Ed Stetzer Is (Probably) Not Your Pastor

At the “amen” of the closing prayer, the man bounded up to the stage with a satisfied look on his face. “Dude, you really brought it just now!” he exclaimed. “That was just what we needed to hear!” The Dude in question was Ed Stetzer, missiologist, author, preacher, researcher, and popular Christian conference speaker. The excited guy from the audience was going in for the hug when he uttered some very telling words: “Thanks for being a pastor to all of us.”

Ed had no idea who this guy was. Not because he’s especially forgetful (he’s a human Wikipedia of missions and the church), and not because he’s bad with names (he isn’t– except maybe with mine). The problem was that Ed had never actually met this man who was clearly his biggest fan. (Though anyone who knows germaphobic Ed would know better than to actually touch him.)

Ed Stetzer is everywhere. He spends lots of time on the road, speaking at conferences, teaching in seminaries, and consulting with various organizations and denominational groups. He puts out several books each year. He blogs regularly and Tweets like a spambot. His brain never shifts out of overdrive. I’ve seen him answer text messages while making a keynote presentation without ever missing a beat. Despite his crazy travel schedule, he’s home every weekend to spend time with his family and preach at church every Sunday.

It would be easy for anyone who reads his stuff and sees him speak a couple times a year to feel as though they knew Ed. His commitment to biblical truth might even make some of his fans feel as though Ed was their pastor. He’s not, and he doesn’t claim to be. Neither are any of the other two dozen or so other big names in evangelical circles. Unless you go to their churches (and in some cases, even that won’t do it), authors and conference speakers aren’t your pastors.

A pastor knows you well enough to preach the gospel into your community of faith. He holds you accountable for your missteps and encourages you through the rough patches. As described in 2 Timothy 4, a pastor is more than just a presenter of gospel teaching, he’s a shepherd who supervises your spiritual formation. The conference stage, book, (and, in many cases, the megachurch pulpit) serve as two-way mirrors; allowing us to be taught without being seen, to be preached to without being cared for.

We need thinkers, teachers, authors, and speakers. On the corporate level, leaders like Ed Stetzer are the people who drive the conversation and inspire with new ideas. They teach, equip, and challenge us publicly. They speak on our behalf. But believers need more than just sound instruction. Every Christian everywhere needs a pastor who knows them and speaks into their lives personally.

Ed Stetzer isn’t your pastor. Neither is Francis Chan, John Piper, or Matt Chandler (unless, of course, you go to their churches.) If you don’t know who your pastor is, you need to find one. If you don’t know of any in your area, ask Ed Stetzer– he probably does.

The Church Has A Mission

The Upstream Collective recently went to London and Paris on a Jet Set vision trip. We took 26 pastors and church leaders (and  a couple wives) to Europe to see first-hand what missions looks like in that post-Christian context. These trips have always been successful.  90% of pastors who participate find ways to become directly involved in missions within 6 months of the trip.

My favorite part of our Jet Set vision trips is the casual conversation that happens over coffee and on the subway. When you get a group of church planters and leaders together, we sort of geek out on theology, social trends, and technology. This trip was a great mix of highly motivated church planters. They saw the challenge of ministry in these global cities and had some great ideas for strategic engagement there. But every conversation seemed to come back around to one sticking point: The Stateside pastors/planters felt that the workers in the field had a low ecclesiologicaly relative to their missiology.

I think the pastors had a good point. Missionaries, acting as “free agents” without direct oversight from any local body of believers, were almost entirely focused on building relationships, studying culture, and looking for ways to move into spiritual conversations. I’ve written extensively here about the importance of these things. But I’ve also written here about the same concern the American pastors had– that the missionary teams were working hard to start churches without actually being a church.

The fellowship of believers is a powerful thing. The presence of the church can serve as an example of Christ-centered community that is attractive, incarnational, and redemptive. But these orphaned church planting team has to do quite a bit to make up for the fact that they are not churches. Outside the care, gifting, leadership, and authority of a local church, they’re in a spiritually dangerous place.

