Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why France, Why Now

I spent hours on a phone interview with Chris Lewis at Avant Ministries for a couple of stories for the next Avant Magazine due to be released by the end of this month. Chris wrote two awesome stories featuring the need for church planting in France and the need for funding the these efforts. They have been prereleased on the Avant Ministries web site. Check them out here:

French Revolution: Why France? Why Now?
(Cover story)

Flight Delay

These stories are compelling. There is a great need in France and the funding is a crucial piece of that need. If you are interested in partnering with us to plant a life giving church in Paris please contact me or give online (put Ken & Gina Witcher in the Missionary names section).

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Relevant Is Not a 4-Letter Word

Why is "relevant" such a bad word? Why is it assumed that Cultural Relevance equals Biblical Irrelevance?

Check Out Ed Stetzer's post on Relevance this morning.

I think that cultural relevance means two things:

1. Speaking the language of the culture.
Using traditional church language in your church services tells unchurched that your church is not for them. It is like going to Lithuania and using only English in church. By your chosen language you are saying "All English Speakers Welcome". If you want to reach the Lithuanians you've got to speak their language. If you want to reach the unchurched of your community, you got to speak their language. A great book on this is Reggie McNeal's The Present Future.

2. Dealing with the issues of the culture.
This one is more difficult because of the idea that many have of only teaching what comes next in the Bible. After all, we should teach the whole Bible right? Of Course. But shouldn't there also be a place where we deal with where people are at?
Take for example, the passage where Jesus met the woman at the well who had had numerous husbands and was living with a man she was not married to. He talked to her about living water probably because her relationships revealed that she thirsted for life but was looking in all the wrong places. What if Jesus had chosen instead to talk to her about Jewish dietary laws?
How about in Acts 17 when Paul chose to talk to the philosophers about their unknown God and how he was the one who created everything and wants to have a relationship with them. What if Paul had talked to them about adultery?

Irrelevnace is Irreverance. (thanks NCC)

We have been entrusted with the greatest message in the world. It is not God's fault if people don't accept the message because they don't get it when we tell it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

PowerPoint Violations

If you use powerpoint presentations, you have to read this blog by Seth Godin. It is a must read!

He tells us how to make powerpoint presentations sucessful. Most powerpoint presentations are not. Your presentations can communicate your heart, mind, and soul or not. It's your choice.

Human Needs at Any Size

I have interacted quite a bit in the big vs small church debate that is going on (and probably always will). I think that there are many reasons that people prefer one over the other and all are pretty valid.

I read a blog by Craig Groeshel this morning on the subject. He points out that the main reasons most people like like small churches is the same as the main reason people leave larges churches. I would add that the inverse is also true. They are the same reasons that some large churches seem to really continue to grow.

The reasons?

People want to feel needed.

People want to feel known.

I really like churches that are really growing. That is not necessarily true of all large churches. Many large churches experienced their growing seasons years ago and have been in plateau or decline for a while. On the other hand, really growing churches don't stay small for long. In fact, they usually get big in a hurry. There is something electric about being around a church (or any organization for that matter) that is really accomplishing its goals (new life in Christ). We are more motivated to bring our lost friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers when we see that lost people are getting it and accepting it when they come.

BUT, if they come to a point where they don't feel needed or known, they will go elsewhere. I have seen it happen many times in growing churches.

The bottom line is: We must grow smaller while growing bigger. Translation, we must find ways to create small group environments, within large churches, where people are known and needed.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Building Partners

We are currenltly in the process of developing partnerships that will help us plant a church in Paris (France, not Texas). It has not been an easy process but I have learned a lot.

While we would liked to have been fully supported and on the feild this last fall, God had other plans. The reality is that we are not fully funded yet. The lesson is that "God's timing is the right timing." We have met so many people who will make us better and our ministry more effective that we would never have met if we had left for the field in October.

I have been emailing with a guy named Kevin Mayer the last couple of days. He will be taking a team to Paris to try to reach French people through the arts. He is a great guy and I can already see how we might work together.

I met him through Neil Nakamoto from Mosaic Church. I met Neil at the Ethos conference in New York. I went to Ethos after an invitation from Steve Sacone at Mosaic, who I was referred to by Erwin McManus, who I was referred to by Naeem Fazal and Mosaic Church in Charlotte. I met Naeem becuase of his relationship to the Association of Related Churches and I got connected with the ARC becuase of my brother-in-law Matt Fry pastor of C3church.

