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.

Cultivating Personal Discipleship

October 11-12 was a big weekend for Mission Alive! We launched the first Cohort of Mission Training, the new equipping process for church leaders we have been developing in the past year.

Thirty people in six teams came together to participate at the Williamsburg Christian Church building in Williamsburg, Virginia – three church planting teams and three renewal teams (from existing congregations).

Mission Training

Mission Training is designed to equip church planting and renewal leaders as missionaries in their particular contexts. They begin to envision how the churches they lead can make disciples, reach those who are searching for God, and embody God’s inbreaking kingdom in their communities.

Leaders experienced Cultivate: Personal Discipleship, the first Equipping Lab in the Mission Training process. Cultivate fleshes out our fundamental conviction that the most effective church leaders are devoted Christ-followers. The purpose of the Lab is to help leaders evaluate their own personal spiritual health, have an encounter with God, and identify spiritual rhythms they want to live out in the six months following the Lab. Throughout the weekend, leaders receive teaching input, engage in personal reflection and journaling, and interact with other leaders in Equipping Huddles.

Wes Gunn, team leader of the Redland Hills church planting in Montgomery, Alabama, enjoyed the personal formation and networking opportunities in Cultivate:

“I appreciated the focus on personal discipleship and the foundation that we must be shaped by Christ ourselves prior to being able to guide others.  A particular blessing to me was networking with other church planters and encouraging each other in our journeys.”

Jason Thornton, a team member from the Williamsburg Christian Church, was touched by the depth of community and spiritual intimacy in the Lab:

“The Mission Alive Lab reminded me of the importance of the ‘each otherness’ of walking with Christ. I found it refreshing to be in a Huddle and to share in a time of confession with other brothers in Christ. Having been in ministry, I have frequently felt like I was on an island in spiritual battle. From my brief time in the Mission Alive Lab, I feel like I had more true spiritual intimacy with brothers and sisters in Christ than I had experienced in most of my time in ministry.”

Cultivate is one of four Equipping Labs hosted every six months in the two-year Mission Training Process.

Mission Training diagram

Click here to download our Mission Training brochure.

We are excited and thankful to God for the opportunity to walk alongside kingdom leaders and equip them for the mission!

Charles Kiser

Director of Training

We are excited!

Mission Training WilliamsburgFirst, we are excited about Mission Training.  Tod, Charles, and I were in Williamsburg, VA, this past weekend facilitating the first lab of our new equipping cycle.   Thirty-six participants (from three new/beginning church plants and three established churches) explored how to “Cultivate Personal Discipleship.” These participants were both growing as disciples themselves and learning to help others do the same.

new church plantersSecond, we are excited about new church planters–committed, talented, people of experience!!  For example, Wes Gunn recently announced to the Landmark Church in Montgomery, AL, that he was resigning to follow God’s call to plant a new church in the area where he lives.  Praise God for the words of encouragement and affirmation that Wes and Amanda and their core team received from their church family.  Please pray for Wes and Amanda Gunn (pictured), Tim and Diane Castro, Rob and Rivers Sellers, and Rob and Joy Williams as they begin to reach out into their community.  Read more about the Redland Hills Church at http://www.redlandhills.org/blog.  And we are thankful that this church planting is fully funded from the beginning.  Praise God with us!

Third, we are excited about the leaders who are growing to heightened spiritual vitality and understanding through our Equipping Communities, which we have been calling Huddles. Continue reading