The Essence of the Church by Tom Julien cited by @JD_Payne

This post is a connection of 3 influential missiological thinkers in my life:

1) I saw this post on Kurt Miller’s blog (thechurchplanter) – @KurtMiller01 is my father-in-law and one of the sharpest thinkers about church planting in the USA.
2) Tom Julien wrote most of the content, and he is the Director Emeritus of my current agency Encompass World Partners. From the time we shared a meal at my parents home when I was a little boy, I’ve hung onto the wisdom he has spoken.

DiscoveringChurchPlanting-JDPayneThose first two were plenty of reason to repost, but then as I did some more research, I realized that
3) missiologist J.D. Payne included this in his 2012 book Discovering Church Planting. I’ve learned from Payne in his merging of global mission & church planting over several years of collaborating with @CMAResources.

Sorry for the long intro, now to the content of “The Essence of the Church”:


“In his article, “The Essence of the Church,*” Tom Julien discussed the fact that many church planters often define the local church in terms of their cultural preference, which can lead to problems on the field.  Julien admonished church-planting teams first to come to an agreement on what the local church is so they will know what they are planting.

“Our problem is that we identify the local church by her cultural and historic expression, more than by her biblical essence. To arrive at a clear definition of the local church we must make a distinction between the two. Sluggish thinking here will lead to differing assumptions in the church-planting team that will affect the basic principles of any church-planting ministry. The more focused we are on essence, the less attachment we will have to any particular cultural expression of the church. On the other hand, if the form or cultural expression of the church becomes our reference point, adapting to different cultural situations will create tension.

The New Testament reveals the church both in her essence and expression. With regard to the essence of the church, this revelation is given in images and presented as fact; with respect to the cultural expression of the church, this revelation is given as example and is descriptive rather than prescriptive…

Let us come back to our original question: “What is a local church?” We have said that a local church is a visible manifestation of the biblical essence. Most of us, however, need something more concrete to work with. It is crucial that every church-planting team agree on a working definition, in concrete terms, that grows out of essence, and not expression. This definition must include those elements that are indispensable to the identity of a church, and omit those that are not. This definition identifies the seed for church planting.

Here is an attempt at such a definition. Members of every church-planting team need to be unified with respect to what they are planting, even if it takes months of struggle to agree.

A local church is an organized body of baptized believers, led by a spiritually qualified shepherd, affirming their relationship to the Lord and to each other by regular observance of the Lord’s Supper, committed to the authority of the Word of God, gathering regularly for worship and the study of the Word, and turned outward to the world in witness.”

Questions to Consider:

  1. What do you think Julien meant by “If the form or cultural expression of the church becomes our reference point, adapting to different cultural situations will create tension”? Can you give an example of such tension?
  2. Do you agree or disagree with Julien’s definition of the local church?
  3. Have you and your church-planting team taken the time to agree on a biblical definition of the local church? f not, why not? How do you know you are all on the same page when you talk about church planting?

*Taken from Tom Julien, “The Essence of the Church,” Evangelical Missions Quarterly (April 1998): 148-149, 152.”

Photocopy original citation in Discovering Church Planting page 44
Photocopy original citation in Discovering Church Planting page 45

Kindle Version:

A Leadership Lesson from Charlotte’s Web by Kurt Miller

Charlottes Web

Great post from one of my favorite people on the planet.

In his book Xealots, Dave Gibbons reflects on the nature of true success as a leader:

Charlotte’s Web is a wonderful little children’s story by author E. B. White about a spider named Charlotte who lives in a barn just above the stall of a pig named Wilbur. Wilbur is worried that once he grows fat enough, the farmer is going to turn him into bacon. It’s a valid concern.

Charlotte and Wilbur develop a close friendship, and as Wilbur grows larger, Charlotte uses all of her resources to try to rescue Wilbur. She writes messages in her web to convince the farm’s owners that Wilbur is a pig worth saving. The story builds to the final chapter titled “The Moment of Triumph.”

So what was Charlotte’s moment of triumph?

