Our Vocabulary

In the past two weeks I have received two speaking invitations that came with the obligatory pre-conference interview.  The two conversations had something in common that I can’t help but address.  Both organizations had visited our website (www.theembassy.org), took note of our vocabulary, and asked me to define certain key terms.  It made me realize that we need to start a conversation (blog series) about Embassy’s glossary.  We will begin that series this week.  Why would we do this?  One’s working vocabulary reveals one’s values.  A common language is essential if we are going to spark a movement.

“Missional” is the word I have been asked to address most often.  I decided to post my definition here. Coincidentally, I came upon this video in which Jeff Vanderstelt defines “Missional” and he also answers some common questions that surround the word. I decided that he did such a good job of addressing it that I would post the video here and then unpack it in more detail as we begin this blog series.  Check it out the video. It is good stuff! Here’s the link – http://vimeo.com/21660618

In the next few weeks we will be unpacking the following terms:

Missional,  The Gospel,  The Church,  The Gathering,  The Building,  Redeem,  Missionary,  Disciple,  Missional Community,  The Story of God,  Kingdom,  Gospel Intentionality,  Gospel Fluency

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Why do we prioritize “Missional Communities?”

The prioritizing of smaller missional communities is a celebrated distinctive of The Embassy.  This in no way undermines the value of our larger gatherings; we recognize the need for the saints to gather for regular corporate worship.[1]  The large worship gathering is essential for vision casting, celebration, teaching, and corporate joy.  Medium groups (e.g. Bible study classes, culture and theology talks) are valuable for Q&A sessions and introduction to community.  But we have concluded that the mission of the church is best accomplished if our weekly gatherings supplement our smaller missional communities.  We have chosen this approach because we believe that missional communities lend themselves to community, mission, and discipleship.

Community

Acts 2:42-47 describes a scenario in which the body of Christ worshipped in large, public gatherings, “…attending the temple together…”  They also had communion and worshipped in smaller settings “…breaking bread in their homes…”  Smaller gatherings are conducive to the establishment of familial relationships and a community of believers that is knit together.  This allows for a ready display of encouragement and accountability. Edification of this sort is essential to the health and focus of the mission.

Missional Living

The Church is also called to be missional (Acts 1:8).  In other words, the body of Christ is called to live indigenously and engage the community in a contextualized manner.  We believe that missional communities allow for the mobilization and focus that is required when a group intends to live missionally.  The smaller communities are better suited to “doing life” and hearing one another’s stories.  These stories inevitably open a door to the Gospel.  In other words, missional communities lend themselves to Gospel driven justification and restoration.

Discipleship

The Church is also called to be a disciple making community (Matt 28:18-20).  While we recognize that the worship gathering is crucial, we contend that pulpit preaching is a necessary but insufficient means to disciple making.  Discipleship is best accomplished in the familial context that is common to smaller communities.  The large worship gathering is essential to corporate worship, teaching, exhortation, and vision casting.  But the intimacy of small groups lends itself to deeper relationships and, consequently, discipleship.  Our objective is to get the covenant members of The Embassy plugged into missional communities and allow for the organic transition to mentoring relationships (person to person or couple to couple).

To assume that our emphasis on small missional communities is intended to undermine the weekly corporate gathering would be a misunderstanding of this distinctive.  Instead, our objective is to have the body of believers live in integrated community, and then come together during the weekly worship gatherings to celebrate the community, missional living, and discipleship that has taken place in the smaller missional communities.

Brandon,

The Embassadors – Striving toward Kingdom Community and Discipleship,
www.theembassy.org


[1] We will gather for corporate worship on a weekly basis.

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Why Team Leadership?

The popular idea of leadership presents the picture of a person that is courageous and omni-competent.  The leader has no weaknesses and is able to take a group of people on their back and go on to victory.  However, both experience and reason undermine such an idea of leadership.  There is no leader who is competent in all areas, so to place such a responsibility on one individual is a disservice to both the leader and the mission.  With this in mind, we have concluded that teams of leaders (e.g. elder team, teaching team, staff teams, ambassador teams) will maximize our individual strengths, manage our individual weaknesses, and avoid the mistake of building the mission around one man.

First, we believe that a team of elders is the sole biblical presumption in matters of church governance.  Consequently, all macro-leadership will be carried out by a team of biblically astute, integritous elders.  Second, while we concede that in matters of micro-leadership the Bible does not necessarily present operating in teams as an imperative, we hold that it is a definite liberty as it was modeled by men like Moses (Ex. 18:13-27) and Paul (Acts 13:1).    We have concluded that team leadership is a wise choice as it:

  • Avoids the celebrity leader tendency
  • Encourages authentic community, accountability, and edification
  • Minimizes the ministry burden on each church leader by spreading it out among teammates
  • Combines complimenting strengths and manages weaknesses
  • Provides a pool of ideas from which wise decisions can be drawn

We concede that leading in this manner can at times be slower and more complex.  But we believe the benefits far outweigh the complexities which can be overcome if we model patience, persevering prayer, wisdom, self-control, humility, trust, and genuine respect for the gifts of others in the body of Christ.

