Report from the Field: Introducing Wes and Amanda Gunn, Church Planters in Alabama

This week, we want to introduce Wes and Amanda Gunn, church planters in Wetumpka, Alabama.

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Where is your church plant?   

Our plant is in the Redland community, a growing suburb just outside Montgomery, AL.

Why did you choose the place to plant? 

We were residents of this community for 7 years prior to our plant and have a deep love for our community and neighbors.  We noticed many people in our area were not a regular part of any church or were driving long distances.

What is your vision for what you are doing?

We want to create a church family that glorifies God by loving its neighbors and caring for one another.

What made you want to become a church planter specifically?

I think the joy of reaching out to people, sharing Christ with them, the challenge of communicating effectively with people who are a long way from the Lord and are jaded towards anything spiritual; the power of a Christian community coming together to serve God and reach out to the world; the God-pressure on my heart that he wanted me to live and work in the inner city, to the point where doing anything else would have been disobedient.

What tips or advice would you have for someone interested in church planting?

The journey is hard, so individuals have to constantly go back to their calling from God.  Without that, you are likely to throw in the towel at some point.  We have found that we had to completely alter our lifestyle to make room for our neighbors and find ways to serve and love them.  It isn’t just about a Sunday morning worship service, but engaging our community.

If you are interested in church planting, or would like more information, please visit our website at missionalive.org.

 

New Church Study

center-for-progressive-renewal-logo

This is some of the latest, most fresh research on starting churches.  It is a two-year study of 260 ministries related to church planting.

Intro into Study

Final Report

Here are some of the major headings in the blog of findings from the study.

What did you find most interesting about the report?

Report from the Field: Introducing Kevin and Lisa Vance, Church Planters in Canada

This week, we want to introduce Kevin and Lisa Vance, church planters in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

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Why did you choose the place to plant?

We didn’t really choose where we were going to plant a church, God chose it for us.  And he chose us to work here.  Seven years ago, we started a children’s outreach in the inner city of Regina; it was small with just six or eight kids that first year.  By the end of the second year, there were 84 kids, and the call to work and live among these people became so strong that we couldn’t ignore it any longer.  Although we were both working at other jobs, and lived in the suburbs, we moved into the inner city, to be incarnational – to live and work among the people.  It is a matter of identification – people here identify differently with those who live among them.  And it has changed us to identify with them too.

Since that children’s outreach, our ministry has matured.  We now have about 100 children and teens in three different outreaches.  The growing edge is in our high school group, where we have 25 students.  These young people are amazing, they serve in so many ways.  They help with the kids outreach and the middle school youth group; they invite their friends; they have developed into a close group that loves to do things together.

What is your vision for what you are doing?

Our vision for this ministry is that it will grow and reach out to many more kids and teens.  Our ministry started at one of the inner city schools; there are three others where we can start outreaches just in the neighborhood.  And more teens are coming to our youth groups each year.  The work is really just beginning.

Beyond the local work, we see church plants happening throughout Canada.  These will be churches that are strong communities of love and support, with a vibrant evangelistic mission to the world.  The work in Regina is a greenhouse, a training ground where leaders are being raised up and church planting teams can be trained and commissioned.

What made you want to become a church planter?

I think the joy of reaching out to people, sharing Christ with them, the challenge of communicating effectively with people who are a long way from the Lord and are jaded towards anything spiritual; the power of a Christian community coming together to serve God and reach out to the world; the God-pressure on my heart that he wanted me to live and work in the inner city, to the point where doing anything else would have been disobedient.

What tips or advice would you have for someone interested in church planting?

Pray often, seek the Lord, follow his leading.  It’s like a roller coaster ride, an adventure.  Join him in his mission, it will be the greatest joy you will ever experience.  Incredible highs, tremendous disappointments, but God’s leading at every moment.

If you are interested in church planting, or would like more information, please visit our website at missionalive.org.

 

Who is Mission Alive?

Since our community has grown over the last year, we thought we would tell you a little bit more about who Mission Alive is.

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Mission Alive is a church planting/church renewal organization that trains others to be on mission with God in their lives, neighborhoods and communities.  In Mission Alive, we work to see more people connect with God, grow in their faith and lead others to do the same.  We train two types of leaders:

  1. Church Planters

At Mission Alive, we discover and equip church planters to plant new churches throughout North America.  We walk alongside these planters as mentors, coaches, spiritual directors and fellow church planters.

