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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Interview with a St. Louis Church Planter: Jason Gardiner

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
I recently met with Jason Gardiner of at a local Starbucks and interviewed him about the new church he has planted in St. Louis. You can use the podcast interface on the right to listen to my most recent interview, download the interview with Jason Gardiner or read the transcript below.

Jason is 39 years old and grew up in San Francisco, California. He was involved with YWAM for 10 years, on staff with a large church for 7 years and served an international parachurch ministry for 4 years before planting a church in St. Louis.

During the interview we met a local realtor out of the blue who is a Christian and loves to help new churches find meeting locations – what a great opportunity for a church planter! Jason and Angie exchanged details and hope to work together as the new St. Louis church looks for their own facility. They currently meet in an elementary school. The whole interaction is recorded in the audio. Listen (or read) and enjoy!

Matt: Jason, thanks for joining me today. Tell me the basics about the church?

Jason: We launched on January 27th of this year (2008) and the church really has a focus on community and also on young people. I surveyed the St. Louis church demographics and found there is very little being done effecting the college age on a city wide level. So the hundreds and thousands of people between the ages of 20 – 30 have very few churches with a concentrated effort.

Very few churches actually have a pastoral effort or pay pastors a salary to reach out to that age group. The kinda churches big enough to bring somebody on staff pro bono that age group. I kinda call it the generation who has been kicked to the curb – even though that's where our future and our leadership comes from.

That's where we go to college to be trained to be world changers whether it's secular or in our Christian lives. Yet the church fails to engage them with an intellectual-spiritual dialogue and make place for them and room for them to be a leader and trained. So, our church has very much a young leadership culture in it.

Matt: What got you thinking that way? (focusing on students)

Jason: Well, I've worked with young people of college age ever since I started ministry in the mid 80's. I love them because I find that college age is so moldable for the purposes of God. If you take a 45 year old who, whether he was saved when he was young or gets on fire again after he's lived life a bit, I find that most people in their 30's and 40's are still trying to repair their fyco scores, still trying to pay off their credit cards, they have 2.5 jacked-up kids and trying to replace the damage they did in their 20's.

So, instead of trying to fix these broken people let's just not let them get broken in the first place. Let's reach them before they screw up their lives and take a decade and a half to try to figure out what they did wrong. Let's just develop them into leaders then.

You see in the Bible a culture of young people whether it's Daniel or Jeremiah. Young people who were standing up in their generation and leading the nation. I believe that wasn't just a scriptural anomaly but I believe that is a pattern that God loves – taking people who will take him at his word. So if God says I can heal the sick they are just naïve enough to believe it. They don't have all this life experience that tells us "Well, actually I had 84 friends who died from cannibalism and, oh my goodness!" So often our experience dictates our theology instead of really just believing the word straight up on face value.

Matt: What was your strategy? How did you build up to the launch?

Jason: Over a couple of years I really built some relationships with some people. I would call them the disenfranchised, the kicked to the curb generation I mentioned earlier. So some of these folks didn't attend church, they loved God and yet there was no joy in their Christianity. Some of them were attending church like every other month. Kinda like the "I'm tipping God today for showing up, I'm doing the kingdom a favor!"

I started building relationships with some younger people and over the course of a couple of years developing some good authentic relationships. They even began asking questions "would I start a church here in St. Louis?" That really became the start of me thinking about it. It wasn't for me like "Oooh, St. Louis is needing my kind of church". I wasn't the start of the process. It was a number of people coming to me and saying "hey Jay, let's do it!" and I was like "alright". And then I spent probably a year praying about that and bringing it before the Lord and letting God confirm it through various different ways.

We started then meeting with several people in my living room. No bells and whistles or marketing.

Matt: How many people were you gathering at that time?

Jason: About 6. Then that grew to about 14.

Matt: Over what kind of period?

Jason: About 4 or 5 months. It wasn't like I had a meeting and 900 people showed up on the first day, it was building relationships and developing the integrity. I really learned that if I invest in people I have the right to speak into their lives. They will willfully place themselves in a submissive relationship were they are like pastor-talking so that you can start pointing out peoples blind spots.

