Exponential 2012 – These are the People in Your Neighbourhood (Guest Post by Kristin)

This past April I had the joy of attending Exponential, an American church planting conference, alongside Ryan.  I say it was a joy for many reasons; three days together – just the adults, warm Florida weather, great vacation before heading back to work, and of course hearing from some of the legends of church planting.  I decided that if I was going to invest 3 days at this conference I needed to jump in with both feet, and look for workshops that would teach and challenge me.  One such workshop did just that.  Ryan asked me if I would write about it and be his first guest blogger!

The workshop title was “The Good Hood: Major on the Majors by Loving Your Neighbours”.  The description grabbed me right away; challenging us as the church that if we can only be good at one thing, it better be the most important thing to God.  Brian Mavis, Externally Focused Director of Life Bridge Christian Church in Colorado, proposed that would be to live the Great Commandment in everyday ways, in our own neighbourhoods.

As Ryan and I prepare to move into a new neighbourhood, to plant a church for busy commuting families in the suburbs of Toronto, this workshop sounded like the perfect topic for me.  While Ryan seems to have a plan all mapped out, I haven’t had the same exposure to church planting literature and theory, so I was eager to be schooled.  While I was expecting to sit through a 45 minute to an hour lecture/sermon on why being a good neighbor is consistent with Jesus’ teaching, what I got was a humiliating exercise with a simple take away message.

Brian had us make a tic-tac-toe board on a sheet of paper.  In the center we wrote our own name.  The eight surrounding boxes were for each of our closest eight neighbours.  He had us write their names.  OK no problem, I can do that, there’s Paul and Mary beside us; Chris and Jennifer two doors down; Alex and…..um, shoot, what’s her name behind us; the old lady between us; and well you can see where this was going!  I managed to fill in at least one name in five boxes.  Not bad, I thought, Toronto is a busy city…we live on a busy street…We just don’t have anything in common with our neighbours…the excuses started to formulate in my head.  Then we were asked to add in each box something about our neighbours; something we learned from them personally, something that was part of their life story.  Um, OK, I know Paul goes to Czechoslovakia every summer, and that Mary likes to cook; Chris works at a University, and Alex likes to have loud parties.  Yikes…that wasn’t too good, I thought, as I started to hide my paper under my arm so that the lady beside me didn’t see how badly I was doing at this exercise.   Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Brian asked us to add our neighbours’ hopes and dreams in each box!  Hopes and dreams, oh man, I have barely talked to these people let alone get personal enough for them to share with me their hopes and dreams!  I was officially ashamed.

The “Sheet of Shame” was the name of this exercise, and boy did it work!  While the majority of the room was unable to write any hopes or dreams for their neighbours, they didn’t fare any better than me.  While that was shamefully redeeming, the point didn’t even need to be spoken.  GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOURS!  What kind of blessings could we bring to the people living next door to us, if we just knew what they needed.

Brian offered a pattern to follow as we go out into our communities and start to make a change in small and significant ways.

1)       OBEY:  God has commanded us to go and share the Good News.  Now more than ever, our communities are filled with people who have little to no church experience, and who have never heard of Jesus.  The change starts with a willingness, a conviction, to share life with those closest to us.

2)      PRAY:  Don’t talk to your neighbours about God before you have talked to God about your neighbours.

3)      PLAY:  Be active and visible in your community.  Talk to your neighbours, don’t just wave from across the street as you drive into your garage.  Use your kids.  Invite people over for dinner.

4)      STAY:  Invest in your community, if this is where God has called you.  Plan to stay in your house for sometime.  Stay at home on the weekends, instead of rushing to get out of town.  Never go to Home Depot – ask around, every neighbourhood has that guy with a garage loaded with tools.  Sometimes this means staying around Sunday mornings, to understand what other do, and find a different time to worship.

5)      SAY:  When the time is right and the opportunity presents itself, share the good news of Jesus Christ.

I left this workshop energized and excited to meet up with Ryan again and share what I had learned.  While some may say this sounds contrived, I like to think of this as a renewal of social norms.  Nowadays, Facebook, Twitter and social media tends to take the forefront in our social interactions with others, and while they have their place, they are no substitute for face to face community.  I am ready, for our move and new community; and ready to be the best neighbour my neighbours have ever had!

