Leadership and Post-Christendom

by Mark Doerksen, Heartland Regional Minister, CBWC

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Shannon asked me to write a piece on leadership, and I am happy to oblige.  These thoughts on leadership have been percolating in my mind for a while now, so I’ll attempt to get these thoughts into some semblance of order.  I’m grateful for the opportunity, and grateful for the work of Cailey, Shannon, and Joell (the French pronunciation) for their work in church planting.

I was able to attend a class led by Darrell Guder at Carey Theological College in January of 2017.  For fun, Guder works on translating Karl Barth’s work into English.  So I wasn’t surprised to find out that Guder has also been instrumental in teaching David Bosch’s game-changing book, Transforming Mission.  Guder is no slouch; he’s currently the Professor of Missional and Ecumenical Theology Emeritus at Princeton Theological, and has taught in the area of the church after Christendom for a long time. He has used Bosch’s text as his main text book since Bosch’s book was first published, and really enjoys helping others understand the implications of Bosch’s work.

If you’ve read Bosch, you know that you may be tempted to skip a paragraph or two, but you do so at your own peril; seemingly each paragraph is rich and full of information that you don’t want to miss.  I appreciate Bosch because of his sifting of vast information, and his ability to formulate nuanced arguments for theology and mission, even today.  For example, if you were to attempt to get a definition of evangelism out of Bosch, you would have to read 9 pages with 18 different points, bearing in mind that mission and evangelism are not synonymous, though ultimately linked together.  Brevity isn’t his strength.

So too is Bosch’s treatment of leadership for the missional church today.  In Christendom, the responsibility of ministry lay mainly with the ordained, a power structure comprised mostly of men to lead the work of the church.  There is a shift in this thinking, as a movement is afoot to take this responsibility of a few ordained men and to make it the responsibility of the whole people of God (Bosch, 2014, 478).   Bosch describes this new reality as a rediscovery of the “apostulate of the laity” or the “priesthood of all believers,” a concept that isn’t new to Baptists (481).

In making this shift, people turn to texts like Ephesians 4 to think about leadership in this post-Christendom environment.  The history of interpretation of this text has not been smooth.  Calvin suggested that the only gifts necessary were pastors and teachers.  Some have suggested that the office of an apostle has long disappeared.  But missional theologians and thinkers like this passage because it speaks of the collegiality of leadership.   Leadership is not suited for one individual; instead, there are a multiplicity of gifts and abilities required for leadership.  Leadership is a community within a community.  The notion of a solo pastor making all the decisions for a community that bears witness is not a model that is as welcome as it used to be.  Instead, collegial, cordial, shared leadership amongst folks with different gifts seems to be the model moving forward after Christendom.  Folks like Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost write a lot about this model of leadership.

If Alan Hirsch is right about this, and if his church experience is to be an example for us, churches need to make a deliberate shift to this sort of leadership.  As he describes in The Forgotten Ways, the leadership of his church made a deliberate decision to embrace this leadership style, with each ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) having a team leader.  This posture allows for a dynamic learning system embedded in leadership, with the church poised for mission and health.

Of course, there are some theological reservations here.  If your Twitter feed is similar to mine, you will have read that not everyone agrees with the prominence of the Ephesians 4 passage for ministry and leadership.   Must each individual within a community of faith have one of the gifts of Ephesians 4, or are there other gifts?  The grammar police also have concerns; are pastors and teachers different gifts, or the same one, and what do the Greek grammar rules have to say about this?  You get the idea, and you may well add your voice to the concerns raised here.

And yet….  Given all the concerns about this sort of leadership, I personally find this collegial approach to be helpful.  I find it especially helpful and corrective in cases where solo pastors think they are the main people to hear from God regarding a particular community.  Related, this model also helps guard against authoritarian leadership in churches; it helps pastors move away from “thus sayeth the Lord” models to a model which shares leadership and responsibility, and which appreciates the gifts of the others who are leading.  Even my personality resonates with this sort of approach; I’d much rather work together with others than to dictate what has to happen.  As I see it, we’re a part of an upside-down kingdom (Kraybill) where we serve the other, not dictate to others.  Any model that helps us avoid dictator models, even benevolent dictators, is beneficial, though, as already mentioned here, these models need to be discerned as well.

