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by Brandon Hatmaker on March 20th, 2013

I met three unlikely people last Easter weekend...
(1) Meet Buck. Buck is a young man who just moved to Austin from Atlanta about a month ago. He came to the Dove Springs area in southeast Austin with his wife and six kids. And is currently staying with extended family until they can get on their feet. I met him as we were setting up for the Easter event we were volunteering at for the River City Youth Foundation.

He tapped me on the shoulder before the event even started. Buck needed a jump-start for his car. While helping him, he began to ask me about my tattoos and mentioned he needs to find a good artist in the area to cover up the ones he got in prison. He wants a new beginning. And Austin is his first attempt.
(2) Meet Stewart. He claims his last name is, "Little". Nevertheless, "Stewart" is a cross dressing homeless man with a beard (See above on the left). He’s a big ole’ stout dude… wearing makeup… a dress… and panty hose.

I first met Stewart during our Easter grill-out/communion service in downtown Austin. He stood out like a sore thumb, so I began to engage him in conversation. He turned out to be about as nice a person as he could be. But my new friend did not come without cost. Since I was the one engaging him in conversation, I was the obvious one to ask to help him zip up the back of his flipflop/flats/hybrids that didn’t fit right with pantyhose stretched between his toes. Awkward to say the least.

Finally, (3) meet Ed. Ed is a veteran. He too is homeless. He showed me pictures of himself as a youngster in Vietnam. His VA papers/cards to prove he’s a veteran. And since he's new to the streets and new to Austin, he shared how rough it's been at the Homeless shelter downtown. Every moment he looks the other way or falls asleep. In his own words they were, “Robbing him blind”.

Ed is a Christian and shared his boiling frustration with a church that was, in his words, “absolutely no help to him at all”. His story was pretty heartbreaking. He had only been in Austin for a week. And he needed help.

It’s easy to de-humanize each of these men. It’s easy to judge them and categorize them as a seemingly less important class of people. It’s easy to find enough fault in their journey to justify our ignoring them. It’s easy to think these things. But as a good friend of mine always says, “It doesn’t matter what you think. What matters, is what Jesus thinks. And these are your brothers in Christ.
Why do I share these stories?

Every time I put another name and story to a face that I might normally just drive by, something changes in me. My arrogance revealed, my misconceptions exposed, and yet my fears and insecurities are erased. It somehow changes my spiritual scorecard. And I'm affirmed in this moment that God is most certainly at work (in me, inspite of me, and around me). This only increases as we engage need more deeply.

Jesus continues to shift, expand, confront, and grow my understanding of what it means to follow Him. And He was clear in Matthew 25 that when we serve the least, we ultimately serve Him. I used to think that was the sole focus of this scripture. Our goal, serve Jesus, but I can’t help but think there is an additional motive.

This weekend affirmed a developing belief I have:  Need is everywhere. If we can’t possibly find it, we are either looking in the wrong places, or we’re not really looking. And the goal can never be just the EVENT of serving the poor. The goal is the people we meet along the way. In that place we will find Jesus. He was clear that he’d be there among those on the margins.

Many of you are spiritually dry, some more than others. Some of you are fed up with a stagnant faith or with "church as usual". Some of you recognize that you are a major part of the problem (me too). And most of you have one thing in common; You’re simply looking for more of Jesus. There are many places where you might find Him... I know one place that you’ll find Him for sure.

by Brandon Hatmaker on March 19th, 2013

A few years ago I visited for the first time a government orphanage in a third world country. The first room I entered was about 20 feet long by 15 feet wide. It was packed with 27 cribs each holding two screaming infants. The three workers were doing all they could with their assigned tasks: One fed a child, one changed a diaper, and the other shuffled the children from their crib to the other two workers like an assembly line. It was all they could do to finish the task for all the fifty or so infants before it was time to start all over again.
The second room was filled with toddlers. There were no workers in the room yet none of the children dared to walk through the open door. The moment we broached the doorway they swarmed us. Each holding a pair of florescent orange sunglasses that had been given by a previous visitor, each one holding them out with the obvious desire for me to help put them on their face. The moment I did, they would smile big and start running around the room laughing.
 
After doing this for several minutes, I realized that some of the kids were coming to me multiple times. In fact, all of them were. After enjoying a moment with sunglasses on their face, they were intentionally taking them off (or bending over, shaking their heads, and pretending they fell off) only to return for me to assist them again. This went on for quite a while.
 
