Church planting

Missional, 22 August 2021

Series—Getting to the Core (values)
Isaiah 43:19; Luke 5:36-39, Luke 15

Series Big Idea: Our core values guide us in our mission of family restoring God’s masterpieces for His glory.

Big Idea: We take faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors.

Why are you here? Why are
we here? That’s really the question we’ve been asking for the past several weeks in our series Getting to the Core. As we reboot and prepare for a post-pandemic reality (which is taking longer than any of us expected!), what is God’s unique call for First Alliance Church?

In week one we said one of our core values is

Equipping…the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission

Pastor Donald challenged us to

Faithfulness…to prayer, the Word of God, and following Jesus

We talked about how we are a

Family…a mosaic of people loving God and doing life together

Last Sunday Pastor Donald talked about the value of

Generosity…trusting God with open hands and open hearts

We have two left. Before I introduce today’s word, I want to share a story with you.

I’m a member of Truth at Work, a group of local Christian leaders who meet once a month for roundtable discussions of personal, professional, and spiritual matters. Because First Alliance Church has been a pillar in the city for more than a century, I shared with my group what was five proposed core values when more than one person said, “You’re missing one!” I was so surprised, but I quickly discovered they were correct. Today’s core value is

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

Jesus summarized the entire Bible with two simple commands:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28)

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

One of the ways we love God is by loving our neighbors, so we can actually kill two birds with one stone (but let’s not kill birds!).

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

There are many ways we can love our neighbors, but perhaps the greatest thing we can do is introduce them to Jesus. The Great Commission, which we’ve looked at repeatedly, contains the mission.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are missional. We are on a mission. God’s mission has a church. The mission is to make disciples. It’s to join God in seeking and saving the lost (Luke 15; 19:10). As we focus on that, new ministries and churches will be the result. Faith is required. Faith-filled risks are required.

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

Throughout our history, we have had an entrepreneurial spirit that has produced church plants, sent international workers, trained pastors, and launched organizations such as Proclaim FM, Toledo Christian Schools, WLMB-TV, and Cherry Street Mission, just to name a few.

I hate to say it, but many churches are exclusively inward focused, seeking to make the members comfortable with little regard for what is going on outside of the four walls. Their focus may be on survival, maintaining the status quo, idolizing tradition. The future of such cultures is always the same…decline and death. There’s actually a place in our city where we preserve things from the past…a museum!

We are not called to be a museum of the past. We are called to be a hospital restoring masterpieces today and tomorrow.

That can be intimidating. It can be scary. We like what we can control. But let’s never seek to control God! He said in the book of Isaiah,

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

God is always doing a new thing. Our world is changing. Our world is growing
. We must always be changing our methods, but never change our message.

There are two ways to reach a changing world. One is to adapt.

My wife recently discovered she was allergic to dairy. This made me troubled as an
ice cream lover. Who wants to eat alone? Fortunately, Dairy Queen and other ice cream vendors have realized others are allergic to dairy, too, and have created dairy-free ice cream (often using coconut cream). They adapted.

We must always be adapting. Today we have a parking lot, air conditioning, video projection, livestreaming, a podcast, a website, an e-newsletter, and many other things that were not present a hundred years ago. In fact, I’ve been told our use of radio was cutting-edge…in 1966!

The other way to reach a changing world is to
launch something new. Sometimes it’s more effective to start from scratch than it is to remodel or adapt.

Our global family, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, has had its US headquarters in Colorado Springs since the late 1980s. Recently, they decided to relocate to Reynoldsburg, Ohio near Columbus to be more effective in their mission. They finalized a deal on property containing a closed Kmart store and have determined it would be better to demolish and build new than to retrofit the building for the new headquarters.

Sometimes we adapt. Sometimes we start fresh and launch. We plant new churches. We start new ministries. Jesus once told his followers a story

He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’ ” (Luke 5:36-39)

God is always doing a new thing. We need to adapt and also launch new endeavors, new wineskins for new wine. I’m honored to be a part of church with such a rich history of launch new churches and ministries…and I’m certain that legacy must continue. The Kingdom of God is advancing at First Alliance Church…and will soon be advancing through the church plant we will help Mykel & Jeanine Pollock launch next year. I’ve had conversations with others who are interested in planting churches or ministries or even Christ-centered businesses. The marketplace calls these pioneers entrepreneurs. The Bible refers to them as apostles.