Read an outline of Alan Hirsch’s APEST leadership here. Do you agree with Mark’s analysis? Are you a Bosch fan? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment on the blog or emailing cmorgan@cbwc.ca.

Prototyping Churches

By Cailey Morgan

I was recently listening to the Thom Rainer Leadership Podcast. Their guest was Jimmy Scroggins, a pastor from Florida who tells the story of his church, which moved from a mega-church mentality, rebooting into a neighbourhood-centric church and eventually planting into a network of these smaller local congregations.

His story caught me, partially because of his attitude toward success. He had stopped worrying about how big or how fast the church was growing, and how fantastic their facilities were, and started thinking in terms of reaching everyone in their city.

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In our Western Canadian context, as much as we’d all agree that our churches want to reach everyone, my guess is that we find most of our growth through lateral movement–that is, Christians moving to our church. We don’t see a high ratio of people coming to faith, and when they do, they have often come from a background that was already familiar with Christianity, or saw the Church in a favourable light.

Prototyping
Jimmy Scroggins’ outlook on the church is that it should look like the neighbourhood. They have diversified into smaller neighbourhood congregations in order to reach the specific type of people that live in each community. This type of multiplication also has the added benefit of being accessible to various types of leaders and removes the pressure of having to conform to certain expectations of what church should be. As he says, anyone can do it:

“Just start. Start with one. You can’t sit around waiting for everything to line up, and get your whole plan together. I am a big believer in prototyping–and anybody can do it.”

We’re doing a decent job at reaching some people with our present forms of church and evangelism, and I celebrate the vibrancy we are seeing in so many of our congregations across the CBWC. But to reach the unchurched and the totally unreached in our neighbourhoods, something’s going to have to change (check out Mike Frost’s brief video on this topic).

Our Turn
Would you be willing to consider participating in some R&D, initiating a “prototype” in your area? Think about your neighbourhood. What does is look like? What does it need? What does it have to offer the greater community? Who isn’t being reached?

And what about your existing church? What do your people have to offer? Who can you train into leadership? What other congregations in the area could you partner with to offer something new to a demographic or neighbourhood that isn’t presently being reached?

“Start something, and try it! If it doesn’t work the way you want, tweak it or change it, or try something different. But every pastor in every neighbourhood–rural, urban, suburban, ex-urban–everybody can be training leaders and trying to figure out how can we start new congregations to reach new populations of people in our area that are not being reached.”

Shannon, Joell and I really do believe that every church is called to and capable of multiplication in some form. That’s why we’re here to pray for, evoke, resource, and support you on that journey to health and growth. Talk to us today!

Find us at The Gathering this weekend in Calgary to chat about what could be next for you and your congregation. We’ll have some resources for you, and would love to collect some stories of life and growth in your area that we can share here on the blog.

The Bible doesn’t say “plant churches” ?!?

By Shannon Youell

“The Bible does not tell us to plant churches.”

Say What?
If you read this quote and–confused–scrolled up to indeed verify you are on the Church Planting Blog, have no fear. You are! If we look at the thing Jesus commissioned His newly minted Church, His “ekklesia” to do, it was disciplemaking, not church planting.

The above statement from J.D. Payne’s book Apostolic Church Planting, continues thus:

“Throughout the Bible, we read of the birth of churches–after disciples are made. Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches. Another way to consider this concept is that it is evangelism that results in new disciples, who then gather together and self-identify as the local expression of the universal body of Christ. Churches are supposed to be birthed from disciple making.” ( p.17-18).

Though I may be totally wrong, I suspect that there would be little disagreement with Payne’s statement; “biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches.” And I am equally as certain that most of us would say a hearty “amen” that churches are “to be birthed from disciple making.” But what may get some pushback is in the defining of what is disciple making.

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Defining a Disciple
Often, we define a disciple as one who has decided to convert to Christianity by confessing their sins past and by professing their faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord of their lives for their futures. That is certainly the crucial initial step to being a disciple and we should more accurately say that person had a conversion experience that brought them into saving knowledge of Jesus.

