What is a missional community?
A missional community:
- Is a mid-sized group of 6 to 30 people.
- Is led by leaders who are in Accountable Relationships with church leaders (HUDDLE). The MC’s core Leaders are in huddle with the MC Leader(s). Missional Communities are low control, but high accountability vehicles of the church. MC leaders are allowed to initiate, lead, and implement their own vision, under a very broad church wide vision but because of the accountability of huddle, the trust that is built between church leaders and MC leaders is explicit. As a pastor leading a movement of MC’s, I am confident that the disciples being made in a missional community are being led the same way I would lead a huddle.
- Has a specific outward focused mission (this could be as simple as a neighborhood some of the group members live in, to as radical as going to an AIDS clinic on a consistent basis to show God’s love or reaching out to a Refugee community, etc.)
- Models the life of Jesus through Up, In, and Out Lifestyle in Individual and Corporate Life.
- Has Daily, Weekly, Monthly Rhythms which Foster Oikos (Extended Family on Mission Life). Missional Communities benefit from creating ways for the people who come into contact with the core group (Oikos) to orbit the central mass of what God is doing in the community. As people orbit the MC’s Oikos, they pick up what is being laid down and the life of the MC becomes more attractive. This really has to do with the fact that Jesus is at the center of the Oikos, not anything the Oikos or the leaders are doing. But the rhythm fosters the ability for this to happen.
- Further Values:
- Oikos understands Five Fold spiritual gifts of its leaders and people in the MC. http://fivefoldsurvey.com/
- Oikos practices People of Peace (Octagon Lifeshape in BDC) Style Evangelism given to disciples in Luke 10.
- Oikos has a Clearly defined leadership pipeline in place where people are being discipled to take over or launch out on their own to lead MC’s themselves. MC’s should multiply, so more disciples are made.
At the Mason Vineyard, we currently have 3 functioning groups we call Community Groups. These groups have some of the above characteristics and we have been “horse-whispering” all the groups into all of these values to some degree.
Over the next 6 months, our number one priority is to solidify these values in each of these three groups and for each of the three groups to actually exemplify all of the above.
What makes this possible is one simple fact. We have built a discipling culture in the Mason Vineyard over the last year. And, we have leaders in the Community Groups who are accountable to church leaders (the Senior Pastors) in HUDDLE. And, each of these leaders is leading huddle now. In other words, our discipling leaders are reproducing discipling leaders…SLOWLY. I can’t emphasize enough how important that simple fact is. If that was not happening, we would not be able to even think about moving forward. Building the other values around leaders who can make disciples using the vehicles needed to make this happen is essential.
Furthermore, my wife and I are developing OIKOS within that team of discipling leaders and as we continue to build rhythm into our own leadership structure, we increasingly give our leaders ways to orbit us that they can imitate for their folks.
For people in the Mason Vineyard who are looking at all this and wondering what in the world is going on and what we are talking about, the way to get involved now is two fold:
- Participate in one of the 3 Community Groups. These groups will be fully functioning Missional Communities in the next 6 to 12 months. And, each of these 3 Missional Communities will multiply at least once in that time frame. So, the Mason Vineyard will go from having 3 Community Groups to having 6 Missional Communities in the next 12 months. If you are participating now, you will most likely be huddled as potential MC leaders and will be given the opportunity to multiply and start a Missional Community in the next 6 to 12 months.
- We will be starting a Learning Community in the next month. This will be a leadership community of 50 to 70 people at the Mason Vineyard which will expose the most people possible to the discipling culture, language and vehicles we have been using. This is meant to be a way to expose people and get them interested in Missional Community, not as an alternative to it. Also, we will be using the Learning Community to explore and discover the best possible future of the Mason Vineyard. That is, what is God saying to us as a church? And, what are we going to do about it?
Oikos is the Greek word used in the New Testament which we usually translate “House” or “home.”
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, (Acts 2:46 NKJV)”
3DM encourages the churches they are in relationship with to have great expressions of both Temple (worship celebrations) and Oikos (Home or Extended Family Sized Discipleship).
Oikos also means “family.” So the Greek term Oikos holds within it the understanding of an “extended family” (including servants and other employees) who all live in the same household. In the New Testament, the letters Paul wrote to the “churches” were mostly in Oikos. That is, they were in large homes that could accommodate 50 to 70 people gathering together to do the things churches were doing. This is a bit hard for us to conceptualize in our North American context where independence is idealized and one of our highest goals in life is to see how much square footage we can acquire for the fewest amount of people possible. (hyperbole? maybe)
I have found that many people who interact with 3DM and their content get confused about Oikos. Is Oikos the same thing as a Missional Community? (I don’t think so…) 3DM has a unique vocabulary and much of their vocabulary is tied to the Vehicles they recommend people use to do discipleship and mission. For example: Huddles, Missional Community, etc. There is a lot of language to learn. I liken the beginning stage of the process for people as learning a second language. Learning the language is very important and it eventually starts shaping your culture. The language of LifeShapes becomes tied to the transformational journey people go on. The LifeShapes represent biblical concepts or biblical themes or passages and as people experience the transformation the bible talks about while using the LifeShapes as reference points to the transformation, the language becomes a set of anchor points for people to use as leverage in their journey. Such things as kairos Moments, getting around the Learning Circle, Working from Rest, Rhythm of Life, Abiding, Bearing Fruit, and more – all these things become part of the language people use to express the things they are going through. It’s really great stuff, because it is the stuff of following Jesus. But, it takes a good while for people to start speaking the language fluently. Oikos is one of the words that gets thrown around that, quite frankly, has to be experienced over and over and over before you can begin to understand what it really means.