There are actually two types of apostles. The capital-A Apostles are generally thought to be only those early church leaders who spent time with Jesus, including. Obviously, they all died two thousand years ago.

A small-a apostle, however, is an emissary, literally “one who is sent off,” a messenger.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:11-12)

This text from Paul to the church in Ephesus is often called the five-fold ministry or APEST: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Many lump them together under the title “pastor,” but they are each unique. I like to think of apostles as the spiritual entrepreneurs launching new works.

There are few apostles greater than our church and denomination’s founder,
A.B. Simpson. With such an apostle as our founder, it’s not surprising one of the core values of the alliance states

Achieving God’s purposes involves taking faithful-filled risks. This always involves change.

We borrowed liberally from this Alliance value when crafting today’s First Alliance core value:

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

We are missional. God has given us a mission…to love Him, our neighbors, and make disciples. There are plenty of churches in Toledo, but I believe most people in our city are not fully engaged in one. Why? Maybe they’re looking for something unique that has yet to be created. Research has repeatedly shown the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the unchurched, while churches more than 15 years old get 80-90% of their new members from other congregations. (

Every generation needs new churches, new wineskins for new wine. I’m not suggesting every church should be mono-generational, but I am saying we need fresh expressions of the gospel to reach the unchurched.

That’s why we started
Dinner Church! From the beginning, we said Dinner Church was for the unchurched, not you! Dinner Church was a faith-filled risk to love our neighbors who aren’t here on Sunday morning, for whatever reason. It’s one of our primary “out” movements, serving our community. Honestly, it wasn’t a huge risk for us, but it has been remarkably fruitful, praise God!

In the coming days, we will take more faith-filled risks, not for the sake of change or simply for the fun of it, but because God’s mission requires it to love our neighbors who are not yet in a faith community, following Jesus.

Imagine Toledo without Cherry Street Mission, without the Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission, without Proclaim FM or WLMB-TV or Toledo Christians or…First Alliance Church. We were a church plant once upon a time! We were a faith-filled risk…in 1887! The book of Hebrews tells us,

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Do you love God? Do you seek to please God? Faith is required. You believe in God? Prove it! Trust Him! Take a step of faith (not necessarily a leap of faith). As a church, we’ve done that repeatedly. Some of our initiatives have lasted for generations. Others, like Claro Coffee Bar, were short-lived, yet the provided outstanding opportunities to learn, build relationships, and grow. There’s no guarantee that every Life Group, church, or ministry we launch will last for a century, but then again, they might! Everything has a life cycle, whether it’s short or long. The key is to be obedient, to be faithful, to be missional, living out God’s mission in our world.

We are a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory.

Why are you here? Why are we here? We’re on a mission from God! One of the things that makes us unique is we are

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

e’re all unique. Some are entrepreneurial pioneers—apostles—who God has called to launch new things. Others join later in the process, helping to build and maintain. Still others are cautious and wait until there is more certainty.

As a church, we want to be on the cutting edge of what God is doing. The Kingdom requires it. Our neighbors need it. Our world is desperate for it.

Missional…taking faith-filled risks in launching new ministries to love our neighbors

What faith-filled risks do YOU need to take to love your neighbors?

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Launch, 30 September 2018

Series: FAC-DNA
Romans 12:4-8

Series Overview: God has placed us uniquely in our city and world for such a time as this, a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.

Big Idea:
What can our church do to open the door to service more widely, launching leaders, groups, and churches?

My name is Kirk and today we conclude our series FAC DNA. We’ve been looking at why we exist, why our Christian & Missionary Alliance family exists. Our president, Dr. John Stumbo, has called us a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family. We are all about Jesus Christ. He is our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, Coming King, LORD, and Senior Pastor. We are a family, a mosaic of different people from different backgrounds united at the foot of the cross as God’s children. We are commanded to love God and love others as we love ourselves. And we’ve been commissioned to make disciples of all nations, beginning with Jerusalem—or Toledo—and also Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.

The “how” of being a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family has been expressed in four verbs:

We love.
We proclaim.
We reach.
We launch!