Most pastors or church structures don't actually ever earn the right to speak into people so when blind spots are brought up it's usually through confrontation or an incident in a church. People just get offended and go instead of really receiving the correction, like the bible says: if you correct a wise man you make him wiser, creating an environment where you can actually bring up people's blind spots and work them through it, just like the proverb says: faithful are the wounds of a friend, well we want to be the kind of church that we stab each other in the chest not in the back. Where we can have the hard conversations but we grow through it and become stronger for it. So, people started growing and changing. I believe that one of the great tools for church growth is: changed lives, change lives.

Matt: How did you transition your house meeting to a weekly public meeting?

Jason: That is a great question. I am still trying to process exactly how we are doing this. One of the things that I felt we would have a large component in our church would be worship. There is whole boat load of doctrine behind that statement. I honestly believe the most fundamental and one of the great statements mankind has ever contributed to the Christian experience is the reduction of the Westminster's creed which says: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I think that worship is the clearest expression of that which is of course the picture of the throne in heaven in Revelation which is of course worship. I believe that having a place created in the local church where people can genuinely have face to face encounters with God is the absolute foundation of us living out that expression: the chief end of man.

When I was a teenager I was a drug dealing punk. I was raised in a Mormon church, so I was in a cult.

Matt: So you were really messed up!

Jason: I was jacked-up – capital "J"! I had a father who was a Catholic so we were just a religious mutt. I was using drugs. I was completely confused and I had been to religion – I had been to Catholic churches and I've been to Mormon churches my whole life.

But when I had a genuine encounter with Jesus my life dramatically changed. Nobody needed to tell me to throw away my Black Sabbath albums or stop smoking pot and taking acid. It was just the overflow of gratitude that came from the revelation that I was going to hell and that he took my place on the cross and that if I would just exchange my dead life for his life and obey him and his word that I would have a wonderful purpose and a great life. It was like a do-over. It was like Jason 2.0! It was like a whole new opportunity ahead of me.

It took me a long time going to church to figure out that Christians didn't live Christianity very much – they appended Christianity. They pay pastors to perform and impress them with edutainment rather than being a church that gets them off the couch and into the game!

The thing is we want to create a place for genuine encounter in worship. So, I had a buddy of mine who was on my staff with me in California at the church, and before we started this bible study, we started to dialogue of the possibility of them joining me in this adventure and of course I went to the senior pastor, who is a good friend of mine, who of course I was associate [pastor] for him, asked his permission, did the whole I want to steal one of your guys thing. He went "go for it", and then I said "can I steal the youth pastor and inter director as well?"

So I started having discussions with these 2 buddies who I had pastored, I was their supervisor on staff. Over the course of 3-4 month they just really felt like they would move their families out here and be part of the team and once we started having a genuine worship component. Where it was a real life-giving experience for people who had heard good music, but there is a difference between good music and being in an environment of the presence of God in the area of worship. You have your Hillsongs and your Delirious. It's not about reproducing chord charts – it's about the atmosphere of life.

So in some senses I wanted to cut the middle man out of church – the pastor! No more priests, people needing to build their spiritual life depending on whether the pastor feed'em or not, whether they brought a life changing word on Sunday or not. But they have direct access for themselves in the presence of God. When that started happening growth was really very much the byproduct.

I really found that scripture as we lift him up he'll draw people and so changed lives change lives. People started weeping and crying. Not contrived, not forced and not one of these "Come on man, raise your hands, wave them in the air like you don't care", not a hyped up cultural style. But, just an atmosphere where without the hype and manipulation, people would start crying spontaneously in the middle of worship and after church they would be like "phew, I needed that! God really touched me." And we are like "Wow, really? Praise God for you!"

That's what we wanted to happen and so one of the first forms of evangelism that we saw is a person who's now a friend, 6 months into the church, raging alcoholic, living on the streets, homeless, he got a flyer, it was probably like a garbage flyer, you know what I'm saying someone threw it, but God's into recycling as well. This guy picked up this flyer, walked onto our church, there are like 20 of us, drunk off his brain, and umm, homeless, pretty much smelled, and ah we are singing "Rain Down" by Delirious and he just starts balling. No Christian background. Just pagan drunk, capital "P". All of a sudden this dude gets saved spontaneously because God drew him.

