Astoundingly Joyful, Amazingly Simple: The Meta Church: A 21st Century Innovation with a 1st Century Foundation!

Astoundingly Joyful, Amazingly Simple: The Meta Church: A 21st Century Innovation with a 1st Century Foundation!

by Timothy D. White


View All Available Formats & Editions
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
  • Want it by Friday, October 19?   Order by 12:00 PM Eastern and choose Expedited Shipping at checkout.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781468556841
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 08/28/2012
Pages: 260
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.59(d)

Read an Excerpt

Astoundingly Joyful, Amazingly Simple

The Meta Church: A 21st Century Innovation with a 1st Century Foundation!


Copyright © 2012 Timothy D. White
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4685-5684-1

Chapter One


For the last thirty-five years, my wife Jackie and I have had the opportunity to ask vital questions about the church that we wanted to launch in the Pacific Northwest, and to continue coming back to the book of Acts with those questions. One of the themes in Acts which continued to demand our attention was the already not yet nature of the Kingdom of God. We have attempted to weave this theme into the fabric of the community we are building—a community that would be alive, constantly changing, growing, and working in cooperation with Kingdom forces instead of trying to control them. In 1984 when the church officially began in Redmond, Washington, many of these ideas were already deeply rooted, both through the planting of spiritual mentors and through experimentations in other ministry projects. As I have seen this community grow and change over the years, like a living organism, I can think of no better term to describe it than meta church.

In 1992, Carl F. George said, "The term Meta-Church, ... signifies both a change of mind about how ministry is to be done and a change of form in the infrastructure of the church." The church began with a new form and a different structure than I had seen previously. Yet, in the thirty-five years since the dream of the church took hold, it has continued to develop and change, mandating a meta approach once more. To assist Washington Cathedral in overcoming institutional entropy, this book presents a strategy to systematically change the meta church's incarnational organizations through a methodical, cathedral-wide process learned from the collaborative method displayed in the book of Acts.

The term meta church was used to describe Washington Cathedral from its beginnings in the 1980s. In fact, more than one city official has claimed to have invented the concept of meta church as an alternative to the idea of the mega church. At first, the term meta was used by Washington Cathedral to say that we were doing something very different from the mega church movement. (See Appendix A.) We, the leadership of Washington Cathedral, were great believers in the mega church movement, but as we reengineered the ministry of Washington Cathedral yearly, we grew more and more convinced that this was not and had never been our calling. For twenty-four years we have chosen to refer to ourselves as a meta church rather than mega, or even evangelical, emerging, or interdenominational. The response of the surrounding community has been wonderful as they began to understand the ideas and ideals of our church community.

When we began, the term meta was being used regularly by the high-tech audience that made up our area. The entrepreneurial souls, who were some of our first converts, saw the nonhierarchical organization in the book of Acts and demanded the collaborative method, which was seldom seen as valuable in the church, and they expected annual reengineering. In their world of technology, if a business did not constantly change, it would die, and they saw the church as an institution under the same pressure.

In 1989, at a breaking-the-eight-hundred-barrier class, Carl George used the term meta church to describe Washington Cathedral, and it stuck. It had even more meaning when the City of Redmond approved of the term. City officials liked the fact that our buildings and grounds are used seven days a week with multiple services instead of cramming everyone in only on weekends. However, they were concerned about how many people would gather on our campus for major holiday events such as Christmas, Easter, and Mother's Day. In long interviews with the leadership of Redmond and King County, the leaders explained their objections to the concept of the mega church, pushing us towards a meta church concept.

At Washington Cathedral, the leadership defines our meta church as a collection of unique and diverse communities, each reaching a diverse culture united by one dream—to build a great caring network. Currently, this dream expresses itself in twelve diverse congregations, hundreds of home churches, which we call Tiny Little Churches, and five 501(c)(3) organizations, each with its own board of directors.

Defining Terms

Every organization has its own vernacular, as does the leadership of Washington Cathedral. Cathedral, a name often associated with Catholic churches, has a personal history in our meta church tradition. My grandfather, who planted the seeds of a new way of ministering, called his church The Cathedral of the Rockies. My father also started a church, calling it The Cathedral of Joy. When my wife Jackie and I received the vision to spend our lives building a network of diverse country congregations in Washington State, it just seemed natural to call it Washington Cathedral. Cathedral in the Latin refers to the chair of the professor or bishop and describes a church which is the center hub of a network of churches. In this paradigm, I, as the senior pastor, see myself as a pastor to pastors. This is the way Jackie and I have always seen the church and why taking the name cathedral is essential to our vision. Some visitors who see the beauty of our structures surmise that the name cathedral is in the tradition of the beautiful cathedrals built by the Catholic Church, but to us, cathedral does not refer to our buildings; it refers to the vision of ministry.