There seemed to be many of those folk woven into the gospel stories. People who encountered Jesus, recognized Jesus as Saviour Messiah, perhaps experienced dramatic healing and/or deliverance through that encounter and professed Him as from God, the Son of Man, the One who saves. Paul addresses several of these groups when he is consternated that they are still infants needing milk when they should have been matured to chew on meat. They are converts but not necessarily disciples.

In the gospels, we see a disciple of Jesus as someone who was taught all about Jesus and then lived it out; disciples obey everything they are taught. Jesus schooled them to be disciple-makers. And the task He gave them was to be disciple-makers who make disciple-makers who make disciple-makers. And as more disciple-makers were made, communities were formed, churches were birthed.

An Upward Spiral in the Grand Story
This model is one that assembled people together to be gospeled–to hear and celebrate and remember the Grand Story together–as the telos, the goal of the Story. The commission was towards the telos of becoming disciples so that we could make disciples who tell and enliven the Grand Story to those who have not yet heard or entered into the Story. And the upward spiral continues over and over and over again.

The outflow or result of following what Jesus called the early disciples to do was that, out of necessity, new communities were required to accommodate and facilitate the new disciples who were now being trained to become disciple-makers. And once a week or more, those new local communities would gather to hear, to celebrate, to remember the richness of the Grand Story, the glory and goodness of God who so loved the world He entered into human form to capture our hearts to love the world the way He does. A circular mission of disciples making disciples who gather in local neighborhoods to make more disciples.

So to go back to Payne’s quote, we see that telling the people we encounter in our lives the Grand Story and inviting them to see themselves into the Story and showing them the entrance point, creates a need for new churches to disciple them so that they can tell their story to others.

“… church planting is evangelism that results in new churches.”

 The conclusion we can draw from that is that church planting is something disciples of Jesus do. So what does that mean for you, for us? Let’s explore that next.

Book Review: The Barbarian Way

Mark Archibald reviews Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way, Community and Worship (Nelson Books, 2005).

Most of us need to read this book.

For many of us, our experiences with church and faith can be defined by the word “safe”. In The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus pushes us away from safety and domestication to a life of wild trust and abandon.

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Much of this writing is based on the life, ministry, doubts and faith of John the Baptist. McManus is present-day John the Baptist in writing us this book. McManus lives like the barbarians he describes in this book.  He lives on the moment, on the edge, and experimentally.

In a romanticized mindset, I wish that I, too, could live like McManus. I know, however, that that’s not me. I know anytime I have tried to live in the manner that McManus describes from his own life, the results have been reckless and more destructive than helpful. If I pattern my life after McManus, the results will be at best inconsistent; at worst divisive and damaging.

This will be the biggest barrier for people reading this book – reading the examples from Erwin’s life and saying, “I can’t possibly do that”. There will be those of us who will read parts of this book – the time he gave his son permission to jump off their roof, for example – and throw out the entire message.

Avoid this temptation! Erwin McManus is the John the Baptist voice that most of us need to heed and hear. While we may not live in the manner he emulates, most of us need to take those steps away from the security that is predictable religion, and step towards the Jesus that taught unsafe, uncommon, unreligious things. This book is the voice in the wilderness we need to hear.

This short book is an easy-to-read 141 pages, but it is at the same time a difficult read. Difficult because it hits close to home for those of us who have let faith become too tame and too safe. These words were a punch in the gut on page 59:

Jesus lived in a time when Judaism had been domesticated, institutionalized, and civilized; it was only a hollow shell of what God intended. John didn’t fit into the organized religion of his time because God didn’t fit either. Jesus Himself, the Messiah of Israel, remained an outsider even to His death.

We are left with the haunting question: have I/we made Jesus an outsider of the faith He founded?