As the transformational environment centered around this new language is created in huddle – a culture of discipleship develops. People find their identity beginning to be rooted in the love of the Father, as children of God (the triangle). They are navigating the Learning Circle and living in continuous breakthrough (the circle). They have journeyed around (the Square), from D1 to D2 and they are in D3 or maybe even D4. Maybe they have even started their own huddle. They are living a new rhythm of life (the semi-circle). One marked by true rest. They work from that rest. They have new life. They are healthy (the heptagon). They are giving people access to their new life (the octagon). They are living in accountability. It’s incredible. It’s starting to look like Acts 2:46, believe it or not. Pretty soon, the people who are really really getting it and wanting more and more of it, start living life together. They start spending more and more time together. They show up at one another’s homes for dinner. They baby sit for one another so they can go on dates. They shop for one another. They hang out. They pray for one another. And, before you know it, this isn’t a discipleship program, it’s family. It’s extended family. It’s OIKOS. And, it’s hot. There is a heat to it. It’s attractive. People see what you are doing and want to do it too. People literally start asking to be a part of it, before you can invite them.
As Emily and I have entered into this process, we realized we didn’t really know what we were doing. But, we were willing. We wanted to give people access to our lives. We stumbled and bumbled. We just kept opening ourselves up. We offered covenant relationship to people. They would poke and prod at that offer of relationship. People have taken advantage of that offer at different levels along a spectrum. Some people come over and hang out with us and want to process life with us all the time. Some want to be in huddle and that’s it. Some people have checked out (that has been hard). Some are somewhere in the middle of all those places. We have to remind ourselves that we are just getting started!
What we are seeing, slowly (evolution, not revolution) develop, is Oikos.
Oikos is a culture.
It is the heat in the middle of the discipleship culture you are trying to develop in your church.
It is the combustion in the engine.
It is the thing that makes everything go.
When you start to feel momentum from all the turns on the flywheel, it is because you are seeing Oikos develop around you. People are coming close, wanting access, and experiencing transformation from the family dynamic in the discipleship culture you are creating.
The “thing” in the middle of all that, is Oikos. It is what Peter and James and John had with Jesus. It is what the 12 had. It is what Mary had when she refused to get up and go help Martha!
One thing that has been the most helpful for Emily and I, considering we have no idea what we are doing in regard to all this, is IMITATION. We have tried to expose ourselves to as many people as we can who are doing this stuff. Mostly 3DM staff and extended family, but others also. Emily has been in a coaching huddle with Deb Sternke since February of 2012 and we have been able to imitate from what Ben and Deb are up to in Fort Wayne. I have been in coaching since January of 2012 – first with Ben Sternke and then with Rob Shoaff and now with Mark Herringshaw (long story). I have been to Pawley’s Island several times now and have gotten around 3DM folks as many times as I possibly can. When 3DM is around here in Cincy, or I am around them anywhere, I try to sneak in to as much of what they are doing behind the scenes as possible to see how Mike and Sally Breen do Oikos. When in Pawley’s Island, you immediately get the feel for what this all “feel’s” like. We read the Moravian Texts daily with 3DM and listen to the Daily Devotions. When in South Carolina for vacation this summer, we went to the 3DM offices to experience the Daily Devotion in person. We just try to participate and be a part of it. We imitate the experts.
We are trying to work out now, how we create some of those same Rhythms into our life here in Mason… Oikos happens INTENTIONALLY!!!
3DM will be putting on a workshop November 5th through the 7th which will be hosted by Vineyard Cincinnati.
For information and registration, go here:
For info about what a workshop is, go here:
Vineyard Cincinnati will then be hosting a Learning Community which will be starting some time in January.
If you have been tracking with our journey at the Mason Vineyard, the Learning Community process has been transformative and is continuing to prove to be invaluable in helping us develop a discipleship culture as we move forward.
Participating in a workshop was the key thing I did to convince me I should go to my board and ask them for permission to engage the Learning Community. At that time, I was in a coaching huddle and had already been swayed by some of the 3DM content and processes, but when I was able to touch and participate in the vehicles of huddle, social space, and interact with the larger 3DM family in the Learning Community type environment that is modeled in the workshop, I knew our church had to do it this way.
If you have any questions, track me down.
Create a Rhythm of Life Culture
One of the things about building a discipling culture that intrigues me is this.
It’s all about “Show me!” Discipleship is about inviting people into apprenticeship. Watch me follow Jesus and I’ll show you how to do it as you follow him too.
