Category Archives: Uncategorized

Serving Homeless Graduating Seniors

There are 35 homeless graduating seniors from area High Schools registered for a sponsorship program through Hays CISD. If sponsored, these students will get much needed assistance during the graduation season and additional help in transitioning to the next season of life. Half of those students have been sponsored. Austin New Church has committed to ‘adopt’ the remaining 17. Without sponsorship, many of these students would not get to enjoy the ‘little things’ that make graduation exciting and memorable. Your sponsorship will ensure each student receives: (1) Required inoculations for college, (2) senior pictures, (3) entrance to senior dinner and Prom, (4) a yearbook, (5) a gift card for clothing, and (6) a “Fresh Start Basket” including basic household and dorm needs.

ANC has committed to the remaining $4200 but we need your help. As a part of ANC or as a friend of ANC, we are asking for you personally, your Restore Group, your family, friends, or a group at work to consider sponsoring a student by donating $250 or helping sponsor a student by giving in $100 or $50 increments.

Click HERE to donate now.

This is yet another reminder to me of the great need that exists in every community. These are simple ways to help, but excellent opportunities to be good news. Good News to a homeless student or family. Good News to a school administrator, trying to help these kids in ways they can’t, often shouldering the burden alone, and Good News to all who hear what the church is about. Maybe you won’t partner with us. But I hope you’ll consider how you can serve the schools in your community.


Why I’m pumped about Exponential

I’m both excited and honored to be teaching at the Exponential Conference in Orlando, Florida (April 23-26) for a handful of reasons:

FIRST, I’m excited about the focus: Not only will it be one of the best opportunities for church planters, church planting churches, and pastors to be equipped and gain practical help in increasing their missional posture… but also that this year’s theme (“Sifted“) is focusing on our spiritual and emotional well-being as well. I was proud to be able to preview and endorse Zondervan’s newest release in the Exponential Series “Sifted: Pursuing Growth Through Trials, Challenges, and Disappointments” by Wayne Cordeiro (with contributions by Francis Chan & Larry Osborne).

SECOND, I’m excited to announce that “The Barefoot Church Primer: An 8-wk Guide to Serving Through Community” is now IN STOCK and we’ll have them available at Exponential. This was a resource based on my book ‘Barefoot Church’, and is written with the Missional/Incarnational Community in mind. It offers a step-by-step process to begin to discover and engage need in your community while building a biblical understanding of mercy and justice as they relate to a holistic understanding of the gospel. While we think it’s a great resource to help form new communities and for existing communities to begin focusing their attention outward, we also believe it to be a helpful Spiritual Development tool as you seek to “make disciples” through empowering a missional posture. (For a little preview: CLICK HERE)

THIRD, I’m super-pumped to be leading three sessions that I think will be incredibly helpful for those of you seeking to add to your missional/incarnational efforts (in the area of mercy & justice) while giving some fresh thoughts on some stuff you might want to consider (in the area of gospel & discipleship). Hope you can join me. Here’s some more info:

1. Launching Service based missional Communities: 10 steps to building community through engaging need. (Launching Missional Communities Track: Lab 1)

  • Most of us want Missional/Incarnational Communities that are truly focused on mission, but many of us don’t know where to start. Brandon will take you through ten steps that build biblical faith community (inward) through engaging the needs in a Community (outward).

2. Missional Saturation: 5 changes every church must make to gain & maintain missional momentum. (Nuts and Bolts Track – Lab 2)

  • “Missional Church” is a redundant label… at least it should be. At the very heart of biblical church lies a call to be a community on mission. Most of us agree. Many of us are trying. Yet too often we fail to make key structural changes that ensure lasting missional momentum. Join Brandon Hatmaker in an open discussion on 5 key areas of church structure that will undermine your leadership and kill your momentum if left unchecked.

3. Structuring to serve through Community: 8 critical steps to point small groups outward. (Creating Missional Centers Track – Lab 3)

  • Even a well-intentioned Missional Community can lose its focus and allow in-house needs to steal its time and attention. Join Brandon Hatmaker as he takes us through 8 critical steps to ensure your small group maintains its focus on making disciples committed to gospel centered community and mission.

Verge 2012: 7 Steps to Moving beyond the Event of Serving

There is certainly is an uptick in the social activity of the church today. This is a good thing. But when serving remains simply an event that we do once a quarter or year, it often falls short of having gospel implications. So how do we move beyond serving as just an event? How do we create structures to ensure that we engage need on a personal level and as a part of missional community?

