I took 29 days off and lived to tell about it!

It’s true. I did it. I took 29 days off from my role as Pastor of Thrive Church. I also took 29 days off from social media. I also took 29 days off from constantly replying and checking my messages/emails/voicemails/texts.

And guess what? I lived! And, Thrive Church…

THRIVED!

Let me tell you why I did it. Why I took 29 days off, consecutively. By the way, that’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this in 22 years of serving at Churches.

Here’s why I did it…

I let myself get to a very unhealthy place of life. 

You don’t understand. I was drained. I was exhausted. I had nothing left. My tanks were beyond empty. I felt like a zombie most days. For 20 some years, I have worked hard. 50, 60, 70 hour weeks. I have traveled all over the country speaking. I have always tried to do whatever I needed to get the job done. Even when I was exhausted, I always had reserve energy tanks.

But, for the first time in my life, the reserve energy tanks were gone. The past 4 years of my life have been a wild ride. We planted Thrive. Which, that journey alone has been amazing and exhausting. After we planted, my already bad back went to def con 5 and then came back surgery. It took about 16 months to start feeling better. But, every day I experience some kind of pain. Whether it’s a limping day or not is up to the weather.

Then there is the day to day stuff of leading a Church. And, we have seen God move in powerful ways and we have seen satan attack the Church in crazy ways.

We also pursued the calling on our lives to adopt and that journey was both amazing and exhausting. Raising $35,000 and doing mountains of paperwork and the waiting and the going back and forth. Dealing with the people who don’t quite understand adoption and receiving some of their non emotionally intelligent thoughts.

This year started in China picking up Kai and bringing him home. It was amazing! But, after I got home, we knew that God was calling us to move locations and we started a major fundraising campaign at Thrive. And, every time you do something like this, satan seems to up the attack. Then, our Church moved locations. To a much larger space that was a miracle. And, every time you make a change, there are those people who either don’t come along with you or criticize every move.

Then, over the last six months, our family has been adjusting to having a new family member in our house and having another child with PKU and the costs associated with that.

I was spent. My normal tanks were depleted and my reserve tanks were long gone. I was leading and living on empty.

AND…ON YEAH, MY PEOPLE PLEASING WENT OUT OF CONTROL

You see, my name is Jason Raitz and I am a People Pleaser. Even the thought of saying NO to someone causes anxiety to well up. Not good for a Pastor. Because honestly, I have to say no a lot. In order to keep heading towards the vision God’s given us for our Church, I simple can’t say YES all the time.

And guess what? 

I started to let a lot of people down. I let my family down. I let myself down. 

I couldn’t fulfill all the YESSES! I dropped balls. I wasn’t fully there for my family. I slept a lot. I gained a lot of weight. I began to let worry and anxiety rule my life.

And then the chest pains came. They set up shop and decided to stay for awhile.

Lastly, not proud of this at all, but in my complete and utter exhaustion, I started to let bitterness well up in me.

What do I have to bitter about? Great question. I mean, God continues to bless my family. I love my Church, I love my staff team and I love my job. The Patriots won the Super Bowl!

Because I’m such a raving people pleaser, and since I spend quite a bit of time pouring and investing in people. When they up and disappear from Church, I take that very personally. When they say negative blanket statements on Facebook or to other people about our Church, I take that personally. When they head to another Church and never have a conversation with me or another staff member, I take that personally. When they look the other way in a grocery store, that hurts.

And, unfortunately, in my extreme exhaustion, I let all that bitterness well up and  it started to take over.

I was no good to nobody. 

Tracie and my parents were worried about me. I know the kids knew something was up.

That’s when Dr. Tom sat me down. And then Matt. And then Sarah. Some of Thrive’s key leaders noticed a difference in me.

Multiple people asked me if I was ok.

Honestly, in my exhaustion, I stopped doing the practices that helped protect my soul.

I stopped reading. I stopped my every morning prayer walks. I stopped seeing my counselor. I stopped working out. I stopped blogging.

