Mega AND Missional – It Can Be Done!

“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!

On The Verge

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!

Groups commissioning

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!

The Focus of Attention

FocusEver been around someone who has to be the focus of attention? And do you remember what it feels like being around that person? It feels like the person is needy and something is lacking so he/she is grabbing all the attention they can to compensate for something that is lacking.

Ever been that person who has to have all the attention focused on you? Remember the feeling? You feel empty and selfish. It’s a self-serving experience to make sure you are the focal point.

In the wisdom literature of the Bible it reminds warns us, “Don’t call attention to yourself, let others do that for you.” (Proverbs 27:2) If we live a life that is constantly pointing to others, people will notice and be attracted to us. Who doesn’t want to be around a person that let’s them be the center of attention.

One of the great paradox of life is this: focus your life’s attention on others and the attention of others will be drawn to you.

CityLife Church – A Reproducing Church Down Under!

DSC00836 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.

Four Warnings About Burnout from Anne Jackson

Anne_Jackson We had Anne Jackson come in and speak at our all-staff gathering on the topic of burnout.  She really did a great job!  Anne told her story of growing up in a pastors home and how her father was impacted by the stress of a dysfunctional church.  After leaving the faith and eventually finding her way back to God she joined a church staff.  She jumped in with great passion and enthusiasm only to experience burnout herself.  Her story was the impetus for the big idea of her new book, Mad Church Disease.

Four Warnings About Burnout:

  1. Burnout often goes unnoticed.  Often people are afraid of talking about the stress in their life and feeling burned out because it makes them appear weak and not a team player.
  2. Burnout effects all areas of health.  Burnout will effect us relationally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
  3. Burnout is contagious.  Often times you will not just see one case of burnout.  There are cultures that create burnout and you will see it in multiples.
  4. Burnout leads to death.  Burnout can lead to the death of relationships; the death of faith or the death of a dream.

Insights About Burnout

  • “Burnout is the accumulation of stress over time” – Archibald Hart
  • Type-A personalities burn out from over engagement.
  • Type-B personalities burn out from having people walk all over them.

Why Discover the Dream (part 1)

Discover the Dream
God brought together myself, Sue, Jon and 4 college friends to start a new church in Chicago.  God gave us a dream to not only reach Chicago, but a dream that goes beyond that.  I believe God’s dream was for us is to be a “catalyst for a movement of reproducing churches.”  That dream continues to motivate us and COMMUNITY now has 9 locations with over 5,000 people in attendance.  But I believe that we are just beginning to fulfill the dream that God has for us.  Until now God has been introducing us to the world.  And I believe what God wants for us next is to impact the world.  The way that we will impact the world is through NewThing who is reproducing networks of reproducing churches reaching lost people around the world.  That is God’s dream for us.

So how about you?  What is your dream?  What unique dream has God placed on your heart?  On your life?  Or as you read these words, do you find yourself saying, “I want a dream. How did you discover what your dream is?”

If you are wrestling with these questions, we would like to meet with you. NewThing is hosting an event called Discover the Dream to help you discover the dream God has placed in your heart.  Join us on Monday, April 20 at Exponential Conference in Orlando, FL.

To learn more about Discover the Dream, look for Part 2 of this four-part blog. If you’re ready to sign up for the experience, click HERE.  But hurry, space is limited to the first 80 people who sign up.  In fact, if you sign up because of this blog you get 20% off!  Email to take advantage of this discount.

Focus on Spiritual Growth not "Discipleship"

Following Jesus
I got a request from a friend of mine who is in graduate school to do a brief interview about discipleship.  Since we don’t really use the term “discipleship” or “disciple” the answers I gave are a little different.  Take a look at the questions and answers and let me know what you think.

QUESTION:  How do you define “disciple” or “discipleship”?  

We don’t often use the word “disciple”.  It is not because it is a bad word.  On the contrary it is a good biblical word that has been ruined because the cultural definition focuses primarily on increasing ones cognitive content and not on direction, mission or biblical spiritual maturity.  So we use the phrase “Christ follower”.  We challenge people to become 3C Christ followers.  We believe there are three over-arching experiences of any follower of Jesus:  celebrate, connect and contribute.

