Category Archives: Planting

Crusty old rollers.

Planting Update, Spring 2016

Elise and I have owned our condo in Fleming Island for almost eight years, 1 and we’ve always been juuuuust about to paint. When we moved back last November, we decided we were really going to do it. Nearly five months later, we have two bedrooms and two bathrooms painted. 2 I suppose I should post a few photos—perhaps when it’s light out.

As we were working on our bedroom earlier this week I thought to myself, I really thought we’d be further along than this by now. I was thinking of the big picture (more of the condo painted by this date) and of the room I was in (it was after lunch and we hadn’t started rolling yet).

That’s the story of our church plant. It’s a lot more like painting our bedroom than I understood a year and a half ago. See, the reason it was taking so long to see any real difference in the room is that we had much, much more prep work to do than I accounted for. And all of that prep work took far longer than I had estimated. I really want to be in the “rolling paint on the wall phase” of planting—the one where suddenly people are streaming to weekly worship, people are coming to know the Lord Jesus right and left, our church is making a difference in our community. I believe that stage is coming. I believe there will be visible fruit of our labor, and that it will be really visible fruit.

But the prep work is taking longer than I thought. And I know if that if we don’t get all those edges taped up, and all the furniture moved out, and two coats around the edges even up at those 11-foot ceilings, and all those other little detail things done now, we will regret it later. What’s left as a result of our work would be less satisfactory if we didn’t do those things.

So we’re continuing to prep. Specifically, we’re pouring into the work of recruiting for and developing our leadership team, so that when there is growth, we will have the capacity to fold in new people and help disciple them into disciple-makers in Green Cove Springs.

Image from: Alex Rubystone used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.


  1. of course for three of those years we didn’t live in it

  2. Mostly. We’ve some work to do on the baseboards and other moulding.

Karen Marie Yust in Real Kids, Real Faith:

When adults act as if religious education is mainly a tool for children’s moral development, children quickly catch on to the irrelevance of religious culture for the grown-up world. They have no incentive for committing themselves to a particular spiritual identity in adolescence if faith is portrayed by adults as something one sheds with childhood.…If they discover that our own spiritual practices are given little explicit attention and power to shape our lives, they are likely to imitate our indifference to the religious culture.

Leonard Sweet in From Tablet to Table, emphasis added:

I have had people challenge me on bringing up my children without religious choices. “Don’t you think you’re being a bit imperialistic and colonialist, not letting your children choose what religion they want to follow?”

My answer is, yes, I am being a bit imperialistic and colonialist. But I’m that way about plenty of other things besides religion. I didn’t ask my child, “What language would you like to speak?” or “What economic level would you like to be a part of?” These things are circumstantial to our birth. They are stories we are born into. So if you’re born into my house, guess what? “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). A child doesn’t decide to have toes; she discovers that she has them; this is how a child of mine discovers that he or she is already part of the body of Christ.

Important words for Christian parents, and for churches thinking about how they incorporate children into congregational life (particularly worship and the sacraments).

Did Christ Over Sinners Weep?

1. Did Christ over sinners weep,
And shall our cheeks be dry?
Let floods of penitential grief,
Burst forth from every eye

Chorus: Behold the Son of God in tears,
The angels wondering see
Hast thou no wonder, O my soul?
He shed those tears for thee!

2. He wept that we might weep,
Might weep over sin and shame
He wept to show His love for us,
And bid us love the same (Chorus)

3. Then tender be our hearts,
Our eyes in sorrow dim
Til every tear from every eye,
Be wiped away by Him (Chorus)

Henry Lyte. Beautiful Indelible Grace arrangement here.

It’s entirely possible I’m “reading” the song wrong, because what I’m about to write is not a theme picked up much in the “notes” visible at the Indelible Grace website linked above. But this song came up in my playlist earlier this Holy Week—I had played a song earlier on the album to test out how well a sound system was working and this followed in sequence—and it really struck a chord in me, particularly:

Did Christ over sinners weep, and shall our cheeks be dry?

Our Lord wept sinners, and won for us eternal life? Do we weep for sinners, or are we too busy waging war? Do we weep for sinners, moved to compassion and love in following our Lord himself, or are we trying to win them to our “team” for our own glory? Do we weep over sinners, or do we lament how difficult unbelievers make life for us? Does the existence of an us/them dichotomy bring us to tears? Christ wept over sinners—what do our cheeks look like? Do we weep for those who remain hopeless apart from Jesus? Do we long—deeply, passionately—for “them” to be included when the Kingdom of Heaven comes in fullness and every tear is wiped away and Death is put away forever? Are we begging God to stir up in our hearts for others the very same love with which he loved us?

Marywood: Funny How Things Are

Just over three years ago, Elise and I had our own little retreat at Marywood. We did some thinking and praying and listening and talking. We checked in with each other about our marriage. We talked about long term plans. We probably talked about how we were feeling with our little Mango Mango due to be born in six short months.

