Interview with Kim Hammond, Director of Forge America

As National Director of Forge America (and soon to be International Director), Kim Hammond trains, equips and cares for missional people in the various Forge tribes. Kim is also Director of Missional Imagination at Community Christian Church in Chicago. I talked with Kim to better understand the missional conversation he champions throughout the world and what church planters can learn from him.

KimHammond

Tell us about your family. How are they involved in what you do?

My wife Maria and I are partners in mission and ministry. Ria is involved in caring for people and hospitality. She is as much involved as I am in founding Forge and the rest of the mission in our lives. We have three boys, Lachlan, Carter, and Jordan. We travel a lot with our children so that they experience and serve alongside us in the hubs and local contexts. Mission and family—it all flows together.

When did Jesus become real for you?

Probably as a teenager. I was discipled by my youth pastor Steve Swaine. He still leads the church that we planted together in Australia. He discipled me since 13, and he gave me a job at 18 as his assistant youth pastor. We worked together at that church until I was 25, and then we started a new church together. He made me cry a lot. He walked Ria down the aisle. I still call him when something great happens or when I need advice. No one had ever invested in me that way. That is the kind of discipleship that makes Jesus real to people.

What do you like best about what you do? Why?

I love—it sounds corny—but I love mentoring, motivating, and mobilizing the missional church. I love missional leaders and their movements. I love helping others, I love leading and caring for our team. Anything I can do to help movements grow.

What is the difference between “church plant” and ‘missional community?’

A missional community is a small group of people on mission together and being accountable to one another, whereas a church plant is the full ecclesia which includes gathering and worshiping. A missional community isn’t about the gathering so much as it is about discipling and mission. Shared life. Often, the church is a gathering of the ecclesia, which then breaks into missional communities. We try to make it all too complicated, for Sunday to do everything and it doesn’t.

What do church planters need to know about missional imagination?

Church leaders need to stop limiting their vision of church to their bible school training or previous experiences, but to dream big, look where God is at work in the world and join him. Leaders need to be less prescriptive and more intuitive.

How are you reaching out to people far from God in your community? What advice would you give to planters trying to do the same?

I think you have to be involved with personal missional practices. Practice BLESS—pray, listen, eat with people (on their ground, in their home), you have to serve them. And you have to take your time. What are the natural rhythms for mission in your life? So many planters start with a duality—here’s the church plant and here’s life. We need to see life as mission. And learn to listen. We aren’t taught how to listen in seminaries; we are taught how to act and do and start. Practice how to submerge.

What is the role of leadership in the missional world? How are you developing people for leadership?

Leadership is about modeling and serving and empowering. It’s about giving people a chance to develop, so for me it’s about giving those in their 20s an opportunity to lead and grow. I want Forge to be building up the next generation of leaders. How diverse are we? How inclusive? How much are we pushing power and leadership to the margins? Leaders create environment and guard DNA. Forge is a great place to lead, because if you have apostolic gifting, you can start something on your own and be supported in it.

What is/was the greatest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

I’d say when I had my first big failure in ministry. I didn’t raise the money I needed, and had my first big slump and burnout. I’d experienced early success in my 20s, then hit the slump around 28 and had to learn how to walk through that. I rested. I reflected. I was mentored. I refocused on what I was good at—I had started to have a desire to be something I’m not, I had lost some of my ambition. And I refocused on Jesus.

In your work you often talk about collaboration and partnership. How do you build these?

It’s about getting the right people at the table, coming with an open posture and trying to listen. You get a lot of different perspectives and that makes your organization stronger. Creating seats at the table. I always notice it when other leaders who are more assertive make decisions that piss everyone off. People say, “Oh they’re not like you.”  I don’t even think about it—collaborating is just part of who I am.

Who inspires you and why?

Michael Frost inspires me to be a better communicator and to follow Jesus more. The way he communicates who Jesus is and why and how. Alan and Deb Hirsch, who are humble and accessible and live out the things they teach. Certain leaders who have started movements and served them humbly—Rick Warren, Mike Pilavachi from Soul Survivor, Andy Hawthorne, Dave Ferguson. I’m inspired by people who start movements that people want to follow. But I’m also inspired by the grassroots people whose little acts of the extra-ordinary help make a difference. People like Laura Hairston who spends time every week with a group of middle school girls. Brad Brisco who takes in emergency foster care kids. Scott Nelson who is committed to community in his little apartment building. And there’s Caesar Kalinowski who has been in New York for four weeks and has already thrown 4 parties. He knows every neighbor.

How are you caring for yourself spiritually? What do your personal spiritual rhythms with God look like?

I try to create space every day for prayer and reflection, whether it’s first thing in the morning or on the way home, to have some good communion with God. At least once a week I block out time for reading and reflection, and ask God to speak to me.

What is one thing you would tell church planters to STOP doing?

