Rob Maine: Hey guys, we're going to go ahead and get started and really glad that you guys are here. Want to make sure that you're in the right spots. We are doing the talk on-
Nick Bogardus: Feminism.
Rob Maine: That's right.
Nick Bogardus: Just kidding.
Rob Maine: That's right. No, being a multiplying and missional pastor in a postmodern world. So we're glad you chose to join us for this talk. For this breakout session. We're going to try to keep the session somewhat short, so we can engage with you guys, and engage in some dialogues with you guys.
My name is Rob, I'm a lead pastor at Renaissance Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We moved there about 5 years ago. We cultivated the ground, did some core team development for about a year-and-a-half. And then we launched services about 3 years ago. So we've been there for about three years. It's been a fun run, been a hard run, but good. So yeah. Rob Maine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Nick Bogardus: How did you guys come to join the network?
Rob Maine: We came to join the network, I was one of their first residents, interns, when they started the network, so I was here when-
Nick Bogardus: Really.
Rob Maine: Yeah, gosh. Brian Howard was here and he helped Daniel Montgomery start the network. So learned underneath Brian for about 6 months and was a member at Sojourn Community Church. I was on staff, of Nathan Ivy's, pastoral assistant for a season. We love the church, we love the culture they were creating, and we were sent out from Sojourn back in February 2013. So yeah, Sojourn was a mother church for us, ascending church for us.
Nick Bogardus: Oh, that's awesome. My name is Nick Bogardus. I grew up in Orange County, California. Worked in the music industry for 10 years before moving to Mongolia with my wife for a year and a half. She was in the Peace Corps. I wanted to marry her, so that was part of the deal. We spent the first year and a half of our marriage in Mongolia. We moved from Mongolia to Seattle, worked at Mars Hill in Seattle for ... worked for Mars Hill for four years, worked in Seattle for two years. When I planted there, Orange County campus was there for two years. We left in '13, planted Cross of Christ. We're Act 29 and Sojourn, so we're going on about four years now. Let's see, that's probably a good introduction.
As far as how we came to join the network, Brad House, who's on the board here at Sojourn, was at Mars Hill with me. We're very good friends. And when he came out of the Mars Hill experience, I suppose you guys know this story, Brad got it pretty bad. A lot of the guys came out beat up bad. Brad came out really beat up. And when he came here to Sojourn, they basically, they said, "Hey, we know you've had a rough go for the last year of '10, why don't you just get your legs under you for a month, and then we're just going to pay for you to take a sabbatical with your family. We'll pay for counseling, we'll take care of you." And that for me it was like, "Hey, if that's how they take care of my friend, I want to know what that network is like." And so it's been like that ever since.
And so our experience of Sojourn has been very, very similar. A high emphasis on care that accompanies an emphasis on mission, and so we're super thankful to be part of the network. So we're going to be talking about mobilizing for mission in a postmodern culture, and our hope in this time is to maybe give something a practical side to what many of you, being in our kind of reform tribe might already be reading on. I'm guessing you're reading a lot of Keller, James K.A. Smith, some Cosper.
There's a lot of really good material out there about our postmodern context and how to think about it. How to engage with it at a thought level or at a worldview level, and all of that is awesome and wonderful, but I don't know about you guys, but I can't find a lot written on how to lead in light of that. What do I do practically with that?
And so our hope in this time is to make it very simple. We're going to share things that went wrong in Pittsburgh, things that went wrong in Orange County, things that worked well in Pittsburgh, things that worked well in Orange County. Show you our mistakes and show you things that God, by His grace, did well, that might give you a glimpse into how we've tried to walk it out in our postmodern contexts, in Pittsburgh, in a relatively urban setting, from what I understand. And Orange County, which is basically just suburban sprawl.
So hopefully it will be very helpful for you. We'll go with Rob and Pittsburgh.
Rob Maine: Yes, so when we first started out back in February 2013, if you come to know me, get to know me, if you ask my wife, what is the biggest thing about me, I love answering the question, why? And so identity is a huge, huge part of how I operate and that's because when I understand who I am, I automatically know what I'm supposed to do. But that's my individual personality. And I thought that everybody operated that way.
And so when I was training up and developing the core team, I'm just thinking, "Man, all I got to do is teach identity and once I teach them who they are, they'll know what to do." That really doesn't work too well. I mean, we even see in The Scriptures, Jesus constantly reminds us who we are, but he also instructs us in what to do. So while identity is a must, it's not enough. We also need instruction as well, and the writing was on the wall. People were asking me, "How am I supposed to do this?" I'm like, "Just be a missionary, just be who you are, where you are," and that's a really fun slogan, but a lot of folks didn't really know how to do that.
