hope for tomorrow

The older I get, the more the years start to blur together. Despite my best intentions, it’s getting harder to keep track of what the uniqueness of each year. I mean I remember 2016 just fine. But 1996, well that’s another question.

Speaking of 2016 – what a year eh? Continue reading “hope for tomorrow”

Help People Play Big in the Kingdom

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” –Mark 1:15

We Christians believe the Kingdom is near. With the incarnation of Jesus, God’s plan to redeem the world is now in motion.

Now there is hope. releasing-lanterns[1]

God will reconcile all things to himself and that will take all of his people pulling together and executing their part of the mission. God asks ALL of his people to play BIG in the Kingdom.

See, the gathering and scattering of God’s people is the essential rhythm of the Jesus mission. We gather to scatter as ambassadors of for the Kingdom.

So I gotta ask—are you helping people play BIG in the Kingdom?

If not, why not? Is your ecclesiology or tradition or even your fear stopping them? Worse, is your bias toward your kingdom holding them back?

Those of us who God has called to be leaders in his church, at whatever level, need to get something straight. It’s not about us. It’s never been about us and will never be about us.

It’s about helping the people we serve play their part in the Kingdom. This is servant leadership. This is the essence of our call to serve others.

So how do you release people to play big in the Kingdom?

  • Be serious about it. Don’t use them to build your kingdom. Be honest here. We all have a bias towards our thing. And we need reminding (and repenting) so that we can combat our bias.  Instead, build a culture that not only encourages but equips them for Kingdom work:
  • Give them permission. Don’t pay them lip service. Send them—commission them; encourage them; support them.
  • Challenge them. To find their unique gifts and calling in the Kingdom.
  • Give them real opportunity. And be sure to build in real accountability.
  • Support them. When you create a culture that encourages people to take risks, there will be hardship and failure.
  • Pray for them. 

When we release people to play big in the Kingdom everything changes. Everything!

So what about you? Who is it that you must release to play BIG in the Kingdom today?

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Interview with Lance Ford, Missional Strategist and Author

Lance Ford is on the national leadership team of Forge America and Co-Director of KC Sentral. He is the Co-founder (along with Brad Brisco) of the Sentralized Conference, an annual missional conference in Kansas City. Some of his responsibilities include coaching, consulting and writing. He is the author of several books including Right Here, Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People (co-authored with Alan Hirsch) and Unleader: Reimagining Leadership and Why We Must and Missional Essentials: A Guide for Experiencing God’s Mission for Your Life (co-authored with Brad Brisco)I recently spoke to Lance about church planting in general and the missional conversation that he helps lead. 

Tell us about your family. How are they part of what you do? 

Lance Ford
Lance Ford

Sherri and I have been married for 27 years. Our kids (Oldest is our son, 2 girls) are all grown and on their own. Sherri’s passion is gardening and that is her favorite form of reaching out to neighbors.

When did Jesus become real for you?

When I was in grade school. But I walked away in my teen years but had a prodigal-like experience shortly after graduating high school. I came back to him and never considered leaving again. Once you realized you’ve eating with pigs everything changes.

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

My favorite thing is helping men and women discover and use their God-given gifts and resources. I love nothing more than working through that stuff with people who are on mission. The other thing I get to do that I love is writing. In both of these things the richness of God’s goodness just seems to manifest to me.

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

I believe most church plants are one of two things: Many are what I call Church Transplants—a group of Christians dropped into a community. The other is Church Service Planting. Most often both of these are continually trying to catch up to mission.

A missional community is a group of people who agree to dig deep into a locale by assuming the position of missionaries in that community. By planting a core group of people, with mission in the neighborhood as the organizing principle, a church will emerge from that. They define themselves not by what their weekend gatherings look like but by their effect on the quality of life in the neighborhoods they live into. Add a celebration service as the exclamation point of your weekly missional living and disciples will emerge and a church plant will sprout, rather than a church service transplant being plopped in the middle of a community.

What do church planters need to know about being missional?

Two things come to mind. First, If YOU are not missional, your church will not be missional. Do you know your neighbors? Do you share meals, do you interact in real living life ways with them. The macro of missional is a product of missional micro—individual lives incarnating into their neighborhoods. Second, Missional is not an outreach scheme to grow your church. Don’t view or try to use the idea of missional as a method or program to get your church started. Missional is more about being than doing. This is core discipleship stuff. Be a disciple of Jesus. Make disciples. Let Jesus make/build his church.

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

Stop putting church building before disciple making. If you can’t tell me the names of the people and the places you hung out with those people last week, you’re most likely more into building the church—which is Jesus’s job, than making disciples—which is your job.

What is ONE THING every church planter ought to do?

Easy. Throw more parties! Seriously…throw more parties.

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 know it sounds simple and redundant but it really just comes down to “loving your neighbor as you would yourself.” Most every morning I sit in my upstairs home office and look out the windows and pray for my neighbors. I pray the kingdom of Heaven will come on earth (my street) as it is in Heaven. As you get to know your neighbors and the needs and concerns of the neighborhood as a whole, pray, pray, pray for the reign of God to manifest over and through it all.

