Category Archives: Church Planting

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


Laughter Escapes

We received this video from Toni Mello, a church planter from Brazil who is part of ELI’s Cultivate Church Planter training. And, by the way, stay tuned for some exciting news about Cultivate, coming in the next few weeks…


The project Escapa Riso (Laughter Escapes) takes the gospel to the pediatric ward of a big city hospital through creative evangelism. It is an initiative of the Igreja da Cidade (City Church) in Salvador – Brazil. The team consists of counselors and clowns making jokes, doing magic tricks, and speaking of the love of Jesus in a manner sensitive to the reality of suffering of those children and parents.
Everything came from the desire to be missionally active, in a way compatible with the possibilities of  a small church plant. Since then, the team has continued to grow and now has developed training and workshops, and we have been invited to go to other hospitals.


Creating a Culture of Story

“When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, ‘You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people—

Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.’”
(Mark 4:10-12 from The Message)


Raising up the church out of the culture means helping people who are not yet the church become all God intended them to be.  They are the people, according to Peterson’s translation, “who can’t see it yet.”  How do you “create readiness”  or “nudge them toward receptive insight?”  I love how he says this, “everything comes in stories.

Here a few ideas for creating a culture of story in your new church:


Value stories enough to capture them.  In the early days of a church plant there are so many things going on that great stories get lost.  It’s like the great vacation that was so full of fun and memories that you forgot to take pictures.

  • Keep a journal
  • When someone tells you a story, ask them to send it in an email
  • Almost every phone has video camera, record people telling their stories

Build stories into all your communication.  We have more communication channels than ever.  Most of what get’s distributed is pointless and powerless. Leverage all of your communication channels to tell stories.

  • Include stories in newsletters whether they are print or electronic
  • Capture stories on video, post them to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
  • Make it a goal to Include storytelling in every personal conversation
  • Use your gathering to highlight stories that shape culture and inspire action

Repeat the stories that build your values.  The stories you tell until others repeat them are the ones that will shape your culture.  Don’t let a story shape your culture just because it’s cool, or powerful or inspiring.  Choose the stories that clearly embody your values and then tell them as often as you can.


Remember that stories will communicate God’s grace truth and love more powerfully than your best exposition.    Jesus could have exposited Ezekiel 37. Instead he told the stories of the lost coin, lost sheep and lost son.  And told his disciples “to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories.”

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.