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The VERGE missional community conference starts tomorrow, a conference that Neil Cole has referred to as “first of its kind in the missional church field.” This conference will explore gospel-driven missional community from both the micro and macro church perspectives, which is one of the things that makes it unique!

Too Organic?

Cole is known for his work on organic church, leadership, and discipleship. His work with CMA has produced churches that reproduce quickly and make a significant missional impact. Some have critiqued his approach due to his low bar for leadership of MCs, and his soft approach to doctrinal fidelity. However, doctrinal fidelity is sometimes the obstacle to mission. As Cole has said, “we become educated beyond our own obedience.” We need more orthopraxy not more orthodoxy.

Too Structured?

Alternatively, the organic approach to leadership can force us to be more discipleship oriented and communally sensitive. The Western approach of testing and measuring everything has its limits and can intrude on good theology. Take spiritual gifts tests, for instance. These tests can often pigeon hole people, appeal to their consumerist longings, and isolate them from community. Organic church can keep us honest, from over-structuring the church. At least that’s what Cole said in our recent discussion regarding gift testing. Cole just wrote a post in response to my query called Spiritual Gifts Inventories

Let’s continue the conversation at Verge!

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This week we’ll be releasing a new blog/site that combines my writing from Creation Project, Church Planting Novice, and other resources. The hope is that we can provide a central, well-organized location for all my writings and resources on Gospel & Culture and Missional Church. I’m excited about it.

John Chandler of Strange Idea Labs has been working with me to create this new site. When the site goes live, can you help me by correcting all your links, feeds, etc. so that the new site can build back its ranking? Unfortunately, I’ll loose some of that Google ranking, which has been so helpful in getting these resources out to people. Your help will be appreciated!

You are cool because you are “missional”. It’s true. Face it. Forget the “mega”churches, the “seeker-sensitive” people, and those darn “prosperity” guys. They are all wrong.First of all, they are not at all “organic” and cannot hang with our beards, pipes, and brews. They obviously didn’t read “Total Church” or “Tangible Kingdom”, know nothing of church plants or gospel rhythms, and they most certainly are not “in the city for the city“. Nope. We are.
In celebration of our collective coolness I propose we play a game called: “Put your hand in the air, and if any of the statements below are true of you, put it down.
  1. You have used the word “missional” and you have no idea what it means, none whatsoever. Hand down.
  2. You have a“heart for the nations” but have never left your homestate for anything other than a trip to Disneyland. Hand down.

I guess this is VERGE day. A few points of interest…

  • Missional Community Training: I will be doing some training for the Midtown Team on missional community during Verge. If you’re interested in having me do this for your team, drop me a comment or a line. We are working on getting some of our Missional Community training out in the form of more in-person trainings and a booklet on Gospel-centered Missional Communities.
  • Fight Clubs at Verge: I’ve had a number of requests for Fight Clubs books to be available during Verge. I will have 150 copies available for discounted price of $5 at the Acts 29 display/table.
  • Coming to Verge? Drop a comment if you’re coming. Hopefully we can meet up.

In case you haven’t heard, there is a big Missional Community conference happening here in Austin Feb 4-6—VERGE. Sold out at 2000 attendees, with 30 organizations, and 70+ on the waiting list, this just might be the hottest conference of the year. Of course, Austin Stone, the conference organizers, have no interest in being “hot”, but they do want to be missional.

What is VERGE for?

My old friend Michael Stewart, Pastor of Missional Community at Austin Stone, is the VERGE conference architect. Stew’s strategic gifting is through the roof. VERGE will be proof. I recently asked Stew to clarify just what VERGE is (in 160 characters or less)! He replied:

To equip & unleash ordinary people to pursue Jesus, be gospel-centered missionaries, recover a movement ethos, & multiply MC.

As you can imagine, planning a conference this big requires a lot of energy and time. Much of the Austin Stone staff has been devoting time to VERGE. Curious how this workload is affecting Stew, I asked him it has shaped his view of mission and Jesus. He replied:

A deeper affection for the person and work of Jesus on our behalf as the propulsion in any gospel movement. Jesus is not just an example, he is our source, our strength, our refuge, our good news, our hope, our wisdom, our joy…he is everything to everything and renewer of all things, even me, us, our neighborhoods, our communities, and our cities.

That’s the kind of architect you want behind a conference. This God-sized, Jesus-centered goal is inspiring! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God granted Stew’s hope and aim?

What Will Happen at Verge?

The unlikely line-up of VERGE speakers around a topic like Missional Community is intriguing. Mega and Micro churches are represented, theoreticians and practitioners, and despite differences in philosophy of ministry, all these speakers agree on one thing—the centrality of Jesus in the Mission of the Church. This united but diverse focus will prove helpful and interesting as the missional church dialog continues at VERGE.

What will happen at Verge? It largely depends on you. Will you come to engage, repent, adjust, encourage, affirm, critique, dialog, and strategize? If you do, great things could happen. Let’s pray they would, starting now. Let’s come, not just to consume, but to give and strengthen one another in the great task of gospel leadership and the mission of the church.

Missional Lunch Break-outs

Some news on VERGE offerings. Several new break-outs are now being offered. Register here.

