Here’s a link to an article from Exponential about the missional movement in the EFCA. I’m very glad to be a part of this as our family begins our new call at Mercy Road Church in Appleton, WI soon. You can help – ‘Join Our Team‘ and help us multiply the gospel message and make disciples through the local church!
TRANSFORMATIVE STORIES FROM EXPONENTIAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES
Over the last several years, church leaders around the nation have journeyed together, in an attempt to hear and understand what God is saying to them about the next years of their lives and ministries. Specifically, what they will focus on–building their church or building the Kingdom? Guided by missional thought leaders Alan Hirsch and Rob Wegner, this inaugural group, eventually called Future Travelers, met several times to learn together and wrestle with the implications of this question.
As a result of this journey, these churches and others after them have initiated transformative changes and practices. Last year, Future Travlers opened up cohorts for denominational leaders. EFCA filled a whole cohort with leaders from the denomination. Below in this Q & A, Jeff Sorvik, church multiplication catalyst for the Evangelical Free Church of America, shares about the transformative impact the denomination’s church planting arm has seen as a result of the denomination’s experience with Exponential Learning Communities. Here, he talks about EFCA’s involvement with Future Travelers—one of two Exponential Learning Communities starting this fall—and why this extended gathering has proved to be such a catalyst of change for the denomination.
Jeff, tell us how EFCA as a denomination became involved in Future Travelers?
Two years ago, Kevin Crawford (another pastor in our denomination) and I went through Future Travelers the first time. Our journey that year was a part of prompting us ask some important questions about how we, as a denomination, could be positioned better for movement. Out of that experience, we agreed that we needed to explore an experimental idea for connecting within our movement. We found a group of young leaders with apostolic longings and gathered them together to do a Future Travelers cohort together with the intent of not just being changed in their own local church contexts, but being willing to continue on after Future Travelers as an organic network of leaders that would attempt to live out the values of multiplication at every level of ministry
We used Future Travelers as a learning environment to help us leverage movement thinking into our association. Not only did we want to influence the individual churches represented in the cohort, but we also wanted to discuss the implications of the principles we were learning and how this group could work together to influence the broader EFCA movement.
Jeff, when you think back to the three actual gatherings EFCA planters participated in as part of Future Travelers, what struck you most about the overall “learning together” experience?
Theory and practice come together. Finding a balanced learning environment is difficult. Finding the right balance of inspiration, theory and practice is a difficult challenge. By bringing together some of the best thought leaders in the area of mission and combining it with on-site learning from inspirational practitioners who are implementing the principles in their own context, the experience draws on the synergy that comes from good theory lived out. The theory changes our thinking and challenges our paradigms, and the experienced ministry practitioners help us build bridges to real-world application. In the words of Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson: “we see it, .we get it., so we can do it!”
Learning in community. In our context of doing a cohort with a group from our own movement, we truly did learning in community. We learned together, ate together and continued on after and between the sessions. In that sense, we have had an ongoing influence on each other, which has made us more motivated and accountable to continue to change.
What would you identify as 3 to 5 of the most important takeaways you brought home from Future Travelers?
- Shifting thinking from addition to multiplication: Too often, we think about adding a leader or planting a church, but Future Travelers challenged us to think bigger. We were challenged to believe that God wants a movement of multiplication that expands exponentially. It is a different way of thinking and different expectation.
- Integrated living: You can’t just tweak one or two things and get a whole new outcome. Movements are born out of the integration of six essential elements, each necessary to the whole. In the same way, each of us as leaders needs to lead a more integrated life. Your life is your mission, and you are called to not just do the work of the mission, but be transformed by the mission at home, work and in the community.
- Mission focus: The missional DNA (mDNA) for movement resides in each one of us. It is not a matter learning something new so much as it is awakening the reality that God has made me for mission, and I need to discover how He wants me to live that out. Every disciple a missionary!
- Communitas: Experiencing the different relationship that is formed in the context of adventure or adversity. Our group of leaders is beginning to form that kind of relationship, and it is inspiring us to be agents of change!
- Expectation: I am praying and expecting God to do more in my own life/ministry and through those that I am partnering with in ministry. I want more of God, and I want to see a movement of the gospel!
You took an extra day to meet together as a group to process those takeaways, right? What did you do during that time?
Yes. Our group met Wednesday morning to noon Thursday and then stayed for Thursday afternoon and Friday morning to meet and process what we had covered during the cohort. We wanted to take time to process what we learned as it related to each of our individual meetings. There is so much information you receive across a day and half that we wanted to make sure to do some processing of those ideas in the context of community. We spent time sharing how the previous gathering had influenced our churches between gatherings and how we could influence other churches in our association toward these movement principles. It also gave us an additional evening for informal gathering and relationship building.
And you’ve spent time together in between gatherings as well.
In between cohorts, we had a video conference to talk about specific action plans that people were taking and the progress they were making on their changes.
Looking back, what are the most noticeable ways your thinking has changed?
As a leader who is highly focused on activating and doing, I have been compelled to start looking at the people God has placed in my own neighborhood or spheres of influence and see that what I do with them–how I love them–is the foundation and credibility for everything else I do. As a family, we are more engaged, investing intentionally, and loving more deeply. To do that, we’ve had to reduce our activity, but we have been motivated to equip and invite many more into the mission so that what must get done can still happen. Life is richer and reproducing disciples and leaders is more critical! We are learning to live the life we want to lead others toward.
My ministry expectations have changed, as well. What I celebrate and count is changing in my own ministry. I long to build into things in a way that releases the potential that God is placed in the people around me. I now expect that things can be different and that the Church really can be what we see described in the pages of the Bible.
What one conversational thread at Future Travelers has been put into action in EFCA churches and the denomination as a whole?
Movements flourish in the context of organic structures within an apostolic environment.
Jeff, how have are you seeing this experience translate in tangible ways?
Throughout this year, not only have I heard story after story of what these leaders are doing to transform their local churches, but we are now on a journey together to see if we can create an organically structured, apostolic environment that will allow us to do more together to build movement. We are opening another new lane within our denomination that God can use to build gospel impact. At our last gathering of Future Travelers, Kim Hammond left us with a challenge. He said, “Your brand is your promise kept.” We are seizing the opportunity to allow what we learned to truly change us and to awaken the mDNA and see if God has something new and exciting to show us and do through us.
Exponential Learning Communities cohorts are currently forming for fall 2014/spring 2015–both Future Travelers and DiscipleShift. Register to be part of an Exponential Learning Community or find more information here.