Category Archives: Blog

Seeing Through the Eyes of Jesus

As planters, perspective is the key to everything. In this guest post, John Burke speaks about the essence of his new book.The scripture makes it abundantly clear: “God saved you by his grace…[Why? Because] We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) Paul makes it clear that it was a gift from God, not something you did for yourself. God did this because He still sees that work of art He created us to be.


So why do we struggle to treat people like the immensely valuable, one-of-a-kind masterpiece God created with his own hand? As I study the life and interactions of Jesus with very sin-stained, muddied people, it becomes evident that Jesus could see something worth dying for in all people he encountered. Jesus could see past the mud of sin to the masterpiece God wanted to restore.


What do you see most when you encounter sin-stained people? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see the mud? Or do you see the masterpiece God wants to restore? What you focus on determines who you become and the impact you have on people around you! That’s the heart of the book I just finished, Mud and the Masterpiece: Seeing Yourself and Others through the Eyes of Jesus.


The Pharisees primarily focused on the mud of sin that covered the lives of the irreligious. They prided themselves in mud-avoidance. They fixated on mud. They tried to clean the mud off others with their own dirt—it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now!


Jesus was different. Jesus demonstrated a spiritual vision that he wants to impart to us—to see the masterpiece he sees in us, and to renovate us to become people whose hearts reflect what God sees, even in the muddiest, sin-stained life.  Jesus saw God’s masterpiece, waiting to be revealed by his grace, and as a result, many people actually became what he envisioned. What do you envision, even for the muddiest human you encounter?


Mud and the Masterpiece is available now on preorder Here and Here.

Handling Rejection

“We’re leaving.”  I was sitting in the makeshift office of our financially struggling church plant.   A wonderful couple, who had been with us from the very beginning, had just dropped the bomb.  Once my brain succeeded in telling my body to breath again, my legs wanted to use that oxygen to run to the parking lot and throw up.  If you’ve planted a church, you’ve probably been there.  If you’re getting ready to plant a church here is one of the ugly truths – people leave.  Some get new jobs.  Others have unmet expectations.  A few are downright divisive. Here are a few practical suggestions for handling rejection in church planting:


Send Missionaries – Our society is more mobile than ever and very few people spend their whole lives in one place.  When life changes take people away, celebrate what God has done in and through them, and send them out as missionaries.  Change always creates opportunity.  Use this opportunity to communicate clearly about the value of people and bigness of God’s mission.


Accept Goodbye – We have a word for people who can’t or won’t accept goodbye – stalker.  It won’t do you or your church any good if you become one.  That doesn’t mean you should ignore people who fall away into sin or wander away in to relational isolation.  Consider how much integrity and respect it demonstrates to tell a friend, leader, or pastor, “I’m leaving.”  Respond with a similar level of grace and gratitude.  Make it your goal to keep a bridge between you, rather than create a chasm or a wall.  You’ll enjoy trips to the grocery store and soccer games a lot more if you do.


Confront Division – Otherwise healthy baby churches have died, because leaders were unwilling to confront divisive people.  Learn to recognize the difference between whining and dividing.  Whining is a sign of immaturity and the whiner’s goal is usually to get someone to feel bad for them.  They want attention.  Division is a power play and the divider’s goal is to get as many people as possible to agree against leadership.  They want alliance.  When you see that, call it what it is and confront it quickly and decisively.  (See Titus 3:10-11).


Love Abundantly – When you catch your breath and the need to throw up is replaced by a much more profound ache in your heart, not your stomach, there will be a temptation to protect yourself.  If I don’t love, I can’t be hurt by rejection.  Love anyway.  Love abundantly.  Dare I say, love recklessly.  The one who loved us first was and is rejected, yet he loves without limits.  His love is enough.


What If Every Church Became a Church Planting Church?


There are approximately 350,000 churches in the US.  This number has stabilized in recent years, with estimates that even though 3500 churches die each year, 4000 are born.  We’re going forwards, but that means it takes almost 100 churches to give birth to one new one.  What if every church became a church planting church?


