How I Decided to Decentralize

It took over a year to decide to decentralize BCM. Before we ever started talking about anything like a decentralized model, we started with the vision that drives us now. 

No Place Left. 

We were asking ourselves and our students, “How can we reach so widely across this campus that there will be No Place Left without a gospel presence?” What would it take to start a multiplying gospel presence in every dorm and every department? How can we do ministry that works equally well with undergrads, grad students, faculty, and administration alike?

We could either provide programs for the students looking for Christian programs, or we could mobilize every Christian possible to reach their own networks and neighborhoods. The only way we saw to really engage with the No Place Left vision was to flatten our ministry and focus on engaging, training, and releasing. 

We didn’t have it all figured out when we started this process, and we still don’t, but we knew this was the right direction. We thought decentralizing BCM would be a shift in our model. It turns out, it is an entire culture shift. How we think, talk, plan, and act is having to change to line up with this vision. 

No Place Left is biblical and compelling enough to make it worth the difficulty of such a major culture shift. 

Book Notes – Apostolic Church Planting

Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches from New Believers
by J.D. Payne

The following is quoted or paraphrased from the book highlighting key ideas. Other great points are made or elaborated on, so go buy the book and enjoy it!

Church planting is evangelism that results in new churches.

When the church is shocked at a biblical model, it reveals just how far away from the scriptures we have moved in our missionary practices.
Apostolic church planting has been with the church for two thousand years. It is my desire that churches, networks, denominations, and mission agencies recognize this matter and respond appropriately. Many western evangelical structures, organizations, training paradigms and support systems will have to change significantly in order to embrace an apostolic approach to church planting.

Apostolic church planting provides a path to the nations.

Scripture (1 Thess. 1:4-6) reveals that 4 things are needed for a church to be birthed. Sowers. Seed. Spirit. Soil.

We are often guilty of making church planting ministry much more complex than we find it in the bible. Church planting in about making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded – in covenant community with other kingdom citizens.

How your team defines church (local and universal) will affect everything (end product / strategy / resources / methods / pastors) you do in church planting. Ecclesiology shapes everything.

It is impossible to carry out total obedience to Jesus without a commitment to a local expression of his body.

Hasty expectations hinder the birth and multiplication of churches.

Planting churches with longtime believers ought to be the exception to the rule. Churches should be birthed from the harvest field.

Church planters should work with non-believers from the start.

Once a group is baptized and self-identify as a church, it is the local church.

Church planters must not only be good missiologists but also good theologians. To be one without the other is to hinder church planting.

Ministry has always been a team sport. The model of people collaborating takes priority.

In God’s economy, the missionary team is vital to the propagation of the gospel and the multiplication of disciples, leaders and churches.

Barnabas Factors: Eight Essential Characteristics of CP Team Members
1. Walks with the Lord
2. Maintains an outstanding character
3. Serves the local church
4. Remains faithful to the call
5. Shares the gospel regularly
6. Raises up leaders
7. Encourages with speech and actions
8. Responds appropriately to conflict

The Barnabas Factors remind us that there is much more to being a good CP team member than knowing the answers to theological or missiological questions.

I hear many planters refer to Paul as the “greatest church planter,” yet few are willing to learn from him.

Churches come first and then the pastors.

Six Stages of CP
1. Pre-entry
2. Entry
3. Gospel
4. Discipleship
5. Church formation
6. Leadership

Threefold Approach with Unreached People Groups
1. Identify as Jesus-follower asap
2. Ask to pray for God’s blessing for them
3. Ask if they would be interested in studying the Bible in their homes

House of Peace
Belongs to unbelievers who are open to having Bible studies in their home with other unbelievers of their acquaintance.

Evangelism is just the tip of the Great Commission iceberg.

5 Questions to Answer for Church Formation
1. Who is the church?
2. When do we meet?
3. Where do we meet?
4. Why do we meet?
5. What do we do?

A CP team must begin with the end in mind; eventually removing itself.

A CP team is like scaffolding – critical to the building process but temporary.

6 Phases for CP Team
1. Learner
2. Explorer
3. Evangelist
4. Teacher
5. Developer
6. Mentor/Partner

Being an explorer may mean discarding your normal routine.

One of the common characteristics among CP movements is that the origins can be traced to a widespread dissemination of the good news. CP team members should expect to spend a great deal of time doing evangelism.

A church can be as much a New Testament church with five people as it can be with five thousand. A church is not defined by its size.

The plant-and-pastor model should be the exception and not the expectation when it comes to CP. If your desire is to plant and pastor, it is likely that your calling is to the pastorate and not to missionary service.

The Mentor/Partner is likely to last indefinitely.

While there is an urgency to take the gospel to all people, evangelism should never happen at the expense of discipleship and church health.

CP teams with a heart for the nations will not be satisfied with the birth of one church.

Methods used by a CP team serve as a model to the people group. People reproduce what they know, and they know what is modeled for them.

7 Abilities a Planted Church Should Manifest

1. Self-identifying
2. Self-supporting
3. Self-governing
4. Self-propagating
5. Self-expressing
6. Self-teaching
7. Self-theologizing

A CP team shouldn’t try to attract Christians. They should evangelize a people, make disciples, start a small group, lead the group to self-identify as a church and then appoint pastors with that church.

All disciple-making and CP activities involve crossing cultures to some degree.

3 Guidelines
1. Assume the Great Commission
2. There is a specific calling to hard soil
3. Consider need and receptivity

A spectrum of receptivity exists among all people groups, including those who are the least receptive.

