- Special opportunity for senior pastors of church plants that are in the pre-launch phase or first year or so of their plant.
- We’re about to celebrate the five-year anniversary of Elevation Church on February 12-13, and we want to honor one church plant team with an all expenses paid road trip to be our guests of honor.
- Senior pastors, send us an email or a video with your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll select one winner and bring him, and four of his team up to celebrate with us.
- Emails and videos must be submitted within the next 48 hours.
Archive for the ‘Church Planting’ Category
Guest Blogger: Chunks Corbett
It’s Friday and I’m delivering a final thought on something I learned this year at THR3E. If you keep up, you know that we did the event as a recap of what we learned in our first 3 years of ministry.
And for me, I learned how healthy it is to remember the past faithfulness of God.
Pastor Steven shared the down and dirty ways that we have developed the Elevation brand and culture. He detailed the mistakes we’ve made and defined our best practices. He intimately shared the cost of doing what we do in the ministry and unloaded wisdom at a rate that couldn’t be re-tweeted.
The content of the day was for a church leader what a Brazilian Steakhouse is to a carnivore. It was a culmination of everything God had done over a short period of time. Not just numbers but even the processes and systems that were born out of frustration and hard work. And everything was a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness.
I’ve been blessed enough to be a part of Elevation since the beginning. I’ve watched Pastor walk with God through the beginnings of Elevation and develop as a leader of our generation. And I can’t hear him preach about what God has done here enough.
Today is the last day to get a cheaper ticket to our Impart event (the second coming of THR3E). You can sign up here. Whether you are there or not, I’ll be on the front row experiencing information overload remembering the faithfulness of God through it all. And I think that is healthy.
Guest Blogger: Wade Joye, Worship Pastor
Here is your next installment in a week long series on some of the things we learned at our recent Thr3e event. Thr3e was an incredible day as Pastor Steven unloaded so many leadership principles that my hand hurt trying to write everything down.
The one that stands out the most, though, was the closing session when Pastor Steven got pretty vulnerable in a message called The Cost of the Calling. In this message, Pastor talked about the sacrifices he has had to make through each new leadership and ministry transition of the church. Sometimes the cost is emotional, other times it takes a physical toll, but there always is a price to pay as we walk in what God has called us to do. This was real life, honest stuff that you don’t tend to get at a conference, but it was filled with encouragement and hope as I personally was challenged that in order to embrace the calling and gifting God has on my life, I can’t avoid the sacrifice and pain. I must embrace it, because it is through these times that God brings an even greater anointing and effectiveness in the ministry He has for me.
If you are the lead pastor of a church, I would do whatever it takes to get to our Impart event to get the same kind of honesty from Pastor Steven on what it looks like to lead a dynamic move of God. Click here for all the details on Impart, and don’t miss the early bird registration deadline this Friday.
And if you sign up before Friday, you have a chance to win a fully loaded Kindle. Get those details here.
I look forward to seeing you in October at Impart.
Guest Blogger: John Bishop, Ministries Pastor
The biggest thing I took away from THR3E was the way we took care of everyone who came. And, when I say, “took care,” I’m saying we did everything we could possibly imagine to make their day with us as smooth and memorable as possible. Let me list out some of what we did:
- Each church was provided a personal concierge to answer any questions and provide any assistance needed.
- We took it upon ourselves to make reservations at restaurants and hotels for their convenience.
- Our volunteers were never caught without a bottle of water and a pocket of mints.
- When they got to the restaurant where we had made a reservation we had been there before them to leave them a gift.
- We even had customized directions at the end of the day to get them where they needed to go.
So why would we go to these lengths? Because, we just believe that the reason people came to THR3E was to experience Elevation Church unfiltered. We believe in honor and we strive for excellence in everything we do.
This was an amazing event for everyone involved and WE’RE DOING IT AGAIN on October, 27 at an event we’re calling Impart.
Early-bird registration for Impart ends this Friday so if you want to be stuffed with vision and treated like a king for a day click here and register now!
Guest Blogger: Larry Hubatka, Creative Pastor
This week we’re sharing some of the things we learned from our Thr3e event earlier this year. Here’s one of the best things I walked away with:
To become all you’re destined for requires sacrifice.
It wasn’t worded exactly like that, but that’s how it came together in my head. If we’re ever going to go where we’ve never been before, it’s going to be hard. Lots of sacrifice along the way. No one gets to go where they’re intended to go without feeling incredibly challenged along the way.
If you did, would it really be that exciting anyway? Probably not. It’s like being handed a gold medal for a race you never ran. You might think that’s great and claim it’s working smarter, not harder. I’d say…lame…and you’re missing the point. I think the process is the point, and what we learn along the way matters. And how we learn it matters.
All that to say, you don’t get to cheat destiny. You don’t get to decide you’re great and then you just are. You become great. You work toward greatness. God wants you to become great. But, you don’t get the badge until you’ve sacrificed along the way.
Don’t miss out on your opportunity to get amped up about what God’s done through this church and how it could help your process at Impart on Oct. 27. And after you register, read this and try to land a new loaded Kindle. Bam.
Guest Blogger: Chunks Corbett
All right, here’s the deal. We’re getting kinda crazy with a giveaway for the people that are choosing to come spend a day with us in late Oct for our Impart event. If you haven’t heard about the event, this link will catch you up.
Registration for the event is nearly full and with the early bird pricing ending this Friday, we’re expecting it to fill up fast.
So, now on to the contest-if it seems like I’m delaying, I am, this is not a cheap giveaway. Beginning today and running through this Friday, July 31st, we will be randomly selecting a winner of a brand new Kindle loaded with 10 of Pastor Steven’s favorite books.