Stumbo video transcript:

Four verbs. We’re called to love, we’re called to proclaim, to reach, and the fourth is to launch. For us to do that loving, proclaiming, reaching kind of work, we need to continue to launch, and I don’t know how many things I’m saying when I say that word.
I am pleased to report that I love seeing evidences of when older leaders such as myself start to make room for
younger leaders who are rising among us and give them a voice, an opportunity, a chance to speak in or to in some way engage more fully in a position, or on a platform with a microphone, or in some way to have a greater voice.
I’ve been pleased to see when men are using their influence to allow an open door for
women to have a ministry access—completely within our polity to do so. But often women have been shut out from ministry opportunities, and so it’s fun to see men help women be launched in ministry.
And it’s also exciting to see when those like myself, of a Caucasian background, that have some measure of privilege for why we get to do what we do, to use that influence to open doors for those who come from
other cultures, who may not have as much natural access to ministry opportunities as we do.
And so, I’m not claiming by any means that we have totally arrived at launching various sectors of the Alliance family, but I am saying that I do see evidence of that from place to place, and I rejoice in that and want to just be an advocate for those of us who would use our current positions of influence to give others access to ministry opportunities that we may have just taken for granted, but they can’t take for granted because they haven’t been given them. So, launching . . .Christ-centered, Act 1:8 family—called to love, proclaim, reach, and launch. It takes me back to a need for the Holy Spirit to be fully at work in my life and yours as well.
May we commit ourselves to these kinds of things, for these are the kinds of things that the Church must be doing as we prepare for, and rejoice in, the return of Christ.

One of the Alliance Core Values states:

• Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19

We’re all about making disciples—reproducing Jesus. The word “Christian” means “little Christ” even though many Christians act nothing like Jesus…but that’s the goal. As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will become like Jesus and have been commissioned to reproduce that Christ-likeness in others.

I was raised in a small church in Michigan and was led to believe the pastor’s job was to do all of the ministry and the people in the congregation just sang songs, tried to stay awake during his sermons, and paid his salary. Essentially, he was the hired hand, the professional to do the ministry. Boy was I wrong!

Church is a team sport. I’ve heard some people say they love Jesus but they hate church. I understand what’s behind that, but how offensive would it be for me to say to someone, “I love you but I hate your spouse!” We were not created to be independent, autonomous individuals. We were created for community, for interdependence. In fact God exists in community—one God in three Persons, something we call the Trinity. It’s a mind-blowing reality, but suffice it to say we need one another—and everyone matters.

Paul, one of the greatest leaders of the early church, said it so beautifully in his writings to the Christians in Rome:

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:4-8)

If you are a follower of Jesus, you’ve been given a gift by God—maybe more than one. It’s not for you, but for us—the church—in order to build God’s Kingdom and let the world know about the King and His return.
I said church is a team sport. You can’t play football by yourself. The greatest football player of all (Jim Brown?) could never win against even a little league team. It’s not like golf or tennis where one person can play alone. Every football team has different people playing different positions and if they coordinate and work together they move the ball down the field and will eventually score. Let me state again
• Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19

Making disciples of all nations means we all need to get in the game. We all need to discover our roles and play them with passion for God’s glory. I need you. You need me. We’re on the team together. We’re family.
Perhaps you’re wondering what it looks like to be on the team. The Bible is filled with many examples. Here are just a few:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

That’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a good one. Wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues. Other scriptures talk about leadership, teaching, helps, mercy, apostleship, administration, evangelism, shepherding or pastoring, giving, serving, and exhortation. Do any of those sound like you? These aren’t the same as talents or skills, though they may overlap. These are ways in which the Holy Spirit can supernaturally work through you to bring glory to God.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

I want to go back to Dr. Stumbo’s video because I’m sure we’d all agree it’s good for people to use their God-given gifts to serve God, but that’s not always reality.

First, there are those people who simply don’t want to use their gifts, for whatever reason. Spiritual gifts are not for you! They’re for God! If your gift is teaching, teach. If it’s giving, give. If it’s leadership, lead!

But unfortunately, some people have been told they should not use their gifts. Tragically, racism has kept some people from exercising their gifts. Older people have looked down upon people because of their youth (1 Timothy 4:12). And women have been treated as second or even third-class citizens in many churches simply because of their gender. Perhaps most alarming, the Bible has been manipulated and misused to defend slavery, ageism, and chauvinism. May it never be!

I know what some of you are thinking: I’m not a racist and I love to see our young serve Jesus, but the Bible says women can’t…

The role of women in ministry is a controversy for a number of reasons we simply don’t have time to unpack this morning. There are scriptures that restrict women, but questions remain whether those were universal or for a specific situation. We know God used great women throughout history including Deborah, Phoebe, Junia, Priscilla, Esther, Ruth, Miriam, and perhaps most of all Jesus’ mother Mary.

