Author Archives: John Herrington

About John Herrington

John Herrington is the Director of Saturate Austin, Church Plant Training Center, for the Hill Country Bible Church NW in Texas. They have planted 22 churches to date in Austin and have structured a strategy to plant another 22 in the next five years. John's mission is to recruit, assess, coach and resource gospel centered, missional entrepreneurs who will plant church planting churches with a vision to reach every man, woman and child in greater Austin. His interests include People far from God, working in his yard (at the end of the day, something finished!), his wife, his kids, and working out at the gym. You can follow him on Twitter @john_herrington and check out planting

Spiritual Vitality

“We actually slander and dishonor God by our very eagerness to serve Him without knowing Him.” – Oswald Chambers

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” - Martin Luther


Andy Stanley has famously said, “Cheat the church. Don’t cheat your family.” He’s making a very important point.  Workaholism is the pain that people applaud. We never want to assume that a church planter has mastered the art of balanced living. In fact, the classic profile of a church planter is a man with his hair on fire! Obsessed with work, he can’t put it down, and lives with a low level anger that bubbles over usually in his family life, or a persistent anxiety that robs him of sleep he so desperately needs to keep pushing this terrifying thing forward.


I remember there being days when I couldn’t draw a deep breath because of the anxiety I was feeling. I remember praying, “God I am scared out of my wits about what’s going to happen next, or what is not going to happen that so desperately needs to happen.”  At that moment, what I believed about God was revealed. Did I believe He could be trusted, that He had my back, that he was a good God that would not rip me off?  Or did I wallow in fear and unbelief?  Did I believe He really could not be trusted?

 “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart…” Deuteronomy 4:9 NASB


There are moments in the journey where we need to invite the Lord into the middle of everything and not miss what He wants to say. We need to stop and enjoy him. The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with the first of 107 questions: Q: What is the chief end of man? A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Perhaps the Presbyterians do better at the second of these statements:  “to enjoy Him forever.” The rest of us would be hard pressed if we were asked, “Do you enjoy God?” Seriously?


If we lose the ability to enjoy Him, we are missing the entire point of what we are trying to do!  I must confess, there are times that I do not enjoy God, and I have found that those times are in direct proportion to the amount of time I spend fellowshipping with God through prayer and His Word.

Psalm 27:4 says, The one thing I want from God, the thing I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in his Temple, living in his presence every day of my life, delighting in his incomparable perfections and glory. TLB


Here are 7 suggestions for keeping your spiritual life energized:

  1. Spend time with God in prayer every day, and give him your optimal time.  If you want your people to bleed prayer, you must hemorrhage!
  2. Take a day of prayer once per month.  This is not a day off.  This is hard work.
  3. Read, memorize, and meditate on the Word.  Listen to Bible teachers’ podcasts. Most of the great preachers read massive amounts of scripture annually.
  4. Journal – It’s not just for the girls. To remain an emotionally healthy Christian, you need to stay in touch with your feelings, and pay attention to the work of God in you.
  5. Develop the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. Read great works on deepening your intimacy with God.
  6. Enlist a strong network of prayer cover. The common denominator of successful church planters is the degree to which they honored the need for prayer warriors to push back against the spiritual warfare that all planters experience.
  7. Read Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters to understand the insidious nature of idolatry as a current reality that we all wrestle with.  Habitually ask yourself, “Is the supreme object of my affection God, or is it my church plant?”

Effective Church Planters Are Missionaries

Effective church planters are missionaries who learn to exegete the culture to which they are sent!  As a church planter, you must apply the same rules of interpretation that you use to understand the scriptures to understanding your cultural context.


To be truly successful, you need to create a model that uniquely fits you, the people on your team and your context!

Don’t plant the church in your head – the one you emotionally prefer – plant the church that fits your context!

You can use this simple three-step process to exegete your community:


Observation (What do you see?)