“How do I win?” Good question. All you have to do is tag #impart in any of your tweets and we will randomly select 1 winner a day for 5 days (that’s 5 loaded Kindles). You can only win once and we will select the winner every day at 5pm EST from the qualifying tweets of the day. So if you don’t win today keep trying ’til Friday.
You do have to be a paid registrant to the Impart event to qualify so sign up here today. You also have to have a twitter account, so join the revolution or “twitterverse.” And if you don’t know what twitter is then you probably don’t know what a Kindle is either so no hard feelings.
If you do win, you’ll know who you are. Don’t contact us, we’ll contact you. This contest if officially on starting right now. Tweet away.
Guest Blogger: Chunks Corbett
Here is a quick refresher on why we are bringing back the one day event we did in April (THR3E). A few comments we’ve received:
“The sessions with Pastor Steven…all were amazing. I also loved that all the staff members were around and available to talk throughout the day. Picking their brains was very beneficial for me.”
“The resources on the jump drive have revolutionized our processes and systems.”
“No comparison-Really. I believe church leaders and pastors need it raw and real…no fluff. You exceeded my expectations-”
“Seeing firsthand what a vision is and the cost a leader must endure to see it come to pass has transformed how we do church-”
Impart is in late October but early bird pricing ends in less than 2 weeks. With limited registration, we expect it to fill up before the 31st. Sign up here . And we have a giveaway planned for next week that will make at least 5 people very happy-but you have to be signed up to be eligible. Stay tuned.
Guest Bloggers: Chunks and Larry
IMPART is right around the corner…well, the corner of the next block…actually, it’s a couple blocks away still…but the early bird registration is right around the corner…
If you’ve missed it up to this point, IMPART is an event to literally impart everything we’ve learned at Elevation over the past 3 and a half years. Pastor Steven will be bringing the heat again for a 1-day event on Oct 27 sharing everything God’s revealed to him about how to reach lost people and grow a church.
Register by clicking here and take advantage of early bird pricing, $500/person up through the end of July. After that, you’ll have to add a pair of Benjamins to register, $700/person after July. We’ve got room for the first 100 people who register, and that’s it. That’s what I said, 100 people, that’s it.
For any questions in the meantime, email us at email@example.com or click here to visit the site.
See a hundred of you in October.
Here’s the deal-tell us your story and we just might pay your $300 registration for the THR3E event.
And the details-
1. The contest is only for those of you that have already signed up and paid for the event. If you’re excited about coming to THR3E, we’re trying to hook you up, get on it. If you haven’t signed up, don’t send in your entry until you’ve completed the registration. Registration ends March 31st- only 15 spots remaining!
2.Tell us “your story” of the impact Elevation Church has had on your ministry. We hope to use these with our church to cast vision and let our people know the impact they are having around the country. And we may have another surprise for the winners on April 28th-
3. No rules on how you tell it. Capture it on video. Record it on 8-track (please include the player when you send it-it won’t be returned). Write it in your Moleskin (mandatory for all church leaders). Just get it to us. Be creative and concise.
4. You have just over 2 weeks to get your story to us. We need it in our hands or inbox by Friday, April 3rd at 5pm.
Please send all entries to:
c/o Elevation Church
6136 Creft Circle
Indian Trail, NC 28079
(Note: if you’re submitting video, please send us a DVD or post the file on an ftp/file sharing site to be downloaded. Thanks.)
If you have any questions, please email THR3E@elevationchurch.org.
Good luck and see you on April 28!
The Elevation Staff
Guest Blogger: Lori Black, Executive Assistant to Pastor Steven Furtick
I have had the unique privilege of working alongside Pastor Steven almost everyday of the week for over two years now. And I’ve been there for all the behind-the-scenes decision-making processes, hard leadership challenges and struggles that come along with being the lead pastor of a growing church.
What you may not know is, that’s the stuff you’ll be getting at the THR3E event. It’s the raw, unfiltered experiences that we’ve had along the way and the resulting decisions that have made Elevation what it is today. It’s going to be real and genuine-straight from Pastor Steven’s heart about all of the good, and the bad, we’ve experienced.
You don’t want to miss this rare opportunity to hear all the stuff that only those closest to Pastor Steven have been able to experience with him. You’ll be challenged, inspired, and renewed.
Registrations are filling up quickly, so go here to register!
By the way, we’ve started brainstorming all of the principles that we want to share with you and here’s a glance as what we came up with:
Get ready for information overload!
Guest Blogger: Chunks Corbett
The response to the THR3E event has been overwhelming. In case you missed some of the details, you can read about them here and here. Registration is filling up fast and many of you have asked some questions about the event. Here are some of the most frequently asked:
Will we have access to Pastor Steven?
Yes. Pastor Steven will be available throughout the day to meet the attendees.
What is the lunch plan?
Lunch will be provided and the staff will be available along with some structured Q and A time.
Will the whole staff be there?
Our entire staff will be present all day to help answer any questions. Along with Q and A over lunch, we have built the day with a lot of time to interact with our staff.
When will registration end?
Registration will end when we are full or on March 31st, whichever comes first.
Are there any available spots?
We have a few dozen spots left.
What will be included in the Resource Kit?
We are working very hard to include everything we have that we think would be useful to you. Here are a few things- Volunteer recruitment and training manuals, corporate documents (bylaws, handbook), job descriptions, org charts (diff sizes of growth, policies and procedures, budgeting docs, chart of accounts, creative process detail, small group info- I told you everything. We won’t include our series graphics and videos because they will be available online for free (coming soon).
Those are some of the details. If you’re waiting to register you better hurry. You don’t want to miss this one time event.
You can register Here
Of course, this event definitely isn’t for everyone. We intentionally priced the day at a level that would assign a good deal of value. In other words, we wanted to fill the room with only the people who were hungry and serious.
A $300 price tag helps assure that. Plus, the majority of the proceeds will be used for our future staff development events here at Elevation. So it’s for a good cause.
