Archive for September, 2013

The Principle of Thirds


The Principle of Thirds

A friend asked me to post something about a grounding missional principle that we use here in our community that we call the Principle of Thirds. We did not think this up ourselves, and the truth is that we don’t know where it came from.  But we do know from a good deal of experience that it bears fruit for the Kingdom of God.  We don’t count a lot of things, mostly because we used to count a lot of wrong things (i.e people in the pews on Sunday, individual giving, number of people in Sunday School, etc.).  We don’t necessarily know what all the right things to count are, but we do know some things that aren’t worth counting because spending energy counting them simply doesn’t bear fruit.  Here’s something we have learned: Count the things that you want to see follow-through on.  We measure the things that we think are important to actually do because counting them, for whatever reason, makes us do them.  It’s not the counting that matters.  It’s the doing that matters.

We have become very intentional about making sure that every mission team and mission launch has a certain make-up to them.  And we count to make sure that we are being intentional right from the start in ensuring that teams are made up a particular way.  All of our mission teams are launched with only 1/3 of the people launching them coming from our worshiping community.  2/3 must come from outside of our traditional walls.  1/3 of the team can come from another faith community.  But every mission team that we launch must have at least 1/3 of its participants being people who have no faith community at all.  Some of them may be in a faith conversation, but we are really looking to partner with people who claim no faith allegiance.   So our launch teams are 1/3 from our community, (can be) 1/3 from other faith communities, but must be at least 1/3 people who profess no particular faith at all.  If the team is not made up that way, we don’t launch.

The same model applies to how our mission teams are funded for launch.  Only 1/3 of their funds can come from our operating budget.  1/3 of their funds can come from other faith communities.  But a minimum of 1/3 of their funding must come from secular income streams that they develop through their own networks. Within three years, all of our missions must be self-funded through income streams developed outside of our operating budget.  We do this because we consider each new mission to be a potential faith community.  And each new faith community must eventually become financially viable on its own.  We plant it, but if God does not bring life to it, then we have learned to let it go.  We think (at least right now) that three years gives the mission plant enough time to get on its own feet and develop its own resources. We do not have the kind of money that it takes to plant churches the traditional way, and we believe, nonetheless, that every church is called to plant faith communities.  So, this is our way, at least for now.

We use the Principle of Thirds because we have a need to be intentional about including the people on the subject side of the mission who we are trying to invite into Kingdom participation with us on the object side of the Kingdom.  Subject and object from Day One.  Our community needs to do this because it is too easy for us to fall back into the old “outreach” model where we, the church people, are the purveyors of goodness and a light to the “them”, the needy.  There is no “us” and “them” in the Kingdom of God. And in the Kingdom we each have something to offer to one another. By building these requirements into every mission before they are launched, we have found that we have a much better chance of accomplishing what we set out to do.

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Beyond the Search for Samsung: Is Today Your Day to Matter?

Invitation to mission

Beyond the Search for Samsung: Is Today Your Day to Matter?

I know that Beyonce, Romain Dauriac, and Samsung are the most searched for words on Google right now.  But I don’t think that most people searching for those things are looking for them to fulfill a deep need in their life. At least, I hope not.  I’m not even sure that people even use Google, or Bing, or Yahoo to search for meaning and significance…but it might make some sense to at least give them a shot at it.   More and more I am engaged in conversations with people who tell me that, more than anything, they want their lives to matter.  They want their lives to have real and lasting value. More and more people tell me that they aren’t just seeking a career that will make them rich or popular or famous.  In fact, for most of them, those things have become a turnoff.  I’m not sure where meaning and significance end up on the list of most searched for terms on Google or Bing, and I don’t think it really matters. I think people are finally coming to the tragic end of the value of putting themselves first.  I don’t think they have come to that end through ignorance or guesswork.  I think they come to that end because they’ve gotten pretty far down that dark road and have found their lives getting smaller and smaller, and shallower and shallower.

I don’t think that we were shaped from birth to think of ourselves first.  We are conditioned by our consumer culture to think that way.  We are so immersed in and bombarded by advertisements and messages that subtly sell us the values of the purveyor/consumer culture.  We are overwhelmed with those messages, and those messages have been cynically cloaked in words that our hearts are shaped to connect to.  But the words merely cover up an empty well.   Even more than simply the value of “self”, I think we are sold over and over again the idea that “things” and “status” produce meaning.  A recent Mercedes Benz magazine ad for their new model CLA says, “Set your soul free.” And their tag line is, “The best or nothing.” No, seriously. That’s what it actually says. We once were even told by the very President of the United States that the most important thing that we could do as citizens of this country was to go out and buy things, as if that was our role in the great cosmos. That’s what’s being put out there for our consumer culture to consume. No wonder so many people are so spiritually hungry. It’s like eating sawdust. It’ll fill you up for a minute, but it sure won’t feed you. How many times do people have to be exposed to this before they start to subconsciously think it? Go ahead and drive one if you can. They really are great cars. But, by way of extrapolation, if someone can’t afford the best, does that mean that they are nothing? Wow. Jesus taught that the truth will set you free. Mercedes seems to think a little differently.

My thought for today comes from some simple wisdom my father shared with me years ago.  He said, “Son, if God’s going to do something new in your situation, you have to let God do something new in you.”  If our lives are feeling flat and we just can’t seem to make sense of the cycle of earn and spend and owe, then maybe we can make a little change that will allow God to make a big change in our situation.  If we are tired of trying to be “important” and “in charge”, and we’re just done with trying to please everybody, then maybe we can change one small thing that God can use to connect us to much bigger things that really will give our lives meaning and value.  Maybe society is wrong about what it means to be important.  And maybe that President was wrong about our role in the cosmos. And maybe Mercedes-Benz is just cynical about everything and doesn’t really even believe what they’re asking you to believe. We want our lives to matter.  We don’t want our lives to just be wasted on things that don’t matter and don’t last beyond the warranty.  One little change that we can make is to set aside some time get involved in something where what’s at stake is more important than us.  God’s not asking you to sell everything you own today and come follow him.  God is just asking you to take one step into the Kingdom with God, and see where God leads you.  So, maybe today is your day to get involved.

If you’re in the Milwaukee area, check us out at, or on my Facebook page at  Come and visit one of our mission sites one time, or come and live and serve with us for a week.  Maybe we can find something of value together.  If not here, then somewhere there is a place and a need for who you are and what you do. Peace.