Adopting A Missional Posture

Adopting A Missional Posture

Posture can deal with how one holds their body when standing or sitting. Mind your posture and sit up straight!

It can also refer to the manner in which someone considers or approaches something. So, what should be our posture regarding this issue?

When it comes to applying it as an adjective to missional, it actually takes on nuances of both ideas. 

A missional posture involves physically positioning yourself and approaching life from the perspective of being on mission with God. Let me explain in the following principles of missional posturing.

Recognize and rest in the reality that God is already present and at work.
I thank Henry Blackaby for awakening me to this life-altering reality.  God is always at work around you. In the lives of people you encounter on a regular basis. In your neighborhood. In a people group you’ve been praying for. In your own home. The missional task of making disciples can at times seem daunting. No one is responding. It appears your actions of love go unnoticed.

But the truth is, God went there ahead of you and has been at work in the heart and life and experience of someone. It’s not up to you to get something started. God has already started. Your job is to keep your eyes open for what God is doing. When you see the work of God, you go join him in what he’s doing. That takes the pressure off you. Remember, God is not asking you to do something for him. He is inviting you to let him do something through you.

It’s not your mission to go barging in to make something happen for the kingdom. Go in, watch, and listen for God’s activity. Staying alert for God’s work is a missional posture.

Immerse yourself in the community where God has put you.
I believe it’s important that you connect deeply with the people in the place where you are. I’m always a bit troubled by the idea of living in one neighborhood, working in another city, worshiping in another community, and doing business and enjoying downtime in yet another one. I believe there’s something to be said for living, working, worshiping, shopping, and recreating in one community. 

If God has sent me to a location, then I believe that means he has sent me to the people who are there. It’s not always possible, but as much as possible I think it is a critical part of missional living to be fully immersed in the community where you reside. Become such a fixture in your community that you will be missed if you’re not there. Be a regular at local establishments and businesses. Mingle your life with the life of other community residents. Such immersion is necessary if we are to incarnate the gospel. People have to get to know us, and know us pretty well. And we must get to know them well. That’s where the real impact is. Immersion is a missional posture. 

Do something that keeps you in the path of people.
This principle has to do with your occupation or job. Our mission is to people, so we need to be around people. Your job may naturally keep you around people all the time, so that’s a great start. The issue then becomes doing your work with gospel intentionality. However, your job may be a night shift security guard, and you’re all alone for hours. You’ll have to get around people in other scenarios outside work.

I’m thinking of pastors in particular as I write about this principle. You seclude yourself in your study preparing sermons and Bible studies, maybe going out for some afternoon visits and the occasional meeting. But if you really took stock of how much face time you’re getting with people, especially nonbelievers, it’s pretty slim.

You can do something radical, like earn a living doing something other than vocational ministry (Bi-Vocational or Vocational Missional). Or you could do your sermon prep in public places where you are around other people. It can be the local coffee house or McDonald’s (they have free wifi). Spend more time in the community and not in the study. You are sent to people, so find ways to be among them. Staying in the path of people is posturing yourself missionally.

Where do you see God working around you? Go join him in what he’s doing. What do you need to do to more fully immerse yourself in your community? What changes can you make to get yourself in the path of people on a more regular basis? Begin to posture yourself missionally.


Missional: What It Is and What It Ain’t

Missional: What It Is and What It Ain’t

If you’ve read any of my blog, you’ve encountered the word missional.

I admit, I’ve been writing under the assumption that most of you are familiar with the term, so I’ve not invested many sentences in defining or describing it. However, this post begins with the assumption that you’ve never heard the word missional before and have no clue what it involves. 

In some circles, missional is code for unscriptural ecclesiology. Images of Rob Bell and emergent church theology flash into the minds of others. To others it’s just some new-fangled fad for hipsters who don’t like the way church is supposed to be done. But true missional is none of the above.

You can Google all sorts of definitions of missional, but the one that I’ve settled on is this: Missional is living as people who have been sent by Jesus to make disciples; it’s a reorientation of every area of life around the mission of making disciples.

