Monthly Archives: January 2013

Exciting Partnership – College Church Planting Movement

When we planted the Avenue a few years ago we lamented the fact that there were no church planting organizations committed to planting churches on college campuses.  We were frustrated by the fact that everyone agreed that we were losing a generation,  yet no one was willing to risk with us to attempt to pioneer new frontiers into college ministry.  In fact, when we presented our vision of starting missional communities on College campuses we were told by most of the large church planting organizations that our model was not financially sustainable and it was not feasible long term.

Well, they were wrong!  We have not only found economic engines to help us with financially sustainability but we are preparing to bring on a church planting resident to plant our 2nd campus.  What we have done is not only feasible but it is reproducible!  The average church plant in the US costs between $250,000 to $300,000.  I also know of many churches who are investing millions in mutli-site campuses.

We planted the Avenue for around 100,000 – Imagine if we took the millions invested in one multi site and we redirected it to start 10 college church plants?  Imagine if we could plant 3 college church plants at the cost of each church plant we are currently planting?  What we get very quickly is a movement!

We believe the secular college campus is one of the largest unreached people groups in our country.  We believe that we can re-imagine church planting on the college campus.  We believe that we can create a movement of multiplying disciples and churches on these campuses that change the face our faith in the next 20 years.  We believe that we don’t have to lose 70% of our young people when they go to college.  We believe students can actually use their years in college to prepare themselves to become kingdom workers.  We believe that God is raising up church planters who want to pioneer new efforts & that the apostolic call on their lives will lead them to the college campus.  We believe that the stakes are too high for us not to take risks and not to invest in the next generation.  We believe that we can actually bring the kingdom to life in a dark place.  We believe that we can actually restore what is broken and bring revival to the hearts of the next generation.  The return will not be mega churches, the return on that investment will be disciples, kingdom workers and a new generation of students graduating from secular colleges not just with degrees but with the ability to create disciples and be the church!

It won’t be easy but wow is it going to be fun!

So I’m excited to announce that in partnership with the New Thing Network, 3DM and TOM – We are launching a network of college church planters.  If you have already launched a church plant on a college campus or if you are dreaming about planting in the future we want to talk to you, we want to invite you into what God is doing and we want to dream together of how God can bring revival back to our college campuses.  Every revival in our countries history has 2 things in common, the first is prayer, the second is, it started with college students!

Here is what Mike Breen has to say about this today:  

Here is a link to the vision of the TOM Project our vision to plant churches on the 100 most influential college campuses in the US.

If you are interested email me at ben@avechurch.com

We are looking for 3 to 5 new planters to join us this month and we are looking for church planting residents who are committed to spend 2 years training on a college campus in order to plant in the future!

When Shame Became Cool Again

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Shame is something familiar to us all.  We don’t discuss it much, we don’t reflect on it enough and we don’t admit the depth of its grip on our souls but never the less shame is a struggle we all experience.  Its a pervasive state that contaminates all of our relationships, all of our experiences and all of our hopes for the future.  For many it has become a quiet prison that holds us captured in the past when God calls us to a brighter future, we are somehow stuck in a moment.

Shame comes from many sources, it can be from a moment in our life’s history where we disgraced ourselves and somehow acted less than human, those moments where we were far less than we know we should have been.  Shame comes from things done to us, the scars of sexual victimization, the pain of bullying, the hurt caused by the words of a father or a spouse.

CJ Jung called shame, “a soul eating emotion.”   It is a silent killer and it derives all of its power by the fact that for many it remains hidden inside.

We must remember two things when discussing shame in the church:

1) – Jesus came to the shamed – Jesus came to redeem and set things right in doing so he did not come to seek those who were healed but seek the lost and ashamed.  Before Christ our dignity and worth was wrapped up in the wrong system, we were covered in sin and we were far from God.  We needed a new start, so Christ came, and brought the good news that he would take our shame.  Our sin was covered by the blood of the lamb and  we could become new and be born again.