I spent a few days in Wichita recently at West E Free Church where they are showing the way for churches planting churches.  Here are a few insights:

  • Start with Prayer – It sounds so obvious, but I wonder how many churches really do it?  You don’t wonder at West.  Their passion for planting started with prayer and continues to grow as they pray in audacious ways for God to reach their city.
  • Focus on Your City – The question isn’t “how can we grow our church?”  The question is “how can we reach our city? Or county?” Or whatever circle of influence God has given you.  When you start with growth, your focus turns inward.  When you start with reach, your focus turns outward.
  • Commit your Resources – Planting churches will take time and money.  At West they assigned Chris Rollman to lead the charge and put a significant portion of their budget in play.   If you’re thinking, “they can afford it” the answer is yes, because they choose to.  West is larger than most churches, but not a mega church.  There is a shopping list of good stuff they could use their resources for; they’ve chosen to put church planting at the top of the list.
  • Build Partnerships – A focus on their city has led West to reach out to other local churches and church planters.  This isn’t “their” thing, it’s “God’s” thing and other leaders and churches our beginning to share the vision.  A desire to do more than they are able has led West to partner with others who can help, like ELI.  They are using both Church Planter Profiles and Cultivate  to discover and develop church planting leaders.
  • Have a Long View – When you talk with Ken Cooper about church planting he doesn’t fire up your passion with how many churches they are going to plant this year.  He tells you about how many people he is praying they will reach before he dies.  Church planting isn’t their strategy du jour.  Church planting is their mission and their passion.

What if, like West, your church became a church planting church?

To learn more about West E Free church planting visit


We’re Hiring! Missional Network Catalyst

Gateway Church in Austin and the Emerging Leadership Initiative are looking for a missional Global Network Catalyst.

Four years ago, Brian and Amy sat in church doing nothing because they were too new and “messy.” Today, with coaching and training, they lead 100 volunteers every week, serving food to 800 working poor families in extended stay motels. They also host a Sunday Service where 100 people, unwelcome in most churches, are exploring faith, and they are discipling people to lead groups in their motels.

We are seeing these Networks emerge around the globe in Knoxville, New York, Massachusetts, Australia, and Norway.

We need a missional leader to help catalyze this movement of Networks, raising the church out of the culture, all around the globe!

We are looking for:

  1. A Disciple Maker:  You planted a church or started a ministry that grew by making disciples.
  2. An Innovator.  You dream about trying something new.
  3. A Relator.  You make connections easily and persistently build on them.
  4. A Developer.  You turn ordinary people into extraordinary leaders.
  5. A Communicator. You speak and write clearly, consistently and concisely.

Want to know more?  Send an email to and we will send you more details on the position, and how you can apply.

3 Keys to Developing Others

This week we have some great insights from pastor John Burke on how to be an effective people developer. You can read more of John’s thoughts at

“You have a teaching gift, bro.”  “If I do, God made a mistake because I don’t do public speaking.”  That was my exact response to Dave White as a 24-year-old working in the marketplace. Dave was a people developer. He intentionally looked to see how people around him were gifted, or where they needed growth, and then he encouraged them to develop in that area.  If they were willing, he got involved coaching them along the way.

Dave did three things every people-developer does well:

  • Listen – He listened to determine what areas a person could grow in. What gifts need developing? What places does this person seem stuck? Dave listened to me talk about things I was learning, and noticed how excited I got about the thingsI learned.
  • Assess – He assessed and prayed for what God appeared to be doing in that person’s life. What might next steps be to help this person develop? Dave assessed that I had a dormant teaching gift, because I loved to learn and give away what I was learning (often a sign of a teaching gift). But that gift was undeveloped because of my fear of public speaking. He assessed correctly that God wanted it developed.
  • Prescribe – This is the bold step of challenging a person to grow. It must come with lots of prayer to make sure this is God’s agenda and not your agenda, then lots of encouragement, then a few, clear, simple steps to take.

So Dave prescribed a first step of development, “Teach a college workshop on spiritual growth with me. We’ll do it together.” “No, I don’t do public speaking,” was my persistent reply for about a month. That’s where encouragement, prayer, and persistence come in.  Sometimes spiritual strongholds like fear or busyness or self-centeredness require prayer and persistence. Dave kept encouraging me even as I kept saying, “No.”

One day while praying about something totally unrelated, I had a clear thought crash into my head, “When you resist Dave, you resist Me.” Realizing God was using Dave to challenge me to trust Him, I changed my mind and taught the college group.

Dave followed a simple developmental paradigm. We prepared together, and he gave me a small part that I could succeed at doing. I felt like I failed nonetheless, but he gave lots of encouragement. He also challenged me to do it again, and gave me one thing to work on. This continued for about a semester until he finally said, “You’re ready. I want you to speak to 200 people in my place.”  I was horribly terrified, but actually gaining some confidence that if I kept growing, maybe this was a gift God could use.

You might never know the multiplied impact of taking time to spiritually develop another person, but one day God will show you how His Kingdom came life-by-life to earth.  Don’t miss the opportunity to partner with Him in His great people-development enterprise.