Hi Forge Family,
As most of you are hearing or have heard, I have agreed to jump in with FORGE and lend a hand. Many of you are friends and know me well, but others barely know me and I’m sure there are some questions about who I am, why I’ve decided to make this move, and what is on my heart for FORGE. So I want to take a moment and share a bit of my heart with you all and specifically address the big ‘why?’ of all this.
Second, Cheryl and I want to be with a ‘tribe’ this next 20 years and the people in FORGE are the ones I love being with and am inspired by. As the missional movement has taken the national conversation, it has given me many opportunities to be with the Hirsch's, Frost's, Brisco's, Hammond's, Ford's and many more of you who have been serving the FORGE mission. To be honest, the conference tour takes a lot out of you, but when I know some of the Forge tribe will be there, I always want to go. Forge friends are truly my family on the road and now I can’t wait to officially work together. Cheryl and I don’t just need a new mission. We need a tribe to live life with and work with.
Third, when I am asked if the missional movement will make it, I constantly hear people asking, and begging for real life stories that will give early, middle, and late adopters courage to press beyond present paradigms of church. So strategically, I feel I want to give my time to FORGE because I think it is the closest network that can re-org around DANGEROUS STORIES that will move the missional conversation beyond the conversation. As we roll out some new vision, you will notice that we are going to move FORGE beyond a missions training community to a family that sets the foundation for missional movement.
All movements need four things: Training, Resources, A Network to hold people together, but the first and most important element of movements, is to have “STORIES.” Stories that people can be inspired by, find hope in, and doable practices that anyone can participate in. So amidst all the great training, consulting, conferencing, academic programs, and hub residencies Forge already has, we want to angle every one of them toward 'Dangerous Stories.' It will be our primary metric and our greatest gift to the body of Christ at large.
We are setting the calendar to now bring back an idea that the Australian FORGE tribe launched years ago. A national convocation for the FORGE tribe called Dangerous Stories. This annual tribal gathering will be the launching point to capture, and share new stories with the church at large and it will guide us into how we use the hubs, the learning communities, the apprenticeship environments, and consulting to help dangerous stories increase. Each year we will launch another ‘ledger’ of dangerous mega churches who made a significant shift, dangerous church plant efforts, dangerous neighborhood incarnational communities, dangerous missional initiatives that serve the least and lost, dangerous life renovations by business leaders, BiVO leaders, house moms and plumbers who are creating honest kingdom impact. My hope is that when anyone asks, “Does any of this missional stuff ever work or turn into something?” all we have to do is point them to what will be a massive catalog of real, doable dangerous stories.
So what does this mean for all of us? All of us who silently found ourselves drawn into and dancing together in the FORGE tribe? I think it is a call back to the streets. A call back to examine our own lives and push beyond all the reasons we may have softened our local leaderships or commitment to new wineskins and true incarnational life and community. We must all have our own dangerous stories. Not stories from the past but stories we are flipping the pages of now.
When I knew that God was asking me to help guide this new season of FORGE, the first lump in my chest was about how I would lead from my life. The Tangible Kingdom was the story of my last 12 years, but it isn’t going to be the story of the next 10 years. So Cheryl and I, have been for months, talking about, planning, and praying about filling our home again and allowing God to build his church. What will this one look like? Will it work? Who cares! The mission of God is not something that waits for success to begin. The mission of God is a call for us all, at all times, and in all places to simply Go and Go the way Jesus would Go. This will be our next dangerous story that I can now roll the dice with and I can’t wait to see what God does.
The Forge Motto makes all the sense in the world for me, and for the whole world.
“TRAINING MEN AND WOMEN TO LIVE AS MISSIONARIES WHERE THEY ARE ALREADY DOING LIFE.” Love it!
As I end this message, I want to say a huge thanks to Kim and Maria Hammond for taking a ‘faith of leap’ to come to the US at Alan Hirsch's beckoning and faithfully forging out Forge America. We all know what it cost them, how extensive their struggle was not only in creating Forge America but with all their health issues literally fighting off death. As many of you were, I was not only upholding them in prayer but I was personally inspired by the relentless and yet relational way they gathered the tribe together. Kim and Maria, we, and countless thousands who will someday be moved by Forge America owe you a debt of friendship and faithfulness on our own part. You led well. You led without knowing how you would pay the bills and we will not forget what you did in pioneering this great work.
