Charlene and I spent the last week in Birmingham, Alabama with family and
friends. On Wednesday March 19th Michael Smith and I visited EQUIP to meet
with Tom Atema, Doug Carter and Nadya Rodoslavova concerning the upcoming
European Coordinator's meeting in Prague, CZ. I am thrilled to hear the
great reports of the Million Leaders Mandate training throughout Europe.
231,000 leaders are being trained throughout the continent and the Country
Coordinators made it all possible. We will be in Prague to celebrate what
all they have done.
While in Birmingham we had the chance to be in the Easter services with
Pastor Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands. What an experience! Over
11,000 people packed out all of their services and campuses. Pastor Chris
and Tammy shared on the importance of what Christ did by being raised from
the dead...giving us hope for a new life from all that holds us back. The
resurrection of Jesus is the basis for our new life in God...free from all
that was death to us. Also, John Larson, Brad Parsley and the COH band and
choir lead us in fantastic worship. John did a special song that was
brilliant. Way to go John.
A great week with family and the family of God...can't beat that!
I spent this weekend with Keith and Julie Boyer in Reunion, Colorado at Crossroads Community Church. Keith has done an incredible job in this very small suburb of Denver. He has garnered a wonderful leadership team with amazing potential for growth and evangelism. All around town were signs in people's yards identifying themselves as members of Crossroads Church. The worship, the well organized services and the people inspired me and gave me the sense that this will be a church that will impact this area of Colorado in the future as it is beginning to do now.
Sunday evening I met with Jeremy Jacoby and Mark Larson with the Lutheran Church in the area. They have become dear friends over the past couple of year. Jeremy has launched a Lutheran Church in this same area and is having amazing results. Mark is the Regional director of mission for the LCMS and is planting churches all over the region in the years to come. Mike Ware of Victory Church, a life-long friend was also there on Sunday evening. Mike pastors an explosive church in the Denver area.
What an amazing couple...Peter and Carolyn Haas. These guys are my heroes. Substance Church is just turning 3 years old and has already reached over 800 people in the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus. I was thrilled to see the growth in the church and hear the vision that God has placed in Peter's heart for reaching thousands in this fast growing city. The church is a dynamic example of what ARC churches attempt to accomplish. Evangelism, great worship, world missions, and discipleship are done with great enthusiasm and excellence. I recommend Substance Church to anyone who wants to learn how to do church the right way. This church has it going on.
I had the chance to visit with Tory Forina and his wife Elisabeth, Rob and Becca Ketterling and get reports on all that God is doing with them. ARC is blessed to have this group in our midst as examples of courage and commitment to the success of the local church. Thanks to the Lord for all of you.
What a wonderful time visiting family and preaching at Fellowship Church in Zachary, Louisiana. My Brother Scott and his wife Merriann are the best host and hostess in the country. It was great to see the explosive growth of the church and see the maturity of this ministry. Just a few years ago Pastor Scott responded to the voice of the Lord to move his church from Clinton, La to the booming town of Zachary. The result has been great growth from 100 to 700. Amazing worship and organization that brings honor to the Lord. Scott, it was awesome to be there with you. Not to mention all the cajun food including Buck's crawfish boil and the skeet competition.
While in Baton Rouge we had the opportunity to visit Bethany World Prayer Center and the "Remnant Conference." Pastor Larry Stockstill shared his heart for bringing pastors back to the holiness of God through repentance. The meeting was great and for me a time to reflect on God's call on my life to live honorably before Him. I saw many friends and fellow pastors there. One highlight was to spend time with my long time friend Hank Henagan.
Charlene and I visited Stovall and Kerri Weems in Jacksonville, Florida this past weekend where I had the opportunity to speak at their marriage weekend and Sunday services. WOW! This church is explosive in worship, attendance, and in the presence of God. Everything there is just plain fun. There were over 1,700 in attendance in their Super Saturday service and they packed-out the building twice on Sunday...not to mention the other off-site campuses.
Stovall has done an incredible job building a dynamic life-giving church in this sunny city in northern Florida. The energy in the services, the intensity with which the people worship and the "all out" pace that the Celebration team serves is incredible. It was fantastic!
We also had the privilege to see "Watoto" from Kampala, Uganda. This is a choir made up of AIDS orphans from Uganda that have been adopted by this mission. My heart was stirred for missions all over again as they sang with all their heart "I am not forgotten, God knows my
Thanks Stovall and Kerri for a weekend we will never forget.
I just returned home from Fort Lauderdale from the Book of Hope Roundtable.
Book of Hope has provided nearly 500,000,000 copies of the harmony of the
Gospels in relevant, colorful books and booklets around the world in 155
countries. They will distribute 70,000,000 to the children of these countries in 2008.
What a privilege to spend time with Bob and Rob Hoskins and hear again the
wonderful and miraculous story of Book of Hope. Many of my precious friends
were there from ARC and, as always, I met made many new friends like, Bob
Coy of Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, Chris Beard from Ohio and Osvaldo
Carnival from Argentina. Osvaldo pastors one of the largest churches in
Argentina with over 4500 cell groups. We will be good friends!
Check out the pictures! Billy
We just completed CPR at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL. Chris
Hodges did a great job sharing his story and teaching on church planting
strategy. It was one of the best meetings we have had like this and I
believe will produce several great church planters.