Stop assuming what the neighborhoods needs and stop thinking that it’s all about Sunday. Too many churches come in with too many preconceived notions—they’ve got a service planned and a website and they’ve got it all figured out before they even hit the ground or listen to one person. Church planters need to network better—not to steal people but to be influence by other people’s imagination.

What is ONE THING every church planter ought to do?

Find a local hangout and don’t move from there—not just while you’re planting but for years to come. Invest in the people there.

What is the one thing you would like to see happen in the church in your lifetime?

Stop fighting about theology and just love people more. Especially the church in America—it just fights so much.

What’s the number one thing people can do to support Forge?

Forge America is raising money in order to fund our national movement. In just three years, we’ve got 15 Forge Hubs running or launching missionary formation residencies, and six more hubs are in the works. We need systems. We need to cover business expenses as we grow. Right now, we pay our staff with hugs and tickles. We need some $$$$ man!

To learn more about Forge and ways your can support their mission visit them at www.forgeamerica.com

Who is Changing the World Around You?

As a church planter, you have a unique perspective to the myriad ways God is at work in the people around you. No one else has this unique perspective into the community you are leading. And therefore you have an opportunity to affirm world change when you see it. vantage point

God works in big ways. Sometimes a leader does step up and lead in an extraordinary way. Sometimes someone gives generously and radically to the need of another. These are all important to recognize.

But God often works in small and quiet ways…

  • Someone tells you of their insight or a-ha moment on their journey with Jesus.
  • Someone begins serving even though it’s outside of their comfort zone.
  • You witness someone investing themselves in a tough relationship.
  • You hear about people praying for each other.
  • Someone joins a small group for the first time.

…there are countless ‘small ways’ in which God is at work.

Do whatever it takes to record these ‘world changing moments.’ Carry paper and pen with you. Or maybe type a note on your phone. However you do it doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that you take the time to recognize and affirm world change when you see it.

Maybe you celebrate them during a leadership gathering. Maybe you send them a text or call them. Better yet, send them a hand-written note.

My point is to make recognizing world change part of the rhythm and routine of your day. It’s so easy to get caught up in the tasks of church planting. Learning to recognize world change around you and affirm it is one of your unique opportunities you have as a church planter.

So who is changing the world around you? Contact them and let them know you’re inspired or grateful–or both.

What are some other ways you can begin recognizing people changing the world?

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What Should You Be Doing 6 Weeks From Launch?

A friend of mine is launching a church in 6 weeks.rocket

He and his team have done a fabulous job preparing for launch. My friend has gone through assessment, apprenticed as a church planter, talked to planters, read the books and hit the conferences. He’s a great student of church planting. He and his team have been meeting and praying and serving their community for months. My friend has been training leaders and investing in the people around him.

In my opinion he’s doing all he can to ensure a sold launch.

That’s why I was a bit surprised that he would reach out to a group of us for additional coaching. I mean 6 weeks out the train is rolling so to speak. And he’s already done a great job.

Maybe I am making a little much of this but I was inspired. Even in this last leg of his journey, he’s still teachable. I think we can all learn from his example.

So for what it’s worth, here’s what I suggested he consider 6 weeks out.

  1. Call an “All-Hands on deck.” Encourage leaders and launch team members to make it a priority to attend your gatherings and be on mission to the people around them. Also, cast some vision for making it a priority to attend gatherings even after launch.
  2. Pray. Get teams of people together to pray. Encourage everyone to be praying. Host simple prayer gatherings. You get it.
  3. Encourage your launch team to start identifying the people they’re going to invite to your gatherings. Encourage people to write down the names of people and pray for them.
  4. Time to let team leaders lead. It’s time to release your leaders to own their pieces of the mission.
  5. Turbo train small group leaders to be ready for new people so you have the relational space for them.
  6. Encourage your launch team to keep serving the community.
  7. Ensure any marketing is lined up and ready to go so you don’t miss deadlines.
  8. Ensure you and your team are connecting with friends and neighbors this summer. Encourage people on your launch team to have parties, host barbecues and generally be social in the community.
  9. Ensure your budget is finalized and that you’re living within it now–even before launch.
  10. Keep Jesus the main thing by making space for Him in your life everyday. In this season of hustle and activity its easy to become distracted by the stuff of church planting.

I appreciate my friend and his reminder that no matter where you are in the planting process, we must stay teachable.

What about you? What is one way you’re staying teachable?

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10 Ways to Overcome Your Challenges

What’s the challenge you’re facing today? What’s the thing you woke-up thinking about that if you don’t solve it you might just quit.challenges

It may be a big challenge or it may be small. Either way, you’re investing your emotional and intellectual energy on it. That means you’re experiencing stress and not working on the opportunities around you.