Some missionary teams join local churches (when there are any), hoping to be “adopted” by them as they work to plant new churches. But these local churches had no part in the missionaries’ confirmation of calling, formation, preparation, or sending. They don’t often share a common vision for church planting among their own people. Consequently, missionaries can be frustrated, sidetracked, or rejected by existing ministries among their people group.

When missiology is at the forefront– when it “precedes” ecclesiology, we send missionaries separate from the local church to do mission on behalf of the church. The result can be an isolated missionary that is estranged from God’s organizational structure, the church.

More soon…

You’re Not From Around Here Anymore

The biggest obstacle to a church truly becoming missional is a mistaken sense of citizenship. Missionaries to foreign lands understand quite well (and quickly!) that ministry among a different people requires them to change the way they see things- they learn language in order to communicate, they study culture in order to relate, they build relationships in order to love. This sort of immersion is fundamental to the establishment and growth of the Church among a people. Without it, the Way of Jesus remains just another imperialistic foreign religion.

Being missional is about applying missionary thinking to everyday life. It means giving up expectations (delusions?) of unearned social credibility, common morality, or programmatic attractional ministry. A church is missional when it actively and intentionally goes out into its surrounding community and engages people in redemptive relationships on the culture’s terms. The result of this ongoing activity is a truly indigenous church that is continually translating the gospel into the local context in word and deed.

What prevents churches from becoming missional is their inability to see themselves as foreigners (“strangers,” or “aliens”). When you live in the town you grew up in, when your best friends are the ones you’ve known since elementary school, when you don’t have an accent and everyone around you looks just like you, it’s difficult to see yourself as an outsider. When you have your own space (building, campus, etc.), when you enjoy favor with the government, when your neighbors automatically modify their behavior to conform to your values when they’re in your presence, it’s hard to be convinced that you don’t belong.

By grace, we are saved into God’s Kingdom. Our citizenship is transferred from the earthly place where we were born to the heavenly place where God rules. Our ongoing presence on earth means that we are now sent as ambassadors- representatives of Jesus to the unbelieving societies among which we live. Our physical location may not have changed, but our orientation certainly has.

When you’re an outsider in your own culture, you’re careful about being to comfortable in it. You immerse yourself in the human story in order to influence the people who are still slaves to it. You watch movies, eat food, play games, attend parties, read books– all for the sake of incarnation. Not that there isn’t much to enjoy (there is!), but that we enjoy this life because of our relationship with God, not because of our relationship with this world.

Mission is a fundamental part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. That part has been neglected by churches that do nothing to be on mission. It has been relegated to program by “mission trip” churches. It has been outsourced to “the professionals” by passively involved churches. By not developing the missional aspect of Christianity, the church has stunted its growth and sapped the power of its influence.

When the church sees itself as foreign, its perspective will change. It will rethink its methodologies, its public relations, and its structure. It will lose its sense of entitlement and its claim to rights. It will stop assuming or pursuing “home court advantage.” It will not overestimate its ability to influence people or speak into culture.

Only the church that sees itself as alien can truly be missional.

You’re Afraid

robot_girl_hidingDear Pastor,

I’ve always been perplexed by your lack of direct involvement in international missions. It’s not that you shy away from preaching about international issues. You often encourage social action- you’ve led your church’s campaign to help local public schools. You support a child in a poverty-stricken village in Malaysia. You’ve raised money to finance the digging of wells in Africa.

You certainly talk quite a bit about God’s global activity and about our mandate to go and make disciples. You talk about being missional and living out your faith in your community. Your church often engages in service projects in your city- no-strings-attached ministry to people in need. You welcome people of all sorts into your gatherings.

You’re not stingy, either. Your church gives lots of money to various ministries both local and abroad. You sent a truckload of water bottles to help Katrina victims. You support missionaries in different parts of the world. You preach boldly about generous and sacrificial giving for the sake of this work.

