“I’ve never been to your church, but I love your church.” This was what COMMUNITY Campus Pastor Shawn Williams heard while getting his hair cut. The conversation started when the women cutting his hair asked Shawn what he did for a living. He said, “I’m a pastor at the Yellow Box.” As soon as he said that she responded, “My neighbors are a part of that church. In fact, I’ve recently gone through a divorce and it’s been really tough being a single mom. But my neighbors who go to your church have been a big help getting me through it. They’ve assisted me with carpooling; they’ve brought me meals and they’ve even helped me with small home improvement projects.” Then she looked at Shawn and said, “I’ve never been to your church, but I love your church.” I don’t know your definition of a missional church, but stories like that tell me a church is doing it!
Many people wearing the badge of missional experts have said that missional and mega are incompatible; a church like COMMUNITY can’t grow to be a large church AND exist for something outside of itself. Unfortunately, many times they have been exactly right. But for the last 24 months COMMUNITY has been in a transition to fulfill the dream of mobilizing every person in our large and growing church for mission. Last April myself and Alan Hirsch published our plan for transitioning a church for missional engagement in our book, On The Verge. The On The Verge transition lays out the following three moves for a church who wants to become missional:
- “See It” – This is the phase where you capture the imagination of people through story-telling and teaching. During this move people have the “ah-hah” and begin to see the mission of Jesus for the very first time.
- “Get It” – This is the phase where people begin to understand and feel passionate about the mission. They begin to truly understand that our God is the missio Dei and as his people we too have a mission. They also begin to feel a passion for the mission and it becomes this compelling cause for which they want to give their lives.
- “Do It” – This is the phase where people begin to implement what they have seen and now understand into the flow of their everyday lives. They eventually move to the place of becoming unconsciously competent about mission. Simply put, they do it!
After 24 months of working through these three moves at COMMUNITY and gaining missional momentum we had a breakthrough last weekend. We asked all our small groups to work through a 6-week process of determining their mission. Some of the groups would be “1-mission groups” and others would be “Multiple mission groups.” Last weekend we had about 1400 students and adults and 140 small groups stand on our stages and say out loud their mission, be anointed, prayed for and commissioned by the leadership of our church. The pic to your right is just one of our celebration services where groups filled the stage and made a public commitment to the mission of Jesus. More than 70% of our people are in small groups and 73% of our groups participated in the commissioning service this weekend. To you that might be a lot of numbers, but to me it is a sign that a very large church is clearly mobilizing large numbers of people for difference-making mission.
No, we are not done! Far from it. We have a long way to go. We have to sustain the missional momentum that we are now experiencing. But one thing I am increasingly convinced of is this: the large church can be used as a platform for energizing and mobilizing large numbers of people for missional engagement. In my own opionion, mega AND mission – it can be done!
In the movie Moneyball, Brad Pitt plays the part of the Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. While most of the baseball old timers and scouts had a set of stats they used to look for young prospects, Billy Beane understood that the only stat that mattered was runs scored. Through statistical analysis he changed the game of baseball forever and was credited with indirectly bringing a championship to the Boston Red Sox for the first time in 85 years. In much the same way churches should not confuse a variety of different stats like attendance and offering with the one stat that matters most. Jesus explained the one thing that matters most:“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19,20) If making disciples is what matters most; how do you keep track of disciple-making? How does a church know if they are doing a good job at making disciples?I’d like to invite you to leave your comments and thoughts about how you would define a disciple of Jesus. I’m particularly interested in how you would define a disciple in a way that is measureable. So, what stats do you think should matter to a church?
Over the last 18 months at COMMUNITY we have made strategic moves in order to mobilize all (yes, we mean ALL) our people for mission. Part of that process has been to clearly articulate in a simple way our mission and how we will carry it out. The mission is “helping people find thier way back to God” and the way we will accomplish it is throug the 3 R’s. What is below is the script from a voice over I did for a video to explain in a concise way the Jesus mission at COMMUNITY.
