Q & A Contents
The Vision of the KC Underground
What is the Kansas City Underground?
The Kansas City Underground is an innovative, yet ancient form of church pursuing Jesus’ mission in Kansas City. We exist to inspire, engage, connect, equip and empower ordinary people to flourish in their souls and families. That flourishing will spill over into mission where these ordinary people live, work, learn, and play. We seek to create a network of reproducing disciples, leaders, micro-churches, and congregations that will saturate Kansas City with the good news of justice and beauty. Our name is a tribute to the underground church of history, characterized by sacrificial faith in the face of danger, oppression, and even death. We honor that memory and hope to represent that church in our city and around the world.
The BLESS Rhythms
What is a missionary?
An ordinary man or woman who live on mission where they live, work, learn, and play. They live to BLESS their neighborhood or network. God’s strategy for reaching and restoring the world is simply this: to have His people bless the world. In our view, the mission to go and make disciples of all the nations, known as the Great Commission, (Matt 28:18-20) finds its roots in the original mission to go and be a blessing to others (Gen 12:1-3). This means that blessing others and helping people come to know, love and serve Jesus are linked together.
We were made to BLESS.
We have studied the life of Jesus and the early church to discover the ways they blessed others. Blessing others isn’t about a program; it’s about living out five simple missionary rhythms that Jesus and the early church embodied for us. Blessing isn’t about adding something; it’s about infusing everyday activities we’re already doing with new gospel intentionality. These rhythms are simple enough for a five-year-old to understand, but robust enough to create missionaries in every neighborhood in Kansas City. The goal is for these rhythms to becoming like breathing, naturally and easily. What are these rhythms?
B - Begin in Prayer
L - Listen and Engage
E - Eat
S - Serve
S - Story
For each rhythm, we learn how to breathe in and breathe out.
What are the BLESS rhythms?
I have been hoping to start something in my home (i.e. Bible study, etc.) for a few years but don’t know how to start. Will I receive help with this?
Yes! We have created two experiences to assist people with becoming a missionary in their neighborhood and networks of relationships. One experience is the BLESS Learning Community where you will learn how to Begin in prayer, Listen, Eat, Serve, and Share your story with those around you. Read more about BLESS under “What is a missionary?”
The other experience is the Simple Church Learning Community. This is a twelve-month experience that equips you step by step in planting a simple form of church, an extended spiritual family living on mission together, where you live, work, study, or play.
Anyone leading a Simple Church or micro church will receive ongoing training, coaching, and mentoring. We want you to be a successful missionary in your God given context and will work side by side with you as you live out your masterpiece mission.
The end goal of the KC Underground, however, is not to start a traditional Bible study or small group. We are equipping people to make disciples who make disciples, who then form extended spiritual families with a clear calling to a particular neighborhood or network of people. We call this a micro-church or simple church. Of course Bible study and other activities that small groups practice are incorporated in the life of that micro-church, but the Bible Study is not the end goal, just one of many necessary tools needed to make disciples and form simple churches. Furthermore, we will equip people to lead Bible Studies in a way where it can grow into a micro-church. See below for an explanation of discipleship courses.
What is the rhythm of meetings?
In the current context of “Church” this question probably refers to the Sunday gathering or a small group experience. The Underground experience will be different, but we can make a few parallels that might be helpful.
Core Group Gathering: This gathering will happen for those that commit to being a part of the core and pursue the expectations of the core group. We will meet weekly for the first 8 - 9 months. We’re exploring Sunday afternoons from 4p-5:30p.
Hub: Once a hub launches, it will meet weekly. Times and locations for each Hub will be contextualized to the micro-churches that collect to form that Hub. Due to the traditional neighborhoods and rhythms of West Shawnee where we will launch our first hub, we will likely still make Sundays a priority for our weekly gatherings.
