FRIENDS, Thank you for being interested in what might be next for me and my family. I have written this short brief to give those who love us a snap shot of the work we are feeling called to and a little of why. As always we will not be able to do it without help.
WHAT GOD HAS DONE
The UNDERGROUND as a new form of church, expressing some of its most potent ideas and rekindling the fire of mission, empowerment, multi-ethnicity, and justice; now exists as a viable alternative for the Western church.
I am filled with joy and awe as we have seen our little missional/church experiment reverberate with so many people around the world. My recent book, UNDERGROUND CHURCH has been well received and people are asking great questions. While it is far from perfect, it is a serious alternative that is native to the creator economy in which we live. It is giving people something to think about.
The Tampa work is now more than 200 missionary communities/micro churches. The network of cities where we are serving and supporting likeminded people is now at 24 and growing.
I now have bright and capable leaders at each key inflection point for the UNDERGROUND as an organization. Lucas Pulley and Keisha Polonio are leading the archetype Tampa movement, Jeremy Stephens is spearheading the national network, planting and training, while Stacy Gaskins is now totally dedicated to the International growth of the network.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR ME
As I oversee all this growth and influence I am drawn to the edges of our ideas, to the places where we still have questions. The system we have built is in capable hands and so I see that I might be better used in the field again, to work at the edges of where we are trying to grow. The first 10 years of the UNDERGROUND was very much missiological experiment and so, I now find myself considering what should be the next one.
As our story, values and unique approach has been a part of a new vision for the church in our time, we are trying to both steward that newfound influence as well as serve the growth of the kingdom in our generation. We now know that the church is capable of real impact and empowerment. We want to continue that influence, scaling our ideas in 3 primary ways.
01 Plant new movements: Find, assess, train, and support teams of people who want to try to plant a movement. We are already well underway, having just finished module one of our first Movement School, which saw leaders from 19 cities begin the year long training school experience.
02 Support and network together orphan movements: Covenant with, train, network, support and learn together with people who are already doing something similar, but who have been operating without support or a leadership community that understands them.
03 Transform existing churches into movements: There are close to 180,000 small churches in the US who have less than 100 people, that is 60% of all our churches. That number in the UK is 75%. Very little is being done to help these churches see themselves in a new light and work from a position of strength instead of scarcity. I am starting to believe that these churches represent the best chance for social transformation. If we can find a way to walk them through the transition to a new operating system we could change the face of mission in the world.
Right now, we have very few answers for people in to the third category. I really want to try and tackle this problem/question personally. For me, this seems like the frontier that promises the most potential impact. I am not sure if a traditional church can change their operating system, but I would like to do some experimentation and find out.
I am feeling called by God to dedicate the next 5 years of my life to working on this question and I think Europe affords the best context for this kind of experimentation.
WHY WESTERN EUROPE
The situation for the church in Europe is dire, and yet there are still strong, courageous, and curious people to work alongside. As far as contexts go, it is not the global south, which, while poor, offers what has to be considered a strong and growing church. It is not a context like the Middle East, which is almost completely unreached and there are precious few churches to work alongside. Europe represents the potential post christian future of the church in the US, as well as squandered resources which could serve the rest of the world. If we can find stories and strategies that can inspire growth, revitalization and missional traction there then we will also be offering preemptive data for the church in the US and initiating justice for the rest of the world.
My team and I would need a hub/base from which to serve and learn in Europe. Even without declaring any interest in moving or working there, I already have leaders asking for our help in Ireland, England, Wales, France, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. I have chosen Dublin, Ireland because I believe we have the best opportunity for city impact there.
An historic city wide missional network is just starting to form in the city and they have asked for my help. As I have prayed I have come to believe that I should say yes to that invitation. Monica, the boys and I, are all in agreement.
To properly embed myself, and commit to the people, the work and the context, I feel strongly that I need to move. And while my nuclear family is smaller these days it is still going to take significant effort to get us there.
My current salary will be stretched in the new context and of course I will have new travel costs associated with serving churches and missionaries around Europe. I need to ask more of my friends and churches I know to help us. It is very important to be able to serve anyone and to be able to show up without charging people. I am looking for new partners who will see the value of what we hope to do, and who are willing to take the risk on this venture.
I need to raise $120,000 annually for my small team, including Monica, our three youngest boys, Alisa our administrator, and in time are hoping for my oldest daughter Jael and her husband Jonny to join us as well. Even a small apartment/house for rent is going to cost us about $30,000 per year.
I don’t want to let that stop us from being able to say yes, so I am asking my friends for help. I already have $70,000 committed, so i am praying for the remaining $50,000.
My plan is to stay for 1-5 years with an evaluation at the end of year 1 and 3. To assess our effectiveness and impact.
Would you consider helping us take this next step?
From all of us, thank you for considering it.
Brian, Monica, Alisa, Jonny, Jael, Luke, Simeon and Skyler