church leadership megachurch missional pastoring

The Lobby – Day 2

Today has been another encouraging and challenging day of conversation, and has left me with some good thinking to do.

Session 5: Mission and Community

We began the day today talking through the idea of mission, and how it plays out in community.

My friend Spence Shelton gave me the opportunity to share the story of The Austin Stone and the strategy we employ of missional communities.  After some processing with Mark Howell, I have a stronger appreciation for how the context of our church has dictated our strategy, and that it certainly is not perfect.  

On the flip side, it was fun to challenge people with the idea that often our forms contradict our intentions, and in many ways we need to challenge the consumerism that is widespread in our churches.  I pray that there would continue to be a spirit of humility and gracious critique between our churches!

Session 6: Measurement

I’m a data nerd, so I always enjoy conversations around measurement and effectiveness.  There was a great dialogue on the idea that “metrics motivate your thinking, stories stir the soul”.

Measurements should include both quantitative and qualitative data, and leaders need both stories and data.  Stories are encouraging, but are easily used as anecdotal justifications for something that may not really be working.  Data, without stories, is to easy to misinterpret or make say what you want it to say.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of the conversation was that everyone struggles to capture stories.  The most effective churches at capturing stories were those who incentivized them.  Apparently a little bribery goes a long way!

Session 7: Tough Issues in Group Life

This discussion was probably the most spirited that we’ve had, because it dealt with much more personal and sensitive issues for many of us.  The specific dialogue centered around sexuality in the life of the church, and how our communities and leaders respond in circumstances of sin with both grace and truth.

The church doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to same sex attraction, so how do we lovingly engage people in the church and those outside the church?  This discussion cause me to reflect on Jesus, and how he practically ministered in different circumstances.  Specifically, I thought of the woman at the well, and how Jesus addressed not only her sexual sin, but pointed to the unfulfilled longings of her heart that were designed to be met by Jesus himself.

The conversation also brought to mind the woman caught in adultery, and how Jesus dealt with the accusing crowd who lacked mercy and love, but also corrected the adulterous woman by exhorting to go and sin no more.  I pray that I myself would minister like Jesus, lovingly yet firmly, and also that our churches would not be like the self-righteous Pharisees, but the gracious Savior.

It was another fun filled day!

evangelism gospel missional

Soccer and the Kingdom of God

I played soccer up until high school, and always enjoyed the game, so when it came time to put Micah into sports, soccer was a natural choice.  After a few stints at the YMCA, we joined our neighborhood league and I volunteered to help coach our team.

It’s been an interesting few weeks in the fun world of coaching U6 soccer.

Thus far the kids have had a blast, but some of the parents have been difficult to love. Our team is a microcosm of the brokenness of our neighborhood.  We’ve got overly competitive dads, passive-aggressive couples, absentee fathers, and a “Christian” who is slandering and gossiping.  It has come to a head this week with what amounts to a coup d’ etat  – one of the parents invited the former coach to “help out” with practice.  Seriously?!?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are also some amazing parents who are incredibly supportive and encouraging, but it’s a little discouraging to see people ruining something so fun for Kindergartners.  As I’ve been processing the situation, the Lord has been gracious to teach me a few things.

  1. The economy of God’s kingdom is radically different than the economy of the world. I decided to help coach the team because I simply wanted to serve my neighbors. In the kingdom of God, the posture of service is pursued and celebrated.  In the world, people often treat you like a servant if you adopt a posture of service.  The Spirit empowers us in these moments to remember Jesus’ service, and lovingly and graciously continue to serve.
  2. The Kingdom of darkness is alive and well in suburbia.  Although it often looks different than brokenness in under resourced communities, there is a deep need for the gospel to set people free from their captivity to their sin.  It’s manifested in a need for glory through others, self-importance derived from little kingdoms of 6 year olds, and a slavish desire to have every expectation met.

As I have processed through the experience, it has all made me love my neighborhood more and beg God to establish His kingdom.  Without a gospel presence and a gospel witness, the kingdom of sin, Satan and death continues to reign. I pray that God would raise up more faithful followers of Jesus to declare and demonstrate the kingdom of God in these everyday places – youth soccer leagues, PTA boards, and suburban neighborhoods.

Mission doesn’t require spectacular circumstance, but supernaturally empowered every day people.

austin stone missional

Verge Conference

The Austin Stone is hosting a National Missional Community Conference called Verge. The Verge Conference is unique in that it is committed to the development and multiplication of missional communities.

The theme of the Verge Conference is The DNA of Gospel Movements, and will focus on movement strategies and practices to help pastors, church planters, leaders and any pretty much any person apply the practices of gospel movements in their own contexts.