2) – Jesus took our shame – Jesus not only ate with prostitutes and sinners, he not only sought out those caught in the indignity of shame he actually took on our shame.  Jesus became the scapegoat for our sin, he took it upon himself freely so we might be redeemed.  Is 53

Dr Ed Welch says,

“Everything Scripture says about shame converges at Jesus. From his birth to his crucifixion, the shame of the world was distilled to its most concentrated form and washed over him. He was despised, insulted, naked, a friend of sinners, and abandoned by those who knew him best. The crucifixion was not the tragic end of an otherwise charmed life. It was the logical conclusion of the shame he voluntarily accumulated from the moment of his birth.”

So here’s the question I wrestle with……

How has shame based theology made a return to the public circle?

Why is it each year we find more young preachers, who in the name of returning to the gospel, preach a doctrine that is far from the gospel?  Why is a works based theology captivating the church and younger generation again?  Why are there more young hot shot preachers, who preach with great authority, but speak far more of sin than they do grace?

Why are so many young people turning to works based faith and finding themselves delighted to be repeatedly told of who they once were, instead of being constantly reminded of who they have become in Christ?

1) – Young People want a return to the gospel yet don’t have a true definition of the gospel

I find that many young people have a deep desire to return to the gospel but they have no reference for what the gospel is, so every church is “gospel centered” but no one really knows what that means.  “Gospel centered” has become as much of a buzz word as “missional” is.  Gospel however, is far too often incorrectly characterized by what we once were than being about who we are now.  Sin and death is a part of the gospel story but praise God it is not the end!  Calvin himself said, “The whole gospel is contained in Christ.”  The gospel is God’s rescue plan for the world through Jesus.

2) – Young People want faith to be serious

Most young people grew up in churches teaching 5 ways to have a better life.  Now that they have grown they have discovered that they want to take their faith seriously.  They want authority in their life and they want to be taught new big bible words like “eschatology.”  Nothing is more serious than shame and guilt.  Sorrow connects to seriousness while joy seems to connect with childishness.  So the joy of our true identity in Christ is often disputed by the pain of who we once were. Young people believe that when they are beating themselves up over their shame at least their faith is active.  Shame is about what we have done while grace is about what Christ has done. Its far easier for our younger generation, who have grown up in the epicenter of individualism, to focus on what they have done than what Christ has done for them.

3) – Young People want to approach God as king before they approach him as Father

We serve a fatherless generation and one that has neglected the regenerative power of God inside of us and has instead chosen to approach God as a task master or as a boss.  It is a generation that has been taught that love is earned.  They are accustomed to earning affection and the narrative of a father who loves unconditionally is harder to find a reference point in their database of experience.

4) – Shame is measurable – Grace is not

Quite simply grace is to big to measure and shame is great at keeping score!

Final Thoughts:

1) – Our churches will attract shamed people – When we speak the truth in love we will find shame just as Jesus found shame in the sinners and the tax collectors.  Even among the redeemed there will remain, patterns of shame and guilt that are deeply woven into people’s old identity as they discover their new identity in Christ.  The question is not will we find the shamed, the question is what will the shamed find in us?  Will they find another system of measuring and adding up that eventually exhausts and destroys or will they find in us Jesus?  Could we learn to love and lead in such a way that while encountering our grace, patience and steadfast love our people actually encounter Jesus in us.

2) – The Shamed are Called to the Shamed – I have heard it said, “the broken but mended have so much to offer the broken and lost.”  Paul teaches that we should boast only in Christ.  Only through Christ can the shamed now boast before the world that shamed them and only through Christ do our wounds become our victory.  Only in Jesus name can the people of God become a new creation and go sharing the story of their freedom from shame and their new identity in Christ.

Favorite Blog Posts of 2012

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Here are the most popular blog Posts of 2012:

Hope they are helpful:

DO Overs – If I could redo anything in ministry this year what would it be?

