Posts by: matt

Leadership failures in Church Planting (part 1)

It has taken me five years to write this. It has taken me five years to come to a place healthy enough to admit without qualification, I failed. Why, without qualification? From the very day after we closed De Soto Community Church, the first and only church I have planted; the first church I literally gave blood, sweat and tears to, I could admit failure, but only while including others in the existing “blame.” Yes, I had failed, but if this person hadn’t done (x), or if only I would have known (y), things would have and could have been different. As Joco Willinck and Leif Babin say in their incredibly true and helpful book, ‘Extreme Ownership’;

Any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.

I had failed. Worse than the reality of failure, is the failure to learn from failure. So, how did I fail? I submit the following reasons:

I didn’t pursue enough training

I am so thankful that the North American Mission Board (NAMB), has now created more pathways, and paid pathways, for internship and apprenticeship for those who feel a calling into church planting. When we began our planting journey, as I was completing my MDiv at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, there simply weren’t internships and apprenticeships available at the level they are now. Furthermore, I really didn’t know anyone in the city, planting anywhere in the city. For me to pursue more training would have meant a move to a different city for at least a year, and a need to raise support. While these realities are reasonable, and even incredibly necessary, the truth is I wasn’t disciplined enough, nor willing to walk this path. Not only did I suffer, but my church plant did as well.

I didn’t submit to a proper Assessment

As director of our local NAMB Assessment Center in Kansas City, I often find myself jealous of the high caliber of assessment our potential planters are now receiving. When we were planting, assessment was a requirement, yet there wasn’t a clear and defined expectation for what assessment should be. In my case, assessment amounted to meeting regularly with men I know and trusted, and receiving feedback from those men. While these men loved and cared for me, having a level of detachment from myself and my assessors, would have done wonders in pointing out areas of concern for our planting journey.

I didn’t count the cost effectively

While a certain amount of this is to be expected for anyone stepping into a new area of ministry, I allowed my hubris, pride and belief in my own ability and creativity overshadow the many challenges I saw on the horizon. Because of this, I didn’t plan strategically for how to confront the challenges I saw coming. We always fall to the level of our training, never rise to the level of our expectations.

I failed to raise enough support

When we began planting, we had no children and my wife was working a $12/hour job. Our needs were not very great and I simply wasn’t comfortable with the idea and mechanics of raising support. Therefore, I didn’t raise much support at all. While in the very beginning this didn’t seem like a large burden, it really hamstrung us down the road when it came to renting worship space, sending out material, and buying simple things like signage. While money isn’t the most important factor in determining the success of a church plant, the lack of resources can be detrimental, especially when needing to make a big “push” after creating momentum from ministry wins.

I didn’t recruit well

I typically took a Revelation 22:7 approach to recruitment, namely, “Whosoever will…come!” While we can laugh, or choose not to, at the very poor preacher joke; the reality is, this was a terrible way to call people into an act of spiritual warfare! Of those that initially came with me when we planted, not a single one remained when we closed the doors. Many of those on the initial team I recruited never moved to the community. This should have been an enormous warning sign! While not impossible to plant a church in a community you don’t live in, it limits the relational aspect of ministry exponentially.

The ones I did recruit, I didn’t train properly

Of the whosoever’s who came, I assumed a level of Biblical knowledge, missionary behavior, and ownership of vision they simply didn’t have. The failure of my team to be equipped in all of these ways is solely my responsibility. Since I didn’t adequately prepare and train them, it shouldn’t have surprised me when they failed, or consequently when we as a church failed.

Later  I’ll share the remainder of the leadership failures we experienced and some lessons learned along the way

Read Part 2 here

Read Part 3 here

The Move

IMG_20160602_174000We live in a great house; Midcentury modern, open floor plan, wood floors, lots of light, plenty of space. We live in a great house in a great neighborhood; brick paved streets, awesome neighbors, short walk to amazing coffee and Allen Fieldhouse, (Rock Chalk), and close to the highway. We live in a great house, in a great neighborhood, in a great town; Lawrence, Kansas; home to Kansas Basketball, incredible food, (like this, this and definitely this), (and this and this) great church plants, and dear, dear friends. And we are moving…

Three years ago, Jessica and I moved to Lawrence with the expectation that we would spend at least ten years in this house, in this neighborhood, with these friends, raising our two, almost three, and now four kids. We expected our family to live out the mission of God in our neighborhood, planting roots and seeking the good of our city together with other sojourners who wanted and were lead the same.

Yet, this life we were building in the pursuit of all this good, increasingly brought us out of alignment with each other, our kids, and ironically the mission we feel called to.

The thing about great old houses in great neighborhoods is they aren’t cheap and they are prone to breaking. The thing about having four kids is, they aren’t cheap and they also are prone to breaking. The way God built, is building our family requires a lot of bandwidth both housesalepicin terms of time and resources. Over time, the combination of a growing family (and growing medical bills, living expenses) and a house in constant need of updating and repair, lead us to a situation where me having secondary employment wasn’t just a nice bonus, but an absolute necessity financially.