But still, when it comes to planting indigenous churches among people of other nations that do not know Jesus, you’re not doing much at all. You redefine the word “mission,” so that everything the church does somehow falls under this new, catch-all category, but when we talk about the work of crossing cultures with the gospel, you don’t have much to offer.

After meeting you, visiting your church, listening to your podcast, reading your blog, and following you on Facebook and Twitter, I believe I have some insight into your lack of participation: You’re afraid.

You’ve never been on a mission trip or vision trip because you’re terrified buy the thought of leaving the comfortable life you’ve built for yourself. The prospect of going without Starbucks and Tex-Mex and Super Wal-Mart is hard for you to swallow.

You shirk spiritual responsibility for engaging a people group with the gospel because it’s outside your are of “expertise.” The meaning of the gospel and it’s practical application to your local expression- that you can do. But wading into the unknown waters of another culture? You’re not used to not knowing how to act or what to say.

You’re comfortable with being known and respected in your social circles. You’re the pastor, after all, and people value your perspective on everything from theology to politics to technology. Outside your context though, you’re a nobody. You have no credibility in foreign lands. You suspect this, of course, and choose to stay home.

Everybody knows that missions can be hard. In addition to language learning, thoughtful dialog, and cultural exegesis, required skills may include auto mechanics, carpentry, hunting- even self-defense. Your skill set doesn’t require getting your hands dirty. You’re more comfortable studying, preaching, leading meetings, finding the best deals on a book at Amazon.com, or managing multiple Twitter accounts. The difficulty of the mission frightens you.

So go ahead- preach about taking responsibility being a “real man.” Ridicule those who lead smaller churches or sing “sissy” songs to Jesus. Watch your Ultimate Fighting and mock anyone who disagrees with you. Your actions undermine your words. You’re afraid to be obedient in mission.

Fear, of course, is not of God. As believers, we’re not called to comfort, control, or to be the first among, well, anyone. Now is the time to repent. Now is the time to lead your church to direct involvement in God’s global mission. You’re capable, you’ve got the resources, and you’ve been commanded to go.

What are you waiting for?

A Hundred Different Directions

advertising-quiz-250x150You’ve worked hard to build a missions-minded church. You have a couple that are really excited about ministry in Indonesia. You have a young lady who’s been to Kenya over a dozen times. Your church has planted churches in inner-city Detroit and suburban Ohio. You take mission trips to Nicaragua and Lisbon every year. You sponsor needy children through Compassion. Every other Saturday, you send people to volunteer at the rescue mission. You’ve sent out missionaries to Wales, Yemen, Ecuador, and Belarus. Your church does missions. You’re going in a hundred different directions.

With an endless number of opportunities for service and overwhelming need all around, it can be hard to know what to get involved in. You’ve been sure to teach your people to be involved in service and to be missional, so they are. Odds are, you’ve got people involved in everything from digging wells in Africa to literacy programs among the urban poor.

But is missions a point of division for your church?  Each ministry requires time and money. That couple who started a ministry to homeless teenagers is always asking for time at the end of your worship service to share about the work. Your international missionaries plea for money, the orphanage advocates need volunteers. You’ve got fundraiser dinners for student mission trips, canned-good drives for immigrants and refugees, and gift-card collections every Christmas. The people involved in each ministry think you need to give more time from the pulpit to their causes. They feel that money spent on other things would be better spent in support of their work. They resent the “apathy” they see in everyone else (who are likely involved in their own ministries), and they judge the attention given to less crucial activities. They accuse you of playing favorites when you fail to mention their charity concerts and bake sales. They compete for the church’s time and attention. Sure everyone is “on mission,” but everyone is on a different mission. You end up divided, overwhelmed, and less effective than you ought to be.

