This is the second of two interviews with pastors of missional churches in the Memphis, Tennessee area. I was curious how the missional paradigm had influenced their approach and how it was being fleshed out in this unique region. So, here’s the story of Vintage Church and pastor Brice Holbrook.
LCI: Give a brief snippet of your personal story, Brice.
BH: My name is Brice Holbrook, and I was born in Desoto County Mississippi, to a police officer and a teacher, both strong believers. I graduated from S.B.E.C (now northpoint Christian school), the University of Mississippi in ’06, and then from Mid- America Baptist Theological Seminary in ’09. I have been married to Anna Holbrook for eight years. We have three children: Ellie, age five; Bennett, age three; and Emmalynn, age five months. I enjoy the Memphis Tigers, Memphis Grizzlies and St. Louis Cardinals. I like working with my hands in the construction field, playing disc golf and softball, and spending time with my family and church.
LCI: What is your church background, and what sort of experiences did you have?
BH: Church planting for me was a shot in the dark. I had been a part of the same church my entire life and even served there for five years as associate and youth pastor. I decided that I would develop a youth ministry like I would do a church plant. Build community by organizing social functions around church family, and promoting having non-Christians to be a part of our fun. The goal was to train young people to share the gospel with their friends as naturally as possible. I treated the youth like a practice church plant and we had great success. I spoke with the youth like I was speaking to adults and they responded well. However, I was only partially prepared to plant a missional church. The gospel had to transform me over many years.
LCI: Fill me in on a little history of Vintage Church.
BH: Vintage church started as a dream of a perpetual dreamer. I am always thinking of fabulous things, but truly rarely having the guts to explore. I believe God knew this when he organized the circumstances of Vintage. I started out with a partner and long time friend, and I was going to be the second man (associate/co-pastor) in the church. We had great dreams of what the missional church would look like, yet no experience. We had learned everything from books and conferences and most importantly the Bible. We had everything set up and had a good core group with a ton of money, and right before we were set to start, my partner left. It thrust me into a position only God would put me in, with a church that barely knew me, and zero experience in the church style I was promoting. To make things worse, most of the core group came about because of my partner. We met with our core group and asked them where they stood and if they planned on staying with Vintage. Almost all of them said they were committed to where the Lord had brought them. So we started meeting in 2013 and have been learning and growing together since that time. We currently stand around sixty-six people with children. We have Sunday morning service at Horn Lake High School and three missional communities.
LCI: How did you first learn of the missional conversation?
BH: I think it was reading people like Darrin Patrick, Jeff Vanderstelt, 3DM, and listening to some men in the Memphis area. Mostly there was always a desire on my heart to fix what I thought wasn’t working in the traditional church. I started tearing down all of the things that were unnecessary in order to get back to what the Vintage Church might have looked like.
LCI: How did the missional approach impact your ministry philosophy, ecclesiology, or missiology?
BH: For me, I had to detox from a traditional church model. I experienced moments of rest for the first time in ministry and I felt guilty for not being busy. I had to keep reminding myself that being busy is not always being productive or godly. We cut out a program-driven mentality and where you would normally do missional activity through the corporate body, and we designed our missional communities to be the avenue for missions. We organized most of our events and outreach through neighborhoods and the effort of each individual MC. We moved to a more liturgical style service with meaningful prayers, songs, scripture reading, preaching, and communion each week. We want to do a corporate worship service well, but it is not our main focus. Vintage is also elder governed. We support a foreign missionary financially and domestically we support and work with church plants.
LCI: What have you observed in utilizing a more missional approach among people in your context? Have people quickly adapted, has there been any pushback/conflict?
BH: There is pushback with everyone, some people don’t realize that it is pushback. It usually comes in the form of people wanting something that looks like what they are accustomed to seeing. I am guessing because it brings comfort. We typically have less pushback with people who are unchurched or who have been out of church for a while. Usually they find the more personal/organic style to be a relief. I am deeply convicted that I am there to train the parents and the parents are to raise their children, so we do not have a lot of programs where we separate the family. We usually lose a lot of people on that one, because people are looking for churches to give them a break from their kids and their busy life.
LCI: What individuals, leaders, books, or resources have been influential for you?
BH: Jeff Vanderstelt, Darren Patrick, people from local church, Mark Dever big time, Putman’s Real Life Discipleship, J.D. Payne’s book, Missional House Churches, The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall
LCI: Any parting pearls of wisdom for people considering planting missionally or introducing Missional Communities in established churches?
BH: I think over the next few years you will see MC’s as a token name for small groups, but trying to start missional communities and not change anything would be silly. Churches can’t start MC’s all at the church building and expect them to be missional. They are not synonymous with Sunday school. It is hard for MC’s to not just be a name if you are program-driven church, because in order to make them missional you will have to add more missions activities. But if you add more activities you will wear your church out. To those starting missional churches, if you attempt do some amalgamation of a traditional and missional church then you will likely frustrate yourself and confuse people. True missional churches have to go all in, and when you do, the people that stay will be all in also. It is a slow growth model.
To learn more about Vintage Church, click here.