In 2002 we started an organization called Glocal.net that focused on starting churches. It would change and morph to ultimately what we have become today – but it was a journey. We didn’t plan to start a network organization, we had just started a lot of churches and many of them wanted a way to gather and network. It quickly grew very large and far beyond my administrative ability and became several groups. I had no desire to start or run a “mini-denomination!” As a matter of fact, I did very little with GlocalNet for years. As a church, however, we kept on starting more churches and by default GlocalNet grew. I could see the value of all of us coming together – but our first response to the way we were relating was very western and industrial. We came together around three things we all did – and still do: (1) start churches, (2) work with the poor in our city, and (3) work in hard places in the world. This brought around all kinds of people from charismatic to reformed to Baptist and even a few Anglicans. We had so many stories. I knew God was doing something different, but I responded the only way I knew how — in an old western, task-driven, organizational wineskins.
As I began to travel the world I had the extraordinary opportunity to come to know and learn from many global pastors who lead significant movements. We would call their what they’re a part of “church planting movements” (cpms), but most of them would not be familiar with that kind of language. These leaders taught me a new way of coming together as family.
This doesn’t mean that principles are not real or do not matter. The difference is that in the global church, they don’t start with principles, they start with people. The people are first. You can go to many conferences now and hear someone lecture or speak of how to start a movement and what it takes: a catalytic leader, a winsome message, a complimentary team, multiple evangelist to promote the movement – and on and on and on. Inevitably, people without movements begin to use the language of movements to get people to join a movement that doesn’t exist. We are missing something.
What we are missing is the Biblical Concept of Family. The global pastors I’ve met do not talk about movements or networks. Instead, when they talk about the church, they speak of their family and of their spiritual sons and daughters. In many of these places around the world it’s impossible to have big meetings and gather thousands of people to hear your message. You can only grow through relationships. Here, we often join movements through hearing preachers preach about their networks or movements. A family requires a lifetime of relationships and a lifetime of relational work, not simply a staff and an organizational chart. This is much more than a language shift.
As I have worked with pastors over the years, I’ve discovered they join groups for the purpose of identity or mission. You can tell the identity groups because they have robust statements of beliefs, certain teachings, and doctrine you must agree on. Teaching, for them, is huge because it’s critical to make sure everyone is on the same page. With mission groups, story is the critical factor. This is so and so and this is what happened . . . God opened this door, etc. All organizations and tribes have a certain measure of doctrine and story but each will lean stronger in one way or the other. This distinction is important to know and understand because it will give you the ethos and direction and values of a particular network, tribe or organization.
But here is what I’ve learned. Most young pastors join a group because they are really looking for family. They don’t want organizational ladders or organizational stats – they want family and they need Fathers. This is very hard for us as Americans. Our history as a nation, our culture, our rugged (if not sinful) individualism makes family hard – but make no mistake about it – we all long for and need family.
Here’s something else that’s important to consider as a leader in this shift, people want to touch people, not worship a new king. I’m always amazed by how these global movement leaders are so accessible to the people. They are not like American mega-church pastors at all. They are humble, they are normal, you couldn’t pick them out of the crowd. Often their clothes don’t match and they’re missing teeth!
Finally, a family has a certain DNA – ours is Kingdom/Disciple/Society/Church. We all share that same DNA. It’s in our blood. We believe Jesus is leader of the Kingdom and his teachings are foundational on the Kingdom. We define disciple as hear and obey. We believe the grid we engage is our society through domains in the public square. We believe the church isn’t just a worship service but a small group, a congregation, and a global church. We build our everything around those four strands.
When you start operating as family everything changes. I’m having more fun in ministry today than ever before because pretty much everything I do, I do it with young people alongside of me. I’m trying to raise up a family. I love working with world leaders at this stage in my life, but I don’t do it alone any more. I often take a young pastor beside me, mentoring them in diplomacy, protocol, culture, or whatever is necessary at that moment. From the credibility we’ve earned over our lives we gain far more access than we had when we were young which leads to many more opportunities. As we get older it is critical that we share our access and opportunities as we mentor young sons and daughters so when we’re gone the family and the ministry continue.
If you want to know what our family is like, you’re welcome to join us at our Family Gathering.