Blast from the Past – Founding thoughts of Our Missional Heart

I’ve been chatting with a new online friend about how the Thingy (the missional community Wendy and I are a part of) came to be.  The last letter I wrote him got me all nostalgic so I went back to old notes and found this crazy thing…

First, a little background.

2008 was the culmination of a wild ride.

  • 2000 to 2003 – Wendy and I worked for a college ministry that experienced crazy rapid growth.  It was an accelerated education in church systems.
  • 2003-2004 – We pushed through the rest of seminary, had our first kid, and tried to figure out what we were doing with the rest of our lives.
  • 2004-2008 – We came to work at a fantastic church in downtown Baltimore.  We hit the ground running and immediately began working on the churches systems.  Much of that work began to wind down early in 2008.

So at the beginning of 2008 Wendy and I had an opportunity to take a step back and ask, “What in the world?”  That spring and summer we had long and fantastic conversations about church and what we believed. 

So in September of 2008…before we knew we were going to leave the institutional church…before the Thingy (our missional community) had begun…before we started this blog…before so much began that now seems as if it has been happening forever, my friend Cory encouraged us to sit down and write out our thoughts from the spring and summer. 

At that point we didn’t even know what “missional” really was.  I had started reading some blogs and had finished the introduction to Alan Hersch’s Forgotten Ways…but I definitely didn’t know to define myself as a missional thinker.

Sitting at our kitchen table, our thoughts poured out in the form of a declaration.  It was this declaration that led us to planning and building the Thingy later that fall.  I thought I would share it with you today, unedited.  Seriously, I haven’t changed a word. 

Nobody but Wendy, Cory, and myself have ever read this.

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Foundational Observations:

These are observations that are driving us to seek a different way to be the Body of Jesus in Baltimore.

Observations Concerning the body as a whole:

Observation: The modern church carries in it an “if you build it, they will come” attractional attitude.  Response: Our body will live by a “if you love them they will encounter Jesus” attitude.

Observation: Because the modern church is primarily attractional in nature it has become a consumer based organization.  Attenders are nothing more than consumers purchasing goods from the attractional church so that the organization can build better attractions to bring in more consumers.  Response:  In our body organization will exist only to empower members to love God and to go and be Jesus in their communities.  We will not attract.  We will train.  Members are not consumers, they are missionaries, ambassadors of the Kingdom.

Observation: Activities, teams, ministries, or gatherings in the modern church are often started to create something out of nothing.  There is a hole in the church’s vision; so an activity is started to fill the hole.  Response: In our body teams, activities, ministries, or gatherings will only be created when they provide for body members something the members need to express their love for God or others that members cannot do on their own.

Observation:  Modern churches become dependent on their buildings and their technology.   Once the ministry of the Body is based on these things, the organization must constantly struggle to pay for them.  The church becomes trapped, always raising funds to upgrade these depreciating items.  Response:  The Body will not become dependent on buildings or technology for its organized gatherings or activities.

Observation:  In the modern church the body often defines itself through a charismatic personality.  This means the body will only become what the personality can lead them to be.  Response:  All leaders, no matter how simple his/her service is, must seek to reproduce themselves and share the joy of service with others.  Leaders must constantly be recruiting and training others to join them in service.

 Observation:  Because gatherings, ministries, teams, and activities are: 1)attractional, 2)dependent on technology and location, and 3)based on charismatic personalities they are not reproducible in different cultural settings.  Response: The foundational value/principles behind everything our body does must be clearly defined and transferable to other cultural settings.  This means the goal (or win) of each activity must be communicable so that how to achieve the goal can be changed depending on the circumstances.   Not programs…processes.

 Observation: Most modern church plants launch through deficit spending.  They are dependent on outside sources of income to begin their gatherings.  This puts the need for finances at the center of their decisions during crucial times of formation.  Response: If our body cannot afford it then our body does not need it.

 Observation:  The need to accomplish something in the name of God, the need to identify true faith, and the church’s need for money to promote the institution has created an unhealthy legalism in modern Christianity.  Response: All spiritual disciplines are optional for body members.  They should be taken up when they will further equip and encourage an individual to love God or love others.  They should be put down when their impact has begun to fade.  (This includes the discipline of tithing.)

 Observation:  The gifts (tithes) of body members in the modern church go to support the organization.   Response: Money given by the people must go back into the community.

 Observation: In the modern church, growth of the body is brought under the authority of the existing leadership and is included into the organizational hierarchy.  This keeps a select few in charge as keepers of the vision and subjugated the rest of the body under them.  Response:  In humility, growth of the body will be encouraged to seek its own answers to “how to” questions.  Individual units are held together not in a hierarchy, but rather as a network of servants.  Core theology will remain the same; but structure, processes, gatherings, programs, and other such non-eternal things will be designed by individual units.

Observations Concerning Leadership:

Observation:  Modern church leadership gets so caught up in creating ministries that will reach the community they unintentionally stifle the Body’s God given ability to reach the community by taking up Body members time and asking Body members to submit to a central vision instead of seeking God’s vision for them individually.  Response: Leadership will exist only to equip and encourage Body members to spend their lives sharing the love of Christ with others.  Leaders are servants; not first, not primarily…only.  Leaders are humble servants of the Body charged with equipping and encouraging the Body members to reach their full Christ given potential to Love God and Love Others. 

 Observation:  The modern church’s leadership class is often unintentionally treated as a special, more gifted, class of people.  Response: Leaders must never seek their own glory.  They must never promote their own name.  They must never seek praise for their actions.  They will know they are successful when the body members they equip and encourage succeed and they go unnoticed.

 Observation: An obsession with prayer is often absent in modern church leadership.  The dependence on it is far to often replaced by a leader’s strong outgoing charismatic personality.  Response: A leader’s greatest tool must be prayer.  For leaders prayer must be an obsessive discipline. 

Observation: Often church leaders will expect things of others they themselves can not or will not do.  Response: Leaders must first lead in spiritual disciplines before they can equip others with them.  For leaders, constantly probing new disciplines, constantly seeker to go deep with God, always pushing one’s self to sacrifice more for others must be a way of life.

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Crazy stuff man.   Cr-a-zy.

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Blast from the Past – Founding thoughts of Our Missional Heart

One thought on “Blast from the Past – Founding thoughts of Our Missional Heart

  1. Man, I’m still awed by God introducing me to you when he did because I find that an overwhelming number of things (literally overwhelming) that he’s been teaching me or giving me a desire for or just impressing upon me are things that he’s already led you through. This declaration is one of those. While many of the items certainly aren’t true for every church, they’re thought-for-thought virtually everything that he’s been working with me on — and the ones that aren’t are ones that I hadn’t thought about before.

    Thanks again for taking all the time to write this stuff down.

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