How do you decide what to say “yes” to, and what’s a “no?” Does your pastoral staff make the decisions? Do you have a missions pastor? Does everything go to a committee? Most churches arrive at their missions involvement through democratic consumerism; individuals somehow hear about a ministry and decide that it’s something the church should get excited about. The opportunities that get the most votes win. The church is influenced by slick marketing on the part of missionaries and nonprofit organizations. They follow the latest trends, looking to rock stars and former celebrities for guidance on what to support. “Missions” becomes buying a T-shirt, going on a trip, dropping money in a beggar’s cup. Where’s the unity in this? What’s the theology behind it? How can your church be unified in its efforts?

The answer isn’t to ask people to back off their involvement in any particular area. Instead, consider revisiting the basics of your church’s missiological priorities and values. Do an in-depth study of the biblical foundation for missions. Highlight examples of ministry opportunities that reflect those values, and warn your people against things that might be a distraction. Provide your church with a common vocabulary to talk about these things. Explore the gifts, resources, and interests within your faith community. Emphasize commitment, sacrifice, obedience, blessing, and love. Explain the purpose of our presence.

Given some principles, your church members will be able to make smart choices based on the priorities you help establish. They’ll be able to avoid unhealthy distinctions between “social” ministries and strictly “spiritual” ones. They won’t be tempted to put the plight of depressed suburban teenagers on the same level as that of children dying from easily preventable diseases. They won’t focus so heavily on evangelism that they miss the discipleship we’re commissioned to do. Reproducing “what works back home” won’t be as attractive to them. Throwing money at a problem will cease to assuage their sense of guilt. They won’t buy into the lie that missions is about “suffering for Jesus” or fall for the convenience of outsourcing missions. They’ll finally be free of the three boxes- “Pray, Give, or Go.”

With a common understanding, your church can be unified in its mission endeavors. You may still be involved in different types of ministry in different parts of the world, but you’ll be united in your understanding of the part you play. You’ll have established criteria for what gets mentioned during worship gatherings and what gets financial support. You’ll be able to say “no” without feeling guilty. Missions will have meaning; it can be your reputation in your community, and the focus of your unity. Instead of going in a hundred different directions, it’ll seem like your just going in one.

Who Does Your Church Look Like?

060214_lookalikes_hmed_9a.hmediumThey say that, over time, we begin to resemble our spouses.

Maybe it’s convenience- we use the same products, shop at the same stores, eat the same foods. Eventually, you can’t tell whether those are your glasses or hers. You just grab whatever set of dentures you find lying around and put them in. It might have something to do with personal taste- that we “rub off” on one another and begin to like the same things. Perhaps the key is environmental- years of sitting in the same chairs and sleeping in the same bed is bound to give you the same stooped posture and creaky joints as your significant other. Maybe the fine people of Kentucky are on to something – we all end up married to our sisters anyway.

Most people, including pastors, choose a church that looks like them. Everything from racial and socio-economic profile to parenting style to theological bent. All around the world you’ll find hippie churches, yuppie churches, black churches, white churches, Hispanic churches, affluent churches, traditional churches- you get the idea. In missiological terms of segmentation, that’s good for the spread of the gospel; people can interact with a body of believers that “looks” just like them. They can see examples of Christ’s life-transforming work in their own culture.

In terms of discipleship, homogeneity isn’t a good thing. As people grow in their faith, they necessarily need to move away from those cultural attributes that are contrary to the values of the redeemed. Segregation, isolation, prejudice, ignorance, fear, disunity- these are not of God. Maturing churches shouldn’t look like new ones, because maturing believers don’t look like the world from which they are being saved.

I’m convinced the changed-appearance phenomenon happens with churches, too. It doesn’t take long before a congregation begins to look like its spouse. The church, of course, is supposed to be the bride of Christ. It stands to reason, then, that it should grow to look more and more like Jesus, taking on His attitude, His values, His reactions, His perspective.

