In October 2003 I attended the World Missions Workshop at Lipscomb University in Nashville. God had been stirring in my heart about church and mission and I wasn’t quite sure what he wanted from me. I remember descending to the basement floor beneath the Collins Auditorium. I entered a musty classroom where light was shining through the windows along the ceiling. I sat in one of those little wooden school desks that had a desktop along my right arm attached to the seat. I remember thinking that I was too big to fit into one of those little desks.
There I listened to a man talk about his journey as a missions professor. A couple years earlier he had taken a six month sabbatical to travel around the states, interview people and research the status of missions in Churches of Christ in the U.S. At the end of that time, he was struck by the fact that many churches in our tribe had lost their missionary impulse; they had become in-grown and self-absorbed; they had forgotten their calling into the world for the sake of the world.
This professor began to dream about what it would look like for churches to recapture their missionary impulse. He talked about the movement from theology to practice, wherein God’s nature and will are determinative for its mission rather than merely what methods are most effective at getting people to attend church services. He described that some churches are like hierarchical triangles with elders and ministers at the top, performing ministry and conducting services for passive spectators and consumers.
He wondered, “What if we tipped this triangle over so that it became a wedge? Rather than existing for itself, a church would exist for the benefit of the surrounding culture and world. Rather than leaders at the top and the front, the leaders would come alongside, making disciples and equipping them for the mission. These churches would hold out the gospel for unbelievers in their neighborhoods. What if we started a whole bunch of these kinds of churches? Can you imagine what would happen? We would once again become a missionary fellowship!”
I thought to myself: I have to do that. That’s what I have to give my life to do.
It was one of those moments where God calls and sends – the moment when God says “Hey you…come with me…let’s go on mission together.”
The professor had an email sign up list for those interested in talking more about church planting and I went and signed up.
Part of what was so compelling to me was that this professor had experienced his own God moment. And he couldn’t help but to do something about it. It was no longer sufficient for him to stay in the academy and teach about missions. God was propelling him out again into the mission field of North America to equip church planters for the mission. God said to him: “Hey you…come with me…let’s go on mission together.”
The professor in that classroom that day was Gailyn Van Rheenen. Gailyn and his wife Becky left their post at ACU two months later, moved to DFW and started Mission Alive.
Over the past ten years, God has worked through Mission Alive to call and send many leaders on mission in North America. Dozens of church planters and church leaders have joined the ranks with their own God moments – when God said to each of them, “Hey you…come with me…let’s go on mission together.” My wife Julie and I ended up joining this movement when we partnered with Mission Alive to start Storyline Christian Community in Dallas, Texas six years ago.
Along the way Mission Alive’s partnering churches started asking, Can we get in on this mission? What would it look like for us to adopt the same theology and practices as they church planters we are supporting? These questions led Mission Alive to begin equipping leaders of existing churches right alongside of church planters to help them pursue renewal within their congregations.
The best part is that Mission Alive is just one part of a larger movement of mission in our tribe – several other groups, like our friends with Kairos Church Planting, have emerged out of the same impulses and God moments. The missionary Spirit is stirring people up for the mission all over the place!
Granted, along the way there have been steep learning curves, struggles, set backs, casualties and failure. But God has been with us, and out of the dust God is giving life to a movement of discipleship and mission.
Mission Alive plays the role of an equipper in this movement. The core content of our equipping, which we call Mission Training, revolves around four major topics: 1) Cultivating Personal Discipleship: movements start at the level of individual apprenticeship to Jesus; 2) Planting Missional Communities: disciples live together as extended families on mission in neighborhoods and relational networks; 3) Equipping Disciple-Making Leaders: leaders in the kingdom develop relational systems for making disciples who make disciples; 4) Launching Kingdom Movements: missionary churches partner together for the sake of church planting and renewal in a geographic area or people group.
The dream we’re pursuing in Mission Alive is no less than a movement of God’s Spirit: a movement of people who are passionate about being disciples of Jesus and living on mission; where churches partner together to start new churches in every region across North America; in which people live their lives among the broken and lost of our continent and hold out the good news of God in Jesus Christ; where people participate here-and-now in God’s in-breaking kingdom, anticipating the restoration of all things.
It’s a movement of people who simply hear the call of God and have the courage to go where he sends them – people who respond to those moments when God says, “Hey you…come with me…let’s go on mission together.”
What is God saying to you?
Charles Kiser is a church planter with Storyline Christian Community in Dallas, Texas, and the Director of Training for Mission Alive. He blogs at www.inthestoryline.com. You can contact him at charles[at]missionalive[dot]org.