The Sermon Writing Toolkit

5 Things I Learned NOT to Do When Launching a New Business


Today marks the two year anniversary of Ministry Pass, a business I founded for church leaders. Two years doesn’t seem like a long time at all. At the same time, I feel like we have learned so much and come so far. It feels like we have been at this for five years.

I wanted to share a little more of the story of how we started and the lessons I learned along the way. We filmed a video sharing some of the backstory for Ministry Pass and below that I included the 5 things I learned NOT to do when launching a new business.



1. Don’t forget about the small things.

The day we launched Ministry Pass was bursting with excitement. We were seeing the fruition of a dream in such a short amount of time. On the day we launched, we streamed a broadcast for church leaders as a springboard event for our new company.

The event itself was a great success. We had over 3,000 church leaders tune in and were trending on Twitter in the U.S. and Canada. We even beat #Ebola.

At the end of the event, we presented an offer for viewers to sign up for a membership. As people began to purchase, something crazy began happening.

Our developer had been doing some testing on our website the morning of the launch—we were putting the finishing touches on it right up to the last few days. In the process of testing, he accidentally deleted the ability for our system to auto generate passwords for new users.


As sales started rolling in, phone calls of angry customers did as well.

One box left unchecked in our dashboard caused customers to create accounts with no passwords. Essentially, no one could login.

Our team should have been celebrating and continuing the push on social media. Instead, we spent the next several hours handling support calls from angry customers.

It was not the launch I had envisioned.

2. Don’t UNDERestimate what you can get done in a short amount of time.

On May 6th, 2014, I stood on a porch halfway around the world in Madagascar. Thanks to FaceTime, I listened to my sons heartbeat for the first time. Everything changed in that moment. Up to that point, I said “Yes” to everything. “Yes” to every freelance job. “Yes” to every lunch appointment. “Yes” to every opportunity.

Yes. Yes. Yes.


As I heard the rhythm of my child’s pounding heart, the important things in my life stepped to the forefront. Nothing gives you an acute awareness like becoming a parent.

One of the things pushing itself forward in my heart was launching a resource site for churches. As we traveled the bumpy roads of Madagascar, I felt God pressing me not to wait any longer. I needed to launch this before the baby arrives.

On the plane ride home, I set a launch date of October 7th, 2014. Five months was all I had to create something pastors would find helpful and valuable.

Over the next few months, I assembled a team of friends and contractors to start building. I was able to secure a personal loan, and we were off to the races.

In five short months, we built a team, received funding and built over 250 resources for churches.

Looking back, I was naive to think we could launch something this audacious in five months. And yet we did just that.

3. Don’t Allow Short Term Success to Cloud Your Vision

Because of the success of our launch day, we had a lot of churches sign up for a membership.  Our first month, we generated $37,000 in revenue.

Our projections for the future suddenly looked really, really bright.

And almost immediately, I had been lulled to sleep by the aura of success. I had read so many stories of successful entrepreneurs and now I had a story myself.

I finally felt successful. But feeling successful is more hypnotic than being successful.

Our first month, we did $37,000. Our second month, we did $3,700.

I was wide awake now.

Once the panic wore off, I realized we had not arrived and we still had a lot of work to do.

From there, every month was just about getting better. Improving our platform and taking small steps forward.

The biggest lesson I learned in this season was to not make future decisions on the mountain top. Wait until you get down to sea level before deciding.

4. Don’t choose speed over delegation

Speed is the enemy of delegation. It’s much faster if I do it myself. It’s much easier for me to just do it, than to slow down and invest into someone else.

At its core, this is a leadership issue. By choosing speed, I am choosing to work and not lead.

This is the hardest part of transitioning from a doer to a leader. Especially if this task is something you are good at.

As I was working through this transition (and still am), I had a friend give me some great advice. He told me, “The things you are so good at made you successful up this point, but they will also be the things that prevent from growing beyond this stage.”

This reminded me of the saying, “Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness.”

I have had to slow down and invest in others for the good of our company. I feel like I will be in this boat for the rest of my life.   

5. Don’t be afraid to knock

Starting a new company requires a lot. You will need funding, advice, help, and anything nugget of wisdom people will give you.

Not everyone you seek out is going to offer you a helping hand. I met a few people in my search for entrepreneur wisdom that weren’t gracious. I could tell I wasn’t on their level. They knew it and some, were annoyed by it. They were telling me things that I just didn’t understand yet.

The most important thing for me was to just keep knocking.

I had been speaking with some venture capitalist about finding investors for Ministry Pass. This was a whole new world for me, investors. Each investor conversation only brought more confusion. I ended up requesting a meeting with the CEO of a company I used to work for.

Today, this company does close to two billion a year in revenue. While I had a great relationship with the CEO, It’s still intimidating to walk through that executive suite hall to the corner office.

The meeting went really well. Not only did he me great advice, but he also offered to give me a personal loan so I didn’t have to give up equity.

You never know who is going to let you borrow some of their wisdom, brand equity or trust in the marketplace.

Another critical conversation for us was Mark Batterson. He was so gracious to be a part of our launch day event. Having him attached to our launch allowed us to ride on the back of the trust equity he has developed in the market with church leaders. It was a risk for him to be associated with some unknown, but we are very thankful he agreed.


