Friday, November 29, 2019

Resounding Anthem : How God is Amplifying the Voice of the Church in Asia and whether we're Listening.

What can one really hope to say of the Church in a Continent so vast and diverse after a mere sixteen day trip to India, Nepal and Thailand? I don't presume to offer anything more than an impression. Mind you, it's an impression that has deepened with each visit I've made to this region these last twenty years. It's this. The Church in the East may have more to teach us than learn from us.

Not to mistake this impression for Christians in Asia being unteachable. Nothing could be further from the truth. I've seldom seen such hunger to learn from God's Word as I did on this trip, always taught through a translator, sometimes in three languages, seldom for less than four, one-hour sessions a day. Not to mention a couple hours of worship and prayer.   I guess there's something about traveling 3 days by bus to attend a conference that feeds hunger like that.

Though each nation is unique, Christians in all three regions experience significant forms of hostility because of the gospel. In two of the three, that hostility could be described as persecution.

But the quality of their faith reminded me of Paul's description of the Thessalonian church. "For you received the Word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers...for not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, your faith in God has gone forth everywhere."  (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

Like the Thessalonians, the word of the Lord is sounding forth from the Church in Asia as an example to us, not of perfection, but of radical authenticity. We dare not ignore the sound of it.

So what does their resounding anthem teach us? 

To lean into long-suffering I'd just preached two sessions and went to a bathroom  that had a very low doorframe. I bashed my head on a rusty latch on the doorframe and had to go off to hospital for a tetnus injection and to have my head wound cleaned up. It wasn't very deep, but I was feeling pretty sorry for myself on my return to the meeting where a man called Ude was reporting back. He told us that he'd planted ten churches and had been beaten for preaching the gospel in every new region he had been to. "But the Word of God never seems to spread until I get beaten," he explained, "And so, I am willing to keep getting beaten if it means that the gospel continues to spread."

Suddenly my little head wound seemed inconsequential. On a masala chai tea break after the session, my friend Chad and I were pensive. "Are we even playing the same game?" Chad ventured. "Back in Arkansas I'm trying to get the coolest design for my next sermon series in the hopes that people will show up to church instead of watching football and this guy is getting beaten for proclaiming the gospel!" I had no real answer to explain the yawning gap in reality that we both felt. Make no mistake, Chad is experiencing some real challenges in his church in Arkansas. But most of his are associated with comfort-loving cultural Christianity, the problem of a majority faith that has been assumed and ultimately denied because of its popularity in the USA. We need to learn greater long-suffering from the Church in Asia.

To love our enemies. I sat on the edge of my seat as my friend Raman taught those who were experiencing persecution on how to respond. This was a lesson that none of us from the USA, Australia or South Africa could teach with any real experience. With fatherly wisdom, he explained, “We engage those who persecute us with love because the spirits behind them have no defense against the weapons of love." I had never heard such practical teaching on how to face persecution well. I wondered what these Indian and Nepali believers would think about our tendency to cry foul at the slightest opposition. Still, even if we do not face persecution per se, we all face some level of hostility because of the gospel, and the principle applies. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against spiritual powers. We are to engage those who oppose us with the irresistible weapons of love not war. One addendum to this. When you have a real human enemy you are less likely to think that a Christian brother or sister with whom you disagree, is an enemy.  Those of us who enjoy freedom can easily squander that freedom by mistaking brothers and sisters in the Church with whom we disagree for enemies.

To turn to God from idols. Our Southlands team witnessed a woman from Yafu village in Thailand getting baptized as a follower of Christ. This is always amazing, but the context makes it even more remarkable. Just three years ago two missionaries were martyred for trying to evangelize  her previously unreached village. This lady is only the 20th person in Yafu to be baptized as a Christian! The gospel is taking root and bearing fruit in Yafu village!  But before baptizing her, the team helped her to demolish her idols to the spirits she had previously worshippedShe turned to God from idols. She did not add God to her idols. I wish it were that cut and dried in the West. Our idols are far more subtle. More respectable. More material, but no less spiritual in essence. They still break our hearts when we worship them. I think we can learn about turning to God from our idols when we recognize what they are. What competes with Jesus for my allegiance and confidence? That is my idol. Let's be a people who recognize and repent of our idols, as surely as if they were a statue to a foreign god.

If we could learn to sing their anthem in these ways, the Church in the West would be far stronger and richer for it. God has chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith. Of course, we still have much to teach and give to the Church in Asia. They need our support and solidarity in many ways.  But let's give upwards, not downwards, as humble  learners, not just teachers.

I was not able to post many photos because social media in some regions can result in greater persecution, but I did happen to post one photo of a Punjabi man who fell asleep on my shoulder while I traveled on a bus. At the end of our time in India, one church leader mentioned that photo saying, "That's how I feel with you guys. We can relax around you and rely on you." 

Maybe that's the best posture we can hope to take; to aim to be a shoulder to lean on even as we learn from the resounding anthem of the  Church in Asia.

Monday, November 18, 2019

"Are all Complementarians Jerks?": Reflections on a Conversation with Mike Erre after the John Macarthur/Beth Moore fiasco

I'm a little late to the party, I know. The fire storm caused by John Macarthur's recent comments about Beth Moore, has started to die down. If you haven't listened to them, here is a clip. Go Home Beth Moore No doubt, we've already found the next fiasco to stir up a frenzy of indignation, but the issue of women in ministry is still red-hot in our cultural moment. It's not going to go away any time soon. Because of this, I was willing to accept an invitation from my friend Mike Erre, an extremely gifted Bible teacher who hosts the popular Vox podcast and who also happens to be an Egalitarian, to weigh in on Macarthur's recent comments and women in ministry in general. It's quite long, but I think worth the listen. Vox Podcast: Alan Frow on Women in Ministry

To be honest, the response to our discussion took me by surprise. In a good way. While Mike and I may differ in our views on men and women in the family and the church, our discourse felt warm-hearted and fair-minded. That seemed to encourage listeners who reached out to me from both sides of the aisle to say that they appreciated the tone of the conversation. In this age of outrage in which we tend to villainize those we disagree with, that alone seemed worthwhile.  Moreover, some Egalitarians contacted me to tell me that they found some of my points helpful and even convincing. They didn't realize that there was another kind of Complementarian than MacArthur's version.

What I realized was that men like Macarthur have created a caricature of all Complementarians as insecure and arrogant. A few minutes in to the interview, Mike literally asked, "So you grew up Egalitarian and now you are Complementarian. How is that? Because you don't sound like a jerk!" It seemed incredulous to Mike that someone might be a Complementarian and not be a jerk.