  • We encourage people to celebrate on a daily basis personally and a weekly basis corporately what God is doing and who God is.
  • We encourage people to connect with other Christ followers and do life together in community.
  • We encourage people to contribute with their time, talents and treasures.

QUESTION:  How do you “make disciples” (strategies, methods, materials used, etc.)? 

We “make disciples” by encouraging people to continue to grow spiritually from spiritual infancy to spiritual adolescence to spiritual maturity.

  • spiritual infancy – people who need to be fed.
  • spiritual adolescence – people who have learned to feed themselves
  • spiritual maturity – people who feed others

This means that we take a developmental approach where people are increasingly not only responsible for their own spiritual development, but for the development of other spiritual infants.

QUESTION:  How do you know if you’ve been successful? 

We have a dashboard that measures what percentage of each ministry, each campus and our church are 3C Christ followers.  This is the most critical metric and we are constantly monitoring that number.

QUESTION:  What advice would you give to an emerging (just getting started) pastor?

Four quick pieces of advice come to mind:

  1. Don’t buy into the way most churches divide discipleship and evangelism.  UGH!   People and churches need to do both…and a Christ follower is both a disciple and an evangelist.
  2. Don’t create a dependency model of spiritual growth by constantly “feeding people” and never insisting that they grow up and learn to “feed themselves” and “feed others”.
  3. Make it very clear what it looks like to be a disciple or as we prefer, Christ follower.  Some might think 3C’s is too simple.  But we believe you want something that is biblical, memorable and simple to get people started.  They will grow from there.
  4. Find a way to measure the spiritual maturity of an individual and your church.  Anecdotes and stories are very important, but sometimes they are incidental and not reflective of the reality of the whole community.

Could You Live Like Jesus For A Year? This Guy Tried.

Ed Dobson
Dr. Ed Dobson who is the Vice President of Spiritual Formation at Cornerstone University (where my daughter Amy attends) in Grand Rapids, Michigan took on the challenge of trying to live like Jesus in 2008.  This challenge meant that Dobson would literally try to do everything Jesus did; this included not shaving, only  eating what he would eat and most of all doing everything that Jesus would do.  You can read the complete interview by USA Today with Dr. Ed Dobson by clicking HERE.  Or you can listen to Dobson on streaming video when he appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America by clicking HERE.

365 CLUB – Committed to 365 Acts of Kindness in 2009

365 (2) Last Friday I was walking into Kinko’s to do some work on a book proposal that is due at the end of this month.  I walked in with my Starbucks in hand and was greeted by one of the Kinko’s employees, George who joked, “Hey where is mine?”  I immediately said, “What do you want…I’m buying!”  I looked around and there were two other people working in the store that morning and I felt prompted to buy everyone at Kinko’s the Starbucks of their choice.  When I got back with their favorite drinks in hand you would have thought they won the lottery!  They were super grateful and it was just a fun and spontaneous random act of kindness.  After I settled in behind my computer I decided to post my experience on twitter and remind the people who follow me how a small act of generosity can make an impact.  That is not where the story ends.  The next thing I know Scott Couchenour took the idea and set up a facebook group 365 ClubThe premise of the 365 Club is simple:  it is a group of people that are committed to doing 365 acts of kindness in 2009.  This all started on Friday.  It is now Sunday night and the 365 Club already has over 240 members who have committed to doing more than 78,000 acts of kindness in 2009.

Michelle Thomas is one of the first members of the 365 Club and here is what she posted yesterday:  “Yesterday, I waited until around 2:30am and I gathered up a bucket of hot, soapy water and took it down to the parking garage in my condo building. I found the dirtiest car on my floor, washed it, dried it, and left a note card in an envelop on the windshield with the words, MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE, PAY IT FORWARD on it.”

If you want to join the 365 Club on facebook, click HERE.