I am going to say this not because I am better than anyone else, because I'm not. He said "This is the first church I've been to where Jesus is at!" And right there lays the heart of our church. We want to make church as accessible with as little hurdles and religious forms as possible and if we can just show off how good he is to people and really make him famous and put him at the center of it. We found that Jesus is like a great banquet table. The more attractive He is the more we can make that banquet table people will just pick up a piece of fruit of that banquet table and take a little bite and taste and see that "God is good". He is not weird like I thought, He's not religious. Life is not a bunch of chance. Life is about "I can". There is potential.

Matt: What is the balance now of your method of reaching out? Is it still just relational and viral or is it more?

Jason: It's very viral right now. With the statistics on marketing and as a church plant one of the large battles anyone has, including us, is the battle of resources.

I was just talking to one of the national Christian ad companies, that is a church planting ad agency, there stats on mailers, flyers, cold calling is about .04 per action. So, for every 1000 you might get about 4. When you start breaking that out to 30-40 cents a hit you really need $50-60,000 to bring in 30, 40, 50 people into your doors. And even then, when you do, church planting research says 50% bail. So it's a low low return. I am not saying it is not right. I got a buddy of mine who started his church on his first Sunday with over 400 people. Dropped to 200. Then first year got a 1,000. Six years later got 9,000. So I mean hey, it works!

We are spending our financial resources on investing on our core group. Buying them book and CD's, having meetings, we are feeding them when they come over. We are actually training, again, I am not trying to sound arrogant, like "we are actually training unlike other church", but we are putting our money into our people and into our team and empowering them and helping them grow and experience Christ so that, again, I really just believe that changed lives change lives.

You know, before Jesus died the disciples denied him and fled. They were like rats of a ship when he was handed over to be crucified. Now you can say whatever you want at that point but as soon as they saw the risen Christ some fundamental changes, what happened between the cross and Pentecost? They were hiding in an upper room and then the Holy Spirit filled the church, whatever that looks like, something fundamentally changed in them where they were on longer afraid to be put to death or to talk about the change that had been brought in their lives.

[At this point a realtor introduced herself to us and wanted to help Jason find a facility for his new church to meet in. She has a specific passion to help churches find facilities. What a great opportunity. God is good at setting these things up! Listen to it at minutes 14:56 – 21:00]

We were kinda talking about how we are going from here and that kind of thing right there [God given opportunity with a realtor] is a great example. We are excited, we are talking about our lives being changed and about this church plant and so here you have a little encounter and somebody happens to eavesdrop. Church growth really happens naturally.

Matt: What have you tried that didn't work?

Jason: I am not big on what I call bandwagons. You have the "worship band wagon", and when I say worship I mean style, not the doctrine. There is the prophetic movement in the 80's. There was the seeker sensitive movement and now there is the missional movement. You name it. There is the apostolic movement in Pentecostal circles. There is a new revival in Lakeland Florida movement going on.

And you know, really, people are always not sure what they are looking for they just know they haven't found it. And so, I call it "rent a vision". When you don't have a blueprint for what you are doing and you reach out there and it's transferable, this or that, and you jump on somebody's bandwagon and a decade later you look back and go "wow".

I just believe that we just need to have as leaders a clear blueprint from the word of God of what Church is doctrinally and what the basic doctrines of Christianity are and put our head down and be faithful to it. I heard that saying, not sure who said it, but men are always looking for better methods, God is always looking for better [changed] people.

Matt: What have been the lows and how have you dealt with them?

Jason: Initially there is the fantasy perhaps that ah, you know the thing is going to takeoff; we are going to rock the city. Not that we are not doing great on that, we are 4 or 5 months old and we are 80 people which is on the bell curve we are doing ok. But there is that sense of we could have had a 200 people by now. So it's that kind of natural sense of the readjusting to the expectations that we can't depend on something, the false expectations.