That’s a scary proposition, but it seems to be what Jesus was commanding his disciples to do when he was leaving the scene.
We live in a culture of Information and Innovation. There is actually very little Imitation left in it. There is little Apprenticeship and Immersion left in our systems. We might do a little here and there, but there isn’t much mastering a craft and inviting people into long standing apprenticeship relationships to learn how to master it themselves. (By this, I mean life long apprenticeship which was present even 70 to 100 years ago where a Son learned the family trade from a Father, etc.)
I’m from the Show Me State. Missouri.
Here’s a little history on why it is called the show me state:
There are a number of stories and legends behind Missouri’s sobriquet “Show-Me” state. The slogan is not official, but is common throughout the state and is used on Missouri license plates.
The most widely known legend attributes the phrase to Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1897 to 1903. While a member of the U.S. House Committee on Naval Affairs, Vandiver attended an 1899 naval banquet in Philadelphia. In a speech there, he declared, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” Regardless of whether Vandiver coined the phrase, it is certain that his speech helped to popularize the saying.
Other versions of the “Show-Me” legend place the slogan’s origin in the mining town of Leadville, Colorado. There, the phrase was first employed as a term of ridicule and reproach. A miner’s strike had been in progress for some time in the mid-1890s, and a number of miners from the lead districts of southwest Missouri had been imported to take the places of the strikers. The Joplin miners were unfamiliar with Colorado mining methods and required frequent instructions. Pit bosses began saying, “That man is from Missouri. You’ll have to show him.”
However the slogan originated, it has since passed into a different meaning entirely, and is now used to indicate the stalwart, conservative, noncredulous character of Missourians.
Now, I realize either way you cut it, the origin of the slogan does not create the best of images on my people. But, gosh darnit, you’re gonna have to show me!
The really cool thing is, “Jesus said, I will, Follow Me.”
One of the things Jesus did when he was present with his disciples was create a Rhythm of Life that was so enticing, when I read the Gospels I find myself aching to imitate it. He would go away to the Mountain or to the Lake, or to the Desert to pray and then he would engage the people. He would invite the disciples to “Come away with me to a lonely place for a while.” He was showing them what it was to live the rhythm necessary to sustain a ministry to a world in need of His Father.
Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Sometimes when we look at the scriptures for advice on Christian living, spiritual disciplines, or habits, etc through our 21st century Western lenses, we lay our “7 habits of highly effective people” or “Getting Things Done” templates over them. We are highly productive, action oriented people. And, we like to read a book or listen to a tape, or go to a conference, get the info and then go put the info in to practice.
Jesus says, Come to me and Yoke yourself to me Young Ox!
You gotta love Eugene Peterson’s translation of this scripture:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
The Mason Vineyard is full of people who need to hear this and need to yoke themselves to the one who will take us away to recover our lives (starting with the Senior Pastor). We need Jesus to show us how to take a real rest. He will walk with us and work with us and SHOW us how to do it. He will teach us the UNFORCED RHYTHMS of GRACE. He won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on our shoulders. He wants to keep company with us and teach us to live FREELY and LIGHTLY.
Here’s how we have helped create this life in our church for now. We have taught the semi-circle lifeshape to our huddles. We have found that the simple biblical teaching of Sabbath, Rest, Abiding, etc. (This is That) is very powerful. As we reflect on this in huddle, a longing develops for it in our people. As that longing develops, they start hearing God call them into it. As God calls them into it, they start making plans to actually obey Him and do it. And, they did.
Emily and I also just did it ourselves. We showed people what it looked like in our lives. We took a vacation. I took two Sunday’s off this summer and had other people preach. I took a month off from the huddle and reset in a time of Abiding before we entered the Sept/Oct/Nov season which is a time of work and fruitfulness in church life.
Over the next season, we will be inviting more of the church into this Rhythm. What Emily and I have found in this area is that we can only give away what we have to give. We can only call people into rhythms we have in our life. If we aren’t living in rhythm, it is hard to SHOW others what the rhythm looks like.
WARNING: If you are trying this at home. When you start living a different rhythm from the contemporary culture, you will experience resistance. This is VERY (extremely) counter cultural. People wonder what the heck is going on. Why are we resting? Why are we slowing down? Why aren’t we going faster? Why are we taking breaks? It takes some serious determination to lead in this area.
This is a big piece of the discipleship and mission puzzle during the Learning Community process for any church. To break it down into a singular priority as part of a strategic plan is probably not fair.
What I have found to be helpful for us at the Mason Vineyard as I engage this information is to help the church understand what is meant by discipleship. And by discipleship I simply mean the way our church is helping people become like Jesus, or Christlike.
As Dallas Willard puts it, “discipleship is about becoming the person Jesus would become if he were you.”
I love that statement because it offends my senses.
But when I think of it from a different angle like “what if Jesus was to take over my life, what we he do with me? who would he turn me into?” Well, that changes things, because I believe that is exactly what Jesus has done. He has taken over my life. I have surrendered my life to God’s will.