Yet when I visit churches across the country (and around the world), churches tend to look a lot like their pastors (or the pastor’s wife, or the head deacon, or whoever may actually run the show.) I see churches that put academic knowledge above everything else- just like their pastor, Dr. So-and-So. I’ve been in churches that worship Worship (at least, the singing and music part,) led by former-ministers of music and aspiring Christian rock artists. Churches that focus on fighting the cults and cultures their leaders have been saved from; churches that react to whatever bad experience their pastor had as a kid. Churches that cater to families (usually while the pastor has young children)- then they move on to being a youth-oriented church. Angry churches. Discouraged churches. Political churches. Proud churches.

Who does your church look like? When people see and interact with you, who is it they’re seeing and interacting with? Is it your pastor? Your leadership team? Your critics? Or is it Jesus?

Grown-up Church

ranch-1983If everything I know about church was learned in youth group, I’d be inclined to think that:

  • Church should be a good mix of games, singing, a short devotion, and pizza.
  • Accountability is meeting with a “grownup” who asks me if I’ve been reading my Bible.
  • Socially, it’s easier to be a big fish in the “small pond” of church.
  • All the hype is to get me in the door. This all happens for me.
  • Discipleship happens through events and programs- Camp, Mission Trip, Lock-ins, Disciple Now Weekends.
  • Spiritual maturity is measured in terms of event attendance.
  • The space in which we meet is very important.
  • Evangelism means inviting my unbelieving “friends” to church.
  • Missions is backyard Bible clubs with poor kids one week every summer.

I’m not against youth ministry. But I suspect a generation (or two!) of pastors and church leaders who are products of youth group have heavily influenced the way church is done. So we’ve traded “pizza, games, singing and a short devotion” with, well, “donuts, drama, singing and a slightly longer devotion.” But the idea is the same- events, programs, attraction, and t-shirts are not what church is about.

We need to grow up.

Grown up doesn’t mean boring. It’s not the opposite of attractive. Grown-up church is unabashedly intrusive. It’s boldly personal. It’s radically Christ-centric. It fills in the gaps between “mountaintop experiences.” It replaces accountability groups with discipling relationships. It moves beyond “lend a helping hand” mission trips to entire churches taking spiritual accountability for unbelieving people groups. Grown-up church survives economic recession, moral failure on the part of the leadership, tragedy, marginalization, and persecution.

Is your church growing? Is it growing up?

Platform Diving

apartmentsIn missiological terms, it’s called a “platform.” It’s how you enter into the community, what you do, how you present yourself, in order to make a connection. Many missionaries aren’t “missionaries” at all, but doctors, teachers, businessmen, artists, social activists. A good platform allows for natural interaction with the people to whom you’re ministering while leaving you with enough time to connect socially. Everyone in ministry needs a platform.

Apartment Life is an example of a great platform. Millions of people, especially in unchurched urban areas, live in apartments and multi-unit housing. The owners of these properties stand to make lots of money, but only if they can retain their tenants. Studies have shown that building a sense of community among residents can raise the level of retention. In other words, people will stay in an apartment complex if they have friends there. They may even be inclined to pay more in monthly rent, take better care of the property, and actively recruit potential tenants.

apartmentlife.orgEnter Apartment Life. They place believers into apartment complexes in order to build a sense of community among residents. In exchange for welcoming new tenants, organizing community events, and making friends in the complex, you get to live there for free. Kind of like a property manager, but with relationships. It turns out that the cost of fixing trashed apartments, finding new tenants, kicking out deadbeats, and making people feel safe adds up to a lot more than what you would pay in rent each month. Apartment Life brokers a deal with property owners based on the idea that your presence adds value to their business.

