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Monday, October 29, 2012

Start disciple-making sooner (and a book I wrote)

Since starting Destination Church in Chicago we have experience the good, the bad and ugly of church planting. We started with a very small team and after officially launching a couple of years ago we are now touching the 150 mark. This number of course only tells part of our story, but by Gods grace we have continued to grow numerically and in spiritual maturity. Through this experience I’ve been working on a special project to more effectively integrate people into the life of the church, even from day one.

Since the start we’ve given books to our first-time guests as a “thank you for coming” gift. It always makes a positive impression and the content of the various books has motivated some to quickly make important decisions for God. However, I have never been fully pleased with the content of those books. They never really seemed to say everything I wanted, and they never seemed suitable for both believers and unbelievers alike. So I wrote my own, and I’d like to share it with you in the hopes that it would be a help to your church as well.

The book is titled Unforgettable: Your purpose in Christ and is available on Amazon, as well as in the Kindle format. We give this book out each week to our first-time guests with encouraging results. It’s only a starting point to move people into deeper commitment, it certainly is not a comprehensive plan for discipleship. Beginning on Monday October 29th it will be available for free on Kindle for a five day period. I want to give churches the opportunity to check it out and consider it as a tool for discipleship in their churches.

The initial goal of the book is to win a return visit from each first-time guest, whether they are a believer or not. This helps improve the assimilation process, which leads into a process of spiritual growth. If people don’t come back, how can we influence them? It inspires and challenges people to take simple steps towards being a disciple of Jesus within the church community. It places a high value on church, which seems lacking from other resources. This is something church planters and church leaders are passionate about. The book takes a very direct approach, but what we’ve learned is that books are a method of self-discovery, where readers are greatly impacted by new concepts because they are learning for themselves.

If you lead a church, or are interested in showing this to the leaders of your church, please take advantage of this free Kindle version. It’s a short read, at just fifty pages, and might take you around 30-40 minutes to read. Give it a shot and pick up your free Kindle version of Unforgettable here. It’s only free for five days.

Receive a 20% discount by ordering print copies from Those outside the USA may need to order from,, or

If you find the book helpful, please consider leaving a review at

Pick up your free Kindle version of Unforgettable here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mistakes I Made In The First 6 Months Of Church Planting

I have come up with a list of 8 mistakes I have made during the first 6 months of church planting in Chicago. I am sure there are more, but this is what I am aware of so far.

1) Public vs Private Venue
Our goal is to gather 50 people into our core group before we do a BIG launch. We are actually not using monthly preview services as the sole strategy to gather a launch team. We'll use previews but for a different reason.

For the first 6 months we were gathering in a home environment. Over 60 people visited our weekly core group meetings during this time. However, I believe that gathering people to a new church, in a pre-launch phase and in a home environment is not a great approach unless they are all people you know really well. We are trying to gather together new people to join us. I believe that people find the home setting to be too awkward and base their decision on this rather than the vision of the future.

So we fixed this. We are now gathering at a Cafe to continue to build our core group. It's costing us more money, but people are sticking better and more people are visiting. I wanted to avoid the cost of rent but in this culture the church-in-your-home model is hard to win people to even if you tell them you are in a pre-launch phase.

2) Recruiting Core People Sooner
To be fair, we did have a list of people we wanted to recruit before we even moved to Chicago, but the politically correct way to approach these people is to ask their pastors for permission. Our list of about 15 direct invitations turned into a list of 1! We were turned down and somewhat crippled from gathering core group members ourselves. This is not a complaint because I know that God is ultimately in control of this. But it is definitely something I can learn from.

I wish 2 years ago I had started envisioning my circle of friends about my desire to start a church. I think that taking steps earlier to dream with friends about the possibility of planting together would have helped recruit more people ahead of time. Perhaps I was too insecure in talking about this, but if I could do it again I would have started a LOT earlier.

To make the best of this I've started exercising our new networks in Chicago and we've already attracted a potential worship leader from Minneapolis. In the end -- this is the way God wanted us to do it so I'm cool with it. But as a pastor now, I want to be more releasing to people who want to church plant. It would kind of be hypocritical if i wasn't!

3) Creating A Budget Sooner
We have a comprehensive budget now and our core people have pledged their giving over the next 12 months, plus we have a budget seminar this Saturday. However, I should have put this together before I hit the ground and got busy with immediate needs. We've fixed this, but I should have known better.