It seems to me we try to solve our challenges in several ways:

We ignore it. We move it down the to-do list or better yet, dump it off on some unsuspecting peer.  While this may seem like a good idea (and it might provide you some relief) our challenge is still there waiting for us.

We work harder.  We clear our calendar, grab another cup of coffee and sit down and try to knock it out. No lack of effort here. Sometimes hard-work does get the job done. But more often we dig in only to find that you simply don’t have the ability and/or resources to come up with a solution.

We invent the wheel only to realize the wheel has already been invented. This happens all the time doesn’t it? We invest hours in a solution only to find that someone has gone ahead and figured it out already.

Whether it’s ignoring the challenge, over-working ourselves, or refusing to ask for help, we seem to forget that we have a fourth option: Outsourcing.

The fact is you can ask others and/or hire them to help you solve your challenge. Whether it’s people on your team or businesses, there are solutions available for your challenges. You just need to fight your bias to do everything and ask for help.

Here are some questions that might help you outsource your current challenge:

  1.  Is it even your challenge? If not give it to whoever needs to own it.
  2. Is it a challenge? I mean is there something obvious you’ve missed that can fix the problem?
  3. Is it a real challenge or do you have faulty expectations?
  4. What’s the urgency of the challenge? Do you have time to solve it in a unique and creative way or does urgency demand you just get it done?
  5. Is there someone on your team whose gift mix can solve this challenge?
  6. Who can you hire to help take the burden off of you?
  7. What business or businesses already do what you’re doing? Can you leverage their expertise? Can you hire them to help?
  8. What have others done in similar situations? How can you learn from them?
  9. What solutions/best practices does your network and/or coach have to offer.
  10. Who can you ask to help you think through (brainstorm) solutions.

My point is to be creative in the way you seek to solve challenges. There are more solutions available than you realize.

What about you? How do you go about meeting some of your challenges? Please leave a comment. 

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What Michael’s Death Has Taught Me About Trusting God

It’s been a year since my little brother Michael died. He was too young and it all happened so fast.

Living Memorial Tree for Michael
Living Memorial Tree for Michael (1971-2012)

Can I be honest? The months since his death have been hard. And while I have found peace in my walk with Jesus, I will tell you there are hours of some days that I am just overwhelmed by grief. It sucks.

Maybe you’ve lost someone this year. If so, I am sorry. I know what you’re going through. I want to remind you that God is the God of peace and so I challenge you to trust him with your grief.

I wanted to mark the first anniversary of Michael’s death by telling you about his favorite passage of scripture. Well that’s not true–he had lots of favorite passages. See, Michael struggled in this life. He made some big mistakes and kept making them. He wondered about suffering and evil in the world and in his life. Sometime he couldn’t reconcile this with a good and loving God.

And so Michael read the Bible to better understand God. I have one of his Bibles. I’ve gone through it many times since his death, noting the passages he highlighted and marked. I am grateful for the words he wrote in the margin in his tight and pretty script. But he kept coming back to the story of Job.

Michael saw many parallels of his life with that of Job, a man who suffers crushing personal tragedies, but in the end confesses the greatness of God.

While Michael studied the life of Job to better understand his own, the marking in his Bible indicate he kept coming back to Job 42:1-6:

Then Job replied to the Lord: 2 “I know that you can do all things;
 no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
 Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
 things too wonderful for me to know. 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
 I will question you,
 and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
 but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

See, at some point in his life, Michael stopped asking–‘why me God’–and instead, repented and trusted God. He learned to acknowledge that there was indeed something greater at work in his life than merely suffering and hardship. Michael realized there is a mystery we must confess when it comes to God and rather than push-back he’s embrace it.

God is mysterious. But that needn’t prevent us from having faith. Theologians tell us God is transcendent—beyond our capacity to fully know Him. But he is also immanent; he is present in and with the created order. God has his skin in the game. He’s immersed in the details of our lives. And that means we can know Him.

Wrestling with the story of Job helped assuage Michael’s doubts and questions about God and that allowed him to confess faith that the Jesus of the Gospels was exactly who he said he was—the Son of the Living God.

I celebrate that. As a Christian I have hope that this life is the prelude for the life that is truly life. In those final hours of Michael’s life, I was comforted by a strange peace that this was not the end–only the prelude to life.

Michael and Sarah
Michael and Sarah

I don’t know what you’re facing today? Maybe you’re seeking God; maybe you’ve already dismissed God from your life. Maybe you’re unable to find peace despite your relationship with God? Whatever, it is, I get it. I’ve been there.

Today, I want to to tell you it’s OK to ask God WHY? It’s OK to question Him and it’s OK to be mad at Him. It’s Ok–He can take it.

But maybe, while you’ve been questioning and challenging God, you haven’t given him the opportunity to be God. Maybe you need to just repent and let God be God?

In the end, Michael did. And that changed his eternity.

Rest in Peace little brother. Until we meet again…

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