You might be thinking, “Duh, I know as a believer I should be trying to make disciples. So what’s different about “being missional?”

The key distinctive in missional is in the idea of reorienting every area of your life around making disciples. That means that the mission of disciplemaking is not some add-on to everything else you’re doing. It’s not some optional extracurricular activity you schedule into your week. Missional means your life is centered around living as one who is sent by Jesus into everyday routines and rhythms to bring the good news of Jesus to bear on every relationship and circumstance. Check out this video of Paul Tripp talking about this view of mission. It can mean shifting some things around in your life so you can more intentionally be on mission, or it may just mean doing what you’re already doing, but with gospel intentionality.

Some Christians and churches think they’re being missional when they actually are not. You can’t just tack on the adjective missional to “church,” “small group,” “ministry,” or any other related word and presto!, you’re missional. If you’re doing what you’ve been doing with a tweak here and there and labeling it as missional, you’re still not missional.

A church sending a group to serve at a homeless shelter once a month is a great thing, but it’s not missional.

A small group leading a worship service in an assisted living once a quarter is lovely, but it’s not missional.

A church sending a team for a summer mission trip to Central America for ten days is awesome…but it’s still not missional.

Missional happens in the everyday, not in the every-once-in-awhile. 

Now, if that church group reorients their lives to serving the homeless as part of their normal weekly rhythms, even some of them daring to relocate closer to where the homeless are, some members providing skills training, others leading a regular worship gathering, making prayer and gospel conversations a regular occurrence with the homeless, then that would be a missional thing.

Maybe that small group could adopt some of the assisted living residents who have no local family as grandparents. They could participate in weekly activities at the facility and volunteer on a regular basis. They could build relationships with the staff, particularly the caregiving staff (aides) in the facility and bless them by praying for them and showing appreciation for their work. The small group could coordinate with the facility to plan special events through the year. All this plus do a regular worship service for the residents. This is missional.

The group that takes the occasional annual mission trip could find a local migrant population they can begin to love on. Some in the group could attempt to learn their language. Host some events like a dinner where people make their favorite dishes from their home country. Provide resources to help them find jobs, help in getting a place to live, or filling out paperwork. Those with kids could meet parents in a park and have conversation while their kids play. Sounds missional to me.

Are you getting the idea? Do you see the distinction between just doing a ministry activity and living missionally? Missional living requires a reorientation, sometimes a radical reorientation, to join God on his mission among a people to make disciples. At the very least, missional is doing what you normally do, but with gospel intentionality. It is seeing all of your life as mission. 

Another distinction that shows up in missional living is the frequency of contact and depth of relationship that occurs. It’s going from once a month, once a quarter, or once a year to practically everyday. It may not literally be every day, but it will work out to being more than once a week. Your lives and those you’re pouring into are rubbing together, being weaved together. Relationships become more like family. This happens not only with the people you’re loving and serving with the gospel, but with one another as you serve on mission together. And it’s a beautiful thing.

So, think about something you’re doing now as an act of ministry. How can you turn that from an occasional action into a missional lifestyle? What changes, if any, might you need to make in order to create margin (extra time/resources) so it can happen? How would you need to reorient your life in order to join God in his mission to that group of people, that neighborhood, that school, that population/segment of society? Now, the big question. Will you?

Speaking the Gospel

Speaking the Gospel

Do you speak gospel?

What, you mean like, do I speak French?

Well, yeah, kinda like that. Speaking the gospel does have some similarities to speaking a language. 

Speaking the gospel has to do with communicating with others in terms of the good news of God’s work through Jesus on our behalf. It has to do with pushing everything you say through the grid of the gospel. It means the good news of Jesus is so pervasive and saturating in your life, that it infuses your normal daily conversation very naturally. Believers must become much more fluent in speaking the gospel to ourselves, one another, and to the world.

