Church Planting Won't Work Anymore: Blog #2, "Conception is submission to discipleship""

In the introductory blog ( I spent some time explaining why “Church Planting” is not the most helpful language, process, and lens to use when it comes to planting a new church and coaching Church Planters.  I introduced “Church Birthing” as a more appropriate language, process, and lens for beginning new church that is consistent with scripture’s articulation of the Church as the “Body of Christ.”

In light of the extreme popularity and energy associated around “Church Planting” and the reality that our (as a church culture) results are not stellar at the current time; shifting our language, process, and lens for planting churches and coaching church planters is absolutely necessary.

In today’s blog we begin the journey of looking at this process of “Church Birthing” as an appropriate shift in language and process for planting churches and coaching church planters.  This shift will create a consistency and framework that will help us to better leverage the enormous interest in Church Planting with better, lasting results.

Conception is the starting point for beginning a new church.  As we look at scripture and specifically scriptures articulation of “conception” we see that conception is always about something that God promises; something that God delivers.

Many of the great advances of God’s Kingdom begin with the promise of a birth.  Even as we look at the beginning of the Church in Acts the disciples are told to go and wait until God sends the Holy Spirit.

Conception is not a church planting strategy; Conception is a call, a gift from God…..this is how a “body” begins and is the way a new expression of the “body of Christ” should begin too.  Conception is a necessary step of discovering where God’s grace is going before us that is often missing in church planting and where God’s grace is intersecting with our lives.

Conception is the realization of that call…

“Church Planting” as a strategy will inherently cause us to put competency before character in the selection of the Church Planter where as “Church Birthing” puts conception as the first step which is ultimately about the “called” planter going through the journey and process of character development in preparation to reproduce his spiritual DNA in to the targeted mission field.  Its Character before competency

With church planting being such a hot topic in our contemporary church culture it can look from the outside like a glamorous job that is much more attractive then leading an established church.  Because of this, many apostolic ( leaders with high competency find themselves attracted to church planting as an entrepreneur adventure and miss the necessity of the call.

Calling is a consistent necessity throughout the narrative of scripture and specifically in the beginning of something new.  In many cases God does not call the most “qualified” for the job but instead calls the unqualified and then equips them for the call.

Conception is the acceptance of that call…

Unlike “Church Planting” where acceptance of the call means a personality test, short boot camp, and getting the assignment where the planter is going….”Acceptance” in Church Birthing is the submission to doing the hard internal character work necessary to have a life that is simple, memorable, and reproducible.  Acceptance is about doing the hard work of having a life worth imitating.

When we take a high competency apostolic leader who has not submitted to a journey of internal character work and send him through a short term (2-3 weeks or less) crash course and deploy him to start a new church we are actually setting him and the mission field up for an environment where he is unlimited in the amount of harm he could do.

How many stories are there of new churches that have exploded with breakthrough and growth due to a attractive, charismatic, gifted leader only to watch the new church implode a few short years after the birth because of character, judgment, or a morality lapse on behalf of the church planter.

Conception is the submission of that call…

Unlike “Church Planting” where often the most outspoken, attractive, arrogant leader looks like the man for the job….”Church Birthing” begins with identifying a called, gifted leader who is willing to submit he and his family to a journey of developing high character to go alongside his high competency.

If a “Church Planter” is not willing to submit to a journey of character development before being deployed than he does not possess the kind of servant leadership that Jesus models and calls His disciples to imitate. 

We can only reproduce who we are; so if our lives are not worth imitating but full of chaos than we will only reproduce chaos.  We cannot take anyone where we have not been ourselves.

 It does not do a gifted, driven, high competency leader any good to attract people to him over and over again if the life he is living and the family he is leading is not simple, memorable, and reproducible in a way that others are able to grow in the character and competency of Jesus.

The Conception Process in Church Birthing

 Answering the call and submitting to the journey of the discipleship within the Church Planter and Family is the conception process in Church Birthing.  When the Planter and family submit to a journey of allowing God to do a work in them in preparation for the work God wants to do through them they are then equipped to take the next step in the journey.

It’s through this journey of discipleship and specifically, developing a life and family worth imitating that is simple, memorable, and reproducible that the heartbeat of the new church develops and begins to beat.