Amazingly, this safety we think that will just make us complacent does far more than that – it actually makes us hostile to God. “We discover the painful reality that even God’s people, when we become civilized, are more than willing to crucify God. When we choose a civilized faith, God becomes, at the very least, an irritant and, at worst, an enemy to our faith.” (p. 112)

Erwin reminds us that when we make church and Jesus too safe, we drive away the best and brightest among us. “This may be the most extraordinary mark of the Spirit of God within the heart of humanity: the freedom to live out dreams greater than ourselves. Yet if we were honest with ourselves, the church would be the last place most people would go to have their dreams nurtured, developed and unleashed”. (p.102) Ouch.

As much as most of us need to read this book, and as much as most of us need this John-the-Baptist-styled kick in the rear end, there are probably those of us out there who should not read this book. People that already tend toward chaos, recklessness and extreme spontaneity don’t need this fuel added to their barely-contained fire. There are people that I know to whom I would say “This book is not for you” based on their current practice of faith.

However, to those already-barbarians McManus does offer this easy-to-miss yet vital principle: “One barbarian wandering through civilization can be discarded as nothing more than an oddity. But when members of the barbarian tribe line up across the battlefield, side by side, something amazing begins to happen…Whenever barbarians of Christ pass through civilization, the oppressed and forgotten are soon found dancing in the streets.” (p.134) We have all seen solo barbarians create havoc, thinking they are doing good. But barbarians running side by side together? That may be a sight many of us have yet to see. May we see it soon and see it often.

The encouragement is clear from The Barbarian Way: step away from the complacency and safety we trend towards and truly abandon yourselves to the Kingdom of God. The warning is even clearer: “Two thousand years ago God started a revolt against the religion he started. So don’t ever put it past God to cause a groundswell movement against churches and Christian institutions that bear His name.” (p. 114)

Mark Archibald
Pastor of Spiritual Formation
First Baptist Church, Lethbridge AB

Book Review: Intergenerational Christian Formation

Mark Archibald reviews Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross, Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship (Intervarsity Press, 2012).

Full disclosure: it took me over a year to get through this book.

After the first 50 or so pages, I had a hard time connecting with the material. Perhaps it was all of the presented justifications for intergenerational ministry that set me back. I know we need intergenerational ministry. I know it’s biblical. I know we’re a far way off from where we need to be as holistic, intergenerational churches.

But there are significant rewards for those who persevere past the first 50 pages!

This book is dense—but that is not a bad thing. It is armed with the backing of extensive practical theology, studies and surveys both secular and faith based, developmental theory, generational theory; it is well supported and informed by an impressive amount of research by Allen and Ross.

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Don’t let the intellectuality of the book turn you off. Allen and Ross summarize all of the research in a very practical, concise, readable and vision-driven manner. The book is divided into reasonably sized chapters with even shorter sections within those chapters. It’s an easy book to set down and pick up again without having to retrace your steps. It’s perfect for on-the-go reading in your ministry life.

Part way through the book, the vision of intergenerational ministry presented will persuade you that any approach outside of intergenerational ministry sets our vision for church very low.  You’ll be compelled to get on board with intergenerational ministry, despite the significant challenges of an intergenerational approach.

Segregated generational ministry is much easier to do—but intergenerational ministry is far more enduring.

As much as this is a highly academic work, it is incredibly practical.  The Appendix “Forty Intergenerational Ideas” alone is worth the price of admission.  You’ll catch glimpses of “We can do this!” as you read along the entire book.

It took me a while to get into this book, but once I stuck with it, I came to realize I do not have a more important work on intergenerational ministry on my bookshelf. It’s a work I’ll revisit again in a few years.  Maybe the best resource on intergenerational ministry in one book that is available.

Mark Archibald
Pastor of Spiritual Formation
First Baptist Church, Lethbridge AB

Communication and Engagement

by Cailey Morgan

One of our goals for the coming year is to build our network by connecting with the following people:

  • Potential church planters and church communities working toward multiplication from within the CBWC.
  • Potential church planters from within the greater Western Canada context.
  • Potential new affiliations: church communities who do not yet belong to a family of churches.

In order to help us reach these goals, we’re participating in several local networking events. Last week,  Joell took part in the Missions Conference at Millar Seminary. Next weekend, January 27-29, Shannon and I are hosting a booth at MissionsFest Vancouver. Come find us in booth A06 if you’re in the neighbourhood!

