Category Archives: Brandon Hatmaker

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


Barefoot Church Primer Giveaway

The Barefoot Church Primer is an eight-week guide to serving through community and is based on the book “Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture”. It’s designed for any small group, community group, or bible study group to build a stronger biblical foundation for serving the poor, gain a greater understanding of biblical mercy and justice, and learn how to engage need as an intuitive part of life.  Next week at The Verge Conference in Austin, I’ll be giving away a few pre-release copies of the Barefoot Church Primer.

Just for fun, I thought I’d pull a 25 copies from the pile and give away to those of you who have read Barefoot Church (the book) here on my blog.

So here’s what I need you to do. The first 25 people who respond to this blog with (1) a favorite quote from the book with your name and address in the comments, (2) rate and review the Barefoot Church book at Amazon.com by clicking HERE, and (3) tweet something about the primer including a link to http://www.missiopublishing.com… I will send you one of the first 25 copies available.

If you haven’t read the book yet but are still interested in the primer: Do the same as above only just promise me you’ll read and review the book soon, throw me out a tweet, and I’ll send you a copy of the primer anyway (if you’re one of the first 25).

The BFC Primer will be available for pre-order on February 24th and will be shipped March 14th.

Here’s a quick chapter preview on what you can expect:

  • Week One: The Journey
  • Week Two: Becoming Good News
  • Week Three: Mercy
  • Week Four: Justice
  • Week Five: Expose
  • Week Six: Experience
  • Week Seven: Engage
  • Week Eight: The Intuitive Life

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?


The AND of Church: Genius v.s. Reality.

Something interesting has happened at Austin New Church. Although we are a church that values equally gathering (exaltation) and the sending (incarnation), our onlookers often assume as a service-based-missional-church, that we value mission, service, and community OVER worship, teaching, and discipleship. This is not true.

In fact, our intention is to be a church where our reality is a balance between the two. I believe not only in the “Genius of the AND”, but also in it’s biblical value. I truly believe that one validates the other. But I also understand completely why people make this assumption about ANC. And it’s our fault.

We do it on purpose.

Let me explain: I’m right-handed. And I play basketball. My natural bent is to dribble with my right hand and to shoot with my right hand. I don’t have to work very hard to do that well. My left, however, is another story. I have to force myself to go left. I have to work extra hard, do left-handed drills, and honestly… I’m not nearly as good at it.

So I have a choice. Always go right, which eventually becomes predictable and even ineffective in certain situations. Or LEARN to go left… be willing to work hard, willing to do something that makes me feel uncomfortable or even make me look a little awkward at times, willing to even fail trying, but do something I know is not only necessary but something that can be a difference maker.

But go and LEARN what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mt 9:13

LEARN to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” – Is 1:17

The gathering of the church has become our “right hand”. We intuitively (and culturally) do it well. Honestly, we do it so well… it easily becomes rote… so we spend extra time trying to keep it creative, always seeking to push the envelope to the next level. This – in itself – is not a bad thing.

The sending of the church is often our “left hand”. We know it’s there for a reason. But we tend to use it only when we have to. And it’s certainly a difficult task to improve. It’s hard work. And often takes sacrifice.

So we have a choice. Do we settle for doing one well and neglect the other? Or do we work hard on our weakness, shooting for a balance between the two? I’m not trying to oversimplify the conversation, but I believe this is part of our problem. We get whatever we put into it. In fact, I believe we must work harder – possibly twice as hard – at the missional elements of church to come even close to the middle. This is our strategy at ANC. We lead with mission and our hope is that worship is the overflow. So far, so good.

We can’t minimize this to being just a functional move. It’s more complicated than that and there’s a reason it works. There is certainly a biblical purpose. But as church leaders and practitioners we must recognize that the GENIUS of the “AND” is a reality that very few of us actual find. And that the REALITY of the “AND” is found in identifying, working on, and playing to our “weakness”. It’s not only about what we do well, it’s what we neglect. It’s certainly more of an art form than a science and often requires an over-compensating of sorts in the direction of mission. A move not everyone is willing to make.

Even as Christ followers, many of us fail at finding the balance of the “AND” in our personal faith journey. We barely give equal treatment or value to mission. Even when we do, since our natural bent is towards the gathering… we don’t land anywhere near to the middle.