So, here are several ways that we can speak the gospel…

Laying out the complete message of salvation. Typically, this is what is referred to as sharing or presenting the gospel. It entails making the case of our sinfulness, our need for a savior, what God did through Jesus, and then inviting the person to respond. This is how many believers were trained to speak the gospel, or witness, win souls, evangelize, or other such related terminology. And, in some circles, this method is perceived as the only real way to share the gospel. A pitfall is that many believers experience guilt, because they feel inadequate to share the gospel this way, so they leave it to the “professionals.” Thankfully, this is not the only way to speak the gospel.

Giving counsel and correction to a fellow believer. Many are under the impression that the gospel is primarily or only for conversion of unbelievers to faith in Jesus. The gospel is for believers, too. For some reason, we think the gospel has more to do with our eternal destination than with our temporal situation. We never move past our need for the good news being applied to our lives on a daily basis. When a fellow believer is describing a problem they’re dealing with, you need to be able to apply the gospel, not give them advice or your opinion, concerning the issue. If a fellow believer is complaining or griping about something, you can lovingly confront them with the gospel, by reminding them that Jesus is sufficient to handle it, and that they need to look to Jesus rather than the source of their complaint for right belief and behavior.

Giving God credit. When people compliment you or applaud your behavior, it’s so easy to just take the credit. You say something like, “Well, that’s just how I was raised,” or “I just think people should be nice and do what’s right.” Instead, deflect the praise and applause and point to God and his grace as the sole reason you did what you did. If someone compliments you on your generous spirit in helping someone else, you could say something like, “Look, God has been so generous to me in giving me forgiveness and providing so amazingly for my every need, I just want to share that generosity with others.” Simple, no fuss, God gets the credit, and you’ve spoken gospel truth into an opportunity.

Giving an explanation for why you behave the way you do or respond the way you do. When people ask you how you can react the way you do to adverse or challenging circumstances, you need to instinctively point to Jesus. This is being ready with an answer when someone asks you for the reason for your hope. You speak the gospel by explaining how Jesus has changed your heart or mind about things. You speak the gospel by clarifying that your hope, trust, and dependence are centered in Jesus.

Preaching the gospel to yourself. You need to be able to remind yourself of the truth of the good news daily. When you hit an obstacle in your day and you react in the flesh, you must be able to stop and say to yourself, “Now hold on. What am I not believing about the gospel in this moment? What truth about God am I forgetting or refusing to acknowledge right now? What is true about me because of Jesus, and I’m failing to live up to that truth right now?” The Holy Spirit is so faithful to call you out when you react in a way that is not in line with the gospel. You have to be postured so you can readily hear the Spirit, repent of wrong responses, and then believe gospel truth afresh.

Every opportunity to speak the gospel is not going to be a full blown presentation leading to an invitation to follow Jesus. Because we’ve been programmed to present the gospel this way, we can easily overlook all the other opportunities to speak the gospel. The chance to fully present the gospel in a long conversation comes along only every once in awhile. But those other opportunities are popping up every single day! 

So learn to speak the gospel into every situation. If you are faithful to do this, it can more easily lead to a longer conversation about the good news of Jesus. 

A Relevant Gospel

A Relevant Gospel

What is your definition of the gospel? How would you describe the gospel to someone asking what it is? Think through your answer before reading on.

Most who are familiar with the term may include ideas like the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in their description. Some would add that the gospel means forgiveness of sin, being made right with God, and having an eternal home in heaven with God. Others would include the concepts of being given the gift of eternal life, being made righteous, being made a new creation. Still more would say something about the Holy Spirit taking up residence in the new believer.

Put all those things together, and you have a good description of the gospel. And if that is everything the gospel is, that’s an awesome thing. But that’s not all there is to the gospel. There is more. So, so much more.

Think of the gospel like a gift. It is a gift, an act of grace from God, no question. But I mean think of it maybe as a birthday gift. Imagine receiving that one thing that your heart has most desired. You are elated beyond words. You feel as though you couldn’t be any happier or ever want anything else. Your desire has been more than satisfied. But you’re not done with the gift-receiving yet.

You receive something else. Maybe it was on your gift wish list, but a little further down. But you find yourself astounded at having received it. You didn’t specifically ask for it, but got it anyway, and you are more thrilled with the gift than you expected. But you’re still not done.

