A few years ago I was confronted with this observation: “Your system is perfectly designed for the results you are getting.”
Ok frustration. What adjustments could we make to see our system, our experience of church actually become part of the movement that Jesus envisioned—making disciples of all nations and teaching them to obey everything He commanded? How can we make reproducing disciples and therefore reproducing communities? What am I missing? What needs to change in me?
These questions set me on a journey and that journey has found an accompanying voice in the writings of Neil Cole. Neil has been a pastor of an organic church movement in California called Awakening Chapels for quite a few years now and he has been coaching house church/simple church planters. In the attempt to convey what he has been learning through actual praxis he has written several books:
Nurturing a Life for God
Search and Rescue
In Church 3.0, published by Jossey-Bass, Neil’s thesis is that the adjustments required for a disciple-making movement is more than a functional or structural shift, it is an internal shift to a different way of thinking, believing and applying Jesus’ teaching from the typical (church 2.0) experience. Anyone familiar with the organic missional church conversation will recognize the shift that is occurring across the world in the way many of us “do church.” However, what is new in this book is that Cole is able to look back now on a variety of ways of applying the common principles accepted by people in the organic church conversation for movements and point to different expressions of them. There is not just one way of doing this!
Some of the things I appreciate about Church 3.0.
Like his friend Alan Hirsh, Neil Cole emphasizes the Lordship of Jesus, the authority and power of God’s Word, the sacrificial engagement of followers of Jesus with people where they live, work, play, and the joy of a church community flexing their gifts for and with each other. In Church 3.0 Neil delivers an insightful walk through Acts and the different multiplication impacts the following “church models” had: Jerusalem, Antioch, Thessalonica, Rome, and finally Ephesus. The move from centralized to decentralized mission networks is most helpful for dispelling the myth of purity in an organic church network. His discussion on the “pragmatic” concerns also opens a window on what his network has been learning about evangelism, the ordinances, kids, heresy concerns, and finances.
My appreciation for Neil’s work has been its consistent emphasis on three areas: 1. working out a mission lifestyle where people live, work, play. 2. His concern for planting the Gospel over planting churches. And 3. Ways for passing on the DNA (Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission) required for a multiplication of disciples three and four generations out from us.