Apostolic Church Planting By J. D. Payne

Dr. J. D. Payne was our guest on "Salty Believer Unscripted" when he publicly announced a forthcoming book titled Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches From New Believers.  Naturally, I was interested so I was thrilled when  Payne's print publicist, Alisse Wissman sent me a pre-published manuscript of the book for review.  (It's a 8.5x11" printed manuscript bound in a presentation-style thermal binding.)  

Payne, J. D. Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches From New Believers. Downers Grove, Illi: InterVarsity Press, 2015.  

In his book, Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches From New Believers, Dr. J. D. Payne sets out complement his larger textbook, Discovering Church Planting: An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and Hows of Global Church Planting with this much shorter book.  Payne also tries to answer additional questions and further mature ideas that were not as developed in the larger textbook.  "Naturally," writes Payne, "there is some overlap between the two.  If there weren't, you would be wise to question an author who writes two books on a subject with no continuity and much divergence in thought" (9).  Found throughout Apostolic Church Planting is the statement, "For more on _______ see chapter _______ in Discovering Church Planting."  Clearly the two books are highly tied, although both stand alone on the topic of church planting.  However, Apostolic Church Planting's illustrations are current, as to be expected; not that Discovering Church Planting is out of date.  In addition, Apostolic Church Planting better address the need for apostolic planting in North America.

Like every other book on church planting, Payne starts with the question, what is church planting?  Often, a person picking up a title that deals with church planting will already understand the answer to this question; but it seems appropriate that Payne address this issue.  Given the slightly different approach, size, and nature of this book, it is possible that this title could be the first book a future planter or planting team reads on the topic.  

Payne writes, "Throughout the Bible, we read of the birth of churches--after disciples are made.  Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches" (15).  Right upfront, Payne defines planting as making disciples of those who did not previously have a relationship with Jesus, gathering them together, and then birthing a new church from this group.  Outside of his definition is the mission that takes a large group of believers and starts an instant church in another location (although he does not condemn this kind of work).  "Churches," Payne states, "are supposed to be birthed from disciple making" (16).  

Next, Payne addresses a biblical rationale for what a local church is and is not.  Having previously served as a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, this is where his professor cap comes out.  And Dr. Payne wears it well.  As the book progresses, it becomes more and more practical, eventually concluding with some extremely applicable chapters.  Each chapter concludes with a summary, offering a concise snapshot of the primary points of the chapter.  At only 121 pages, this is a quick read.  

Apostolic Church Planting is easy to read but it is not an 'easy read.'  Church planting is hard work and Payne does not sugarcoat it.  It is clear that Payne is passionate about helping apostolic planters do the hard work of planting churches that actually advance the Kingdom of God.  Like his other books, Payne's style is a little dry.  You won't find witty anecdotes or clever writing, but you will find grounded, informative thinking, paragraph after paragraph.     

A potential weakness of the book is the lack of perspective from the church in Antioch.  Payne appears to use Paul as his primary source for apostolic planting, but Paul did not plant the church in Antioch.  In fact, other than knowing they were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, we have no idea the names of the men who planted this church!  While an argument from silence is not appropriate, it does seem as if disciples were made by these man who spoke to the Hellenists and preached Jesus. According to the text, some believed.  When Barnabas was sent to check it out, he determined that he and Saul could be of service teaching in Antioch.  Verse 26 calls this group a church (Acts 11:19-25).  It is difficult to know the timeline, but this example seems rather appropriate and a discussion from this perspective would bolster Payne's argument for apostolic planting rather than hiving off a group of disciples and transplanting them elsewhere.  But this is such a minor weakness it is almost not worth mentioning.  

Apostolic Church Planting makes a great book for would-be plant teams.  It's short, divided into easy sections, and offers a great deal of information worth discussing.  In addition, as the team has more questions or would like to work through a particular section in greater detail, they could consult Discovering Church Planting (and Payne tells them right where to look).  This book would also make a good introductory book for a Bible college or seminary course on church planting or missions (although it should be partnered with an additional textbook).  And Apostolic Church Planting is a must read for anyone considering church planting.  

As a church planter in a tough place, I highly recommend this book!  

You can order your copy of Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches From New Believers at Amazon.com.   

Dr. J. D. Payne is the pastor of multiplication for the Church at Brook Hills.  In addition, he's one of our favorite guests on Salty Believer Unscripted. Some of his other books include Roland Allen: Pioneer of Spontaneous ExpansionMissional House Churches: Reaching Our Communities with the Gospel; Pressure Points: Twelve Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Churchand Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration and Mission, among others.  You can also download three free ebooks at www.JDPayne.org.  


The Case for Antioch by Jeff Irog

Iorg, Jeff.  The Case for Antioch: A Biblical Model for a Transformational Church. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Publishing Group, 2011.

Books on church planting and building healthy churches are many.  Too many.  But The Case for Antioch is different.   Most the books on church planting are a story about a specific plant, in a specific time, by a specific planter.  After the church is planted, the planter thinks everybody should do the same thing he did.  The same is true of healthy, thriving churches.  Models and methods are promoted and then everybody tries to copy the book.  Jeff Irog did plant a church, but this book is about a plant that happened long before Iorg set out to plant a healthy church.  This book looks at a church plant called Antioch. Maybe you've heard of the Church in Antioch?  It's discussed in the book of Acts.

Dr. Jeff Iorg is the president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and the author or many other books, including, Is God Calling Me? and Seasons of a Leader's Life.  In this book, Iorg examines clues from the book of Acts and extracts timeless lessons for planting churches and building healthy, transformational churches.

The book is laid out in three parts.  The first is a biblical case study.  It is helpful that in this case study, Iorg defines a transformational church.  Part 2, which is the bulk of the book, is where the lessons learned from Antioch are found.  And the book concludes with a single chapter that encourages the reader to look toward the future.

Iorg's writing style is easy and enjoyable to read.  The information is not watered down, but it is smooth.  If the reader is looking to learn about Antioch he or she will be pleased.  If however, a reader is looking for leadership lessons, he or she will find that too.

At times the book feels repetitive, as if Iorg was trying to fill a word count.  But this is minor and not too distracting.  That being said, I highly recommend The Case for Antioch: A Biblical Model for a Transformational Church

Purchase The Case for Antioch from Amazon here.

You May be a Barnabas if. . .


By guest writers Dave Earley and Tom Swanner.

Dave Early says you may be a Barnabas if...

... you get more excited about the ministry success of someone else whom you have helped than you do about your own success.

... you are content to do most of your ministry behind the scenes and off the radar.

... ministries that you have started tend to fizzle.

... you would rather listen quietly to the struggles of a young leader than lead an evangelistic rally.

... you get your greatest joy from watching the individuals that you have discipled become movers and shakers in the kingdom.

... you are awakened often in the night with an urgency to lift up your senior leader in intercessory prayer.