Someone gives you another gift, maybe later, that wasn’t even on your list. And it’s an amazing and thoughtful gift. You think, how could I have not known about how awesome this gift is? I didn’t even know that I would ever need or desire such a gift.” It’s like the giver anticipated what you would need or desire and gave it ahead of your need or desire. And you’re still not done…

That’s how the gospel works. You receive forgiveness of sin, removal of guilt, a right standing with God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the assurance of heaven when you first open the gift of the gospel. But then God keeps giving. And giving. And it keeps getting better and better. 

You see, people typically think of the gospel as good news for dealing with their past sin and for securing their future hope. And the gospel has done exactly that, praise be to our God! But they miss the good news that the gospel is for their present. It’s good news for your everyday here in the present. This is why the good news is so good! The gospel provides me everything I need for the everyday struggles, strifes, and stresses. 

It gives me answers for the questions I face, 
Solutions for the problems that arise, 
It gives me reason for praise, 
Gives me comfort, 
Fills me with confidence, 
Changes my perspective, 
Tenderizes my heart, 
Reminds me who God is, 
Reminds me who I am and whose I am,
Establishes my witness for Jesus,
Gives me something worth speaking into someone’s life,
And the power to speak it.

The problem is that too many followers of Jesus are not seeing the gospel as relevant for the day to day stuff. They know their past and future are handled, but they live as though they figure it’s up to them to do their best with the time between.

Listen, if the gospel is powerful enough to break you free from your past, don’t you think it’s powerful enough to enable you to live in the present? If the gospel is so reaching in its scope that it secures your eternal future, why would you not rely on it for life today? Or don’t you know that by the gospel, eternal life has already begun for you? The gospel tells us Jesus has saved us, that he will save us, but also that he is saving us. 

Every single day of your life you get to live in the light of this good, good news. His mercies are new each day. This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it! Today is the day of salvation. 

The gospel is relevant to whatever is going on in your life today, right now. It may be a lovely thing, it may be a horrific thing, it may be a depressing thing, or it may be a routine thing. Whatever it is, ask the Holy Spirit to show you how the gospel speaks to that thing today. Ask him to help you see how the good news of Jesus addresses this moment, this day.

Life in the Kingdom

Life in the Kingdom

I hate to be late to the movies.

If I’m late I’ll miss one of my favorite parts of the movie-going experience: the trailers of upcoming films.

Movie trailers give you a customized tease to entice you to come and see the full movie. Trailers are splices of some of the most action-packed, most dramatic, or some of the funniest lines in the film. When the trailer ends, you’ll hear other movie-goers sitting near you say, “I’m going to see that movie!” The trailer has done its job.

The church is to be like a movie trailer. By our life in community and on mission we should be giving an accurate tease of what life in the kingdom of God has to offer. We should be giving people a foretaste of what is in store when God sets all things right.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (NIV). Seeking God’s kingdom does not mean searching for it as for something hidden or elusive. Jesus made it clear that the kingdom was here, now. Seeking means to intentionally strive to live daily life with the kingdom of God at the center of your priorities. This means that when it comes to how the church is to display and declare the glory of God through the gospel, we must start with the kingdom of God, the future reality that is still to come. It’s the now, and the not yet. We must display the “not yet” right “now.”

So, the church needs to ask two questions. One, what will it look like when all is restored as God originally intended? From God’s Word, we get images and descriptions of what that restoration will look like. No more sickness, pain, or death. No more loneliness and broken relationships. No more hunger. Perfect rest and peace. Freedom from fear, rejection, and hatred. I can hardly wait!

The second question we must ask then is, how can we give people a taste now of that future reality? After all, the church, or a missional community, is to be a living picture of what life in the kingdom looks like. We live and operate as an alternative culture to the prevailing culture around us. This question forces us to get really practical with what it means to be on mission with God.

In light of the first question, let’s work through some real life answers to the second.