Micro-Churches: We encourage our micro-churches to meet with a rhythm of 2 – 2 – 2. Two up, two out, and two in. Twice a month we encourage the micro-church to meet for an “up” gathering. A time to eat a meal together, pray and study Scripture and plan together for mission. Twice a month, we encourage them to meet for an “out” gathering. This is a time to serve one another in intentional ways and to throw parties which invite more people to the table who might be exploring next steps in community or with Jesus. And twice a month we encourage them to connect back "in" to the Hub in some meaningful way. So, we might encourage the micro-church to attend a weekend gathering together for example. We suggest this rhythm because we know that for some micro-expressions, Sunday mornings might be the perfect time to meet in a neighborhood rather than leaving their neighborhood. We will work with every micro-expression to discover the healthiest rhythms.
Disciple-making: In the more informal level of disciple-making, there is no regular meeting rhythm. It’s an all-of-life experience where learning happens “as you go.” On the formal end of the disciple-making spectrum, environments like Followers Made and Leaders Made meet weekly for a set amount of time, while environments like BLESS and Simple Church meet bi-weekly.
All of these environments are important to the KC Underground so we felt like it would be best to explain why the answer must be this detailed.
What is a Micro-Church or Simple Church?
A spiritual extended family, led by ordinary people, living in everyday gospel community, owning the mission of Jesus in a neighborhood or network. These “families” become a communal witness to their neighborhood or network, they make the Kingdom tangible, and disciple one another. This is what the Bible calls a “household of faith.” Most of the church plants around the world are, faith communities of about 10-50 people. That spiritual extended family makes disciples and reproduces other small faith communities. That is the form of church that is predominant in the New Testament as well. Most of what people think of church - buildings, programs, and professional clergy - are extra-biblical.
What is the difference between a small group and a micro-church/simple church?
While micro-churches are made up of small groups of people, they are not what most think of today as "small groups" in a church setting. You see, most people who have hung around a church in the past 15 years know the typical small group as this: Christians getting together to study the Bible and fellowship because largely they can't get that at the Sunday gathering. When defined in this way, small group is seen as a supplement. These groups are typically made up of people who travel from different parts of the city to gather and grow and then go back to their respective parts of the city. Small groups primarily function as a way of assimilating people into the organized church.
Micro-churches are the equipping of the saints for the good works of mission every day, all week long in a particular neighborhood or network. They live on mission together all the time. Then these micro-churches come together in "hubs" to celebrate what God is doing, worship together, and get equipped to go back out and be the church in their neighborhood or network. Small groups typically connect around content once a week and return to their mostly separate social networks. Micro-churches become a spiritual extended family building a rhythm of life together around a mission to a particular neighborhood or network.
How do you move towards ethnic and socio-economic diversity when it’s limited to your own neighborhood?
Great question! First of all, more and more neighborhoods are becoming increasingly diverse. If we pay close attention, we’ll find that we have people of different ethnicities and worldviews living very close by. Our neighborhood (Rob and Michelle Wegner) has multiple ethnicities and worldviews within just a couple blocks (and the same has been proven in neighborhoods within our leadership circle). Many micro-churches will find themselves growing in diversity just by reaching their own neighbors in their own neighborhood or network. We long for growing diversity in the KC Underground. It will be a natural outcome of our vision and strategy.
One of the primary themes of the Bible is God’s intent for cultural diversity to flourish and fill the earth. Each culture is a prism that uniquely reflects the glory of God, like one piece of colored glass in a stained glass window, made up of thousands of different colors. All of those cultures, while maintaining their uniqueness alongside the others, can also be unified under the Lordship of Jesus. Together they reveal a fuller, more beautiful representation of the Kingdom, which will include people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev 19). That, according to Scriptures, is one of the most compelling apologetics for the Gospel. Jesus brings people together as family who would otherwise not have anything to do with each other. Only Jesus is big enough to bring us all together.
I’ve (Rob) written an ebook, The G3 Map, about this very topic. You’ll see hundreds of passages of Scripture in a new light if you read this ebook. In fact, you may find yourself reading the Bible in a whole new way. This issue is so important to the future of the KC Underground, I hope every single person in the Core Group reads it!
Secondly, on the issue of diversity, when you begin a micro-church it will often be comprised of folks from a similar demographic. But as a simple church matures and begins to have effective parties, for example, that community begins to expand beyond the current neighborhood or network. Often, this is where the diversity within a simple church begins to grow. Furthermore, as multiple neighborhoods or networks are represented within one micro-church, that micro-church maintains its focus on their context, but also encourages others from other neighborhoods or networks to join them with the hope that they will eventually reproduce disciples in those contexts, creating a new micro-church there.