Here’s a list of speakers so far:

  • Francis Chan
  • Matt Carter
  • Alan Hirsch
  • Dave Ferguson
  • Neil Cole
  • Dave Gibbons
  • Hugh Halter
  • David Garrison
  • John Burke
  • David Watson
  • George Patterson
  • Jeff Vanderstelt

And here are the pertinent details:

Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 6pm through Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 3PM.

Hope to see you there!

missional theology

The Whole and Heart of the Gospel | Cardus

I found this summary from Ray Pennings (HT: Kevin Young) of Reformed theological positions on cultural/social engagement to be particularly helpful in identifying the predominant understandings churches tend to have of gospel and culture.  Below is the core of the article:

Neocalvinism focuses on the comprehensiveness of the gospel claim. “Every square inch” belongs to Christ, and the full effects of the cross—as fully conquering sin, including its effects in the groaning creation—are emphasized. “Grace restores nature,” and although we will have to wait for the new heaven and the new earth for this to be fully realized, worshiping the Lord Jesus as King today means acknowledging and living out of that kingship. That means challenging the presuppositions of secular reasoning and working carefully with both the books of creation and revelation.

The “two kingdom perspective” that has become associated with Westminster Theological Seminary in California brings at least two valuable insights to the conversation. Negatively, it warns against the hubris that sometimes can accompany an attempt to define “the” Christian position on various contemporary issues. There is inevitable ambiguity that characterizes Christian life in a fallen world. Positively, it brings a very strong ecclesiology into the conversation, emphasizing the calling of believers to focus on their place in the church and the bride of Christ, and to emphasize the transcendence of the gospel.

Neopuritans (which I prefer as a term to describe that group which Time magazine described as New Calvinists) focus on the sovereignty of God and the glory of God. In so far as one can discern a coherent political philosophy uniting the diverse group of writers commonly associated with this group, Albert Mohler’s focus on love as a unifying principle comes as close as any: “Love of neighbor grounded in our love for God requires us to work for good in the City of Man, even as we set as our first priority the preaching of the gospel, [which is] the only means of bringing citizens of the City of Man into citizenship of the city of God.” In practice, this perspective results in an approach that is more individualistic than corporate, focuses more extensively on responding to the needs of our neighbours through the diaconal ministry of the church, and relies on being an example, resisting cultural trends and intentionally working towards a Christian counter-culture.

This survey of perspectives would not be complete without acknowledging a fourth approach which, for lack of better term, I will label as “Old Calvinism.” (The variants of this argument almost inevitably suggest that there is something about the “old paths” that is being lost in the process of cultural engagement.) One example of this approach is John MacArthur, who has essentially come to the conclusion that engaging the city inevitably leads the church to worldliness and that when the church attempts to engage the culture, the culture is usually more effective at influencing the church. MacArthur has argued that Christian political activism has four results: it (1) denigrates the sovereignty of God over human history and events, (2) uses fleshly and selfish means to promote biblical values, (3) creates a false sense of morality, and (4) risks alienating unbelievers by viewing them as political enemies rather than a mission field. Promoting godly living and the fruits of the Spirit is a mission “far more good and profitable to men than any amount of social and political activism . . . [Christians] are content very much to let the worldly people deal with the worldly things of this world.”

I have certainly been wrestling through these issues myself, and have had some exposure to each theological stream.  The difficulty in understanding this particular issue is that the arguments for each position are predominantly born out of extensions of philosophical theology or from an extension of applied biblical theology.

If I were to peg what position I most closely align with, it would probably be the “neopuritanism” camp at this point, which is less of a well-informed biblical position, and moreso based upon observations of ministry around me and the actual practice of my life.  While I would agree completely with the neo-Calvinist perspective theologically, I practically tend to view the transformation of culture as a derivative of transformation of the individual through the power of the gospel.  This certainly gives me some things to chew on however…

Care to chime in? I’d love some thoughts in a comment!

assimilation church megachurch missional

Multisite Church | Christian Standard Interview

If you have been interested in the multisite discussion as a missional church, then I’d recommend reading the article below.  Todd Wilson does a great job of highlighting the upside of multisite planting, and a holistic perspective on how it fits with church planting strategy.

Christian Standard Interview – Todd Wilson on Multisite

I think the theory of the article is spot on, but there is one key phrase in the article that a church must wrestle with:

If you take anything less than a very healthy process, whether it’s your children’s process, newcomer assimilation process, worship process—any process you have—when you copy it, if it’s unhealthy, it may become even more unhealthy than the original. On the one hand, your church might be growing rapidly beyond the current capacity of your leadership and systems. On top of that, you may be copying less than vibrant and healthy processes and systems. The result can be sideways energy that further slows you down.

The key to a successful multisite launch will be the health of your existing organization, which is a good motivation to do some deep assessment prior to launching.

Great thoughts to consider!