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Current Lessons from a Historic Church

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This week I had the privilege of participating in some interviews (behind the camera of course) offering me the opportunity to hear some good perspectives. One of these key interviews was with Ed Stetzer and Greg and Ruth Haslam of Westminster Chapel. Ed posted a piece with the video and helpful insight on “Involving all of God’s people on all of God’s mission.”

Here is some additional background information that may provide more scope and meaning for the video.

Westminster Chapel was planted in the early 1840’s. Some 25 years later, the church moved to its current location which had a large amount of poor people in the area. Some years after the church’s relocation, the word “slum” was introduced to the English language. This word was used for this area of London at that time. It had been for this very reason that the church had moved into this area according to the pastor’s wife, Ruth Haslam. Since that time the community has gone through a gentrification process.

There is a history of great preachers that led the church throughout its many years. These men include: Rev. Samuel Martin; Dr. G. Campbell Morgan; Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; and Dr. RT Kendall. In our modern day it is more difficult to encourage and observe obedience with only a preaching point as the means for discipleship. Though not captured on the above video, Pastor Greg shared that the transition he is leading to establish community groups is necessary as church participants need to be participatory in becoming more obedient to the Savior and His mission.

Categories : discipleship, story
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London / Paris JetSet Tour Continues

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Here is the latest from the JetSet in Europe. Follow The Upstream Collective and Ed Stetzer for more updates.

Jetset London // Debrief #1 from The Upstream Collective on Vimeo.

Categories : video
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Jet Set in Western Europe

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By the time this posts, I should be in London. Over the next several days, I will be traveling with The Upstream Collective on their JetSet Tour here in the UK and in Paris. You will be able to find a number of interesting posts, video interviews, photos, etc. from the group that will be going. I will be tweeting and posting some links to other blogs where updates may be found in addition to posting some material here.

Following my time with the UC crew, I will be heading on to Spain to spend time with some old and new friends there. I look forward to bringing you some stories, images, and thoughts from western Europe.

Join us virtually on this trip to get a better understanding of what God is doing in this part of the world.

Categories : Uncategorized
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A Missional Conversation Continued

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Yesterday’s post had part 1 of this conversation. It is really good video. Part 2 here is worthwhile, but part 3 is essential. For 3 to make sense, best to do 2 first. After the second portion, it appears that Stetzer & Fitch agreed (even requested) to have the camera turned back on in order to communicate some things very important to both of them. Very worthwhile.

Ed Stetzer & Dave Fitch – a missional conversation Part II from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.

Above Ed and Dave provide their perspectives on whether mega churches can be missional. A lively and fun discussion.

Stetzer & Fitch – a missional conversation – Part III from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.

After a few minute break whilst shooting the conversation (see end of Part II “…you’re wearing us out” then laughter), Dave and Ed came back with some final thoughts on the importance of the church telling a new missional story.

Categories : church, trends
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A Missional Conversation

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This missional conversation between Ed Stetzer and David Fitch treats the meaning (and growing lack of meaning) of the term missional and what that means for church. Many thanks to Bill Kinnon for making this and other quality videos available.

Ed Stetzer and David Fitch – a missional conversation Part One from Bill Kinnon.

Produced by Toronto’s mkpl.tv for the blog kinnon.tv and the new social network, Missional Tribe, this video features Ed and Dave in conversation about what missional is, missional vs attractional and missional church & converts. Engaging, funny and yet serious, these two well known writers and missional commentators help expand our understanding of missional.

Categories : church
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Nones, Economics, and a Meetup

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Coins Spilling from a JarThere have been a number of interesting studies and articles lately that I think are helpful for the church to be aware of–and possibly a little bit more. A little bit more what?, you may ask. That, my friend, is a very good question. I’m glad you asked. I am even more interested in your thoughts. Here we go….

One piece of great interest deals with the increase of the “Nones.” Many interesting things here. One is that, “in terms of Belonging (self-identification) 1 in 6 Americans is presently of No Religion, while in terms of Belief and Behavior the ratio is higher around 1 in 4.” If I am reading this correctly, more people belong to some religious group than believe and behave differently. Experientially, this does not surprise me. That people recognize and communicate this fact IS surprising for me. A second point of interest for me on this report in a quick overview is that, “most Nones are 1st generation – only 32% of “current” Nones report they were None at age 12.” This seems to indicate a generational shift in belief and practice in the U.S. This is not surprising, but corroborates the ever-increasing post-Christian U.S. reality. It is both coming and it is here. This piece was twittered about a good deal and blogged on several sites including Ed Stetzer’s.

