Tag Archives: Church Planting

Church and the Fellowship of the Ring – part 2

fellowship montainsIn my last post I talked a bit about how the church is akin to Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. Both groups include folks of different races and cultures that do not always get along. Yet throughout it all, we need each other.

Today I would like to explore a bit more about the message the Fellowship spread why engaged on their journey.

In the books, the nine members of the Fellowship at the same mission: take the One Ring to the Mountain of Doom and destroy it. Along the way, they experienced betrayal, pain and death in addition to love, honor, self-sacrifice and companionship.

At one point in the journey, the Fellowship is split into three smaller groups with two others members having died before the split. While painful, it is noteworthy that each of the smaller groups retained a focus on the original mission. Just because they weren’t together in one big group didn’t mean that they didn’t care about the other groups or that they had given up on their goal.

Rather the act of split up into smaller groups, why originally a horrible things, helped accomplish something that wouldn’t have been possible had they stayed together. What was it, you may ask, that was accomplished by splitting up?


In splitting up, each group was able to connect with different people in Middle Earth and spread the vision of destroying the One Ring. Some groups were able to recruit entire nations with thousands of people to the cause while others were only able to recruit a few people. Yet each act of multiplication, when seen from a distance, was crucial in accomplishing the mission to which they were tasked.

The church is like that.

There are small churches of three or four people meeting in a pub just as there are large megachurches of thousands of people meeting in one venue. While these different groups look very, very different, they all are committed to the same mission – and are able to share the message of the King to people of different races, social position, gender, cultures, etc.

The one thing that the Fellowship did NOT do – and the one thing that the church must also NOT do – is keep silent and stop multiplying.

The moment we stop sharing the message of the King is the moment we have given up on the mission of the King – which is to destroy sin, death, and evil while usher in a new way of living without pain, sorrow, and tears. To bow our knees to King Jesus is to embark on a mission with him to share his love with all of creation (human and non-human). The way we live out this mission may look different, but that’s okay. We aren’t supposed to all look and act alike.

After all, we are a fellowship of Hobbits, Dúnedain, Dwarves, Elves, Maiar, and Human.

Two church planting related posts by some Vineyard bloggers

jason clarkThought I would share a few church planting related blog posts by some Vineyard folks:

Post #1: “Leading and managing change: lessons from a church planter #1”  by Jason Clark

Author bio: Jason is the pastor of the Sutton Vineyard in London, UK (planted in 1997) and serve as Area Leader. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in theology and leadership, and is currently completing PhD research on the church and culture.

Post summary: Jason outlines the five key leadership areas that he realizes that he has to face up to and grow in if his church is to move forward with God. The five areas are: Vision, Skills, Character, Counting the Cost, and Change.

My thoughts: I love Jason’s honesty and openness about having to change and grow as a leader in order to take the church to the place that God wants it to go. His statement, “what had gotten me here wouldn’t get me there”, is very telling and resonates with me as I transition out of the senior pastorship and into a new currently-undefined role within the local church. To always be growing, always going deeper with Jesus…that is life and it is hard.

dave jacobsPost #2: “If I Planted A Church Again, I Would… Pt. 1” by Dave Jacobs

Author Bio: Dave is a church coach and consultant based in Southwest Oregon. Before that he was a church planter and Vineyard area leader in California. (Personal note: Dave coached me for six weeks a few years ago and was very, very helpful!)

Post summary: Over the years Dave came up with a list of 37 changes he would make if he ever planted another church (he started three of them). Enough folks have asked him about this list that he decided to publish the list in small chucks. The link above takes you to the first six items on the list. The other 31 will be coming out over the next few weeks.

My thoughts: I’m not too sure about a few things on Dave’s list….granted, I know that he has a ton more experience and time pastoring then I do…yet, comment like the following make me nervous:

“I would try to be a humble, benevolent dictator, surrounded by a few people not afraid to get in my face and be honest with me.”

I think I know what he is getting at in that in starting a new church it is good to have someone calling the shots…however, I have seen a rise in team leadership that I feel is healthier for both the church body and the pastor/leadership team. For example, if one is bivocational (which Dave lists as a good thing in point number 2) then being a “humble, benevolent dictator” means long hours and TONS of stress. To me personally, I would rather go with a co-pastor/team-leader structure and try to lower the stress load. =/

What do you think about these two articles?

