Flipping Church: How Successful Church Planters are Turning Conventional Wisdom Upside Down, ed. Mike Baughman
Mark and I had the privilege of writing the forward for Mike Baughman’s new book, Flipping Church (Discipleship Resources, 2016). Click here to get a free copy of the foreword. Flipping Church shares stories from church planters who did (and, mostly, didn’t) follow standard advice as they launched “start-up churches.” Missional innovation is definitely in their DNA.
Mike’s church (Union in Dallas) is a case in point. If you happened to walk by, you’d see that Union looks and acts like a buzzing coffee shop on the edge of Southern Methodist University. In addition to serving as a “hub of generosity,” for the surrounding community, Union hosts a worshipping community, a storytelling stage , and—once a month—a cape-making factory that makes superhero capes for kids in local hospitals. They’re delivered in person by superheroes (okay, they might be SMU students, but if Flash shows up at your bedside wearing spandex and a mask, who’s to argue?)
Here’s what I especially love. Despite its innovative profile and its incredible service to the community, Union does not apologize for faith formation. At Union forming new disciples goes hand in hand with social enterprise.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away, Mike was one of my students–but I’ve learned way more from him about innovation in ministry than vice versa. He came as an advisor to one of our first hatch-a-thons. We’ve logged a lot of hours talking about missional entrepreneurship over the years, including last summer at Stonehenge (yep–that Stonehenge. Long story.) To celebrate his new book, I asked him a few questions:
Your book is a storytelling feast from church planters. What is one thing that they all seemed to have in common?
All of them had people (generally in authority) who thought they were crazy. They had to be creative to convince people that their idea/mission/concept could not only work, but was worth the investment of others.
If you’re an entrepreneurial pastor, at first this feels like an incredible hindrance and frustration. We see the vision so clearly and get frustrated by how long it takes others to get on board. That said, many authors in Flipping Church talk about how important those questions from outside places were. The push-back we get helps refine the vision and teaches us how to more succinctly inspire others to be a part of the vision going forward.
Also, these church planters are crazy busy with important work. The vast majority turned in their chapters late (including myself)–not because they are flaky people, but because they are putting in way more than a 40 or 50 hour work week–and literally everything they are doing matters for the success of their new endeavor.
What made you plant a church as a coffee shop? Do you ever worry that your congregants will never be able to be part of a “normal” church?
We planted a church as a coffee shop because we wanted to experiment with three key things:
- How can the church find alternative means of sustainability with rising generations?
- How can the church engage the community in ways that would meet needs and build connections that would not otherwise be met by a congregation?
- How can the church do generationally specific ministry with young professionals?
Coffee shops inhabit a unique “third place” in contemporary culture. They’ve largely replaced churches as “third places” (after family and work) where people hope to find community. Coffee shops are also the “third place” (after work and a place to get food) that people find when they move into a new neighborhood.
We’re currently working on what our long-term strategy is for those who grow out of our ministry. Our hope is to send members in groups (or as a whole congregation) to take on leadership roles in existing churches, so that we can take our “abnormal church” practices and use them to revitalize existing churches.
Flipping Church is filled with some great stories from super-innovative church planters. What is the “Big Idea” in the book that you don’t want us to miss?
Well, here’s one thing from my own tradition (United Methodist). We often miss the fact that one of the most defining elements of the early Methodist movement was innovation. Early Methodists essentially invented small group systems for discipleship and transformed those small groups into social networks for communication. They distributed books through circuit riders as a way of literally spreading Methodist ideas while funding the ministry through alternative revenue streams. Early Methodists even improved upon benches so that a sanctuary could turn into a small group meeting space in about 30 seconds.
In addition to being outstanding theologians, the authors in Flipping Church, reflect the creative nature of the early Wesleyan movement as well as the creative nature of God. There are few things more divine than creating something that didn’t exist before. The chapters contributed by the authors of Flipping Church, reflect this spirit and their witness calls the church to reclaim that essential part of its identity and practice.
Did you ever feel like getting Union off the ground put your soul in danger?
Not my soul—I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alive in ministry than when I’ve been in the process of launching a new church. That said, it’s horribly frightening. I know that if Union does not work, it will be so much harder for other innovative ministries to get approval and support. On the other hand, if it does work, then we have the opportunity to pave the way so that other innovative ministries can follow us and do an even better job at bringing about a new spirit of creativity and life to the church.
I call this kind of work “change your pants ministry.” Half the time, I’m so excited that I get to do work like that that I think I’m going to pee my pants. The other half of the time, I’m so afraid it’s all going to fall apart that I think I’m going to poop my pants. Either way—I need to change my pants frequently.
Gotta ask: what’s your best advice for a church leader with a crazy dream for ministry?
Make sure you’d rather do this crazy thing instead of anything else–because getting your crazy dream off the ground is going to be hard. Once you decide that it’s the best possible thing you can do, start praying the Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition. That, more than any other spiritual practice, has nourished my soul.
What coffee drink do you serve at Union that’s going to change my life?
I love pulling a great espresso shot, but I know you well enough, Kenda, to know that you need a lot of sugar and other flavors if you’re going to drink coffee… So, for you I’d suggest a White Truffle Latte, which is a White Mocha with caramel and a few other magical flavors we put in there. Our S’Mores Latte is pretty amazing too– and has actual graham cracker in it!
Best of luck, Mike—for the future of Union, and for the success of Flipping Church!
Interested in missional entrepreneurship and hearing from people like Mike? Registration is now open for one of our upcoming Hatch-a-thon:
March 2-4, 2016
Institute for Youth Ministry
Princeton Theological Seminary
$369 per person*