And so I forgot to train my team in strategy. We have strong vision. If you talk to any one of our core team members, they could recite to you our vision backwards and forwards. They knew who they were, they knew what the Gospel was, they just didn't know how to live it out. Because nobody was instructing them, and that's my job. That's my job as the lead pastor, not only to teach the why, because the why, I believe the why matters more than anything else. A wise pastor once told me, "The what is important, what we're going after, but the how is more important than the what." How is always important, and I forgot about the how just because that's that's something that I naturally do and I didn't believe I needed to train on. So that was the first mistake that I made, that's what did not work well in Pittsburgh.
But then, so the question I have for you guys is, do you guys know how to engage with your people group? Do you guys know how to develop a strategy that will equip your core team or if your members, if you're a full-fledged church right now, when you have membership, do you know how to equip your team, your leadership team to engage in a postmodern culture? Do you know how to equip your members to do that as well? Identity is valuable, it's a must, but it's not enough. Instruction needs to happen as well.
So the second thing that didn't go well is because I didn't have a strategy, I over simplified mission. And what I mean by that, because of the lack of strategy, my mission statement was just build relationships. Just build relationships. I mean, seems pretty simple. Can you build relationships with your neighbors, can you build relationships with your coworkers, can you build relationships with the people in your networks? And they actually did it, but then they didn't know what to do.
Like for instance, Mike, who is a manager over a sales team, he didn't know how he was supposed to build those relationships after it got past the surface level conversations. Or how is he supposed to interact in the workplace? Was he supposed to start holding Bible studies in the workplace? Was he supposed to only have spiritual conversations with his coworkers? Or was he supposed to do his job really, really well? Was he supposed to sacrifice for his team? I mean, these are questions that he was asking me and I didn't have answers for him.
Or Chelsea, who loved the homeless, who loved the poor, was wondering, "Am I the only one supposed to be engaging with the poor, with the homeless? What is the church's responsibility in this? How do they come alongside me?" And my answer was, "Just keep building relationships, inviting other people into building relationships."
Or Jessie, who's now our executive pastor, when I was discipling him from the beginning, he had a bunch of atheist friends. How is he supposed to engage with all of his friends who claim they don't believe in a God? I didn't tell him how, I just kept telling him, "Hey, just keep building those relationships. God will bring up the conversations."
And so what happened was when I oversimplified mission, I didn't create awareness on my team for the complexities of sin, and not just the culture of sin, but the complexities of their own sin as well. And we don't have a self ... this awareness of the complexities that is our culture, then we're not going to engage with that culture creatively. We're going to be engaging with them in a way that they don't need to be engaged with. And what it did, it hindered my team's awareness of our contexts and the many different facets of the people groups that are present in Pittsburgh. And so when I just say, "Just build relationships," I mean, there's zero awareness of the culture around us.
This is the second thing that happened. And so the question for you guys is, have you oversimplified mission to something that is tweetable, to where it reduces the complexities of your missions field, but also weakens the effectiveness of the Gospel? I'll ask that question again, have you oversimplified mission to something that is tweetable, which reduces the complexities of your mission field, but also weakens the effectiveness of the Gospel?
And finally, this was a big failure of mine. I did not share stories that encapsulated the mission and the vision. Because there was one person who was living this not well. It was me. I knew how to live it out, I embodied it, but because I thought sharing those stories was a form of pride, was a form of arrogance, I shied away from it. I didn't share stories with my team, because I didn't want to make it look like I was boasting in my giftings. I didn't want it to make it look like I had it all together and everyone else did not. And so there was no stories being shared.
But when you think about how God motivates us or maybe how you're motivated through movies, through narratives or even thinking about the Gospel narrative and the Gospel is the greatest story that's ever been told. How does God motivate us to move on mission? It's through story, through sharing those wins and what I missed out on is what I share the stories I share, celebrate what I value. And the stories that we share as a church community with one another, celebrates what we value as a core team, as a church community.
And so my question for you guys is how are you creating platforms for stories of what I would call, vision wins? Are you celebrating where people are actually living out your vision, where you're living out the vision, where you're creating platforms to be shared in big team environments, but also cultivating that in one-on-one environments as well?
So those were our three big failures. First, I thought teaching identity was enough, second, I oversimplified mission, and third, I did not share stories that encapsulated the vision of our church.
Nick Bogardus: Thanks Rob. As far as three things that we blew in Orange County, really briefly about Orange County, Dr. Mohler from Southern Seminary described Orange County as a laboratory for the rest of the United States. And it's an interesting statement for him to make, because it's not San Francisco, it's not New York, it's not Chicago, why would he consider in Orange County to be the laboratory of the United States? He said because the way the church interacts with the culture in Orange County will affect the way other churches around the country interact with the cultures in their cities. Because where we are, it's more like the rest of America than the major urban hubs.