Our approach to this will mobilize teams in three different categories:

  • First, the mission will be guarded by a team of elders.  The elder team is responsible for vision casting and macro-level leadership decisions.  While we do have a directional leader or “captain” of the elder team, The Embassy does not have a “Senior Pastor.”  As the directional leader, Brandon Washington is captain of this team; the first among equals (primus inter pares).  But we want to be very clear on the fact that he is NOT the leader of the church; the elder team leads the church.
  • Second, daily missional management will be guided by our staff teams.  These teams address the operational responsibilities of the mission and assist in mobilizing the missional communities.
  • Third, our Missional Communities are gifted by our ambassador teams.  They will be the front line when it come to engaging one another and the city around us.  They are central to mission, community, and mobilization.

We hope to be the 1st Corinthians 12 church, recognizing that we are designed to be a diverse and complimentary body of believers.  We believe that a team model will best fulfill this objective.

Brandon,

Striving toward Kingdom Community and Discipleship,
The Embassadors
www.theembassy.org

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Can INefficiency be a virtue?

Currently I am in Tacoma, WA with one of my Embassy teammates, Derrick Kelsey. We are attending a great training gathering known as Soma School. We are here to process how they execute missional community and Gospel-centered gatherings because it is similar to what we are striving toward in Denver via a new church called The Embassy. I will go into more detail about what we are learning after we have completed our time here, but I had to take this moment to point out one of their cultural norms. They put a cap on the number of people that can attend; they try to limit it to about thirty people. This is in direct contrast to the conference practices that I am accustomed to. Usually one wants to have as many attenders as possible so more people can hear what the experts are saying. But Soma’s approach places a premium on community. They have concluded that living in community during Soma School is essential to appreciating what they mean when they discuss “missional community.” In fact, they arranged for us to stay in the home of two young men that are members of the church (Soma Communities) instead of a hotel because they want for us to experience community while we are here. I also want to point out that the conference is 7 days long! Instead of having the typical plenary sessions with star preachers for 2-3 days, we are involved in dialogical teaching that requires our involvement and interaction. I do not want you to read this and think I am arguing against large conference gatherings; that is not my intention. I am trying to emphasize the fact that Soma School is slow, intentional, long, meticulous, and unrushed. If I had to give their approach a label, it would be Virtuously Inefficient. They are executing what we believe to be the sole approach to biblical discipleship. By definition, discipleship is INefficient.

Is it a bad word?

In our culture the words “INefficient” and “INefficiency” are considered pejorative terms. We are taught to drive toward the achievement of a goal without distraction. To not approach a process efficiently is considered unwise, lazy, or even shiftless. But we want to challenge that idea. What if a process is inherently INefficient? Wouldn’t approaching it in an efficient manner in fact undermine the process and cause one to miss the benefits of moving slowly? Under such circumstances wouldn’t INefficiency become a virtue and efficiency becomes a vice?

But what if…?

I once heard a friend reflect back on the vacations he would take with his family. Every summer they chose to drive from Texas to the North-East United States so they could visit the grandparents. They chose to drive, instead of flying, because it would allow the family to see the country and spend quality time together while on their way to the destination. But the father had a competitive streak in him so he had a secondary, hidden goal. He was racing against himself; he wanted to get to the grandparent’s house in a time that was faster than that of previous years. And in spite of the steps that were taken to allow his family to see the country, the father allowed the secondary goal, a fast travel time, to become the primary goal. Because of this, he would not stop along the way! He would simply point out the sites and landscape as he drove by. He would choose the shortest route as to avoid wasting too much time. This did not allow for detours to show his children the historic landmarks that were a few miles off the ordained path. In addition to that, he would drive 10-12 hours a day. This exhausted him and made him irritable; unpleasant to be around. When they stopped for the day he would only want to sleep so he could recover and get ready for tomorrow’s drive. One can say that his plan was efficient, but was it virtuous? One must only look at the primary goal to get the answer to that question. If it was to spend quality time with his family while traveling, then his approach, while efficient, was unwise.

But what if the father had chosen the INefficient route? What if he gave little or no regard to the strict timing of the trip? What if he stopped along the way to rest and enjoy the sites with his family? If he had done this it would have taken longer to arrive at his destination but his children would have been blessed by the trip and they would have celebrated the process. This would be INefficient, but it would have been the virtuous approach. Since the primary objective is to show them the sights and spend time with them, the trip is inherently INefficient. To deviate from the inherent nature of the trip would undermine the trip entirely.