A Whirlwind Week

This past week has been a flurry of meetings, emails, phone calls and reports. With the weekend at hand, I’m looking forward to some downtime hanging out with the family and relaxing… granted, Sunday is just around the corner, meaning that I better figure out what shape this week’s sermon is going to take…

In the meantime, I wanted to post some pictures of my recent trip last weekend to New Jersey and Manhattan. While the goal and focus of the trip was to discuss ways to help churches engage in cross-cultural church planting (both domestically and international), my host, Craig Simonian, was kind enough to take me into Manhattan for a trip of a life time.

time square
Time Square with Craig
The famous Blue M&M of Robbie Dawkins fame (if you have never heard the story, read his book)
The famous Blue M&M of Robby Dawkins fame (if you have never heard the story, read his book)
Walking into Center Park with Craig
Walking into Center Park with Craig
rockefeller center
Rockefeller Center
Vineyard Community Church in Morris Plains, NJ
Vineyard Community Church in Morris Plains, NJ
Awesome hang out space complete with coffee and bagels!
Garry Ingraham, Executive Director at Love & Truth Network, delivered a great sermon on how we are made in the image of God for more than simply surviving. Two teenage gals decided to follow Jesus during the ministry time – after being prayed for by a few of their Jesus-freak peers.

Colossians: Introduction


Sermon notes for PRV’s new study through Colossians. Audio file can be found here.


  • Today (originally taught on January 5, 2014) we are starting a new series
  • Working through the book of Colossians
  • This book has popped up several times over the past month or so,
  • Looks to be in line where God is taken us


  • The theme, or overall message, of the book is
    • “Christ is Lord over all creation, including the invisible realm. He has secured redemption for his people, enabling them to participate with him in his death, resurrection, and fullness.”
    • Colossians is one of the most Jesus centered books of Paul’s
    • Focused on teaching the believers at Colossae that Jesus is the King and ruler of every area of their lives
    • Paul was also encouraging them to participate with Jesus
      • Embracing the good news that we have died with Jesus and been resurrected into a new life through Him
      • Now we can join with Jesus in changing the world for His sake
      • This, to me, fits with us in our journey with  Jesus
      • It is easy to forget that we are new beings through the power of Jesus’  blood
        • When we  bowed our knees to Jesus and gave our lives to  Him, the old stuff of the past was wiped away
        •  We are now new
        • With a new mind, heart, passion and mission
        • With a new year upon us, we need to stand  strong in this reality
        • We also need to embrace the part in Jesus’ mission that each of us have
        • We were not saved – set free from the evil one’s chains simply to live a good life
        • We were called – are called – to work with Jesus in changing the world
          • Setting things right
          • Crying with people, rejoicing with others
          •  Telling folks about the good news of God’s active and dynamic rule and reign.

Public Reading

  • Colossians 1:1-14

Continue reading Colossians: Introduction

Vineyard Kenya: The 15th Association of Vineyard Churches

Vineyard USA just sent out their monthly newsletter with some great articles highlighting some of the things God is doing in Kenya, Africa. Apparently, a few weeks ago the churches in Kenya were released as their own Association of Vineyard Churches (AVC) – meaning that Vineyard churches in that country are now self-governing, self-promoting and self-funded. (yay!!!)

The first article talks a bit about the formation of the Vineyard movement in Kenya and how things got started there:

“Really, it started off with a small prayer group of women near Nairobi that mainly focused on praying for other women who had come to faith for different reasons. They were praying for their husbands and for their own spiritual renewal. One of the key leaders of the group was from Australia; she and her husband returned to Australia for a visit and ended up going to a conference about the Vineyard in Perth. When they returned to Kenya, they brought the Vineyard materials and teachings with them, and that one small group there ended up being the formation of the first Vineyard church.”

From there, the Lord connected them with the the South Africa Vineyard AVC (who ended up sending them a pastor missionary early on) and the Vineyard USA (via an Vineyard missionary working with a NGO in Kenya). The rest they say is history.

The second article is by Mark Fields, Vineyard USA Missions Task Force Director, who talks a bit about Noah Gitau who Jesus choose to lead the new AVC:

“Then he [Noah] told me a story of something that happened while he was working for the government. He was wrongly identified as a criminal that had earned a shoot-on-sight order. Police cars came in, surrounded his car, pulled out their guns and opened fire. There were 47 bullet holes in his car, not counting the windows, which were also shot out. But Noah got out of the car and walked away untouched. The police were scared to death of being around him, because there’s no question that you can survive 47 bullet holes in your car and walk away unscathed unless something supernatural has happened.

“Noah told me story after story. I walked away realizing that God was at work in Kenya and intended to build the Vineyard there long before Bubba Justice or the Hanawalts from Evanston or the South Africans or anyone else showed up. God was at work there, preparing Noah, protecting him for that day and for what the future holds.”