With that said, we believe it is the church’s responsibility to equip people for this journey of becoming who Jesus is helping them become.
If we are to do that, we have to ask the two questions Dallas Willard has haunted the 21st century church with:
1. What is your church doing to make disciples?
2. Is it working?
From Mike Breen’s Building a Discipling Culture for a discipleship culture to arise in a church there needs to be 3 things present:
1. A discipleship vehicle. (3dm uses a vehicle called huddle which is quite different from small group.)
2. People need access to your life. (The disciples or leader of the huddle gives those being discipled access to his/her life as Jesus gave the disciples access to his.)
3. A discipling language. (3dm uses a unique language called Lifeshapes. Another key concept I am learning from 3dm is “This is That.” As closely as possible, 3dm attempts to use biblical language and metaphor, so when something is developing, they can point to it in context and say, “This that you are observing is That, which you see in the bible.”)
At this point, a decision had to be made. How committed are we to this process? Are we committed enough to adopt 3dm’s language, vehicles and processes?
We decided we are going to adopt the whole kit and caboodle. It didn’t make sense to me to try to recreate or to synergize something with a system that wasn’t working that well in the first place.
As I have said before, I pretty much had the green light to scrap everything and start from scratch.
As I look at that little list of 3 things needed to build a discipling culture, we were kind of doing small groups as a vehicle, but not that well.
Our language was not common enough that everyone knew what we were talking about.
And although I thought we (Emily and I) were giving people access to our lives, we had no idea what we were in for when we got started with huddles.
A few things have helped me in the process as we have entered the “valley of the shadow of death.”
1. Jesus wants this for our church as much as I do (actually more).
2. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32).
3. If we Yoke ourselves to Jesus and go at His pace, we will be just fine (Matthew 11:28).
I have found that every time I try to speed up and go too fast, I start to ache. If I try to slow down and go slower than the Spirit of Jesus, he does something to remind me he is out ahead of me.
In Phase One of the Learning Community, the primary thing we are doing to introduce a discipling culture in our church is inviting a Core Group of people into Huddle.
This has been a wonderful process and in some ways a very difficult process. We had to be very strategic with who we invited and we had to be visionary in who we asked. We used our discernment and we probably got some right and missed on some. “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” We are learning from everything we do in this process.
A lot more could be said about the in’s and out’s of what has transpired since we started huddle, but I won’t go into details. We are regrouping right now after a time of “rest” in July and August and will be shifting into the next Phase of the Learning Community Process in early September and October.
I will include an attachment for more information about huddle if you are interested.
Click on the link to download a PDF with description of Huddles.
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Discipleship Strategic Plan-3DM Learning Community-Mason Vineyard-Introducing Covenant and Kingdom Theology
Our first priority during the Building a Discipling Culture phase of the 3DM Learning Community is to introduce a Covenant and Kingdom Theology.
Covenant and Kingdom are the two great themes of the bible. It is important that we, as a church community, understand, read and interpret the scriptures through these two great themes. This interpretive lense is the primary way 3DM understands the bible and this theological framework impacts a lot of the discipleship and mission methodology. The Lifeshapes (a discipleship tool I will discuss later) are dependent on this theological framework.
Mike Breen has written a book titled Covenant and Kingdom which literally sweeps through the entire bible, reflecting on how the themes of Covenant and Kingdom weave in and out of the primary characters of scripture’s lives and stories.
Covenant is the way in which the Bible describes and defines relationship: first our relationship with God and then with everyone else. There are three aspects to Covenant relationship in the Bible. 1) The Fatherhood of God. He is our Creator, and we live our lives under his loving gaze. 2) Identity. This flows from our relationship with God. Our identity and therefore our sense of security and confidence come from outside ourselves as God tells us that we are his children. 3) Obedience. Although this sounds rather heavy, we will discover that obedience is simply acting in a way that is consistent with our identity.
Kingdom is the way in which the Bible describes responsibility: first our responsibility to represent God to the people we know and then to everyone else. (Taken from Covenant and Kingdom by Mike Breen, Introduction).
In the Vineyard Movement, it is my experience that we are pretty good at expressing the “Kingdom” thing, but we haven’t been at good at developing a Covenant theology. We have it in our DNA in some of the Father’s Heart stuff I have heard and been taught over the years, but it is definitely not as well developed as our Kingdom theology is. As a result, I think we are a movement of “doers” and not as much “be’ers”. We need to be both.
At Mason Vineyard, in Phase One, we have made an intentional effort to infuse our church with this theological perspective. Here’s how we are doing that:
- I did an 8 week sermon series focused on the Old Testament portions of Covenant and Kingdom. It was focused on character sketches vs. being passage or text driven. I did these OT characters: Adam and Eve (Creation), Abraham, Esther, Moses, Ruth, David, Deborah, and The Prophets (my sermon was on Hosea). Side note: I had started this series right before the Learning Community met in April and during one of the main stage teaching sessions, Mike Breen said, “you should just introduce Covenant and Kingdom to your larger church like you are putting it in the drinking water.” One of my elders who is on my core team, didn’t realize the covenant and kingdom series was tied to this and he looked over at me like, “what are you doing to us?” Weird moment.