Amazing ins't it? And that is just one branch of this tree. God's ways are higher than our ways.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Club Rules

In his book, The Present Future, Reggie McNeal talks about how so much of what churches do appear to visitors like club activities that only club members really understand.

A church planter friend of mine in Cincinnati sent me this email tonight about a conversation he overheard:
We took the kids to AWANA tonight and the AWANA leader was talking to another director and he said.
"We need to address the leaders are not to wear jeans because if we allow them to continue it will be a negative influence on the kids. We may have to start telling the kids they cannot wear jeans either."
Club Rules.
Jimmy

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Innovative vs Effective

I recently read a Swerve blog by the name above. It stirred up a subject I have been thinking about a lot lately. I have talked a lot about innovation over the past 2 years as we have been planning to plant a different kind of church in Paris. In France, there are very few churches really doing anything outside of the traditional mainstream. So we have insisted that we would be innovative to reach the emerging (not 'emergent') generation in Paris.

At the Ethos conference back in November, Erwin McManus really challenged us to realize that there is very little innovation in the church. He points out that most of what is called innovation is really early adoption at best. He was calling for real innovation to take the church to new places. I have really struggled with this concept of real innovation. I tend to think that most of our innovation comes from experiencing things that are new to us. Read my original post on new boxes.

The bottom line of the Great Commision is bringing people in to new life with Christ. I love Mark Batterson's core value "everything is an experiment." He often says that there are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet. I want to be there. But like that Swerve blogger Bobby Gruenewald, if I had to choose, I would rather be effective than innovative. I hope that we can find new ways of doing church that will more effectively reach more people, but if we find our greatest success in reproducing things that are effective for others, I'll be happy.

I also read a Seth Godin blog tonight on creativity. In the end, if we can come up with great, creative ideas, we still have the difficult task of implementing them. 1% inspiration - 99% perspiration!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Authentic Creativity

Yesterday morning my 6 year old son, who has not really been self motivated to begin writing, came to my wife a few times talking about the sound that the letters in our names make. He even pointed out that Caelan and Ken have the same sound. He was really proud of himself.

Gina followed him into the bathroom and this is what she saw (pic-after painting over it).

That is C for Caelan, A for Austin and L for Levi. Odd that he left out his sister.

We later noticed that he also wanted to monogram the wall next to my sink. And as you will remember Caelan and Ken start with the same sound so Ken's sink has a C monogram.

By the way the monograms don't clean off and I already tried painting over the first one. Were gonna need some primer.

I guess it was sort of a mixed blessing. Levi hated to write and now he has decided to do it all by himself. It will take a little work to fix but we are happy that he is experimenting with the things he is learning and observing.

We need more church leaders with that kind of authentic creativity. If we worry too much about the possible negative outcomes of our idea we may never touch upon new ways to reach the apathetic lost of the world. As we begin to observe opportunities we need to act. As Mark Batterson said in his book In A Pit With A Lion on A Snowy Day, "your greatest regret at the end of your life will be the lions you didn't chase. You will regret the risks not taken, the opportunities not seized, and the dreams not pursued. Stopping running away from what scares you most and start chasing the God-ordained opportunities that cross your path."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Aggie Basketball - The Real Deal

no.8 Texas A&M 67
no.14 OK St 49

When I was at A&M, from '87-'93, I never missed a home football game. But, I attended only 2 basketball games in 6 years. 'Jolly Rollie', our old basketball stadium, only had a capacity of 7800 (we had over 13,000 at Reed tonight).

Its great to have the Aggie Basketball team in the top 10 now that I live in North Carolina.

Gig'em!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Known But to God

I recieved an email from the Avant Magazine editor this week regarding the picture below. I have thought a lot about this and wanted to share the exchange with my readers.

The email to me read:

Ken,

I am trying to write a magazine photo caption for the picture where you are kneeling at the Normandy cross … but I can’t quite make out the wording on the cross. Can you? I might use it in the caption, depending on what it says …

A few other questions: Why were you visiting Normandy during your survey trip? Did you feel drawn there? What struck you about the cemetery … in terms of a missions parallel?

C.