Another term often spoken by the leadership of Washington Cathedral is incarnational ministry. While much of church growth is either biological or transfer growth, 89 percent of our church community came from a nonchurched background. Our method of evangelism is very different from many others. The leadership of Washington Cathedral describes our strategy as incarnational, which is a very popular term today. It means in the flesh and refers to Christians acting as the flesh of Jesus Christ in their communities. Michel Frost and Alan Hirsch contrast this term with churches whose strategies are attractional. Attractional churches try to persuade people to leave their culture and come to a new culture within the church. In this sense they become extractional. Incarnational ministry means the people become the church to reach into their targeted culture. This is one of the reasons that we have hundreds of ministries. Each ministry is the individual dream of a church member who has invented a new way to reach his or her unique community.

As part of a servant church, the leadership of Washington Cathedral defines our ministry this way: finding ways to love with no expectation of return other than the opportunity to see Jesus in the eyes of the hurting. Jesus performed a lot of miracles in the gospels, but the miracle of his love from the cross is what transformed his essential followers. Perhaps, some of the other followers who disappeared at the crucifixion were just a crowd waiting to be impressed with a show.

Finally, the leadership of Washington Cathedral see the church as an organism more than an organization. We believe only God can create a Christian and only God can build a church. Our job is to see where the living organism exists and wants to grow and to remember that no human can own it or control it.


The aim of this book is to develop a strategy for continual improvement through a cathedral-wide process learned from the collaboration method displayed in the book of Acts. Stanley Grenz points out in his book Renewing the Center that this process of change in the church is not always favorable. Grenz says, "Some churches are restructuring congregational life in a manner that, perhaps even unbeknown to them, takes its cue more from the nation's business schools than from the Bible." This book represents an attempt to thoughtfully avoid cultural syncretism (borrowing from worldly philosophy without thought of its biblical truthfulness), yet, at the same, time learn from Acts how to appropriately share the good news of the Kingdom of God within the wide variety of cultures in which Washington Cathedral is planted.

As we codify this dynamic view of the church, this new paradigm will help Washington Cathedral continue to think outside of what is traditionally considered the institutional church. When people think of institutions, they often think of impersonal organizations. Maybe Emerson said it best when he said, "I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions." However, institutions are not all bad. Where would civilization be without the institutions of marriage, government, or the church? At the same time, though, where would a marriage, government, or church be if each never changed and grew to face continuing challenges? This book will present a plan to help the institution of the local church to continue evolving to meet the challenges of today and become all it was envisioned to be when it was first inspired by the book of Acts.

The Challenge

Every pastor knows well the difficulty of bringing about continual change and growth in the local church institution. This book summarizes the challenge and lends it the name institutional entropy. When the inevitability of entropy begins to rob an institution of its ability to be personal, to change, and to grow, it begins to die. The idea of institutional entropy makes the point that entropy, from the second law of thermodynamics, also applies to institutions. The second law of thermodynamics has existed since the French mathematician, Lazare Carnot discovered it in 1803, but there continue to be significant changes in understanding the meaning of its process. All organizations decay into disorder with time. The idea of entropy began with the measurement of heat change in a closed system. The end of the universe can be predicted mathematically based upon a formula. Later, the concept was applied to the life and death of institutions. The understanding of institutional entropy is impacting our concepts of the dynamics of organizations and teams. For example, Margaret J. Wheatley discusses this in depth in her book, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World. She explains: "In classical thermodynamics, equilibrium is the end state in the evolution of closed systems, the point at which the system has exhausted all of its capacity for change, done its work, and dissipated its productive capacity into useless entropy."

It is absolutely essential to fashion a strategy to overcome institutional entropy at Washington Cathedral by establishing a continual process for reengineering. However, the point will be made that, in a diverse church, chaos is not our enemy, but each challenge brings with it the opportunity for creative innovation. Wheatley's advice applies to any organization. "It is both sad and ironic that we have treated organizations like machines, acting as though they were dead when all this time they have been living, open systems capable of self-renewal."