Future Kingdom Reality: No sickness, pain, or death
Present Kingdom Trailer: Provide for the medical care of a family in need, helping with medical bills or money for medications. Participate in a local medical clinic. Donate medical supplies for a local agency.

Future Kingdom Reality: No loneliness or broken relationships
Present Kingdom Trailer: Regularly include single parents, widows, or widowers in family meals. Visit people who have no local family. Open your home for someone to live with you for a time. Provide life on life discipling to model healthy relationship.

Future Kingdom Reality: No more hunger
Present Kingdom Trailer: Share meals regularly with others. Donate food to needy families. Provide snacks for kids after school, or the local Boys Club, or YMCA.

Future Kingdom Reality: Rest and peace
Present Kingdom Trailer: Watch someone’s kids while they go on a date night. Sit with someone’s aging parent while they take a break. Take over a project when the person trying to finish it gets overwhelmed.

Future Kingdom Reality: Freedom from fear, rejection, and hatred
Present Kingdom Trailer: Invite and include all into the life of the family; your discussions, worship, meals, and your serving. Make your homes welcoming places of safety and acceptance, displaying how God accepts us.

All these actions and demonstrations are awesome, but if they don’t point to Jesus and if we don’t give a gospel explanation for why we’re doing them, they’re just kind deeds. Remember, our goal is to help people get a foretaste of what the kingdom of God holds in store and whet their appetite for it. Taste and see that the Lord is good! Always be ready to give the true reason for the hope we put on display by our good deeds.

What specific actions can your missional community or church take to make people want to see the movie?

Mid-South Missional: Featuring Vintage Church, Horn Lake, Mississippi

Mid-South Missional: Featuring Vintage Church, Horn Lake, Mississippi

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.

Mid-South Missional: Featuring Missio Dei Church, Memphis

Mid-South Missional: Featuring Missio Dei Church, Memphis

This is the first 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 Mission Dei and pastor Shaun Payne…

LCI: So Shaun, tell me a little about yourself.

SP: My name is Shaun Payne, I am married to Tracy Payne and together we have three daughters, Bella, Kylee, and Addie. I was born in Keflavik Iceland into a military family. My parents divorced when I was only 3 months old. My mother remarried to a man in the Army and we traveled the United States and were able to live in Okinawa Japan for 3 years. I came back to live with my dad in Memphis in the 7th grade and I have been living in Memphis ever since. My family and I love Memphis. We love to explore and continue learning about the city from the history to the present with great hopes and dreams for the future.

LCI: What about your church background and past experiences with church?

SP: I had no interaction with the church growing up with the exception of the influence of my godly grandmother (Mammaw) Ruby, a small yet powerful indian (Native American). I hated Christians, churches, and pastors until my conversion. I used to sell drugs and drink with “Christians” often who would leave the parties early because they had to go to church. Never about Christ, never any life, always judgment, hypocrisy, and religion.

LCI: Tell me about your current church.

SP: At the time of graduation from seminary, I believed God was calling us to plant a church in Las Vegas, It was on the flight home after visiting Las Vegas that God began convicting me of something else altogether. I was studying and teaching through the book of Jonah at the time, and the Spirit worked through his word to reveal I had become careless toward the people of my city. I hated them, and in some sense, like Jonah, I was waiting on the hill to see what would become of them. Through a few interactions with scripture and as I began and finished the book Prodigal God by Tim Keller, I was convicted of my hatred of the people God had revealed I was to give my life to. 

After a few weeks of praying and fighting with God because I longed to go to Las Vegas, I submitted to give my life to Memphis. I began to see why God loved her, I began to see the older brother as worth inviting to the party, and I began to see the younger brother in the city, and I saw the love of the Father. The Spirit worked in me to reveal his love and further convince me of the truth of the gospel, shaping the overly religious city that was in large part gospeless. Lots of churches, lots of “Christians”, lots of religion, but few disciples living in the power of the Holy Spirit who were sent to make Jesus known and his kingdom visible in everyday life. No gospel. No care for others, no passion and zeal, complacency, mediocrity, and religion had largely ruined the church in the city. We began with a dream of a church that really lived in the everyday with a vibrant faith working in the power of the Spirit and living out the truth of the gospel. 

