Reflections on a few years of church planting

It’s amazing to see how the leadership at Renovatus has changed. I’m not talking about the actual turnover in leadership but rather I’m reflecting on our capability to understand mission and to live missionally. I’m talking about our understanding of community and our ability to cultivate it in small group type settings. I’m talking about our understanding of the difference between programs and discipleship.

Before Renovatus launched we were excited and passionate about reaching people who did not know Jesus. But the reality is that the furthest we could understand this “mission” was to create an atmosphere on Sunday mornings that we could invite people to. We didn’t really know how to be with people who needed Jesus. We didn’t know how to share our faith in real and non-creepy ways. So because of this understanding our Sunday gatherings used to be much higher quality than they are now (in my humble opinion). And they should have been! I mean we were spending all of our hours working on the Sunday gathering so it had better have been good! It’s all we knew to do. Few of us had been a part of a healthy small group especially one that included people who were not followers of Christ. I remember wondering how anyone who wasn’t a Christ-Follower would ever come to a small group in my living room. So missional communities were not a part of our practice. Our energy was spent doing things like renting out a gym to have dance nights, craft nights, and other fun things. These fun nights were filled with lots of Christians from a few different churches around town. We didn’t really know how to invite people from outside our circle. These “fun nights” were a lot of energy and a bit of money for no real purpose.

Everything was exciting…and very foreign. Much of it was forced…but we couldn’t do anything else…we didn’t know how to do anything else!

I’m not even going to spend time in this blog to tell you all the ridiculous stuff we did, the terrible stories we lived out, the awkward things that were said from a microphone. But needless to say we were stepping out into the unknown and I think that when you do that you either step immediately into a beautiful field of flowers or you stumble around bumping into trees, stumbling over rocks, and eventually because of the Spirits quiet whisper you find your way to to the place of beauty. I won’t say that we’ve got it figured out now ’cause anyone who spends any time with us can quickly ascertain that indeed we do not! But I wills say that the value of being a part of a church plant, of forging a path that no one in your circle is an invaluable teacher.

My hope and prayer is that the lessons we learn as we get deeper into planting another church bring us closer to our Savior and living more near those who need him.

Contextualizing Suckers

I was blessed to have a great conversation with a person last week that made me tear up. We weren’t talking about anything necessarily emotional, it wasn’t a bear all session but it was one of those conversations where everything that a baby church dreams about was happening. This person was struggling because there were too many suckers around her. Other people use the word “follower” but I prefer the term “sucker”, you know, they’re the people who just want to suck off you. They come to you to be fed emotionally, spiritually, and physically. They want you to make them dinner, listen to their problems, and help them work out a solution. It’s not bad, these aren’t bad people, they’re normal people. They’re most people. Most people at churches are suckers because most people at churches are taught to suck. In many ways you can’t grow unless you’ve got someone you can suck off of.

Anyway, this girl was stressed ’cause she’s tired of feeding suckers. As a fairly new Christ-Follower it was great to hear her lament about the good ol’ days when they had other friends who shouldered more of the load, who they could suck off of. It was great because I was able to contextualize for her and say “Yeah, those people who you used to chronically suck off of, they were called leaders. And, well…welcome to being a leader!” I was able to tell her that she’s experiencing the pain of transitioning from being a follower/sucker to being a leader. And it’s hard. And she doesn’t want to do it. The greatest part is that she’s not leading because she went to some new leaders course at our church and she’s not leading because the staff wisely assessed her as an upcoming leader. She’s leading because she lives her life in such a way that she listens to the Spirit, cares for those who need Jesus around her, and invites those people to journey with her. So in turn people are following her. I think it’s John Maxwell that says that leadership is simply influence.

Part of her struggle is that all the churched people want to add more things to her schedule, they want to add “evangelism nights” (whatever that is), they want to add special trainings on how to do evangelism, and other “good” churchy things. So she screams out that she doesn’t have time for this stuff, that she’s too stressed and busy as it is! And where I teared up a bit was when I was able to say that she is living the life of a missional (and I defined this to her as someone who sees their every day life as an opportunity for God to use them to transform the world around them in simple, spectacular, and mundane) follower of Jesus and that this is our prayer for every follower of Christ.

