Category Archives: Help People Grow

10 Keys to Raising Up the Church Out of the Culture

At Emerging Leadership Initiative, our mission is to mobilize leaders who will raise the church up out of the culture – which causes people to ask, “What do you mean by raising the church up out of the culture?” I’m glad you asked…


Out of the culture is an idea introduced by John Burke in his book, No Perfect People Allowed,

“This is…not a church for a post-Christian culture, where Christians huddle up behind the fortress walls and make forays outside into the messy culture, but a church molded out of a post-Christian people ~ an indigenous church, rising up out of the surrounding culture to form the Body of Christ!”

In the simplest of terms, raising up a church out of the culture is what happens when ordinary people are introduced to Jesus and begin to follow him together. In biblical terms, think Corinth. In modern terms, think missionary. In post-modern terms, think messy ~ as unreserved grace is expressed in a community of radical transformation.

As we have worked with leaders in the North America, Europe and Australia, we have discovered these 10 keys to raising the church up out of the culture.

Leaders must create a culture that:

  • Is keenly sensitive to the perceptions of those who don’t yet belong. They know how big the gap between Christ and culture is and do everything they can to bridge it.
  • Openly extends grace. They know how messy people’s lives are and relentlessly communicate that no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, you’re one of us.
  • Is committed to humbly presenting the truth. They know that Jesus came to proclaim freedom, but the message won’t ring true unless it’s delivered with humility.
  • Cultivates authentic relationships through community. They know that unless people can openly be who they are they will never become anything more.
  • Is focused on transformation. They know that every person is a masterpiece waiting to be revealed and see anything less as a cheap substitute.

In order to do this well, leaders must be people who:

  • Live authentic, representative lives. Jesus was the word made flesh. He didn’t talk about grace and truth; he was grace and truth. As much as spiritually possible, out of the culture leaders are too.
  • Are zealous for people far from Christ. Jesus was described by the Pharisees as a “friend of sinners.” He never corrected them. It was a label he wore proudly. Out of the culture leaders do too.
  • Do life and work in relationship. Jesus was never out of relationship. Even when he was alone it was to be with his Father. He always put people first. Out of the culture leaders will too.
  • Joyously embrace the mess. Jesus hung out with corrupt businessmen and let prostitutes wash his feet. He was okay with the mud because he was in love with the masterpiece. Out of the culture leaders are too.
  • Communicate with excellence. Jesus drew crowds and kept their attention long enough for them to forget to eat. His words brought life. Out of the culture leaders will too.

How are you and your faith community effectively bridging the gap to raise up the Church out of the culture? Where are you stretching out of your comfort zone for the sake of those who are far from Christ?

How do you know when you’ve got one?

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.”  Whether you currently lead a small group, a missional community or a new church, Jesus’ words answer the all-important “Why?” We lead these initiatives because we want people to become disciples of Jesus. How do you know when they have?


In my experience, we are pretty diligent about, and even good at, counting.  We  count how many people attended.  We count how much money was given.  We count how many decisions were made or people baptized.  I’m not against counting – I suggest you should be counting all of those things – but counting doesn’t answer the question.  Counting attendance, offerings, decisions or even baptisms doesn’t tell us how many people have become disciples of Jesus.  It can’t, because counting only measures quantity and discipleship demands us to measure quality.  It’s the difference between asking someone how many kids they have (quantity) and asking how tall they are (quality).  To do that, we need some kind of standard, a yardstick, that tells us about the quality of the people we lead.



In my freshman year of college, I volunteered as part of a youth ministry in a local church.  I attended events, led a D-group of 3 Jr. High boys, and went to youth staff meetings. There I was given a worksheet that entitled, “How Do You Know When You’ve Got One?”  It was one page filled with a table.  Across the top were four age groups, from older elementary through college.  Down the left was a list of various aspects of discipleship, Bible, prayer, fruit of the spirit etc.  In each square in the table was a standard, a statement that said what a disciple looked like in that category.  This worksheet was how we agreed to measure disciples – it was our yardstick.


Can you answer the question: How do you know when you’ve got one? Do you have a yardstick for measuring discipleship?  If not, here are some questions that will help you get started.

  • What does a disciple need to know?

There is information essential to becoming a disciple of Jesus, like knowing Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sin.  There is also information not essential to becoming a disciple of Jesus, like the dispensational interpretation of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24. Wrestling with what’s essential will allow you to focus on teaching things that are really important.

  • What kind of person does a disciple become?

This is the hard one.  The list of qualities is easy – just start with the fruit of the spirit in Ephesians 5.  The standards are where the real work starts.  How do you know when a person has peace, kindness, or gentleness?  Describing the fruit of the spirit in the same way you can probably describe a ripe strawberry will create clarity around the kind of people you are wanting to become.

  • What does a disciple of Jesus do?

Unfortunately, we are probably better at making lists of things followers of Jesus don’t do. Focus instead on clearly describing the things a person who follows Jesus does do – the habits that are evidence of being a disciple.  The danger of defining behavior is legalism. You can avoid that by identifying behaviors that are easily observable, yet undeniable evidence of discipleship.


