I just read an excellent post from Steve Sjogren entitled “12 Lies Church Planters Tell Themselves” on the blog I always love Sjogren’s  honesty and deep spirituality. Here are a few of those lies (in bold) with my own commentary on each:

If God blesses this plant, we’ll be up and running in no time flat. Steve uses the analogy of growing asparagus to emphasize the unpredictability of these things. I agree. God’s timing is not our timing. There are ways to speed up the process of building momentum in a plant, but ultimately God causes the growth. That’s in his time, not ours. I don’t think this means the planter ought to sit passively waiting for God to move. I’ve always believed the “work like it all depends on you/pray like it all depends on God” philosophy.

Since great preaching is vital from the beginning, I’ll spend quite a bit of time in message prep from the beginning of the plant. Preachers love to preach – I get that! But I have seen way too many planters launch too soon and focus too much on their speaking ability. I’d say the number one reason planters launch too soon is that they want to be “in the pulpit”. They can’t wait to be preaching regularly. The reality is that during the pre-launch phase you have the freedom to put all of your time and energy on things you will never have enough time and energy for once you are doing weekly services. Use that time wisely!

We’ll figure out how to take care of our money accounting details as soon as we have real money coming in. If you are even thinking about planting a church, go immediately to and sign up for their regular emails. These people are experts on all things financial and legal in the church. They will scare the mess out of you with their stories of church plants who didn’t handle these things well. To quote the great Mr. T, “I pity the fool” who doesn’t do this right from the beginning.

These are just a few of Sjogrens Lies. I encourage you to read his full article with his own commentary on these points.


Are you wired to plant a church?

I’m writing this in the air, on the way home after spending several days with the great team from Converge Worldwide. We had the always difficult task of assessing if people are wired to plant churches.  I am worn out! Those guys have been doing this for quite some time and have really developed a comprehensive set of tools to help guide this process.

There are some very specific things assessors look for in a candidate. A lot of this is based on the pioneering work of Charles Ridley  in this field. The most often repeated truth that Ridley discovered is that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.  People who are wired to start things from scratch tend to be more successful at starting a church from scratch.

Personality type is also a big part of the picture. This particular Assessment Center utilizes three different tools (a form of the DISC profile, Golden Personality Portrait and Strength Finders). All of these alone are good tools, together they give an amazingly accurate profile.

The process also involves several scenarios in which candidates are placed in group settings and given a task or problem to solve. The candidates are also tested on evangelism skills,  Biblical knowledge and have the opportunity to preach a “mini-sermon” and share their philosophy of ministry. Spouses participate in all but these last two exercises.

So if you have ever wondered if you have the stuff to be the point person in a church plant, this is a great way to find out.


Do Churches Need a Brand Promise?

I’ve been reading Verne Harnish again. I keep coming back to this strategic expert in the business world because I see so many parallels between what he teaches and the church world. Again, I’m not interested in getting into the debate about churches using business practices. All churches use business practices. It is a matter of degrees. If there are good business practices that are adaptable to the church I’m all for it. Truth is truth.

Here’s the latest thing I am struggling with from Harnish: The Brand Promise. In the business world, this is the one thing that a company is known for. It is that key factor that addresses their customer’s needs and sets them apart from their competition.  FedEx made their name by promising to get your package where it was going overnight. The post office couldn’t do that at the time.

Should a church have a “brand promise”? Elevate Church in Charlotte North Carolina promises to have the best worship experience. Steve Sjogren put The Vineyard Church in Cincinnati on the map with “servant evangelism” where they would gather every Saturday to go out and serve in random ways throughout their community. Originally, Bill Hybels wanted to plant a church that he could invite his non-Christian friends to, and Willow Creek Community Church was born.  They defined the Seeker Driven model for many years.

I do believe that most churches would benefit from asking a few simple questions that Harnish identifies in his work:

  • What is your BHAG? (That is, your Big Hairy Audacious Goal.) In the church world we would ask what is the vision God has revealed for your church in the coming years?
  • How do you define your sandbox? Are you a neighborhood church? A regional church? An Hispanic church? A seeker church? A church for artists? Who are you trying to reach?
  • What is the biggest need (not wants) that this group of people has?
  • What is your brand promise?  How can your church meet that need in a unique way?
  • What is the bottleneck/shortage/chokepoint? In other words, what is keeping you from fulfilling this promise? What are you going to do about it?

(taken from Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish)

I think the key here is focus. Many churches try to do so much that they don’t do anything very well. This is particularly true of once large churches that are now in decline. They desperately try to hold on to the multiple programs they were able to do in the past, instead of focusing on doing one or a few things very well.

If someone were to ask you: What is your church best known for outside of your church? How would you respond?