Archives For Mission Alive

Starting New Churches

Charles Kiser —  October 14, 2010 — 3 Comments

One of Storyline’s values is reproducibility. We acknowledge that healthy things reproduce: healthy plants drop seeds that create new plants; healthy animals mate and give life to new animals; healthy humans reproduce and give birth to babies.

That healthy things reproduce is true all throughout God’s kingdom, particularly in the church. Healthy followers of Jesus make new followers, and healthy churches start new churches.

I think the opposite is also true: unhealthy followers don’t attract new followers, and unhealthy churches don’t start new churches.

I did not become a church planter to start one church. I became a church planter to be part of a church planting movement. One practical expression of this conviction is Storyline’s commitment to give 10% of its offerings to the Harvest Fund for future church planting through Mission Alive. As of May, Storyline had given more than $7,000 to the Harvest Fund, which has helped four new churches get up off the ground so far this year. It’s a small start, but we know what God can do with small things…like mustard seeds.

Storyline has also made a commitment to invite church planters in-training into our midst – we call them “church planters in residence.”

One of my dreams for church planting has now come true: last month, we sent the Lewis family out to start a new church. They’re partnering with Mission Alive (our resource organization) and the Riverwalk Church in Wichita, KS to start a church in in the downtown area of that city. Watch this short video to hear the Lewises’ story.

My prayer is that this is the first of many churches Storyline will help to start either by offering itself as a training ground for future church planters or by providing financial support for new projects.

Pray with us, also, for the Lewises: that their house will sell; that they’ll find good teammates; that they’ll raise the rest of their financial support; and that the church they plant will bring more life to Wichita, KS.

Why do we plant churches? Because churches – when they’re healthy – bless people and the neighborhoods in which they live. That’s really all that God has ever wanted for the world that he made – so much so that God’s call to Abraham, the father of Israel and the grandfather of the church, was to be a blessing to all the people of the earth. More churches means more blessing for the world, and that’s a good thing.

I want to extend an invitation to all you readers out there in the blogosphere to participate in a conference hosted by Mission Alive, our church planting resource organization.

The conference is called Genesis: Recreating Missional Life. It takes place March 18-20 at the Richland Hills Church campus (one of our partnering churches).

The basic question of the conference is, “What does it look like to participate in God’s mission in our own contexts?”

This conference is for followers of Jesus who want to dive deeper into missional rhythms for life. It’s for church planters who want to embed such rhythms in their new churches. And it’s for established churches who want to revitalize their missional lives.

I’m excited about this conference for two reasons.

One – I’m not sure I’ve seen so many ministry resource people of such caliber together at any conference experience hosted within the Churches of Christ.

Here’s the keynote list: Hugh Halter (author of The Tangible Kingdom), Randy Harris (enough said), Alan Hirch (co-author of The Shaping of Things to Come), and George Hunsberger (co-author of Missional Church). You can see more about the presenters here.

The presenters are individuals who aren’t just talking about living on mission; they are themselves living on mission and helping to pave the way forward for the rest of us.

Two – The structure of this conference is unlike any other I’ve ever participated in.

Most conferences have large venue keynotes for the high caliber, internationally-known presenters (e.g., the Hirch’s of the world), then mid-sized venues (50-100) for presenters with local or regional influence.

One’s interaction with the Hirsch’s of the world at such conferences is usually limited to a big screen, bright lights and a seat about 100 rows away from the stage.

The Genesis Conference, on the other hand, is designed for deeper dialogue and personal interaction.

From the event brochure: “Genesis is a new kind of conference. It models learning in community….Participants develop practical paradigms for recreating missional life. It cannot be done by more listening, more speeches, more thinking! It can only be done in dialog.”

The conference models such community learning through conference, cluster and cohort groups.  Keynote presenters make presentations to the whole conference (limited to 400 people). Keynoters and other speakers then cycle through clusters (35-45 participants or 4 cohorts) to have deeper conversation about their material. Participants in cohorts (8-12 people, usually from the same church or with similar ministry roles) then gather together to talk about implementing what they’re learning in their own lives and ministries.

Can you imagine the benefit of sitting down with someone like Alan Hirsch and 30-40 other people to talk about living missionally in your own context?

I’m looking forward to journeying with a cohort and facilitating interaction for a cluster. This promises to be a powerful learning experience.

You should come! All are welcome. Spots are limited so sign up as soon as possible at Early bird registration ($135) ends 12/31/09.

June turned out to be a sabbatical from blogging. It’s good to be back in the blogosphere.

The past month reminded me of graduate school perhaps more than any month since I graduated from Harding Grad in May 2006. It was a good month — heavy on reflection, writing and speaking.

The month’s events included:

  • Writing a review of Organic Leadership by Neil Cole for the July 2009 issue of the Christian Chronicle
  • Facilitating three sessions on Engaging Culture and another on Spiritual Formation Retreats at the Mission Alive Strategy Lab for church planters
  • Writing a paper entitled The Role of Social Justice in Church Planting Among the Urban Affluent — An Experiment in Process, which I presented at the Christian Scholars’ Conference at David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Joining the editorial board of a new journal called Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis, a publication I’m partnering with friends from Harding Grad to start — all of them in very diverse mission contexts.