And then there is that whole barrier of the resource. Both at a person level and at the financial level. That you overcoming, you are constantly. Here is a classic example, I met with a great family, they were tossing up buying into what we were doing or buying into a megachurch down the street that had 5,000 people. Now, I am not saying the megachurches are not great. Praise God for them. We are all on the same tea, the bells and the whistles that an established long-term church has.

So on that secular level you are kind competing with people with a consumerism mentality, kind like "what's in it for me?" I got Bobby here, he has youth group of 20 kids, and this one has a youth group of 100 kids so that consumerism is like McChurch. "I'll have a little bit of church with this and a big Mac and this and that".

So fighting the consumerism in the culture where people are looking initially to attend something that meets their needs instead of looking at it from a biblical point of view of what do they bring to the table like in Acts chapter 2 is says that people were selling their possessions to give to those who as they had need. So instead coming to the church of "here is how I can serve because I am alive in Christ" they are looking at it more like "how does the church meet my needs and fit into my busy schedule?"

Matt: How have you kept yourself spiritually close to God and feeding yourself?

Jason: Piper has a great statement that is one of my ruling personal values that: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. It goes right back to that Westminster confession: the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. When am I absolutely emotionally and intellectually enthralled and captivated by Him and I'm meeting with him on a personal level not just to put my sermon together or I've got a 3 o'clock appointment and I'm driving and thumbing through scriptures at the red light. You know what I'm saying? It's what Pastors do.! Again, it's like rent-a-vision.

When I avoid living the cheap life like that where I have to get up everyday at 6am, seek Jesus for several hours for myself, for my wife and my family and the sheer pleasure of hearing him say "Well done good and faithful, I love you son". That personal relationship. And so when I am satisfied, like obviously you can tell the excitement in my voice, it's not just because we are doing an interview, it's just where I am living. But, that overflow of excitement touches somebody fifteen feet away and they are excited, they speak up for Christ, and we have a great little conversation here. That is the magic for me, is when I genuinely tap in.

As a pastor here is the difference. I am able to lead my church out of the overflow of what is coming into my life instead of constantly emptying myself, giving out to all my people to the point of my reserve levels are like a drought starting to go under, you know, I am starting to run thin. So I've been in full-time ministry for 20 years and what I've learned is that I need to live out of the overflow of my personal relationship with Christ and not out of the mandate and expectations my people put on me to be their pastor.

I am living for an audience of one. I am not on call. I am not you know the person who if it's 11 at night and there is a couple who are having a big meltdown, you know, I had one of those recently and I loving said, they know me so they know my heart, and I said "look, you know, how long you've been married?", "13 years", "you are having a meltdown". Pastor come, its midnight! I said "here is the bottom line of it, this has taken you 13 years to get to this point so you've been making choices to get to where you are tonight, you actually want where you are, whether by omission or commission, you have been making choices that end up here and it can't wait until 10 in the morning? I'll see you in the morning. Do you have a knife in your hand? No I don't! Do you have a gun? No! Ok go to bed and we'll fix this in the morning".

But my point is this. My people in the church don't rule my life and neither do their expectations. I am living for an audience of one. I am living for treasure in heaven. I am not living for a large church where I can write a book, go on a speaking tour and have a big 401K. I am doing it for the sheer love of the game.

Matt: As a church planter you need to be a generalist. How do you manage your time?

Jason: Well, because I saw this battle coming there where a couple of proactive things that I did before I launched this church. If you will, my eldership, and by the way that eldership they are all on a one year kind of interim, you know they are trying out for the team. At the end of the day I have to like'em. I am committed to working with people that I actually like, you know what I am saying?

Actually I don't want to work with people that I want to fire on Monday. Like "dear lord, what happened to those PowerPoint slides" and then you know on Monday I am cursing their name! I want to work with people that I love and I like. You know what I am saying? And so what I did was I really took my time getting into this.

As I mentioned earlier I talked to a few people so my entire team, my first key level of leadership all have at least 7 years of full-time ministry in large churches and successful ministries. So I have a fully trained youth pastor who had a youth group of 500 kids who ran an intern program of 50 live-in students. A worship leader song-writer who had 4 services a weekend with big bands, reporting projects. I have a church administrator. I have an experienced cell group pastor who had always been involved in that.

