Clarifying Some Criticism

My Response to the Review of Proliferate by 9Marks

 

9Marks

On June 20, 2017 my book, Proliferate, was reviewed by 9Marks in their journal on church planting.  You can read the review here.  I was honored to be reviewed by a ministry I hold in such high esteem.  I have frequently leaned on 9Marks as a source of God-honoring and gospel-focused resources.  Though I was grateful for the kind words they offered, I wanted to take the opportunity to respond to what I thought were some unfounded criticisms.

The thing with 9Marks is that sometimes they aren’t always the most practically-minded folks, which they admit freely. Ed Stetzer wrote a piece about it in the same journal, What 9Marks Purists Should Know About Church Planting.  It’s a great piece, and shows that 9Marks is aware of a few of their blindspots.

My response to John Joseph of 9Marks

The Background of Proliferate

 

The bulk of this book is a more reader-friendly version of the Doctor of Ministry Project that I presented at Southern Seminary in May of last year.  In that project, I shared our plan to multiply as a young church, and we were able to do so and do so effectively.  We were blessed to see God do amazing things through our small church plant as we multiplied by God’s leadership and for His glory. I was encouraged by professors and other ministry leaders to share both our story, and the practical steps we took to multiply effectively in a more reader-friendly, less academic piece.

The thought was that small churches needed to be involved in church multiplication. As many have observed, one of the reasons that churches die is because they are inwardly-focused. My prayer was to “awaken a mighty force in this world of churches that feel like they are irrelevant. And that maybe through the Holy Spirit’s help this book might encourage many Everyday Church pastors and leaders to equip their churches to proclaim the gospel through church planting and multiplication.”

 

The plan is for this book to be used as a practical piece for conventions, networks, and associations to encourage the small churches in their care to engage in church multiplication.  Emphasis on “practical.” It was not intended to be a theological treatise, but to address an  audience of network and denominational leaders, and small-church pastors and planters, and encourage them to find a way to be involved in the important work of church multiplication.

 

1)  Critique One: My Aim Wasn’t Met

In terms of the first critique offered — I will leave it to each reader of my book to decide for themselves whether my aim was satisfactorily accomplished.

2) Critique Two: Questionable Handling of Scripture

I do take strong issue with the second critique. I pointed this subject out earlier in chapter 3. At the end of the chapter I said,

“As all good, theologically conservative Bible interpreters will tell you, we shouldn’t build doctrine from Acts, much less from three verses. We can learn principles, however, that will help as we look to multiply our churches and efforts. These are key verses in the growth of the church, and they serve as the foundation for much of modern-day church planting.”(Kindle Location: 803)

Additionally, I wrote that my point wasn’t to encourage people to teach and preach the word faithfully, mentioning that as a brief aside in a more stream-of-consciousness moment. The main idea there was that they were using their gifts.

“The leaders that were mentioned are leaders with communication gifts. The leaders at Antioch possessed the gift of prophecy and the gift of teaching. They called out sin, taught the Scriptures, and called people to greater love for the gospel. They were seeing disciples made and multiplied.  These faithful prophets and teachers tilled the soil so that it was fertile so church multiplication sprouted.”  (Kindle Location: 1374)

I was not making an argument in this particular case to be faithful to the Word. My argument was that they were using their gifts, and in the faithful use of their gifts the soil for multiplication was readied.

3) Critique Three: Crandall’s Assumption

The final critique I believe to be a potential misunderstanding or perhaps a misreading. Mr. Joseph says, “Crandall clearly believes Everyday Churches can and should multiply rapidly.” However, I make the point repeatedly that not every church should multiply, but that every church should be involved in the work of multiplication. I said this clearly throughout the book. Here are a few examples:

“In this book I make the argument that all churches should be involved in church multiplication in some manner. This isn’t to say that all churches should be involved in multiplication in the same way, but they all need to be involved in the proliferation of gospel-centered churches both nationally and internationally.” (Kindle Location: 184)

“This book has a simple premise: every church, regardless of size, can be significant in the cause of gospel proclamation through church planting. Every church, regardless of size, should be involved in church proliferation. Let me be clear, not every church should be engaged in church proliferation in the same way, but every church needs to find its role in this effort.” (Kindle Location: 362)