What is the next step for someone who wants to be involved but is not ready to lead a micro-church alone?
First of all, no one should ever lead a micro-church alone. Ever. Jesus sent people in pairs at a minimum, so do we. We equip every micro-church to have a missional team as the “immediate family” inside of the larger “extended family” of that simple church. That missional team is made up of people with different gifts and strengths that compliment one another. Secondly, while someone is growing and developing, they can join an already existing micro-church, while they continue to take steps in their neighborhood or network. We’re here to help equip everyone at every stage on their journey.
To begin with, we want to recognize that so many other families are experiencing the same feelings of what you might call a “lack of margin.” Part of the equipping we want to do with individuals and families in the KC Underground is learning how to:
live with healthy rhythms
see all of life as mission
live fully a fully integrated life
When we examine the entire Biblical narrative, we see the importance of healthy rhythms: days, months, seasons, etc. When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that he lived with very intentional rhythms. He often got away to be alone. He taught his disciples to do the same after periods of intense ministry. There were seasons where he was with the crowds, times where it was just the 12 apostles, and other times when it was just Jesus and his three closest friends. It takes a commitment to learn to say “yes” to where Jesus is already at work, and join him there, and to say “no” to the things that clutter up our life. We want to help you do that well.
Culture and even Christian culture has led us to believe that there is a sacred/secular divide, that Jesus must be relegated to Sundays or a Tuesday night Bible study. We don’t think that dichotomy exists. We believe that Jesus has sent you to the corner of culture of sphere of society that he wants you to influence for the Kingdom. So whether it’s the cycling club, neighborhood taco night, the Scout troop or the ball fields, we want to equip you to BLESS those spaces.
As we learn to live with healthy rhythms (“yes to the best, no to the rest”), and see all of life as mission, we can laser in on the mission Jesus has called us to and begin to live a fully integrated life where we are always on mission. It shifts our paradigms. Rather than adding another event to our life, we find ways to be on mission right where we are, where we’ve already been sent to be a missionary.
That’s the beauty of the question actually. Within the question we see this person’s passion aligning with a potential to serve a network of people. Further, there is a recognition to meet these parents right where they are, in the middle of practice, everyday life. There’s no addition here, only recognizing an opportunity to be on mission in the middle of where Jesus has already sent them.
It doesn’t always fit the prevailing paradigms of church that pull us out of everyday life and provide the conveniences of a building and childcare (and we’re not saying those are bad things!). Choosing this pathway can certainly be more daunting. But it’s taking the Gospel of the Kingdom to a neighborhood or network of relationships where there are people that will not engage the church as we’ve known it.
We hope that by working through this question/example, that many more of you can see how we want to equip you to find your masterpiece mission, equip you, and encourage you for the people to whom Jesus has already sent you.
What is a hub?
As micro-churches multiply in neighborhoods and networks, they begin to gather in a collective congregation. These fiercely local congregations will provide eldership, facilities, weekend gatherings, children’s ministry, and equipping for all the micro-churches. That collective congregation of micro-churches is called a Hub. We will keep the Hubs lightweight and low-maintenance, led mostly by bi-vocational leaders, with a high value of reproducing other Hubs versus growing large in one location. These Hubs will form networks for shared mission in the city.
A Hub will feel familiar to people who currently attend church. Church is an identity, not an activity. Church is something you are, not something you attend. Yet, the church does and must gather. The scattered micro-churches will gather together as one congregation at the Hub. The Hub exists as an equipping center for the micro-church leaders, Kingdom activists, and disciples in the KC Underground.
Long-term, our Hubs will have facilities that will function as a co-working space where micro-church leaders can get help with everything from start-up to on-going coaching, financial services, help with media, from office space to tools like computers and copiers, etc. The Hubs will also offer weekend services that will be accompanied by high quality children’s ministry, teaching, corporate worship, and other aspects that are necessary for the gathering church experience. The Hub gatherings will be passionate, interactive, experiential, grounded in Scripture, and will tap all the riches of the various traditions of the historic church. The Hub gatherings will ebb and flow seasonally to take advantage of mission in the neighborhood (for example, less weekly gatherings during the summer, when there is greater opportunity for mission in the neighborhood).