Progress toward collaboration still remains as Washington Cathedral's greatest challenge. The difficulty is for people to keep a deferential attitude toward the Kingdom of God. As a church family, this is difficult, and, to a leader of such a church, maintaining this attitude gives new meaning to the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24 (NIV). "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." I experience the adventure of taking up my cross as I wrestle with our church community over incarnational issues, and I know that their wrestling match is no less than mine. As an imperfect human being, I, along with others in the church, would like more control, and we all tend to resist change when we do not fully understand the redemptive journey in which God is leading us. To work collaboratively with people with whom we have nothing in common, except Jesus Christ, is the greatest challenge of the meta church.

How would Jesus treat the diversity of his family? Only the Spirit of Jesus could take Hellenistic people, Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans, broken and failed disciples of Jesus, slaves, and Roman soldiers and infuse them with Pentecost and use not only their cultural differences but also their personal differences to understand the power of his grace and empower the church to be much more than a static human organization or material institution. The meta church is committed to be this kind of expression of the Kingdom of God. In an age of polarization and fragmentation, the meta church provides a platform that could bring such a diverse population together. This book provides a coaching model for the people in this growing meta church, Washington Cathedral, and it allows for a more comprehensive study of what has taken place and of the possibilities that are waiting around the corner. Moreover, this study becomes a plan to allow continued innovation to battle the institutional entropy that soon takes hold of any movement.


Part One discusses in detail the context of a meta church Chapter 2 of this book details the development of the meta church at Washington Cathedral. Chapter 3 discusses the definition of the incarnational gospel at Washington Cathedral, which is an important coaching device for demonstrating to those within and those outside the church the focus of its servant ministries. Chapter 4 discusses the history of the collaborative method, specifically addressing problems faced by teamwork methodology and the training of leaders in this new approach to the church. Contrasts will be drawn between the concepts of mega church and meta church and the teamwork approach. The demand for teamwork and the collaborative method is the central obstacle to most individuals who decide not to be a part of the meta church.

Part 2 lays the biblical foundations from the book of Acts to understand this view of the church by presenting a strategy to change systematically the meta church's incarnational organizations through a methodical, cathedral-wide process. This effort is in cooperation with the community and is not intended as a method for church growth or conversion of people. In fact, the theology of the salvific process plays an essential role in the strategy of the meta church and will be discussed in detail in this study to overcome institutional entropy in the church.

The ecclesiology of an evolving, decentralized organization is established within the book of Acts. This leads to theological issues behind church leadership in Acts. Leading scholars on the book of Acts are interviewed, and continuing communication with them pursued as this study is performed, using a fresh hermeneutic. The study presents the importance of understanding the simple complexity of an organization, which is really a living organism. This perspective of the church in Acts comes from a unique hermeneutical methodology, and its implications will be discussed in detail. This counter-enlightenment approach works well in a multicultural setting where diverse dialogue and a sense of community are major goals.

Continuing in Part Two, important developing issues will be explored, such as the good news of the Kingdom of God and its implications for the collaborative method, discipleship, the handling of conflict through councils, and continual reengineering. These will all be clarified as essential to the meta church. Chapter 7 discusses eight measurable variables that every ministry uses to evaluate itself within the reengineering process. These variables have proven to be effective for evaluating fruitfulness in every area of the meta church at Washington Cathedral.


Excerpted from Astoundingly Joyful, Amazingly Simple by TIMOTHY D. WHITE Copyright © 2012 by Timothy D. White. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. A New Model....................1
2. The Development Of The Meta Church At Washington Cathedral....................25
3. Defining The Incarnational Gospel At Washington Cathedral....................43
4. The History Of The Collaborative Method In The Northwest Milieu....................55
5. Ecclesiology Of An Evolving, Decentralized Organization....................81
6. Theological Issues Behind Church Leadership In Acts....................100
7. Eight Measurable Variables Of A Healthy Church Organism In The Book Of Acts....................110
8. Defining The Incarnation Of The Gospel At Washington Cathedral....................131
9. The Quest To Reengineer The Meta Church....................146
10. A Coaching Vision For Teamwork Leaders In A Meta Church....................163
About the Author....................227

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Astoundingly Joyful, Amazingly Simple: The Meta Church: A 21st Century Innovation with a 1st Century Foundation! 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Futurist2 More than 1 year ago
If you are tired of trendy radicalism and want something really outside the box than read about Dr. Whites view of the church of the 22nd century - yes I said 22nd century. This is the church that will survive and thrive through every fad and persecution. I dare you to read something that you may disagree with at every page and yet all the time pray it is true.