I started to dream about working at Meijer’s. I mean, I would keep that parking lot clean! I could push carts and I would do it well! I started to wonder what a 9-5 job would be like. A job that I could leave and clock out and they weren’t going to call me if a grocery cart went rogue.

This is all embarrassing, I know. It’s probably too raw to write about and post. But, it is what it is.

So, I went to our Elders at Thrive to explain and ask for some extended time off and before I could barely pitch my presentation, one of our founders said…’yup, this is a no brainer’. Another said…’is this enough time, take what you need’.

Talk about being loved! Talk about being supported. Talk about being cared for! 

 

29 Days

So, the day after we got back from Big Stuf Camps, I started this 29 day journey. I’ve never taken a full 2-3 month sabbatical. But, I can see how after a month, you really start to do some healing!

My 29 days looked like this…

The first week I slept. No really. I slept a lot. I was utterly and completely exhausted. I also changed my cell phone number. This was recommended to me and this was a hard one to actually do. I did it. I know some folks probably thought I died.

But, in the midst of constant messages/texts/emails, we had a mix up with Kai’s medical insurance when he first came home and we now owe $6000! Its been a ridiculous mess! Anyways, not having the constant phone calls asking for those funds has been nice.

The second week our family went on a vacation. This wouldn’t have happened without some amazing generosity from some friends! We had a blast together. We went to DC. We walked the capitol. We stayed with friends. Saw family we haven’t seen in forever. The kids kept asking, you sure you’re not speaking somewhere? Hah! IMG_8805

The third week, I started to get back into my rhythm of prayer walks and I decided to walk an hour a day around the campus of Central Michigan University. It was a great week.

The fourth week, I tried to listen to my wife and kids as much as possible. 

In these 29 days…

I started a new prayer journal. I’ve been reading through 1 Samuel and the book of Matthew.

I read ‘Emotionally Healthy Leader’ by Pete Scazzero. A must read! This book has helped me heal in ways I never thought was possible!

I re-read ‘The Circle Maker’ by Mark Batterson

I read ‘People Pleasing Pastors’ by Charles Stone

I saw my counselor and spent time with a mentor.

I went on a lot of walks with my wife and kids.

I talked to God.

I took 29 Days off and I survived!

28 or 38 year old Jason would have never been able to do this, but almost 42 year old Jason knew I needed this to replenish my tanks and for some healing to occur and to happen.

I’m thankful for my Church. I’m thankful for my family.

I’m expectant and excited for this next season of ministry!

Oh, here are a few photo’s from our trip to DC.

The Gift of Sheila = Unbelievable Generosity that rocks your life!

The Raitz family has been so blessed over the years.

And, when I say blessed, I don’t mean…’oh, we’re so happy’, kind of blessed.’

I mean the kind of blessed where your life, where your family, where your everyday life is so rocked and so moved and so blown away, you just don’t know how to function! And then, all you want to do, is do just that for other people. 

Well, a few months ago, an amazing couple from our Church came over and gave us a gift that knocked the air out of our lungs. We sat there in silence and we had no idea how to respond.

The size and scope of the generosity was absolutely amazing.

Actually, after it happened, Tracie and I went into our bedroom and shut the door and just hugged and cried. That lasted about 2.5 second because we have 5 kids! Hah!

They gave us the Gift of Sheila! Which, if you’re wondering what that is, Shiela is the IMG_8052nick name we gave their mini van.

They gave us a mini van!

I am not even kidding! Just unreal! 

I can’t even begin to express what an answer to prayer this gift was for our family. I can’t even begin to express how incredibly blown away we have been for the past couple of months as we think about what this family did for us!

This is the kind of generosity that literally CHANGES LIVES! 

And, the amazing generosity started back in 2014. We were headed as a family to Florida to speak at a summer camp. Our van was barely kicking. As a last minute hail mary, I put out on Facebook that we were asking for prayer for our van to get to Florida. That’s when I got a message that we could use this couples mini van. It was a huge answer to prayer.

