These are the notes from the third and final week of a series on the foundational vision and values that drive Burlington City Church. In part 1 we asked What is the church? and What is the church’s mission? In part 2 we asked, How does this practically look in 2012 Burlington, VT? In our Home Fellowship meeting on April 1 we asked, What will this require of us?
We’ll begin by recapping…
What does that practically look like in 2012 Burlington? Hopefully this came through loud and clear. This is not about trying to get people to travel from all over Burlington to a central meeting place on Sunday morning where as we outgrow this house we move into bigger and bigger spaces. It’s also not about starting new Home Fellowships because we’re running out of space. It’s all about starting Home Fellowships in other areas of Burlington because a group of people sense God is leading them to be on mission in a specific neighborhood or with a specific network of relationships.
Our goal is to gather our Home Fellowships once a month or every other month for a worship gathering where we celebrate what God is doing. Understand, though, that these smaller spiritual families within the larger family of Burlington City Church will remain our primary expression of church.
This is a big vision. We want to see Home Fellowships started in every neighborhood in Burlington. We eventually want to send people out to plant churches in other towns and communities around VT- places like Bennington and Brattleboro. We want to be an active part of what God is doing not just in this state but around the Northeast and around the world. A big vision requires a strong foundation. The bigger the vision- the stronger the foundation.
Let’s bring the conversation back to Burlington. Even to say that this year we want to launch Home Fellowships in Winooski, downtown, near the university, the New North End, South End, and Old North End sounds big- maybe even God-sized. That sounds like a big vision. It requires an incredibly strong foundation, and the building block of that foundation is disciples- disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
What is a disciple? From a Biblical perspective, in it’s most basic sense, a disciple is someone who says yes to following Jesus. They’ve submitted themselves to His instruction and His leadership. They desire to know Him, to emulate Him, and to live out His message. As they follow Jesus, as Jesus pours His life into them, Jesus overflows out of their lives and they lead others to do their same.
So let’s get nuts and bolts practical about this. Let’s get personal and ask: What will this require of us? Another way of asking this question is, What does buy-in look like? To answer this question, we’ll take another look at Acts 2:41-47.
What do we see happening in these verses? As we answer this, let’s clear: Home Fellowships are open to anyone- whether a spiritual skeptic or a veteran follower of Jesus. We do however believe scripture depicts the church as a spiritual family committed to living out the mission and message of Jesus. When people said yes that they believed in Jesus they also said yes to belonging to His family. To answer the question, “what will this require of us?”, let’s go back to the New Testament church. I believe these same descriptors and commitments (which can be found throughout the New Testament) should describe our commitment today:
1) They embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior- believing Jesus died on the cross for their sins, rose from the dead, and repentance. Acts 2, Acts 11:20-21 (Search the words believe, believed, turn, repent. Repentance means to have a change in mind, heart, and purpose that leads to a change in attitude, action, and conduct . The picture repentance provides is realizing that we are on the wrong path and moving to the right path.)
2) They expressed their spiritual birth outwardly through baptism. Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:41, Acts 8:12, Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, Acts 18:7-8
3) They submitted to the authority of scripture and to scripturally qualified leadership. Acts 2:42, leaders-Acts 14:23, Acts 15:6, Acts 20:28-31, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, 1 Tim 5:17
4) They shared their lives openly and generously with each other. Acts 2:44, Acts 4:32, Philippians 2:1-11
5) They regularly worshiped together- they set aside times like we do here for prayer, praise, ministering to each other, and the study of the scriptures. Although the church is not the meeting, regularly meeting for worship together is a vital aspect of living out our family identity and personal spiritual growth. Acts 2:42-47, Romans 16:5, Col. 4:14-15, 1 Cor. 11:17-32, 1 Cor. 14, Hebrews 10:25
6) They gave sacrificially of their time, talents, energy, and resources-including money. Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12, Money-Acts 4:34-35, Acts 6:1-6, Acts 11:29-30, 1 Cor. 9:7-14, 2 Cor. 8:1-5, 1 Tim. 6:18
7) They opened their lives as individuals and a family to those who were seeking and searching. Acts 2:47, Acts 18:8-11, 1 Cor. 14:16-19
8) They lived out the mission and message of Jesus together in their community and the around the world. Entire book of Acts.
This is what we believe it means to be a part of this spiritual family or to “join” this church…
Concerning church leadership, we don’t have a big hierarchy in Burlington City Church. We have essentially two layers of leadership:
Home Fellowship leaders who function as the pastors of our Home Fellowships. They lead the Home Fellowship in ministering to the surrounding neighborhood. They lead the weekly meeting. They shepherd the members in their growth. Although they’re not vocational, we hold them to the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for elders, overseers, or pastors.
Our other layer of leadership is our Community Pastors who also serve as Home Fellowship leaders, but their primary responsibility is to lead and equip Home Fellowship leaders in specific communities of Burlington, to lead the Home Fellowships in that community to work together, and to keep the focus on multiplying. We’ve been pretty intentional about having some people we believe are equippers to move into different communities to begin this process- Michael Ly moved into the New North End, Ryan Bell is moving into the South End, Robin Sutphen into the downtown & university area, and in the ONE. The reason every one of these guys is here is NOT to replace local leaders but to equip local leaders.
You may be listening (or reading) and wondering what does this mean for me?
Here a few questions for us pray through individually and collectively as we prepare to launch new Home Fellowships (these questions have been adapted from a post by Seth McBee with the Gospel Mission Community Collective):
Who is the Spirit leading you to sacrificially serve, share the gospel with, and make disciples of? Think in the context of a specific neighborhood or network of relationships.
Is the Spirit leading you to join the core group for launching a new Home Fellowship? Optimally this will include a Home Fellowship leader and a small team of servant leaders that meet 1 Timothy 3 qualifications. You also may know of disconnected believers or not yet believers who you can invite to join your Home Fellowship.
What adjustments, sacrifices, and steps of faith is the Spirit leading you to take? God’s people have always given up their rights (or what we perceive as our rights) and moved to the context where God is calling them to join in His mission- this requires adjustments, sacrifice, and faith. Some of you may be unwilling to move, so you should view this as a season of training to then return and do the same with your neighbors.
What is your mission or purpose in launching this new Home Fellowship? This question should be prayed through with the core group of a new Home Fellowship. This should be no more than two or three sentences explaining who, what, and why. This is statement is not meant in any way to limit God, but to focus your time, energy, and relational capacity around the mission God has called you to.
What are some initial steps you and your new Home Fellowship can begin taking in living out this mission together? This does not have to be huge in scope, but does need to be some practical first steps in displaying what this Home Fellowship is really about.
Make time to listen to what God is saying, see what God is doing, allow His Spirit to lead you.