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Being a Mobile Church is not an Excuse

I have been a fan of church planting for years and have been so inspired by churches that don’t allow their portable status to be an excuse to not make things next level. At Vertical, being portable is not an excuse but a blessing!! I know that some of you who read me are church planters and I challenge you: don’t let being mobile be used as an excuse to not create excellent, exciting and engaging environments.

By the way, I love our creative team! Here are some of the stages we’ve done in the past year.

"At the Movies"

 

"1st Anniversary Party"

 

"Overcome"

 

"Share the Love Christmas"

 

"Real Holiness"

 

"I Love the 80's"

"Family Vacation"

"Night of Worship Bladen County"

 

"Uncensored Truth About Eternity"

Personal Highlights from Our 1st Year – Part Three

ONLY 3 DAYS UNTIL THE PARTY?!? Who are you bringing to the celebration?

This week I am sharing some of the things that had the biggest impact on me during our 1st year of ministry. Today’s highlight is…

Our Spontaneous Baptism services.

We learn from others. We didn’t plant a church so we could reinvent the wheel – we wanted to reach people in our region who don’t go to church with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We had watched Elevation Church (again, we thank them for their ideas) have a service a few years earlier where they took away all of the excuses a person who needs to be baptized would use to not do what needed to be done. They provided everything in the moment: towels, t-shirts, shorts, underwear, everything. They had everything in mind, even hairdryers, hair ties and make-up for the women. The results were awesome – hundreds followed the Lord in believers baptism.

So, when we came to May of 2011, we were 3 months old and I had seen at least 100 people indicate that they had prayed to receive Jesus. These people had not yet followed Jesus in baptism since praying to receive Him and I was concerned and praying about helping them to take that NEXT step. The month before we had purchased our portable baptismal (which was a HUGE step of faith financially – I told our Executive Pastor, Donnie, that I believed Jesus would want us to own a baptismal) and were ready to give that thing a work out.

As we approached baptism weekend we had 5 people scheduled to be baptized. We were of course PUMPED about this – 5 people had filmed their testimony videos and were ready to follow the Lord in Baptism. But I had a twinge in my spirit… this was awesome but I honestly felt we weren’t even scratching the surface. I told Donnie let’s make it happen – I will preach a straight up baptism message to them then invite them to respond immediately. He loved the idea. The fun happened a few days later when I approached him about our preparation.

Me: Hey Donnie… have we purchased everything we need for the baptism?

Donnie: Not yet – we’re going to. How many do you think we should plan for?

Me: what do you think?

Donnie: I was thinking about 10 – maybe 5 guys, 5 girls. What about you?

Me: I was thinking more like 25 actually.

Donnie: man, YOU BETTER PREACH YOUR GUTS OUT!!!

Me: I’ll do my best but God always does better!

Donnie and Karen

That day we did it and in the 1st service DONNIE’S WIFE decided to be baptized in that 1st service because she believed that she was baptized prior to believing as a young child. We knew IT WAS ON after that!!! And it was. That day Total baptisms that day: 29! It was such a humbling experience to see people publicly take that next step – it was more humbling to know that our faith to believe and prepare in faith had much to do with it.

My favorite story though would be that of Tammy Landreth. Tammy had been invited to Vertical by a teacher at a local college. She came, was saved and chose to be part of spontaneous baptism along with her son that day. She went home and told her husband Joey about Vertical but he didn’t come with her to VC until September. The day that he came was a baptism day – A SPONTANEOUS BAPTISM DAY! That morning, on his 1st visit, Joey asked Jesus to be the forgiver of his sin and leader of his life and IMMEDIATELY went to follow-up that decision with baptism on the spot. WOW!!! They are growing in their relationship with Jesus and serving today at VC – I am so proud of them!

You know, it’s scary to make preparations for a spontaneous baptism. You think things like, “what if nobody decides to do it?!?” But like all things, you make these decisions based upon the leadership of the Lord. Both times we practiced this I knew that there were many people needing to take that NEXT step – we were believing and stepping out in faith for them, for that NEXT step.

Personal Highlights from Our 1st Year – Part Two

ONLY 4 DAYS UNTIL THE PARTY?!? Who are you bringing to the celebration?

This week I am sharing some of the things that had the biggest impact on me during our 1st year of ministry. Today’s highlight is…

The Lumberton Egg Drop

A few years ago we saw Elevation Church in Charlotte (props to them for the many ideas they have given us) drop thousands of easter eggs onto bunches of children’s heads from a helicopter and thought to ourself, “that is AWESOME!!! I wish that we could do that!” So, as we were deciding what we could do to play up our very 1st Easter season as a church we knew EXACTLY what we were gonna do. But how exactly does one put together such an event? After all, we were less than 3 months old. How could we actually pull off such an ambitious event as young as we were?

