Category Archives: Models of Ministry

Don’t be a dip, be a brick

Okay, so that is a pretty flippant title, and probably not what we will say – even at Jacob’s Well, but I wanted to give you the sense of what I’m thinking.  Below is copy that is in our Sunday Paper (that is what we call the handout at our gatherings on Sunday.)


the Well

Been drinking from the Well for a while?  Figure you might have something to contribute to making sure the well is full for others?  Then it is time to not just be dipping from it, it’s time to help build the well.

Mark your calendars now.  On Saturday, November 10, 9-noon (wake up food and beverages, and childcare up to age 10 provided) we will have a special experience for people who want to do more than just dip, they want to build!

This is for everyone.  Whether you’ve only been coming for a few weeks but know this is home, or whether you were here when Jacob’s Well was just an idea.  Does this sound like membership?  Probably, but it isn’t about getting your name on the roles, it is ‘honest, real, thinking and casual’ like the rest of Jacob’s Well.  We think it is the next step you’re thirsty for!


Who wants to be a member?

You will be assimilated

That’s the Borg Cube from Star Trek. Remember them? They are the ones who cruise the galaxy and ‘assimilate’ everyone so they are no longer who they were, but who the Borg are. No one wants to be one, except those already in. When we talk about becoming ‘a member of the church’ people look at us like we are the Borg invading their otherwise happy universe. In fact, even of our ‘regulars’ at Jacob’s Well (who invest generous amounts of time, passion, expertise and money in the community) react like, “You’re kidding, aren’t you? We aren’t going to do that ‘membership thing’ are we?”

Yet as David Stark taught me some years ago, the problem isn’t that people won’t commit anymore, people commit to all sorts of things all the time. Got a cell phone contract? I rest my case. The question people ask is “Is it worth my investment of time, money, energy, etc to make the commitment?’ Likewise, when I talk about what happens when we do commit to something and understand the truth of our relationship to the growing, developing organism that we call Jacob’s Well they think it is great. When I ask them to think of being a member not as having their names in the book, but like my arm is a member of my body – the arm is lifeless and both are incomplete without each other – then they get it.

Clearly committing to a movement and a community they believe in isn’t the problem. The language is. “Member” triggers an allergic reaction that says, “Oh oh, they are just like all those other churches. They really are just an institution and want us to keep them alive.”

I believe committing to a local church in a very concrete covenanting way isn’t only a good thing, I think it is an essential part of committing to a life of following Christ. The local church is the manifestation of Christ’s body in a specific location. It is the means through which God can touch the lives of people in all fullness. We are looking at ways to talk about and do it.

Before I say what we are thinking of doing I would like to hear your thoughts, reactions and experiences.

UnFocused, UnConnected & UnCommitted

Following on the discussion of people liking Jesus and not liking the church, my experience  is also that people consider themselves ‘spiritual,’  but not ‘religious.’   Spiritual is a good thing, religious is not.  I know what they mean and feel.  Spirituality is the raw experience, the relationship with that which we call God.  Religion is how we practice it.  Spirituality is the real thing, religion is the human-made construct we use to follow it.  Religion should always be subservient to the spirituality it is trying to nurture.  This relationship has a tendency to turn itself upsidedown, however.

The problem is that without ‘religion’ (i.e. some form of organized pattern of nurturing and sharing that which is spiritual) ‘spirituality’ suffers.  In fact what I find is that most people who consider themselves to be spiritual, but not religious have an UnFocused, UnConnected and UnCommitted spirituality.  And consequentially an immature spirituality.  Those 3 words are very important.

This provides a church with a lens through which to examine what it offers and what it seeks to accomplish.

  • Can we help people focus what they call spiritual?  While we have to make sure our God is big enough, we don’t benefit from approaching God like a buffet line.  “I’ll take a little of this and a little of that in my god.”
  • Likewise can we connect people together on their spiritual journeys?  We can’t do it alone.  We weren’t meant to.  We need to learn from and teach each other.  We need encouragement and accountability.
  • Can we offer meaningful, relevant commitment.  Not like becoming due paying members of a club, but we grow when we “run the race with perseverance that was set before us.” (Hebrews 12.1)  Contrary to what many people are saying, younger generations arenot unwilling to make commitments.  (I know a 26 year old who just took on a 40 year mortgage!)  They just want to make sure what they are committing to is worth their investment.  Commitment to spiritual growth makes it happen.

We are all spiritual beings, and finding focus, connection and experiencing the benefit of commitment to what we value above all other things is like a cool drink to a parched and thirsty life.