One of the things that my team and I spend a lot of time doing in investing into leaders and families through this journey of discipleship to help leaders and their families have a life and family worth imitating.  We simply invest in to others what has been invested in to us that have allowed us to experience and reproduce significant personal, family, and organizational breakthrough over the last 6 years.

In our next blog of this series we will look at the “heartbeat”…..everything the new church will ever be is present in the heartbeat.

Would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and reflections.

Peace, Chad.

8 Reasons Why "Church Planting" won't work anymore

8 Reasons why “Church Planting” won’t work anymore…

Church Planting, Discipleship, Mission…….the conversation is in full swing.

The temperature and interest for Church Planting is at an all time high in America.  There are more resources, conferences, books, and coaching specific to church planting available now versus any other time in our countries history.

Couple this with the renewed temperature for discipleship and mission and we have a recipe that makes this one of the most exciting times to live as a follower of Jesus especially if you are Church Planter.

But yet we still have some key challenges with the current state of Church Planting…

Ed Stetzer and his team have provided some helpful research….see here

  • 4000 new church plants each year….an all time high

  • 68% church plants still exist after year 4

  • Typical (majority) church plants did not pass 100 in worship attendance after year 4

  • 30% were not self sustaining after year 5

  • No breakthrough in true church multiplication (no reproduction)


Here are 8 reasons why “Church Planting” is holding us back from claiming new territory in the development of new churches…

1.  “Church Planting” is vocabulary that misses the mark

As we serve a Lord who is described as the "the word becoming flesh" we experience firsthand in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus how important vocabulary is; vocabulary determines language and language shapes culture.

When it comes to church planting and the reproduction of a church the language that we use to create this culture and intentional process of reproduction is absolutely crucial.

Church Planting is the wrong vocabulary because it will not lead to the most accurate language to create a consistent culture where a new church develops and functions as the “Body of Christ.”


2. “Church Planting” is inconsistent language…the church is not the “plant of Christ”

I have yet to uncover scripture that specifically refers to the church as the “Plant of Christ.”  If the Church is the “Body of Christ” than the most consistent language to use in the development of a new church is “Church Birthing” not “Church Planting.”


3. “Church Planting” does not lead to an intentional process

If the Church is the “Body of Christ” than the proper language and process to use in speaking of and developing new churches is “church birthing” and not “church planting.”  Hence, the development of a baby is the natural process to how a “body” comes to be and this process is the most natural and intentional lens to use for the development of a new church.


4. “Church Planting” does not recover the proper language needed to move forward

“Church Planting” does not naturally recover the language scripture uses to describe the Church.  If we are going to continue to move forward in our ability and effectiveness to start new churches than recovering scripture’s language to describe the church will be vitally important.

In other words, as the Church Planting focus and temperature continues to grow and reach new highs in America, recovering the proper language to talk about starting a new church will be incredibly helpful especially to those who are responsible for new church development within their respective contexts.


5. “Church Planting” is a limited metaphor

While I am not arguing that “Church Planting” is not a valid metaphor I am suggesting that “Church Planting” has obvious limits as the primary metaphor we use for the development of new churches.  The more helpful language for beginning a new church and to stay consistent with scripture’s articulation of the church as the “body of Christ” is “Church Birthing.”  


6. “Church Planting” is not the most helpful lens for evaluating and measuring the development of a new church

I am suggesting that the same way a baby develops prior to birth is the same way we should approach the beginning of a new church and evaluate the health of a new church prior to the public launch.This birthing process gives us a proper lens for evaluating and implementing the process for beginning new churches.  Using this language of “church birthing” instead of “church planting” will help to create a consistent culture, process, and evaluation.


7. “Church Planting” falls short in connecting the theory (book/conference) to the practical (boots on the ground) experience

I believe that one of the reasons the majority of church planters feel unequipped when it comes to the daily practical and technical logistics required to start a new church is because “church planting” leaves to many gaps.

During the last several years one consistent piece of feedback I hear from the majority of church planters is the disconnect between the theory of the “conference” or “book” to the actual “boots on the ground” practical experience of planting the new church.

The process of “Church Birthing” fills these gaps with a practical and technical framework that those starting new churches are hungry for.


