Monday, September 22, 2008

A Different Spirit

I recently had the opportunity to hear Steve Berger, a lead pastor from Leipers Fork, Tennesee. He talked about how churches and pastors need to have guts in the 21st century and I immediately saw the correlation for us as we plant Encounter.

Referring to Caleb in Numbers 14, God says "He has a different spirit; he follows me passionately." But this is important, because God continues to repeat it up to 6 times.

Caleb followed God fully, passionately. He had a different spirit about him.

In Numbers 13-14, it is the account of the Israelites coming upon the promised land. But as we know, most of the leaders sent in to survey the promised land while it was still inhabited by its native peoples — they were discouraged and convinced they couldn't take the land.

But God promised the land. And Caleb knew this. He quieted the people and reminded them, "we are well able to take the land." He believed God. Unlike the other leaders, he had a different spirit about him.

The others had a spirit of minimizing themselves and maximizing the enemy. They minimized their trust in God and maximized the challenge before them.

This directly relates to the challenge and risk set before us at Encounter. We need to believe in what God has placed before us — a city and region of people far from God who desperately need a growing relationship with Jesus.

Sure there is risk — there must be. Because God wants to put us in the position where if we don't rely on Him, we're going to fail. We must believe in the dream He has set before us — a church community where people will encounter Jesus Christ through intimacy with God, community with believers, and influence with outsiders. A community where people are led into growing, thriving, living relationships with Jesus.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

ARC Church Planting Roundtable

Thought I would let you know how the ARC Church Planters Roundtable went last week. Here are some reflections...
  • Colorado Springs is beautiful, even in the rain.
  • New Life Church is pretty awesome - great place for the roundtable.
  • Met Ross Parsley and Brady Boyd, New Life's new senior pastor. Boyd will be a great spiritual leader for the New Life family.
  • Met about 50 people who have a true passion for church planting.
  • Billy Hornsby introduced ARC as an organization dedicated to planting churches that look like Jesus - churches through which people can "encounter Jesus." No joke! Billy used the word "encounter" a number of times. Churches need to reflect the personality and attributes of Jesus - Did Billy read our Encounter Prospectus??!!!
  • I really resonate with ARC's passion — to plant life-giving churches.
  • Billy shared eight characteristics of life-giving churches:
  1. Empowering Leadership - Leadership empowers believers to follow God's plan.
  2. Gift-Oriented Ministry - Help believers identify and integrate their gifts.
  3. Passionate Spirituality - Faith lived out with commitment, fire, and enthusiasm.
  4. Functional Structures - Structures must help fulfill the purpose of the church. Cut the fluff.
  5. Inspiring Worship - Excellent worship that inspires people.
  6. Holistic Small Groups - Encourage groups where people can find intimate community, practical help, and intensive spiritual interaction.
  7. Need-oriented Evangelism - Address the questions and concerns of non-Christians.
  8. Loving Relationships - Form strong and genuine trust relationships.
I feel challenged by our next steps with ARC. A lot more was shared at the roundtable, including all the different ways they help and come alongside church planters. If you want to know more, just contact us and we'll talk. But here are the basic facts:
  1. To continue, we must submit an application - if approved, we must attend a church planter assessment in Atlanta, Georgia. The cost of the assessment is small, but the travel expenses will be difficult. I estimate it will cost nearly $2,100 to travel and stay there for the assessment. Of course, it could be cheaper if we could stay with someone, find some transportation there, or receive a donation of frequent flier miles.
  2. We must also secure a "sponsor" church to come alongside us. This sponsor church must believe in our vision enough to vouch for us financially. That means that although ARC will match all the funds we raise dollar-for-dollar (up to $30,000) - if the church plant falls through, the "sponsor" church will repay ARC for all funds provided.
We would like to pursue this partnership with ARC, but we're going to need some help. For now, we're praying for God's direction and working in this situation. If God is moving you to help with any of this, please let us know.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Steps Toward Partnership

Because of your help, we are going to Colorado Springs this week to attend the ARC Church Planters Roundtable (CPR) at New Life Church.

I mentioned the Association of Related Churches (ARC) on the Encounter website as one possible Encounter partner. ARC comes highly recommended by several people I've talked to recently as well as Craig Groeschel of (see his post here).

Just to let you know, ARC seeks to provide encouragement and coaching that includes close mentoring relationships and financial resources for new church planters. There are four components in everything they do - and those four components are what interested us in ARC.
  1. They Believe in a Big Start – They want to help us build up to a big start. They coach planters how to build a team, raise funds, develop a worship team and children's ministry, and open our doors with excellence and momentum. If we can start strong, we have a greater chance of growing strong.
  2. They are Focused on Reaching the Unchurched — They are focused on finding ways to cross the cultural wall and reach the lost. ARC is all about helping build churches that are culturally relevant with passionate worship, practical Bible-based teaching and dynamic family ministries.
  3. They Build Friendships and Do Life Together — They believe friendships and relationships are critical for being successful in life and ministry. As ARC churches expand around the country, there is a group of people that can help us, coach us, and be there for us as we plant Encounter in Helena.
  4. They Offer a Network of Practical Resources — ARC offers help on many levels including conferences & seminars, the ARC Intranet (resources for sermon series ideas, outlines, PowerPoint and media), Bible training, internships, missions opportunities, and much more.
This week, we'll be learning more about ARC, and they will be learning more about us. If it is God's will, we may be joining with them to plant Encounter as a life-giving church community in Helena. Please pray for our travel and for the kids as they stay here in Helena.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Start of Something New

We wanted to update you on what's been going on. Since December, we've felt seriously nudged by God to get involved with a church plant (start a new church). More specifically, I've felt the desire to reach out to people that "traditional" churches are not effective at reaching - what I call "this generation" and "those who are far from God." Not knowing how this might take place, we've been praying and waiting for God to show us more.

