After launching ChurchRelevance.com in March 2006, I have increasingly been given opportunities to (1) work on significant projects, (2) talk ideas with key influencers, and (3) be exposed to an unusually vast global mosaic of theology, cultures, and ministry methodology. It has messed me up in a good way.
As the projects, conversations, and exposure to ideas increased, my personal evolution also accelerated. Open Church is a byproduct of it, but this pre-launch phase of Open Church also fast-tracked my reshaping and exposure to what’s been life-changing perspectives on the local Church, global Church, and biblical ministry. I have been trying to learn from the opposite ends of the church spectrum. Each niche has their flaws, but each also has strengths in how they view Scripture.
The more I study Scripture and the gospel from a multicultural, multi-theological, and multi-denominational perspective, the more I get a well-rounded understanding of what is truly biblical and what is cultural.
This learning process has had 3 byproducts so far:
- The concept of Open Church.
- Upcoming new direction for Church Relevance.
- I’m moving and changing my lifestyle.
#1 – Open Church
The first idea that sparked part of Open Church came in 2007 as I began talking ideas with LifeChurch.tv (Edmond, OK) about OPEN and other global initiatives. By 2010, I was regularly working with LifeChurch.tv but also spent time with Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA) on a global initiative and traveled to Kenya with Compassion International on a blogger trip. These experiences combined with what I learned as a missionaries’ kid in Peru and was learning more recently all meshed together to become the blueprint for Open Church.
I wanted and tried to get someone else to do Open Church, but by fall 2010, the burden was too heavy and God’s leading too clear that I needed to start it. So with LifeChurch.tv’s blessing, I began laying the groundwork.
Laying the groundwork is still in progress. After fundraising challenges and botched web development last fall, we spent this spring and summer restructuring workflow and overhead, launching lite beta of the articles section, and taking on consulting projects to fund the final phase of launching. I’ve restructured my life to be able to weekly push hard on the rest of it this fall. I am excited but laying the groundwork has been much longer than expected.
# 2 – A New Direction for Church Relevance
I have learned and changed too much to not make a significant change in the flavor of Church Relevance as well. When I first began, I was trained in attractional gigachurch methods and raised with Charismatic, Baptist, Methodist, and Vineyard influences.
Now I no longer know how to describe myself. I am currently part of a missional organic community that is a potluck of theology and also part of an urban multisite, Charismatic Reformed soon-to-be megachurch. Online I find myself loving ministry discussions with people from backgrounds I was incredibly apprehensive of just 5 years ago.
I haven’t written much original content since 2008, but I have been listening, thinking, and taking lots of notes. I intend to regularly write about the concepts I am thinking through. Some will be polished. Some will not. It may or may not seem different to you, but I hope you stay for the journey.
# 3 – I’m moving and changing my lifestyle.
If you follow my wife’s blog, then you heard we are moving to a rougher neighborhood. In April, we started spending time with a missional community of Christians called the Refuge that has been the best example of Acts 2 community that I have seen or experienced. I am quickly learning more and more of similar pockets of Christians around the world.
I’ll blog more about the Refuge soon, but it is basically an immersive lifestyle of Christian singles, young married couples, and families living together in biblical community and building relationships with their neighbors that are often homeless, in gangs, have addictions, or are involved in prostitution. After much prayer and clarity, we are moving there.
It depends on the day as to if it feels like we are taking a step or a leap of faith, but it has been a long time coming for what I know God wants for us. I started sensing a need for drastic changes in fall 2007. It started out very slowly for the first few years. I was tired of blogging and talking about biblical ideals when my lifestyle and fruit resembled very little of how the Bible models Christianity.
Stuff was holding us back in a variety of ways from being agile and ministering more biblically. And the comfortable suburban, Evangelical lifestyle was desensitizing me from living out the gospel as I knew I should yet never did. I used bad theology to make convenient excuses to justify my lifestyle. I was using complex yet comfortable systems to try to replace the simple yet uncomfortable mandates of Christ.
It feels like a big shift for us to move. And quite a few people have used words like bold, awesome, wow, and astounding to describe it. But all moving does is increases my probability of living more biblically. I still run the risk of not making time to love people and be selfless. I still risk just relocating my comfortable lifestyle to a new house, as I did a year ago when we moved from the suburbs to midtown. This time we will have close community with other Christians a few houses away that will help keep us accountable.
It feels similar to what Francis Chan shared at Catlayst Atlanta 2010 – if you inserted what my family is doing into the book of Acts, it would not stand out as astounding compared to the other stories. I also realize that each person’s journey is different and defaulting to a formula is like a Pharisee. Rather than doing something extreme, I feel like our transition will probably be closer to on par with the rest of global Christianity.
Since March 2010, I have been broken and thought often about meeting Eliud Otieno from the slums of Mathare. He lives is in one of the world’s worst slums surrounded by extreme depravity yet is an incredible example of salt and light.
Prayers are appreciated.