Archives For Institutional / Organic

The first post in this series addressed how Storyline does discipleship. This post addresses how Storyline is structured.

I’ve always struggled to find literature and resources for methodology and structure that spoke to Storyline’s context. As a network of house churches that meets all together for a monthly gathering and every remaining weekend for house church gatherings, we fall in between the poles of ministry structure from which most material on church methodology is produced.

On one end, you have the traditional church growth, Sunday service-oriented, high impact, programmatic, megachurch literature. Think Andy Stanley; Rick Warren; Nelson Searcy. There’s some good stuff there, but it doesn’t fit a community that does not have as its primary strategy to grow by increasing the attendance of its weekend services.

On the other end is the simple, organic, house church, non-institutional, micro-church literature. Think Neil Cole; Wolfgang Simpson; Frank Viola. There’s some very good stuff here, too, but most of this literature is geared for individual organic communities that don’t ever exceed more than 20-30 people in size. Storyline, however, is structured as a network of house churches. A network has more organizational structure and different size dynamics than a single house church. So while Storyline shares most of the values of the missional paradigm found often in more organic-type churches, it is more structured than most.

As you can imagine, it’s been difficult finding mentors and resources to speak directly at what we’re experimenting with in the Storyline Community. For a long time, the most helpful by far were Hugh Halter and Matt Smay – particularly their book AND. The community they started in Denver, CO – Adullam – has a large gathering every Sunday, but is held together by a network of “incarnational communities” or “villages” that lives on mission in various neighborhoods. Still, the weekly frequency of Adullam’s large gatherings has different implications for them than for Storyline.

And then…

I discovered 3DM and “Missional Communities.

The mental grenade was first thrown by Alan Hirsch at a small training event I attended for church planters in October 2010. He said, “The small group, nuclear family, 6-12 people approach to church is not sustainable. The structure of the early church centered on the form of oikos, an extended family household, usually between 20-50 people.”

As a house church planter, I knew he was right. Before that point, I had not been ready to admit it. The recent transitions and plateau in Storyline had prepared me to own up to it.

I later discovered that Hirsch was drawing on the very important work of Mike Breen (and company) around “Missional Communities.” In the past 20 years, they had facilitated the start of hundreds of missional communities all over Europe. In fact, the European Church Planting Network (associated with Leadership Network), adopted the MC approach and started more than 720 churches in three years (2006-2009). That’s a first in European church history.

Mike Breen has since moved to South Carolina and is training American pastors and church planters in this approach through the resource organization 3DM.

After years of demand, they finally produced a “field manual” in November 2010 for starting missional communities called Launching Missional Communities. I bought it and devoured it; it was worth every bit of the unusually high price ($29.95).

The Wikipedia article on “Missional Communities” (I suspect written by Breen or someone on his team) defines them as follows:

A Missional Community (also called Clusters, Mid-Sized Communities, Mission-Shaped Communities, MSCs) is a group of anything from 20 to 50 or more people who are united, through Christian community, around a common service and witness to a particular neighborhood or network of relationships. With a strong value on life together,  the group has the expressed intention of seeing those they impact choose to start following Jesus, through this more flexible and locally incarnated expression of the church. The result will often be that the group will grow and ultimately multiply into further Missional Communities. Missional Communities are most often networked within a larger church community (often with many other Missional Communities). These mid-sized communities, led by laity, are “lightweight and low maintenance” and most often meet 3-4 times a month in their missional context.

When I read this, I thought, “this is Storyline!”

The only difference is the group size of Storyline house churches – which have ranged from 5-25 – when compared with missional communities. And that difference alone has proven to be significant, for at least two reasons:

1. The fragility of smallness.

  • We had to wrap up one group this fall because about 10 of the 15 the participants moved away. Groups have life cycles, certainly. But this group’s substantial mission to a specific apartment community abruptly ceased. I didn’t sense that God was done with it, but after the transition the group lacked the social momentum to sustain the mission.
  • We started another group with four people that struggled for a year before beginning to grow, I suspect largely because it lacked the critical social mass to move off center.

2. The social energy required to multiply.

  • We learned from mentors in house church ministry that cell division was not the best approach to multiplication. Instead we sent small teams to start new house churches so as not to tear the fabric of community too much. Yet one of our house churches has sent teams to start new groups three times, and you can tell that it’s weary from it – both from saying goodbye to close spiritual friends, and also from the resulting vacuum of social energy left behind when a group sends its best people to start something new.