  1. Established Church Leadership

We partner with and equip leaders of existing churches to more effectively engage their community with the Mission of God.  They participate in our Mission Training where we take them through a process from personal discipleship to missional engagement and from reproducing leaders to launching a movement.  We assist these churches to reproduce themselves in new communities with new populations.

What does Mission Alive do?

Mission Alive has three training platforms:

  1. Mission Training

Mission Training takes participants through a two-year process of learning to become a reproducing missional presence in their neighborhood.

  1. Equipping Huddles

Equipping Huddles is discipleship for Christian leaders.  They model a reproducible process for maturing Christians and teaching them how to lead others.

  1. Catalyze Coaching

Catalyze Coach Training teaches participants to change their leadership orientation from telling to asking.  It teaches participants to walk alongside rather than stand above those they are leading.

For more information on any of these, please visit our website at missionalive.org.

Who are you?

We have received an amazing response on our Mission Alive Facebook, so we wanted to take this opportunity to get to know some of you.  Please fill out the survey at the link below so that we can know you a little better!

https://surveyplanet.com/55ef04c2d90411ac3cd9a55a

Back to Africa

By Gailyn Van Rheenen

It was a transformative trip – for churches among the Kipsigis of southwest Kenya, for national leaders meeting at the Nairobi Great Commission School – and for me personally.  We all felt God’s presence!

The purpose of my trip was to give encouragement; greet families (especially those of loved ones who are ill or have spouses who have passed away); visit as many churches (or clusters of churches) as I was able; and to teach 3-day courses at two Bible schools. I returned from this 2½ week trip tired but empowered.

When we left the Kipsigis area of Kenya, where we ministered for thirteen years, there were 100 churches. Today there are 450! This growth has not simply been numerical. These churches have also grown spiritually – using disciple-making and mission to form new communities and growing existing ones.

Kenya sitting

High points of the trip were visiting elders who helped start the churches, praying over leaders who were seriously ill, and greeting and giving condolences and memories to the families of leaders who had passed away.  A special joy was sharing time with Matayo Matwek, a leader now 101 years of age, weak in body, but strong in spirit and testimony.  Once upon a time he cast vision and encouraged Christians in his home area.  He partnered with other leaders to build a mighty movement of God in his home area. We shared time with Mary, the widow of David Sambu, who was Chairman of the “Committee” (Board) of Siriat Bible School and prayed for her extended family.  I miss David, my African mentor and confidant! Another good friend, Daniel, once worked for me tending my yard and garden and later became the sub-chief in his area.  He now is very sick with cancer. I joined with others praying over him and giving finances to pay medical expenses and help his family.

I thoroughly enjoyed teaching two 3-day seminars, one in the Kipsigis language at the Siriat Bible School in what I call my “home area” of Kenya, and another in English at the Nairobi Great Commission School for major Kenyan leaders in the Mission Textcapital city. In each seminar I applied sections of the 2nd edition of Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies to their contexts. I began each section with a teaching time, a time of discussion as a group, followed by discussion and/or prayer in small groups and pairs. The favorite teaching was a parable on “spiritual awakening”—how crawling caterpillars are transformed to become flying butterflies able to both draw nectar and spread pollen.  The most important teaching was “how do people of the kingdom of God make decisions.”  Attentive listening! Laughter! Confession! Dialogue! Prayers! Worship! Transformation!

Kenya churchI visited as many of the churches as I could in the short time that I had.  The churches in Konoin are vibrant for the Lord, focused on evangelism, highly respected by the local community, and are growing locally and in other areas where they send evangelists. They give generously to build facilities for their church gatherings and other events but also meet from house to house.  A local Christian named Jonathan builds these facilities.

Throughout the trip I experienced African hospitality. I stayed in a small two-room house with an outside latrine and shower area on the homestead of my good friends Philip and Irene Chebose. Irene cooked most of my meals, indigenously African and deliciously prepared.  They took care of my every need, even warming up the water for my morning sponge bath.  It was a joy sharing life with this family!  Their son Wycliffe is growing as a preacher and another son Nicholas is learning African sign language so that the Kipgsigis-speaking congregation can connect with the deaf congregation, which also meets in their building—much like the deaf ministry at the Willis Church in Abilene, where I was once served as an elder.

