Category Archives: Barefooted Church

Big News for Austin New Church

A message to the ANC Family:

Words cannot describe how amazing the last few years have been. I know I echo the thoughts of all the ANC staff when I say that it has been a joy to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with those of you who call ANC home as we seek to follow God wherever, whenever, and however He leads. It’s also incredibly refreshing to help lead a church that values transparency, authenticity, and humility as we seek to be good news to a city and region in need of good news.

Recently I’ve asked you to join together in prayer as we continue to seek next steps as a faith community. As we grow, we need to continue and be good stewards of the vision God has given us. We hope to continue and see people come to faith, find their identity in Christ, and find their purpose in His mission. We believe the greatest way to do that is to continue to equip and empower people to serve not only where they have been sent, but also where they are being sent. This recognizes a call to learn to be Jesus’ hands and feet to both our neighbors as well as to those in need… whether across the street, the tracks, or the ocean.

In answering this call, we believe that where we do “community”, where we “serve”, and where we “gather” for worship matters.

As I mentioned on two recent Sunday’s at ANC, we have been given the opportunity to join forces with a ministry in southeast Austin named The Well. Together we will serve a community called Dove Springs, which is one of Austin’s areas of greatest need. While The Well is a much smaller ministry than ANC, they have a very similar vision, and are excited about joining us and coming under our leadership to reach the Dove Springs area by becoming “ANC Dove Springs”. They have amazing partnerships already in the community with the River City Youth Foundation and the Dove Springs Recreation Center. They have a fantastic facility where they meet in the heart of the community. And in the middle of us searching for a place where we can (1) begin a new service identical to the one we have now, as well as (2) begin to invest ourselves deeply in the middle of need, and (3) serve in partnership with others already impacting a community… this is an amazing opportunity that certainly fits the bill.

As a friend of mine recently said, “So many churches are willing to go, but so few are willing to stay.” This is our opportunity to not only go, but to stay.

After a several months of consideration and prayer with both our board of directors and pastoral staff, we are in complete agreement that this is an opportunity God has placed in front of us to continue to be the church He has called us to be. I assure you that no rock has remained unturned. Not only does this answer the questions, “As we grow, how do we stay small? (for the sake of community)” and “As we go, how do we stay ONE? (for the sake of unity and mission)”, it helps us answer the call to serve our city in new and more sustainable ways. We’re literally moving into another neighborhood and adopting a model for church that is committed to being “sent”.

So how does this affect you and what does all this mean? Here are some important thoughts:

1) What will it look like? Our goal is to make the southeast (Dove Springs) gathering identical to our current Sunday experience. We will have live music and live teaching at both locations. You’ll see the same faces on stage, whether teaching, leading worship, leading communion, and doing the announcements as you do now. It might best be described as adding another service… but instead of a different time we’re choosing a different location. There will be one ANC staff, one ANC board of directors, one mission.

2) Where is this place? The location of our new gathering will be at the Dove Springs Recreation Center. The center is located 1.7 miles east of I-35 between William Cannon and Stassney. This is only a few miles away from our current location. For nearly half of you the new location is either CLOSER to where you currently live or EQUAL driving time from where you live.

3) What about the current ANC gathering? Our current location will stay the same. Same location. Same experience. It will now be called ANC South Austin. While we hope to go to one service at each location in May (at least through the summer), this is important for you to know. Each location will be equally valued, staffed, and led.

4) If I attend the gathering at this location, am I leaving ANC? No. In fact, this is what we believe to be the answer to staying (while going). While we need many of you to prayerfully consider attending ANC Dove Springs, attendance on Sunday will take very little sacrifice or change (it’s serving there that will take sacrifice). Some of you are already excited. For many, it simply makes sense. For others, you may desire to attend there for a season to help us make the transition. Some of you will serve there with your Restore Groups. Some will move there (believe it or not). But don’t panic, you’ll have plenty of time to both experience what’s happening there and come to a decision as to how God is leading you.

5) What are our next steps? We want to make sure that the community of Dove Springs understands that we are here in full support of them and their community. We also want everyone at ANC to know, see and experience the community first hand. With this in mind, we are planning a handful of things we hope will accomplish these objectives:

