Prayer for This and That

Charles Kiser —  April 21, 2008 — 12 Comments

We’re headed to Orlando, Florida today for the 2008 National New Church Conference. Leaders in church planting from all over the country will be there as resource people. Ryan and I are signed up for the “nuts and bolts” track. It promises to be a powerful event.

Please pray for us as we’re away from our wives…we don’t know how to live without them! Pray that they’ll manage alright, too, in our absence. Pray that we’ll hear from God through the people presenting at the conference.

We’ve hired an ad firm to help us make a good decision about a church name and initial branding issues. We hit a bit of a brick wall when, after a month of brainstorming and the development of a couple church names, we received consistent negative feedback about the names from many of our Dallas friends.

So we’re back to the drawing board. This is a BIG decision for us, especially given the nature of the context we’re in. Making a good impression is important, whether we like it or not. Please pray that God will give us clarity on the name by the end of the month—by the time we’re ready to launch the first house church gathering…

We have a timeline for the launch of our first house church. This weekend we’re throwing a big kickball/cookout kickoff party as a way of celebrating the launch. Weekly house church gatherings will start on Sunday nights following the weekend of the party. We’ve had fun thinking through what those gatherings will look like.

It’s our hope that this gathering will grow such that we can start another house church out of it, and that those house churches start other house churches that start other house churches. This is the heart of our methodology for ministry and vision for what church is. Out of the developing network of house churches we’ll start a regular worship gathering that will draw the network together for times of storytelling, celebration and encounter.

Please pray for this initial party and the first house church gathering on May 4. We’re constantly reminded that only God can bring this thing to life.

We’ve been having some amazing conversations and experiences regarding justice issues in Dallas. I’ll share more about those next week.

Charles Kiser

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Dallas, TX. Church Planter with Storyline Christian Community. Equipper and Coach with Mission Alive.

12 responses to Prayer for This and That

  1. 

    We were just in the Orlando area until yesterday. Tampa actually, but close enough. I want to know who you are inviting to the kickball kickoff and how you met them. Even though we don’t live anywhere near Dallas, we’re still so excited about the impact you’re having.

  2. 

    Have fun in Florida. Stan and Gena are there as well as our preacher and his wife, Kevin and Brenda Woods. Hope you bump into them. We’re really excited for your upcoming gatherings and pray that God will fill them up with Him. We’ll be down at Pepperdine next week, hopefully enjoying some sun.

  3. 

    Rachel and I will be sure to keep your trip, administrative decisions, outreach functions, and all of God’s work that is being done through your families in our prayers.

    I look forward to hearing about some of the justice issues you mentioned that directly affect your area and the calling to respond to them.

    May God bless your families and those you continue to touch daily & thanks for sharing your adventure with us in this way. I can tell you first hand that God has and will continue to work through the updates you both share. Keep em comin’.

  4. 

    I will be the first to admit that I do not have an advanced degree in religion or biblical studies and may therefore be somewhat simpleminded about these matters.

    But I will say as I have said before, don’t make your church-planting effort more complicated than it is…ad firms, branding, market perception??? No wonder you are receiving negative feedback…the world is tired of this! A brand cannot substitute for simply loving, accepting, or showing mercy. Our culture says branding is the way to get your product out before consumers. Jesus said by loving one another, people will know you are my disciples.

    In the sixties and seventies, churches distinquished themselves from each other through their dogma and tearing the others down. Today, it’s done through branding. Either way, trusting God to grow his kingdom through the love and service of his followers takes second-seat to OUR way: ad firms, branding, and market perception.

    If your focus is on starting or growing consumer-oriented churches, perhaps you are doing the right thing.

  5. 

    I will be praying! Wish we were in Orlando with you guys…next year maybe!

  6. 

    I think involving a marketing team is a great idea. There are so many skills that marketers have that don’t often get translated to missions and church planting–market research, creative networking, etc. All of these skills can help you better understand some basic information about the neighborhood you live in and the people who live there. That, coupled with the loving ministry you are already engaged in should give you great information and ideas for how to move forward.

    Tim, I think it’s problematic to assume that, by involving marketing professionals, this church plant will be focused on the consumerist mentality you’re describing. If they have the resources and opportunity to get some great help, why shouldn’t they? It doesn’t mean that they won’t live out their ministry in real, authentic ways as well. It just means they might come up with a name for their church that resonates with their community–and do it more quickly than they have been able to on their own.

    Charles, hope you and Ryan have a great trip to Florida! Sorry we’ll miss the kick-off event. :o(

  7. 

    Thanks for the reflection, Jocelyn.

    Let me come from behind the curtain to say this — I believe that authentic ministry does not need marketing, branding or advertising. I believe that there are too many examples in scripture as well as in life where a person’s authentic life in Christ lead people into His Kingdom. What are you seeking to brand that Jesus hasn’t already taken care of?

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure that market research could be quite helpful in understanding generation characteristics. However, when utilizing these resources, beware of where these methodologies can lead you. Publicly you give God the credit for the growth; but privately or in close circles you begin to gloat in your numbers or your accomplishments. You begin to depend more on market research than on His Spirit’s guidance. You begin to depend more on what makes more business sense than what makes more spiritual sense.

    Are people really that different today over when the apostles, including Paul, planted or watered the seed of God? Are we not still looking for authentic relationships with God and others? Just how many brands of this are there? There is a local church who advertises their church as a ‘Family of Friends’, showing clips of fellowship meetings, children’s Bible classes, and couples hugging each other. Why does a church need to advertise on TV that it is a ‘Family of Friends’? Don’t tell me, show me — thank GOD! the scriptures did not end at Acts 1 with the disciples staring up in the sky.

