Category Archives: Out of the Culture

You Can’t Give What You Don’t Possess

Followers of Jesus should Experience Life in a way that truly makes “the things of this world grow strangely dim.” Yet so few seem to—why? Jesus did not come to take life away, but to bring us a full, overflowing, wellspring of Life that pleases the soul like nothing else on earth can (John 10:10, John 4:10-14). And then we are called to Bring Life to others—to whoever will receive this gift from God. Experiencing Life and Bringing Life.


But you cannot give what you don’t possess I meet way too many Christian leaders who sell a product (Living Water) that they don’t drink.  That’s a sure recipe for either burn out, hypocrisy, or horrible moral failure.  At Gateway Church, we put together Spiritual Outcomes that help a person know what developmental outcomes to shoot for in different seasons, whether Discovering faith, Developing in faith, or Deepening that faith.


But as I look at all the possible outcomes, I’m convinced that three are foundational. Like a 3-legged stool, they form a steady base that can hold weight. So if you do nothing else, get these three spiritual disciplines as habits in your life, and help develop them in your kids and others.


The 3-Legged Stool:

  1. Staying Connected Moment by Moment – Jesus said, “Abide in me [stay connected] and you will bear much fruit, apart from you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) I hope it doesn’t take much convincing that this is important, since Jesus said that apart from this you can accomplish nothing of eternal significance!  Many Christians know about this – it’s called by many names “walking in the Spirit,” “abiding in Christ,” “practicing his presence”—but I find few who truly make an effort to grow daily in greater moment-by-moment connection. Soul Revolution and the 60:60 Experiment ( were written to help us grow in actually doing the one thing Jesus said was most important. I recently came across a new book written on the same topic from a little different perspective, Present Perfect by Greg Boyd.
  1. Feeding on God’s Word – Jesus said we must also “stay connected” to his Words (the Bible reveals God’s will and ways), so that we will can know the truth and be set free. (John 8:31-32)  He said we do not live by bread alone, but every Word that comes from God. (Matthew 4:4)  David declares that the person who meditates on God’s Word day and night is like a tree planted by a stream. It always has an underground Source of nourishment, even in the drought years, so it’s leaves stay green. (Psalm 1:1-3)  Over the last 25 years of ministry, I’ve observed that people who have developed regular habits of feeding themselves from God’s Word (daily reading a chapter, memorizing, meditating on its truths, studying it) keep growing.  Just like physically growing up means we must feed ourselves daily or become unhealthy, so we must feed ourselves spiritually. Anyone who can read or listen to read scripture to them can feed themselves. This idea that you need a Sunday service to “feed me” is the biggest lie that’s ever kept people stunted from growing!
  1. Confessing Community – If the evidence of truly growing to love God is how we love one another (1 John 4:7-9), then you can’t follow God’s Spirit or live out all the commands of Scripture if you are not in close proximity with a few other Christ-followers. If fact, Scripture warns us not to blow off regular meeting together. (Hebrews 10:24-25) Jesus spent most of his time developing 12, and poured even more time into Peter, James, and John. We must learn to live out all the “one anothers” of Scripture, supporting each other to grow up spiritually as we walk in total transparency together (walking in the light as it says in 1 John 1:5-9) and confessing our sins to God and each other because this heals us. (James 5:16)

Don’t try to sit on a 2-legged stool.  You need to be developing in all three practices, and when you begin to develop others—start here!  Help them develop in these three practices: Staying connected to God’s Spirit, feeding on God’s Word in daily ways, and living in loving, confessing community with a few other Christ-followers.

We’re Hiring! Missional Network Catalyst

Gateway Church in Austin and the Emerging Leadership Initiative are looking for a missional Global Network Catalyst.

Four years ago, Brian and Amy sat in church doing nothing because they were too new and “messy.” Today, with coaching and training, they lead 100 volunteers every week, serving food to 800 working poor families in extended stay motels. They also host a Sunday Service where 100 people, unwelcome in most churches, are exploring faith, and they are discipling people to lead groups in their motels.

We are seeing these Networks emerge around the globe in Knoxville, New York, Massachusetts, Australia, and Norway.

We need a missional leader to help catalyze this movement of Networks, raising the church out of the culture, all around the globe!

We are looking for:

  1. A Disciple Maker:  You planted a church or started a ministry that grew by making disciples.
  2. An Innovator.  You dream about trying something new.
  3. A Relator.  You make connections easily and persistently build on them.
  4. A Developer.  You turn ordinary people into extraordinary leaders.
  5. A Communicator. You speak and write clearly, consistently and concisely.

Want to know more?  Send an email to and we will send you more details on the position, and how you can apply.

10 Keys to Raising Up the Church Out of the Culture

At Emerging Leadership Initiative, our mission is to mobilize leaders who will raise the church up out of the culture – which causes people to ask, “What do you mean by raising the church up out of the culture?” I’m glad you asked…


Out of the culture is an idea introduced by John Burke in his book, No Perfect People Allowed,

“This is…not a church for a post-Christian culture, where Christians huddle up behind the fortress walls and make forays outside into the messy culture, but a church molded out of a post-Christian people ~ an indigenous church, rising up out of the surrounding culture to form the Body of Christ!”

In the simplest of terms, raising up a church out of the culture is what happens when ordinary people are introduced to Jesus and begin to follow him together. In biblical terms, think Corinth. In modern terms, think missionary. In post-modern terms, think messy ~ as unreserved grace is expressed in a community of radical transformation.

