Building a Leadership Team to Reach Our City

What is the work of a missionary? Depending on who is asking me the question, the answer can vary, but the essence is always the same. Training leaders who will establish the church is the work of a missionary and building a leadership team is a core aspect of our work in expanding the gospel to our cities. This is the model that is left for us, explained in the book of Acts. Paul and his team would share the good news in a city, gather those who responded into a church, and then appoint and train leaders to lead those churches. Recognizing this pattern, our ministry team at BILD International, is working with church-planting networks from all over the world. We are also doing this in Des Moines, Iowa, our home city. We are passionate about Des Moines, and we hope that all churches share this passion for reaching their home city.

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About Des Moines, Iowa

Let me share some perspective from our journey in Des Moines and the practical aspects of implementing long-term habits. Here are a few factors that make Des Moines a strategic city for the expansion of the gospel:

      • Capital of Iowa
      • Home to over 551,000 residents
      • 780,000 people live within 60 minutes (=24% of Iowa’s population)
      • The greater Des Moines area is composed of 16 cities
      • Downtown and East Des Moines are the highest density, low-income zones of the city
      • Des Moines is a central hub and there are significant opportunities for “Seek the Welfare” initiatives.
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Leaders from different churches discussing the expansion and establishment of the church in Acts.

Encouragement From Our Journey

Leaders ask me how their denomination or network of churches can get people established in the faith, while often citing their unique circumstances, challenges and history of using a plethora of church programs. My initial response is: “We use Thursday evenings.” This is surprising to many leaders who are usually looking for another “plug and play” programmatic piece designed for today’s modern church machinery. But this cannot be the starting point. As leaders, if we understand our role in equipping the saints so that our people know the full counsel of God, we must help our people implement long-term habits for growing and developing in their faith.

Our leaders have been meeting on Thursday evenings for 10 years. This habit began when we were initially implementing the Antioch School because Thursday evenings worked best for everyone. When we started, we only intended to meet until we completed our Antioch School degrees. However, as the months passed by, we began to understand the principles for being a New Testament church, and realized that completing our degrees in the context of our church was just the beginning of our development.

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During those years of meeting and learning these principles together, we started bringing food to share and slowly became a family that relied on each other. We shared our lives as marriages, occupations, pain and death were always part of someone’s life. In these initial years, our establishment and leadership development was housed and included a single church. After three years together, this church sent us out as church planters to our city, to continue the work to which we had been called.

This habit of meeting together regularly to establish each other in the faith, and be a family that encourages one another still continues today. Now, we have five different churches and we are seeing how each church plays a needed role in our city. Just as individuals are unique and have a role, the same is true for churches; each one is unique and has a role in the city. This ministry is only possible through the one-mindedness that is built through regularly studying and discussing the Bible together.

How It All Happens

We meet in a business owned by one of our benefactors. Our Thursday evenings looks like the following:

      • We begin our time together sharing a meal and our lives. Entire families, including children, participate.
      • We then move into 4 groups, each following a development track:
          • Becoming a Disciple – BILD Institute
          • Laying Solid Foundations in the Gospel – BILD Institute
          • Acts – Antioch School
          • Habits of the Heart – Antioch School
      • We end by gathering everyone together to pray and discuss upcoming schedules.

“The Church is not like a family, it is a family and I am thankful that it looks like it too!”

There is much work still to do but it has been an exciting process of growth. We are seeing entire families where parents and children each learn the same principles of the faith, while simultaneously discussing these principles with leaders who sharpen their vision and purpose in the city.  Some of these leaders are enrolled in the Antioch School, earning degrees with their work. The church is not like a family, it is a family and I am thankful that it looks like it too!

The Antioch School is an important aspect of our work in reaching our city. It provides a developmental pathway for leaders who need the cultural currency of a degree, but want to learn in the context of their work in the church. This process builds one-mindedness among leaders who seek to reach the city. It is in this context that we can truly begin to see how the church of Jesus Christ can have lasting impacts on our cities.

The Role of the Church in My City

As Christians, how do we think about our city, our involvement in it, and our commitment to its welfare? After all, we are building Christ’s church and are aliens in this world. Are we really called to build cities and seek the welfare of those cities? How does God intend us to live in community? Should we invest our time, talents and resources into our communities… or mainly our churches?

