is writing because He wants to have a relationship with the people He created in the story.






Rick Warren on The Challenge at Exponential

Besides this blog post – you can email Rick Warren Directly for his “8 Laws of Spiritual Maturity” – prw@saddleback.com

“Pastor, listen to your wife. She is usually the Holy Spirit. When you disagree with her, she IS the Holy Spirit.”

The purpose of marriage is not to make you happy, it is to make you holy. Listen to her. Let her be a counselor to you.

“You don’t have to have a building to grow a church.” Saddleback did build a building until they had 10,000.

“Never compare yourself to anyone else.” “God wants you to be you.” Don’t listen the the critics or the complements.

 Suggestions on how to build a reproducing church:

  • Never stop growing personally.” You can never delegate your faith. God can only reveal His vision for you to you. How do you stay consistent. You must make disciples. God takes 6 hours to grow a mushroom and 28 years to grow an oak tree. Do you want your church to be a mushroom or an oak tree. Integrity – humility – generosity.
  • Pay attention to your family.” Love your wife and kids. You have to take a day off. Take a sabbath every week. Which means you don’t read email or answer your phone. You gotta build your family before you build your church. It’s all about surrender. If you start living like Jesus you won’t be liked by other ministry leaders.
  • You must develop a Kingdom mindset.” God’s agenda is bigger than you. What is God’s agenda – the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is wherever Jesus Christ is King. The Kingdom is wherever God’s will is done. When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus answered with evangelism.
  • Focus on building people NOT the church”. You focus on building and God will build His church. Build the purposes of the church into the people’s lives. It takes more than than sermons for people to grow spiritually. Acts 13:36 (Rick’s life verse) – he served God’s purposes in his life and then he died.

Bill Easum on Reaching the Postmodern at Exponential

Bill EasumBill Easum
Reaching the Postmodern

6 metaphors to the church

1920-1960 National Park – Modern = a clearly defined, planned, and safe world – we are entitled to the national park – sacred

1960 Jungle – dangerous, changes, but there is beauty at the other end – we are not entitled to the jungle – you need a compass and a GPS- you can get lost quickly – nothing is sacred – constant flux

The jungle is more like the 1st century

  • paganism
  • polytheism – a weak Christology will not survive in the jungle
  • intense commerce – “how we relate to the poor says more about who we are than what we believe”
  • super national – if you don’t believe in miracles, you should throw your Bible away

The problem:
There is just enough National Park left our leaders to try to hide in the past.

About the time you figure out the rules, they are going to change. Which means we can’t continue doing what we have done.

National Park = Propositional Truth              Jungle = Embodied Truth

National Park = Dualism                               Jungle = Dualism Rejected

National Park = Ultimate Value                     Jungle = Situational Values

National Park = Print Culture                        Jungle = Digital Culture

National Park = Linear World View                Jungle = Loopy World Views

Scientists have a word for what is happening today – wormhole / black hole

The World Today:

  • Everything is set on speed
  • Everything is blurred
  • Everything is in flux

The Emerging World

6 key components

  • friends
  • experience
  • extended family
  • purposeful living
  • relationships
  • direction


5 things that will matter the most

@ fulfilling relationships

@ ecstatic joy replaces duty

@ experiencing the immediate presence of God replaces correct theology

@ music and the arts are the life blood

@ many forms of technology


What this means:

  • we need a new type of church and Christian must emerge from the ashes of modernity

3 more metaphors:

spiritual midwives – pastors who do spend most of your time with? the spiritually pregnant or complainers – invest your time in those who have the possibility to be spiritual leaders and disciple makers. Otherwise, you are waisting your time. Apostles don’t do; they raise up leaders. They don’t manage organization – they let them be fluid.

“Movements begin to fail when they focus on organization.”

Spiritual Redwood

Organic things grow based on how the wind blows – they remain fluid. They survive on creative chaos.

“Spiritual maturity isn’t achieved at church – it is achieved at the well with the woman.”

What hold all this together? The DNA – DNA is determined when conceived – not after birth.

This is not another form of “restructuring or flattening or reinventing.

Incubating Churches

Like new borns, new Christians need time to develop and grow strong. People have to belong in the church before they will believe Jesus.

The postmodern’s situation:

  • Most people are blank slates
  • grown up outside the church
  • mentored by their peers
  • most baptisms will occur over 18 years of age

Incubating Worship:

  • Worship must be an experience
  • Preaching must be more than a data dump – this doesn’t convert people