Reminder of Missional Think Tank in Dallas

Be sure to watch your email for the registration link to the 2011 Think Tank in Dallas, in January! This Think Tank will take up the question: How do stories work to form Christian community around the mission of God in the world? We will take up the theme of story, discernment, and identity in the mission of God. The church is not the center of its own story but a participant in God’s story.
Please join us – if you have not received an invitation contact

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Like new glasses

A lay leader in a congregation I know well, whose pastor of two years has been preaching and embodying the missional church, recently literally bumped into me at a shop near our home. After we greeted one another, I asked her how it was going at her church. She smiled and said, “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I feel as though I just got a brand new pair of glasses for my neighborhood. I am seeing things I was missing before.” 

What a remark about “how the missional church looks”!

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Call for Comments

Hilary’s delightful blog and article in the Church Innovations’ newsletter at  have made me hungry to hear what ideas and innovations were sparked at last month’s Think Tank meeting.

Pittsburgh Young Missional Pastors who are talking with one another anyway – what are you saying this week?  What early church practice are you working on this summer?  What early church practice might the planning team for next year’s Think Tank begin to engage as we listen for God’s call for our shared work? 

Missional Executives and Systems Leaders, what should the planning group be paying attention to right now as we build next year’s meeting?

PMC and Scholarly Leaders, anyone else who’s reading, what should the planning team be paying attention to?   Peace to your houses.   Pat Taylor Ellison

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From Holding Tank to the Busyness of Life

It’s nearly a month since we met in Pittsburgh in our Missional Think Tank.  Back in daily life, I have been on the lookout for stories and pictures and accounts of the missional church and how it looks.  And I’m curious about what everyone else has been finding.   What are you seeing and hearing?   Peace to your house.    Pat Taylor Ellison

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Cohort notes are being posted

and these cohort catergories are ready for your use.  Enjoy connecting with the other members of your group and continuing the conversation.

Please visit the Resources Page to download them.

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Appreciation and planning ahead

A hearty congratulations and warm thanks to the fine folks at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary who were such wonderful hosts for this year’s Think Tank. What a beautiful campus, what beautiful hospitality! We are grateful. And we eagerly anticipate being together again next year, Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, in Dallas, Texas. We at Abilene Christian University are already anticipating your presence at our Education Center at DFW. We hope that you will save the date!

Stephen C. Johnson, DMin., ThD
Associate Professor of Ministry & Preaching
Director of Contextual Education
Graduate School of Theology
Abilene Christian University

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Home Again

                 Now back at my desk at Church Innovations, I am recalling the faces of particular young persons in the “Missional Pastors” and “Leaders under 35” cohorts. I am thinking of their body language as they met in breakout sessions within the large plenary space we all shared.  I am thinking of the words they chose as they spoke to me and to others. The word that comes to mind is intensity. Those various young leaders are on fire for the Gospel.  God has called them to put their considerable intellect and passion to work to show persons that the Kingdom of God has come near, as our Luke 10 story puts it.

                They surely showed that to me. And many other “seasoned” leaders of the church were excited that these persons had come to think and to discern along with us about how the missional church looks. It was a time of coming together, across age lines and even across ordinary/extraordinary lines. This “holding tank” effect across boundaries rarely happens. When you can be a part of such an experience, savor it.  I am.

                Peace to your house.  Pat Taylor Ellison

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Sitting differently:hearing differently

You’ve got content and you’ve got form.  Let’s talk form – the manner of sitting with one another, listening to one another.

OK – first night’s plenary session was in a big room with people sitting all over.

Second session – Monday morning – a fishbowl containing a person from each cohort, others from the cohort being able to take the place of their member just by asking.  Result: an audience that could participate at will as they observed a seven-person conversation.

Third session – Monday afternoon – like speed dating, speed listening placed us in a row of persons knee-to-knee with another row of persons, one row shifting one place to the left every 7 minutes. Result: an intense encouter, head-to-head, learning from each person as she/he came through, almost entering their imagination because of the closenesss of the seating and the limits of time.

The session we are expecting now is blended groups – seven persons in a circle, but one from each cohort, saying what they have been learning and discerning in their breakout session. Will post the result I’m seeing after the session. Peace. Pat Taylor Ellison

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Fishbowl Plenary, Monday morning 4/12/10 Think Tank

We’re making you uncomfortable by continually changing the plenary seating arrangements…

How does the church relate to the academy? Does seminary turn people into pastors or mini-professors?
Some seminary professors press us into academic training, some press us to help local churches become the ground zero for doing theology
God provides this tension between academy and local church.
Missional church movement often focuses upon pastors – how do we move the focus to the laity?
God creates the chaos that allows new things to emerge
Going into exile might make us want to fall back into old patterns – but don’t!
How do we facilitate the biblical story being told, being seen, in the wider community?
At ordination, we check the orthodoxy of a candidate; how about checking for a new story as well?
How can all of these groups at the Think Tank become “sending” agencies that in turn help congregations to be sending agencies rather than just reacting to the consumer mentality of members
Young pastors’ cohorts didn’t talk about seminaries in this breakout session
Trust the scriptures
The Church is out of favor with society.
Peace comes to chaos – peace is not synonymous with tranquility – tranquility of social order in Chocolat kept by strict social codes, high structures, air conditioning
The movement toward discomfort and death actually brings peace
The gospel must be spoken into a culture from outside – God uses this!
God wants order, brings order out of chaos in Creation; how do we get order back – that is God’s intent.
False attempts to contain order to gain comfort and security will eventually throw us into chaos. But God’s chaos can call us back to first things.
We need to listen to people from non-traditional church backgrounds who come to traditional churches and seminaries.
We rarely think of God’s work out in the community, but one young man started making a list of that in Elkhart IN and the list is 27 pages long.
Church Systems people can either keep order or clear it away, clear the path for things to emerge.
We need to stay accountable to one another for the initiatives we launch.
Some things we grow (like a garden) on purpose and some really good things just spring up. We need to see as Jesus sees, trusting and moving into what God is doing. We must listen to the moving Spirit.
How much confidence does the church have? How unconverted, diluted, is our Christianity?
How does our church choose to train itself? Are professors chosen for their own convertedness?
“Old things shall pass away; behold, all things have become white.” – Became a believer and then people tried to make me a Presbyterian, a Baptist, and so on. First Nations persons have rituals for the luminal phases – they create a certain amount of tension and chaos to help people make the transition into adulthood, for instance. From chaos to restoration. How will seminary education for First Nations people change them?

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Networking – the Think Tank between Think Tanks

How will our emerging relationships with one another keep going between now and next January when we have the chance to meet one another again?  It must be possible. Peace. Pat Taylor Ellison

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