MISSION: At COMMUNITY we have accepted the mission of Jesus and simply say it like this: “helping people find their way back to God.” This mission is made up of three tasks:
REACH. First, we must reach people far from God. The Western Church is observing a dramatic shift from a Christian culture to a post-Christian one. It is now suggested that 60% of the people we want to reach will never enter the doors of our current forms of church. If that is true, we then need to allow our imaginations to be profoundly shaped by the biblical notion that God is sending us as He sent Himself in Jesus. Matthew 28 says to “Go!” and we are challenging ourselves to be the church who will reach people who are far from God.
RESTORE. We must also restore God’s dream for the world. A common perception among pre-Christians is that Christ-followers talk about poverty and justice issues, but that we don’t do much to address those issues. But Jesus expects us to change that perception. “He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” (Luke 4:17-18) It is our mission to be a people who restore God’s dream for the world.
REPRODUCE. We must then reproduce the mission in others. If we are called to go to “Jerusalem…Judea…Samaria… and to the ends of the earth,” we have to find a new way of counting that results in rapid reproduction and exponential growth. This new math counts on you and your friends to start a missional church movement. Every movement starts with one person. When you and your friends follow the biblical example to become apprentices of Jesus, (2 Timothy 2:2) the result can be the beginning of a missional church movement. Through these apprenticeships, we will reproduce the mission in others.
That’s the Jesus Mission. Now go.
Time Magazine compiled a list of the 10 best commencement addresses ever. This list included speeches by Winston Churchill (Harrow College, 1941); John F. Kennedy (American University, 1963) and even Steve Jobs (Stanford, 2005). Also on the list was Stephen Colbert (yes, that Stephen Colbert!) and his 2006 commencement address at little Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Colbert, who Knox had just awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, closed his address with a challenge about the power of saying, “Yes”: “When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City, there was really only one rule … When you improvise a scene with no script … you have to accept what the other improviser initiates … Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what’s going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say yes. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will say yes back. Now will saying yes get you in trouble at times? Will saying yes lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. Yes is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.”
You may or may not like Colbert’s politics, but either way if you want to lead your church toward mission, you’d better listen to his words of wisdom and lead with a “Yes!” The one thing every leader possesses that every follower needs to engage in mission is permission. And permission always comes in the form of a “Yes.” Leaders, if you want to see missional engagement in your churches and ultimately a movement, you must lead with a “Yes” to your people’s creative ideas. If your followers can’t get permission from you, then they may never be engaged in the mission. The great temptation is to respond with questions of how. But questions of how need to wait. If we respond with “How could you do that?” we immediately begin to sow seeds of doubt by responding to the individual’s vision with a question about strategy. If we ask, “How much would that cost?” we are responding to their vision with a question of tactics. The questions about “how” will come later on, but the reflex of an innovative leader needs to be “Yes.”
(This is an excerpt from my new book with Alan Hirsch, On The Verge: A Journey Into the Apostolic Future of the Church.)
For more on “Yes” check out the following:
I had a great time working with Mark and Nicole Conner and the CityLife team for two days in Melbourne, Australia. They are definitely world class leaders with tremendous passion and gifting. We spent most of our time talking about the organizational changes needed once you get beyond 3 sites. We also spent a great deal of time talking about how they can further implement the BIG IDEA. And we ate alot!!
While it was impressive that CityLife is the second largest church in Australia with an average attendance of 5500; what was more exciting is that it is now a reproducing church! In the last three years CityLife has added two more new sites; plus planting a new church with dreams for continually reproducing. If you dig deeper you will discover that this church, like most successful reproducing churches has an infrastructure of reproducing small groups with 88% of their people in small groups. Outstanding! I look forward to partnering with CityLife in the future. It is so inspiring to see what God is doing all over the world to bring about a movement of reproducing churches.