Keep Church Weird: Church as Alternative Community

This year, Mission Alive hosted three of the classes at the Pepperdine Lectureships.  For the next three weeks, starting today, we will be sharing with you recordings from all three classes, in case you missed them this year or you wanted to hear them again.

The first class Mission Alive hosted was Keep Church Weird: Church as Alternative Community.  As an outpost of God’s reign, the church is a counter-culture to the prevailing culture around it, though perhaps in unexpected ways that is good news to those outside the church. This recording discusses how the church embodies an alternative way of life in its North American neighborhood.

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Collin Packer and Charles Kiser

The class was taught by Collin Packer, the preaching minister at Greenville Oaks Church of Christ in Allen, TX and Charles Kiser, the director of training at Mission Alive and a church planter in Dallas, TX.

The Nativity

It’s December and our Nativity scene sits on our mantle – just like it does every year. It reminds us of God’s gift – his Son, who came to earth as a human and who became our Savior. A marvelous gift that we celebrate at Christmas time.


The scene depicting Jesus’ birth brings to mind that God’s Son humbled Himself by giving up His position in heaven and taking on human form. He also loved us so much that, though He was perfect, He took on Himself the sins of all humankind and died a humiliating death on a cross so that our sins were forgiven.  This death was the prelude to His becoming the risen Lord standing beside our Father interceding for us.

 Baby Jesus in the manger also reminds us of the man Jesus, who lived a life that we as Christians want to imitate. He had meals with the undesirable, had conversations with those who were ignored, demonstrated how to love God, taught life lessons in everyday language,  healed the deaf, blind, and lepers…. He loved the unlovable!

 The Nativity scene on our mantle is a reminder that God in Jesus became “flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14). He is Immanuel, God with us. He showed us how to live and how to obey our Father.

 The Nativity scene sits on our mantle not only during the Christmas season but throughout the year. It reminds us that God’s coming into the world is not just a December message but one for every day of the year!

 The Mission Alive team wishes you hope, peace, joy, and love during this Christmas season!

Gratitude is Weird

Anyone with teenagers is overly familiar with the exclamation, “That’s weird”.   I have been amazed to learn how many objects or expressions are weird.  For example, to refer to something as ‘cool’ is now ‘weird.’   To wear pleated pants or white socks is ‘weird.  What I have come to realize is that when my teenager asserts that something I say or do is ‘weird,’ what he is telling me is that what carries meaning  or value to me as an adult does not carry the same meaning in his teenage culture and vice versa.

One of the most significant challenges Christians face in any culture is to identify how they can imitate the culture and yet behave, dress, speak and live differently than the culture.  One way followers of Jesus stand out in our North American culture is by expressing gratitude.    In a culture characterized by consumption and entitlement, gratitude is counter-cultural.  It is weird.

We in Mission Alive want to be weird by expressing our deep appreciation for the countless individuals and the many churches who participate in this mission.  To them we say, ‘Thank-You!’  You are the strength we need to continue this ministry.  We also want to express our appreciation to the churches and individuals who have participated in one of Mission Alive’s training events this year.  You are leaders trying to make a difference in this culture.  Thanks for trusting us to walk with you.  Lastly, we want to thank our church planters.  They are our heroes.  They are the ones who wrestle every day to embody the gospel in their neighborhoods and relational networks.  To them we say, thanks for your vision and courage.

Let’s all be weird this Thanksgiving and all year long!

Suffering Well

Most people naturally avoid suffering. And I dont blame them! Suffering is uncomfortable.

Certainly there are different degrees of suffering, but any experience of something difficult, painful or unpleasant qualifies as suffering (at least according to the dictionary).

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend who was praising God because God had preemptively rescued her family from suffering. They had planned to sell their house and move into a larger, more expensive one. When potential buyers approached them about forming a contract and purchasing the house, my friend and her husband decided at the last minute not to sell. The timing didnt seem right.

The next day she lost her job which would have provided the funds for their new mortgage. God, she reasoned, had saved them from the financial crisis that selling their house and buying a new one would have caused them.

Perhaps thats true. Im pretty ignorant most of the time about the providence of God. It was the most logical interpretation probably because our default is to avoid suffering because it makes us miserable; and God certainly wouldnt want to make us miserableright?

The apostle Paul had a different perspective on suffering. He started a church in Philippi, and after he left, the Christians there began to experience opposition from others because of their commitment to Jesus. In Pauls letter to them, he acknowledges that suffering can sometimes be a privilege and a blessing:

For God has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well.(Philippians 1:29 NRSV)

Thats difficult to hear in a culture of suffering-avoidance. How might suffering ever be a privilege and a blessing? On the surface, the Philippians were able to stand in solidarity with their leader Jesus, who suffered deeply himself. That kind of suffering was an honor. But perhaps suffering is a blessing on a deeper level as well: through suffering we are stripped of all that we hold on to for security and identity, and invited to move beyond ourselves toward God and others in genuine love.

Richard Rohr reflects on this dynamic in the book Adams Return:

In the larger-than-life people I have met, I always find one common denominator: in some sense, they have all died before they died. At some point, they were led to the edge of their private resources, and that breakdown, which surely felt like dying, led them into a larger life. Thats it! They broke through in what felt like breaking down. Instead of avoiding a personal death or raging at it, they went through a death, a death of their old self, their small life, and came out the other side knowing that death could no longer hurt them.

Jesus leads the way for us and shows us how to handle suffering. When faced with it, he emptied  and humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death on a cross.