Also, if you want to expose your entire team to al the bells and whistles of programming done well, this is not the event for you.
No music, no videos, no interpretive dance-
But if you’re a church planter or leader who just wants solid content, I promise you’ll leave full.
I’m already aggregating content, and it looks like I’ll be touching on a little bit of everything, including establishing the financial base, creating a culture of honor, and seizing strategic momentum initiatives, to name a few.
We’ll also be providing you with tons of legal and organizational documents.
I think Chunks told me we paid thousands of dollars for the materials ourselves and invested over a year in obtaining/developing them when it was all said and done-you’ll get them free with your registration. That’s worth the trip.
It’s humbling to me how many folks from so many different states will be joining us on April 28 in Charlotte.
I hope you’ll be one of them.
A one-time event:
Everything we’ve learned and every mistake we’ve made so far-all in one day.
We’re keeping this thing small, so I look forward to meeting every one of you personally.
Guest Blog: Chunks Joybatka
It’s not a pickup basketball game at the park but it is 3 of the Lead Staff members at Elevation Church and their takes on why you should attend the THR3E Event.
Chunks Corbett-Practical Resources
We’ve designed the THR3E Event to resource church leaders. The event will focus on the toughest leadership decisions we’ve made in our first 3 years but we also wanted to give everyone something practical as a takeaway. THR3E is our opportunity to resource attendees with every organizational document we’ve come up with in the last 3 years-I mean everything.
We will be giving everyone electronic copies of our bylaws, employee handbook, all of our HR forms, all policies and procedures, vendor lists, job descriptions, org charts, chart of accounts, sample budget forms, staff reading lists, our creative department workflow charts, and all the operational documents we use. Basically, we’re providing everything I wish I could flash back and give myself 3 years ago.
Wade Joye-Calling Out Potential
One of the things I love about serving on the lead staff at Elevation is getting an up-close look at the way Pastor Steven calls out potential in those that he leads. In the almost 18 months I’ve been on staff at Elevation, Pastor Steven has continually challenged me personally to step up in my leadership. Up until December of 2008, I served as the Worship Pastor, but Pastor Steven recently saw something in me that I didn’t see and moved me to the role of Service Programming Director. The larger role and added responsibility was out of my comfort zone and I doubted myself. Since then, I have seen the Lord grow me so much as I have embraced this new challenge and leadership role.
The reason I am really excited about THR3E is that this will be a chance for people to not just get a taste of what we get in our lead team meetings, but rather an intense, full day of Pastor pouring out all that he has learned in the three years of leading this church. He will use this day to truly call out your potential. You will learn a lot of useful information, but you will also walk away with a bigger sense of who God is and what He can accomplish through your life.
Larry Hubatka-What We’ve Learned
Wanna know what it feels likes to learn things the hard way? Then you should skip this event and do everything on your own. If you want to get on our shoulders, take everything we’ve learned and take it further, then you should make plans to spend the day with us for the THR3E Event in April.
We don’t know everything, but we know enough to tell what we’ve learned along the way. And if that helps you, there’s no charge-well, except for the 300 bucks you have to pay. But other than that, really, no charge.
What makes THREE different from all the other conferences out there?
When we were starting Elevation Church, we made cross-country treks to learn from anyone and everyone who would set up a meeting with us. Many of those meetings were helpful. Other times though, we would travel for hours and hours and pay for a hotel, fill up several times for gas, or buy a plane ticket only to find that when we got to the meeting, our questions were answered in a very formulaic way.
In other words, we heard the same 3-5 speeches over and over again when what we really needed was tactical help.
I decided if I was ever in a position to teach from my own experience about planting a church, that I would share the real stuff. The stuff that’s a little edgy, controversial and maybe even a little uncomfortable. The stuff that’s very practical, and even prone to be misunderstood.
That’s what THREE is all about. In the three sessions I’ll share the kind of stuff that usually only gets talked about in the back room of conferences, not on the main stage. In other words, it won’t just be rehashing my old blog entries or sharing textbook answers about church planting. I’ll be sharing “from the trenches” information.
So I think this event is perfect for the kind of person who wants to get real answers, but doesn’t have the time to invest six months to a year traveling from place to place to get those answers from different sources. We’re bringing everything we’ve learned together in one setting, for one day.
THREE will be held April 28, 2009, from 8am to 5pm. See the link below for details.
This weekend Elevation will celebrate our three-year anniversary.
As part of the ongoing celebration, we’re announcing a one-day, one-time only event for church leaders. It’s called, predictably:
The date is April 28th.
Registration is limited because we want everyone to have the opportunity to interact with our staff.
The registration cost will be $300 per person.
The location is the Booth Playhouse Theater in Uptown Charlotte. (You’re gonna love it.)
The format is pretty straight ahead. I’ll be leading 3 sessions in which I will share the 3 most important lessons we’ve learned in the first 3 years of this church. It will be very practical, and our entire lead staff will be on hand to interact with you. I’ll also be available to hang out until I’ve had the opportunity to meet every single one of you.
No music. No frills. No breakout sessions.
Just three exclusive teaching times in one day where I share very candidly
what we’ve learned on this break-neck ride from 0 people to over 5000 in three years.
Sign up quickly as we don’t plan on doing this again, and space is limited.
This is our one-shot, we’re three years in and here’s everything we’ve learned in one day, drinking from a fire hydrant leadership event.
Guest Blog: Larry Brey, Connections Pastor
Because of the rapid growth Elevation has experienced, churches from all around the country are contacting us to find out what’s going on. To provide a quality response we started Backstage:Elevation, an opportunity for churches to spend a Sunday at Elevation and get a behind the scenes look at the church. This has been an extremely rewarding process for us as we openly share successful principles as well as failures in a way that helps others. The experience really represents Pastor Steven’s heart for us to have a maximal Kingdom impact through keeping our hands open and freely giving. It’s an awesome privilege to play a small part in other churches successes. Recently we had some great churches at various stages of development spend a Sunday morning at Elevation.
