What’s in a name? Missional Community

The word, “missional” has become something of a buzz-word over recent years. Several friends such as Linda Bergquist and Alan Hirsch were involved in writing a Missional Manifesto which was published last year to help describe the term. Here’s the first sentence from the manifesto:

God is a sending God, a missionary God, who has called His people, the church, to be missionary agents of His love and glory.

Several of the mega-churches in our city have come to terms with the fact that , even if they multiplied themselves many times over, they wouldn’t be able to reach the city in the way they long to, and they are adopting simple/organic principles as a deliberate strategy. This isn’t just happening here in Austin, but all over the country.

I’ve led workshops at three of their conferences (like Verge and Exponential), and the main speakers at the conferences have included people like Neil Cole, David Watson, George Patterson, David Garrison–all of whom teach on simple/organic principles and church planting or disciple-making movements.

What these churches have come to recognize through the teachings of people like Alan Hirsch, is that an attractional model of church (“Come to our church service, come and hear our special speaker) isn’t nearly as effective as sending the members of their church into their communities and sub-cultures to reach out with the good news of Jesus. And although their church members might continue to come to the main church, the new “missional communities” formed in the harvest from the disciples that come to the Lord through their witness, are not expected to feed into the main church. These missional communities are autonomous, able to baptize and give communion, free to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead when they meet.

To all intents and purposes, they are simple/organic churches. “A rose by any other name is still a rose.”

I, personally, am very excited by this development. Mega-churches have huge resources of personnel. Imagine what could happen if these churches sent out their young people by their hundreds to form missional communities across the city.

Alongside this,  a slightly different model is also called a missional community. These “missional communities” originated in the UK. Mike Breen is the name most commonly associated with them. This model is larger–a small congregation with 25-50 people attending. They are not just a smaller version of Sunday morning, but have an upward focus (towards God) and inward focus towards their missional community and an outward focus into mission. They have spread into Europe and are now becoming better known here in the States.

What might happen in our cities if nobody minds who gets the credit?

Viral Jesus

Picture 1
I've been looking forward to the release of Viral Jesus by Ross Rohde for some time. A few months ago I was given the privilege of reading the manuscript and writing an endorsement, and immediately I was struck with the relevance of Ross's message to not just the simple/organic church movement of which both he and we are a part, but far beyond that, to any Christian who desires to make an impact for the Kingdom of God.

We have known Ross for several years, and every time we meet him he has a new story of how he has met with a "person of peace" (see Luke 10), led him to become a disciple of Jesus and started a community of Jesus followers. The book is full of stories of supernatural encounters, God working miracles in people's lives.

The early church spread like wildfire, spreading throughout the then known world in a comparatively short time. Since then, it has become something different–a lethargic parody of the vibrant life it was supposed to be.

Could we see a viral Jesus movement again here in the West? Christianity is meant to be an adventure, we as his ambassadors on mission with God. Do you want to see your church revitalized? In this outstanding book, Ross examines the principles of what it would take to recapture the excitement and viral nature of evangelism and making disciples. 

Don't start reading this book late at night–you'll not be able to put it down. I highly recommend it.


When organic missions is effective

This video is several years old, but it's really, really good.

A few years ago, reports coming in from the field to the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists were showing something new. An rapid and seemingly almost spontaneous multiplication of new disciples and new churches was occurring in several unrelated parts of the world. As they examined these movements, which they called church planting movements, they found several features common to each.

This video documents some of what they are seeing. For a longer, 12 minute version of the video exploring the principles involved, check out their site and find the video, Like and Mighty Wave in their search engine. 




How big is your vision? (part 2)

Photo credit: rightee (Creative Commons)

Vision is one of our greatest challenges here in the West. We think too small, and act accordingly. Our dreams are limited by what we believe we can accomplish. This post is the second part of a vision statement put out by an apostle from Asia who is constantly seeing things that amaze us. You can read the first part of his statement here.