Hubs are formed in one of two ways.
Plant: As a minimum of four or five simple churches are planted in a neighborhood or network, they begin to gather as a larger congregation. Hub’s function as a network of disciples, leaders, and simple churches.
Partnership: We want to partner with those churches who are committed to disciple multiplication at every level. In other words, hubs can also be established churches that function to gather simple churches for greater works than any simple expression could accomplish on their own. Hubs represent the temple courts where the early church would have gathered for equipping from apostolic leaders and to be inspired and reminded of the greater movement.
Hubs will scale in size based on the leadership capacity of the Hub leadership, but the top priority will be on multiplying and sending. The KC Underground will purposely “cap” the size of congregations, to promote the reproduction of new hubs. Through brutally honest assessment, The KC Underground will set that “cap” level at each hub based on the gifting and calling of the leadership team of that hub. Overall, the goal would be to reproduce 10 Hubs of 200 versus 1 Hub of 2000, so we can facilitate the lower cost, lighter maintenance, highly contextualized, and co-vocational approach.
Within a network of four to five hubs, we can envision one hub being larger, in the 500-1,000 range, in order to help support the smaller hubs. The top priority is reproducing disciples, simple churches and small to mid-sized congregations, instead of continued addition growth at every location. Each Hub will have, at minimum one resident (Hub Leaders/Church Planter in training), per Hub, per year.
Where can I find this pattern of houses and hubs in the Bible?
When and where will the first hub launch? Are there plans for other hubs?
Hub #1 West Shawnee
The first Hub will launch in West Shawnee in Fall of 2019! Currently, a Core Group is forming that will comprise the network of disciples and micro-churches that will make up this Hub.
Hub #2 & #3: Overland Park and Piper
The West Shawnee Hub will be planted with Hub Leaders from both Piper and Overland Park. We anticipate launching these couples with their own core teams to plant new Hubs in those two locations in 2020 and 2021. We also have Hub Leaders and core group people with a call to Lawrence.
Each Hub will Launch a New Hub every two years. Partnership with the Church of KC to Plant Independent New Churches every year.
Our goal is to raise up new Hub leaders, who are brought into a residency at an existing Hub for training and mentoring. Every Hub will always have a resident Hub Leader in training with the goal of launching a new Hub from each Hub location every two years. We will also partner with the NewThing network in Kansas City to plant independent churches. Our aim: help plant one independent church plant each year through that NewThing partnership with other Kansas City churches.
10 New Church Plants in Kansas City, 500 New Church Plants Internationally.
Five Hubs and Five Independent Church Plants for a total of 10 Churches Planted in Kansas City. We will continue to train planters and plant churches in South Africa, Thailand, Laos, and India with a five-year goal of planting 500 new churches in those locations.
21,000 Simple Churches (Houses) integrating with 1,000 Churches (Hubs).
Gospel Saturation in Kansas City. Our vision also includes sparking city-wide and region-wide movements in America and around the world.
The Core Team
What is the Core Team? When will we meet? What will we do?
The KC Underground Core Team, will be the very heart, backbone, and muscle of the KC Underground.
We offer information meetings, open houses, gatherings and more information as we invite you to join the KC Underground Core Team.
Jesus had a core group, made up of a few circles: The Three (Mat 17:1, Mk 5:37, Mk 9:2, Mk 14:33), The Twelve (Mk 3:13-19) and The Seventy Two (Lk 10). Just like Jesus personally invited his disciples to join him in an underground movement that has changed the world, He is inviting some of you to follow Him now, by joining another such movement He is leading here in Kansas City through the KC Underground.
The Core Team will be the people, like those early disciples, who say, “Yes. Jesus is calling me and I must follow.” These are folks who have taken the time to gather the information, ask questions, have deliberated, counted the cost, prayed and discerned, “I am called by Jesus to join the KC Underground.” You don’t have to be “qualified” to answer the call. Think of that rag-tag bunch Jesus invited into his core group! Jesus qualifies those who answer the call by developing them. That is our commitment, as well. The Leadership Circle of the KC Underground will be radically committed to the personal development of every single person in the Core Team. These folks, the ones called to the KC Underground Core Team, will be the very heart, backbone, and muscle of the KC Underground. The Core Team forms February 2019.