One of my confirmations to do this is that I believe in New Testament team leadership and I want to avoid this CEO American church. You know the personality cult. Because of my former job working for a Christian celebrity, who shall be unnamed for the benefit of … them, I got to meet everybody famous in American running large churches and have one to one conversations with them, it was my old job, and we'd go into business right at them and one such person who had 30-40,000 people in their church opened up on an occasion and told me that there biggest problem was that their church was a personality cult. And if they advertised that the senior pastor would not be there because he is speaking somewhere else about a third of the church would not show up that next Sunday. And they can barely make payroll because their tithes go down so dramatically because that "man" isn't there.

I believe in team leadership. One of the keys for me to launch out and step into this is that I was not going to be alone trying to wing this. But, I asked God for a seasoned team of mature leaders who have proven gifting. 1 Timothy 3 talks about before you choose an elder, not just a deacon, first let them serve and be tested. And so I didn't want my soft spot for somebody become my blind spot in choosing my leadership team. "I like you, you're my buddy plumber Bob! And plumber Bob might have a call on his life but it might not be to church eldership. But, plumber Bob with the best intentions ends up jacking up half the church because he doesn't know how to communicate, he ends up getting into politics.

People play off one parent against another in leadership, they go "that pastor, not that one". He doesn't know how to squelch gossip. He doesn't know the basic human elements of church leadership. He gets caught up in stuff that offends people, wounds them. I didn't want to do that. Now, our second level of leadership have also been involved for years in running cell groups in local churches.

My core of 40 people for the most part all have extensive experience. So therefore they are able to rally people around them because they know what they are called to do and they do it well. I call it the KFC principle. Kentucky Fried Chicken, they do one thing and they do it well. So, they do Chicken right. And so one of our slogans is let's do church right! Let's just do a few things and do them well. Very few people would drive across St. Louis for a four. You've heard of the Marcus Buckingham concept about you know, live out of your strengths and not out of your weaknesses, so I have staffed my weaknesses. People will drive across St. Louis for a night.

I am able to focus my time and energy on developing a culture of leadership within the church. And I have individual leaders who can handle everything related to the worship, everything related to the cell development and training and the leadership development of the church. Somebody to handle all the ministry of youth. We just had a seasoned children'''s pastor join our church. So we have an experienced children's pastor, a youth pastor, an intern director, a worship pastor and a cell pastor on my team and there is me.

Matt: That's awesome! And you have 40-50 people!?

Yes. These leaders of mine are now the 2 Timothy 2:2 principle. Paul is writing to Timothy his disciple encouraging him to find faithful men that he can entrust the message to. So that they can find faithful people to entrust it. There are 3 or 4 generations there of leadership. In other words there is a culture and a DNA of leadership that God invests in people, not in processes and structures.

I spend 80 percent of my time with people who are moving the ball down the field. If I have somebody who has secret sins, they are addicted to cannibalism, they have weird stuff in their life, we are going to help them get free, but the first question I ask them is: are you involved in one of the 8 cell groups in our church and what is your cell group leaders name, have you called them? Because I am committed to helping people win. And by doing that, if people have to go above the cell group leader to the pastor and therefore get more quality ministry because it's the "senior pastor", look, people who have the addiction to cannibalism, of course I am mocking it but that's just my budding sarcasm – I'm working on that!, but I undermine and cut off at my knees my next level of leadership.

I am committed to raising up Ephesians 4 ministries which says that pastors, the five fold ministries are there to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. So my job is to equip you to win. You are the one on the field playing the game not me. Most churches have it backwards. Most churches are reverse engineering it. They are paying professionals to do it yet they are struggling to find volunteers to fulfill the roles in the church.

What I am doing is to purposefully not be the best at what I do. Because if you have a Martin Smith as a worship leader you'll never raise up another worship leader in that church because they will be intimidated to sing next to Martin. Because Martin does it better. So I am committed to leading in a weakness so God can be glorified as apposed to leading out of this big strength and I am the best counselor and the best preacher. I am pushing my team forward all the time and publicly being generous with my words. Man, these cell group leaders rock, this associate pastor rocks and we are building up confidence in a team as apposed to the a man.