... you are more about what other leaders are doing than about what you are doing.

... you are often tempted to see the needs and inadequacies in senior Christian leaders and think of ways you can help.

Tom Swanner explains what it is to be a "Barnabas" in ministry: 

Most of my life I struggled with thoughts of inadequacy and self-doubt. I was sure that I was supposed to be in some kind of ministry; however, I did not feel that I was supposed to be the lead in any Christian organization. I knew what it took to be a leader, and many times I found myself in leadership roles, but I never felt entirely comfortable.

One day I was studying the life of Paul. I realized that there was a person who was not only humanly responsible for Paul being in the ministry, but there was also a person responsible for keeping him effective at ministry for an extended period of time. His name was Barnabas.

Barnabas: Son of Encouragement

Barnabas was really a nickname that Joseph (his real name) picked up after the early believers learned what kind of person he was. The name “Barnabas” means “son of encouragement.” The longer I spend in ministry, the more I am convinced that this type of leader is vital for the sustainment of our campaign against the darkness. While we may see the need for real men and women of God to lead the masses, the often-overlooked need of the son and daughter of encouragement is just as fundamental.

The problem with being a Barnabas is that there is often very little recognition in the modern Christian economy for someone who is a second leader. People tend to ask, “Who is in charge here?” People want to get that guy’s attention so that they can get what they want. They do not ask for the guy who is not in charge of something, because that guy cannot give them what they want.”

“Jesus said that whoever would be great in God’s kingdom would be the servant of all (Matthew 20:25-28). As a Barnabas, you have a great responsibility. Your job is to keep the “Paul” in your ministry encouraged and on track. They do not need your criticism from the sidelines. They need your encouragement.

* Dave Earley and Tom Swanner serve at Grace City Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Dave is the author of more than 20 books.  Both hold Doctorates of Ministry. 

** This post originally on published on Dave Earley's website in a slightly different form.  

You can find it here.

 It is reposted here with permission. 

Redeeming Life Church Public Launch (Or "The Funny Language of Church Planting")

April 28, 2015.


In February of 2014, I packed a church van full of young people and set off for Missions Week on the Golden Gate Seminary campus.  It was a pivotal trip.  We attended workshops and sessions.  We helped a church plant and we slept in a poor part of San Francisco.  I met Dr. Richard Johnston and Pastor James Soy.  Dr. Irog and Dr. Wilson encouraged me to apply for the Doctorate of Ministry program, and I did. (Dr. Iorg also tried to convince an intern on my staff to transfer to Golden Gate; but so, far that hasn't happened.) A young man in our group demonstrated that he can lead worship.  We discussed the missional nature of church planting and Risen Life's role in that. And we prayed a lot.

The group was from Risen Life Church.   I was on staff.  My job was to learn and grow in preparation to plant a church.


Upon our return, we started a Bible study group in my home with the purpose of examining what it might take to plant a church in another part of Salt Lake City. The Barnabas House Fellowship was the name of our study. We journeyed through the book of Acts with Elmer Town's book,  Churches that Multiply as a supplement.

The group grew as people came and went.  Some were simply not called to church planting.  Others were only in it for the excitement of the newest, shinny thing.  But some were there in the beginning and are still a part of our core team today. (More than I expected, actually!)

Eventually we outgrew our house and it became apparent that God was calling this group to plant a church.  We worked through all kinds of details.  Eventually we settle on the name, Redeeming Life Church.  ([R] for short.)

We started meeting on Sunday afternoons in the Risen Life Church building.  It was a special time because we saw God do some amazing things.  People were saved.  Believers were baptized.  And our core team grew stronger and stronger. 

Then something happened. God brought people from the Rose Park area all the way across the valley to worship with us.  We knew what was coming.  God was calling us to the Rose Park area of Salt Lake.  It was time to move out of the Risen Life building.

Risen Life released me from their staff and commissioned me as the pastor of this new church.  My family, as well as other families of the core team moved into the neighborhood. We started doing evangelism in our target area to include a campaign that resulted in us hanging 5,000 door hangers. We invited the neighborhood to our Easter Sunrise service. 

We've spend the past three weeks meeting in the Northwest Community Center in preparation for our 'public launch.' It's funny because in church planting language, this point is thought of as the day the church plant starts.  But we've been a church seedling for a while and we feel more like May 3rd is the day we stop saying 'plant' and just say 'church,' Redeeming Life Church. 


I'm thrilled to see what God might do with this little church in Rose Park.  If you live in the area, we'd love it if you'd be our guest.  Our Sunday Gathering starts at 11am. We're praying that God is calling you to join us in this mission. Or maybe you don't live in the area but he's calling you to help us in some other way. And please, keep us in your prayers.   

Soli Deo gloria!

Bryan Catherman

Salty Believer and Pastor of Redeeming Life Church

KSL's "Faith on the Frontlines"

On April 5th, 2015, Easter, the Salt Lake NBC affiliate, KSL ran a documentary about soldiers and faith.  This was one of a handful of documentaries to run during the halftime show between their broadcast of two LDS General Conference sessions.  Three of the interviewees are LDS and then there is me -- an evangelical Christian pastor.

With our permission, they brought cameras into our home and church.  They filmed our prayer time and school.  They interviewed me and asked me questions about the war, my family, the pastorate, and my faith.

Obviously there is a risk when you do these things.  Editing can make the program go any number of ways.  I could have ended up looking either LDS or crazy.  But I don't feel that's what KSL did.  Keri, Eric, Doug and the crew did a wonderful job getting at their topic; and although KSL is an LDS owned company, they were more than fair.  I wish I would have had more pictures to supply of the 3d Armored Cavalry and might have been able to give the Brave Rifles a bit more of a shout out but I just didn't take many photos in that first year of the war.

I really enjoyed KSL's work and I hope you enjoy the documentary.  (It's 22 and a half minutes long, but if you'd like to jump the the bulk of the stuff featuring me, my family, and Redeeming Life Church, you can click this link.)

David Platt on Local Church Membership

March 10, 2015.

Church membership is a sticky thing in our overly-individualistic society.  'Sticky' might even be too soft a word.  'Hot' could be a better word.  'Controversial' is another one.   Polarizing.  Offensive.  Idol-smashing.  Abrasive to our pride.  These are words that may describe attitudes toward membership in the local church; but these are not the feelings of every believer.  In all my time as a pastor I've never seen a new believer freak out over membership.  It's the opposite in fact.

The leadership at Redeeming Life Church is exploring a form of membership called covenant membership.  Names are somewhat arbitrary here, but we want to enter into a covenant with one another as a local extension of the Church, to be the Church and to make Christ known.

We're a church plant just getting started and church plants initially have a tendency of attracting jaded Christians who have been hurt by other congregations.  As a defense, pride runs high.  I've found that membership--dare I say, even commitment to a local body of believers--can be a tremendous struggle for these Christians who come with a little more baggage than others.  (Just mentioning the idea of a commitment in a sermon once earned me a barrage of emails about how membership is heretical and pastors who would even dare consider such a thing are abusing the flock.)