We have a very church culture. There's no place in America that's birth more global church movements in the last 50 years than Orange County. You have Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, TBN, you're welcome for that everybody. Saddleback, Merritt, all these huge churches that have been birthed there, that have spread around the rest of America. And so there's a lot of really amazing great fruit that God has planted, but there's also a lot of like, I mean, if you look at moralistic therapeutic deism, the birthplace came from where we are.
And so the way the church interacts with the culture in Orange County will spread beyond it, and so the mistakes I've made, I hope might in some way reflect Dr. Mohler's statement of serving you guys well. The first mistake I made, I thought I was the exception, and if you're a church planter, you probably think you're the exception to all the rules.
One rule is the people that you start with, won't be the people that are there in 18 to 24 months. I thought the people we start with, I'm going to be so compelling, the mission is going to be so compelling, they're going to get it, they're going to be here in 18, 24 months. I can tell you what, no. The group that you see in two years is not the group that you started with and that hurts, you guys. You're not the exception to that rule.
What happened to us actually, was like I told you, I'd planted the Mars Hill in Orange County, and a year and a half into our plant, everything went down with Driscoll and Mars Hill closed, and the Mars Hill there was the only campus that didn't continue on in another form. And so what happened to us, was a lot of those people came over to our church. And so it wasn't just that I had lost people in the 18, 24 months and that had shifted so much. We ended up having a church merger in the first 18, 24 months, which was traumatic for us. It overwhelmed us, overwhelmed our systems, overwhelmed our people, burned our people out. It just hampered everything. We grew, we doubled in size in a month, and then for the next 18 months we slowly collapsed as people as we helped people process anger, confusion, hurt, all that stuff.
I thought I was the exception to this rule of like, the people that come are always going to be there. It's not, it wasn't true and it hurt. Another thing that I thought I was the exception to was your closest friends will be the ones that hurt you the most deeply. And I thought, "Well, no, like these guys that I run with, like they're awesome and nothing's ever going to break this friendship." I didn't plan on us having any kind of multimedia or else I would have shown you this picture.
And as an attempt to do what Rob was talking about, give practical, applicable lessons to young men for how to be good men and husbands and fathers, I created this thing called Men's Training Camp at an MMA gym, where every morning ... because I came from Mars Hill, it was like part of the DNA. Every morning at 6 a.m., we would get together, we would do some physical training for an hour and then we'd do an hour discipleship. We actually got to see the coach get baptized out of that, got to see these guys grow, but you know what? It's four years later and if I showed you that picture, man, four of the five guys are gone. Had to put two through church discipline. One of them just cheated on his wife. Like the amount of hurt that's come from that little group of men, I thought I would be the exception to. You're not the exception.
An older pastor mentor friend of mine used this picture, he said, "When you guys picture D-day, what do you guys picture? You picture like that over the shoulder shot, like from the beginning of Private Ryan, where the guys are all facing the beach, door goes down, they all storm out." He's like, "You know what the reality is? When those boats went to shore, they had body bags in the back. Like they were planning on casualties." And I was like, "That's horrific." Like that thought in my mind, that never went into my mind in planting a church that there would be casualties and that's the reality. That there is a lot of pain and hurt and you're not the exception to those things.
Ministry has always been difficult. We follow a crucified and resurrected Jesus, you guys are planting in a time and place that is more difficult than any other time in the history of our country. A time when your biggest competition are not the mega churches down the street, but the narratives that people are being catechized with through Netflix, news, porn, video games, music and so on. A time when any of the benefits of Christianity that Christianity is provided are accredited to someone else or dismissed. The flaws of our faith are magnified and weaponized against us. Your work will be slower and harder than you imagined and there will be casualties, you are not the exception. So where and to what do you think that you are the exception, is my question for you guys in the beginning. Where and to what do you think that you are the exception.
So the first mistake I made was thinking I'm the exception, the second was making too many assumptions in preaching and worship. Making way too many assumptions and one of guys told me you guys were in the shadow of a Westminster seminary in Philly. You were here by Southern, by Biola, Fuller, APU. You name it, there's so many Christian universities around we are, and so it's really easy to make a lot of assumptions.
When we first started, because we meet currently on Sunday afternoons at 4 o'clock. That means our Sunday mornings are open and there's a lot of churches where we are, and so we would take our worship team around to different churches as we were kind of shaping our liturgy to be like, "Hey, let's go look at what these guys are doing." So there's like a Hillsong plant there and in like, in my mind, I have a visceral reaction against that kind of stuff. And some of our team were raised Lutheran and so if you guys know any Lutherans, they drink a lot of beer, but they're also very stoic. An so they're an interesting mix. So we're at Hillsong and they're like, no joke, in the service, it was the Youth Service, and they did the entire Macklemore Thrift Shop song in the church service. Like it was bizarre. So I'm watching my guys react and flinch.