“We all need to think about church multiplication but this doesn’t mean we multiply in the exact same ways. Some churches will be sending out plants consistently, year after year. Some churches should release (and fund) a young leader to plant a church in an area that is relatively nearby. Some churches should take serious percentages of their budget and use them toward multiplication rather than random building improvements. Some churches should do all of those things. Some churches should open their buildings up to different ethno-linguistic church plants. Some churches should consider closing their doors to give the keys of God’s property to a church moving forward and growing and seeking to plant more churches for the glory of God.” (Kindle Location: 794)

“The key to capturing your church’s vision for participating in multiplication is bound up in your particular church culture.” (Kindle Location: 1253)

“Not all churches are going to have a “going to the moon” vision for church planting, and that’s okay. If a church will do the hard work of assessing its culture and context though, then they are well on the way to capturing a vision for how they can be involved in church multiplication. Churches will begin to see what they are great at and where their weaknesses lie. They will begin to see the situation that they are in and what they can do about it. Thus, churches will have a clearer picture of what they can pass on to other churches that they aid in planting.”(Kindle Location: 1329)

 

I also disagree with the analogy that Mr. Joseph drew in the final paragraph of his weaknesses section in terms of a church being a body.  Young believers are considered babes, but I don’t see a local church ever called a baby church in scripture.  Our launch team for our pregnant church was made up of maturing believers who felt called to plant a disciple-making work in a new location.  The sending church, CityView Church Pearland, had elders at the helm making the decisions as we sent off the mission church.  We certainly still had our issues as a young church and we were not fully formed yet, but even then his analogy falters.  Further, the Antioch Church had not been formed for very long before they sent missionaries to plant churches and they only had Paul for a very short period of time before they sent off Paul and Barnabas (commentators vary in the amount of time before Acts 13’s sending event, between 12-24 months though is the typical agreed upon timeframe).

 

I never argue in the book that anyone else should plant pregnant.  Could other church plants find themselves in a situation where it might be possible? Yes. However, the book is not a mandate saying that all other church plants should do it.  That was something we as a church plant were convicted over, not something we have ever told other church plants they needed to be convicted of.  We have a vision for our church to plant 100 churches in 25 years.  This isn’t from our church specifically, but includes the churches that we plant.  We hope to have a movement of churches that are planting other churches.

If you’d like to read my book, Proliferate, A Church Planting Strategy for Everyday Churches and see for yourself what you think you can get it at  Amazon (Paperback or Kindle) or Barnes & Noble (Paperback or Nook).

Hello, I Am A Nobody

3 Thoughts On The Ministry Of Everyday Pastors

nobody

 

The first chapter in John’s Gospel records the story of Jesus calling a set of brothers to follow him. These brothers were fishermen.

  • One of them went on to be the spokesmen of the disciples.  The other didn’t.
  • One of these brothers was the first to confess that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.  The other stood by while it happened.
  • One of these brothers went on to preach on the day of Pentecost and saw 3,000 people saved.  The other was also doing amazing things that day, just not preaching the big sermon.
  • One of these brothers went on to lead the church, write inspired Scripture, and have stories told of his martyrdom.  The other did miracles and made disciples faithfully.

Peter was the first brother. He’s frequently characterized as a bold, powerful, strong, and notable leader although a little rash and brash at times.  Peter is amazing.  So is his brother Andrew…  Andrews are important too.  Andrews are the everyday pastor who leads an everyday church and faithfully leads people to Jesus, disciples them, and cares for the church.  Andrews are nobodies and nobodies matter.

 

 

Nobodies Matter

 

1) The vast majority of churches are pastored by Andrews-Types

Most of the people in the world are under the ministry of Andrew-Type pastors.  Andrew-Types shepherd most of Jesus’ disciples.  Unassuming leaders who help to proclaim the Kingdom’s advance play a vital role in the growth of the church.  They are gifted.  They are equippers of the saints.  They don’t get asked to be on the big stages or TV or radio, but they are doing ministry.