As a result, we’ve sensed God leading us to shift our approach from developing a network of small group-sized churches (5-20 people) to developing a network of mid-sized group churches (20-50+ people).

Here’s what it means practically for Storyline:

  • Over the past six months, we’ve been in the process of consolidating from four groups of 5-15 to two groups of approximately 20 people each, both of which are poised to grow as mid-sized group churches
  • Formation Groups (gender-specific groups of 2-4) will take on a much more prominent role as our small group structure
  • Groups in our network will have to be creative as they grow in order to find affordable, friendly space for groups upwards of 50 people; groups will likely meet in public spaces within neighborhoods or locations that are popular among the target network of relationships
  • Because we’ll soon no longer be meeting primarily in homes, we’ll increasingly begin to call our groups “churches” rather than “house churches”
  • Groups will develop a “missional vision” that specifically targets either a neighborhood or network of relationships
  • When a group reaches 40-50 people, it will look to send some of its leaders with a team of 10-15 people to start a new church in the Storyline network
  • The network as a whole will continue to meet together monthly for storytelling, fellowship, vision casting, and encouragement
  • We will shift from an individualized coaching structure (i.e., coach + house church leader) to a group coaching / discipleship “huddle,” akin to the kind practiced by 3DM (i.e., coach + all the church leaders; church leaders + their ministry teams)
  • We will begin to set our sights on all the different neighborhoods and networks we’re connected to in Dallas for future mid-sized group church planting; I can count at least five off the top of my head.

Please pray for us as we live into this new approach to structure and mission.

And stay tuned for the final segment of the three-part series about How Storyline is Changing. I’ll discuss how Storyline will become even more of a training ground for future church planters.

Last week I attended a four-day workshop about Church Planting Movements (CPMs) with David Watson of CityTeam Ministries. Missions Resource Network, a missions organization affiliated with Churches of Christ, hosted the event.

Watson is a former church planter in Northern India, where 40,000 churches have started in the past 15 years. He is now a strategist and trainer for an ever-growing network of approximately 200,000 churches throughout the world. These churches, according to Watson, average about 63 members per church – which amounts to 12.6 million new believers in the past 15-20 years. For the sake of comparison, Churches of Christ consists of 40,000 churches and 5 million believers worldwide.

Watson’s work was featured in a recent book by David Garrison called Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World.

The best overview of Watson’s perspective on church planting is what he calls the “21 Critical Elements” of CPMs. This may not be the exact list of the elements, but it gives the general ideas. CPMs center around:

  1. Group process over individual process
  2. Prayer
  3. Scripture, by way of an inductive Bible study process called “Discovery Bible Study”
  4. Households, or existing social units, rather than individuals
  5. Making disciples of Jesus not converts to a religion
  6. Obedience to commands of Jesus rather than doctrinal distinctives
  7. Access ministry – i.e., developing relationships with non-believers
  8. Ministry – meeting people’s needs leads to evangelism
  9. Timing – knowing when people are ready
  10. Intentionality and planning
  11. Person of peace – i.e., a receptive, influential person who is the gateway for a social unit coming to Christ
  12. Appropriate evangelism – i.e., communicating the good news in ways that make sense to people in their particular cultural context
  13. Starting churches, Watson’s definition of which is: “groups of baptized believers in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that gather to worship, fellowship and nurture one another, and, outside of gatherings, endeavor to obey all the commands of Christ in order to transform families and communities.”
  14. Reproduction at every level – disciples, leaders, and churches
  15. Indigenous leaders – i.e., cultural insiders are the best church planters
  16. The work of the Holy Spirit and the authority of Scripture
  17. Persecution
  18. Mentoring, which is the work of developing the whole person
  19. Self-support – in almost every case there are no paid ministers, no buildings to maintain
  20. Redeeming the culture
  21. Awareness of spiritual warfare

The basic process of starting CPM churches is: 1) church planter finds access to friendship with disconnected people; 2) church planter serves and loves disconnected friends; 3) church planter identifies a person of peace out of those friends; 4) church planter works with person of peace to invite his/her social unit (family or affinity group) into a 15-30 week inductive Bible study led by person of peace or someone else from social unit; 5) the group decides to follow Jesus and becomes a church; 6) new churches send out church planters to start the process again.