I hope you’ll learn the same, if you try the Sheet of Shame.  How did you fare?

Photo Credit: Rachel via Compfight

Exponential – Change Management in Churches with Auxano

I also attended a workshop by Auxano, a church consulting firm who love diagrams!

The workshop was described as:

God has a better future for you and your ministry. But for too long church leaders have cooked with one recipe of success that can be labeled, “more of the same, the same way.” Unfortunately, fewer people are interested in “church as usual.” And now, with ever increasing cultural changes from social media and technology to post-Christian values and the economy, the church must be ready to adapt and innovate. But how do you rethink your basic recipe of ministry? How do begin to discover stunningly new possibilities for your church? In Four Paths to the Future, will provide a foundational perspective to guide every other conversation about church strategy and vision.

They presented a lot of change management ideas.  For example, in the above image, they drew a matrix of desired results, and models used.  In my case, I long to see new disciples made (a new thing) in a new way (a new model).  That means we are creating – not to be confused with infusing a new mission into an existing model, maximizing an existing model and mission, or adapting an existing mission to fit in a new model.

They spoke at length about the danger of measuring results using the same measure as our input – an “input result only” system.  If we put our efforts into increasing attendance, even with success, that will be our result – increased attendance.  But in churchland, that is never meant to be and end to itself!  Our impact is meant to be world-changing, life-changing as people learn to follow Jesus!  That means we need to reconsider input – how do we invest our time, money, people, etc. to support that output, rather than spinning our wheels focusing on secondary matters?  They said the challenge, of course, is that input results are easy to measure, pay the rent, and provide easy validation, even though they are not our goal.

Finally, they suggested that three models exist for change in church today.  More is more is the first, and the best example is Willow Creek’s attempt to be seeker-sensitive in the last few decades.  The theory was that by having the best of everything at a church service, people would move from to “churchspace” from the rest of “lifespace”.

The second says “Less is more” and the best example is Thom Rainer’s book, Simple Church.  The idea here is that if the church can simplify its structures and programs, it can make space for intentional outreach into the community that connects those outside churchspace with those inside.

The third model says “To be is more” and is the emerging missional model.  In this model, the boundaries between churchspace and lifespace are porous, as the gospel is take into every part of life.  This is, of course, the model I favour 🙂

Having studied engineering, and being a system kind of thinker, this material appeals to me – and everyone loves a good diagram!

We were invited to draw a system diagram like the ones above, for our own church.  I know with reconnect, I once drew this one:

The idea was that a relationship with God, through Christ and his action on the cross alone, was at the center – it was the point.  Our church had three ways of interaction with three communities – missional communities for serving needs based around food and nature for those with absolutely no church connection, our Sunday night community for community building, basic discipleship and worship with those having a past church connection looking to try again, and small groups for discipleship of our members who want to go deep.  We could envision the path people might follow toward a vital relationship with God through these different circles.

I’m still working out what I’d draw for Redeemer Church.  What would your church’s diagram look like?  Why?

All Systems Go!

It has been some time since I’ve blogged, and with good reason! I have been busy wrapping up at St. Paul’s, and a great vision for this church plant has been forming. We’ve also been immersed in the world of real estate, finalizing our plans to move to Ajax. I’m excited to tell you all about it in the days and months to come. Things are about to really get moving – first with the Exponential Conference, and then with developing this vision into reality.

But first, as you are probably aware, my time leading entrepreneurial ministries at St. Paul’s, Bloor Street is rapidly drawing to a close! My last Sunday is in just a few days. It has been an amazing three years, leading hundreds of people through the Christianity 101 course, starting a new church community called reconnect, being part of a great ministry team at a great church, and all sorts of other exciting events. I know I have grown as a follower of Jesus here, and helped others do the same. Thank you for your support and friendship!