We frequently don’t have a choice about whether or not we suffer. But we do have a choice about how we respond to it. Will we try to avoid it? Will we rage at it? Or will we, like Jesus, humble ourselves and allow God to use it to shape our souls?

We’d love to hear from you. Who do you know who has suffered well? What impact did that have upon them and others?

Report from the Field: Introducing Charles and Julie Kiser, Church Planters in Texas

This week, we want to introduce Charles and Julie Kiser, church planters in Dallas, Texas.


Where is your church plant?   

Our plant is in Dallas, Texas.

Why did you choose the place to plant? 

We chose Dallas because there are many opportunities in the city to connect with 1) those who are disconnected from God and/or Christian community; 2) those who are downtrodden and need a community to walk with them from poverty to wholeness.

What is your vision for what you are doing?

Our vision is to start missional communities in more and more nooks and crannies of culture in Dallas so that more and more people can find their place in God’s story.

What made you want to become a church planter specifically?

God called our family to be missionaries! We sensed this calling from conversations with others, time in Scripture, and a deep passion that has emerged in us. It’s like a fire in our bones. Even when we get tired and want to give up, we can’t see ourselves doing anything else.

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

1) If you can see yourself doing something other than church planting, then do it! Church planting is not for the faint of heart. It will be easy to quit if there’s not a deep sense of calling from God.

2) Consider first joining a church that embodies that kind of missional life you want to plant. Start a missional community with them before you branch out to start a church. If you can’t think of such a church, come to Storyline! We are FAR from perfect, but we’ll walk with you and help you get started!

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


What High School Football Taught Me About Developing Leaders


I played football in high school for the mighty Fort Worth Christian Cardinals. (Okay, so it was a tiny private school; but it was Texas football so we took it very seriously!)

We had the same routine every week during the football season. On Monday afternoon we would suit up and crowd into the coaches’ office — this dingy, poorly lit space above the gymnasium. For the next hour we would watch film of the game from the past Friday. They’d play it on one of those huge rear projection TVs that someone had donated to the school several decades before; the kind where you could only see the picture clearly if you were directly in front of it. After each play the coaches would comment on what went well, or what didn’t go well. They’d celebrate the good plays and offer critique about the bad ones.

After that we’d watch film of the next opponent, and the coaches would begin to prepare us for the upcoming game. We’d hit the practice field in the afternoons for the rest of the week to revisit fundamentals, work on our game strategy, and run plays.

Then Friday would come. I always loved the anticipation in the air on Fridays. We got to play the game! We got to see how well we prepared, what we were made of, how good our team was.

When Monday arrived the next week we’d start the process all over again.

My high school football experience provides some solid principles about leadership development and discipleship. It reveals a cycle that occurs repeatedly when leaders in invest in emerging leaders and help them build competency for their ministry:


  1. Prepare. As we invest in others, we prepare them for the ministry tasks ahead of them. We teach them. We give them the best information we have on the subject. We offer them exercises to help them reflect. In my football days this was watching the film of the next opponent and daily practice in preparation for the game.
  2. Participate. In this stage we do the ministry task together. We play the game! How we participate together is determined by where the emerging leader is in her/his development: we might have them help us; or they might be ready for the driver seat and we take a helping role.
  3. Process. After we play the game, we pause to debrief and process how it went. We look over the game film. We discuss three questions together: 1) What went well? (Celebration); 2) What didn’t go well? (Improvement); 3) What do we want to remember to do next time? (Action).

Jesus demonstrates these stages as he teaches the disciples (prepare), invites them to minister alongside of him and also sends them out in pairs to minister (participate), and dialogues and teaches them further after their ministry experiences (process).

How have you seen these stages at work in your own development?

Which of these stages is particularly challenging for you as you develop emerging leaders?

Catalyze Coach Training – How You Can Make A Difference

Do you want to make an impact in your community, relationships, or workplace?  Do you want to influence others and help others reach their goals?

Mission Alive’s Catalyze Coach Training will equip you to help others maximize their growth and reach their God given goals.  As a coach, you will learn to relate authentically, listen deeply, and help others see what they have never seen before.  You will learn how to help others get focused, stay focused and gain traction. In short, you will learn new ways to lead, by empowering others on mission with God.

Catalyze Coach Training is a 28 week professional certification program that involves a combination of self-paced reading, on-line instruction, and a 2.5 day training lab.  In addition, we will pair you with a personal coach mentor who will help you put what you’re learning into practice.  Your coach mentor will give you direct feedback on your coaching, and supervise you as you personally coach two of your own clients.

Important Dates To Remember

Registration Deadline is on December 4, 2015

Classes will start on January 4, 2016.

Training Lab will be in Dallas, TX on February 18-20, 2016

Begin Coaching Clients on March 28, 2016

Register Here Today!

Reggie McNeal and the Missional Church

Below is a brief post by Reggie McNeal from 2009 in which he gives a simple description of ‘missional church.’ However, that is not what I want you to see. I want you to see the simple exercise one church did by cancelling the staff meeting and going into the community to pray. Note also they were so impacted they sent the entire church out to do the same thing. Would your church dare to do such a thing? Would you take the chance of upsetting the status quo by praying the prayer they prayed while sitting in the middle of your community? I dare you!

Reggie McNeal is a friend of Mission Alive. He is funny. He is irreverent.  Most of all he is challenging. He will speak at Mission Alive’s 2016 DFW Celebration. Mark your calendar now to join us on Saturday, April 9, 2016 to hear Reggie McNeal live at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas.

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.


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


New Church Study


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?