Some of the greatest counsel Rick Warren ever gave me was “Love everyone, but move with the movers!” In the first year of starting The Springs, my wife, Teddi, and I taped this motto on our bathroom mirror, because everyday we needed to be reminded of it. With the early uncertainty of a church plant, we felt we could not afford for anyone to leave the church. The truth we soon learned was, we could not really afford for everyone to stay.
For example, about six months after starting The Springs, a leadership team member challenged our strategy for having seeker sensitive worship services. He believed the church was a place for believers and the worship service should be fully-oriented around them. He believed evangelism was for outside the church, not inside. This man had faithfully loved me and prayed for me. He had encouraged me in the lonely and challenging beginning days of the church. His vision, however, did not line up with what God had called The Springs to be. Soon after that meeting, he left the church.
Love everyone, but move with the movers!
Had I caved into someone else’s view of the church, I would have missed The Springs becoming a vibrant place for the unchurched to attend. We chose early on to become an outwardly-focused church. We decided to make it hard to go to hell from Ocala, Florida. This decision meant I could not please my close friend. We determined a core value of The Springs was that people matter to God—lost people matter to God. They were welcome at The Springs; more than that, we designed our place for them. By holding firmly to this core value from the early days, thousands of people have come to know Jesus Christ. Once your core values have been set, you must be willing to take bullets for them. Be unshakable in your resolve to protect and implement your values.
Another example is a couple who had been in a certain type of evangelism training. They believed in knocking on the door of every visitor and presenting the gospel to them. They had been trained that this was the only proper method of evangelism. It violated The Springs’ decision not to invade the private lives of our visitors, allowing guests to anonymously kick the tires of Christianity. This couple loved Jesus and served him faithfully. Yet they could not understand not invading people’s personal lives to share Christ. They left The Springs.
Love everyone, but move with the movers.
My heart does beat evangelism, and I love to train people to share their faith. Years before, I had been a certified trainer in the form of evangelism they wanted me to pursue. And in a strange way, I felt I was violating my own evangelistic heritage. I wrestled with whether or not I was watering down the gospel message by not doing evangelistic visits. I had been taught that relational evangelism was for weak Christians. And because we focused on relational evangelism, public invitations in our worship service were contrary to our vision. I realized early on that the only people who came forward were church people. Lost people did not want to walk forward in front of a couple hundred people they did not know, to meet a man they did not know, to be introduced to a God they did not know. Instead, we give people an opportunity to receive Christ at their seats and record their decision on a Communication Card. Does it work? Over 300 people every year have committed their lives to Jesus. Sixty percent of our members have given their lives to Christ at The Springs.
Then there was the man who loved everything The Springs represented as a church. As we grew, our music developed an edgier worship style. We never sang hymns, but he loved hymns. He grew up on them. They moved him to worship. He loved the teaching; he just could not stand the music. The music was too loud, the songs lasted too long, and he did not like to stand for the entire worship set. He was a gifted teacher and even taught our CLASS 201 for a season. He was, and still is, a good friend. He left the church.
Love everyone, but move with the movers.
There is nothing that defines a church more than its music. Your music will determine who you reach and who you repel. So clearly define your target and do not veer off course. We have had some say we must believe God is deaf, because the music is so loud. Others have said, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old!” And I agree. Our focus is, and always has been, the next generation. If we had given in to some very dear friends who love hymns, our church would have missed the younger generation. I grew up singing hymns. Some of them still ignite my heart with worship for the Father; however, I learned long ago, and remind our people often, that it is not about you and me anymore. It is about the people who are not here yet. Our music will continue to define us.
It is somewhat easy to move with the movers.
Where some church planters fail is in loving everyone. I have witnessed many pastors who leave a high body count in their path. They bulldoze over people who oppose them, instead of loving them. I love each of the people I have written about. I just did not surrender the leadership of The Springs to them. To this day, I have a good relationship with each of them. Love indiscriminately. But chase hard after God’s dream for your church with the movers he has placed on your team. Rick Warren also taught me to never surrender the leadership of the church to whiners. I never have, and I never will. As a young church planter with little self-confidence, those words gave me courage to lead confidently and to tenaciously pursue God’s calling for my life.
In the early days of a church plant there is incredible pressure to compromise the vision God has given you. Because I held firm to my vision, it only took about eighteen months for all the people who helped us begin the church, but who had conﬂicting views, to leave. We lost dozens, but gained thousands.