This is one of the most creative and promising endeavors I’ve ever heard about. If you’re in any sort of incarnational ministry, whether it’s to urban professionals, immigrants, or the working poor, odds are they live in apartments. A great way to incarnate the gospel is to move into the neighborhood. Church planters could easily make this their platform for planting a church. (For a great example of apartment complex church planting, check out Mission Arlington.) You’ve got natural access to people, total property owner permission to throw parties and interact with tenants, and you don’t have to pay rent. You’re not limited to existing Apartment Life opportunities, either. If you need a place to live and you can proactively build community, send them an email requesting that they set something up in your area. Already living in an apartment? They might be able to broker a deal where you already live.

Brilliant.

If I Were Mark Driscoll

Mark DriscollObviously, I’m not Mark Driscoll. I couldn’t be, even if I tried. The man is an amazing communicator, a fearless preacher of the scriptures. Through his sermons, interviews, debates, and seminars, Pastor Mark makes the Truth understandable, accessible, and applicable for thousands of people on a regular basis.

Beyond the teachings of Mark Driscoll is the persona of Mark Driscoll. The dynamic pastor of Seattle-based Mars Hill Church doesn’t just set an example for young pastors across the country, he’s a role model. The regular-guy with working-class roots who’s cool but tries not to try too hard. He’s into music and art, pop culture, theology, and sports. In my interactions with pastors and church planters everywhere, I’ve met several who are Mark Driscoll fanboys, choker necklaces and all.

While I could never build and maintain a megachurch like Mark has, I’d love to step into his role for just a day. For one day, instead of Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill (and the hundreds of churches it influences) would get me- a burnt-out former church planting missionary to Western Europe. For that one day, here’s what I’d do:

I’d start the morning with a staff meeting. I have no idea what sort of leadership team Mars Hill has, but I’d call in all the elders and pastors to tell them the big news: Mars Hill is selling their building(s). The goal would be to sell or give away all of their properties by the end of the day. Why? Because Mars Hill has a vision of growing their church to 50,000 disciples by the year 2019, and getting rid of the walls and grounds that tie them down would really pave the way for that to happen. Buildings only create bottlenecks in the expansion of the kingdom. If they publicized the sell off/giveaway, they’d give instant credibility to their claim that the Church is the people, not the building.  Giving some of the locations away to local nonprofits and needy people would be another opportunity to put into action what they already believe about grace, compassion, and social justice.

Next, I’d resign as pastor of Mars Hill Church. Not that Driscoll isn’t a good pastor or great communicator- he is. But that’s precisely why he should resign. For nearly ten years now, Driscoll has served an apostolic role in evangelical circles; writing, teaching, leading, and casting vision. He spends hours per week in study and sermon preparation, and it shows. If you  haven’t seen Mark field questions on the fly via SMS, you really need to. His wit, and wisdom, fueled by his knowledge of scripture (and what seems to be an inability to filter his thoughts before voicing them) are really nothing short of divine gifting.

Which is why he should resign. Mark isn’t the pastor of Mars Hill Church. He’s a spiritual entrepreneur and visionary. He’s not a people person. I’ve never met him personally, but I suspect that Driscoll doesn’t care about your sick aunt or your new job. He’s probably not going to sit for hours by your side as you work through your marriage. No, Mark Driscoll needs to quit calling himself a “pastor” and reframe his role for what he is- an apostolic leader for the Church. Look at his aggressive expansion of Mars Hill through the opening of new campuses and video venues. Pastor Mark is a de facto elder of the Church at the city/region/nation-wide affinity/demographic level. He’s not trying to build an empire, he’s trying to be apostolic within the confines of his role as pastor.

Mark could still draw a paycheck from Mars Hill, and I would hope the he would continue to teach and answer questions. So much of his identity is wrapped up in his being considered a pastor, letting go is control would be an extremely difficult thing to do. But his resignation would take loads of pressure off of young leaders across the country who struggle to fill the role of Pastor as Driscoll has practiced it. Conferences? The Acts 29 Network? Resurgence? Debates on ABC? Those aren’t pastoral things, they’re apostolic things.