 

 

2) The burden of celebrity destroys many faithful men

There are many famous pastors and Christian leaders who have continued to be faithful men of God.  I thank God for the men like Billy Graham, John Piper, Tony Evans, and David Jeremiah (and many others).  They are famous Peter-Types who live for Jesus and not for their own fame.  However, for every one of those guys there are 10 others who started out working hard for the fame of Jesus, their platform expanded, and somewhere along the line something switched and the power of their own celebrity began to control them.  I like what the political pundit, James Carville says, “When you become famous, being famous becomes your profession.” I think in many ways that is what has happened to celebrity pastors.

  • Sometimes this results in major falls from grace with men drifting into deep sin issues.
  • Sometimes their ministry continues and their platform expands, but they are worried about building their kingdom rather than Christ’s.

Faithfulness is a better aim than fame.

 

 

3) Contentment is key

I think a lot of the problem is that a lot of Andrew-types want to be Peter-types.  They haven’t made peace with the fact that they are special because they’ve been called by a King, not because they’ve been called to be a king.  Everyday Pastors matter.  We aren’t all Spurgeon or Billy Graham or Matt Chandler.  We are nobodies. There is nothing wrong with being nobodies.  Nobodies accomplish a lot for the Kingdom.  We have to deny ourselves.  We have to relinquish our fame desires for the sake of Christ’s fame.

 

This post is drawn from my book, Proliferate, A Church Planting Strategy for Everyday Churches.  If you haven’t already you can pick it up from Amazon (Paperback or Kindle) or Barnes & Noble (Paperback or Nook).

Every Church Planter Needs: A Coach

Part 3 of a 3 part series on the people that every church planter needs

 

Ever since we planted CityView Church in 2014 we’ve gotten multiple questions about what church planters need.  Aside from a strong and growing relationship with Jesus, the support of their spouse, Kingdom dollars invested in their plant or team members to join their core team, I always tell them that every planter needs three people who speak into their lives that help them plant in a healthy manner.  Every planter needs 3 specific people.  This blog series will share the three people that every church planter needs in his life.

Coach

Every church planter needs a coach.  It is easy for church planters to get bogged down in minutia of church life and church planting issues.  The coach cheers the planter on and pushes him when he isn’t accomplishing all that he could.  The coach is someone that the planter should pay for his time.  I have paid as little as $100/month, but am currently receiving coaching for $250/month.  My first coach was Sam Douglass.  I am currently coached by Brian Howard

Every church planter needs someone to get in their face a little when they aren’t doing what they should.  They also need someone outside of the situation to point out issues in what is going on within the church.  The coach can do this important work.

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Greatest Value

The most valuable thing a coach can do is drill down deep on a single issue that the planter is having, ask questions, and cause the planter to process through the issue out loud with someone else.  The coach can ask questions with little knowledge of the situation and bring in a different perspective to help the planter correct his actions.

 

How Do I Find One?

Your denomination or network should have some sort of coaching network setup or be able to point you in the right direction.  Contact the church plant leadership in your network or denomination and they’ll help you find a good one.  If worse comes to worse, I coach planters regularly to help them work through the early days of planting and thinking through how they can multiply.  I’d be happy to help, you can contact me here.

 

This series is drawn from my book, Proliferate, A Church Planting Strategy for Everyday Churches.  If you haven’t already you can pick it up from Amazon (Paperback or Kindle) or Barnes & Noble (Paperback or Nook).

 

 

Every Church Planter Needs: A Counselor

Part 2 of a 3 part series on the people that every church planter needs

Counselor

Ever since we planted CityView Church in 2014 we’ve gotten multiple questions about what church planters need.  Aside from a strong and growing relationship with Jesus, the support of their spouse, Kingdom dollars invested in their plant or team members to join their core team, I always tell them that every planter needs three people who speak into their lives that help them plant in a healthy manner.  Every planter needs 3 specific people.  This blog series will share the three people that every church planter needs in his life.

Counselor

Every church planter needs a counselor.  Church planting is hard work and is wrought with frequent discouragement.  Church planters need a counselor.  To be clear this is someone that you pay.  Be it a licensed Christian counselor, biblical counselor, or the like this is someone you pay for their time and their expertise that hears the struggles and pains that the planter has and points them towards the Lord and His Word.

