Planting a Church in 2022 with Sam Collier

Modern Church Leader feat. Sam Collier
Planting a Church in 2022 feat. Sam Collier on Modern Church Leader

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Planting a Church in 2022

The church is beginning to reflect the diversity of the world around it. 

Though this may seem like a daunting reality, it provides an incredible opportunity for the church to continue growing and thriving. 

It's a chance for the church to take a more strategic approach to the changes and advance its mission—and church planting is a critical part of this approach. While it is not the only way to do this, it is vital to a church’s growth.

The new age of globalization, where our world is becoming more diverse and our culture is becoming more global, necessitates the church to focus on reaching the cultural boundaries that are differentially impacted by these changes.

The Apostle Paul’s theology on church planting in the New Testament is an eye-opener on this topic. In the book of Romans, he makes it clear that the Gospel is for the Gentiles too. This planted the seeds for missionary activity throughout the world. It also emphasized unity within diversity - a hallmark of Christianity that has shaped how churches operate today. 

For the church to thrive, it must be unified, and this unity is something that the church must strive for. This takes time, intentional effort, and a focus on Christ-centered relationships, but this is what will grow the church. 

In this episode, we are excited to hear from Pastor Sam Collier, who recently launched a church in Atlanta, GA, called Story Church. He will share a glimpse into how this church began and his vision for how the church will grow. He will also speak about the significance of multiculturalism in the church's growth.

“We think different, we come from different backgrounds, but we learn to celebrate what we do agree on.”
-Sam Collier 

Sam Collier is the founder of A Greater Story Ministries, which houses a nationally televised interview series and podcast called “A Greater Story with Sam Collier” and a partnership with Baker Publishing, which recently released his first book entitled, A Greater Story.

Church planting is a huge undertaking, so this is a great place to start if you're wondering where to begin!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • A little background on Sam's journey as a pastor
  • What it takes to plant a church in such a challenging time
  • The roles of the pastor in church planting
  • Why understanding culture helps us fulfill the Great Commission
  • Some principles for understanding multicultural churches
  • How to use Facebook ads to promote your church

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[00:00] We are all just a member in the cast of God and a part of His story that He's writing. And so the tagline for the series was when your story connects to God's story, it leads to a greater story.

[12:36] All of the issues I encountered in the beginning, in terms of lessons that needed to be learned, weren't pastoral issues. They were always organizational issues that led to pastoral issues.

[13:21] Just because you're a great friend, just because you love somebody, it doesn't mean that you're the best ministry partner or even the best people that work together.

[14:32] I started to understand what all of my predecessors had been doing and why their organization was so successful because they understood the value of looking at it as an organization, not just a group of Christians loving on each other. Because unfortunately, if you just do that, it'll be difficult to grow. 

[15:52] I heard His voice clearly saying, Sam, you've come from the predominant black world, your whole life. And then you went to a predominantly white world. And you learn how to be effective in both. What we need in the city of Atlanta, and in the South is a church that brings all races together. 

[17:34] We may not agree on everything. But we learn to celebrate what we agree on and make a decision and become unified. I felt like God called us to plant a multicultural church in the South.

[21:44] If I could give every church planter a secret to our specific growth, Facebook ads would change your life.

[27:57] The pandemic changed the way that we do church. It pulled everyone that was just in-person attendance. They were instantly pulled into becoming an online church overnight. And so the question became, how do you digitally disciple somebody?

[32:12] Technology, if we can figure out how to leverage it, will give us the tentacles in spaces where people would never hear the gospel.

podcast transcript

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Sam Collier (00:00):

We are all just a member in the cast of God and a part of his story that he's writing. And so the tagline for the series was "When your story connects to God's story, it leads to a greater story."

Narrator (00:20):

Welcome to the Modern Church Leader, where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the Kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Berry.

Frank Berry (00:34):

Hey guys, Frank here with another episode of Modern Church Leader. I am joined by a pretty cool guy. We've just got to know each other.

Sam Collier (00:42):

Yes.

Frank Berry (00:42):

But Mr. Sam Collier, we're excited to have you today.

Sam Collier (00:45):

Frank, can I just say I had heard of Tithe.ly before, but I hadn't really discovered it until most recently. And let me tell you a story. I don't know if this is relevant to the podcast at all.

Frank Berry (00:58):

Okay, good.

Sam Collier (00:58):

I was talking to a friend, this is how I first heard about Tithe.ly, a pastor and I said, "Man, what do I need to know? I'm a new pastor. I'm out here." And he was telling me all of this stuff, and then we were talking about one application that he was using and he said, "Man, I switched from that and saved up $70,000 in annual revenue." "What?" I said, "Well, what platform did you go?" He said, "I went to Tithe.ly." I was like, "What?" So, I'm-

Frank Berry (01:27):

Hey, now we're recording this. By the way, that was great. Keep going.

Sam Collier (01:33):

I mean, that's a story I didn't know that I would need until now, but here it is, so and it's been really helpful to us as well.

Frank Berry (01:40):

Yeah, yeah. That's amazing, man. Well, look, I know you're at a video shoot because you're planting a church, which is pretty new.

Sam Collier (01:47):

Yeah.

Frank Berry (01:48):

I don't often get to say to a guest or to the audience that a guest is at a video shoot, so that's just cool all around. But man, why don't you spend like 60 seconds, 90 seconds, whatever telling folks about yourself. Obviously you've worked at some bigger churches, you've been around some really cool stuff. Now you're off and kind of going to do your own thing, planting a brand new church.

Sam Collier (02:10):

Yeah.

