Our Apostolic Vicar, Bishop Philip Jones, shares his journey of leaving an established ministry to plant All Saints Dallas, and the five characteristics that make it hum.
About four years ago, I received a clear call from a group in Dallas, Texas to plant a new church near downtown Dallas. At the time, I had enjoyed a wonderful five years of ministry as the senior pastor of St. Andrews in Little Rock, Arkansas. The types of churches that I have had the honor of leading over the past 25 years have always had some basic characteristics. My wife, Claudia, and I felt that God was calling us to Dallas to plant a church like the ones I had led before in Little Rock, and El Paso and Marshall, Texas.
The three stream church brings about a balance between and a focus on the Scriptures, the Sacraments and the Holy Spirit. For the last 30 years, God has been building this in my spiritual DNA: A Christ-centered, Bible-teaching, Spirit-filled liturgical church. It seems to attract the young and the old. Focusing on the three streams keeps everything stable. The liturgy gives shape to a worship that affects the body and soul. It also keeps us connected to our historical roots. The Scriptures give truth to God’s revelation in Christ. The Holy Spirit is the passion, the fire and the wind in our sails that is openly welcome at all of our services and in our prayer life. The Holy Spirit is the down payment, the guarantee of not only Christ’s presence with us but of his coming again. It is so important that we openly acknowledge and prayerfully welcome his presence and power in our lives and our worship. It makes a huge difference.
Other themes that are often raised in my teaching and preaching are radical inclusivity and profound transformation. By saying often the words “radical inclusivity,” we remind ourselves that the church is the only organism that primarily exists for those who aren’t a part of it. Our doors are wide open. In fact, we often say that people belong as soon as they come in the door. They don’t have to clean themselves up or get themselves right to come in. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. Profound transformation means that God takes us exactly as we are but does not leave us there. What they believe and how they behave will take shape and mature over time, as they feel welcomed by God’s grace.
All Saints Dallas, being located in an urban setting, sees all sorts of conditions of men and women, young and old. We planted this church with 17 adults all over the age of 55. As the church has grown to over 400 people worshiping, about half of them are under age 35.
In our church plant, younger people tend to get involved quicker and feel more part of the process of growing God’s kingdom. There is a generosity of spirit that pervades the values of All Saints Dallas; generosity is the basis of God’s authority in our life, opening more opportunities for the churched, under churched and un-churched to get connected. Everything we have, our salvation and our spiritual and physical resources, are given to us by God. He doesn’t force us to do anything but woos us into a relationship with him. He chooses to base his authority totally on our response to his grace and mercy so that we can truly love him and experience that change of heart from Ezekiel 36: “I will take out of you the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh where you will want to obey and trust me.”
Finally, based on our prayer request responses, we discovered three areas needing to be addressed in our peoples’ hearts: fear, loneliness and guilt. It is probably the same in your church as well. By constantly addressing these areas in preaching and teaching and praying for freedom, trust in God and community, people don’t just hear it, they experience it. With our church planting experience squarely in front of me, I will say that the following elements have been essential in the growth of All Saints Dallas:
1. Humble, spirit-filled prayer.
2. Three stream spirituality and worship
3. Verbal openness and receptivity to the power of the Holy Spirit
4. Radical inclusivity and profound transformation.
5. Extravagant generosity.
What elements have you found essential to your growth as a Mission Abbey, Mission Church or Mission Work?