4) Not Starting Socials Sooner
Our strength and passion as a couple is having lots of people in our home and creating an environment for extravagant fun. But, it took us 4 months to start regular social events in our home. While this isn't totally bad, we needed a bit of adjustment and networking time, I wish we had done it sooner. We have now started building a strong sense of momentum and have been able to harness our new friendships and started gathering people more effectively. This also has provided a context for our core group to invite people into than just our weekly core gatherings.

We are consistently building friendships with people and gathering them into the community now. While these events are legitimately just for relationships, our hope, prayer and strategy is to bring people into the church.

5) Not Praying Enough
I have not been committed to prayer like I should have. I have seriously adjusted this aspect of my life. I am prayer walking, fasting and consistently asking for specific things on a daily basis now. I have always been good at praying in the moment but that is simply not enough. While it takes hard work to start a church is also takes a LOT of time in prayer. I just preached on this here. As a church we also only had a monthly prayer meeting. We've moved this to every other week now.

6) Sunday Afternoon vs Sunday Morning
Our core group was gathering on Sunday afternoons which has worked for many church plants but I don't think it worked for us. Other Christians who were looking in could keep going to their churches and simply visit us. This seemed good but in the end it hurt us. Since moving to Sunday mornings things are more black and white. Any Christian from another church who is considering joining us is now in the position to actively miss their church to visit ours. If they aren't willing to do this then they probably wont join anyway.

7) Telling My Mentors What Questions To Ask Me
I have some great men that I look to for mentoring and input. I have been on the phone many times since we moved to Chicago getting help with various things. This has been very important. However, I think I should have done a better job of telling them what questions to ask me rather than just presenting a situation for their input.

I have now asked for these questions to come my way when I call them:
  1. What new contacts have you made?
  2. How are you following up with them?
  3. What are you procrastinating on?
  4. What can you delegate?
  5. Have you initiated and protected time with the kids and with Heather?
  6. What have you spent money on this week?
  7. What time have you been going to bed?
  8. How are you handling sexual temptation? (I am already accountable for this but it's good to include the question again!)
  9. Is there anyone in the church you need to personally encourage this week?
  10. How are your devotions? How much time have you spent in prayer and the scriptures?
8) Expecting More Gathering Fruit During The Summer
During the summer we surveyed close to 600 people in the city. We attracted about 8 of them to 2 events we did on a Saturday afternoon. I thought that response was a bit lame, although still something to be thankful for. I now realize we made some BIG mistakes. We blew our invitation on an event which we called a 'Presentation', not the perception we should have given it, which was on a Saturday afternoon -- during the beautiful Chicago summer.

The topic of the presentation was 'Encouraging Community'. While community is part of our vision and a real need in the city, most people think that Chicago has a good community. In the end we only incorporated 2-3 people from this outreach. Not bad, but not great. The summer is a good time to sow but the reaping should be expected in the fall. Reaping in the summer was very hit and miss for us.

I had kind of pinned a lot of hope on building our core group from the massive amount of surveying we did during the summer. Since this didn't have the return that we had hoped for I lost my personal emphasis on networking. Having realized this in myself I have already started scheduling more coffee appointments again and working to connect new people I am meeting into our socials.

It is essential to evaluate and consider what could have been done better. I have been wrestling with God in prayer over the past few weeks as I felt that we should be seeing more fruit by now. Really, what we have seen is great and to be prized. Every new person we have won over is a HUGE blessing and a validation that God has called us to be doing this.

The biggest lesson for me is that growth comes from God so that he can get the credit and that my personal level of readiness in ministry and persistence in prayer CANNOT be overlooked. It has to be central. It doesn't rest on me, but God will never grow this thing beyond where I am at. I feel like we are right on track with the adjustments that have been made and I have faith for God to build our core group up to 50 people.

I've realized that church planting is much harder than I ever thought but I am encouraged that to launch this bad boy we just have to persist. It is going to take time but, God said it would happen and so we are leaning on that a lot right now.

Please continue to pray for us.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Church Plants in Chicago New Web Site

Check it out! Our brand new Chicago church web site to help new people to connect with us:

We have a number of cool things on the new site. Firstly, visitors can take a short survey and have the chance to win $100 of meat for a cook out. We are simply trying to encourage community, and serve the people of the city by stimulating deeper connectedness. If you know anyone in Chicago, please forward the web site link to them and encourage them to take the survey. I know some of you reading this will think, oh, that doesn't mean me, but yes, it means YOU. Please send your Chicago friends to the site to take the survey and have the chance to win $100 of serious meat!

Destination Church now has it's own official blog that has just launched. If you are interested in keeping up with how and what we are communicating to our people then go ahead and subscribe, you can sign-up via email or RSS on the homepage.

