I often get asked the question, “What kind of church is Emmaus?”. That is a tricky question to answer. Is the person asking what denomination we are? We are Southern Baptist. Are they asking “What style is your church?”. Um, we are simple, liturgical, biblical. Are they asking what ministry philosophy we hold to? We would say that we are gospel-centered. The list seems endless.
One of the ways in which a church can identify itself is through whom the church partners with. For example, we are part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) because we greatly value cooperation in the advancement of the gospel and no one collectively cooperates through giving for the training, sending and supporting of pastors and missionaries like the SBC. The SBC has invested money and energy and prayer in our church plant and so many others. We love our SBC tribe deeply and are thankful to be part of the SBC.
In 2016 I and Emmaus were presented with an opportunity to join a network that would help us in 3 primary areas:
- Cultural Identity
- Missional Practice
- Relational Support
Acts 29 (A29) is a diverse global family of church planting churches.
A29 is not a denomination, and joining A29 did not forfeit our cooperation and affiliation as an SBC church. Rather, A29 helps us to more intentionally clarify who we are and what we are about while also providing the opportunity to practice what we say we are about. Here are 3 ways this is true.
When I speak of cultural identity as a church, I am not referring to the culture of the community our church is in. That is a whole other type of cultural identity. I am referring to the theological, missiological and philosophical culture of our church. Allow me to share two examples of this:
- A29 churches agree to a theological statement that helps us to more clearly communicate what we believe about several theological issues.
- A29 churches are church planting churches, meaning they give themselves intentionally and strategically to see more churches planted. This is not only done through giving of money to the network, but by every A29 church actively participating in the planting of churches. By joining A29 we are making a statement that a central part of our identity is that we will actively plant churches.
When we say we are an A29 church, we are saying something about our theology, our missiology and our philosophy; we are making a statement about our cultural identity.
A29 is a network of church planting churches. As I mentioned above, part of being in this network is that we agree to actively pursue and support the planting of other churches, not only through giving of finances, but through our physical and spiritual partnership.
Emmaus is partnered with an A29 church plant in Northern Italy to help strengthen it and plant others from it. In addition to our partnership with this church, other A29 churches have financially and physically supported us as we have planted. The partnership goes both ways. Through A29 we are able to partner with other church plants around the globe for the advancement of the gospel
Emmaus has a pastoral residency that allows us to journey with men for 2.5 years as they prepare to go pastor or plant churches. Not all of these men will pastor churches that are part of A29, but many will and A29 will be a resource for helping find partners for their churches as they plant and pastor.
Lastly, A29 has the best process that I have found for assessing, strengthening and coaching pastors and planters. By partnering with A29, we have access to this assessment for our residents who are being trained to pastor and plant. This helps us be assured that our guys are called, gifted and prepared to plant churches.
While planting my first church, most of those watching from the outside were simply caught up in the quick growth of our church and assumed that everything was ok because of our quick growth. But an A29 pastor put his arm around me and asked if I was ok. He proceeded to become a mentor and a coach through many seasons and decisions as a pastor and to this day is still a mentor as well as the pastor of one of our churches supporting churches.
That is not the only story like this; whenever I have a question, a struggle, or advice I need, the men that I go to are mostly A29 pastors. They have invested in me, poured into me, prayed with me, and walked with me.
In addition to these friendships, I went through an extensive assessment process to join A29, in which a room of pastors pressed on me, asked me terribly difficult questions, dug into my personal life, and more. All of this was so that they could encourage and exhort me as a man and pastor. I’ve seldom felt as loved as I did in that “gospel interrogation”.
A29 is a family of brotherhood and pastoring is a job of isolation. As a pastor, I am surrounded by people, yet often feel all alone. The relational support of A29 has been life-giving to me, and I believe it’ll be life-giving to all of our pastors.
How did we become A29?
My wife and I went through a long process of questions, tests and assignments for several months. These questions covered a wide range of topics including; our salvation, marriage, intimacy, parenting, finances, theology, ecclesiology, pastoral care, calling, personal health (mentally, physically, and spiritually), church life and more.
After completing this phase we had a phone interview and then were invited to an assessment week in Dallas where we spent 2 days with pastors, being assessed in pretty much everything we did. We were put into social settings, I preached, we had case studies to work through while everyone watched and listened to our reasoning and decisions, and we sat in a room of assessors as I described above and were lovingly pressed on to see if we were holistically healthy.
A few weeks after the assessment week, we received a report of our assessment that had several conditions we needed to address and work through. These were things they saw at our assessment time that they thought could be hindrances to our ministry or dangers to ourselves and others. After several months of working through these conditions, we submitted a report of our progress and were granted membership in Acts 29.
Why Did I Write This?
My goal in sharing this process with you, Emmaus, is so that you would know that your pastors and their families actively submit ourselves to the oversight, rebuking, and coaching of others to ensure that we are healthy leaders of our church. In addition, we seek to join Emmaus with organizations and people that will help us to clarify our cultural identity, practice our mission, and strengthen our leaders through relational support. Acts 29 is a network that takes this process seriously and therefore it is a network that we are excited to join.
*Coming Soon: Why We are Southern Baptist and Why We Joined the SendNetwork at www.emmausblog.com