There is now such a stigma associated with the idea that men and women are equal in value and dignity but not interchangeable in role, that it is viewed by many as religiously-veneered sexism. Admittedly, men like MacArthur, with their high-school-locker-room-smugness, add fuel to the fire of this perception. And yet, there is an unmistakable theme of complementarity rather than sameness between men and women in the Scriptures. The differences between men and women in the family and the church are not viewed as a power play in the Scriptures, but rather as a necessary and beautiful mystery, reflecting the image of the Tri-Une God, complementing one another in united diversity.  Better together.

 I fear that the rise of Egalitarianism in the Church in  our day; the idea that equal value and dignity between men and women must mean equality of role - may partially arise from a fear of rejection by our pervading culture. Today, Christian sexual ethics and complementarity are two of the primary Biblical teachings that make us feel like exiles - a peculiar people, out-of-step with our culture. But we ignore the timeless call for men and women to be diverse image bearers of God, at our peril. The attempt to blur gender difference removes the beauty that God displays by the combining of binary opposites in creation; night and day, heavens and earth, sea and  land, male and female.  

I have written quite extensively on the ways in which we have tried to arrive at a more spacious Complementarity here. and here..  I believe some of the historic boundaries we have put in place have been narrower than what Jesus would have wanted. If we look at his liberation and protection of women, as well as the ways in which He engaged women and received ministry from them, we Complementarians must allow His life to mess with some aspects of our human tradition. And yet, Jesus, the great women's liberator and breaker of social convention, still chose twelve men as his Apostles. Egalitarians must allow this to mess with their deconstruction of Biblical tradition.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Preaching through the Greatest Letter Ever Written

I've wanted to preach through Paul's Letter to the Romans for about ten years now, but I've always drawn back when it comes to taking the plunge. Until now, that is. Southlands begins its Romans series this coming Sunday and I couldn't be more excited about it.   But it's taken us this long to get to this point because it's an intimidating letter. For a start, it's sixteen chapters long. Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones preached through Romans for thirteen years and only got to chapter fourteen before he died! Rest assured, we're not going to do that, but still, you get the idea. It's not a brief letter because it's such a deep letter. Whenever I've considered preaching it, I've wondered how you do justice to what Samuel Coleridge, the English poet referred to as, "The profoundest piece of writing in existence?

To add to the intimidation factor, while a number of famous preachers have taught through Romans, I don't personally know any pastor who has attempted it. Whenever I've asked my friends they've responded with comments like, "No way. Too long. Too controversial. Too complex." This has added to my perception that it is not a quest for mere mortals.  How do you preach the depths and heights of Romans in a way that doesn't let feel like we're climbing Mount Everest?  Can our church cope with a longer series? Is it worth the risk?

I believe it is, mainly because of Roman's incredible beauty. No letter in Scripture puts the beauty of the gospel on display quite like Romans. To me, it's like a diamond that gives the reader a glimpse of the multifaceted gospel in all its brilliance Martin Luther called it the purest gospel and insisted that, "It can never be read or considered too much or too well, and the more it is handled, the more delightful it becomes, and the better it tastes." Every one of us need a clearer vision of the immeasurable riches we've received through Christ if we are to live our lives for the sake of the gospel. So, we're going to mine Romans for all it's worth this Fall and take some breaks along the way to avoid getting in over our heads. Only God knows, but we'll aim to complete it by the end of next summer. 

There are three other reasons why I believe Romans is worth the risk.

It's Double-Impact. It's both theological and practical. It helps us to tackle great theological mysteries like the nature of sin, the Sovereignty of God and the outworking of our salvation. It also speaks with practical wisdom into relationships within the church, the family and the workplace, how people change, how we are to live in the world without being of it. It's also double impact in the sense that it's both edifying and evangelistic. It's written in such a way that it communicates the gospel both to those who are saved and to those who are seekers. 

It's Spirit-Orientated. For those that think Romans is just a book of theological concepts, you are mistaken. It describes the believers' life in relation to the Holy Spirit in most profound ways. In fact, it unpacks Southlands' desire to be a Gospel-centered, Spirit-empowered people more comprehensively than any other epistle.

It's Revival-Infused. Frederic Godet, the Swiss theologian, said, "Every movement of revival in the history of the Christian church has been connected to the teachings set forth in Romans... and it is probably that every great spiritual renovation in the church will always be linked, both in cause and effect, to a deeper knowledge of this book."

More than 500 years ago, Martin Luther was saved as he read the third chapter of Romans and this sparked the Reformation. Almost 200 years later, John Wesley heard Luther's commentary on Romans chapter 3 being read aloud and felt his heart strangley warmed and felt an assurance that his sins were forgiven. This sparked the Wesleyan revival. 

More than anything, I pray that as we journey through Romans, God will bring a wave of repentance and revival to us that will splash and ripple out from us in a way that transforms lives, families, neighborhoods and nations for years to come. 

One way that you can begin to prepare your heart and mind for it is to listen to this amazing spoken performance of Romans by my friend, Andrew Wilson. It will begin to bring it to life.
See you Sunday. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Finding Yourself in the Great Commission(s)

While we have seen a significant increase in the number of new believers we baptize each year at our church, if we are brutally honest, the majority of our growth does not come from the unchurched. It comes from transfer growth or from de-churched, a category of people who hold to some Christian faith but have wandered from the church because of disappointment or disillusionment. While we acknowledge the validity of welcoming people into a church that is more in line with what they had hoped church would be, we do not believe that multiplication should just be a shuffling of the deck of Christians in a given area. In Southern California, church options are seemingly endless which means that church shopping and hopping have become a way of life for many Christians. We want to acknowledge the reality of transfer growth without giving in to its lure. One way we counter the lure of transfer growth is by building strong relationships with other churches in our city. We want people to know that we are not here in competition with other churches, and that any transfer to or from our church will be handled with due honor towards other local churches and their leaders.

The primary way we counter the lure of transfer growth is by doing the work of an evangelist. Even in our increasingly post-Christian, post-modern, post-everything world, Jesus promised that the harvest would plentiful and the workers would be few. So we focus our efforts on praying for and equipping people to go and work in the harvest, which means more than planting a church and living as a Christ-follower in a given city. It means actually opening your mouth to tell people the message of the good news of Jesus.

In the Apostle Paul’s charge to Timothy, he urged him in this regard. “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." (2 Tim 4:5)

One can assume that Timothy was not an evangelist, either by gifting or motivation. We know that he was timid by nature, weak by constitution and was called to assist Paul in the planting and strengthening of newer churches. While he had an apostolic mandate, he seemed to be more pastorally inclined. And yet, here was a clear call to “do the work of an evangelist.”