I’m at Marywood for a few days for a NAMS retreat. I remembered that Elise and I had taken those 24 or so hours for ourselves before, but in the instant I drove through a bend in the road I relived significant portions of that weekend.

Knowing that my ministry position at the time was just not a good longterm fit, I spent hours thinking about planting a church. I couldn’t figure out where or how. Green Cove Springs made sense—we lived nearby. But who would go with me?

I even mocked up a budget. Could I do IT or A/V consulting to support the work? Could I do enough that Elise could leave her job and stay home with our child(ren)? Where would I find clients? Would my old church family hire me with some regular consulting hours?

I didn’t know God was moving, unseen, preparing to change everything. A year later, all our talk at our retreat seemed hilarious. A full-time pastor of a “settled” congregation 700 miles away, church planting seemed like a part of my distant even though we’d never planted. “Us? Church planters? Think about how crazy we almost were!”

One year ago, the idea of not being in Woodbridge seemed crazy.

But here we are, back in Florida. Planting a church in Green Cove Springs (we still don’t know who exactly is going to follow us). I’m doing IT and A/V consulting part-time to support the work (I still don’t know where I’m going to find enough clients). I continue doing technology and communications work for IWS (who hired me as a summer temp in 2007, remember). Although it’s not enough for Elise to stay home, it turns out we moved back to Florida in part for her to pursue a job and not be a stay-at-home mom right now.

As I came around that bend in the driveway, I relived what seemed like that whole retreat. Poring over that pad of paper with numbers. Wondering if God could use me to plant a church. Afraid.

I’m still wondering a lot of things. I’m afraid sometimes. I definitely feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. But uncertainty is apparently no longer a significant factor in our decision-making process.

It’s funny how things are.

The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill

This article isn’t discussing breaking news, but I finally got to catch up to a few items on my “to read later” list. From Leadership Journal: The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill.

Western Seminary’s Dr. Gerry Breshears, a past friend and co-author with Driscoll, says many churches today have a problem with “giving lip service to ‘co-laborers,’ while depending on a single superstar.” And if it is all about the superstar, he says, then what if things go wrong with him or her?

I have first-hand experience of churches operating on a smaller scale but in the same way: around a single charismatic individual who does not believe he or she is really working alongside others. Those churches were built, to varying degrees, on the cult of personality rather than the Church. I’ve seen the devastating fall-out when things go wrong with that kind of leader—and felt it personally.

On the one hand, I’m not the prototypical church planter. I don’t tend to draw crowds and I’ve never been confused with a socially popular guy. On the other hand, I do have a strong (if introverted) personality, and the danger remains. We are spending a ton of time building up and equipping leaders for the labor of planting a church-planting church. We have not talked a lot about “growth strategies.” We have not talked marketing, or efficiency. We talk instead about Kingdom values (more than conversions!) and the desire to hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” when we meet our maker.

“How Is Your Church?”

I’m embarking on a series of posts answering the more common questions I’ve been getting. At first, many of these questions frustrated me. I’ve come to realize the plain reality is that people just don’t understand what Elise and I have set out to do in response to God’s call. Today’s question: “So, how is your church plant doing?”

There are people that seem surprised we haven’t yet produced something that is readily identifiable as an (Anglican) church by bow. I’ve been back in Jacksonville for one month after all! And of course, we announced our adventure more than two and a half months ago. Even if they expected it to take longer than a couple of months, many people seem surprised when I reply, “Great!”

Things are going well for us. We have a core leadership team—a “Great Commission Cell”—of 6 adults and 3 children. We have met on the last 3 Sundays as a leadership team and have had some good conversations in between meetings. Each member of the team is committed to the work, spiritually mature, and has been given gifts that will be of great help as things continue.

We have two primary goals in this phase. First, finding additional leaders and potential leaders. Before we can “launch” as a church, we’d like to triple the size of the leadership community. That would make 3 Great Commission Cells of about 6 people each.

The second goal we’re working on is making sure each leader is discipling at least one more person in the faith. We expect some of those pairs to grow in to full-fledged cell groups, but even two people meeting in the Name of Jesus is a big deal and a powerful vehicle for discipleship.

Only after our leaders and first members have learned the rhythms and processes of discipleship and can reproduce them will we launch publicly with a big to-do. In the meantime we are discerning some of the particulars of God’s call on our group, and we are training leaders to be good Christian leaders of this congregation. There are no shortcuts in leadership development or discipleship, and we expect this phase to last a while.

Thanks be to God for a dedicated and capable leadership team, and for the God who has given us one another!

➠ How to turn small talk into smart conversation

Engaging people in meaningful conversation—even if not overtly spiritual or evangelistic in nature—is something we can all be better at. Especially me.

We stagger through our romantic, professional and social worlds with the goal merely of not crashing, never considering that we might soar. We go home sweaty and puffy, and eat birthday cake in the shower.

via How to turn small talk into smart conversation | h/t Elise.