As a new church, we get asked a lot to explain ourselves, to pick a label, as it were. We are convicted of Credobaptism (baptism of believers), but we’re not Southern Baptist (“Baptist” with a big “B” as I refer to it). We’re Reformed but not antogonistic. We’re loving but stress doctrine. We practice church discipline but know that we’re all sinners striving for holiness. We believe in cultural engagement rather than retreat. We believe that missions begins where our contact with unbelievers begins and then extends to the nations.
It may or may not surprise you that, when I began the process of planting Church of the Cross, I often felt a bit alone. We did not have a “sending” church in the traditional sense and I was not part of a denomination. But, as the lead planter of Church of the Cross, I also knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I did not want to be a lone ranger, I had no aspirations of “going it alone.” I knew that I needed advice and accountability and I wanted Church of the Cross to be a part of something larger than itself.
Enter the Acts 29 Network. Acts 29 Network Director Scott Thomas introduces the network this way:
Acts 29 Network exists to start churches that plant churches. God is using our network to influence and shape the church planting culture through both solid theology and contextualizing the gospel. We will not waver on either of these commitments. We won’t water down our theology to reach more people and we won’t attack the culture in the name of Christianity. We are planting churches that are missionaries in their respective communities sent by Christ with the gospel (John 20:21). It is our desire to plant 1,000 new churches in the next 10 years. We desire to make your dream of planting a gospel-driven church come true. We count it an honor to partner with you and to serve you.
I get the “Why Acts 29″ question quite a bit, so, I want to offer a few quick thoughts. Though there are certainly more reasons than these why we decided that Acts 29 was the best fit for us, these are some that I want to share with you:
- Jesus-centered missionality
I realize that “missional” is a bit of a junk-drawer word (surely you have a drawer somewhere in your house where everyone puts everything?!), but at it’s base, it communicates the idea of living like missionaries in our immediate context. Living on and in God’s mission. Missions involves cultural engagement and lays the groundwork for evangelism.
Acts 29 not only understands and encourages this but does so from a Christ-centered framework, putting Jesus at the center of everything. This is key and must not be overlooked. Indeed, as Mars Hill Church says: “It’s All About Jesus.” To claim to be “on mission” without Jesus is simply a fool’s errand at best, and suicide at worst. Acts 29 understands that, not only is Jesus the embodiment of God on Mission, He is our hope and strength as He sends us in His footsteps (Matthew 28:18-20).
- Vocal doctrinal commitment
It is a sometimes-tempting trap for many church planters to water down doctrine in the hopes of attracting more people. Acts 29 rejects such shallow options, understanding that, to open up your Bible at all and teach is to involve doctrine and we’d better strive to get it right. We only do disservice when we treat the things of God as though they’re merely self-help tools to get us our best lives. Acts 29 unapologeticaly encourages and empowers pastors to lead their people deep into the glories of Calvary.
- The centrality of the Church
While the doctrine (and practice) of the Church is under attack from nearly every direction (including many who profess faith in Christ), Acts 29 stands on the principle that the Church is at the center of God’s redeeming Work. It is for the Church that Christ laid down His life (Ephesians 5:25).
- The importance of family
It’s often been said: “As goes the home, so goes the church.” And yet, it’s quite common for many ministers to pour themselves out so much in ministry that they have nothing left for their families, which should be their primary ministry. Acts 29 not only understands this, they call their pastors/planters to first be family men before pastors. This is often sorely overlooked to the detriment of everyone involved. I am humbled to be part of a network that takes family so seriously.
- Calling Men to Be Men
I was never a jock and I cringe a bit when I see masculinity defined primarily in athletic/competitive terms. But, it doesn’t take long in most churches to realize that more women participate in church life than do men. Acts 29 is intentionally calling men to be men, to be sacrificial leaders, to be humbly bold, to lead their families and the church. This is much needed in our culture.
- Kingdom over Denomination
Acts 29 has members across the denominational landscape. I see this as a tremendous strength. Acts 29 strives to put the Kingdom over our differences (as important as they may be). It’s much more difficult to strive to work across those boundaries than it is to hide behind them. What’s even more difficult is to firmly hold certain doctrines in a closed hand while holding others in an open hand. I am honored to be part of a network that puts the unity of the Kingdom above the differences of denomination.