What If the Church Truly Empowered People to Engage in God's Mission?
Something extraordinary has been happening in Tampa, Florida. A new expression of the church has been quietly growing. It's something of an experiment, but over the last ten years the church has been validating its ideas with sustained and growing results. At The Underground, being the church is not focused around a weekly gathering or church programs. It's about empowering individuals to respond to God's call to ministry and mission, especially to the poor and disadvantaged in our midst.
While many churches talk about discerning calling and engaging in mission, very few are structured to make this their ministry focus. Underground Church is a new vision for the church rooted in its biblical mission to share the love of God and serve the poor. Sanders explores how to make structural changes, how to think about leadership, how to fund ministries, and how to truly engage people in God's mission. Filled with creative insights, he explains what it means to center the mission of the church around the callings of individuals to outward ministry - whether that involves leading Bible studies in the workplace, feeding the homeless, or working to free women and children from sex trafficking.
This book will both tell the inspiring story of a church that is rethinking what church looks like while also outlining and uncovering the principles that transfer for every church and Christian community that hopes for more. It's the true story of a 10-year experiment that unpacks the possibilities of a church structured and streamlined for mission.
About the Author
Brian Sanders is founder and Executive Director of the Underground Network. He holds an MA in Religious Studies from the University of South Florida, and an MTh in Applied Theology awarded by the University of Wales and Spurgeon's College (London). He is the former State Director for Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship in Florida and the author of Life After Church. Brian has lived with his wife and 6 children in intentional community in the same inner city neighborhood for 20 years, embodying the ideas that drive him.
Table of Contents
PART ONE: BRAVE IDEAS
1. Our Origin, blind vision
I begin by telling the story of our frustrations and the reasons for wanting to start something completely different. I will tell the story of our time living as a team in the developing world and how that shaped not only us, but the church form we would create.
2. The Dream, something better.
I try to articulate the desire we have to experience the church in its most potent form and I make the argument that we are at our best when we are remembering the poor. Inside us all there is the dream for not only our own significance but to be a part of something extraordinary.
3. The Framework, missionary bias.
Using the Pareto principle, I explain our inversion of emphasis from the neophyte to the most missional people in a community; that is, building the church by serving the 20%.
4. The Foundation, mad science.
I make a case for the need to revive calling as a primary catalyst for the church. Calling releases and also then demands that both leadership and structures find their way to empowerment.
5. The Results, what we now know.
Working with the committed minority has allowed us to reach the margins. This chapter will outline some of the metrics and cultural dynamics which we consider success and which has inspired us make new goals that include transformation and blue ocean engagement.
PART TWO: BRAVE PEOPLE
6. The Culture, the people are everything.
I will attempt to describe the indescribable community that is formed when everyone is engaged in heroic mission. Everything feels a little different when it is colored by the fellowship of the truly committed. Elusive virtues like humility, reconciliation, multi-ethnicity and grace become the norm in this kind of environment.
7. The Surprises, good and bad.
The journey has been full of surprises. In this chapter I will open up about the ways I actually underestimated the culture and some of the lessons we have learned from our miscalculations and outright failures.
8. The Manifesto, the guts and glue.
I want to outline not only the values themselves, but the vitality of a community that is defined and freed by shared values and not aligned and confined by a singular vision.
PART THREE: BRAVE STRUCTURES
9. Governance, two structure paradox.
Because structure and governance are rarely mentioned in discussions about new church forms (and yet in my view, one third of the equation) I want to outline our unique two structure model. I will explain how we are a bifurcated organization that is both decentralized and centralized. I will outline our two structure strategy and the corresponding governance models for each.
10. Platform, everything is free.
In marketing terms, the UNDERGROUND is a house of brands as opposed to a branded house. Our intention is to empower autonomy and self-definition among the ministries in our network. We have built this kind of community because we offer all our services for free and ask for virtually nothing in return. This chapter will make a case for our no strings attached approach and describe a platform build on the idea of everything being free.
11. Money, how we pay for everything.
Because of our commitment to do things for free, our commitment to missionaries (who often have no money) and our commitment to the poor, our approach to money is especially emblematic. Still we are able to fund the enterprise and use money with radical effect because of our strategy for how to raise and use it. This chapter will outline that strategy and how, for us, money is a sacred trust and so is how we use it.
12. Leadership, apostolic servants.
This chapter will explain our approach to leadership which inverts the organizational leaders to servants and elevates the field missionaries are elders. I will outline our ironic emphasis on ordination and titles for empowered leaders who do mission and our de-emphasis of organizational leadership. However, in both cases there are certain no