Tag Archives: Barefoot Church

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.


I’ve learned a lot about God from being a parent. As a dad, I have a glimpse of what unconditional love must feel like. I have an almost unreasonable hope for each of my kids. And I hurt deeply when they hurt.

Just the same, I’ve learned a lot about God over the last year and half on our journey to adoption. But I’ve learned even more about US and how WE respond to God (as His children) than anything else: Initial excitement and hope followed by overwhelming confusion, unreasonable fear, and even conditional rejection.

Let me explain.

To be at the transition house in Ethiopia is an amazing thing. The children are playful. Everyone is hugging everyone. Affection expressed. Laughter. “Mommy” and “Daddy” are terms of endearment offered with hopeful exuberance. You can’t help but think, “This is gonna be great! Our kids love us. They want to be held. They appreciate our gifts. I dare say, this might just be easy for us!”

When we first took our daughter (Remy Matawi) from the transition home in Ethiopia it was all giggles and smiles. We drove off with her donning her new shoes and a pink backpack that held everything she owned. On the way to the home where we’d be staying for the week she sat in Jen’s lap with eyes wide open, observing everything that passed by her window. She was adorable.

As we arrived at our destination and the cab drove away, something happened. Terror struck the heart of our little girl… and to say the least… she had a meltdown. She tightly latched onto Jen with both arms and legs, calling for me, eventually clinging to both of us with tears pouring down her cheeks. It became obvious that she was not only deathly afraid of her new environment, but she was also fearful that we were going to leave her there.

The next 24 hours were a blur. She pulled out of it pretty quickly after realizing we weren’t going anywhere (A shuffle through a suitcase filled with her new clothes didn’t hurt either).

Here’s how Jen put it in a recent BLOG:

As soon as the three of us went to our room for the night, and it became clear we were all staying, she popped right out of that shell. She giggled and chattered and did her little Ethiopian dance (the cutest thing you’ve ever seen). She tried on clothes and played with her toys and fawned all over us, yammering the whole time about who knows what. The three of climbed into bed together, Remy sandwiched between us, and she was the happiest little lark in all the land. For 15 minutes, it went like this:

Mommy, I love you so much!

Doddy, I love you so much!

Mommy, Doddy, Matawi.

Mommy, Doddy, Matawi, Beniam, Gabin, Sinney, Cilab.


*She kisses her hand and puts in on my face.*

*She kisses her hand and puts in on Brandon’s face.*

*She puts our hands to our lips and then to her face.*

Mommy, I love you so much!

Doddy, I love you so much!


Mommy, Doddy, Matawi!

It was adorable. But day two was different. Not for Jen. But for me.

Matawi continued to show unbridled affection for Jen. But something happened in her little mind that flipped a switch regarding me. I’ll never forget the moment waiting at the American Embassy for our appointment when I looked at her and said, “Ewedishale hu” (I love you in Amharic).

She looked at me. Scrunched her nose. Waved her finger at me and said, “No, Daddy. No Ewedishale hu”. From that moment on she wouldn’t let me touch her.

Ouch. Seriously. OUCH. I was embarrassed. I felt confused. I was hurt. And I didn’t know what to do. So I blew it off like a tough guy and said, “Okay, Matawi. It’s okay. I love you.”

As she clung to Jen’s neck she replied, “No, Daddy! Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…”

I got the lecture of my life in Amharic and had no idea what she even said. But whatever it was, she meant every word of it. And it was obvious she was serious.

The next day at the transition home we had an opportunity to sit down with the psychologist. He’s a brilliant young doctor who stands about 5’2” and simply adores the children. And they adore him. After a few moments of discussion, dialogue on how the kids are doing, and him explaining what was next on our journey, I shared with him what was happening between Matawi and me. He wasn’t surprised. And began to engage her in discussion on what she was feeling.

The tones of his words were soft and encouraging. The inflections in his voice brought comfort (to even me, and I didn’t know what he was saying). Then he turned to me.

“She says that she’s afraid you will hurt her.”

My heart stopped.

