Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ch 2. Breaking the Missional Code

This is a rather simple chapter where he outlines a simple process to breaking the missional code in your community through only five easy steps (please read with cheasy infomercial voice).
They are as follows:
1) Calling from God
2) Exegeting the Community
3) Examining ways God is working in similar communities
4) Finding God's unique vision for your church
5) Adjusting that vision as you learn the context

#1 is a tough one, largely because it is one of the most neglected doctrines in the church. So much so that Os Guinness wrote several books about it (see The Call, an excellent book). We have to learn what the call is for every Christian and then what our individual part is. I think the language people use in our protestant camp is "I feel led" or "I have a heart for..." Stetzer makes a good point that to be a missional community you have to have God's heart for your community. Its that simple.
#2 Takes time, and the guts to get to know your non-Christian friends and neighbors. He gives a great story about Rick Warren and his infamous letters. Pastor Jim told me about it several times but he left out the most important part - the surveys from the people in his community!
#3 Where is there a similar ministry we could look to instead of reinvent the wheel? Umm... Seattle is probably closest to us in culture, so I like Mars Hill. Except for the fact that Denver does have a pretty substantial and significant Christian population. In addition, Scum of the Earth might be the equivalent to Mars Hill in Denver, as for who it reaches not for personalities or doctrine. We are also a suburban church, so how does that work?
#4 I think that is pretty simple. We use to have this long drawn out vision statement and we haven't revised it formally. I know I have simply reduced it to train people to be missionaries for Jesus in their community. Any other suggested revisions?
#5 Here is a good quote in the book, "If a church does not regularly examine its culture, it ends up as a culture unto itself." this process never stops but is a revolving door.

So for his questions:
1) Who are the people God has called you to reach?
2) What are other churches that God is using to reach similar people?
3) If our church "broke the code" what would it look like?
4) What adjustments need to be made in light of what we are learning?


paul said...

On step 1, I think they are right on that you must have a heart for the community. Methods and techniques are secondary to loving the people that God has given you. Even if we love Mark Driscoll and the things they have going on at Mars Hill Seattle, if we love that more than we love reaching the people who live in the west Denver suburbs, we missed the point! Someday I should read Os Guinness' book on the subject of the call, but I don't see that this is so critical for us. It would be more important to hash out if we were church planters with no target at the outset, but since we are already committed to a community, the key point here is to love that community.

On step 2, we are definitely in a suburban context. As we discovered last week, young adults tend to move away from where we are and toward the city center. I wonder if there are reasons why the people who live here live here. From my own perspective, I chose to live out here mainly because it is close to where I work. Other drawing factors might be having family who are established in the 'burbs, lower density (not as crowded, less traffic), more affordable property values, or better access to outdoor activities.

The mega-church is the "successful" suburban church. Suburban people are used to driving relatively long distances to go to work, do their shopping, and even visit friends. A mega-church is like the Christian version of a mall: one-stop shopping for all your spiritual (consumer) needs. However, I don't think that the mega-church is going to be what breaks the code now. Rising gas prices are going to pressure change to the whole suburban way of life (of driving everywhere all the time). There is, I think, an increasing awareness that we were meant to be citizens, not mere consumers.

For resources about being missional in the suburbs, Steve McCoy has a page where he is collecting links: Mission to Suburbia. I saw the James Kunstler video and trailers for the films "The End of Suburbia" and "Sprawling from Grace, Driven to Madness" and they really raise some good questions about what "suburbs" in the future will have to look like.

Holly said...

Recognizing God’s call can be quite difficult and frustrating at times but I think a follow-up question to #1 would be “Are you living amongst the people you are called to reach?” Too often, as stated last week, we get into a mindset of being missional only as an overseas venture; so people think of “being called to reach a particular people group” the same as “being called to overseas service”. The real question, isn’t a question, it’s a statement and command from the Lord – GO. Whether it’s here or there, He calls every Christian to be His mission team to people, period. So, in essence, it’s not a “who” question, it’s a “where” question. If God calls you to reach inner-city kids and minister to them, why are you living in the ‘burbs, and vice-versa? Many Christians segregate themselves from their target ministry group in order to keep comfort in their lives; but even then they are smack-dab in the middle of a mission field. A great read on this entire concept is “The Gutter” by Craig Gross.