  • We will serve with them: As a church we are partnering with both the Dove Springs Recreation Center and the River City Youth Foundation for their Community gatherings during the Easter season (For those of you not already committed elsewhere). These are being held the two Saturdays prior to Easter. Last year, with a simple egg hunt, they served over 1300 children from the community (More details to come on this).
  • They will serve with us: On Easter Sunday, those from The Well will be joining us for our Annual Downtown Grillout and communion service with the homeless. It’s a perfect time for them to see who we are on such an important day (our 4th Anniversary by the way).
  • We will worship together: The TWO Sundays following Easter we are closing the doors (Temporarily) at our South Austin location and will all worship together as one body in the Gym at Dove Springs Rec Center. This will be an amazing time together and the first chance we’ve had to worship together since we moved to multiple services. We are praying God moves as we come together in unity IN and FOR the community. We pray He opens our hearts and minds for how we are to respond personally.
  • We will serve together: The following Sunday will be our regularly scheduled Serve Austin Sunday. As a part of our previous plans to expand SAS to Restore Weekend (Including both Saturday and Sunday projects) we will have additional projects serving the Dove Springs area. Some of you will serve there. Many will not. But it will be an intentional place of engagement from now on.
  • We will start our new “normal: The first Sunday in May, following Restore Weekend, will be our first regular worship gatherings at both locations. Time and details TBA.

6) Are we going to do this again? Yes. In fact, Our hope, is that as our church continues to grow, that we continue to move closer to where our people are as we continue to move closer to and into areas of great need. We hope ANC always has a culture that celebrates the opportunity to expand our ministry and bring hope to new areas. Imagine if there was a mid-sized ANC gathering of people committed to gospel community and mission not only in south and east Austin, but also in central and north Austin, in the Buda and Kyle areas, and maybe even San Marcos. Not only would we be able to maintain what we value about how we gather at ANC, but we’d be able to do so as a people committed to making disciples, “learning to do right”, loving mercy, seeking justice, and who value authentic faith community that understands and seeks to “speak the language” of their neighbors (understanding culture and context).

While we know that’s a lot to absorb, we ask you to simply pray for God’s will to be done as we put one foot in front of the other. Pray for His Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven. And pray that God would lead each of us on how we should personally respond.

If you are involved in children, youth, or other ministries at ANC… expect your leader to contact you shortly with details on how we are proceeding. If you are currently serving regularly outside of ANC, keep going! We are thankful for what you are doing and are certainly not asking you to abandon your post for something new. But what we are asking is that we all worship together there for a couple weeks and a portion of us begin to foster these new relationships through serving the existing partnerships in the area.

There are so many more details. But for now, thank you. You’ve always been the church we dreamed of. And we know God is about to do something even more amazing in and through all of us.

See you Sunday,

Brandon


An Odd Request

I got this email the other day. I found it to be quite an odd approach to requesting a book. While it wasn’t offering any criticism, it certainly seems like it’s waiting in the wings. Even so, I’m not that concerned about a critique, but more so, just curious about the odd form in which this request has come. I would love your thoughts. In all seriousness, how would you handle this?:

I came across an excerpt from your book Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture and was impressed by what little I read.  Could it be that in this commerce driven, fame orientated, country club christian culture, there is someone who is attempting to embrace the response to the question, asked so long ago, ”What do I still lack?” (Matt 19:20).  I have been praying and searching ardently to know God and his path for me.  I would like to read your book.  Would you please send me a copy?

I am asking you to send it to me w/o charge.  I am not asking for a free book, after reading it, I will pay you what I think it is worth.  In my search to understand the bible and contemporary christian life I have quickly exhausted current christian literature.  For the most part it is poorly written, repetitive, poorly researched and parochial.

I warn you that my library consists of books by men like St Augustine, Blaise Pascal, John Donne, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Merton, C. S. Lewis.  If it cannot sit with these other books and be a source of continued inspiration, I will return it.  If it is not worth the postage to return it, I will throw it in the trash.  If, however, on the other hand — Matt 13:45

As an author, you have to come to grips that not everyone will like your work. That’s just part of the game. But, what do you think is going on in the brain of this person? How would you respond? Or would you?


Augustine on Charity

One of my new favorite quotes:

“Whoever, therefore, thinks that he understands the divine scriptures or any part of them so that it does not build the double love of God and of our neighbor does not understand it at all.  Whoever finds a lesson there useful to the building of charity, even though he has not said what the author may be shown to have intended in that place, has not been deceived, nor is he lying in any way. However, if he is deceived in an interpretation which builds up charity, he is deceived in the same way as a man who leaves a road by mistake but passes through a field to the same place toward which the road itself leads.” -Augustine


Understanding the Suburban Poor

One of the surprisingly refreshing parts about being a church planter is found in leaving the environment of the seemingly “known” and being forced into a world of “unknown”. It’s refreshing to recognize how much we have to learn. It’s refreshing to get beyond our arrogance and pride and to be a learner again.

Not surprisingly, today I learned something new about the very people I hope to serve: The poor.

Although I’m aware of the common observable cultural shifts, I’ve remained pretty oblivious as to the depth of demographic impact by the gentrification of city-centers, and it’s impending influential waves. What I forgot to consider was the where, why, and how it impacts BEYOND the city-centers themselves.