    Our culture, even Texas (had to throw that in), likes things ‘big’. We supersize or upgrade at every opportunity. We compete on many planes. We are intense about everything we do. That’s how we advertise. Even among churches, we compete for members. Why? Because our culture believes in offering people choices. How does branding, marketing, or advertising bring attention to what GOD can do? Most of what I’ve seen draws attention to what WE do or what WE offer. Is that not appealing to the consumer?

    Where you spend your time, energy, and money, reveals more to strangers than branding or marketing can convince me otherwise.

    Either way, to God be the glory!

  8. 

    I am so proud that you guys have decided to be full-time evangelists. I know that all of your hearts are in the right place, and that you are praying for the Spirit’s guidance.

    You are the ones who have done the mission clinics and gotten the training.

    However, I think that I’m agreeing with Tim. I see Jocelyn’s point, and I understand why you hired an ad agency.

    But you’ve mentioned that you want the worship to grow organically from who you bring in. You don’t know exactly what “worshiping in Spirit and in Truth” will look like when your house church(es) form.

    So why is it important for it to have a name at this point?

    Your Kick-off Party sounds like a great starting point. But the people who show up to it aren’t going to make their decision based on what you call the event. They are going to come because they’ve seen authentic friendship offered.

    I’m sorry if the negative feed-back you were getting about the names discouraged you guys.

    We’re all here, praying for, and supporting you.

  9. 

    Hey guys,

    The conversation about marketing is a good one. Thank you for being respectful to one another.

    To be honest, I resonate with both sides of the conversation.

    On one hand, a value for incarnation moves us to clothe our approaches in the garb of culture. God became flesh and moved into our neighborhood. It’s the missionary value for contextualization–we frame up the gospel in terms that make sense for the context.

    Marketing, to a certain extent, flows out of incarnational theology–particularly to the extent we develop things like a logo and website.

    On the other hand, we are calling people into relationships, not proposing to be a consumeristic dispenser of religious goods and services. We’re not out to win people over with our cool graphics so that they’ll sit in our worship gatherings at our cool church. We’re after facilitating the formation of people’s lives into the image of God in Christ. That happens in the context of relationship.

    So when we use the word “marketing” we’re talking more about the low-key ways we’re working with God’s Spirit to shape people’s perceptions about who we are. Even churches that don’t send direct mail flyers are still marketing–shaping perceptions about who they are. They market by not marketing.

    Whether we like it or not, even the people we’re in relationships with will check out our website as a way of getting a sense of our legitimacy. Remember our context! This is a hub for young urban professionals. They check out everything with websites. They use Facebook and Myspace to facilitate the lion share of their relationships. They keep the Ipods plugged in. They live in front of the TV. They are immersed in a media saturated culture.

    We won’t let poor marketing, or neglect of it, stand in the way of connecting with people in relationship.

    At the same time, we don’t plan on pouring thousands of dollars into creative ad campaigns as a way of drawing people into our community. Nearly all of that, as we’ve said, will happen via the most effective form of marketing (still marketing!)–personal relationships.

    There’s a little window into our philosophical convictions when it comes to the marketing question. I will try to post on this topic some more in the future.

  10. 

    Charles and Ryan (and our families) desire nothing but to sincerely and wholly bring people into God’s story by forming relationships with them around our table and revealing Him to them through the love, hospitality, and family that we show them. Since we have moved to our target area our home has been filled with people who have no idea who Christ is. We pray that through seeing Christ through our life and the way we are committed to serving Him and loving people that men will come to know God’s story.

    We understand the bad experiences some of you have with over-marketed consumeristic churches. God knows that is not the desire of our hearts. We want to do all things well, relevant, and above all, glorifying to Him.

  11. 

    I realize what we’re discussing here is somewhat the semantics of ‘marketing’. But let me point out how much God has done already without these ‘marketing’ ploys. As Julie has shared, “Since we have moved to our target area our home has been filled with people who have no idea who Christ is. We pray that through seeing Christ through our life and the way we are committed to serving Him and loving people that men will come to know God’s story.” Amen! These relationships become the authentic stream of God’s story. How did you get these people into your home? Was it the website, direct-mail, radio-ads, door-hangers, etc? Or were they personally invited?

    Let me just say, I rarely go anywhere I am not PERSONALLY INVITED, especially if it involves groups of people. I remember one time I visited a church uninvited. The sermon was about being ‘missional’ Christians. Not 1 soul introduced introduced himself to me. Matter of fact, instead of the preacher mixing & mingling after the worship. The announcement was made for visitors to go to the reception room to meet the preacher. What a paradoxical announcement!

    I am thankful for your hearts for God! I’m not familiar with many of the contemporary concepts of church planting. I don’t know if that’s a prerequisite for supporting you, but I believe my heart is where yours is. That being said, I would encourage you to continue putting relationships above all else; not to get in a hurry to grow a church, reach a certain size, etc; and enjoy the journey.

    Love you guys!

  12. 

    This has been a good conversation, friends. I echo Charles’ statement: thanks for being respectful to each other.

    And I agree with Tim: I don’t think anyone is disagreeing with anyone else, I think we were using “marketing” and “ad firm” in different ways.

    We have not hired this creative agency to put together any marketing campaigns, we have only hired them to help us pick a relevant name, tag line (like how Highland in Memphis chose “where you are”), and to develop a good logo/graphics. We have merely outsourced these creative needs to someone who has the expertise (so we can stay focused on people).

    We are not expecting people to come to our church based on the power of a good name. At the same time, however, we respect the ramifications of a poor name in a culture with such high expectations.

    (And we love sharing these conversations with you as we all learn and discern!)

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