Frank Berry (02:10):

Story Church, right?

Sam Collier (02:12):

Yeah. Story Church Atlanta, if they're trying to Google it because I'm like the only way we can pop up and... Because there's a few Story Churches out there and we didn't even know they existed until we started talking about ours. And so now if you type in Story Church Atlanta, it'll pop up, you'll see it or just Story Church and you'll find us. But yeah, that's the name.

Frank Berry (02:35):

I mean, tell us about yourself. Give us the brief background.

Sam Collier (02:36):

Yeah, man. Again, I'm so honored to be here and to meet you bro. And I just feel like we're going to be best friends if you'll allow me to be, I said it publicly. So now you can't really get out of it unless you want to.

Frank Berry (02:51):

Do you golf or play basketball? Because those are kind of on my list.

Sam Collier (02:55):

Basketball, 1000%.

Frank Berry (02:57):

All right. Great.

Sam Collier (02:59):

And in the golf category, Topgolf and I don't know if that fits.

Frank Berry (03:03):

That fits. I only started playing golf last year so it's really new and I'm enjoying it.

Sam Collier (03:10):

Well, man, look. Just really briefly about me, man. I am born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, got adopted in August, but raised in Atlanta from age six months all the way up to now and have been to a lot of places around the world and just really felt like Atlanta was where I was supposed to be and considered a lot of other places, but just really feel called to Atlanta in terms of to raise the family and all of that, the local call, and then I guess the global call to just help the world as much as I can.

Sam Collier (03:48):

My introduction to ministry was at a predominantly African American megachurch here in Atlanta, Georgia called New Birth Missionary Baptist Church up under the leadership of Bishop Eddie Long. We went through some things there and we took a loss after we went through some things. And I left there, went to a smaller church called Green Pastures, at one time worked at Ebenezer under Pastor Raphael Warnock, who's the first Black Senator out of Georgia now. And then ended up with Andy Stanley over at North Point Ministries. I was at North Point for about eight years and then stepped out of the North Point world, if you will, to plant a church called Hillsong Atlanta.

Frank Berry (04:46):

Okay.

Sam Collier (04:47):

And I was there for eight months.

Frank Berry (04:49):

Well, that was fast. Eight years and eight months, you just got to it.

Sam Collier (04:54):

There eight months. And as of two weeks ago, resigned in order start Story Church Atlanta...

Frank Berry (05:03):

Okay.

Sam Collier (05:04):

In a week. So that's a little bit about me.

Frank Berry (05:09):

That's fast. So tell us about the name, Story Church. What went into the name?

Sam Collier (05:16):

So, I met my biological family for the first time on The Steve Harvey Show.

Frank Berry (05:22):

Are you serious?

Sam Collier (05:24):

About... Yes.

Frank Berry (05:24):

No.

Sam Collier (05:27):

Yeah. About seven years ago.

Frank Berry (05:29):

Wow.

Sam Collier (05:30):

And I won't tell you the whole story, but I wrote a book about it with Baker and all of that. But during that season of me going through that, I was at North Point at that time. And there was a leader by the name of Jeff Henderson who was running the Gwinnett location.

Frank Berry (05:46):

I met-

Sam Collier (05:46):

You know him.

Frank Berry (05:46):

I don't know him well, but I have met him a few times.

Sam Collier (05:50):

Jeff changed my life. He's a game changer. And now he's with the John Maxwell Company. And then obviously he has the FOR company. But when I met Jeff, he was running the Gwinnett location of North Point. And I was doing a lot of hosting and some speaking in the North Point, predominantly at the Gwinnett Campus so we spent a lot of time together. And he told me, "Sam, you have to tell this crazy story of how you met your biological family. You were born into poverty, rescued, restored, and now you've defied all statistics."

Frank Berry (06:26):

Right.

Sam Collier (06:26):

Because me and my sister were born into extreme... I don't want to say extreme poverty, but poverty.

Frank Berry (06:31):

Right.

Sam Collier (06:31):

Extreme poverty would be like in a Third World country, but here we didn't have food, mom was prostituting for a while, dad addicted the crack and all of this stuff. And so for all intents of purposes, we were never supposed to make it. And so for me to become what I've become now, Jeff's like, "Listen, you got to tell this story."

Frank Berry (06:54):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (06:54):

"But you have to tell this story in this series that we're doing called Cast Member." And it was all the idea that we are all just a member in the cast of God and a part of his story that he's writing. And so the tagline for the series was "When your story connects to God's story, it leads to a greater story."

Frank Berry (07:18):

Wow. It's cool.

Sam Collier (07:19):

And so out of that place, I launched a ministry called A Greater Story. I started telling that story around the world with the same tagline, "When your story connects to God's story, it leads to a greater story." And so when it was time to plant a church, even before we got to Hillsong, the church was called Story.

Frank Berry (07:39):

Okay.

Sam Collier (07:39):

And it was the same thing, helping people defy the odds, but more importantly, helping people connect their story to God that it would lead to something greater. So that's where the name came from, and that's the foundation of the church.

Frank Berry (07:57):

One of the things that I feel like I've seen, and it's a little bit of a stretch maybe, but in church planters, churches that seem like they're kind of on a mission growing, doing something is like this entrepreneurial spirit that pastors have.

Sam Collier (08:15):

Yeah.

Frank Berry (08:15):

And even in a few minutes, right? I kind of feel that sense from you, wanting to do something, right? And kind of get after it, and that... I don't know. I feel like God puts that in church planters big time.

Sam Collier (08:29):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Frank Berry (08:31):

So, that's cool.

