Fresh Expression of Church Empowers Everyday Missionaries
By Carl Stagner
They don’t have their own building, and they won’t be renting a school or a movie theater as they grow. They have no ambition to get big; in fact, they’ll multiply before they ever attract a crowd. They’re not looking to raise up associate pastors who will open a second campus. If they had a website, you wouldn’t find service times listed. The Foundry, based in Columbia City, Indiana, is not your typical church plant. It’s a “fresh expression” of church, and it’s designed to train disciples to use their spiritual gifts to make more disciples—at home, at work, and at play.
In December 2017, Amanda Daniel, then associate pastor of Warsaw Church of God, in Warsaw, Indiana, accepted the call on her life to become a church planter. By no means was it an easy step; her husband was running for local re-election and their only child was beginning kindergarten. The prospects of church planting looked daunting, but looking back, Amanda Daniel sees God’s provision every step of the way.
“From the inside looking out from church (any church),” Amanda explains. “I was saddened that so many ‘nones’ (no relationship with Jesus or church) and ‘dones’ (decided to be done with church and/or Jesus) existed. Whitley County has 62 percent unaffiliated with religion or Jesus. And we are in the Bible Belt!”
Tom Planck, of Healthy Growing Churches, also partners with Indiana Ministries of the Church of God to accelerate church multiplication efforts in the state. His guidance has been instrumental in bringing The Foundry to life, and explains that “there are some thought leaders in the church today that estimate significant percentages of any given community in the US will never attend or be reached by the primary expression of the church we see today. If we are going to reach this growing group, it will take outside-the-box approaches.” He points to The Foundry as a perfect example.
The Foundry, which connotates raw material being melted down for a useful purpose, is not a church facility. Instead, it’s a network of “missional communities” which meet and gather around a common interest, hobby, or involvement. Participants gather in homes and focus on the essentials of worship, community, and mission. In such settings, they invite guests to be a part of what are called “discipleship groups,” where community and learning combine to train Christians to use and hone their spiritual gifts for the kingdom. Out of these casual but intentional environments, new leaders are developed and empowered to be everyday missionaries in every setting as they go about everyday life. Some of these leaders will accept the call to start new missional communities and expand the network that is The Foundry.
A few key differences distinguish The Foundry’s model from common church planting strategies. Pastor Amanda explains, “We won’t be buying or renting a building and a worship service is not our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is to disciple everyday Christians to be on mission in their everyday lives. I’m not looking to raise up pastoral leadership that multiplies into another campus with another worship service. We are working to raise up the priesthood of all believers to make disciples in their houses, neighborhoods, and work places.”
The benefits of this strategy are numerous, and they go beyond simply reaching people who would not be reached by the prevailing models of multiplication. “We are also giving leadership back to the body of Christ based on spiritual gifts instead of pastoral call,” Amanda explains. “And we want to build the assembly of God (the church) around anything that people in our community are already passionate about. One missional community might go work out together and train for races, but the gospel spreads there, too.”
It might be hunting, fishing, or video games. It might be painting, crocheting, or reading. Neighbors involved in similar groups or stages of life might bring together a missionary community, such as those involved in foster care. These mini-churches will “gather in ways that bring worship, community, and mission to that assembly of people with the goal to always multiply through one another’s callings and passions,” Amanda continues.
In each setting, success is measured not by total attendance, but by sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. It’s measured by people “funneling” from missional communities to discipleship groups. It’s measured by new faces and new leadership. The Foundry’s goal is to not simply to transfer knowledge about Jesus to a listening audience; it’s to provide a hands-on, practical training experience to grow disciples who can’t help but multiply.
“In this model,” Pastor Amanda explains, “People are meeting Jesus and beginning a relationship with him, and then introducing other people to Jesus! Since this expression of church is so new to me, my culture, and our tribe, it has been an experiment. Each gathering is an experiment, each party, each coaching session I have with leaders—all of it is responding to the Holy Spirit’s leading because none of it is scripted. I am dependent on God to show us what is next, and each leader is responsible to find out from God what is next. There is a lot that is unknown…but in each unknown God has provided, and it is so exciting to not be the one in control!”
Some sixty-plus people are connected in some way to The Foundry since its official launch at the beginning of the year. These people don’t come because of an advertising splash online, a mass mailing, or big signs on the wall of a movie theater. Word is spread by personal invitation, being served directly through one of The Foundry’s community outreach events, or being a neighbor of one of the homes where missional communities and discipleship groups are taking place. “We believe that, before they step through our doors, we have already done the missionary work in their culture to help them trust us and want some form of participation,” Amanda explains. “Sometimes that is just inviting them to a potluck meal or a game of laser tag. Sometimes they are ready for one of our nights of worship where we read Scripture and discuss together. More often than other times, they want to help us serve our community and, while being alongside us, they ask questions about joining us for worship. We have a Facebook page, which people share to their own pages, but that is our only ‘marketing.’”
Doug Talley, state pastor for Indiana Ministries, is very encouraged by what God has been doing in and through The Foundry. “What excites me about The Foundry is that Pastor Amanda Daniel has taken a risk to do something new and different to reach people who don’t know Christ and disciple them,” he reflects. “The Message version of John 1:14 says, ‘The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.’ Of course, this refers to the incarnation of Jesus. But it also describes the missional community that The Foundry is creating. There are a lot of awesome things going across Indiana. I love the freshness of how The Foundry is, like our mission statement says, ‘accelerating healthy multiplication to transform Indiana and beyond.’”
Learn more about Indiana Ministries at www.indianaministries.org. Learn more about Healthy Growing Churches at www.healthygrowingchurches.com. Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.jesusisthesubject.org.