Finding Yourself in the Great Commissions

This charge stands as a clear call to every member and leader in a multiplying church. We all follow the example of our Good Shepherd, who not only laid his life down for His sheep but told them, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must go to them.” Jesus lived to seek and to save the lost. We have all received the Great Commission from our Lord and while the Great Commission is more than just evangelism, it is certainly not less than evangelism. What fascinates me about the Great Commission is that it may actually be viewed as the Great Commissions. At the end of each of the four gospels, Jesus commissions his disciples in a slightly different manner. In Matthew’s Gospel, He says, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations."(28:19) In Mark’s Gospel, He says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”(16:15) In Luke’s Gospel He says, “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”(24:48) In John’s Gospel He says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me so I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”(20-:22-23)

If we look at the four commissions in the four Gospels, we get a more fully orbed view of how we might do the work of an evangelist. There are more possibilities for our various personalities. I would distill the four nuanced commissions down to four essences: Matthew’s is about explaining the gospel (disciple and teach), Mark’s is about proclaiming the gospel (preach), Luke’s is about gospel story-telling (witnesses) and John’s is about gospel reconciliation (peace, forgiveness).

When we find ourselves in the Great Commissions we realize there is no one-size-fits-all in doing the work of an evangelist. We are free to find the way that best fits our wiring and personality as we share the story of Jesus. Some may be great at a slow explanation of the gospel, others skilful at punchy proclamation. Some are better at giving their testimony and telling the story creatively, while others are able to bring gospel peace into conflict situations. As leaders, we have an opportunity to help people find their place in the Great Commissions of Jesus. Which one of these commissions best fits your personality and skill set?

Doing the work of an evangelist is hard and intentional work. We can so easily be swallowed up with the duties of our ministry. Evangelism requires carving out emotional and relational space in the midst of leading or serving in a multiplying  church. It is not adding another duty to our to-do-list. It is living with an open home, open eyes and an open mouth. There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents than over 99 righteous. So, let’s ask Jesus for power and skill to go after the one.

This is the primary way in which Jesus wants to grow churches as they multiply. Especially in small and medium-sized churches, evangelism will not be able to be outsourced to powerful professionals or big events. It will need to become a culture that lives in the leaders of the church and works its way through the whole church little by little until each and every person finds themselves in the Great Commissions of Jesus.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

When the Dog Eats your Homework: a book for ordinary people in ordinary churches

Any teacher worth their salt has heard that dubious student excuse for turning in work late. "I'm sorry, but the dog ate my homework!" Well, that really did happen to me this past week when I came home to find that Milo, our nine month-old puppy, had found a box of my newly released Broken for Blessing books and chewed at least five of them. Once I'd got over my irritation with her, I made a social media post of the books and was surprised how many people actually wanted to buy the puppy-chewed editions! That may just be their love of dogs, but I suspect it's a deeper phenomena. I suspect people want their spirituality to be rooted in the ordinary. A book on church multiplication with the cover ripped off by a puppy seems more true-to life than the glossy stories we hear at many church-planting conferences.

Among the many excellent books I've read about the church planting, there are two kinds of book that have discouraged me. The first is the kind that is insightful and inspiring, but when I look over the author's shoulder they've built little of substance, or even worse, there is personal and moral wreckage behind them. The other is the kind that has such a spectacular story of growth and impact that it inspires and disempowers at the same time. It seems like such a  glossy story detached from the dog-eared reality of mere mortals like you and me.  

When I wrote a book on the underrated potential of the medium-sized multiplying church, my hope was to tell a dog-eared story that would encourage ordinary people in ordinary churches. This is why I've been so encouraged by the responses to the book that have echoed this theme. Matt Hosier, a friend, theologian and leader of a medium-sized multiplying church in the United Kingdom, had this to say along those lines. 

"Broken for Blessing is not an out-of-reach account of a mega ministry by a mega pastor, but an inspiring story of what a faithful congregation can accomplish. Alan Frow does not sugar coat the costs for a medium-sized church in multiplying but does provide a roadmap from his experience with Southlands Church. Southlands might not be a church that makes headlines in the ‘most influential’ lists but she has had a remarkable journey of planting and multiplication. Broken for Blessing tells this story and is for all who desire to be part of a multiplying church."

God can do extraordinary things with ordinary people in ordinary churches

Ed Stetzer, President of LifeWay Research, estimates that only five percent of multiplying churches in the West are under 1,000 people in size.* For obvious reasons, the vision to be a multiplying church is generally a large church phenomenon because it’s such a resource-rich vision. I’m so thankful for large churches that multiply. I was once part of the leadership team at a large church that regularly invested in multiplication. I’m certainly not against large churches and I believe that this book will carry helpful lessons for them, too.

However, our fixation with large means that churches under 1,000 in size generally have a vision for addition rather than multiplication because if we’re honest, multiplication feels too much like subtraction. In the West especially, where the megachurch looms large, it is easy for small or medium-sized churches to think, “Maybe one day when I grow up and have lots of resources I’ll think of multiplying, but for now, I must grow by addition.” That’s why churches in the 5th percentile- those under 1,000 that have a multiplying vision—are uncommon, like unicorns. But for multiple reasons, I don’t think they should be. In fact, despite the resource challenges, I believe medium-sized churches are better suited to multiplying than large or small churches.


Firstly, because they are more in touch with the ordinary realities of small churches than large churches are. They haven’t forgotten the all-hands-on-deck dustiness that planting requires. They don’t expect everything to be laid out for them. Secondly, they have slightly bigger resource margins than small churches and are less likely to die through multiplying. When medium-sized churches multiply, the whole church feels the pain of sending, but not in a way that kills it. That is healthy.

Essentially, this book is calling for these unicorns to become more common. I am hoping this book catalyzes a movement of medium-sized multiplying churches, even as it encourages small and large churches in their own multiplication efforts. Don’t wait until you’re large before you start multiplying. Think of it this way: Families don’t have to be large before they multiply, they just need to be healthy. So wait until you’re healthy and get going by God’s grace. It’s how Jesus designed His Church to grow and it’s how He intended His Great Commission to be fulfilled.

Southlands is not a high-profile church and it may never be a megachurch. Our dream to be a multiplying church has meant dying to a megachurch dream, which looks like eating a slice of humble pie with a side of obscurity! But that dream has leaned that by God's grace we have multiplies 16 times in the last 21 years, mostly as a medium-sized church. My hope is that Southlands’ story can be catalytic because it is so believably ordinary.

