How to Start a Church…maybe

I said it on accident a few months ago at our first Grassroots gathering of co-conspirators.

With intentionality comes inevitability.

And I think I mean it.

As a small handful of people who are committing to a way of life together, a way of life marked by what the early church called the good news have started gathering once a month. It’s not a worship service, we’re not a church, we’re a developing community of Christ-followers who are experimenting with a hunch.

A hunch that with intentionality comes inevitability.

Essentially the experiment is that if we live a certain way with intentionality it will inevitably lead to a new reality in our lives and our neighborhood.

Intentionally gathering together once a month as co-conspirators will help to propel us toward a greater commitment to a Jesus life where we live, work, and play.

Intentionally and radically living a gospel life (another way of saying living the Jesus way) where we live, work, and play will lead to the inevitability of gatherings. If and when people meet Jesus we suspect that there will be a need to gather together to explore such radical ideas and ways of living (’cause following Jesus really is a radical thing to do)

Intentionally gathering in living rooms, eating a meal together, and talking about Jesus stuff will inevitably lead to the need for even smaller gatherings of four, five, or six people where you are more deeply apprenticed into the ways of Jesus. Some things can only be learned through purposeful learning and experiences.

Intentionally gathering once a month in an effort to propel each other into mission, intentionally committing to a Jesus way of life in your world, intentionally gathering in living rooms to talk Jesus stuff and to learn the story, intentionally gathering in smaller groups to apprentice each other into the ways of Jesus will inevitably lead to the public gathering that we so often mistakenly refer to as church. As people move closer to the life of Jesus the need to publicly tell the story (both the ancient and present story) is absolutely necessary.

Each piece is not one of progression towards an end, there isn’t a conclusion once a “church service” is happening. It’s not about an end but about necessity. Each phase is an inevitable reality if lived with intentionality and each next phase is a necessity as transformation and movement is occurring.

Because with intentionality comes inevitability.

The hunch could be wrong. The pieces could be wrong too. That’s why this is called an experiment. We’re learning as we go, we’re learning as we get to know people, we’re learning as we better get to know the Spirit of God. We’re learning as we better get to know ourselves.

But I’m beginning to believe that when a group of people chooses to intentionally live a certain way a church is inevitable. Church isn’t a goal it’s an outcome. Church happens when people fall in love with Jesus so much that they’d rather die to their own desires and needs for the sake of others…I think.

Grassroots Conspiracy

I haven’t blogged much about the Grassroots Conspiracy much. Partially I think it’s because I write about it in my Downtown Dispatches and don’t want to be redundant. Partially I think it’s because it’s been a constant work in progress, something that at times has felt so fragile in its inception that to speak too much of it would actually cause damage. Partially I think it’s because I want it to be a movement that is defined not by what I say about it but by how its practiced amongst people within a neighborhood.

Regardless it’s time we start telling the story. Over. And over. And over again. In different ways, from different angles, starting from different moments in time what we’ve decided to call Grassroots Conspiracy is synthesis of the story God has been telling through Jessica and I, the story God is developing amongst the people of the downtown Vancouver neighborhoods (as best we can discern), and the story that God is telling in Scripture (as best we’ve been able to discern). GC is a developing collection of people who are choosing to do a way of life together that is marked by a gathered and scattered set of rhythms. Traditionally the church has done the gathered part well. We’ve inundated ourselves with gatherings. Hmm…pie socials, worship services, potlucks, Sunday school, youth group, retreats, all nighters, prayer nights, committee meetings, elders meetings, budget meetings, meetings, etc. I’m not saying these are good or valuable things (who doesn’t like a pie social?) but we’ve lost the balance between the gathered church (1 Corinthians 14:26) and the scattered church (Matthew 26:16-20).

And so.

We gather once a month as co-conspirators, as people on mission together, as partners in this messy journey. The purpose of this gathering isn’t to worship (per se), it’s not to replicate the traditional Sunday gathering, its purpose is to encourage, tell stories, pray, challenge, and equip (I don’t like using that word) each other to lean more heavily into the Jesus invitation to a holistic gospel life. The hope and belief is that if a community of people band together and commit to a radically gospel centered life it will make a difference in a neighborhood. We don’t see ourselves as people who have to proselytize or  convince neighbors of the truth of Jesus’ claims  (because, lets be honest, they’re pretty audacious claims) rather we are attempting to be a community of people who are inviting people onto ‘blind dates’ with this man Jesus. It’s up to him to woo them, it’s up to them to choose to love, and it’s up to us to represent him well.

“Oh Jesus? Yeah you’d probably really like him. He’s really nice, he’d do anything for you, and he makes great wine. Why don’t the four of us double date sometime and you can get to know him?”