Our prayer partners section is still available for new people to sign up. It's under the "Get Involved" section. If you still haven't signed up, please join the dedicated team of over 200 prayer partners that we currently have!!!

We have a lot of information on the site about a campaign we are launching in Chicago called Encouraging Community. We are giving away 5,000 bottle openers and telling people to share a drink with a neighbor. We are also giving out 3 prizes of $100 of meat and asking people to host a community cook out. To top it all off we are offering a short presentation about the importance of community involvement, the reason human trust and relationships have broken down in society, some solutions to fix it and the vision of Destination Church.

My apologies for not having blogged for a while, I've been trying to meet 20 new people a week and it's INSANE! Keep praying for us, especially as our Summer Evangelism Interns are arriving today. Orientation kicks off at 1pm, so I'll have 8 guys sitting in my living room and I'm sure some of them will wet their pants at some of the things I am going to ask them to do!!! WAHAAHAHA!!!!


Monday, April 20, 2009

How To Choose A Church Name

Special update: I wrote a book for churches to give to first-time guests. It’s had a huge impact at bringing more people back as second-time guests and adding them into the church community. Get the Kindle version of Unforgettable: Your purpose in Christ here and the print version from Those outside the USA may need to order print copies from,, or
In my last post, 119 Cool Church Names, I explained my philosophy for selecting a church name. This last Sunday I announced the name to our core group. We surveyed Christians and unchurched people to find a name that would be attractive and acceptable to both. We wanted a one word name with the word "church" following it, and we wanted something original, hard to do these days. 

I had a number of people ask their friends which church they would be more likely to attend if they were invited by a friend or saw an advertisement. The four names we presented to our friends were:
  1. Message Church
  2. Crimson Church
  3. Destination Church
  4. Celebration Church 
Here are the results:

Message Church
Christians really liked this name. I personally liked it too. I got the idea when I glanced at my bookshelf and saw the Message paraphrase of The Bible by Eugene Peterson. Christians liked the simplicity and the theological strength of this name. It appeared to be a winner. However, nearly 100% of the unchurched and nonChristian people we asked about this name HATED it! It sounded preachy and redundant. Of course, those outside the church expect a church to have a message, and so, because it's in the very title of the church they felt like we REALLY had a message, perhaps a LONG and hell-bent message! This was eye opening. What Christians thought was a sound name with good meaning, nonChristians found repelling. This means Message Church is a poor choice if we want to attract unbelievers. 

Crimson Church
Christians were split on this name. Half the Christians we spoke to really liked it and half really didn't. It has some merit to be fair. It's artsy and young sounding, to help attract a new generation, and also has some strong theological meaning to it. Crimson is the color of blood. It represents the blood of Christ. Personally, I thought this could have worked well. However, most nonChristians disliked this name and found it suspicous. They didn't understand it. It gave them the feeling of being mystical and unclear. They felt immediately disconnected because it appears to be a name that Christians would understand, but they are somehow lacking in understanding. It is a barrier creating name. Some unchurched also felt that this sounded like a name for a TV Evangelist show! Yikes! That is a definate one to avoid. 

Destination Church
Over all this was well accepted. It was the second most popular pick among nonChristians. Christians also liked this name. There was a small percentage that thought it was a little bland or that the word had been overused, but this was a small group. It is true, tt has been used in some regards as a branding word, but it is not often used as the name of an organization. It still has originality. It has great theological meaning. Our destination is Jesus. Everything ultimately finds meaning in him. It speaks of purpose, clarity and goals. Most Christians thought it sounded strong and had lots of marketing potential. NonChristians shocked us with their opinion of this name. 90% of them really liked it. They understood it. It made sense to them and they thought it sounded pretty cool actually. Some even commented that they would expect to encounter spiritual truth at this church! Crazy! People from a relativistic society expecting truth! Amazing! This was the most favorable name for both Christians and nonChristians. 

Celebration Church
I personally disliked this name a lot. I thought it sounded happy clappy and weird. Nearly all Christians we surveyed thought the same thing. This name would potentially repell lots of new area Christians, which would not be a wise decision. However, and most surprisingly, this name was the MOST polular among nonChristians. Shocking! They liked it because it was positive and upbeat. They felt like church should be uplifting and so this name captured something good. They didn't really have the hangups that Christians had about it. In the end I felt it would not be smart to chose a name that Christians hated and nonChristians loved. We needed a cross over name. 

The Name?
The Newfrontiers Chicago Church Plant name will be Destination Church. There doesn't appear to be any churches in the world with this name, so it is highly original for a church name, and it is clear and attractive to both Christians and nonChristians. We feel it will be helpful for attracting city people, young families, students and young professionals. 