By the end of the conversation a weight seemed to be lifted off her shoulders and I think she walked away believing the reality that the Spirit was doing something in her, that the draining she was feeling from people sucking off her was actually God pouring her out to those in need, that her role is vitally important in the kingdom work of Vancouver, and that she needs to hang out with a couple other leaders to commiserate and be sharpened.

It was a blessed conversation and I look forward to having many more.

I love you

Things were chaotic at times between us tonight. Dinner was a disaster, the kids were crazy, and you didn’t get any homework done because of it all. We tried to talk tonight, we tried to talk about things that are important, about marriage, about love, and divorce but the kids kept interrupting, people got distracted, and the conversation at times simply fizzled out.

But let me tell you that I love you terribly. OneĀ  year ago when we wrote down on paper where we wanted to go, what we wanted to accomplish, who we wanted to become it all felt so far fetched. It seemed like too much. We didn’t know each other enough and the awkwardness was thick enough to cut with a knife. And yet here we stand today together. In many ways closer together than we’ve ever been. We stand together with more honesty, more authenticity than ever before. And those long ago written aspirations are feeling like more of a reality than I ever thought. When something happens you’re the one I call. When I need help you’re the one I’ll go to. I have fun with you, I enjoy laughing with you. We’re both comfortable being incredibly odd together, and I love that! What a wonderful mess we are together! Let’s have kids.

This note is for all of you in my home community. Especially you who have truly committed to doing life together: Aaron, Bekah, Brittany, Aaron, Chris, Christie, Jess, Derek, Jen, Brandon, and Sarah.We’re not where we want to be, we’re not everything we need to be, but we sure are making a wonderful mess getting there.


Last week a couple of people from my home community went with me to hear Shane Claiborne speak last week at Mosaic Church. They were unfamiliar with Shane, the Simple Way community, or much of the dialogue concerning intentional community and ordinary radical living. When we showed up to a packed out church we found quite a few friends there too (Jason, Ron and Lori, and Xolani).

As a side note, you’ve got to check out Shane’s rules about speaking at events. They’re very intentional, funny, and simple. I love it.

It was so refreshing to hear Shane remind us of things that Jessica and I have already wanted to be true of us but had grown fuzzy on. Hearing him talk only a few weeks removed from Kairos Strategy Lab where we spent time prayerfully putting a dream for a church on paper was excellent timing as well because much of what he said reiterated qualities we desired to be true of our church.

He spoke about the importance of the church, that the church was God’s creation not ours. It is through the church that God desires to communicate his love to the world. At the same time he compared the church to the ark from the story of Noah. It’s filled with crap but if you step outside of it you’re going to stink. He quoted another author and speaker (st. Augustine) saying “The church is a whore, but she’s my mother”. It may not be perfect but it’s Gods!

Shane reminded us that we’ve spent so much time trying to tell people about Jesus that it’s time we stopped using words. People are tired of us using words to tell them why they need Jesus and it’s about time that we stopped using words and started using our actions. Let’s show people that we love Jesus and that Jesus loves them huh?!

One courageous audience member came up to the microphone and said that that he and his wife read Shanes book a year ago and decided to move into lower income housing and to begin living in community with those in their neighborhood. That was a year ago. And then he said, “but it hasn’t happened. I guess what I’m trying to ask you is…umm…how do I become friends with my neighbor?” It was great and poignant and a perfect question! Shanes friend Chris answered the question. He talked about taking hot chocolate to some people on the corner waiting to buy some drugs. He talked about doing small things. About prayer. But mostly he said (and I love this) work on your marriage! Your marriage is your best tool for showing your neighbors Jesus. He said it doesn’t matter if you live in a ghetto or in suburbia, you’ve got to work on your marriage first.

There was so much more I could say. As Brandon (one of the friends who came with me) said, “I wish I could just listen for five minuets and then have a day to think about it.” There was all Shanes usual stuff about using your imagination, about being a radical, about redefining, about avoiding the dangers of Babylon, etc. You’ll have to read his books for that stuff.