In preparation for sharing our story and our dreams at these events, we put together some promotional cards to help explain 4 ways that individuals, small groups, and churches can engage with Church Planting. Since many of you, our readers, are part of the CBWC family and have some kind of interest in our ministry, we’d really covet your feedback on these cards, and your opinions on how these methods of engagement could work or would need to be adapted for your context.

So here are the engagement cards in their entirety for your perusal. Please read through these cards with a hopeful, prayerful and critical eye, and contact us with your thoughts and ideas of how you and your congregation could engage, and of ways to improve how we communicate. Email me at cmorgan@cbwc.ca or leave a response on WordPress.

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Belong Front Page

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Bolster Front Page

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Initiate Front Page

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Multiply Front Page

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Back Page

Thanks for your engagement!

Understanding our Present

By Shannon Youell

Old News
My husband is a history buff. Always has been. Reads encyclopedias….yes, the old-fashioned-multi-volumed-fill-three-shelves encyclopedias, purchased from (also obsolete) door-to-door salespeople. He is a wealth of historical information that I have only more recently appreciated. Myself, I just couldn’t understand what the conflicts of the Ptolemys, the hoards, the Saxons, had to do with trying to live faithfully and presently in our world. He was always telling me that by understanding the cycles of human history, we can better understand our present and how to influence our future.

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Then I began to study church history. The conflicts, the divisions, the battles, the traditions and reformations, the councils and creeds, the politics and the interactions and reactions between all these and everyday life through the ages. All of a sudden I started to understand, as the Maori Proverb informs us – “we walk backward into our future, our eyes fixed on the past.” Our past informs and shapes our present, whether or not we are aware of it and in spite of our ignorance of it.

To not do so is detrimental for the ongoing reformation (reforming, reshaping) of our lives lived out of faithfulness to the story of God and human and of our lives leaning into the present of where God is at work around us and joining him. We need to look back to where we have come from to understand where we are going to, and doing so in humility and submission to the Spirit.

Our Own History
This past year for the CBWC Church Planting team has been one where we have found ourselves looking back through our faith history to times when evangelism and sharing Jesus in deed and word was foremost in our discipleship and in our practices. And discovering, not so much to our surprise, that in some ways, our culture and worldview has taken us away from an ethos of evangelism in our everyday lives and in our gathered times. We excel at the deed practices of mercy, justice and social reform, but are shy and fearful of the proclamation (word) practice that transforms.

To quote an unknown source in a promotional video for the upcoming Multiply Conference in Vancouver (https://multiplyconference.ca/ ), “Canada has lost the lost-ness of the lost”. And, “we don’t even recognize how lost the lost are.”

I see this statement not as a negative criticism but rather a positive indicator that the conversation around sharing Jesus with those who have yet to encounter Him is increasing across our land. Because the statement implies that we are, once again, recognizing our need to re-engage and re-imagine how we invite folk into the Kingdom of God and introduce them to the King of the Kingdom.

Our CBWC Church Planting Team spent a lot of 2016 re-engaging the conversation. In blogs, over coffee in neighborhood shops, at Assemblies, Conferences, Celebration Dinners, Forums, Retreats, Churches, prayer meetings, in hockey games (or whatever those Heartland pastors on retreat play…probably curling!) and various other avenues. And we are thrilled to report that the conversation is increasing in volume in our tribe! And it is resounding across our nation. In national meetings with Canadian Baptists, with church planting and renewal catalysts, and leaders from across denominations, the Spirit speaks to one and to another and when we are attentive to listen, we hear the cry of the Father’s heart. It is an exciting time to be the church together.

When we focus our eyes on the past of the early church, “church planting” was the “lost” (both the lost sheep of Israel and the left-out gentiles) seeing and hearing the gospel of the Kingdom of God. In this past year the CP Team has been encouraged tremendously by your stories of your churches and the yearnings to make an impact in deed and word for those whose life journey seeks identity, hope, meaning, community, healing and faith.

Inspired and Challenged
We are encouraged by those who are actively examining where they can make an impact in their regions by planting churches, engaging missionally in nearby neighbourhoods, schools, businesses, community associations and other community-minded organizations.