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A recent picture while flying over Mumbai, India, reflecting on the Church’s role in seeking the welfare of our cities around the world.

A mentor of mine once said:

“Tie one hand to Scriptures and tie your other to your culture.”

He was essentially telling me how important it is to first calibrate our minds according to the principles and patterns given to us in the biblical text. Then we can move into our culture and seek out the questions they are asking. Our goal is to understand and engage with our culture, but we must do so with biblically trained minds.

We must continually renew our minds around Scripture while simultaneously engaging in our neighborhoods, cities and cultures. We are to go to all nations, baptizing them into the family while teaching them Christ’s principles so that the world may know God’s plan.

A leader enrolled in the Antioch School, baptizing a new member into the church family.

A leader enrolled in the Antioch School, baptizing a new member into the church family.

What Should the Church Actually Do in Our Cities?

Today, our American churches should be benefactor communities and truly be a benefit to our cities and seek their welfare. Instead, many are focused on making their own budgets and tokenly engaging in international mission while engaging even less with the local city. For churches to benefit their cities requires a renewed understanding of the centrality of the church in God’s economy, for this is God’s welfare distribution system.

The Church is meant to be a family, seen as glad and generous people, finding favor in their community.1 We are to build Christ’s Church according to His administration, where our people live skillful lives, engage in good occupations and meet pressing needs.2

“And let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.” – Titus 3:14

In his letter to Titus, Paul was concerned with Titus teaching the people to devote themselves to good works. Our churches today need to follow this pattern: establish our people in the teachings of Christ,3 engage in our communities and cultures, devote ourselves to good works, and meet pressing needs.

How will you know the pressing needs of your city? How will you devote your church to good works? How will you be productive in the community? We have been asking these questions for many years in our local church network and here are some of our conclusions:

Being Devoted to Good Works

      • Begins with living peaceful and quiet lives that are attractive and healthy.4
      • Practicing hospitality toward strangers and helping those who can’t meet their own needs.5
      • Developing more dialogue on our work in the city, not dissension, and not antagonizing through political activism.
      • Older men/women should mentor younger men/women in developing lifestyles of good works.6

Meeting Pressing Needs

We have an initiative in my local church called Re:Build, where everyone in our network of churches is expected to participate in the process of helping people rebuild their lives in the community.

      • Life Skill Development
          • Hosting: Some people will live with our families
          • Hospitality/Openness/Family meals: Some people will integrate into our churches
          • Support: A support team is needed to help these individuals be “resourced” (i.e. budgeting, transportation, employment, parenting, cooking, cleaning, etc.)
      • Faith Development
          • Some will need older men/women to teach them the first principles of Christ
      • Education and Lifework Development
          • Develop good work skills
          • Education and career guidance (i.e. resume help)

Being Productive in Community

      • We should choose jobs based on a comprehensive view of our lifework.
      • Job opportunities should be considered based on the strategy of the local church, not primarily on location and pay rate.
      • We should think of our homes as a base for our lifework, for the faint-hearted, and practice generosity out of our homes. People of the community should say, “that’s where those glad and generous people live!”
      • Our business owners should engage with the city, seeking its welfare with its products and people.
      • Submission to employers isn’t passive. It requires engagement in a way that will bring praise from your employer and other colleagues. People should say, “that’s where that glad and generous person works!”
      • Honoring people and kings implies giving respect and honor to them, giving them value in your service.

As the church engages with the community, we must continually remain curious about the pressing needs of our neighborhoods and cities. Our world is continually changing and every neighborhood is different, staying involved and asking questions is the beginning.

The church must understand that globalization and urbanization are changing our world. Today’s cities are key in our global world and the church needs to impact the city. Consider this video below created by New Life AG Church in Chennai, India. Rev. Chadwick Mohan (English Service Lead Pastor) and New Life AG Church are ministry partners in the BILD Network and this video is an expression of their understanding of how they need to be seeking the welfare of their city.

The Church is God’s plan and we are to wholeheartedly engage with our cities. Our church families need to devote their lives to good works, meet pressing needs and engage in good occupations. As our hearts align with our cities, the world will see a people that live with a hope that is attractive and generous.