These children did not care about the sunglasses being on their face. What they cared about was the individual attention they were getting as I helped them. It was their moment, if even for a few seconds. And they thrived in that moment.
 
I learned a lot that day. The biggest lesson came when I found out that was not a room filled with toddlers… it was a room filled with 3 and 4 year old kids that were the size of 1 and 2 year old kids. I was amazed at how small they each were.
Fast forward a handful of years.
Recently I was invited to view a film by the Both Ends Burning campaign called “Stuck”.  Stuck is a documentary that highlights some of the current political and procedural shortfalls related to international adoption and the destructive impact of long-term institutionalization of orphans. Its goal is to create a movement calling the process to reform.
The claim of Stuck? Every child deserves a family. If it can’t be through unification with biological parents, then it needs to be through a more rapid process for adoption. This stands in opposition to a long drawn out process taking an average of three or more years while the child remains institutionalized during their most significant developmental years (Note: we’re not talking about skipping “due process”… only cutting the fluff. See below for more on this).
 
One segment of the film highlighted my new least favorite phrase: “Failure to Thrive”. While there are significant and often lifelong emotional and mental impacts of a child being orphaned and institutionalized, the thing that most miss is the measurable physical impact it has on a child. The longer a child is institutionalized and away from a healthy family environment, the greater the impact. This is very telling.
 
Failure to thrive indicates insufficient growth, weight gain, or inappropriate weight loss. It covers poor physical growth of any cause and can subsequently be a cause of abnormal intellectual, social, and emotional development.
 
It’s nearly impossible to tell the age of many orphaned children at most international orphanages. Evaluating height, weight, emotional maturity, or even thought development all lead to inaccurate conclusions. All can be impacted negatively.
This is often most noticeable post adoption... and once the child is in a healthy family environment. As an adoptive dad, I’ve seen this first hand. After spending nearly three years in one of the best orphanages in Ethiopia, our adopted son grew more than two inches in under three months after coming into our home. He began to thrive in his new environment. I heard just yesterday a report of an adoptive child who grew three inches in two months and was able to move from below zero-percentile on weight to just above average. In TWO MONTHS.

Something has to change.
 
Following the film, Craig Juntunen, President and Founder of the Both Ends Burning Campaign led a discussion on what needs to happen to help improve the process:
1. The US Government needs to take the lead: Nations across the globe will not take this serious until we take this serious. We need to encourage our government to move beyond simple legislation that has proven to be ineffective and to re-engage this conversation.

2. Foreign Countries need to enter the conversation: This needs to be a collaborative global effort with the goal of placing the needs of the child above political red tape.

3. New Legislation must be introduced: We’ve already begun to see some proposals on the table for legislation that needs to come forward. This will only take place if “we the people” continue to encourage our legislators to take this seriously.

4. Summit of Nations: This is a critical step of collaboration. Studies have already shown that if we took the five necessary best practices of the adoption process from the countries that do it best, we would have an effective nine-month process that could be adopted by any country seeking to do so. This is a fraction of the 3+ years it takes for the average international adoption to take place.

5. Countries willing to Pilot the Program: As with any new process we’d need adoption advocates willing to pilot the program with the desire to improve the process, not just go through the motions.
So what can we do? One of the best things we can do to encourage this process is unify our voice. Here are a handful of things you can do to join the fight.

by Brandon Hatmaker on March 6th, 2013

This is the first post in a series of blogs focused on church leadership. It is based on a chapter from Barefoot Church called "A New Metric For Success":
This summer my eight-year-old discovered a new love for fishing. Any given day you’d find him ankle deep in mud at the local pond with a pole, a worm, and a prayer. It’s amazing how much time he would spend out in the heat staring at a bobber floating across the water. And it was fun watching him discover unconventional ways in trying to catch a fish without ever having to touch a worm.
 
While he was smitten with the idea of catching a fish, he had developed a pretty serious resistance to both putting on the bait and touching the fish. In the angler world, this is a problem.
 
So he developed new strategies for fishing when I wasn’t there to help. Often this meant combining tackle not designed to go together and usually ended with a knotted mess of fishing line. When I’d get home for the day, I could always tell he went fishing by the presence of his mud-layered fishing pole sitting on the front porch needing to be restrung. I was bailing him out constantly.

One Saturday morning we were fishing, going through the regular routine. I baited the hook and I threw out the line for him. When a fish bit, I set the hook and handed the pole to him, he reeled it in, and then I removed the hook from the fish’s mouth.
 
