Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

In Chicago for National CP Team and Acts 29

I am really looking forward to the next several days...reconnecting with other leaders like Mark Overmyer from New England (my roomie for the week) and with the rest of the National Church Planting Team. While here, not only are we looking at trends in church-planting, we will also be getting exposure to Acts 29, Mark Driscoll, and Ed Stetzer again.

On Monday night I reconnect with John and Christine Meaux, then on Wednesday Jim Hagen flies up from Cleveland so we can assess Mark Petras and Nate Childers...should be a tiring day, but a good one.

Just signed up at and I am james.e.culbertson. Wendy is wendy-jo.culbertson. I look forward to giving it a try tonight with my wife and kids. More as the week progresses.

Friday, January 25, 2008

All Kinds of Activity in the Allegheny District

The Allegheny District has become a whirlwind of Church-Planting activity, networking, consideration, partnerships and more. It is hard to believe that just a few short years ago we had just a few church-plants (and a few of them had been in that status for several years - like a dozen!). We have exploded into activity, and I want to invite you and your church to jump aboard the Planting Bus with Us! Here's a quick run-down of activity:

Post-Launch Plants:
  • CORE Community Church - Shelby, Ohio
  • Crew Community Church - Huntington, WV
  • Trading Post 317 - Buffalo, NY

Core- Group Gatherers:

  • iKon Church - Medina, OH
  • Dansville Community Church - Dansville, NY
  • Crossroads Community Church - Duncansville (Altoona), PA

Assessment and Ministry Action Planning Phase:

  • Nate Childers - looking at Boardman, OH
  • John Meaux - assessed and planning to move back to Cleveland from Chicago to plant with us
  • Alex Ielase - Redeemer on the Mount, Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh, PA - building his MAP and getting to know people
  • Dan George - Dunkirk, NY
  • Brian Evans - Chilicothe, OH
  • Larry James - African American - Euclid, OH
  • Alfredo Marquez - Hispanic - Cleveland West Side
  • Mark Petras - may connect to either a NEO (NorthEastOhio) Church or to Altoona

Investigation Phase:

  • Looking at a House Church Movement with a prospective planter in the Columbus Area
  • Dave Carroll - interest in Cleveland
  • David Thorne - interested in partnering with a Pittsburgh Plant (maybe Redeemer on the Mount)
  • Don Kelly - Beckley West Virginia
  • Leo Wisniewski
  • Matt Haberman - already planting Missio Dei Faith Community in Brighton Heights (North-side, Pittsburgh) - seeing how we may come along side


  • Allegheny District Church-Planting Team - working to unpackage our systems and move us into a ministry of several regions
  • Crossroads Community Church of Edinboro - Church-Planting Intern Program
  • NEO EFCA Churches - a partnership for church-planting between most of our Ohio E. Free Churches
  • Investigating a partnership for Church-Planting with Urban Impact in Pittsburgh
  • Investigating partnership with Mi-Co (Missional Cohort) in Pittsburgh
  • Connection Through Alex Ielase with the Pittsburgh Project
  • Looking at Vision 360, specifically NEO 360
  • Financial partnerships with several individuals and churches

As you can see, there is a ton going. It seems that God is moving in the AD, why not jump on board? e-mail me at We are looking for:

  • Prayer warriors
  • Core-group members
  • Church-Planting team members for individual plants (worship, children, finance, evangelism, etc)
  • Financial Partners
  • People to network people to plants
  • Regional Church Partnerships

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Planters and Partners

God's Work in the City

Yesterday I enjoyed 3 meetings in Pittsburgh. First I met with Alex Ielase who is starting Redeemer on the Mount on Mt. Washington. I absolutely love the way that Alex is approaching his ministry...getting to know people, meeting needs and developing a vision of a ministry that helps people learn to love Jesus and to love others in tangible ways. It is not the typical planting approach that has been popularized over the years, but it is an approach that is growing in its appeal as it is truly reaching lost people.

Later in the morning I met with Jeff Hartings of Urban Impact. Not only is Jeff a former Steelers All-pro Center, but more importantly, he is a man who loves Jesus and who loves the city. He has come to realize the gift that God has given him in allowing him to be a Steeler. That title opens doors of opportunity for ministry advancement. We talked at length about what Urban Impact is doing in the city. I would like to see our local churches take advantage of plugging into some of their summer ministry service projects (rather than go over seas, stay right here at home in our district and learn to love the city. One of the things that UI is looking at is planting in the city flowing out from their ministry. They are not sure that they should plant or look for someone to come along side them....could be us? Needless to say, I had a great time of ministry fellowship with Jeff and look forward to many more opportunities for ministry partnership.

In the afternoon I met with Matt Haberman of Missio Dei Faith Community in Brighton Heights. We met at The Vault, a coffee shop Matt works at. He shared with me their strategy and their struggles. One of the truly beautiful things are the yet "unchurched" people who are learning to love Matt as their Pastor as he has hosted block parties and soup night for their neighbors every Thursday night. I am looking forward to further developing a relationship with all three of these ministries and other tenticles of networking that flows out from them.

God is at work doing something in the city of Pittsburgh. It make not look like what we in Suburbia have become accostumed to, but it is a very beautiful thing that we need to grow to understand and embrace and support and minister in.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Preaching and Life Transformation

I travel about working with both existing churches and new church starts and with people who, while they have not lost interest in Jesus, have lost interest in church. The reasons for this are quite varied and the debate about not "watering down the message" continues. As I am perplexed in what I see and the continuing downward trends in American Churchianity, I am asking why? I invite you to weigh in on this discussion.

We can talk about relativity. We can talk about music and buildings and systems and authenticy and being the church beyond the walls and the hypocrisy that many outside the faith point to (and which many of us who are followers of Christ actually live). My more recent musings have related specifically to our role as preachers or teachers or speakers or communicators or whatever we may wish to be called.

Recently, I have been contemplating the focus of our preaching. While I am 100% committed to teaching of God's Word, I am wondering if we are missing the mark in our approach? Are we preaching and teaching for life transformation or simply so that people will learn more information which we hope they will eventually find a way to apply. What approach should we take in our proclamation of God's Word...exegitical - through the text, topical expositional? Most people don't even know what these words mean. To me the issue is a two-directional thing - connecting people with God's Word and connecting God's Word with people. I am certainly not one for pop-psychology in the pulpit, nor for reading a section of Scripture and then building a sermon that has nothing to do with the text. The real issue is connecting it to life. Even Doctrine, properly taught connect with life. In fact, without good doctrine, we run the risk of mis-aligning our lives. Good doctrine is the footer (cement in nature) on which we build all the rest. For me, even the very nature of God is practical. His attributes give credence to life and to faith.