8.  “Church Planting” does not transfer the necessary weight of responsibility

The responsibility and attention given to ensure the healthy birth of a baby is far different than the responsibility and attention to growing good tomatoes.  If we simply use the language of birthing instead of planting when it comes to a new church and apply the process than we will place a needed weight of responsibility that planting will never accomplish on its own.

Where do we go from here…

If we are willing move the vocabulary from “planting” to “birthing” we will enter in to a world of language that will propel the conversation of new church development forward and channel the overwhelmingly high interest of new church development into the proper metaphor that has the skeleton and process that will allow new church development to develop out past its current territory.

Over the next several weeks we are going to enter into the world of “Church Birthing” to experience the depth and consistency of a metaphor that has been present in scripture sense the Church was born 2000 years ago that was just as relevant then as it is for us today.

5 reasons why Predictable Patterns are crucial for leading and multiplying a Missional Community

For the last 6 years my wife and I have been leading missional communities.  During this same span we have coached and trained over 100 other leaders to lead Missional Communities in their context.

As we reflect upon this journey there are a few things that come to mind that stand out as essential for leading and multiplying a Missional Community.

We define a Missional Community as a group of 20-40 people who are committed to living as a Gospel Family on Kingdom Mission.  One of the key ways we live in to this vision is through Predictable Patterns.

Below are 5 reasons why Predictable Patterns are crucial for leading multiplying Missional Communities.

1. Predictable Patterns create space to give people access to your life.  One of the reasons that so many folks don't believe they can live a missional life is because they don't have a place to imitate.  Through predictable patterns we are able to give others access to our lives in such a way that they can see how "simple" living a missional life can be.

2. Predictable Patterns create space to allow people to orbit through your life.  As people want to have access to our lives it's important that we have predictable patterns in place that make it easy for them to "orbit" through on a repeatable basis.  It's one thing to give people access; its quite another to offer continual places (orbits) for others to pass through on a repeatable basis.  Whether its "guys night" once a month; open dinner every Wednesday; Family Night every other Friday; or Saturday Morning breakfast.....these (among others) all create space for people who want access to our lives to orbit through on a repeatable basis.

3. Predictable Patterns create space for you to identify a person of peace.  A person of peace is someone who likes you, listens to you, and serves you.  One of the difficulties we often hear from folks is their struggle to recognize a person of peace.  We have found that through predictable patters we are able to see who is "orbiting" through our lives continually and drawing closer to us.  As we become aware of these potential POP through Predictable Patterns we are able to discern who we need to invest in over the next season of discipleship.

4. Predictable Patterns create space to show others how to lead a Missional Community.  As we identify a Person of Peace who feels a call to lead a Missional Community we want to empower them to live in to that call and "do greater things."  Predictable Pattern become the imitative environment that we use when training others to lead an MC.  Its one thing to give someone the information; it's quite another to invite someone to imitate you for an extended period of time to experience what its like to lead a Missional Community.  Predictable Patters create that environment of imitation.

5. Predictable Patterns make leading a Missional Community light weight and low maintenance.  Everyone is busy and everyone is fighting to make the most of their time.  Our family is no different.  Predictable Patterns make the flow and rhythm of life to feel light and easy.  We simply live in a particular way with particular rhythms whether its only us or its others that are orbiting through.  We don't have to "add" something to make the MC work we simply invite others in to what we are already doing; predictable patterns make that possible.

If people don't have access to your life its hard to create a sufficient orbit to recognize a person of peace to imitate how to lead a Missional Community in a way that is light weight and low maintenance (simple, memorable, and reproducible).

Amanda and I hope that this is helpful or at the very least will be a chance for you to feel empowered to lead and live as a Gospel Family on Kingdom Mission. 

One of things that Amanda and I feel called to is to invest in to leaders and families who desire to run after this same vision.  We are constantly coaching leaders in the things we have learned from the mistakes we have made and the success we have experienced. 

If you or anyone you know are interested in exploring this coaching and consultancy we would love to hear from you.  Please comment below.


7 Ways Disney Represents Jesus better than the American Church

For Christmas this year Amanda and I decided that in lew of getting gifts for the children and each other that we would instead go to Disney World as a family.  This year would be an "experience" Christmas for the Pullins!!

