In Matthew 13:33, Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like leaven worked into flour that raises the whole batch. No one notices leaven but it somehow it infiltrates and raises an entire lump of dough. Jesus says that’s one picture of what the Kingdom of God is like. It is simple and understated. In works its way into every corner and affects the whole thing. It is subtle but powerful. That’s what church feels like for me these days. This (the first picture) is what church looks like for us. We were meeting for church in a student’s (tiny) apartment.
Church isn’t what happens in most college apartment complexes. I’d love to see that change.
Our student host told us that when she washes dishes, she prayed over this view in the picture above. She has a desire to have a church start out of the harvest in this complex.
Survival is one thing, but reaching a city is quite another. When it comes to missional effectiveness, our model is just too expensive. The math is there for any who would have the courage to push the buttons on the calculator.
I repeat often: We must lower the bar of how we do church and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple if we want to reach this world with the good news. We need to be about the reproduction of healthy disciples, leaders, churches and movements––in that order. I am not suggesting we shut down churches or sell off all our property. I am suggesting we invest more energy and attention to simpler and more profound opportunities all around us. We cannot focus on complex and expensive systems and try and reproduce them if we do not first reproduce the simple and more basic entities first. If reproducing disciples is too much to ask, then certainly reproducing churches full of them is impossible, right? Don’t start churches to make disciples. Make disciples…and churches will start far more easily. It doesn’t cost a dime to make a disciple; it only costs your life.
I was infected with this idea 6 or 7 years ago when I first read Neil Cole’s book, Organic Church. I’ve done the math as he suggests and it is shocking. It is also hard to square it with the New Testament. Let’s do the hard thing and wrestle with this reality. It’s too important to let it slip by and just keep working on reinforcing the familiar.
Church in the Harvest is a fun life. Sometimes it feels like wandering around in the wilderness, but days like today are pretty amazing. Wesley grew up in church but until last week, he had never decided to follow Jesus. Once he did, he immediately wanted to be baptized. I love seeing rapid obedience in the harvest like this!
Thankful to call him my brother now!
Wes had family, friends from home, and friends from Church in the Harvest joining us!
Nothing goes with baptisms quite like feasting as a family!
The more time we spend out in the harvest, the more important it is that we work hard to track the hard work we’ve done. We never want to let any of the fruit the Lord provides slip through the cracks, so we need a system.
This is a simple tool for tracking weekly harvest engagement that I got from Josh Reed (NPL RDU). It’s the size of a business card.
The blanks refer to the following:
- Homes/people engaged
- Received prayer
- Gospel shares
- Red lights
- Yellow lights
- Green lights
- Discovery Bible Studies
The back is for recording follow ups and location information.
I love how simple this is.
I’ve only recently discovered that I’m more of a “Church Planting Movements” guy than I am a strictly “Collegiate” guy. When I look at a college student, I don’t see their year in school, their major, or their age. I see a potential church planter and movement catalyst.
Today was a special day that reminded me of something important. In the center of the picture above is one of our guys who is graduating in just a few short weeks. He has spent this last school year with us, leaning in from the very beginning. Every time we would go out into the harvest, Jordan was with us. He’s quiet, huble, and committed. Over the course of this year, he has been faithfully (and quietly) reproducing our training and practices in his home church in Ronda, NC (pop. 417). Today, he had arranged for a small group of us to come down the mountain to model Entry Strategy for them.
A wide-angle of this picture would reveal that in this group are his pastor, his parents, one of his Timothys (a disciple he is intentionally mentoring), and his Timothy’s grandfather, among others. As a young man not even out of college yet, Jordan is helping to lead his legacy church into the harvest to make disciples.
If we raise the bar and set higher expectations for our students, they will turn the world upside down. We will still coach him and connect with him from a distance, but he is a great example of one way God can use college students post-college to spark movement beyond their campus for the gospel and the kingdom of God.
From way up here you can see University Highlands across the highway, Caldwell Community college across the town, and Grandfather Mountain across the county. Some students refer to this community as Sin Hill.
“Nothing good happens up there,” they say.
“You’re in the wrong place for this.”
“Good luck up here.”
There’s nowhere else I would rather be.
Every week I’ve been spending time in this neighborhood going door to door offering to care for people by praying for needs they have and offering to share the gospel in a simple picture. It is good for me to have a consistent time to be out in the harvest engaging people and sharing the gospel, but it is an excellent time to train trainers while doing it.
This team came out with me tonight. The two guys are alums from the last 5 years of our ministry. The gal lives in the neighborhood – we found her a month and a half ago. She was new in her faith but ready to be trained and join us in Jesus’ adventure! All 3 of these people are really new to this whole process and strategy, but they are getting after it with me. I’ve taken each of them with me individually to model this for them and have them help me. When they are confident and competent, I can release them to take others with them.
God is breaking up hard ground as we continue to share the gospel with broken people and he is raising up laborers as we identify and train them along the way. It is an amazing thing to be a part of.
Today I had the pleasure of joining with my extended family to celebrate the new life in Jesus of John! A couple of our freshmen students (one is a new believer herself) shared the gospel with John on campus, led him to Christ, and baptized him! When we raise the bar of discipleship for Christians, so many will meet that bar.
These students (college freshmen) are disciple makers and church planters. This is fruit of their obedience and the natural outcome we expect. When they asked John what is next after this moment, he simply said, “Obeying Jesus and sharing the gospel.”
Thank you, Jesus, for letting us be a part of your work! This is one step closer to accomplishing the #NoPlaceLeft vision!
Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.
–Jesus (Mark 1:17)
Setting goals is a great way to move yourself or your ministry (or both) forward. As a part of a part of a 4-Day 4 Fields training I attended last summer, I was challenged set 90-day goals for my ministry to help me work toward accomplishing a much greater 3-year plan. Over the last few years I’ve made a practice of setting ministry goals each semester, but what helped me tremendously was refocusing my goal setting on the 2 highest value activities in a movement, sharing the gospel and training disciple makers. We would usually set goals in keeping with the vision and focal points of our ministry, but we would set too many goals, and often they would be about keeping the machine running smoothly – but we weren’t really making disciples.
As I rediscovered this simple little verse in the opening chapter of Mark’s gospel, I saw the profound simplicity of two major domains for goal setting as it relates to ministry and leadership.
- FOLLOW Jesus (Abide)
- FISH for Men (Make disciples)
In John 15 we are commanded to abide in Jesus and the expectation is that without abiding in him, we will lack fruit and be lopped off. That’s pretty high stakes.
We are all aware of Jesus’ command to make disciples.
Because these are such critical areas, we would be wise to set goals around them. For us, each week in our meetings we are setting new goals for the coming week about how we are going to Follow Jesus and Fish for Men and we’re holding one another accountable for following through on those goals. This is critical for moving forward in both areas.
We are hard at work trying to catalyze movement at Appalachian State and graduate movement catalysts for the rest of the world. ASU is the flagship university of Northwestern NC and one of the top-tier schools in the state. It’s our primary context for making disciples, but it is only one of 14 campuses across this corner of the state. The 18,000+ students of ASU are just one segment of the 83,000+ students in our region. We are realizing that what we do at ASU isn’t very likely to translate well to the wildly different campus cultures in our region.
- Appalachian State University
- Lees McRae College
- Lenoir Rhyne University
- Catawba Valley Community College
- Caldwell Community College, Watauga
- Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute, Hudson
- Wilkes Community College, Wilkes
- Wilkes Community College, Alleghany
- Wilkes Community College, Ashe
- Mayland Community College, Spruce Pine
- Mayland Community College, Newland
- Mayland Community College, Burnsville
- McDowell Tech Community College
- Western Piedmont Community College
If you were counting, 11 of the 14 campuses in our region are Community Colleges, and a number of them are satellite branches of lesser-known Community Colleges. The No Campus Left team has reported that roughly 80% of the 1.2 million college students in North Carolina are Community College students – 80% of our campuses in the list above are Community Colleges.
These schools are as different from the “flagship” state school as they can be. We cannot simply port over what we do at ASU to the rest of these schools. We engage heavily in the dorms at ASU. Not only do most of these schools have no dorms, the majority also lack a student union or some other on-campus gathering space. One other key thing Community Colleges often lack is community. They are in, of, and for their local community, but they have no community of their own. The key connection points we leverage on a state school campus are non-existent on most Community College campuses.
When we made the shift from ASU BCM to BCM of the High Country, we recognized that these campuses would never have a gospel presence pop up without someone targeting them specifically. Why shouldn’t we adjust our vision and mission to include them? At first, I assumed that we would raise up a full time, (or part-time if necessary) staff to lead the new work at each new campus. While that works just fine at the state school level, it makes a lot less sense at a smaller or mid-sized Community College.
To help me get my head around more than one campus, I needed to be able to see where the unengaged campus fields were. I created a simple Google Map of all the campuses in our region, where there was little or no gospel engagement happening. A list is one thing; a map is another thing. The start icons represent the 3 residential schools and the rest are Community Colleges.
“What is it going to take to engage every campus on this map with the gospel so that there’s #NoCampusLeft without a reproducing gospel presence in our region?”
I’ve addressed this question as it relates to ASU – my primary campus. This question forced me to recalibrate my expectations of what gospel engagement and the reproducing gospel presence would look like when I broadened it to all the campuses in our region. This is the beginning of our journey on this mission. The broadening of our vision is forcing me to get outside of my perspective as a campus minister and start thinking more like a missiologist and a movement catalyst.
What would it take for you to engage other campuses around your primary target?