As the story….  >> Read the rest here


Is Our Church On Mission? by Kurt Miller

Kurt Miller

Being an on mission church is not about size, staff or structure. Neither is it about a specific program. The magnitude of its mission giving or the multitude of its outreach efforts does not make a church an on mission church. An on mission church is more about a congregations passion than its percentages. It focuses more on its burden than its bigness. Gods mission in the world and His biblical mandate drives an on mission church to become a world mission strategy center.

An on mission church embraces the Great Commission and engages the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a church committed to starting new churches, strengthening existing churches and sending workers into the harvest fields. It is a church that encourages, equips, empowers and expects every member to be personally involved in Gods mission enterprise. An on mission congregation prays, gives, knows and goes on mission with God. Its a church of people burdened for the lostness of all nations that seeks to create ways to reach its Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Most of all, its a church with the glory of God as its ultimate goal and primary purpose.

From thechurchplanter blog by Kurt Miller

A View of the Emerging Church – From USA Today, November 12, 2007

Kurt Miller

This post should not be viewed as an endorsement of the Emerging Church (EC) or of what is said in the article. It is my sincere desire to help all of us better understand this conversation. – Kurt Miller

A force for good

For a growing movement of believers, an activist faith means more than proselytizing about Jesus and stoking the fires of our culture wars. Welcome to the new (and yes, liberal) world of evangelical Christianity.

By Tom Krattenmaker

A passerby might not have known: Was this going to be a church service or a concert by an alternative rock band? The set-up on the stage suggested the latter — a drum kit, guitars on stands, several microphones, and large screens flashing iconic Portland scenes — and so did the look of the young, urban-hip crowd filling up the auditorium.

Then the band hit the stage with a loud, infectious groove, the front man singing passionately about God, and it was clear that the Sunday gathering of Portland’s Imago Dei Community was both alt-rock concert and church service, or neither, exactly. So it goes in the new world of alternative evangelical Christianity, better known as the emerging church.

(Illustration by Sam Ward, USA TODAY)

There’s a growing buzz about the emerging movement, and depending on your point of view, its robust growth and rising influence are worthy of applause, scorn, or perhaps just puzzlement. Fitting for a movement that eschews hierarchy and dogma, emergents defy simple definition. Perhaps the best one can say is that they’re new-style Christians for the postmodern age, the evangelicals of whom the late Rev. Jerry Falwell disapproved.

Postmodernity is nothing new. Philosophers will tell you we’ve been living in the postmodern age for decades. But its expression in the context of fervent Christianity, in the form of the emerging church, is a fairly recent phenomenon, only about a decade old.

Like the postmodern philosophy it embraces, the emerging church values complexity, ambiguity and decentralized authority. Emergents are quite certain about some things, nevertheless, especially Jesus and his clear instruction about the way Christians are to live out their faith — not primarily as respectable, middle-class pillars of status quo society, but as servants to the poor and to people in the margins. In the words of Gideon Tsang, a 33-year-old Texas emergent who moved himself and his family to a smaller home in a poorer part of town, “The path of Christ is not in upward mobility; it’s in downward.”

Nothing to resent

To the many Americans cynical about religion, news of the emerging church might come as a stereotype-busting surprise. Christians fired up not about wedge-driving culture-war issues, but about spreading non-judgmental love and compassion? What’s to resent about this public face of religion?

According to best estimates, several hundred emerging church congregations, or “communities,” have sprung up around the country. Although some are quite large, with memberships well into the thousands, emergents are still bit players on the national religious stage. But the emerging church is making its presence felt, with new groups forming rapidly and major secular and religious media outlets chronicling its influence and potential to dramatically change religion in this country.

Rick McKinley is a goateed thirty-something who leads Imago Dei (which means “image of God” in Latin). McKinley is not your mother’s minister. He threads his sermons and two books with youthful slang, as in being “stoked” about things that excite him and acknowledging that “it can really suck” to live with sin.