He continued, “It’s okay. This is common. You must understand that to her, “daddies” are unsafe. But she will change. She will learn to trust you. It may take a while. But she will.”

This is why the coming weeks and months are so important at the Hatmaker house. It’s why we need to be home and be together as a family as much as possible. We hope she sees a healthy and safe family. Even more so, we hope she FEELS a healthy and safe family. And daddy.

100% of the dads I’ve met so far who have adopted little girls from Ethiopia have experienced this. Matawi is deeply wounded. And while I hate that this is her story, knowing the reason for her distrust helps me process it. It allows me to not take it too personal (or at least it helps… some). And it gives me some hope. But it still hurts. Bad.

She continues to keep me at arms length, but somehow and for some reason, when I just start to feel like maybe she would be fine living without me, she throws me a bone. Like the moment when we were in the airport cafe and I stepped away to grab some WiFi. When she realized I was gone, tore down the terminal, yelling for me. Here’s the text I got from Jen:

“Remy is screaming for you and crying. Come back!”

This was weird. One, in my selfishness, it comforted me. I’m the grown up. I should not celebrate affection that spawns from her insecurity. But it just felt good knowing that while she was keeping me at arms length… she still wanted me within arms length. This is a good sign of things to come.

Since then, she does little things to show she really does need me. Pining for my approval on something she draws or writes. She’ll call out “Daddy” to draw my attention when she knows she’s done something good. While she still doesn’t allow touch unless she initiates it, this is good. In fact, it’s real good. And it gives me a glimpse into her little mind and heart.

I’m experiencing some emotions that I never knew existed. It’s like another world of feelings that blindside you repetitively, like a rollercoaster of ups, downs, loops, and turns. As with most things, I’m finding that adoption for dads is a different experience than for moms. That’s neither a good or bad thing. It’s just different. And there is much to learn from each of our experiences.

I love this journey. I love seeing Matawi attach to Jen. I love seeing my children and her interact and bond. I love seeing her “process” me. And somehow, deep within me, I sense through it all the seedlings of her restoration. I’m reminded as I consider the cross that things of great value come at great cost. And there is nothing to fear.

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15

Many have said that adoption offers a perfect picture of our relationship with God. I wonder if it’s not even a better picture than the natural parent/child relationship. When I apply how I feel after pouring out so much of myself over the past year and a half, and I consider the journey it took to become her father, I get an even deeper glimpse of how God may see us. Even more so, I’m seeing how in our woundedness and humanity, we may wrongly perceive God.

Matawi does not yet see me as I am. She sees me through the lens of her experiences. And they are unreasonable. I’m not going to hurt her. She can trust me. I love her and cannot wait for the day that she fully understands that.

God, forgive me when I keep you at arms length. I know you’re more secure than me. But I know you want me to trust. Help me to always see you as you are, not as I project you to be. Forgive my distrust. Forgive me when I look at you through my experiences and my pain and not through the lens of your truth. Heal my woundedness and insecurities.

Help Matawi to see me the same way. Help me to be the father she needs me to be.

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”)

Good News through Community

Excerpted from Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture:

Jesus was clear that his followers were the salt of the earth, a light to the world, and a city on a hill that could not be hidden.  Being a visible city or a shining light does not mean that we should talk even louder when no one is listening to us or that we should wave our arms and jump around when we aren’t seen, just to get in someone’s face.  When we are “salt,” saltiness is part of our very nature.  If we are indeed “light,” we will indeed be seen in a dark world. Who we are can’t be hidden because light consumes the darkness.

These are images that define the nature of a community that becomes Good News to others. This is something we become because of what we believe, what we value, and what we do. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 that when people encounter such a community that they will “see” our “good works” and then ultimately “give glory to your Father in heaven.”[i]

In a post-Christian society, this is what the church needs to become yet again, salt and light to the world. The unchurched community no longer expects much from church; in fact, they often expect the worst. They are jaded. Wounded. And confused. Yet people are still looking for hope, and no one else can offer what we have to offer them.  Our story made public, the visible witness of our lives together as a whole community, are integral to whether or not our message of hope becomes their message of hope.

