Apparently I Suck at Vision-Casting

I have been told on several occasions that I will suck at vision-casting. A church planting assessment told me that vision-casting was a weakness, so I would not make a good senior pastor or lead planter. I have taken the tests and scored low. I’m not the charismatic, futurist, idea-person. I thought for years that I must suck at vision-casting.

I recently realized that it’s all BS. In the process of launching a new missional community to champion creativity in our neighborhood, I put together a compelling vision for the group. I met with potential leaders and walked through the vision. Everyone saw the vision, got excited, and joined the cause. I cast vision, and I did a great job!

Here are my thoughts on all this. First of all, you can get better at stuff. When I took evaluations, it was almost totally based on questionnaires and personality instead of actually doing it. Over the past few years I have read books about vision casting, seen others do it well, and tried it out in dozens of small ways. So maybe I am not the charismatic, futurist, idea-person, but I can learn new skills! Second, assessments and gift-tests are helpful and important, but they aren’t everything. Especially if you believe in God! He can empower people with gifts that they normally do not have. God is able to do more through people than they would be able without him.

The next time you take an assessment of your gifts, your skills, you spiritual gifts take them with a grain of salt and remember:
1) They aren’t definitive. You change and grow throughout you life.
2) God can do more than you can imagine in & through you! He can give you new gifts. He can empower weak ones.

In my last post, I talked about needing to have a compelling vision and plan before a passion can become reality. Below is the vision that I shared to launch the Everyday Creativity Group:


The Vision
I envision a group of people at Everyday Church who champion creativity for the glory of God whether it be in our neighborhood, our schools, our church, or our city. They believe that creativity lies within everyone, and they want to draw it out. All of us are created in the image of God, the ultimate creator. Therefore all of us have creative potential just waiting to be discovered to bring glory to God. Humanity has always been in the business of creating – culture, art, music, family, poetry, organization, dance, you name it.

Why “Creativity” Group?
It’s not just about art or artists; it’s about creativity. When we say “art” I think it makes us think of “my art” or “your art” or “the arts.” Those things are all included, but it’s not about just those things. It’s about creativity, however that might look (I also like how creativity is a long word with lots of syllables that makes you slow down and think about it).

Why start this (what will it look like)?
1) To reach artists who move uptown & don’t know anyone
–  I named  a few people who had already experienced this at Everyday, including me!
2) To reach Christian artists who have no Christian community with other artists
–  Again, I named a few people who had already experienced this at Everyday.
3) To reach people who are artists but have no outlet or medium for their art (adults or kids)
–  Art workshops for in local schools
–  Photo walks in the neighborhood
–  Art galleries
4) To help artists give back to their community (beautification)
–  Paint a mural in the neighborhood
–  Benefit concerts/shows for local schools, organizations, ministries
5) To champion creativity within Everyday Church
–  Teaching service elements (videos, props, music, décor, etc)
–  Having Everyday people get involved with our events

(At this point, people usually started sharing more and more and more ideas)

Why now?
If we don’t start this group now, I believe that eventually a group similar will emerge formally or informally. Our church is full of creative people looking for a community. The main reason we’re doing it now is because I believe that God is calling me to do it.

What will be done to get it started?
It will start with the leadership team. Our meetings will be focused on discipleship and practicing the mission of championing creativity together (living it out). We will steadily draw others to join us in our mission and eventually grow to launch as an Everyday Group.


I shared this vision along with a tentative timeline with a number of people and asked them to be a part of a leadership team to launch the new group. Six people said yes. The seven of us met to dream, pray & plan for four months. We learned to listen to God’s voice, pray for our friends to get involved, and lead this new group. This past Sunday we launched the Everyday Creativity Group with over twenty people in the mix. I’m excited to see where God will take us. But none of it would have been possible if I had not refined and cast a compelling vision. Passion isn’t enough. Mission isn’t enough. You have to cast a compelling vision.

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Apparently I Suck at Vision-Casting

Planting With a Balanced Team

Finding the right lead planter is extremely important. But it’s not everything.