Sam Collier (08:32):

Well, I feel like so much of planting a church that I've learned, and again, I'm a rookie in the situation. But so much of it is, it's like 90% CEO.

Frank Berry (08:48):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (08:49):

And 10% preaching.

Frank Berry (08:51):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (08:54):

Which you don't really expect. You're like, "Man, I just want to help people. I want to study the Word and I..." But you slowly realized that pastors, and again, you can hire a number too, for sure who will run the business side. But so much of it is you. I mean, you're a CEO of an organization that you've got to grow and the same rules that apply to a business would apply to what it would take for you to build a healthy and successful church.

Frank Berry (09:23):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (09:23):

I mean, for us, so I'm a week out from replanting our church, Story Church.

Frank Berry (09:30):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (09:30):

And every day, it's "Man, how do we get the word out?" Right? So it's marketing.

Frank Berry (09:34):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (09:34):

It's "Who are we trying to reach?" and "Where's the attention now?" Right? Gary... I hate to quote GaryVee.

Frank Berry (09:34):

That's okay. It happens, it happens. It's all good.

Sam Collier (09:35):

I hate to quote GaryVee. Please, if you don't know who GaryVee is, don't Google him. But just know in the mainstream world, he's a big deal, but he does use some choice language.

Frank Berry (10:00):

Colorful language, yes.

Sam Collier (10:03):

But he often talks about when you're thinking about marketing, where's the attention? Where are people at? And if we're trying to fulfill the Great Commission, that's a question that we have to add.

Frank Berry (10:16):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sam Collier (10:16):

Where's the attention? And where are people? And how do we get them an option that if they're not saved, they can find somewhere? So we kind of got to go to them.

Frank Berry (10:27):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (10:28):

And so, anyway, it's so much a part of it is that entrepreneurial spirit and idea. And I mean, without it, I don't know what we will be doing.

Frank Berry (10:38):

Yeah. I do. I mean, just even your connection with like, "Man, planting a church or leading a church, you're a little bit like a CEO," and thinking about it that way is I think radically different than maybe the traditional "I'm a pastor and I'm leading my flock of people." And not that either is bad or good or whatever, but I just think there's something to thinking about like, "I'm running an organization. It is not at all a business..."

Sam Collier (11:12):

Right.

Frank Berry (11:12):

And that's not what you're saying when you say it, but thinking like, "Man, I'm not just preaching. That's a big part of it, but I'm growing this thing and there's a lot of parts and pieces and I have to figure out how to build something amazing." And now God's involved and the Spirit's leading and all the things right on the spiritual side, you can't do it on your own, but I don't know, stepping into that role of "Oh, I'm not just a pastor teaching, but I'm a CEO of this thing."

Sam Collier (11:44):

Yes.

Frank Berry (11:44):

I feel like it just makes you think differently, even just by title.

Sam Collier (11:49):

Well, you know what's interesting? And I'll just be vulnerable here because we're best friends as of yesterday. Well, I'll speak about it from two angles. For me personally, being new to the church planting world, I came from massive organizations that had systems, strategies, all of the above and I'll just be honest. I called myself trying to be a little different, right? I'm like, "Oh man, I'm going to... Let's be a family. Let's really..." I approached it like what you said while trying to balance the organizational side. And can I tell you all of the issues that I encountered in the beginning, which I'm sure no church planter has ever encountered issues in the beginning. But all of the issues I encountered in the beginning in terms of lessons that needed to be learned weren't pastoral issues.

Frank Berry (12:52):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sam Collier (12:54):

They were always organizational issues that led to pastoral issues.

Frank Berry (13:00):

Interesting. Right.

Sam Collier (13:02):

And so one of it is, I planted a church with all my friends.

Frank Berry (13:07):

Yeah. Trust me. I've lived that a little bit in a different way and I'm not going to do it now.

Sam Collier (13:15):

Right?

Frank Berry (13:16):

But, hey, I've got somewhere. It's a thing.

Sam Collier (13:19):

And what you slowly start to realize is just because you're great friends, just because you love somebody, it doesn't mean that you're the best ministry partner.

Frank Berry (13:30):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (13:31):

Or even the best people that work together. And we've just hired a culture coach to help us replant Story and get culture extremely right. Well, she used to work with Growing Leaders and she was with the John Maxwell Company for a season, but probably the first week of our conversation of her coaching me one-on-one, it was all about staffing. She was like, "Sam, that's a staffing issue." And she wasn't talking about a lack of staff. She was talking about a culture fit and a wiring fit. And we hate to use the engram language, right?

Frank Berry (14:07):

Oh, yeah.

Sam Collier (14:07):

As an excuse, we don't want to do that. But there is something to be said about how God wired us uniquely and how that plays out in how you build a staff and who you need to put around you as a leader.

Frank Berry (14:20):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (14:20):

But again, those are some of the issues, right? And that's not a pastoral problem, that's a CEO leadership problem. And so slowly but surely, I started to understand what all of my predecessors had been doing and why their organizations were so successful because they understood the value of looking at it as an organization, not just a group of Christians loving on each other.

Frank Berry (14:51):

Right.

Sam Collier (14:52):

Because unfortunately, if you just do that, one, it'll be difficult to grow and the Great Commission means we have to grow, right? But then also, it'll be difficult to make something healthy.

Frank Berry (15:03):

Why did you decide to plant a church?