This is a good conversation to have. And I’m glad so many are having it. With this in mind there are two things I’d recommend to anyone seeking some answers. The first is the book “AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church” written by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. And the second is the “AND Conference” held at Granger Community Church this fall.


Missional Momentum

Over the last couple years I’ve had the opportunity to sit with a number of pastors seeking to increase the missional posture of their church. As expected, this has proven to be easier for some than others, and more of an art form than a science.

But among the many variables, we’re beginning to see a few common threads emerge among those seeming to gain “missional momentum”. Here are the top three practices we’ve observed:

1. Those pursuing the “and” of EXALTATION and INCARNATION.

As church leaders we often make the mistake of thinking what we do on Sunday and what we do throughout the week operate independent of one another. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the majority of our weekday ministries pick up where Sunday leaves off. Missional momentum seems to be directly impacted by how effectively we utilize our gatherings to give bible precedence, priority of vision, and permission for our people to live on mission throughout the week.

2. Those discovering new ways to ENGAGE the NEEDS of their community.

Missional flow draws attention to the natural process necessary to engage an “unreached” people group. It starts with (1) engaging culture, then (2) forming community (on mission), followed by (3) creating structure or congregation. At the very core of a biblically missional effort lies a demand to engage culture. We simply cannot engage culture without engaging the needs of culture. Churches gaining the most momentum seem to be those utilizing existing structures to meet the needs of their community – as much as – or even prior to their own.

3. Those recognizing what they CAN’T do and HELPING others who CAN.

Many church leaders today are starting from a good place: Reality. For some, the ship they are trying to turn makes the titanic look like a two man raft. In their wisdom and experience they are piloting groups rather than blowing up ministries and starting over. They are pioneering new strategies through existing structures. But they know it will take time… and they can’t do it all at once.

This is where church planting and partnering with existing ministries or non-profits comes to play. A surprising amount of missional momentum is being found by churches committed to help others plant churches or who are willing to partner with those already engaging the needs of culture in ways they’d find difficult to do themselves.


Championing the Call to Serve

I run into pastors all the time asking where to start in making their church more socially aware and active. My short answer:

You cannot outsource a call to social action; You have to champion it yourselves.

Pastor, there is literally nothing holding you back except you. You have the authority. You have the influence. You have the calling. And you have the gifting and ability to do whatever God is calling you to do. That being said, you should still start at home. Prayerfully involve your wife and family. Prayerfully digest the tension in your own life and ways. As we all know, we cannot lead others where we have not gone ourselves. But here’s three things I feel are necessary:

1)    Be Convicted: This has to be something that God is putting on your heart for the right reason. If it is not, it will just be burdensome to you and your leadership. Start with prayer and end with prayer. Ask the Spirit to show you where you yourself are falling short. You don’t even have to know exactly what you’re being convicted about, you just have to feel something, know something has to be done, and be willing to do something about it.

2)    Be Convinced: Settle the issue of theology. Study the scriptures on serving the least. Not everyone agrees, so expect conflict, pray and do some more research. One way or another you’ll either land on seeing social action as a significant piece of the gospel, a necessary part of a Christians life running parallel to the gospel, or something completely unconnected. Two out of three of those demand a response. Without being convinced that you are pressing forward out of biblical mandate or moral imperative, your leadership will lack the power and confidence you need. Those following can see the difference.

3)    Be Confident: Confidence is the fruit of the first two steps. When the tension comes, you’ll either forget why you’re doing it and bail or remember Gods leading and instruction and fight for it. There will be a time when you’ll feel you l have to remind God that it was His idea. He already knows that. Do you?

(Excerpted from “Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture”)


Summer Internship at ANC

We have two remaining openings for summer internships with Austin New Church and Restore Communities. Internships start May 28th and housing is provided. Interns will have three primary responsibilities:

  • Serving our non-profit partners “Music For the City” day camps with the under-resourced in East Austin providing mentoring, projects, and events for children in partnership with various Austin artists and mediums.
  • Working with Restore Communities in planning the city-wide Serve Austin Sunday for July.
  • Working with Austin New Church on a variety of other projects and summer initiatives.

We will be accepting resumes until May 8th. If you are interested in finding out more drop us an email at info@austinnewchurch.com and let us know of your interest.