The next time I tried to let him do it. But I still ended up rebaiting the hook, throwing out the line again, helping him set the hook, and handing him the pole so he could reel in the fish. After watching him stumble for about five minutes, he asked me to remove the hook from the fish’s mouth. We did this all morning.
 
My line never hit the water.
 
When we got home, Jen asked how we did. With a grin on his face he proudly reported that he had caught eight fish and that Dad had caught exactly zero. Noticing the strange face I was suddenly making, he turned to me and said, “That’s okay, Dad, you’ll catch a fish someday.”
 
Our perception is our reality. You’ve probably heard that before. However, our perceived reality is not always the truth. We perceive through the lens of biasness, woundedness, insecurity, selfishness, and an inflated opinion of ourselves.
 
We know that nothing valuable in ministry happens without God’s movement, that our ability is through the Spirit, and that we’re called by his grace. He orchestrates movement, provides resources, and crosses our paths with other people. He overcomes our inadequacies, enables and empowers us to respond to their need, and yet we often claim the glory.
 
Glory cannot be shared. Either we get it or God gets it.

Success should first and foremost be determined by who gets the glory for spiritual movement. Too often we give credit to a program, hard work, or creative insight and chalk up every unexplainable victory to good leadership. There are some glaring faults to this logic. And it exposes a real deficiency in the way we view both ourselves and the church.
 
We must learn to view success as God views success. Since his ways are higher than our ways, only then will we truly give him credit. Until then we keep it, and it has no eternal value. We may say we do what we do to his glory, but if we’re not doing what the Bible says to do, it’s
still about us.
 
Jesus taught that every ounce of value found in obedience, sacrifice, and discipline hangs on the command to love God and to love our neighbor (Matthew 22: 39 – 40). It only makes sense to view success through the lens of both.

We fall short personally when our pursuit is to be “first” among our Christian onlookers. Organizationally, we fall short by our internal focus and neglect of those on the outside. How can we love our neighbor and neglect the very things tied to how they perceive us? If we were to truly view success by our faithfulness to Jesus’ command to put others first, it would change our posture to the outside world.
 
Reggie McNeil reminds us in his book Missional Renaissance that externally focused leaders must take their cues from the needs and opportunities of their environment. We have to care what’s going on outside the walls of our church. We must always look for ways to bless and serve our communities. In order to shift our focus, we must shift much of our calendar, resources, and energy to people who are not already a part of our church.
 
If we’re going to become good news to a broken world, we have to change the way we are viewed by the world. We have to care more about how we measure up to our onlookers than we do our peers. We have to become more externally focused by changing the scorecard based on our impact in the world, not the survivability of our various church forms. “No strategy, tactics, or clever marketing campaign could ever clear away the smokescreen that surrounds Christianity in today’s culture. The perception of outsiders will change only when Christians strive to represent the heart of God in every relationship and situation.” (Gabe Lyons, Unchristian)
 
The problem is that many church leaders have spent their entire leadership lives in pursuit of building organizations that rise to the apex of church industry standards. “Changing values and motivations is not easy, but nothing less will accomplish this shift (McNeil)." We will not make the shift from an internal focus to an external focus unless we are willing to change the way we view success. We cannot shift the way we do church without shifting the
way we view church.

Excerpted from "Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture" by Brandon Hatmaker

by Brandon Hatmaker on January 29th, 2013

Teenage girls aging out of foster care and/or orphanages are known as the highest "at risk" group in our nation. It’s estimated that a teenage girl on the streets will be approached within 48 hours by a “pimp”, resulting for many in a season or even a lifetime of sex slavery (See the stats below). So much work is being put into rescue, and so little into prevention. Without prevention, the cycle continues.
This may be closer to home than you think. Not long ago I met a 30-something year old woman visiting our church. She had come with an ANC family attempting to help her transition off the streets of Austin. After a season of prostitution, drug abuse, and panhandling… she was trying to find a way to start over.
 
She was bright, well spoken, and had a hopeful look in her eye. And after spending some time with her I asked the question, “How did you get to where you are now?”
 
I’ll never forget what she said next.
 
“I was 18 years old when I aged out of foster care. And as I sat on that street corner with a small government check and a duffle bag with everything I owned inside… I thought to myself, ‘what do I do now’? And it was like I had the word ‘vulnerable’ written across my forehead. And the men out there… the men… it’s like they were predators who could just sense my vulnerability.”

We've got to do something.
 
