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Network News -
October 2015

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An Invitation to Partnership...


We all see the refugee crisis around the world and feel helpless. Millions of people have had to flee their homeland because war is tearing their country apart. We've seen images of children in desperate and horrific conditions and we wonder, "What can we do?"
"Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." At Life on the Vine, we've received Christ's words in Matthew 25 as an invitation to join Him in welcoming the strangers, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. We believe that we must do something in response to the refugee crisis and we have found a way to help. Now, we want to invite you, as our brothers and sisters in the Ecclesia network, to join us.
We have committed to sponsoring two refugee families in partnership with a local organization called Refugee One. As part of our sponsorship, we have gathered items to furnish apartments for the two families and have a team of people standing by to meet these families at the airport and help them settle into their new homes. We'll also provide weekly mentoring and conversation as the families learn to speak English and find their way in a new culture. Refugee One provides job skills training, guides them through governmental systems, helps enroll kids in school, and provides counseling and medical care as the family eases into becoming self-sufficient.
The US government provides some funding for refugees, but it's not enough to bridge the gap to self-sufficiency. That's where we are inviting you to join us. We have already raised $8000 for the first family within 48 hours of beginning our fundraising (HALLELUJAH!). We're about a quarter of the way to meeting the $8000 goal for the second family, but we are a small community and we may be close to exhausting our networks of friends and family.
Would you be willing to share this opportunity to join with us in sharing this opportunity with the members of your church communities (and with any other friends that you think might be drawn to help)? We would love to invite you to respond in this tangible way to the refugee crisis. Help us be present in Christ's name to two families who desperately need a safe place to call home. No donation is too small!
Some ways you could do this:
- take a one-time offering at a worship service
- personally invite some people in your community to consider giving
- give whatever you are comfortable giving from your own pockets and then share your excitement with your community
- hold a simple fundraiser or invite a group within your community to do so
For more about our involvement as well as to learn more about Refugee One, or to contribute to the funds for these two families,
http://www.refugeeone.org/lov.html

Thanks for hearing our invitation and considering joining us as we join Christ in creating refuge for refugees!

-Cyd Holsclaw, Life On The Vine, Chicagoland

Network News

The Faithful Leader:  Following Christ & Your Calling

“Success” for leaders within the kingdom of God is unique. We will not be evaluated by how much we “produce” or how â€œexcellent” our work appears. Instead, our concern is whether or not we have been faithful and fruitful in the calling we have been given. As leaders working to shepherd disciples toward Christlikeness, we often need reminders of these basic truths.
This year, the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic leaders gathering for Ecclesia Network will focus on developing a clear picture and trustworthy toolkit for a faithful life, both in our gifts and ministries. 

Sabbatical Interview

Stephen Redden, one of the pastors at Ecclesia church New Denver, recently returned from a sabbatical. We had some questions for him!
1. Stephen, you recently got back from a sabbatical. How long was your sabbatical, how did you spend your time and what are your brief thoughts/reflections from it as you return?


Our elders created a policy that every employee of NDC will take a sabbatical week each year (beyond 'vacation' time), and every seven years they will take 12 consecutive weeks of sabbatical. I just returned from my first "seventh year" sabbatical. I was on sabbatical for 12 weeks - from early May to early August.

My brief reflections are that this time was first and foremost a gift - certainly from God, but also from our elders and my fellow staff who made it possible. Looking back I don't know if there's anything I would change or do differently. My primary goal was to disconnect from my regular routine and engage in activities that would help me to rest and replenish my soul. By that measure the time was incredibly fruitful and successful. I wrote up some extensive reflections on my blog
for anyone who would like to read more.

2. We know that New Denver Church has a strong culture of taking care of its pastors, including having regularly planned and expected sabbaticals for its pastors. How did the concept of sabbatical become a regular part of your culture? Where did that come from?

It began as a part of developing our discipleship culture a number of years ago. At an Ecclesia Gathering in 2010 we were challenged by a session Doug Paul and Ben Sternke did on building a discipling culture within your church. One of the concepts they introduced us to that was core to the approach to discipleship they were teaching (which we later learned was from 3DM) was the idea of creating a rhythm of life that oscillated between work and rest. As pastors we began to see how we had neglected the practice of Sabbath in our own lives and began to pursue healthy rhythms daily, weekly and seasonally that would help us experience the freedom and life of honoring Sabbath. As we did that and began to share this idea, both through discipleship groups, leadership gatherings, retreats and Sunday messages, we began to see other people trying to bend their life around sabbath as well. Around that time (sometime in 2013) within the context of a discussion about ensuring the health and well-being of pastors and staff, our elders suggested coming up with a sabbatical policy. It started out as something for pastors only but they eventually decided to extend the benefit to all full and part-time employees of the church.