Sam Collier (15:06):

Well, I didn't want to. I'll tell you right now. I ran from it as long as I could. And I just wanted to do the Joyce Meyer thing and you know, Frank you're right. I've heard of you, and I don't know if you've heard of me before now, but I was traveling and speaking and had a podcast and television, and I'll get back into some of that, but I was fine. I had just put out a book, I got a second book coming. I was running away and God said, "I want you to do something else." And I hate it. I was just like, "God, I'm not trying to do that."

Frank Berry (15:48):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (15:48):

"I've got other things..." But I heard his voice clearly saying, "Sam, you've come from the predominant Black world your whole life. And then you went to a predominant White world and you learned how to be effective in both. What we need in the city of Atlanta and in the South is a church that brings all races together. And I kept looking for that." And the Lord said, "Well, I think you're going to have to plant it." And so to answer your question, why did I plant it? Well, because what God told me to, I did not want to, but the core reason I believe is because me and my wife, we've just learned by trial and error, by no intentionality on us, just God putting us in circles where we're able to understand different cultures and what makes them tick. It's this conversation to me is the fruit of that. It's like the world that I'm in, somehow helped me collide with you.

Frank Berry (16:56):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (16:57):

That if I had just stayed in the world that I came from, I would've never met you.

Frank Berry (17:00):

Right. Yeah, yeah. I mean, through a mutual buddy, right? Justin. I'm not sure where you crossed paths with Justin, but you know what I meant.

Sam Collier (17:09):

North Point.

Frank Berry (17:10):

Okay, there you go.

Sam Collier (17:11):

North Point, right? So it's like sometimes you got to go across the tracks to meet somebody new. And I just think there's... Again, I haven't known you long, but even in our short interaction, it's been fruitful for me. It's been encouraging for me. But that to me is the power of what happens when we come together.

Frank Berry (17:27):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (17:27):

We think different, we come from different backgrounds, but when we can learn how to love each other and agree on what we agree on, we may not agree on everything, but we learn to celebrate what we do agree on. And we make a decision to become unified, in being unified at all times, there's beauty on the other side, and that's this conversation. I could go down this road for three years, but I feel like God called us to plant a multicultural church in the South.

Frank Berry (17:55):

All right. We are back. No more technical difficulties. Satan is trying to make this not happen.

Sam Collier (18:01):

But Satan, isn't going to win. Amen?

Frank Berry (18:03):

He's not winning.

Sam Collier (18:06):

Yeah.

Frank Berry (18:06):

So, okay. We're just going to jump in. You're launching this Sunday, it's Easter Sunday. I don't know if it's a launch or a relaunch or how you're describing it, but you've been building this thing up. It's big launch. What have you guys done to launch the church?

Sam Collier (18:22):

Transitioning out of North Point into a lead pastor role really felt like God had called us to plant a multicultural movement in the South. And it was always going to be Story Church. And it was originally going to be, we were talking about it being a North Point partner church, but realized the vision for what we were doing was a little different from what North Point delivers on a Sunday.

Frank Berry (18:47):

Okay.

Sam Collier (18:48):

And went over to become a Hillsong family church, but still be Story Church. And then in that conversation, global lead pastors invited us in, Pastor Brian and Bobby at the time, to be just Hillsong Atlanta. They were like, "Just make Story Church Hillsong Atlanta." And so we were like, "Cool." So now we're kind of getting back to our roots. We're just going back to what it always was going to be.

Frank Berry (19:14):

What you were thinking about in the beginning? Yeah.

Sam Collier (19:16):

Yeah, yeah. And so it is technically a launch and a relaunch and a return to the foundation, all of that. But man, we've taken two Sundays off and the first week was just to kind of take a breath. The second week, my wife made me go on vacation because she's like, "It's been a tough year." And now this week is Facebook ads, out of the Wazuh, ordering signs. We came up with a name for kids this week. You know what I'm saying?

Frank Berry (19:59):

Yeah, yeah.

Sam Collier (20:00):

Story kids preparing the music thing that we're going to be doing and getting all of that. Just recorded a theme song for the church because we're in the theme songs and shot a music video and that's where I was at the beginning of this interview.

Frank Berry (20:15):

Part one. That was part one. Yeah.

Sam Collier (20:19):

Honestly, man, we talked about being a CEO in the beginning or the CEO side of ministry. It's launching a product and getting to the market. So it's like extreme marketing, marketing, marketing, marketing, because the amount of people that say, "Man, I didn't even..." Even when we were Hillsong, it's like, "We didn't even know Hillsong had a church in Atlanta," and it was blasted everywhere.

Frank Berry (20:42):

Right.

Sam Collier (20:43):

So it's just like, "What can we do to get Story Church in the hands and in the minds and in the eyes of all people as much as we can?" So here we are, bro.

Frank Berry (20:54):

And did you do anything like really local community? Are you renting a facility and then the surrounding neighborhoods? Did you, I don't know, pass out flyers, go door knocking?

Sam Collier (21:08):

Yeah.

Frank Berry (21:09):

Drive around with a megaphone? How are you getting it into the neighborhood?

Sam Collier (21:14):

Using GaryVee language, bro, where's the attention? The attention for us is Instagram.

Frank Berry (21:19):

Okay.

Sam Collier (21:19):

It's Instagram, it's Facebook. And then I'll tell you about something we did locally. And so I'm targeting Instagram and Facebook ads to people in Atlanta.

Frank Berry (21:34):

Yeah, okay.

Sam Collier (21:35):

And we've got a video that talks about the church. We've got some flyers that do... And in it, we're just like, "Here's who we are. This is what we've done." Bro, to be honest and if I could give every church planter a secret to our specific growth, Facebook ads would change your life.

Frank Berry (21:53):

Wow.