What happened to our young people series –

Part One – How we got here

Part Two – Unequipped Leaders

Part three – Prolonged Adolescence

Part four – Creating Consumers

10 Things I Often say to College Students 

Leading and Waiting 

Oikos for Introverts

Death by Church Leadership – pt 2 –

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A few weeks ago I suggested simply that our methods of developing young leaders in our churches are not working.

https://collegechurchplanter.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/death-by-church-leadership/

We are quick to blame our young leaders for not being ready for ministry.  We are quick to blame the seminaries for not preparing our young leaders but we never seem to point our fingers back at ourselves for creating cultures that develop leaders but not disciples of Jesus!

I say all this with a full knowledge that I have not only lived and worked in this system but I have failed many young leaders who I was entrusted to lead.  For that I am terribly sorry, but I am also working diligently to right these wrongs in our church and in our ministry.   At the beginning of Judges there is a terrifying passage that shakes me to my core each time I read it.  If you are a pastor, father or a Christian who cares about the kingdom it should matter to you as well.

Judges 2:7  The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.

Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.

No one can argue about Joshua’s generation – It would be foolish to suggest that they were not obedient, to suggest they were not faithful or even to suggest that they weren’t fruitful.  They did every thing right except one thing…….they failed to raise up the next generation.  I am terrified that our churches, our ministries may see great things done by the Lord but fail to teach our kids and the next generation how to walk as Jesus walked and live as Jesus lived!

The overall reason we are here is that we have created systems that develop leaders & not disciples.  We create mechanisms that allow young leaders to forfeit their spiritual gifts and deep calling and instead we tell them their place in the church is a greeter, a child care worker, a “volunteer.”  We have stopped inviting kingdom dreamers to seek Gods will for their life and too pursue the kingdom dreams God has given them and instead we call them into small dreams of how to, “grow our churches.”  The four areas I targeted were:

1) – The disparity between intellect and character

2) – Microwaved leadership

3) – Results over people

4) – Information without Experience

Here are three simple ways we can get better:

1) – Train for Character – I find it easy to correct competency issues, its easy for me to sit down with someone I am leading and say, “that’s not the best way to do this, why don’t you try this.”  It is much tougher to sit down with someone and say, “your not the person you need to be in order to lead as Jesus would lead.”  3DM has a great set of character ?’s that I use often, I will simply ask my huddle or the young leaders I am discipling, “which one of these questions do you not want me to ask you.”  I also have to participate in correcting character flaws when I see them.  I have tons of phone calls or coffees where I call out specific moments when young leaders make mistakes.  Do it in love, do it in grace and do it in truth.

3DM Character Questions

2) – Know Your young Leaders – Take them to a ball game, invite them to dinner, grab coffee!  Your tendency will be to be the answer guy, I encourage you to ask tons of questions.  You can never really live a life of invitation and challenge with someone out of positional leadership.  People may accept your challenge out of fear or out of respect but we want people to respond to challenge out of love.  There are a few young leaders who I love like I love my own sons!  I feel incredible pride for the men they have become and I have found in them friends that will last a lifetime.  What an incredible gift they have given me and I would have missed it if I had not been open to a relationship.  This means I have to open up my life for young leaders, I have to open up my home and I have to be available when they need me.  My greatest success in ministry is not the titles I have held or the sermons I have preached, or the churches I have started it is the young leaders I have produced.  So why do I spend so much time building the church and writing sermons instead of investing in young leaders?

3) – Apprentice Leadership – Our goal is to lead as Jesus lead and to “teach on the road.”  To invite young people into our lives and to teach them as we do life together.  We have adapted an apprentice leadership model that allows students, and church planters to spend one to four years with us preparing for ministry before we send them out.  Our core values and the things we hold most dear is that we want to Connect, Train, Reproduce and Send.  This is one of the ways we accomplish those goals.  A great method we have learned (from the New thing network) and one we saw in Jesus is to simply take your leaders through a four step process of leading.

  • I do you watch (You do the leading the teams you are leading watch & discuss)
  • I do you help (You still lead but you begin to give away small pieces to your team)
  • You do I help (You begin to give away large pieces of ministry but you still help make that happen)
  • You do I watch ( You set free your leaders when you are confident in their ability to reproduce)

Here is our handbook for our apprentice program!

Multiplicity Project Handbook