There are other rhythms that shape the Grassroots movement–but this first one, the once a month gathering of co-conspirators is where we start. Because to follow Jesus is to choose to live differently. It is to choose to forgo the values that this world has to offer: wealth, illusions of security, power through control, popularity…and instead pursue a way of life marked by the kingdom of God: simplicity, power through poverty, death to self, security in identity…To choose to live differently demands a cohort of people to invite you into deeper oddities–deeper ways of living differently–because being weird is only fun when your with other weirdos right? (at least that’s what my mom kept telling me all through Jr. High)

January's Downtown Dispatch

I look forward to publishing these every month…though, if we were honest we’d know that they don’t come out monthly (shhhh, don’t tell anyone). If you don’t receive the email version you can sign up for it on the side bar on your right. Also you can always click the menu that says “Downtown Dispatches” at my blogs home page in order to read the Dispatches as far back January of 2009 (oh, how so much has changed!).

Without further adieu here is January’s Dispatch from Downtown. Read it, print it, highlight it, study it, put it on your fridge, pass it around to your coworkers (I’m sure that wouldn’t be weird right?), send it to your grandma, and forward an email on to seventeen friends (it’s not spam if its good right?).

You can read it here


Dear Renovatus Church,

Seven years ago with a baby on the way Jess and I joined nine other adults in the crazy adventure of trying to start a new church on the east side of Vancouver. This church ended up being called Renovatus (Latin for “renovation”). Over the course of those seven years we poured out our lives for and with this fledgling faith community. And in January of this year they waved goodbye to us as we began to take next steps in the journey of starting a new movement in downtown Vancouver. This week I was struck not only by how blessed I have been in my past by Renovauts but how they continue to play an active role in loving me and transforming the reality of my future. So with that said, here are a few words that I feel like I need to say to this beautiful community…

Dear Renovatus,

I have a lot to thank you for. My kids don’t know what church is outside of you. They don’t know that some people don’t have to setup their church out of a box each week. Thanks to you my kids don’t know how to behave in church because you were a safe place for them to be…well…to be kids. My kids have fond memories of their time with you. Thank you for that gift.

I have a lot to thank you for. You’ve cared for me in amazing ways—creating space for me to learn how to be a leader. Forgiving me for my awkwardness, for my randomness, and my mistakes. You let me experiment on you as I got excited about different ideas and processes. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for you (I hope that’s a compliment!).

I have so much to thank you for—you’ve provided space for two former homeschoolers to learn how to be more normal, to learn how to do church in a way that’s so weird that it works, and to develop some lasting relationships that we wouldn’t otherwise have.

I’m indebted to you for providing a place for people I care deeply for. Over the years and

to this day many of those I love have found a place in your community and its not because of some special program that you offer but because of who you are and how you love. Thank you.

I’m indebted to you for how you have cared for and continue to care for my parents. I don’t know what it’s like to deal with your child dying of cancer but I know its got to be worse for the parents than for the kid! I love how you have surrounded them, how you have blessed them, and created an environment where they are being cared for in real and meaningful ways.


I’m grateful for how you’ve cared for me and my family in all of this cancer mess. You’ve cleaned my house, provided meals, paid medical bills, prayed, sent cards, and a dozen other things that belong on a list. Y’all have really showed that you mean it when you say that you’re trying to be like Jesus. I know this ‘cause I’ve been on the receiving end of it.

Thank you for being so weird. Seriously you are one weird group. Remember when we used to sing a song together about Jesus having worms in his hair? Who does that? What church sings that? We were all weirdos together and I hope that hasn’t changed just because I’m not there. (insert joke here)

Thank you for stretching my imagination. When Renovatus started all I could imagine was a worship gathering that was engaging and fun. By the time we had journeyed together for six years not only did that become second nature and assumed but our imaginations had together been stretched to realize that being the church was so much more than a worship gathering—it was a way of life, it was a community of people who were committed to each other, and it was a group of people who were together being transformed into their original purpose and intended beauty.

You all are a special group of people. As Jess and I continue the work of starting the Grassroots Conspiracy here in downtown Vancouver I am giddy to know that we’re not doing this alone. We are who we are because of you and we’re doing what we’re doing because of you and we’re glad to be attached at the hip. We love you and are grateful for who you are, who you’ve been, and who you’re becoming. Peace to your house…err…grange hall.

One Down, Eleven More To Go

So that wasn’t too bad. Five days of 340mg of Temodar every night before bed, throw in a cocktail of anti-nausea meds, a little Vicodin, and a few extra naps and it went by pretty quickly (my wife might say otherwise!) The doc says that I’ll probably feel the juice flowing through my body for another five to seven days but it’s nice to know that one treatment’s down with only eleven more to go (and another 4 weeks before I’ve got to take more!).

Tomorrow morning at the delicious time of 6am I’m flying out to Nashville to be a part of a large gathering of Kairos Church Planting participants. It should be an exciting week of hearing stories from around the United States concerning the creativity and innovation that’s happening in starting new faith communities for new people. I feel blessed to call myself a part of this larger national family…now if only I could count on someone to help me shower and take my pills when I get there…anyone? Volunteers?

Seriously though, keep me in your thoughts and prayers that there’s no complications on the plane (blood clotting in my legs from sitting too long would be bad), that the after affects of the chemo don’t keep me down while I’m there, and (most importantly) that my wife survives without me while I’m gone (I’m pretty hard to live without).