Greatest Value

The most valuable thing a counselor can do is help the planter feel heard in the many struggles and hurts that he will experience.  The counselor needs to help the planter identify detrimental thought patterns and behaviors and point him towards healthy, gospel-centered ones as he deals with the ups and downs of planting.  This person is doing soul-care for the planter.

 

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What Will People Think?

My short answer is, WHO CARES?  I know you need a counselor.  I bet you know you need a counselor.  Who cares what someone else thinks?  However, because a stigma exists about counseling, and you may have some feelings about it yourself, realize that you don’t have to tell anyone that you are seeing a counselor.  This doesn’t need to be a thing that is broadcast openly if you are worried about it.  It can be as private as you want it to be.

 

 

How Do I Find One?

We use a counseling service called, Better Days here in Houston.  They were recommended to us, but they are part of the Association of Biblical Counselors, a group we know and trust.  If that isn’t your tribe then Google counseling for pastors in your general area and you will find someone.  I’m proud of my denomination for offering care for pastors.  Check it out here.

 

This series is drawn from my book, Proliferate, A Church Planting Strategy for Everyday Churches.  If you haven’t already you can pick it up from Amazon (Paperback or Kindle) or Barnes & Noble (Paperback or Nook).

 

 

Every Church Planter Needs: A Mentor

Part 1 of a 3 part series on the people that every church planter needs

Mentor

Ever since we planted CityView Church in 2014 we’ve gotten multiple questions about what church planters need.  Aside from a strong and growing relationship with Jesus, the support of their spouse, Kingdom dollars invested in their plant or team members to join their core team, I always tell them that every planter needs three people who speak into their lives that help them plant in a healthy manner.  Every planter needs 3 specific people.  This blog series will share the three people that every church planter needs in his life.

Mentor

Every church planter needs a mentor.  They need someone who has gone before them and done similar work to what they are attempting to do now.  The mentor is so important because he lets the planter know that what they are attempting is possible.  He brings encouragement on a regular basis.

 

Greatest Value

The most valuable thing a mentor can share is their experiences, both good and bad.  This authenticity helps the planter know that at the end of the day there is hope.  The mentor shows the planter that no matter how difficult it gets you can come out on the other side.  The mentor can provide a target for the planter to aim for over the course of their ministry.

There is definite value in having several mentors in the planter’s life that might be able to address different issues at different times in areas related to church life cycle, attendance trends, and family. In many ways, a mentor is a pastor to a church planter. I have been blessed to have a couple of these amazing men in my life as I planted, Greg Pickering of Brazos Pointe Fellowship in Lake Jackson, TX and Bruce Wesley of Clear Creek Community Church in League City, TX.

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How Do I Find One?

You find a mentor by thinking about the people in your life who have started like you have and have a track record that you respect.  Think beyond your peer group.  Look to a generation older than you.  You narrow down on one or two guys and then you take them to lunch or coffee and ask them to mentor you.  You will find that quality men want to be asked to do this type of thing.  They want to reproduce themselves in other young leaders.

 

How Do I Become One?

Greg Pickering became my mentor when he found me at a fellowship meeting for our county and said, “Hi Jason, I’m Greg, I’m you in 20 years”.  Younger generations desperately want the tutelage of those who have gone before.  You have a lot to share.  Look around at young guys in your pastoral circles and make an investment.

 

This series is drawn from my book, Proliferate, A Church Planting Strategy for Everyday Churches.  If you haven’t already you can pick it up from Amazon (Paperback or Kindle) or Barnes & Noble (Paperback or Nook).

 

 

Everyday Churches

3 Reasons Churches Under 200 ARE NOT SMALL!

everyday churches

Typically a church is considered small if it is under 200 in attendance on a Sunday.  I don’t know why, but there is something about the number 200. According to recent statistics somewhere between 65% – 85% of churches in the United States are under 200 in attendance.  There are roughly 300,000 churches in the United States.  That means there are between 195,000 – 255,000 churches with an attendance of 200 or less.  That’s a lot of churches!

It’s almost like those churches aren’t small.  I want to make the argument that churches under 200 aren’t small, they’re typical or normative or EVERYDAY.  Here are three reasons I think Everyday Churches should reject the label of “small”

1) Everyday Churches are doing lots of ministry.