Over the next 3 years, again and again, they let us borrow their van for us to travel to speaking engagements and vacations. We went to WI and to IL and to SC and to FL. Over the course of this time…

Sheila became a part of the family. 

The couple that gave us Sheila has been a part of our lives since 2012. That’s when I first met them. They lived down state and attended a Church that I was speaking at. They were a part of the prayer and I still remember the day I first me them and they prayed over me before I spoke.

Fast forward and they moved back to Central Michigan and they have been a part of Thrive since the very beginning. Actually, Thrive would not exist without this couple. Their heart to serve, to pray and to give just continually blows me away.

Every Pastor needs encouragers. I don’t know where I would be without them. They have taught me so much about following Jesus and so much about generosity!

Every time I drive Sheila I pray for them. I ask God to bless them.

Our hope is that God will use us in a similar way to bless the people around us!

 

Thrive Church: 10 Ways You Can Support One Youth’s Big Stuf Trip…

In 22 days, Thrive Church is sending an amazing group of students and adults to Big Stuf!

WOO HOO!!bigstuf-(3)

Ok, what’s Big Stuf? Big Stuf is a summer camp/conference for middle and high schools in Panama City Beach, FL. Incredible times of worship, inspired bible teaching, breakouts, group activities, bonding with small groups and the ocean!!

For 22 years I have been taking students to summer camps and for 17 years, I have been speaking at summer camps. In my opinion, not many come close to Big Stuf!

So, as a Church, this trip is incredibly important! We need the entire church to come together to support, pray and encourage!!

10 Ways you can Support One Youth’s Big Stuf trip:

1. Pray. Yes, and pray hard! Seek God on behalf of these students and leaders. Camps/Conferences/Retreats have a way of helping students bust through spiritual mediocrity or to help them own their own faith. Pray for their hearts to be wrecked for Jesus.

If you want to be a student or leaders prayer partner, just email Lindsey.msibi@thrivechurchmi.cc.

2. Write an encouraging card to an adult leader attending.  Email Lindsey.msibi@thrivechurchmi.cc for a list of the names attending. It would be amazing for them to get encouraging cards while in FL!

3. Watch the sessions on Live Stream. This would be awesome! Head HERE and check out the worship and teaching! Especially parents!

4. Bring your Loose Change to Church the next 3 Sundays. Yes, every bit of loose 19024976_1355671291194848_6650784396360443343_ochange helps! Thanks for helping raise the funds for camp!

5. Donate food. We need 6 cases of Little bottles of water. Little pop bottles. (Why little? Because we have a long van ride!) Granola Bars. Cheese Sticks. Fruit (apple slices). Fruit Snacks. Twizlers. Small bags of chips.

6. Donate Sun Screen. We are going to use a lot!

7. Hire a student to work at your house. Email Jessica.herron@thrivechurchmi.cc to get this set up!

8. Get your car washed. On June 24th, from 9-2pm, we will be at Krapohl’s Ford for a car wash. Please bring your car over!

9. Shop with Scrip. Shop at Krogers. Shop at Amazon. As you shop, you can help earn money for One Youth. This is so simple, it’s silly! Please email Sarah.gauthier@thrivechurchmi.cc and she will get you all set up!

10. Donate funds to help. This is also a very simple, yet incredibly powerful way to help. Our students have been working hard all year to each earn and raise $600 to attend this camp. Any gifts given will go towards students who haven’t quit earned everything they need yet.

You can give HERE. Just click on One Youth!

Thank you so much helping and supporting One Youth! 

We can’t wait to share with the Church about our trip!

 

 

 

5 Reasons I’m beyond EXCITED about Thrive’s Dad Fest Sunday!

This Sunday is one of Thrive Church’s most exciting Sunday’s…

DAD FEST!18951327_10158911643060235_5540560706029634397_n

We host Dad Fest every year to honor dads, to hopefully attract men and dad’s to Church and to remind people how amazing our heavenly Father is and how much he loves us!

