A New Training Tool

We are in the process of launching a new training tool for potential church planters.  The Church Planter Academy is made up of short training videos (found on Ignite’s YouTube channel). We created this tool for the purpose of introducing some of the basics in church planting to people who are interested in pursuing this exciting possibility.

The first round of videos details some of the things church planting organizations look for in a church planter.  We introduce some of the basic skills for planters and ask some questions to help you determine whether God might be calling you into the field of church planting.  One video details the importance of taking time to be with Jesus on a regular basis.  Each video contains some “homework” that the person viewing can implement for growth.

The Academy will focus on four areas of training:

  • Church Planting Nuts and Bolts (best practices of church planting)
  • Spiritual Formation (a critical area for long-term sustainability)
  • Ministry Skills (basics of ministry a planter can expect to undertake)
  • Basic Doctrine (taking a look at the Restoration Movement)

The plan is to have 20 videos (some in each of these areas) on our channel by the end of the year.  Go to http://www.ignitechurchplanting.com and click on the YouTube link at the bottom of the page to check out the Church Planter Academy.  If you are thinking about planting, this is a great way to start the journey.

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Observations on Prayer

Reading through the Bible book of 2 Chronicles the other day, I ran across a story from the life of King Jehoshaphat that caused me to think about prayer.  Taking place in chapter 20, the story details a pending attack on Jerusalem by a large army.  When the news came to the king, he was distressed and called the nation to pray and fast.  Watching his reaction to a challenging situation allowed me to see some important lessons.

When trouble comes:

Seek God: The king immediately turned to God and the entire nation followed his example as they gathered together to ask God for help.  Listen to what the king prayed in v. 12, “O our God, will you not judge them?  For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”  In this verse, he recognizes his dependency on God and his need for direction from God.  I appreciated the way the king laid it all out before God in front of the people.  The people responded by joining together in crying out to God.

Wait on God:  I saw this step as “all the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.”  When facing difficulty and we don’t know which direction to turn, that may be the perfect time to wait for clarity.  We do need to wait with expectation that God will give an answer, but waiting for direction is never wrong.  (Note:  waiting and refusing to step out in faith are two totally different things.)

Believe God:  The answer from God came very quickly as they waited.  God’s Spirit spoke through one of the prophets and told the king, “You don’t have to worry about a thing, I (God) will fight for you and you will not have to swing a sword.  Tomorrow, march into battle, but I’ve got this.”  (my words)  The king took God at his word and broke out into praise at the promise of God’s protection.  He put this belief into action the next morning when he assigned the singers to the head of the army as they marched into battle.  (Normally, we don’t think of the singers being the rough and tumble soldier-type.)  With the singers singing praises to God, God set ambushes against the enemy army.  They began fighting among themselves and by the time Jehoshaphat’s army arrived at the battle field, the opposing army had slaughtered themselves.  Not one enemy soldier was left alive.  As God promised, he was going to fight for Judah.

Reading this story, I recognized that Jehoshaphat was a man who had made it a practice to pray to God.  When this situation arose, he simply did what he always did:  he prayed.  His example mobilized an entire nation who was then able to see what God could do.

I wonder what would happen if we were to regularly practice the art of prayer?  Would this practice prepare us for impending challenges?  Would following Jehoshaphat’s example yield the same results he discovered as God fought for him?  I am committed to growing a church planting organization that practices prayer as a core value.  I know this practice will yield long-term results that nothing else can bring.  I also know that as we practice the believing part of prayer that we will see God’s mighty hand in action.  I am looking forward to stepping forward in prayer.

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The Power of Form

I was working on an upcoming episode of our Church Planter Academy video training when I began thinking about the difference proper form makes.  When it comes to archery (I am a bow hunter), form is essential to making a good shot.  For me, form begins with having the bow held in my hand properly, drawing the string back to the right position and then taking time to check level and distance pins.  When the right form is used, more often than not, the shot goes where it is intended.

