In a year and twenty days, I am moving to Austin, Texas. I am going to launch a church.
I have been praying, dreaming, planning, talking, thinking, and researching this move for years. This is where my life has been headed since the beginning. This is where it has been headed since my father’s death led me to rededicate myself to singlemindedly doing what is important. Since I visited Gateway Church and The Austin Stone. Since I sat in the Spider House Cafe with Dave Lindrooth and realized how drawn to the people of Austin I was. Since I visited Austin with my family and found out the answer to Dave Roth’s question. Since I wrote the first draft of my launch plan in a hotel room in San Diego. Since Dave Roth asked me over beers at the National Outreach Convention if I was ready to spend the rest of my life in Austin. Since Prescott Rogers moved to Charlotte, NC. Since Ethan McCardell began praying for and with me.
My life has been headed here ever since Ron Sylvia’s Starting New Churches on Purpose and Nelson Searcy’s Launch showed me how to launch big from crowd to core. Since Derek Elphick gave me a copy of Andy Stanley’s Communicating for a Change, and changed the way I think about preaching. Since Tom Kline ordained me into the priesthood of the New Church. Since I visited Saddleback Church. Since Grant Schnarr told me to not wait for someone to tell me I am a church planter but to take the initiative for myself. Since I attended the Making Disciples seminar in Boulder, CO and learned a new way to worship. Since my wife suggested Austin as a good place to plant a church. Since Bronwen Henry gave me a copy of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church and showed me what was possible. Since I realized, sitting in a class at the ANC Theological School, that the General Church of the New Jerusalem needed to change culturally, and that the only way to do that was by adding more people. Since I learned that evangelism was a war for people’s freedom. Since Eric Carswell put an ad in the Bryn Athyn Post inviting people who had thought about joining the ministry to come talk to him. Since September 11 reset my priorities. Since reading and applying Jim Collins’ Good to Great and Built to Last. Since I helped launch a company from ten people playing with their computers in an unused bedroom to a multi-million dollar industry leader in less than ten years. Since I married an amazing woman who shares and shapes my dreams as an equal partner.
What’s more, this is where I have been headed since Jonathan Rose’s Apocalypse Revealed class showed me both that the Writings of Swedenborg are full of passion and humor, and that I loved standing in front of people and helping them connect to ideas in the Word. Since I came back in from the brief, bitter cold of Nietcsche and atheism to reembrace the faith of my childhood, but on my own terms. Since I sat in an empty cathedral on a Saturday afternoon, and heard (but then ignored, for a while) a call to Fill His Church. Since Andy Heilman taught me the connection between vector plotting and Divine Providence. Since Prescott Rogers, substitute teaching because my sixth-grade religion teacher had a heart attack, encouraged me in my pursuit of the Ancient Word. Since Gloria Wetzel put Pott’s Swedenborg Concordance in front of me.
Going back even earlier, this is where I have been headed since my father first opened a Sunday dinner with the question, “So, what was church about?” Since Kurt Asplundh preached at the 9:30 Cathedral Family Services while I silently mouthed the words he was saying, pretending I was the minister. Since my father taught me to do what you love and to love solving tricky problems for the sake of others. Since my mother taught me to be myself no matter what others said. Since they both taught me to love the Lord, to read the Word, and to be nice to my sister. Since Dan Goodenough baptized me.
Perhaps, even, since the day I was born, this is where I have been heading. Or so it seems to me.
Anyway, as you can see, I feel like I’m on sort of a mission these days. And what, exactly, is that mission? That’s an easy question to answer: to contribute to a Swedenborgian Church Planting Movement by launching a new, healthy, reproducing, useful New Christian congregation in Austin, TX, in the next eighteen months. And learning the heck out of all the mistakes I make. And sharing with others. And talking regularly with other church planters and the people who love them.
Now, a lot of people already know some piece of this dream of mine, but as we get closer, I’m getting more and more people asking questions about it. Plus, I am a big believer in broadcasting your vision and your intention as widely as possible, becuase then other people–sometimes strangers, even–are able to contribute in powerful and unexpected ways. Think of it as crowdsourcing the strategic planning process.
Anyway, I was working on my plan this morning when it occurred to me that it might be useful for me to share on my blog the high level what, why and how of my dream. I started to outline something between a proposal and a manifesto, when I realized that maybe the best way to do it was as an FAQ list. So that’s what I’m starting. This is just the preamble; each question will be handled in its own blog post, over time as I get to them. For now, here are the articles I will probably write:
- What is the “New Church”?
- Why do you care about the New Church?
- What is an evangelist?
- Why are you an evangelist?
- Why do you want to start a church planting movement?
- What does “The Long Tail” have to do with church planting?
- What is a healthy congregation?
- If every one of our congregations spends more money than it brings in through donations, wouldn’t a church planting movement just make the General Church’s financial system worse?
- What about New Church Live?
- How does church multiplication work?
- Why are you launching a new congregation in Austin, TX?
- Why Austin?
- What is Austin like?
- Why you?
- Do you have a core group?
- What is your plan for launching a new congregation in Austin?
- What about starting a New Church school?
- How will you pay for this?
- Who will you be reaching out to at first?
- What sort of music will you have?
- Where will you meet?
- When will you own your own building?
- What will you do after the new congregation in Austin is established?
- What challenges do you anticipate?
- How can I help?
Believe it or not I have answers to all these questions. Some are not totally concrete (and can’t be answered just by myself alone). Some may surprise you. Some are pretty bold. And I’m excited to start answering them–if nothing else than as a way of ordering and testing my own thoughts. But this exercise will be much more useful to me if you help by providing feedback as I go.
But before I start in on the first answer, tell me this: are there other questions I should also be addressing?