As a former resident of New England, the place holds a special place in my heart. I went to seminary there, had my first child there, led several ministries there, and even tried to plant a church in Boston (Allston-Brighton) but God wouldn’t let me. Though church planting is on the rise, there is still much work to be done in New England. It’s percentage of unchurched is rivaled only by the Pacific coast. We need more gospel-centered, missional planters in New England!
So, naturally I jumped at the chance to speak at the Lead Conference in Maine. Read this post on the conference and this brother’s passion for New England. It’s awesome. May we all be aglow with love for our own mission fields, committed in prayer for the lost, and sharing the gospel with others, especially in New England!
Thanks to my in-laws, I’ve had a great five days with my wife. Robie’s mom took our kids to Dallas on Tuesday; they return on Sunday. So, the evenings have been filled with fun-loving times with Robie. She really is a delightful person and a remarkable wife. It’s like the (500) Days of Summer has been playing in the background. Here’s some of the soundtrack from our week:
- (500) Days of Summer at Alamo Draft House. The Draft House is always fun, it makes the movies a more casual and communal affair. Now, add 500 Days to the Draft House and you get uber-fun. The film is creative, insightful, heart-tugging, and all around fun (I’ll do a review soon). Honestly, the movie is a lot like my dating relationship with Robie in college, except I was the only one that liked the Smiths! Then, add the enjoyable company of newly weds Ryan and Theresa King. Good conversation over good coffee on the deck at Flipnotics. A great night!
- Luster Pearl we had drinks and conversation at this new Austin bar, previously a house. The dirt yard is littered with tables, candles, and chairs that would normally be inside. Ping pong tables and hula hoops are outside. Laid back, broken-in. Cool. Just cool. Then some good chatting at the Melvin’s.
- Dinner and rich conversation with John and Sherri Chandler (fellow church planters). They are delightful company, unpretentious, Jesus loving, and fun. We discusssed everything from theology of suffering (sparked by Piper’s comments on the tornado) to medical insurance.
- Breakfast at Eastside Cafe. We drank coffee and talked about the Gospel of John, prayer, soccer, Fight Clubs, crafts, and ate migas and Pecan Strudel French Toast with strawberries.
A great 5 days of summer with you, hon. I love you, sweetheart.
Missional ecclesiology has led the the expression of new church forms and structures. This innovation is exciting, challenging, and constantly changing. How can we be the church on mission to reach our context? The answers must be mined theologically, worked out practically, and applied contextually. Austin City Life is committed to a form of decentralized missional church growth, fostering mission through small gospel-centered communities that renew the city in geographical pockets all over Austin. As we continue to grow, we face the challenge of remaining small as we grow big. Several models have been helpful as we continue to process.
I met John Tyson of Trinity Grace Church at Q (more Tyson here) this year when we spoke on a panel on American Ecclesiology. John is a very thoughtful, missional leader. I have benefited from his writings on his church website, and recently came across his article for Catalyst called On Reaching a City. The article is more specifically about how Trinity Grace is structured to be a church that reaches a city. It’s helpful and insightful. TGC uses mid-sized groups for missional communities which fit within a larger Parish Model of church. This model appears to be too layered for Austin City Life. TGC has what appears to be 4-5 layers of church:
6 Week Gathering, Neighborhood Churches, Missional Communities, Life Groups, and Triads.
Austin City Life currently has three layers of church:
Sunday Gathering – City Groups – Fight Clubs
However, as we continue to grow, a new structure or missional expression of ACL will be necessary.
Models of Decentralized Missional Church
The Parish Model is just one among several ways to configure churches comprised of missional communities. As Austin City Life continues to grow, we are considering various models of growth. Will we use a mid-sized structure or just move to plant new expressions/church of Austin City Life? We will remain a decentralized missional church, but the question before us is “How?”As we attempt to work this out, we have found other models and partners in ministry to be very helpful.
Other friends who have been helpful in thinking through decentralized missional church are:
- Soma Communities Church – uses the term Expressions to communicate the gathering of missional communties into a larger forms of church
- Kaleo Community Church – missional communities gather into three church locations.
- Kairos Church – uses the term Canvas to communicate the gathering of missional communities to form Neighborhood churches
- The Crowded House – uses the term Gospel Communities for missional communities
- Trinity Grace Church – uses Life Groups to form bigger Missional communities which form Neighborhood Churches.