What does it take to gain proper form?  Practice — shot after shot must be taken so the hunter knows where the bow fits best, where the string needs to rest and how to make the release smooth.  Hour after hour of practice will make a hunter confident in a pressure situation.  Those who teach athletes, talk about muscle memory, the point at which the muscles know exactly what to do because they have done it repeatedly through practice.

The Academy episode about form comes under the heading of spiritual formation.  Form causes church planting leaders to exercise practices that build strength, resiliency and perseverance.  Some of the things that need to be practiced regularly:  spending time with God through Bible reading, practicing prayer, giving, serving, telling others about Jesus, solitude and fellowship with other Christ followers.

The value of developing a personal form that works is that it will carry the church planting leader through times of challenge and dryness.  When spiritual form becomes a habit, the leader knows the direction to turn when the pressure comes.  Muscle memory takes over and the leader falls into healthy patterns, not giving in to despair or doubt.

My challenge:  develop your form now!  Whatever builds strength and vitality into your life, begin to practice those things regularly.  Your form will enable you to stay on target despite the distractions.

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Full, not Flat 2

When the motorcycle repairman pulled the roofing nail out of my deflated tire, it was good lesson of the importance of keeping the wrong things away from what is of utmost importance.  The reality is that the tire on a motorcycle is one of the most important items a bike has:  since there are only two of them, if one of them is not working, it can cause a very dangerous situation to arise rather suddenly.

We all have things that if we allow entry into our life, will lead to a dangerous situation erupting.  Sins, attitudes, baggage that we refuse to release and other things can cause a sudden deflation of our life.  With this reality ever present, I want to draw our attention to a passage from the Bible.

“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”  2 Timothy 2: 22  I remember a message I wrote on this verse entitled, “The man of God must always be running”, because it talks about movement taking place.

It’s obvious to me that there are “deflators” that we will come into contact with as we go through life.  If we choose to flee the “deflators”, we will have half of the equation for success in place.  The other thing to embrace is pursuit of the “inflators”.  My question is, “What brings a fresh breath of air into your life?”

From the verse above, it appears that spending time with God should provide spiritual “air”.  Being around God’s people should bring fresh air pumping into our lives.  Being involved in serving as we bring the love of Jesus to others breathes life into us.  There are other things as well (for me, it’s riding a motorcycle, it refreshes my heart).

If we want to be full, not flat, we must guard our life against infiltration from potential “deflators”.  We will always have deflation possibilities occur around us, however, we do not need to allow them entrance.  Keep them out, while filling life with the things that provide a much needed burst of air.  A couple of lessons learned from a flat tire.

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Full, not Flat

Last week, I was heading to a meeting on my motorcycle when I experienced something strange.  My bike, which had always been faithful, suddenly became sluggish and hard to steer.  I went half a block, then pulled over to the side of the road to see what was causing the problem.  The culprit quickly became evident:  my front tire was going flat.  I turned  around and made my way back home.  Steering was a challenge, especially getting the bike turned up the driveway.  I filled the tire up and with the help of my wife discovered the cause:  I had picked up a piece of steel (it turned out to be a roofing nail) leading to a slow leak in the tire.  After a ride on the tow truck, my bike had a new tire and is now riding smoothly down the road again.

This adventure caused me to think about several things:

When I am not filled up, my steering goes bad.  From experience, I know that when I am at low ebb spiritually, I become reluctant and sluggish.  What I normally maneuver around becomes an obstacle that I cannot seem to avoid.

When I am not filled up, what is enjoyable and adventurous becomes a chore that fills me with anxiety.  I truly enjoy getting out on the bike, but when I didn’t know what was causing the problem, my imagination went into overdrive thinking of all sorts of potential problems.

When I am not filled up, there generally means there’s a cause that needs to be addressed.  Once the piece of metal in the tire was seen, it became evident what the course of action was:  I needed a new tire.  This course of action was pursued and that allowed me to get back on the road.

