Starting New Communities for Mission

I remember the first morning I woke up after I had moved to Syracuse, NY. My family had spent the previous year discerning the Spirit’s voice with friends, family and our faith community. My wife and I had served in full-time vocational ministry for 15 years, and we were sensing a growing call to start a new community of mission in our hometown and now here we were.

Ready to Take on the World

I might be the oddball, but I didn’t wake up that first morning ready to take on the world. I woke up with the realization that I didn’t know how to do what had been swirling around in my head, and now I wanted to go back to bed and pretend we’d never made this decision.

Neither of us had jobs. We were sleeping in someone’s basement while our stuff was in storage and we felt utterly alone without a sending church or denominational support. There was a kénōsis, an emptying, that God was taking us through.

I read hundreds of books, attended my fair share of conferences and had fairly fruitful pastoral journey up to that point. Stepping into the unknown of planting a missional, incarnational, communal church in the heart of a post-Christian city was not going to happen through my personality, sheer brilliance, and theological acumen. As Jesus modeled for us kenosis, the setting aside of glory for the sake of God’s mission, we were being invited into the same. Being in Christ was leading us to join in the universal pattern of death and resurrection that He went through.

Seminary Wasn’t Enough

The majority of my seminary education did not prepare me for the on-the-ground work we were facing. I knew how to preach a good sermon, but I had not exercised the muscles of disciple-making, calling clusters of people on a pathway for being reshaped for the movement Jesus started.

I also was unfamiliar with the active work of presence in my neighborhood, listening to and joining with the ways God was at work. I did have some experiences with community formation, but I was certainly not ready for the combustible nature of it.

So, I reached out to my bookshelf for help because that’s what academics do and God’s Spirit gently stopped my hand. Books are great, but I began to realize I needed hands-on training and coaching for a mission in which old maps no longer worked. I needed to open myself up to new practices, new, unfamiliar exercises for guiding and developing the people of God to be present in God’s world. The majority of my seminary education didn't prepare me for on-the-ground work. Click To Tweet

More Than a Grand Launch

I’m convinced we need to start new churches that move beyond a grand launch Sunday with a great preacher, a good band, and an attractive children’s ministry. The church is twisting and turning under the pressure to be relevant and more attempts to be relevant are not the answer. Our neighborhoods need community-organizers that gather people into God’s mission through the ongoing incarnational work of Jesus.

This might sound like a pithy statement, but it’s a dynamic and painful process. Leadership in this way requires a re-learning, a rediscovery of what made the first Century church so movemental. God wants to birth something new and vital but the labor process can be intimidating.

This is why I’m so thoroughly passionate about The V3 Movement. The V3 Movement is a training network that deeply understands the terrain of mission in the West. Every year V3 coaches church planters all over North America, from places like Seattle to Miami, from Honolulu to Toronto, from L.A. to New York, and from Dallas to Atlanta in an 18 month cohort through eight competencies:

  • Movement Intelligence
  • Polycentric Leadership
  • Being Disciples
  • Making Disciples
  • Missional Theology
  • Ecclesial Architecture
  • Community Formation
  • Incarnational Practices

V3 believes that though the church is struggling, the church is not an archaic construction. What Jesus started with his disciples 2000 years ago is vitally needed in the 21st century. Though the church is struggling, the church is not an archaic construction. Click To Tweet

A Relational, Holistic Tribe

I know in my own church planting journey I needed a relational tribe to tether myself to, to receive coaching and feedback from, to share my contextual struggles with and to find meaningful friendships for the journey. This is what V3 offers in its holistic approach.

The training journey begins with an onsite intensive at the Praxis Gathering in Washington D.C. About 200 practitioners and planters come together to unpack the work of starting new missional communities in disciple-making, placed-based, boundary-crossing ways. Practitioners like Debra Hirsh, David Fitch, Soong-Chan Rah, Paul Sparks and Natasha Sistrunk Robinson help us lean into on-the-ground practices.

Before and after our Intensive in September we have a rhythm of web-based coaching calls in groups of 4 to 6. Weekly we collide to process our training and explore its implications on our burgeoning churches. We close our training journey for the year with an immersive experience in Malibu that revolves around self-care, sabbathing and simply relaxing together. I’m convinced we need to start new churches that move beyond a grand launch Sunday. Click To Tweet

Multiple Diversities

One of the unique joys of V3 is the diversity of people who lead church plants. We have gender and ethnic diversity as well as people who are rooted in various traditions, including Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, Reformed and Anabaptist. We believe God’s mission needs all of God’s people, which is why women must be at the table, bringing their full gifts and wisdom to bear on the future of the church. When we have Black, White, Asian and Hispanics participating in planting and movement, we reflect the reconciling nature of the gospel and become a preview of God’s future. We rally around the basics of being the church as a movement yet the expression of our churches are robust with cultural diversity and theological diversity.

Right now the V3 Movement is accepting applications for its Fall cohort. As one who is still a church planter, and now coach with the V3 Movement, I know that isolation is the worst thing for starting a new missional church.

The journey is precarious and belonging to a family of planters that empathizes is essential for survival. But we need to go beyond just surviving, we need to discover the grassroots work that helps us thrive in the landscape of our cities and neighborhoods. Consider diving into the V3 Movement to discover how to start and sustain missional, incarnational congregations.

Click HERE to register for a V3 Learning Cohort

Get a taste of The V3 Movement by registering for the free webinar “Don’t Just Plant a Church, Start a Movement” with JR Woodward here.