If you are planning on attending the Exponential conference in Orlando this April be sure to join us for the Forge Missional Pre-conference on Monday and Tuesday.
Creating a Missional Sending Culture to Every Neighborhood and Network
Now that America has become a mission context, churches are beginning to recognize that the need is not for more and better programs, presentations or preaching; instead a mission field needs missionaries. The church needs to equip and activate everyday people who know how to engage their context with the gospel, form missionary communities, and re-orient their lives around kingdom values and behaviors. In this Preconference, the Forge team (Alan and Deb Hirsch, Hugh Halter, Ryan Hairston and Brad Brisco) will help you move from missional inspiration to practical, missional apprenticeship. We will discuss:
The Missionary Nature of Church
“Deconsumerizing” & Decentralizing the Saints
Moving Small Groups to Missionary Communities
Activating ALL the People of God
Synergizing the Gathered and Scattered Structures
Around the world one of the most neglected areas of missiological research has been ecclesiology. Rather than finding new avenues for creatively contextualizing the congregation so that it might represent the gospel, we have exported church polities, church forms, church structures, and church traditions, superimposing them on all the cultures we have encountered. Although we have become conscious of the relationship of gospel and culture, we have yet to understand how drastically we must rethink that relationship.
To develop a congregational missiology for the Church is no longer optional. [Congregations] will either limp along struggling to maintain what they have, or they will rise to new life because they catch a vision of their unique purpose and mission within their individual context. This vision involves more than developing a philosophy of ministry—it impels action deeper than a call for better goal-setting and administration. Local congregations the world over will gain new life and vitality only as they understand the missiological purpose for which they alone exist, the unique culture, people, and needs of their context, and the missionary action through which they alone will discover their own nature as God’s people in God’s world.
~ Charles Van Engen; God’s Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church
Over the past several years there has been an increasing interest in church planting. As a result of declining attendance and the closing of many existing churches, every major denomination is focusing more resources toward starting new congregations. In recent years, we have also seen the creation of church planting networks that emphasize church planting across denominational lines.
In the midst of this proliferation of church planting, one of the most significant trends is the starting of new churches by bivocational leaders. Historically the phrase “bivocational pastor” was used to refer to a leader who served a church that was unable to compensate a pastor with a full-time salary. Therefore, the pastor would work a second, or third job, to supplement what the church could provide. In many cases, it was out of necessity not preference. However, today there is a new movement among bivocational leaders. More church planters who are choosing to plant bivocationally. They are making this decision out of the conviction that bivocational church planting actually provides a more desirable way to plant a new church, rather than on the basis of limited funds. In other words, it is becoming a first option, not a last resort.
While there is no need for bivocational church planting to compete with the more traditional approach—it is clearly a both/and proposition—there are some significant benefits to planting bivocationally, especially in a post-Christendom context. Lets consider three.
Over the past couple of months I have spent several days with denominational leaders from various tribes. Each of the groups have been discussing the “whys” and the “hows” of bringing about change in their existing systems. Some leaders come to the conversation through the realization that what has “worked” in the past is no longer effective (what I call a “crisis of influence”), while others enter the discussion because they have a strong sense that something isn’t quite right about how they think and operate as a mission organization (what I call a “crisis of mission”). Read more →
In a new book titled Next Door As It Is In Heaven, I write on the importance of understanding biblical hospitality in our pursuit of loving our neighbors. I like to use the adjective biblical to help differentiate this particular form of hospitality from what usually comes to mind. Most often we imagine that being hospitable revolves around entertaining; inviting family and friends into our homes for a meal or a night of fun and games.
Let’s be clear. There is certainly nothing wrong with sharing a meal with friends and family. However, this “entertaining” form of hospitality falls short of the depth and richness of the meaning of hospitality in Scripture. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “hospitality” is philoxenia, which is a combination of two words: phileo (love) and xenos (stranger). It literally means “love of stranger.” There are several implications to this definition.
Our hope for the book is to see everyday Christians take personal responsibility for their neighborhoods. This will involve seeing the ways and means of God’s Kingdom having a tangible effect on how people live and relate to one another.
We have not only witnessed the need in our society but we have also discovered story after story of how believers are doing some wonderful things in regards to neighboring. In the past few years we have both experienced the richness of living out the ways of the Kingdom in our own neighborhoods and places we frequent. Many Christians we have interacted with have iterated a deep desire to love their neighbors, but they just don’t know how to get started. We believe this book will offer a lot of hope along with realistic practical examples and steps to get started.