I’m now working to plant a new church in Ajax, Ontario that will be called Redeemer Church. Kristin, Elliot and I will move to Ajax this summer.
Ajax is a bedroom community largely made up of busy, commuting families. In order to reach those who’ve never had any church connection, or have not in many years, we’re going to be developing Redeem the Commute, a mobile app and web site that delivers quality educational content on life, relationships and family, along with Christian basics and daily discipleship content. Our dream is that people will engage with this content, form small groups in their homes, offices, trains and buses, and develop into a church “on the move”.
I’d love to keep in touch! Please support us by:
  1. Subscribing to this, my personal church planting blog
  2. Praying for and encouraging us as we send out updates
And please support the church plant by subscribing to our online media, even while they are under development. It always helps to have a critical mass:
  1. Signing up for our Email List
  2. Subscribing to Redeem the Commute’s web site (under development, launching this fall)
  3. Liking Redeemer Ajax and Redeem the Commute on Facebook (under development)
  4. Asking any friends in Ajax to do the same, and introduce us by email.
Thank you!

Introverted Church Planters?

Do you need to be extroverted to plant a church?  It would appear to be so – you might envision a dynamic, charismatic and outgoing personality who single-handedly meets, charms and recruits new people to the church.  Okay, I exaggerate a little.  But I’m an introvert, and some people have asked this very question!  I read about a church plant in Durham region almost 50 years ago where the planter visited 1200 families, and recruited enough to build a church.  Church planting certainly used to be done this way – is it still?

Introverts are often misunderstood.  They are not anti-social, but simply find social interaction takes an input of energy, and needs to be balanced with “recharging” time.  Extroverts, on the other hand, may find social interaction gives them energy, and allows them to recharge from the draining experience of doing solitary, introspective or otherwise focused work.  Those are the definitions I have heard most.

Both types have effective interactions with others, they are simply experiencing the event differently.  An extrovert may have many superficial contacts, but struggle to go deeper in friendship, while an introvert may have few contacts, but is able to focus on the depth of that relationship more easily.

I would propose personality style is of limited importance to planting a church, particularly in a post-Christendom culture.  If new churches rely on one leader to form relationships through their own giftedness, they will never grow beyond a few dozen people – an extrovert, no matter how charismatic, can only encounter and maintain relationships with so many people, much less form them into a Christian community.  That’s hard for everyone – it pushes both introverts and extroverts to rely not on their personality traits, but to rely on God himself to do something bigger, greater and more impactful.  And in today’s post-Christendom context, it’s crucial, because this is about people becoming followers of Jesus in the first place, not simply gathering existing disciples together.  It takes time, depth of relationship, and life together – something that pushes both introverts and extroverts outside their comfort zones, and into God’s arms.

What a church planter, whether introverted or extroverted, must do is build equip others to be serving needs, forming community and making disciples wherever they are – at home, at work, at school, etc.  The aim is to join and participate in a movement, of followers of Jesus around the world, that grows and multiplies beyond the capacities of any one individual.

What is a Fresh Expression of (Anglican) Church?

When people hear I’m planting an Anglican church, they either imagine the form of Anglicanism most familiar to them being transplanted into a new community, or they imagine something quite opposite, designed to be as unAnglican, or unChristian as possible. It’s all the more complicated when planting with a historic denomination and all its complicated history. One person with little appreciation for Anglicanism asked me this week – are you planting a church, or an Anglican church?

In fact, my aim is to plant a fresh expression of church, for young commuting families in Ajax. Not a copy of an older expression of church, or an anti-church, but a fresh way of living out something quite old – simply being church in a new culture and context.

Are you planting a church?

I was recently given a copy of an Encounters on the Edge booklet that had some great material. It was their 50th booklet in the series, looking back at how fresh expressions of church have developed in the time spanned by the booklet series.

The most valuable material was the section describing what can be legitimately called a fresh expression of church. I have always referred to this definition, myself:

A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.

  • It will come into being through principles of listening, service, contextual mission and making disciples.
  • It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context.

Source: Share the Guide

It’s an intentionally charitable definition, which is both a good thing, and a bad thing. It’s good, in that it creates space for creativity within important constraints. It’s not so good, in that I’ve found people freely using “fresh expression” to describe all sorts of things that don’t make sense.