I spent some significant time reading blogs and planning our trip to get the most out of Disney.  The time finally came for us to make the trip and all I can say is it (Disney World Vacation) was one of the best vacations we've ever had.  That place is amazing.

Since I've been home there have been numerous folks ask us about the trip and my response is, "have you been?"  For those that answer "yes" we look at each other with the kind of look where we both know the amazing experience that Disney offers their guests.  For those that say "no" I just say, "that place is amazing and if you ever get a chance to go you should; you won't regret it."

I wonder how many people say, "that place is amazing and if you ever get a chance to go you should; you won't regret it" about their church atmosphere on Sunday morning.  My heart and hope is that we can create a culture and atmosphere of church worship that is as attractive and missional as the environment that Disney creates each and every day.

Over the four days that we spent in the Parks it became very apparent to me that so much of what I was experiencing was pointing to the Gospel Story.  Every where I looked I saw ways in which Disney was representing Jesus and pointing to the biblical narrative.  As our trip came to an end it occurred to me that Disney actually does a much better job representing Jesus then the American Church does.

Below are 7 ways that Disney represents Jesus better than the American Church on Sunday mornings.

1. At Disney, Guests know who the hero is.  At Disney it is very obvious that not only is a "hero" needed but the Hero and their journey is the main part of each story they tell.  Disney reminds all guests of our longing not only to know the hero's journey but taps in to our deep human need to be rescued.  Unlike the Church that often doesn't describe the story of Jesus as a hero's journey to rescue humanity but instead spends a lot of time arguing against particular soap box issues.

2. At Disney, The story of Good Vs. Evil is very clear and consistent.  Everywhere you turn as Disney you are confronted with the story of good vs. evil told in a different light.  There is no way someone can come to Disney and not be reminded that in the end good will prevail over evil.  Unlike the Church where this epic battle of good vs. evil is often diluted down to some very ordinary morality codes that often gives us an excuse to push anyone away who isn't like "us".

3.  At Disney, Guests are reminded of the reality of death.  One of the things that makes the "thrilling" attractions so attractive is that you are reminded on some level that at some point in your existence you are going to die.  You are faced with the reality that if a particular roller coaster (or other thrill ride) goes bad that would be the end of "you" in an instance.  Unlike the American Church that is often weary about talking about death and its reality for fear that if the challenge is to high those in attendance will go somewhere else and/or stop contributing financially.      

4. At Disney, The Experience of the Guest is of great importance.  From the time the rope drops until the time the last person leaves everyone who is on the Disney Cast that day is committed fully to every guest experiencing the Disney "magic."  Unlike the American Church where guests often feel unwelcome, "called out", or an outsider; often the guests experience is one of the lowest priorities for a Sunday worship experience.

5. At Disney, Those who serve sees themselves as a vital part of the missionEvery single employee at Disney sees themselves as a part of the "cast" and their job is to be a part of "making magic" for the guest.  This is their mission and everyone is a vital part of it.  Unlike the Church where most people who serve sees themselves as "volunteer" and not as a vital part of the mission but as someone "who helps out" when they can.

6.  At Disney, Guests are invited and expected to be a part of the storyDisney has an amazing way to not only invite you in to the "magic" but gives guests unlimited opportunities to actually participate in the story.  Whether that is an interactive attraction; a character calling you a prince or a princess; or a host at a restaurant actually acting as if you are in the country of the food....Disney expects full participation.  Unlike the American Church where most guest leave on a Sunday morning feeling like an outsider and have no idea how to be a part of that particular church's story.

7. At Disney, Celebration is done with excellence and is a non negotiable.  I've been to Disney a couple of times and its amazing to me that their standard of celebration when it comes to attention to detail and the guests' experience is second to none.  Every day is the most "magical" day the world has ever known and the whole cast is committed to making that a reality.  Unlike the American Church where many attend out of obligation and often times Sunday morning is one of the most boring hours of the week.

As convicting and eye opening it was to be at Disney and to see them pointing to the way of Jesus in a way that is more compelling than the church on Sunday morning I still came away hopeful.

Watching Disney function reminded me that it is possible to create an atmosphere of hospitality and experience that can tap in to the hearts of people. 

I came away from Disney with a conviction that when it comes to Sunday worship that churches don't need to over swing but what they do needs to be polished and tight. 

