Archives For Models

Reggie McNeal has a new book out that I’d like to recommend called Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church.

McNeal’s purpose in this book is to describe from high altitude the growing phenomenon in North America he calls “missional communities,” an alternative expression of church in our time.

The phrase “missional communities” suggests the distinctive characteristic of these groups: mission is the organizing principle. They are embedded in a particular neighborhood or network of relationships. They focus on discipleship, hospitality and justice work. They develop a close-knit sense of community around the mission. They are led most often by non-paid leaders. They aim to help searchers find their way into the Christian community.

McNeal submits that these ecclesial expressions are a legitimate form of church and should be embraced as such. They are very different from their congregational counterparts, and yet not necessarily a replacement for them.

After introducing key concepts in the first two chapters, he surveys five recent movements that give evidence to the rise of the “post-congregational church”:

  1. 3 Dimensional Ministries
  2. Soma Communities
  3. Campus Renewal UT
  4. Future Travelers
  5. Mission Houston

Here’s the value I see in McNeal’s book:

  • McNeal writes as a Baby Boomer – someone my parents’ age, many of whom have grown up and lead in congregational forms of church.
  • The book offers a helpful framework: I like the functional comparison of “congregational” form of church and “post-congregational” or “missional community.” It brings clarity to what’s happening in the North American church.
  • The approach is very gracious. The purpose is not to lambast the congregational expression but rather to uphold the missional community as a viable alternative. In fact, many networks of missional communities are nurtured out of the congregational form of church.
  • The stories. I have one friend who has said to me repeatedly: I really think the germinal/organic/missional church approach is the wave of the future, I just want to see it work! Read this book, friend, and see 5 movements that are thriving examples of the missional community approach.
  • It affirms God’s work in Storyline. To be honest, I feel like a church outsider most of the time and downright crazy just a little less of the time because of my work as a missional communities practitioner. What excites me about the five movements studied from all over North America is that it’s very clear that this is not an isolated incident. It is the movement of the Holy Spirit. The examples listed here are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this growing expression of church.

Pick up the book! Share it with others who would benefit from seeing what God is up to in the North American church.

Church of Two

Charles Kiser —  April 8, 2010 — 5 Comments

I’ve been enriched in the past few weeks by an emerging structure for spiritual formation called Church of Two.

Church of Two – and you can read more about it at the CO2 Blog or – provides a rhythm for listening to God and others. It revolves around two spiritual practices: contemplation (listening to God) and transparency (sharing one’s heart at a deep level and listening to others do the same).

In short, two people journey together over the course of a few weeks. They connect to each other daily (sometimes briefly, other times for longer). When they connect they “check in” by sharing the state of their heart with each other (e.g., happy, sad, scared, anxious, excited, etc. or a combination of several). Each person listens to the other with an ear toward how God might be at work in the midst of their feelings and experiences.

This Church of Two also shares about how they have been listening to God and what they’ve been hearing. The other person serves as a partner to help discern whether or not what’s being heard is really coming from God or somewhere else (like one’s own ingenuity or the forces of evil).

Sometimes the Church of Two takes time to sit and listen to God together. The group might take time to listen, for instance, about persisting anxiety in one participant’s life.

Church of Two participants also begin the experience thinking and looking for others with whom they might link up. At the end of the few weeks, they branch out and start the Church of Two experience with others.

I’ve had the privilege of participating in Church of Two with Hobby Chapin, my co-worker Ryan Porche, and Paul McMullen over the last six weeks. Hobby, in particular, has been a mentor to me in listening to God and blogs regularly about his experiences here.

The benefits of Church of Two are immense: it has helped me stay in touch with myself much better; I’m learning to listen to others at a deeper level; I’m learning to listen to God and discern what I’m hearing in times of stillness; I’m learning to have times of stillness – period; it’s a great tool for discernment and decision making; it has helped me to connect to old friends on deeper levels; I’ve seen others, like Micah Lewis, use it as a connecting point for disconnected friends who are searching for God.

More than anything, Church of Two has helped me feel like I am in a real relationship with God because of its inherent reciprocity: I share with God, and God shares with me – just like in any other healthy relationship.

