Today I’m asking Hugh Halter and Matt Smay to tell us about their new book AND, which releases next month at the Exponential Conference as part of our new Exponential Series. Hugh and Matt have also written The Tangible Kingdom, and the accompanying primer. You can catch up with the authors on their blogs: http://hughhalter.com/ and http://mattsmay.com/, plus hear them speak first-hand at Exponential.
We wrote the book at the request of a respected group of network leaders who felt that someone needed to call the church past the “missional/attractional” divide that has grown over the last 5-7 years. The message was confirmed at an informal gathering of mega and micro church leaders in Denver, where we saw the exact same passion for the explosion and expansion of God’s missional church across a wide range of forms. No one cared about “how” we were doing church. Everyone just wanted God’s church to re-emerge from the ashes of irrelevance.
The audience for AND primarily includes any existing church pastor looking to make a serious commitment to the missional paradigm of church. It will also be helpful for church planters needing to create structures that provide long-term sustainability while maintaining a missional focus. Our secondary audience group will be denominational leaders and church planting networks involved or interested in bridging the gap between emerging and existing church leaders.
Where did your ideas come from?
As with our first book, The Tangible Kingdom, our passion for this topic came from our own story. Early on, people assumed we were organic purists because our church started from scratch with most of our stories in homes, pubs, coffee shops, etc. As our story grew we felt uncomfortable being labeled by someone else’s “form” of church. We never tried to claim any type of church, but we were learning that there is a natural struggle to find a balance of scattering people into incarnational mission but that there is also a significant beauty and meaning in corporate gatherings…as long as they don’t pander to consumerism. As we navigated our own balance, we found that every chu rch leader we talked with had the same curiosity.
What new things do you write about in AND?
AND builds naturally from The Tangible Kingdom, which focused on the scattered aspect of mission, that is, creating incarnational communities of intentional mission. AND addresses how to hold decentralized communities together in a centralized mission and it doesn’t matter where you start or where you find yourself.
The reader will find a unique description of the concept introduced by Ralph Winter where he describes the two redemptive sides of the church that should always work together, but that have been separated for too long. Bringing back this message is the key in unlocking a tension that has divided denominations, churches, elder boards, and parishioners. AND will help leaders avoid the fights that seem to occur whenever “missional” comes up, and will provide a framework for any church to move toward God’s balance for them.
There at two glaring takeaways in AND. First is the call to stop creating consumer church experiences immediately. They don’t produce disciples and therefore must be shepherded out of our present paradigms of church. Second, start piloting incarnational communities now. There’s no need to wait until you have complete buy-in; there’s no need to upturn the entire apple cart to start; and there are only positives to be gained by moving quickly into the balance of the AND.
What do you hope AND will accomplish?
We hope the readers will leave AND with a simple love for the church again but also a challenge not to “do church”. AND exposes the tragedy of consumer-oriented church and calls us back to the basics of making disciples, giving leaders a more faithful balance of incarnational communities and centralized structures that keep each church on mission.
How can readers connect with you and join the conversation?
What’s next is to join the hundreds of churches that are already moving toward the balance by piloting communities through the Tangible Kingdom Primer which is a preparation for mission that finally combines missional practices within a spiritual formation framework. It’s where we start every church and every community. Leaders who desire to be coached through this process can also enroll in the MCAP (Missional Community Apprenticeship Practicum) which is an online training and coaching environment.
Stephanie Plagens is the Publications Manager for Leadership Network.