From the very early days of meeting as a study in my home, we've always known we'd have some form of covenant membership.  We know it's important, jadedness, hurt, and baggage aside.  Recently, I have been discussing how we might go about this with a group of our committed folks at Redeeming Life.  I've been studying this topic from the Bible.  I read a 9Marks book on the topic. And I've been praying.  (Thankfully, our team of committed brothers and sisters have absolutely no issues with entering into a simple covenant to be committed to one another as a local church.)

In addition, I've run across a video featuring David Platt.  Platt is speaking on local church membership and I've found it rather helpful.  It's short and worth a look.

Some Great Wisdom on Church Planting

How did the church you attend (that is, if you attend church) get started? Who did the hard work to get it going?  Who was there in the early season of your local congregation?

Getting a local congregation going is often called church planting.  It sounds strange, but as Dave Nelson points out, "every church that exists had to start at some point."

Church planting is hard work.  I can speak with some limited experience; however, as a guy trying to plant a church, I would love the opportunity to sit down at a coffee shop with a handful of guys who've done it and chat.  Then I realized I have a podcast called Salty Believer Unscripted.  So, I reached out to some guys and set it up.

I suspect guys trying to plant churches might be interested in hearing from those who've paved the way before them; but even missionally minded congregants could benefit.  Advancing the gospel in America is hard work.  Maybe God is calling you to join the effort to plant a church but you really have no idea what that means.  Maybe you're a church planter looking for some wisdom from others.  Or maybe you've never even hear the term church planting.  If any of these are the case, check out what these planters have to say.

Church Planting
-- What is Church Planting? audio
-- An Interview with Dr. Rich Johnstone audio
-- An Interview with Stephen Bruker audio
-- An Interview with Mike Littleton audio
-- An Interview with Kyle Costello audio
-- An Interview with Dave Nelson audio
-- An Interview with Bryan Catherman audio
-- An Interview with Dr. J.D. Payne audio
-- Another Interview with Dr. J.D. Payne audio
-- An Interview with Dr. Jeff Iorg audio
-- Another Interview with Dr. Jeff Iorg audio
-- An Interview with Danny Braga audio

And if you feel like you could help out a church plant in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me.  You can help us at Redeeming Life Church or I'll be happy to find a plant for you to serve along side.

Taking Big Risks

Over the past few weeks I've heard and read a lot about taking risks.   Christian men should be willing to take risks, I've heard.  I've read that church planting is about taking a faithful leap into the unknown. While I understand what these kinds of statements are getting at, I'm beginning to wonder if I believe them.

When we think of Neil Armstrong stepping off the ladder of the lunar lander to come down into the dust of the moon, we have to think about the risk he took.  But if we pull that view back some and see the many, many steps he took before he took that "giant leap" it makes the giant leap look much less risky.  Why?  Because he had so much faith and confidence in the men, equipment, research, and history supporting his mission.

As we journey with God, day after day, and follow in the path he lays before us, we should see serving our Lord as far less risky.  We should hold fast to a deep trust already built through all the little steps we've taken with God.  Seeing how much God has ordered our steps and how much he as been the Greater Provider of the outcomes, we should feel no risk when we walk with him.  Trusting God should be easy.  The problem however, is our sinful nature.  We often doubt God and that leaves us feeling like we're taking giant leaps with Jesus.  The risk is not found in doing what God calls us to do; the risk is letting go of our own ideas and strength to follow God's call.  And when we do submit and trust the Lord, amazing things will happen.

I've faithfully ventured into the work of planting a church.   If I were to believe many of the books I've read, I'd probably feel like I were stepping off a lunar lander.  But the reality is this: Christ says he will build his Church (Matthew 16:18).  If it is Christ who builds his Church--to include every local church, what risk am I really taking?  He's the builder and I should have faith and confidence in him.  He knows what he's doing and his care for what he builds far surpasses my level of care.  Whether Redeeming Life Church gets off the ground or not, it's Christ's church, not mine.  If this is true, and I believe it is, how much risk does a church planter really take?  None, other than letting go personal pride and trusting Jesus.  There's no risk if the church planter has faith in Christ.  (I type this and at the same time know that I'll still feel like I'm taking big "risks" when I choose to let go of my own ideas and desires and follow Christ's plan for Redeeming Life Church.  It's the curse of sin.)

At times I feel like am looking into the vastness space far above the earth and required to take a step out in to it.  But that's just a feeling that comes and goes and I grow in my relationship with Jesus.  Peter on the other hand, actually did step out of the boat and walk on the stormy waves.  (See John 6 and Matthew 14.)  Many would say he took a risk getting out the boat, which from our perspective is probably true considering none of the other guys accepted Jesus' invitation to walk on water in the middle of a storm.  But the bigger risk was to take his focus off Christ.  Without Christ we try to go under the power of our own steam.  Letting go of my own effort, knowing just how little steam I really have, feels like the bigger risk when in reality the risker thing is placing our trust in ourselves.  Sadly, letting go of our pride, ideas, and fleeting strength is often the gamble we fail to risk and the decision to place our trust in ourselves only leads to failure.

If you'd like to stop taking risks, take a leap off the ladder and come join our family at Redeeming Life Church

*The photo used in this post was taken and published by NASA and is in the public domain.   

Playing the Bride

Many little girls fantasize about their future wedding day.  They dream of an amazing dress, flowers, a big beautiful cake, and dancing.  In their aspirations all eyes are on the bride.  Everybody is saying, "isn't she beautiful!"

Many little girls strive to achieve this fantasy as they grow into women.  They design their big day around the plan they've been brewing for a lifetime. It's a lot of work with little chance of living up to the expectation.  But something serious is missing--the groom.

How easy is it find a bride-to-be tasting cake, picking flowers, and planning the ceremony with the groom-to-be simply in tow?  How often do we hear, "this is the bride's day?"  I've been know to say those very words to stressed out grooms.  It seems exhausting on the bride and taxing on the groom.

As I've been 'playing at church,' or rather, working to build a core team to start another Christian congregation in the Salt Lake valley, I've felt as though our little baby church plant is like the little girl dreaming of her wedding day.  Our team is 'trying it on' with ambition and aspiration, but often what we're looking to is the trappings of the local church, not the Groom who calls the Church his bride.

It's so easy to be busy.  It's easy to chase after the 'stuff' of the local church.  Growing leaders desire to have people fellowshipping in their homes with little understanding the fellowship the Bible actually calls for.  We want to build systems that get people connected to our congregation but we don't fully grasp the necessary connection to God's Kingdom.  We want to be heard as wise but are unsure about our willingness to truly get into the messiness of real lives.  We (certainly myself included) get excited about graphics and colors and chair arrangements and sound systems and forget that none of these things have eternal significance.  Potential preachers want to stand in the pulpit and preach a good sermon with little thought of the shepherding and care that the pulpit demands.  All of this is because we hold to a worldly view of the marriage we have with Jesus.  At times we're putting the dream before the reality; we're assembling a wedding day without the Groom.

