June 2019: North America Month

The month of June was an intense and fruitful month for us – and it included a lot of travel representing just about every aspect of my new responsibilities with e3 Partners as North America Region Director.

I’ll highlight some key events in NC, FL, Canada, and CA, below to give a taste of what the Lord has been doing and what is ahead.

Marrying Some of Our Dearest Disciples

I met Matthew just before he started his freshman year at Appalachian State University, just about 3 years ago now. I met Gracie the following year as a brand new freshman. It has been amazing to see the Lord use them so powerfully since then, and it has been all the richer to walk with them through their whole relationship. One of my most treasured moments with them was officiating their wedding in mid-May. They have become like a son and daughter to us over these last few years. Matthew works with me as a CPM Catalyst for e3 Partners.

Before we left Boone for the Raleigh event, we were able to spend some time with our team we left behind to carry out the work in our absence. They have been more fruitful than ever and it was such a sweet joy getting to laugh, connect, and worship with them in person. We love these folks dearly! Scott and Anna Kilby and Matthew and Gracie Thifault lead so well here.

Church Planting Multiplier Gathering (Raleigh, NC)

A key part of the #NoPlaceLeft work in the US over the last 4-5 years or so has been conducting 4 Fields Trainings broadly to find leaders and establish new churches and missionary teams. We continue this work, but now we have leaders, teams, and churches all over map (literally). With so much good work established, we need to intentionally seek to learn from the margins of the most fruitful work so that we can adapt accordingly.

These are folks who are NPL practitioners and some friends of NPL

At the beginning of June we gathered with leaders from NC, GA, TN, TX, NY, and CA to learn from how God is moving in places where we are seeing multiplying generations of disciples and churches. It is no surprise that Identity in Jesus and strong discipleship are both at the heart of this fruit that the Lord is bringing. I also felt some clear direction from the Lord to pursue a collegiate network within the broader NPL Coalition. I’m thrilled about that!

e3USA Leadership Retreat (Tampa, FL)

L-R: Me, Tom, Justin, Matt

Our little family of 4 flew home to Long Beach after the Raleigh event, and a day and a half later, I flew to Tampa to meet with the guys pictured with me above. These guys have become close friends of mine and they are our area leaders that make up our e3USA leadership team. Tom is based in TX, Justin in NC, and Matt in UT. We get together to pray, assess, and plan each quarter for our national work with e3 and NPL. It is truly life-giving getting to serve with these brothers.

After a significant amount of prayer together, we came away confident in our next stage of our vision that aims to accomplish No Place Left: “50-50-25.”

50-50-25 stands for 50 Coalitions in the 50 largest US Metros by 2025. A coalition is simply a team of at least 3 teams with an NPL Plan in place. We can’t force movement to occur, but we can “raise the sails” so that when the Holy Spirit moves powerfully, we are ready to harness His movement and keep up with Him.

e3 Canada Training Mega-Trip (Ontario & Nova Scotia)

Me and the Thifaults with our Canadian National Team – Tony Vail and Jeremy, Kathryn, and Jenoa Doorten – at NIAGARA FALLS

One aspect of my North America role that I have been the most excited about is working with our Canadian leaders. I’ve been coaching our 2 key national leaders, Jeremy and Tony, for a year and a half or so. This was the first time I’ve gotten visit Canada (ever!) and it was even better than I hoped it was going to be. A bonus to the whole thing was getting to have the newly married Thifaults with me for the whole trip! I could really feel what John was expressing here:

Though I have many things to write to you, I don’t want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

2 John 12 (CSB)

As amazing as it is to connect with these brothers digitally, it was so refreshing to be together for an extended time.

4 Fields Intensive in Waterloo, ON

On my first stop in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, we facilitated a 4 Fields Intensive training for folks coming from all over Southern Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba. All throughout the training, these folks were on-board and tracking with us. As a result of this training and time with these leaders, we now have 4 Fields Intensive Trainings scheduled for Winnipeg and Halifax, and a Midlevel for Greater Toronto all within the next 3-9 months.