ANC is proud to announce a new partnership with Caring Family Network and LifeWorks Austin. Together we are piloting a program called “Legacy House” in which we will be working directly with these young women in helping them finish high school (or get their diploma equivalent), transition into work and/or college, and find a sustainable living situation. Along the way, teaching them the life skills necessary to live a successful adult life. Our hope is to develop a reproducible process that can one day be utilized across the Austin area (and other cities). But for now, we are starting with a single house in south Austin just a stone’s throw from Austin New Church.
 
We are currently looking for a Female Resident Director to live in the home and work with the 1-4 girls in the program along side their caseworkers, mentors, and sponsors. This position has a lot of flexibility (we want the position to fit the person) and includes all housing and living expenses. Since the girls will either be at work, school, or training throughout the day, this position comes with some flexibility on finding a job or maintaining a current job in Austin. We would also consider offering additional income for anyone seeking to relocate here to be a part of the ministry. We are hoping to fill the position in the next 30 days.
 
Please take a moment to help us out. If you or someone you know might be a good candidate for this position, please click HERE to ask us a question or let us know of your interest (sorry, we are no longer taking applications). .
 
In the meantime, please repost this to facebook, tweet it, email it, repost on your blog… or do whatever you can to help us find the right (amazing) person to help us walk along side of these young women.

 
Statistics (Based on studies done by Orphan Hope International, Casey Family Programs, and the State of the Worlds Children Report):
  • 15,000 orphans age out of state-run institutions every year in the US:
  • 46% will not earn a high school diploma or GED
  • 98% will not earn a Bachelors Degree
  • 51% will be unemployed.
  • 30% will not have health care/insurance although they qualify for Medicaid
  • 15-20% will commit suicide within the first year.
  • 25% will have experienced homelessness within the first year.
  • 30-40% will have been arrested within the first year.
  • 84% will become parents within the first year.
  • 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become "hardened criminals".
  • 1.2 million children are trafficked every year... 70% of the victims of Human Trafficking in the US were foster kids.  
Factors proven to reduce this numbers dramatically (up to 50%)
  • Emphasize permanency: Connect youth with supportive adults & systems.
  • Develop a written transition plan.
  • Ensure completion of HS Diploma
  • Increase education support Networks to keep all avenues of education open.
  • Provide toolbox of important personal docs: Birth Certificates, ID, SS Card, etc…
  • Educate on addiction and substance abuse.
  • Increase access to Health Insurance. 

We believe we can provide each of these and much, much, more for the kids coming into this program. Simply giving a place for a girl to be encouraged (as an adult) to finish their high school degree is significant. Having someone help them transition to whatever next is rare.

by Brandon Hatmaker on January 1st, 2013

The missional church movement has been quite interesting to watch over the last few years. This is especially true as we’ve attempted over-and-over to clearly define what it actually means to be missional.
 
So here’s a quick attempt at bringing some clarity to the subject of “Missional” in the context of church. It’s not an exhaustive list… but it's some of the stuff I've learned and am still learning along the way.
 