Another piece that is important for discussion but did not receive the same amount of attention is an article entitled: “Religious life won’t be the same after downturn.” The future will impact the outcome on this point. Though I am not a prophet nor am I making a prediction, I do feel that serious inflationary pressures in the future have the strong possibility to combine with very high unemployment at present (pushing 10% nationally and much higher in some states / counties), unseen foreclosure rates that still have upward pressure, and historically high credit card defaults, etc. to make things more difficult in the U.S. in general and for the church in particular. Notes payable on buildings have had serious consequences for some churches already and will bring about greater pressure for others. Even for churches that are not struggling with paying off a building, strains could be felt if economic and inflationary pressures continue to cause job losses and utility costs rise. It is possible that churches without debt could struggle just to pay the electric bill and payroll.

When the two issues above are combined, the challenges for the church increase, especially if inflation and employment concerns bear out. If so, the ramifications for U.S. church may require a shift(s) in paradigm and praxis.

One other note is that I will be at Catalyst this next week. Wednesday night I am looking forward to participating in a meetup for bloggers organized by Brad Ruggles. If you are around, I’d be happy to meet you. Drop me a note.

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“How Should We Then Live?”

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Happening again and again, the outcome is almost unavoidable. Individuals going on short-term international mission trips experience a significant level of disorientation due to the unfamiliarity of the location, language, food, culture, etc. Additional factors that often disorient include differences in worldview of the nationals; strategies of engagement and evangelism of on-the-field missionaries or ministers; previously unseen or unconsidered ecclessiology; as well as unbridled immorality and/or abject poverty, etc. Whether in a pre-Christian or post-Christian culture, the experience does not fall into line neatly with pre-meditated expectations or life in the place one calls “home.”

The disorientation process is naturally enhanced by experiencing so much that is “new” as a group on mission. Highly committed to the Commission of Christ for this period of time, group members that identify with each other bond and make fast friendships. The ethnocentric team member that is struggling with personal discomfort instead of fixing his eyes on the prize is oftentimes removed from the center of attention by the group. Through the process of identifying with each other and connecting because of the commitment to something so much higher and greater than ourselves, communitas is formed. This is deeper than community by far. The mission unites. Taking the gospel to the lost of the world is what drives the group. In this setting, friendship comes through living out a shared purpose, rather than a group of friends trying to find a purpose that they can share to become passionate about.

After a week or so, a person is preparing to return home or perhaps just returned. So many thoughts and questions may excite or may trouble a participant. Individuals and groups don’t want to let go of the feeling…of the mission. Whether the experience serves as the sole stimulant or a part of many influencing factors, individuals often realize there are questions to address. Well into the current Upstream Collective JetSet vision trip, Ed Stetzer tweeted: “Really need to go to bed since it is 3am, but ideas are racing through my head. I’m feeling prompted to risk something big for God. G’nite.”

How Should We Then Live? To have been on mission in a sea of lostness, how do I return with enthusiasm to an environment where I have few if any relationships with people that do not already claim to follow Christ? If front line work in this cross-cultural environment is fulfilling the Great Commission, is inviting people to church the equivalent in my home setting?  Do I do annual mission trips to scratch the itch that living on mission requires and then devote the rest of my time to saving and preparing for an annual week of communitas?

“How Should We Then Live?” is a question not only for the individual, but also for the sending church. How should we then do church? How should we then live as a sending and sent church?

Categories : church, missiology
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Persecution or Bluegrass?

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ticketWhere there is persecution for following Christ, the church thrives. This is evident from the first diaspora until today in nations that are the remnant of Communist ideology. In an interview Ed Stetzer conducted yesterday on Upstream Collective’s JetSet Vision Trip in Taipei, Pastor Chen states that in 1966 there were 600,000 Christians in mainland China. Mao Tse Tung expected this number to disappear with the Cultural Revolution. Instead, the number of believers on the mainland has and is growing at an astronomical rate–this has been projected at 30,000 per day just a few years ago–and numbers in the millions of believers today (for a better understanding of the movement here, I heartily recommend The Heavenly Man).

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, the church today counts 5% as Christian if the Catholic church is included. Statistics in my last post point to numbers even lower than this. With a much greater openness to all things western and freedom to worship, the church has had only incremental growth. Seeking to reach out to their community, the church in Taipei is seeking to meet needs and engaging their community through creative ways such as a bluegrass concert.

Counterintuitively, persecution causes the church to rise up. Freedom and lack of oppression lead to a lack of explosive, viral growth and moves toward incremental movement up (or down). When lacking in effective external factors (e.g. persecution), then the church would do well to be on a mission greater than itself–consistent with the Commission of Christ. This mission can and does include living with our “eyes wide open” according to McManus. Of course social ministry and cross-cultural missions fit the bill here. One great expression of this zest for life and desire to impact the lives of others can be found in bluegrass music. This has effectively gathered crowds of people in countries from Spain to Russia. It is emblematic, I believe, of how a non-Christian society can be engaged by a people that love life. As followers of Christ, our lives have been changed. The joy that He brings to our life should translate to every aspect of our lives so that we are contagious people.

BTW – I am still planning to move forward with the case study in upcoming posts, just wanted to share these thoughts today.