Midlevel in Brickton, NS

On my second stop in Nova Scotia, we facilitated a Midlevel Retreat for the NPL team led by Tony. Midlevels are for leaders who are actively engaged in disciple making and church planting enough to get stuck or frustrated or both. We build the retreat around identifying barriers and breakthroughs, addressing those barriers, and setting goals for the next season of ministry. It was one of the most worshipful events I have been a part of in recent memory. We saw a new team emerge and coalesce during this time too!

Back in Long Beach…

Home at last!

It is so sweet to be back home with my family. These are my people, and I don’t like being gone long – even though they handle it so well.

Long Beach Intensive

The day after I returned, the Long Beach 4 Fields Intensive training started! I didn’t participate, but we got to swing by for a bit to eat lunch and connect. Rick and Jenny Preato lead this so well – it’s an honor to get to serve with them! They, and most of the rest of our teammates are now in Australia for 2-3 weeks to facilitate 4 Fields Intensive trainings there too! This truly is an amazing work.

I’m so thankful for all that the Lord is doing, and all of what we get to participate with Him in!

Gospel Conversations

We know it when we see it. The approach of a Luke 10 Entry Team. A gospel conversation. It isn’t the only thing we do or care about, but we do it all the time and care deeply about it. And we celebrate the heck out of it when we see it or hear stories of it!

We want to see and hear of thousands of gospel conversations happening in our communities all around us!

Anna and a new believer approaching a student on campus.

Anna and a new believer approaching another student on campus!

A couple of new believers sharing the gospel with a student in the Union.

Same new believers, sharing with another student.

One of our guys sharing with another student.

A new believer and an existing believer sharing with another student.

Celebrate!

I’ve never been all that good at celebrating. For better or for worse, I don’t dwell. Not long back I heard someone say that what we celebrate gets replicated. Similarly, I heard someone else say we get what we count. I can’t remember where it was that I heard those things, but they got me thinking.

One thing we have been working to build into our culture is a habit of broadly sharing the gospel. It occurred to me – what if we counted gospel shares and celebrated each one?  For a while, I kept track of our gospel shares (among other info) in a pocket notebook and everyone reported it all directly to me. It didn’t take long for that to become difficult to maintain or keep up to date.

Each week in our campus church we would celebrate what we’ve been seeing Jesus do during a time we called Stories from the Harvest. Each week I would write the updated numbers on the board to celebrate as we told the stories behind the numbers to keep everyone up to date – this way we could celebrate the quantities and the quality.

Towards the end of our first semester sharing the gospel more broadly, I knew I couldn’t keep track of everything myself without slowing the whole process down tremendously. We had to do something different. Because everyone was reporting to me, it felt like they were engaged in my mission, not their own.

How could we give away ownership of the mission and still celebrate it well?

I decided to put together a simple Google Form that automatically filled in a connected Google Sheet. Here’s what the form looks like:

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With a little bit of web-magic we have the total number of gospel shares displayed on an unlisted page on our ministry’s website. This is what we see:

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In between these two things is the spreadsheet that gets auto-populated with the information shared through the form. It is dead simple. The timestamp is recorded automatically and the other two items are the required options on the form. The next image is the cumulative info from the form – no one else sees this. The web-magic (talk to my web guy – I couldn’t do it myself) totals out column B and displays it on the website as you saw above.

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We give the link to the form and the link to the report to our students so that we can all share and celebrate as we go. One simple way to access either one is by bookmarking them in our phone browsers so that they just pop up:

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To make it even quicker, some will turn the form into an “app” by tapping the share sheet like this:

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You add it to the home screen like this:

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Then you get this simple “app” which loads the website with the form and it is always at the ready:

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The whole point is making it simple to track gospel shares. The point isn’t that I know everything all the time. The point is that we can all celebrate better when we do the work of stewarding our work.