To our Elevators-we wanted you to know how much your sacrifice as volunteers is impacting not only our church, but many churches across the country. You are part of a great move of God that extends beyond our city. Keep it up, you’re making a difference!
Remnant Church – Pastor Mark McGovern, San Francisco, CA
A new church plant moving to the San Francisco area from Indiana
“What are the top three things you will take away and apply in your church?”
1) Vision. Everyone has to know it, say it, eat it, breathe it, sleep it, live it day in and day out. Everything is done because of vision.
2) Culture. The culture must facilitate and reinforce the vision. The culture eliminates the wrong people and connects the right people.
3) Pipe and drape. I never knew Elevation was such a strong believer in it. Used very well to create a “packed out concert” feel that ultimately made the worship experience better.
South Bay Church – Pastor Andy Wood, San Francisco, CA
Pastor Andy and his team are currently in South Carolina preparing to head west and spread the Gospel.
Here’s how Pastor Andy described his experience:
“When I say experienced, I mean I experienced it. My wife Stacie and I spent the whole drive back from Charlotte to Columbia remembering it like a good movie. We (the south bay dream team) got to experience a team of crazy committed volunteers who arrive at dark thirty with an optimistic attitude anticipating what God is going to do that day!”
“As we move forward with starting a church in the San Francisco Bay Area it was great for our staff team to experience Elevation and be inspired by the possibilities of what God can do in such a short period of time!! Thanks Elevation.”
Guest Blog: Chunks Corbett, Executive Pastor
This post will be short and sweet.
Elevation Church is a church with several locations. In fact we will be adding a 3rd in the fall and I’m hopeful to add a 4th by Easter 09.
But having multiple locations (especially if they are portable) is not glamorous. Here are a few questions that I would think through before adding campuses:
1. Are we at capacity at our current location?
2. Would adding another location open seats up at our current location? (Would it cannibalize our current site?)
3. Is God leading our church toward a strategy of having multiple locations?
4. Will we use video or live preaching?
5. Not all Pastors are right for video, is ours?
6. What is the density of our current campus related to where we want to add another campus?
7. Can we add another service where we are and get the same effect?
8. Do we have the leadership to pull off another campus?
9. Will another site be a step of faith or foolishness?
10. What would you define as success for another campus? Define this by using metrics for attendance, salvations, giving, etc.
11. Will another site make us more effective at reaching people for Christ?
Those are just a few. Multiple locations is very effective but also trendy. Asking the right questions beforehand may keep you from making a mistake or confirm the direction God is leading his church.
(This is kind of a continuation of yesterday’s post).
What are a couple practical ways to counteract the risk averse reflex that sets in as soon as we secure some level of success?
-Remember. I can’t think of a better motivation to trust God radically for the future than the memory of His faithfulness in the past. Sometimes, when I’m tempted to sit out a big opportunity because I think it’s too risky, I’ll mentally list all the times that I’ve felt like this before. Then I’ll compare that list against another column that reflects the results of those previous God ordained risks. Nothing generates present tense faith like realistic reflection on how God worked it out last time. And the time before that-
-Collaborate. Certain people force me forward in my faith whether I like it or not. When I feel my faith retracting in the face of a risk, I’ve got a short list (very short) of people I gather around me. These people lift my altitude. After an hour or so with them, the risk seems smaller because God seems bigger. And that’s because He is bigger.
Sometimes I just need help seeing it that way.
I don’t know when exactly I became a pastor. The first official service at Elevation happened just over 2 years ago. But I remember very vividly waking up at 5 o’ clock one morning well over a year earlier, gripped by a sense that everything in my life had dramatically and irreversibly changed.
The night before, Chunks and his wife Amy had officially committed to be the first couple on the core team of this unnamed church located in a city yet to be determined. We had a meeting at Outback with Fred, a church planting strategist I knew who was passing through town. The meeting served to solidify our commitment to do this thing, and the evening was casual and normal enough… no lightning bolts. But man, the next morning when I woke up, I felt something in my gut that can most closely be compared to the moment I held my firstborn son and realized: Dear Lord, there’s no turning back from this. Nothing will ever be the same… for better and for worse… mostly for better… I think… I’m a completely different person than I was yesterday.
At this point, I had been a preacher for 8 years. I had been dreaming about starting a church, and planning to be a pastor one day, from the time I was 16 years old. But suddenly, this wasn’t a pipe dream or abstract theoretical rhetoric anymore. I now had people who were taking a sizable risk so that they could call me their pastor, and follow me where God led. They were counting on me to be their man of God. It freaked me out, in the best way you can imagine.
(If I had any idea there would be a couple thousand more of these people in the next few years, I would have thrown up in a trash can and called the whole thing off on the spot. Thank God He leads us one step at a time.)
I remember crawling out of bed well before the sun came up that morning, pulling out my Bible, and reading Joshua 1, the part about not being afraid, over and over again. Then I read the Pastoral Epistles-particularly the requirements of an elder/overseer. (Even reading the word elder and applying it to myself was comedic and intimidating. I was 25!)
I read those qualifications many times over the next few weeks. I listed them out in columns on my little notepads that I carried around before I got hip and bought a Moleskine.
And I begged God in my heart that by His grace He would shape me to be that kind of man to lead His Church for His glory.
What a standard! What an undeserved honor… and an incomparable life pursuit.
“What is the single most important skill that a church planter needs to have in order to be successful?”
If I had a dime for every person who’s asked me that in the last 2 years, I’d have 10 cents, because somebody asked me this for the first time the other day, and I thought it was a pretty good question.