As we have worked with leaders in the North America, Europe and Australia, we have discovered these 10 keys to raising the church up out of the culture.

Leaders must create a culture that:

  • Is keenly sensitive to the perceptions of those who don’t yet belong. They know how big the gap between Christ and culture is and do everything they can to bridge it.
  • Openly extends grace. They know how messy people’s lives are and relentlessly communicate that no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, you’re one of us.
  • Is committed to humbly presenting the truth. They know that Jesus came to proclaim freedom, but the message won’t ring true unless it’s delivered with humility.
  • Cultivates authentic relationships through community. They know that unless people can openly be who they are they will never become anything more.
  • Is focused on transformation. They know that every person is a masterpiece waiting to be revealed and see anything less as a cheap substitute.

In order to do this well, leaders must be people who:

  • Live authentic, representative lives. Jesus was the word made flesh. He didn’t talk about grace and truth; he was grace and truth. As much as spiritually possible, out of the culture leaders are too.
  • Are zealous for people far from Christ. Jesus was described by the Pharisees as a “friend of sinners.” He never corrected them. It was a label he wore proudly. Out of the culture leaders do too.
  • Do life and work in relationship. Jesus was never out of relationship. Even when he was alone it was to be with his Father. He always put people first. Out of the culture leaders will too.
  • Joyously embrace the mess. Jesus hung out with corrupt businessmen and let prostitutes wash his feet. He was okay with the mud because he was in love with the masterpiece. Out of the culture leaders are too.
  • Communicate with excellence. Jesus drew crowds and kept their attention long enough for them to forget to eat. His words brought life. Out of the culture leaders will too.

How are you and your faith community effectively bridging the gap to raise up the Church out of the culture? Where are you stretching out of your comfort zone for the sake of those who are far from Christ?

Life Change in Vegas

At ELI we get the incredible pleasure of hearing amazing stories from church planters such as yourselves, people tearing down walls and building bridges into people’s lives. Here is a fresh story that will inspire you (from Verve church in Las Vegas, as told by Krystal Altman):

Tommy recently had the honor of baptizing our friend Mike. Who is Mike? Well, almost 2 years ago, Brodie met a little boy named Adam at Verve. I soon set up a play date with Kristina – his mom – to get the boys together. Kristina, Adam (3) and her daughter Miley (5) were living with Kristina’s boyfriend, Mike.


We hit it off right away, but soon Kristina pulled me aside.


“I have to tell you…we’re moving. We’re moving to Washington State at the end of the month.” We were bummed! They were moving. However, try as they might, they were struggling to rent their existing house in Vegas and find a new one in Washington.


About a week after our play date, Kristina was at my house in tears.  Mike had gone out one night and not come home. She confided some of his story to me. Mike had a history of addiction, having just spent 7 years in prison for cocaine; he was also an alcoholic. So, occasionally, wouldn’t come home.


I immediately began to try to help Kristina and her kids. We offered our home for them to stay so she could get on her feet. It wasn’t an easy situation for several reasons. First, she had only been attending Verve for a couple of weeks, and did not know God, coming from a completely unchurched background. Secondly, she loved Mike and didn’t want to leave him. Thirdly, Mike is an engineer; he earned well and provided for them so she hadn’t had to work. Kristina decided to stay with Mike, but not move to Washington.


I spent a lot of time with Kristina, who is in one of my Micro Groups. She began to discover who God is and that he loves her unconditionally. I soon had the honor of baptizing Kristina as she  made the decision to enter into a relationship with God. Weeks later, Mike finally agreed to come to church, because, “I have to meet this best friend “Brodie” that Adam keeps talking about.” Mike was very skeptical. He’s intellectual and felt he couldn’t blindly believe in God.


Over the last year and a half our families have done life together. We’ve had birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I was in Kristina and Mike’s wedding. We have prayed a lot for Mike. He has watched skeptically over the last couple of years and discovered that our God is real and that he wants a relationship with Him.


And so, Tommy had the awesome honor of baptizing Mike a few weeks ago.


Mike’s words? “I’ve been watching. And I’ve seen the changes in the lives of those around me. I would like to have that also.”


We say Verve is a “church for people who don’t like church” and it very much is. Because of this, we reach people who are really far from God. Most of them take a very long time to grow in their relationship with God before they are ready to trust Him and decide to follow Jesus.


Mike is a perfect example of this. It took him two years of observing the life change in Kristina and observing Tommy and I to see if the God we followed was “real.”


I have seen Mike go from the cocaine addict/alcoholic living with his girlfriend to a man who is now Kristina’s husband, completely free from drugs and alcohol, who loves God, studies his Bible, comes to church, sits in the front row (when he’s not serving in the tech booth) and doesn’t miss a week. This radical transformation never gets old. Thank you for being a part of what God is doing here. Thank you for giving sacrificially and allowing God to use us to reach those here who are very far from God.


And thank you, Altmans and Verve, for that encouragement!
[Some of the names in the story have been changed.]

People Raising

A few months back Bill Dillon called an asked if I would write an endorsement for the new edition of his book People Raising.  Since the first version of People Raising has been my most often recommended resource for church planters and other leaders raising support, I was glad to.

Somewhere in the introductory pages you will find the following:


People Raising has been my go to resource for church planters needing to raise support.  This new edition provides a whole new generation of church planters with a wealth of wisdom, practical ideas and doable action plans. This isn’t just a book you read, this is a book you do.


If the current gap between you and the church God is calling you to start is raising support – reading and implementing this book is will help you close that gap.