Today Norton and I had the opportunity to meet with Hugh Halter, pastor with the Adullam church network and author of The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community. I knew a little bit about Adullam, primarily from reading their website (here’s a link to learn more) and talking to pastors here in Denver. Essentially Adullam is a network of home gatherings (“villages”) that meet around the city of Denver. They gather twice a month for corporate worship gatherings, but their main emphasis is leading people to a missional lifestyle. Now “missional” is quite the buzz word in church circles these days, but honestly Hugh is the first guy I’ve met who’s not talking about it – he’s doing it. He’s created a network of people committed to living interdependently through villages and reaching people far from God.
Now, there’s a lot that could be said about this missional movement and the things that Hugh and Adullam have done to live out this commitment, and I’d be glad to talk to you about that stuff if you’d like to know more – just email me. But the main purpose of this post is to share why my meeting with Hugh today rocked my world. Here’s a list of things Hugh shared that has my head spinning:
- Hugh lived in Portland, OR before coming to Denver. I always thought Portland was one of the hardest places to plant churches in America. Hugh says Denver is harder. As Hugh put it, “People move here to play, not to get committed to something.”
- In the last several years 60-80 church plants have come to Denver. 3-4 have really stuck around. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, have been poured in by denominations that has resulted in very little church growth.
- In Hugh’s opinion, “Denver is purely a missionary environment now.” As such really reaching “sojourners” (non-believers, people far from God, de-churched people) requires a different approach than the typical path of creating programs to draw people in.
- Hugh advocates a three-phase approach to developing a missional community of faith
- Engage culture (get a job, meet your neighbors, join community organizations, get involved in service, get involved at your kids’ school).
- Form community – Start intentional communities that meet in homes (“clusters of friends throughout the city in which community, communion, and mission unfold as a way of life”).
- Structure a congregation – Communities meeting in homes will not sustain themselves. They need to be connected to something larger. They need to gather. This requires structure and organization…but not too much.
- Hugh strongly challenged us to get jobs and spend as little as we can for as long as we can. Most church plants in Denver have failed, because they just run out of support.
- Hugh challenged us to raise the bar on leadership. “Spend your time with pagans and leaders…and no one else.”
- Part of the problem of the church today is that we are mired in a culture of consumerism. “The only way to remove consumerism is to remove what people consume.” In Hugh’s opinion this means the church needs to provide less programs that people just consume.
- There is very little tolerance for believers who come to Adullam and aren’t fully committed to this way of life. There is a six-month process you have to go through before you can start your own village (home gathering).
- We asked him about how they deal with kids. They don’t focus much on kids until they’re elementary age, and then they integrate them into the villages. I’m still unclear how this plays out.
- He laid out what he asserted as the healthy apostolic function of a church. The church should always be sending and should always be gathering. If the church focuses too much on sending (in Hugh’s model, this is creating these missional “village” communities) they spread too thin and momentum won’t be sustained. If the church focuses too much on gathering, the church loses its ability to reach the culture.
- The last thing Hugh gave us before our time ended was this:
“Focus on making disciples, and a church will follow. Don’t worry about building a church – leave that up to God.”
This meeting just happened a few hours ago, so I’m still processing it. Writing this post was part of that for me. I’m not sure how this affects what we do or how we can use the wisdom and experience Hugh shared from his time in Denver, but today’s meeting has given me plenty to think about.