Some of my favorite Sunday’s in Thrive’s almost 4 year history have been Dad Fest Sunday’s.

Here’s 5 Reasons I’m so Excited! 

1. It will be a blast to honor Thrive’s ‘Dad of the Year’!

This year we’re doing something new. We are awarding a prize for Thrive’s ‘Dad of the Year.’ This will be an awesome moment! Many friends and family have nominated their dads, friends and relatives. Our staff looked over each nomination and prayed and picked. I can’t wait!

2. It will be a blast to remind Thrivers that we have a good, good Father!

The amazing Dr. Tom (Thrive’s Spiritual Formation Pastor), helped me find 5 amazing truths from Psalm 103 about our heavenly Father. I can’t wait to encourage our Church with those truths!

3. It will be a blast to combine both experiences into one!

This is always a treat! It doesn’t happen much, but this Sunday we get to gather all together!

4. It will be a blast to worship outside at Island Park!

I am so proud of how hard our band works to provide an amazing worship experience. Plus, they’re going to play a few pretty fun songs as well! I hear Whitesnake and the Zac Brown Band are making an appearance!

5. It will be a blast to see families experience EVERYTHING!!

This Sunday will be the first time we have all 8 Giant Inflatables set up! It’s going to be awesome! We have also some cool cars coming, a fire truck, police cars, an archery game and a bacon tent! Yes…a bacon tent!

What are you doing on Sunday? 

I so hope you can join us! I know its nice out, but I hope you will consider giving some of your time to gather together!

We will be at Island Park from 9 (ish) to 1230 (ish). Can’t wait!

Are we Crazy!?! Thrive’s 5 year Vision and our Prayer Wall!

Last month, the Pastors of Thrive Church were at the Exponential Church Planting conference in Orlando, FL. It was a GREAT trip. Lots of laughs, dreaming, praying and learning!

The theme of the conference was ‘Dream Big’ and we were challenged to do just that.

One morning, I found myself dreaming big in my prayer journal. I presented this to the other Thrive Pastors (Matt Moore, Dave Shephard and Dr. Tom Rundel) and we all tweaked it a bit. Then, this past Tuesday, I presented it to our staff and we tweaked it a little bit. Next month, I am going to present it to a combined meeting with our Thrive Elders and Financial Team.

Let me just say this…

It’s a wild and crazy Vision!

I read through it and some of the items on there scare me. In a good way, but they’re so big and so audacious, that really ONLY GOD could provide the needs to make some of this stuff happen.

So, this is our 5 year Vision at Thrive! This is what we’re praying and asking God to provide. We desperately want to make a HUGE impact in Central Michigan and the world and we’re stepping out in faith and believing that God can do the impossible.

Thrive turns 4 in October and I feel like in many ways, we’re just getting started!

Thrive’s 5 Year Vision

  • Every Life is changed by Jesus
  • Thrivers to be passionate about: Jesus, the Bible, Prayer, Giving and their Small Group
  • Elder and & Staff Unity
  • Financial Wisdom, Margin and Radical Generosity. We’re praying for a $600,000 a year budget and 4-6 months of operating budget in savings.
    • Staff to not have to raise support.
  • Partner with Local Churches who are struggling and provide help and new life.
  • 20 Acres of Land to be Donated.
  • Semi-Trailer and Box Truck to be donated.
  • A New Hub. 15,000 square feet of Offices, Prayer Center, One Youth Space, Tutoring, Thrive Counseling Center, Studios (Music, Video, Art), Do Good Space
  • Equipment. (2) MacBooks, Drum Set, Keyboard, Video Camera’s, Gaga Ball Pit, Obstacle Course Inflatable, Color Copier.
  • New Staff & Team Leaders. Small Group Director, Youth, Video, Stewardship.
  • Midland & Big Rapids Campus Pastor.
  • Add a Thrive campus in a local prison.
  • (2) Church Planting Residents.
  • Reach 1500 people weekly by 2022.
  • 24/7 Building that can be used 7 days a week by the Community. Including a small apartment complex that can be used to house Single moms, families, refugees, interns.