There really is no ordinary church in Jesus’ eyes. He wants to do extraordinary things with ordinary people in ordinary churches as they place what He has given them back in His hands to be broken and multiplied for His glory.

The book is available world-wide on Amazon in paper back and kindle format. 
You can order it by clicking the link below.

*Stetzer, Ed. “Starting, Staffing, and Supporting a Multisite Church.” The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today, 2014, starting-staffing-and-supporting- multisite-church.html.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Broken for Blessing: a surprise, a commendation and an invitation

A Surprise. Broken for Blessing released on Amazon last week, and to my surprise and joy, it has remained thus far as the #1 best-selling new release in the category for "Christian Church Growth."
You can purchase it here. Thank you so much to those of you who have already supported it by purchasing it. If you read it and enjoy it, I would so appreciate it if you would consider reviewing it. That really helps people who do not know the author or the story behind the book, to consider giving it a read.

A Commendation. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes a church to write a book. At least it did for this book. Brett McCracken and Jon Marshall did great content editorial work, Sarah Jane Stone (and my sister, Joanne) did excellent general editorial work, Jeremy Hamman and Rob Scott were superb on the design and layout side. This is all appropriate because this book is essentially the story of Southlands Church and its multiplying history, which in my friend Todd Proctors' words, is one of those best kept secrets that needs to be told. I think perhaps that's because it is so believable. Here is Todd's commendation, not so much of the book but of the church behind the book.

"In Orange County, where I have lived and pastored for over two decades, there is no shortage of notable churches. The OC has been fertile Kingdom soil, giving birth to communities that have become mega and movemental in ways that have dramatically changed the world. Yet, if I were to point to a local church that I see showcasing the fullness of what is most needed for our county, it would be Southlands. Across many chapters and challenges, Southlands stands strong and uniquely compelling in a landscape of many thriving communities. I have experienced Southlands as a place where:
• Guests are called beyond the Sunday seat to sit at the family table
• Strategic “hows” are unquestionably anchored in Biblical “whys”
• Prophetic expectancy assumes gathered
moments will be infused with God’s presence and power
• Spiritual sons and daughters become fathers and mothers in a culture that equips and empowers the natural resource of the next generation
• The best is given away—choosing again and again to prepare and plant communities for other frontiers, even at the cost of the home base momentum and stability
What’s remarkable about this legacy is that it was not produced out of a mega model. Though limited in size and resource compared to many peer communities, Southlands has had sustained, measurable impact beyond most churches I know.

As I meet with young pastors across the nation and listen to their dreams toward the future, I sense it is the chance to be a part of something like Southlands that stirs their hearts. Very few of those who will be shaping the future Church seem compelled by the vision of buildings and budgets to accommodate thousands. Instead, a multiplying family of mid-sized churches is increasingly held as
the horizon in view.

That is why this book seems timely. I am grateful for long hours of thought, prayer and skillful labor my friend Alan has invested in scribing the Southlands story. It is a humble, honest take from a gifted apostolic leader who received the baton mid-race and is running his lap very well. Alan has, in both practical and prophetic ways, captured learnings that will serve church leaders at every at stage of the journey. I count myself to be one of them. After 20 years of pastoring in the context of mega, and now back in the trenches of planting a new OC community, I draw convictions and courage from these pages to move from recycling what has been to an expectant reimagining of what could be."

Todd Proctor
Founder and former Lead Pastor of Rock Harbor Church, Co-Pastor of Canopy Church in Costa Mesa, California and Strategic Church Networks Director of Alpha USA
Thank you Todd, for you kind words.

An Invitation. To celebrate the release of the book we would love to invite you all to our book launch party at Southlands Church from 6-8pm on Saturday, August the 17th. The address is 2950 E. Imperial Avenue, Brea. We will serve appetizers and refreshments. To RSVP please email

Monday, July 8, 2019

Broken for Blessing: Embracing the Pain of Subtraction for the Joy of Multiplication

Illustration by Kip Henderson

“Jesus took the loaves and fish, gave thanks for them, broke them and distributed them to the crowd.” John 6:11

When I read the story of the feeding of the 5,000, I still see it in vivid flannel graph images stuck up on a room divider in our Sunday school classroom. I can smell the salt and flour in the play dough and hear my teacher ask, “What would you say if Jesus asked for your lunch?”

Anyone who knows me knows I am great at meal bartering. As a kid, I was always looking to swap my cheese and chutney sandwiches for something better from one of my schoolmates. Not much has changed. I still try to barter when I go out to eat with my wife, because what she orders always seems better than mine. Needless to say, this miracle spoke to me back in that Sunday school class on a visceral level.

This was more than swapping a sandwich or dinner plate. In John 6, Jesus has compassion on the hun- gry crowd and asks His disciples, “‘Where are we to buy bread, so these people may eat?’ He said this to test them, for He Himself knew what He would do.”Andrew, one of the disciples, finds a boy with five loaves and two fish and Jesus seems to think this lunch will do the trick. So, the little boy with the five loaves and two fish is asked to hand over his whole lunch. John writes that Jesus took the loaves and fish, gave thanks for them, broke them and distributed them to the crowd. The food was multiplied so that all 5,000 men, as well as women and children, ate their fill (the whole crowd was likely closer to 20,000). What a stunning catering miracle! Jesus was a homeless man who provided a meal for a multitude with a little boy’s lunch.

But I have some questions about the story. First, was the lunch given willingly or taken? There are no details of the exchange, simply, that Jesus took the loaves as well as the fish.I have to give Jesus and the disciples the benefit of the doubt here because they don’t seem like playground bullies. Still, I imagine the little boy must have been a bit reluctant to part with his lunch, don’t you? Another question. Why a boy? Why someone who had no easy way of replacing the re- sources he gave up? That seems unfair. But my biggest question is, why did Jesus need all five loaves and two fish for His multiplying miracle? If He was powerful enough to multiply loaves and fish for 20,000 people, why couldn’t He just have done it out of one loaf and one fish, leaving the boy with the rest?

That’s the rub for me in this passage. For some rea- son, Jesus requires the boy to hand over his whole lunch. He seems okay to leave him, for a moment, with nothing to eat himself so that others can be fed. That moment must have felt like a lifetime on an emp- ty stomach. Jesus seems comfortable invading the boy’s margins in uncomfortable ways. This was not just a sandwich barter. This was a sandwich takeover for the sake of others. The miracle was made possible because the boy was willing for his whole lunch to be broken for the blessing of the crowd.