How do churches train their people to live by these principles and do more then just attend church? It starts by training the leaders. The Antioch School is designed to lay a foundation of biblical principles for leaders. This training takes place in the context of your church, with a core of gaining competencies in the biblical principles while being mentored, following the Paul-Timothy model. School is not about academics or degrees, it is about the lifelong pursuit of wisdom.7 This pursuit of wisdom is needed for all people no matter their station in life, and it all starts with the leaders.

The Antioch School is designed for churches to train their leaders in pursuing wisdom, which is the wholehearted pursuit of seeking the welfare of our cities. Now is the time for the church to train her leaders in the first century, biblical principles.


1 Acts 2:46-47
2 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; Titus 3:14
3 Titus 2:1
4 1 Timothy 2; 1 Peter 1:15
5 1 Timothy 5; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13
6 Titus 2, 3; 1 Timothy 5
7 Albeit the Antioch School is accredited, granting Bachelor, Master and Doctorate degrees.

The Role of the Church Nationally

What was the work of the Early Church Leaders?

As recorded in Acts, Jesus told his Apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. He told them that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and they would be His witnesses starting in Jerusalem, expanding out to Judea, Samaria and ultimately the ends of the earth. Luke also says in Acts 1:1 that this book contains what Jesus continued to do and teach. This introduction of Acts (1:1-8 specifically) sets the entire context for our understanding of Acts and even the New Testament.

      • The book of Acts is what Jesus continued to do and teach through His Apostles.
      • Jesus’ leaders were given the Holy Spirit to guide them.
      • As seen throughout Acts, the church was God’s plan for the gospel to expand.
      • This good news will expand from Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Chapters 1-7 show how the Apostles were witnesses in Jerusalem. Then chapters 8-12 show the work in Judea and Samaria. And finally chapters 13-28 demonstrate how the leaders became witnesses to the Gentiles, beginning with the church in Antioch, beginning the effort to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.

All the leaders were chosen by God to do this work and Paul was chosen to bring this message of hope, especially to the Gentiles. But what exactly was the work of the early church leaders? The Spirit actually gave specific instructions about the work of being a witness to all nations. Luke gives us the shape of this work in Acts 13:1-14:28, we see 3 main elements of the work:

      1. They proclaimed the gospel in and around strategic cities.
      2. They instructed the new believers in the Apostles’ teachings.
      3. They formed the believers into churches and appointed elders in every church.

This work is summarized as the Pauline Cycle because it is the same pattern seen in all of Paul’s missionary journeys. These essential instructions are embedded in the teachings and actions of the Apostles.

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Summarizing all of this, we can see how the book of Acts gives us the record of Jesus’ instructions on carrying out the work until He comes back again. The church is the centerpiece of His plan for the gospel to progress to the ends of the earth; this is Christ’s strategy.

The Role of the Church Nationally

We live in the final portion of Acts, where the gospel is to continuing to go to the ends of the earth. Knowing this, are we going to build today’s church on the 21st Century ecumenical paradigm as one church and one religion, or are going to build His Churches according to His administration?1 In other words, we can either build our churches as institutions and organizations in the philosophy of the 21st century corporations and mega-service industries or we can build the church as a family of families with elders, shepherds and apostolic leaders, evangelizing strategic cities, establishing the church in the kerygma-Didache and appointing the elders and deacons in these churches.2

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Church leaders from around the nation and globe, coming together to learn how to implement the early church models in their church networks.

As we look to build the church as a family across the globe, we must also look at our own nation. A book entitled, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church… and Rethinking Church (by David Kinnaman), shows that in our own nation 3 out of every 5 young Christians disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from the church after age 15. The study showed 6 main reasons for young Christians leaving Western churches.

      1. Churches seem overprotective.
      2. Teens and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
      3. Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
      4. Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
      5. They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
      6. The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.

These are disruptive findings, but they demonstrate that we must return back to the methods and principles of the early church, following the patterns left to us Acts and the rest of the New Testament. The church is meant to be a family, who is seen as glad and generous people, finding favor in their community.3 We are to be building Christ’s church according to His administration, where our people live skillful lives4 engaging in good occupations and meeting pressing needs.5

This is a network of church leaders from around the nation, gathering multiple times per year, helping each other build their churches as a family.

This is a network of church leaders from around the nation, gathering multiple times per year, helping each other build their churches as a family.