We are inspired by your stories of how walking alongside new immigrant families, in particular, refugee families, is stretching you, growing you, and enlarging your hearts and territories for those whose lives we can barely even imagine.

We are challenged by your faithful practices in worship, prayer, reflection, and discipleship. The body of Christ, listening to one another and learning from one another.

So often in our churches, our sermons and yearning land on the early church ethos of Acts and the time when community, discipleship, prayer, good works and sharing Jesus seemed rhythmic and easy. And looking at church history as the centuries moved forward reveal to us how the Spirit continually woos us back to that place as we form, and plan and dream.

Let’s continue into 2017 informing our present and thus influencing our future by the practices and yearnings of the past of those who sought the lost and those drowning in lost-ness to redemption, reconciliation and restoration as children of God.

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and bought into the glorious freedom of the children of God…we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express
(Romans 8:19-21, 26b).

Churches in Cities

Last week, I shared a resource with some tips for suburban life for God’s Kingdom. This week, let’s talk about the importance of church planting in the city! ~ Cailey

9 Reasons We Must Connect our Churches with Cities

By Chuck Lawless

Even if you have no interest in urban settings and ministries, I plead with you to continue to read this post. We are called to get the gospel to all peoples of the world (Matt. 28:18-20), and we will not do that if we shy away from the world’s cities. Please read on, and pray about how your church might tackle a city – then encourage others to read this post as well.

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  1. The smallest church can reach out to a city. To be honest, it’s simple – find a ministry in a city, and partner with them. Whether your church is itself urban or rural, with 10 members or 10,000, you can do something in the city. The needs are so great that opportunities are there for everybody.
  2. People are in the cities. This reason is basic, but not insignificant. The world has been more urban than rural for at least seven years now. The ten most populated cities in the U.S. have 25 million people in the actual city boundaries, with 95 million people in the ten largest metropolitan areas. The church needs to be where people are.
  3. Evangelicals aren’t always in our cities. Though this picture is rightly changing, evangelicals have not been strong in cities. We have emphasized evangelism but have been cautious about engaging some of the most obvious mission fields in the world. Gospel-witness voids still remain.
  4. The nations are in the cities. Years ago, I was privileged to minister in a Vietnamese village in Moscow, Russia. I’ve been with Hispanics in South Asia and Europeans in Southeast Asia. If the Lord would allow me, I would live in the middle of New York City – an urban setting where more than 800 languages are spoken. If we want to reach the world’s people groups, the city is the place to go.
  5. World influencers are in the city. Think about the potential of influencing the world if we reach leaders in New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, or Mumbai. The worlds of the arts, literature, politics, sports, media, etc. are there – what would happen if the gospel influences them?
  6. The needy are in the city. Poverty in the city offers significant opportunity for the church to minister. The combined stresses of poverty and urban life often threaten families, foster division, and invite crime. The church has the answer to all of these issues – if the church is there.
  7. Job opportunities are often there. That’s not to say that everyone will find a job, but the sheer size of cities often provides employment opportunities. Here’s the reason this point matters: believers can move to cities to be a light in the darkness, trusting that finding a job will not be an impossibility.
  8. Reaching the city requires partnerships. No single church can reach millions of people, even with multi-site approaches. City reaching requires us to push beyond our differences to work together. That unity is what Jesus prayed for in John 17, and it wouldn’t hurt us to work together for the Great Commission task.
  9. The job is too big for us. Who can reach 22 million+ in greater New York or the 37 million+ in Tokyo? Who would even know where to start? God does, and He requires us to seek Him and His wisdom. If the city drives us to our knees, that’s a good place to be.

What other reasons would you add?

Be sure to check out Dr. Lawless’ daily blog posts at www.chucklawless.com. Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

Urban Suburban

Have you ever seen the show Urban Suburban? On each episode, a Canadian family trying to decide where to settle down is taken on a whirlwind real estate adventure to help make up their minds. The show’s two hosts argue the benefits of each kind of lifestyle–comfort, affordability, luxury, walkability and so forth, until the family finally makes a decision, which, of course, starts out being a compromise but ends up being a dream home made for happily ever afters.