Community Christian Church planted by two brothers, Dave and Jon Ferguson. Both of them could probably have planted their own churches individually and been successful. Instead they planted CCC together, and it has become a church that is changing thousands of lives in the Chicagoland area and has great influence in the church planting world. Dave & Jon are different kind of people, and I think it was a huge part of why they were so successful.

Having a balanced team is key. There’s a wealth of information out there, but here are few things I think about:

1) Spiritual Gifting. We often make sure to have a lead/teaching pastor, arts pastor, children’s pastor & community life pastor. However, these are roles, not spiritual gifts. Instead I would point toward the gift of leadership and the gifts specified in Ephesians 4 (APEPT).

2) Introvert/Extrovert. I have been the lone introvert on a team before. It was painful personally and productively. Most church planting teams are heavy on extroverts. Make sure you have introverts who will slow extroverts down and extroverts who will push introverts ahead.

3) Builder/Maintainer. There are couple of dynamics with this. Some love to almost always build while others love to almost always maintain. However, some maintainers love short seasons of building and some builders love short seasons of maintaining. The builder/maintainer mentality often fits with introvert/extrovert, but not all the time. Finding the dynamics of those on your team will help them work at their best.

4) Shared Vision. From my experience, church planting teams are often assembled to accomplish the lead pastor’s vision. If you’re the lead planter you should be the champion of the vision, don’t just hire employees, hire team members who can have a real say in the vision. Here’s where I think the value of a shared vision breaks down – we need to get things done! And the easiest way to do so is to make a hire for a position without making sure they share the vision.

You may even find a leader who shares the vision, but doesn’t fit into any position you have available. That’s what happened to me at Everyday Church. The rest of the team recognized that I was a gifted leader who shared the vision, but I didn’t exactly fit the needed position of worship pastor. Now, I had never led worship before, but I had built and led teams before. And I happen to play decent rhythm guitar. So, even though it wasn’t my biggest passion, I built a small worship team. We never had a drum set, electric guitar, bass, or laser lights. We had a guitar, some singers and maybe a piano or small drum. It was simple. Eventually, a leader who both shared the vision AND is musically trained came along. Currently, we’re creating a great worship band together.

Here’s what could have happened: I was passed over, because I didn’t exactly fit the needed position. A gifted worship leader was hired who didn’t necessarily share the vision. When the worship service started, it immediately had an awesome worship band. But after a year, the worship leader became extremely disgruntled with the vision of the church and decided to leave. Now the church is back to needing a worship leader, except now there’s a whole team to lead and an expectation for the church to have an awesome band.

Take your time. Instead of quickly having an amazing children’s program, you may need to pay someone a stipend to lead a simple program for a while. Instead of having an awesome worship band right away, go with a guy/gal and a guitar or piano. Wait until you have the right leader who shares the vision and can eventually build a great ministry. Beyond just sharing the vision, they need to be able to speak into the vision, but that’s a topic for another post!

There’s a lot that could be said about having a balanced team. If your team is out of balance, name it and deal with it! What has been your experience on a church planting team? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Planting With a Balanced Team

Church Planting Drop

I often hear about new church plants in the city, and I remember a plant I visited in the East Village that unfortunately only lasted about a year and a half. The planter had recently moved from the midwest and had only been in the city for a few months before launching a weekly worship service. They had a great theater space, and I went to their launch service. As I listened to the sermon, it was clear that something was “off” about it. The bulk of it was a story of the planter and his wife when they first visited New York City. They had a powerful conversation with a homeless woman on the train whose faith amazed them, and it gave them a desire to plant the church. As he told the story, it was like he had never seen a homeless person before. If you live in NYC, you know that it’s almost a daily experience. It quickly became apparent that this planter had moved to New York, but his cultural context had not.

Usually I am not a big fan of the dumbo-drop of a church planter into a new context with a short timeline for starting a church. I’m not saying that some planters shouldn’t do it or won’t be successful. I’m just saying I’m not a huge fan.