Free Journal for You 2.0 Series

You 2 0 Journal Cover Front This weekend we start a critical series in the life of COMMUNITY, it is You 2.0.  For a long time we have challenged people at COMMUNITY to become 3C Christ Followers. The 3C’s are Celebrate, Connect and Contribute.  During this series we are asking people to move beyond just the doing of the 3C’s to the being of the 3C’s.  When you move from doing the 3C’s to being the 3C’s that is when you move from 1.0 to 2.0 – the next best version of You!

To kick off this series we are giving each person that attends a
COMMUNITY campus a You 2.0 journal for FREE!  You see a pic of the journal on this post.  It is our hope that as
you use this journal to hear from God everyday you will fall more in
love with Jesus and become all that He wants you to be – You 2.0.
  (Here you can download: You 2.0 Big Idea Journal Cover and You 2.0 Big Idea Journal

It’s one thing to be able to say, “yeah, I go to church every week” and it is entirely something else to be in love with Jesus.  That is the difference between Celebrate 1.0 and Celebrate 2.0.  A lot of us can say, “oh I’m a part of small group”, but that is only Connect 1.0.  If you want to move to Connect 2.0 you have a group of people that you do life with and you will get each other through anything.  It’s pretty easy to volunteer and be on a team, that’s Contribute 1.0.  Contribute 2.0 is when you become a person who lives to serve and is generous in every area of your life.  When you make each of those moves from 1.0 to 2.0 you are becoming the next best version of you – You 2.0

6 Questions That Create A New Future

New future
For the last several years I have used the last week of the year and
the first week of the new year to evaluate who I am; who does God want
me to be and how I am doing.  The process has continued to evolve over
the years, but much of it revolves around prayerfully working through
six questions. These six questions help me discern the God-given possibilities for my life.

There is just something powerful about writing down (or typing on
your computer) your goals and having an intention about who you want to
become!  I can now look back and remember writing down that I wanted to
plant a church; write a book and start a church planting network.
Would those things have happened if I had not written them down?  I
don’t know for sure.  I do know that writing these down and
reviewing them periodically keeps me moving in the direction that I
feel God is calling me. I personally think everyone should do it.  So,
I would encourage you to get some time alone and prayerfully work
through these six questions:

  1. What is my PURPOSE?  It starts with a purpose
    statement.  Just write something down.  Don’t let this question
    intimidate you.  You can always edit your answer later.  Here is how I
    answer that question now: “To be a Spirit-led leader at home, church,
    and in new ventures resulting in a movement of people finding their way
    back to God.”
      It has taken me a few years of revisions to get that
    down.  It’s a little long, but it includes everything that it is
    important to me.  So take a shot and write down a purpose statement for
    your life.
  2. What is my PASSION?  Next you should list the things about
    which you are passionate.  There are four things about which I’m
    passionate:  Jesus, family, church and new ventures.  So, what are you
    passionate about?  List them.
  3. What are the POSITIONS I hold?  Next I list all the
    positions I hold in relationship to the things about which I’m
    passionate.  For example, in relationship to my family I have two
    positions:  husband and father.  Another example, in relationship to to
    my church I have at least four positions:  visionary, Lead Pastor,
    teacher/motivator and intercessor.  List all the positions you hold in
    relationship to the things about which you are passionate.  You get the
  4. What are the POSSIBILITIES for my future?  This is my
    favorite part – dreaming with God about who He wants me to be in the
    positions He has put me in.  This is where I begin to dream about all
    the possibilities for my life.  This is the long view and it answers
    the question of who I will have been after I have lived on this planet
    for 75 years. (I’m planning on living to 75 and if I get more time that
    will be bonus!)
  5. What is the PATH for making that future possible?  Now that
    you have a list of all the possibilities for your life you need to
    figure out the path to get you there.  I have a path that I break into
    5 years chunks of time.  There are markers that I need to meet every
    five years if I am going to see those possibilities for my life ever
    happen.  So take a look at your list of God-given possibilities and
    create a path with markers along the way that show you are progressing
    towards those possibilities.
  6. What is my PLAN for this coming year?  The last question you
    will want to answer has to do with 2009.  This year is the next step on
    the path to your future.  So, write down your plan for this year and
    make sure that it is taking you towards the next markers on your path
    to your God-given possibilities.