Kristi and I just got back from Newport Beach, CA where we had the privilege of spending the past few days with church planters/pastors and their wives from all over the world at the Acts 29 Network Pastors Retreat. We had a great time in a beautiful city worshiping with friends and we met pastors, church planters and their wives from all over the world. It was a refreshing time and a great reminder of why we joined the network in the first place.
I have friends who swim in different theological streams than I do. I love this and want to respect their theological convictions, learn from them. But, invariably, I get concern from friends in other streams about Acts 29. Some of the concerns are based on individual personalities and others on cultural/theological issues. Some is legitimate and some of it is just silly. Back in 2009, I wrote on our church blog several reasons why we were aligning with Acts 29 and I wanted to revisit those today.
We planted a church because we want people to know Jesus. We want to make, mature and multiply disciples. We want to see the entire NW Valley of Phoenix transformed by the Gospel. We want to see Phoenix and Arizona changed. Beyond that, we want the world to know about Jesus. This isn’t going to happen through our church alone. And so we have partnered with other Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, Truth-proclaiming, City-serving churches around the world to plant churches that plant churches. Here are the reasons I wrote in 2009 that we were partnering with Acts 29:
- 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.
Three years later, I would only add to that list. There is a zeal for evangelism and a heart-desire for diversity in this network that I haven’t always seen in my other church-life affiliations. There is a growing emphasis on international church planting and there is a very real desire to pursue humility and a winsome approach to reformed theology that I myself have not always pursued. I am thankful to be challenged in this area.
I am more encouraged now than ever to be part of the network. We have a lot to learn, but, by God’s grace, we are trying.