- We have started discipleship huddles with a group of leaders in our church. This is my elders (we are an elder led church) and their spouses and a pilot group of folks we invited into the process (high character, chemistry and capacity leaders we wanted at the forefront of the movement in our church). Covenant and Kingdom is laced into the huddle process. The first phase of huddle is learning and agreeing on a common discipleship language. We were learning lifeshapes together in the context of huddle, in which we were helping our leaders learn to be reflective and process Kairos moments in their own lives. It is essential people understand Covenant and Kingdom as they process these moments, so they are properly identifying as children of God and living out Kingdom purpose in their relationships. I will say much more in the Building a Discipling Culture post on this, but the process of huddling is so unique to 3DM. You have to almost make a “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME” disclaimer here. I have been hanging out with 3dm folks for over a year and was in 3DM coaching for several months before we started Learning Community. So, starting huddle a few weeks after the LC met in April was natural for us.
- We have encouraged people to read Covenant and Kingdom. We use The City as an church management tool. We have created an online book club this summer to do an interactive book and bible study through Covenant and Kingdom.
- I preach in concert with Vineyard Cincinnati. Vineyard Cincinnati is mult-site and I have been developing relationships with their mult –site coordinator and other staff to develop a “vineyard network” of sorts. It is in the stage of being defined… I have great hopes for what that might look like as we move forward, but for now we are taking small steps to see what kind of resources we can develop for small churches who might want to participate in coordinated preaching/content, outreach projects, and other resources as we figure that out. So, we have developed a teaching team that works out sermon content and ideas, and for now, I and one other small church are preaching along with Vineyard Cincinnati. This summer we are preaching through the Gospel of John. The themes of Grace and Truth are at the forefront in John’s Gospel. These themes are directly connected to Covenant and Kingdom. It’s a drinking water thing….
We entered a 3DM learning community in April. Part of the learning community is developing a 6 month strategic plan during each phase of the process. The learning community is broken into 4 phases:
1. Building a Discipling Culture
2. Multiplying Missional Leaders
3. Launching Missional Communities
4. Establishing Centers of Mission
Each phase begins with a 4 day immersion in which a core leadership group from the local church experiences mainstage teaching and worship, tactical training in mid-sized groups (50 ish), hands on consulting, and break out small group training (hands on experience with 3dm vehicles like huddle, missional communities, etc.).
During the immersion, the core group develops a 6 month strategic plan to implement in the local church.
During the 6 month period, 1 out of 3 people in the core group are in a coaching huddle via phone or 3DM’s preferred mode – Google+ hangout – with a certified 3DM coach. These coaching huddles range from 4 to 8 participants.
I am confident the Learning Community experience is different for just about every individual and every individual church, because discipleship must be contextualized. It must be contextualized into your own experience with Jesus and with people you are being discipled by and you are discipling and it must be contextualized into the community of people you do church with.
At the Mason Vineyard, we are pretty much starting from scratch when it comes to discipleship. We have some baggage and we have a few things we are doing, but I felt like my elders and leaders were giving me the green light to engage 3DM and go for it. Our mission statement is to Love the people of Mason into relationship with Jesus, but we were sincerley asking ourselves if we were even remotely doing that?
The Mason Vineyard was planted 12 years ago. And, over the last 4 years has gone through 2 leadership transitions. One from the founding/planting pastor, which is never easy, and the second due to the death of the founding pastor’s replacement. The church needed leadership and stability. We have that somewhat now and we need to move into a discipleship culture to grow and prepare for the next wave of God’s movement into the 21st century.
I could say a lot about that, but the purpose of these posts is to reveal the strategic plan.
I will give a brief run down of our 5 priorities during the first 6 month phase and then I will write a separate post for each to give more details later.
Our Five Priorities During the Building a Discipling Culture Phase are:
1. Introduce Covenant and Kingdom Theology: Establish within the church a knowledge and understanding of the two definitive strands of DNA in the bible of Covenant (relationship) and Kingdom (responsibility). Covenant is the relationship God has established with his people and the loving relationship he wants his people to live in with Him and with one another. Kingdom is the responsibility God gives his people to live in purpose as they fulfill their role as his people on earth as God establishes His Kingdom rule.
2. Introduce the Church to a Discipling Culture: Establish a culture of invitation and challenge within the vehicle of huddle to help introduce a group of leaders in the church to the expectations of the new discipleship culture. Become fluent in lifeshapes and establish a common discipleship language with the pilot group of leaders.
3. Create a Rhythm of Life Culture: After a group of leaders has been introduced to huddle, learned a common language and has established some fluency, develop a rhythm of life culture within the group and invite the church at large into these rhythms.
4. Simplify Church Organization (Really Simple Temple): Using the biblical models of Temple and House (in which the early Christians worshiped in the Temple and in their Homes), we realize a need to simplify our church organization and Temple (or Sunday) church practices while we focus on Disicpleship for a season. We will work to simplify church organization, Sunday morning procedures, and other areas of programmatic ministry while we over resource our discipleship engines for a season.