After resigning, I guess I’d go to lunch. But not without holding a press conference. On my way to Chili’s (or wherever Mark likes to eat), I’d meet with reporters, bloggers, protesters, and followers to ask for help. If the church suddenly doesn’t have the central location(s) in which to meet, they’re going to need somewhere else to go. As Mark Driscoll, I’d use my sizable influence to ask for hundreds (thousands) of places to meet in the Seattle are. Bars, theaters, coffee shops, living rooms, bowling alleys, high school gyms, Lion’s Club halls. These smaller meetings would spread Mars Hill church out into the community, rubbing Salt into Seattle’s mundane spaces and forcing parents and leaders to take spiritual responsibility for the few they meet with. To be pastors. Those are the people who I’d want to read my blog and listen to my podcast. As an apostle, my goal would be not to pastor the thousands of people who participate in Mars Hill, but to mentor and coach the pastors of small Mars Hill gatherings wherever they meet.

As I wrote, I’m no Mark Driscoll. I’m just a hack missiologist. But I’ve been to America’s future in Western Europe, and I want the Church here to be prepared for it. I believe that Mark Driscoll is one of many leaders God can use to get us there, if only we can free them from the modern pragmatism that keeps them from being truly missional.

The Counterintuitive Church (pt. 8, The Impractical Churches Among Us)

PREVIOUSLY: Impractical Spaces

Lest you think these last few posts reflected only the thoughts of a lone anonymous cynic, I’d like to introduce you to some of the many other intentionally impractical leaders among us:

When he started the Evergreen Community in Portland, Oregon, Bob Hyatt had a vision- he knew what he wanted his church to be (biblical missional community of faith), and what he didn’t want it to be (legalistic, programmatic, location-dependent). Now, five years later, Evergreen meets in three locations (two pubs and the facilities of another church), and has established itself in Portland as the church for people who are burned out on church. Evergreen’s intentionally small gatherings allow for conversational dialogue and the kind of accountability that only true community can provide. “Community isn’t optional for followers of Jesus.” Bob counterintuitively says, “So if you’re not sure Evergreen is the place for you, there are lots of other churches in town that might be a better fit for you.”

Michael Carpenter planted intentionally nontraditional Matthew’s Table in Lebanon, TN. The Nashville suburb’s claim to fame? It’s the proposed site of Bible Park USA, a “Christian” Theme Park. Matthew’s Table is an impractically missional gathering of believers in an unlikely place. Why Lebanon? “I have to honestly say that this is the VERY last place I thought we would plant, yet I am glad we are here.” writes Michael. But for him, it’s not so much about strategy as obedience. “This is where God sent us, period.”

Todd Littleton is the epitome of Impractical Church leadership. While most of the players in the “missional” conversation plant their own churches in trendy neighborhoods where it might be easier to find like-minded people, Todd has remained pastor of Snow Hill Baptist Church in rural Tuttle, OK for the last 15 years. Their worship isn’t focused on twenty-somethings or lighted with candles, but Snow Hill is an incarnational gathering. I visited one Sunday morning, and was greeted by a little old lady who spelled it out for me: “We are a different kind of church. Around here, we try to be ‘missional.’ That means that we take Jesus to the people instead of just inviting them to church.”

The list is long: Marty Duren in Buford Georgia. Steve McCoy outside Chicago. Both traded denominational influence for influence in their local communities. Kevin Jamison moved into Middletown, Ohio just as everyone else seemed to be moving out. Dr. Thom Wolf is a brilliant thinker and teacher who left a prominent teaching position to move to India. Andrew Jones and his family live in a truck. There are many Counterintuitives among us.

I don’t have a problem with megachurches or their pastors. I do have a problem with the fact that we listen to them so much. We read their books. We pay to hear them speak at conferences. We look to guys like Perry Noble, Mark Driscoll, and Mark Batterson for practical tips on how to grow our churches, open video venues, or make them more relevant. They are great guys- godly men, to be sure. But I think we’ve heard what they have to say. I think we need to hear from the Impractical Churches among us.