I didn’t have to think about it very long… because I just knew the answer was leadership. The ability to motivate and inspire people, and the wisdom to construct systems that reinforce the vision.
But then I thought about preaching… maybe that’s the most important piece of the church planting puzzle. I don’t know of a church plant that has ever succeeded apart from the anointed communication of God’s Word connecting to people in the context of corporate worship.
At this point, all of the major categories hit me like a flashflood:
leadership, preaching, administration, vision…
How could I ever narrow it down to one “most important skill”?
There are so many skills that are integral to church planting, but I think one critical skill is the foundation of all the others, and pretty much serves as a category killer and the end of discussion:
The single most important skill in church planting is the fine art of hearing from God.
When David was commissioning Solomon to build the temple, he reassured his son that God “gave me understanding in all the details of the plan.” (See 1 Chronicles 28:19)
I want God to speak to me like that: clear and specific. I want to have the confidence to know that I’m building according to plan, because I’ve heard from heaven.
Successful church plants come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. But there is one common denominator in every authentically successful church plant that I know of:
The pastor and his leadership team have found a way to receive vision, instruction, and strategy from the Lord, and they summon the courage to follow through with the commands that God issues.
To the casual observer it may look like they just have good instincts, or more inaccurately, good luck. In reality, they are consistently finding a way to stay tightly connected to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, so they will know what move to make next.
You can’t fake or simulate the ability to hear from God. You must cultivate it day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year.
The ability to distinguish the voice of God and the promptings of His Spirit is more valuable than a Doctoral degree, 10 leadership books and 4 conferences a year, your hero’s advice, and even 50 years of life experience combined.
All of these inputs serve as avenues for God’s instruction to reach our hearts.
But they are not a substitute for a “speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” posture, and a willingness to be radically obedient when He clearly reveals your next move.
Yesterday at Elevation we kicked off our DOMINATE campaign. I’ve been praying and preparing for this campaign pretty much all year, and I felt very strongly that we needed to intentionally turn people’s perception of what a capital campaign is all about upside down.
So we kicked off the whole campaign by giving away $40,000 to our people yesterday. Yes, you heard me correctly: We began our first ever capital campaign by giving away roughly the equivalent of our 2007 weekly offering average. Every adult got an envelope with either $5, $10, $20, $50, or $100. And one participant in each of our five worship experiences actually received $1000.
The instructions were simple:
Take this money and use it to bless someone beyond yourself. You can’t give it back to the church. And let us know what you did with it.
We set up a site at www.blessbackproject.com for people to tell their stories, and they are pouring in indeed.
The spiritual truth I was trying to communicate is a powerful one, based on Matthew 25:14-30:
God has entrusted each of us with different amounts of His resources, and He wants to see a Kingdom return on it. He has blessed us so we can bless back (see also Genesis 12:1-3).
It’s turning out to be quite a powerful experiment. I think people were shocked by the concept to begin with, and even more surprised that we didn’t even take up even our regular offering, or any offering at all this Sunday, on the first week of a capital campaign.
Our goal wasn’t to be gimmicky. In fact, it’s quite a sacrifice and a bit of a risk for a church as young as Elevation to pull this off. It puts us in a difficult short term cash position to say the least.
But I’m praying God will honor this exercise of faith and radical gesture of generosity to our city, and embed a DNA of generosity deep down into our culture that will spread throughout this city like a wildfire.
And I’m praying that He would drill the “It’s all God’s to begin with… I’m blessed to bless back” theology of giving down into the hearts of every man, woman, boy and girl at our church.
After all, that’s the whole point of this season called Dominate.
I love this verse. I’m preaching on it at our Central campus this Sunday. I’m thankful for people God has placed in my life who have this attitude and approach toward me. Like my wife , my staff, my Mighty Men, my parents, and 4 of my pastor friends who would drop anything to be there for me, any time, anywhere.
You need heart and soul type people in your life too. Your assignment is too significant to be completed in isolation. If you don’t have a crew, start recruiting. One of the best ways you can do that at Elevation is to get into a group. You can sign up online, go to the Community Groups table on Sunday, or hold out for GroupLink in September.
But isolation is not an option for the Christian.
Heart and soul!
Creating a Culture of Sacrifice
How do you explain the sacrificial culture of Elevation Church that has been a part of our DNA ever since those first 7 families uprooted their lives and went all in? How do you explain the effects of the radical generosity of those first few families that gave 20% of their income to the work of the Lord from day one?
(BACKSTORY: We didn’t want to hurt the church that was sending us by taking our tithe away from them in the months before we planted Elevation, so we gave 10% of our income to our sending church, and an additional 10% to the new work.)
Some of those original families worked 2 full time jobs in the first 8 months: their main job as an Elevation staff member (for free) and their other 40 hour a week job that put food on the table. How do you communicate the significance of that? Where does that show up on the spreadsheet? Or the launch plan?
We offer an experience called Backstage: Elevation that allows church plant teams to come observe a Sunday at Elevation, beginning at 5am, when the first set up team at our Central campus arrives.
They always want to know: How do you get these volunteers to show up at 5am, so happy and willingly… almost giddy? Why do they work so hard?
It’s in the culture. You are seeing the extrapolation of an expectation that was embedded from day one. Every original staff member started as a volunteer. It’s in our blood! And it’s not just the staff members…
During our launch team phase, we had a couple that would drive an hour and a half one way to our meetings to provide nursery for the 6 kids that were there. At their own expense. Thanks Trever and Caley.
(I could tell you 20 more stories and thank 20 more people just like this, but it would get redundant, and you all know who you are.)
Our original core team understood that we were a part of the most critical enterprise on the planet, and that when it came time to sacrifice, anything less than excess was unacceptable.
