Gary's Emily Post Post

Gary Lamb is on the rant today.

Gary's a church planter in the northern part of the Atlanta redneckplex. His church has seen quite a bit of success - so much that he's admittedly surprised by it all. This makes him a frequent stop on the "I'm going to plant a church too" trail. In other words, church planters who are starting out often stop by Ridgestone to check it out.

The only problem is they do more talking than listening. I know Gary and he'd give his right arm for these planters, but it seems some of them take a look and say "only one arm?" Or worse yet, they just keep talking and forget the fact that they came to learn.

In a great post today, Gary gives tips on how to visit a church and learn. Great stuff.

It reminded me of our church planting days. Of course, we never drew Gary's numbers so they weren't exactly lining up to ask us questions. I was on the other end of the equation. Steve and Janie Sjogren would regularly open their home to area church planters, buy the pizza, and ask us if we wanted to hang out.

At this point, Steve's congregation was roughly the same as the population of Suriname. A group of twenty of us would show up. Our combined congregations numbered somewhere south of 500 on a good weekend. Those gatherings were fun, but never for the reason Steve thought they'd be.

Here was a ripe opportunity to learn from one of the best. A non-conservative, non-Cincinnatian, planting a church in hyper conservative Cincinnati, Steve went against all odds and planted anyway. No church in Cincinnati 'got it', but Cinciannatians did, and after a few years, the church grew like crazy. One would expect 20 church planters to sit at this guy's feet and ask a lot of questions.

They didn't. They talked...their plans, their budgets, their ideas, their core group. I knew that I didn't have much of a plan. No budget. Few ideas and a dinky core group. I didn't have much to offer, and it must have been obvious, because Steve took me under his wing. Every few weeks, we'd end up having coffee or driving somewhere or sitting in his basement watching yet another movie. The whole time, he taught. I think it was probably unintentional, but he was teaching...I was listening.

I remember specific gems, like...
  • Love the first families that come, but know that they're probably scaffolding. You can't build without them, but they're not what you're building. That's ok. Bless them when they leave.
  • Never live in the fear of not enough. You will kill your chances of getting anywhere.
  • When someone's mad at you, nod your head and smile. People get tired of talking to someone that they think might be crazy. (I have not only seen Steve do this, I have done it myself, and it works wonderfully...).
  • I actually remember a few more gems but some of them name names and Steve would kill me if I blogged them.
On more than one occasion, Steve showed up in the back of my church during a service - poking his head in between his own services to check on us. Generally, he'd call me that afternoon with feedback. One time he announced "Uh, Randy....Steve here. I was in your church this morning. It's kind of weird." Faithful are the wounds of a friend - he was right! He also had some great advice on how to unweird it.

I couldn't have paid for this sort of coaching, and I got it because I would ask him questions. Lots of questions. Nearly ten years later, I still like to listen when he talks, and I still learn.

I don't know if any planter types read this blog anymore, but if you do, go read Gary's post, and when you get near someone who knows more than you do, be quiet and get something out of the encounter..

Steve, not sure if you read this often or not, but if you do, I'm still grateful these years later. You're a good and faithful friend. You've introduced me to some very strange things, but I love you dearly nonetheless. I'm praying for you friend - for you and your new, grand adventure. Thanks for challenging the rest of us.


Zack said...

great post. I actually used to attend Steve's conferences on church planting, and servant evangelism back when I was in Phoenix. He was the first person i ever heard, "ready aim fire". As an ambitious 18 year old these words were all i needed. I decieded to take his servant evangelism to the next level after that I actually used to stand outside bars, and offer people free cigarettes, while telling them Jesus loves them in response to one of his conferences. Steve's cool.

Brian Francis Hume said...


Excellent post! It is such a good reminder to remember to sit and listen at the feet of those whom God allows us to come into contact with. So often we “garble our gabble” when in the presence of someone who has done significant things for the kingdom of God—when we should learn to listen. Wisdom in Proverbs is associated with listening: the wise listen and add to their learning.

Reminds me of a time at Christ For the Nations Institute when a group of us were able to invite Dean Sherman out for dinner. He was a guest speaker from YWAM who is definitely a man of tremendous wisdom. As we gathered around the table that evening, one of the individuals thought it was his opportunity to talk about HIS ministry and ALL that he had done. Needless to say, we never quite were able to listen to the wisdom from this man-of-God. Afterwards, Dean said something to the effect, “Wow, that guy likes to talk a lot!” That was definitely a wise understatement!

Thank you for sharing this great posting Randy!

Steve Bunkoff said...

Thanks Randy. I have always had the joy of being discipled (sorry for using the "d" word) by awesome men of God. As you said, it was in the "hang time" that I learned so much. I value being discipled and discipling others. Would love to see more of it at IHOP.

Robert Pooley said...

Loved Gary's post and I love Steve. He has been such an inspiration to me... and one thing about him... He says whats on his mind. But he has always been an encouragement to me... especially at times when I needed it desperately. You are so right... if you get a chance to hang out with guys like that... cool it and listen... its for you benefit.