OpenMindedChurch.org

Open Minded Church

With the help of a growing network of church leaders, I put together a new website at openmindedchurch.org.

Because the church I pastor, One Church, live streams our services and uploads on sermons on Youtube, I frequently receive the same question from various parts of the country, “Do you know of any churches like One Church in my area?

Most of the time I don’t, so I decided to ask some friends to compile a growing database of forward-thinking Christian churches with contemporary worship music around the country.

In a few weeks, we’ve created a directory of 60 churches in 21 states. We know, however, that there are many more out there. For example, Doug Pagitt believes that there are potentially up to 200 contemporary, progressive congregations in the U.S. Let’s find them and connect them!

You can visit the continually expanding directory at openmindedchurch.org. If you know of a contemporary, open-minded church in your area where thinking people are encouraged to wrestle with their questions and doubts, please submit the church. Thank you.

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Church Planters and Pastors: Are You Welcoming New Residents?

United Van Lines 2014 Migration

United Van Lines, the moving company, just released it’s 38th annual domestic migration study (how many people move in and out of each state).

The map shows the states where people are moving to and from.

The old church growth theory goes that churches grow fastest in places that are growing fastest. On paper, since some percentage of new residents are looking for a church, if you’re church is there and welcoming, it will grow just because of the influx.

If you’re a church planter or pastor in those blues states, more people are moving to your state than out, so it would be wise to creatively welcome new residents. Some potential ways to do that:

  • Send new residents a welcome packet in the mail.
  • Provide lots of user-friendly entry points into the church, especially for people who are looking for new friends.
  • Provide groups for all ladies and moms.
  • Don’t shut down your church ministries in the summer (that’s when many people move).
  • Create fellowship activities.
  • Offer a sermon series on adjusting to new circumstances (stepping out on faith, seeing opportunities, adjusting to sudden change, making new friends, etc.)

Obviously, churches reach people all over the country by loving people in a way that is relevant to their ministry context. And, of course, new residents move into every state, so there are always new people arriving in your area. Showing hospitality is a biblical value.

Church planters, however, should be aware of growth trends for the simple fact that more churches will be needed in the growing states just to keep up with the growth.

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Church Plant Coaching

sb10062615aa-001 Church planting is not for the faint of heart.

It’s tough, and church planters need support. Lone rangers can quickly find themselves giving up.

Don’t let discouragement ruin the dream God placed in your heart to plant a church.

Coaching is available.

My wife and I relocated to Chandler, Arizona to plant One Church three years ago. We were blessed with helpful training opportunities beforehand, but I have also learned lessons the hard way. If you are a church planter, I would happy to provide coaching to you. If you are looking for training, ideas, or just a sounding board, I can help especially in the following areas:

  • Fundraising
  • Preaching
  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Community Outreach
  • Progressive Theology
  • Self-care and Family-care
  • Reaching the “spiritual but not religious”

You can contact me at ryan.gear@onechurch.com.

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What Is Love? (Baby, don’t hurt me…)

This is the first sermon from the series I’m currently teaching at One Church, Love.Sex.Marriage. It’s entitled, “What Is Love?” (Sing it with me: “Baby, don’t hurt me…”)

During the sermon I quote from two great marriage resources, The Zimzum of Love by Rob and Kristen Bell and Love to Stay by Adam Hamilton.

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Marriage Resources

Slide21

During the sermon series Love.Sex.Marriage., I’m sharing relationship resources with the One Church congregation.

Two excellent marriage resources are The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage by Rob and Kristen Bell and Love to Stay: Sex, Grace, and Commitment by Adam Hamilton.

Zimzum contains study questions in the back of the book, and Love to Stay has a companion DVD curriculum and study guide.

I think either resources would make a great small group study or would help any couple have a closer, richer marriage.

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Love.Sex.Marriage.

Love Sex Marriage Bling 960

Today, I started a new sermon series at One Church entitled Love.Sex.Marriage.

There are three big “back to church” times of the year- 1) Christmas Eve/January, 2) Easter-Mother’s Day, and 3) August-October (Back to School).

These are natural times of the year for unchurched and dechurched people to visit a church service. To give new people extra incentive to visit during these three times of the year, I schedule a sermon series that appeals to a top-of-mind felt-need.

For this January, I scheduled the series Love.Sex.Marriage. The series will last 7 weeks, longer than usual for the sermon series I create, but the topic is always relevant. One Church has a more holistic approach to sexuality than many of the churches in our area, so hopefully those who hear the sermons will gain a new, refreshing take on sexuality, guilt, dating, making a marriage work, etc.

One Church sermons are available for free download at http://onechurch.com/all-sermons/.

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Church Planters: Beware the Church Hoppers

Angry People

When I meet an aspiring church planter, he or she is usually a kind, soft-hearted and trusting person. These are qualities that make for a great pastor.

At the same time, these are qualities that less-than-healthy people will take advantage of.

Every church planter feels the continual pressure to gather an ever enlarging group of people, because a church plant has to fight for survival. New churches die for lack of people and funds. It’s hard to get something new off the ground, and you can quickly find yourself being tempted to involve anyone who comes your way.

Showing up and having a heartbeat, however, are not the only criteria a person must meet in order to be entrusted with any measure of influence in the church you’re planting.

The church you’re planting needs emotionally healthy, stable people.

Some points bear repeating.

The church you’re planting needs emotionally healthy, stable people.

Say it with me…

God loves everyone, but not everyone is emotionally healthy enough to have influence in a church.

Any church will only be as healthy as its core group, and unhealthiness in the core group will only be magnified in a new, small church with inexperienced leaders who are often not accustomed to dealing with church drama.