5. Develop a Culture of Oikos (Extended Family): This priority is a specific priority that is hard to define and is incumbent upon the Senior Pastors (Jason and Emily) as we develop a culture of extended family over and against a corporate culture or business culture in the church. We are giving people very high amounts of access into our lives, especially people we are huddling, as we develop this culture. We are also going to spend time with 3DM in South Carolina to participate in their Oikos culture to learn from them. More in my post on this, which I will complete after our trip to Pawley’s Island.
This is just my story. I think people don’t realize this healthcare law has already had real impact on real people that they might know.
As a pastor, I am technically, according to the IRS, self-employed.
My church, which by the way, I LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART, can only afford to really pay me a modest income. We are doing pretty well to be honest. I am the only full-time employee at the church, so we are unable to get a “group” medical plan for my family. You have to have multiple employees to qualify for those.
When we moved to Ohio, we felt like it was very important for my wife to be able to fully invest in our family first, and the church second. She needed to work, but we felt like she should find a job that afforded her the ability to work part-time, be home in the evenings and not work on the weekends. As a nurse, those jobs are hard to find. One of the ways to find a job like that as a nurse is to work for a Doctor’s office. Emily has worked for two great Allergy docs in Cincy since we moved here, but working for doctors means lower pay and you guessed it, no medical benefits.
So, our options when we started trying to figure out Healthcare for our family in Ohio were seeking out private health insurance. We were able to get hooked up with a great broker who started helping us. First through some people through church. The first go round, I got denied coverage and Emily got denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.
The second go round, Emily’s doctors helped us find a broker that said she could help us.
Again, Emily got denied coverage, but this time, our boys and I were able to find coverage through a high deductible Health Savings Account plan. It’s pretty good coverage. It’s basically what most American’s have through their employers, we just pay out of pocket for it.
Emily though, was unable to get covered. No one would insure her for a pre-existing condition that seemed unbelievable. The condition will be with her for the rest of her life and will disqualify her for private health insurance FOREVER! It is a genetic disorder called poly cystic ovarian syndrome. Many women have this. We were surprised it was cause for immediate denial of coverage.
Our option? The newly enacted open enrollment plans that were part of the Healthcare Reform Law. The State of Ohio had begun an open enrollment program when the law went into effect and Emily, because she had been denied coverage and had now been without medical insurance for 6 months, qualified.
We are, believe it or not, OBAMACARE.
A few months after this, Emily found out she will have to have a complete hysterectomy soon. Because of complications from the birth of our first two sons and probably due to PCOS, she will have to have that procedure. To our surprise though, at the same time, we found out we were pregnant with Samuel. (Is that worth being denied health insurance?)
We are just clearing the decks of all the medical costs from the delivery and hospital stay regarding Samuel’s arrival in this world, but I figure our time at the hospital costs somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 dollars. I quite frankly don’t know what we would have done if Emily was uninsured. I know we wouldn’t have been able to pay for it. And we’d be stressed out beyond belief. You can say well then we shouldn’t have been messing around. Well, if you know our parenting journey, you’ll know that’s not fair. We have lost 4 children to miscarriage and the blessing of this little boy in our life is almost more than I can handle at times. We have had expenses for this birth, but, having to pay for the entire thing would have been too much to bear.
I don’t know how the healthcare situation will work out in the United States over the next decade, but for now, I’m sure glad Ohio had an open enrollment plan for Emily 18 months ago.
I presented a paper at the Society of Vineyard Scholars meetings this spring. My thesis was centered around the Vineyard Movement’s need to develop their mission (al) theology. My paper discusses Ray Anderson’s concept of Christo-Praxis. Christo-Praxis is the transformative activity we as Christian’s participate in when we imitate Jesus in the Spirit. It is belief forming activity like friendship, or even more formative like Baptism, or the Eucharist. You can not really participate in these activities without having your belief or theology (what you believe about God) shaped.
My belief is that the Vineyard is positioned to be a movement that is a community of the Spirit that challenges the post-Christian culture to engage Jesus by being a Kenotic people. That is a self-emptied community that imitates Jesus by being incarnational as we embody Jesus in our Missionality.
After I presented my paper, Dr. Winn Griffin approached me about publishing my paper with his new , creative publishing effort, Kingdom Praxis. I thought it was a cool way to make my work available. At this point, I am not attempting to publish my work through traditional journals, so I took advantage of this opportunity. This is a way for me to make my work available and create an opportunity for dialogue within the Vineyard Movement and beyond. Although this work is Vineyard specific, it translates to the church as a whole, especially within Missional Charismatic churches. I hope it helps churches thinking about how to make the missional shift and yet be people of the Spirit think theologically.
Check out my page on Kingdom Praxis and let’s dialogue. I look forward to doing more writing in this field in the future. Maybe even on a more popular level. (Nerd alert!)