For the City: Theology, Principles & Practices of Mercy Ministries” (pre-conference)

World Vision Gospel Quest Dinner
Friday, February 5, 5-7PM
Limited Seating
BBQ Dinner by Rudy’s
Cost: $10

International Justice Mission Brunch
Saturday, February 6, 10:45-12PM
Limited Seating
Brunch
Cost: $10

Hope to see you at VERGE!

I just came across a Top Ten list that our Director of Missional OCmmunity put together for one of our monthly City Gruop meetings. There are some really helpful things in here:

1 KNOW GOD

– cultivate a steady devotional/prayer life

– participate in a fight club

– serve with the strength God supplies

2 KNOW YOUR PEOPLE

– pastor your city group

– notice when somebody disapears

3 KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

– know the culture

– know your neighbors

4 DON’T GO ALONE

-share leadership, i.e. host, meals, prayer, mission

– participate in monthly meetings

– participate in monthly coaching

5 SAY WHO YOU ARE (AND WHO YOU AREN’T) EVERY WEEK

– Deconstruct small group/biblestudy/social group

– Reaffirm our Practices SHARE/PRAY/ENGAGE/LOVE (SPEL)

6 GET OUT OF THE LIVING ROOM

– on mission

– in celebration

7 LIVE THE 8 WAYS TO EASILY BE MISSIONAL

– Out loud, let gospel talk be ordinary talk. Don’t hide your faith.

8 EAT ,LAUGH, PRAY, and  SERVE TOGETHER

– a healthy group will do all 4

9 TELL YOUR STORIES

– In the living room

– On the blog

– Use twitter/FB to facilitate community(not replace it)

10 COME TO SERVE (NOT JUST GET) ON SUNDAYS

Lamar Stockton is a great musician and worship leader, serving formerly at Riverbend Church. I had lunch with Lamar this week and was impressed by his desire to find a church he loves before he finds a church he serves. If you’re looking for a worship leader, Lamar is an outstanding option.

HERE

Read why we dropped Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship $1.50 and how you can get it even cheaper in bulk!

How we introduce the church to people has a lot to do with how they interpret church. We introduce the church poorly to people when we leave “church” out of our weekday conversations. We introduce the church poorly when we just tell people “how to get there” on a website. How we introduce people to the church, especially on Sundays, is important if we want to re-arrange their expectations around a gospel view of the church.

Here are a few ways we’ve done it. I’m not being dogmatic, just suggestive. I think this is important, but I also think you should introduce people both theologically and contextually. In other words, rearrange their view of the church around the gospel, but do it in language that is true to your vision and your context.

Introducing Church on Sundays

Over the past couple of years we’ve changed the way we introduce people to the church on a Sunday morning, but all in all we’ve had minor variations. We used to say stuff like:

If you’re visiting today, we’re so glad you came. We hope this is the last time you come to church, because this building isn’t the church. These people are.

Early on this certainly weeded out the consumer, but probably also ran off a few potential disciples. With time we softened our introduction to tell people that:

“The best way you can get to know the church is to visit a City Group, where the church is the church to one another and the city.”

This was more welcoming and still community affirming. It mixed more grace into the welcome. However, as we continued to reflect on this introduction, we still felt like it was, at times, intimidating for front door visitors. Why? Because we pushed City Groups so hard. You’re bound to feel out of place if you aren’t in one, especially since the majority of our church is. We wanted to relieve the person who unreligously visited out Sunday gatherings once every 4-5 weeks, while remaining true to our vision of the church.

So we went this this, roughly. People laugh every time they hear it (the bold part), but I can tell they love it. They tell me so.

Welcome to Austin City Life. My name is ____, and I am one of the Partners with our church. If you’re visiting, we’re really glad you found us. We would love to meet you, so hang around afterwards over coffee, join us for lunch, or fill out a visitor form on a lap top.

You should know up front that we are a very imperfect church. We will disappoint you, but we’ll do our best to point you to a perfect Savior. That’s the Gospel, and we believe it converts us to Christ, to Church and to Mission. It’s why we’re here, to be the church to one another and to the city. To be in the city and for the city, redemptively engaging peoples and cultures.

The best place to figure this all out is in our City Groups, gospel communities that serve one another and our city. You can check them out right here by hanging around afterward and chatting in the back, by our sign, or learn more online at austincitylife.org.

Introducing Church on Websites

Your introduction to the Church on Sundays should resonate with what you say on your website and, most importantly, your small group/missional community experience. We’ve changed our web wording to reflect our actual gathering, keeping the non-Christian in mind.

Sundays Gatherings are an important part of being the church at Austin City Life. Although we want to avoid the mistake of seeing Sunday as “the Church”, we believe it is important to gather every Sunday for worship, preaching, communion, and community.

On Sundays you’ll find an interesting juxtaposition of theological depth and cultural expression. We are in line with historic, orthodox Christianity, but express that Christian faith progressively, in a venue on Austin’s renown 6th Street.

What is Sunday Like?
We gather every Sunday at The Parish, one of the best music venues on 6th, where you’ll hear our musicians play rich, stirring, God-focused music, not as a performance but as an act of worship. You’ll also hear substantive gospel messages that regularly engage cultural issues. Best of all, you’ll get to meet a community gathered around Jesus that loves our city.

These people are like you in many ways. They are citizens, creatives, moms, dads, young marrieds, professionals, college students, and singles. They are Christian and not Christian. We are all imperfect people looking to a perfect Christ.

This certainly isn’t the last “word”, and introducing people to the church is so much more than what you say. But what you say also affects how you live.