When you think about it, here is a general expectation often put upon church planters:

1) Raise about $1 million (for an urban setting in a 3-5 year plan toward financial independence. This usually includes talking to everyone you’ve ever met, family, friends, churches and asking them for money – no pressure if the church plant fails)

2) Move to a new city (moving is always stressful; and it’s more difficult when moving to a urban setting; it’s even more difficult if you have children)

3) Live in a new culture (many planters I’m familiar with are from the midwest & move to a city to plant. The scope of learning a new culture can be underestimated, since we’re still in the United States. But if a missionary is going overseas, we assume that they will have to spend some time leaning the culture)

4) Start a new organization from the ground up (find office space/work from home, hire staff, purchase equipment, build functional systems, build teams, develop leaders, make a discipleship plan etc.)

5) Launch weekly worship services, weekly small groups, and service opportunities (all three of these by themselves are more difficult in an urban setting and a suburban one. Finding a meeting space is always a struggle. Storage and transportation is a constant issue. Don’t even get me started on the cost of all these things. People also have smaller homes/apartments).

So, here’s my plea: slow down. Spend time just getting to know the culture. Don’t multitask. Learn the culture first and then plant the church. If you try to do both at the same time, both could suffer. It might mean waiting a year or two before you start the process of planting. You may have to get a job outside of church, or be on staff at an established church in the city. It will take humility and patience. My experience was being an intern for 3 years before being on staff at a church in NYC. However, when I was hired, my NYC experience was a huge asset (to ready more about my story, click here). Here are a couple examples I know of others who have done this:

Chris Travis moved to NYC and taught middle school math at a public school for two years before starting Everyday Church.

Pete Armstrong moved to NYC and spent time as an Associate Pastor at City Grace Church before planting Dwell Church.

Recently I’ve been hearing about more and more churches that are equipping planters by allowing them to be “church planters in residence.” I hope this trend continues and grows.

Were you a planter that moved to a new city to plant a church? What was your experience?

Church Planting Drop

The Language of Spiritual Balance

Live like Jesus.

I never realized it before, but every church has their own way of saying the same thing about spiritual balance – living like Jesus. When I started making a list, I was shocked!

Up, In, Out (3DM)
With Jesus, In Community, On Mission (Southland Christian)
Trust God, Love People, Serve the World (Forefront NYC)
Faith, Love, Hope (Mosaic CA)
Celebrate, Connect, Contribute (Community Christian)
Discover, Connect, Serve (Trader’s Point Christian)
Love God, Love People (many churches)UpInOutTriangle
Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk humbly (Micah 6:8)

Every church is saying the same thing. They just use different language. I like to think of each aspect as a relationship. The key is finding the right balance in all three.

We must constantly ask of our church, our ministry, and our lives: “Which relationship needs attention?” We will always have seasons where we need  to focus on one relationship over the others. When churches are not intentional about evaluating their ministry by all three relationships, they almost always default to doing well with two:
– A church that cares for insiders and has strong teaching, but where outsiders are not as welcomed.
– A church that is evangelistic and loving, but with shallow theology.
– A church that has strong teaching and focuses on evangelism, but has a hard time building true community.

Currently Everyday Church is in the process of starting to use “Up, In, & Out” to help us find balance. I also really like the sound of living “With Jesus, In Community, On Mission.”

How does your church say it, and what are some ways you keep balance?

The Language of Spiritual Balance

My Story in Church Planting

My experience with New York City and church planting includes amazing highs and depressing lows. It started in 2005 when I took the class: Introduction to Church Planting. I was a student at Ozark Christian College hoping to become a preacher of some kind, most likely at an established church in the midwest, close to home. I had actually never heard of “church planting,” but it sounded like good thing that maybe my church could give money to. It was much more than I realized; it was something that I couldn’t get out of my mind. I remember my professor, Dave Smith, speaking so emphatically about the influence and importance of urban centers (specifically New York City), and the lack of churches planted in them. As I took more of his classes, I kept thinking about NYC and how crazy it would be to go there one day.  During my senior year, Dave let me know about a summer internship at Forefront Church, a 2 year-old Orchard Group church plant in Manhattan.