Linda Bergquist, a New Church Starting Strategist in San Francisco and co-author of Church Turned Inside Out, wrote a recent post on the LifeWay Research Blog about the suburbanization of poverty. Here’s just a taste:

“The stereotypical suburban community is becoming extinct in the United States. Today, a million and a half more poor people live in the suburbs of major metropolitan areas than in the center cities. It would be easy to blame the change on the recession, or to ignore the facts by proclaiming that the recession will soon be over, but that would be negligent. By 2005, when the economy was prospering, there were already more poor people living in suburbs than in U.S. cities. In 1970, only 20.5% of America’s poor were suburbanites, and by 2000, the number increased to 35.9%. Between 2000 and 2008, the poor population in the suburbs of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas grew by 25%, almost five times faster than in the cities they surround. At the same time, the suburbs are also becoming much more ethnically diverse. Why the change? Here are a few theories:

a. Employment decentralization. Major employers in every sector have moved their bases of operation to the suburbs. Population sprawl followed job sprawl.

b. Immigration. Some new immigrants now select suburbs as their primary points of entry into the country because the jobs for which they are most qualified exist in suburbs rather than in city centers.

c. Gentrification. The status of status is changing, and the upper middle class is choosing high-rise city living over suburbia. There is a values shift from ownership (automobiles, large homes) to accessibility (public transportation, proximity to work, arts). As cities become more attractive to them, housing costs rise, thrusting the poor down into the streets and out into the suburbs.

d. Perceived cost of living. Sometimes poor people move to suburbs because it seems more affordable. However, while housing costs are less, there are hidden expenses, such as car ownership and less access to human services.

e. High unemployment rates. Certainly the recession economy is a factor. It has not brought the poor to the suburbs, but it is the reason why many middle class people are suddenly poor and in need of assistance.

The most challenging aspect of poverty’s suburbanization is that it has caught social sectors by surprise. Governments, nonprofits, schools, healthcare systems and churches lack the infrastructures to help the way they do in the cities. Funding agencies are prepared to help the “urban poor” but have no mental category for the suburban poor. Money and volunteers flow inward to the city cores. Many nonprofits have lost the grants they need to provide wages for employees, yet have long lists of newly poor who need their services. Suburban schools are also unprepared for new kinds of students who enter the system from non-English speaking or reading impoverished backgrounds. Health care providers are serving new constituencies that lack insurance. Likewise, some suburban churches are facing membership declines and their congregations can no longer help fund programs. They seek causes, but are often unaware of shifts in their communities.

In the face of radical change, it would be humanly understandable for suburban Christians to assume a defensive posture. However, for such a time as this, the church is being called to a proactively biblical, missional and ethical response. To begin with, most Christians are aware of God’s commands to care for the poor (e.g. Proverbs 17:5, 21:13, 28: 27; Ezekiel 16:49; Mt 19:21, 25: 31ff), but in the suburbs poverty is less dense and therefore less visible. God not only demands giving to hoards of visible poor, but to any one with need “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother…therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land (Deuteronomy 15:7, 11).”

You can read the rest of the post as well as some pretty insightful comments and dialogue HERE.


Missional People and the Missional Institution

Blake Coffee, author of “Trusting God’s People… Again” and the “Church Whisperer” Blog wrote a worthwhile read on the difference between being a missional church and a missional people. As a leader in a missional church focused on developing missional people who engage both their neighbor and the marginalized, I thought this to be a good reminder and perspective. Here’s some of what he shared:

“You see, there is more to the missional mindset than just becoming a missional institution.  The missional lifestyle is a lifestyle for each of us as individual Christians, whether or not our particular church is ever seen by its community as being missional.  The attitude at my own church provides a great example.  Not that long ago, my church was literally blazing trails in the area of social ministries.  We owned and operated a restaurant run almost entirely by volunteers, the profits from which went to feed people in our near-by soup kitchen.  We provided leadership in some of our community’s homeless shelters and clothes closets.  We had a strong presence in several of our city’s project housing complexes.  We provided Christmas meals to between 400 and 500 impoverished families each year.  In this area of social ministries, our institution was a well-run machine.

So, over the last 30 years, each of us as church members could pat ourselves on the back because our institution was doing great things in this area and we each had the good judgment to be a member there.  Mind you, the vast majority of us were doing next to nothing in these ministries (other than supporting them financially), but when confronted by conviction about caring for the underprivileged, we could each conveniently check this item off…instead of “I gave at the office” we could say, “I gave at church.”

But if Christianity really is to remain the revolution Jesus intended (instead of just the institution we tend to make it), then whether or not my church is seen as a “missional church” does not define me one way or the other.  Only I can define me, through my own actions and through my own heart and mindset.  If I am seen as a person who genuinely cares about people less fortunate than I, then I am seen as “missional” in that respect.  If not, then I have work to do irrespective of whether or not my church offers me this opportunity through one of its ministries.”

