Tag: missional

A Non-Conference Worth Noting

The Deeper Church Non-Conference sponsored by missonalcommons.org is worth noting.  As a rule I do not promote conferences and seminars on my blog — except the ones I speak at, of course, which is shameless self-promotion I admit.   There are just too many conferences and most of them cost a small fortune.  But these guys are doing something different — a non-conference for FREE!

That’s right, kiddies!  Free.  FREE!  No charge, no fancy promo, no sign-up now and get a big discount.  They do have a Facebook page where you can tell them you’re coming, but that’s it.   Also, no paid speakers, no book signings, no celebrity guru stuff.  Here’s what David Fitch (The Great Giveaway) says:

Amazing! We’re doing it again. A bunch of us missional pastors/leaders/church planters are gathering in Ft Wayne, Indiana to encourage each other and discuss the stuff of doing missional church as communities. We call it a Non/Conference because there are no fees, no paid speakers and big sponsors selling stuff. –  IT’S FREE!!!! – It’s just a bunch of people gathering to pray, talk Missional church and encourage one another in the Spirit. This year, on the Friday night, we’re gathering to discuss the questions of racism and diversity in missional church. We’re reading Soong-Chan Rah’s book The Next Evangelicalism. If you come to this, be sure to have read the book, and be prepared for some serious theological/cultural engagement. On Saturday, the day is wide open for conversations led by various pastor/leaders. NO PREPARATION NEEDED – JUST COME AND JOIN IN!! The theme is “Deeper Church: Churches as Whole Communities.”

I sat in on David’s seminar at NOC09, and he had some really good stuff to say about what his small missional church is doing in the Chicago area.  So, he’s doing the ministry he talks, teaches, and writes about.  Anyway, click on over to his blog, and read the rest for yourself.  I may just show up there in Ft. Wayne for this one.

Urban Church Connects with Local Artists

P1040079_lgIn its heyday University Baptist Church in Baltimore overflowed its expansive neoclassical sanctuary.  Designed by the same architect as the Jefferson Memorial, the church’s impressive dome now shelters fewer worshippers each Sunday.  But changing times haven’t discouraged the members of University Baptist Church.  Instead the congregation continues to find new ways to impact its urban neighborhood.

Located across the street from Johns Hopkins University, University Baptist Church draws dozens of students each week for its Sunday evening service, “The Gathering.” But as the neighborhood on the other side of the church evolved into an arts enclave, church members wanted to reach out to these artists as well.

“We are in our fourth year of hosting an arts camp for children,” Associate Pastor Robin Anderson explained.  With that experience, and a growing arts presence in their neighborhood, members sought new ways to engage with their creative neighbors.

A casual conversation about art galleries led Robin to ask, “Would it be a dumb idea to do an art gallery at the church?”  Church members thought she might be on to something.  The result was  Art Under The Dome, a gallery show for local artists hosted by the church.  Twenty percent of show sales went to the African HIV/AIDS ministries of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  On the night the art show opened, an African drummer stood on the steps of the church, beckoning passersby inside with the rhythms of authentic African drums.  Almost 500 people attended the art show opening, and 400 of those had not been to the church before.  Dozens more viewed the show during its two-week run, and many signed up for a small group study.

Here’s how they did it:

1.  Direct mail and internet sites advertised the event. The church solicited artists through art-related internet message boards.  Direct mail invitations to the show opening were sent out to the neighborhood surrounding the church.

2.  A gallery team coordinated the show. One member acted as curator, selecting artwork submitted by local artists.  The curator’s choices were reviewed by the entire gallery team for final approval.  Over 20 artists participated in the art show.

3.  Professionalism was important. The gallery team maintained a professional atmosphere by replicating a real art show opening at the temporary church gallery.  This approach showed respect for the diversity of artists and patrons, while inviting further contact with the church.

4.  The community came together for a good cause. Johns Hopkins University is world-renown for its research, including research into HIV/AIDS.  Raising money for this cause helped draw both church members and artists together for a worthy endeavor.  In addition, local HIV/AIDS groups were invited to display brochures about their work in the Baltimore area.

5.  Follow-up included a small group study. Over 30 people signed up to study “The Artist’s Way,” a book written by a Christian artist, but directed toward the broader arts community.

The church is already preparing for its next art show.  The majestic church sanctuary is now a landmark recognized by the arts community as a place where faith and creativity meet under the dome.

— This article first appeared in Outreach magazine in my Small Church, Big Idea column.

A New Model Merges Pastoral Care and Social Action

I am speaking tomorrow at Duke Divinity School to students in the Rural Ministry Colloquia, a monthly gathering of students involved in, or interested in, rural church ministry.  I have been asked to tell our story of how we started a community center, community music school, and several other projects here in our small town of 1300 people.

