Church Planting: When Being Old News is Good News

old newsWhat type of things do you daydream about? When it comes to your life’s vocation, do you look forward optimistically or are your prospects grim? Before I go on let me emphasize that no matter what your circumstances may look like, God can bring about new beginnings, second chances, and fresh direction. “Never give up” is not always an accurate charge, because sometimes we are called to abandon our temporary desires and pursue His heart. When we do this, we realize there is more abundance on this route than the path we thought we desired. “Never give up”, however on pursuing God’s best.

The journey ordained by God will not always be new and exciting, or easy to navigate, but it will always be blessed. Therein lies the problem, at times, with pursuing God’s dream for our lives. So many people have programmed their minds and hearts to follow that which is new and exciting…essentially striving after the “godly” thing instead of the “God” thing.

If you are a Christian, you know that it is easy to start believing that the only sign that the Holy Spirit is active is the warm fuzzy/ goose bump-y feeling we often get during our favorite worship song. When we no longer feel that, it is tempting to move on to find it again. A mature Christian has realized that the Holy Spirit is always active in the midst of obedience, devotion, and rest in God’s promises.

So, back to the original question. What do you daydream about? Before I started the church that I lead, I had certain desires and dreams for what it would look like. I had small prayers like, “God, if you could just send us 50 people…” and I would fill in the possibilities. Then God did send that many. Then 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, etc. Each time my prayer would evolve to accomodate the next numerical tier. At the beginning, it was never enough. My old prayers involved begging God to help us not lose “momentum” so we would continue to grow. All of my results were based on numbers and the feeling I got when I saw the numbers increasing. When we didn’t see times of massive growth, i found myself feeling as if I failed (and satan always wants us to rely on our own resources). It is a cycle that many leaders find themselves in. My mindset had to change.

Guess what??? I am now happy to report that my church is old news. Yes, you read that correctly. We are old news. We have been around for almost 5 years, and we are not the “next newest thing”, and it feels fantastic. While, at the beginning we saw many people who came because of the excitement of “newness” (which actually was helpful for the mission), we now see those who are hungry for fellowship, servuce and growing deeper with Jesus. It is great. It is where we need to be. We definitely have much to improve, but we can now do so in a healthier mindset.

If you have been wrestling with the concept of starting a new church, allow me to extend some wisdom to you. Church planting is exciting, hard, frustrating, and overall worth every minute. If you learn to move away from the mentality of merely attracting more people with ellaborate programs, complicate structures, fancy lighting, the newest technology, and crowd gathering messages, then you will realize that God is waiting for you to be faithful and dedicated to truth. People need to be welcomed, accepted, and given a space for transformation through God’s word. Don’t allow yourself to gravitate to “what’s working” thus constantly being distracted from genuinely loving people.

God has blessed me with an amazing church, and I constantly thank Him for it. As pastors we need to start finding peace in the mission instead of our ellaborate daydreams. Then, we will know what joy looks like in ministry.

Keep fighting brothers and sisters. Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

Christianity Just Isn’t For Me Anymore

Christianity  Just Isn't For Me Anymore (1)I’m done. I can no longer lie to myself and others and act like everything is okay. I am tired of the faith I have had, and it is time to make a change. A major one. This may be confusing to some, but it is something I have to do. I have made my decision, and I am sticking with it. Christianity just isn’t for me anymore. I know this seems shocking, but let me tell you why…In the form of a true story.

A good friend of mine (Becky) told me a story about her husband Tom that caused me to completely reconsider who I was, and how I viewed my faith. Tom is a devout Christian. He is a guy who has a past that he was not particularly proud of, but found God’s grace and has been growing in Christ for many years. He loves Jesus. Every day, Tom listens to Christian music at work, and the other guys at the car dealership that he is a mechanic at call him “preacher boy” because of his faith in God. No one really minds the music except for Bill. Every time Tom turns on the radio, Bill wants to smash the thing with a hammer. The songs are like nails on a chalk board.