Everyday Churches do worship services, small groups, Sunday School classes, children’s ministry, youth ministry, plant churches, feed the poor, and do thousands of other ministries.  The people of these churches build strong ties to one another.  Everyday Churches minister and serve each other and their communities.  What would happen if suddenly all of the churches under 200 in attendance were gone? Think about that for a second.

2) Everyday Churches are part of the big mission.

The Great Commission wasn’t given to large churches, megachurches, or gigachurches.  The Great Commission was given to disciples of Jesus.  That includes the big churches, but it also includes the Everyday Church too.  They are part of Jesus’ mission in the world.  Everyday Churches develop a complex they they are “less than” because they aren’t big.  The fact of the matter is that they aren’t “less than” because they have the one who is “Greater Than” every name.  We serve the same Lord we have the same mission.

3) Everyday Churches are mighty.

Think about how many people and how much money are potentially represented by Everyday Churches based on US Averages (I realize these numbers aren’t exact and there are factors in statistics that can skew them a bit, but this isn’t a research report, it is a blog post… calm down.)

  • People: Let’s say that 65% of churches are under 200 in attendance, the smallest estimate out there.  65% of 300,000 churches = 195,000 churches.  The average church size is 75.  If you take those stats that means that there are 14,625,000 people who attend Everyday Churches.  That is a lot of people!  Let’s say the averages are skewed by large churches and take away 50%.  That is still 7,312,500 people!  That is a lot of people!
  • Money: According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) the average household gives $1,703 annually to religious organizations.  According to statista the average US Household is 2.53 people (I’ll spare you the, “how do you get .53 person joke”.)  That means the average church has about 29 family units.  Those 29 family units give about $49,000 annually.  $49,000 Annually * 195,000 Churches = $9,555,000,000.  That is a staggering number!  Over $9.5 billion.  Let’s say that number is skewed by large churches and other religious organization and take away 50%.  THAT IS STILL $4,777,500,000 GIVEN INSIDE OF EVERYDAY CHURCHES.

By the numbers Everyday Churches are truly mighty.

Are big churches bad?

Definitely not.  Please don’t hear me saying that big churches are bad or wrong.  I think they are great!  I’m thankful for big churches doing big things in ministry that Everyday Churches can’t do.  I’m just saying that Everyday Churches have their place in ministry and mission AND they are MIGHTY.  Everyday Churches Matter.

 

 

 

These are ideas that I share in my new book Proliferate, A Church Planting Strategy for Everyday Churches.  It is available in both Kindle and Paperback formats at Amazon.

 

 

 

Excited to be on the Battle Cry Revival Podcast on March 27, 2017.  We’ll be talking about my book Proliferate, church planting, and general Life Hacks.  Release date will be posted soon.

Date: March 27, 2017
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Appearance: Battle Cry Revival Podcast
Outlet: Battle Cry Revival
Location: Alvin, TX
Format: Podcast

On April 5th at 3pm I’ll be recording a podcast with Shane Pruitt, SBTC Director of Missions, for Advance Now.  The podcast will be release has yet to be determined.

Advance Now provides Podcasts, Blogs, & News Feeds that are geared towards advancing the Kingdom of God. Provided by the Southern Baptists of Texas Mission’s Department.

Date: April 5, 2017
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Appearance: Advance Now Podcast
Outlet: Advance Now
Location: Grapevine, TX
Format: Podcast

 

On April 5th I’ll be recording a webinar with Joseph Sangl and InJoy Stewardship talking about the principles in my book, Proliferate: A Church Planting Strategy for Everyday Churches.

 

Date: April 5, 2017
Time: 10:00-11:00 a.m.
Appearance: Webinar with Joe Sangl and InJoy Stewardship
Outlet: Injoy Stewardship
Location: Anderson, SC
Format: Vlog

I’ve been invited to be on the Jeremy Roberts Leadership Podcast to talk about my book Proliferate and church planting and multiplication.  The episode will be recorded on March 28th and released at a later time.

Thankful for the opportunity to be on JeremyRoberts.org

Date: March 28, 2017
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Appearance: Podcast with Jeremy Roberts
Outlet: JeremyRoberts.org
Location: Chattanooga, TN
Format: Podcast