I could blog for days about the lessons learned the last two years. If you are looking to launch something or right in the thick of it, I hope you learn from my mistakes and lessons.

I heard Mark Batterson say once, “We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short time but underestimate what God can do in us over a longer time.”

I hope that gives you courage. It certainly does for me.

For us, there is still work to do, pastors to serve and churches to equip.


The following is for my friends, family and important people in this story.

Tisha, you have given me room to succeed (or fail). Your confidence in me is far more some days than I have in myself. Thank you for love and patience……and Shiloh. :)

Wade, you are the backbone of this bro. Without you, this was just an idea and some graphics. Pastors and churches around the world are beneficiaries of your hard work and leadership.

Tommy, Jordan and Hector, thank you guys for believing in my crazy ideas enough to be a part of it. I value the trust and insight you have given me along the way.

Steve, I will always be grateful of the opportunities you have equiped me to chase. I want to be the Steve for someone else’s dream one day.

Marty, thank you for showing me that I perhaps could do more for the kingdom in business than I could as a local pastor. You gave me a foundation to jump off of. Honored to have served with you at Northwood.

To all of my family and friends, thank you for the support, likes and retweets. I love you all.

We are just getting started…

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God Preaching

What Jesus Can Teach Us About Sermon Illustrations



Jesus used sermon illustrations.


We usually call them parables. Let me tell you about one from the book of Matthew.

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Should Pastors Preach on Pop Culture (movies, music or tv)?

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Not too long ago, I sent out a survey to my email list and asked pastors if they believe ministers should address pop culture related topics like movies, music, & TV in their messages.

Over 1500 pastors responded to the survey. A whopping 74% of them said, “Yes”—ministers can and should talk about culture from the stage.

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Recently, I interviewed Ministry Pass’ Content Manager, Wade Bearden, about pop culture and the Bible. Along with leading our sermon series planning department, Wade is also a film critic in his spare time. His work has been featured on Christianity Today,, and

During our discussion, he brought up three great points I wanted to share about pastors, preaching, and pop culture:

1. Jesus used the common imagery of his day to illustrate deep, spiritual truths, and we should do the same.

Seeds, sheep, and vineyards; Jesus utilized all of these pictures to help an ancient middle eastern culture understand the Kingdom of God. We too should leverage our contemporary culture’s interested in film, television, and art to communicate the message of the Bible. Films are modern day parables. Facebook is a contemporary form of communication. Use these to teach people about God, the Bible, and Jesus’ plan for humanity.

2. Addressing and/or discussing popular culture will generate interest from those both inside and outside of your church.

Some individuals won’t think twice about darkening the doors of a church, but they love a good discussion about their favorite television show. Talking about popular culture can actually be a way to love your neighbor. It meets them where they are, helping them to see God’s beauty in the media they consume.

3. Culture should not inform the Bible, but we can use the Bible to inform culture.

Pastor and writer Mark Batterson once said, “So often in the church, we’re talking about things that no one else is talking about.” People want to know how the Christian faith relates to their world. When we address culture in the church, we communicate the importance of viewing everything through the story of Jesus. The gospel informs every facet of our world.

People are already seeing movies, talking about them, and sharing them. As pastors, we have a great opportunity to take what people are already talking about and point them back to the Bible. Often times, the same moral dilemmas and conflicts your congregation sees in movies have already been addressed by the Word of God.

A question I get a lot from pastors is,

“Justin, if I am going to do a more outreach driven series dealing with pop culture, when should I do it?”

One of the things we know is that churches decline in attendance during the summer. There aren’t as many volunteers and giving goes down as well. People are busy because kids are out of school, they are moving to a new neighborhood, or even a new city.

Last summer, we saw hundreds of churches use a series we created called, God on Film. It’s a series grounded in scripture and it uses themes from current summer blockbusters to illustrate what’s already in the Bible.

Many church leaders emailed me saying their church and ministry experienced growth last summer because this series attracted so many new people. I was so excited to hear this that I told our team at Ministry Pass to update the series for this summer.

Even more exciting, I want to give it to you for FREE!

We put together 500 God on Film series kits and will ship them anywhere in the world. We just ask you to pay for the shipping.

Imagine 500 churches growing this summer instead of declining…Wouldn’t that be incredible?

I can’t wait to see how God uses your church to reach new people in your community right where they are. Our team worked incredibly hard to put together something that would be super helpful to your church. We want to see you reach more people this summer with Gospel.

Get your free God on Film series kit by clicking HERE



CLICK HERE to get your FREE God on Film series kit.

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Pastor’s Kids Lands Photo of Jesus on Cover of National Geographic Magazine

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My good friends (and twin brothers) Josh and Jon Bailey are the founders of Lightstock, a faith based stock photography website.

Recently they discovered, one their photos was featured on the cover of National Geographic Magazine.

I asked him to let me interview him about landing the cover image and their process at Lightstock. Here is our interview:

All of my blog readers and users of Ministry Pass get some free downloads from Lightstock. Click Here to Access


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The Real Reason Why Pastors Are So Worn Out


Last week I blogged about the 58 things that were killing me.

That post came from burnout I had as a small business owner. Right in the middle of that process it got me thinking…

“I wonder if pastors are getting burned out for the same reason as me?”

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