Right now I’m wrestling with several questions about how to integrate the practices of Church of Two into my life and ministry:

  • What is the relationship of Church of Two to the spiritual practice of reading Scripture?
  • What is the relationship of Church of Two to the spiritual practice of confession?
  • What is the relationship of Church of Two to the spiritual practice of petitionary prayer?
  • How do we integrate the practices of Church of Two with other structures of spiritual formation in our community – particularly the rhythms of Scripture reading, confession and prayer for the disconnected that takes place in our formation groups?
  • Previous question from a different angle: are the Church of Two and Neil Cole’s Life Transformation Group models for spiritual formation mutually exclusive or can they integrate?
  • What accountability mechanisms exist for discernment in relation to what people hear when they listen?
  • Is Church of Two best suited as a “seasonal” spiritual practice or a regular part of my spiritual diet?

If you want a helpful two-page description of Church of Two, you can find one here.

I’d encourage you to give it a whirl if you’re looking to inject some life into your relationships with God and other people.

Our house church gatherings are at the heart of who we are as a church. Church to us is less of an institution than it is a web of relationships formed around a common purpose. Church isn’t a place we go to; it’s a community to which we belong. The way of Jesus is a way of life that is learned, modeled and lived out relationally.

This conviction about the nature of church is why we’re starting with house church ministry and not with a super-sized worship gathering. It’s why the worship gathering, even after it’s started, will be second (or fifth) place in importance. In fact, it will probably not take place weekly, especially in the early stages.

House church gatherings of 10-20 people are and will always be the central venue for life in the Storyline Community. They most fully embody the chief values of our community—dependence on God, mission, life change and genuine relationships.

To be honest, we use the term “house church” for lack of better words. Some call it organic church; others call it simple church; others call it cell church (as in a smaller part of something larger).

One thing I do like about the phrase is that “church” is part of it. House churches are not an appendage ministry for us among other ministries; house churches are the essence of who we are as a church—so much so that I would rather describe Storyline Christian Community as a network of house churches rather than just a church (though the latter is certainly still true).

Our hope and plan is that our ministry is reproductive: as followers of Jesus help to create other followers of Jesus, house churches will start other house churches, and Storyline will start other churches.

So what do our house church gatherings look like?

We gather for meals and share life. We share communion in the context of our meals. We joke around. We tell stories. We sing together. We confess our struggles to each other.

We have conversations about Scripture, current events, music, God, food, spirituality—things that really matter to us. We share our resources to help the poor and connect to those who are far from God.

We throw good parties. We welcome new people of all kinds into our midst. We participate in justice projects in the community. We pray for each other, our friends and our city.

It’s a little reminiscent of the early church (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35)—not only in the forms and activities, but also in its potential to turn the world upside down.

I wandered across the website of National Community Church through a friend’s blog. It caught my attention for several reasons: 1) over 70% of its participants are single 20-somethings; 2) nearly 70% of NCC people were previously unchurched or dechurched (i.e., grew up with religion but left it behind); 3) they meet in movie theaters all over the Washington DC area; 4) they own the largest coffee shop on Capitol Hill, Ebenezer’s.

I’m always excited to see churches that are reaching out to the young adult segment of the population, given we’re going to land right in the middle of the same segment. Check out the website and get a glimpse of how God is connecting with the next generation through NCC.

Circle of Hope

Charles Kiser —  December 17, 2007 — 2 Comments

One of the most frequent questions I get about our church planting project is, “What will it look like?” Church for the next generation will certainly take different shapes and forms than that of existing established churches.

My first answer is almost always, “To be honest, we’re trying to be good missionaries, so we have to begin by saying, ‘We’re not completely sure yet.’ We’ll know more as we know more about Uptown and the kind of people that live in its vicinity.”

Circle of Hope

My second thought is to point to recently-started churches that look and function in ways I imagine the new church we’ll start will look and function. We won’t cut and paste any one model, but it is invigorating to see churches with the kind of DNA we dream of allowing God to infuse into what we do.

One such church is Circle of Hope in Philadelphia, PA. My friends Robert and Ruth are a part of this church. It’s an urban church that meets all over greater Philadelphia. They’re geared for the next generation—young adults ages 18-35. They are passionately involved in social justice. They are organically structured by smaller communities of faith. I love what they’re doing. Check them out and tell me what you like (or don’t like):