The apostolic nature of CP teams requires that they think and function as missionaries.

Manifesting a missionary faith may be one of the most difficult things your team will be required to do after a church is planted. In order for the Spirit to be in control, your team will have to relinquish control.

Make sure your training is obedience-oriented.

Provide leaders with on-the-job training. Don’t create a system that takes them out of the culture while they are trained. Leave them where they are and meet them there. Adjust to their schedules.

You’ve got to be faithful to the Lord. When we get to the field, we’ll just be faithful and the Lord will plant his church. This is an extremely important statement for any missionary team.

To enter the field without a strategy is to plan for failure. Where there is no plan, there is no accountability. Faithfulness without a strategy is foolishness. Developing a CP strategy is a matter of kingdom stewardship.

What is developed in the boardroom will not stay the same in the field. Wise teams go with a plan but constantly re-evaluate and adjust as they go.

Disciples Make Disciples

Sometimes I don’t know what to call myself or how to identify my work on campus. In collegiate ministry, we can often become program directors. Success can often be confused with empire-building. It’s empire-building-with-a-purpose, but there is often an overabundance of production and promotion. The invitation most commonly given is to an event.

Jesus invited people in to relationship and then sent them out on mission. His ministry with the masses was a filtering point. Anytime he had a sizable crowd, he said something ridiculous to scare most people away. It always worked too. But the true disciples kept coming back. And he kept discipling them and sending them out on mission.

Jesus’ disciples multiply themselves. That’s the only kind of true fruit we see in the parable of the 4 Soils. The more I think and pray over that, the more I want to work to cut out anything I do that might keep the gospel from multiplying.

If it’s not going to make disciples, we’re not going to do it. –Jeff Sundell quoting Jimmy Scroggins (Family Church, West Palm Beach, FL)

This focus on disciple-making is key. What will help us make disciples? What is preventing us from multiplying ourselves?

Our developing guidelines for our ministry look something like this:

  1. Gospel-centered
  2. Disciple-making
  3. Reproducing

It can be hard to stay focused and keep from becoming a Christian program director. Programs aren’t bad. But programs don’t make disciples; disciples make disciples.

BCM Thanksgiving Feast

Last night we celebrated Thanksgiving with a gaggle of students and staff at the Puckett house. There’s nothing better than a table full of food and a living room full of friends.

As BCM is becoming more and more decentralized, this family meal setting is going to be more and more important. I’m really thankful that I get to do what I do.

Life On Mission: Starting Simple

Living as a missionary is not about being special or additional but intentional, and the missional moleskine helps me map that out.

While this may sound really elementary and basic, the starting point has to be an honest one.

Tim Brister has some really interesting and helpful ideas for living on mission. He uses the word “elementary” to describe the “Missional Moleskine,” but maybe that’s where we need to start. His focus on first/second/third places in our lives is especially useful.

On Not Making Disciples

1. Preparing a sermon or teaching message in a given week without spending time in disciple-making relationships.

2. Spending time meeting with staff and church leaders in a given week in lieu of spending time in personal disciple-making relationships.

Robby Gallaty on the Top 10 Ways Pastors Spend Their Time that Doesn’t Make Disciples. If we can only do one thing well, it should be personal disciple-making. 

Planting Jesus, Multiplying Disciples

I used to want to be a church planter because I wanted to be cool. I wanted that stage and cool-guy mic. I wanted people to tweet what I said and I wanted a brand.

Then I took the red pill.

At least, that’s what Neil Cole would say.

“There is a red pill of sorts that opens our eyes to a more vivid reality of the Kingdom of God” (Organic Church, xviii).

His book Organic Church impacted me more than I think I even realize. It has a way of simplifying things that we Christian leaders tend to overcomplicate.

Jesus didn’t send us to plant churches. He sent us to plant the gospel. When we plant the gospel, we get disciples. When we multiply disciples, we get the church.

I have a tendency to overcomplicate things. The most difficult thing to do is fight for simplicity and stay laser-focused on the most important things. My focus was on me. Cole’s book was the first one that challenged my perspective of the kingdom of God and called me to meaningful simplicity. Most importantly, he called me to step down from the stage in my mind and put Jesus on the throne. He reminded me that Jesus called me to be a disciple who makes disciples, no more, no less.

Students Launching Missional Communities

“Jesus wants to see students live their lives as their mission.”
“what vehicle (structure) are you using to give students the opportunity to be disciple-makers and live their lives as their mission? This is an important question because you can say things like, “You are the church, be the church,” and “go and make disciples,” and “live your life as your mission,” and “serve your friends in Jesus’ name,” all day long. But, if you don’t have a vehicle built into your ministry that allows students to actually do those things, then your words will eventually get old, lose their meaning, and cause confusion.””It’s imperative that your vehicles and structures allow your mission and vision to become reality.”

This is from a really interesting post on Collegiate Collective by Mike Suit. I love how focused he is on building the ministry to accomplish the vision. My INTP nature makes it easy for me to get stuck in the 30,000ft conceptual. Mike challenges us to bring it down to systems and vehicles. 

Multicampus Ministry

We weren’t ready.

The Lord had called me to multicampus ministry. Is he calling you? Is your vision bigger than your campus? Will you pray about where God might be calling you to go?

Steven Crawford of The Navigators at USC wrote these words for a post at the Collegiate Collective. This mentality is exactly what it will take to see #NoCampusLeft. Have you considered the questions he poses? We weren’t ready to start something at Lees McRae College, but we went for it because it was an opportunity we couldn’t miss. The truth is, I think we would never have been “ready” anyway.