Monthly Archives: February 2009

Network DNA – Church Planting

While discussing the idea of Networks serving Networks, specifically in the efforts between organizations like MISSIO and FORGE, Alan Hirsch (Author of The Forgotten Ways and ReJesus) shared the following DNA pieces of the existing Network. These are great thoughts for those invested in apprenticeship networking. They might be in a book somewhere, but I’ve never seen them compiled in this fashion so I thought I’d pass them along.

1. Context is Everything.
• Place interns in context.
• Academy is not the best place to form missional leaders.
• Just as we cannot learn leadership outside of influence of leadership, we can’t learn missional outside of context.

2. Teachers must be Practitioners.
(Reflective practitioners, created ethos)
• Cannot teach what you do not know.
• Lead from the front.
• Beyond Theory.

3. Put Risk into the Equation.
(Becoming a learner instead of expert).
• We only learn what we know in comfort zone.
• Take two steps out of comfort zone.
• They need to feel the potential of failure.

4. Action Reflection Learners.
• Do it, then reflect. Evaluate, critique.
• Assumption is that we will learn as we do.

5. Relational Empowerment
• Coaching with emphasis on relationship

6. Inspiration THEN Information.
• Major on motivation and inspiration.
• Quantifies the information

7. Imagination is a Key Resource.
• Not just pragmatism
• We repeat what we know
• Helping us find our new maps.
• ReImagination is a cultivator for leadership
• “If you can’t imagine it, you can’t do it.”

8. Intellectual Engagement.
• Theology
• Missionaries should be our best thinkers.
• We’ve got to be thinking better.
• Become learners, but also become thinkers.
• High Quality information. Web is a wonderful resource.

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Cultivate – Vince Antonucci

I’m hanging out this morning with some of the ELI guys at their Cultivate gathering at Gateway Community Church in Austin Texas. Vince Antonucci just shared some great reminders on “Principles of Programming for People far from God”. Vince, who left his mega church post in Virginia to plant a church in Las Vegas, is author of “I Became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.”

Before I get into the list, let me remind you (as Vince did) that context is everything. We simply can’t hear and apply. We have to hear the heart behind the principle and apply in our context. Vince also admitted that these are fairly simple thoughts, but rarely will we find a church that applies all of them.

Also a reminder: This list is primarily about our church POSTURE at our Sunday gatherings (From a creative and intentional level). However, some of the principles can certainly be applied to any environment where we might be evaluating our posture in regard to sharing the Gospel. In fact, thinking about those daily-life moments might help inform how we should shape our weekend efforts (See #3).

Principles of Programming for People far from God

1. Unfolding Arms principle: figuratively and literally. Unchurched are coming already thinking, “I don’t like church, someone told me this is different. Prove it. Quick.”

2. Wear their Shoes principle: Try and get in their head to understand what they are experiencing and thinking when they come to your church.

3. Guest for Dinner principle: Treat visitors at your church like you would treat a guest who came over for diner. The fact that they ARE there might change how we do things (not to get them to come). Some things we won’t change, but we’ll offer the courtesy to explain it. (1 Cor. 14:23)

4. Joe DiMaggio principle: Center fielder for Yankees. Famous for hustling to “weird” degrees.Teammates would job to field, Joe would sprint. Always sprinted to first, even when out, even when walk. Interview: Why? Answer: because I know in every game I play there is some kid who it’s their first time to see me and I want them to see what’s right. In the same way, every Sunday, we know there is at least one new person there. If it’s their first time to come back to church, what is it that you want them to see?

5. Check your influences principle: Who are your influences in shaping your weekend gathering? We all have influences. Most of them come with models. Who are they? Hopefully our main influence is God (Theology). In all those areas that have been left undefined or a-biblical, our influences should be non-churches.

6. Use their Culture principle: (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Paul speaking at Mars Hill, quotes poets, compliments their religious culture. Use a their culture to break down walls. Purpose is not to change who you are, but to break down walls.

7. Don’t use your Culture principle: Your assumptions will create your crowd. The words you say in your message, between your songs, introductions… Ask yourself the quesiton: What do my words assume? Speak to the chairs. Explain “The Bible Says…” Our service is still for Christians (it’s not Seeker)… yet we still CONSIDER who’s listening. It’s not FOR seekers, but we recognize they are there so we EXPLAIN everything. Communion, Ephesians, offering. (They’re little, but they add up)

8. Authenticity principle: The unchurched and the dechurched are coming in with the questions: Why should I listen to you? Are you anything like me? Do you even know what I’m dealing with? Can you relate? Because I need you to relate for me to relate. So, share who you are. Personal stories: I have a past. I struggle in the present. I have hope in the future.