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

It’s been said that the first task of a leader is to define reality. Jesus is reality. He is the way (to do life), the truth (about life), and finally….he is life. That is the reality we bring in leadership. If you can’t conceive in your mind that Jesus would be leading and treating people you’ve been assigned to oversee in the same manner you are doing it then stop…and do it like he would if he were living your life. According to Jesus, leadership does not begin with leading—it begins and continues through serving. If you want to be a great leader out-serve everyone on your team.

What is/was the great challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?

For me, it was after 20 years of church planting and pastoring, coming to the reality that I had wrapped my identity in my role as a pastor and leader. Admitting and then working through that took a long time. Don’t get me wrong. Leadership is important—most of my time is spent with leaders, etc. The big problem is that we give a wink and a nod to what Jesus emphatically said about being great servants. The sin and deception in leadership fixation comes down to the identity thing. If you view yourself as a leader, leader, leader, rather than “How can I serve someone today?” or “How can I decrease so Jesus will increase in this guy or gal on my team?” Then you are off track.

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

It comes down to really knowing those the Lord has sent to be on your team. You must be over yourself enough to believe that every person on your team brings something you (and the rest of the folks) don’t have. A significant task of the leader is to know the gifting, calling, and anointing each member brings. Then you must trust Jesus in that person to get the job done. It comes down to management—and I know this will sound strange or crazy to some—but people don’t need to be managed. They are adults. They are not stupid. If they are stupid then you shouldn’t have brought them on your team in the first place. Collaboration means making sure everyone gets the job done, which is different from making sure how everyone gets the job done. My buddy Brad Brisco holds a pen in the weirdest way I have ever seen anyone hold a pen. But he writes great stuff. Who cares how he held the pen?

Who inspires you and why?

As far as really being inspired and challenged, it is the people who most people have never heard of that are our there in the trenches, in the neighborhoods doing the Jesus stuff. I try to tell their stories in my writing and we bring them to speak at our conferences (Sentralized). Most of these folks are too busy doing mission to write or speak about it. They are the real missional heroes.

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

Over the last few years I have come to love the practice of the daily office, so I use a few readers that I cycle through each year as I observe that. There are also a handful of books I re-read every year: Abraham Heschel’s The Sabbath, Henri Nouwen’s The Way of The Heart…a few others. Plus, the observance of the Sabbath is huge for my wife and myself.

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

Churches across cities that work together in tangible ways with the only goal that Jesus gets the credit. That the reputation of the church would change from being judgmental and hateful to loving and accepting. I would hope that there would be no need for books like UnChristian, or They like Jesus but not the church to be written. sentralized

I encourage you and your team to attend the Sentralized Conference. It’s a great way for you and your teams to plug into the missional conversation.

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How to Make Prayer For Others a Priority

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

Maybe we miss it because it’s so obvious–praying.

When you’re planting a church it seems obvious that you would want to pray for the people who are going to serve and love.

But Launch season is crazy. You are pushing yourself and your team to the limit. And so it’s easy to say you’re praying without really doing it.

No, your project is utterly dependent on God and therefore you must submit it to him in prayer. Moreover, you want to ensure that you’re helping your team pray.

Here are 5 creative ways to make prayer a priority for your and your team.

  • Ask everyone on your launch team to write down the names of 5 people to pray for.
  • Host prayer walks in your community.
  • Gather your team together for 1 hour prayer services (or more) in the weeks prior to launch.
  • Start a 24/7 prayer experience. I’ve known churches to arrange 24 hour prayer on the site of the location where they will launch.
  • Ask members of your team to pray for specific neighborhoods in the community.

What are some ways you’ve built prayer into the rhythm of launch?

I’ve written about Paul’s prayers here. I’ve tried to help you see that church planting must begin with prayer here.

If you like the content of Mission Glue you can SUBSCRIBE for regular updates. And thanks for reading–I really appreciate it.

Interview with Brad Brisco, Church Planting Catalyst

Brad Brisco is the Church Planting Catalyst for a network of Baptist churches in Kansas City. His primary responsibilities involve recruiting, training, resourcing and coaching church planters in the city. Brad is also on the national leadership team of Forge America and co-leader of a Forge hub in Kansas City. He is also the co-founder (along with Lance Ford) of the Sentralized conference, an annual missional conference held in Kansas City each September. I recently talked to Brad about church planting in general and the missional conversation specifically.  

Brad Brisco
Brad Brisco

How do you spend most of your days?

Most days I spend the majority of time meeting with church planters in person, or via Skype or phone. Some days are spent developing and implementing training. I do a far amount of training for church planters and existing churches through conferences and one-day seminars, as well as coordinate training opportunities that others do in the Kansas City area. I also write for a couple of blogs.

Tell us about your family. How are they part of what you do?

My wife Mischele and I have three children. Including the new addition of a four-year girl we adopted this month. We also do foster care for dozens of children each year through Police Protective Custody and Respite care.

When did Jesus become real for you?

I didn’t become a follower of Jesus until my late 20s. I hope that He is becoming more real to me on a daily basis.