I came away encouraged that casting compelling vision, being dedicated to hard work, and empowering people to take ownership in their areas of responsibility can lead to an experience of church on Sunday that is highly attractive and deeply missional.

As always would love to hear any thoughts, reflections, or questions....feel free to comment below.




5 Mistakes That Prevent Your Missional Community From Multiplying

Over the course of the last several years of leading and multiplying Missional Communities my wife and I have seen some common mistakes that can prevent a Missional Community from multiplying.  These are not only mistakes we've seen but also mistakes we have experienced directly in MC's we have led or MC's being led by those we have discipled.

1. Absence of Discipleship within the Missional Community

At 3dm we often say that "Discipleship is the engine that drives the mission."  This is never more the case then within a Missional Community.  When someone decides to launch a Missional Community without discipling a smaller group within the MC than over time it is very easy for the leaders of the MC to become the providers (of everything) and those that come to the MC settle to be consumers.  

This absence of discipleship simply means there is an absence of intentional Spiritual Parenting and the natural result will be an obstacle to MC multiplication because there will not be any spiritual children maturing into spiritual adults and sent out to lead their own Spiritual Families on Mission.

2. Choose comfort over Shared Responsibility

One of the easiest ways to slip in to a typical "Consumer Culture" is to choose comfort over shared responsibility within the Missional Community.  When those who are leading the Missional Community are more focused on the comfort of those who are a part of the MC it will always lead to a consumer culture where the leaders will eventually become burnt out. 

MC's are meant to be light weight and low maintenance; one of the key ways this is possible is by creating a "producing culture" through shared responsibility within the MC. 

If you are leading an MC where you are doing all of the emails, cleaning, prep, planning, etc there is a really good chance you are choosing comfort over shared responsibility.

3. Lack of Predictable Patterns

Predictable patterns are essential for the continued "on the fly" discipleship that is necessary for reproducing Missional Community leaders.  As we look at Jesus' life we see that one of the things that makes Jesus the most incredible leader ever is that Jesus offers "imitation." 

So often our culture gives people the right "information" and then tells them to go and "do it" which is a recipe for disaster and one of the reasons our culture has a hard time with reproduction. 

Predictable Patterns create space for the necessary imitation and "on the ground" training that is essential to producing the kind of leaders that can multiply Missional Communities.

4. Limited Organic Interaction

It's been our experience that in our pursuit of becoming a "family on mission" that organized and organic relational interaction are essential. 

In American "church culture" the organized predictable patters usually come very natural because of the programmatic nature of our culture's approach to church.  However, when the organized nature of Missional Community is the only interaction among those in the MC then there is a really good chance that the MC will look more like a "program" than a "family on mission." 

The "organic" nature of a Missional Community is the natural interactions between those who are a part of the MC that are not scheduled but happen naturally when people are committed to doing life together.  These organic interactions create an environment where multiplication becomes a natural result for the MC. 

An absence of these organic interactions will make multiplication feel unnatural and forced instead of the natural evolution of how a "family" develops.

5. Choosing Perfection over Excellence

When we judge the success or failure of Missional Community based upon the professionalism of any given MC event and the leaders of the event we create a huge obstacle to multiplication. 

When MC can only be led by the "professionals" than MC has moved from a vehicle to experience "Family on Mission" to another proponent of "celebrity" christian culture. 

However, when we are proponents of pursuing "excellence" instead of "perfection" we create an environment where people are not afraid to fail but encouraged to take a risk of leadership.  This pursuit of "excellence" is a training culture that allows people the freedom to grow through incompetence in to a place of competence where the natural result is MC multiplication.

A Couple Closing thoughts...

My wife and I have been leading missional community for the last 4 years and we continue to learn each and every season how to more effectively cultivate a "Family on Mission" where the natural and predictable result is the multiplication of the family. 

We are not perfect examples; we are simply living examples.  One catch phrase that we hold on to with all that we are is, "anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you get better at it." 

This fall we are going to engage in another season of Missional Community.  It won't be perfect but it will be a vehicle that will allow us to experience the gospel reality of belonging to a "Family on Mission" that will make a significant impact in our city during this season.

Would love to hear your thoughts, questions, and reflections....please comment below.

Chad P.