Category Archives: Church Planting

Missional Missteps: 3 Reasons No One Can Hear You

Our guest post is from Chris Morton, good friend of ELI. You can read more from Chris’ series on Missional Missteps here.

“…pray for the nations…”
“…family values….”
“…substitutionary atonement…”
“…God spoke to my heart…”
“…separate and apart from the Lord’s Supper…”
“…let your Spirit fill this place…”
“…four point, double predestination…”
“…racial reconciliation…”
“…false metanarrative…”


The list could go on and on. Every Sunday, in Churches across the world, we listen to professionals explain theology to us. With years of training, they are paid to be experts, which means precisely knowing the ins and outs of your topic. Doctors know latin words for diseases. Computer scientists know about code. Interior designers know names for colors that others can’t even differentiate. Professional Christians use theological terminology. It’s what makes them professionals.


Add to that the language created by 500 years of Christian tribalism. When Luther broke off the Catholic church he taught about justification by grace. When the Anabaptists broke off they started formulating their peace teachings. Calvin’s followers, in an attempt to differentiate themselves from Arminius, articulated the five points of Calvinism. The results today can be heard in people’s language. Neo-reformed types use the word “gospel” a lot. Charismatics love to talk about “the nations.” Social justice types have used phrases like “racial reconciliation.”


We use these terms because they’re important. Nuanced language is neccessary for discussing nuanced theology. Denominational phraseology helps express hard won, distinctive values. This is good and important, but for a missional practitioner, it is also dangerous. Here are three reasons why:


  • It means nothing to the secularist who has no theological training.
  • For the dechurched, it’s a path to bringing back old, painful memories.
  • It sends a message that you are only interested in talking to people who are already like you.


In a post Christian world, insider terminology is the equivalent of a street corner preacher in Mexico speaking in English. It tells your audience, “I have nothing to say to you.”


So how do you avoid this missional misstep? You do you what the gospel has always done. As Jesus was translated into flesh, the gospel was translated from Aramaic to Greek to Latin, to almost every language on earth. We have to do the same everyday: remember to whom we’ve been sent, and find new ways to translate the gospel for them every day.


The Two Things You HAVE to Do to Reach People

If you’re a church leader and you want your church to reach the unchurched, the de-churched, the disconnected, there are two things you HAVE to do.  These two ways of doing ministry CANNOT be compromised.  If you do just these two things, you will see an increased effectiveness in reaching people that will be visible to your entire congregation.

1.  YOU have to care about the unchurched yourself.  You have to be praying for people who don’t know Jesus.  You have to have relationships with people who don’t know Jesus.  You need to know your neighbors, you need to know people your kids are connected to.  If you want your church to reach out to people who are disconnected from Jesus, you have to care for people who are disconnected from Jesus.  Not because they will help your church be bigger, but because you so desperately want to see people experience life and eternity with God.

2.  You have to speak in a way that unchurched and de-churched people can understand.  There is so much here, but if you can just transition in this area, it will radically change your Sunday dynamic.  You CAN’T assume any Biblical understanding. The minute you start using “insider” language, it tells the “outsider” that this isn’t a place for them.  This is generally really difficult for people to change, because we don’t even realize we’re doing it.  What does it look like?  ”You all know the story of Jonah . . .”, “We’re in the book of Romans, so if you can open up to the 8th chapter” (is that in the bible?  I didn’t bring my Bible!  where is it?  I’m going to look stupid trying to find it.)

If you’re a pastor, you HAVE to be connected to people who are seeking, questioning, skeptical – it will radically TRANSFORM your preaching, if you will keep that person in mind as you prepare your message.  Will your message confuse them?  Will they understand that concept?  Is there something else I need to explain?  Do I need to help them understand who Romans was written to and why?  It takes extra work, but it lets the skeptical, the seeker, to know that they are welcome in your service.  You’re treating them with respect, and helping them navigate the Bible and their church experience.

If you can just begin to live out these two principles, it will radically change how you see ministry and your effectiveness in reaching people far from God.

Matt’s House

Here is a great story of perseverance in prayer, and sudden provision! ELI asked Rob Benson, of Matt’s House in Maryland, to give us the details.
One of our prayers for Matt’s House when we launched, was that God would guide us to the needs He wanted us to meet.  Allison and several others with a passion to reach young moms established a young mom’s support group, in partnership with Metro-Maryland Youth for Christ.