When you model that kind of obsession with excellence, not just in theory, but compounded with the sacrificial commitment to make it happen, it is duplicated and imparted into the next wave of people who join your church.
And the next.
And the next.
The culture of sacrifice is highly contagious.
The effect is an undeniable and intangible spiritual dynamic that can’t be compensated for by layers and layers of church growth veneer.
Looking back, I’m so thankful that no organization provided major funding for the launch of Elevation Church.
It made us hungry, scrappy, and sacrificial.
And those three cultural elements have been much more beneficial than hundreds of thousands of dollars in start up money could ever be.
When a visiting church leader asks us to identify the key factors in the growth of Elevation, we’re never sure how to answer.
We can tell them about our assimilation systems, which are thorough and extensive, and have no doubt been a key element of our high retention rate and astounding volunteer involvement.
We can lecture them about the importance of simplicity, and warn them against over-programming which leads to defused energy and mediocrity.
We can show them the marketing materials that our production department creates (which are slicker than snot and second to none) and share our philosophy of branding.
All of these systems and concepts are relatively concrete and definable.
But the most important component of church planting is the culture you create.
And it’s often completely ignored.
The current of culture is a powerful thing.
When a group of extraordinary people are committed to an extraordinary cause, it washes away lots of preconceived notions and creates a high tide of momentum.
The current of culture is a dangerous thing.
If you hang around Elevation too long, you might get sucked in by the undertow. I just heard about 2 more families who are currently uprooting their lives to move to Charlotte. Not for a job. Just to be a part of a move of God.
That’s how strong the culture of current can be, when created correctly.
Tomorrow, I’ll share more about the culture of sacrifice that is so vital to Elevation Church.
Rob pastors a church in South Charlotte called Southbrook. It’s an amazing church and I love Rob a lot. It’s great to have a pastor in town who prays for me, encourages me, likes to eat Mexican with me, and never talks junk about me.
We decided to swap blogs today to reinforce to our city that we’re in this together.
I guess some people would think it’s weird that 2 pastors of large contemporary churches within 10 miles of each other would openly and publicly promote each other’s ministries.
Aren’t we afraid of losing members to each other?
Nope. We’re afraid of losing lost people to the kingdom of darkness.
Guest Blog: Rob Singleton
A little over 1 year ago I started receiving phone calls from what I thought was just, ‘another church planter.’
That doesn’t sound nice, I know, but hear me out before you start throwing stones.
You see, we get a lot of men (and women) coming through here who want to start a church. They usually come to the Saturday evening service and then talk to me afterwards. I’ve seen 3 or 4 from different groups on a single Saturday. Like I said, we get a lot.
Most of the time it’s just awesome, but, sadly, sometimes it’s not.
I like to meet with these folks for lunch or breakfast because I have a little more time to hear their heart. Right after the service, with hundreds of people fellowshipping and catching up, just doesn’t work.
But sometimes (rarely, thank God) the ‘heart’ is never heard.
The heart doesn’t even show up in the conversation. Those times feel more like an Amway presentation than a fired up man or woman of God sharing their passion about reaching a lost and confused world.
I’m talking about the times when someone sits across the table from me at lunch and shares their excitement about being good at marketing and speaking and how they just know they could make a career out of church planting. They’re usually a little bit more couth at how they say it, but that’s the gist nevertheless.
Whenever I pick up on the church planting as a career angle, my heart just sinks.
It’s not a good ‘career.’
Let me rephrase that…
It’s a horrible ‘career.’
However, it’s an awesome calling!
And there is a difference, but that’s another blog for another time.
Maybe now, you’ll understand why I’m a little hesitant when it comes to giving your life to this very challenging but important calling.
Then along comes a guy like Steven Furtick. I still remember when I got the message that he called a couple of times.
Deanna (my ministry assistant): “A guy named Steven Furtick called. He’s planting a church and would love to grab lunch with you sometime… soon.”
Pastor Rob (me): “Did you test him? Run him through the gauntlet?”
Deanna: “Yes, but he keeps calling anyway.”
Rob: “Hot coals?”
Rob: “Broken glass?”
He’s young, probably didn’t know any better.
The long and short of it is that I did have lunch with Steven Furtick and you need to hear me when I say this…
He’s the real deal.
An anointed man of God.
I’ve really grown to love this brother in Christ and admire his boldness and tenacity for reaching the lost. He came to me (and many others) to learn. I’m sure those ‘others’ would agree when I say that, if you spend time with Steven Furtick you’ll get more than you give.
You’ll learn as much as you teach.
You’ll be stretched.
You’ll be fired up.
Your passion will be renewed.
Amazing from one so young.
Just put it this way. We have lunch together once a month because his mom won’t let him stay out past 9:00 pm on a school night, so dinner is out of the question.
Keep your eyes on this young man of God.
Be very afraid.
In a good way.
One of the greatest lessons I ever learned about casting vision goes all the way back to 17 years ago, when I used to dub tapes.
For all of our valued high school and middle school audience members, audio recordings used to exist in the form of a device called the cassette tape.
I know that you kiddies now have your fancy new fangled mp3s, but back in the day when you wanted to rip off your friends’ music, you used a dual cassette boombox to record the content of one cassette onto another.
Hi tech stuff, man.
So, let’s say my friend had the new Def Leppard album. By album I mean tape.
(Come on, I’m not that old.)
I would dub a copy, and it would sound pretty good.
Not as good as the original, but close enough.
The problem began when my friend wanted a copy of my copy.
Or worse yet, when his friend wanted a copy of his copy of my copy.
By this time the recording quality sounded horrible. Because with every new generation came a reduction in clarity and quality. You could barely hear Joe Elliot’s vocals (even though they were stacked 416 times) above the background hiss.
We’ve encountered this same scenario in church planting. In the first few months, I was sharing the vision firsthand with every single person. So they were always getting a first generation copy of the original.