Ask McKinley whether he and his community are evangelical Christians, and he’ll tell you yes — and no. “We’d say ‘yes’ in terms of what we think about the authority of Scripture and those things,” says McKinley, who is finishing his theology doctorate this year. “What you have is evangelicalism defined doctrinally, which we’d agree with, and defined culturally, where we would disagree. Culturally, it has been hijacked by a right-wing political movement.

“Like mainstream evangelicals, emergents believe in spreading the Gospel and in the necessity of believers having a personal relationship with Jesus. The difference lies in how faith is applied — the way it’s acted out “in the culture,” as emergents typically put it. In the eyes of the emerging church, Christianity lived out in the respectable confines of megachurches and suburbia is fading into irrelevance as a new generation comes of age with a passion for healing society and a reluctance to shout moralistic dogma. “If the church doesn’t love its neighbors,” McKinley says, “I don’t understand how it can say anything that’s going to have meaning in the culture.”

Emergents tend to be more tolerant than establishment evangelicals on issues such as abortion and homosexuality. Do emergents believe in heaven and hell? Yes, McKinley explains, but according to emergent theology, the point of being Christian is not solely to achieve heaven in the next life, but to bring some heaven to this life by doing the work of Jesus.

That conviction recently translated into “Love Portland,” a Saturday of service around the city. Groups from Imago Dei fanned out to perform service projects — beautifying a school in a poor neighborhood, refurbishing a rundown community theater, and the like — and then gathered to celebrate at their Sunday service the next day with music, video clips and stories from those who partook of the service work. Of course, most evangelical churches perform community service. What makes groups such as Imago Dei different is “sustainability,” McKinley says — a commitment to serving the community day after day, week after week — and a soft-sell approach to evangelizing to those on the receiving end of their good works.

Serve the community

The “downward mobility” cited by the Texas emergent applies as well to the church-growth strategy, or lack thereof, of emerging communities. Unlike the megachurches of mainstream evangelicalism, emerging groups do not emphasize attracting new members (although it seems to happen anyway) or constructing church buildings. Some emerging groups meet in rented auditoriums, some in people’s homes, some in pubs. There is less emphasis, too, on programming for members. In their view, the church exists not primarily to serve members but to serve the community.

Typical of the movement’s critics, Falwell accused the emerging church of trying to “modernize and recreate the church so as not to offend sinners.” That’s probably code for “liberal,” a shoe that would certainly fit.

Writer Scot McKnight, a supporter of the movement, says emergents are seen as “a latte-drinking, backpack-lugging, Birkenstock-wearing group of 21st-century, left-wing, hippie wannabes. Put directly, they are Democrats.”

As is so often the case with religious movements in this country, the emerging church is both old and new: Old, in that Christianity in America has seemingly always been in a state of re-invention in response to the ever-changing culture; and new, in that we see in the emerging church a group of Jesus followers who reject the social conservatism modeled by Falwell and many other leading evangelicals this past quarter-century.

Is the emerging church compromising biblical truth for the sake of being hip? That debate won’t be resolved here. Whatever the case, there is something hopeful about the appearance of a youthful, idealistic form of faith focused more on healing broken neighborhoods than accumulating members and political power.

For those hoping religion can more consistently serve as a force for kindness, unity and society’s renewal — and not so much as an argument-starter — the verdict seems simple: Let the emerging church, and its larger ideals, continue to emerge.


Tom Krattenmaker, who lives in Portland, Ore., specializes in religion in public life and is a member of USA TODAY’s board of contributors. He is working on a book about Christianity in professional sports.

From thechurchplanter blog by Kurt Miller

What’s happening to missions mobilization? by Kurt Miller

Kurt Miller

World mission mobilizers are confronted by a bewildering array of opinions, facts, and new realities. Among them: The MARC Mission Handbook reports a leveling off in long-term missionaries. Patrick Johnstone of Operation World reports that 10,000 of the world’s 12,000 ethnolinguistic people groups have church-planting teams.

Field missionaries describe extra work generated by short-term teams and fear the consequences of some inappropriate conduct by “prayer walk” teams.

