Category: Missional Church

Ending Our Church, Beginning a New Call

I didn’t start a church to end a church, but yesterday the elders of City Life Church announced the end of our chapter in the grand, Gospel story. On December 18, 2022 we will gather for the final time as City Life Church. It’s strange to type those words, like downing a discomforting elixir that brings relief.

Several months ago it became clear that God was calling me into a different season of ministry—one dedicated to writing, teaching, and mentoring pastors. I’m truly excited about it. However, living in the tension between the joy of the call and its secrecy has been difficult. It’s hard to shepherd people you love, knowing you won’t be their pastor in a matter of months.

I kept thinking, “I won’t be here for their marriage, their next step, their spiritual needs.” But Jesus will. Always. It was never about me meeting their needs, but pointing them to him. Wanting to love the flock well—to finish not quit—I doubled down on my pastoral responsibilities.

I currently don’t know how this calling will crystalize. It is a step of faith and obedience for our family. However, I’ve been comforted by the frequent affirmation of this call from friends, mentors, and even church members.

Our elders responded to the call by saying: “Yes, we see this ministry already present in you, and the joy you receive from it, but we will miss you.” Yesterday a church member said, “We sensed the Holy Spirit telling us you were released from this role, even before you shared it.” “You’re going to be a teacher of teachers?—mind-blow emoji—I’ve learned so much from you.” I cherish these affirmations, especially from my church family.

And yet, there are tears. When I planted City Life with a group of nine people, I fell in love with the church all over again. I have experienced church as a family, something I hadn’t known deeply despite the many good churches I’ve been a part of. As with any family, we’ve gone through all kinds of seasons: the joy of new births, grief in deaths; praying for the kids and learning from the kids; staggering maturity, growing pains; the thrill of mission and perseverance in the plateaus; deep personal pain and ecstatic corporate joy.

And it was all worth it, every single bit, because the Lord of the family is worth it. He has pastored us so faithfully and delicately, through the desert and up the mountain. I love you, City Life. It has been an immense privilege to be your pastor. It’s hard to conceive of a life without you; it’s been almost two decades of our lives. But the great Shepherd has you, as he always has. There’s much more to share, and I hope to post more frequently as I continue to reflect on what God has done, is doing, and will do.

The Burden of Mission

Not a second that goes by that God isn’t on his mission. The triune God plotted history with the mission of new creation in mind.

The Father sent the Son to defeat sin, death, and evil and put creation back on track. Together, they sent the Holy Spirit into the church to spread the good news that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us.

The church has been sent into the world: a missionary people cut from the cloth of a missionary God. When we are saved, we are saved into God’s mission. But, the burden of mission does not fall on us.

The burden of mission fell on Jesus so the blessing of mission could include us.

The burden of mission fell on Jesus so the blessing of mission could include us. We don’t carry the ultimate burden of redemption—that is Jesus’ job—but we do get to share his liberating news. We don’t have to talk anyone into anything. We just get to share the greatest news ever. We get in on the greatest mission hatched in history.

My Endorsement for A Big Gospel in Small Places

“There are billions of people living in small places, yet they are often ignored by ministry-minded people like me. Sure, rural areas are downstream of mainstream ideas, innovation, and trends, but small places are thick with culture and rife with opportunity for gospel ministry: poverty, depression, suicide, racism, injustice, and souls stranded in sin unacquainted with the love of God in Christ Jesus.

As Stephen points out, both rural and urban places are easily romanticized. What the world needs is Christians who value the small even in the big—disciples who move slowly and are attentive enough to bring a grand gospel into the nooks and crannies of life. This book has just about everything you need to help you do that, especially if you live in a small place. It offers rigorous research on rural trends, demographics, and the subtleties of smallness; it motivates ministry in those areas with the gospel of grace; it equips you to develop a theological vision for the place of your calling; it immerses you in real stories of rural ministry; and it challenges urban ministry biases with winsome wit, but most of all it calls us to love in place and discover something more of the immeasurable love of God in Christ Jesus for all the world.”

Jonathan Dodson, lead pastor of City Life Church, Austin, founder of, author of The Unbelievable Gospel and Here in Spirit

Go get a copy!

Image result for big gospel small places"

Nitty Gritty Training for Missional Communities

Acts 29 recently hosted the Gospel Formed conference aimed at equipping communities groups to practically live out the essentials of Gospel, Community, and Mission. Each talk got nitty-gritty with challenges and opportunities in each area. I found so much of it to be insightful and encouraging that we posted the videos to our City Group leaders Slack channel.

Will Walker: Gospel

  • Provides a couple “gospel grids” to help lead discussions deeper into Jesus.
  • Guidance in how to draw out vulnerability and lead people into application for real life change.

Todd Engstrom: Community
  • Marks of true community: intentionality, sacrifice, imperfect.
  • How a community can deeper grow: affinity, proximity, crisis, mission.

Jonathan Dodson: Mission
  • What to do when facing challenges and fatigue in mission.
  • Guidance in how to organize, diffuse, and stoke evangelism, mercy, and justice in your groups.