Sam Collier (21:54):

Facebook ads are the new billboards.

Frank Berry (21:59):

Yeah. And Instagram and...

Sam Collier (22:02):

Yes.

Frank Berry (22:02):

Whoever else, I guess you can... Did you have somebody on your team volunteer or staff that knew this? Or did you use somebody outside, pay somebody that you could consultant or something like that? How did you... Or did you do it? Are you up in there learning how to run Facebook ads and getting the sermon ready for Sunday?

Sam Collier (22:21):

So I really liked doing the Facebook ads because we had somebody that was doing it. And then I was always back there going, "Wait, wait, you just got to put the right city."

Frank Berry (22:31):

You are in it.

Sam Collier (22:32):

Right. But long term, it definitely won't be me.

Frank Berry (22:35):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (22:35):

But man, we kind of stumbled upon it because a friend of mine who's on our advisory council, his name's Adam Mesa. He pastors a church out of Rancho Cucamonga. Big, big, big Latino church and Hispanic and African American, but predominantly Hispanic. And he's into tech. He's one of those guys that's into Jesus and into tech.

Frank Berry (22:57):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (22:58):

And he's like, "Bro, you got to run ads." And I was like, "What?" He was like, "You got to run ads. I'm telling you." And I started doing it and people... How are we... The question today is, "How do you get a message out to people?"

Frank Berry (23:12):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sam Collier (23:13):

Again, where's the attention? It used to be television. It used to be just mailers. It used to be you're running up on cars. It used to be here, but everybody's online. I mean, this device?

Frank Berry (23:23):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (23:25):

Everybody's online.

Frank Berry (23:26):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (23:27):

And so we're like, "How do we get our church there?" He was like, "You got to do Facebook." So we did it bro. And it's a 30% return on average in terms of people that signed up to the call to action. And then we've got some local things. I went and spoke at school this morning, a private Christian school. And they were like, "Look, so what do you want?" I said, "Listen, all I want is for you to pass out flyers for Easter to every parent that's in the audience."

Frank Berry (23:56):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (23:57):

And I just did it for practically free. I'm like, "I don't even... Don't pay like just whatever. Give me a little gas money, and let me just talk about Jesus, and tell people about the church." Well, at some point we'll start doing some outreach with the Boys and Girls Club here in the community and really do what we can to partner with different radio stations and other people to make a difference and make and to truly make an impact.

Frank Berry (24:21):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (24:21):

But man, our launch strategy is dumping a bunch of as much money as we can that we have, right?

Frank Berry (24:27):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (24:28):

And we don't have much because we're just starting.

Frank Berry (24:30):

Right in here, yeah.

Sam Collier (24:31):

Into Instagram and Facebook ads as well as doing what we can to partner with different folks in the community to help.

Frank Berry (24:38):

Well, we'll to have a part four and we'll talk about just purely or digital, kind of Facebook, Instagram ad strategy and look it at. I think churches love to... It's been a thing for a while, but I don't think there's a lot of churches in the world, in the U.S. And I don't think most of them are really thinking about that stuff, so it'll be a future episode.

Sam Collier (25:04):

I'm screaming from the rooftops to all my pastor friends behind the scenes.

Frank Berry (25:09):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (25:09):

You grow your church, Facebook ads. Do it. I'm like, "You will be so..." And can I just say one story. A friend of mine who planted a church that didn't have a name because a lot of people, when I talked they're like, "Well, you were Hillsong at the time, it grabbed some eye eyeballs, whatever." I'm like, "No, we had to get it out of the mud because there are people that didn't even know who that was." But I talked to a friend of mine because I kept seeing his heads everywhere. I'm like, "Bro, who are you?" They're like office out of a small... Now they're partnering with another church at night and they're booming. They're like blowing up on the low.

Sam Collier (25:51):

I said, "Bro, what do you... Why Facebook?" He said, "Bro, Facebook ads are killing it for us. We get new people every day who said they ran into an ad, they got stuck in our funnel, our digital funnel that takes them to our website, tells them about who we are. And they walked through the front door." I was like, "What?" And so Facebook ads is the way to go. It's where the attention is. And Facebook ads, they don't just go to Facebook. They go to Instagram because Meta owns Facebook and Instagram so I can go down. Nona Jones is a good friend of mine at Facebook. So I can go down that role for a long time.

Frank Berry (26:30):

That's the next show. We're going to get Nona, you, and I'll just ask questions and we'll just go for it. Facebook ads all day. Okay. Last question. Somewhat related, but what are you thinking about as it relates to church tech, right? We hit Facebook ads, so that's a thing, but there's... You're planting a church, you're on the younger side I'm not sure how old you are, but you're on the [crosstalk 00:27:00].

Sam Collier (26:59):

33.

Frank Berry (27:00):

Okay. So got lots of time left, but you're kind of a digital native, right? You grew up with it for the most part. You're thinking about it for your church. There's stuff like church in the metaverse, cryptocurrency, hybrid church, or church online, there's all these topics that are swirling. And I don't know that every church is thinking about them, but they're definitely a segment of the church that's thinking about that stuff. And everyone's got thoughts and opinions, but is there anything that you are really deeply pondering as it relates to church technology?

Sam Collier (27:34):

Whew. That's a big question. And I just had a million things pop in my head when you say it.

Frank Berry (27:39):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (27:39):

So I'm trying to pick one, but I'll start here. The pandemic changed the way that we do church. It pulled everyone that was just in person attendance. They were instantly pulled into becoming an online church overnight.

Frank Berry (27:55):

Right.