9. Love principle: Do you really think non-christians think, man I need a really good rock band, need to laugh, etc… I’m gonna get up early and go to church. Those things are important, but they can get it other places. What they can’t get from SNL, at a comedy club, or a concert is LOVE. Instead, they need to know there is a zero percent chance I’m gonna get judged here. All things must flow from this place.


Networking: Missio & Forge


I spent the week in Colorado with some amazing people.

It started on Tuesday with a small gathering of some great leaders (Mega and Micro) talking and dreaming about unifying efforts towards an intentional missional church planting effort in America. I love that we’re in a time where we can create networks of networks. Non-threatening. Non-combative. Non-competitive.

Involved in the conversation was Todd Wilson (Exponential Network), Hugh Halter and Matt Smay from Missio (Tangible Kingdom), Alan Hirsch (Forge), Lance Ford (Co-founder of Shapevine), Cam Roxbrough (Missional Training Network), Nick Boring (Vision 360), Andrew Taylor and Alley HArding from Church Resource Ministires (CRM), Bob Harrington (Stadia Network), a handful of organic, hybrid, and mega, missional church pastors including guys like Dave Ferguson (Community Christian Church) and Tom Shrader (East Valley). I’m still trying to figure out how I got an invite.

It was a powerful meeting. I think Lance Ford (Shapevine) put it well:

“We are forming a convergence of folks and organizations that include simple church, micro church, megachurch, and just about anyone that wants to move forward missionally… We have been aware for sometime now that there is a need for a more unified effort that highlights training options and gives more support. There is so much great stuff happening out there, and much of it is under the radar. We really want to see a collaborative, peer learning community develop.”

To put it briefly, and in Alan Hirsch’s own words: “There’s much that can be gained from finding a common ground”. Here’s a handful of my favorite “Alan quotes” from the day:

“We’ve been captured by a paradigm… where true innovation is a very rare discovery. In terms of ecclesiology, it’s time. We must find new forms. Based on principles, of course, that are defined by the scriptures.”“There’s something phenomenal going on.”

“We need to be a network of networks”

“Traditional and contemporary church will appeal to about 40% of America. That’s a very real and important thing. My concern as a missionary is for the other 60%.”

For a little glimpse of the nuts and bolts of what’s going on, here are some of the shared distinctives of organizations like Missio and Forge:

• Holistic approach to mission
• Action learning approach to missional leadership development
• Culturally appropriate mission methodology in all settings.
• Grassroots movement ethos
• Diversity of approaches and models
• Intentionally networked structure
• Networked cross-denominational structures
• A passionate action-based spirituality
• Creativity, innovation and experimentation in all we do.
• The priority of modeling for leadership and mission
• Coaching and mentoring


Change is Good

I grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist Church. This may sound weird, but I pretty much loved it (Probably ’cause I loved our Pastor. He was a good one). While I didn’t really live it, I still loved it. We had a pianist that played by herself with brother so-and-so leading us through a handful of hymns (verses 1,2, and 4 only of course). As I think back on it now, it feels kind of nostalgic.

I remember a time when I began to shift the way I thought about worship. Something happened to me when I went to a church that had a drum set on stage and a leader who led with a guitar. I remember how difficult it was as a believer when I began to worship in new ways that seemed right to me. I found myself constantly having to defend the fact that the guitar and drums were really not from the devil (I’m intentionally over-exaggerating).

I remember the first three verses of Psalm 33 to be a chapter that gave me comfort when thinking about this new “contemporary” style of worship.

“Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” – Psalm 33:1-3

Why is it that so many were threatened with this new form of worship? For sure there are those who cast stones at the hymnals and choir lofts. While change can be good, sometimes we do it bad. While I didn’t necessarily feel traditional methods in themselves, were any less worshipful, they had certainly lost their place as a personal preference for me.

Today I’m reminded of how I’m learning to just live what I’m called towards. I’m also reminded of our nature to act like we have the market cornered. And even when our intentions are pure, our actions and words can easily not seem that way. They can quickly provoke a defensive posture in others. Our perspective is everything. And while we’ll always have our own perspective, it’s the way of the Lord that matters. As Andy Stanley put it in his book, “Visioneering”: “WAY is God’s specialty.”

“But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.” – Psalm 33:11-12

One thing is for sure, what we must place as a priority in our affections, are the plans of the Lord before our own. No matter our style, method, tradition, philosophy of ministry, or posture in our community… hopefully we’re chasing what we know of God and His ways with everything we’ve got. And whatever we are doing, we do as an overflow of how God is moving in our hearts.