Mark also shares a bit about his heart to see 10,000 Vineyard churches started around the world in the next ten years. A goal that has been embraced by the Vineyard leaders in Brazil:

“While I [Mark] was in Brazil in May, I shared about the idea of learning to plant thousands of churches. Two of the Vineyard leaders in Brazil came up to me and said, ‘We believe we can plant 1,000 of those churches here. We want to buy into this.’”

God is definitely on the move around the world – and we get to play a part! How cool is that?! 😀

Church Planting: An Interview With Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer has a long and very impressive resume full of planting, revitalizing and pastoring churches across the USA. He has also taught and mentored tons of pastors over the years as well as spend many a hour researching and surveying in state of the local church. Currently he is the President of LifeWay Research and a member of the International Mission Board’s Church Services Team.

Accordingly, his comments on church planting in North America have some weight… as in, they are worth listening too and thinking about. Which is why I recommend reading this article detailing a recent interview with Vineyard USA.

To help spur you on in reading the interview, I have posted some quotes from Ed along with some of my thoughts below.

Reflections on the Church Planting Scene in North America

“I think church planting is exploding. But I think it’s also important to note that the focus of many of these movements, and even the methods that they have used, have been influenced by the gifts that the Vineyard gave us all: a heart for church planting, new network approaches and strategies, and a passion for reaching the lost.”

Yeah…I couldn’t pass up quoting this piece as it is nice to see such favorable press for one’s tribe. Granted, Ed is talking to the Vineyard USA so it could be a simple ‘don’t bite the hand that is feeding you’ statement…but I seriously doubt that as Ed, who is not part of the Vineyard, doesn’t have a motivation to suck up to the Vineyard. If he didn’t like us, he could simply say so and walk away.

Therefore, the fact that he, as a noted missiologist and church researcher, publicly acknowledged the influence that the Vineyard has had on the wider church is amazing! I personally think that one of the reasons the Vineyard, which at 554 churches in the USA is not a large denomination, has had such a large voice in the greater church is because of our love for the whole church. From the very beginning, John Wimber and all the braze souls who started the Vineyard constantly gave way the gifts the Lord in trusted to them to the wider body. It has never been just about the Vineyard; it has been loving Jesus and His Bride (i.e. the WHOLE church).

What Opportunities Would You Say The Vineyard Has Now?

“I think the opportunity here is, will the Vineyard rediscover its roots without feeling it necessary to relive its past? I think the roots of the Vineyard are birthed in a passion for the kingdom of God, church planting and evangelistic engagement, and yes, societal concern. And I think many would say that focus has been diminished and might have a desire to go back to the glory days…. So the underlying principles that made the Vineyard an explosive movement could be rediscovered, but perhaps some of the methodological practices would not be as helpful in the future.”

I think these comments by Ed are interesting to say the least. They seem to echo the words of warning given to the Vineyard years ago from Bill Jackson in his 1999 book “The Search for the Radical Middle” and Bert Waggoner in his address at the 2008 Northwest Leaders Gathering. The warning primarily being that we are to continue to follow Jesus wherever he takes us while being careful not to fall into a cycle of routine (i.e. “we do this because it’s what Vineyards do” vs “we do this because it is what God is doing at this time and place.”).

Continue reading Church Planting: An Interview With Ed Stetzer

A Vision of the Future – Thoughts On Church Planting From Michael Gatlin

Earlier this week the Vineyard USA send out a newsletter highlighting our committed to plant 750 new churches within the next ten years. One of the articles linked to from the email was from the leader of the Vineyard USA Church Planting Task Force, Michael Gatlin, detailing his vision and passion for planting new churches.

I don’t have time to fully comment on the article…but I do want to pull out a few items real quick. The first thing is that I LOVE Michael’s heart for the local church as captured in this quote:

“I believe in the local church, even though I’ve been hurt in the local church. Who hasn’t? But I honestly believe that in the end, why you’re here is because despite its problems, the local church really is the best thing going on our planet. It’s the followers of Jesus joined together in community, living out what he’s called us to do in our neighborhoods and in our towns.”

Secondly, it’s kind of sad that out of the 554 Vineyard churches in the USA, only 99 of them have committed to sending out at least one church plant over the next ten year. That means that 82% of our churches are not on board with this calling… 🙁

I know that church planting is hard and scary…yet, come on folks, let’s go! Let us take the message of Jesus into all the unreached places of the USA and the world for that matter. Let us raise up and release people to follow the path of Jesus into the scary unknown parts of life. Let us not try to hang on to folks, but send them out!  (and yes, the PRV church is committed to sending out a church plant; granted, we signed up after this article was written, so make that 100 churches!)

