Tag Archives: leadership

The Tensions of Church Planting

Edit: We just had our first preview service this past Sunday!  I love our team!  Alas, I’ll save that for another post while I finish this one…

This post comes after reading this excellent piece, which I highly recommend.

This Sunday, Hope Church NYC hosts our first public worship gathering.

A lot of effort is going into this Sunday, and after a moment of pause this morning, I realize there are some tensions I’m carrying as we move into this stage of the planting process.  Here are some of them.

1)  Numbers don’t matter… right?  One of the biggest reasons I wanted to plant a church was so that we could be a people where relationships mattered more than the Sundays, and that these relationships would be where God met us most powerfully.

In many ways, this value of relationships goes against the grain of growing large numerically too quickly.

And yet, there’s this nagging thing in me that thinks God is MOST likely to show up if the room is packed.

But if the room is packed, many visitors will likely be overlooked and our volunteers might be over-extended.

Tension.

I think as Evangelicals, the phrase “God showed up!” can often be synonymous with “We had our largest attendance ever!”.

I think I’ve been around church world long enough to know that numbers don’t tell the whole story.  They tell a story, and quite honestly a very helpful one when the numbers increase at a healthy pace.  However, numbers aren’t the entire story.

But can God show up if the room is not packed?

Well, if the focus is on relationships, then the answer is yes.

Hence, the question that we’ve been wrestling with as a leadership team – how can our Sundays facilitate more authentic relationships?

2)  Six Days Versus Sunday – There’s a lot of planning going into Sunday.  There are many logistical concerns… and I’m also preaching a sermon!

It’s easy for most of my time to go into the few hours on Sunday.

But some questions I’m asking myself Monday-Saturday are:

– Are you investing in transforming relationships?

– Are you loving your family well?

– Are you being a witness of Christ’s death and resurrection to those you see and meet Monday-Saturday?

3) Staying True to Values Versus Following the Trends – I have a great advisory team at Hope that’s challenged me on this frequently.  There’s so much literature on church planting, and I’m even attending the Exponential Conference next week.

All this means I’m full of great ideas, usually taken from the latest thing I’m reading or the most recent speaker or coach I’ve listened to.

At some point, I have to remember that being a pastor is context-specific, and a great idea doesn’t mean it’s a great idea for Hope.

4) A Journey for God Versus a Journey To God – It’s so easy to get caught up in tasks in church planting.  There are people to call, things to organize, events to plan – all of which, in my mind, I’m doing for God.

I’ve found in vocational ministry that I fall into a bad place when my journey for God doesn’t necessarily lead me to God.

A common prayer that I’ve said lately, influenced by the words of my mentor Ken Shigematsu, is “Lord, may my journey for you be a journey to you.”

May that be the prayer of us all –

“Lord, may my journey for you be a journey to you.” 

I believe this is an apt prayer for us all.

Amen and amen.

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Advice for Church Planters

Today I was asked by some seminary students what advice I’d give to church planters.

After thinking about that question some more, I’ve listed five adages below that help keep me centered through the task of planting Hope Church NYC.

I imagine some people can relate to these, whether you’re a church planter or not.

*Each adage has a Bible verse italicized which I think captures the essence of each saying, I think. 

1.  Pray.  Now. (Psalm 27)

The two words go together for me.  I have to remember that above all else, God is the author and perfecter of my faith.  Prayer is the most obvious byproduct of remembering this truth.

As a church planter, it’s convenient for me to forget about God because there’s so much to do and there’s an insufferable feeling that it’s all on my shoulders.

Well, it’s not.  God’s ultimately in control.

The word “Now” is added because prayer is often the easiest thing to push to the back of my to-do list.

Perhaps there are some more urgent things to do as a church planter – but nothing more important.

Hence I need to pray.  Now.  Not Later.

2.  One Day at a Time (Matthew 6:34)

I alluded to this in a previous post, but this saying is extremely helpful for me.

I so want Hope to instantaneously be what I envision.

Too bad life doesn’t work that way.

Tina laughs at me when I ask her when she thinks we should add another service.

We’ve barely started laying the groundwork for the first, she reminds me.

How was the Great Wall Built?  One brick at a time.

3.  “Go, Sit in Your Cell, and Your Cell will Teach You Everything– A Saying by A Desert Father (Phil 4:11-13)

I’ve read/heard this phrase a few times over the years, and it comes from the Desert Fathers.

The saying could mean a lot of things, including the need for silence, solitude, and “think” space.

The way I take the phrase is to focus on what God’s given me to do, instead of peering out over the horizon at what everyone else is doing.

I’ve noticed that when I fall into the comparison trap, I lose sight of what God’s called me and our church to do.

I can get so concerned with other church plants or the latest trends in church world that I lose sight of our church and our community.

There are so many God moments that I might miss out on because I’m so enamored with what’s happening over there.

Meanwhile, all that’s happening right in front of me is quite sacred and beautiful.