These days, the challenge is to develop systems to make sure that every single leader can dub the vision clearly and passionately.
Otherwise, our new folks won’t be able to hear the content because of all the static.
And new generations of people will completely misinterpret what we’re all about.
Now that music comes in digital formats (CDs, mp3s, etc.) there’s no quality reduction from one generation to the next. The sound is as pristine on copy 1 million as it is on the master recording.
(I’m over my head in technical jargon here, but I’m pretty sure this makes sense.)
Here’s what we’re constantly asking:
How do we duplicate the Elevation vision in digital format?
So that every new generation of members gets an accurate representation of the heartbeat of this church?
So that everybody parking a car, changing a diaper, or leading a group knows precisely what we’re all about?
And what we’re not all about?
And why we do what we do?
This is a collection of random thoughts about how God called me when I was 16 to radically affect a major city in the U.S. for Jesus Christ.
And how God has been confirming to me lately through relatively ordinary events that He has placed us in Charlotte, NC for such a time as this.
Hope you enjoy my randomness.
A Christian brother over the age of 60 walked in my office the other day for a meeting with tears in his eyes.
He doesn’t attend Elevation, but he really wanted to meet me.
Before I could even give him a good hug and offer him a seat and/or something to drink, he was explaining:
“Thank God for what’s going on here. God is answering our prayers for Charlotte.”
He told me stories about praying Grandmothers, and Billy Graham’s father’s prayer meetings, and the thought exploded in my soul:
I don’t have a clue.
What God wants to do in the city of Charlotte is so far beyond the scope of my puny, pre-conditioned, pre-conceived, compartmentalized imagination.
About an hour into our meeting, we started thanking God that we’re in the same city at the same time.
We made a list in my journal of some of the churches that God is really using in our city.
Then we set an Ephesians 3:20 kind of goal for our churches for the year 2010.
And I told him sincerely: “I’m in this with you. I’m so proud of you and behind you in everything you set your hand to do in this city.”
Can I tell you something?
I have reduced my life to 2 overarching objectives:
1. Loving my wife and family
2. Dominating and saturating the metro-Charlotte area with the Gospel of Jesus
I have no other ambition.
There were some praying people in Charlotte 40-50 years ago who did the front end work so Elevation could experience the mind-bending blessings we’re experiencing.
And every week, new church planters are moving into this city, full of vision and faith, with only one agenda:
To kick the devil in the…
Well, I guess I should say teeth, since this is a co-ed blog.
To every Bible preaching, Christ centered, Kingdom motivated pastor who lives in the greater Charlotte area and reads this blog:
Do not hold back.
I am praying for your success.
I am grateful for you. For your unique style and perspective and gifting.
Do your thing for the glory of God.
For the sake of the Gospel in the city of Charlotte.
Our one year anniversary mini-series is underway… and we started off with a bang.
1250 people in attendance yesterday (glory to God!) and phenomenal energy in both worship experiences.
Our community outreach initiative is now fully disclosed, and we’re poised to rock the city.
Tons of you signed up to volunteer. Thank you. You’re in for a great ride.
Today I’m in Atlanta. My friend Terrell Murphy and I are out here together for a small pastor’s event. I’ll get to sit under the teaching of Eddie Long and T.D. Jakes today. Can’t wait. I’ll update you.
Oh, and all you Elevators, I want you to read an outside perspective on what God is doing through you.
A church planting team visited our 11:15 worship experience yesterday, and the Lead Pastor wrote about it on his blog.
Check out the entry here. Thanks Tadd! We believe in you guys!
This will be one of those weeks where I’ll probably annoy you with the number of times that I talk about how awesome our one year anniversary services are going to be.
I can’t help it.
I’m counting on you guys to pack the place out right for both of our morning services.
And if you don’t know, we’ll end the day with an over the top concert event (our first live recording!) at 7pm.
It’s free, but seating will be first come, first served.
I advise early arrival.
Except for you mom.
I’ll save you a seat. :)
Pray for me. I’ve got a very sore throat this morning and I want to be 100% leading into Sunday’s celebration.
Gonna be a freakin’ party…
With lots of special surprises…
A new way to assess (final… for now)
On with part three (final installment) of this exquisite mini-series:
3 Key Factors in Church Planting:
3. The Y.B.C.Y.P.? factor
I had a conversation today over lunch that confirmed the validity of this factor in my gut.
The Yeah, But Can You Preach? factor states this:
I don’t care how cool your logo is.
I don’t care how incarnationally missionally relevantly authentic (insert your favorite Rob Bell, Andy Stanley, or Ed Young Jr. buzzword here) you are.
I don’t care how precise your business acumen is, or how much money you made selling stocks or real estate before you felt called to start a church.
I don’t care how much your worship leader looks like Matt Kearny.
If you can’t bring it-or have someone up in front of your congregation who can (ie. Video Campus-a good thing), it’s over before it ever starts. You will fail.
By the way, the 3 guys I just mentioned above are used mightily by God not because they coin cool buzzwords, but because there is an anointing on their lives to speak the Word of God and the essentials of the Gospel in a clear, compelling way. They study. They pray. Then they deliver the goods.
That means that you won’t be mightily used by God simply by ripping them off and fronting like you’ve got a message from God.
Now, with that said, I rip off these guys (and lots of others, many of whom are reading this blog!) all the time. But I always internalize their ideas/applications/illustrations/insights, and cook it up fresh according to the way I think God wants Elevation Church to receive it.
This is called “owning it”, or “contextualizing”. It’s totally different than being a spiritual hitchhiker, depending on someone else’s relationship with Jesus to take you where you need to go as a preacher.
So I beg you (us), preachers:
Either speak for God, with the power of God (1 Peter 4:11), or get out of the way.