  1. Indeed “Missional Church” should be a redundant title. Unfortunately it’s not. Bottom line, every church should seek to be missional (sent) in one form or another. How does that look? I can’t tell you because I don’t know where you live, work, and do ministry. But whatever it is, it must be culturally contextual and gospel-centered. The gospel doesn’t change. The method does. 
  2. While the word may seem faddish, the heart of “Missional” is not a “fad”. It’s not a phase, a trend, or a strategy to plant a church… if anything it’s a "strategy" to plant the Gospel. It’s not just another “seeker sensitive” effort to do church better. It’s has to be an honest attempt to model the incarnation of Christ believing that to do so means to live as a sent people. If It’s not, it’s not missional.
  3. “Missional” is not a return to a historical social gospel. Relax. The modern missional movement does not attempt to reduce the gospel to form or function. It doesn’t seek to hurry the return of Jesus by fixing things. It does not claim to be THE gospel… it claims to be a part of the gospel: One that is doctrinal, personal, AND social. One that saves, transforms, AND renews.
  4. “Missional” in its purest form is inextricably linked to biblical Discipleship. Every believer is disciple and every disciple a missionary. Both across the street and across the tracks. Let’s return to our greatest commission… it’s not one that makes converts… it’s one that challenges us to live and teach a new way of living… to make disciples who live like Jesus beyond Sunday. Only then will we embody good news.
  5. “Missional” is bigger than serving the poor. You can serve the poor all day long and still be a jerk to your neighbor. Missional is a posture with everyone you come in contact with. It’s a response to truly loving and understanding mercy. The kind of love and insight that you can’t help but extend to others. That said, serving the least is a huge part of a missional posture no matter who you are. I’ve come to believe that mission (serving the poor) is one of the greatest teachers of missional (loving your neighbor).
  6. “Missional” does not capture fully the essence of church. We are clearly called to worship God in two forms: By our lives (missional/incarnational), and by our affections, voice, and collective attention (exaltation/proclamation/etc). We’ve clearly been called to two directions of relationship: (1) Vertical and (2) Horizontal. We live our faith vertically to God and horizontally to others. This is nothing new and is laced throughout scripture: The first four of the Ten Commandments are about us in relationship with God (vertical), the last six about our relationship with one another (horizontal). The Sermon on the Mount where Jesus listed the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 (Which I believe to be a pretty good outline on a new discipleship in Jesus), Jesus lists eight things… the first four have to do with us and our attitude towards God (vertical) and the last four have to do with our attitude and response towards each other (horizontal). Finally, Jesus himself when quizzed on the greatest of all the commandments responded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (vertical) … And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself (Horizontal).”
  7. Honestly, I’m not sure I have a #7. But I feel weird about ending on 6. If I had one it’d be about the word “Missional” itself. Admittedly, it’s probably not a great word choice. Mostly because of our history with the word mission and missions. It’s a tad confusing. “Missions”, although a part of it, by itself is not “Missional” (see #5). One is something we do… the other is a posture. We’ve overused and abused the word to a fault. Unfortunately it’s become a junk-drawer word that annoys people. We’ve got missional ministries, missional efforts, missional communities, missional mailouts, missional staplers, and missional soundboards in our missional soundbooths. But I think maybe it’s a term that’s worth fighting for now that we’re learning to sift through the static. I like using it in tandem with the word Incarntional. Maybe missional is the “what” and Incarnational is the “how”. Or maybe we do what my friend Hugh Halter suggests and just use “missionaryish”. Would that help any? 

by Brandon Hatmaker on November 24th, 2012

I'm thankful to be a part of the church today. Honestly, I haven't always felt that way. Not long ago my frustrations with the church overwhelmed my hope for the church. That's not a good thing... and I've since realized it shouldn't even be a "thing" because there is ALWAYS hope for the church.

One of the things I've enjoyed observing is what's been labeled as the Modern Missional Movement. Church leaders are not only asking the questions we've avoided for years.. It seems we're finally asking the right questions and with the right motives. We're finally putting an equal amount of thought into what a church can and should be to the unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched of America. As with many "movements" of faith, initially we swung a little too far to the other side of the pendulum, but over the last few years we've begun to see a very healthy conversation and perspective on both a gathered and scattered church. One that values both proclamation and incarnation.

One of the things that has brought health to this conversation is the increased discussion about missional discipleship. Writings like Mike Breen's blog "Why the Missional Movement will Fail" have certainly helped open our eyes, and the shift towards missional as a part of making disciples has been a very healthy and necessary thing.

While there are a handful of things bringing health to this conversation, there are two blazingly obvious areas that I feel still threaten our understanding of Missional... and potentially expose a lack of understanding for what Missional means.
1. Missional is not just a modified or modernized form of Evangelism:

Missional isn't your grandpa's evangelism. I know that was a gross overstatement. Some of our "God fearing" grandpa's could teach Alan Hirsch how to live on mission. But there was a day when the majority of outreach was limited to an evening out with the deacons going door-to-door hoping for a "divine moment" to present the gospel to a stranger. This might possibly have been someone who visited the church that morning and happened to fill out a visitor card and quite often just a surprised neighbor. 
Today, "visitation" and other evangelism efforts seem to have given way to other strategies that are super creative and innovative. Pastors and church leaders have certainly learned to speak the language of our culture. But the question is: to which culture are we speaking?

Here's what I mean by that: I recently had a friend send me a pic of a facebook group called "Missional Wear". This is a very creative group that makes Christian t-shirts and accessories designed to create conversation. Honestly, their stuff is really good. Way better than the "His Pain. Your Gain." shirt I wore in college. And who wouldn't want a beer glass with a picture of Charles Spurgeon on it?

But I would argue that it's not Missional.

Missional is a posture. It's a way of life. It requires being present and making true friendships. Missional doesn't get in a hurry. Honestly, Christian t-shirts and "tracts" might actually get in the way of missional. Missional doesn't assume someone wants to talk with a total stranger about faith. In fact, Missional might be a little suspicious if they did.