Also, to the original founders of Deb and Alan Hirsch, & Michael and Carolyn Frost, we hope this new season will bring a smile to your beautiful faces and those that helped launch Forge Australia many years ago. To the mostly volunteer servant team of Brad & Mischele Brisco, Ryan & Laura Hairston, Lance and Sherri Ford, John and Jeri Taylor, and many others I’m just getting to know, thanks for supporting the Hammonds and Forge with your time, your skills, your passion, and your vision. I know how much you all worked and most of your work was without pay and without a job description or business card. You literally gave because you felt called to the tribe! To all the Forge Hub leaders, thanks for all the work you are doing on the ground to create viable apostolic centers where missionaries are trained and sent. You have all laid an amazing foundation.
To all of you who may see this letter but who haven’t found a tribe. I invite you to Forge. A movement of missionaries, who hold the hand of the crazy pioneer but also the hand of the church looking to move forward. An environment for the mega and micro leaders, the priest and plumber, the soccer mom or dad who simply want to reach their neighborhood. No need coming to us if you’re jaded and bent on deconstructing the church. We will share many of your frustrations and give you an ear. But we don't have time to give you much more. Forge is about reconstruction and taking responsibility instead of justifying apathy. So join us if you’re trying to find your dangerous story and a tribe to share it with.
I can’t wait to have you meet my lady Cheryl and get working together. Viva le FORGE! Time to get dangerous!
For Info on Forge go to www.forgeamerica.com
I’m about to hop on a plane to yet another church training. It’s been 12 years now
that weekly, I have either been at a conference, with a denominational leadership
team, or network church planting gathering. The fervor is strong to see God move
among our churches in almost every context, but I also notice ONE glaring reason, I
don’t think this first wave of missional pioneers will get much wind under their
It is simply this. Everyone is trying missional practices but very few stick with it.
How do I know this? Because it seems that almost half the people who try Missio’s
system of missional community formation using our TK Primers have also tried
Soma School, 3DM, GCM, and Neil Cole’s Greenhouse or LTG approach. Some tried
our stuff first and are now moving on to other attempts, and some have just come
from all these and now attempt our stuff.
Here’s a little secret about all these ‘missional’ training groups and resources. We
are all friends, and we all agree on just about every aspect of missional ethos and
practice. We just say it differently.
We all agree:
*That the best way to start a church or renovate a church is through the
proliferation and multiplication of intentional missionary communities.
*That missionary communities must be the primary organizing structure that hold
together and propels a church forward, not the weekend church service experiences.
*That leaders must model the way first and then invite others into their experience
where they can be ‘apprenticed.’
*That missional only works if it is accompanied by incarnational nuances. In other
words, programmatic methods must be replaced by personal ownership and
commitment to live in the world like Jesus.
*That Leaders must be equippers of ministry not just paid to do the ministry for a
*That ‘church gathered’ should be lean, nimble, far less expensive and thus more
free to stay on mission.
*That discipleship practices must be active, not passive. In community, not
individual. Integrated with the family, not isolated or compartmentalized away from
*That the Gospel is both verbal witness and active witness and is most visible as a
community lives intentionally between ‘up, out, in’ (3dm), ‘communion,inclusive
community, mission’ (missio) ‘gospel,community,mission’ (GCM/Soma) ALL THE
Out of all these things we all agree on, we also agree on this ONE primary issue of
whether or not ‘missional’ will take, expand, multiply, renovate, and reveal the
kingdom to the world. And that is
*THAT YOU HAVE TO STICK WITH IT!
It really doesn’t matter which group you chose to train you, who you read, what
organization or resources you take your cues from. What really matters is that you
don’t just ‘try it’ for a year and move on. What matters is that you commit to it, live
it, do it, and keep doing it!
If you’re looking for a panacea, a perfect method or turn key silver bullet, you’re
going to keep shooting blanks. True discipleship, systemic renovation of a
congregation, and authentic influence of a lost culture only happens when you set
your jaw toward making the way of Jesus your life’s work, not a year long campaign
in your church.
To lock into the way of Jesus, consider joining Caesar Kalinowski and myself at one
of four Journeymen Leadership Intensives. Denver Sold out, but registration is now
open for Nashville June 23-25. Registration will open for Denver July 21-23 once
Nashville is closed.
We make these events small, there are 40 spaces and you can registration HERE.
I’m about a quarter century (crap) into entrepreneurial missional ventures. 10 years with Youth For Christ, 2 church plants, and I am again considering a brand new vision. As I consider another ‘new work’ I realize that God is recycling me through a very similar process, one that I believe He does with every leader He intends to keep using.
