Chris Mavity talks to Alan Briggs, Director of Frontline Church Planting about the entrepreneurial side of church planting, going from 0-100, and what is at the forefront of a church planter's mind.
Read the full audio transcript here:
Mavity: I have across the table from me Alan Briggs who is the church planter extraordinaire in church planting movements. I will let him talk a little more about that but Alan, thanks for joining us.
Briggs: Great to be here.
Mavity: You were an easy ‘yes’ for some reason. Are you just that nice of a guy?
Briggs: Well any chance I get to hangout with you Chris…
Mavity: Ha. Oh, well here we go, church planting is at the core of who you are but its bigger and broader than that but you’re more into the launching aspect. Talk to me about the entrepreneurial side.
Briggs: The launching process is really exciting to me. All kinds of folks reach out with a vision to launch a ministry or non-profit or write a book. The same principles are there for all of those things. I get excited about going from an idea to execution and then what does it look like to sustain long term. Yes I love church planting but the same principles from planting a church can be applied to anything we’re starting in the name of Jesus.
Mavity: You’re the master at it and I know that you focus most of your ministry on church planters. So tell me why church planters specifically?
Briggs: I love the church planter attitude and mentality that doesn't ask “why?” but asks “why not?”. Why not do church in this setting? Why not do it this way there’s fresh cement, some of that’s good some of that’s bad or hard. a lot of times folks don’t know how to live within that new schedule which looks like chaos of moving to another place or planting the gospel in a new place with new challenges. So I honestly love the idea of helping teams and individuals get healthy because I truly believe what Eph 2:10 tells us how we’re all wired for impact. And so if we can get healthy and realize our identity is in Christ first build those healthy rhythms, we can impact multitudes of people down the line if we’re setup for the long haul. The seeds of that are in everything I want to do.
Mavity: That’s a great word Alan and I suppose its the reason why you even think to start with church planters from the very beginning. Whenever I introduce you, I say you’re the 0-100 guy and that means one of two different things. You’re 0-100 quickly speed wise but also a focus of going 0-100 with a church plant. Can you talk to me about that a little bit?
Briggs: I think the temptation for me is to go too fast. A lot of entrepreneurial, what might be called apostolic or spiritual starters is to go too quickly. Nobody can follow us that quickly. So I’ve designed a lot of tools, most of them for myself,
Mavity: Could you say that again? I think I heard you say “most people can’t follow that quickly”.
"A lot of entrepreneurial, what might be called apostolic or spiritual starters is to go too quickly. Nobody can follow us that quickly."
Briggs: Yes. If we’re out of the gate so quickly, the reality is we barely know what we’re doing and we haven’t communicated the vision, invited people in and we probably don’t have a healthy process to sustain that. So really focusing a lot in the in between, not just taking my own heart, passion, head and translating it but how do we actually build a healthy team around us for the long haul. The idea is not just to be able to off from the gate at 0-100 mph but things like tools, processes can help slow us down that I’ve shared a couple hundred times on a white board and eventually I put them into a tool that can help impact other people.
Mavity: What I’m hearing you say is it doesn’t matter how quickly you get to 100, it matters that you get to a 100 in a healthy manner.
Briggs: Absolutely. And if you look at church plants, sometimes when you grow too quickly, that presents different issues. What does healthy growth look like in us in leaders, in our teams, in our organizations and ultimately in churches? I love the local church and always want to be hooked in helping church leaders in some facet.
Mavity: So I know that since you work with so many church planters, what do you find that is foremost on their mind?
Briggs: It’s hard to reach a new niche of people and to do new things and sometimes that becomes an idol. If you backup beyond church planters or leaders, we bow to the idol of impact. The conundrum of leadership is when we aim at impact we find ourselves unhealthy. But when we aim at health we always find impact. God’s wired his church for impact. So much of it is, if we can get healthy what does that look like in heart, soul, mind, strength? We see some amazing things happen especially in the long haul. A lot of church planters try to go too quickly and try to just see those metrics. Some of that ironically provides for your family so a lot of that seems very pressurized, emotional, personal and if we can pull that back and essentially show just a different way and posture to go about church planting. I like big churches, I like small churches but I love healthy churches.
Mavity: So “the idol of impact”. Explain that a little further.
Briggs: The idea that I’m going to make something of myself, that I’m going to have a great missionary report to send back overseas. That I’m going to tell the people that are supporting me that I've already sold the vision to that its working and your money is invested well here. Not all bad things, but can quickly lead us off this road that we’re trying to do things that God is responsible for and ultimately end up neglecting things that He’s made us as stewards responsible for. One of those things is self leadership, leading ourself to be setup for the marathon called life and ministry.
Mavity: So help me understand if I’m addicted to impact even to the point of making that an idol. How would I know if that’s the case?
Briggs: Ask yourself what are you aiming at and why. Simeon Sinek’s start with why is such a key concept for all of us. We often skip over this and push too quickly is measurable but always sustainable. What gets celebrated in any culture, gets done. The question to any church leader is what are you celebrating, what;s your mechanism for capturing the stories and re-telling those stories to God’s people.