Now, hear me out... first of all, their product is really awesome (Best I've seen). And there can be MUCH fruit from wearing it, owning it, and leading with it. I'm not arguing that. What I am arguing is that this type of thing is more a form of direct evangelism than it is a missional posture. It's a different thing.
Second, and I'll keep this one short... 

2) Missional is not a Child Sponsorship or international Mission Trip:

I'm writing this in the airport as I'm about to board a plane to Uganda for the next 10 days. I'm looking forward to my time on the ground there. I'll be able to see first hand what I've only heard about. I'll get to train pastors. I'll get to speak to thousands of Ugandan Christians. I'll get to visit some of the true heroes of faith who are literally pouring their lives out to the true "least of these".
But what I'm doing is not missional. It's biblical. It's necessary. And it's certainly a PART of being missional (Personally I don't believe you can truly engage culture and ignore the needs of culture). But going on a mission trip, sponsoring a child overseas,  even pouring yourselves out for a community renewal project in your city does not fully encompass the idea of Missional.

I had a conversation with a pastor not that long ago talking about taking a trip to help children displaced from their homes in Haiti. He's words: "This is gonna really be missional."

I'm not sure that it is.

I don't want to confuse the issue. In fact, the reason I've written this post is to add clarity (and maybe offer a little redirection). One of the most important things we can do is expand our understanding of what a missional posture can and should involve, not capture it or reduce it to form or function. Missions is a part of Missional. Evangelism is a part of Missional. But by themselves, too often fall short of communicating a holistic Gospel that saves, transforms, and renews.

Thoughts?

by Brandon Hatmaker on October 23rd, 2012

For a while now I have been in contact with and riding with a non-profit biker organization called the Guardians of the Children. Their vision is three fold: To (1) provide protection for victims of child abuse, (2) to provide assistance to families, and (3) increase public awareness of abuse in it’s many forms.
 
After a season as a “probationary member” of the Hill Country Chapter, I’ve recently had the honor of being “patched in” as a member and am now part of an incredible group of men forming the Austin Chapter becoming the 24th GOC chapter spread across 11 states (Picture: "Cholos" getting patched by Hill Country President "Oz" and VP "Burnout".)
 
As a part of the Austin biker community, we’ve been invited to be a part of two major associations. The first is the Confederation of Clubs and Independents. The second is the United Clubs of Austin. Each with several hundred bikers involved. Each run by an elected board of bikers representing the various clubs through out the central Texas and Austin areas. Literally every Biker club and organization of every kind is represented in this group.

Bikers certainly come with a stereotype. Just like any group of people... a typically unfair stereotype... based on a small group of people ruining it for the rest. That said, I've learned a lot from the biker community. In fact, those I've spent the most time around and now consider good friends are some of the best people I know. They've taught me a lot about unconditional acceptance and unity.

But to be honest with you, I wasn't so sure what I'd find among such a large number of patched members of varying clubs all in one room together. Here’s what I’ve found…
 
These two organizations represent an amazing group of men (and women) and the associations created are really doing what they’ve set out to do: Foster brotherhood and benefit our community in ways that not one of us can do alone.
 
Last Wednesday I sat in a meeting with 300+ bikers that announced and coordinated 8 different benefits that will be held through the holiday season. These events will assist everyone from local Children’s Shelters, to orphanages, to families in need. This, just following an announcement that one of our ‘brothers’ had a kid needing heart surgery and has to raise $10K before the procedure will be approved. A hat was passed around… literally a hat… and more than $3K was raised in a matter of 5 minutes. Then we closed the meeting with a short devotional by our chaplain... everyone stood and took off their hats... and we prayed. Meeting adjourned.
 
Now, It’d be one thing to say this was a unique meeting and that this kind of thing is rare… but it’s not. It happens every time.
 
I’ve seen grown men, presidents of their club, come before the UCOA asking for help as his wife is dying from cancer. I’ve seen clubs stand, invite, and support one another as they rallied around the wife of a member who lost his life in a recent accident. I’ve seen benefit after benefit. Gift after gift.
 
And I’ve seen a code among these men that refuse to do anything but show loyalty and respect to one another (as long as they show loyalty and respect back).
 
Many of these men are veterans, not all are without a history, present and past… but they’re rallying to try and do as much good as they know how. Like most of us, we don’t always succeed at that, but we’re learning… and more than anything… we’re trying.
 
