well_house: a_church_planting_strategy

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On Sunday, April 14, 2013 I announced that I will be stepping down from my position as youth minister to pursue planting churches.  I will do this through what I believe is a vision and strategy that God has given me to reach the disenfranchised, skeptical, marginalized, and anyone who is thirsty for a genuine discipling community.  This strategy will begin with planting a church within The Well Coffeehouse and then expand as new Well coffeehouses are opened in the future.

After 16 years in full time youth ministry, I have decided to step out on faith and pursue this vision.  If you would be interested in being a part of this vision please contact me at rob@wellcoffeehouse.org.

I would also be so grateful for your prayerful and financial support as my family and I take this leap of faith.  We will be stepping away from a salary and trusting for God to provide.  Donations can be made to well_house through The Well Coffeehouse by clicking HERE and will be marked directly for the support of  the well_house church plant.  The Well is a 501(c)3 nonprofit so all contributions are tax deductible.

So what is well_house? I’m glad you asked…

The following two paragraphs are reposted from my latest blog entry “THIS is the church?  Looks Like We Have A Problem On Hand”.  If you’ve already read this part, scroll on down for more.

When I was a small child I first learned about  the meaning of “church” in Sunday school.  I remember we were all told to put out little hands together in prayer-like position, interlocking out sticky little fingers for the “surprise” that would await inside those folded hands.  You’ve heard it before.  Come on now, say it and do it with me:   This is the church (hands folded, fingers interlocked)…this is the steeple (pointer fingers on both hands extending upward to perfectly meet one another and form the most picturesque steeple ever witnessed by mankind)…open it up (this is the tricky part that requires some coordination in which you point your fingers, which are now steeples, toward the ground while facing your palms up)…AND (wait for it…wait for it) THERE’S ALL THE PEOPLE (move fingers around like your singing for joy from the church pew where you sit EVERY Sunday with all the other little fingers that look just like you)!

How precious.  There’s only one major problem.  It’s terrible theology!  We teach it to the kids.  And I’m not sure we’ve ever really recovered as adults who have been conditioned to “go to church” rather than to BE THE CHURCH.  But there is  Good News!  Hey, who told you to take your hands apart?  Put them together just as you left them because here’s the hopeful reality!   With palms to the sky and your little “people” dancing for joy, start the rhyme again…THIS is the church! And THESE are the people!  If you really, really must finish the rhyme I’m sure you can figure out something to say about the absolute necessity of the $100,000 steeple.  So let me tell you about my vision to help the PEOPLE to point to Jesus as THE CHURCH!

I know what you must already be thinking…why in the world is there a need for another church?  It’s a great question, especially in cities like Nashville where church buildings flood the landscape.   Allow me to share.  You may or may not agree.  And that’s okay.  I hope it at least makes you think.  But if this speaks the language of your heart I’d love to tell you more.  Enough nursery rhymes and intro…here’s the vision I believe God has placed on my heart:

well_house: a church in a coffeehouse

Most churches are challenged to be discipleship-focused AND missional because they are centered around a corporate gathering in a church building…with a steeple (sorry, couldn’t resist).   That church building can serve as a wonderful gathering place for believers.   But it can also unintentionally stand as a barrier to reaching those outside its walls.

I believe God has given me a vision to create a space where theology meets community.   This vision is essentially a strategy to reach out to those who typically do not set foot in church buildings.  This could be the case for many reasons.  Maybe they’ve been burned by the church.  Perhaps they feel that the church is irrelevant.  Maybe they’ve never though they’d fit in because of the image they have of the church.  Or maybe they’ve just never experienced a community of believers who would see them as a unique and precious part of God’s creation and accept them unconditionally just as they are.  Welcome to well_house, a bold vision to tear down barriers and re-imagine what the church is called to be in engaging the world.

well_house will be unique in that it will always be open.  Through a unique marketplace strategy to bring culture, business, discipleship, and mission together, well_house will serve as an engaged community that gathers organically rather than institutionally.    By open, what is meant is this:  well_house will seek to be more of a living Body than a building.  It will be “open” to the Spirit’s leading and empowerment.   In doing so, it will literally be open, alive, and engaged all throughout the week.  How?  By setting up a modern day gathering place.  Enter The Well Coffeehouse, a non-profit business designed with this very purpose in mind.

The Well Coffeehouse was designed from the beginning to be a natural place where religious barriers are removed and the Spirit of Christ is embodied through love, servanthood, and mission.   well_house is the next step in that mission – to give those who are gathered the opportunity for a Christ-centered community.   In that regard, The Well Coffeehouse will serve as the communal hub for well_house.   As The Well Coffeehouse grows and expands into new locations, well_house will seek to missionally plant new community gatherings within these coffeehouses as an engaged, discipleship-driven, missional church that seeks to thrive within its surrounding context. This means that well_house is not just a church but a network of churches designed to reach the disenfranchised, skeptical, and marginalized with the Living Water of Jesus who offers life it at the well.  well_house is also designed for those who are thirsty for genuine community and discipleship.