Before I offer some thoughts on those questions, here are two things I want to clarify about serving the least:

  1. Serving the Least does not make you Missional: Missional recognizes that you are, where you have been sent.  Serving the least is a critical part of a missional posture, but serving alone for the sake of serving is not enough. You can go serve the least and still be a jerk to your neighbor. Not very missional.
  2. Serving the Least is critical for the church to regain her voice: Serving the poor transcends culture and context because being good news always transcend culture and context. In a post-modern and post-Christian world, it’s both biblical and contextual. Our skeptics demand that our deed match our creed.

Okay… now that I got that off my chest… here’s a few thoughts I shared at today’s Verge Conference on the topic.

Serving Through Missional Community: 7 steps to moving beyond the event.

  1. Teach Serving as a part of gospel-centered discipleship effort: Too often we fail to connect the dots between serving, becoming good news, and the Gospel.
  2. Plan Events & Projects that serve a redemptive purpose and present opportunities to do more: When we do so, the “Event” can serve as a spring board or “gateway” to more engagement and relationships.
  3. Create structures that clearly communicate  a plan for next steps to engaging need: Serving cannot be just an “add on” event. It must be a clear part of the discipleship process. Communicating this reality is a critical step of the equipping process.
  4. Create a Place to Engage Culture:  Missional Communities must be postured to engage real needs. We cannot engage culture without engaging the needs of culture. We can often utilize existing structures for this function (Re-purposed small groups, etc…). Often these must be decentralized in order to be both contextual as well as reproducible.
  5. Create the Space for Mission: Service will be the first thing that goes when people get busy. Most of our churches are already incredibly busy even without serving outside the church. So we must “add by subtraction” to create space to add service as a priority without simply adding another thing to do.
  6. Staff the Legwork of Serving: Instead of planning the entire event, recruiting leaders, and begging people to come… if our efforts are truly decentralized… we can do the front end legwork of working with non-profits, building the relationships, and providing a handful of service options (often the hard part), taking a “help me help you” posture with your group leaders. This helps enable and empower leaders to own a project without being bogged down with the red tape of initiation.
  7. Change the Way you Measure Success: This is the hardest thing to do but the most necessary. Serving the least is often messy, slow, seemingly ineffective, costly, and doesn’t necessarily result in church growth. We must begin to measure success in different ways:
  • Kingdom impact over attendance impact.
  • Percent of people from your church serving outside of your church.
  • Number of non-Christians, seekers, & de-churched joining you to serve.
  • Personal Transformation in your people.
  • Number of those going on to the “next level” of engaging need as an intuitive part of life.

BFC Primer: The Images that Tell the Story

One of my favorite parts about the Barefoot Church Primer is its design. It’s packed with images taken by my friend Peter Schrock during one of our Serve Austin Sunday’s. So the people, the projects, and the images captured are a genuine word picture of what you’re learning. I thought I’d take just a moment and give an insiders look. Enjoy.

"Where the rubber meets the road." Here's an image of shoes lined up from one of our giveaways to the homeless and working poor of Austin

Here's a shot of the capital building as seen from South Congress just south of the River.

Hard at work during our Downtown Grillout for the Homeless on the corner of Neches and 7th Street.

Here's a look at the weekly flow. My favorite week is the fourth where we spend some time digging in to a biblical understanding of justice. It's also the week we start engaging simple need in your immediate community.

Here's a burger plate from our homeless grillout in downtown Austin as seen in week 3's chapter on developing a heart of Mercy.

Social Justice: Pray for Wisdom

The book of James says if we lack wisdom to pray for it (James 1:5). If in any way we need more prayer it’s for wisdom.  James basically spent the rest of his efforts explaining why we need this wisdom:

  • To not be deceived by merely listening to the Word, but to do what it says (James 1:22).
  • To understand that the type of “religion” God accepts as faultless and pure is one unpolluted by the world and one that spends itself on the orphan and widow (James 1:27).
  • That loving our neighbor is the “royal law” and by keeping it we can be confident we are doing right (James 2:8).
  • That mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
  • That faith without deeds is worthless (James 2:16, 20).
  • That knowledge is beneficial only when applied to a good life and humble deeds (James 3:13).
  • That wisdom resulting in selfish ambition is unspiritual but wisdom from heaven is full of mercy and good fruit (James 3:15-17).
  • To see that when there is good to do, we sin when we fail to do it (James 4:17).
  • To understand how our self-indulgence and our neglect have made us the oppressors (Jas 5:1-6).

If this is our condition, we’re in trouble, and we certainly need wisdom.

