Church Planting Q&A with Kevin Cawley ~ BitterSweetLife

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Church Planting Q&A with Kevin Cawley

From time to time this semester, I plan to post the transcripts of conversations I've had with active church planters. Some of you will love these interviews, and some of you will tune out, but I'd suggest that if you're into theology and culture (which you probably are if you read this blog, right?) than you'll find these talks interesting. First up is Kevin Cawley.

Kevin is a graduate of Wheaton College, with a Master’s in biblical exegesis, and he's in the process of earning a Master of Theology from Regent College. Although he currently lives in Little Rock, participating in a residency program for church planters, he's made stops in Vancouver and Minneopolis. He has been part of three church plants and is making plans to plant a church in Kansas City, Missouri.

Also, going on what I learned in person and what I’ve gathered from his blog, Kevin has spent a large percentage of his life in coffee shops, which may explain why he makes so much sense. Our conversation took place in Westport’s Broadway CafĂ©, my favorite espresso joint. Due to the numerous coffee shops in Westport, Kevin found the place on his second try—which meant that already had coffee when he arrived. After he and I did that casual are you who I think you are? stare thing, Kevin headed to the counter to buy another drink. “I don’t want to be that guy,” he said. Thus, my first impression was that Kevin was a humble, earnest man—which he definitely is. You'll enjoy his thoughts.

Here are my questions, followed by Kevin’s answers. I wasn’t able to transcribe the moments when our conversation veered into coffee, sports, and indie rock, but here’s what I did capture.

What’s been the greatest challenge(s) of church planting?

Heart issues. Bringing every facet of my life under the gospel and keeping it there—pastoring with a humble, Christ-exalting passion for the city. My greatest fear is losing the gospel, not so much “failing.” Many lose the gospel and do quite well.

Maintaining faithfulness to the gospel means proclaiming it—avoiding syncretism—and living it—showing forgiveness inside the church and mercy outside. When the church has become sectarian and fundamentalist in an abusive way, they’ve lost the gospel.

I just pray that God will keep me humble and keep me repentant. If you can keep that kind of passion and fear of God at the heart of your ministry, you win. Once these things are gone, who cares? Church planters or union drywallers, Christians face the same question: What are we keeping at the center of our world?

How do you deal with the financial needs?

I pray and ask people for money. Seriously. The second church plant we were involved with, I worked a full time job, but it was murder on my marriage. Ideally, there would be a sliding scale with outside support and inside support, as the church becomes self-supporting within three to five years.

I’d try to talk to people about stewardship internally, within the new church, which is part of keeping the gospel central. Ultimately, I think money follows ministry, so that where God’s moving, money’s going to be there.

How do you deal with the “people” needs? (Finding people to work with and attend the church.)

I meet with everyone I can, see what their heart is, and ask what the city needs. I talk to everybody and ask them what God’s trying to do in the city. Like in the Simpsons, mobs can form fast, and disband just as quickly. Solid groups gather slowly and deliberately.

How did you (or would you) put together a core group?

I would put the word of God at center—start a Bible study—but I want to fight against the idea that church is a place we go to get something [like cultural consumers]. Another good way is to start a prayer group. Casting vision outward is crucial. Incorporate the question, “What does the city need and how can we take action to get there?” Another way: capture the hearts of men, as opposed to talking to Sally and hoping she’ll drag along her boyfriend.

Assembling a core group is about collecting a group of missionaries to reach the city. In my experience, “When to launch?” is a huge question. Hindsight is twenty-twenty. One place church planters screw up is not planning enough—but at the same time, you have to come to a place when you say, “This just feels right.” Intuition comes into play. You have to be close to God and you have to be committed to a team. If the launch is one date in your mind, you’re going to doom yourself. In one sense, you have to constantly regather your core group and plan to relaunch. To a degree, what happens, happens.

What was or is the role of your “mentor” or role model?

My professors embodied a “missional ethos.” As far as big names go, John Piper mentored me directly in Minneapolis and Tim Keller mentored me via his preaching and resources. I constantly try to surround myself with people who can correct me—as many friends as possible, some of whom are further along in the game. There are three guys from my sending church in Little Rock who hold me accountable and ask me questions: Money, leadership, people—how are you dealing with these things? How are you dealing with your soul?

Also, I constantly read. Dead people and live people you’ll never meet can mentor you. If mentors aren’t playing a consistent role, you’re doomed. As far as finding mentors, be prayerful, be deliberate, and be willing to be told No. The kind of men who you want to mentor you are the ones who will find time to mentor you. These are real life on life relationships, very organic, not so much doing a book study. Ultimately, pursue God and love your wife in such a way that you can eventually be a mentor.

What is the role of sponsoring/partnering churches?

One church isn’t going to change Kansas City. It will take a movement of like-minded churches. I want to partner with as many people as I can, both churches on the ground in the target area and churches elsewhere. What’s often lacking are sending churches backing you with money and people to help you win.

Beyond that, I have two big hopes. One, I hope for a day when denominational distinctives don’t carry as much weight. Two, I hope for substantive alliances and partnerships across denominational lines—not shallow ecumenism, but strong partnerships. The kingdom is bigger than me and I need more help than just myself.

Like what you read? Don't forget to bookmark this post or subscribe to the feed.


must_decrease said...

Awesome, Awesome, Awesome!!!
These are things I desperately needed to hear going into our plant. Encouraging and challenging at the same time.

Good stuff

Will Robison said...

Thank you for printing that. For as much as I hear about church planting, I've often wondered pretty much the same things that you asked in your interview. While the answers didn't make the task sound easy, they at least showed that with a lot of hard work and faith, the task was possible.

I will pray earnestly for you whenever you reach that church planting stage.

Ariel said...

Hey Matt, it's awesome that you can benefit from this material. One of my hopes in posting it was to make it available to other church planters.

Thanks for your willingness to pray, Will. When the time comes, I will be sure to let you know. You represent the other "demographic" I wanted this post to speak to--people who aren't planting churches but can nevertheless play an essential part in what goes down.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife