December 6, 2017

Mission Developers as Mad Scientists

Photo by Trust "Tru" Katsande on Unsplash
Yesterday, we launched two cohorts meeting online to learn about starting missional communities. After the session that met at noon, I began thinking about the process of starting missional communities and the need for those developing such communities to behave a little like ... mad scientists!

Developing a missional community requires curiosity and discernment. We want to curiously seek out and discern what God is up to in the world. This requires that we act a little like scientists–okay, maybe not mad scientists but nonetheless scientists; seeking out and testing ideas.

A scientist is bound to the scientific method; you ask a question, collect information, establish a hypothesis and then conduct experiments to determine whether or not your hypothesis was right. If it doesn’t work, you go back and collect more information and try again. If it does work, you move forward. Similarly, missional communities do not develop without experimentation.

To begin, clarify what your missional hypothesis is; what kind of community do you envision? Where will it be? Who will participate? What are the values and beliefs you feel to be important?

From there, you will need to consider who you need to discuss your missional hypothesis with. Share your interest with your head of congregation. Discuss with leaders in the neighborhood you hope to start in. Invite the participation of those who have gifts and abilities you will need for this effort. You then begin to test your hypothesis with missional experiments that will help you collect data. Prayer walks, interviews, and asset mapping help you check your assumptions. Through these experiments if you discover that things are not working—which will be most obvious by whether or not those in the neighborhood do not participate, than debrief with your leaders and attempt a new experiment.

If your experiment is gaining traction it is still important to consider what future challenges you might face. Will you have expenses you are unprepared for? Is there appropriate space for the people you are gathering? Be clear about what success will mean in each stage. List the outcomes you and the other leaders hope for. What will spiritual, relational and missional health of this group look like?

Here's a diagram I came up with to describe this. Is this helpful? Let me know.
Download a .pdf of this.

December 4, 2017

My Latest Newsletter Went Out

My newsletter just went out again. You missed it this time. But you can subscribe here and get it next time it goes out. It's where I share the stuff I am working on; news about my podcast, what I'm doing at work, music I'm listening to, books I'm reading, etc. All in one place. In your inbox.

I hope you subscribe!

November 29, 2017


Not long after moving to Houston, we attempted to start a new missional community. It flopped. There a variety of reasons why. The point of knowing these reasons why are not to crush my spirit or convince me I'm not good at this. Rather, it's worth reflecting on what those reasons are so that I can learn from them and try again.

Failure does not have to be defeat on the battlefield of life.

Failure can be lessons in the classroom of life.

Failure is inevitable. The question is what you do with it. Will you learn from it and try again?

I will.

If you're interested in starting missional communities, I have an online workshop starting next week that has only a small number of spots left in the evening workshop. Sign up here.

November 27, 2017


Fernando Reyes on Unsplash
NOTE: I wrote this a few years ago for another website. If you follow my wife Brooke on Instagram, you may have noticed that we are tinkering with the idea of selling our house. We aren't leaving Houston, just wanting something smaller. We are also entering year two in Houston. If you are planning on moving your family to another part of the country, or world, know that year two is often the hardest in a transition. Now that we know this, we are bracing ourselves for that. Here is a reflection on year two of our move to DC a few years ago ...

Over two years ago, my family and I moved across country. After living a lifetime in one city, we found ourselves in a new city and all that comes with that: a new house, new schools, new workplaces, new relationships. The day we began our move, we were each so thrilled by the adventure! The idea of newness was enlivening. It was as if life went from standard definition to high definition.

Our first year in our new home was incredible. The distinct geography was thrilling to discover. Seasonal differences were fascinating to experience for the first time. Meeting interesting people and making new friends was fun! It was quite literally 52 weeks of constant discovery. And it was breathtaking.

Our second year in our new home was difficult. Each of us began to feel the loss of all that had been known so well. Familiar challenges in life no longer had their corresponding familiar comforts. The embrace of a friend who knows your story deeply. The foods that feed the soul as much as the belly. The well-worn scenic walks and drives that provided time for talking or thinking through life’s difficulties were no longer accessible. A community whose prayers and laughter, tears and sweat had shaped your life? Out of reach. We were a large family in a bustling city and yet the word “alone” didn’t quite describe the sense of isolation we began to feel.

We longed for home.

But what is home?

Is “home” defined by a place or people? Is it familiarity or permanence?

It may seem like a petty question to some. In a world with so many grand concerns, am I really going to wax philosophical about the domicile? Yes, I am.

November 25, 2017

Simple v. Easy

Church leaders, as all leaders do, are known for simplifying tasks, opportunities and challenges. I do this all the time and I've watched as people roll their eyes, mumble to the person next to them or listened to the brave one's that approach me after a meeting to say that something is not as simple as I made it sound.

I empathize with the annoyance and frustration of individuals that express this. But I typically stick to my conviction about the simplicity of a problem or possibility. You see, there is a difference between simple and easy. Those that don't like the simple answer confuse simple and easy. Just because something is simple does not make it easy.

For example, a simple solution to the challenge many congregations face in church attendance is invitation. If church members would make a regular practice of inviting those they love and care about to join them at church, more people would attend. Yet this is perceived as hard to do, awkward, embarrassing, not politically correct ... name your excuse. It's not easy. It's hard to do for many that have never made it a habit. But the solution is simple.

The hard work will be in overcoming bad habits and in learning new habits. In learning from mistakes and, yes, embarrassment. In having the hard conversations about church life that new members bring about. That is the hard work. But it's not complicated. It's simple, not easy.

When you hear a leader offer solutions that seem simple, ask yourself if your opposition is to the difficulty or the complexity.