Here are five action items I took away from the workshop that I need to implement in my life and ministry:

  • Prayer: David Watson mentioned that the common denominator among their most fruitful church planters was prayer. Some of them spend 3-4 concentrated hours/day in prayer. Remember, all of them have jobs outside of church planting and they still make time for this kind of prayer. I am not praying enough. I will, therefore, make a plan to pray more. And then pray more.
  • Church planting as lifestyle: Watson says it’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle. People must be around you enough to see consistency between your private and public life. I find it easy to compartmentalize my role as a church planter, rather than to see it an extension of my lifestyle. Yet none of this is to say boundaries with family and solitude are not important — they are part of the lifestyle, too. I will, therefore, invite my friends into all parts of my life.
  • People of peace: I’ve been tuned into the concept of people of peace but have not pursued it with the fervor that Watson and company have. I have yet to see a person of peace open a door in our context for an entire social group to encounter God. Watson had fantastic ideas about developing “peace statements” to ignite conversations with potential people of peace. I will, therefore, commit to pray, look for and draw out such people of peace God might be raising up in our midst.
  • Obedience-oriented conversation about Scripture: This was a point of affirmation for me. The heart of Watson’s endeavor seems to be inductive study of Scripture that ends at discerning how one will be obedient to the word they are hearing from God. In other conversations I’ve mentioned how we value the movement from observation to interpretation to application in our Scripture conversations. I will, therefore, continue to facilitate these kinds of conversations and make the moves toward obedience even more explicit.
  • Reproduction: Reproduction is a value of ours, but Watson pushed this value to the max, particularly with his comments about the nature of mentoring. His four step process for mentoring is: 1) model; 2) equip; 3) watch; 4) leave. Watson contends that this process can take as little as 3-4 months in a new church setting. Mentors model only once or twice before allowing others to take over. I will, therefore, model more briefly, equip and watch more quickly, and leave as soon as possible.

I didn’t leave the weekend without hesitations, however. Here are a few limitations I sensed from the presentations:

  • View of Scripture: I was uncomfortable with Watson’s view of Scripture. He had an extended conversation about distinguishing between what is biblical and what is cultural without ever admitting that Scripture is itself a culturally conditioned document. Another session concerned separating “doctrine” from what the Bible teaches, yet Watson failed to mention the degree to which every individual brings lenses to the reading of Scripture (whether they like it or not) and necessarily picks and chooses what they should obey or not. For instance, are we disobedient to God for not having a ritual of washing feet (e.g., John 13)? It takes an interpretive approach to Scripture (i.e., a hermeneutic) to make such decisions. I would rather be aware of my lenses than unaware. Watson seems to think that everyone who reads the Scriptures will arrive at the same conclusion / hermeneutic by the power of the Holy Spirit. This approach didn’t seem to work in early church history (when the most notable heretics used the Bible to support their claims) or in Stone-Campbell history (when everyone read Scripture and came to decidedly different conclusions). Watson also seems to discount the role that church history / tradition / orthodoxy plays as a source of theology and knowledge of God.
  • View of church: I was uncomfortable with Watson’s view of the church only to the extent he expressed that churches in his network are closed to unbelievers. If unbelievers want to be part of a church, they should join a Bible study and start a new one. They are discouraged from participating with an existing one. This decision seems to discount the way the church is the embodiment of the gospel as a community (as with the Mennonite tradition). It also seems to reverse the current trend in our context of allowing people to belong before they’re expected to believe. Watson seems adamant that people must believe before belonging to a church. Paul seems to assume in 1 Corinthians 14 that unbelievers participated in the life of the church and even encountered God as a result.
  • View of teaching: Watson has a very low view of teaching, at least in the traditional sense. Churches that are dependent upon teachers with rich education and knowledge are not likely to reproduce rapidly or perhaps even at all. Watson also critiques the traditional paradigm of teaching because it often has little to do with obedience to God and life change. I’m with him all the way on this. Yet the teaching role is very apparent in Scripture, both in contexts with non-believers and believers. Paul mentions in Colossians 1:7-8, for instance, how the Colossian church was taught the gospel by Epaphras (not led through an inductive Bible study). Rather than reframe the role of teaching in a more dialogical, conversational light (as I think is consistent with Jesus’ teaching in Scripture), Watson stretches the Scriptures to argue that teaching is reserved for believers / church in Scripture, not unbelievers. It seems better (and more biblical) to think of ways the teaching role could be made more obedience and reproduction-oriented rather than discount it totally for unbelievers.
  • People of peace: I think the people of peace concept is a brilliant missionary concept but have wondered if it is a culturally-specific method rather than a universal principle. My own context leads me to think this way: urban Dallas, where social groups are fragmented and disconnected. There is no overarching, preexisting sense of community here. There are no extended family units. The dominant demographic is single professional. I asked Watson about this and he suggested looking for affinity groups that exist in the community (e.g. a fitness gym). Yet existing social groups I’ve been part of in our context (e.g., sports teams, civic groups) do not seem cohesive enough for a person of peace to open a door for an entire group to encounter God and the gospel. Perhaps we should hold alongside the person of peace approach a geographical approach, common in missional church plantings, that treats a neighborhood as a social unit. Maybe it’s both / and and not either / or.
  • Rapid reproduction as the end goal: The undercurrent I sensed from missionaries at the workshop was, “Our mission efforts are slow and frustrating. We should listen to this guy because his churches are reproducing rapidly and reaching a lot of people.” In fact, when Watson was challenged by a workshop participant, he retorted by saying, “That’s fine if you disagree with me, but we’ve planted 200,000 churches doing it this way.” Granted, we should desire for people to connect to God, but growth as an end goal and justification seems misguided. Cancer grows and reproduces at a rapid rate, but that is not a good thing (as I’ve reflected on before). Rapid growth is not the end goal; the goal is rather faithful embodiment of the gospel. God is the one who grows the church, not a particular process. At times, Watson and company seem to stretch biblical texts concerning the church and missionary method (i.e., people of peace) to serve this end goal of rapid reproduction.