So my time is spent with my leaders. How to encourage them, how to strengthen them, how to help them with a confrontation issue. Well, here is how we help people win. Be committed to completing instead of competing. And so I help teach to the team how to deal with confrontation and politics which is 90% of where churches fail and so my time is spent with my leaders. I am developing a future DNA instead of dealing with the people who suck those pastors will to live out. And those people are never what you build a church on.

Because let's say I placate Sister Sally now who has a complaint that the music is too loud, well, she is an offense waiting to happen. Experience tells me she is going to be offended 2 years down the road anyway so let's juss go ahead and have the offence now and get rid of her. Because she has 800 other churches in St. Louis she can take that opinion to.

The bottom line is I am looking for people who are willing to forgive and cover sin, not morally like "oh that pastors out getting drunk", I'm not talking about overt, I am talking about opinion. And the people that get offended over opinion and attitude are not the people who you are going to build the church on.

The bottom line is they are going to have that opinion, keep that opinion, this is probably church 3 for them in the past year anyways. I'd rather offend them now and just say "hey, I know a bunch of pastors, I'll call them for you, I know you think you are the greatest worship leader in the free world but hey look I am Simon Cowl, you are on Christian American Idol and the distance between your perception of your great gifting and why no one here has recognized it, and you actual performance is huge".

Most Christians judge themselves on their intensions but everyone else judges them on their behavior. Most Americans just need a good loving Pastor to just bust them out and say "that sucks!" No one is being edified by that by the way, the whole Litmus Test for Spiritual Gifts in the local church according to 1 Corinthians 12:7 is that your spiritual gift is given for the common good. So it's up to the rest, when you see people run for the doors.

You can think you are a worship leader but I'm telling you that 34 people are plugging their ears and running for the doors like rats off the ship, they are testifying that your gift is not as great as you think you are. I'm loving you enough to point out your blind spot. If you can't handle the truth, if you are a Jack Nickleson in A Few Good Men "You can't handle the truth", then there are probably 800 other churches in town ready to live with your deception. So, that is when we are set free anyways. The more true we are the more brokenness we live out of the greater our freedom is. I don't mean to pontificate. You can just tell that I have some passion.

Matt: It's clear that you have your priorities set. This is where you want to spend most of your time because it's the most fruitful.

Jason: I just believe that everything in the kingdom is based on "be fruitful and multiply". Now I am not making this a major doctrine, I just believe that everything in nature that in general is healthy naturally reproduces. And within that seed that falls from the tree isn't just a seed for one more tree but the potential that is within that seed is for hundreds of seeds given that right condition.

So in that fallen seed from a tree there is another forest of trees in that seed and over generations one seed drops a seed a makes two, those two before 4, those 4 become …, and thus the principle of multiplication not just addition. So I believe that if I invest my time into people who have the ability to reproduce then in the short term it might look like we only picked up 4 people this year, but next year it will be 8 people and the next year it will be 16, then 32, then 64 and within 8 generations we are at a 1,000. But it is quality not just quantity.

In Matthew 5 where Jesus says consider the lilies of the field and see how they grow, he is not just asking for a basic simple observation. The Greek verb he is using there is super intensive, it's not just an observational "look and see how they grow" it's a call to the super deep underground realities that caused that flower to grow. The root systems, what is not seen in the simple observation.

He is saying hey, study why the lilies grow. And the lilies grow because they are in good soil. They have enough sunlight and there are principles which cause that lily to grow. And that is what he is saying. He is saying don't live in an arbitrary carefree disconnected passion. He is saying look, study!

Now, what caused people to grow as well is setting you up for success. And when you succeed and you are being passionately filled with Christ, everything in nature tells people, I call it the all-by-itself principle, the lilies of the fields don't struggle to grow and grow a church, they just do that out of the overflow of health. Because they are according to Colossians routed and being built up in Christ.

Matt: Where have you been able to draw financial resources from and are you full-time?

Jason: I am full-time right now and we have a church in California called the Fathers House which is kinda acting as our covering church where I was on staff and a number of the other members where on staff. They have given us a couple of generous checks to help buy trailers and some sound gear and what not.