Mavity: So let’s pretend im a church planter and you’re coaching me, and you ask me “Chris, what have you celebrated recently?” and I say “Well, my anniversary.”
Briggs: I would ask “Did you take time away? Does your wife think you celebrated well? Did you see a noticeable decrease in stress and adrenaline?”. I think it starts in family. It goes so quickly to the lows, areas that are bleeding out in our ministries but can we celebrate that you are one year further in your devotion, still married, hopefully happily and thriving. Needs to start at the heart of the leader. Here’s an analogy; I’m a gardener. Each day I go out in evening, I’m not seeing any beans yet, the squash isn’t huge yet but I do say “whoa. it grew 4 more inches today. and wow! it’s snaking around the pole. isn’t that exciting!” Can we celebrate the progress without taking a essentially taking this spiritual Instagram pic of this massive load of fruit. you know, look at our 74 baptisms and instead learn to celebrate an individual walking with Jesus, this family has been shaped in the image of God. Those are two different things. Learning how to celebrate in process/progress.
Mavity: What if I’m a church planter and i haven’t celebrated anything within in the ministry, maybe ever?
Briggs: Most times it’s mindset, not looking hard enough. Ultimately if we’re running after the wrong things, we’ve setup some pretty unrealistic metrics which I’ve seen a lot with planters. Who we’re measuring against when we’re in totally different spots. Their life and their ministry is not our church and if your church is looking towards the largest, fastest growing churches in the country then you’re going to feel pretty discouraged on a regular basis. Comparison kills creativity.
"...if you look at church plants, sometimes when you grow too quickly, that presents different issues..."
Mavity: Tell me about those things that we’re measuring against. What would 2-3 of those be?
Briggs: Rate of growth. Here’s how fast we’ve gone from 0-100. Here’s the amount of ministries we’ve launched which means we need more management and leaders. Here’s the size of our core team. I’m a huge fan of teams but that doesn’t mean you need a core team of 70 people. You could have a solid 7 people. But how we measure the quality of people’s growth in discipleship are hard things to put your finger on.
Mavity: What’s a couple of the quality metrics you would tell a church planter to measure?
Briggs: I sat with one yesterday and since they took a retreat, it’s pretty normal this time of year, but what did you spend your time on? And they spent over half the time focusing in on the hearts of those leaders, focusing on the personal discipleship and the families praying for one another and you can measure what percentage of your retreat did you give to certain discipleship matters? You do have to work a little harder on the metrics but that’s something I celebrated which was helping shape the team and in the long haul that’s gonna ultimately gonna grow them and usually ends up in growing the depth of your church where you can start to feel that cohesion.
Mavity: What’s the most helpful insight that you can give a church planter?
Briggs: If you’re aiming for the long haul, then you will do things differently today. Set up today for what you hope to live in and exist in, in terms of a healthy culture, tomorrow. I talk to a lot of teams about setting up sabbatical. You may not feel like you need it now but in 5 years you’re be really glad your church celebrates rest. I sit with church planting teams and ask who’s responsible for this. In the bi-laws, your statement of belief, constitution, wherever we need to put this in your documents, where we can show we build this into the life of a planter. Don’t wait until you’re exhausted to implement something like that. You’re never gonna feel like you can give that time to sabbath and we really can’t afford not to. Maybe it’s a lot like tithing. You won’t say “let’s wait till we’re making $100,000 and then we’ll start tithing”. Same is true of time. Same is true of health. Sabbath is one I really push on because that’s where we recharge and creativity comes from. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, it doesn’t help anyone in the long run.
Mavity: But the weekend’s coming Alan, come on man. Give me a break.
Briggs: We throw that phrase around all the time but we all know what that feels like but sometimes it’s a planning issue. We get more excited that the weekends coming, we can adapt more as we’ve planned more. I think there’s this idea that the Holy Spirit can only move in the last minute. The Holy Spirit has been known to move 6 months in advance for me speaking to me through has been known to speak to me through preparation. We talk about that a lot. We laugh about that a lot but flying by the seat of our pants usually doesn’t honor God through intention or lack there of we’re leading with.
Mavity: Good wisdom there. Let’s talk about a couple of common roadblocks that you’ve seen for mid-sized church plant situation. I’d also like to hear about other stepping stones when it comes to dealing with a different animal.
Briggs: A friend of mine, Mack Light, a leadership guru, likes to say if on Sunday morning or a gathering, you’re the one responsible for everything if something goes wrong, then you haven’t multiplied your leadership well. There’s still a lot of folks who are ultimiatly responsible for every area of their church…30,40,50 people…and nobody really learns to do ministry without them. They don’t become an equipper. I think starting with that posture of an equipper versus the idea of just doing everything. I have this big sign on my wall that says “don’t just do, develop.” So how do we set that as a saint equipper from day one. Our teams will feel empowered or stepped on. Another big one, is to think if God brought you more people, what would you actually do with them? We ask that question in a discipleship sense. So if God brought you 50 more people, what’s your plan to disciple them, to deepen their relationship with the Lord. So ultimately, it’s a stewardship issue, that we need to have a plan in place before the folks are there. And then a lot of it is mindset. If always “Sunday’s coming” or “here’s the next thing”. Sometimes you have to zoom out and see the greater area to really see where you’re at. Weekends, vacations, and a good team around us can help us do that.
