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Grand Rapids, MI

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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: Church

The Pace of Change

Tom Elenbaas

"On almost every important business index, the world is racing ahead. The stakes - the financial, social, environmental, and political consequences - are rising in a similar exponential way." [John Kotter] I have some serious questions rattling around in my own head and heart as I both experience, study, and lead in this rapidly changing world.

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Exponential: how you and your friends can start a missional church movement

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I mentioned in an earlier post on the book "Multi-Site Road Trip" that I had the opportunity to meet Dave and Jon Ferguson several years back.  I remember meeting with them, and Dave Dummit, as they were considering a site in Brighton, Michigan.  They had graciously met with Dan Reeves and myself to share their wisdom then on multi-site and the Big Idea in a time when very few people were talking about it.  I later was able to hear from them again at Third Reformed in Kalamazoo (now CenterPoint), and also had a chance to visit the Big Yellow Box and bring some friends along while I was in Chicago back in 2005.  What's been really cool is to see these guys stay so focused on the mission that God called them to long ago to reach the city of Chicago, and to do it consistently and yet creatively.  So much has changed in their movement in terms of the creative energy and leadership they've brought to multi-site, and yet in some ways, so little has changed.  The heart of the message to see people find their way back to God is consistent, persistent, and powerful. All that to say that I've just finished reading Exponential:  How you and your friends can start a missional movement.

This was a fabulous read for me.  First, something personal.  I'm embarking right now on Fair Haven Ministries' first site called South Harbor Church that will launch on 10.10.10 in Byron Township in south Grand Rapids, Michigan(along with many others in the 10.10.10 Initiative).   In fact, this morning I'm headed to hand out free cookies and lemonade at a local Little League to meet people and learn about the community.  Anyway, this book right now for me is a God-send in the sense that it affirms so many things that God is doing out of our church right now and also gives incredibly practical handles for being lead by Jesus, leading and reproducing leaders, tribes, communities, and movements.  What I love about how Dave and Jon wrote the book, was that it's written with deeply biblical values, immensely practical, tested, and proven in the trenches of missional multi-siting.  I also love the real-life stories of real people and real churches.  The story of Community Christian (and all it's sites) and many of its leaders is woven throughout the pages and gives you a sense of the messy reality of a true movement as well as the powerful stories. This isn't just ideas... it's the real deal.

For the past 5 years, a couple of my responsibilities as a spiritual formation pastor at Fair Haven have been leadership development and small groups.  I've been to many conferences and read many books and tried to implement many theories and ideas in both of these areas.  What's awesome in this book as well to see is how small group life really works in this church, and especially how the leadership development pathway is integrated with not only small groups, but also with missional communities and in the raising up of artists.

This is probably one of the best books I've read on the practical side of the church multiplication movement.  It's a must read for any church that is serious about multiplying leaders, churches, sites, disciples, and influence.   This summer, we took on 4 interns in church planting and we also have an on-site venue with a Campus Pastor.  We just talked this past week about all of them reading this, and I hope we can make that a reality.

Here are a couple of great tid-bits you'll find:

  • Real practical help on the leadership development people pathway and the importance of apprenticeship.
  • Great illustrations of vision and strategy on napkins!
  • A wonderful passage on scripture reading and journaling and how it affects leadership and vision for Dave Ferguson (see my recent post on YouVersion and LifeJournals)
  • A great chapter on coaching, its importance in leadership development, and practical questions and a format for coaching.
  • Encouragement that you, too, can really be used by God to multiply disciples, leaders, teams, sites, and churches.
  • A focus not just on church growth, but on being missional.
  • Much more.

Loved the book, and look forward to re-reading it and reviewing it with more care for some direct implementation in our new site.  I'll let you know how it goes.


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The Place of Christians in the World 3

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Speaking of the eyes with which we look at the world, I want to quote another thing from McLaren in The Other Journal Interview.  He says the following:

...the headlines of the newspaper tell us what the crises are, and that God is very concerned about the crises of our world, and when you are touched by those crises and you open the pages of the Bible, you begin to notice things that you wouldn't notice otherwise.

In other words, as you read culture and find out what humans are struggling with, what we are longing for, where our brokenness is showing up, it gives you new eyes into the Scriptures.  You go to the Scriptures with eyes seeking a God who interacts with these realities that we deal with today: poverty, injustice, violence, power, war, identity, etc.  The Scriptures come alive as we reach back into the living Word and God speaks to what we deal with today.  But the reverse is true as well:

If you read the Bible, you begin to notice certain themes, and that enables you to see certain things that others migh miss when you read the headlines...

In others words, the Bible gives us eyes to see our world in new ways.  As William Placher would say, "how the world looks from a Christian perspective."  A Christian world-view gives us a different slant on the world, the headlines, and the crises.  We bring an understanding of history and a future hope to the present crises in a context that includes a powerful, loving God who is unfolding his developing story.  Being able to speak that history, hope, and our place in the story gives us a voice and content to speak into the world.  So, as we hear and apply the Word, the Spirit forms us (spiritual formation happens to us).  We then "speak" and "act" upon the world as agents of God and his Kingdom.  We herald his voice - we announce the good news - we participate in the unfolding of a new reality.  God, then, does his constructive work on and in the world by creatively speaking his Word into our hearts through the power of the Spirit as he constitutes the present incarnation of the body of Christ in the world, the church.


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