The AD2000 and Beyond Movement reports progress toward church-planting movements among the unreached, while missiologists track increasing resistance among Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims.

Such trends, among others, point to a significant division among mission mobilizers and strategists, perhaps one of the most important shifts since the end of World War II. The increased emphasis on the challenge of unreached peoples has highlighted two major streams of action.

(More here)

From thechurchplanter blog by Kurt Miller

The Great Challenges of the City by Albert Mohler

“An honest evaluation of church history should serve to remind Christians that there has often been some hesitation to embrace the city. After all, when in the Book of Genesis Lot chose the cities of the plain for his habitation, it led to disaster. With the exception of Jerusalem, most cities referenced in the Bible are mentioned with considerable concern, if not outright judgment. Think of Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, Gomorrah, Corinth, and Rome.”

To read the entire article please go to Albert Mohler’s blog
From thechurchplanter blog by Kurt Miller

Interesting Facts for Global Church Planters

  • There are 9,608 ethnic people groups and 15,942 people-in-country groups, counting each group once per country of residence.
  • Of the 15,942 total groups, 6,430 are Least-Reached, totaling 2,576,038,000 individuals.
  • Of these 6,430 groups, 4,975 are in 10/40 Window countries. That means 77% of the unreached / least-reached people groups are in the 10/40 Window.
  • The largest least-reached group is the Japanese, with over 120,000,000 individuals.
  • 3,285 groups are primarily Muslim, totaling nearly 1,300,000,000 individuals.
  • 2,436 groups are primarily Hindu, totaling about 900,000,000 individuals.
  • 561 groups are primarily Buddhist, totaling nearly 375,000,000 individuals.
  • 6,486 groups are primarily Christian, totaling over 2,000,000,000 individuals. “Christian” is defined here as Christian adherents, not restricted to evangelicals.
  • The Mandarin Chinese is the largest people group, being in 98 countries with a total of about 793,000,000 individuals, and with 783,000,000 of those in China.
  • Jews are found in 130 countries, Arabs in 84 countries, and Chinese groups in 117 countries.

There is still lots of work to be done!

Here is the latest from thechurchplanter blog…the blog connected to thechurchplanter mini-magazine of Kurt Miller

The Least-Reached and Secular Humanists in America Need the Lord

Never before has the climate for evangelism and church planting been riper for taking the love of Jesus to least-reached people right here in America! Not only are there over 800,000 least-reached people living within our shores, but there is a tremendous spiritual vacuum created by three generations influenced by secular humanism. People are searching for meaning, security and significance. New churches are timely, relevant and connect easily with their communities. Now is the time to plant more and better churches! Now is the time for existing churches to multiply and reap the harvest fields around them. Historically, church planting is proven to be the most effective form of evangelism.

Here is the latest from thechurchplanter blog…the blog connected to thechurchplanter mini-magazine of Kurt Miller

Least-Reached in U.S.

Reaching the least-reached in the United States with the love of Jesus
Here is the latest from thechurchplanter blog…the blog connected to thechurchplanter mini-magazine of Kurt Miller

Definition of an Unreached People Group

The Joshua Project gives the following definition of an Unreached or Least-reached People Group:

“A people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group.”

The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the critieria less than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Christian Adherents. While these percentage figures are somewhat arbitrary, there are some that suggest that the percentage of a population needed to be influenced to impact the whole group is 2%. Joshua Project uses the terms Unreached People Group (UPG) and Least-reached People Group interchangably.

If they are to be reached, churches must be planted.

Here is the latest from thechurchplanter blog…the blog connected to thechurchplanter mini-magazine of Kurt Miller

God Desires to Bless the Nations

Psalm 67

God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us–that Thy way may be known on the earth, Thy salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; let all the peoples praise Thee. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for Thou wilt judge the peoples with uprightness, and guide the nations on the earth. Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; let all the peoples praise Thee. The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us. God blesses us, that all the ends of the earth may fear Him.

Here is the latest from thechurchplanter blog…the blog connected to thechurchplanter mini-magazine of Kurt Miller
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