Things aren’t always as they seem.
 
Next time someone rolls up next to you at a stoplight on their Harley, don’t reach over and lock your doors or roll up your window. Fellas, you don't have to try and look tough. Maybe just give a nod. Maybe a smile. But don’t make assumptions. Maybe he won’t do the same about you.


by Brandon Hatmaker on October 10th, 2012

Bear with me, this won't take long.

I woke up early this morning to work on a new training for an upcoming conference. I'll be speaking primarily to pastors seeking to turn their church inside out, hoping to make missionaries out of consumers.

And when I say missionaries... I mean people who aren't afraid to invite a neighbor to dinner. Someone willing to program into their lives one whole day a month to "loving" other people and another day to "bless" a stranger. Someone who can actually cross the street and ring a doorbell with a plate of cookies (or bottle of wine).

Wait. Is that what I really mean? Does that define an American missionary? Could this really be all there is to the modern Missional Movement.

The answer is no. There's more to it than that. The truth is however, that we've fallen so far from a biblical understanding of "living on mission", that we've had to reduce our instruction to the lowest form of Sentness. We do this to help baby-step people into their mission field. Because, well... because people don't really want to do this.

But I'm NOT convinced that we DON'T know how to make friends or to be a blessing (yes, that was a double negative). I'm pretty sure we know how to be nice. We know how to be a friend. We know how to not be selfish. It's just that we are.

After working on my session this morning, I read this BLOG that my wife wrote yesterday from Haiti. For some perspective, do yourself a favor and read it. Try not to start making excuses for yourself and dismiss it half way through... just read it (sorry, I should give you more credit than that). Be honest with God. Take a look at the church you see in America and the kind of "hope" we hope for. See the difference?

Is it possible we're missing the point?

If you've read my book Barefoot Church, you know I'm not a guy who just likes to deconstruct the church. I love the church. I will fight for the church. There is always hope for her. But it starts with repentance and transparency about where we truly are, not an illusion of where we think we are.

Today, I'm simply peeling back another layer of scales off my own eyes. While there are amazing leaders and churches out there who are truly teaching and living a holistic gospel and who are making disciples who live on mission, it's still the vast minority. I'm thrilled that we are in a moment of time that we're entertaining new and innovative thinking in regards to mission... but as we start leaning that way... my prayer is that we identify a true biblical mission centered on Christ and His Gospel, one that loves mercy and seeks justice, and one that doesn't settle with just being "nice".

All this to say... keep going. Keep teaching people to cross the street and cross the tracks. Encourage random acts of kindness and city-wide service projects. They are necessary steps in getting us off center and moving us towards biblical discipleship and true mission. But don't stop there. Paint a bigger picture from the beginning. Help people know their trajectory. Point them towards a Gospel that saves, a Gospel that transforms, and a Gospel that renews a very broken and desperate world in need of Good News.

by Brandon Hatmaker on August 26th, 2012

It's official... I'm going to be leading an online group this fall for leaders leading others through the Barefoot Church Primer. This will include an interactive daily blog and weekly leader video blog. Full details coming soon but we're targeting a September 24th starting date. In the meantime, let me know of your interest by listing your name, church, city, state, and any question or comment you might have in the comment section below.

Click HERE to learn more about what we'll cover in the 8 wk study by reading the "Hole in our Discipleship" BLOG.

Order Barefoot Church Primers online at a discounted rate by clicking HERE.

by Brandon Hatmaker on August 2nd, 2012

The longer I lead as a pastor, the more I realize how significant our call to make disciples really is. Jesus left us no room for misinterpretation… this is our greatest commission.

Collectively, we’ve done a great job at creating programs, studies, events, and processes for just about every angle you want to study scripture or increase in knowledge. Every age group and demographic is represented. I’m thankful for the gospel-centered pursuits of the church today. It’s just plain biblical.

The more we dig into scripture and the life of Jesus, the more we see the necessary connection between what we learn and how we live. His life painted a beautiful picture. What we’re learning is that a true Disciple proclaims the gospel in both deed & creed.

Our struggle is (see the New Testament) and has always been (see the Old Testament) our ability to move from knowledge to application. Fortunately, the surge towards missional/incarnational community has been a huge step forward for the church and has offered an appropriate place for mission to happen through community.

The argument is no longer about whether or not this is something we should be doing. The conversation is now more about HOW we do it in our current context, HOW we balance the gathering and scattering, and HOW we do it in a way that proclaims a pure image of the Gospel.
One of the greatest challenges is found in how the church responds to our culture’s call and concern for social action. We’ve been here before… and it ended poorly. A historical social gospel scares all of us, and it should, social action should never become our gospel.