Gathering around a modern day “well” (like where Jesus met the Samaritan woman in John 4)  allows the church to be accessible and “open” from early in the morning until late at night to truly serve as a living “house” of God.  It will always seek to meet people where they are through the natural, relational nature of gathering in a coffeehouse, the modern day place where people go for conversation, study, engagement, and life together.

well_house will be an ongoing, daily opportunity for discipleship for anyone.  It will serve as a natural,  daily gathering place for believers and nonbelievers alike.   Interaction between believers and nonbelievers will be natural and not forced or manipulative.  Jesus will never be “pushed” upon anyone but embodied so that people are naturally drawn to Him through relationship.

“When we live holy, gracious lives under the noses of our friends, neighbors, and associates, we commend an alternative reality to the one they live with every day.” (Frost and Hirsch, The Shaping of Things To Come)

well_house will be a place to live graciously in the midst of our community and to offer the truest reality of all – Jesus.

well_house will also be “open” as an inclusive, diverse, and embracing community.   It will be fully Christ-centered, missional, discipleship focused, and will gather regularly for worship & communion while seeking to live life together in true community.

well_house will be a serving and missional church that will strive to reach both the local and global community.  Through the  partnered mission of The Well Coffeehouse it will be passionate about fighting social injustices such as poverty, inequality, and slavery in our world.  well_house will seek to embody the descriptions of the early church in Acts especially as they are described in Acts 2:42-47.  Needs will be shared.  People will be served.  Mission will be lived.

In short, well_house will seek to be a community that lives out discipleship while seeking to make disciples.  A place where a disciple of Christ can echo the words of Paul: “Follow me as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).  It will be a place that believes that the church can make a difference in the world today as the bride of Christ participating with God in bringing the future kingdom of God into a present reality through the embodiment of Jesus.  well_house will seek to be “God’s house” (Heb. 3:6) with an open table for all.  This will never be in isolation but as a “living table” with the Bread of Life in hand, and a trail of “crumbs” always leading back to the source of true Life.

Look for more details soon!  well_house will seek to open in August 2013!

If you feel led to be a part of well_house please email me at rob@wellcoffeehouse.org.  well_house also needs your financial support.  I will be stepping away from a full time salary trusting that God will provide as I pursue what I believe is a God-given vision to open the doors to well_house.  If you feel led to help be the avenue through which God might provide for me and my family we would be truly grateful.  You can make a one time donation or recurring donation through The Well’s website.  All donations are 100% tax deductible.

 

Until more is shared, here are a few details about well_house that describe how we will gather and what we will focus upon weekly:

  • worship gatherings will be centered upon communion, meaning the community found in the unity of Christ; communing with Christ and communing with one another
  • Sunday worship gatherings will take place at The Well.  These gatherings will consist of a revolving invitation to worship, commune together, pray, and be taught from the Word of God in a way that always seeks to be real, never forced, and always sincere, challenging, and encouraging at the same time
  • this revolving time will be nontraditional in that there will be  blocks of time in the morning and evening in which people may enter and exit at any moment
    • for example, there may be a gathering from 9am-Noon and 6pm-9pm in which all of the above are included in revolving fashion.  In other words, they will be repeated at intervals during the 3 hour block of time in a way that allows for a natural entrance and exit at any time for both regulars who come weekly or those in the coffeehouse who choose to step in and participate.
  • gatherings will be limited to about 75-100 per gathering
    • this will allow us to grow but also stay “living room” size
    • when all the seats are taken for a particular gathering, those without a seat will be given the opportunity go out and serve in the community at a pre-planned location.  Often times these service opportunities will be directly from the Wishing Well, a needs board within The Well Coffeehouse where customers can share needs they have.  Upon return from serving locally, participants can reenter the worship gathering at The Well.
  • throughout the week there will be encouraged opportunities to gather at The Well to go and serve in the community and beyond
    • there will be a strong emphasis on building serving teams around the 6 categories that Jesus calls the “least of these” in Matthew 25
  • there will be communal Bible studies and pastoral encouragement offered to all throughout the week
  • spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines will be emphasized and become the expectation for those who gather regularly
  • there will be a high expectation for those who are a part of well_house to take discipleship seriously
    • this includes striving to live a life that is pure and holy while fully recognizing the need for grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit
    • this includes a passion for the Word of God
    • this includes a passion for reaching the “least of these” and those who do not know God
    • this includes living sacrificially in order to help others
  • There would be very little startup or weekly financial costs
  • no rent or utility fee (provided by The Well)
  • no sound equipment needed (provided by The Well)
  • Weekly contributions would be taken to fund ministry to the community and to support the appointed leader of each well_house.  The leader would be dedicated full time to the daily work of the church, be responsible for weekly discipling opportunities for regulars and not yet Christians, and play the lead role in the teaching that takes place as part of Sunday communal gatherings.
  • well_house would seek to support global efforts begun by the missional works of The Well Coffeehouse
  • this would mean that well_house might send people to minister in countries where wells are being built to encourage, teach, and nurture in harmony with the physical needs that are being met.
Post Categories: Discipleship
Comments
  • rob says:

    Thanks so much, Jeremy! I greatly appreciate your prayers and encouragement as we move ahead on faith!

  • Jeremy Swindle says:

    Rob, I’m so excited to see what God does through you and this awesome ministry!! It sounds great! Blessings to you as you begin this new ministry! I’ll be praying for you!

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