The last thing I realized is the most important:  when I am not filled up, life becomes very dangerous.  I drove with that going flat tire for a day, not realizing the danger that was sitting in my front tire.  I’m grateful for God’s protection, but I also know that when danger is revealed, we must do something about it, not leave it sitting there unresolved.

I will close this blog with one of Jesus’ favorite promises found in John 10: 10, “I have come that they  may have life, and have it to the full.” I have several different things that fill me up, how about you?  I will share more thoughts on this in another blog.


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Going into Training

I have been reading a book by Bear Grylls  called “Survival Guide for Life”.  Bear details many different short, pithy statements that he practices as he walks through life.  I read one today that resonated with something that Ignite does every week:  praying together.  The title of the chapter was “The will to win means nothing without the will to train”.  He talked about the need to train before entering a race, competition or any type of survival opportunity.  Without training, a person will not have the edge needed to persevere during resistance, challenge or adversity.  Training builds muscle, strength and fortitude that nothing else does.

I told our team today on the prayer call that I liken prayer to training.  As we pray, we are building connection with God, developing strength beyond our own and growing spiritual muscle that will carry us through the challenges ahead.  Jesus told his disciples after they wondered why they had been unable to drive out a demon, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”  (Mark 9: 29)  He was letting them know that they had to build their pool of strength deeper if they wanted to take on some of the challenges they were going to encounter.  The best way to dig the pool deep:  go into prayer training.

This is one reason we take the exercise of prayer very seriously at Ignite, we want to have the strength and resiliency needed to get through the challenges we constantly face.  We want to have the energy and focus needed to embrace the opportunities that come our way.  We want to have the wisdom needed to know what is a distraction vs. a new direction.  These things can only be faced by drawing on God’s power through prayer.

Strength is built through training.  Ability comes as we repeat good practices consistently.  Victory is seeded on the practice field.  We at Ignite will practice the vital things (prayer), so we can take hold of the opportunities ahead.

(Our weekly conference prayer call is open to everyone.  We pray every Wednesday at 8 am CDT.  The call-in number is (518) 530-1840, the meeting ID is: 471-669-428#.  Call in some Wednesday and join us.)


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Developing a Farm System

The Chicago Cubs are 2-0 to start the season and after last season, the expectations are sky-high on the north side.  When first hired by the team as the president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein did a complete overhaul of the team, spending much of his energy and emphasis building the talent pool in the farm system deeper and stronger.  His approach was to build the team from the inside.  It’s a long-view approach and Epstein thought it would take five years to see positive results.  He was hired by the Cubs after showing remarkable ability in taking this approach with the Boston Red Sox (and they won two World Series rings).  Now, he has put many of the pieces in place to bring the same result to the north side.  (Time will tell, but the depth of the roster is impressive.)

Seeing this approach lived out caused me to reflect on the importance of a quality “feeder program” for church planting.  If we want to plant more churches, we must develop a farm system that will help grow talent already in our systems.  The systems I am thinking about are the churches already in existence across Chicagoland.  I believe there are future church planters, worship leaders, children’s ministers, small group leaders and administrators sitting in churches right now waiting to be developed.  What are we doing to move people along?

I took a course a few years ago called “Raising Leaders for the Harvest”.  Written by Bob Logan and Neil Cole, it detailed some of the steps that need to be taken if we want to gather, train and deploy workers for new churches. Observing the success of Theo Epstein with the Cubs fills me with questions and reflections.

  • What if Ignite could catalyze a farm system for new church leaders in Chicagoland?
  • What if we could develop leaders who would become key staff in new churches?
  • What if we could have a ready list of people to “call up” when a need arose?

A farm system for leaders is something that must happen if we are going to multiply new churches across the region.  We need a “Theo Epstein” who understands what needs to be done and can help create the system.  My dream is to have “unprecedented depth” (words used by one reporter to describe the Cubs) as we move church planting forward.

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