Monday, October 24, 2011

Barefoot Church

It was at this time last year that God began giving Curtis and me vision for a church plant here in Houston. My friend Missy placed a book called Interrupted in my hands without knowing what was going on behind the scenes in the Jones family. This book was Jen Hatmaker's account of how God gave her and her husband a passion to start a church that serves the least in Austin, Texas. The story of their journey and God's faithfulness throughout it all is very powerful. (Confession: I still haven't returned the book to Missy! I'm horrible! That is going to be my goal for this week.)

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.

Barefoot Church is available here on Kindle and here in paperback.


Candice said...

Are you familiar with 3dm? I think you'd really like them. They have been doing missional communities in England for years and are helping coach church plants and existing churches into being more missional. They have great learning tools for pastors and whole communities. I'm kind of obsessed. They have helped our church SO much!

Anonymous said...

This book looks great! I can't wait to read it. God has been asking me to "do accelerated church" for some time and as I am seeking out what that means. For now, I feel it has to do with seeking the Holy Spirit to see what He wants me to do and being available to help family, neighbors and friends.

Shannon said...

Great post, Amanda! As someone who served overseas doing house-church planting right after college and came home to grapple with the "what should church really look like" question, I'm grateful to have landed in the "it takes all kinds" boat. Can't wait to check out both of these books. Thanks for sharing!

JottinMama said...


I just wanted you to know what a blessing it has been to read about your family as y'all begin this new journey. It encourages me because our family has begun some new adventures in ministry as well - and it helps for me to stop by and read your posts. Thanks for sharing :)

Have a wonderful week. Just prayed for your new church :)

- Katie :)

Missy said...

And if I'da known you were gonna link to me I really wouldn't have had my top post be the one about my husband talking about how big my behind is.

Kara Akins said...

I think it is wonderful you gave such a string desire to reach out to "the least of these". I know that desire comes from God. There us nothing in ourselves that would be drawn to the intense work of it and horror of it. My family began ministering to families in very, very hard situations, mostly children. Lice, scabies, bed bugs, financial needs, abuse, homelessness, etc came crashing into out lives. I've lost count how many times my girls have had lice now. But we still hug and love on the kids. We are compelled to. I've never been closer to the heart of God as when I am loving on those kids. It simply floods my heart and my children's hearts. Thus service has unified us as a family in dramatic ways. Having 3 teens, I am amazed at what God had allowed us, as parents, to experience with our teens relationally. The seeds we gave sown in other children's lives have produced radical, drastic and powerful results in the lives of our own children. Only God.

The Oakes said...

just reading 2 Cor. 9 this morning and asking God what it means for our family to give to another's lack so that we all have equally enough. I love that God speaks here too!

Mary H. said...

I am reading Radical right because of your post. Thank you...changing my life, my marriage, my finances...most importantly my relationship with my Savior.

Erin said...

I left a comment but then it looked like it wasn't gonna work, so I'll just say, Interrupted has been a very important book to my husband and me - a huge, huge blessing - and we are so looking forward to reading Barefoot Church.

Sunni said...


'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."

Also, I saw Missy's comment above and laughed out loud!

Laura said...

Praying for your sweet family right your vision and your heart for people. Can't wait to watch the adventure unfold!

April said...

I read Interrupted a couple of months ago. I had read your recommendation a few months ago. I bought the book, but was a little scared to read it. When I finally began reading it, it rocked my world, but in a good way. We are trying to incorporate some of the ideas she wrote about in our church plant. They're not new ideas for us, but I feel a greater passion and urgency to serve the least of these. I'm getting my husband Barefoot Church for his birthday later this week. We both are excited to read it!

By the way, I feel the same way about non-fiction books that you do. I devour fiction, but it's much harder for me to pick up, much less finish, a non-fiction book! But I know I'll be as glad I read this one as I was that I read Interrupted.

The Martins said...

I look forward to reading this book. I too read Interrupted during the time we were praying about planting a church and it rocked my world! Thanks for sharing about your journey through the world of church planting. We are about to embark on a new adventure ourselves.


Anonymous said...

I haven't read the book, but I live as much of my life as possible barefooting. The barefoot church sounds like the perfect way to worship to me. :)
If we bare our souls, why not bare our feet, too?

Shellie Paparazzo said...

I'm so glad you are able to receive this kind of encouragement from a distance. It can be a really wonderful thing in this land of technology when we can reach out to others farther away from us that maybe understand our situation better than those close to us, though it is important to have that face to face time as well.

Pamela Payne said...

Love seeing and hearing God at work. Obedient hearts can change the world...

mandyc said...

Love this! We broke away from a huge church a year and a half ago - a great one with good leadership - to become part of a church based on the 3dm model. It's been amazing to serve and live out our faith as a family ( we have 3 little ones) - it was a revelation to us to "live in community".