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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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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!

As a member of the VERGE social media team, I recently received The Tangible Kingdom Primer, an 8 week study to put incarnational missional community to practice. The Primer seems eminently helpful, and has been used by megachurch Austin Stone, host to VERGE, to promote missional community in their own church.

As Halter & Smay point out, when a church grows, slowly or by leaps and bounds, something is needed to continually reproduce your missional values. Their response was the Primer.

The Primer offers helpful exercises, thought-provoking questions, and insightful comments along the way. Here are a smattering of those:

  • The reason we struggle to live a missional life is that it pulls against every natural fiber, sin, rhythm, habit, muscle, and thought pattern we’re used to. viii
  • Right now, what is hindering you from living a missional life?
  • Imagine what could change if the Good news of Jesus was allowed to shape and inform all the area of our lives.
  • What personal interests and hobbies can you turn into communal ones?

Although the Primer is highly structured, it provides very practical help in cultivating missional communities. On the other hand, I find it difficult to imagine our church working through a 200 page primer (I thought primers were supposed to be short!). In the end, every pastor and leader must find the methods that best suit their people and their context. No doubt the TK Primer will be a good one for many!