In the end a lot of this comes down to opinion. But the fact that this name doesn't turn people away is a positive. 

What do you think? 

Friday, March 27, 2009

119 Cool Church Names

Special update: I wrote a book for churches to give to first-time guests. It’s had a huge impact at bringing more people back as second-time guests and adding them into the church community. Get the Kindle version of Unforgettable: Your purpose in Christ here and the print version from Those outside the USA may need to order print copies from,, or
In the process of trying to think through a name for our new church in Chicago I brainstormed an initial list of 156 names. Some were so ridiculous that I had to remove them from this list, which now contains some less ridiculous names. 

I will not reveal here what the new churches name is. I'll be sharing that with the core group in a few weeks. In choosing a name I wanted to keep these things in mind:
  1. Something simple. One or two words with the word "church" after it. People need to know we are a church, so having "church" is important to me. Some exclude this, but I personally think that is a mistake. I wanted one or two words because some church names are so long it's hard to say them. I want things to be simple in this regard. 
  2. Would the unchurched be more or less likely to visit purely based on the name?
  3. Would the name connect with Christians?
  4. Be certain no other churches in close proximity had this name.
  5. Something that would work in different locations around the city.
  6. I felt that it was important to find something non-traditional, because we are targeting a younger urban crowd, yet something not too wacky that would turn away Christians who are looking for a church. 

I went through the process of having a number of Christians present 4 possible names to their unchurched friends in Chicago and pose this question: Purely based on the name, which church would you be most likely to visit if a friend invited you or if you saw an advertisement? This process was VERY eye opening and SHOCKING to some degree. Christians and unchurched people had widely different reactions to the names. I could not have predicted how our unchurched friends would have responded to the options. 

After hearing both sides, we have chosen a name. We'll reveal it soon, so checkout the brainstorm list and watch this space ... 

119 Cool Church Names (some aren't so cool!)
  1. ONELOVE church
  2. Recreate church
  3. Eklesia church
  4. Connect church
  6. The Race Church
  7. NewGlobe Church
  8. NewChurch
  9. Restorer Church
  10. Defender Church
  11. Rescuer Church
  12. Giver Church
  13. Act Church
  14. The Overture Church
  15. The Endeavor Church
  16. First Act Church
  17. Venture Church
  18. Great Endeavor Church
  19. The Exchange Church
  20. Truth Church
  21. The Source Church
  22. All Things New Church
  23. Pitch Church
  24. The Launch Church
  25. OutSetChurch
  26. Link Church
  27. Encounter Church
  28. 24 CHURCH
  29. First Love Church
  30. Replenish Church
  31. Global Church
  32. The Center Church
  34. Epic Venture Church
  35. The Root Church
  36. DANGERMOUSE Church (added for tobiwan)
  37. Renewal Church
  38. Renew Church
  39. OneWayChurch
  40. Landmark Church
  41. Century Church
  42. Central Church
  43. CleanSlate Church
  44. TombStone Church
  45. Kinetic Church
  46. Movement Church
  47. Motion Church
  48. Activate Church
  49. Dynamic Church
  50. Rhythm Church 
  51. Pulse Church
  52. Beat Church
  53. Sound Church
  54. Special update: I wrote a book for churches to give to first-time guests. It’s had a huge impact at bringing more people back as second-time guests and adding them into the church community. Get the Kindle version of Unforgettable: Your purpose in Christ here and the print version from Those outside the USA may need to order print copies from,, or
  55. New Music Church
  56. Portal Church
  57. Music of Life Church
  58. Rhythm of Life Church
  59. Reactivate Church  
  60. TheCause
  61. LIFECAUSE Church
  62. BeTheCause Church 
  63. Motif Church
  64. Designers Church
  65. ThePattern
  66. LifePattern
  67. PatternOfLife Church 
  68. TheDesign
  69. Redesign Church
  70. TheSketch
  71. Objective Church
  72. CityBeat
  73. Fresh Church
  74. Start Church
  75. TheFigure
  76. TheCrux
  77. TheCore
  78. Guardian Church 
  79. Keeper Church
  80. Director Of Life Church
  81. One Church
  82. The Messenger 
  83. Messenger Church
  84. Message Church 
  85. Stream Church
  86. Streaming Church
  88. VIBE Church
  89. Verve Church 
  90. Manifold Church
  91. Home Church 
  92. Open House Church
  93. Propulsion Church
  94. View Church
  95. Vision Church
  96. Honor Church
  97. Celebration Church 
  98. Churchopolis 
  99. Churchopia 
  100. Star Church
  101. Jesus Church
  102. New Tribe
  103. Kin Church
  104. Commit Church
  105. Change Church 
  106. Resolution Church 
  107. Enthuse Church 
  108. Overflow Church
  109. Drive Church
  110. Enter Church
  111. Embark Church
  112. Purpose Church
  113. Multiply Church 
  114. Reproduce Church
  115. Celebrate Church
  116. Access Church
  117. New Deal Church
  118. Joy Church
  119. Crimson Church 
  120. Red Church
Special update: I wrote a book for churches to give to first-time guests. It’s had a huge impact at bringing more people back as second-time guests and adding them into the church community. Get the Kindle version of Unforgettable: Your purpose in Christ here and the print version from Those outside the USA may need to order print copies from,, or