4.  “What is This Life if, Full of Care, We Have No Time to Stand and Stare” – WH Davies (Exodus 20:8)

With all the stresses and tasks of church planting, it’s easy to feel miserable.  That is, if I don’t take the time to “stand and stare”.

For me, this means Sabbath-keeping and other disciplines that give me space to experience joy and pleasure.

This saying has been especially helpful since we have a newborn.  Although we look forward to getting out of these first twelve weeks with David (our son), Tina and I have been consciously enjoying this stage of our son’s life.

He’s such an adorable little guy, and it’d be so easy for me to miss out on precious moments with our son because I’m so caught up in the tasks I need to complete.

Sometimes as church planters we can sacrifice the wrong things for the sake of mission, as if it’s an honor to be a miserable church planter.

I’d much rather be a joyful church planter (who gets miserable sometimes).

5. Love God, Love People (Matthew 22:36-40) – ‘Nuff said.

Is there any advice you’ve found helpful as a church planter or entrepreneur?

Good Advice I’ve Received Lately

I find myself more grateful these days, probably because I’ve had a bit more time to reflect on my life, and also because I know that there are people who are persevering in much more arduous circumstances.

In the midst of my grief on behalf of others, I’m realizing that the things that worry me aren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

Older, wiser friends have given me good advice lately, and I thought I’d share some simple snippets of wisdom that have come my way in recent days.

1. Lesson 1 – “Lead like Jesus”

This bit of advice came this past week from Dave Jennings, the Director of the New Life Community Health Center and the Vice President of Nyack College.  Dave is a phenomenal leader, and in many respects, I’d be a lucky man if I could become a leader like him.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been reading a ton about leadership.  I’ve gone to conferences, scoured podcasts, books, blogs – anything I could get my hands on, really.  Being surrounded by so many great leaders at New Life Fellowship has helped too, and so I’ve been a bit of a maniac about some of the principles I’ve been learning.

Meanwhile, I’ve been fumbling about as a leader, making my fair share of mistakes, disappointing others, getting frustrated with myself in the process.

I had fallen into a bad habit of dissecting my every move and decision, testing the wisdom of my perspective against the latest thoughts on leadership by Pete Scazzero or Andy Stanley or John Maxwell.

Earlier this week, I sat down with Dave and chatted briefly about some of my reflections about leadership.

In the midst of my angst, Dave leaned back in his chair with hands on his head, smiled, and then said, “Drew, just lead like Jesus would, and you’ll be fine.”

I know, it sounds pretty simple, but his comment really struck me.  In some weird way, I had been searching to be more like Jack Welch or Bill Hybels, instead of reflecting more on the very simple question – what would Jesus do?

Anyhow, thanks for the advice, Dave.  I trust I’ll keep coming back to your words at various times throughout my life – “Just lead like Jesus, and you’ll be fine”.

2. Lesson 2 – “You are God’s Beloved”

This past week was an anomaly of sorts because I had a chance to meet with different mentors at various points throughout the week.

Leighton Ford happened to be in town for a conference, and he needed a ride to LaGuardia on Thursday morning and Pete asked if I was interested in giving him a ride (Leighton is Pete Scazzero’s primary mentor).  I pushed some engagements around and made time to pick him up in Manhattan and drive him to the airport.

One stalled big rig on the Queensboro bridge ruined our plans, so he ended up taking a cab instead.  I was bummed.

Leighton arrived at LGA really quickly though, so he called me up and asked if I’d be willing to meet him at the airport for 30 minutes or so for a chat.

I zoomed over there from Astoria, and ran to the terminal as fast as I could so we could sit down and talk.

And yes, getting 30 minutes with Leighton is worth all the trouble of big rigs, airport parking, and uncomfortable LGA terminals.

Leighton is now 79 years old, and there’s a certain air that he possesses that is quite healing.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but I’d highly recommend that you read his book The Attentive Life to see what I mean – it’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life.

Anyhow, I’ve been a huge beneficiary of Leighton’s mentoring from people whom Leighton has mentored – which is quite a long list of extraordinary leaders, including Pete.

Leighton’s network has galvanized so many movements around the world, and so I finished our conversation with one question – “Leighton, if you were to give a piece of advice to a 31 year-old leader like myself, what would you tell me (and others in my season of life) knowing what you know and have experienced around the world?”

I suspected Leighton to give one of the following responses:

– Drew, be disciplined in your pursuit of God.

– Drew, make sure you value your marriage above any other commitment.

– Drew, keep the dreams alive.

Instead, Leighton pierced me with these simple words, “Drew, I would want you to know that you are God’s beloved.”

Inhale.

Leighton continued, “There’s a lot I don’t know and understand about today’s world and all the different innovative things happening, but the message I want young people like you to know more than anything is that you are God’s beloved.”

Exhale.

Leighton gave me a hug.

I drove home and I cried.

It’s really going to be okay.  Life is going to be all right.

I am God’s beloved.

Sometimes the wisest words are the simplest words, too.