Since Lifesong closed it’s doors about four years ago, I’ve continued to call myself a pastor.
When your kids move out you don’t stop calling yourself a father, so I figured that was pretty normal, but recently I’ve realized that many of my pastor friends who stopped pastoring, actually quit being pastors. They moved on to other things, and they carved new healthy purposes for their life.
It’s not that I’ve not been languishing or pining away for Lifesong. I haven’t suffered from a lack of purpose or identity crisis. It’s just that the purpose has continued to be pastoring, even without a church. My activities have very naturally continued to be pastoral. I’ve been counseling, leading a small group, teaching weekly through the Bible as well as filling in more than occasionally on Sunday and Saturday services for other pastors . I’ve even been building churches, albeit vicariously through coaching other pastors. The point is that I’ve continued to think of myself as a pastor because I’ve continued to pastor or maybe vice versa,
And I’ve loved every minute of it.
I’ve also been learning so much about pastoring, hanging out with all these pastors. Together we’ve explored, discovered and tested new ways of doing church, of being the church.
Recently, I’ve been able to see how my life experiences- leading a church, conferences, the work I’ve done with a popular tech fruit stand, the counseling, the coaching- all of it has come together with the Grace God has given me to create some truly unique and beneficial training materials for small group leaders. I’ve seen how small groups can live up to the promise we often make, but rarely actually pursue. Currently there are three churches primed to do this training with me to see how and if it transforms their churches and I’m excited to see how it looks in practice.
Then one day I’m sitting in church and the notes I’m taking on the sermon turn into notes about what I would need to start a new church. There it was, almost without thought, I was planning a church.
So, the time has come. I’m starting another church. The snapshot above says we’re official. More importantly, here’s a snapshot of the vision.
- More than anything my work coaching pastors has involved giving them permission to stay focused on the one most important thing a church does. Discipleship. Sharpening this focus and being willing to say “no” is one of the most important things a pastor does. Our church is called “Focus Church” to remind us and to emphasize to others the extreme single-mindedness of our task.
- I’ve become increasingly convinced that discipleship is best done in Grace filled, Spirit lead communities of faith, rather than by individuals. Churches have typically emphasized one-to-one discipleship and one-to-many discipleship and these have their place, but the emphasis in scripture and the most organic approach is many-to-many discipleship. Focus Church will be heavily small group centric providing a space for the Grace of God to do the work of discipleship through people serving people with their gifts.
- Every church knows that small groups are important but rarely are the training, resources, support and assessment focused upon these groups in way that they live up to the promise. At Focus Church we will start training our small group leaders even before we officially launch (and their continued training will be one of my most important jobs as Pastor); then we will launch our small groups before we launch any kind of weekly service; only then will we launch our weekly services as a support for our small groups rather than the other way around. Our structure will serve our small groups rather than the other way around. At Focus Church the bulk of our resources, training, assessment and accountability will be around and for the small groups.
- As we are discipled through these groups in the midst of life we will find better integration of our lives under the leadership of Christ. We will become a people who clearly follow one leader, unique from all the other leaders. In all our diversity we will clearly stand out in unity as people who walk a different path: surprising in our love, secure in our holiness, courageous in our faith, and refreshing in our hope.
I’ll continue to coach pastors and provide conferences and materials as God leads, with the additional benefit of being able to add my own current experiences at Focus Church to the learning curve. One big change is that Discipleship Matters will become a ministry of Focus Church so that any gifts will now be tax deductible. Money from Discipleship Matters will go to Focus Church from whom I will draw a salary. So, I’ll keep you posted on both the upcoming Small Group training I’m doing for those three churches, and the progress of Focus Church. For now, if you’d like to be part of building something amazing through Focus Church. here are some quick ways you can help. If you’d like more information to help more directly please comment, email, call, text or use smoke signals and I’ll be happy to share!
Quite seriously, we need prayer. About twenty of us are starting from scratch with no mother church and some reasonably radical ideas. Pray for our June 25 meeting at 6:30 pm. This is our first big gathering of all interested parties (Essentially our launch team). Pray that everyone interested is able to come and that it will be all God wants it to be. For more specifics contact me
If the little bit of vision you’ve received here sounds intriguing to you and you might consider joining us, or even if you just want to know what more to pray about, join us on June 25 at 6:30 pm. The location of this meeting is still to be determined, so email, comment, text or call me if you want more information. We’d love to see you there!
Our financial needs will be fewer than many churches, but they will still exist. Although we could technically start with almost nothing, I’d like to get ahead of the game if possible. If you would like to help invest in the startup of Focus Church, let me know just call (505) 393-5433 and I can be more specific. All donations are, of course, tax deductible.
If you’d like to be part of building something amazing, contact me by your preferred method.
Reading this David brings so much joy to my heart.
That’s so cool. Thanks John! Appreciate your prayers!