Now, here’s an incredibly creative save the date video done by my friends Jon & Ashley. Ian, another friend and our new Executive Pastor, had the honor of conducting their wedding ceremony. The reception was wonderful, a wide open grassy lawn shaded by massive pecan trees, next to a river. Our kids played and played. We all rejoiced.
Jon and Ashley’s Save the Date Video from Jon Huebner on Vimeo.
Everyone’s alike. We all get along. We “click.” Yes, but click on what? Get along where? What’s often passed off as community is really nothing more than a circle of friends. The “circle of friends” is an insular, self-affirming circle of homogeneity. You share the same income, values, and jokes. You like the same restaurants, have some history, laugh together, and may be the most dangerous influence on one another.
Media critic and documentarian Adam Curtis has suggested that since the explosion of information and celebrity culture, we now determine reality based on our own experiences with our circle of friends.* Our peers now possess more authority than government, history, reason, or God. For example, what you do on the weekends, with your time, where you buy your house, and how your spend your money, may be primarily the result of friendship influences not deep values.
Your views on sexuality, politics, church, and God are easily shaped by little finite people and their opinions of you more than a transcendent, good, holy Authority and what he thinks of you in Christ. You may consume questionable amounts or kinds of media, or refuse to sacrifice your time and money for others, insist on isolating yourself from ‘sinners’, or rarely talk about the deep truths of the Bible because, well, your circle of Christian friends has settled for less.
Those who encircle Jesus are just the opposite: living under God’s great and gracious authority, working hard to live like Jesus, to love those who are different and hard, seeking deep joy and genuine laughter with those who stir up belief in the gospel, who promote joy in God, enjoyment of his creation, and service to others. Are you part of the Jesus circle, the countercultural community? Or are you caught in the circle of friends?
*Thanks for Mark Sayers for drawing my attention to Curtis’ work. This post is an excerpt from the sermon “Come After Me”
One of the things I enjoy most about my job is discovering men whom God has called into ministry and developing them into godly shepherds and missional leaders. Currently, we are training three elder candidates and two church planting residents. What a privilege! As we develop elders, we don’t look for strong business or cultural leaders and them knight them for church leadership. Rather, we look for men who are already shepherding others through missional communities and invite them to join an elder development process (See Diagram). Some of these men are strong business leaders and some are not. We want eldering men for our elder candidates.
Elder Development Process
The Elder Development Process begins with inquiry and aspiration and ends in assessment and appointment. Here is an Overview of our Elder Process. Once the candidates have been approved for training, we begin the phase of Preparation. In this phase, we place a strong emphasis on character, spending 2-4 months on character assessment, spiritual development plans, transparency, spousal partnership, and resolve.
Character, Doctrine, & Skill
The three areas we are developing are character, doctrine and skill. Through three overlapping and self-nurturing phases, we move towards godly, experienced, qualified leadership.
Phase 1: Biblical Understanding & Character
- Transparent conversations about doctrinal, character, and skill weaknesses. Talk through growth plans for each candidate. Gospel-Centered Elder Study Guide, written by Bob Thune has been a helpful tool.
- Make sure candidates are currently serving and sharing what they are learning in some capacity. Coaching and skill development in counseling
- Biblical Eldership – Readings and socractic discussions on the nature and responsibilities of eldership. Exposure to elder meetings
Phase 2: Doctrine (courses offered in our semi-formal City Seminary)
- Christ-centered Interpretation
- Systematic Theology
- Cultural Apologetics
Phase 2: Pastoral Skill
- Gospel-Centered Discipleship
- Gospel Counseling
Over the past five years we’ve trained, failed, and multiplied a lot of missional communities. Several years ago we moved to a more formal training (and re-training) process to set and reset the identity and commitments for each missional community. We found this is important because it’s human nature to drift from your values and commitments.
A group may start off with bold aims for engaging non-Christians with gospel hope, showing mercy to their city, and being a “family” not meeting. When we set out with these aims, we’re driving upstream, against our self-centered, cliquish cultural current. However, everyone experiences mission and community drift. In order to remain focused and stay behind Jesus, not cultural currents, we need reminders, guides, and communally formed commitments. This is why we created a Missional Community Primer.
- Every missional community goes through the Primer at the beginning of the year.
- The process is very conversational, with the aim of applying our core values into clear, firm commitments
- We conclude the process by drawing up a Missional Commitment that everyone agrees on
- We occasionally pull it out through the year to celebrate, repent, or redirect.
Feel free to check it out, copy it, download it, improve upon it, or whatever you like (just include a link back or footnote for folks to find it).