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Building a Movement of Missional Communities - part 1 Saturday, February 23, 2008 |

A few years ago I read a formative book, which, with the Book of Acts, has both informed and colored most of what I have been attempting to explore, experiement and figure out in ministry these days. That book, Church Planting Movements by David Garrison, is an exploration of some of the movements of the gospel that are happening around the world today. From north India to China to Latin America, God is moving in unprecedented ways, birthing and multiplying tens of thousands of house churches using ordinary people and simple, reproducible and scalable discipleship. Our vision for our missional communities at the Austin Stone was birthed out of learning what God is doing around the world through church planting movements. Our vision is this: to build a movement of missional communities who worship Christ, live in community, get trained for ministry and make disciples together.

That has meant totally retooling much of what ministry I've learned and done in the past - leadership development and training, de-educating people from traditional church ways of doing things and retraining them, methods of discipleship, understanding incarnational ministry, being the church instead of doing church, etc.

This starts with understanding, internalizing and living out what it means to build a movement of missional communities.


A Movement of Missional Communities is a rapid multiplication of lay-led missional communities (or house churches) starting other missional communities that sweeps through a people group or population segment. There are both Universal Elements to a movements, elements that absolutely must be there, and Common elements, elements that should be there but sometimes aren't. Here are the first two universal elements:

1. Prayer
MMCs are not sparked by people who read and talk about prayer. MMCs are sparked by people who pray. MMCs are sparked by people who get many others to pray. From the beginning, those involved must wholly rely on God's power. That way, the new believers, groups, and leaders will also learn to pray.

2. Abundant Gospel Sowing
MMCs are not sparked by people who are shy about sharing the Good News. MMCs are sparked by people who see that hundreds and even thousands of people are hearing the Good News. They know that those who sow abundantly usually reap abundantly.

Witness is Word + Deed. Reaching our spheres of influence and relationships is the primary way that the Gospel races through a population group. Loving acts of compassion, mercy and social justice demonstrate and validate the message we preach.

image: Movement/Movimiento by: victor_nuno

Book Review: A Theology As Big As The City by Ray Bakke Tuesday, February 05, 2008 |

Ray Bakke is Chancellor, distinguished professor of global urban ministry and Chairman of the Board of Regents at Bakke Graduate University of Ministry. He has also served as Global Urban Studies Professor at Northwest Graduate School and Executive Director of International Urban Associates. In 1989, he founded International Urban Associates (IUA), which has catalyzed a network of more than 100 urban-based church and mission leaders to serve some of the largest cities of the world. He spent much of his early ministry years in Chicago, where much of his theology of the city was formed. He holds a diploma from Moody Bible Institute, BA from Seattle Pacific College, an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, an STM and a DMin from McCormick Theological Seminary. He has authored numerous books on urban theology and ministry, highlighting the need for Christians to address the plight of the urban poor and marginalized.

After laying out the unique challenges in and need for urban ministry, Bakke notes that the thesis of this book is that “the primary challenge” of urban ministry “is theological” (Bakke: 14). His goal is to show from the Bible that God is deeply concerned about the structures and the individuals in cities. From Moses to Jeremiah, Bakke sets forth a biblical theology of ministry in and to cities. He lays out not only the need for an urban theology for our quickly urbanizing world (Introduction), but he also makes the case that many of the leaders and stories of the Bible are completely urban-centric. From Moses to Ruth, and Jeremiah to Isaiah, Bakke is quick to point out that many of our well-known biblical narratives are firmly rooted in God’s concern for cities. While looking at education, community, leadership development, migration, and the family, Bakke not only deals with many different subjects, but also how they interrelate with urban theology.

Bakke’s book was not only a paradigm-shifter for me when I first read it, but also a ministry-saver. I first read this book several years ago right after moving into the inner-city of Memphis. I had a heart for the city, but very little theology of the city. Bakke’s book was not just refreshing and insightful, it was engaging and practical. I owe much of my understanding, language, and strategy to this book. Even today, it informs my ministry in and for the city. I currently live in an at-risk neighborhood in Austin. It’s no Memphis, but it has its challenges. And Bakke’s book has refreshed my once again, giving me a renewed vision for God’s heart for not just this community and city, but for the many global cities that still pine underneath the weight of injustice. I have to admit, the strength of Bakke’s book is that he reads almost everything in the Bible through the lens of this theology of the city. Unfortunately, this is also its only weakness. There are slight stretches at times to make the jump to urban ministry (i.e. reading the Song of Songs through the lens of urban kids with sexual temptation). I appreciate the application, but it can still be made without the leap to urban-specific theology. Again, Bakke’s book has been and still is one of the most formative books in my theology of the city and of ministry in an urban (and therefore, global) context. It is a must-read for anyone wanting to do ministry locally and/or globally.

You can download helpful study notes here.

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blog un-fast Friday, February 01, 2008 |

I'm breaking my fast from blogging. I'm taking a break from my seminary program, and definitely need to blog about some of the things I've been processing. We recently packed up and moved to a community we have a heart for and feel called to serve in during this season. Call it an at-risk community or what, but it's about as close to the type of neighborhood we lived in during our time in Memphis as we could find.

No, we didn't choose this neighborhood because it was the safest in Austin (just the opposite). No, we didn't choose this neighborhood because it has the best schools in Austin (just the opposite). No, we didn't choose this neighborhood because everyone is white, young and middle-class (just the opposite). And oh yeah, we do have John Perkins, Bob Lupton and the CCDA to partially blame for our choice of neighborhoods.

So, one of the things I'm going to be doing over the next year or so is highlighting issues of justice, poverty and community development.

I'm also excited about an experiment I'm doing with missional communities right now. I've gathered a group of like-minded missional-ists. We are going through Perspectives together, learning about and engaging in our at-risk neighborhood, as well as learning about and engaging with an unreached people group in the Sudan. It's guaranteed to not be a flop, mainly because it's just an experiment and I'm not sure what's going to come of it. But what happens when you gather passionate people to learn about and engage in God's mission to the poor, oppressed and unreached together? Only time will tell...

image: cup of water by: matt_so