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In the past two days, I have offered two reflections of some thoughts that are with me as we prepare to work our way toward the launch of a new church in the Nashville area. You can read those HERE and HERE and find out more about the new work and how you can partner with us HERE.
Today, I want to wrap up that series by sharing the last of these key ideas.
3. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Pro. 16:9
There are countless applications for this truth, but let me narrow the focus for the church planting conversation. After all, that’s why it is looming so large in my mind. In so many ways, that is what the “lead up” to planting a church is like – “making a plan.”
You discern a call from God – you begin to make a “plan.”
You proposal (aka prospectus) – a “plan” – describing what you “plan” to do once you get where you are going.
You make a “plan” to raise prayer and financial support.
You make a “plan” to network with both saints and those who don’t yet know Jesus, upon arrival.
You “plan” what you are going to do leading up to your launch date.
You “plan” what you are going to do the first year after your launch date.
Sheesh! Church planting could almost be called church “planning” for crying out loud!
And here’s the thing…these plans are not evil. In fact, I would argue they are needful.
The problem often arises when we carve our plans in stone instead of sketching them in pencil.
See, when we “carve our plans in stone,” we step onto some dangerous ground.
We seek to take control.
We seek to be the the master of our own universe.
We seek to determine our own destiny.
Ultimately, we seek to play God.
We forget “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
I have been guilty of this countless times.
Like the Apostle Paul in Rom. 7:24, I find myself saying, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
But, like Paul, there is hope for me.
And there is hope for you.
There is hope for every single Type-A, Control-Freak, I-dotter, T-crosser, carve-in-stone-planner-who-doesn’t-like-to-see-the-plan changed sinner on the face of the earth.
That hope is Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ died for each time we move from wisdom to idolatry in our planning.
Jesus lives to give us the strength to say “no” to sin and “yes” to righteousness in this and other areas.
Jesus will one day return and take us to a place where we will never have to be concerned with this again.
Until then, He has graciously given us His Word to guide our path and His Spirit to help us walk in it.
In what areas of your life are you carving your plans in stone?
Where are you seeking to “establish your own steps?”
What practical steps can you take to actively trust Jesus more, while still be faithful to do “your part?”
May God give us the grace we need to respond to His kindness as He leads us to repentance today.
Yesterday, I shared the first post in a three part series on several things that are on my mind as we step out to plant another church. Today, I share the second.
Let me begin with a story.
“Five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the boiler room of this church?” They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our heating plant.” Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.”
Most of us are aware of the prominence and power of the preaching of C.H. Spurgeon.
Even though he went to be with the Lord in 1892, still today, he is known as the ‘Prince of Preachers.’ Some of services were known to draw as many as 10,000 people at a time and t is no stretch to say that thousands came to Christ through his ministry.
But, as the story above illustrates, Spurgeon never took credit for the success of his ministry. Instead, he always pointed to the power of God and the persistent prayers of the faithful saints who would gather before their services to pray.
Not lasers. Not fair-trade coffee. Not palette wood set designs.
Good, old-fashioned, P-R-A-Y-E-R.
That’s why it is the second thing on my mind as we step out to plant a church.
2. Prayer powers the mission.
After planting our first church, I remember being asked repeatedly by aspiring planters ”If there was one thing you would do differently if you did this again, what would it be?” I would usually chuckle and say “How long do you have?” But, if you really pinned me down…
I would have prayed more.
I would have put together a focused prayer team from the beginning. I would have led our church to pray more effectively and often. By God’s grace, and by the hard work and faithfulness of a sister named Katie and her team in the church we are launching out from, we made some solid strides.
But we didn’t start there.
This time we are. In fact, today we are beginning to build our Prayer Support Team.
By God’s grace, I want to recruit as many brothers and sisters as I can to join us in our “boiler room” from the very beginning.
The plan is quite simple, actually. Click THIS LINK, sign up, and we will email you about once a week for how to pray for us and this new work.
No fuss. No muss. No spam.
Will you join us? Will you come before God with us for Nashville? For the nations? We hope so.
Perhaps my call to prayer could also serve to cause to examine the practice of prayer in your own life and in the life of your church.
If not, maybe these final words from Spurgeon might.
He once told his fellow pastors,
“Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches in general till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.”
Spurgeon also knew that great preaching alone was not enough to bring revival.
“Shall I give you yet another reason why you should? I have preached my very heart out. Pray. I could not say any more that I have said. Will not your prayers accomplish that which my preaching fails to do? Is it not likely that the church has been putting forth its preaching hand but not its praying hand? O, dear friends! Let us agonize in prayer…”
For our families.
For our churches.