Sam Collier (27:57):

And so the question became, how do you digitally disciple somebody? What does it mean to be in the room? You know what, when you talk about community, how do you redefine that digitally now? I mean, me and you are sitting, we're on a specific app, we're filming this, but it feels... But again, we're talking to one another.

Frank Berry (28:23):

Yeah, yeah.

Sam Collier (28:24):

And is this community, right? I mean, could this qualify? And so all of these questions are the questions that we're asking. And I'll tell you this, I spent some time in New York Times picked it up because it had the Facebook name and da, da, da, da. But I spent some time working through how to help the church with Facebook at one time. When we started in the early days, and they were thinking through some things and we were asking questions like, "If the front door to somebody that is coming to church is Facebook or your digital landscape, what do you want them to experience? And how do you create an experience around people that don't live in Georgia, but they're attending your church from Indiana or Charlotte?" And now we know, right? 30% potentially are they at home still, right?

Frank Berry (29:24):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (29:24):

And so here's what we know. And this is a Tithe.ly stat that I'm sure you'll enjoy. For many churches that have been successful, they've lost 30% of attendance, but giving has gone up.

Frank Berry (29:35):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (29:36):

And so it's like, "Wait, are people..."

Frank Berry (29:40):

It's like you can't wrap your brain around that, right?

Sam Collier (29:44):

Right.

Frank Berry (29:44):

Every church I talked to, there's exceptions, but most churches I talked to are like, "Yeah, we're 60, 70% back in the building." Right? Two years.

Sam Collier (29:57):

Yep.

Frank Berry (29:58):

Kind of after the start of COVID and all the craziness. And that seems to be pretty consistent. It's not like, "Oh, it was 40. And then it's 45 and 50 and 55, 60 and it keeps growing, growing, growing." It's kind of like I just hear, "We're about 60, 70%." And I'm like, "That's what it is."

Sam Collier (30:16):

Exactly.

Frank Berry (30:18):

And yeah, they got people online. And some churches, I think a lot of churches went online, got back in the building and ditched online, or went back to a really, really, really basic online production because it's hard, right?

Sam Collier (30:32):

Yeah.

Frank Berry (30:32):

It's hard to do church in person and also have this online digital presence when you're a small team.

Sam Collier (30:38):

100%. So to your point, it's like we were asking that question, how do you engage and create an experience for people that are just watching from home?

Frank Berry (30:55):

Right.

Sam Collier (30:55):

More than ever, you're going, "What app am I using? What's the functionality of that app? What cameras am I using? Does this look good? What would make somebody sit and watch and so on and so forth?" So from a tech perspective, man, I've been dreaming about digital community. I won't give away my idea now because I'm working on something...

Frank Berry (31:16):

All right.

Sam Collier (31:17):

With a friend of mine. But I'll tell you this Bobby Gruenewald, founder of YouVersion of the Life.Church is a good friend. And I love the statement that he kind of makes all the time, like the church should be on the front lines of being an innovator.

Frank Berry (31:34):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (31:35):

As it pertains to tech, all of the above, right? We can't let Silicon Valley have all the fun. They're having a lot of fun.

Frank Berry (31:43):

Yes.

Sam Collier (31:44):

We can't let Silicon Valley have all the fun. We were created by a Creator to create... Oh, don't get me preaching.

Frank Berry (31:51):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (31:54):

So the question is, how can we reimagine certain spaces from the digital perspective? We have never... I'm about to preach, but I'm not going to preach too long.

Frank Berry (32:04):

Do it, do it. It's all right.

Sam Collier (32:05):

We've never been more wired in advanced to fulfill the Great Commission than now.

Frank Berry (32:11):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (32:12):

Technology, if we can figure out how to leverage it, it will give us the tentacles in spaces that where people would never hear the gospel. I'll tell you one story and I'm done. A friend of mine, she works with Samaritan's Purse and work from Romania. On my podcast that I used to do and I'm bringing it back at some point. From Romania, she talked about how she... And she grew up in communist Romania when communism was at an all time high. And she had never heard about the Bible.

Sam Collier (32:44):

And one day in her hut where she was living, she pulled up the blanket and saw a Bible that was being hidden underneath her house. Her parents were hiding the Bible because they couldn't read it publicly. They would've been punished. She grabbed the Bible and they began to go into it. And eventually she meets Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child as a child and da, da, da, da, da. But one of the things I often think about with her is with the internet now gives us the ability to do is to reach into spaces where people are. And we know this, that around the world, there are places where people can't go to church.

Frank Berry (33:29):

Right.

Sam Collier (33:29):

It's illegal. But the internet gives us the ability to reach them to somehow creep into their space. Whether it be by the phone, by the internet, by whatever, if we could figure out how to leverage it, to make a difference. I mean, again, Great Commission. I can talk about this all day.

Frank Berry (33:49):

Yes.

Sam Collier (33:50):

That's on next episode.

Frank Berry (33:51):

I mean, it's really important and there's lots of thoughts and it's new, right? It's the early, early, early days still. And when you see something like Life.Church who brought up having church in the metaverse...

Sam Collier (34:07):

Yeah.

Frank Berry (34:08):

You get all kinds of thoughts and opinions about that, right? Like, "Is it really church?" and "These people are like avatars walking around the digital world, not really interacting as humans," and all the things, right?

Sam Collier (34:20):

Right.

Frank Berry (34:21):

But I like your perspective on it's a way to reach people, right? And to reach into these spaces that it's harder or they can't, or there's no Bible, or there is no physical way to interact. I mean, ultimately you want to interact with people in person and build in-person relationships, but that doesn't mean that you don't do the digital, right? It just means the digital has its place.