This is the very heart of what it is to be used by Jesus for the sake of others, isn’t it? We say, “Jesus, use me to bring Your life to others.” And He does. Yet very soon after we come back to Him saying, “Jesus, I feel used! I feel empty!” He takes all we have; blesses it, breaks it, and multiplies it to bless others. There is no bless- ing of the crowds without the breaking of our loaves. Many people want to be part of the blessing, but few want to take part in the taking and the breaking.

This is the story behind our multiplying story. It is the story of every small or medium-sized multiply- ing church. We have never felt that we’ve had enough resources to feed the crowds but we’ve wanted to be involved in Jesus’ feeding miracle. We know that ulti- mately Jesus, not our churches, is the Bread of Life. And yet we believe that planting churches is the most effective distribution system to get the Bread of Life to hungry people. So we’ve said, “Lord, we are putting our bread in Your hands, even though it’s not that much. Take it, break it and multiply it for the sake of others.” It has been stunning to see many hungry souls fed with the Bread of Life because of this.

I must warn you, though, that this is a dangerous vision. We recently walked with a Southern California church of around 100 adults who felt called to plant a church into Washington, approximately 2,000 miles away. They sent twenty of their best people includ- ing two prominent leadership couples. The send- ing church didn’t just drop to eighty. They quickly dropped to sixty adults because some who were left behind felt like the church just wasn’t the same as it once was! A year later the church had shrunk by a fur- ther twenty people and the lead pastor resigned, feel- ing distraught by the decline of a church that had felt so healthy just a year prior. Eighteen months into the new church plant it had grown steadily, seeing people coming to faith, new leaders installed and disciples being made. It has now reached around eighty adults. But the sending church, tragically, has closed.

The truth is that there can be no multiplication without subtraction, and multiplication feels like subtraction for quite some time before Jesus restores the margins of our resources. The gap between subtraction and restoration can threaten the life of a sending church. I don’t know about you, but I like resource margins. Yet multiplication means Jesus invades those margins of finances, leaders, volunteers and energy. We find ourselves feeling empty and used in the process, even
though there is joy in seeing people nourished with the Bread of Life in a new place. We feel the pain of subtraction amidst the joy of multiplication.

There is great testing of faith in the “feeding 5,000” miracle, both the disciples’ faith and that of the boy. Being a multiplying church will test your faith to its limits, too. Is Jesus able to feed the multitudes with the little we have in our hands? Will He just take what we have to bless others and leave us empty-handed indefinitely?

When Jesus requires something of us that seems un- reasonable, it is a test both of our faith and our pain threshold. C.S. Lewis wrote about this when his wife was suffering from cancer. “We are not necessarily doubting God will do the best for us; we are wonder- ing how painful the best will turn out to be.”7

John’s insight into his best friend in this miracle is stunning in verse 6. “He said this to test them, for He Himself knew what He would do.” In other words, when Jesus’ multiplying miracle tests our faith because it seems so mysterious, we must learn to give Him the benefit of the doubt. He knows what He is doing, even if we don’t understand it.

While Jesus seems to require everything the boy has, He uses it to feed the multitudes. “He Himself knew what He would do.”While the boy must have felt the pain of subtraction, the disciples are able to gather up twelve baskets full of leftover fragments. The crowds didn’t get just enough—after they gorged themselves on the fish and bread, there were twelve baskets of leftover fragments. The phrase leftover fragments im- plies both abundance and change. When we surrender our resources to Jesus to be broken and multiplied we can be sure He will restore them abundantly, but we are also surrendering the form in which they are restored to us. He restores fragments. Multiplication brings with it a new normal. Our lives will never be the same.

Jesus has never restored our comfortable, self-serving vision of the church to us. We are permanently ruined with a new vision of brokenness for the sake of blessing. For some people, this way of doing church is too unsettling. They have left Southlands to look for a church with a less disruptive vision. But Jesus has restored and continues to restore baskets full of fragments—finances, properties, investors, leaders, servants and friends, though not necessarily in the same form as they were given.

In summary, I want to suggest three ways of think- ing that can catalyze a movement of medium-sized multiplying churches:

A willingness to let Jesus invade our margins

Southlands began multiplying under my watch in 2012 when we had around 500 adults and 100 kids in average attendance. We sent three pastors, nine- ty adults and fifteen kids down the road to start our first multisite community. It was a shock to the sys- tem to send just under twenty percent of our church to a neighboring city; so much so that after a month I asked one of the three pastors to come back! Four years later though, by God’s grace, we’ve multiplied four times. One of those was an autonomous church plant into Thailand. The other two were multisite communities into neighboring cities. It’s been incred- ibly costly because every time we’ve multiplied we’ve had to yield our margins of leadership, people, fi- nances and ministry. And in a medium-sized church, they are margins you can ill afford. It can leave you breathless, but to see Jesus’ life in these new gospel communities is breathtakingly beautiful. We feel that we’ve been an integral part of Jesus’ multiplying miracle of the five fish and two loaves. We’ve had to put the loaves and fish we have into His hands to be bro- ken, and He’s blessed that. It’s then that subtraction begins to turn into multiplication. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus used every bit of that little boy’s lunch for His multiplication miracle? He could have left the boy with a loaf or a fish, but He used it all. Of course, it’s easier for large churches to multiply without invading their margins too much, but apparently, that’s not the only way Jesus works.

When we surrender our resources to Jesus to be broken and multiplied we can be sure He will restore them abundantly, but we are also surrendering the form in which they are restored to us.

The call to be a multiplying church is a costly one whether you are small, medium or large, but it will help your church to avoid self-preservation and self-promotion, as well as passivity.
Ultimately, the call to be a multiplying church will involve you in the faith adventure of seeing your resources multiplied for the sake of others’ blessing.

Jesus knows what He is doing.
So what are you going to say when He asks you for your lunch?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Ordinary Churches can do Extraordinary Things

While Broken for Blessing is in the final stages of layout and editing before official release this summer, I thought it may be helpful to drip feed a few chapter excerpts to give a sense of the themes and direction of the book. It will be published by Advance Publishers and will be available for purchase on Amazon and Kindle by the end of July. 


In some ways, Southlands is just an ordinary church. Planted in the late 1960s in Southern California, her roots sprang up from the fertile soil of the Jesus People Movement. Thousands of young people, many of them hippies, were being saved and baptized down at Pirate’s Cove in Newport Beach through the ministry of Chuck Smith and Lonny Frisbee. They strummed guitars around camp fires with bare feet and long hair. They were captivated by the love of Jesus and their love spread like a beautiful epidemic. But theirs was a restless faith. They longed for a less buttoned up expression of church. Some of them became preachers and started churches up and down the West Coast in search of a more relaxed faith. Southlands began as one of those California Jesus People churches. 