3. What expectations did you have going into the sabbatical?

Honestly I think most of my expectations were negative! This was the first time I'd ever taken more than a week away from work, so I expected to go through some frustration and withdrawal from being productive. I expected to struggle with my sense of identity and value apart from work. Certainly I experienced some of that but not nearly to the degree that I expected. For the most part I was able to give myself fully to each day and let go of anxiety about being away from work when it did pop up.

I don't know if I'd call it an expectation, but I did wonder - "Is God going to drop some big revelation on me?" It's funny how much that's an expectation that's built into an intentional spiritual practice like sabbatical. Fortunately I talked with some people I respect who'd done sabbaticals and wrestled with not having a "burning bush" moment so that helped temper my expectations a little that I wasn't "doing it wrong" if that didn't happen. But I was certainly open to it.

4. What surprised you the most your time?

I think I continue to be surprised at how "noisy" my everyday life is and how "quiet" it was during sabbatical. I was fortunate to get to travel, either on my own or with my family, for most of the time of my sabbatical. Getting away from my everyday context and disconnecting from meetings, emails, and even our regular social schedule with friends helped me to see how full my life is. It's full of great things that I've intentionally chosen, but nonetheless it's full. And that fullness creates noise and often distraction. It was striking how life-giving it was to step out of that noise for a little while. What was surprising about that is I'm an extrovert and have always lived for experience and interaction with others. I've thrived within the fullness of life that I've pursued. But pulling away afforded me an ongoing sense of connection and dialogue with God by his Spirit that I'd never experienced before and have longed for since being back to my regular routine these last six weeks. I guess I discovered my introverted/contemplative side during sabbatical!

5. How did the Lord meet you in this unique time where you were given permission to pause, stop, rest and reflect?

The primary way I perceived the Lord was through an ongoing sense of his presence and communion with me throughout the day. In a typical day my mind jumps from thought to thought, consumed with whatever is before me that day. "I've got a meeting in 30 minutes. I'm teaching this Sunday so I need to organize my thoughts on this topic or passage of Scripture. I need to return so-and-so's email/phone call/text message." And on and on. Once those things are taken away or significantly reduced, there's silence and space to allow your attention to turn Godward. What was remarkable about these experiences was how unremarkable the "content" often was. I liken it to that point in marriage when you realize you can just be with another person without the need to say or do anything. That's how many of my days felt during sabbatical. There was this tangible unmistakeable sense that God was with me in the moments of my day, but most of the time we didn't have the need to tell the other anything or ask anything of the other. We just enjoyed each other's company. This was a new experience for me.

6. We know you benefitted from the sabbatical, but how did your family benefit from it as well?

The most valuable thing I think we can offer others is ourselves - our time and attention. In the course of our lives, we have to choose where we give our time and attention. I regularly struggle with how to decide how to do that in my everyday life. One of the gifts of sabbatical was the permission - more than permission, the direction - I was given to set aside giving time and attention to pastoral duties. The primary beneficiaries of that surplus of time and attention were my wife and kids. I spent time with my mom and some friends as well, but most of my time and attention during my sabbatical went to my immediate family. I don't know if I can yet say what the benefit was for them in this. My hope is that the result will be deeper, richer relationships and a greater sense of perspective and intentionality in those relationships going forward. One of the primary realizations I had during my sabbatical was that due to the age of my kids (11 and 8) that I have ten very important years to invest in my kids before they launch out of the nest and ten very important years to invest in my marriage to prepare for life as empty nesters.

7. How are you different now that you’ve come back from it? What rhythms have been included into your daily/weekly life? And are there any things that have been trimmed back or completely eliminated from your life?

It's a terrible time to ask me that question! It's been six weeks since my sabbatical ended, and I still feel like I'm in a period of disorientation, trying to get reoriented. Norton, my co-pastor at NDC, took his seventh-year sabbatical last year and warned me that there's a sense that the learning from your sabbatical continues long after the actual sabbatical ends. I think that's true. All real learning seems to follow this pattern of disorientation and reorientation. I feel like I have a greater sense of clarity around what I'm supposed to be about going forward, but I'm still figuring out how to move in that direction. That takes time. For now I'm trying to figure out how to hold onto the conscious awareness of God's presence and give myself fully to the moment each day. That's much harder now that I'm back in the "noise" of everyday life. Still struggling with that one.

8. What would you say to other pastors who are about to enter into a sabbatical or pastors who might want to think seriously about taking a sabbatical?

First I would say listen to Nike and "Just do it!" I would say that not only to pastors but to anyone open to receiving the gift of an extended period of Sabbath. There are all these barriers and reasons why you think you can't do it. Some of those are real, but a lot of them are self-imposed. I honestly don't know if I'd have had the courage to do a sabbatical if our elders hadn't forced it on us. But now that I've done it and experienced the benefit, I would say it's totally worth it. If you're about to enter into a sabbatical, seek out the people you know and trust who've done it and ask them about their experience (feel free to contact me if you want btw). There's no "right" way to do a sabbatical, only a "right for you" way, but taking some time to discern goals and how to structure your time is important so that you make the most of the opportunity.
Stephen reflected further on his sabbatical time here

Genesis
Church Planters Training


Last month we gathered in Chicago with a group of current and aspiring church planters for the 2015 Genesis Training. 
Regular equippers Dave Fitch, J.R. Briggs, Cyd Holsclaw and myself were joined by first-time equippers Geoff Holsclaw, Chris Ridgeway, Keith Walatka, Josh Crain and Greg Boyd.
We had a wonderful week talking about how and why we start missional churches. Again, we were able to gather in a great retreat space, ideal for listening to God and discerning calling. Reviews of the week by participants were uniformly encouraging, and we continue to believe that this training is one of the ways we serve the Kingdom of God best as a network. 