The Core Team 9-month journey will
Set the DNA of the KC Underground.
Be equipped to care for their own souls and the souls of those they are closest too.
Be discipled and also equipped to become a disciple who can make disciples.
Be trained to be a great neighbor and a good servant missionary where they live, work, learn or play.
Be enfolded into a micro-church that is already living in community on mission or be empowered to join others in the Core Group to plant a new micro-church.
Prepare for the launch of our first Hub in West Shawnee by building the teams needed for that Hub to thrive.
The Core Team’s Sub-teams
The Start-Up Coaching Team will help launch new micro-churches and Kingdom initiatives in the KC Underground.
The Calling Discovery Team will help people discover and get deployed into their personal calling.
The Coaching Team will help optimize the impact of micro-churches and Kingdom initiatives that are already launched.
The Media Team will help the micro-churches and kingdom initiatives with media support (video, logos, website, etc.) and support the media needs of the gathered church.
The Financial Services Team will maintain financial systems, accounting and financial integrity for the KC Underground.
The Worship Team that will both create worship experiences for the gathered church in weekend services and empower micro-churches to meaningfully engage worship as a community in homes, workplaces and third spaces.
The Children’s Ministry Team that will create both high-quality experiences for children during weekend services and empower micro-churches to meaningfully engage children in those settings.
The First Impressions Team that will help create a culture of hospitality when the church gathers at the Hub.
The KC Underground Kids
What about kids and teens in the Core Group gathering?
During our Core Team season from January through Fall 2019, we will ensure high quality children’s ministry is happening during those gatherings. We want teenagers to be a part of the Core Team, equipped alongside the adults to be disciple-makers and missionaries. We think they will lead the way!
Does Disciples Made Play a role in the KC Underground?
Disciples Made is a suite of disciple-making experiences that help people become disciples who make disciples who can plant micro-churches that plant micro-churches. Here’s a brief summary of the formative experiences.
Followers Made: A six-month experience to discover character and calling, equipping you to be a disciple and make disciples.
Leaders Made: A twelve-month experience to discover servant leadership and what it means to lead a community on mission, while optimizing your character and calling.
BLESS Learning Community: A three-month experience to develop a lifestyle around five incarnational rhythms that equip you to live as a missionary where you live, work, study, shop, and play.
Simple Church Learning Community: A twelve-month experience that equips you step by step in planting a simple form of church, an extended spiritual family living on mission together, where you live, work, study, or play.
GPS (Gifts Passion Story): An assessment to help you discover and then be deployed in your personal calling.
These disciple-making experiences happen in small cohorts with a high level of coaching, support, and accountability. Each cycle raises up new coaches and new cohort leaders. These experiences have been “on the ground” for many years here in Kansas City and have been road-tested and refined with each cycle. For example, more than 3000 people have experienced deep transformation through Followers Made, all of that happening by disciples making disciples, life on life. These experiences will be part and parcel for the KC Underground. We are radically committed to people development and disciple-making as job one. We believe that happens best in smaller groups with high levels of coaching over long periods of time. Jesus discipled the Twelve for 3 ½ years. It will take a similar amount of time for someone to walk through these experiences. By God’ grace, through the generosity of Blue Rivet, a web and app development company in Kansas City, all of these experiences will be facilitated in groups via an app and web platform that is elegant and simple to use. The app will be available for use in January 2019. This will allow for infinite reproduction and scalability of these experiences in the KC Underground.
The KC Underground is designed to be a movement of multiplying disciples, multiplying leaders, multiplying simple churches (houses), multiplying congregations (hubs) and multiplying networks. When we are multiplying disciples, leaders, simple churches, congregations, and networks, to the fourth generation (2 Tim 2:2) on more than one strand, an unstoppable multiplication movement will be in motion. By the power of the Spirit and the Gospel, that is our aim.
