NewThing is Partnering with the Explore God Chicago Initiative

I was watching two comedians talk about life. Each of them have achieved success and fame. They have everything. Yet during this discussion they each admitted that nothing ever quite lived up to their expectations. There always seems to be something missing.

I know this feeling personally. It haunted me for years and was part of the catalyst for me to start my search for God.

That’s why I am excited about the Explore God Initiative in 2019. This will be a city-wide effort to help people in Chicago explore 7 BIG questions about life. The genius of the effort is that this will be a community effort. 7 Big Questions. Does life have a purpose? Is there a god? why does God allow pain and suffering? Is Christianity too narrow? Is Jesus really God? Is the Bible reliable? Can I know God personally?

NewThing is a sponsor. After all, we plant churches to help people find their way back to God. I would love to see hundreds of churches in Chicago participate.

Do me a favor and take a moment to learn more about the initiative. Expect to be hearing about it here on occasion.

Let’s do this together…

Is Your Heart Broken for Your Community?

Before you set out to plant a church, your heart must be broken for the community. It may seem obvious and you’re most likely nodding your head in the affirmative. But you must be sure.

There are going to be set-backs and disappointments in your church planting. There will be times when the only thing that holds you to the cause is your love for the people in your community.

And if your heart isn’t broken don’t even bother planting. If you do, it’s really about you then. And that’s a sin.

You can’t just tell us your heart is broken. I’d recommend you spend some time really thinking/praying through this.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re heart really is broken for the place where you will plant.

  1. If this is the only place you’ll ever plant a church will you be content?
  2. Do you see the suffering? It’s there. Does it move you in a significant way.
  3. Do you see/understand the assets of the community?
  4. Do you have a holy discontent for the community?
  5. What evidence do you have that God is at work in this place? Is it clear how He’s calling you to participate.
  6. Do you find it easy to connect with people?
  7. Do you have an extra dose of patience for people?
  8. Do you understand how people in the community live, work and play? Do you respect it?
  9. Do you see the people of the community through God’s eyes? What evidence do you have?
  10. Do you find that you are genuinely interested in all people/groups you encounter in the community.

What about you? What are some ways you can be sure you’re heart is broken for the community?

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Interview with Eric Metcalf, Church Planter — Chicago, Illinois (Part 1)


I started Mission Glue for one reason: to help church planters plant healthy reproducing churches. One way to do that is to hear from practitioners. I want to interview church planters who are actually planting churches. You may not have heard of them but they have learned a ton and can teach us much.

I recently had the privilege of talking to Eric Metcalf, Lead Planter of Community Lincoln Park / Old Town. Eric also provides leadership of the New Thing Leadership Residency Program – a program designed to apprentice church planters to start new churches.

I first met Eric while I was finding my way back to God at the Yellow Box Campus of Community Christian Church in Naperville. At that time he was a small group director. Eric affirmed my own journey and in several conversations helped me understand the reproducing culture of Community. What I noticed about Eric was this passion for connecting people to the mission of Jesus. He also like to have fun–lots of fun. When I heard that he was planting a church I knew it was going to be something special. Before embarking on this church planting journey, Eric led New Thing and was Director of Awesome. (Whatever that means!)

Eric is the lead planter but will be planting with a team. While he will plant a Community location, it will be more than just a plug ‘n’ play multisite campus. Eric told me to think of it more like a church plant that is part of a larger aligned network focused on helping people find their way back to God. He’s hoping something special emerges, more a campus/church plant/missional community hybrid. Eric attended church planter assessment and recommends anyone planting a church do the same. I am grateful Eric is willing to share his journey and insights with us. And I am humbled by the opportunity to work with him. I know we will all be inspired and encouraged to hear his story.

What circumstances led you to believe God was calling you to plant a church?

I have always sensed a longing to be in the city – my wife (Erin) and I have talked about it for years.  June 2011, I was having breakfast with my mentor/friend of almost 15 years, Jon Ferguson (co-founder of Community & NewThing), and he was sharing with me it felt like God had placed his family in Lincoln Park for a reason (Jon had moved down there 18 months ago to launch 3 Campuses of Community) – the reason, he felt, was to possibly start a new church for all the unchurched/dechurched/postchurched/far-from-God  peeps in LP|OT.  What Jon didn’t know was that Erin and I had been praying about that exact same idea…and we were sensing God was in fact asking our family to start that new church…Campus of Community.  This played out as a conversation for the next 3-6 months and through a series of events and miracles God made it obvious that we were in fact suppose to relocated our family of 5 (we have 3 kids: Joey [9], Lydia [8], and Max [5]) from the safe suburbs to the risky city of Chicago.  And we’ve been cross-eyed looks ever since 😉

Describe the cultural ethos you are creating in your plant.

I want people to have fun, experience contagious generosity, to sense we are risky for Jesus (Parable of The Talents style).  For people to know we are about the Jesus Mission: Reaching out to those who are far from God (Luke 15, Matt 28), Restoring God’s dream for the world (Luke 4, Micah 6:8), and Reproducing the mission in others (Acts 1:8, 2 Tim 2:2).  Ultimately helping people find their way back to God.

How are you serving the community? What difference will your church plant make in the community?

We are in the early stages of developing relationship w/ 4 networks (my term):

  • School: Prescott Elementary – we are beginning by serving through their Project Boost – a reading program to help 1st-2nd Grade kids increase their reading levels.  Oscar Mayer Elementary School – yes it’s the Oscar Mayer – the founder of Oscar Mayer wieners also found the school!  We are in the initial stages of partnership here – this is where our kids attend.  85% of kids in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) live in poverty…as Chicago has 10 of 16 poorest neighborhoods in the country.  We will start here first.
  • Non-Profit: We have begun conversations with the Lincoln Park Community Shelter – where they bring the homeless in off the street, offer job/interview training, and other programs to help them move slowly away from the tiring lifestyle of homelessness.  I am also on the board of JUSTembrace – a non-profit dedicated to brining all people together (poor, wealthy, etc) to share life – through neighborhood parties, shared meals, and acts of generosity (in very under-resourced areas).
  • Churches: One of the first things I did was meet one on one with a dozen or so Lead Pastors on the North side of Chicago.  I did this as an effort to primarily learn and maybe at some point, seek out possible ways to partner for city-wide impact.
  • Commerce: independent business is a big deal here in Chicago.  We have some of the best, most-diverse available restaurants in the U.S.  I’m in the very early stages here, but my long-term goal is to develop a solid relationship with a few establishments in the LP|OT.  One that has emerged a great relationship: City Grounds.  They are a independent premium coffee shop that offers some of the best coffee in Chicago…perfect for us coffee snobs out there 😉

How are you developing people? Staff, volunteers, launch team?  

We are using a 3 prong approach for now: Small Groups, City Dinners & House Parties (see attached LPOTinvolve file).  Small groups are our most intimate level of involvement – where we are discipling people towards the mission/Jesus.  House Parties are the 2nd most intimate environment – designed for people to connect with the VISION of what we’re doing (happen every other month).  City Dinners are loose gatherings taking place throughout the city to invite friends, family, neighbors over to simply share life…in order to develop a relationship that may lead to them being invited to a House Party or a Small Group.

You can follow the Metcalf’s church planting journey here.

I will post Part 2 of my interview with Eric next week.

Here is Part 2 of my interview.

Planting a church or missional community? I’d love to talk to you about it! If you dig the content of Mission Glue you can subscribe here.