Allow the Holy Spirit of God to light your personality on fire.
Preach in such a way that people discern you’ve been with God.
Say what Scripture says. Lift Jesus high.
Either that, or shut up.
Be yourself. Greg Surratt and T.D. Jakes couldn’t be more different. But they’re both phenomenal and consistent vision casters who show up with a fresh Word from the Lord weekly.
And people can’t get enough of it.
Preaching isn’t the only component of a healthy church. But it must be central.
1 Corinthians 1:21 makes it clear that God has chosen this seemingly foolish method of communication to save people and build His Church. We don’t get to jack with that. No matter how hip we think we are.
I preach the Bible at Elevation. Sometimes over an hour at a time. And God is building His Church.
2 quotes to put a cherry on top:
Mark Driscoll says that all the guys who are saying preaching doesn’t work any more in today’s culture are the guys who can’t preach.
I think he’s right.
And Voddie Baucham says that speakers are something you buy at Radio Shack. He’s a preacher.
I’m down with that Voddie.
I don’t care what you call it. Just do it.
Say what God says and watch what God does.
Preach the Gospel!
Let’s pick up where we left off with yesterday’s post.
If you didn’t read it, scroll down, catch up, and come right back.
The #2 factor in making it as a church planter:
2. The G.T.H.O. Factor
The Get The Heck Out factor. It’s all about whether or not you have the guts to tell divisive, problematic, selfish people to get the heck out before they ruin the church.
Now let me clear something up. If you feel like I’m telling you that a church planter/pastor has to have a bit of an attitude… I am.
If this statement isn’t full of attitude, I don’t know what is!
I got a lot of advice when we started. A LOT. And out of all that advice, I can totally identify what the single best piece of advice was:
Be more concerned about who you’re trying to reach
Than who you’re trying to keep.
Amen. Life’s too short and hell is too real for me to chase around supposed Christians who have been born again for 25 years and are still running around in spiritual diapers begging for their spiritual pacifiers and demanding to be spiritually bottle fed day in and day out.
It takes courage to plant a church.
You’ve got to have a laser sharp vision and refuse to deviate.
When someone shows up with an agenda other than the agenda of God, if you can’t look them in the eye (or hit reply and send) and tell them “Sorry-we’re not the church for you. God bless you in your journey… ” then you can’t wear the big boy pants and be a pastor.
No matter how much they tithe.
No matter how sincere they seem.
No matter how many connections they have.
No matter what the fallout will be.
No matter how much you like them.
Does this mean that a pastor should be over protective?
Yes. It sure does. He should be over protective of the mission of the church as defined by Scripture. To the extreme. And sometimes that means watching gifted people who often love Jesus (sometimes that’s questionable) walk out of the door.
(There are friendlier ways to say it than “Get the heck out,” admittedly. But when it comes down to it, you gotta be willing to do it. You like that flow?)
Factor #3 coming your way soon…
Let’s have some fun.
When you start a new church, there are various assessment tools available to predict the likely success/failure of the church.
In fact, since we received a small sum of money from a few church planting organizations, I had to undergo a couple of different assessments. This involves a lot of paperwork, and sitting down with several people while they ask you questions for a few hours. These questions are meant to determine whether or not you have what it takes to start a new church. These questions are based on personality, work ethic, past experience, spiritual gifts, etc.
Good idea. Since most new churches fail within the first three years (over 80%), it’s a good idea to try to weed out the guys who are starting churches for the wrong reasons. Or who think they should start a church.
But as we’re closing in our first anniversary at Elevation in February, I think I’ve got a better idea of what it takes to start a church. Not because I’m smart, and definitely not because we’ve done everything right. But after a year of bumps and bruises, victories and defeats, exceeded expectations and disappointed hopes, I think I could help a church planter sort through whether God has called him and gifted him to be the Lead Pastor of a new church.
So if I had 5 million dollars to start 20 new churches over the next 5 years, here’s what I would look for in a church planter. I think our whole staff would agree. These are in no particular order, and some of them are super sarcastic (just a heads up!)
Oh, and this is just the beginning of the list. This will be an ongoing thing I’ll post about.
3 Key Factors in Church Planting
1. The D.G.T.Y.T.D.T.? Factor
The Did God Tell You To Do This? factor may be the single most important factor in deciding whether you should start a church. It is a bad idea to start a church because:
a. You’re the youth pastor at a traditional church and a group of people have gotten together and told you how much better they like your preaching/leadership than the current pastor, so you decide to print some banners and get in a school 5 miles north of town, where all the growth is, building a church on the foundation of 20 dysfunctional families who will be tired of you too (trust me, they will) within 3 years.
b. You can’t get hired anywhere else. And you want to preach.
c. Rick Warren did it.
Since I was 16 I knew God wanted me to start a church in a major city to reach people who were far from God. I read a sentence this book and it turned my world upside down and planted a vision in my soul that I could never shake.
I’m not saying that every prospective church planter needs an experience where God writes a vision in the clouds with His fingertip. But every church planter needs to be able to say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, “I am called by God to do this.” That way, when the money is low and the bills are due, when the facility you were planning on meeting in is 3 months late being built (happened to us), and when the enemy whispers discouraging thoughts in your heart, you have an anchor. There is no emergency exit. You can’t bail. God told you to do this. Where else can you go? (John 6:68)
Your team will see that, and it will make them confident. A promise from God is bigger than any anxiety or obstacle.
Since we have a clear, definitive word from the Lord concerning Elevation, we don’t have to apologize for our existence. We moved to a new city with nothing but our faith and our promise from God, and that promise has marshaled us through all of our doubts and insecurities, cause Lord knows, there have been plenty.
You know what? That was longer than I had planned on.
I’m going to save the others for another time.
Trust me, they’re good!
(That’s short for the Have a Great Day factor. Get it?)