The Bible provides us with a picture of a bride and a groom.  We are the bride and Jesus is the Groom.

Ephesians 5:25-27 charges the husband to love his wife, but it also gives us a beautiful picture of Christ's love for his bride.  It reads, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (ESV).

Jesus makes his bride beautiful!

How much more joy might the Bride of Christ have if we would get our priorities right?  How much more beautiful would the local church be if Christ were truly our passion and the 'stuff' came second or third or somewhere else down the line?  The stuff is so tempting because we often want all eyes on us as we desire the community around us to look at our local congregations and say, "isn't it beautiful" or "isn't this church cool."  Too often church leaders and preachers (myself included) want people to say, "Wow, great sermon" or "yes, I really like the _________ here" (fill in the blank with your favorite 'stuff').

While it is so easy to say and so hard to do, I believe it's critical that we dump our dreams and fantasies of what the local church should be and look to Jesus because he is not only the groom, he is the Head of the Church.  Jesus is our senior pastor.  And the Senior Pastor cares little for the 'stuff' and much for you and me, his bride.

(If you'd like to see more about what God's Word says about Christ and the Bride, here are some chapters to get you started: Psalm 45; Isaiah 62; Matthew 25; Mark 2; Revelation 19, 21, and 22.) 

*Photo by Amy Ann Brockmeyer is used with permission. 

When a Sermon Speaks

September 23, 2014

When I was in seminary I would often tune into the Liberty University convocations as well as the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary convocations.  (There's a difference.  Liberty is the undergraduate school which also includes a number of secular-type masters and doctorate degrees and LBTS is a seminary with masters and doctorate degrees of a biblical, theological, or spiritual nature.)  There were some memorable sermons, but one in particular changed my entire approach to seminary, ministry, and even life.

God used the following sermon by Francis Chan in November of 2011 to really get inside my soul:

Jump ahead to September 2014.  I am serving in full-time ministry as well as planting a church. Ironically, I'm teaching a preaching class for the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary CLD program in an effort to improve my ability to preach.  I selected some sermons that we're viewing and critiquing as a group.  Chan's sermon at Liberty was one of them.  

In preparation for the class, I watched the sermon again with the critique form in mind.  Based on the form, Chan's sermon doesn't cover all the 'correct' bases; but then, neither would Piper, Chandler, DeYoung, or even Billy Graham's sermons.  (My certainly don't and I'm starting to feel okay with that.)  This should probably cause us to re-think the seminary and 'textbook' approach to building sermons with an effort to keep the Holy Spirit at the forefront of our mind as well as an understanding that God uses different preachers how God will use different preachers. 

When I watched the Chan sermon a second time, it really didn't strike the same chord like it did when I first heard it.  I wondered what effect the sermon might have on the class, especially as they would be viewing it with the form in front of them.  I started to wonder if I was losing the passion I had in seminary after seeing the sermon the first time.  Had a few years of ministry and a handful hard critiques from others snuffed out the fire?  What happened? 

But then I watched the Chan sermon a third time in the class, without the form.  Again, God used this sermon to dig inside my soul.  I felt fired up once more.  Again, I have this passion to "look like a guy who walked out of the Bible, not the Bible Belt," as Chan says.  

Francis Chan's passion is moving.  It should liberate preachers who get a little fired up.  His excitement to preach and his joy doing it reminded me how blessed I am to have the opportunity to serve the Lord.  I'm blessed to have the opportunity to preaching God's Word, even if my style and approach doesn't stack up against the textbooks or professors or pastors who do it differently.  And I hope I can love Jesus and his Word and let that overflow out of me all over the place, even in my preaching.  

A guy once challenged me about what the sermon is and what it's for.  He saw the sermon like the breakfast meal--it's something you need regularly but it's not something that is really life changing in a single moment.  His argument was that it's sermon after sermon after sermon over many years that brings about change.  And this is true for some, but certainly God can use a single sermon to speak and move a person.  And maybe you'll hear this sermon and it won't speak to you at all.  But for me, at two different times, God has used this sermon to speak to me in ways I pray are life changing.  (It's unlikely that you'll ever see this Francis, that's for faithfully preaching the message God gave you to preach and to it with passion.) 

Soli Deo gloria!
Salty Believer

Redeeming Life Launches

September 9, 2014

As we greeted our first guest and handed him a colorful bulletin, he walked into the lobby area and saw the muffins and coffee. Surprised, he proclaimed, "Whoa, a bulletin AND coffee.  This is a real church!"

By no means are coffee and bulletins the mark of Christian church.  Neither are seats, curtains, logos, and a good sound system.  The second chapter of Acts suggests that a church must at least be dedicated to the Word of God, break bread together (AKA take the Lord's Supper), be dedicated to the fellowship (another way to say membership?), and be about prayer.  Mark Dever suggests that the nine indicators of a healthy church are biblical preaching, biblical theology and strong doctrine, it lives the gospel, see conversions, is about evangelism, has membership, is disciplined, is growing disciples of Jesus, and has a plurality of elders.  

Despite the debate of exactly how a local church is defined, Redeeming Life Church is off to a good start.  We're serious about the Word of God.  We break bread together every week, we are dedicated to the fellowship (although we have not yet instituted a covenant membership, but it's coming), and we pray together.  We've baptized someone and will baptize another in a couple weeks.  I believe our theology is sound.  We are presently under the oversight of borrowed elders until we can raise up a plurality of  our own elders.  We pray that we'll have many opportunities to proclaim the gospel in the Salt Lake valley and beyond.  We are seeking to grow closer to Jesus every day.  And we really, really love Jesus.

A small group of us have been meeting for months to think about, study, and pray about planting a church.  Risen Life Church is our supporting church.  In fact, we were commissioned by this church to plant another church somewhere else in the valley.  And just this last Sunday, we hosted our first evening service.

We are certainly a work in progress, but that's how we'll always be as a local church because a work in progress is what we are in Christ.  Redeeming Life Church has a great team of men and women seeking to serve the Lord and grow closer to him in the process.  Our lead pastor (that's me) is completely incapable of shepherding God's people without the daily help of Jesus.  So I hold fast to Christ!  Our House Fellowship leaders are learning and growing, but along the way they are serving like tour guides in a place they are only just becoming familiar with themselves.   We're not cool.  We're not well funded, although we are greatly loved and supported by Risen Life Church.  We are not following the latests trends of the newest church plating book.  From the outside, we probably don't look like we have it all together (because you can see from the inside, we really don't).  We are a bunch of people who love Jesus, growing more like him.  We want to be disciples of Jesus who make more disciples of Jesus.  In fact, our goal is to simply know God better and love him more.  We hope and pray that we become so filled by Christ that we spill Jesus out everywhere we go.

