What if? – What we were hoping to do (part 1)

In the last post, I started reflecting on our first missional community / simple church plant.  I think this will be a good way for me to process our experience. I also hope that our experience will be helpful for others who have been “bit” by the missional/organic church “bug.” (Which I still think is a good bug to be bit by!) My biggest dream is that someone will get bit by this bug again in NWI and have another shot at it!

I need to backup and share how we ended up with a whole new paradigm of church. My wife and I had spent years working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. After our first season, we started asking questions about what happened to students after college. What we found was a bit disturbing – many former students were really struggling to connect in churches.  And of the ones who went, most had lost their missional passion. On top of that, the national trends were that many younger people were disconnecting from church, some from Jesus altogether.

We had worked for more than a decade with college students, but what about post-college?

At the same time, my view of “church” was turned upside down by having two organic/house church planters in my Fuller cohort. One of them worked in India, another on college campuses with many connections in South East Asia. I remember hearing one of them talk about “only starting 40 churches!”

What? Only 40 churches?

What I came to realize is that they weren’t planting churches with a pastor, a building, and regular Christian  programming. They were starting “underground” communities of 15-40 Jesus-followers who were themselves quickly starting new communities. They called them “churches.” I was absolutely shocked to read the reports of these “Church Planting Movements.” I realized that God is doing amazing things around the world, and he might just be speaking back to the West on our view of “church.”

What_ifIt made me wonder: what if we could disciple the next generation of America through simpler forms of church? What if we could center people on Jesus and living out his mission in local communities in such a way to bring down barriers to “institutional church?” What if we could teach others to multiply simpler forms of church? What if we could free up resources (time, money, preparation) to make disciples in a more life-on-life way?

What if we could make disciples of Jesus among the next generations who became a network of missional communities in expanding areas of NW Indiana?

I eventually finished up my studies in the MAGL, transitioned from InterVarsity, and got connected with the Ecclesia Networks. Ecclesia is an awesome network of  innovative, Jesus-centered pastors and church planters. I was also connected to 3DM‘s discipleship coaching framework. It seemed to be a great foundation for multiplying disciples and communities on mission in the West.

I’ll end with the question I asked, What if? I have learned that there are are risks to asking the What if question. It rocks the boat, it brings questions about logistics and reality, it might lead to “failure,” no one else may be asking the question. But I’m convinced that we need more What if asking, not less, if we’re going see  God’s movement among post-Christian America.

How have the What if questions influenced your decisions for life and ministry?

I’ll write next about why we choose to try starting in NW Indiana, specifically Crown Point.