The "more" came into clarity when we came into contact with representatives of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. Some of you may know of the lead pastor there, Andy Stanley. While recently being listed as the third most influential church in America, North Point is a dynamic community near Atlanta that has proven effective at reaching this generation and leading them into a growing relationship with Jesus. That's our desire, too!

Recently, North Point has ramped up their initiative to launch "strategic partnership" churches throughout the country - and we have been talking about partnering with them as a Lead Pastor to start such a church. We are just in the beginning stages of this process, but need your prayer, support, and feedback.

We would love to discuss with each of you personally to tell you more, answer questions, and share concerns. For now, we've attached our vision for this church plant (pdf), which we are calling "Encounter". Please look it over to see how God might be using you to be a part of what He's doing in Helena.

Please pray for us and this process. Pray that we would have the boldness and clarity to effectively communicate the vision of Encounter. Please pray for direction and guidance as we seek to partner with North Point Ministries.

We ask that you pray for people, even yourself, to consider God's call to be a part of Encounter as either a founding member or support partner. And please pray that God would prepare the people of Helena, especially those who are far from God, for a new community like Encounter - and that we would be effective at leading them into a growing relationship with Jesus.

Thank you in advance. For those of you who are not here in Helena with us, we miss you guys.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Stirring Deep Within My Heart

Please excuse this long post, but I want to share with you something that has been on my heart.

For the past year, I feel that God has been moving me to take a risk on a passion that He’s planted deep within me. Not knowing what this risk might entail, Andrea and I have been praying and patiently waiting for God to show us more.

Some of that “more” has involved what Bill Hybels talks about in his book Holy Discontent. Hybels says that God places within us the ability to see “broken things” in areas that we are passionate about. God is not calling us to complain or fret over these “broken things,” but to let them serve as fuel for action based on His leading.

Having not grown up in the church, I have the ability to see what we do in ministry from the un-churched person’s point of view. I see the ways that our churches struggle to connect and share the life-giving message of Jesus with people who, for the most part, see church as irrelevant. I have also seen the way the church has had difficulty speaking into the lives of our young people. Essentially, our churches are effective at reaching certain groups of people, but with those I have the greatest heart for — our effectiveness is “broken.”

God has been calling me to step out and attend to this “broken” thing.

More specifically, God has given me the vision and desire to reach out to people that “traditional” churches in Helena are not effective at reaching; what I call “this generation” and “those who are far from God.” I desperately resonate and identify with those who are not familiar with or who do not connect with traditional church models — who see traditional church as lacking or irrelevant at best, and repelling at worst.

Through many small steps, Andrea and I have seen God directing and preparing us to follow His lead. And after much prayer and seeking His guidance, we feel strongly led to plant a new church here in Helena – for young people and for those who are far from God. We definitely know this is God's working because, frankly, a lot of things would be easier if we remained where we are comfortable.

We have been greatly blessed by serving in worship at Hannaford and feel we have a promising future there. We have made many friends and in many ways have just begun to build this ministry. Several times we have asked God why He has thrown us this “curve ball.” We’ve asked, “why prepare us in worship ministry for so many years and then ask us to change directions?”

Rick Warren says that “neither past nor future generations can serve God’s purpose in this generation.” What we’ve realized is that God has been preparing us for such a time as this. This is not so much a new direction, but a wider emphasis. Now God is asking me to encourage people to worship God not just with song, but with their whole lives.

As we have explored this calling, we’ve learned that planting a church would also be easier somewhere else other than Helena. Some church planting groups would be much more likely to foot the bill for this whole venture if we planted in a larger metro area like Southern California, Reno, or maybe even Billings.

But that is not where God has shown us a great need for a new church community to connect with the younger generation and those far from God. God is not calling us to plant where it is easy, but where there is a need, and specifically where I have a heart for the lost.

I often quote Craig Groeschel in saying "In order to reach people that no one is reaching, you have to do something that no one is doing." That is exactly what Andrea and I have been given a vision to do. We feel like this is such a large endeavor, we can't possible do it. And that really is the best situation to be in — one where you know you will fail UNLESS God makes it happen.

As God brought us closer to the realization of where He is leading us, we began to ask Him how. There have been a great many resources we have studied in coming to this point, but feel strongly that God’s direction right now is a direct outgrowth of Hannaford. It is God’s desire to see His people working together to enlarge His Kingdom.

We want to hear from and speak personally with as many of you as possible. And in that, we also know that God has been preparing some of your hearts as well. So we are looking for like-minded individuals to help us plant a church for young people in Helena.

To know more about the vision that God has given us, and to know more about our journey so far, we invite you to check out and possibly subscribe to our new blog over at If you feel led to partner with us in prayer or as someone who wants to help make this happen, please let us know immediately.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share this stirring that God has placed in my heart.