Bill is very verbal about the fact that he hates the way Tom is, and he can’t stand his (insert expletive) music. In his mind, this God that Tom worships is the biggest fraud in the universe, and there should be some sort of law banning such devotion. There have been many occasions in which Bill has threatened physical harm if the music was not turned off. So, on many occassions…Tom has shut off the music because he certainly does not want to burn any bridges. Okay…so the music is off, but there is still something about Tom that is really irritating. No matter how many times Bill yells and complains about Christianity (the biggest scam in history), the nicer Tom becomes. For instance, prayer is a waste of time, in fact because it is a cycle of meaningless behavior. If it wasn’t, and if this God was as good as people says He is, then why did He allow Bill’s mother to suffer and die a painful death at the hands of cancer. Bill has always seemed angry. He was angry.

One day, the rest of the staff went to a fast food place to get a quick bite to eat and spend some time together. When they got back from their meal, they passed Bill (who stayed back to work instead of go out to lunch) sprinting out to his car. He had a look of pure shock and panic on his face. No one knew what was wrong.

Later, the rest of Bill’s coworkers found out what happened. Bill’s adult daughter died earlier that morning. His wife found her, and called her husband at work. She was gone. For Bill, the grief was intense, confusing, and emotional. No one could imagine the pain he was experiencing. No one should have to.

Tom and Becky really struggled with whether they should go to the funeral. I mean…Bill hated Tom and that was no secret. For some reason, despite this, they went. When Tom got to the funeral, he caught Bill’s eye. Bill came over to Tom, looked him right in the eye, and embraced him while melting into a tear-filled puddle. All Bill could do was cry as if Tom was the one Bill was waiting for to become vulnerable in public. For years, Bill hated God. He knew He was there, but there was not even a desire to have a relationship with Him. Tom consistently showed Bill who God really was…through action and unconditional love. Now, Bill was leaning on Him for hope.

So, why am I telling you this story? I am tell you this, because I think it shows us what this faith-life is supposed to be about. As Christians, we can spend hours going to church, reading our Bibles, praying, and living clean lives, but if the point in our own minds is to make us feel better, or even make us better people, then we are completely missing the boat. I have come to the conclusion that the Christian life has little to do with us, and everything to do with Christ and Him using us to be hope distribution centers. We are called to be second. Yes, of course we are supposed to grow in our knowledge and love for Him, but that is only step 1.

So, I am done. I am done living this life for my own “fire insurance” and hoarding spiritual blessings so I can openly say I am going to Heaven. I am done allowing my faith to be steered by what makes me feel good or what I am inspired most by in my life. I am done chasing miracles for my own enjoyment, and laying confortablly in piles of grace.

It is time to make myself available to God like Tom did…and love no matter what. Not because it will make me a better person, but because I am a new person, who has a mission.

Love you all whether you like it or not.

-Landon DeCrastos

The story is true but the names were changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

A New Standard Pt. 2

Missionally, churches exist to be a beacon of hope and a safe place for the community. One could look at the church as a spiritual hospital. Those who have wounds can come and their wounds can be bound. What happens, however, when the wounds a person carries was created by a church? I have heard stories of people who flee from churches because of the treatment they received because of their divorce, lifestyle, past, or even because the perception of being “money hungry”.

Let’s face it, churches ask for money regularly. For some, it is a concept that is second nature. Whether it is a bonus check at work, an inheritance, regular pay check, or any other source of income many people choose to give a portion of that money to the church. Others are not used to this idea and are even offended to think that this could possibly be an obligation.

In my other job as an office administrator for a church, I receive 10-15 calls a day asking for money for those who are behind on bills. I also receive the same number of calls from telemarketers wanting to sell me a new service or product that will enhance my life. As a Lead Pastor, I am also approached by people needing help…which I am glad to take part in.

In today’s culture the average Christian gives a little over 2 percent of their income to God’s kingdom (church or other charities).

What’s my point? If the Old Testament legalism says 10 percent, then aren’t we glad that the New Testament was written to get us off the hook? Wait a minute though…if what we learned yesterday is true, and Jesus gives his followers a different standard (care for the widow, orphan etc) then this would mean a different level of responsibility, right? Do you think Christ would say “still continue to trust in God, but not nearly as much as you used to…”?

The church may talk about money a lot…but so does every department store, infomercial, telemarketer, car salesman, shopping mall and magazine ad you come in contact with. Mission shouldn’t need a commercial.

Give extravagantly.

My next post will talk about what I eluded to earlier…a new standard for the way a church should welcome people…people with wounds and imperfections.

-Landon DeCrastos