It gives me tired head just thinking back through it. Yet I’m so glad for the opportunity to reflect and process. These are important seasons in the life of a church planter and can often be neglected. It’s much easier just to get out there and do it. At least until we create something we regret having created apart from deeper theological discernment.

The hard work is asking, “Why are we doing what we’re doing?” And “What does God want us to be doing and why?”

It’s one of the reasons I appreciate Mission Alive’s mantra of moving from theology to practice. If we don’t have seasons of theological reflection, then we move instead from practice to practice — from ministry fad to ministry fad. Theological reflection helps us to judge what embodies the kingdom of God for our context.

Isn’t that exactly what Paul was doing in his letters to the churches he helped to plant? He was doing theological reflection “on the fly” — in the context of specific mission points on the map. All of Paul’s letters are “occasional,” that is, written for a specific church or purpose and for a specific context or scenario. Even Romans. Especially Romans.

The occasional nature of Scripture makes me think twice before deeming anything a “universal truth,” as if truth looks the same for every time and place. Truth is, all truth is encased within a particular cultural context, which makes it all the more important to spend time translating such “encased truth” into contemporary cultural contexts.

Thus, as compensation for a long hiatus from blogging, over the next few days I’ll be blogging about what I learned from the above opportunities for writing and reflection, and how we might translate what I’ve been learning into our ministry context.

People Who Love Peace

Charles Kiser —  November 10, 2008 — Leave a comment

…the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If the head of the house loves peace, your peace will rest on that house; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for workers deserve their wages. Do not move around from house to house.” (Jesus, Luke 10:1-7)

We had a great time this weekend connecting with partnering churches. Richland Hills Church hosted their Harvest Weekend to raise funds for missionaries and several of us Storyliners worked a Storyline display there. On Sunday morning, the Kisers and Porches joined Mission Alive, our church planting resource organization, at one of its partnering churches – Riverside Church in Coppell.

We thank God for churches and organizations that have vision for church planting. We couldn’t do what we’re doing without them.

On Sunday morning at Riverside I had the opportunity to speak about “people who love peace.” Jesus instructs his followers to spend most of their time with such people as they’re sent on mission. People of peace are receptive to the Christian story and have significant influence in their communities.

Harold Shank formed the concept of “soul mining,” a play off the concept of coal mining, where miners find a vein of coal in a mountain and dig down it until the vein is exhausted.

When Harold planted a church, he discovered that one key person making a decision to follow Jesus would sometimes lead 25-30 other people in that key person’s relational network to make the same decision.

The idea of “soul mining”, then, is to identify a person of peace and release them to share the good news they’ve found with family, friends and co-workers they know.

We’re in the process of discovering our own people of peace. Some of them offer their organizational networks; others offer their relational networks; others bring their friends to our parties.

It’s really quite exciting to discover such people. It shows how God goes ahead of us in mission.

God calls us into mission. God sends us into mission. But God is also waiting for us in the places to which he’s called and sent us—not least through people who love peace.

Imagine the possibilities if all of us believed that people of peace were living in all of our neighborhoods or working in all of our workplaces.

May God open our eyes to those who love God’s peace.

Learn and Share

Charles Kiser —  June 9, 2008 — 2 Comments

This week Mission Alive, our church planting resource organization, is hosting a Strategy Lab for church planters. The lab is the last of three in a process of Mission Alive training modules: the first is the Discovery Lab, for the purpose of assessment; the second is the Theology Lab, for developing theological frameworks for the task of church planting.

The Strategy Lab functions to help planters think through their ministry plan for church planting—cultural analysis, ministry structures, processes of spiritual formation, connecting with non-Christians, etc. At the end of the Lab the planter couple presents their strategy for how the new church will take shape. This strategy becomes the foundation for what will actually happen when the planters hit the ground.

Julie and I first participated in the Strategy Lab in the fall of 2006. We received great training and developed a close bond with our fellow Lab participants (many of whom are now also starting new churches).

The most valuable tools we developed in the Lab were a process of spiritual formation (i.e., steps for facilitating spiritual growth from non-Christian to leader) and a leadership development track. We spent the majority of our apprenticeship period at Christ Journey and Sunrise fleshing out these two tools.

And now I’m headed back to the Strategy Lab to share with other planters what we’ve learned as we’ve applied some of the ideas of the Lab to our church planting context.

I hardly feel qualified for such a role given that we’re still learning so much. At the same time, I love this baton-passing element of Mission Alive. We’re always learning, and the best use of our learning is to share what we’re learning with others.

It reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s philosophy of ministry: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).

This rhythm of learning and sharing applies to all of us whether we’re church planters, parents, engineers or accountants. Indeed, the heart of discipleship is learning what it means to follow the way of Jesus and sharing what we’ve learned with others who are seeking to learn.

What are you learning that you can share? Please share it with me!