Genesis will be happening again next May- if you are considering planting a church or know someone who is, watch for details and join us- you won't be sorry!

-Bob Hyatt, Director of Equipping and Spiritual Formation

Join Us
at The Ecclesia National Gathering


    


Ecclesia’s annual network-wide gathering is March 9-11 2016 in Newark, Delaware.  This year, the location is at East Point Community Church. 

Our focus during these important days will be on “The Good & Beautiful Life”.  Our journey will be an invitation to re-examine the core narratives of our lives and to replace our false beliefs with Jesus's narratives about life in the kingdom and community of God.  We are blessed to have Dr. James Bryan Smith, Founder of the Apprentis Institute and Professor at Friends University as our special guest.  Of course, this will be an exciting time to connect with friends, both new and old, and hear about all the kingdom work happening throughout Ecclesia. 


REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN


 

Residency Network
is Coming!


Over the last several years, a few churches in Ecclesia have developed a variety of apprenticeship experiences for those looking to gain additional experience in missional church settings.  Some of these have been more church-planting focused, while others have provided an opportunity for ministry experience more generally.  Over the last several months, several of these churches have been collaborating together to see this vision thrive in their local contexts as well as to become more central to the life and work of Ecclesia.  This fall, we will be working to finalize the steps for several of these residency centers to serve leaders interested in gaining experience in a mission-shaped ministry.  

 

6 Questions
with Jane Linton



With so many different moving parts within the Ecclesia Network there are numerous behind-the-scenes details that need to be handled during a given week. Most people know Ecclesia staff members Chris Backert, Bob Hyatt and J.R. Briggs. But not everyone knows Jane Linton, who serves as the Administrator of the Ecclesia Network. We thought we’d take time to talk with Jane and have her share about who she is and about the important role she plays within Ecclesia. 

[1] Jane, tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. 

I’m a graduate of Virginia Tech, with my bachelors in political science and history. I worked at a museum before becoming a stay-at-home mom and administrator for various church groups. Currently I work for Ecclesia, Fresh Expressions US (www.freshexpressionsus.org) and Kairos Partnerships (www.kairospartnerships.org) so there is a lot of overlap in my circle of contacts.  

My husband, Brandon and I met at Virginia Tech and have been married for 7 years. We have two sons, Alex (5), Luke (3) and a baby girl on the way. Whenever I get some free time, I enjoy looking up ideas for DIY projects to try around the house and experimenting with new recipes. 
 
[2] You do so many behind-the-scenes yet important things to help the network that many people may not know much about. Tell us what your role entails within the network. 

You know the great binders and nametags at our conferences – I print those!
As the administrative contact I work with all the logistics and information collection, including event coordination, travel arrangements, registration, event materials, and news collection.

 
[3] Before joining staff you were a part of an Ecclesia church in college. Tell us more about that. 

At Virginia Tech I was a member of [nlcf] when Jim Pace and Chris Backert were pastoring together there. I grew up in church, but [nlcf] was a new opportunity for me to explore my faith on my own and find community. They excel at making a large, sometimes overwhelming group feel smaller and connected; even as students came and went, the core remained strong.
 
[4] As you’re exposed to several different leaders and pastors in different Ecclesia churches what encourages you the most? 

I enjoy the variety of ideas and church styles that God uses to reach people. No two churches do things exactly the same, yet they all provide a community of believers a place to grow in their unique way.  I love hearing your stories and learning more about the cities you are a part of - it really helps me connect all the logistics to a bigger picture! 


 [5] What are you currently reading/learning and/or listening to? [i.e. what are the top 1 or 2 things you’ve read or listened to in the past 3 months that were inspiring, equipping or encouraging for you?”]

Brandon and I have been watching a video series entitled “The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts” by Joe Rigney through the Worship Initiative. This series has been enlightening about new ways I can see and connect with God through creation, worship and relationships.  It helps me see my creative projects as an expression of my love for God.

[6] Is there anything else you want other Ecclesia churches to know about you or the role you play within the network?  

I love being part of the network and supporting all the amazing work you’re doing!


 


The Ecclesia Leadership Podcast: This month- Rick Callahan

The Theology on Mission Podcast with Fitch and Holsclaw: Why Gather For Worship?
Check out this resource from Ecclesia pastors J.R. Briggs and Bob Hyatt! 
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