This process won’t be right for everyone, but I would encourage you to consider what it is you want to replicate and how you can better count it and celebrate it. I wrote a little about clarifying important metrics here. I hope this is helpful to you – let me know what works best for you!

Give it Away

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My first step into the world of movements started with a single tweet. One of my key influences connected me with a new key influencer. He saw something I needed to see and sent it to me. The tweets turned into a Skype call which followed with a second Skype call for a simple training. The ball was rolling and it hasn’t stopped yet. It hasn’t cost me a penny. In fact, I’ve been invested in a great deal. But it changed the course of my life and I can’t go back.

Because we have freely received, we give it all away.

The picture above is one of my alumni/friends/Timothys – Jonny. He is training the leadership team of a collegiate church east of Montreal in Quebec during a short visit. I love training, but I love to see people I have trained become trainers even more. I received it all freely. So I’m passing it along to as many people as I can. And now Jonny is too. We’re praying that those he trained will do the same.

What we do is free. But it will cost you your life.

If you’re interested in simple, reproducing disciple making training, email me

We Need You (Why I Write)

Notebooks

I find that one of the best ways to sift through my own experiences in making disciples in a collegiate context is through writing. Most often I write in notebooks. Writing for a public like this forces me to consider outside readers. My notebooks are for me. This blog is for me and for you.

I write to focus my thoughts. I write to pull back the curtain a bit so that other leaders in a similar position can learn with me and hopefully avoid paying some of the “idiot tax” that I’ve paid over the years. There’s “learning curve,” and then there’s “idiot tax.” Learning curve is necessary and unavoidable. Idiot tax is completely unnecessary.

For a while I thought I shouldn’t publish anything since I’m not a veteran or an expert. Then I realized I ought to write more exactly because I’m NOT a veteran or an expert. I’m learning as I go. Wouldn’t the best time to share what I’m learning be right in the middle of learning it rather than down the road?

I write because we need you. We need your voice and what you are learning. Over the years my ministry might have been more fruitful if I could have listened in on what what other leaders like me were learning.

A couple of guys who are way smarter than me helped me realize that I ought to write more often. Have a look here and here.

Collegiate Ministry is the Edge

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At any gathering of people, from a high school assembly to the General Assembly at the UN, from a conference to a rehearsal at the orchestra, the really interesting conversations and actions almost always happen around the edges.

Change almost always starts at the edges and moves toward the center.

This blog from Seth Godin makes me think immediately of collegiate ministry. I see it as the edge of mainstream ministry. It is where some exciting innovations of modern ministry are happening and where the next wave of catalytic leaders are right now.

Personality Assessments

INTP

I/S 

Input – Learner – Intellection – Maximizer – Connectedness

Creative 

Green

These letters and words describe my personality based on five different personality assessments. The most valuable aspect of these personality assessments is the vocabulary they provide. They put words around the things I know are true about myself but could never articulate. They help my team understand why I think and act the way I do. They also help me understand my team better. My favorites are Strengths Finder 2.0 and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It will cost you around 2 hours and $10-$20 to take one or two of these assessments, but the payoff is tremendous. 

Our One Thing

If you can only do one thing well, what should that one thing be? Answering this question is a good path to simplicity and your most critical activity. The word “priority” can only ever truly be singular. It is impossible to have more than one thing that is “most important.”

At BCM, we made a conscious decision to prioritize disciple making. If we could only do one thing and do it well, we decided that disciple making must be the priority.

Engaged Alienation

Tonight I’ve started reading Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. His words are giving voice to a conviction I haven’t always been sure how to articulate. 

“But while we are a Kingdom First people, we are not a Kingdom Only people. Jesus told us to seek both the kingdom of God “and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). We pursue justice and mercy and well-being for those around us, including the social and political arenas.” (8)

As I shared last night, I am thankful that I serve a king and not an Empire, but I can’t disengage from the culture God has called me to. None of us can. This is what it means to seek the welfare of the city we have been called to.