Kenya DavidThroughout the trip I walked and ministered with David Tonui, Principal of the Nairobi Great Commission School, my son in the faith who once lived with us while completing his Masters in Christian Ministry at ACU. I praise God for how David and I worked synergistically during joint presentations, knowing instinctively how and when to speak and when to remain quiet. It was also a joy to share many meals and trips with both David and his wife Eunice.  They illustrate both great hospitality and partnership in the mission of God. They are a rural/urban family—one home in the big city of Nairobi close to the Nairobi Great Commission School where two of their children work and study and another in a village near Siriat Bible School in southwestern Kenya, where the two younger children have been in school.

In many ways I became part of both the Chebose and Tonui families during my stay in Africa—eating, living, and sharing in close proximity.

I was called many years ago to be a missionary in Africa and served there for 14 years. I am energized by being there for a short time! My goal is return every two years to visit the churches and in the process both learn and teach. After each trip I feel that I have received more than I have given.

Our prayer and goal is to continue to grow and develop a similar (though culturally different) church planting and renewal movement in North America through Mission Alive.

Reflections on September 4, 2014

 

Listening to God—From Theology to Practice

Theology is like the rudder of a boatIn Mission Alive we move from Theology to Practice. Theology is listening to God and seeking to do the will of God. It is like the rudder of a boat—setting direction. I can remember how our children, when they were small, loved pedal-boats and always wanted to “drive”. At times they were so intent on pedaling–making the boat move–that the rudder was held in an extreme position, and we went in circles. Realizing their mistake, but still intent on pedaling, they would move the rudder from one extreme to the other so that we zig-zagged across the lake. Without the foundation of theology, church leaders and church planters tend to zig-zag from fad to fad, from one theological perspective and related philosophies of ministry to another. Theology helps center us so that we turn the rudder according to the will of God. It forms and guides the mission of God. Then, paradoxically, our practices of mission begin to inform and shape our theology–a movement from Theology to Practice and then from Practice to Theology.

Cultivate Personal Discipleship

In Mission Alive the first step in training is a two-day, interactive lab called CULTIVATE: Personal Discipleship. The theme is that “what God will do through us he must first do within us.” We would say that the two most important questions are: “What is God saying?” and “What does he desire that we do about it?” In these labs and through coaching and equipping huddles life transformation is sparked for both church planting and renewal.

In Mission Alive we believe in both church renewal and church planting. The impulses of growth, learning, and transformation are similar yet different. These impulses spiritually form searchers to become disciples of Jesus who then go on mission within growing vibrant communities—that meet publicly for teaching, inspiration, and testimony and in smaller groups in neighborhoods and relational networks for mission and community. Discipling-making leads to missions resulting in the development of community. We believe that “the future of the Western Church is . . . a powerful return to Jesus’ heart for making disciples, and multiplying them into missionary leaders” (Jon Tyson, Forward of “Multiplying Missional Leaders”).

There are two types of leaders: those who listen primarily to human voices to guide them forward and those who listen to God’s voice. Mission Alive aims to equip leaders to listen to God’s voice in both church planting and renewal.

The Art of Church Planting

The art of church planting is like three intertwined rings, like Olympic circles, each related to the others. The first circle, disciple-making, is guiding people to become more like Jesus.one ringThe second is mission, summarized by Jesus’ statement: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The words “follow me” designate discipleship, and “I will make you fishers of men” is descriptive of mission.

two rings

The third, community formation, is the result–the outcome–of disciple-making and mission.

three rings

 

Community is inherent in disciple-making and mission. It becomes the arena of nurture, of spiritual maturation.Thus, the art of church planting is learning to make disciples on mission with God, which results in new communities of faith.Disciple-making, mission, community-all three are counter-intuitive to North American society. Our tendency is to emphasize champions over disciples, participation without mission, and attendance with little community.

Mission Training

The process of Mission Training integrates disciple-making, mission, and community through experiential learning processes for the sake of both church renewal and church planting.

Click here to download a Mission Training brochure.

Gailyn Van Rheenen

Mission Alive