To minister with influence in our current context, we must learn to locate the key differences between what our culture sees and what the Kingdom of God made visible has to offer them. The more the church lives in faithfulness to God and the gospel, the more visible God’s grace will be for all those who long for it. As Darrell Guder wrote in his book, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, “Churches that listen to sermons deploring crime may be faithful in attending to God’s call for right relationships among humanity. But the church that sets up victim-offender reconciliation programs and promotes equitable economic opportunities for communities where crime is the main escape route from financial despair is not only faithful but a remarkable light to the world, a city on a hill.”

Billy Graham, one of the most well-known evangelists of the twentieth century, understood that the cultural context was shifting. In an interview by author Gabe Lyons, Mr. Graham made this game-changing statement: “Back when we did those big crusades in football stadiums and arenas, the Holy Spirit was really moving- and people were coming to Christ as we preached the Word of God. But today I sense something different is happening. I see evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in a new way. He’s moving through people where they work and through one-on-one relationships to accomplish great things. They are demonstrating God’s love to those with love, not just with words, but in deeds.”

Why we Cancel Church on Easter (Part 2)

It was a beautiful day in downtown Austin. It’s amazing to be a part of a church and an Easter service where literally everyone who came… came to serve others. Here’s a glimpse at what the day looked like. Take the time to watch to the end so you can see the still shots (my favorite part).

It was an incredible moment to remember together that the one who was resurrected is also the one who resurrects. He resurrects lives, He resurrects marriages, and He resurrects hope. As a pastor, I gain incredible joy watching people get out of their skin to do something for someone in need. It’s almost as if you can see them changing right before your eyes. Today lives were changed. Hope was resurrected. And I believe Jesus was Glorified. As Christ followers we must believe and do our best to live the words of Jesus:

‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:35-40

Disputable Matters: Serving the Least

The past two weeks at ANC we’ve been wrestling with “disputable matters” as discuss in Romans 14. It’s interesting how easily we take this text and make it about the issue itself instead of the impact of the issue on our unity and concern for others. Paul was clear to remind us that there’s certainly a bigger picture:

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” – Romans 14:17

He writes this just moments after reminding us what it looks like to apply all he wrote in the first 11 chapters. Essentially he’s spends the next couple chapters teaching how we should respond to the Gospel personally and collectively, both in our own context and in our culture (To listen click HERE).

It blows me away that “serving the least” has become a disputable matter in the church. We’ve taken something so important to the life and ministry of Jesus and made it an optional expression of the church. It was a major emphasis that many have made minor.

*In Luke 18, Jesus was asked by the rich young ruler what he should do to inherit the Kingdom. His response? Give to the poor. We know the law, yet this is probably the most obvious mark of a disciple we miss.

You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”

“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” – Luke 18

I assure you, this wasn’t about the Benjamin’s. Jesus didn’t need this man’s money to help the poor. This man needed to help the poor. There is so much wrapped in what happens when we do. We are confronted at the very soul of our existence. This wasn’t the first time Jesus encouraged this discipline for making disciples, and it wasn’t his last time either.

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:13-14

In a moment, Zacchaeus discerned what Jesus required of him:

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” Luke 19:8-9

Paul labeled Tabitha a disciple. The marks of her discipleship:

“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, who was always doing good and helping the poor.”- Acts 9:36

The Angel who came to Cornelius, the first gentile convert reported in scripture, claimed that the very reason He was there is because God not only heard his prayers, but remembered his service to the poor:

“Cornelius answered: “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.” – Acts 10:30-31

The Apostles, pioneers of the New Testament church, knew that if they did anything of value, that they should continue to serve the poor:

“James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. – Galatians 2:9-10

Darrell Guder wrote in his book, “Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, that “Believing is not just a matter of knowing. Believing is also a matter of doing. Believing is trusting that Jesus’ way of living is the right way, and trusting it enough that one is willing to live that way – and die that way.” The only thing to dispute is whether or not we’re willing to do so.

*Excerpt from, “Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture”

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