We know a good majority of leaders eventually punt, tap out, or take the looser limp and drag themselves off the field, but some make it. Some stay pliable. Some press in further and listen harder and actually get better. Some come clean, and cloister up with like-minded and like-hearted comrades who are going to commit come hell or high water to let God use them in fresh ways. These are the leaders of 2015-2020.
Leaders need time with leaders to remain leaders. Conferences deliver 10% of this, your own staff retreats deliver another 10% but many leaders I’ve talked with desire a fraternity of brothers, outside their context that can help them get to the next level.
Here are four proven realities about whether or not you will be a leader 2, 5 or 10 years from now.
First, Leaders hit their most effective stride after 2-3 significant ministry seasons. It doesn’t seem to matter if the first ministry seasons were successful or not. What matters is what God does in the life of a leader along the way. Clarity of calling is a constant widdleing down, and knowing who you are, where God is most powerful in you and where you suck and need to stop trying to be good are essential points of clarity you need for the next leg of the journey.
Second, Leaders learn best when they are away from their context. When you are home, the tyranny of the urgent always delays or dwarves fresh revelation from God. That’s why even getting away for 2-3 days can be the most powerful and practical use of a leaders time and money.
Third, Leaders listen to God better when they are with other seasoned learners. No matter the level of success, we are all insecure and unsure whether what we hear is from God or from the bad pizza we ate the night before. Being with others, who have no stake in your personal ministry, are often the safest people to help you discern true revelation.
Fourth, Leaders need down time as much as they need God time. Why do most tap out? One thing. Exhaustion! In my life, the moments where God actually broke through the haze was when I have been with some friends, laughing, enjoying great food and wine, and letting myself loosen the perennial grip of ministry. I’ve now learned party is true sacrament and a gift God gives to keep us not only in the Spirit but in good spirits.
If you’re interested in a unique environment where these four realities come together join Caesar Kalinowski and myself at my ranch.
Missional Leadership at the next level... The things you'll wish you had talked about 10 years from now--TODAY!
PS, please don't take this photo seriously. We certainly didn't! Just two old suckers trying to look cool.
Hope to see you,
Hugh and Caesar
Details & Registration
Most of you know I don’t read much. Writing books has exhausted me and now the best I can do is look at pictures in magazines and if I really put forth effort, I can manage to read the caption under the photo. But thanks to the dimishing attention level of most leaders and people, ebooks are popping up promising a more focused read. One that caught my attention was Todd Wilson’s “Spark,” released by Exponential this November.
Todd’s been a great friend and has played an important role architecting and running the largest church plant conference in the world called Exponential. Usually he’s behind the scenes but I’m very thankful he put all these years of wisdom and learnings into a book I believe will serve the national conversation well beginning this next April at Expo East in Tampa Bay.
The focus will be on expansive multiplication of the disciples and the church. Many of us who have been in the trenches of trying to give encouragement to the greater church know the stats are not good. We have lost an incredible amount of street cred over the last 20 years, every denomination is in marked decline and the culture war between the evangelical church and the real world is so large, simply adding a few good churches in each city will not stem the tide.
What Todd is accurately examining and giving answers to is a courageous church led by leaders who look past their own church. Pastors who listen to Jesus when he says, “I have sheep you know not of,” and who spend the majority of their time apprenticing other leaders than working on sermons or Christmas cantatas so that a tidal wave of kingdom revolutionaries can be released into the harvest.
The most compelling and confirming section for me was in chapter 2. Take a read.
"Our addiction to addition growth starts the minute a new church is launched. LifeWay President Ed Stetzer has done extensive studies on church planting (health and survivability). His 2007 study on church survivability reported the following:
• The average new church launches with approximately 40 people and grows to 80 in five years. It receives approximately $40,000 in outside funding to get started and approximately $80,000in the first four to five years.
• The average church then plateaus at the national average attendance of approximately 90 people by the seventh or eighth year.
