Both Jen and her husband, Brandon, have been an encouragement to me this year. I haven't met them in person, but they have extended a kind word and a prayer at times when I thought I might sink down in the anxiety and complicated emotions that went along with jumping off the big ship and sailing off in our own, new boat. Jen told me that their church prayed for us on our launch day, which meant so much to me. I hope one day to get to visit Austin New Church and see their wonderful ministry with my own eyes.
When Brandon tweeted about the new book he was writing called Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture, we were in the middle of making decisions about how Bayou City Fellowship was going to be. I responded with great (scary?) enthusiasm to read the new book. It went something like this: Please, sir, I could really use it right this second! I know your book isn't coming out for months and months but we have no time to spare! I even asked if I could be one of the reviewers for the book, which will make my fellow bloggers laugh because they know how rarely it happens that way in the blogosphere.
Before I proceed, I need y'all to know how hard it is for me to read non-fiction books. They're my weakness. My husband, on the other hand, devours non-fiction books at the speed of light. And, FYI, I accidentally typed speedo of light just now.
I loved Barefoot Church and highlighted approximately half of every page. It is relevant to any servant of Christ, not just those who are involved in planting churches. One thing it really helped me with was defining terms like missional, attractional, incarnational, social action, social justice, mercy ministry and justice ministry. Maybe y'all can rapidly and thoroughly define all those terms, but homegirl could not. Last winter I found myself trying to describe the vision of Bayou City Fellowship and I found it very hard to put in words. This would have helped!
On page 26, Hatmaker makes a clarifying statement about his book in saying:
"Barefoot Church is not about attractional, seeker-sensitive, culturally relevant, or other models. It is not a church-growth strategy or new style of church. Contrary to popular belief, serving the least does not make a missional church. It's about serving the least and your neighbor. It's about balancing the fasting and the feast. It's about making the altar both a place for communion and a place to leave your shoes." (Amanda adds: the part about the shoes will make sense if you read the book.)
I love that.
One of my favorite quotes from Barefoot Church is this:
"I don't view church growth in the same way I used to. Much of this change has come through my personal experiences both in serving as a pastor in the megachurch and as a church planter. Some has come through watching God move at The Austin Stone and other churches seeking God's kingdom over their kingdom. Some has come through conversations with proponents of the house church movement experiencing life-transforming breakthroughs. Here's what I've realized: in a city of more than a million people, it's going to take all kinds of sizes of churches filled with people committed to the mission and the kingdom of God. Our success will be a collective success - when God is glorified in our city." (p. 158)
Amen! I shouted "Yes, Jesus!" when I read that. BCF was incredibly blessed by two other kingdom-minded churches in our city who saw it the same way. They hosted our core team meetings throughout the summer and provided childcare for our kids. I don't know what we would have done without them. Oh Lord, help us all to seek your kingdom rather than our own.
I learned a ton from this book and was also thoroughly challenged and encouraged. I took away much more from it than what I can describe in a blog post.
I'm really thankful for the Hatmakers' willingness to share their family's journey through church life and family life. (They just brought home two children from Ethiopia.) They're also not afraid to tell on themselves, which is really refreshing. God is certainly using their unique gifts, experiences and passions to equip and challenge the saints.