Like many of those churches, Southlands has had a few different names and gathered in a few different places. She’s had four lead pastors over five decades. She’s also navigated her seasons, much like any other church. There’ve been springs of expansion and renewal. She’s limped through falls of decline, schism and the deaths of key leaders. Sometimes she’s endured winters of pruning and consolidation, where the only fruit on her tree seemed to be tenacity. At other times she’s thrived in summers of favor and refreshing, basking in the warmth of God’s presence. Jesus has been faithful to this church in all her seasons, much like any other church. 

Southlands has been a medium-sized church for most of her 50 years. Nobody boasts about owning a mid-sized Sedan, do they? Medium sounds well, ordinary. When it comes to church these days, it seems you either go for broke and build a mega-church, or you deconstruct and go small, meeting in your home. I’m not trying to assess the merits and demerits of church size, but rather to say, Southlands is neither really large or small. I suppose, if we counted our congregations together and the pastors bribed their kids with donuts to stay for the second service to swell the count, we’d just about qualify as a large church. I’m not against large at all, but being large has never really been our main aim. We’re a church made up of small to medium sized congregations. I suppose that’s also quite ordinary. 

In other ways though, Southlands is no ordinary church. The fingerprint of God has marked her in extraordinary ways, not the least of which is the mark of multiplication. This book tells the story of that peculiar mark. While Southlands was still a medium-sized church she started multiplying through planting churches, and by God’s grace, she hasn’t stopped since. As far as I can tell, the call for Southlands to be a multiplying church began in the late 80s, when church growth by addition was all the rage. Multiplication was simply not in the vocabulary of the average small or medium-sized church leader back then. Some day if you got big you might consider it, but certainly not before.

Against this backdrop, Jesse Mason, the lead pastor of the church at the time, had a vivid vision during a time of prayer of a map of the Southland with multiple points of light spreading from one point. The Southland is the colloquial term for Southern California, a region comprising 10 counties with a total population of just under 23 million people.  Jesse sensed God say to him, “I will multiply points of light from this church across the Southland.” Jesse had very little strategy to support his vision, but he was a man of great faith and so he held fast to it. In 1992 Jesse met Dudley Daniel, the founder of a church planting movement  that began in South Africa. After numerous visits to the church, Dudley introduced Jesse to Chris Wienand, an influential South African church planter who later moved with his family to Los Angeles for what would become a church handover in 1996. So convinced was Chris of the vision God had given to Jesse, that he re-named the church Southlands and began to prepare her for her new normal. 

Chris had a few compelling mantras, one of which was, “God is more interested in our sending capacity than our seating capacity.” It was more than just a mantra. To demonstrate his vision, he converted the church sanctuary into a basketball gym, removing all the pews and stained-glass windows. He wanted a set-up-tear-down-church-on-the-move that would train folk to be ready to go into school halls and cafeterias and community centers to plant new churches. And they did. Under Chris’s watch, Southlands began training leaders and planting churches. Extraordinarily, in 14 years the church multiplied 12 times. Chris had an unusual grace to train leaders and send them out. I once heard him say, “I see this church as a greenhouse of plants to be sent out. I want to empty the greenhouse every five years.” He didn’t quite empty out the greenhouse, but he came pretty close. The church probably got smaller under his watch, but it grew through multiplication. Southlands certainly did multiply points of light in the Southland, but teams were also sent to plant churches in Northern California, Texas, North Carolina, Washington State, and Brazil. Leaders were sent to transition and pastor two churches in Australia, too. 

It’s remarkable what God did through a church that never grew large. Chris would often speak of the Moravians,  who decided that they would never grow above 500 adults but would rather keep sending missionaries to preach the gospel all over the world, some even selling themselves into slavery to reach slave colonies. While the repeated sending took its toll on the church in many ways, the call to uncomfortable going left an indelible mark on the soul of Southlands. That mark endures to this day. I was grateful to catch the last three years of that season as my wife and I came to join the leadership team in 2007.

When I was asked to lead the team of elders in 2010, I made it clear that I didn’t have quite the same multiplying grace as Chris had. I wasn’t sure I wanted a greenhouse, and if I did, I certainly didn’t want it to be emptied every five years! The church I inherited was in serious financial debt and had shrunk to less than 400 adults. Our leadership team was faithful but depleted. We had recently moved to a beautiful facility in a new city and we wanted to know how to make disciples of Jesus in our own zip code. Perhaps this sporting analogy will explain my philosophy as a new leader. Our church was like a team that had won many away games but was not winning many home games. I wanted to start winning home games. So, we pushed pause on multiplication for three years as we gave ourselves to winning at home. By God’s kindness we grew and began to find pastoral and financial health. We started seeing people come to Christ. We started serving our new city. 

Still, the nagging call to multiplication remained. Of course, we’d have to find a new way and a new pace. But God coaxed us with kindness back to our calling, and Southlands has multiplied four times in the past five years with three new multi-site communities in three counties, as well as a church plant in Thailand. All told, that’s 16 plants in 21 years, which again, is fairly unusual.

I’m so wary of the numbers game. Behind numbers are people whose lives were completely disrupted because they responded to the vision to multiply. Not all of those churches have survived and that has brought heartache and soul searching. Many have flourished, however, and that has brought great joy. Others have held steady, navigating through massive opposition with guts and grace. All have persevered against great odds. They’re all heroes to me. I only use numbers to illustrate the point that this book is not mere theory. I don’t consider myself an expert at multiplication. But I suppose I’m not a rookie either. The four church contexts in which my wife and I have led the last 23 years have all been multiplying churches. Churches planting churches is all we’ve really ever known. So, let’s just say it’s in our blood. 

Why write a book about church planting when there are so many good ones already out there? Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research, estimated that only 5 percent of multiplying churches in the West are under 1,000 people in attendance.  For obvious reasons, the vision to be a multiplying church is generally a large church phenomenon, because it’s such a resource-rich vision. I’m so thankful for large churches that multiply. I was part of the leadership team of a large church that regularly invested in multiplication. I now lead what would qualify as a large church and I believe that this book will carry helpful lessons for them too. 