In addition to telling our story, I’m also going to share some very quick thoughts about the role of small churches in rural areas.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the theology and practice of pastoral care in a missional church, and how that is different from pastoral care in traditional churches.  I think I’ve come up with a least a few questions, if not fully-formed answers.  Here’s some of what I’ll share tomorrow:

  1. Missional theology and praxis calls for contextual, incarnational engagement with the community.  How does “the care of souls” fit into the missio Dei and our part in it?
  2. Why is pastoral care largely ignored in the on-going conversations about the tranformation of the church?
  3. Given the social structures of rural society, and the aging populations of small town and rural America, shouldn’t “the care of souls” be a part of our intentional ministry, and not just an afterthought during times of crisis?
  4. Considering the rampant poverty, increased alcohol and drug abuse problems, lower educational levels, and other social issues affecting rural areas, shouldn’t our care of people also include care for the community, and the transformation of communal issues?

I am also proposing tomorrow a new way to look at pastoral care and social action (which is not a term I like, but I can’t think of another more descriptive).

The typical pastoral care model is a dyad of both the spiritual and psychological care of a person or family.  The typical “social gospel” model (or social action model) is a dyad of  spiritual and sociological engagement with a community, or group in a community.

I am proposing a new model that is a synthesis of both pastoral care and social gospel — a triad of the spiritual, psychological, and sociological concerns addressed by both individual approaches to care, and communal approaches to care.

In the Bible, salvation is often seen as coming to a people, not just individuals.  Certainly, the salvation of Israel was not thought of as future, but as a present reality that God could, and often did, provide.  This does not diminish the importance and necessity of a personal response to Jesus’ call to “come and follow me” but rather it broadens that call to include the salvation of social systems and communities.

I believe that “the care of souls” is going to burst into our theological imaginations in new and exciting ways.  Some of those will be that care will be more relational and less educational; and, more contextual and less general.

The “care of souls” will also fill the gaps in the social fabric of rural communities who have lost much of their social framework to chain stores, increased mobility, and the loss of public spaces.  I am convinced that we need to see our communities, not just as potential additions to our membership roles, but as “sheep without a shepherd.”

Creating networks of caring, training spiritual directors, offering healing solutions to intractable social problems — these are some of the new ways in which pastoral care in the missional church finds new expression.   One of the primary tasks of churches is to make meaning out of life’s stages and events.  By viewing our communities, and the individuals and families within them, as in need of Christian care, I believe we change the tone and effect of what we are doing.

What do you think?  How has your church, small or large, had opportunity to express care both for individuals and the entire community?  How have you brought about community transformation through “the care of souls?”  I’m really interested in gathering examples of churches doing this because I think it’s the next new awareness of the missional movement.

The Indispensable Church

People don’t need to go to church.

At least that’s how the majority of people in America act.  Less than 18% of the population attends church on any given Sunday.  In the U.S. we are chasing downhill Europe’s church attendance rate of 7%, and David Olson predicts by 2020 we’ll be halfway there.  And that is precisely our problem:  we’re stuck on Sunday morning church attendance as both the measure of a church’s health, and an indicator of a person’s spiritual life.

The question that church leaders need to ask now is not, “How can we get more people to come to church?” We’ve been asking that question since the numbers started turning down in the 1970s.  All our solutions together haven’t turned the tide of declining church attendance.  Throw in all the megachurches, all the church growth seminars, all the church marketing, the millions spent on programs, and the kitchen sink, and the result is the same:  people continue to stay away from church in droves.

The question we need to be asking is, “How can church become indispensable to a community?”  People don’t come to church because church isn’t essential to their lives.  Church is a take-it-or-leave-it experience, and most are leaving it.

Our challenge is to make our churches indispensable to our communities.  The well-worn, but telling question — “If your church closed tomorrow, would anybody notice?” — has been answered by millions of Americans with a resounding “No.”

But, I am not advocating a return to “attractional church” programs and activities, either.  Rather I am advocating the following:

  1. Sunday morning worship isn’t the most important thing we should be doing.
  2. Missional isn’t missional until people outside the church notice.
  3. The unchurched will tell us how we can be indispensable to them.

Those three ideas all reflect the need to change perspectives from our self-congratulatory, self-validating point of view to an outsider point of view.

Here’s an example:  In North Carolina, Crossfire United Methodist Church got started because one biker (the Harley riding kind) had been befriended by a member of the dying Moravian Falls United Methodist Church.  When Alan Rice, the UM district superintendent, showed up to close Moravian Falls, Duncan Overrein showed up on his Harley and wouldn’t leave until Alan promised him to keep the church open.