Thirdly, towards the end of the article Michael summarizes the four steps we talked about earlier this week. While it’s nothing ‘new’ per say, it was cool to hear the heart of the man who drafted the steps. 🙂

I definitely recommend reading the full article as it covers a lot of good ground!


Thoughts On The Vineyard Church Planting Steps Three and Four

This week have been talking about the Vineyard’s new four step church planting process. Yesterday we chatted about the first two steps (“Get To Know Us” and “Let Us Get To Know You”), meaning that we are going to cover the last two steps today: “Get Some Training” and “Get Out There and Plant.”

Step Three: Get Some Training

This is a very, very, very, very important step as God typically does not call the equipped, but equips the called. Or in different terms, folks who are normally called to plant churches typically don’t have a clue how to go about planting one.

To help with this dilemma the Vineyard USA Church Planting Task force has partnered with local Vineyard churches across the nation to provide the following resources:

  • Church Planting Weekend Intensives – This is a curriculum developed by the task force and taught by the local pastor every six months for two years. Topics covered included but are not limited to developing a team, getting and staying healthy as a lead planter, identifying and recruiting leaders.
  • Local Church Training Templates – As you probably picked up on by now, the Vineyard places a HUGE value on the local church as that is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Accordingly there is no better place to train a new church planter than inside the local church. Knowing, however, that not all churches have the experience in training up new church planters, the task force is developing templates for the sending pastor to follow.

Now why the task force website does not mention it, I personally think that prospective leaders should enroll in Vineyard Leadership Institute  (VLI) or Vineyard Bible Institute (VBI). The reason being is that both of these programs offer sound Bible training within the context of a local church, meaning that the prospective church planter can get graduate level Bible training without having to leave the day-to-day operations of a local church. As a graduate of VLI, I can say without a doubt that it was invaluable in my journey towards becoming a church planter and a pastor.

Continue reading Thoughts On The Vineyard Church Planting Steps Three and Four

Thoughts On The First Two Steps of Vineyard Church Planting

Yesterday we introduced the Vineyard’s new four step church planting process. Today, I would like to make a few comments on the first two steps: “Get To Know Us” and “Let Us Get To Know You.”  (and yes, I will be posts some thoughts on the last two steps tomorrow.)

Step 1: Get To Know Us

When I first read this step I was confused as to why the task force included. I mean, isn’t it obvious that if you want to plant a Vineyard church, you should already know and like the Vineyard?

However in thinking about it over the past 24-hours, it I’ve come to the conclusion that even though it may sound obvious, the reality is that the structure of Christianity in the USA lends itself to a non-relationship mentality. Add to this mentality a declining church attendance across most groups and a church culture to send everyone who has a desire to follow God to seminary (something, by the way, that while good, is NOT necessary for following Jesus!), and you get a surplus of ‘trained’ pastors and leaders with no congregation. These folks end up looking around outside of their particular group in an effort to find a job. Hence, step one – before you can get ‘hired’ by the Vineyard, you better get to know the Vineyard.

(I might add that within the Vineyard, you don’t get ‘hired’ in the normal sense of the word – as in the Vineyard national office does not pay you. They will help you, love you, train you, pray for you, cry with you, rejoice with you and hang out with you, but they do not pay you. No, planting a church within the Vineyard Movement is an act of love towards King Jesus and a passion to join Jesus in His mission to release people from the chains of evil, sin, and injustice.)

Step one also reflects the understanding that priorities and practices are caught, not taught. You can sit in a class room all day long – or in a church pew for that matter – and ‘learn’ all kinds of information, but unless you start practicing what you learn in the real-world among real-people (as opposed to theoretical people on paper), you will never really LEARN anything. Christianity is not a theory or doctrine or statements of faith; it is a way of life.

And as a way of life, each broader church group (think denominations) have their own quirks and oddities. Not everyone is comfortable in a Vineyard church just like not everyone is comfortable with the Methodist, Assembly of God, Catholic, or Lutheran tribes. This is why we need ALL the churches out there – each one shows a part of who God is. (and yes, I hold this view in tension with the desire for all Christian groups to be in full union with each other…)

As it has been said many, many times before: you don’t join the Vineyard, you find out that you are Vineyard. And when you do, I encourage you to jump into your local Vineyard church and find out what makes it tick. Catch the personality, quirks, priorities and practices of the Vineyard tribe – and then go out and plant a church to the glory of King Jesus!

Continue reading Thoughts On The First Two Steps of Vineyard Church Planting