And here's the thing that was funny, like it's really easy to be critical of other churches that are different than you. It's so easy to do that, it is so weak and thin to be critical of other churches, because they're familiar. One of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers, talks about how it's easy to be critical of your neighbor in the khakis and his best because you don't have to get off your couch to do it. Now, you don't have to go anywhere.
And so when I first started, it was easy for me to be critical about we're not going to be like this. We're going to do this reformed thing, we're going to be a Sojourn church, an Acts 29 church. We started to see at our connect dinners every month, we do a dinner at the end of the month, where we have visitors come and we'll buy them dinner and they can ask me all the questions they want. I can tell them about our church, we find a way to get them connected to the church. I started getting these weird questions from people, "Why don't we sing in church?" I don't know about you, but that to me is like, what do you mean? That's what we always did then. And we started getting questions like that and we're like, well, hold on, people don't understand like the basic why behind the basic things we do in church.
And so what I started to do was I realized in that criticism of other churches and underneath those, in my like awkwardness to those questions I was being asked, I wasn't making myself feel like an outsider in any way. I was comfortable being an insider in the church. And so what I started to do, was I started watching Catholic and Muslim services on YouTube, because you know what? When you do that, you feel really weird. I have no idea the language these guys are using. I have no idea the common vernacular ... they're just speaking of things that are common to their congregations, that as an outsider, I have no idea what you're talking about.
And the reality is, more people are going to come into your churches from that perspective, than from someone who's familiar with anything you're saying. And so you're going to make too many assumptions in thinking that people are coming to your church knowing who Jesus is, knowing why they sing in a church, knowing why you're preaching, knowing what justification is, knowing what sanctification is. Knowing all of theological stuff that you guys are passionate about, zero framework for it.
So if you can make yourself feel like an outsider in some way and remind yourself that there are people coming in and you might be able to strip yourself of some of the assumptions that you are making. So not only that the Christian presupposition that God exists is more foreign to people than ever, according to Pew Research, 35% of Millennials are nuns, and in a recent interview, Keller talked about how this current generation is the first not to recognize that their world view itself, was a belief system. They simply think it's what all educated people think. So are people coming into your church with that line of thinking or non-thinking.
More and more people will be coming into our churches, into your church with zero framework for belief, let alone Christianity, so you cannot make assumptions in your preaching and worship. So my question, my second question is, what assumptions are you making in your preaching and worship?
And thirdly, we confuse the system for a biblical principle. First mistake that I made was to think that I'm the exception, the second was to make too many assumptions in preaching and worship and the third was confusing a system for a biblical principle. So we ran to a situation for last three years where our community groups were just brutal. They were thin, shallow, superficial, inconsistent and we were just going through this churn of leaders and people that were brutal. We had a member meeting, where I had all the members raise their hand for all the people who'd experienced the change of leadership in their community groups, and in that member meeting, every hand went up. I was like, "Something's weird, something's broken. That amount of instability is going to cause a problem here.
So we started talking to other churches, starting talking to other churches in Orange County. Ronnie Martin in rural Ohio, our friends at the Village in Dallas, some friends of ours who planted a church in the Westside in Los Angeles. Friends in Seattle. And the thing is, the problem that we're seeing in Orange County was not limited to Orange County, everyone else was experiencing the same kind of thing. It was a problem that wasn't limited to geography or demographics or church size. Think about that. It's a problem that's not limited to demographics, geography or church size.
So what we saw was that mobility that we were experiencing in Orange County, Orange County is incredibly expensive to live in. $84,000 is now low-income in Orange County for a family. If you make less than $84,000, you are low-income, think about, it's crazy. So we ran into a problem where people just can't afford to live there, or people have to move out of town for family or for work or whatever. Kim and I went on a date about a year ago and we started counting all the people that we had seen come and go in the church. And at the time, we were a church of like 75, and we had counted almost 50 people. Which means we've been growing by 9 or 10% every single year, but that means that we shrunk 20, whatever, 15% and grew by another 20%. Every year, we're going through this churn.
So mobility, what we're seeing, mobility undermines trust, because if someone's going into a group and they don't know who's going to be there, they don't know if the leader is going to be there. They're not going to give of themselves, they're not going to open themselves in a trusting relationship to anyone. If you don't have trust, you don't have relationship and without relationship, you do not have a healthy church.
So we had a problem that was bigger than our little Church in Orange County and we identified a cultural force that was contributing to it, then we explored and created a middle sphere between Sundays and small groups. What we did was we just detonated community groups and we said we're going to take the best things that we do in those communities groups, we're going to divide them up into different spheres to address this problem of mobility.
So we saw, as were taking like, if you just have a funnel, people come in on Sundays, the widening of the funnel. We're trying to shove them into these like 12 different circles of like community groups and service teams, and with all the churn and change that people were experiencing down here in the small groups, it made the large group feel unstable and scary. And unstable for people.
