So your church Christ Church, is in Ft Wayne, IN. Tell us a little about Fort Wayne.
Well Ft. Wayne is a pretty blue collar place. It’s fairly traditional and politically conservative. It’s pretty common to see Fox News on the television when you’re going from place to place. It’s very family oriented. I’d say 98% of people I talk to are there because they are living close to family or have moved there because it’s a great place to raise kids. A lot of people went off to college and moved back. It actually has a really strong history of innovation. The television tube was invented here as well as the first pocket calculator. It’s also the birthplace of the NBA. So despite having a somewhat conservative base, it also has this intermingled history of innovation.
Talk to us about when your started planting and your process for starting.
We started with an alternative service or satellite campus in December of 2007. It started in our living room. Slowly, over time, it morphed into an official church plant, having its own entity apart from another church, which really came to fruition between September of 2009 and January of 2010.
Obviously the focus of this blog is more towards the missional church and looking at different church structures. What is the structure of your church? What would the average month look like?
Well, we’ve taken what was a weekly worship service and turned it into a Missional Community (group of 20-50 people on mission together). So now, we have 2 worship services each month, which are pretty “standard” services. We then have a community meal once a month with some worship elements in it. Then one of the weekends we have a day “out” where we engage in practical ways of serving the community. So currently, that’s how we structure our weekends. We also have Huddles going, which are our vehicle for discipling people every-other week. What we’ve done for the summer is have a kind of “Taster” Huddle, a chance for people to experience what it is and we’ll start our first “official” Huddles in the Fall. We really see these Huddles as being our main engine for discipleship and leadership development.
I think 8 family units will form our first official Huddle that we’d like to see develop leaders to begin several MCs through that development and investment. Before Christmas I’m hoping and praying we’ll be able to multiply into 2-3 MCs that are networked together and gather for two worship services a month. But we’ll see. Sometimes it takes longer than I’m thinking. But we are really trying to structure ourselves for multiplication.
So as you think about the last 12 months of planting, what do you think worked really well?
- Huddles have really worked for us. I think that was our biggest breakthrough and win for us. We’re starting to see people become like Jesus. I’m not sure we knew how to make disciples before and we are really seeing it happen now.
- I think another thing was not being shy about asking people for commitment. When we look at the people who have grown the most, the people who committed the most also grew the most. I was naturally sheepish about it at first, but it really seems to have worked. We have 8 very specific things we asked people to commit to, it was a really high bar.
- We educated people on the regular practices that will help shape and form us for God’s mission. We did it on an individual level, but specifically in our worship services by developing a pretty powerful liturgy. I’d also add that this liturgy has worked even better when it’s been in conjunction with discipleship process and engaging in mission.
In the last 12 months, what hasn’t worked?
- In the beginning the leadership was really weighted too much towards consensus. I think we overreacted to authoritarian forms of leadership we saw. We weighted it so far in that direction that we often waited to see vision come from the “community” as a whole and it never really did. I’m not ready to say that it never can…but I may be close. We just kept waiting for everyone to be on board and on the same page and I think we got to a place where someone with vision had to lead and move forward and take people on that journey and then let people see it and get on board.
- At first we socially engineered our MCs. We looked at a map and said, “Hey, you know what? You guys all live really close together. Why don’t you start an MC?!” It never quite worked.
What is one failure you experienced and what did you learn from it?
Again, it relates to socially engineering our MCs. Our first iteration of Missional Communities were me more or less saying, “Hey guys, I heard about these things called MCs. They sound pretty awesome. Why don’t we split into two groups, each being an MC, and this could be your mission. Now go lead them!” But they had never seen one or had led or experienced it. When we decided to come back together and have a time where we modeled MC life together for the late spring and summer, one MC breathed a collective sigh of relief. But the other had developed some neat relationships and we asked them to pause so we could really build a foundation of discipleship through Huddle. Then, out of that, we’d launch MCs when leaders had a vision they felt God was giving them.
Ok. Let’s imagine it’s 365 days from now. What needs to be different in your community?
Better developed and equipped leaders. We’re starting to see the first of that in our Huddles, but we need more of it. I’d also like to see the ownership of the vision more widely distributed through the community.
What is the biggest thing God has been teaching you in the past year?
If I had to break it down, it would be this: “Faithfulness to what God is telling me to do is more important than everyone being happy or having everyone like me.”
So let’s think 5 years into the future. What does Christ Church look like? What’s happened?
Well, we want to keep making disciples who make disciples, multiplying MCs into all kinds of neighborhoods and relational networks in Fort Wayne… and see where God takes us. I think it will be a lot like the book of Acts where the Apostles are hearing about things happening in Samaria or Antioch, not because they’ve sent people there specifically, but because people have gone and started something because they are missional disciples. I really believe that can happen for us here in Fort Wayne.
These interviews were originally published on Doug Paul’s blog:http://3dchurchplanter.wordpress.com/