So in 2007 I came to the city, not knowing a soul, but knowing that God was calling me here. The internship was a wonderful experience and by the end of it, I had fallen in love with the city. I knew that God wanted me to stay, so I found an apartment and went on a job search. I was actually able to help my Dave with some of his classes when he started bringing them to the city. In fact, one of the guest speakers led a ministry here in the city where I was able to work at for a few months as an administrative assistant. It was a very random job, but it was a job! I continued to be involved at Forefront Church, leading a small group and leading the setup team for Sunday mornings. It was a pretty exciting time. All I knew was that God led me to New York City and that I wanted to be involved with church planting.

After a few months of being a Forefront, I was asked to come on staff for a leadership residency. It was the perfect opportunity to learn the nuts & bolts of what goes into a young, successful church plant. For a year I was doing all kinds of stuff – leading interns in service to the community, setting up for worship on Sunday mornings, maintaining the church website. It looked like this was the church that God had planned for me to be at in New York.

However, as I started the second year of the residency, I became restless. I was tired of doing anything and everything. I wanted to move to focus on a few specific things – teaching, discipleship. However, the ministry needs were nearly all geared toward administrative tasks that I was doing, which I can be good at, but are not my complete passions in ministry. As the residency ended, it was clear that if I stayed at Forefront, I would be doing the administrative tasks which I didn’t want to do. This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for where I thought God had been leading me.

During that same year, I was getting burned out of focusing all my ministry energy on the background of the Sunday worship services. I began thinking about different ways of doing church that were focused more on relationships than just Sunday worship. I devoured books about house churches, being missional, missional communities, and other church leadership buzz words. The more I read, the more I realized that no church I knew was even coming close to doing any of the things I read.

Suddenly the plan I thought God had for me didn’t make any sense. He had led me to New York City, He led me to Forefront Church, He provided a job, then He provided this residency. Now when the residency was over and…? On top of all that, I continued to wrestle with a different way to do church, which made me debate if I should even stay a part of Forefront. Honestly, I questioned whether I should even be a pastor. I didn’t want to leave New York, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next. I ended up getting a part time job in retail during the evenings. It really felt like a step backwards in my career. I had no idea where God was leading me or how my recent experiences fit into his plan.

Then I met Chris. Chris was planting a new Orchard Group church in upper Manhattan, called Everyday Church, and they were looking at doing things a little differently. They had just started meeting as a home group on Sundays where they ate a meal together, had communion, and looked at a story from the Bible. They didn’t have a worship service yet. It was definitely different from my church experience so far. As I got to know Chris and the rest of the staff, it was clear that we had a similar vision of what church could look like. I reluctantly decided to join the staff part time. The church was very relationally focused. They didn’t have a “launch date” for their weekly worship services like most church plants I knew.  Instead, they met as home groups and served their neighbors. They didn’t do any marketing, but relied on relationships to grow. They would start a monthly worship service when it felt appropriate. I loved it.

I led one of our home groups and soon became the worship leader when we started our worship services. I had never led a band before, but I was willing and able. The church was only like 40 people, so it was a little less intimidating than leading a large congregation. We didn’t even have a sound system! For the first year, we met as home groups three weeks a month and then for worship once a month. We steadily grew until we started a third home group. In 2012, we added a sound system to worship and starting having it every other week. I also started serving full time at Everyday. Everyday had a balance between relationships and worship that I hadn’t experienced before.  That summer we celebrated the baptism of 7 of my friends at Everyday. As I’ve looked back on my whole experience in New York and in church planting, Everyday Church is where God wanted me – it just wasn’t around when I first got here!

This year we’re transitioning our home groups into Everyday Groups, which are more like missional communities. I’m even going to be leading the launch of our next one. Stay tuned to hear about my experience with it!

So that’s my experience with church planting so far. It has been harder than I ever thought possible. I expected it to be difficult, you know, like facing an exciting challenge. I didn’t expect my dreams to be shattered and re-arranged. Though it’s often quite difficult, I can’t see myself serving the kingdom anywhere else doing anything else.

My Story in Church Planting