So we said, well, what if we put a middle sphere here, led by people who are not going anywhere, me and my wife or other elders, that might provide a layer of stability that we can say, "Welcome on Sundays." Once you guys get into men's and women's discipleship, and then a part of that, when men's and women's discipleship will be these small, what we call discipleship groups. Three to four gender specific groups go through the Bible together and we're going to have neighborhood meals together and stuff like that. So we tried to provide a layer of stability there to address the problem of mobility.
Anyway, so it's easy to do something for so long that you begin assuming that it's the best way or it's the biblical way. In my mind, what I'm trying to tell you guys, is my mind is I took community groups and I said, well, that's what they meant in Acts 2. I just started assuming, of course, this is the best way to embody what was happening in Acts 2, and I just didn't stop to go, wait a second, why don't I go to Acts 2 and say or all of Acts and all of New Testament, which is exactly what we did, we said what were the marks of a church in that time and how can we best do that in this time and place? And the conclusion we reached was for us in Orange County, that model of community groups just was not the best way to do it. And so we had to blow that up.
So anyway, where are you confusing a system or a model for a biblical principle? So the three mistakes we made, thinking I'm the exception, making too many assumptions in preaching and worship, and the confusing of system for a biblical principle. And so now seven minutes of what worked well in Pittsburgh.
Rob Maine: Yes, so after we became aware of what didn't work well, we made a some adjustments early on, and thankfully, like the Lord opened our eyes to this before we ever launched services, so we're able to turn it around kind of quick, with our small little core team. And so here are four things that worked well in Pittsburgh and they're principles that I believe that you can figure out how to apply them in your own context, with your own people group, with your own mission field.
The first is bring somebody along. I'll explain that a little bit more. Second is your home and your people groups' spaces are the context of mission. Third, finding community rhythms that already exist, and fourth, loving the stranger, which is the definition of what hospitality is.
Let's go over the first one real quick. Bring somebody along. Literally, everything that I started doing in Pittsburgh, I had somebody with me. Why? It's because everywhere in the New Testament, when you think about the context of discipleship and how relationships work and people grow, it's not just caught, it's also taught. It's both and, it's not either/or, it's both those things beautifully working together.
So there are going to be some aspects where yes, you're going to be instructing and teaching, and other aspects where you're going to ask somebody to observe you. And so it didn't matter what I was doing, somebody was there to shadow me. Didn't matter if I was doing a care session. Everything was viewed in terms of equipping, and so if I was caring for somebody, counseling somebody, we just created in our policies that you're going to bring somebody along with you from your missional community and they're going to shadow. Or if I'm going to hang out with somebody in the community that I've befriended, somebody's going to come along with me. Because I can't handle relationships all by myself. I need somebody to help me.
Hobbies means you guys enjoy doing things. Well, invite somebody along to come do those things with you, and do it with non-believers, and do it with believers as well. One of our mottos was, don't chain ... keep doing what you're already doing, but do it differently. Do you like to eat? Well, do a little bit differently, eat with somebody else. Do you ever read the Bible? Yep, read the Bible with somebody else. Do you ever share the Gospel? Can you bring somebody else along with you?
And what we always make sure was in place was an atmosphere where we can debrief afterwards. Or people who I was discipling can ask me questions, they can rebuke me for my arrogance and if they saw anything out of place in me. It was also a time to where I say, "Hey, next time we do this, I'm going to let you take a little bit more of the lead. I'm going to let you invite me along to something that you're already doing with somebody else."
Now, what would happen if nobody can join me? I was full-time with the church. I wasn't [inaudible 00:29:15]. So what happened when it was during the day? I'd just call somebody up and say, "Hey, can you hold me accountable to having this type of conversation with this person, and then can you debrief with me afterwards?" So whether they were physically present in that event or they were holding me accountable afterwards, I always had somebody with me. And sometimes that was my wife and that was great to be able to enjoy ministry with my wife. So that's the first thing. Bring somebody along. So who can you bring along with you immediately, when you return to your mission fields, this coming Wednesday, tomorrow, or if you got a flight, starts over again on Thursday? Who do you have in your mind right now that you can immediately bring along with you?
Second, your home and your people group spaces are the context of mission. So our God not only invites us into his presence. What does he do? He steps into our places first. So he steps onto our turf. And so we wanted to have that both and reality in the way that we did mission.
So a little story about me, my wife and I, we love to eat, and which means that we love to cook, because it results in eating. I'm super jealous of this guy because I've been watching you barbecuing over open flame. Oh my goodness, it looks delicious. I grew up with a Dad who graduated from The Culinary Institute of America and so I was a born and bred foodie. No one had to teach me how to be a foodie, like I was just around good food all the time. My Dad was an executive chef for two different restaurants, so I ate good food. We never had take outs, that was forbidden. We never went to chain restaurants, that's something of Hell to my father. And so we just ate well all the time.