Good words. Thanks Blake. To read the complete post click HERE.


Empowering Refugees Through Social Enterprise

Here’s a recent guest post from our Restore Austin blog by Leslie Beasley, one of the founders of “Open Arms”, a ministry that empowers Refugee Women here in Austin through social enterprise. I love this stuff.

“In January, 2010, I took a trip to Uganda. I focused much of my time visiting orphanages in the area, feeling inspired by the work done there. By chance (but really, is anything by chance?), I also spent time with a group of refugee women from the Acholi tribe. These women had been abused by rebel forces resulting in 80% of them being HIV positive. I marveled at the resilience of their spirits as we sang and danced together. Their dignity in the face of trials moved me deeply. I left them knowing I wanted to do something to help refugee women. But how could I do it from the States?

Upon returning to Austin, I was drawn to the rapidly growing yet largely invisible refugee population in my own community. I had completed a training program to help their families and began enrolling their children in school. As I got to know one refugee family in particular, their experience with fear and isolation convinced me the time to act was now and the place to help was Austin, Texas.

I set up a meeting with the director of Refugee Services of Texas and asked the question, “What is the biggest need for the refugees living in our community?” Her answer kick-started this social enterprise. She said that most of the refugees end up in jobs where they are overworked and underpaid and get caught in a cycle of dependency and despair. What they need, she explained, are sustainable jobs that provide a livable wage. So, I set out to start a business that would employ refugee women at a wage that would allow them to provide for their families……a company with a conscience!

I started asking some of my friends if they wanted to join the adventure of starting such a company and was pleased but not surprised at their positive responses. Lacey Strake was the first to say “yes”, which fit well with her heart and the fact we’d discussed doing something like this over 10 years ago. (We even referred to it as Open Arms in those long-ago conversations.) We were quickly joined by several other friends and seemingly overnight, we had a seven-woman team overflowing with passion and complementary talents. It was like watching the perfect puzzle pieces fall into place. Our team launched into the unique challenges of creating a business that offers a compelling product, pays a reasonable wage and matches the skills and experience of our refugee employees.


The product……..
As we wracked our brains about what to make and sell, we researched and spent time on product development for several ideas that ended up falling short. My husband, Robert, and I even got into a nightly ritual of “business brainstorming.” (I know…very romantic). One night, with our brains tired from going down too many rabbit trails, we asked the simple question: “What do people have a lot of…but don’t really need?” The answer came like a lightning bolt…T-SHIRTS! As our minds raced, we talked about how t-shirts and refugees share a similar story: created with hope, but often tossed aside. With Open Arms, refugees (and countless shirts) will get a new start, a new lease on life.

From the start, we determined to do business differently. What if our company offered enrichment opportunities where the employees could participate in brown bag lunches with experts on relevant subjects? What if they had the option to attend an ESL class during the workday? What if we offered a childcare co-op for our mothers so they could bring their children to work since childcare is often cost-prohibitive? What if we offered job-share opportunities for those who need to get home to be with their kids? What if we instituted an early literacy program for pre-school age children of our employees, giving them a solid start as they enter school? What if we invited the community to join us for lunch once a month to talk about poverty issues and ways to help break the cycle of poverty? What if…….

I’m convinced the passion and work ethic of our team (Alexia, Diane, Katherine, Lacey, Linda, and Trina…..not to mention the spouses who have been roped into countless hours of work on our behalf) and our growing network of friends and supporters will make Open Arms happen.

To find out more click HERE.


Safehouses for Victims of Human Trafficking

According to a recent article at change.org on child sex trafficking,  13 is average age a child is targeted and tricked by a pimp.  Advocates, law enforcement, service providers, and survivors have all come together to sound the alarm and reveal the brutal reality for the victims who are under pimp-control.  Federal initiatives such as the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Forces, which have recovered over 1,200 child victims through four law enforcement operations shows the severity of the problem.  And the stories shared by courageous survivors expose the methodical tactics used by pimps to recruit and trap their victims.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act states that any child, under the age of 18, involved in a commercial sex act is a victim of sex trafficking.  This law and many human trafficking state laws, which align with the federal standard recognize that children do not choose to be prostitutes.  These children are victims who deserve rescue and access to specialized services and shelter.   Unfortunately, to date there are limited federal resources available for American child victims of trafficking.  Even more shocking is the dearth of shelter options for these victims who have survived the unimaginable.  The Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victim Support Act 2010 attempted to bridge this gap by providing funding for six pilot shelter programs. This proposed piece of legislation received unanimous support in both the House and the Senate and was moving forward quickly.

This is a good thing. But only a start. And is still in opposition. Let’s be in prayer… let’s be active… let’s consider how we should act.

Click HERE to find out more.

Click HERE to get your church involved.