Sorry, my thoughts are a little scattered right now, I’m just “thinking out loud”, whether or not it’s coherent (or entirely related). :D

Chris Tenny said...

All this cool stuff pretty much boils down to Love God and Love your neighbor. Over the years I have struggled mightily with God's calling and have often suffered from the lack of discussion about God's calling being something other than overseas work or full-time ministry. At times I still fall into those old patterns because they were so ingrained in all the ministries I was involved in.

Regardless of these issues, I am where I am and Paul says in Acts 17 that God determined the times and places we will live. My calling as I see it, is to be faithful right where I am until he determines otherwise. I would like to say the answer to who takes care of the where, but oftentimes in the Bible, the where and who is answered by one's circumstances. 1 Peter, James, most of the Old Testament, are addressed to people whose circumstances and place of ministry are out of their control. Most of us do not have the resources to live in the ideal place to reach those whom God gave us a heart for. In the end, we need to love our neighbor. Maybe, we shouldn't pray to whom God has called us, but we should pray he gives us a heart for those around us.

The mega-church, born out of the seeker sensitive and church growth movement feeds the consumer mentality. Its era is likely a passing fad but then again, as population and densities rise so should the size of a church. I think the method of a church's ministry tells you whether it is a temporary mega-church or an eternal one, not its size. Its about faithful and unfaithful, not external things like size and looks.

paul said...

It's about faithful and unfaithful, not external things like size and looks.

I agree, yet it's interesting that all the examples of "successful" churches from the chapter emphasized their growth in terms of growing attendance and new church plants. Is that the vision of success that we are shooting for? Is that what it means to "break the code"?

DISCLAIMER: I just watched "The End of Suburbia", which was even more doom-and-gloom than the preview suggested! (Even doom-and-gloom is probably worth considering, though, especially in light of Matt. 5:19-21 and Luke 12:16-21.) Overall church size is not necessarily going to grow with increased population and density. From an economic perspective, the size will really depend on the population in the area of people who go to the church--and that area will probably start to shrink. If transportation costs continue to increase, people are increasingly going to be less willing to travel long distances to go to church. I would also expect property values to go up, especially in areas with good community and public transport access, which will make it more difficult to have large facilities sized to house a big Sunday-morning meeting. I would expect to see churches utilizing more multi-use public spaces or renting space. I guess there's no end to the speculation that we could do about what the future will look like....

Holly said...

Great post Chris, and I completely agree.

Paul raises some good questions as well, as to what determines success in your community. The church I worked for in CA held close to Saddleback as their example and mentor church but when numbers stopped increasing, they just added more programs to the weekly schedule in hopes that it would draw people back in (just an observation); so I think they were victims of technique-driven ministry.

Crystal said...

Maybe better than Mars Hill or Scum, it would be good to take a look at other large churches in our neighborhood. Check out their strategy. Centennial Community Church might be a good example. Or even Foothills.

Paul makes a good point, there "are reasons why the people who live here, live here."

I think that in order to address well the questions of "Who God is calling us to reach" and to effectively "break the code" in Lakewood, CO, Paul's question should be explored in more detail.

I don't know all the reasons that people move to Lakewood but, having lived nearby for a fairly long time, I do know a few of the reasons.

1) Most people that I know who have moved to this community have done so because of the school system. For many years now, Jeffco has been known as having some of the best schools in the metro area. As a result, young professionals, young couples, and established families move there either because they already have children and want them to have "the best" education possible or because they are purchasing a home and planning ahead for the time when they will have children.

2) Property values and proximity to recreational activities, as Paul mentioned.

3) Neighborhood. In some parts of Lakewood, especially the older parts that consist mainly of single-family dwellings, there is still a sense of community on one's city block. People may not get the whole block together for a BBQ but they do often at least know their neighbor's story.

4) Affordable rent. Some (not all, by any means) of the apartment communities in the Lakewood area are more affordable than other parts of the city. It is therefore more economically feasible to live here and take public transport to a work location than it may be in other parts of the western portion of the Metro area.

5) Proximity to specialized higher education opportunities. Obviously Mines is known for it's scientific and mathematical programs. CCU is Christian-based liberal arts. The gun-smithing school is somewhere nearby. Red Rocks is a popular community college because they offer courses in subjects like "Fire Science" that are either not offered by other area community colleges or that are know to provide better education in the subject than other area schools.