Monday, March 9, 2009

200 Prayer Team for the Chicago Church Plant

One of the most common mistakes that new churches make is to underestimate the level of spiritual warfare involved in church planting. Therefore, it is our desire to gather a BIG team of prayer partners who are willing to pray through a monthly (or sometimes weekly) itemized prayer list. Basically, if you are breathing and if you have an email address, you can sign up for this!

Our goal is to gather 200 prayer partners. As of a few minutes ago we had 67. I'm hoping that after this blog post we can bump it up quite a bit more! I'm counting on you! Here is how you sign up and pray for us:
  1. Visit
  2. Click "Join the prayer team" on the black box on the right
  3. Fill in your name and email address (please make sure you spell your email correctly!)
  4. CLICK THE LINK in the confirmation email. (VERY important step)
  5. As you receive prayer requests please take time out of your week to pray through them.
The process is very straightforward. When you are on the site please checkout the other things we have going on. Post a comment and share it with others who might be interested. 

Signing up for the prayer team will also be a good way to stay on top of our news and developments. 

Please visit: and become a prayer partner!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Innovative way to fund church planting

Special update: I wrote a book for churches to give to first-time guests. It’s had a huge impact at bringing more people back as second-time guests and adding them into the church community. Get the Kindle version of Unforgettable: Your purpose in Christ here and the print version from Those outside the USA may need to order print copies from,, or
Church planters either have time and no money, or money and no time. I think it is designed this way on purpose to keep us on our toes and trusting God. Having both time and money would not however increase the chance of a successful church plant. Money is not really the issue when it comes to church planting, although you still need it. So, in continuing to trust in Gods provision, I am going to reveal to you an innovative way to fund church planting that I have created. 

God's calling on our lives is the real foundation to being successful. If the calling is there, the money will follow. It doesn't magically follow, it comes when you ask people for it, work for it and pray for it. And, just to let you know, I've been working hard on something I believe God spoke to me about. In an attempt the lighten the load of freelance work, utilize my skills, focus on my calling and generate additional support I have just launched a multi-author blog which I'd like you to check out.

First, please watch this 60 second video to get a grasp on the purpose of the blog.

But how does it generate funding?

Before I give away the secret I want your help. Once you visit the new site (, please do as much as you can from the list below. Every action you take adds value to what we are doing and increases our support:
  1. Comment on the first post
  2. Subscribe via email or RSS
  3. Join the Google Friend Connect (on the right)
  4. Follow updates on twitter
  5. Become a fan on Facebook
  6. Share it, Blog it, etc ...
  7. And, keep an eye out for the free ESV Study Bible competition coming soon 
By the grace of God I managed to convince 6 other church leaders and church planters to become authors on the blog for 12 months. I chose guys who have a track record of writing good quality stuff and understanding the value of leadership blogs. This will provide me with 1 years worth of high quality content from men around the world who are engaging their culture and building God's kingdom. Authors can renew their blogging commitment or pass the baton to someone else. 

The purpose of the site is to resource all levels of church leadership so that people can become self-feeders. Our church culture unfortunately reflects our worlds culture in many ways. We have become consumeristic about church life and have lost our desire to take responsibility for our own spiritual growth. will be an ongoing resource to share and promote ideas, stories, principles, techniques and much more about how to develop maturity and self leadership in the people God has called us to lead. 

The blog offers related products, like study Bibles, which will be promoted using various online marketing methods (it's rather handy being an expert in search engine marketing). That's it. Pretty simple, right? The quality content from an array of authors will attract interest and boost the chances of selling some Bibles and study Bibles -- seems like a pretty honest business to me. 

If you read the last post and you feel the Lord tugging on your heart to directly support us then please review our pledge page. If you don't sense the Holy Spirit directing you in that way, then please visit and subscribe, follow, comment, join, blog etc ... and financially support us without giving us a penny. 

It is people like you who will make a success.