Through this experience, Allison began to volunteer with the Center for Pregnancy Concerns in Baltimore, a center that has been around for over 35 years and provides excellent free services to woman facing unplanned pregnancies.  She has been volunteering for over 2 years and has received countless hours of training as a peer to peer counselor.  The center provides sonograms for expectant moms, peer to peer counseling, health screenings with a nurse, and material assistance:  baby clothing, maternity clothes, baby formula and food, diapers, cribs, blankets, and more – all for free. They also provide parenting classes, and help moms connect to government service providers.


We at Matt’s House believe that this is a direction that God has been calling us, so we have been working toward and praying for a partnership with CPC.  I was invited to join the Advisory Board last year and this year was asked to join the Board of Directors. After much prayer and dialogue, the Board of Directors invited Matt’s House into a partnership to open a Pregnancy Center in Arbutus, providing services to an underserved area in and around Baltimore.


On Friday, April 6,  a letter was sent out to CPC supporters to raise the $20,000 necessary to launch and fund the Arbutus Center through the first year.  Monday, April 9, Carol Clews, the Executive Director for CPC, received a phone call from a supporter for a Matching gift of $10,000 to go toward opening the new center.  On Tuesday, April 10, a check arrived in the mail for $10,000, so God raised $20,000 in 2 days!


When Allison sent out the good news about the $10,000 matching gift via email, she received a multitude of responses, and 17 of those responses were from individuals who want to either financially support the new center or  personally volunteer.


Later, Allison when was introduced to the 80 person advisory board of the CPC as the new center coordinator, they also announced that another $12,000 had come in, making the total $32,000 for the new center!


We look forward to renovating our storefront space, the Community Connection Center, so that it can now serve as a Crisis Pregnancy Center.  Our hope is to open the doors to the new CPC @ Matt’s House this summer!


This is an answer to our prayer that our hearts would break for the broken hearted, and our lives and ministry would adapt to meet their needs. Our prayer is to give them a tangible demonstration of God’s love – and that is what this new center will do.



The 9 Deadly Sins of Startup Churches

I’ve been reading startup literature recently which brought my attention to Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, author, and teacher of all things startup.  He posted a blog today on the 9 Deadliest Start-up Sins.  Each is a temptation for Church Planters to avoid.


1. Assuming you know what the customer wants

Contrary to your personal conviction, there are not thousands of people in your chosen location just waiting to come hear you speak. In fact, recent research suggests the thing you should count on is not enthusiasm for your new church but apathy.


2. The “I know what features to build” flaw

Since you know what people want, you also know what to provide.  Ed Stetzer has great advice here:

“Don’t plant or pastor a church in your head. Plant or pastor a church in your community. That’s where the Gospel transforms real people who are living real lives. Know and live in your culture, not someone else’s. Don’t just bring a model, bring the Gospel. Lead a church; don’t lead a plan.”


3. Focusing on the launch date

Focus on a launch date shifts attention away from the more important tasks of church planting – and creates a false view of success when the launch is achieved.


4. Emphasizing execution instead of testing, learning, and iteration

Execution is needed, but only if and when you know the right things to do.  The good news doesn’t change.  Where, when, how and to whom you communicate it, will.   Start with learning the right things to do.


5. Writing a business plan that doesn’t allow for trial and error

This doesn’t mean you should go without a plan.  (That should probably be the 10th deadly sin). Your plan needs what someone recently described to me as “structured flexibility.” Why?  At some point in the process your plan will not work.  Executing the plan better won’t work.  You must learn and adapt.  The better and faster you do that, the sooner you will find effective ways to reach more people and make better disciples.


6. Confusing traditional job titles with a startup’s needs

Who are the key people on your church planting team?  Worship Leader? Children’s Director? Small Group Director?  That assumes your community needs high quality music, children’s programs and small groups.  What if what your community needs instead is a Recovery Director,  Business Liaison, or Sports Coordinator?


7. Executing on a sales and marketing plan

Buy billboards.  Friend people on Facebook.  Mail postcards. Record radio spots.  All potentially valuable – only after you know with whom you are communicating, and why they might listen to you.


8. Prematurely scaling your company based on a presumption of success

There are far more church planters bootstrapping than spending large budgets.  Even bootstrappers can be tempted to overextend when a crowd shows up for their launch.  A bigger meeting place and more staff can be essential to sustaining healthy growth.  They can also drown a new church in bills they can’t pay when commitments have been made prematurely.


9. Management by crisis, which leads to a death spiral

Any experience church planter will tell you, the crisis will come.  The question is, how will you handle them?  Will you let each new crisis shift your focus and re-shape your vision? or will you faithfully love and serve people with a message of hope until God reveals a path to fruitfulness?


As a church planter, are you prepared to navigate the pitfalls of models and plans and faithfully implement a process of discovering and creating the church God would use to reach the people and place he has called you?