At each of the five “points” of reproduction, there will be equipping environments to facilitate transformation and reproduction at that level, with an eye always toward the starting point of disciples reproducing disciples.
5 points of reproduction
Disciples: GPS, Followers Made, and the BLESS Learning Community.
Leaders: GPS, Leaders Made, and the BLESS Learning Community.
Simple Churches: Simple Church Learning Community.
Hubs: Residencies. Every Hub will have at least one planter in residency per year.
Networks: Engagement and the Formation of Multiple Networks in our city and our partnership with NewThing.
Is there a particular discipleship curriculum involved for the micro-churches?
When most people ask about a curriculum, they are inquiring about small group materials that provide videos, teaching content, or discussion questions for a small group that typically lasts for six weeks or more. In our experience, most small groups are content-driven with very little mission in their neighborhood or network and very little life together as a community. What usually holds these groups together is the content of the curriculum.
Will small group curriculum be the glue for the micro-churches? No. What holds a micro-church together is a shared mission in a particular neighborhood or network, a shared life together shaped by BLESS rhythms, and a commitment to live like the family of God, no matter what. Of course, those extended spiritual families will study the Bible together. In various seasons, the leaders of a given micro-church may find it helpful to use a more spontaneous form of Bible study called Discovery Bible Studies. Learn more about Discovery Bible Studies here. A Discovery Bible Study is a simple, yet incredibly effective way for people to discover first-hand what the Bible says about God, about people, and what it means to follow Jesus. They’re facilitation-led (so no teaching), obedience-focused (immediately apply what is discovered), and a non-threatening way to start disciple-making groups from the ground-up. In other seasons, they may find it more helpful to engage a more formal approach to Bible Study that involves curriculum. Those decisions will be made by the micro-church leaders in consultation with their coach. The decision on the type of Bible study and the content of the study will be driven by mission – Who are we sent to? - and context – Where are they at on their spiritual journey? What will help them take their next step toward Jesus? Will The KC Underground provide a full range of immersive discipleship tools, Bible studies, and disciple-making courses to help disciples and micro-churches to be disciples that make disciples, that live like missionaries, who plant churches in their neighborhoods and networks? YES!! The KC Underground will provide a full range of immersive discipleship resources that range from informal to formal. In our opinion, in the Western context, people and churches need both simple, highly organic, informal tools and resources and more formalized, programmatic initiatives to advance disciple-making movements.
People need a simple disciple-making “language” they can become fluent in. That’s the language they use in everyday happenings as they live like missionaries in their neighborhood or network. Either they know how to speak the language of the gospel and disciple-making in that moment or they don’t. That’s where the informal tools and resources come in. We will argue that the best disciple-making happens this way in the life of the houses, as we rub off on other people in the nitty-gritty of daily life, living in close proximity with in our extended spiritual family. They learn to understand this new language and begin to speak it themselves. Participants will need “language classes” that are more programmatic, often connected with a Hub. That’s were formal experience come in. Many within our culture still see the organized church, and the “credentialed” discipleship experiences offered as a meaningful part of engaging spiritual growth.
At the informal end of the continuum, we have a set of 10 disciple-making tools that are each built around a symbol and an essential way in which one must follow Jesus. To see examples of these tools, you can download & watch these videos. (Sphere of Influence, Prayer Circles, & Story Diamond) For each of these informal tools, we have also developed Discovery Bible Studies. These tools teach us to disciple ourselves and those closest to us. They fit well in spontaneous conversations in everyday life. They can become a year-long series of Bible Studies for a micro-church, an annual liturgy of sorts.
At the formal end of the continuum, as mentioned, in an early question, “Does Disciples Made play a role in the KC Underground?” we also have a suite of more formal disciple-making experiences that total more than a transformative three-year journey. Those experiences will be part and parcel to the KC Underground as they will give us the same disciple-making language and toolbox as a people. To learn more about those formal experiences, scroll to that question.
Is the KC Underground part of a national organization?
Yes, we are related to three international organizations: The Underground Network, NewThing and Stadia.
The Underground Network: The KC Underground is a sister movement of the Tampa Underground. In the summer of 2006, about 50 people left their traditional churches to form seven house-based church groups in the city of Tampa. That initial group has now multiplied into more than 200 micro-churches in Tampa and has birthed 12 sister movements in a global network, known as the Underground Network. The movements in the global Underground Network agree to shared distinctives, service platforms, and values.