SHOW UP

  • Raise an additional $20,000 a year to reach students at CMU. This will give us a major presence on campus.
  • See 150 people a year Trust in Jesus at Thrive on Sunday’s.
  • 100 people to be baptized in 2017. 200 by 2022.
  • Record a live worship album.

JUMP IN

  • 500 people in Small Groups by 2019.
  • Increased Volunteers
    • 50 Road Crew
    • 200 Thrive Kidz
    • 75 First Impressions
    • 30 Prayer Team
    • 20 Care Team
    • (3) Worship Leaders
    • 40 Musicians
    • 30 One Youth Leaders
    • 30 Chi Alpha Leaders
    • 30 Outreach team
    • 25 Cars Ministry
  • Start an online Bible School. Offer practical courses to help develop life long followers of Jesus.

DO GOOD

  • Plant (2) Churches in Ecuador through Stadia and Compassion. ($190,000)
  • Join and help plant (2) Churches in Michigan.
  • Raise $50,000 a year to give away 1500 shoes to elementary students at local schools.
  • Give away 20 Cars a year and repair 40.
  • Support 15 Back to School Parties for Local Schools.
  • Sponsor a ‘Night to Shine’ Event
  • Host a community wide Halloween Party at Finch Fieldhouse
  • Sponsor a Teacher Appreciation Night for hundreds of local teachers.

NEXT GEN

  • Thrive Kidz
    • Raise up a Thrive Kidz Worship Team
    • Create a special needs room at Thrive Kidz
  • One Youth
    • Send 100 Students to Big Stuf Summer Camp
    • 40 Small Groups
    • Student Lead
    • Raise up a One Youth Worship Team
  • Chi Apha
    • (2) Houses on Campus for College Students

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Thrive Sermon Notes. Week Two of #ForCentralMichigan. ‘Be Practical’

Last Sunday at Thrive Church, we kicked off a new series called #ForCentralMichigan. It was awesome and it was a GREAT Sunday!

We kicked off this series by laying out that we believe Thrive is called to be a Church

FOR the Community, not just in the community. 

Today, our plans changed a little at Thrive. We were going to spread throughout Central Michigan and serve at a ton of different projects. But, the rain decided it needed to come.

So, we changed our plans a bit! We hosted a LIVE online worship experience and it turned out GREAT!

This week, I wrote out my sermon notes. Here they are.

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My Seminar Notes from Exponential: Engaging Your Community (Pt. 1)

Engaging Your Community

    • Good afternoon! So excited you’ve joined this conversation and that’s what I hope this will be. So, pipe up at any moment, throw in ideas. I hope that this is a think tank for you and I hope you will walk out of here with tons of ideas!
    • I’ve been serving as a Pastor at local churches since 1995. I was in youth ministry, well, I still am, but I served as a youth pastor for 17 years. I started a nonprofit to speak in public schools and then my wife and I planted Thrive Church on October 6th, 2013. We are 184 weeks old.IMG_9996.JPG
  • It has been the GREATEST journey of our lives. Lots of ups, lots of downs, lots of paint and lots of joy and everything in between!
  • So, this conversation we’re having, I’m going at it from the perspective of a church plant that’s in the preplant days. Now, if you’ve already planted, I think we’ll have some ideas to help you to continue engaging with your community. But, I wanted you to know that.
  • In a nutshell, if we’re going to really engage with our communities, I really believe our philosophy and our focus has to be rooted in this idea:

Big Idea: Be a Church FOR your Community, not just IN your Community

  • Thrive, after 3.5 years, still doesn’t have a building of our own. That helps us a little with this mindset. But, it’s super easy to slip into the philosophy of…well, people just need to come to us. It’s easy once you’re up and going to just take your foot off the peddle a little bit.
  • At Thrive, we set out to reach people who had given up on God and church. We want to create irresistible environments for people who have given up on God and Church. That’s our context.