@adrianwarnock Born once, die twice; born twice, die once. #slogans
Emily and I are in the process of filing out the required paper work to get a mortgage. If you have done this before, you know that you are required to reveal parts of your entire life to the mortgage company. You have to reveal your tax situation, your checking account statements, all your debts, how much money is in all your accounts, provide your birth certificate, social security numbers, driver’s license, because we are applying for a VA loan, I have to provide certification of my military service, I have to give them a copy of my DD 214 stating I was honorably discharged from the service. It feels like everything about who I am and who I have been matters in this moment. I am being exposed.
This week, we were arranging to have some stock sold, so we can provide a down payment and I had to talk to my parents about something and I realized that they held a certificate that I needed in their files and I was so grateful that they are more organized than I am. I realized that who they are effects who I am, even still and I will turn 40 this year. Amazing.
Last night we went to look at a house that we are considering making an offer on and we pulled up to the house and my mom and dad, who are here today, with my sister, and my Ohio dad, Neal Galbraith, and our friends Bryan and Conchita pulled up to the house to help us look at this thing. The poor lady had not made arrangements to leave and sat on the back porch while we were there. She didn’t know what hit her.
I realized as I was standing in the front yard last night that all this, my family, my friends, my life, everything I am seems to matter in this moment, it all matters as to who I am and how this decision is made and to my identity. It’s kind of a strange thing, isn’t it?
Last night though, as I was reflecting upon this all in light of today and this sermon, it made me think of the passage we will be focusing on and the person Jesus interacts with in the passage. He had to have the same feeling when he went to see Jesus in the night. He probably went to see Jesus with confidence. Knowing that everything in his life had prepared him for moments like this, he was revered and prepared, he was experienced and looked up to. He had what it took to be the one his colleagues would send on tasks like this. He would be the guy called on in situations like this. Nicodemus, they would say, go see this Jesus character and check him out. Get a read on him. See what you think for yourself, face to face. See if he is who they say he is. Jesus had just don’t this thing where he made a whip and went into the temple courts and drove everyone out! Everyone who was selling anything met up with Jesus and then the Jews confronted him and asked who gave him the authority to do it….they didn’t like his answer. So they wanted more!
Nicodemus would have been the right man for the Job.
Now, Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the ruling council of the Jews in the first century. It was like the Supreme court of our nation, but had approximately 70 members. They oversaw the Jewish legal system. They made political decisions for the country, but always under the watchful eye of the Roman governor who had military power and overall political power in Israel at the time. So, the Sanhedrin ran the day to day life of the Jewish people, oversaw the legal system of the people, according to Hebrew law found in the Bible, and the Roman governor and the military force kept the peace and policed the land according to Greco-Roman law. Nicodemus was one of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was overseen by a High Priest, these men later, were the ones to condemn Jesus and take him to Pontius Pilate to ask Pontius Pilate to try him as an enemy of the State, claiming that Jesus was claiming to be King of the Jews. This claim would have been treasonous towards Caesar, the only rightful king over the Roman Empire and King Herod, the defacto King of the Jews the Roman’s have installed as their errand boy. Pontius Pilate apparently puts Jesus to death because Jesus will not deny that he is the King of the Jews.
Where we encounter Nicodemus in this story, John apparently wants us to wrestle with this reality. Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, came to Jesus in the night. Nicodemus, one of the most powerful men in Israel came to Jesus to get things figured out. To resolve this misunderstanding…
Here’s how the story goes from John’s perspective:
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” k
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. r 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, t 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” v 
A few things to think about:
When John contrasts light with dark or day with night, he is doing it on purpose. He contrasts. The Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of the World. The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of the World is the Kingdom of Darkness. Light = belief and Darkness = Unbelief. Day = light and Night = Dark. Light = Eternal Life and Night = Eternal Darkness. Day = They get it. Night = They don’t get it. And all those things coincide, so:
Day = They get it, eternal life, belief, kingdom of God, etc.
Night = they don’t get it, eternal darkness, unbelief, kingdom of darkness, etc.
When Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, John is saying, WARNING:
This guy doesn’t get it.
But, when he starts out the story with Nicodemus a Pharisee, a member of the Ruling Council, he is doing something that we should pay attention to…
John is saying, the ONE GUY IN THE UNIVERSE WHO SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN IT IS COMING TO JESUS IN THE DARK.
Nicodemus is used to being the sharpest guy in the room!
He is use to being the guy telling other people they don’t get it. He is use to helping others understand. He is use to being the one teaching. Which is all the things Jesus reminds him of, right.
And here, he just doesn’t get it.
And what does Jesus say he needs to do?
Be Born Again?
What does that mean?
Jesus, the one who is full of grace and full of truth brings a very confusing message to Nicodemus.
What do you mean I have to be born again? How can any man be born again?
Jesus appears to actually be pretty patient with Nicodemus, doesn’t he?
Sometimes we make this very complicated, but Jesus brings a message to Nicodemus that is very straightforward.
To understand the Kingdom of God, to Get it, to receive eternal life, to believe, to be in the light, you have to: Pause
Start from scratch.
You literally have to be willing to give up everything about who you are, who you have been up to this moment and start afresh.
You have to be born again, into the family of God.