Being Christian is not a good thing anymore! KNOW THIS STUDY

Kinnamon’s ‘UnChristian’The Barna Group has just published a study that we all need to pay attention to.  I first heard about this research from Brian McLaren a year and a half ago and it helped me focus the shaping of Jacob’s Well.  This study of 16-29 year olds shows how this generation, more than any preceeding generation is not only uninvolved and uninterested in Christianity, but actually views Christianity and the church as a negative.  The subtleties are important, but the overall trend cannot be ignored.

A good question (and I’d like to see some conversation around this) is whether it is even worth trying to convince the “given up” (a Jacob’s Well term) generations that our language, structures and traditions need to be picked up, or is it time to invent new modes of being church and move on?  It is a little hard to ignore the comparison to the controversy among the Apostles (Acts 15) over whether Gentiles should have to be circumcised or not… whether nonChristians should have to learn to like organ music (an ironic comparison, sorry), whether new believers with new questions of God should have to confess faith in ancient creeds that were answers to ancient questions…

You can read a great summary of this in the Sept 24 The Barna ReportIf you are a church learner, subscribe to this!

Kinnaman’s book UnChristian is the full report of the study.  I’ll blog a review when I finish it.

Practicable Christianity

I’ve got to write this one down. I had a conversation with someone who is loving Jacob’s Well and, judging from her experience with church and religion in the past ,this is surprising. I asked her what she liked so much and among other things she said, “It’s like practical Christianity.”

That stopped me for a moment. My old instincts took over and made me think that ‘practical’ was mundane, maybe even “works righteousness” oriented. Then my mind started flooding with Bible verses,

“…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you…”

“…faith without works is dead…”

“…take up your cross and follow me…”

“…hear the word, accept it and bear fruit. Thirty, sixty and a hundredfold…”

We started Jacob’s Well to help people have a relationship with God that made a difference in their lives, that gave them traction. We believe God isn’t just a good idea and faith isn’t just a set of doctrines but a mode of life – relevant and valuable to us everyday.

I have been criticized for keeping praxis lock stepped with doctrine, but that’s part of being precarious. C’est le vie. If the alternative to ‘practical Christianity’ is ‘impractical Christianity’ count me in on practical!


Vision setting

Jacob’s Well in the next 5 years…

…you asked, so here it is.  Let me say that this is at 35,000′ so it has little substance, just BHAGs.  Let me also say that it may sound smug and prideful to you, and it may be, but I want to believe that the only thing keeping God from using Jacob’s Well for great things is our lack of imagination and courage.

There are two sides to the Vision…

First, Jacob’s Well is our attempt to start a new congregation in an established community for the huge population that has given up on church. It is our intent to grow in depth and breadth. Rapidly!  Why not? (What if a church could do that in an urban setting?!?!)

Second, we are trying to develop new models for ministry that can be effective among the population that doesn’t like going to church. Models that are built on principles (biblically, theologically, sociologically sound) not on styles or personality, so that the models can be contextually applied in other locations.  (What if Jesus’ Church could grow with Acts-like speed in the U.S. today?!?!)

In brief:
Jacob’s Well

2006 Secure funding.  Gather launch team.  Rattle the neighborhood and launch a church for people who don’t like church.  Have new people from the community outnumber the launch team quickly.

2007 Launch second service, implement youth ministries, groups, discipleship process, ministry base of congregation, stewardship.

2008 Second venue for Sunday a.m. worship with its own campus pastor, but rotating speaker and band. Service will be the same as at the Field location. Continue to implement groups, strategic ministries. Develop service and mission through strategic alliances.  Achieve financial self-support.

2009 Launch 3rd (& 4th) venue. Same pattern as 2nd location. (What is really keeping us from launching at least 1 new community every year except our own inability to believe what God is up to around us?) Group life is the solid building block of the community. Special worship experience for youth. Major investment in the neighborhood by congregation.

2011 Association of congregations in the urban metro area (and beyond?), each self-supporting, but with shared office, sharing resources and using it to develop relevant, valuable, creative worship experiences that bring people into the presence of God and create participants into community.

Model of Ministry

2006 Apply to Jacob’s Well.

2007 Unlearn, unlearn, unlearn.  Learn, learn, learn.  Develop and experiment.  Learn from failure.

2008 More of the same.   Begin coaching group for church launchers in the upper midwest.

2009 Help launch congregations in other cities.  Offer first conference.

2011 Association has major role in developing other congregations in other cities as well as developing local venues.