Basically what we did is before we launched the church in January (2008) we had about 3-4 months of that small in my living room meeting. And we encouraged people to start investing right away. So, in the 6 months we've raised $60,000 and all of that has gone into resources and tools and curriculum and books and trailers and gear and video and websites and Mac computers and you know flyers and posters. I am just now starting to take a minimal salary.

I positioned my life where I could live on a reduced salary for probably another 4-5 months based on current growth projections. The bottom-line to is how we structured the finances is that of our 100% we take in we are going to live of what I call the 80-10-10 principle the church. We are going to tithe 10%, we are going to save 10% and we are going to live our general budget off 80%. And, of that 80% only 30% is allocated to salary. Then the other 60% of that 80% will be allocated to local outreaches and investing in local areas like offices, curriculum, youth groups, we break down the budget from there.

I am not going to have a top heavy salary church. But we are only going to be using a third of the 80% to pay staff. So, when I can pay for more staff, that we have within that 30% a reasonable budget, then staff member number 2 comes on.

Matt: What is you long term vision for St. Louis? What is your advice for me as I train to start a new church?

Jason: My long term vision is, again going back to that healthy thing in nature, that my goal is not arbitrary like "oh I want a 1,000 people!". To me that is like walking up to a tree and saying "come on, produce more fruit!". It's arbitrary, you know. Me thinking of or conjuring up a particular number that that would make my own ego in ministry. And then therefore gearing everything around that, again that's like CEO Christianity.

But whatever size our church gets to, which I believe is if it's healthy it will grow. My real goal is to help my leadership team all become senior pastors with successful thriving local growing churches as well. And so, my goal is not just to have a good church, but to raise up and launch local healthy churches.

We are going to plant a church all the way in India. I feel that the best way for us spiritually to position ourselves for God to invest in us is to be investing in a third world mission plant environment itself. So, we have 18 people never been overseas, paying the money to help plant a church in India this year. We are all going and they are going to be involved in a long term mission work from day one in our church.

We believe in planting churches. We believe in local churches. My passion for long term vision is that we are planting successful, life-giving churches that are planting successful, life-giving churches.

Now, in terms of advice to you. Man, just find out what Jesus is saying and get your head down and get busy. Now, with that, if you join a network that can help fund you or you have relationship that can gather around you to help create funding you probably got to go either on of those two roads on a practical level.

What I am seeing from experience now, not just being on staff on a big church, but starting it on day one, is you probably need anywhere between $50-150,000 to get a church off the ground depending on how big you want to start. Like I said, my friends started with probably $100,000, the first service had 400 out the gate. He spent all $100,000 on that first service. So, big risk, but it paid off. Now, 6 years later he has 9,000 people in his church. Go figure!

Or you could do it more of the way I am doing it. I just gathered in some friends, some interested people that had bought into a vision and into my life. Here is a philosophy that helps me. The Greek culture was interested in information, amongst some of their highest goals, therefore we have the Platos, the Socrates, we have the great philosophers that where informational.

The Jewish culture wasn't so interested in what information that you know, they weren't so much interested in what you know, they were more interested in who you know. So in the Jewish culture you didn't get a degree in information you got a degree in someone's life. It was: who are you mentored by? You are a protégé of who? And we see that played out in where Paul was trying to minimize some of the debate that was being created by "I follow Apollo's, I follow Paul" but yet the invitation was follow me as I follow Christ.

The Jewish culture was big on doing life together. One of the best ways to plant a church is to find a core group of 10, 12, 15 people and do life with them. And based on that relationship, and if it has life to it, God can give gifting, character is earned. And so if you have people of character and commitment it speaks life and people are hungry to be apart of something that has life and that has legacy. The unbroken chain of 2,000 years of church history. They want to be connected to something ancient and yet relevant and when people find genuine community they will buy in and it doesn't matter if it is 25 people in a living room or 400 in an elementary school or 600 in a new built sanctuary.

Anyway, those are some ramblings. At the end of the day I don't know, I haven't got a clue!

Matt: Jason, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.


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