And, by the way, to walk in the light, in the way of the Father, this is the posture you must remain in…
Be willing to start over…and over…and over…and over…and over…. And over.
I must say, this interaction, is very intriguing to me. This is the first serious interaction we see in the Gospel of John. We will talk about many as we go along.
Sometimes, John has Jesus interact with people who receive the fullness of Jesus’ grace. They receive grace upon grace. Grace upon grace already given. The offer to be born again comes as a refreshing option to a life that one would willingly leave behind. It comes as salvation from a life that one would gladly give up, one that someone is longing to be rescued from.
But, here, Jesus is interacting with a man who does not need saving. Nicodemus does not, I guarantee you, he does not think he needs Jesus. He does not come to Jesus with the agenda of being rescued, saved, getting a second chance at life. Nicodemus has it all. He is at the top of his game, my friends.
And, he comes face to face with the Jesus who is the fullness of truth. The fullness of the truth that reveals reality. The reality of who we are when everything is stripped away. When the façade of who we really are is stripped down. When our masks are taken away and we are naked, without are fake identity we flash at people when we are pretending and he says to Nicodemus, are you willing to put that away and start over?
I remember, when I had left the Coast Guard and we went to Denver, and I had started seminary. We went to a little Vineyard church on the south side of Denver which was about exactly like this one. Almost exactly. After we had visited a bit and gone to the welcome lunch at the pastor’s house, Emily and I went to meet with the Pastor and I shared with him that I was at Denver Seminary, studying in the Master of Divinity program and wanted to get involved at the church, and he and I were talking and he said, “oh, well what kind of ministry have you done.” I said, “well, for the last seven years I’ve been in the Coast Guard. We just moved here from Alaska and I rattled off all the really really cool things I had been doing in the world.” You know, guns and stuff, bering sea, all that.
He was completely and absolutely unimpressed. A few weeks later, we were doing servant evangelism at a train stop and his wife was chatting with me and she said, yeah, we like to have seminary students do all the worst jobs to see if you really are cut out for ministry. I remember thinking, am I back in the Coast Guard? Swabbing the deck? Does anything I have done up to this point matter?
Jesus says, “You must be born again.”
See, we love to think of this statement of Jesus’ as, yeah, I know, I want to be born again, on the day I got saved and welcomed into the family of God and then I’ll go back to the world’s system of climbing the ladder.
But, Jesus lets us in on a little secret if we pay attention to the way he disciples the leaders he leaves behind to change the world.
See, Nicodemus is being welcomed into the new family of God.
The new family of God has a new identity. They are marked by this humility that is recognizable, because they are ever ready to “be born again.” To start over. To see the Spirit move and move with Him.
Jesus says you must be born of water and Spirit and he is talking about the the baptism of Salvation. The New Birth of Salvation is one of death to the old life and a rebirth of a new life, this is representative in the symbols of Water and Spirit. Christians in the first Century and now through the ages have looked to water and Spirit as the markers of new life and when someone stands in front of the world and says, “I will follow Jesus” they die to their old self in the waters of baptism and are brought up in the new life of Christ. They receive the Spirit who creates in them the sanctifying power that can say yes to God our Father. Water and wind speaks life wherever you are.
This is the only way we can be born again, if we humble ourselves and say yes to God.
It is the only way we can submit and start over when we SHOULD NOT HAVE to, because we have earned the right not to!
You might have come here today thinking….I don’t even need to be here today….why did I even come here today…what am I here for…I don’t need to be saved….I don’t need to be rescued….I don’t need to worship….I don’t need to surrender….I don’t need Jesus…I don’t need God…I don’t need church…I don’t need baptism…I don’t need any of this….
You might even be right. You might normally be the sharpest, brightest, guy or gal in the room. The one that has it all together. You might normally be the one people depend on.
But when face to face with God. When face to face with Jesus, you realize, you don’t have it figured out. You are actually dependent on a façade….
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. 
And Jesus would say to you
What are you dependent on for your identity?
What shapes how you think about who you are?
When I look at my life in a mortgage application, it all adds up to a lot. When I stand in the yard of a house and have all my friends there with me and the people who care about me, it all adds up to a lot. But, when I look in the face of Jesus, I realize, it is actually nothing in comparison. The really amazing thing about following Jesus, and being born again, at least that I have found, is that by saying yes, I will be born again, I have been received into His family, and been able to keep mine and my own has been enhanced because of it. I realize this is a tremendous blessing that many people do not get to experience after they decide to follow Jesus. Some actually have to forsake family to follow Jesus. I am sorry for that. I think it will be worth it in the end.
Here’s the awesome thing about Nicodemus. He apparently ends up getting it. John 19:38 tells the story of some Jewish leaders going to Pontius Pilate to retrieve Jesus’ body so he can be properly buried. It says Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, came secretly to Pontius Pilate, because he was scared of the Jews to ask for Jesus’ body, but he was accompanied by Nicodemus who had earlier come to Jesus at night. Now, he came with 34 a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds worth to prepare Jesus body for death.
Are you ready to be born again?