If you're in the Salt Lake area and don't have a home church, are unsure about Jesus, or are just curious, we'd love to have you join us.  We meet Sunday nights at 6:30pm in the Fellowship Hall of the Risen Life Church building (2780 E. 3900 S., SLC, UT 84124).  Or you can find more information at www.RedeemingLifeUtah.org.  I've love to have you be our guest!

             Soli Deo Gloria!
             Pastor Bryan

Transitions: Reflections Before Launching Redeeming Life Church

August 25, 2014

Transitions are about gain and about loss.  I am in a season of transition.

A few months ago, a group of curious men, women, and their children sat in my living room to hear about church planting.  We were a small group seeking to understand how God might plant a church in the Salt Lake valley.  Many of us were wondering if God might be using us to plant a church.  Risen Life Church has desired to plant a church in another part of the valley and we were thinking it might be time.

From that first night in my living room, we've seen a number of good people come and go.  Some have said, "no, this is not for me."  Others have said, "yes, I'd like to do this."  And still others have said, "I'm not so sure about this, but I think God is calling me to do it."  It certainly has been an interesting journey.

For a while we grew into a larger group.  Then it seemed God whittled us down to a smaller but more committed group.   Then a family who moved away from Salt Lake six months prior came back, determined to be a part of our effort.  And our team started gelling like a new family.

We call the parsonage where I live (and where we were meeting) The Barnabas House.  We started calling our group of soon-to-be church planters The Barnabas House Fellowship.  Eventually we determined that we were called to plant a church out of Risen Life and we ended up with the name Redeeming Life Church.

Knowing that we'd start a Sunday night service, we determined that our Monday night meetings should be held in the fellowship hall of Risen Life Church, the location where we'd be holding our Sunday night church gathering.  So we moved across the parking lot.  And on September 7th at 6:30pm, we'll hold our first corporate church gathering as Redeeming Life Church.

We baptized a guy.  Upon hearing his confession, another woman wants to be baptized so we'll have a baptism service on the September 21.  We've got a Facebook page and we're working on a website.  Our sermons will be recorded and made available.  We cleaned up the fellowship hall.  It's been hard work, but fun.

Tonight we held our last Monday night group meeting.  Details were discussed.  We worshiped and
prayed.  We laughed.  As we were cleaning up, a homeless lady full of drama and complications walked in, and we did what we could to help her.  It was a great night, but it was clear that we are in transition.

As I examine where we started and I see where we're headed I feel the gains and losses.  I'm excited to see this team serving together, worshiping, praying, and reaching the lost.  I'm thrilled to see what God may do with this eclectic team.  But I also feel the loss.  I already miss those meetings in my living room.  I'm sure I will long for the simplicity of those living room meetings one day, yet at the same time, I can't wait to see what kind of gains God may bring.

If you're in the Salt Lake area and would like to know more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I would love to have you join us on Sunday nights at 6:30.  (2780 E. 3900 S. Salt Lake City, Utah, 84124).  And if you feel called to help plant the gospel in the Salt Lake valley, either in person, prayer, or by donating resources, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Soli Deo gloria!
Pastor Bryan

Community Balance

My family gave me a little fish tank for my birthday.  I've never raised fish but I do enjoy watching them and I typically find fish interesting.  My half-moon, 3-gallon tank seemed simple enough.  Rocks, filter, bubbles.  Fill with water and plop in some fish, right? 

Yes, if you want to go through a dozen or more fish trying to figure it out.  That's what I did.

Over the past few months I've learned a great deal about tropical fish.  Goldfish, it turns out, don't have a stomach so they just eat and poop non-stop.  Some fish feed on the top, some on the bottom.  Allege is food for snails, but mostly on the glass and structures.  They don't eat the junk on the bottom because it's not allege.  Other fish and critters eat that 'stuff' on the bottom but you probably also need a special vacuum to keep the gravel (also called substrate) clean.  Oh, and there's bacteria that's really important for the survival and happiness of the fish.  Too many fish means that their waste can quickly become toxic.   Too much food is unhealthy for the water and too little food is, well, starvation for the fish.  Some fish are really communal while others will eat whatever will fit in his or her mouth (including the tail of a green cory catfish).  What I find really interesting is the type of fish that must have other similar fish with them.  If they don't have enough buddies they are not only lonely, they just give up and die.

In a mere 3 gallons, I've got a complex ecosystem.  Fish that find food on the surface.  A fish that eats on the bottom.  Shrimp that clean the substrate and snails that clean the glass and broken ship.  I have to do partial water changes and there are special pellets in my filter that somehow help the good bacteria grow.  And I've had to make many adjustments along the way.  Aggressive or messy fish have been evicted.  I've added shrimp and snails for the helpful jobs they do.  Fish selection became a serious process beyond, "hey, that's a cool looking fish."  In order for my community of tropical fish and critters to function in a healthy way, there has to be some balance.

You shouldn't have an entire tank of guppies or snails or catfish.  They each of a function that benefits the community.  It's a lot like the body that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12.  The entire body can't just be an eye.  There must by many parts working in harmony.  Every part serves a different function and in order to have health, every part is necessary.  Community requires diversity and balance.

As I'm working with a core team in preparation to plant a church, I'm seeing how much the church is like a fish tank; but unlike the life in fish tank, the Lord's Church offers grace and Jesus can bring about change.  When you have an aggressive person that chomps another person's tail off, you have a problem.  But rather than flushing the aggressor down the toilet, we can work together and extend grace while Jesus changes the very nature and hearts of those of us in the tank.  Over time, as we seek to live like Christ, we will find greater harmony and healthy spiritual growth in our community.  And hopefully we'll find something amazing.      

* Photo of clown fish is in the public domain. 

Look Before You Lead by Aubrey Malphurs

Malphurs, Aubrey. Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church. Culture Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2013.

In his book, Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture, Dr. Aubrey Malphurs sets out to “explore how to form spiritually healthy organizational cultures in the context of church planting, church revitalization, and church adoptions,” with his specific focus in the area of unique church culture and behavior (8). While his ideas are shaped out of his theological beliefs, much of Look Before You Lead is driven by his theoretical and practical understanding of leadership within the context of the local church.

Malphurs builds his arguments upon some theological assumptions. The first is that it is the pastor’s responsibility to understand a church’s culture and lead by way of cultural adjustment. “In a sense,” he writes, “every pastor of an established church, whether a new pastor or one who has been there for years, must be a culture architect” (129). While we see little biblical evidence for such a pastoral role, Malphurs’ argument leaves the reader rightly feeling that the lack of understanding and skill in the area of church culture may leave the pastor in a position where he cannot lead or motivate the congregation in any direction. Lacking in Maplhurs’ argument however, is the idea that the Word of God through strong, responsible preaching should play the largest role—larger than even the pastor’s role—in shaping the culture of the local congregation.