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray… And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:13-16

If in any thing we need more healing it’s in how we deal with need in the world. If the statistics don’t create a sense of indignation in us, then we should pray. If God’s words do not create a sense of indignation for either our condition, lack of concern, or neglect. Pray that it does. Pray that the Holy Spirit convicts us. Pray that our minds are renewed. Pray for indignation.

“Each individual has the spiritual responsibility of cultivating that indignation. Tapping into that rage. And then allowing that rage to be converted into compassionate action.”[i]

It’s both a personal and a collective responsibility. If no one else will go, we must still go. If no one else will care, we must still care. If every Christian in the world thinks we’re crazy. It doesn’t matter. In our indignation we will find joy. And the joy of the Lord is our strength.[ii] We will find it to be our hearts delight. For when we live recklessly by the Word and commands of God, we bear His name, not ours.

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.  I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation.” -Jeremiah 15:16-17

[i] Ashley Judd: Call and Response: A Film about the Worlds 27 million most terrifying secrets, (Fair Trade Fund 2008).

[ii] Nehemiah 8:10

Missional Community and Starbucks

A couple years ago Jen and I decided to take a cruise from Seattle to Alaska for our anniversary. It was awesome. We had never been to Seattle, so we decided to fly in a few days early to take in the city. We did all the usually stops. We stood on the observation deck of the space needle, Jen caught a fish at Pikes Place Market, and since we’re both huge coffee lovers, we figured we’d better check out the original Starbucks while we were there.

I was pretty pumped about the Starbucks thing. The line was out the door. The storefront was just like the pictures. And they were funneling people through as efficiently as possible, everyone leaving with their coffee and an additional t-shirt, mug, or other logo-laden paraphernalia. It was a whirlwind of action. I grabbed my grande black coffee and went to grab a chair to wait on Jen and her eight-syllable drink when it hit me… there’s no place to sit down.

Surely not, this is Starbucks, home of community and wi-fi. The place we hang out for business meetings and stale pastries. Honestly, it set me back a moment. But they had removed every chair in the building to make room for in-and-out traffic. What once was a place built on the idea of community, had now become a business so efficient that no one in the room even noticed they were being treated like cattle.

And we didn’t care. No one was there to hang out, read a book, or sip on a latte. They had a tourist schedule and needed to move on. They were giving us exactly what we wanted, coffee, a t-shirt, and a picture in front of the building to prove we had been there.

Every time I hear someone teach on the Acts 2 church I wonder what first century faith community really looked like.  I can’t help but think there was something special about it that we’ve lost. It’s hard to imagine a day where people would pool what they had to make sure no one was without. While things certainly look different in our time, it just seems like we’ve lost a little something.  Something tells me community didn’t just fill a need in their lives to connect, it gave them purpose.

Robert Bellah, American sociologist, and Professor of Sociology, at the University of California, Berkeley wrote that, “We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions but through them. We never get to the bottom of our selves on our own. We discover who we are face and side by side with others in work, love, and learning. All of our activity goes on in relationships, groups, associations, and communities ordered by institutional structures and interpreted by cultural patterns of meaning.” (Robert Bellah, et al., Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), 84

In other words, we need each other. We were created that way. And whether we choose to be or not, we are shaped by our relationships. We will be influenced and find our significance as believers in community.  “Jesus said that he had come to give life, and life to the full (John 10:10). Paul was clear in Ephesians 4:1-2 that we were to “lead a life worthy of the calling” and to “make every effort” to live in unity. It’s through doing life together that we learn to do so. “The church is God’s people gathered as a unit, as a people, gathered to do business in His name, to find what it means here and now to put into practice this different quality of life which is God’s promise to them and to the world and their promise to God and service to the world.” (John Howard Yoker, The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism (Scottdale, Penn.: Herald, 1977), 30-31

In learning to become a community that is “not about us”, we more intuitively lean into the leading of the spirit as we seek to participate in God’s mission in the World. “In doing so, it becomes a sign that God’s redemption is now present in the world, a foretaste of what that redemption is like, and an instrument to carry that message into every local context.” (Leslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995).

In essence, missional community may serve as one of the best ways we can embody the incarnation of Christ. Putting on flesh. And being Jesus to our world.  “In living out this identity and living into this role, the focus for the church shifts primarily to one of discerning and responding to the leading of the Spirit – being a spirit-led missional church. When this understanding is translated to congregations, we find that congregations begin to take seriously how to explore and engage the communities in which they are located.” (Craig Van Gelder, The Ministry of the Missional Church: A community Led by the spirit, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007) p19