Two apologetic articles I wrote happened to be published this week, one on free will/sovereignty of God and one on the question of religious pluralism (which is a reprint). This certainly isn’t on the last word on either topic but I hope they’re helpful!
I am very excited about this book. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the largely neglected–yet essential–“other half” of the gospel. While it is true that “if Christ is not raised, we are still in our sins”; it also true that a man beating death and becoming a preview of the world to come is inconceivable.
Brad and I wrote this book together out of our love for skeptics and the questions they help us ask. We have added about 5,000 words to the eBook we put together last year and improved it significantly. The book will be available in hardcopy and eBook formats. Although not an “Easter” book, it will be a great Easter book giveaway. We are working hard with Zondervan to make that as easy as possible from affordability, to free artwork, downloads, etc.
Christ is risen!
This weekend in Austin, our city will be flooded with worshippers. Seventy-five thousand people who adore music, will gather at Zilker Park each day to take in the sounds of Austin City Limits. It’s iconic Austin. The festival has become so popular, we’ve started a second weekend for ACL. Since we get a lot of this music year round, some Austinites rent out their homes and bail from the city. Others stay and join the fun, still more try just to avoid the crowds. Parking pops up all over the city, signs for temporary parking poke out “Park Here $25 ALL DAY”, and throngs stream down Barton Springs to Zilker Park, lawn-chairs in tow, to stages of all sizes, people of all kinds, a music of every variety wafting out over the thousands of fans.
What Does City Life Church Do During ACL Fest?
People within City Life Church, respond to these weekends in similar and dissimilar ways. Some of our folks will perform, some will attend or volunteer, some will have merch booths, and others will just do life together as a counter-cultural community in the city. Instead of centralizing our Sunday gathering downtown, we free people up to enjoy good culture, make some cash, or dig into their community through Neighborhood Churches.
A Neighborhood Church is two or more missional communities in the same area of the city that share a common mission. These NCs share mercy ministry to the poor and the marginalized in their part of the city. They also gather together 4-5 times a year for fellowship, brunch, vision-casting, stories of grace, prayer, maybe some singing. The gatherings are open-ended. People love em. They can be great places to relax and be the church, get to know neighbors, and have a good time.
Each Neighborhood Church has an elder oversight, along with a leadership team comprised of three types of leaders from within the community. The leadership teams meet regularly to address three things:
- Multiplication of Missional Communities
- Address Pastoral Concerns
- Develop & Refine Missional Strategies
We recently stepped up our intentionality with leadership to make these better. We began with explaining the leadership types, the focus of NCs, and encouraging lots of prayer and strong leadership. To do that, we distributed a Neighborhood Church Worksheet for people to process through.
J. R. Woodward, IVP, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2012, 256 pages, $25.00.
As the volume of missional church literature increases, North America is recovering the apostolic impulse of the church. Yet, as the books on mission are shelved the challenge of planting, leading and growing truly missional churches remains. What is required to create missional church culture? How do we evaluate the church’s maturity as it grows? How do we create missional leaders that stay the course? In four parts, Woodward creatively addresses all of these questions.
Part one lays a conceptual foundation, focusing on the meaning of culture and the necessity of leaders to become “cultural architects.” The task of the culturalarchitect is not only to teach Scripture and shepherd God’s people, but to lead the way in developing environments where people will learn God’s truth, be healed by God’s power, be welcomed by his love, be liberated by his grace, and thrive as part of a mature missional community under the headship of Christ. Woodward provides helpful diagnostic questions to evaluate these five environments in the local church. These environments may seem arbitrary, but in parts two and three, Woodward introduces a model of leadership from Ephesians four that corresponds with these environments—polycentric leadership. Grounding polycentric leadership in the social Trinity and a Christ-centered reading of Ephesians, Woodward calls for “a polycentric structure, where leaders interrelate and incarnate the various purposes of Christ…” (60). The apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher are essential to cultivating the five environments in order to equip the church for the work of mission to the world. How do they do it? According to Woodward, each of the five leaders use “thick practices” to cultivate their environments for mission.
The 5 Equippers: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, & Teacher
The apostle makes disciples and reflects through Sabbath for the church to thrive and rest in God’s mission. The prophet calls disciples to liberation from sin through the healing experience of spiritual disciplines. The evangelist helps the community become welcoming to the lost through hospitality and sharing God’s story with others. The pastor fosters a healing community through the practices of confession and peacemaking, promoting a reconciled community. The teacher cultivates an ethos of learning by encouraging people to participate in sacred assemblies for equipping and future-oriented living. The church is to be a foretaste of the future, where peace and righteousness dwell. Polycentric leaders work together to cultivate the whole church in diverse ways for the mission of God. In the closing chapters, Woodward provides some examples of this collaborative leadership in shared preaching and communal decision-making. He warns that the polycentric approach is messy but affords the church an opportunity to be influenced by its various equipping gifts and voices.
Woodward is well read across the theological disciplines. He has thought creatively and practically about how to lead and multiply missional churches. His creativity is both a strength and a weakness. Those unwilling to absorb his new language for equipping the church will miss out on a rich application of biblical leadership. After all “our approach to leadership makes a theological statement to the church and the world.” (96). Once absorbed, a shift to polycentric leadership leaves the reader wanting more practical bite. More concrete examples of this type of leadership and equipping would have been helpful. Perhaps Woodward will offer these in a later volume. Some will desire more exegetical support for this leadership, which can be found in Hirsch and Catchim’s book below. Creating a Missional Culture is a worthwhile read that provides a gracious yet prophetic corrective to individualistic, pastor-centric churches.
This review originally appeared in the excellent missions journal, EMQ.
Check these titles:
Hirsch, Alan and Tim Catchim, 2012. The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century. San Francisco, CA.: Josey Bass.
Breen, Mike, 2012. Multiplying Missional Leaders. 3DM Press.