NewThing: We are also connected to the NewThing Network, which exists to be a catalyst of movements of reproducing churches. NewThing helps church leaders launch and lead local networks of churches that collaborate to plant and multiply even more healthy churches. Our diverse global network is aligned around four core values:
RELATIONSHIPS: The foundation of NewThing is relationships. We believe we can do more together than we could ever do on our own. Churches intentionally form local networks to pursue the mission of Jesus together.
REPRODUCING: The heart of NewThing is reproducing. We are committed to helping churches reproduce at every level: Disciples, Leaders, Micro-churches, Organized Churches, and Networks.
RESOURCES: NewThing is committed to providing valuable resources to equip and empower churches to thrive and reproduce.
RESIDENCY: NewThing fuels the mission of reproducing churches by training future church planters through our Leadership Residency.
Stadia: Stadia is a global church planting organization committed to planting churches that intentionally care for children. Stadia was formed in 2003 as an organization committed to bringing people and churches together to plant healthy churches that transform the lives of children, now and for eternity. Stadia has a passionate desire to see a world where every child will experience the love of Jesus Christ through the local church, so they rally to the call, “We won't stop until Every Child Has a Church." Stadia walks with new church plants to help them flourish, succeed, and reproduce through the initial stages of planting. Stadia is generously providing all their services to us for free and even putting investment capital into the KC Underground!
What is the organizational structure of leadership in the KC Underground? How do they handle staff, budget, property, equipment, liability insurance, etc.?
The KC Underground is an attempt to find a solution to the puzzle of church governance in our time. Church governance is a topic that many feel a sense of distaste about because we have seen churches “play politics.” The fallout from that has caused great pain and spiritual abuse in way too many lives. Therefore, many have come to believe that church government is either some kind of necessary evil that usually keeps the church from being what she is supposed to be, or something that should be done away with all together.
The Lord Jesus, however, modeled governance. Indeed, Jesus had twelve and within the twelve, he had an inner circle of three, all of whom He trained to be servants and commissioned to govern the church. The early church continued in His example, setting up circles of servant leaders, called elders and deacons, who were charged to govern the church in the way of Jesus. Jesus alone is the Head of the church, yet leadership and governance is one of the ways through which Jesus expresses His Headship of the church.
It is “the how” of governance that needs to be critiqued, not the idea of governance itself. A “no governance” model is naive. One might not like the referees call but pull the referees and rules from the game and the sport loses its meaning.
In the KC Underground, we are patterning our governance around the model developed in the Tampa Underground. The following is edited summary of the Chapter 10, Governance, in the book Underground Church, by Brian Sanders, with our additional thoughts mixed into the flow.
We underestimate the importance of structure for the work of governance in the church – whether for good or ill. For instance, structures that are implicitly biased toward the operation of the church as a Sunday-morning gathering (as the economic model and also the core service provided) will need governance that is geared toward that bias. That structure values gathered expressions of the church in services over missionary engagement and micro-churches in the neighborhoods. Many church leaders to balance that approach with neighborhood outreach strategies, but the structures create a natural momentum toward the weekend services as the priority. There are upsides to this approach. Large organized churches can rally thousands under a banner where the potential collection of money and human resources is staggering. Many large-scale, high impact ministries can only happen with this kind of marshalling of resources. A large organized church can launch initiatives that care for thousands of orphans in many nations or plant thousands of churches around the world. Yet, there are pitfalls with the centralized model. The consolidation of resources also equals a consolidation of power. Hierarchies tend to grow around consolidated power. Hierarchies stifle mission. Stages and platforms tend to turn a few people into a de facto priesthood. A hidden caste system emerges which ends up strangling the scope and strength of the church’s great resource, its people discovering their unique calling and living on mission where they live, work, learn and play.