Among all the issues and challenges, lack of vision is the greatest weakness. With all our small thinking, hiccups, resource crunch and other failures and hang-ups, is making 10 million new connections doable in three years? Just by mobilizing your disciples to catch one person per month and training them to do the same, can your disciples add 10 million to the Body of Christ in 3 years? Can we agree to this target for 2012-15?!!  

Is it possible to reach the whole world and bring them to faith in the Lord Jesus in this generation – the answer must be ‘Yes!’  Simply by being obedient to two of the commands of the Lord Jesus – Follow Me and Make Disciples!! 

What will it take for you to start this chain reaction and for it to go viral? 

Suggested thoughts:

  1. Debunk all existing myths surrounding the traditional church, even the house churches that are not multiplying.  Go for the flexible “Third Place Discipling Church” that happens wherever you spend 8 hours of the day. That way no one will have the excuse of being too busy. Focus on small group discipling as worship rather than on large group gathering and singing as worship.
  2.  Filter out all those who have excuses. Don’t waste time on them but invest time and resources only on those who are willing to invest their own time and resources. Most of the resources are in the harvest field. Regional training and apostolic visits are the only times you may need external resources.
  3. Opening of e-gates. Use mobile phones and the Internet which are now ubiquitous (five billion mobile phones in circulation worldwide; companies are planning to add another billion customers in 2012). Provide facilities for downloading Bibles in their language, God story and Christian music (Great Commission songs ). Send SMS to non-believers instead of sending wonderful gospel messages to well meaning but non-performing Christians. Use mobile phones not just for voice communication but for multi-tasking. Can be used for discipling, providing privacy and safety to both the mentor and the mentee.
  4. Focus on young people. All the disciples of Jesus and Paul were young people.
  5. Focus on women as they are relational and have access to closed doors in restricted communities.
  6. Focus on the supernatural rather than on a cognitive, academic, intellectual approach.
  7. Focus on “Church Planting Movement Planters (CPMPs)” rather than on evangelism.
  8. Focus on discipling rather than on preaching, where Christ has not been named.
  9. Focus on rapidity (instant baptism) rather than on stability (the same people gathering every Sunday).
  10. Be intentional in sparking a CPM (Church Planting Movement) but it must end out of human control. spontaneity (Holy Spirit driven).
  11. Focus on developing local leadership and passing the baton to them, but keep the connexion.
  12. Periodically monitor to see that the goals are being achieved and if necessary, do a course correction.
  13.  Measure your success not by buildings, bodies and budgets, not even by the missionary force on the field or graduates coming out of your Bible schools. Instead measure it by disciples made, baptized, equipped, sent, People Groups reached and territories possessed….until the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and his Christ. 


Ways to see a greater harvest #1



 I recently reread the book, "destined for the throne" by Paul Bilheimer. The main premise of the book is based on a quote by John Wesley: "God does nothing except an answer to prayer." Bilheimer goes on to explain that God has chosen to limit himself in order that we might get on-the-job training for reining in his kingdom.

If this premise is true, then we need to rethink some of our strategy. In places where church planting movements are thriving, prayer plays a key role. David Garrison in his book "Church Planting Movements" lists the 10 features common to all CPMs. Prayer is high on his list.

We have friends in India who tried an experiment. They picked two villages; one they prayer walked, the other they did not. When they later went to do some evangelism in the first village, 45 families found the Lord. They were thrown out of the second village.

David Watson has seen many tens of thousands of churches planted in India and Africa. Recently, he questioned his top church planters to see if there were any common factors. He discovered that prayer was key to these people. Each of them prayed at least three hours per day on their own, and more time was spent in prayer with the team.

Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the Full Gospel Central Church in Seoul, Korea was interviewed by Rick Warren. He stated that when he first started his church (at one time the largest in the world), in order to see the Holy Spirit work, he had to pray for at least five hours per day. He has now been able to cut this down to three hours.

I do not tell the stories in order to condemn us. Most of us lead very busy lives. How can we commit to that kind of time in prayer? What is God asking of us?

What do you think? Is it true that "God does nothing except an answer to prayer"?  What should our response be?