Welcome to my Blog!
This first post is just for you to get to know me a little bit and why I’m passionate about missional leadership.
I’ve never really thought of myself as a blogger, I’ve been content to write for others like Fresh Expressions US, Fresh Expressions FL, Christianity Today, United Methodist Communications, Rethink Church, Church Leaders, and most recently Ministry Matters/Circuit Rider. Increasingly friends, loved ones, and mentors have encouraged me to curate and distill missional wisdom on my own public digital space.
As you can see, my website and blog are not fancy. In fact, my site is almost entirely free beside a small hosting fee. I personally try to practice a form of “missional minimalism” which I will share about in depth later. This flows from my understanding of being a steward of God’s resources.
So, here’s where I come from.
I was born in Gainesville, Florida. My mother was unable to care for me at birth. My biological father is unknown to this day. In my earliest memories I am sitting beside my grandmother, front pew on the preacher’s right, at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Ocala, Florida. Pastor Holland Vaughn and the people of St. Mark’s gathered around me at my infant baptism. Together they took responsibility to surround me with “a community of love and forgiveness.” They stepped into the gap of loss in my life when my grandparents died and fed me through their never-ending potlucks.
Unfortunately, most people born in the 1980’s and beyond like me, do not share that formative experience with the church. Increasingly they have no experience with the church or even worst they feel the church has harmed them. In my own life, I shudder to think of what I may have become without those beautiful people. Nevertheless, I ran from the love of Jesus they embodied. My altar-ing moment, did not happen on the altar in a sanctuary, but in a jail cell.
Thus, I grew up in a world of strange dualisms: of light and dark, of mean streets and soft sanctuary pews, of juvenile detention facilities and Sunday school classrooms, of ruthless victimizers and selfless saints, of deep hunger pains and extravagant potluck spreads.
I am a 9th grade dropout. In sheer necessity, mostly for survival, I learned a bit about adaptive leadership and cultivating a kind of “street smarts” I would later explore in my doctoral research as contextual intelligence. Desperation is the seedbed of innovation. After several illegal entrepreneurial ventures (for which I paid my debt to society), I started my first legitimate corporation when I was 19 years old.
I encountered the Risen Lord in the depths of my brokenness. On the floor of a jail cell, Jesus rescued from a life of addiction and incarceration.
My life experience has created the sense of tension I feel as a pastor. I treasure the inherited church that gave me life, with its traditional worship. I love the pews, hymnals, and bells and smells. I also realize that attractional forms of church are no longer connecting with most of the population.
I believe in a relentless seeking God who leaves the 99 to go after the one. A missional God who puts on flesh and moves into our neighborhood. The church is an extension of Jesus’ activity and life in the world. Most of our population will never show up to our church compounds on Sunday mornings. We need to find ways to be the church with them, without leaving the traditional church behind in the rearview. When traditional and emerging forms of church live together in a life-giving synergy it creates what I’ve written about in Deep Roots, Wild Branches as a “blended ecology.”
This drives my own passion and calling. I realize that there are many people very far from the life of the church like I once was. Jesus has called and gifted some of us particularly to be missional leaders—those who energize communities of sentness to fulfill the great commission. The word “leader” originates from the Old English lǣdere which can translate “to guide conduct,” and sentness has its origins in the Biblical Greek apostello (translated later as the Latin word missio).
I find John Wesley and the early Methodists to be a model of missional leadership, and this is a foundational principle of my book A Field Guide to Methodist Fresh Expressions.
Along my life journey there have been significant “guides” who walked beside me in relationship. These are men and women who have mentored, coached, and shaped me into the person I am today. This has been even more significant due to my lack of parents. I am the fruit of their faithfulness.
Ultimately, my role is to give away what I have so freely received by growing fruit on other peoples’ trees. I have now become a guide to others. I do this in primarily four ways:
- Coaching Missional Leaders: (lay and clergy) for multiplication, contextual church planting, and fulfillment of their God-dream.
- Consulting for Revitalization: I consult with congregations, networks, and denominations for revitalization.
- Training and Equipping: I teach and preach, to train and equip missional leaders across the country. This includes workshops, seminars, training gatherings, worship services, and seminary classrooms.
- Producing Missional Resources: I produce resources for local churches and missional practitioners. This includes email updates, books, articles, tools, and now blog posts.
This work flows from an ongoing web of relationships in which I am continuously being coached and consulted myself.
Jill, my wife/co-pastor and I have a blended family of 8 children, and two pugs named Vader and Ferdinand. For fun I enjoy inline speed skating and beach getaways. I also habitually instigate dance, play, and kingdom trouble.
Please always feel free to comment. Whether you agree, disagree, pushback, or bring insight. I want this blog to be a conversation, not a monologue!
Do you resonate with any parts of my journey? Why or why not? What drives your passion as a missional leader? Please comment below!