My New Assignment
—Fresh Bread for the Movement—
A Personal Note from Mike Breen
If it’s true that “if you make disciples you always get the church” what should happen next?
The last decade has been an interesting time for my wife, Sally, and me. For much of the time we have focused on what we believe was our God-given assignment: to encourage the growth of Missional Discipleship in the Western Church. Of course there have been ups and downs, failures and victories, but we feel content knowing that an unstoppable movement has begun.
Looking back I think perhaps the most important contribution we have made has been to highlight the importance of imitation and imitable patterns in the process of making disciples. Of course the development of a contemporary vehicle for discipleship, which, in the movement of Missional Discipleship, we call huddles has also, I think, been significant. I found myself smiling recently when I realized that 10 years ago no huddles existed outside of Sheffield England – everything was done face-to-face in the same time and place. Now countless huddles via phone, Skype, Face Time, Google Plus and more latterly Zoom, are proliferating all around the world. I think it’s true to say that we are now unable to count how many people are being intentionally discipled using 3DM tools in discipleship huddles.
The other significant contribution of course has been to help develop and define the missional vehicle of Missional Communities, which we currently teach using the language of Family on Mission. I don’t think anyone could have predicted how many Mission Shaped Communities, Fresh Expressions, Clusters and Missional Communities of all sizes would emerge in the Western church when we first began to experiment with the idea that the New Testament church was built around the household (or more technically, the Greco-Roman oikos), in the little church we led in Brixton, London in the late 1980s. The strap line for that little inner city church – All Saints Brixton Hill – said it all; ‘The Household Church’. The work there formed the basis of our pioneering partnership with the congregation of St. Thomas’ Sheffield from the mid-1990s onwards. It’s been a challenging but always marvelous ride!
But what’s next? It’s been almost a year now since the decentralization of 3DM and the ‘sending out’ of the various teams throughout the world using the 3DM tools and training models. They all seem more than capable of carrying that work forward, so is there anything further to add?
I think there is. I’ve spent the better part of a year reflecting on this question and I think there is something more for us. Now that a discipling culture and a missional mindset have been thoroughly established in many churches around the world, I would love to see all of those churches become centers of movemental transformation – churches that change the world!
What do I mean? I mean every church having a similar or greater effect on the world as St. Thomas Sheffield.
Speaking to many of you I know that this is a longing in your heart. You have carried your cross and paid the price of building a discipling culture and you have inspired me by your sacrifice to spend many long months in the desert of reflection asking God for insight. I think I have an answer.
For the kind of impact for which we long through our missionary minded discipling churches I think that three vital elements need to be brought together to form a kind of ‘critical mass’. They are:
1) A significant and predictable corporate encounter with the presence of God in worship. God’s presence is of course always with us but encountering his presence makes a significant difference to our lives. I have noticed that it is often in this ‘divine encounter’ that paradigms shift, faith grows and lives are miraculously touched and transformed.
2) A common story crafted and shaped by the ‘People of God’ (in other places I have called this a connecting story) that tells us who we are and how we relate and connect to our context is absolutely vital. This ‘metanarrative’, tells us how God has worked among us and is enormously important for a sense of common identity and collective hope but sadly it is often missing in many local church communities.
3) A development of what I call ‘Selfless Memes’ – little packets of information and revelation – that carry the DNA of what God is doing among you. Of the three essential elements this third one is the most complex and yet perhaps the most important.
Let me explain; memes are vital to the way in which a movement grows and self propagates – it’s similar to what Malcolm Gladwell calls ‘sticky language’ in his brilliant book ‘Tipping Point’. The meme of being ‘Born Again’ was vital to the growth and spread of evangelicalism – especially through the work of Dr. Billy Graham – in the mid-20th century. The meme of ‘Amazing Grace’ was central to the work of the Great Awakening. The meme of ‘Doing the Stuff’ was pivotal in the spread of the healing ministry through the work of the Vineyard and John Wimber. And in their own way, the ‘Person of Peace’ – the strategy which I first taught, described and published in the late 1980s – and ‘Up, In, Out’ are examples of the same mimetic process.
So this is what Sally and I am going to focus on. We’re going to help any leaders in the movement who, having been through the 3DM Learning Community process, would like the necessary investment to learn how to bring these essential elements together. We’re going to help leaders to see fundamental breakthrough in their own communities and movemental impact in the world.
We would like to start with male and female leaders of three kinds,
1) Young leaders of high capacity and character who are just starting out on the journey of leadership.
2) Seasoned leaders and their immediate leadership team (perhaps up to three people) who have responsibility for leading a Church, a Ministry or a Mission.
3) Senior Pastors and their spouses (or if they are single the other ‘spiritual parents’ with whom they work). This will be our most significant investment and will offer continuous contact with both Sally and I as we seek to help these leaders navigate their path toward significant breakthrough.
If any of this interests you, especially if this somehow articulates what God is prompting in you, then please write to me at [email protected]
I would love to hear from you.
All of this will begin in the New Year.
To augment this new season of mission and ministry I plan to start a new series of daily devotionals on January 1, 2016. But it would be good to get a sense of whether this would be something from which you would benefit and so if you’d like to sign up for them please write to me at the same email address,
I’m tremendously excited about this new season and the growing sense of the new assignment that God is giving to both Sally and me. Feel free to offer any comments or insights – I’m sure there’s much that I can learn from you all. Much love and many blessings!