We have the opportunity and ability to make a real difference in the places we live, work, and play. Too often “loving others” is so ethereal in our minds that we just can’t find any traction to make that love real. Our hope is that we have provided some ideas and concepts that will leverage people’s ability to crack open their imagination as to how they can actively participate in God’s love becoming tangible in the places and people of their everyday lives.
I have worked with church planters for over fifteen years. During that time I have spent hundreds of hours providing training, coaching and resources to a wide variety of planters. Regardless of the church planter’s approach to planting, I have discovered that in almost every case the planter moves too quickly towards pragmatism.
Planters want to know what “works.” They want to know what other “successful” planters are doing. What strategies or techniques are helping church plants start strong and grow quickly?
In other words, they put the ecclesiastical cart before the horse.
Instead, I have come to realize that our ecclesiology – especially in a post-Christian context – must flow directly out of serious theological and missiological reflection.
As a result of the practical ecclesial questions that most planters ask, the vast majority of church planting resources are bent towards how to do church better. Most books deal with the nuts and bolts of church planting. An exception to this trend is a book written in 2001 by Stuart Murray called Church Planting: Laying Foundations. Murray’s book is one of the finest written on the topic of church planting. He offers a very helpful emphasis on both the theological and historical framework for church planting.
When discussing the theological foundation for planting, Murray argues that all church planters operate within some theological framework, but most often these frameworks are simply assumed, and not clearly articulated. He states that while inadequate theological reflection will not necessarily hinder short-term growth, it will limit the long-term impact of church planting and may result in distortions in the way in which the mission of the church is understood.
I appreciate how Murray sees church planting as one aspect of the mission of God in which churches are privileged to participate. The church can understand the scope and implications of participating in God’s mission, and the place of church planting within it, in relation to three important theological concepts; the Kingdom of God, incarnation, and missio Dei.
Future Travelers is designed for leaders who are experiencing a holy discontent about the effectiveness and future of the church in the West. These communities are for leaders who are questioning whether we’re really making authentic disciples sold out to Jesus or just creating consumers of Christian goods and services. They’re for leaders no longer interested and content in simply growing attendance.
This journey will provide a rich exploration into the paradigm of the church as an apostolic, disciple-making movement and personal coaching from the Forge team. The outcome will be a customized plan for implementation for each church involved, equipping leaders with the strategy and practical resources needed to launch a movement and navigate change. This won’t be a one-size-fits all, fill-in-the-blank experience, but a 360 learning community led by practitioners. For a complete explanation of the Future Travelers journey visit FutureTravelers.org
Pre-Conference: Equipping Your Church to Engage God’s Mission
The Missional Precon will provide a comprehensive overview of missional DNA, practices, missional community, and resources you will need to move people back into a genuine engagement with the mission of God. If you are planting this is a must orientation based on the American missionary context, but we will also be contextualizing the missional paradigm for pastors hoping to transition existing congregations. Our Forge team includes Alan & Deb Hirsch, Hugh Halter, Brad Brisco, Lance Ford and Rob Wegner who heads up our Future Travelers process for existing churches. Read more →
Join us for the Sentralized Missional Regional conference in Little Rock on May 5th & 6th. The event will run from 8:30am to 5:00pm on Thursday, May 5th and 9:00am to 12:30 on Friday. We will be offering multiple main sessions along with several workshops. You can register and get more details on this event here.
If you desire to gain a clearer, deeper understanding of the missional conversation, but would also benefit from knowing how to engage your local context, then join us in Little Rock!
Following is an updated list of MY top 40 books to best provide a thorough understanding of the missional church conversation, along with practical guidance on how to engage God’s mission more fully. The list is not comprehensive. I realize I have left out some of your favorites, and there are no doubt many other great books, but these are MY favorites and/or most helpful. And if you are interested by what I mean when I use the word missional check out this four part series here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.
Barrett, Lois and Darrell Guder
Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
The Missionary Nature of the Church: A Survey of the Biblical Theology of Mission
New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962.
Bosch, David J.
Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission
Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1991.
Brafman, Ori and Rod A. Beckstrom.
The Starfish and the Spider
Portfolio Trade, 2008.