In God’s paradigm, when we ask the question of urban or suburban, the answer is “YES!” We need missional communities in city centres, in sprawling suburbs, and in rural outposts. God’s Kingdom is advancing into every nook and cranny of our nation, and we have the opportunity to join in. 

Over the next couple weeks, we’re going to share some articles from various sources that can help us explore what church planting could look like, and what ongoing church life could look like, in each of these contexts. Western Canada’s geography gives us an amazing opportunity to express God’s love in so many different and beautiful ways, so I hope you are encouraged by these articles and find helpful encouragement. For this first week, here’s a look at suburban missional life. ~Cailey

7 Practical Tips for Missional Communities in the Suburbs

by Jon Dansby. This article reposted from the Verge Network.

First, let me say that the suburbs are a great place for a community on mission. Usually, the mission to declare and demonstrate the gospel is the missing link that ties MCs together, but suburbs are great for mission!

Suburbs Christopher Chappelear

There are lots of reasons that this is so:

  • Suburbs are broken up into neighborhoods.

Both community and mission happen more naturally in a defined neighborhood. This may seem obvious, but sadly it’s not. You can shoehorn your calendar to make it work far away, but you’ll run out of steam eventually. It’s hard to get focused and passionate about reaching an undefined group of people like “all our friends at different jobs” or “people from all our different neighborhoods.”

For the same reason, people don’t move overseas to reach Afghanistan and then all live in different countries. Our MC’s explicit mission is “to make disciples in the Brushy Creek neighborhood.” We are all praying for the same faces and names. This has been life for our MC!

  • Suburbs usually have several entry points. 

Besides just being neighborly, most suburbs have several coordinated things going on. Our biggest break was when my wife began attending Bunco (also called “drunko” by the ladies) with a bunch of other neighbors. Then these saucy ladies invited her onto the Yard of the Month committee.

Suburbs do all kinds of things where you can join in (HOA, basketball, Bunco, Xmas parties, block parties, Halloween, parks, sports, pools, your own parties, etc.). As we’ve gotten in deeper friendships, we have a policy to never say ‘no’ to a neighbor.

  • Suburbs allow you to know people well enough to serve them.

Suburbs allow you to know people well enough to serve them. There are people with needs right around you. Rather than serving at some organization over 20 minutes away, you can get to know your neighbors and serve them. We had a single mom living across the street and as we got to know her, I saw that her yard was a constant struggle for her. I told her that her yard was now our responsibility. So our entire MC showed up and worked. She sat in our driveway sharing a drink with my wife and was blown away, unable to comprehend why we would do this.

So, get to know people. Is there a couple who hasn’t had a date in over a year because they need a babysitter? A mom who needs English lessons? An elderly recluse who needs a friend? Some neighbors who are looking for a regular central hangout?

Practical Tips for Suburban Missional Community

Let me talk about a few crucial practical elements have been a huge part of my MC.

1. Pray. I know, I know. This sounds like one of the Sunday school answers: “Jesus…Bible…God…pray!” But it’s not. Missional Community is truly a work of the Spirit. The Spirit alone makes our testimony about Jesus effective to the world. Jesus rebuked the disciples for their prayerlessness in working for Him against Satan’s kingdom (Mk 9:29).

No less for us when we’re laboring to win people out of Satan’s kingdom. We must pray in a way that believes, “you do not have because you do not ask!” Ask often with names and faces in mind.

2. Do things differently on purpose. This is crucial. Somebody smart once said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” You and your people won’t drift toward mission any more than you naturally drift towards any other kind of difficult obedience. In past groups, we assumed that studying the right thing would move us to obey it. It never really worked. So, we had to even talk about our MC differently from the beginning.

3. Cultivate community while doing mission. Obviously, there are at least 2 parts to missional community: mission and community (duh). So, that means that you’ll have to keep your eye on both. Your community needs mission and your mission needs community. A community without mission is self-focused (and disobedient).