Malphurs’ second theological assumption comes through his view of the shape and structure of the local church. For example, it appears that Malphurs holds that a church is (or should be) led through a single pastor or elder rather than a plurality of elders with a leader among those elders. While there are hints peppered throughout the book, Appendix G provides the most direct view into Malphurs’ theological underpinnings regarding the leadership of the local church. Some of the questions about the maturity of the church assume that a single, highly talented leader is a sign of maturity.  Question 2 for example, suggests that viewing the role of the pastor as a visionary leader demonstrates a higher level of maturity. In similar regard, questions 5 and 24 suggest that a preference for change in the church (presumably under the pastor’s leadership) is more mature than a desire to maintain a status quo with no qualification of what the status quo may be; although it should be remembered that Malphurs is writing specifically to those wanting to revitalize, plant, or adopt churches. Question 19 asks if the pastor is a strong visionary leader and a good preacher. With more than one pastor leading in these areas, gifts and skills may be spread out among a pastoral team providing spiritually healthy advantages. A plurality of elders is biblical and may be a greater mark of spiritual maturity than a church built around the skills and personality of a single pastor.

Other assumptions around the structure of the local church also manifest themselves in Appendix G and seem to surface in the undergirding of Malphurs’ argument. There is an idea presented that a growing church is a mark of maturity; however, no measure of the kind or health of the growth is included. Yet another example is seen in the assumption that a well-kept facility is the mark of a healthy, mature church. It could be however, that the culture of the church is far more focused on spending time and resources on spiritual growth, missions, evangelism, or some other venture. Although correct, Malphurs also assumes that church planting and church adoption are a good way to advance the gospel, but he provides very little discussion behind his reasoning and assumes his readers agree.

Much of Look Before You Lead actually reside in the theoretical areas of practical and organizational leadership. While his focus is for revitalizing, planting, or adopting churches, it would be rather simple to apply Malphurs’ ideas to a new or struggling non-profit organization that utilizes volunteers. Even so, Malphurs says, “I wrote this book for any church leader whose heartbeat is for Christ’s church” (9). For this reason, the first half of the book deals with exegeting church culture and the second is filled with practical methods of shaping, changing, and leading that culture in its vision and mission. The entire book, therefore, depends upon accuracy of Maluphurs’ statement, “The better a pastor knows his church’s culture, the better he’ll be able to lead his church” (16).

Culture is the primary building block of Malphurs' argument and through an explanation of what church culture is, Malphurs writes, “Churches are behavior-expressed, values-driven, and beliefs-based” (21). Interestingly, observed behaviors give an indication of the culture’s actual values; then dissecting the actual values exposes the church’s actual beliefs. Often there is a disparity between a culture’s perceived or aspired beliefs and values in contrast to those they actually hold. In motivating a church to a specific desired behavior, a leader most likely must first work toward establishing a belief among the culture. Once that belief is actually held, the leader must demonstrate why that belief should become a value. “When a church culture acts on its beliefs,” argues Malphurs, “they become its actual values” (21). Once the actual values are acted upon, the new behaviors should reflect the leader’s desired behaviors. While Malphurs does not address this in his book, is seems reasonable to think that if a leader unknowingly teaches or develops a belief within the culture without thinking of the intended value, there is a chance that an undesired behavior may result. All the more reason a leader must understand the culture and think like a cultural architect.

While Malphurs does not provide much discussion on the importance the preaching of the Word of God as the most significant influence of beliefs, I hold this as a theological truth. The preaching pastor or pastors must understand church culture if preaching and teaching is to be conducted in such a way that biblically centered beliefs become actual values followed by those values shaping behavior. The spiritual health of a church depends upon this truth. If Malphurs also holds this conviction, than I agree with his statement that the pastor must be a cultural architect. Most pastors serving in the context of planting a new church, planting a church out of an existing church, or adopting a church will likely find Malphurs’ theoretical arguments directly relevant and compelling.

The audience for Look Before You Lead is a little smaller than many other books on the topic, but a pastor or leader of a local church could greatly benefit from the information Malphurs provides in Look Before You Lead.

Purchase this book from Amazon here.

* This post comes from portions of a paper written for the partial fulfillment of a DMin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  It has been redacted and modified for this website.  ** Purchases from the links on this website help support the ministry of SaltyBeliever.com.  

The Mission of Church Planting

June 24, 2014

Risen Life Church is planting another church somewhere else in the Salt Lake Valley.  As of yet, we haven't determined the location because we believe our first task is to gather those God is calling for this work and faithfully prepare ourselves for his mission.  We're slowly growing into a unified team. We're starting to understand and appreciate one another's gifts, personalities, and character.  We're worshiping, studying the Bible, and growing more devoted to the fellowship.  Little by little, we're starting to reach deeper into our relationships with one another as well as the lost community around us.  Some of what we're doing actually looks like mission trips to other parts of the world because church planting is the similar mission of making disciples of Jesus. But rather than connecting the disciples to an existing church, missionaries seeking to plant churches gather them into a group who covenant together to be a new local church.  Then, God willing, this new church serves as God's agent to reach even further into the community to share and plant the gospel of Christ.

We are on a mission. 

Unlike many church planting missions to Utah, we're locals and we're planting with extremely strong support from an existing local church.  Risen Life Church provides us elder oversight and shepherding, financial support, prayer, encouragement, and many other necessary resources.  Most of our core group regularly attends serves at Risen Life, but not all.

In addition, our new church plant group (we're praying about the name) meets in my home on Monday nights, which happens to be the parsonage on the church property.  (We have an intern living in the other parsonage next door.)  As we grow, we hope to expand into more home fellowships that meet during the week for discipleship under the leadership of elder quality men (or elder quality men in training).  God willing, we'll also meet together on Sunday as a larger corporate gathering in the Risen Life Church building--in the evening until we move across the valley to another location.  At that point, we'll start meeting on Sunday mornings. 

In the meantime, it's extremely helpful to start in an incubator of sorts, which happens to be right next to an existing church.  When we need chairs, we get them from next door.  Tables for a barbecue, yup, get them from next door.  Administrative support? Yes, he works next door.  Oh, and that big parking lot is a good place to park when you come on Monday nights.  Risen Life has a basketball hoop that attracts people from the neighborhood (and it's nearby in the parking lot).  The house is large enough to host people and there's a field between the two church owned houses where our intern lead a team to build an awesome fire pit.

On Monday nights we open with a worship song and a brief discussion.  Someone reads from Scripture.  We pray together and there's a sermon.  Then we respond in worship through more singing and prayer.  And we take communion.  Someone (usually my wife) provides snacks and beverages.  We have the kids join us at first, then they're dismissed to go downstairs for a lesson on the same text that's more age appropriate.  Two adults from a rotation of volunteers (which is an area we're going in) lead the children's lesson and activity. Then they join us again for worship and prayer.