Our fixation with large though, means that churches that are small and medium generally have a vision for addition rather than multiplication, because if we’re honest, multiplication feels too much like subtraction. In the West especially, where the megachurch looms large, it’s easy for small or medium sized churches to think, "Maybe one day when I grow up and have lots of resources I'll think of multiplying, but for now I must grow by addition." That's why churches in the 5th percentile—those that are not large but that still have a multiplying vision—are un-common, like unicorns. But for multiple reasons, I don't think they should be. In fact, despite the resource challenges, I believe medium-sized churches are better suited to multiplying than large or small churches. 

Of course, I realize that an American metric of church size, in which a church of 1000 people in attendance may qualify as large, is not reflective of the rest of the world. How can we possibly arrive at a universal definition of a medium-sized church for the sake of this book? For instance, we work with churches in Nepal that are multiplying very rapidly. A church of 120 people in attendance would qualify as a medium-sized church in Nepal, and the average size of a Nepalese church when it multiplies is approximately 100 people. In South Africa, where we lived and led churches until 2007, there are very few mega churches, and a church that had 5-600 people in attendance would qualify as large. Tim Keller’s article on Leadership and Church Size Dynamics  gives a more globally relevant definition of medium-sized churches as having 200-450 people in attendance. For the sake of global applicability, I would cut an even broader swathe around Keller’s definition, and suggest that a church with between 120 and 700 people in attendance could qualify as medium-sized. Gauging ‘medium size’ is not an exact science, but you probably know it intuitively if you fit broadly into that category. The point is, the medium-sized church has massive un-tapped potential for multiplication.

So, why are medium-sized churches better suited to multiplication than small or large-sized churches? 

First, because they are more in touch with the realities of small churches than large churches. They haven’t forgotten the all hands-on-deck reality that planting requires. They don’t expect everything to be laid on for them. Second, because they have slightly bigger resource margins than small churches and are less likely to die through multiplying. When medium-sized churches multiply, the whole church feels the pain of sending, but not normally in a way that kills it. And that’s healthy.

Essentially, I'm calling for these unicorns to become more ordinary. I am hoping this book catalyzes a movement of medium-sized multiplying churches, even as it encourages small and large churches in their own multiplication efforts. Don’t wait until you’re large before you start multiplying. Families don’t have to be large before they multiply. They just need to be healthy. So, wait until you’re healthy and get going by God’s grace. It’s how Jesus designed His church to grow and it’s how He intended His Great Commission to be fulfilled. 

There is no ordinary church in Jesus’ eyes. He wants to do extraordinary things with us all as we place what He has given us back in his hands to be broken and multiplied for His glory. 


Monday, March 25, 2019

Southlands 2018 Annual Report and 2019 Vision

Dear Southlanders, 

This past Sunday night we had our annual members' meeting, which was honestly one of the highlights of our 11 years at Southlands thus far. I wanted to communicate in writing to the congregation at large about our annual financial report and also about  what I spoke to our members regarding our vision. There are some significant changes on the horizon and I wanted to fill you in on these against the backdrop of the gracious provision and growth God has given to our church. Of course, something of the tone and tenor of the night will be lost  from microphone to page, but I do feel that you will benefit from reading the essence of what I communicated if you were not there. If you were there, you may also find it helpful to be able to reflect on what you heard.

A Call to Multiplying Faith

Hebrews 11: 8-12 "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. And so did Isaac and Jacob who inherited the promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations whose architect and builder was God. It was by faith that even Sarah was able to bear a child, though she was barren and too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so, a whole nation came from this one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable sand on the seashore.

It is remarkable to see God's generous provision to this church and it is against the backdrop of this provision that I want to cast an expanded vision. I want to invite us to do two things at this time.  First, I want to invite us to look up like Abraham, and see the stars of heaven. We are part of the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. We are those descendants, those stars! But God has also promised stars to us. I want us to catch something of God's expansive promise to us as Abraham's children. Second, I want us to be willing to take a step toward risk in the light of this expansive promise to us, because faith has an ongoing appetite for risk.

Terry Virgo unpacked the above passage as follows: “When Abraham was called he obeyed by going out from his secure home to receive an inheritance, though he did not know where he was going. There were no well-worn paths ahead of him and he was the father of all who believed. It seems that static familiarity can constitute danger for the Christian pilgrim. A well-worn track can easily become a rut. God wants us stable in doctrine but mobile in practice." 

God wants us stable in doctrine, even stable in our disciplines, but mobile in practice. Thank you all for your amazing stability in doctrine and in the disciplines of fellowship, serving and giving. You are like ballast in the the boat of this church. Your faithful sacrifice keeps us buoyant and upright. We could not do this without you. But here we see a call, not just to stability, but to mobility. Faith does not have an aversion to risky mobility. It refuses to settle. Faith knows the difference between being established and becoming establishment. Abraham and his sons continued to live in tents. These last 5 years have required much risk but it has been greatly rewarded by God. It is easy to lose our appetite for it. But God is calling us to pull up the tent pegs, embrace uncertainty and set off on pilgrimage again, particularly around our vision to be a multiplying church.

A Vision to Multiply Points of Light in the Southland

25 years ago God spoke to Jesse Mason about a vision to multiply points of light in the Southlands*. Some of you who are still here remember when Jesse began to cast this vision around 2002. This conviction precipitated a call to Chris Wienand to help the church to raise up leaders and send them out. In 1996 Chris and Meryl Wienand moved to Christian Chapel of Walnut to take the helm of leadership. Largely because of Jesse's vision, Chris named the church Southlands Church. The church multiplied 12 times in 14 years under Chris’s watch which is remarkable. In 2010 when we were called to lead the church,  we pushed pause in multiplication to give ourselves to strengthening pastoral, missional and financial health in the church. My mantra was, "We need to win both home games and away games." This remains my conviction to this day.  

In 2012, just before Jesse passed away, he sent me a brief email. “Dear Alan, Ever since the Lord spoke to me about the church multiplying points of light in the Southland, it was like all hell broke loose against us. The church has been in battle ever since. But this morning I woke early and was impressed upon by the Lord to write to you and tell you, 'From this day on it will be easier.'” 

This email was a catalyst for us to return to a multiplying call. It has certainly not been easy. In fact it has been costly for us all.  But God’s grace has been so clearly  upon us as we multiplied 4 times in 4 years. The last year has been about strengthening what has been planted and finding a sustainable rhythm of multiplying from health.  Part of our strengthening season has been an expansion of this vision. What would it look like to multiply points of light all over the Southland where not all the multiplication can come from us? We have begun to expand our vision to include strengthening of existing lights as we develop strategic partnerships with like-minded, like-hearted churches.

