Archives For Church Planting

A Tale of Two Leaders

Charles Kiser —  September 27, 2018 — Leave a comment

Mega Vs. Movement

Leader #1

  • He was probably the most famous religious leader in the 18th century
  • Newspapers called him a marvel of the age; he was a golden tongue golden boy
  • He was a brilliant orator – he grew up in the theater – and in his prime famous actors publicly expressed envy at the way he captured audiences
  • People compared him to David, Moses and called him the second morning star of a second Reformation
  • He went on preaching tours in England and the American colonies; ignited the Great Awakening in the American colonies
  • During one preaching tour in America he ended up preaching the gospel to nearly half the population in the American colonies
  • He would stand on the steps outside and 20,000 people would show up to hear him preach
  • In fact, he was one of the first to do “open air” preaching – namely outside of a church building – and the reason he did was because many of the lower class members wouldn’t come into a church building
  • Hundreds of thousands came to faith through his preaching
  • It’s estimated that in his lifetime he preached more than 18,000 times to 10 million people

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I’d like to flesh out this dream we’re pursuing in Storyline to become a “red hot center of mission.”

The inspiration for the metaphor comes from a series of posts written by Mike Breen on missional communities, where he explores the red hot center of the early church, the three elements of a red hot center, and what happens when “torches” of red hot centers gather together and make a “bonfire”.


This is a powerful metaphor and a great vision for the church in North America, especially in a time when the fire of mission sometimes seems to have burned down to embers.

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I’ve been reflecting lately on experiencing breakthrough in ministry – what it takes to really grow and thrive as a church, and how to know if we are cooperating with God so that breakthrough can happen.

Tim Keller provides a helpful discussion on how to evaluate ministry effectiveness in his new book Center Church that speaks to the topic of breakthrough.

In the end, however, I believe his discussion falls short.

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When I got into church planting, I wanted to do evangelism differently.

Most of the churches I’ve been a part of had a “believe then belong” paradigm for evangelism. In other words, after a person believes in the gospel and gives their life to Jesus then they can belong to the church – that is, participate in ministry, be a full-fledged member of the community, etc.

Even if this paradigm isn’t voiced in churches, non-Christian newcomers can sense it. One doesn’t fully belong until one becomes a Christian. Which makes sense to a certain degree – it is a Christian community, after all.

Practically speaking, evangelistic Bible studies are the front door of interaction with non-Christians in this paradigm. A couple years ago one Christian participant of Storyline observed all the non-Christians hanging out with us at parties and gatherings and asked me why we didn’t have more Bible studies going on with them. She had grown up in the “believe then belong” paradigm.

I was, however, smitten with an alternative paradigm to evangelism – “belong then believe” – articulated by people like George Hunter, Brian McLaren, Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas. Non-Christians come to faith by belonging first to a community of believers – participating in ministry, knowing others deeply and being known deeply – and then discover that in the midst of it all they believe!

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I had a great lunch with a fellow church planter Kendon Greene last week. We both share a partnering church in The Hills Church of Christ.

Kendon is planting Unity Christian Fellowship (UCF) in Arlington, Texas. He described his church’s journey from serving an affluent upper class group to being a church of and for the poor.

Two things he said really stuck out to me about their ministry to and with the poor:

1. “I don’t know what the poor need.” Kendon and UCF have stopped making assumptions about how they can help their poor neighbors and started asking them instead for the answers. One woman they served told them: “I’ve got a shelter to go to at night, but those guys over at the park – they don’t have anything. You should help them.” That comment led to some breakthrough for UCF after they started taking cold bottled water to the homeless people who lived around the local park and hanging out with them. Several of the friends they made at the park have become part of UCF group as a result.

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