Taking the time to define what it means to be a disciple will enable you to answer the all-important question.  How are you doing at making disciples?

Two Simple Keys for Leading Your Staff

This is a guest post by Matt Miller, lead pastor of New City Church in Shawnee, Kansas. 

As a new church planter, I often feel like the dog who caught the car.  I started chasing the dream of launching New City Church in May of 2010 and in January of 2012, the dream became a reality.  And the reality was, I was in over my head!


One area of ministry that consistently frustrated me was the area of church leadership.  Like most church plants, our early qualification for leadership was, “Do they have a pulse?”  If they did, we gave them a title and hoped for the best.  Fortunately, we quickly realized that more than a pulse was needed and we began to make wiser decisions in this area.  However, I have learned that just because we are doing a better job of placing people doesn’t mean we are immune to staffing issues.  What follows are two principles I have learned that have influenced me as I have led my staff.


Respond, Don’t React


On my church planting journey, I have been blessed with experienced coaches.  It has
been great for me to have access to men who ask the right questions, have a different perspective, and have done what I hope to do.  I can remember on one occasion when I was sharing with my coach, Troy McMahon, about a frustrating text I had received from one of my staff members.  I was telling him what I had texted back and in mid-sentence Troy interrupted me.  I remember Troy saying, “Your Executive Pastor can react. Your Worship Pastor can react.  Your Kid City Pastor can react.  But you must respond.”  I had been guilty of allowing staff to evoke reactions out of me that often led to heated discussions.
What Troy challenged me with was to respond.  Not to respond with some quip or even a solution, but to respond with vision.  For me, to respond with vision meant that I couldn’t immediately respond.  I had to pause, pray, and process my response.  A response is required because a leader doesn’t ignore difficult issues.  But how that leader responds is important because his response will create a culture of reaction or responding.


Develop, Don’t Dismiss


As a leader learns to respond, what often follows are not heated discussions but honestconversations.  When I gave space to pause, pray, and process my response I was able to see the situation more clearly.  This clarity led to the second principle that heavily influences my leadership.  I’m learning to develop not dismiss.  I am guilty of moving on to the next person if the current person isn’t figuring it out.  What I’m learning is that, too often, them not figuring it out has more to do with me than with them.  I’m learning to ask, how can I inspire them?  How can I teach them?  What tools can I offer them for growth?  What questions do I need to ask?


All of these take time and in church planting, time is my most valuable commodity.  Choosing to develop my staff is an intentional decision.  If I don’t choose to develop, I won’t.  One way I intentionally choose to develop is by having weekly one-on-ones with my staff.  During this time I ask five coaching questions: Where are you winning?  What are you current challenges?  What are you doing about these challenges?  How can I help?  How can I pray?  By asking these questions, as the leader, I can assess if my staff members are growing or giving up.


These are two things I’m learning on my journey.  I hope they will inspire you on yours.


Life Change in Vegas

At ELI we get the incredible pleasure of hearing amazing stories from church planters such as yourselves, people tearing down walls and building bridges into people’s lives. Here is a fresh story that will inspire you (from Verve church in Las Vegas, as told by Krystal Altman):

Tommy recently had the honor of baptizing our friend Mike. Who is Mike? Well, almost 2 years ago, Brodie met a little boy named Adam at Verve. I soon set up a play date with Kristina – his mom – to get the boys together. Kristina, Adam (3) and her daughter Miley (5) were living with Kristina’s boyfriend, Mike.


We hit it off right away, but soon Kristina pulled me aside.


“I have to tell you…we’re moving. We’re moving to Washington State at the end of the month.” We were bummed! They were moving. However, try as they might, they were struggling to rent their existing house in Vegas and find a new one in Washington.


About a week after our play date, Kristina was at my house in tears.  Mike had gone out one night and not come home. She confided some of his story to me. Mike had a history of addiction, having just spent 7 years in prison for cocaine; he was also an alcoholic. So, occasionally, wouldn’t come home.


I immediately began to try to help Kristina and her kids. We offered our home for them to stay so she could get on her feet. It wasn’t an easy situation for several reasons. First, she had only been attending Verve for a couple of weeks, and did not know God, coming from a completely unchurched background. Secondly, she loved Mike and didn’t want to leave him. Thirdly, Mike is an engineer; he earned well and provided for them so she hadn’t had to work. Kristina decided to stay with Mike, but not move to Washington.


I spent a lot of time with Kristina, who is in one of my Micro Groups. She began to discover who God is and that he loves her unconditionally. I soon had the honor of baptizing Kristina as she  made the decision to enter into a relationship with God. Weeks later, Mike finally agreed to come to church, because, “I have to meet this best friend “Brodie” that Adam keeps talking about.” Mike was very skeptical. He’s intellectual and felt he couldn’t blindly believe in God.


Over the last year and a half our families have done life together. We’ve had birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I was in Kristina and Mike’s wedding. We have prayed a lot for Mike. He has watched skeptically over the last couple of years and discovered that our God is real and that he wants a relationship with Him.


And so, Tommy had the awesome honor of baptizing Mike a few weeks ago.