Despite my critique, I think David Watson is doing some very significant work. And none of this is to question his motives or dedication to the gospel. Much of his approach is worthy of emulation.

If you’re interested to see some of his material yourself, including video training sessions, you can visit www.cpmtr.org or www.davidlwatson.org. Registering at the website grants one access to curriculum download materials. You can also see the workshop I attended in its entirety at www.ustream.tv/mrnetwork.

I would love to have your feedback and dialogue about this CPM approach, especially from those of you who are currently involved in the work of church planting.

Paying Ministers

Charles Kiser —  April 6, 2009 — 12 Comments

The issue of paying ministers is a hot topic in many church planting circles.

One of my church planter friends in the Mission Alive network, Robbie James, just got a full-time job as a hospice chaplain. Another one of my church planter friends in the Kairos network, Phil McCollum, recently began to look for full-time work. Both made these decisions with some level of intentionality.

The money/salary topic is also at the heart of the institutional vs. organic conversation. Neil Cole, for instance, has recently written a series of blog posts concerning this very issue. You can view links to each of the topics here.

As we think about what it means for Storyline to be financially sustainable, we’re beginning wonder whether it might be a good idea for us (Porche and me) to pursue part-time jobs — not just to connect to the community, but also to prevent the Storyline Community from taking on overwhelming financial burdens.

Several factors contribute to this wondering:

1. Proponents of organic paradigms state that the financial overhead in the institutional model is so great that reproduction (i.e., church planting) is hard to do on a grand scale because it is so financially prohibitive. Paying a full staff, facility costs, and start up costs is expensive, after all. As a general rule, the more expensive reproduction is, the slower and less likely it will happen.

Organic churches are less likely to pay ministers because it makes them more reproductively agile and it does not perpetuate clergy vs. laity mindsets.

2. The apostle Paul seemed to be more interested in the spiritual sustainability of the churches he planted than their financial sustainability — if financial sustainability means paying staff salaries.

Granted, Paul says it is certainly legitimate for those who serve the cause of the Gospel to be paid (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17-18). But when it came to receiving pay from churches himself, he often refused so as not to be a financial detriment to the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:3-12). He could support himself with his tent making profession. There were other times when he depended upon offerings from churches (cf. Philippians 4:10-19).

I’m attracted to that kind of attitude. Storyline, in many ways, is spiritually sustainable. We are working for justice. We are connecting with the disconnected. We are experiencing life change.

