This post is the third part of a short series detailing the process grafting our church plant together with another to form one network of Missional Communities in Fort Wayne. Check out the previous posts in the series to get the full scoop:
We began this process by simply talking and praying together with another 3DM-influenced church in Fort Wayne, and in the end felt like God was daring us to think outside the box in terms of partnership. As surprising as it was to us, this feels like the next natural step in our original vision, which was to cultivate and multiply communities of discipleship and mission all over the Fort Wayne region (and beyond).
The idea feels like it’s from God, and we’re excited about the big picture, but we also needed a process to help our communities graft well. In horticultural terms, grafting living things together must be done carefully and with great skill if it is to be successful. We felt the same care must be taken in our spiritual/relational grafting situation. After a lot of prayer and conversation with others, this is the grafting process we are implementing:
First, a season of GRAFTING (Sept – Nov)
Our Missional Communities are used to a rhythm where three Sundays out of four they gather as a MC for their UP/IN/OUT life together. One Sunday per month we would bring the MCs together for a worship celebration. Missional Community is very much the primary expression of “church” for our people.
But coming to a worship celebration at Grace Gathering once a month didn’t feel like it would allow enough relational contact to allow a true graft to take place. So to gain more of this relational and spiritual interconnectedness with Grace, we have asked our MCs to commit to attending Grace’s worship services for 10 weeks or so, as well as participating in a variety of other events designed to help our communities get to know each other, such as combined leadership training, prayer meetings, and informal lunches.
Our Missional Communities are continuing to meet informally during this time, sometimes getting together after worship services or midweek.
Second, a season of SABBATICAL (Dec – Feb)
After this initial season of intensified grafting, Deb and I will be going on a three-month sabbatical with our family. We are doing this for four reasons:
- RHYTHM OF LIFE
We have been working full- or part-time in Christian ministry for over ten years, and experts recommend a sabbatical for people like us every 7-8 years or so. We don’t feel “burnt out,” per se. In fact we are finding we have a tremendous amount of energy and vision for the next season. But we are recognizing that this is a wise rhythm for us to engage in, and a good time for it. We feel God leading us into it.*Note: We will continue our coaching work during this time, because we plan to continue to rely on it for bi-vocational income.
One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned over the past few years is that mission and ministry are accomplished by faith, not by human skill and intelligence, and faith only comes by hearing God’s voice. The sabbatical will be a time away from the hustle and bustle of ministry to listen more closely to God about what is next for our family.
Sabbatical will also be a great time for us to engage in an intentional season of learning. For this reason we will be spending our sabbatical near the 3DM team in Pawleys Island, SC. These are people who have already invested much in us and from whom we are eager to learn more.
A sabbatical will also provide the necessary “vacuum” that allows people in our community to begin to step into the new leadership roles we’ve been preparing them for. It will also provide space for people to look to the wider leadership community of Grace Gathering (instead of just us) for direction, accountability and encouragement.
Third, a season of INTEGRATION (Mar -)
When we return from sabbatical, Deb and I will function as part of Grace’s leadership team, a part-time role focusing on the area of spiritual formation and discipleship, giving oversight, encouragement and support to the wider network that our MCs are now part of. We will also continue our work with 3DM, coaching pastors and leaders around the country in building a “discipleship and mission” culture in their churches and ministries.
We also are hopeful that, as the result of this grafting process, some “cross-pollination” will occur: Grace’s people joining our MCs, our people joining Grace’s MCs, new MCs starting that draw in folks from both churches, so that the graft has taken both ways, catalyzing kingdom movement.
In all of this, we’ve simply been attempting to “seek first” God’s kingdom and righteousness, trusting that he will take care of us as we do so. In other words, “Make it your top priority to be involved in what God is doing. Everything else will be taken care of.” We are attempting to simply notice what God is doing and get involved with it.
At the end of the day, our vision remains the same as it has always been: cultivating and multiplying communities of discipleship and mission to join God in the renewal of all things. We are very excited about this transition, but it has been a real test of faith in many ways. I appreciate your prayer and support!