Story: This is a great F’ing Church

  • We were like 2 months in, and this giant guy, came up to me after church. Like, he’s a massive man. We’re in the hallway and he grabs my shoulders and he says…I LOVE THIS F’ING CHURCH! It was awesome! A few older ladies sprinted out of there!
  • That to mean was an indicator that we were reaching people who hadn’t been reached!
  • But, if even before we launch and plant, this idea of being FOR the community is front and center, that will keep us moving in the right direction.
  • I love what Andy Stanley says about a Church being a movement:

“The church at its inception was essentially, a movement…a movement built around conviction that Jesus had died as the only Savior for sinners and that he had risen from the dead proving he was who he said he was; that he was the rightful Lord of the earth and all people everywhere were now commanded to repent and invited to come home to him.” ~Andy Stanley

  • If you haven’t had a chance to read Deep and Wide by Andy, oh my goodness, do it immediately. The book continues to blow my mind and is so powerful!
  • In it, he really breaks down this thought process of…is the Church a Building or a Movement?

The Church? Building or Movement [From Deep and Wide, Andy Stanley]

  • This will be a refreshers course, but I think it’s helpful to lay this foundation out before we get to 10 really practical steps to Engaging your Community. So many people, when they hear the word church, immediately think of what???
  • A Building. A Place.

Story: Planting Thrive in a Rural, predominantly catholic area

  • So many people thought I was crazy when we announced that we were going to plant a Church. And they just couldn’t wrap their minds around not having a building. To them, the church was a place they went to a few times a year, wore their Sunday best and it was a building.
  • So, to some in our area, we were a cult. We started in a bar (some people seemed to dig that, hah!), then a movie theater and, wow, the very traditional crowd thought that was crazy.
  • In our first year and a half we started this annual giving campaign called the SHOE PROJECT. Schools and supporting them has always been on my heart. We found out that shoes was a very real need. So, we raised $15,000 and bought 425 brand new pair of shoes and gave them out in a school!
  • It was like a giant foot washing!
  • And, then we cancelled a Sunday pretty early and started a ‘Church has left the building’ day where we served schools.
  • We want to teach very practically early on, that the Church was both a gathering and a movement.
  • That’s exactly what Andy Stanley teaches in Deep and Wide. He takes the world Church and teaches that in the Greek, it’s translated, Ekklesia, it literally means…

‘Ekklesia’ = [‘ek’ = ‘out of’] [‘kaleo’ = ‘called out’]

  • So, it’s an Assembly of people called out around an idea, a movement
    • But over the years, a terrible thing happened. People began to think of church as a place that you went to for religious services.
  • Our English word “church” comes not from the Greek ekklesia but from the German word kirche, which meant “a sacred place where you gather for religious purposes.”

‘Kirche’ = A sacred place where you gather for religious purposes

    • That shift in thinking changed the fundamental way people related to the church. Throughout the Dark Ages people went to church; it was a place you attended or sat through, rather than a movement you were part of.
    • And the church became an institution that essentially provided services for people and was controlled by powerful people who used it to serve their own interests.
    • But then something awesome happened. God raised up a group of people called the Reformers. One of the main ones for the English speaking world was William Tyndale.
    • He came to the conviction that Christianity was essentially a movement, and that if people were going to be devoted to the movement they had to understand the message and so his life’s work was to produce the first translation of the Bible into common English.
  • And every time he came to this word, ekklesia, he translated it ‘congregation’ instead of church, because he was trying to emphasize that the church was not a place you went to, but a movement you belonged to.
    • You church history buffs know that infuriated Church leaders because it undercut their authority. Eventually Tyndale was tried as a heretic, hanged and burned at the stake
  • During his trial, right before he died, he said, ‘If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more Scriptures than you do’.
  • As he was being burned his last recorded words were, ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes’. If you’ve got a copy of the King James Bible, you can see that God answered that prayer.
  • But, the Church is an assembly built around a movement.