While we're presently putting heavy attention into building a core team, we are still seeking to reach the lost, although this is another area where we need lots of growth.  This is a slow process, but we're starting to connect. Many of us get together for coffee, dinners, ladies nights, and other things.  We help each other move and seek ways to serve one another.  We pray for each other often and stay in touch via text and e-mail when we're not together. We've hosted open houses and a barbecue to invite others, both believers and non-believers.

Like any mission project we have to be creative and flexible.  We've had nights where we used Google Hangouts to connect with people who were away for military duty, health reasons, or other business.  It wasn't the greatest, but it was nice to have some kind of connection with those who were away. 

We've had to try different approaches with the kids (and hopefully we've landed on something that works well).  We've tried different things with our prayer time.  Daniel Graves, our worship leader, has sought ways to improve our worship time with song and reflection.  And we've done some stuff that looks like small churches in other parts of the world.

We determined that having a fire pit might be a good, natural way to bring people together.  Who
doesn't like chatting around a fire on a late summer evening?  What family wouldn't want to have a Smores night?  So, in what looked very much like a foreign mission project, some of our guys starting clearing the spot.  They dug through the concrete-hard ground.  We cut the bottom off an old 55-gallon drum.  With some decorative bricks we found at the house the fire pit was dress up.  And, by the way, our fist fire was great fun.

The challenge, it seems, is many people naturally seek to put mission work in some kind of neat box.  It's two weeks here or there.  It's not in our every day lives.  Or if it is, it has to look very specific like some popular book-inspired method evangelism or something.  People do the same with church planting work.  Some might criticize our methods (although I've found those who do are often not making disciples or planting churches themselves.) On the other end of the spectrum, some outsiders may feel that we look too 'churchy' and suggest we should be hip and 'organic' (to use the popular buzz words). 

I wonder how much of what this little group is trying to do would happen we were just tying to be "buddies hanging out," organically?  I suspect very little.  I find myself asking lots of questions.  What would our mission look like if we didn't understand and respect the diversity of gifts and personalities within our group?  What if we relied more on what's popular rather than the will of God?  What would we look like to our own communities if we were not who we really are?  What if we tried to wrap ourselves in the newest marketing and exciting church planting buzz words, even if they didn't fit us?  I wonder, can we honor Christ in our acts of service and love that are not cool enough to be spoken about in the hot, popular conferences?  Do we have to use the exciting buzz words?  No, we really don't.  Can we be be known by how we love Jesus and each other and then seek to bring others into that kind of community?  It's my hope that this may be a way for a small group of locals to plant our church and faithfully share the gospel of Jesus in our city.

Sure, we need to grow spiritually and numerically.  We need to develop a great unity.  We need to have a passion for reaching the lost.  Yes, we'll need financial resources along the way.  But our greatest need is prayer.  We seek to be on God's mission, and that requires prayer, lots of prayer.  Another advantage of being locals supported by a local church is that we have a number of people praying for us near by.  They can put an arm around us and ask, "how can I pray for you this week?" We printed prayer cards and made them available at Risen Life Church.  These cards have a pictures of people involved with the mission to plant a church.  Each card also has specific prayer requests.  One day I noticed a couple of sweet ladies digging through the stack to be sure they had all the different cards.  They expressed that at this point in their lives they wouldn't likely leave Risen Life Church but they sure want to help us by faithfully asking God to bless our efforts, to grow us, and to protect us.   What a blessing!

We'd love to have you join our efforts, whether physically with us in Salt Lake City or in prayer.  (You can chat with me more about that here.)  Will you try to remember our mission to plant a church in Salt Lake the next time you're talking with God?

Soli Deo gloria!
Bryan Catherman

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet"  -- William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's character, Juliet, asks a good question: "What's in a name?"  Would Romeo be any different to her if his name were Steve?  Would she love him less?  When we think about church names, we really ought to ask that question.  
Biblically churches were identified by a lose nomenclature.  For example, in Acts 13:1 the church meeting in Antioch is called the church in Antioch.  In Paul's letter to the Romans he mentions Phoebe who was a servant of the church at Cenchreae.  This is simple.  Many churches still name themselves by their general location.  Maybe the name of the church is the street their building is located on.  Or maybe it's a regional thing.

The Bible doesn't dictate that names have to be geographical, however.  In some cases, this would be really difficult.  So some churches take names from other significance.  Living Stones Church is an example that comes from 1 Peter 2:4-5.  A friend of mine named the church he planted Taproot Church because the taproot is the strong root that grows deep down and anchors the tree.  Some churches just select catchy words like Velocity or Amazing or some other buzzword.  Some churches go with Greek or Latin names.  Or maybe the church is named after a saint of the past. 

Theology often makes an appearance in church names.  Many churches attempt to draw distinctions by including theological words like grace or faith or free will.  Or if it's not a theological distinction, it may be a practical one.  To indicate something about a church they may add Bible or community or evangelical to their name.  And of course many churches at one time held the denominational distinction in their name.  First Baptist.  Some Church Presbyterian.

A lot goes into a name, but in the end, the church may actually be the same if it's called the Romeo Church or Steve Church.  The local church is a gathered group of disciples who have covenanted together to be a local church.  Who they are will say much more about the church than the name.  A bad name can be problematic, but a good name really will only be a good church if the people are good, Jesus loving people in strong unity.

Jared Jenkins and I discuss this in greater detail as well as give some examples, make jokes, and share personal naming stories on this episode of Salty Believer Unscripted

*Photo taken by Romana Klee is registered under a creative commons license.

What is the Church... or is it who?

Ask nearly anybody for a definition of "church" and chances are good that before they think through an answer, they'll have images of buildings in their head.  Some may define church as a building used for religious worship or a place where religious people meet.  This answer wouldn't be socially wrong, but it's not how the Bible defines church.  Others may say that church is in the mountains or wherever they commune with God.  This definition also stands in opposition to God's Word, unless when they say this they mean a location where they fellowship with other believers, that is.

The 27 books of the New Testament provide a good picture of God's intention for his Church.  The Greek work behind the word Church (transliterated, ekklesia) appears 114 times in the New Testament.  The ESV translation team translated 106 of those uses as church and 8 as something else such as assembly or congregation.  The Septuagint (or LXX) has nearly 100 uses from the Greek translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament.  

Interestingly, the Greek word behind church only appears three times in the Gospels, and only in Matthew for that matter.  One usage appears in Matthew 16:13-20.  The specific verse, Matthew 16:18, reads, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (ESV).  The other two uses are found in Matthew 18:15-20 which reads,
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed* in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (ESV).
In the first usage, Jesus provides some specific information.  Jesus will (not maybe or might) build it.  It will be built on either Peter's confession or the revelation of the Father or Peter himself or some kind of apostolic succession depending on your theological persuasion.  And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  Trying plugging our definition of church in here.  It doesn't work.  It's strange.  

