In our last post we began looking at the formation of church planting teams from a perspective of the beloved Fellowship of the Ring. We explored the common mistakes church planting teams make, and we looked at the Early Church to see how she became established in the surroundings of her time. If you missed it, feel free to check it out, as it will help establish a more sound framework for the praxis we’ll be getting into in this post. But if you’re short on time at the moment, this article should stand alone in its practicality. With that said, let’s dive in to four tangible tips that will help you as you form church planting teams.
1. Make Promises to a Place
We need to move beyond idealized personal vocations that cause us to chase our dream job wherever the opportunity appears. Our faithfulness to location matters. We’re not in a promise-keeping culture, so commitment sounds alien and potentially cultic. Yet God’s dwelling is tied to the neighborhoods we live in, the homes we eat in, and the parks that we play in. When you are gathering a cluster of people to live as the People of God, do not be afraid to ask for a commitment to a neighborhood. Inhabit the relational ecosystem of your neighborhood and listen. There is a labyrinth of life and culture. Our neighborhood invites us to gain eyes of faith for holy interruptions and sustainable habits. Loving your neighbor is more than a lofty platitude.[Tweet “Our neighborhood invites us to gain eyes of faith for holy interruptions and sustainable habits.”]
2. Make Commitments to Rhythms
Love is a rugged commitment to be with and for each other. Many live their lives with a strong dose of individualistic-ADHD and randomly lived values, transitioning to whichever next shiny opportunity happens to distract them. We cannot be fueled by inspiration, as inspiration comes and goes. We must be fueled by faithful love, which reflects God’s relentless faithfulness to us. Discover a rhythm of life together that roots your team in practices of discipleship, mission, and community. I’m a minimalist, believing that the power is in the essentials not the luxuries. From that perspective I ask, “What are the essential patterns we must cultivate that foster a vibrant life together in the world?” Discuss these rhythms, work to declutter your lives, craft daily, weekly, monthly & yearly patterns, and collectively work towards living into them. The goal is not to reach some level of self-congratulation, but to partnership towards growing something beautiful in your midst.[Tweet “Love is a rugged commitment to be with and for each other. @danwhitejr”]
3. Make the Table Central
The Lord’s Table (Eucharist) is our banner reminder of who we are to God, who we are to each other, and who we are in the world. We rally around this living feast because of how forgetful we are; we need a pattern of remembering. We need to tell each other with symbols and sacrament that we are loved, that we belong to God, and that we are sent on a cruciform mission. This Table marks us, humbles us, and fills our souls back up. From the Lord’s Table flows a secondary table into our lives–a common table. This common table is a coming together to feast, share our food, linger and laugh, share our highs and lows, and make space for strangers in our lives. Here kids play among us, tears flow when it’s been a hard day, and warm hugs are offered liberally. Our social muscles are shaped together as we learn to welcome each other, forgive each other, and bear each other’s burdens. The schedule of our lives will resist this table-pattern, but it might be the most supernatural work we do in molding church planting teams.[Hear professor and theologian David Fitch teach on the centrality of the Table (cf. A Missional Element to the Elements).]
4. Make a Theological Frame
I believe the first year of church planting is where the DNA is set into the wet cement of a community. While it is wet, do some heavy theological lifting. Don’t assume your burgeoning team has the same theological frame. Don’t assume that because you’ve read some of the same books or peruse the same blogs that you will have the same impetus for being authentically Christian. What is the Gospel? What is the work of the Kingdom? What is the Story of God? What does it mean to be a disciple? What is the Lordship of Jesus? What is Incarnation? What is the ethos of the Early Church movement? What is the priesthood of believers? etc. Don’t cultivate a teaching environment driven by hot-topics and current issues. This builds a fragile frame and a foundation constructed on antagonism. Rebuild a thick theological framework for being human in community and in God’s world, sent into brokenness in the wake of King Jesus. Certainly, deconstruct some sacred cows and make space for conversation, but pull out the 2X4s, the hammer and nails, and put together a new house to breathe and dwell in, one that can support the work of praxis. In this progression you will have differences appear that will lead to conflict. Don’t be afraid to squeeze to the surface the various ways we understand God, the Scriptures, and weekly practices. Explore your differences. If you don’t, they will haunt you later.
Forming a missional leadership team can feel counterintuitive to some best practices from leadership gurus. In my own church planting practice I’ve found it is only in the space of Oikos that our true selves are excavated and the floor is cleared for the maturing of a Fellowship of the Ring. [Tweet “Leadership is about what kind of life we’re willing to live with others and for others.”]
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