Focussing on and celebrating the process

Culturally, the western church has adopted a quick achiever mentality. We focus on the destination at the expense of the process. Sadly, this has become our approach to discipleship. But if we were to pause and assess the discipleship process we would appreciate the fact that it is inherently INefficient. There is no end to it; it is always in the present tense. Paul asserts this when he says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2nd Cor. 3:18) Paul says that we are BEING transformed. No one can look back at the day it happened and we can’t look forward to the day when it will be absolutely complete. The process of being conformed to the image of the supreme Son of God is a delightful and never ending one; never in the past, always in the present. This means that discipleship is, by definition, a virtuously INefficient process. Consequently, we don’t focus on the end; we focus on the exceedingly joyful process. Our attention should be on what God takes us through as he conforms us to the image of Christ, and we are to pause and celebrate every moment of that process. Is this the inefficient thing to do? Yes, but we contend that it is Virtuous INefficiency. For this reason, we at The Embassy celebrate Virtuous INeffficiency as one of our Rhythms.

Brandon,

Striving toward Kingdom Community and Discipleship,
The Embassadors
www.theembassy.org

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“The Embassy” – Why did we choose this name?

What is an Embassy?

An embassy is a mission to a foreign government headed by an ambassador.  It has the responsibility of representing the agenda of the home state while residing in a foreign land.  We can think of no better analogy for the Church.  The body of Christ is called to represent the agenda of our heavenly King while we reside in a land that does not fully recognize him as King.  Paul was making such an assertion in 2nd Corinthians 5:20 when he identified believers as, “…ambassadors for Christ…”  Since we are ambassadors, then our corporate mission is, inherently, an embassy.  As an embassy of heaven we desire to model, nurture, and display God’s kingdom here on earth; specifically as we pursue a kingdom agenda in the city of Denver.  Paul recognized such a commissioning and reminded us of it by referring to believers as citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20).

How can we know the mission of The Embassy?

If one desires to know the objectives of an embassy, one must only study the culture of the kingdom that they represent.  In our case, since we represent a heavenly kingdom, we strive for a culture that reflects Heaven (Matt. 6:10).  This is a culture in which familial community unites us, discipleship is our joy, worship is passionate, and Christ is King.  As an embassy of heaven, it is our goal to display such a kingdom agenda in the city of Denver.

Striving toward Kingdom Community and Discipleship,
The Embassadors
www.theembassy.org

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Why are we targeting the city?

Typically, one writes a story of transformation in retrospect. They look back at what God has done and celebrate how far they have come. This story, however, is different. It is not written as we look back, instead we are looking forward. We want to highlight the story of Denver’s transformation. We have hope for this city and we anticipate that, by God’s sovereign grace, we are going to win her for His name’s sake.

Why the emphasis on the city?

It was a common practice of the Apostle Paul to have an emphasis on major cities as he established the Gospel. His missional ventures in Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch, and Athens were not accidental. His objective was to win the major cities because their influence over the smaller suburban towns is inevitable. Culture is typically established in a metropolis and it flows downstream to the surrounding towns. This practice was executed from the inception of the Church. Acts Chapter 2 is a grand example. God waited until Pentecost (a major festival) before he poured his Spirit out on the people of God. His timing was intentional. God was fully aware that the festival would maximize the capacity of Jerusalem, a metropolitan center of Jewish worship and commerce. As a result, thousands of Jews were present when the cultural shift toward Christ was initiated and they took their experiences back to the smaller towns where they lived. The act of God in the major city resulted in countless churches planted and souls won throughout the region. It was driven by a rather simple understanding. If you win the metropolis, the influence will spread.

How do first century missionary practices apply to this story of transformation?

Denver is the largest city within a 600 mile radius making her the most populated city in the state. She is central to both commerce and cultural development. She is also the Capital of the state of Colorado which makes her the center of legislation. Denver is culturally, racially, and socio-economically diverse. A place where ideas are exchanged and evaluated; she is the Areopagus of the region (Acts 17:16-21). To state it explicitly, when it comes to determining the worldview of the entire state of Colorado, Denver is upstream in a place of influence. This is where the missionary practice comes into play. Establishing a kingdom culture in the city of Denver will have far reaching cultural influence. It all starts with winning the metropolis.

How will the story of transformation unfold?

We anticipate there will be intentional networking and cooperation between the Churches in the Denver metro area. Such cooperation will undermine the cultures of paganism and rote religious behavior; replacing them with authentic worship of God and joyful communing among believers (Acts 2:42-27). We anticipate that the Church will live missionally – intentionally meeting the needs of those who abide in this city. And the Gospel will be proclaimed in a shameless, contextualized manner. The God who is alive and sovereign will reap his harvest through us. We are not looking to our own prowess as we anticipate this change. We are appealing to the irresistible power and call of our Savior and King. We look forward to what he is about to do in Denver and we celebrate the idea of being used for his glory. Visit us at www.theembassy.org to learn more about this story of transformation.

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On a mission…

To rep the King well in our city.

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