Mavity: Is that possible to get that perspective on your own?
Briggs: There’s something in community that can bring us that perspective that we can’t do ourselves. Most churches, church plants especially, don’t have the resources to do all of those things in terms of health that we really need to be doing. One of the barriers is that we over study, we over read, church planters might read 50 books, and might talk about 25 different models with 16 different silver bullets and 27 different ideas. You have to do in year one. A lot of these guys are overwhelmed and they don’t truly know the identity of their church, they know 50 different identities that they heard in books from people that it worked for. If books become an idol, we have to go back to our identity in Christ and to the Word.
Mavity: Church planters and small group pastors are from the same elk. I coach church planters but mainly small group pastors and often the first thing I have to do is quit reading books because I’ve heard that same thing. How do you think we can eliminate this idea of a prescription for church planters?
Briggs: God’s currently waving the magic want of parachute planting. The old idea of entering into a place thinking that it’s you and your spouse against the world. That’s the battle of marriage, not the battle of ministry. We see the 1-2 rare cases that have this amazing opportunity at the right time with the right gifting but most of us aren’t wired like Rick Warren. We need a variety of gifting and more launch teams need to have an understanding of their individual gifting to know when to step into something and when to do something together. I think I would wave the magic want and say that team is not just a good idea but a necessity for your own health and the impact of that church.
"The conundrum of leadership is when we aim at impact we find ourselves unhealthy. But when we aim at health we always find impact."
Mavity: Why are you coaching church planters?
Briggs: I’m passionate about coming alongside and there are very few neutral voices. In ministry, everyone seems to want something from you and to have someone who can come along side you in covenant relationship, you’ve agreed on it ahead of time, there’s a lot of hunger, there’s a lot of buy-in. I would say that I filter pretty carefully for those who I coach. There’s a relationally fit, a financial buy-in, there’s a process that we’ve predetermined. When those filters are on, the purity of the relationship and impact goes up. I do a lot more filtering than I used to and ultimately I saw that there are so many people struggling to get healthy and that health leads to impact. I’ve seen that from a hundred different angles. We’re probably checking multiple accounts for email, we’re probably not looking people in the eye, we probably feel like our schedule is way over booked, I don’t believe that’s what God intended for the leaders of His church.
Mavity: I know you’re an author as well. Why are you writing books?
Briggs: So somebody can read on a beach without me there with them and multiplies the impact these principles can have. A friend of mine and I were talking about this idea of Paul versus Apollos, just a guy who was charismatic and many wanted to hear from Apollos and Paul was not that great of a speaker but we only know about Apollos because Paul wrote about him. So I have this theory that God had to put Paul on ships and then shipwreck him and put him in jail to write half the new testament because chances are he wouldn’t have sat down with extra time, with a cup of coffee to write. I’ve had to learn to chain myself to the desk for the sake of the reproducible impact that I don’t have to physically have to be there with my mug in their face to have that conversation. God opened the door and realistically, it’s not something that everyone should do. I hated the idea of writing, never got good grades on writing but if we can pass some simple principles and stories along, I do believe people can take them in their local context and apply them. I’m a simple guy and I’m a story guy. I’m not the smartest guy in the world that writes for the average man.
Mavity: You’ve passed some great tools my way that are just super simple and can apply to not just church planting but to virtually any ministry situation.
Briggs: Time is the biggest tool right now. Time isn’t visible until you put it on paper and that’s a simple thought but we tend to not zoom out with time. We tend to be stuck going meeting to meeting but hope to have some great vision to cast. Those two just don’t line up. Wayne Cordaro talks about energy management and leading on empty, how do we manage our energy in the course of a year and creating an energy map much like you would do with your house. When you use the most energy during the year for A/C, or heat, or water and the reality is we don’t use the same amount every week or month. A lot of light bulbs are haphazardly going on because we’re not managing our time well.
Mavity: Agreed. Energy management is more important than time management in our ministry. What’s currently going on in your ministry?
Briggs: I’m going to continue to ride this wave, this opportunity, for church leader health and I truly believe, because I’ve seen it in myself, that when we get healthy, we make an impact. I want to dedicate my best time towards that and that looks like coaching, sitting down with teams and consulting, and how my organization is scaling. It’s ultimately about life design and ministry design. What does that look like to say we’re not that new church plant down the street. That’s a life-giving message. I wanna write because I believe that the church needs tools and stories. I truly believe everyone is a genius, it’s just how we unlock that for individuals.
Mavity: How would somebody get ahold of you?
Briggs: Stayfourth.com is probably the easiest. Also Alanbriggs.net. I also created an eBook called 7 Steps to Launching Your Great Idea, you can go there and get that consultation without having to meet me.
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