Storyline is far from financially sustainable, however. Yet I would rather take a part-time job to relieve Storyline’s impending financial stress that to cause the community to ‘tank’ because it can’t afford to pay me a salary.

I’m wondering if Paul wouldn’t do the same thing.

3. My friend Micah Lewis shared an interesting historical tidbit with me the other day. Someone shared with him that in the early days of the Stone-Campbell movement, when someone wanted to learn to preach he would be given a tract of land.

His teacher would tell him: spend a year learning how to work the land. Then you can learn to become a preacher.

This idea of financial self-sustainability is embedded even in my denominational history.

4. I don’t buy “tithing theology.” The institution has used the tithe (giving 10% of one’s income) as a way of supporting its existence. People give their money and trust that the church will spend it as God directs.

There’s nothing wrong with giving 10% to the work of the church. Julie and I give 10%. We hope someday to give more.

I don’t, however, find biblical support in the New Testament for the 10% rule. I do find support for generosity. In many cases generosity means much more than 10%.

But for a struggling young professional who is up to her eyeballs in debt, sacrificial generosity may be less than that. I can’t in good conscience implore my recently disconnected friends to begin giving 10% because that’s the rule when it might ruin them financially…especially when a big part of the reason I’m asking is so that my family doesn’t experience financial ruin. It’s awkward. Maybe that’s lack of faith on my part.

5. A related point: our generation / demographic is much more suspicious of the institution and therefore much less likely to give blindly to a general church fund. We want to know that our money is being spent for good things, not institutional maintenance.

One friend recently observed that many people in our context view ministers as “social leeches” who mooch off the hard work of others. Now I certainly don’t think that’s true in many cases, but is it a hindrance to mission if that perception is shared by the majority of disconnected people?

6. I have more questions than convictions, really. Questions like, What is the end goal related to paying salaries? Is it a legitimate end goal for the church to pay staff full-time salary and benefits? In other words, do we pay staff full-time salaries when money is not a problem?

If it is no longer an end goal of ours to build a church building, should it be an end goal to pay staff on a full-time basis? Would Paul see the ability to support workers as a sign of maturity in the churches he started – or a liability?

Regardless, God will take care of the Kisers and Porches. And God will take care of Storyline.

It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

What about Teaching?

Charles Kiser —  March 25, 2009 — 18 Comments

askWe talk often about translating more established, institutional ways of being church into more grassroots, decentralized expressions.

One topic that I’ve been struggling to translate is the role of preaching/teaching in the grassroots paradigm.

I’m wrestling with two points of tension.

On one hand, I have some level of dissatisfaction with the way church participants in more established contexts are overly dependent upon a teacher for their Bible study.

In many institutional contexts, the Senior Pastor/Preaching Minister is the fountainhead of biblical knowledge and truth and parishioners attend services to hear his (or her) words of wisdom. Many church members leave worship services believing they have had their dose of the Bible for the week.

The Barna Group has conducted some incisive research that demonstrates the growing levels of biblical illiteracy among American Christians. I wonder if this is partly because of an unhealthy dependence on teacher figures in the church.

Organic church leaders like Cole rail against teacher overdependence in favor of a more egalitarian, everyone-can-hear-from-God-through-Scripture approach. They also downplay the role of seminary experiences and highly cognitive theological education.

Yet, on the other hand, I’ve been part of less than stellar small group experiences that weren’t much more than sessions for pooling ignorance (not with Storyline, of course – all of our house church gatherings are awesome!). Even when Scripture was the center of discussion the group was somehow able to override the message of the text in favor of its preexisting assumptions.

There are other times when there is so much distance between the culture of a Scriptural text and contemporary culture that a group of people reading the Scripture can badly appropriate it because the text’s import is lost on them. For example, I know women who cover their heads in worship gatherings because they think it is required of them from texts like 1 Corinthians 11.

Moreover, I do think there is a place for a teaching gift in the church. Paul, after all, mentioned teachers among the big five equipping gifts in Ephesians 4. He also encourages teaching responsibilities for some of his apprentices like Timothy.

Up to this point, this is the role teaching has played in the Storyline Community: 1) I teach once a month in our community worship gatherings; 2) I share a teaching role in our formation retreats (like Marvelous Light and City on a Hill).