If you have followed my ministry for any length of time in the last decade, you know that church planting is a subject close to my heart.
I love to think about it. To write about it. To send guys out from our church to do it. To shoot video interviews of other guys talking about it. ; )
And now, as the Lord would have it,I find myself actively involved in it again.
As we embark upon this journey, I want to take just a few moments to share 3 things that are on my mind and in my heart as we head out for this new adventure. God willing, I’ll devote a post to each.
1. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1a
You know, there is a little bit of irony in my church planting story.
The first time we set out to do this 11 years ago, I was pretty convinced of our success. In fact, too convinced, if I am honest. I believed (like many church planters are) that we would be the “next big thing!” Other churches would come and learn from us…we would be in Outreach magazine…blah blah…ministry…missional…black-framed glasses…blah. By God’s grace, we were, indeed, successful and, truly, the last 10 years was pretty amazing. We worked really hard and many wonderful things happened but GOD is the star of the story. Not me.
In fact, in those early days of the first plant…He had to wrestle a lot from my hands. And He did.
This time around, I feel like I am in a COMPLETELY different place. In a good way.
It’s funny… This time, I actually do know what to do. I have almost 20 years of preaching and ministry behind me. I can do systems and groups and set up for portable church. I have needed skills that were only in fledgling form the first time around. But…unlike last time, I am making NO presumptions.
This time, I am completely, absolutely, 100%, do-not-pass-go-or-collect-$200-Monopoly CONVINCED that if GOD doesn’t make it make it happen, this WILL NOT happen.
Even with training, I am in over my head.
Even with experience, Jesus still has to be the builder of His church.
Even with people skills, Jesus has to drawn men to Himself.
This is GOD’S world and GOD’S calling and GOD’s vision He has placed with us. If He doesn’t show up to make it a reality, it will never leave the whiteboard.
But here’s the thing. He is already showing up! And we are thankful.
And we are keeping a list of all the ways He is making Himself known and my family and I talk about them and praise Him for them every night at dinner. I look forward to sharing some of them with you in the weeks to come.
Putting Feet On It :
Hear me. I’m not holding myself up as some standard of dependence and humility. Hardly.
But I do know what the Lord has taught me.
What He is teaching me.
How He has humbled me.
How He is remaking me.
And I also know that those things are exactly the kinds of things we all need – especially those of us are involved in vocational ministry.
Is there a sense of complete and utter dependence on the Lord at work in your life and ministry today?
If not, why not?
What areas of your life are you too quick to trust in your own strength or ability?
How are you encouraging others toward full dependence on God?
Friends, whether we acknowledge it or not, ”Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1a
Life and ministry work best when we embrace this truth.
May God, in His kindness, lead us all to grasp this reality more deeply today.
Would you like to learn more about the church God is calling us to plant? Click HERE to visit our brand new website and join our prayer list.
Dear Online Friends and Family,
It has been TOO LONG since my last entry! I feel like I always say that…
Well, today’s announcement will shed some light on why. Instead of burying the lead, I’ll just put the headline first:
The Lord has called my family and me to plant a new church in South Nashville, TN!
This past Sunday was my last as the Lead Pastor of a church (Crossing Church) that I planted 10 years ago and deeply love. Crossing is a wonderful church with wonderful people and elders whom I love dearly and will deeply and truly miss. They even surprised us an unforgettable gift! A page of Spurgeon’s ACTUAL HANDWRITTEN NOTES from one of his sermons!!! I was almost speechless. That is saying a lot for a guy who talks for a living
As soon as we can sell our home and get there, I will be humbled and honored to be stepping into the role of “Embedded Church Planter” at Immanuel Church in Nashville, led by TGC Council Member (and my dear friend), Ray Ortlund.
God willing, I will spend the next year or so raising funds for our new plant, assimilating into our new community, networking, and restocking my inner life after a 10 year run at our church in Louisville. The plan is to launch the new work sometime in 2016.
On the family front, even though we are elated to be planting again, transitioning our family of 7 (anywhere, actually…) is a pretty huge deal. We would appreciate your prayers as we step into this next chapter of life and ministry.
I also hope that this process will generate some new content for this blog that has had to take a back seat in recent months.
Thank you in advance for reading this post and praying for us in this exciting transition!
Dustin Neeley for Team Neeley
This past Sunday, I had the privilege to preach 1 Tim 3:1-7 for our church.
In my research I discovered a wonderful document from Nancy Leigh Demoss called “31 Days of Praying for Your Pastor.”
As a Pastor, I found it to be extremely appropriate and helpful and would commend it to you as a great resource to use for your own personal prayer and devotional times and share with your people.
Click 31DayPrayingYourPastor to get it now.