And so I learned how to have people over to my home and so because when you invite people into your home, you invite them into your mess, you invite them into your realities. You don't have to clean up for them, you just show them, hey, this is who we are and the grace of God covers all of our failures in this space and you're going see a lot of them. You're going to see a lot of them in our home.
But the other thing that we realized, it was with Pittsburghers, the two big thing with Pittsburghers, they love tradition and they're very territorial. So even getting them to cross the street to come into my home was extremely difficult, so what we had to start figuring out was how to become regulars in their environments. We actually had to go to them. And so we would build relationships with Sophia at our favorite restaurant to go to, Piccolo Forno, which means it's Italian for a little oven. They do wood-fired pizzas, all the foods from Tuscany. I'm salivating thinking about it right now, it's delicious food. We're becoming acquaintances with the owner and his wife.
So going there and building those relationships or with someone like Bill and Betty, who are same age as my parents, they live right across the street from us. So we love just ... first it was relationships of hollering across the street from our porches, then it was front yards, then of me walking over to his fence to talk to him, then eventually and I think it's just because we had kids, they start inviting us into their home. They've only been into our home once, but the amount of times they invite us into their home, it's been amazing. We've had great conversations, they're Catholics and we've been able to have conversations about what is the real importance of Mary? Why do we need Jesus? What is our church all about? They once asked me if we were Mormons. Because they thought us having a house church, like missional communities in our home, was kind of weird, so they thought we were a cult. I had to explain to them we're not a cult.
Or becoming regulars where I get my hair cut. So Zack Dean is my barber and we have conversations. A single dad with a 13 year old daughter and just two weeks ago, he finally asked me to go fly-fishing with him. He knows that we both love to go fly-fishing, we both tie flies and finally, he's inviting me on to his turf. He said, "We need to set up a day to go fishing together." And finally, he just said, "Listen, I'm going fishing on Thursday, if you can make it come, if you can't, don't come."
So where are you meeting regulars? What type of culture are you cultivating in your home to invite people in? Where can you invite people into your lives of things that you already enjoy? So I enjoy food, I enjoy a fly-fishing. God gives you a personality and enjoyments for a reason to share those with other people. And also, I would say, sad thing is I had to say no to Zack. It's because I didn't have margin in my schedule that weekend. It's okay, we already scheduled another day. But the question for you is, do you have margin in your schedule to be able to say yes to those relationships that you're building? To say yes to those non-believers in your life.
Third, finding community rhythms that already existed and participate in the good that is already happening. Here's the reality. A lot of things that we're trying to do as church planners have already been invented and people are already doing it way better than us, because they're getting paid to do it. And so what are the rhythms in your community, even in your current neighborhood, where you can say, yes, we can partner with that. Because God's common grace is on that right now. Yes, we can celebrate those things, yes, we can grieve over those things as well, even losses in our community, because God grieves over those losses.
So we've encouraged our missional communities to get a part of their neighborhood associations and just be the laborers. Schools, not just loving the kiddos, but we met in a school for a while, and when we chose our mission field, it was the teachers. Because the teachers work 12-hour days. 7:00 to 7:00. So we love them with care packages, we had prayer cards for them so we can pray for them.
Hobbies. I talked about my hobby, what hobbies do you have that you can have regular rhythms of that, not with just your people, but with your neighbors, non-believers? And where can you neat ... so my big question is, where can you neatly step into the mission when you return with a hospitable presence? And where can you find these natural rhythms in your community already?
So that'll be my final question and I'll let Nick continue.
Nick Bogardus: How you guys doing? You guys want me to finish with what has gone well in Orange County or you guys want to go into Q&A. What do we got? 20 minutes, I think.
Rob Maine: Oh, we're at time, time.
Nick Bogardus: No, we'll go till 11:45. Is that right? Cool, so we got like 20 minutes to finish?
Rob Maine: Yeah, yeah.
Nick Bogardus: Okay, seven minutes of what went well, then we'll take some questions. Let me reset this, start. Similar to what Rob was saying, having a mission isn't theoretical. Getting your hands dirty makes the implausible tangible and it gives others a chance to grow with you. So there's two parts to that. Like moving away from simply having a theory of mission into getting your hands dirty for two purposes, that it makes the implausible tangible, and it gives others a chance to grow with you.
So first, in a time of skepticism, people are often going to ask, does it work, before they ask is it true? They're going to ask does it work, before they ask is it true? Sometimes we like to have a theology or philosophy of mission, but not a practice of it. Engaging in mission and actually putting what you believe into practice is a way to make the implausible tangible to people. Let non-believers see Christians loving one another.