A Gospel Constellation in the Southland 

I was watching a documentary on Marfa, Texas this past week, where the sky is so clear that at night you don’t just see the stars. You see a whole constellation of stars and planets of differing size and proximity and brightness. I believe God wants to multiply a gospel constellation through us in the Southland – an array of lights that are inter-connected.

If Southlands multi-site congregations represent one kind of light in the constellation, I want us to expand our vision to see two other kinds of light in our constellation. One might be called Advance Lights, which refer to our partnership with the other Advance churches in our region  and Kingdom Lights, which refers to our strategic partnership with other churches that are not part of Advance not Southlands, particularly churches in the Manna forum.

Let me repeat the array of lights in the constellation. 

Southlands-Lights – Continuing to plant and strengthen Southlands multi-site congregations
Advance-Lights –  Planting and strengthening Advance partner churches in our region
Kingdom-Lights – Strengthening Churches beyond our network with whom we have a kingdom alliance, especially Manna churches.

This is not about ownership. This is about partnership for the sake of a bigger, brighter constellation, to see darkness pushed back and the light of Christ shining brighter in this beautiful and broken region that we call the Southland. It takes a region-wide church to win a region-wide war. The largeness of the vision requires a loosening of partnership on some levels for greater reach.  We are so serious about an expanded vision of multiplication, that we are making some significant changes as we move forwards.

 Key Changes on the Horizon

A. Empowered Local Eldership Teams 
A new administration for Southlands-lights with four eldership teams led by a Directional Team and served by a Central Services Team. This will enable congregations to give their primary focus to their local pastoral care and mission while still remaining vitally connected  to the whole. 

B. Manna Church Investment  Since last year, this has been the biggest change in our multiplication journey. We are now working with 20 churches across the Southland, investing in their mercy and justice initiatives and training their leaders. Some of these churches may become Advance-Lights or even Southlands-Lights in the future, but this is not the motive for our investment.

C. West Coast Advance Hub There are currently 5 advance partner churches in our region with 2 expressing a desire to step into partnership and multiple churches looking in.

D. Sending the Santiago’s to DC to join Monument Church and for Erik to take up a role as Executive Director of Advance Global

Erik and Celeste have been with us for 11 years. For 8 of those years, Erik has served and led in the role of Executive Pastor. He has been fundamental in building the infrastructure of Southlands. He will now take what he has learned and invested and bring it to our Advance Global story. Celeste has been dynamic in worship leading, in design and in our anti-human trafficking initiatives. They have both brought energy and excellence to Alpha, to our creative events and to our gatherings in preaching and worship leading. They will lend these gifts to the establishing of Monument Church and the growth of Advance as  movement. There remains a revolving door in our church – of gospel goodbyes and gospel hellos. This is sad, but this is normal, healthy New Testament Christianity.

E. Commissioning Southlands Fullerton as an autonomous Advance partner church in September

Nick and Karin have served Southlands since 2002 with exemplary sacrifice, conviction and care. Their congregation has grown in stature, and Nick has also grown in capacity and conviction as a leader. He is, as it were, a leader who needs to sit at the head of his own table, and we believe that he and his team will flourish with a more full expression of autonomy. It will also benefit Advance to have another small to medium sized autonomous church, as the churches we are working with are all small. We will continue to work closely together as friends and partners in Advance. This is a year-long process, which h was decided in October and which will launch in September. It is gradual, gracious and celebrated. If we only think in terms of Southlands-lights we will see it as a loss. If we think in terms of Advance-lights, we may lament the loss at one level but we will see it as a kingdom win. 

These are all significant and costly changes, but imagine what the next ten years could look like as we join Jesus on his mission to the Southland?  We are not fixing a specific number that we are targeting, but for a moment try and imagine 3 Southlands congregations,  plus 7 Advance partner churches,  plus 20 Manna churches. That is already 30 lights in the Southland with whom we share a close partnership.  At this rate and by God's grace, we could be in meaningful partnership with another 100  gospel lights in our region over the  next ten years. Can we look up and see a gospel constellation forming in the Southland by God's grace? 

Our Next Steps

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”We don’t see the whole staircase but we want to callus all to take some next steps in our multiplying future.

a. Let's pray for Fullerton as they prepare and plan for their launch. 
b. Let's embrace our identity as a multiplying church. This is us. It is costly, but it is vital and it is Biblical. Even if you are passionate about specific ministries like Camp Agape or Rancho Hermosa or prison ministry or children’s ministry or youth or worship, let's approach them from the unique angle of being a multiplying church. God’s grace is on us in a unique way in this regard.  
c. Let's continue to give and train and pray towards multiplication.

Pre-emptive answers to possible Questions

a. How do we ensure that this vision for a Gospel Constellation in the Southland does not diminish pastoral health in the church, particularly with the time it will demand from Alan? 

The multiplying of the team of elders into four congregational elder teams means that the majority of our elders' time and energy will be spent shepherding their local flocks.We are intent on holding the healthy tension between mission and pastoral care. At Brea we have purposefully added extra pastoral staff in Kirk Randolph returning full-time and JD Senkbile being employed full-time to ensure pastoral care and discipleship go from strength to strength amidst a vision for multiplication. Together with Joel Baker and Ryan Macdonald and 6 other market place elders and wives at Brea and approximately 40 deacons, we have never been better furnished with pastoral care than we are now. While Alan and Rynelle still carry a significant pastoral burden at Brea, their primary role is to care for and develop the large group of leaders God has entrusted to at Brea and the other Southlands congregations. 

b. If Southlands Fullerton is becoming autonomous, what does that mean for the other Southlands congregations in the future?

While we celebrate what God is doing in the commissioning of Southlands Fullerton as an autonomous church, we do not want to assume that this move sets a precedent for all Southlands congregations in the future. While we acknowledge that autonomy for other congregations is possible in the future, we do not see it as inevitable. In the mean time, the remaining three congregations are committed to working closely together for the next three years, with the possibility of other Southlands congregations being added during that time. At the three year mark, we will re-assess the effectiveness of our gospel partnership again with the help of external wisdom in the Advance network to see if our administration needs to loosen further or continue as is. This is a journey of committed faithfulness in the midst of  uncertainty.

2018 Annual Report 
Here is a link to our membership stats, income and expenditure.
2018 Annual Financial and Member Report

I do hope this extensive unpacking of our next steps has been helpful to you. We thank God for the vital part you play in our church. God has given us an expansive promise and gracious provision for that promise. Let's be those who inherit it through faith and patience together. 

with gratitude in Christ for you,


*The Southland is the colloquial term for Southern California(SoCal), a region comprising 10 counties with a total population of just under 23 million people.