Your goal is to see the neighborhood as God sees it, to see its hurt, its beauty, and its potential as a harvest field for God’s Kingdom.  Make at least fifty observations about what you have seen, smelled, tasted.  What has made you angry and offended?  What has broken your heart?  What has convicted you?  What has excited and encouraged you?  What have you seen God doing?  Where do you see the mighty hand of God at work?  What is not happening?


Interpretation (What does it mean?)

Your goal is to understand what your experiences mean and how to extract some meaningful principles upon which to build a church planting strategy.  Why do you think you reacted to certain experiences the way you did?  Why do you think some of the groups you saw are thriving and others are not?  What are the underlying order and causes that formed the area?  Look for the dynamics at work in creating a community.  How do you transfer your observations into principles?  What are the principles or conclusions you would create out of your observations?  List at least five.


Application (What do we do?)  ACTION LIST

You need to determine specific actions to implement as you develop a comprehensive strategic plan for church planting with an appropriate model for this community.  What should your role be in fostering and promoting a church planting movement in this community?  How are you going to leverage your resources – time, talent and treasure – in order to maximize the mission here?


As Yogi Berra said, “You can see a lot by just looking.”


Becoming Resilient

Spend enough time talking with church planters and you’ll eventually hear them say, “This is not at all what we expected; this is not the way we thought it would unfold.”

Over the last 5 years, I have heard real planters say:

  • We expected ten families to move to the other side of the city, and only got one.
  • We didn’t expect to have twins during the first year of the plant.
  • We didn’t expect our family to move four times in the first six months.
  • We didn’t expect to change worship locations three times in the first year.
  • We didn’t expect to land in the neighborhood we landed in.
  • We didn’t expect it to be near to impossible to find a facility.
  • We didn’t expect to get national attention for allowing dogs into our services (Austin has more dogs than children!)
  • We didn’t expect it to be so hard to gather people far from God.
  • We didn’t expect our Missional Core to become “scaffolding” that fell away after the first year.
  • We didn’t expect an elder to fall into adultery in the first month.
  • We didn’t expect to have conflicts with close friends.

Church planting almost never goes as expected, which is why, when Dr. Charles Ridley studied church planters, he identified “resilience” as a characteristic of those who were effective. He described it as “the ability to stay the course in the face of major setbacks, disappointments and opposition.”

You can have the best training available, and be incredibly gifted, but you will inevitably face the unexpected and unpredictable in this start-up venture. Resilient leaders effectively manage their expectations and learn to make adjustments.  Without plenty of bounce, the expectations will kill you.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I have a behavioral pattern of great perseverance and overcoming obstacles?
  • Am I able to remain optimistic and determined in the face of resistance?
  • Am I a learner?

Effective church planters don’t just keep doing the same things while expecting different results! They learn quickly how to assess the unexpected, change course and overcome obstacles.


Raising Up a Prayer Team

Experienced church planters know the intensity of spiritual warfare in the church planting environment. God plants His church through retaking enemy territory, by breaking down barriers and strongholds. Without prayer, the opposition is overwhelming.  Before starting a church every planter should be committed to personal prayer and to the formation of a prayer team.


Here are ten simple ideas for raising up a prayer team:

  1. Pray and ask God to raise people up to pray.
  2. Make a list of individuals who might want to pray regularly.
  3. Invite people from your planting church to join your prayer team.
  4. Communicate your expectations – Total confidentiality, regular communication, at least one weekly time in prayer focused on your plant.
  5. Develop a monthly Prayer e-Newsletter.
  6. Invite the prayer team to be involved in all events, gatherings and activities as a standard part of the execution of your plan.
  7. Calendar to personally contact all your prayer team monthly.
  8. Begin to pray for a Prayer Champion for your church.
  9. Focus your communication on the development of dependence on God in the planting process.
  10. Take some time to think through all the miracles from God that you are going to have to experience between now and the time the church is healthy, thriving, and reproducing.  Help your intercessors see the bigger vision!

 Who are you raising up to pray for your church plant?