But, the old church congregation was too small to sustain the church, so the old Moravian Falls church died and the new Crossfire UM Church was born in the old church building.  Now 110-plus people, bikers and others, ride from 30-40 miles away each Sunday to come to church.

But Sunday isn’t all they do, or even the most important thing they do.  They help each other.  They repair houses, fix cars, buy groceries, care for the sick, pray for their brothers and sisters.  Crossfire is buying an old abandoned refrigerated warehouse as their new home.  Part of the refrigerated space they’ll rent out, but they intend to start a beef aging business there, too.

The church has become indispensable to the community of bikers and their friends and families.  It’s there because one pastor listened to one long-haired, do-rag wearing biker who wanted a church for people like him.  Crossfire doesn’t have any problem with attendance, except they’re outgrowing the old Moravian Falls building.  They don’t have any problem with wondering how to get people to come.  Instead they go into the community to families in need, to those who are sick, to brothers in jail, and they listen to them.

I want our church to become indispensable to our community.  I want us to touch more lives during the week than we have bodies in the pews on Sunday.  I want people to ask us to stay in business because we’ve made a difference in their lives.

I am repeatedly drawn to the Celtic Christian abbeys.  Those early monks built their monastic compound at the crossroads, or next to a village.  The abbey became the center of the community.  It became necessary for the community’s survival because they fed people, cared for the sick, gave shelter to the homeless, provided refuge for the weary and wanted, and lived out the Gospel in tangible and essential ministries.

What do you think? Is your church indispensable in your community?  Would anyone notice if your congregation folded?  What are you doing to become indispensable to the people around you?

Ministry Pornography Is Not What You Think

Ed Stetzer coins the phrase “ministry pornography” to describe a new kind of lust in the hearts of pastors and staff members, and it’s not what you think! This 3-minute video is worth watching.

Sustainable spiritual collectives

celtic-abbeySteve Taylor* started an interesting conversation about a sustainable spiritual collective.  He even renamed his blog sustain:if:able kiwi.  Fortunately he’s still at the same url, so you can find Steve here under his new nom de plume.  But back to my point.

Steve tackles the missional vs attractional argument in a new way — he offers a new vision, a third choice — sustainable.  He borrows from sustainable agricultural practices and uses those to inform sustainable spiritual collectives (communities) in new ways:

  • Sustainable communities aren’t about coming to church, but participants may still gather for support, encouragement and resourcing.
  • Sustainable communities might not even look new, but they are informed by a new understanding of God’s mission.
  • Sustainable communities could be missional groups, or traditional churches, or other forms that give expression both to our need and God’s mission.

I like what Steve says as he sums up his concept:

In other words …
Sustainable spirituality says “you don’t need to be here”, but some of us will be here, to connect and resource and sustain. Sustainable spirituality will celebrate church as ordinary, singing as everyday and faith as regular. It knows that these situations are findable, and can be hospitable, and become agents of healing. Sustainable spirituality will work hard at creating constant and multiple pathways by which the “out there” is connected and resourced.  

Celtic abbeys were very much like this, I suspect.  A core group of monks or nuns (or both) acted as spiritual directors for an entire community of passersby, new believers, needy travelers, hurting pilgrims, and struggling commoners.  This community was sustainable, not because they all gathered at the same time once a week, but because their lives revolved around the spiritual center of Christ.  

Some attended to worship more than others.  Some worked in the fields more than others.  Some were busy with the economics — the householding — more than others.  But all moved in this glorious dance of interdependence on each other and God, sustained by God’s grace and sustaining the kingdom outpost they called the church.  

I like Steve’s sustainable spiritual collectives.  Not sure if the term will move into popular usage, however.  Just imagine your business card — 

Chuck Warnock, Pastor

Chatham Baptist Sustainable Spiritual Collective

But then, maybe an awkward name like that just might start some conversations all by itself.  

— *Steve Taylor pastors Opawa Baptist Church in New Zealand, and is author of  The Out-of-Bounds Church

NOC08 day 2

Wow, what a great kickoff to NOC08 yesterday. The small church discussion group I led had an overflow crowd and lots of great ideas.

Erwin McManus delivered a powerful and compelling message. McManus said that most of our effort is spent trying to make Sunday worship just a little less irrelevant to the lives of most people. What we should be doing, he said, is engage our world during the week.

Today I am attending some exciting transformational seminars. I’ll post more about today’s stuff on twitter with photos on Facebook. Friend me and keep up with the great resources here at NOC08.