Sam Collier (34:45):

Yeah.

Frank Berry (34:45):

And you hope that that brings people together and brings people closer to God and provides the opportunity somewhere to meet in person, right? And then churches, I think, struggle with... I'll make it up, right? I had a hundred people in church on the weekend and now only 80 of them are there and 20 of them aren't. I want them in the building.

Sam Collier (35:07):

Right, right.

Frank Berry (35:07):

We're not going to do online because then they have to come in the... It's like a different kind of conversation, right? It's not about reaching people as much as it's about like, "Oh, I want it back like it was."

Sam Collier (35:17):

Yeah.

Frank Berry (35:17):

So I think that's a tough thing that church leaders are kind of wrestling with and will for years.

Sam Collier (35:23):

Yeah. Well, I mean, we're having that conversation now. It's like Craig Groeschel calls it a hundred percent physical, a hundred percent digital. And for us it's like, we know that digital is not an option. We have to do it. We're playing around cross-posting and some other things on Facebook, but there is that we have a big value for... How do I put it? We believe certain things happen in certain atmospheres, right?

Frank Berry (35:52):

Right.

Sam Collier (35:53):

So we know that there's a difference between me and you on here, even though it's amazing than me and you in person.

Frank Berry (36:01):

Right.

Sam Collier (36:03):

But again, there's some people it's not... So again, I don't think it's an either or, but it is a both and.

Frank Berry (36:10):

Right.

Sam Collier (36:11):

There's value to in person and there's extreme value to internet and digital. And I think we got to get out this, "Let me demonize one to get the other."

Frank Berry (36:22):

Right. Yeah.

Sam Collier (36:23):

And I said, "No, we need both. God still cares about that in-person worship experience." I was asking a friend of mine, a pastor friend, he was asking his other pastor friend, "When is the last time you watched a service in your living room and raised your hands?"

Frank Berry (36:37):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (36:41):

You know what I mean?

Frank Berry (36:41):

Yep. No, you were sitting on the couch in your PJs watching that service.

Sam Collier (36:44):

Right. You're not in the kitchen going, "Thank you, Jesus."

Frank Berry (36:47):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (36:47):

Like with your hands lifted screaming, that's not happening.

Frank Berry (36:51):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (36:52):

But there is something powerful when you do that.

Frank Berry (36:55):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (36:56):

And so you need both, right? But at the same time for people that can't come in the building that are sick or that are in different place, they need an outlet too.

Frank Berry (37:06):

Right, right.

Sam Collier (37:08):

So to me, this whole is this or that, it's like, "No, let's figure out a strategy that champions both. "

Frank Berry (37:15):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (37:16):

And I think that's the tension to your point, how do we not build a strategy that threatens the other?

Frank Berry (37:22):

Yeah. And it might have been Carey Nieuwhof. It's not a hybrid church, it's not church online, or church in person. It's church, just it is, right? And it happens in the digital and it happens in person, and it's the whole thing. Like church is church and it happens in all the different mediums and we have to embrace it and figure out how to do it well, and all the things. It's like we don't want... I don't think any pastor on the planet or any Christian on the planet wants to just purely be in a digital environment all the time. Eventually you want to interact with real humans and so...

Sam Collier (37:57):

Yes.

Frank Berry (37:58):

Nobody's saying church needs to be just online in the metaverse, right?

Sam Collier (38:02):

Right.

Frank Berry (38:02):

I think it's everyone saying, like church is just... There's a bunch of new stuff. It's different. We got to figure out how to do it all well, to get the name of Jesus out there and build the church like God wants us to.

Sam Collier (38:16):

It's all necessary to your point.

Frank Berry (38:18):

Yeah.

Sam Collier (38:19):

It's all necessary.

Frank Berry (38:19):

Yeah, yeah. It's all right.

Sam Collier (38:20):

So I'm thinking about metaverse right now, I'll be honest. I am thinking through that.

Frank Berry (38:25):

Yeah. It's interesting. I mean, I get to talk to pastors all the time. It's super fun, but I don't often get a call like this. This was a few months back, a good buddy of mine, pastors a church in Florida, he calls up and he goes, "What do you think about church in the metaverse?" And it was just one of those like I just don't... That's not the call I get just randomly from a pastor. And I was like, "Man, that's so great." And the Life.Church, I think just the Sunday before had their first service and so it was out there and whatnot. But it was just cool. I'm like, "This is fun to try to figure this stuff out, to think about it, think about what God's doing through all of it." So we could go on for hours.

Sam Collier (39:12):

Wow.

Frank Berry (39:14):

I got three... This has been fantastic. Part three, but I got three quick questions for you. Okay, like rapid fire kind of stuff.

Sam Collier (39:20):

I'm excited.

Frank Berry (39:22):

First one, you've talked about a lot of the people you've been influenced by, so I'm actually not going to go there, but what's a book that you've read that you think everybody else should read?

Sam Collier (39:30):

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. John Maxwell.

Frank Berry (39:34):

Classic. Love that one. I probably should read it again. I read it like ages ago, but that one... I mean, Maxwell's got some great stuff.

Sam Collier (39:42):

He doesn't lose. He doesn't lose.

Frank Berry (39:45):

Okay. What's a podcast you're listening to right now?

Sam Collier (39:48):

Ooh. The latest one was Judah Smith's Churchome.

Frank Berry (39:55):

Okay.