This was my reply:

The caption reads:
“Here rests in honored glory
A comrade in arms
Know but to God”

We went there to spend one day of sight-seeing. I actually didn't want to go. I would have rather gone up the Eiffel Tower but everyone else wanted to go and I had never been, so I went along. When we got there I was blown away by what I saw. I spent a short time in the Army so I was profoundly affected at the enormous sacrifice of human life in order to stop an evil dictator from taking over the world. I felt the honor, duty, and country that so many scared young Americans and Brits must have felt before the mission started knowing that they probably would not make it through that day. I was so proud of these young men for following orders in spite of the fact that they would likely pay with their lives. We owe our freedom to these men. They were brave men; honorable men; heroes. Tears come to my eyes just writing this. The hardest part was realizing that many, probably the majority, of the 9000+ Americans in the cemetery at Normandy did not know Christ and went on to spend a Christ-less eternity in Hell. What does it mean to be a brave, honorable, hero without Christ? The unknown soldier was “known but to God”, but did they know Him?

Planting churches is the only way I know that we can prevent a similar tragedy in the future. If our allies in Europe died for western freedom today, the percentage of believers would be far less.

I’m not sure that I knew it then, but now I realize that this trip to Normandy really strengthened my resolve to plant a church in France.

Thanks for asking. I needed to remember that day. Pray that God will allow me one day to make a difference.

Ken

Sunday, January 14, 2007

You Gotta Tell Your Story

Tonight, I talked to friend and minsitry partner who lives across the country. It was good to catch up and update him on our minsitry. One of the main reasons I called him, though, was to pick his brain a little bit about ideas for raising financially support. He is a successful busniess man so I value his input as a christian supporter, but I also value his creative ideas as a business man. We talked about some different ideas and he said that he will do some more thinking after our conversation.

The most important thing that I left the conversation with was that he wants to hear more from us. He said he loves to read our newsletters and talk to us but he would love to hear more often (monthly or more). He also related a story of a ministry that really did not keep him up to date. This is not the first time individuals or churches have told me that someone they supported did not keep them up to date.

I believe that most Christians (and non-Christians for that matter) give to something. As faith based ministries, we must show people why their giving to our ministry is a good investment. That is done by sharing vision and then telling stories. This ministry started in March of 2005 even though we have not actually moved to France. We already have great stories to tell. I believe our church planting project in France is a fantastic investment in Great Commision work. We have to learn to share our story better and more often.

BTW - There is a great article coming out about France and our ministry. It is due to be released on Avant's web site in the next week or two and in print sometime in February in the Avant Magazine. It's a compelling story for investing in our church planting ministry in Paris. I will link to the article when it comes out.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Blogging Church Planters

I am amazed at how powerful blogging has become. Did the creators of the blog have any idea? I have been connected to so many people through blogging.

I have met awesome pastors I through reading their blogs. I have had pastors from awesome churches contact me from reading my blog. I have met random people form across the country. I even met a Christian man because he googled my superstar wife after she won a 10 mile road race and found my blog and realized that we had a similar ministry heart. How cool is that?

Church planters are probably the biggest group of bloggers out there, and there is a lot to learn from these guys. I met with a church planter named Tadd Grandstaff yesterday. I actually saw his link on another blog I read and thought the name looked familiar. It was only later that I discovered that he was in a youth group that I interned for in my seminary days. I never talked to him until we ran into each other at the Ethos conference in NY a couple of months ago.

Anyway we spent the morning talking about church planting and the process to prepare and raise the financial support so crucial to getting off the ground. He had some good words since he has been doing it so recently. Look forward to seeing Pine Ridge Church launch this fall in the Greensboro/Burlington, NC area. He has a great team getting ready to take off. You can check him out on his blog.

Blog on!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Getting Fired-Up

I have read so many good blog posts in the past couple of days. It's hard to try to compete with these guys so I won't try.

You have to read this post from Perry Noble. Large churches have been taking a lot of criticism these days from other Christians who prefer not so large churches. While he may be coming off a bit strong (he's fired-up), he really brings it back to the point. God didn;t create the church for Christians to get comfortable. He created the church to fulfill the Great Commision, to lead those far from God into a life transforming relationship with him.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Being Remarkable

Sometimes the church can learn a lot from those outside of the church. It is a new boxes thing. Seth Godin is a marketing guru and author of the well know book "Purple Cow" He had a great post yesterday on being remarkable. I have reposed it here.


