Tag: missiology

Roland Allen on Church Planting

Roland Allen is basic reading for a church planter, Missionary Methods: Paul’s or Our’s, in particular. People like Tim Keller, David Hesselgrave, and Ed Stetzer have relied on Allen’s foundational insights. J.D. Payne offers a guided tour through Allen’s life and thought in the following article: The Legacy of Roland Allen: Part One-His Life. An excerpt:

In 1912, Allen published his classic work Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? The title of the text revealed much about the book’s content. Allen advocated that the missionary methods of the Apostle were not antiquated but rather to be applied to missionary endeavors in any day and time. Allen stated that “I myself am more convinced than ever that in the careful examination of his [St. Paul’s] work, above all in the understanding and appreciation of his principles, we shall find the solution of most of our present difficulties.” Toward the end of the work, Allen poignantly wrote that “at any rate this much is certain, that the Apostle’s methods succeeded exactly where ours have failed.”

The following year saw Allen’s publication of Missionary Principles. In this work Allen advocated that the indwelling Holy Spirit provides the missionary zeal. For Allen, the end of all missionary desire is a worldwide “Revelation of Christ.” It was his desire to discuss principles not only related to foreign missionary work, but principles that “could be applied to any work anywhere.”

Leading Missional Communities

Leading our church into somewhat uncharted waters, I am constantly on the look out for helpful influences in cultivating missional communities, what we call City Groups. City Groups are local, urban missional communities of disciples who redemptively engage people and culture. These groups are intended to foster the church being the church to one another and to the city and world. They meet in homes three weeks in a row and on mission in their communities every fourth week. Each CG has been charged with the task of finding a strategic social partnership, through which they can be a blessing to the social needs of Austin, while also learn how to love the city better. City Groups are the lifeblood of Austin City Life.

The influences I have found profitable are few and far between. So many models and methods of the church are not based on missional ecclesiology. However, the resources that have shaped my thinking and our practice have been good. Churches like Soma, Providence, and Kaleo. Books like The Missional Church, The Forgotten Ways, Exiles, Missional Leader, Total Church have been a help. But nothing beats personal reflection and prayer as we do our best to express the call of the church in the world.

I am currently working on new curriculum for our City Groups that covers the biblical storyline, while also discovering the place of the 21st century North American in that larger Story. It’s called The Story of Scripture and Our Place in It. Tim Chester’s The World We All Want has been some help as I reflect on how to cultivate gospel thinking and living at the intersection of the biblical and personal stories. The challenge is to always keep the missional nature of the church in view as I write the material. It is so easy to fall back into “Bible Study” mode. Yet, as Alan Roxburgh has pointed out, “these ministries of leadership are given to enable the church to carry out its fundamentally missiological purpose in the world: to announce and demonstrate the new creation in Jesus Christ” (Missional Church, 185). Alan also points out that “leaders will need to become like novices, learning to recover practices that have become alien to current church experience…it requires waiting and listening to the Spirit’s directions…in a strange land” (199).

My hope and prayer is that we are listening to the Spirit’s directions in Austin. That direction has led us to build our church on City Groups, not Sunday services. These City Groups are based on four principles and four practices (that will, no doubt, be revised in the months and years to come), which shape our identity and practice of being a missional church. I look forward to continuing to learn from and with Austin City Life and the larger missional Church.

Missional Leadership (Hirsch)

In addition to holding to a clear vision, missional leadership involves facilitating the emergence of novelty by building and nurturing networks of communications; creating a learning culture in which questioning is encouraged and innovation is rewarded; creating a climate of trust and mutual support; and recognizing viable novelty when it emerges, while allowing the freedom to make mistakes. – Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, 233

Unfortunately, it is precisely this question-asking and viable novelty that most leaders fear. The traditional, modern paradigms of leadership advocate a top-down, answer-possessing, anti-novelty approach. Yet, if we will lead remaining open to the power and insight of the Spirit in the Church, we will reap dividends and live out the priesthood of the believers! Oh, do I have room to grow in this!

Metaphors for Missional Community

Joe Thorn has posted on his metaphors for missional community. Using a Circle, Inverted Triangle, and a Square, he describes the three areas of church ministry as:

  • The Table – domestic ministry
  • The Pulpit -liturgic ministry
  • The Square – civic ministry (HT:SM)

Kevin Rush has formulated a similar paradigm using the metaphors of Towel, Table, & Text:

  • The Table
  • The Text
  • The Towel

I use the metaphor of a house with it’s respective entrances to designate pathways in and out of the community of faith:

  • Side Door – gospel motivated relationships
  • Front Door -gospel messages from the pulpit
  • Front Yard -gospel activity in the city