Over the last four years, in addition to my work with the North American Mission Board as a Church Planting Catalyst, I have been incredibly blessed and humbled to serve four different churches in an interim pastor capacity. God has been incredibly gracious in each of those situations, both to myself and the churches we were involved with. In each, God has brought growth and healing for myself and the churches involved and each stop has allowed us to stay afloat financially. Yet, in the intervening months when I wasn’t serving a local church as interim, our family fell off a cliff financially. This cycle has repeated itself yearly over the last four years and has combined to place us under a mountain of debt and stress. Additionally, and more importantly, for the majority of the last four years, our family has worshipped in different locations on Sunday mornings, as some churches have been at a considerable distance to travel with four young children and I have missed precious time at home when local church responsibilities have required my presence.

For me to continue leading my family in worship with them, as well as spend the time I desire with each of them as they grow, things had to change. If you remember, here; Jessica and I shared an expression of the Mission God has called our family to and for us to complete that mission requires time; time from and with both of us. In short, our current life was increasingly out of alignment with the goal and mission of our family.

At the end of the day, while we love our home, it’s not the idol that defines our identity and it’s not the most important thing in our life. Rather, our home is a useful tool in our God called work of building “a family of missionary servants“. Our hope is that again soon we will own a home that we can joyfully work on together and for that place to be the place our children remember growing up. IMG_20160602_173918It is also our hope to serve a local church as a family together, not separated as has been the case for too long.

So, for the time we have remaining in this house we’ve made a home, instead of sadness and mourning, we choose to live in thankfulness and gratitude. And instead of fear and unknowing, we choose joyful expectation of what God has ahead.

 

 

Family Mission

*This post is coauthored by Matt and Jessica

I (Jessica) admit I like to be organized and have a plan. I plan and write down everything… And this always proves to be helpful.

We (as a society) make lists for the grocery store, house projects, ideal vacation spots… So it always amazes me a little when people mention they are mostly “winging” this family thing.

I think it comes somewhat out of nowhere.  You have a little baby and the days revolve around feedings and nap and then all of a sudden you realize that these kids are not so little.  They are becoming real people with their own unique thoughts and ideas. They have eyes and ears that are picking up on much of our day to day rituals.  I know that time moves so quickly and that the years are already going fast and so being intentional with each day as family seems necessary.

A couple years ago Jessica and I (Matt) decided we needed to develop a family mission statement.  While we are not a business or a church, we are seeking for our life and family to emulate and reflect certain values and goals. We decided getting those things on paper was very important. So, here’s what we came up with…

IMG_20140802_162531

We are family for the good of the city

In the coming weeks we will unpack the specifics of each part of the above statement, but to give a bit of a preview, this is some of what we mean.

 

 

We are a family

We are a family who in love and humility spurs one another on to Christ likeness. Proverbs 27:17 and Hebrews 10:19-25

We are a family who chooses to operate with grace, forgiveness and accountability. Ephesians 4 and Matthew 18

We are a family who views children as a blessing and not a burden.-Psalm 127

We are a family who expects our children to honor and trust.-Ephesians 6:1-3

We are a family for the good 

We are a family who loves God and loves others – Matthew 22:34-40

We are a family who celebrates the power of the ordinary and the every day. Romans 12:1-2

We are a family who expects to work hard and to do our best – Colossians 3:23.

We are family who will seek the Lord and will remain teachable – Matthew 6:33-34 and James 4:6-10.

We are a family for the good of the city. IMG_20160520_140711

We are a family who strives to model and practice servant hood – Philippians 2:5-11

We are a family who loves and cares for the neighborhood, people and city in which we live – Jeremiah 29:4-7

We are a family that believes our health and well-being is linked to the health and well-being of our neighbor-James 2 and Matthew 25

We are a family who will be involved in the mission of God in the places we live, work and play. Matthew 28:18-20, John 20, and Romans 12:1-2

 

Now, we could choose to not worry about any of this, but this is our ONE life.  We want to honor the Lord and grow our family to follow after Him, and having this mission codified helps to keep our family headed in the same direction.

Multiple times we have come to a point where we could go two (or three or four) different directions; and if we hadn’t spent anymore time thinking through who we we were as a family than what we wanted for dinner, we would have had a much more difficult time making decisions.

Life is so unpredictable and while spontaneity and “winging it” has its moments, the direction of our family is not something we can afford to leave to chance.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but where are those who think of changing themselves? People may genuinely want to be good, but seldom are they prepared to do what it takes to produce the inward life of goodness that can form the soul. Personal formation into the likeness of Christ is arduous and lifelong”

— Richard Foster

“Perhaps one of the sure signs that we have worshiped God is that we walk away saying, ‘I didn’t understand everything that happened there. It must be bigger than my comprehension.’ Too much of our worship has boxed God in as if we were going to see a play on Broadway. But in worship we become a part of the play. Though we can’t understand it all, we can come onstage and participate in the divine drama”

— Common Prayer

“Consumer society originates in the belief that the good lie is defined by what we produce and what we consume. It rests on the belief that it is our production and consumption that create life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is why, when we were attacked by terrorists on 9/11, the answer was to go shopping”-McKnight & Block

— The Abundant Community

1 2 3 4  Scroll to top