CPR is the start of the relationship with ARC and initiates a long
partnership with each church planter that plants a church with us. We are
serious about relationships! Check out this email that I received from
Pastor Nathan Camp.
I wanted to take a minute to thank you for how great ARC has been over the
last month. I have been really humbled by church planting. Since I came from
a successful church, and lead a successful ministry, I had the feeling that
I really didn't need much help in planting this church. I can only see now
how much pride I actually brought into planting Fusion. During these last 2
years, my heart has been exposed and I realized how much I was in need of
grace. That I can only do anything as God gives His grace...outside of that,
I have a tendency to fail.
In this very exposing process, I have seen my need for help. When we landed
here in Orlando, I thought I really had it all together. That we were going
to re-write how to plant a church. Instead, we have struggled a lot more
then I was prepared for. All that has brought me to the place where I have
been realizing I can't do this alone. I need to have a tribe that I roll
with and that has my back.
I know that we have been "loosely" affiliated with ARC, but I took at step
of faith last month and called you and asked for some help. I can't tell you
how appreciative I have been watching the ARC staff come around us. Not
only were you very encouraging on the phone yourself, but Michael was as
well, seemingly really concern about our well being. Then, just last week,
Matt Keller called me and blew me away with his kindness and genuine desire
to be of service to me. Even to the point of coming down to visit Orlando in
March to get to know me and Fusion and help us along. That has absolutely
blown me away.
I remember at the first ARC round table I attended, and hearing you guys
talk about the relationships you were wanting with your church planters.
Well, I am seeing it first hand as a reality that you guys are living it.
I just wanted to drop you this line to say thank you for being so kind to
one of us guys on the outer ring, it has meant more then you know.
This is an example of what we try to do in the area relationships. With
God's help we will continue to walk with each couple who partners with us.
God bless, Billy
I’ve decided that Ed Stetzer is like the Bo Jackson of church planting. Not only does he understand the statistics behind the church planting movement,he is one of the best strategists anywhere. Needless to say, the guy knows his stuff and I’m thrilled that now he’s on my side of the field. Check Ed out at http://blogs.lifeway.com/blog/edstetzer/
Started seven years ago with two church plants, today the Association of Related Churches, (ARC) has planted 53 relevant, life-giving churches across the country, many of them now effective mega-churches. We are a non-denominational church planting engine that offers coaching, assessment and financing to young church planters and church networks. Because of the partnership of vision minded pastors like Greg Surratt, Chris Hodges, Dino Rizzo, Rick Bezet and Scott Hornsby, the ARC is poised to make an even bigger impact in the next few years. Great new friends have come along side of ARC to make the potential even greater…Guys like Matt Fry, Craig Altman, Craig Groeschel, Stovall Weems and many others have put the MO in the organization. As we continue to grow, we are excited to forge a new friendship with Ed Stetzer and want to welcome him into our circle of friends. Can’t beat that, after all…
Ed knows church planting.
It was a great weekend for ARC and the New York Giants. Several ARC churches had record attendance (C3, Matt Fry's church broke 3300) and Eli and his Giants team beat the unbeatables. I was amazed at the NY Giants' determination to win under such pressure. The odds against them were huge and the media darlings, New England Patriots, were the by and large the favorites. But that didn't play out in the end. Pure determination and guts won at the end of the day.
Sometimes I think that pure determination and guts wins in church planting situations. When we get tired and depressed that our church isn't growing like we had hoped it would we start to give in to the status quo and accept the idea that we will remain a small average church. We learn very quickly how to buy into the idea that our city is a church "graveyard" and we are one on those statistics. We begin to agree with all the other pastors in the area that "religous" spirits and demons have our city by the throat and if we can just "hold on to the rope" for a few years maybe we will grow enough to eventually buy a building and carve out a niche in the city for our struggling church.
Take a lesson from Eli Manning....break loose from the enemy and chunk your best effort down the field...maybe someone will do something extraordinary to keep you in the game. Maybe that individual will be the Holy Spirit. God has great plans for you and wants to celebrate with you on a victory that only the determined and overcomers will participate in. It's nice to have wins along the way and even necessary, but we must win the "big one." In the case of the church planter, that big one is the conviction and belief that God wants to win many souls in your city through your church (and others) and that your purpose is not to just get in the game, but to accomplish what He sent you there for.
Enough football? Not yet.
During the game I paid attention to the coaches and how they interacted with the players. It was amazing to see how each coach was constantly consulting with the players, both individually and in groups. No team can win without a coach! Question: Who is your coach? Who do you call for new plays? Who is mentoring you and guiding you through the next phase of your church plant? Who do you call each week to go over your situation with? Who is listening to your messages and giving you feedback? Who is watching you play and helping you make adjustments? For many of you the answer is, "No one." That is the basic problem that most church planters have. ARC has coaches available to help you make weekly adjustments if necessary....call one. It could be a church planter that is a year ahead of you or it could be the weekly teleconference with ARC leaders that we offer. These pastors are innovative, creative and successful and willing to share what they have with you. Just call in and listen or contact ARC for the name of one of our pastors who would be willing to coach you.
Pure determination and guts......Just do it!