1. Understand the urgency of the situation. Half-measures simply won't do. The only way to grow is to abandon your strategy of doing what you did yesterday, but better. Commit.

2. Remarkable doesn't mean remarkable to you. It means remarkable to me. Am I going to make a remark about it? If not, then you're average, and average is for losers.

3. Being noticed is not the same as being remarkable. Running down the street naked will get you noticed, but it won't accomplish much. It's easy to pull off a stunt, but not useful.

4. Extremism in the pursuit of remarkability is no sin. In fact, it's practically a requirement. People in first place, those considered the best in the world, these are the folks that get what they want. Rock stars have groupies because they're stars, not because they're good looking.

5. Remarkability lies in the edges. The biggest, fastest, slowest, richest, easiest, most difficult. It doesn't always matter which edge, more that you're at (or beyond) the edge.

6. Not everyone appreciates your efforts to be remarkable. In fact, most people don't. So what? Most people are ostriches, heads in the sand, unable to help you anyway. Your goal isn't to please everyone. Your goal is to please those that actually speak up, spread the word, buy new things or hire the talented.

7. If it's in a manual, if it's the accepted wisdom, if you can find it in a Dummies book, then guess what? It's boring, not remarkable. Part of what it takes to do something remarkable is to do something first and best. Roger Bannister was remarkable. The next guy, the guy who broke Bannister's record wasn't. He was just faster ... but it doesn't matter.

8. It's not really as frightening as it seems. They keep the masses in line by threatening them (us) with all manner of horrible outcomes if we dare to step out of line. But who loses their jobs at the mass layoffs? Who has trouble finding a new gig? Not the remarkable minority, that's for sure.

9. If you put it on a T-shirt, would people wear it? No use being remarkable at something that people don't care about. Not ALL people, mind you, just a few. A few people insanely focused on what you do is far far better than thousands of people who might be mildly interested, right?

10. What's fashionable soon becomes unfashionable. While you might be remarkable for a time, if you don't reinvest and reinvent, you won't be for long. Instead of resting on your laurels, you must commit to being remarkable again quite soon.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm Back . . . Christmas Vacation Part III

I have been gone from the blogosphere for a while. I have been really sick for the last month. I have felt better the last few days than I have for about the last month.

I wanted to quickly finish telling you about the insanity that was the Witcher Family Christmas Vacation. Taking up from my last post . . .

The next morning we headed out toward Nashville. We were going the back way through the mountains with our mapquest directions. Big mistake. I did not think it was possible, but there was a turn I needed to make that was not in the mapquest instructions. So we got to go sceneic route that added about 2 hours to a 6 hour trip. And of course we probably added at least one more hour to take care Gina and Phelicia being sick.

The next day we made the long trek from Nashville to Dallas. Of course, it was Levi's and my turn to get sick. To make matters worse, we packed for the 50 degree weather we read about on weather.com and not the 70 and 80 degree weather we experienced the entire trip. Of course by december our freon had all leaked out of our car so we had no A/C.

Finally, at my dad's ranch, Levi was playing with "Whiskey the cow dog" and got bit in the stomach and in the face landing us in the ER to get some glue-stiching for a nasty cut on his face (see before and after pictures above).

Also, after arriving in Texas we all began to get colds. That is not that serious at home, but in a strage place with six people all in the same room waking up 5-10 times a night to comfort a sick child it has it's downside. After about 4 days with my family in Texas we decided to cancel the rest of the trip and go home. We just needed to get home and get rested and heal.

The trip home was not too eventful except the wonderful hotel we stayed in just east of Nashville. I should have know something was wrong when I noticed the "absolutly no refunds" highlighted in yellow on the contract, but I was tired and not thinking. The room had not been painted since the 70's and we are not really sure what was meant by "non-smoking room". I guess they let people smoke in that room in the 70's and the smell was still in the 30 year old carpet and paint. I thought it was interesting that the comment card did not have a signature for who had cleaned our room. And I loved the complimentary ketchup packets of shampoo in the rooms (they must have saved a bundle on those things).

We had a family member (who shall remain nameless) who read my last blog say that it sounded like a plea for sympathy. It really isn't. We were exhausted and tired but this trip was so nuts that we actually found almost everything pretty humorous.

We usually watch the Christmas classic, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation every year but we didn't get to this year. God allowed us to live it!

I hope your Christmas holiday was as merry.