A mission without community is hamstrung without the community apologetic. In our MC, we spent time in my home gathering for meals from the very beginning. At these meals, sometimes my neighbors would come by, sometimes they wouldn’t. Cultivating mission and cultivating community isn’t either/or, rather it’s necessarily both/and.

4. Mission takes years, not weeks. Adjust your expectations. If you’re going to make a difference, you need to be in it for the long haul. This is where doing MC in the suburbs really shines because your neighbors have to ask the bank before they can go somewhere else. You really want your unbelieving neighbors to find true friendship with your MC. That takes time!

5. Move your 3rd Place to your home. This is something that is unique to suburbs. A Third Place needs to be neutral, natural, and regular. Your home isn’t neutral or natural if you’re trying to reach those at your work. In this case, a restaurant, a pub, or something else is more appropriate. However, a home is completely neutral and natural for unbelieving neighbors. We meet in my home at least twice a month for our 3rd Place meal and it has been incredibly fruitful. We’ve basically fused our Third Place and our Family Meal.

6. Invest in hospitality! Spend time and spend money to get to know your neighbors. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). In the same way that you don’t really care about a stock price until you invest in it, you won’t care about hospitality until you put some time and money into it. If you invest in this, you will want to see it flourish. Hospitality is certainly the most overlooked evangelistic discipline. Hospitality aids proclamation. Over time we’ve bought folding chairs, large folding tables, outdoor light strings, speakers for music, lots of different beverages, more plates, etc.

7. Don’t forget to be a community. I’ve talked a lot about mission, but you’ll need to invest some time with people who’ve joined your MC. Quality time requires quantity time. Do stuff on the weekends. Go eat wings, fix each other’s homes up, read the same books, take care of each other’s kids, be friends.

Seven Ways Churches Should Die with Dignity

This article by Thom Rainer is speaking to an American audience, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. What are your opinions on the topic of how churches should die? Please comment! ~Cailey

Death is not a popular topic.

I get it. It’s more encouraging to talk about birth, life, and growth.

But I want us to deal with the reality of dying churches in this article. And I hope we can move to a positive approach about these churches.

There are approximately 350,000 Protestant churches in the U.S. Many pundits estimate the number of closings to be about one percent, or 3,500 churches a year. For reasons I will discuss in a future post, I estimate the number to be closer to two percent, or 7,000 churches a year.

Let’s split the difference and say more than 5,000 churches die a year.

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That’s 14 churches that die every day. And the number is likely to increase.

So what can we offer the leaders of dying churches? How can we help them help their churches die with dignity? I have seven suggestions.

  1. Be willing to move from denial to acceptance. If your church has declined from 200 in attendance to 25 in the past five or ten years, it is likely to close soon. Don’t wait until it’s too late to be proactive.
  2. Move from guilt to grace. Many members of dying churches feel shame and guilt for the state of their churches. It’s time to forget the past and move into the grace of God’s future. Wallowing in guilt precludes action. Celebrating in grace means moving forward.
  3. Avoid merging with another struggling church. An unhealthy or dying church merging with a similar church does not equal a healthy church. At best, it prolongs the inevitability of death from taking place.
  4. Consider a re-plant. Your church facilities are incredible assets God has given you. Many new churches are in desperate need of places to meet and worship. Consider giving your facilities to a church plant.
  5. Consider a merger with a healthy church. But it cannot be a merger of equals. The church with the healthy DNA must become the steward of leadership, facilities, and direction. In other words, it will be more like an acquisition than a merger. And it is likely the formerly dying church would become another campus of the healthy church.
  6. Celebrate the past and move to the future. Before your church transitions to either a replant or a merger, have a service of celebration. Thank God for the past, and look forward to His future.
  7. All members should reclaim another church. Before the door shuts on the past, each member of the dying church should state his or her commitment to get involved in another congregation. Some may even choose to be a part of the new church meeting in their former facilities.

Christ’s Church will never die. But local congregations have definitive life cycles, including birth, growth, decline, and death. If your church is moving from decline towards death, be the type of church leader to help your church die with dignity.

For it is in the death of one church that another church can have a hope for a great and healthy future.

The post Seven Ways Churches Should Die with Dignity appeared first on ThomRainer.com on March 7, 2016Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.