Passing the Baton

Passing the Baton

I remember when I handed on the senior leadership of Frontline Church 9 years ago, 24 years after planting the church in our front room, and a year after taking on what became Kx. I remember the sense of anticipation, anxiety, excitement, and the fear of the unknown and the uncertain. All feelings that I’m aware of in handing on the Director role of Kx to Jeff Lothamer this July.

I couldn’t be more confident of Jeff taking on the Director role. Jeff is very different from me (Praise God I hear some saying!), and as such I know will bring a different and much needed flavour to the future of Kx. It will look and feel different from the fledgling network that I took on from Paul Maconochie 9 years ago, but still based on those same fundamental convictions about Mission and Discipleship embedded in Shared-Life Communities.

The 3 streams that have emerged in the last 2 years are…

  • Reimagining Church
  • Microplanting
  • City Reaching

They will all have their own flavour and emphasis. And they will work together to help fulfil our original vision statement from 9 years ago: ‘Seeing our nation transformed by the gospel through a movement of missionary disciples’

I will continue to oversee and develop the City Reaching stream, and will look forward to working with Jeff and Christie to help ensure that it works in tandem with the other two streams.

Nic and Jeff met in Birmingham to discuss the future 25/4/24

 

Constant Change is here to stay

Constant Change is here to stay

“Change is never comfortable, even change for the better”, so said one of my past mentors. And we know how true this is. We know something needs to change but we have an inbuilt tendency to resist it even when we know it’s for good. And if we as more pioneering leaders feel that, how much more do those with more of a developer / settler mindset.

But change is inevitable. It’s either change or die! As someone said ‘the last words of a dying organisation are, ‘But we’ve always done it this way’.

And so we have a change of director – Jeff will make an excellent Kx director. We did our first event together last Saturday in Crewe with a couple of churches that have been through a learning community together. It was great fun and very useful for the 20+ people there. Jeff starts formally in the role on 2nd July and I step down 31st July.

How we do church is also changing. The introduction of Microchurch / House Church thinking to our existing models of missional community (gathered and scattered) will continue to shift the church landscape over the coming years. For some it will be a completely new planting experience, for others it will help them strengthen their scattered expressions of a legacy church.

Even on Sunday 21st April, Frontline church in Liverpool (the church Jenny and I planted 33 years ago) has also gone through a major change, with new leaders taking over from John Harding. Jack and Jenny Mariner who some of you will know from previous communities of practice are leading as of this week. They will lead together as a married couple and I’m confident will do an excellent job of taking the church into its next season of health and growth. What a privilege to have 3 generations of leaders grown from within.

This is Jack and Jenny’s commissioning from Sunday.

Change even comes in the form of unexpected blessings. So change is never to be feared, but it is to be navigated with great care and sensitivity, so that those who cope least well with change can be afforded space and time to catch up with what God is doing.

Please be praying for Jeff and Christie as Jeff takes on the new director role. As has been said, ‘We get the kind of leaders that we pray for’.

 

The streams that make the city of God glad

The streams that make the city of God glad

Ps 46:4 says ‘There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.’ Many have used this scripture to imagine what the streams might represent, is it theological streams, denominational streams, geographical streams, etc? As we have talked about Kx having 3 streams, I thought I would use the metaphor to reflect on how our 3 streams might make the city of God glad.

1. Reimagining Church – helping existing churches to reimagine what they could be and do to be more like NT churches with mission and discipleship embedded in shared-life communities as the driving force.

2. Microplanting – Supporting more autonomous small churches in homes, filling the places and spaces that other churches aren’t reaching. Expressed in our Microchurch Network.

3. City Reaching – working with teams of network leaders from towns, cities, boroughs and regions who want to see gospel saturation and transformation of their geography. (See update below, and section on the 6 Marks of a Great Commission church)

Why might this make God’s heart, his people, his bride, his city glad?