We decided to put on the egg drop because we didn’t want to just say “hi” to our our city – we wanted to SCREAM “WE ARE HERE!!!!“, and we knew the magnitude of this event would help us do that. We still had not done any advertising for our church and figured this would be worth the investment, not to mention be a blessing to the families of our community. I will never forget the way that our church cheered and shouted on the 1st day that we showed a video announcing that we were going to drop 25,000 eggs from a helicopter – as crazy as it sounds to hear our baby church so excited brought tears to my eyes.

Brandon Meadows - Student Pastor / Service Programming Director at VC

Can I just mention that Brandon Meadows is a beast?!? This dude is the ultimate in event planning and was just on fire making this event happen. God used him mightily to make the impossible, possible. Brandon wasn’t by himself by any means, but he reminded us what an incredible leader he is on that event. That being said about BMed’s “beastlyness”, we could have never pulled this off if the Lord hadn’t put the pieces together – we just didn’t have the money to make it “Vertical” – we do everything with excellence, over the top and therefore prayed much that He would open doors to make this happen. This resulted in…

  • Securing a perfect location from our city at Northeast park. The city agreed to allow us to use Northeast Park for the event which was HUGE! The egg drop set the stage for us to be a partner on other projects with the city of Lumberton. God’s favor on this event set the stage for partnership. It has always been a desire of ours to bring joy to our city (Acts 8:8)
  • The inflatables we ended up with were out of this world (you will see them in the video). The partnership that happened with us and the inflatable company took the excellence of the egg drop to another level. Brandon did an incredible job working with the company who were awesome to work with!
  • Volunteers. Our attenders left the seats of the theater and said, “sign me up to help with that!” We literally had so many volunteers for the egg drop that they totaled about half the number of our Sunday morning attendance at the time. Seeing our people come together behind a vision was incredible – our VTeams have never been the same since!
  • The helicopter. Where does one get a helicopter to do this? We called around, made contacts with companies and networked, but in the end a very kind-hearted local businessman who owned a helicopter heard the vision of what we were doing and volunteered to do it for us.
As I said, the Lord showed us great favor in making all of this come to fruition. Just awesome!!! The attendance was unbelievable – we ended up having to close admission there were so many, our teams pulled off an incredible event with efficiency and everyone had a great time. Thank You, Jesus.

So, what does dropping eggs from a helicopter have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nothing. But after those 5,000 people scrambled for our eggs (get it? scrambled eggs?) I had the opportunity to share the story of that resurrection with most of them and THEY LISTENED. Sure, there were people trying to locate kids and kids making a little noise but I remember the moment like it was yesterday – we had a mostly captive audience who were straight up listening to me break down the truths of the Gospel, why they need Jesus and how they can meet Him.

Yeah, it took a lot of effort, was very expensive, and was a huge challenge for our young church but it WAS worth it. The huge output translated into a huge Easter attendance, first time guests and set the stage for even greater things. Just an incredible experience i will NEVER forget.

Check out the video here!

Personal Highlights from Our 1st Year – Part One

It’s so hard to believe that in 5 days Vertical Church celebrates our 1st birthday. HOW COULD IT BE A YEAR ALREADY?!?

This first year of ministry has been such an incredible journey. After dreaming with my friends about what it would be like to actually start a church from scratch and then being part of it happening is a SWEET experience! To “see” something in your heart for so long become reality, something you can see with your eyes is an experience – just a WOW experience.

This week I am going to be sharing some of my favorite experiences from our 1st year.

A mentor and friend, Marty Dupree

LAUNCH SUNDAY – February 6th, 2011

We launched our church without a lot of fanfare. Most churches that launch do a lot of advertising, mass mailers and a huge blitz to do all they can to get people in the house for the “big day”.

As excited as I was for our launch day, truth is, the “big day” scared me.

We had been praying for this day for so long. We had studied, prayed, read, prayed, gone to conferences, prayed, read blogs, prayed, talked to church planters, prayed (you get the picture). One of the things that I saw to be very common in many church plants were that many had huge launch days only to lose sometimes half and maybe up to 60% on the very next weekend. After all that my team and I had been through and the many months of training our leaders and volunteers had been through I thought that it would be devastating to us if we had close to 300 on launch day (that was a personal goal) only to drop below 150 on week 2. I felt a great momentum in our midst and didn’t want to do anything to hurt it. With this in mind my team and I made a decision:

Our biggest form of advertising for Launch Day!