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

Helping people reimagine the nature and essence of the church, as a people sent to participate with what God is already doing where they live, work and play. I love to challenge the church to see themselves as a missionary people. To understand how, in light of a rapidly changing culture, to think and act like a missionary. It is such a joy to have the opportunity to do what I do. Every day I thank God for allowing me to encourage and support missionary activity throughout our city.

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

I think today more than ever, the two terms can be synonymous. In many settings planters need to focus less attention on planting the Sunday morning gathering (which too often is what planters mean by “planting a church”) and more on planting true biblical community in a local setting.

In most conversations surrounding the idea of missional communities, I usually have to make a distinction between that and a typical small group. Most small groups are centered about the need to develop relationships. In fact, I think it can be argued that small group ministries were popularized decades ago by the need to “close the backdoor” of churches that were experiencing significant growth through the Sunday gathering but were losing potential members just as quickly because they were not connecting with others in the church. Small groups became the primary way to assimilate people into the life of the church.

Secondly, traditional small groups attempt to focus on discipleship in the midst of group life. Most small groups engage in some type of Bible study or group curriculum. While you can certainly make the case that Bible study does not automatically equate to making disciples, for most small group ministries that is at least the intent.

Now with this brief description of small groups in mind, the primary difference between typical groups and missional communities is the issue of mission. For missional communities the starting point is the mission. Missional communities are catalyzed by and organized around mission. Relational community is still cultivated and discipleship remains a top priority, but both happen, I believe best in, through, and around missional engagement.

What do church planters need to know about being missional?

When it comes to understanding the concept of missional, I usually say that I have a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is that missional is simply the adjective form of the noun missionary. Therefore when we use the language of “missional church,” the word missional is used to describe the church as a missionary entity. The church doesn’t just send missionaries, the church is the missionary.

Now for the long answer. When considering a more theologically rooted definition of the word missional I believe we need to examine three chief distinctions. I like to refer to them as theological foundations. Each point deliberately confronts long-held assumptions most Christians have about God, the church and mission. While there is different language that could be used, I usually speak of them as 1.) The Missionary Nature of God and the Church; 2.) Incarnational Mission Rather Than Attractional Ministry; and 3.) Participation in the Missio Dei. Without serious attention to each of these three points the missional journey will inevitably end prematurely.

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 believe the very first step is to be a student of your setting. Listen carefully to your community. Take the posture of a learner, not a professional. Don’t front load mission. In other words, don’t assume you know the needs of your community. Spend significant time discovering what God is doing and discerning how He wants you to participate. Constantly ask how would a missionary in a foreign land go about connecting with those in my city. Church planters specifically, and the church as a whole must recognize that we live in a very different world than we did even ten years ago. I say all the time that more and more people are less and less interested in the programs and activities of the church. Therefore, we must learn to connect with people relationally in settings outside the confines of the church world.

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

There is much that could be said in the area of leadership, but the one thing that I would want to address here is the importance of leaders modeling missionary engagement in the community. I like to say to church leaders, that all of the stories that you tell about missional activity do not have to be your stories, but some of them have to be your stories. In other words, a leader must be able to articulate how they are engaging their neighborhood and public space in the community. Leaders must use the power of stories to capture the missional imagination of the people in the congregation. It is also the role of the leader to create an environment where people have the language and license to live out missionality.

What is/was the great challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?

In regards to church planting I believe the greatest challenge is to provoke more existing churches to engage in church planting. The percentage of churches that have played any role in the planting of another congregation is pathetically low.

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

I didn’t mention this earlier in regards to how I spend my day, but I work hard at networking with churches and other ministries in our city. Networking lays the foundation for collaboration and partnerships. I try to discovery what others are doing in our city. Identifying the assets and needs of active ministries throughout the city creates numerous opportunities for collaboration.

Who inspires you and why?

I am inspired every time I see someone living for the sake of others. There are so many wonderful examples of people sacrificing and giving away their lives for God’s mission. Very recent examples include several young people who have moved into the Mission House, an urban ministry in Kansas City, KS, to focus on neighborhood transformation. There are several new church planters who have moved, or are in the process of moving into very difficult places in the city to plant new communities.

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

I start every morning with a couple of devotions. Sometimes I use Daily Prayer created by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Hartgrove. Other days I engage a simple devotion call the Moravian Brethren Daily Text. I also enjoy writing my own personal prayer in the mornings to help articulate my thoughts and desires for the day. I often post those simple prayers on Facebook in hopes that they will be a blessing to others.

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

Planting a church service. Unfortunately in many cases when planters talk about their church “launch” it is really code word for starting the Sunday morning gathering. But church is not an event. It is not a place people go to. It is not something we do. Church is a people. I want to encourage planters to plant themselves, the lives of other followers of Jesus, and the good news of the Kingdom in their local setting.

What is ONE THING every church planter ought to do?

Model what it looks like to incarnate, or embed, their lives into a local context, and then lead others to do the same.

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

I would like to see the people of God move beyond understanding the church as a vendor of religious goods and services that exist for the consumption of church members, and instead see the church as an instrument created by God to be sent into His mission.

I encourage you to read Brad’s blog, Missional Church Network. 

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And thank you for reading my blog–I really appreciate it.