I'm thinking our neighbors, Mark and Noelle, we live in Irvine, which is one of the most planned communities in America and we have a playground literally 30 feet from our front yard, sorry, my front door. And so our house has become almost like the hub of the neighborhood. We know all of our neighbors. And so they watch us interact with our kids out there and our neighbors Mark and Noelle asked my wife to watch their kid once a week because they said "Look, we just want our kid to be like a little Bogardus. We watched you interact and we like your kids, can you just make our car kid a little more like your kids?" Which is funny, but they're simply watching us and then watching our friends come over and interact with our kids, just led them to say, we want to move closer to you guys and I believe they're coming to church this week, which is rad.
Chrissa and her fiancé Stephan, Chrissa is a sushi chef at this place I go to, once a month, I go to the mountains to a cabin overnight, my wife's gracious, it gives me like one night away to simply clear my head, think, pray, like all that stuff. I go to the sushi restaurant every night alone and the sushi chef Chrissa and I have been talking for like a year, and she recently said, "Hey, will you marry me? I don't know any pastors, you're the only one I know, like would you do my wedding?"
So I got to do premarital with her and her fiance last week, going to marry them in a few weeks, simply by her watching and engaging with me, made something that was implausible to her, more real. We had our neighborhood dinner this last week, where this is part of the blowing up community groups. Once a month, we're going to do neighborhood dinners in neighborhoods in Orange County. What's hard for us is like it's not really neighborhood oriented, like if you notice around Louisville, it's really neighborhood oriented. You got like whatever, Shelby, Midtown, those other cool little neighborhoods.
If you ever ask anybody from Orange County where they're from, what are they going to say? They're going to say Orange County. Like they take the 700, 800 square miles and they say, "That's where I'm from, it's never a city." And so we have a very huge commuter culture, and so we're trying to like do dinners in these major spheres. Anyway, we had over 60 people at our first dinner and that included like at least 15 of our neighbors and afterward, two of our Muslim neighbors, who didn't obviously like talk to each other about this, they both came to me like, "Dude, your people are so warm, so loving, thank you for having us." Like they just simply felt loved, they got to come see Christians engage with one another and engage them.
Our first elder candidate, he's our first elder actually now, Phil, at 3:00 in the morning, a few weeks ago, he heard something on his front door, goes to the front door, sees like a shadow outside and someone sitting outside. And he's like, "Who are you? What's going on?" It was this 17 year old neighbor kid whose dad had just beaten him and he didn't have anywhere else to go, but he came to Phil's house and he said, "You've always been a really good guy and I just don't know where else to go right now," and Phil just said, "Can I pray for you, man?" And like so he's building this relationship with this guy, simply by these people watching Christians interact. It is making something that is implausible to them more tangible. So getting your hands dirty does that first.
Secondly, bringing other people along as Rob said, and watching them, watching you get your hands dirty and inviting them into that process also shapes and grows them to put their theology into practice. It gives ownership all around, it creates space for necessary conversation to build trust. In four years, I've had to do three church discipline situations already, and I've always involved other deacons or elder candidates in that process, to one, have a witness. So if things go sideways, it's not my word against the person, there is someone else involved, but it also creates a space for them to come into very hard situations and walk it out over a long period of time.
Taking people to pray with sick and dying people. I don't know about you guys, if you've done that yet, but there's a few things that make the resurrection more necessary in your life, in your heart, than sitting with someone who's about to meet Jesus. And so bringing deacons and other candidates in to do that with me, has been very helpful and it also creates memories together, watching God work. Even this last week I had lunch with a buddy, my buddy Ray, who used to go to our church. We're still good friends and he had come to our church, he'd come back to our church simply to ask us to pray for him. His wife got cancer, she was a non-believer and so me and Phil prayed for his wife that God would heal her.
And six months later I'm having lunch with Ray and he's like, "Hey, man," we were celebrating together that his wife is free of cancer. We're like, "Dude, rad, God answered that prayer and also she knows Jesus now." Like God answered her prayer, we didn't pray for her. I didn't ask God to do that when Ray and I prayed for her. We simply asked, "Would you just heal her?" And God of course, goes the next step. And so I got to tell Phil, "Remember when we prayed for Ray? Look at what God did there." He creates a situation where you can also have memories and celebrate watching God work there.
So first getting your hands dirty, it makes the implausible tangible, it gives others a chance to grow with you, so don't just have a theology mission, but gets your hands dirty with other people on your team. The first part is to make the impossible tangible, second is to help shape and grow other leaders. So when have you been at your best in getting your hands dirty? Think about that, when have you been at your best in getting your hands dirty? And I would say, if you can answer that question, like keep doing that, keep going back to that. And who do you need to bring along with you next time? There's a ministry opportunity, as Rob asked.
Secondly, clearly provide goodness, beauty and truth in a time of confusion. So this is a time where the only thing everyone's really sure about is how uncertain they are of everything. It's the one thing that everyone is sure about, I don't know everything. And so we have limited time, this is incredibly confused and Keller talks about how we're the first culture that doesn't believe it's a culture. It just believes it's the universal way that smart people see things. They don't see that their view of life is a set of beliefs and so there's a confusion that comes with that, and what we need to do as leaders is to provide clarity in a time of confusion.