Mike’s words? “I’ve been watching. And I’ve seen the changes in the lives of those around me. I would like to have that also.”


We say Verve is a “church for people who don’t like church” and it very much is. Because of this, we reach people who are really far from God. Most of them take a very long time to grow in their relationship with God before they are ready to trust Him and decide to follow Jesus.


Mike is a perfect example of this. It took him two years of observing the life change in Kristina and observing Tommy and I to see if the God we followed was “real.”


I have seen Mike go from the cocaine addict/alcoholic living with his girlfriend to a man who is now Kristina’s husband, completely free from drugs and alcohol, who loves God, studies his Bible, comes to church, sits in the front row (when he’s not serving in the tech booth) and doesn’t miss a week. This radical transformation never gets old. Thank you for being a part of what God is doing here. Thank you for giving sacrificially and allowing God to use us to reach those here who are very far from God.


And thank you, Altmans and Verve, for that encouragement!
[Some of the names in the story have been changed.]

Spiritual Formation

What is a simple, repeatable, transferable and meaningful way to communicate the most important concepts for spiritual formation as a Christ follower? We have been using the term, “the way of Christ,” for spiritual formation at Gateway Church for a number of years.  Jesus invites people to not only ‘believe’ in Him but to follow in His ways. The early disciples were called followers of the Way (Acts 9:2).


Way of Christ

We define four aspects of the “way of Christ” to bring a simplicity to people’s experience of what a life of following Jesus looks like. The four aspects of the way of Christ are; Love God (GOD), Build Character (ME), Love People (YOU), and Be the Body (WE).


Jesus, himself, tried to simplify the Law in his teaching by boiling it down to two points – Love God and Love your Neighbor.  I don’t think Jesus meant to minimize his full teachings through his summary statement (Matt 22:36-39) but rather as a statement of clarity, simplicity and transferability of the big idea.


Power of an Image – Icon

I am learning about the power of icons and symbols as the means of portability of an idea or language. Icons provide a representative symbol for something. It provides easier memory recall. I am trying to add an icon to the spiritual formation language that is already present in our church culture, “the way of Christ.”   I want the language to be more memorable, repeatable, and transferable.


I am hoping the icon of an X allows these four aspects of the “way of Christ” to be quickly recalled for an individual, a Small Group or a Network about what God is up to and discern where they are going next.
An X gives a framework for the “way of Christ” that allows us to centrally remember that the work of the church is first and foremost about Jesus at the center and that only through Him do these four aspects connect with each other.



GOD – Love God

The greatest commandment given to us by Jesus himself. Loving God is about recognizing the priorities in our life that have squeezed God out of the center in the way we live. Living out the greatest commandment is the process of putting God as our first love and priority in life. Jesus says the greatest commandment quite simply is to:

“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’” Matthew 22:36-38


ME – Build Character

Without a doubt, most of us look at ourselves and desire varying degrees of change. We see anxiety where we want peace. We see fear where we want courage. We see addiction where we want self-control. Transformation happens not by applying the latest self-help fad but by understanding and implementing the full richness of inner life change at a heart level. Jesus produces this change in each of us by his power and influence on our heart and ultimately resulting in changed behaviors.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23


YOU – Love People

Truth be told, relationships bring about the best and worst of life. Our greatest joys consistently involve people. Our greatest pains consistently involve people. How does love for God impact and influence our love for people? Christ gave two great commandments. First, we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And second, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Life is rich when we increasingly practice truly loving people—not put up with people, not walk over people, not use people or avoid people—but truly love people.

“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied …. And the second is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39


WE – Be the Body

The world is a beautiful place, but it is also a broken place. How can we, with our limited time and resources, really make a difference together in a world overflowing with needs? As a community of Christ followers we are liberated by a love for God, set free from enslavement to living for instant gratification or the accumulation of things, and can passionately pour love and grace into the world around us. Astounding things happen when followers of Christ discover their spiritual gifts and mobilize into action by partnering with the body of Christ around them.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”  Romans 12:4-6


Way of Christ – Holistic Spiritual Formation

We know the current realities of church language.  We are about community.  Or we are about mission.  Or we are about the gospel. Or we are about the Bible. This is all useful language, especially when creating higher value priorities for a church to give intentional focus for its people.

The reality is we must holistically go and make disciples.  I like the “way of Christ” language because it has holistic aspects that are critical for spiritual formation in individuals, Small Groups and medium sized Networks.


Multiplying X

An X is one image, the simple crossing of your fingers, that can give a clear grid of thinking about:

  • GOD | Who is God (his attributes and my relationship with Him through Jesus)
  • ME | Who am I (as an identity and growing character)
  • YOU | What am I/We Doing on in Life and Mission Together (to love our neighbors)
  • WE | Who are We (as a community with gifts in the body)

An X is a symbol for multiplication.  I want these core aspects to be simple, repeatable and transferable so that multiplying generations of disciples can be intentional about growth in the “way of Christ.”

What are the most common icons and language in your church or ministry setting that are sticky?  Are you seeing them get passed down to multiplying generations simply and easily?  Why or why not?