There are problematic passages in the Bible for egalitarian positions that say anything a man can do, a woman can do. There are problematic passages in the Bible for complementarian positions that say women should have limited roles in the church and/or the home. Why the confusion? Why is the Bible unclear? I wish I knew! I believe the grey areas of the Bible are meant to cause us to seek God together, guided by the Holy Spirit and the Bible.

I have studied the role of women in ministry extensively and the best way I can succinctly summarize my conclusions is I fully endorse the Alliance position. Here’s what is stated on the Alliance website:

Today, women serve with distinction in The Alliance on local church ministry staffs; as international workers, chaplains, and professors in our educational institutions; and on leadership teams in local churches, district executive committees, and the Board of Directors.
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came upon believers in a new way — both men and women. Peter explained the Pentecost experience in this way: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). The Holy Spirit has been poured out on women and men in the same way and for the same purpose: so that we will all be empowered to live in a manner that demonstrates the character of Christ and fulfill our roles in the mission Jesus has assigned to His Church. The gifts the Spirit gives that equip believers for ministry in and through the local church are distributed to both women and men. The completion of Jesus’ Great Commission calls on all believers, male and female, to be released and mobilized to put those gifts into action. While desiring both genders to be mobilized to exercise their gifts in a variety of ministries and leadership roles, The Alliance continues to affirm its understanding of Scripture that elders are male members of the local church. This includes the elected elders of the local church and the senior/lead pastor.
An Alliance statement on women in ministry states the following: “Women may fulfill any function in the local church which the senior pastor and elders may choose to delegate to them consistent with the Uniform Policy for Accredited Churches and may properly engage in any kind of ministry except that which involves elder authority.”
Launch What?

I’m proud to serve in a church and denomination which affirms Paul’s teaching to the church in Galatia:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

We will launch. We will launch people, sending them to love God, love others as they love themselves, and make disciples…of all nations. That means we are all called to be ministers, missionaries. Your mission field might be the senior housing centers where you visit shut-ins, the school where you teach or study, or the home where you raise children. Your mission field might be the office where you work, the park where you play, or the stores where you shop. One more time:
• Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19

We want to launch you as individuals, but together we can launch, too. Throughout our 130 years, we have launched people into the vocational mission field where they serve across our city, nation, and world. We are praying God would raise up more people from our church to go and make disciples.

We have launched organizations, including Cherry Street Mission, Proclaim FM, Toledo Christian Schools, WLMB-TV, Toledo Urban Impact, and Claro Coffee Bar, among other things. Launch. This isn’t just something to do. It’s what we are to be.

We are to multiply.

The first command in the Bible was to be fruitful and multiply. Reproduce.

We are to reproduce and launch leaders.
We are to reproduce and launch small groups.
We are to reproduce and launch churches
We are to reproduce and launch ministries
We are to reproduce and launch businesses

Someone told me this week it’s hard to launch new churches because it means saying goodbye.

Yes, but that’s what is supposed to happen. Healthy things grow and reproduce.

As much as I love my three kids, I had to launch them into adulthood and the world. One has been launched into marriage and will launch our first grandchild in November.

Our DNA as a church must be loaded with multiplication, reproduction, launching.

Think of it this way, none of us will be here in 100 years. If we don’t multiply and launch people, leaders, groups, and churches, First Alliance Church will cease to exist. Even worse, if there are no children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, there will be no legacy.

I care about the future. I care about the future of God’s church. I want to everything possible to invest my life into others who will do the same for generations. That’s discipleship. 2 Timothy 2:2 describes four generations in one verse. That’s what it means to launch.

This past week I was invited to participate in an Alliance church planters assessment center. Heather and I were assessed as planters about twenty years ago and being on the other side of the table was fascinating. For three and a half days, I was consumed with the journeys of five couples from across the Midwest who are hoping to launch new churches.

Family, we have a great history of launching. Let’s not be the barren generation who ends it. Let’s love, proclaim, reach, and launch for the glory of God.

Family, we have a history of launching people and organizations, but I believe the best is yet to come. I’m praying God would raise up men and women from our church to serve overseas with the Alliance. I’m praying we would see new ministries launched from FAC. I’m praying we would plant more churches, multiplying God’s Kingdom in other parts of our city, nation, and world. Most of all, I’m praying all of us would be launched to do whatever God is leading us to do—as individuals and together as a family—to love God, love others as we love ourselves, and make disciples of all nations…for His glory!

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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