One day under conviction, I quit my job at the church where I was on staff, and left the office, called my wife and told her we were planting a church (This did not go well haha). After hanging up with her my pastor at the time called and graciously offered to help us. We began with a few people who desired to help us make the dream a reality. In August of 2008 I began talking with White Station Baptist church in East Memphis, after preaching there twice for a friend. I initially submitted to an interview that I deliberately attempted to blow. I asked three questions of them: what is your church government (structure), what is your church theology, and how do you budget your money. I submitted a plan to them to replant the church. 

After six months of meetings and conversations, on December 6, 2009, I was voted in as the fourth and final pastor/replanter of WSBC Memphis. That was Sunday, and we introduced new values of gospel, community, and mission by Wednesday. We replanted into Missio Dei Church September 9, 2012. With a new vision, mission, values, and name, only five people remained from the orginal seventy. The first year and half were by far the hardest. I was asked to resign three times and the entire leadership team stepped down during the first year. 

LCI: How did you first learn of the missional conversation?

SP: I read a book that would blow my mind and enhance my understanding of the church called Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. That first year we asked the entire church to work through this book. It challenged the culture of the people I had been called to serve. I was invited to a micro conference with Jeff Vanferstelt, Dhati Lewis, and Michael Stewart in 2010. I have learned and led in Porterbrook Network here in Memphis. We have read a ton on fleshing out this paradigm among the dechurched and unchurched. We have also learned so much from Jeff V and Dhati L and their team over the years.

LCI: How did the missional approach impact your ministry philosophy, ecclesiology, or missiology?

SP: Missional living is what the church is tasked to do with their everyday life. Community offers the beauty of seeing this as a big picture. We live in the midst of the truth of Jesus by his gospel (life, death, resurrection, ascension and return). Our philosophy of ministry is largely shaped around a gospel-centered community that lives a life together shaping one another with the truth and practice of living as sent people that all might know Jesus. We have people (saved and lost) constantly around us who are learning through the normal everyday experience how the gospel challenges and offers the way of life. It is complicated and messy, but beautiful. Our mission is clearly evidenced in how we do life.

LCI: What have you observed in utilizing a more missional approach among people in your context?

SP: Memphis is both religious and irreligious, so you have to learn when and how to approach each group. Often you’re dealing with both groups at the same time. It is slow, it is hard, but it is worth the work involved. It is learning and teaching, it is faith and practice, it is dark and beautiful, it is learning to be transparent, vulnerable, and open and trusting in Jesus beyond your comfort. Religion and irreligion always push back. People will offer justification and will point to something other than Christ and his gospel. I think replanting is more challenging because of the baggage of religion and ideas that must be confronted but are often difficult to relearn.

LCI: What individuals, leaders, books, or resources have been influential for you?

SP: Soma- Jeff Vanderstelt, 3dM- Mike Breen, BluePrint Church- Dhati Lewis, Tim Keller-all his books, Joe Thorn, Steve Timmis and Tim Chester;;;

LCI: Any parting pearls of wisdom for people considering planting missionally or introducing Missional Communities in established churches?

SP: I think you have to be strong and patient yet move with the Spirit in his wisdom. Some say I moved too fast and others think I did not do the work correctly. I have been with the church through pain and beauty. I have seen the beauty arise from the ashes. I have been there almost eight years. It is worth it to me to see the people God has saved, people changing and engaging their family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and even their enemies with the gospel out of love, making Jesus known and his kingdom visible through their normal ordinary everyday life for his glory.

Keep learning the gospel, keep studying and do not be distracted from the task. Keep believing and follow Jesus yourself. Pray more than you think you should. Learn and teach what you are learning with every one. Get out of the office and do work in the field. Proclaim the gospel as you go where you are and by the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. Be humble and walk in the Spirit (keep in step with him). Give people an example of what you are teaching and show them how to do it. Ask questions and allow the Spirit to teach. He loves us more than we believe and he is a better teacher than we believe.

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