This may come at great cost. We may be called from everything we’ve always known. And that can hurt. I’m reminded in verses 13-17 that many times God uses change to keep our focus on Him and not a model, strategy, or tradition.

“From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth- he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.” – Psalm 33:13-17

If we were to think on these last few verses, we could probably find many places of application in our lives that would benefit from a little reorientation. That might demand some change in our lives. That change might just be the catalyst that results in the personal revolution our soul’s been craving.


Parasitical Parachurch?

Jonathan Dodson, Pastor of Austin City Life, a great thinker, and a great friend of mine recently published a blog concerning some thoughts from Neil Cole’s book Organic Leadership. In it, he says that “Neil prophetically points out how the parachurch has assumed the role and mission of the church leaving her weak and anemic”. Click HERE to see the entire post.

He then closed his post with a handful of questions:

What do you think? Where has your church capitulated to the parasitical parachurch? Is there a way forward? And what of the modality sodality distinction? Are both mission agencies and local churches together the church? Much more could be said on these matters.

This is a very relevant thread of conversation for Austin New Church and South Austin Cares. So here’s what I replied:

Jonathan,

I think you know where I land on most of this conversation. I’ve long thought the non-profit sector has taken the place of the church in our culture. Even many of the faith-based non-profits have begun to do their work “in spite of” the church. Whether that’s because of a lack of passion on the part of the church or an organizations simple avoidance of the typical church red tape, it’s not their fault, it’s ours. Neglect comes to mind. Like you said (kinda) it seems to be the norm to just “let them do it”.

I’ve had some great conversations in the last week in regards to Sodality and Modality. Although Austin New Church is an intentionally ministry based model church, we are in reality a “hybrid” when it comes to gathering and sending. With that in mind, we’ve found a real strength in partnering with local non-profits instead of capitulating to their head start and success. There’s much we can learn (and leverage) from others who have gone before us.

What we’ve found? Most non-profits don’t mind a faith based community partnering with them. In fact, we’ve found nothing but open arms. One of our missional communities was literally told at the LiveStrong Challenge that they were the best group of volunteers they’ve ever had. What a compliment.

And it makes sense. Why would I try to start my own food bank when we gather a mile away from the Capital Area Food Bank that feeds over 40,000 people a week? Seems like they know what they’re doing. Why re-invent the wheel? The only reason I can see is if we cannot represent the church while serving with and for them. So far, it’s not been a problem.

So what do we do? I suggest partnership. Bold, innovative, Gospel centered partnership. Let them know the Church cares. That just might be a paradigm that needs changed anyways.

– Brandon Hatmaker


Balancing Mission

Great new post on a discussion between Ed Stetzer and Rick Meigs. Here’s just a glimpse:

“When we look at the history of missions, it is frequent (dare I say common?) that those churches which focus on societal change lose their focus on evangelism and church planting. The most healthy churches engage in evangelism (individual transformation), church planting (collective transformation), and societal impact (cultural transformation). And one tends to lead to the others. The best societal impact occurs when it is a reflection of individual and collective, gospel transformation.

So, when you hear someone you consider less “missional” that you say, “Let’s tell them about Jesus because if we serve the hurting we will lose our focus on missions,” it might have more historical validity than you would choose to believe. Thus, many are convinced that if churches have to choose between evangelism and social action, they should choose evangelism. And with good reason.

I just think that it’s short-sighted for churches to choose. Evangelism, church planting, and societal impact are like fruit that blossom and grow from healthy church trees. We do not have to bow to the tyranny of the “or.” – Ed Stetzer

Check out the whole thing by clicking HERE.


Small Things

I’ve always heard as well as thought about it as a statement or command: Do not despise the day of small things! But today I see it differently. In my understanding, Zechariah was asking a question, kind of rhetorical, but non-the-less it was a question: “For WHO has despised the day of small things?” (Zech 4:10)

I see two sides to this question that we may need reminded of:

1. The first, is the rhetorical side. Certainly God does not despise the day of small things. He knows where he’s going with it. He knows how to make things great. What’s different is that He sees the great in the things that we cannot (or do not).

In the same way, there are many things that we consider great, that God may despise.

2. The second is the perspective that we are to rejoice in seeing even the plumb line in the hand of God’s workers. So let’s get back to the question: church planter, missionary, believer, how do we feel about the day of small things? I must confess. I’ve got a long way to go. How will we lead others to this place if we aren’t there ourselves?