Illustration: Cruise Ship or Coast Guard

  • It’s easy to have the MOVEMENT and ENGAGING YOUR COMMUNITY mentality in the beginning. But, trust me, you can slip into the safe, no risks, pleasing the Church people mentality very quickly.
  • There is a GREAT Church in Rapid City, South Dakota and the Pastor, David Kinnan, uses this illustration.
  • Are you a Cruise Ship Church or the Coast Guard?
  • Cruise Ship Churches are obviously ‘kirche’ kind of Church! A place you go. And, it attempts to meet your every need! You are pampered, stuffed at buffets and everything is about you.
  • Unfortunately, that mentality cannot slip into Churches. We have to Be the COAST GUARD! An ekklesia that moves throughout our communities and saves drowning people!
  • So…

Is our GOAL to just launch a SERVICE and find a BUILDING … or create a MOVEMENT and ENGAGE your Community?

  • I know this is probably a crazy way to start out, because if you’re planting, you are in the thick of being a movement.
  • But, I know so many planters that just work so hard to get to a service or a building. You work so hard just on details!
  • Details are fine! Details are important, they’re necessary. It’s one of the reasons I planted through STADIA CHURCH PLANTING. They provided me a Project Manager, really an Ex. Pastor for the first 10 months to handle the details.
  • That freed me up to ENGAGE with my community!
  • The big question to ask is…

“A movement is something that is usually marked by three things, or it’s said it’s marked by three things. First of all, a movement is something that’s united around a common, compelling vision. It’s got a broad base of involvement and participation, which is very broadband and spontaneous. And it’s energized by a power that leads to innovation and sacrifice.”  ~Tim Keller

Big Idea: Are you a Church FOR the community, or just another Church IN your community?

  • Acts 1:8 reminds us why this is all so important!

Acts 1:8

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

  • We have to MOVE. We have to ENGAGE.
  • This has got to be one of the strangest scenes ever, doesn’t’ it? He gives them the largest assignment you could ever imagine…and then…with hardly any explanation, or plan of action, he leaves.
  • They are like, what? The whole world? As he is ascending, they are like, ‘Jesus, do you realize how big the whole world is? Jesus is like, ‘Yup, I can see it from here suckers! And, you have no idea how big it really is!
  • This is where it all began. 2000 years later, here we are, with more Christians on the planet than any other religious group, all stemming from a group of 12 fisherman, carpenters and tax collectors.

The Question to ask before you launch?

‘If our Church disappeared someday, would anyone in our community even notice?

  • When we planted Thrive, we said that this question would be one that we would come back to all the time.
  • Our area is smaller, its rural. We have 26,000 people in our town, about 130,000 in a 30 mile radius. Lots of traditional churches.
  • So, we just keep asking ourselves, if Thrive goes away, will anyone notice?
  • We ask that, because we want to make a big impact in our area!
  • And the way to do that is by Engaging with our community.
  • So, here is a step by step to do just that. To be FOR the community, not just IN the community.

Step by Step Plan to Engaging Your Community

  1. Remember that you CARRY the most important news ever.

And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere’

  • Yes, of course we remember this, that’s why we’re doing this. But, we get so busy, again, with the details. The pressure of Launching Large, or getting Missional Communities going, or building a launch team.
  • So, a good question to ask is, Do you really know the Gospel Message?
    • I Love the Gospel Message. But, if I’m being honest, it was years before I really could articulate it in a way that an unchurched person could understand.
    • Todd Clark: How to lead a person to Jesus on a napkin
  • Do you know what you believe about the essentials?
    • People will ask. Be ready.
    • And, they will want to know what you believe about Homosexuality.
    • I got the most emails about that before we launched. We’re in a college town. I got emails from parents asking if there kids would be accepted at Thrive. Broke my heart.

Story: Cornered by a Grandma on Child Dedication Sunday

  • This grandma cornered me and drilled me. You a real pastor? Where’s your robe? Why don’t you baptize babies? What’s this child dedication?
  • What are your non-essentials?
  • What are your Core beliefs?
  • Are you passionate about sharing Jesus?
    • Are you more passionate about the idea of starting and growing a church, that about sharing Jesus with every person you come into contact with?