But it should be a huge part of the life of a Disciple.

Church leaders, here is my proposal: As we make disciples, it is our responsibility to teach our people to serve outside the church. It’s as simple as that. We have to empower them, equip them, and release them. We have to help them understand why we’re calling them to serve others. We have to explain the reasoning, the hope, and the impact it will have on us, those we serve, and the collective posture of the church.

But most of us simply tell our people to go serve, and assume they know how.

Here’s what I’m learning: Most of our people don’t know how. Neither do most of us. The number one question I hear as I spend time with church leaders around the nation is “Where do I begin?”
So let me propose an eight-step process to begin leading your people to engage need. This is the process we use at Austin New Church. And it’s proven to be pretty productive. It’s from the study I wrote based on the book "Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture" called the “Barefoot Church Primer: An 8-week Guide to Serving through Community”. The Barefoot Church Primer is designed to walk small groups, community groups, and/or missional communities through the discovery process of understanding, discovering, and engaging in their context. In it we spend a week on each topic listed below.

Whether you are a church leader or a church attender, you can apply these to both your life and your processes. This process gives permission to learn and offers a biblical foundation before it gives a task. It intentionally walks through a discovery process that if ignored, I believe will inevitably fall in on itself. I think the best part is that it isn’t a program it’s a process. It’s up to you to figure out how to apply in your context. I hope it proves helpful to you.
  1. Embrace Social Action as a part of the Discipleship Journey: Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he told us to serve the least. The most beneficial impact will be on those serving, and the community that serves together, not just those being served. Embrace the learning process as a part of the journey. You’ll be amazed at how much we learn when we’re confronted face-to-face with poverty, brokenness, and disorder. (Barefoot Church Primer Week  1: The Journey)
  2. Settle your Gospel Theology in regards to Social Action: Go ahead and press into scripture. It holds up. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself wondering how you missed it before (you may even do some repenting). There is a very sound reason we serve and scripture is clear. Even so, your serving will eventually come into question, either you’ll self-doubt or someone else will. If you do not settle this in advance it will leave you reeling constantly. This is one of the main reasons I wrote Barefoot Church and is the entire focus of the second week of the Barefoot Church Primer. Tim Keller’s book Generous Justice is also an amazing resource. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 2: Becoming Good News)
  3. Teach/Learn about the Doctrine of Mercy: Scripture calls us to love mercy. Most of us don’t even truly understand it. Only when we fully “get” God’s mercy towards us will we begin to love it, appreciate it, and want to offer it to others. All else is either false or selfish motivation. A heart for mercy is the biblical motivation for Justice. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 3: Mercy)
  4. Teach/Learn about Biblical Justice: Biblical justice is not about making sure people get what they deserve. It’s more about the pursuit of making things the way they should be. We are to seek Justice. Understanding what this means is critical. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 4: Justice)
  5. Expose Need: Here is where the “doing” begins. One of the most critical steps of serving is to actually take a moment to see what the needs really are. At times our preconceived ideas can get in the way of really making a difference. The flip side is also true, at times we struggle to see need that is right beneath our nose. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 5: Expose)
  6. Encounter Need: While a service project or event is rarely going to bring resolution to a need, it will certainly provide a great starting point for people to begin to “taste and see” what we’re talking about. This is a necessary step for people learning to make a difference and can often create the initial tug on a heart or mind to do more. Since a service event/project is beneficial but should never be the "end all", we plan these quarterly instead of monthly. Monthly and weekly service is reserved for those engaging need through missional/incarnational community (Barefoot Church Primer Week 6: Experience).
  7. Engage Need: Create a platform or place for people to take a more personal interest in a specific need. A small group or a Missional Community is a great place for this to take place. Often we see needs at an “event” type project that can be followed up with in the coming days or weeks. Encourage and even train your people to be looking for these needs along their way. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 7: Engage)
  8. Move Beyond the Program: We hope that eventually this becomes a regular part of a disciple’s life. If you are growing, the PROGRAM of serving will eventually get in the way of a LIFE of serving. When we undertand the biblical basis for social action, as we grow, it will become an intuitive part of our daily/weekly rhythm. I hope you see that this is the end goal. Be sure not to control the process with hopes of keeping people inside the box. Plan to release people into their own mission field. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 8: The Intuitive Life)