What I found helpful in this new booklet was the list of criteria the Sheffield Centre use to identify what to list in their database of Anglican fresh expressions. They are:

  1. Was something Christian brought to birth that was new and further, rather than an existing group modified?
  2. The starting group tried to engage with non-churchgoers.
  3. Does the resultant community meet at least once a month?
  4. Is there a name that gives an identity?
  5. Is there intention to be Church?
  6. Is it intended to be Anglican, or there is an Anglican partner in an LEP Local Ecumenical Partnership?
  7. There is some form of leadership recognised within, and also without.
  8. At least the majority of members (who are part of the public gathering) see it as their major expression of being church.
  9. There is aspiration for the four classic ‘marks’ or ecclesial relationships: up (holy) in (one) out (apostolic), of (catholicity).
  10. There is intent to become three-self: self-financing, self-governing and reproducing

Source: A Golden Opportunity

I think this resonates because they match my experience of planting reconnect. We intuitively began with, and remained committed to all these principles in one form or another from Day 1, even when they were misunderstood or challenged. I’ve never seen them articulated in one place like this, but this describes exactly what we were going for, so it’s affirming!

Are you planting an Anglican Church?

The author elaborates on each point, so it’s hardly fair to just list them here. I’d encourage you to buy the booklet! But I particularly appreciated a few points on Anglicanism, Under #6.

By Anglican, we mean the bishop thinks it is part of the family, not whether it uses only centrally agreed texts, or has legal territory. We know there are genuine fresh expressions of Church in many denominations. Our work deals only with Anglican examples.

Source: A Golden Opportunity

That’s really helpful! It’s easy to mistake Anglicanism for a liturgical text, form, music, buildings, theological fads, traditions, etc. It fits with my Archbishop’s use of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral when asked “What makes a church Anglican?”. The four points of the quadrilateral are:

  1. The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation;
  2. The Creeds (specifically, the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith;
  3. The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion;
  4. The historic episcopate, locally adapted.
The fourth point relates to my booklet’s assertion that something is Anglican if it’s recognized by a Bishop as being part of the Anglican family. Nothing about liturgical style, texts, theological fads, etc.  This point about the episcopate seems to be the only point that distinguishes Anglicanism from other denominations – the other three points simply make it a Christian church!
As you can see – there is a lot of space for fresh expressions of church, articulated in these definitions, and soon to be lived out in a new church in Ajax!

Where Will The Church Start?

When people hear I am leading the planting of a new Anglican church, they’re often quite pleased.  But for all different reasons.

Sometimes they are thrilled that we are going into a new community to serve others, build community and help others follow Jesus.  When people learning to follow Jesus intentionally gather together to practice God’s kingdom, we have a church!  It might even build a building someday.

But others hear “church planting” and immediately picture their favourite church (building, music, programs, worship style, preaching style, etc.), transplanted into the Ajax town boundaries.  They presume that the problem we seek to solve is a geographic one – people simply need the Anglican church to be closer, and more convenient, so they can come.  It certainly was, the last time the Anglican church had a great wave of planting activity – a few decades back as suburban sprawl began.  They love their church, or memories of church, and long for others to share the experience.  And so they ask, Where will it start?  They mean well!  Some even pledge to attend when it’s built.  They are great people!

But the problem isn’t one of convenience or geography!

I read this quote today from Bishop Graham Cray:

It is becoming clear that many of the people for whom Christ died are unlikely to be drawn to our existing churches however spiritually alive, hospitable and attractive they are.

That is our new context.  We have an opportunity here to not just plant another church in the same model we have.  There are dozens of great churches within a 15 minute drive for those who are already inclined to go to church for Sunday services and other programming, and for those whom they might invite.  There are thousands of others who won’t…and it is for those thousands that we are planting a new church.

Even if we gather a launch team from other churches, and work together to build a building or start our favourite style of Sunday worship, we will likely find ourselves with the same struggles to overcome apathy and become more spiritually alive, hospitable and attractive as other churches with that model. We will have solved a small geographic problem, rather than taking on the real, big issues of God’s kingdom!

This is an opportunity to do something new and creative, that begins with listening to discover the real needs of our community.  It’s probably not that the nearest Anglican church is too far away to visit on Sunday mornings.  It’s probably got something to do with family and parenting concerns, financial fears, work stress or crime, and that existing models of church just offer one more way to keep busy.

We’ll start there, serve these needs in Jesus’ name, make friends, and share life together.  As others learn why we do, they’ll learn about Jesus, and I pray, be led to follow and worship him.  We’ll aim to spark a movement of people whose lives have been and are being transformed by Jesus – at work, at home, at school, at church.  It won’t start in a building, patch of land, or school gym – but rather in the hearts of real people, serving one another and building community.