Sam Collier (39:55):

I just listened to that last night, but in terms of like podcast, podcast, I consume a lot of Carey Nieuwhof's as well as Brad Lomenick's. And I actually listen to the Orange Leaders podcast from time to time.

Frank Berry (40:14):

Yeah. You're so spiritual. I don't know.

Sam Collier (40:19):

Oh, well, I didn't want to... I've been talking about GaryVee the whole time, so I didn't-

Frank Berry (40:22):

That's right. Okay. You already dropped that one.

Sam Collier (40:24):

I don't want to mess up my witness.

Frank Berry (40:27):

Got it. Got it. Understood. Understood. Okay. Last one. Where can folks go to watch the launch? Church website? Where are you launching? How can folks check it out?

Sam Collier (40:39):

Yeah, yeah. First of all, that's a great question because I need to go into a meeting right now and say, "Hey, we need to have a link on the site." If they go to storychurchatlanta.com.

Frank Berry (40:51):

Okay.

Sam Collier (40:54):

storychurchatlanta.com and click watch the service or messages or online, it'll pop up and it'll be awesome.

Frank Berry (41:00):

You'll have it ready. You still got a couple days to make sure it's right there on the home page so it's not...

Sam Collier (41:05):

I'm going to do it right... As soon as we get off, I'm going, "Frank said..."

Frank Berry (41:08):

Yeah. Man, well, this has been fantastic. Thank you for persevering through all of our tech challenges.

Sam Collier (41:16):

Yeah.

Frank Berry (41:16):

And you know, we won. We got this thing done.

Frank Berry (41:18):

Thank you guys for watching, for listening. Be sure to share it with a friend. It's been a great episode, Pastor Sam. It's been awesome. Thanks, man.

Narrator (41:26):

If you enjoyed this episode of the Modern Church Leader, consider sharing it with the pastor or minister you think would benefit the most from listening to this conversation. You can send them to modernchurchleader.com or share this episode directly from your podcast app. Be sure to subscribe for free on YouTube, Apple Podcast, or Spotify so you never miss an episode, and we'll see you again next week with another conversation here on the Modern Church Leader.

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Planting a Church in 2022 with Sam Collier

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Planting a Church in 2022 with Sam Collier

Church planting is a huge undertaking, so this is a great place to start if you're wondering where to begin!

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Planting a Church in 2022

The church is beginning to reflect the diversity of the world around it. 

Though this may seem like a daunting reality, it provides an incredible opportunity for the church to continue growing and thriving. 

It's a chance for the church to take a more strategic approach to the changes and advance its mission—and church planting is a critical part of this approach. While it is not the only way to do this, it is vital to a church’s growth.

The new age of globalization, where our world is becoming more diverse and our culture is becoming more global, necessitates the church to focus on reaching the cultural boundaries that are differentially impacted by these changes.

The Apostle Paul’s theology on church planting in the New Testament is an eye-opener on this topic. In the book of Romans, he makes it clear that the Gospel is for the Gentiles too. This planted the seeds for missionary activity throughout the world. It also emphasized unity within diversity - a hallmark of Christianity that has shaped how churches operate today. 

For the church to thrive, it must be unified, and this unity is something that the church must strive for. This takes time, intentional effort, and a focus on Christ-centered relationships, but this is what will grow the church. 

In this episode, we are excited to hear from Pastor Sam Collier, who recently launched a church in Atlanta, GA, called Story Church. He will share a glimpse into how this church began and his vision for how the church will grow. He will also speak about the significance of multiculturalism in the church's growth.

“We think different, we come from different backgrounds, but we learn to celebrate what we do agree on.”
-Sam Collier 

Sam Collier is the founder of A Greater Story Ministries, which houses a nationally televised interview series and podcast called “A Greater Story with Sam Collier” and a partnership with Baker Publishing, which recently released his first book entitled, A Greater Story.

Church planting is a huge undertaking, so this is a great place to start if you're wondering where to begin!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • A little background on Sam's journey as a pastor
  • What it takes to plant a church in such a challenging time
  • The roles of the pastor in church planting
  • Why understanding culture helps us fulfill the Great Commission
  • Some principles for understanding multicultural churches
  • How to use Facebook ads to promote your church

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[00:00] We are all just a member in the cast of God and a part of His story that He's writing. And so the tagline for the series was when your story connects to God's story, it leads to a greater story.

[12:36] All of the issues I encountered in the beginning, in terms of lessons that needed to be learned, weren't pastoral issues. They were always organizational issues that led to pastoral issues.

[13:21] Just because you're a great friend, just because you love somebody, it doesn't mean that you're the best ministry partner or even the best people that work together.

[14:32] I started to understand what all of my predecessors had been doing and why their organization was so successful because they understood the value of looking at it as an organization, not just a group of Christians loving on each other. Because unfortunately, if you just do that, it'll be difficult to grow. 

[15:52] I heard His voice clearly saying, Sam, you've come from the predominant black world, your whole life. And then you went to a predominantly white world. And you learn how to be effective in both. What we need in the city of Atlanta, and in the South is a church that brings all races together. 

[17:34] We may not agree on everything. But we learn to celebrate what we agree on and make a decision and become unified. I felt like God called us to plant a multicultural church in the South.

[21:44] If I could give every church planter a secret to our specific growth, Facebook ads would change your life.

[27:57] The pandemic changed the way that we do church. It pulled everyone that was just in-person attendance. They were instantly pulled into becoming an online church overnight. And so the question became, how do you digitally disciple somebody?

[32:12] Technology, if we can figure out how to leverage it, will give us the tentacles in spaces where people would never hear the gospel.

video transcript

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