No mass mail. No newspaper ads. No internet ads. Our method: word of mouth through the people pumped about VC, invite cards to be handed out by them, facebook (no FB ads, just wall posts) and some yard signs like the ones you see. It felt risky and everything within my promotions driven self was fighting the urge to go big on the advertising. Brandon (our Student Pastor/Service programming director and fellow marketer) and I talked daily about whether we were doing the right thing. We trusted that we were doing the right thing believing that a huge drop in 2nd/3rd week attendance would hurt us too badly. “But what if we have a bad 1st day?” was a common thought. This fear was quickly replaced by the reassuring thought that this plan was from the Lord.

Our team was ready. Our environments were tight. I told the leaders it was my goal for us to look so good and be so effective at what we do that we want to look like we’ve been here 5 years on week 1. People were not going to have pity on us because we were new – not the people we were trying to reach! Even our music on day 1 was pretty excellent for a band that had only come together within the last 3 weeks (God was cutting it close in the music area). We were prayed up, excited and believing God for the beginning of a miracle.

THE RESULTS? We had an outstanding Launch day!!! We had surprises from friends who came to support us for our opening day but the biggest surprise were all of the people who came because a friend invited them – people who didn’t go to church anywhere else, coming to see what this new church that met in the movie theater was all about. People gave their hearts to Jesus that day. Others said, “I will be back next week” and we actually had 296 people on our 1st day (like I said, my personal goal was 300). But the test for me wasn’t how many actually came on week 1, it was based around how many returned on week 2. That being said, on week 2 we only experienced a 26% drop in attendance and we have never dipped that low again since that day.

The moral of this story? I would tell any church planter in reference to beginning your weekly services don’t count on big advertising to get you off to a great start – YOU CANNOT BUY SUCCESS. There isn’t an easy way to a successful launch (and if there is let me know so we can try it next time). Build excellence into your environments and train people to be better than anything they have ever experienced. In a mobile church plant the people on your team must have complete buy-in. It is so important that your team understand that the way that God is going to bring about change to their community is through them BEING the change and BRINGING that change to the people that God has so skillfully placed in their life.

(DON’T MISS OUR PARTY THIS SUNDAY – 9am & 11am – it’s going to be an outstanding morning, you’ll be glad you came!)

A Lot Can Happen in a Year

The other weekend we were in Southport for a dance competition. No, it wasn't a Pastor's dance competition (which would be awesome – I would stomp them with my jig). On second thought we will leave the dancing to my daughter, Madison. Back to where I was going…

We were staying in a hotel that we had stayed in on this weekend last April. It was at this hotel that I had a phone conversation that would change my life. I decided to walk down there to the very spot where it happened to take a couple of pictures.

IMG_20110417_102013

IMG_20110417_101954 While I was standing in this stairwell on a Saturday morning I spoke with Frank White, church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention of NC. As I shared my heart with him regarding church planting I told him that it was time to act upon that which I was strongly sensing the Lord leading me into – I was called to be a church planter. It felt good to have this conversation. Although it was a little scary it was quite liberating.

And then came Monday…

On today's date one year ago, a Monday, I truly stepped into intimidating waters. I received the strength to do so from God's Word.

[7] The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. [8] And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’”… [13] And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”… [15] and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), [16] the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. [17] Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan. (Joshua 3:7-17 ESV)

If you don't know much about this time, Moses had recently died and everything was changing. They had a new leader and their lives were changing quickly – they were going to quit wandering around the desert because it was now time (according to their new leader, Joshua) to go into the promised land.

Before the water could heap up the priest carrying the ark had to step into the waters. I'm sure they had doubts of what their leader, Joshua, was telling them to do. "What if the raging water doesn't stop?" some may say. "What if when we do what we've been told to do (step in the water) it causes us to drop the ark and make God angry?" – that was a possibility. "What if God doesn't 'show up' and we are embarrassed in front of all the people?". 

I had some of the same doubts about my decision…

  • "What if I step out in faith and can't make it (what if the raging water doesn't stop?).
  • "What if we do this wrong and lead wrongly (What if when we do what we've been told to do (step in the water) it causes us to drop the ark and make God angry)?
  • "What if a church like this won't work in this area (people were saying that)? What if God doesn't 'show up' and we are embarrassed in front of all the people?"

Those aren't the only thoughts, just the more spiritual. I also dealt with thoughts like "What if I'm crazy?" (keep your comments to yourself on this one). How can I leave the security of my current situation? How will we make ends meet? How can I leave the church that I love and have served for over a decade?"

You know, a lot can happen in a year. It's very important that we remember that before God would make the waters heap up He told the priest to step in first. What might God be instructing you to do that must happen before the waters can heap up in your life?

I would love to hear your answers. Inbox me if you "dare" for me to pray for it to happen.