I'm certain that there are other reasons why people live in Lakewood. These are the ones that I can articulate right now. I wonder whether our current primary focus on single or young, childless couples may end up limiting our ministry because, as has been mentioned, most people in this category are not currently living in a suburban area. Does our target audience need to be expanded to include single-parent families, young couples with children, etc? And, if so, how does that affect our meeting on Sunday evening? Will we need to provide childcare in the very near future? Will people in this demographic/psychographic feel like they can attend regularly when the children have school on Monday morning? The last question should probably wait for experience with this group for evaluation but the one previous may need visitation much sooner if we are called to the whole community of Lakewood rather than just a small segment of it's population.

Chris Tenny said...

Good observations on the Lakewood community, Crystal. I think you are right on. The issues you identified get me at the core. You bring up many questions that are touchy with me, so bear with me on this post, I am doing my best to think it through.

The issues with the community and OUR call is a confusing one. This leads into many theological issues and my current "job" at the church. The fact is, Lakewood is as you describe it, and Bear Valley Church is called to reach those people. The other fact is, I am the "college/young adults pastor" and have been charged with building a young alternative sub-community. If we want Regen to reflect Lakewood demographics as they are then we should include all the things you mentioned. However, Sunday morning is doing that very well.

If we are one church why do we have multiple services for different people? Many people say alternative services are always a bad idea and I understand why they say this. As I see it, we are a ministry of BVC and thus a subset of the church as a whole. If couples, elderly, young marrieds, married with kids, want to come, that is cool. The part I struggle with is this: our emphasis is supposed to be on young emerging generations. Hence, why I wondered in Ch. 1 if we are trying to reach people who are not in our community.

The issues are created by the mere existence of our group. Some people have the same criticisms of High School Youth ministry. Because they have a separate service, the ministry ends up being a separated church rather than one united with the church as a whole. I think this is why we have emphasized trying to work with other ministries and age-groups of BVC. We all need to work as one body though we are different parts with different gifts.

In addition to this, the church-growth movement, and much of the missional church stuff, is producing churches many are beginning to criticize. The issue is simple: people like to be around people like themselves. The criticism is these methods promote homogeneous churches and not a united church with diversity. We had one guy preach at Denver Seminary last year saying that if your church is NOT multi-ethnic you are not a faithful church. His church was in Arkansas and he had some 60 nations represented with a congregation of a few hundred! What does that mean for BVC? Are we unfaithful because we are 98% white?

I think the truth is both sides have a piece of the puzzle, though I am more inclined with the diversity camp. Dr. Blomberg said something that was encouraging to me as I wrestled with diversity and unity issues. He said being homogeneous is the fastest way to grow a group. This lead me to conclude that a church of 450 in one Sunday service, with maybe 10 or 20 younger people in it, will probably not attract more young people. This is why Pathways, Scum, TNL, and Mars Hill, are so successful. Everyone in the church is virtually the same.

At the same time, the point of the entire book of Ephesians is that God's power is best demonstrated in diversity. Paul is encouraging Jews and Gentiles to get over their racial differences, be distinct, and be one. For us, what does diversity look like? I don't think we have to have 60 nations represented to be faithful. I think we need to have engineers, technicians, tradesmen, and artists all worshiping and praising Jesus together. I think we need to encourage participation and cooperation with other ministries in the church, but we do not have to have all those people represented on Sunday night.

For whatever reason, these questions rub me (as you can tell from my long post). In an ideal world (i.e. heaven) we would not have two different services in the first place. We would have every age group and life stage worshiping together. I still think we should strive for that, even though it may not be practical.

I think we need to do more for single moms. But we also need to do more for college students. We are not doing enough to reach CCU, Red Rocks, and Mines. If current trends continue, we are doing pretty good with "young engineers and plumbers" and I find that encouraging

Crystal said...

"a church of 450 in one Sunday service, with maybe 10 or 20 younger people in it, will probably not attract more young people."

I think that it depends on the method of attracting diversity. The example at the end of Ch. 3 is a good one. Those people were over 50 with one 30 -something year old. But they prayed, prayed, prayed, put together an activity, invited their friends and family, and built momentum. It's doable.

I also have some ideas on the doing more for the colleges. I had a lot of time on the road today and listened to some podcasts that actually addressed that issue... I'll talk to you all about those later.