Categories : case study, missiology
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Aslan is on the move

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iStock_000006773109XSmallBWhether in the book or the movie, to learn that “Aslan is on the move” is rousing both to the characters and the observer. Something is going to happen. It may not be easy or safe. Things may get messy. There is probably a good amount of pain involved. But it will be exciting…and, ultimately, it will be good.

I have been so encouraged this past couple of weeks to learn of some places in the U.S.–yes in the U.S.–where God is moving.  Some of these movements are exciting works in progress. Others are in the incubation stage. Each is very real. Each is concerned with impacting lostness. Each spreads the glory and fame of God, not of man. Some of these may become “movements” that we would want to try to count and dissect. Others may not. However, this connotation of the word movement is less important to me than knowing that the Holy Spirit is stirring the hearts of faithful servants to impact the lives of future disciple-makers.

Participating in the Live Sent Conversation this week was a blessing for me for so many reasons. One key reason is that I was able to meet some serial church planters. Some of these churches have already planted multiple churches. These are some normal guys being used by God to do some great things. Several of these guys readily admitted that they don’t claim to know what they are doing, but they are simply seeking to be faithful. The humility and faithfulness of the Reproducing Churches Network is an encouragement to me.

In addition to what is happening in Florida, I have recently been encouraged to learn that the Spirit is moving in a number of urban centers including Los Angeles, Nashville, Detroit, and Atlanta. Also, there are exciting things happening in Dallas, Houston, and Birmingham. I trust that there will be more posts of this nature in the future, but that is His to do and share. Together, let’s wait and pray expectantly and see what our great God will do.


This week I will be posting a number of times regarding some key points in doing mission. This will correspond with a Jet Set Tour being hosted by The Upstream Collective with Ed Stetzer. It should be an interesting and rewarding conversation. Thank you for participating in this journey. Here are some other bloggers that will be following along on the trip.

Andrew Jones (Tall Skinny Kiwi)
J.D. Greear
Matt Chandler
Ed Stetzer
David Putman (DavidPutmanLive)
David Phillips (Integrating Missionally)
Michael Carpenter (Dining with Sinners)
Derek Webster (re:frame)
Grady Bauer (Missional Space)
C. Holland (Missionary Confidential)
Kevin Mullins (Life.Outpoured)
Guy Muse (The M Blog)
Ray Short (Cultural Dichotomy)
Todd Littleton (The Edge of the Inside)
Paul Chambers Cox (OMS International)
Tim Patterson (Travel Light)
Justin Powell (Urban Idealist)
David Jackson (Moving at the Speed of God)
Ernest Goodman (Missions Misunderstood)

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Six Keys to Save the Church in the West

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ch-decayWhile the number of themes was multiple through 12 hours of videos during TheNines event hosted by the Leadership Network and Catalyst, there is one that is, I believe, key for the church to be obedient–the church must be on mission. A number of speakers addressed the issue including Dan Kimball, Reggie McNeal, J.D. Greear, Ed Stetzer, and Rick Warren as well as multiple others. One clarion voice on the issue, Alan Hirsch quickly laid out 6 keys for the church to “advance the cause of Jesus Christ in our day.” The key points for the church are to:

  1. Recover Jesus – there must be a primary focus on who Jesus is. Failure to do this can have severely negative consequences. In addition to the key themes of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and coming return of Christ, the church should see the incarnational life as a model for disciples to live.
  2. Make disciples – this is what Jesus calls the church to do. We are to make little living images of Jesus. If we fail to make disciples, we will not be effective at anything that is relevant to the church. It is possible to have people referring to themselves as Christian, but not to look anything like Christ. This possibility and reality according to some modern day claims should make the church have a serious re-evaluation of the discipling process.
  3. Engage the world as sent people – God sent Jesus. Jesus came as one who was sent. God and the Son sent the Holy Spirit. The sending character of God says something about how we are to engage humanity. How we are to live life.
  4. An apostolic environment – to have a missional church, you must have a missional ministry that encompasses the five aspects of ministry found in Ephesians 4. Having a ministry view of only the pastor / teacher is not correct. Church leaders that operate with this myopic view need to expand their understanding and ministry expressions.
  5. Organic systems – the way the church should organize itself. Moving away from a top-down approach, the church needs to move toward development as viral or movement effect.
  6. Communitas – we must “put adventure back into the venture of the church.” Relating or fellowshipping together because we are together is not sufficient. There must be a greater cause that draws us toward the purpose of Christ and away from being safe in risk-free environments.

Hirsch concluded his talk with a note of encouragement and strong warning. He said that he is very optimistic about the potential future of the U.S. church. On the other hand he shared:

These are significant times. If we fail here in America, I don’t think it is going to matter too much for the church in the West. I think that the church in the 2/3 world and in the South will do very, very well…and in Asia…it is going very well. But the church in the west, I think, is in very bad shape…in big trouble.

Calling for a recalibration of church, Hirsch labors and hopes for the best for church in the west. While hopeful, he is straightforward in his assessment and warning.

Categories : discipleship, leadership
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