• Approximately 68 percent of churches are still alive after four years. However, nearly 40 percent of those surviving until year four are not financially self-sufficient. By adding in a few additional realities and assumptions, we can reasonably conclude the following:The first seven to eight years of the average church plant lives in a scarcity and survival culture. That is reality.Addition growth becomes a perceived necessary strategy and focus for survival. The church planter is keenly aware from day one that the new church will not survive if he/she does not grow from their small start of 40 to at least 80+. Before their survivability is even known, the rut of addition growth is firmly established in new churches.Behavioral specialists would likely draw a strong link between this addition startup culture and the average U.S. church plateauing at fewer than 100. Here’s the logic: It takes 90 to 100 members to financially support a staff position. Likewise, one staff person has the capacity to support the activities, programming and shepherding of about 100 people. A church growing to 80+ people in the traditional paradigm will hit a lid of growth due to staffing capacity when it reaches 80 to 100 people—exactly in the range of the national average church size. The plant concludes they need to “add” staff to “grow.”
Unfortunately, their paradigm becomes, “We can’t add staff until we grow. We can't afford it.” In being constrained by the paradigms/models of today (“paid staff do the heavy lifting” and “we can only do what we can financially afford”), the church paralyzes itself at fewer than 100 people. These dynamics start the cycle of “feeding the beast,” a characteristic underpinning of an addition growth culture, and foster the great professional/laity divide. The progression goes something like this:
Launch into Subtraction/Survival Culture >Graduate to Addition/Accumulation >Become Stuck in More Addition"
This reality exposes many issues but one I believe must be addressed is the issue of money, mammon and mission. We simply can’t dance around this elephant anymore. The fear that hamstrings the explosive potential growth of God’s church almost always comes down to money. And the issue of money raises many questions about our present paradigms of full time paid pastoral staff. As Todd points out, the issue of church growth seems to hinge on the number of staff that are released to serve a congregation with almost a 1 staff to 90 congregational member equation. But what if this paradigm and equation is something that Jesus is actually pushing us beyond. What if the ancient paradigm of bi-vocational or even volunteer leader force could be released to help lead, guide, and pastor a church? Could this finally be the time to apprentice part-timers, business leaders, and everything in between to form apostolic leader teams where everyone can play and where everyone counts?
Last year, Todd and the exponential team took a risk and opened up the church plant conversation to the BIVO leaders and the response has been overwhelming. I released a book with this title not to start a new conversation but to simply insert into the discussion knowing that the BIVO leader may be the key to explosive growth. For me, BIVO isn’t about doing two jobs bad or a way of ‘survival.’ For me, BIVO is an opportunity to release the church; both FROM the consumer demands that limit a church to addition and addiction, and TO the powerful picture of the church we’ve always wanted to see and what we read about in scripture.
This year, Exponential East will again be offering a BIVO track. I hope to see you there.
Thanks again Todd for starting another great conversation for the church!
Author of The Tangible Kingdom, AND, FLESH and BiVO. For Events and Training Resources for BiVO leaders check this out. http://missionalchurchnetwork.com/bivocational-cohorts/
To get Todd’s book go my.exponential.org/spark
I was once taught when starting my first paint company that if I do one really lousy paint job, the word on the street will be negative even though you do nine really good ones.
Street Cred is the most powerful form of influence and I think it is why the scriptures speak so honestly about trying to live ‘above reproach.’ We use this scripture to micro-manage issues of sin, but rarely do we apply it to the general way in which we give aroma or a stench to the public persona of Christendom.
Of late, there’s been a lot of call outs of key Christian figures. (Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, Joel Osteen among many others) Facebook is littered with scathing reviews of their theology, business practices, and spending habits. As these figures have thousands of followers there are also many defenders who are trying to help us find the silver lining or heart behind the infractions.
As I thought about this, I couldn’t help but mutter to myself, “Net Loss.” What I meant to say to myself, was no matter what the heart, what the intent, whether thoughts or comments or practices were taken out of context, you can’t take get the word off the street and that is always going to be a net loss.
If a pastor claims that 20, 000 people go to their church but their story of financial abuse hits Facebook or the evening news, the bottom line is that 250,000 or more were turned off by ‘the Christians’ again. Regardless of the 100 baptized last month, 50,000 now have another excuse to say, Christian leaders and their dumb as rocks sheep, won’t deal honestly with the real issues. (not my words, theirs!)
Reaching a few hundred isn’t a win if you loose a million! And that is exactly where we evangelicals find ourselves today. The good news? In 20 years will be as unchurched as the rest of the real world and maybe the Christian movement can reboot, redo, and regain some real street cred by living an honest, humble, and trustworthy lives. I don’t think we should wait that long to start, but it’s going to take a few generations of real Jesus people to ‘win out’ over the church people and church leaders we publically endure.
Micah 6:8 gives us a new grid of an old way to cut losses and win the streets again.
“But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?