The Role of the Antioch School

The Antioch School is designed for these purposes. It is built on the early church principles that just as Paul trained Timothy, so too, are we to train our leaders today. The Antioch School is especially focused on the third aspect of the Pauline Cycle, training and entrusting the deposit to faithful leaders.  

We know that today, theological education has become an academic endeavor for professional ministerial positions whereas in the past theological education was the acquiring of wisdom over a lifetime. So how did Paul train Timothy and how can we follow these patterns today? The Antioch School is built upon returning to this Paul-Timothy model of training.  

      • Training is done in the context of life and work with mentors and elder guiding the processes.
      • Training is done in the life of the local church.
      • Training is accomplished through continued dialogue around the Scriptures, with an emphasis on passing on the deposit.
      • Training is competency-based, so that all leaders move towards a mastery of the principles for themselves.

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Our churches across this nation are in need of trained leaders who are passing on the deposit that Christ gave the Apostles, who then gave it to the Timothy-types. The church needs to take her role seriously in training the leaders to go to our neighborhoods, nation and ultimately to the ends of the earth.


References:
1 See Ephesians 3:8-10
2 From Chadwick Mohan’s presentation at the 2016 BILD Summit.
3 Acts 2:46-47
4 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
5 Titus 3:14

The Role of the Church Globally

“A church that is maturing locally will understand that they are to also engage with the global work of the church. Locally established means globally engaged.”

Christ has a plan to make disciples of all nations and we know that these disciples are to be gathered together into communities of faith, and established as church families. But how do these church families reach all nations? Is a church meant to be part of the global work? Doesn’t our church today have enough work in the local setting, so why do we need to discuss “all nations”? Isn’t this the job of our missions departments? Why does the whole church need to understand Christ’s plan? These are the questions we want to explore in understanding the role of the church globally.

Let’s begin by looking at Scripture, as we need to understand its purpose before being able to move on to other matters. Growing up, my church would use the following passage when sending missionaries to the field as the reason for the church to participate in global work:

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” – Matthew 28:16-20

This is often referred to as the Great Commission because Jesus is giving His authority to His leaders, to go to the nations and promises to be with them until the end of this time. As a kid I often struggled to make any connection between the church and the Great Commission, as this text says nothing about the church. At the time I understood that the role of a missionary was to tell the Good News of Jesus to other nations… and that’s it.

Years later, I met a missionary who helped me develop a better understanding of the New Testament. He shared that if all missionaries do is tell people the Good News without surrounding them with a local church family, that would be the equivalent of taking a young infant and expecting it to live on its own without the support of a more mature family. Families are meant to have older and younger generations, working together in life; a new infant cannot live on its own. Thus, if foreign missionaries don’t work with local churches to get new believers plugged in, then the lasting effects of their work is minimal.

“Christ has a plan to make disciples of all nations … gathered  together into communities of faith, and established as church families.”

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Matthew (and in fact all of the Gospel books) was written in context of what occurred in the book of Acts and the Epistles. You see, the book of Acts explains how when Jesus left, the Spirit came and the apostles then formed new disciples into church communities, setting up elders and leaders to shepherd and mature them in the faith. Acts shows how the church started in Jerusalem and spread across the empire and is ultimately going to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8 gives the outline to the entire book:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

So the apostles were meant to be witnesses starting in Jerusalem, then Judea, the Samaria and then the ends of the earth. And in fact, Luke shows us how the church progressed in this manner.

  • Acts 6:7 – “The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
  • Acts 9:31 – “Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”
  • Acts 12:24 – “But the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents.”
  • Acts 16:5 – “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.”
  • Acts 19:20 – “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”
  • Acts 28:31 – “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

We can see that the intent of this book (especially as you look at Luke 1:1-4 as well) is to give us confidence in how the church expanded and was established with the Good News, demonstrating that this is the plan for the Gospel to go to the ends of the earth.

We live in the age of the church, an age where we are to move the Gospel to the ends of the earth through the church. A church that is maturing locally will understand that they are to also engage with the global work of the church. Locally established means globally engaged.

Today we are following this pattern of being engaged with the church around the world. Our focus is on leadership development; we work with indigenous church networks, helping them build leadership development systems. Strong churches have strong leaders, who are trained.

“Locally established means globally engaged.”