Leadership will mean that you will need to take stands, make arguments and assertions, but to do so in a way that illuminates goodness and beauty and truth. Our tribe tends to emphasize the truth piece, but you also need to capture people's imaginations and direct their appetites with beauty and goodness. If you guys are familiar with that whole Nashville statement thing that went down, no one argued the truthfulness of it. Everyone argued the timing of it or the posture of it or the tone of it or whatever else.
But for me, honestly, I think timing aside, helpful, clear document. It is what we believe, we need to learn how to do that well and better as people, not just what we believe is true, but also how can we help people see that what we believe is true is also good? Maybe that's part of my first point of like living in a way that allows people to see the goodness and truth and beauty of what you believe in your life, but helping people see that as you preach, don't just tell them what's true, tell them what's good and tell them why it's good, why it's beautiful.
We will all default probably, to like here's what God says, it's true, deal with it, and not like let's draw that out a little bit and let's look at why it's a beautiful thing that God says. Why it's a good thing that God says this. Why it's helpful to give you a grounding at a time of confusion. So clearly provide, goodness beauty and truth in a time of confusion. Where are you providing clarity for your team and your church most helpfully, and where can you do it better? Is the question I have out of that one.
Lastly, having a home to gather, train and send on mission makes a huge difference. So I mentioned our home, we just, by God's grace, got so lucky with that place. It's in the center of the county, it is right there next to this park and it has become a hub from which we can gather people and care for people and send people as a family. Because here's the thing, relational mobility that we talked about at the very beginning here, where I talked about our big problem in community groups, relational mobility is related to physical mobility. And so if you guys can be a stable physical presence in your communities, it will help in some way, push back the mobility. The relational and physical mobility.
So one of our greatest tools on mission has been being in a place for a long time and by a long time I mean five years. We're young, like we're still getting some years under our belts, but being there for five years is still longer than most of our neighbors. So being in a place for a long time has been one of our greatest tools. It's a place from which you can gather and send the gathering.
We have, our neighborhood now has Memorial Day barbecues every year because of our church. Like they come and they look forward to it, the potluck together with people from our church. We have the playground out front which enables us to interact with all of our neighbors. We do food drives, our kids ministry leads the church in collecting food to give to food drives. We go door-to-door, we say, "Hey, we're from this church, we're collecting food for this local homeless shelter, would you want to give something? We're going to come back on this day to collect it," whatever else, it helps us to build relationships with them.
We recently had two neighbors, Jack and Avy, they lived right next door to us, they moved away for a couple years and they moved back and they were like, "We just wanted to move back because we wanted to be your neighbors. We just loved being here with you guys in this place."
Rob Maine: That's amazing. That's awesome.
Nick Bogardus: First of all, think about, we were there in the first place to interact with them. Secondly, we were still there when they wanted to come back here. Longevity in a place would get you a lot of credit. Anyway, and sending people, having family dinners. We started as a church again, to address ... we've been growing a lot, we have a lot of new people and so we're starting to do these family dinners, I'm calling it. I basically took a spreadsheet of everyone in the church and made dinners out of them. Like new people and old people in the same group, so we could have them over to our house to get them to interact and like get us to know the new people a little better. So it's a place to gather people like that. Premarital training, stuff like that.
Like what Rob was saying, people will catch more of what you do than what you teach them, and so as you had people in your home, the way that you model hospitality for them will be what they replicate. And so even Bill Clem, he's old, he's like in his 60s, he was one of my pastoral mentors. Kim and I had him and his wife over to our house for dinner and my wife's a great cook. She just made like homemade tortillas and tacos. Super simple dinner and Bill Clem still to this day, talks about how that dinner changed their view of hospitality. Like a dude in his 60s. Because my wife was simply unpretentious. We simply wanted to have a simple meal with some good friends and share some time together and have a good conversation. For us to influence an older couple is humbling and awesome, but we try to take the same thought when we have people from our church.
And what we do, they will replicate and so as we gather them in our home and that we plan on being in for a long time, when people come in from how they're greeted, I remember you guys have talked about how intentional, they're so good at this. And when you guys walked up yesterday, there were two people out there that were out there going, "Hey, welcome, we're glad you're here." Like from the moment people walk into our door, we're thinking, how can we model for them how to interact with non-believers and other people in the church? Because what we do will be what they do from here on out.
So anyway, having a home to gather, train and send on mission has made a huge difference for us. So those are the three things that have worked well, three of the things that have worked well for us. Getting your hands dirty, it makes the implausible tangible, gives others the chance to grow with you. Clearly provide goodness, beauty and truth in a time of confusion, and then having a home to gather, train and send on mission.