It is hard to conceive of the church reaching the whole world without also seeing it freed and released from stifling hierarchies. The idea of church as a decentralized network is not just gaining traction; it is the church’s origin story, it is the brightest expression of the church in our time, and it seems to be the future. We are speeding toward a future where our most powerful faith communities will be understood through the lens of network of micro-churches, instead of institutions defined by buildings, centralized programs and professional staff. Networks will outnumber hierarchies. The question is not whether we will be networked in the coming years, it’s how we will be networked and who will set the terms. As always, when in the midst of a tectonic cultural change, the church has to decide if it will resist the change (and be left on the outside of influencing its expression) or if it will engage the change in order to preach the coming kingdom in the new milieu.
Unfortunately, on the other hand, the church in simple, decentralized micro-form can attract unhealthy leaders and typically lacks the governance required to deal with them. Heresy, demagoguery, spiritual abuse, mismanagement of money, and the like are all threats to micro-church movements. And of course, there are the always-looming limitations of small communities. When they are at their best, they carry the raw DNA of the kingdom, but when they are not networked together by some real and effective governance, even if they have great potential, they will not last. How then can we capture the empowered entrepreneurial spirit of organic movements while also maintaining healthy oversight and accountability?
Is the church a human hierarchy or a viral movement? Should the prevailing metaphor for the church and its growth be architecture or movement? We have talked about two dominant structures—centralized and decentralized—with all their variations, but what about an alternative to “structure”? What if it’s not either-or, but both-and?
In the KC Underground, we will attempt to solve the problem by creating two structures under the same umbrella. We see our work as governing one of two distinct structures with different governing principles. This allows us to put human leadership in its place. Our two-structure approach allows us to centralize those systems that best serve the church from the center, while keeping the practice and identity of the church at large as a decentralized reality. It gives us the advantage of mobilizing strong, lean, nimble apostolic leadership, while simultaneously operating a congregational leadership that gives the Holy Spirit preeminence. We are not trying to create a hybrid approach through one entity; rather, we are accepting the value of both kinds of structures by embracing them both and organizing ourselves into two complementary, yet distinct, entities. That division of labor then allows us to look at the biblical model of church and the practical realities of mission and allocate our work into one of these two silos: the network of churches on one side and the mission organization on the other.
In turn, we build a firewall between these two structures, so that the one cannot control the other. They operate separate of each other; they are equal in power but not in priority. The church is the real goal, and the agency side exists to serve that living system. The hierarchy that exists in the UNDERGROUND exists in subservience to the organic system. The organization exists to serve (and not control) the movement. But it must exist. It is both needed and biblical, but only inasmuch as it submits to the advancement of the mission and the kingdom of God, which is the church empowered and released. This is a graphic that represents our model of governance.
The UNDERGROUND community then is a collaboration between two structurally complementary entities. On the one hand, the UNDERGROUND exists as an organic network of autonomous micro-churches, each united by their agreement to a set of values (the Manifesto) and to a set of standards of character and conduct (eldership and the leadership covenant). On the other hand, the KC Underground is a tightly organized mission agency whose sole purpose is to provide a service platform for micro-churches to be planted, equipped, supported, and stimulated to grow and thrive.
In the KC Underground, “movement side” be governed by the elders, who will organize around Houses and Hubs. The Governing elders (in the graphic above) will be called Hub Leaders, providing oversight and service to a specific Hub. In the KC Underground, the Body of Elders (in the graphic above) will be called the House Elders, those who have demonstrated eldership qualities through leading a micro-church. Hub Elders will emerge from the House Elders through demonstrated leadership like reproducing disciples, leaders and micro-churches.
As stated earlier, on the “Movement” side, our goal is to keep Hubs lightweight and low-maintenance, using rented spaces when possible, minimal staff, and thee only centralized program at the hub is children’s ministry. The highest value is on the decentralized movement of missionaries and micro-churches. In addition, our goal is not to simply grow by addition at one Hub, but to multiply Hubs.
The “Agency” side will exist to serve the movement. In Tampa, there are currently 20 full and part time staff on the Agency side, serving 200 micro-churches in Tampa. They own a facility, which is a co-working space, available free of charge to all micro church leaders, where all the departments offer their services to those leaders all week long. In addition, they have a weekly gathering – what we call a “Hub gathering”- for all the micro-church leaders and any anyone else who might be interested in joining them for worship, prayer and teaching.