Story: Panera Bread: You’re a Pastor?

  • I worked at Panera Bread my first year at Thrive! Hundreds of meetings, coffees, thousands of study hours, phone calls.
  • I got to know the staff very well. The manager would let me clean up tables.
  • Staff would talk to me on their breaks!
  • One day a young lady who I was getting to know sat down and rather rudely said, I just found out you’re a Pastor! Is that true? Because what I know of Christians, they hate everything and everyone and you just don’t seme that way!
  • Remember that you’re a carrier!
  1. Learn how to be an AMAZING story teller.
    • Study how to ‘Cast a Vision’ from both in front of people and face to face with people
      • Read Visioneering by Andy Stanley and then read it again!
      • Watch GREAT vision Casters
        • Greg Nettle
        • Albert Tate
        • Bill Hybels
        • Andy Stanley
    • Learn how to share the story of your church in under 5 minutes
      • What makes you different?
      • Read everthing you can from Will Mancini and get CLARITY.
      • Do you have a tag line? Thrive’s is NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED.
    • Practice, practice, practice.
      • Ted Williams, I believe was the greatest hitter of all time. Played for the Red Sox in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s. He swag a bat 1000 times a day!
      • Practice like that.
      • Charles Swindoll has a full length mirror in his office and he practiced in front of it.
      • Actually be compelling
    • Do you know how many stories (or parables) Jesus told?
      • 58! Fifty-Eight!
  • Stories are powerful!
  • I love this quote by Eugene Peterson…
    • “Stories are verbal acts of hospitality.”
  1. Build a team of storytellers.
  • Teach them the Gospel [How to share the Gospel in 2 minutes]
    • Have them watch Todd Clark’s…How to share the gospel on a napkin
  • Remember that vision leaks, so teach them the vision over and over
    • Figure out how many 1 on 1’s you can emotionally process in a week and then set a goal. Meet for early breakfasts, coffees, lunches, walks in a park. Every conversation bring up the vision.
    • Ask the tough questions.
      • Are you praying for anyone to share the Gospel with?
    • Create a facebook private group and share vision stories
  • Show them how and when to share stories of your church
    • Our society is not very keen on Emotional Intelligence. Read everything Daniel Goleman has written on it!
    • Teach your people Self Awareness, and Relational Awareness
  • Resource them with your Church Swag
    • People love free stuff. We didn’t send mailers, we didn’t spend a lot of marketing dollars. But, we provided COOL SWAG.
      • Make T-Shirts
        • Cool T Shirts. Sweatshirts. Great designs, Quality Designs.
    • Lawn signs that don’t look Churchy
    • Invite Cards. Business card size.
      • Ours say…Not your mama’s Church, unless of course, your mom goes there.
    • Car Decals
    • Door Hangers
    • Facebook Page
      • Use this primarily for INSPIRATION not INFORMATION. Tell the story of your Church online.
      • Turn them into Online Evangelists
        • Teach them how to share online
        • Use hash tags
        • Use great photo’s
  1.  Really get to KNOW your community.
  • Be the expert
    • I grew up in the city of Detroit, I planted in a rural area. I had a lot to learn.
    • Stadia helped me with this as well. Provided reports for me. Information.
  • Do the research
    • Go to your cities websites.
  • Build a database of the who’s who
    • I created a google doc with everyone!
  • Drive around it, walk around it and pray for it
    • Prayer Walks are HUGE for me.
    • We didn’t launch with a ton of resources, so prayer was all we had!
  1. Meet with as many Community Leaders as you possibly can. 
  • Police, Fire, Mayor, City Manager
    • I remember meeting with the Police Chief and he said at the end of our conversation, I wish I wasn’t Catholic, this Church sounds awesome! I drag myself to Church!
  • Principals, Teachers, Superintendents, PTA’s
  • Pastors, Clergy, Chaplains
  • Nonprofits, Business Leaders, Chamber of Commerce