There is a group of people who will do more damage to the church plant than you could ever imagine when you first meet them. At first encounter, they seem nice, very thankful they found your church, and eager to jump in and get involved. You need people, and they’re looking for a church. Seems like a match made in heaven.

Wrong eternal destination metaphor.

Want to be attacked, lied about, and manipulated? Want your family to suffer months of emotional roller coaster rides, wondering where the next attack is going to come from and who you can really trust? Want to scar yourself, fight becoming cynical, and feel like giving up and leaving the ministry altogether?

Cater to church hoppers.

You only need to talk to every church planter and pastor you meet to have this verified by painful experience.

There are several types of church hoppers. Here are three:

1. The “We weren’t being fed” type.

They are looking for expository preaching and their favorite worship songs from a particular flavor of church they like, but left, for some reason. They expect you to change your church just to please them.

2. The “We were just looking for something else” type.

This means that they move from church to church based on what feels exciting to them, what is new, and what church style they like. They will leave the church you serve as soon as the newness wears off.

3. The “We were hurt” type.

They experienced a church conflict (often more than one) and, instead of resolving it, they left looking for a church with no conflict and a perfect pastor.

In this post, I’m talking about the third type.

They left their last three churches because they were hurt in a conflict. They were hurt. Over and over and over again. So (instead of resolving the conflict) they left. Over and over and over again. Beginning to see the pattern? If not, here it is.

They caused the repeated conflicts that hurt them.

Then, instead of caring enough to confess their role and resolve the conflict, they bailed.

Now, they’re in the church you pastor!

This third type of church hoppers are people who have a difficult time staying in any one church because of their own emotional and relational dysfunction. They cause relational conflicts in every church they try. They may not mean to, but they can’t, or won’t, help it. It is a pattern in their lives that springs from their own pathology.

Once they cause the conflict, they exit for another church, leaving the people who are committed to clean up their mess. They hop from church to church, looking for the perfect church that doesn’t exist.

Young pastors are often idealistic, trusting… and incredibly naive people. Especially when feeling the pressure of church planting, we can lose sight of basic facts about working with human beings:

  • Mental illness is real.
  • Some people really will lie to protect their own egos.
  • Unhealthy people gossip and build alliances, taking others with them when they leave.
  • Because of pride, some won’t admit their unhealthy decisions, even when it’s obvious to others.
  • They don’t see the problem because they are the problem.

This is the reality of working with human beings in a fallen world.

Once again, God loves everyone, but not everyone is emotionally healthy enough to have influence in a church.

In Community of Kindness: A Refreshing New Approach to Planting and Growing a Church, church planter Steve Sjogren warns that new churches attract a variety of people who come for different reasons. Some connect because they genuinely believe in the mission and values of the new church. Some like to help new churches and may leave once the church grows. Some join, however, because they have a history of not being able to build a long term relationship with any church, and your church is their next ex.

The tell-tale sign of a church hopper is the list of churches he or she has left and the strong emotion they hold against “church,” in general.

  • Often, the person will meet with you and emotionally share multiple stories of painful conflict.
  • He or she may demonize former pastors (red flag!).
  • He or she will express frustration with “church” in general and always be on the brink of chucking the whole thing.

Like a gullible new pastor, you sit sweetly with your head titled, nodding sincerely and expressing empathy like a champ, gushing with wide-eyed pastoral care. They love and appreciate you so much. They are so glad they finally found a church with a pastor they can believe in.

In less than a year, that person will be attacking you.

You may see some small warning signs along the way, but you are not aware of how dysfunctional the person is. The inciting incident could be anything, including a normal level of human conflict that occurs on a daily basis.

You will see what is hard for you to believe, because it makes no sense. You will witness emotional and relational dysfunction that the person can no longer mask. You will observe irrational behavior, even belligerence, and you will watch a person you thought was here for life explosively leave the church, inflicting maximum harm on the way out… just like he or she has done before.

It’s new to you but not new to them. You will watch the relationship go up in flames, and now, you need to know something even more painful.

Pastor, they will attack you personally.

They won’t leave because of a conflict with “the church.”

They will leave because they have a problem with you.

It will be intensely personal, because in their dysfunction, it is always personal. They expected you to be the perfect human being who would heal them and coddle them. They often want a job title in the church. They thought you would be different than every other “nasty, terrible, hypocritical pastor” who hurt them so deeply (by not giving them a job title in the church).

In other words, they wanted you to be Jesus… and to give them a job title.

You’re not… and you didn’t.

They’re already meeting with a new pastor and telling him how terrible and hypocritical you are (they’ll leave out the part about you not giving them a job title).

It’s sick.

This third type of church hoppers tend to be people who were wounded in a past church experience. Perhaps they encountered an abusive pastor or a shady church conflict and were disillusioned. Unfortunately, they were not able to overcome their own woundedness and function in a healthy way, so they will be overly guarded and actually look for reasons to leave the church you shepherd. They will unintentionally sabotage their own relationships, especially with you, looking for reasons to validate their lack of trust and bitterness.

As the shepherd God has entrusted with this church, you cannot let church hoppers tear the church apart.

Here are some simple ways to guard the church plant from church hoppers:

  • Resist the temptation to give authority to everyone who is nice to you.

Develop a policy that people new to the church wait for at least a year before putting them in any positions of leadership.

  • Vet people before entrusting them with influence.

Why not contact that “terrible, hypocritical” former pastor and get his or her side of the story? It might be quite revealing. Observe the way they interact with others, and do not ignore red flags.

  • There is strength in numbers.

Limit the amount of time you spend with people who have repeatedly left churches, and when you meet with them, make sure other trusted members of the church are with you.

In this church plant, God has called you to be the shepherd, so protect your flock by resisting the temptation to take anybody who comes your way.

God will provide the right people at the right time.

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