I also write the curriculum that frames up conversations for our house church gatherings. But these are not teaching opportunities. There are no podiums. There are no dry erase boards. The Holy Spirit teaches house churches as they listen to Scripture together.

Perhaps a fundamental issue in this conversation is how one defines teaching. In many established churches, teaching is provision of information about the Bible. In many organic approaches, teaching is less about information more about obedience and life change.

I much prefer the latter definition. It’s the reason my teaching and our house church conversations move from observation of Scripture (what’s going on), to interpretation of Scripture (what it means), to application (how it changes us).

To restate the tension, many traditional paradigms of teaching get stuck on observation and interpretation and almost completely neglect application. Such observation and interpretation often comes from a highly trained, highly paid leader. At the same time, I fear that some organic approaches move so quickly/poorly through observation and interpretation that application is shallow or just misguided.

I don’t want Storyline’s spiritual health to be overly dependent on me as a teacher. I also don’t want Storyline’s spiritual health to be shallow or misguided because it doesn’t have good frameworks for understanding Scripture.

How do you / would you navigate this tension?

Journey into Justice

Charles Kiser —  February 18, 2009 — 8 Comments

We want Storyline to be a community that works for justice.

Part of the reason we decided for a context in the city was because of its proximity to poverty and injustice. We wanted to be close enough to serve and love oppressed people, and even stand up for what was right before the powers that be.

We know that much. That much, in fact, has come to us pretty easily.

Discovering how to go about being that kind of community has been a much more difficult process.

I read somewhere recently about a distinction Brian McLaren made between justice and mercy. He said that mercy is caring for people who were made sick, for instance, when they drank polluted water from a nearby stream.

Working for justice, on the other hand, is going upstream to see who polluted the water and getting them to stop.

I love the analogy of the river. We’d do well to translate it into other contemporary metaphors of injustice.

McLaren’s definition of justice, however, seems to put forward a false distinction between justice and mercy. Justice in the Hebrew prophets seems to be both confrontational and merciful. Working for justice to “roll down like a river,” in Amos’ words, was both to uproot unjust rulers and to care for those in poverty.

To work for justice is both to care for people made sick by polluted water and also to stop the people who are polluting the water.

Here’s a million dollar question I’m wrestling with: what does it look like for Storyline to work for both facets of justice in a way that’s consistent with our values and style?

Last year I attended the National New Church Conference (aka Exponential) and listened to David Mills talk about conducting a “community needs assessment.”

The needs assessment entails networking with and interviewing social service organizations in the community for the sake of discerning deeper needs. Mills even suggested forming a separate nonprofit organization that would one day fill a niche in the community discovered by the needs assessment process.

I loved the idea and began to pursue it. But as I talked with my friends in Dallas who work in social services and community development, the idea didn’t gain much traction.

It began not to sit well with me either, but I could not put my finger on why.

Then it dawned on me: a needs assessment process and the development of a separate nonprofit for justice is an institutional way of working for justice.

It starts at the top — discerning needs from those who work with people in poverty, rather than discerning needs by serving and living among people at the bottom in a grassroots, relational way.

What would it look like to translate yet another institutional paradigm for ministry into a more organic one?

Perhaps we start by asking our Storyline people who live among the poor what needs they see in the lives of their neighbors. Then we seek to enter into relationship with them and serve them.

Perhaps we adopt their neighborhoods and even one day move into them.

Perhaps our justice ministry is not centralized but rather localized within our house churches such that each works for justice in ways that connect to its particular passions, gifts, neighbors and neighborhoods.

We’ll network with social service organizations not to discern needs but rather to ask for help with the needs we’re discovering because we’re involved relationally in the lives of hurting people.

These kinds of things are already happening within each house church in the Storyline Community, despite my sluggishness. The jobless are getting help with networking and resume development. Those on the cusp of being evicted are getting rent assistance from grassroots collections in the community. Those who need groceries for the week are getting them.

It seems I am, as always, one step behind what God is already doing.

When the time comes, as we’re in the thick of loving and serving people in such ways, house churches will begin to sniff out the larger, systemic forces that oppress our neighbors.

So we’ll collaborate with our friends in social services and community development and begin to bark and lay our lives on the line until things change on a systemic level.

God, of course, will be the one with the power to change systems of such scope.

What do you think of all this crazy talk? Help me translate. What would it look like for churches to work for justice in more organic ways?