The second and third uses of the word, church, are in context to sin and the proclamation of the gospel.  If  a brother sins against you, you are to point out his sin and hope that as a brother he would repent and see the gospel living and active in his life.  If the brother does not hear this from you, you bring another believer and try again.  If again this person refuses to repent of his sin and accept the truth of the gospel in his life, then you bring it to the church.  Here the larger body of believers makes every attempt to restore this brother to the gospel, but if no headway is made, than the church is to assume this man is not a believer.  They are to treat him like an unbeliever, continuing to preach the gospel to him hoping he may one day repent, be baptized, and profess an actual trust in Christ.  Try out the definitions here and you'll find they just don't work.

Either of the above mentioned definitions of church are really strange if applied in these Scriptures.  So it stands to reason that our definition of church as a building or a place where we commune with God is not exactly right. 

The disciples probably didn't fully understand what Jesus was talking about in Matthew until they were filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and Christ started building his church through his people.  It may have been unclear to Peter when Christ first mentioned it, but he seems to have a good grasp of the Church later in his life.  In a letter to the elect exiles he wrote, "As you come to him [Jesus], a living stone rejected by men but in the light of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:4-5, ESV).

Peter, it seems, is stating that the Church is made up of believers.  Each one is like a living stone.  So the Church is not so much a 'what' as it is a 'who.'  If you're a believer, you don't go to Church, you are the Church.  But you alone are not the entire Church; you are simply a stone among the many who to together are the Church.

*Photo by flickr.com user, "mlhradio" is registered under a creative commons license and use by permission.

Don't Hate Your Job

Most people have a season at some point in life where they really don't like going to work.  In fact, some people even hate their jobs.  They don't get along with their employer, or if they are the employer they don't like their employees.  But the Bible teaches that this ought not be the case for Christians.

Risen Life Church in Salt Lake City, Utah has been journeying through the book of Ephesians and I was called upon to preach from Ephesians 6:5-9.

Ephesians 6:5-9 is often a text that gets skimmed over because readers think that the slave or the bondservant relationship to an earthy master is outdated in not relevant to life today.  They couldn't be more wrong.  In my sermon, I deal with the instructions to employees and employers.  Then I journey into what the text demonstrates as the larger Master-slave relationship we as believers have as Christians. Everybody is a slave to something, either sin or righteousness.  If Jesus is our Master than we are slaves who are truly free.  I explain this in greater detail in the sermon and you can listen by clicking on the link below.

You get the opportunity to serve Christ when you go to work.  What a grand opportunity!  Remember this as you head into work and have joy in your workplace because of what Christ has done for you.

*I opened my sermon with a very brief discussion of our efforts to plant a church in the Salt Lake valley.  Risen Life is our sending church and a core team is meeting in my home as we seek God's vision for how we are to begin this new work.  My name is Bryan Catherman and if you are interested in learning more about our efforts, praying for us, financially supporting us, or joining our mission, I would love to hear from you.  You can contact me here.

J.D. Payne -- Sharing Christ and Start Churches

Not too long ago, I was fortunate to sit down with Dr. J.D. Payne and others to discuss reproducible church planting.  If you listen to Salty Believer Unscripted, you may have heard our conversation.  Dr. Payne was in Salt Lake, consulting with some pastors and on March 13, 2014 he lectured at a small conference called Strengthening Churches to Share Christ and Start Churches.  Not only was it a great pleasure to meet Dr. Payne, but I was blessed to hear some very good information that has really helped shape some of my thinking on making disciples and church planting.

Dr. Payne serves as the Pastor of Multiplication at the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama.  He also served on staff with the North American Mission Board and was an Associate Professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He's been an editor of missional magazines and journals, served on missional boards and associations, served as a pastor of five churches, worked to plant four churches, and has written books to include Missional House Churches: Reaching Our Communities with the Gospel, The Barnabas Factors: Eight Essential Practices of Church Planting Team Members, Discovering Church Planting: An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and Hows of Global Church Planting, Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions, Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration, and Mission, Roland Allen: Pioneer of Spontaneous Expansion, Kingdom Expressions: Trends Influencing the Advancement of the Gospel, and Pressure Points: Twelve Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Church.  

I was pleased to learn that someone filmed Dr. Payne's lectures and was able to acquire the footage.  Unfortunately, there were some technical difficulties with the video.  I was able to extract the sound from the file with only some occasional minor interruptions.  If you're thinking about church planting or sharing Christ to start churches, I highly encourage you to check out the Salty Believer Unscripted podcast with Dr. Payne (above) and consider listening to his Salt Lake lectures by following the link below.

Church Planting: The Practice of Making and Gathering Disciples of Jesus Christ

April 22, 2014.

After many years since God first called us to plant--with shaping and growth through seminary, working with other church planters, serving on staff at Risen Life Church, and now engaging in a doctoral program for more training--my wife and I are taking some large steps on our church-planting journey.  We're leading and hosting a group with the hope that God will prepare all of us to plant one or more churches as well as equip others saints the work of ministry. 

What's church planting?  That's a good question and often loaded with tons of baggage and buzzwords.  So I'll simply define it at this:  Church planting is the lifestyle of making disciples of Jesus Christ and then gathering them into a group who has committed or covenanted together to be a church and function accordingly.

Presently, we meet on Monday nights in our home, affectionately dubbed the Barnabas House. (It's the church parsonage and ministry home that serves a gathering place of Christians as an extension of Risen Life Church in Salt Lake City, Utah.)  

The Barnabas House Community Group is mostly made up of Christians, most of whom are connected to Risen Life Church although neither of these things are a requirement. Over the next several months the group meeting at the Barnabas House will be discussing, equipping, and exploring what it means to follow and live Christ-centered lives in a broken world. We want to learn how we can better love and serve Christ, love people in our community, and make disciples of Christ. 

All are welcomed to come and fellowship, discuss, and worship as we explore what it might look like for disciples to make disciples and gather them together into a new church or churches. Whether you are a Christian interested in discovering what church planting looks like, or seeking to become more equipped to reach others in your daily walk with God, please feel free to join us. Or maybe you are curious what it means to follow the Jesus of the Bible and just want to know what faith in Christ looks like – you too are invited to join us!

If you're on Facebook, you can find more info here: https://www.facebook.com/thebarnabashouse.  You may contact me with your questions or comments, or you can likely find some of us at Risen Life Church.

It is our prayer that The Barnabas House will be a place filled with the Holy Spirit. As we seek to know God better and love him more, we hope to grow in our relationship with God, other believers, and the lost. We pray that many are added to the Lord because of our faithfulness and pray that we are equipped for ministry as well as able to equip other saints for ministry. The Barnabas has been an encouragement to many and we hope those who have been encouraged will be an encouragement to others.