Well to start with, let me say that both 1 and 2 feed into 3. The only way we are going to complete the Great Commission in our places is by both mobilising existing churches and planting new ones, new churches that fill the church-voids / spiritual black holes that exist in our towns and cities. Why would it make the heart of God rejoice – because completing the work he’s given us to do (Matt 24:14), will trigger Him walking the Bride down the aisle to meet the Bridegroom. What a day of celebration and rejoicing that will be!

 

More or Less

More or Less

Wow what a rich feast we had at the National Teams Gathering at St Barnabas in Cambridge, with the inputs from John McGinley, the 5 APEST contributors, and from Ruth Tormey of Stewardship.

We were left wanting more. John especially helped us consider the fractured and challenging church-scape we are currently in, as well as the opportunities this unique season give us.

If I was to share my own takeaway it would be this. We are in a pruning season, but also on the cusp of the real church emerging, one which is built on true disciples of Jesus who have learned to:

  • Live from love
  • Lead with mission
  • Link with others to fulfil that dream (APEST complementarity and city-wide unity)
  • Lean into the future with anticipation of a job that can and will be completed, culminating in his return.

We are all facing limitations and restrictions, in finance, volunteers, and emerging leaders. This forces us to look to be and do church differently. The Microchurch journey will increasingly become the default for those who are not funded by huge swathes of CofE reserves.

Pulling back from the

  • Sunday-centric
  • Building-based
  • Clergy-led

type of church will free us to build church like they did in the first 300 years of our history of the body of Christ. This was when the church grew from 120 on the day of Pentecost to 20 million by the time Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, 10 years after the Edict of Milan in 313AD.

So, now is not a time to shrink back, it is a time for collective courage. We need each other in this journey into the unknown. What we do know is that the last cry of a dying organisation is ‘We’ve never done it this way before,’

What are the key distinctives of Microchurches? I’m sure every man and his dog will have their own answer to this question, but for me, as opposed to Missional Community they:

  • Are fully church (not a small group of a church)
  • Operate with agreed/negotiated greater autonomy, for example how often they join in with the gathered expressions of church
  • Enjoy the flow of resources (including finances) from the centre to the edge, not the other way round
  • Connect to other Microchurches by mature people with APEST gifting who help to equip the Microchurches to become mature expressions of church, to raise and appoint more leaders, to plant more Microchurches, and to stay on the straight and narrow
  • May exist outside of the context of a bigger church body, but always desire to be part of a network

And like Missional Communities, they are communities of shared life where disciples make disciples, look for people of peace, grow by new birth, and seek to multiply. However, many Missional Communities fail to achieve this because they never have the space, support, or permission to forge a more autonomous and ultimately fruitful path.

It’s time to explore, experiment and believe God for more, even when more appears to be less!

 

The New

The New

The new year is a good time to look back with gratitude for the previous 12 months. However difficult the year may have been for you, God will have been at work. Identifying what God has done leads to gratitude and builds faith for the new year. It’s a good time for looking forward to what He will do this year. It’s a time for praying, planning and practicing the Way of Jesus. As Jenny (my wife) and I have been seeking to transition our missional community to more of a Microchurch, we have also been given the opportunity to plant two new Microchurches in towns/ villages outside Liverpool, with people who have come to faith through our Alpha courses. Practicing the way is vital for every leader. We must lead by example and ensure that we don’t slip into ‘performance’ mode in our leadership. We must embody the genuine characteristics of those who follow Jesus. We need to model the way we want others to follow.

The snow always makes everything seem fresh and new (before it turns to slush and ice), and many of you like me will have smiled this week as you drew back the curtains to see a sea of white. This innovative snow sculpture (see above) in our local cemetery made me smile, a lot.

And as we gather for our annual National Teams Gathering on 6/7th Feb in Cambridge, again we will be asking God, ‘What’s new?’ God is always doing something new and it’s our joy and privilege to discern and cooperate with that. John McGinley is our keynote speaker and his book ’The Church of Tomorrow’ points towards some of the new things that God is doing. Together we will be listening for God’s word to us and going back to our contexts with renewed faith for all he wants to do.

God bless you as you embrace the new year.