For around 50 years our church quietly survived in the middle of town, attracting little notice, in a tiny building that looked much like the houses surrounding it. In the 90's, a young pastor realized that the church couldn't possibly become a missional presence in Chesterton without major changes. In the course of two years, we sold the building, changed our name, and moved our music style forward several decades. Then, that pastor stepped out so that a church planter could lead a church restart.
After a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, Duneland Community Church finally stabilized under the leadership of Greg Arthur. After helping the church heal and root in a permanent place (an old warehouse that we are still remodeling), Greg led the church through a visioning process to discern who God was calling us to become. We felt called to be a church that cultivates God's wholeness in a broken world through deep discipleship and radically missional living. However, we also quickly realized that we didn't know how to do that and had never been in a church that had done that effectively.
Eventually we joined up with a 2 year learning community with 3DM (www.3dmovements.com), and they coached us through reinventing our church from the ground up. We stripped down nearly all of our programs and small groups and poured our energy into discipling a team of core leaders to actually live like Jesus. After a year or two, that team began to disciple others. After a few more years, we began to experiment with missional communities - bringing the Church outside the walls of the church to people who would never come to a traditional building. We have tolerated flat growth in traditional measures, expecting that most of our growth will come through our missional communities - slowly at first and then exponentially later. After five years, we are beginning to see the first fruits of this long-term investment, and we are excited to see how God leads in the days ahead. (Edison Churches, due out in 2017 with NPH, will tell the full story of Duneland Community Church and 9 other innovative churches.)
CPL: You moved from a 9 year pastorate in South Korea to take this post. What was so intriguing about this assignment?
We loved our church in Korea. It was on the campus of Korea Nazarene University (the largest Nazarene university in the world). We usually had people from at least 10 different countries in our community, so it was a beautiful mix of people from all over the world. We got to be flexible and creative in our practices and learn loads about what it means to work as a multicultural team.
However, as I started reading more and more about post-modernism and this tectonic shift of eras, I realized that this will eventually impact the Church around the world. I sensed that how the North American Church adapts within this shift would radically impact how the global church manages this shift which is quickly spreading around the world. I began to feel specifically led by God to be part of this conversation within the Church of the Nazarene in the US as we work on adapting faithfully in this radically changing context.
We looked for a church doing innovative missional work, and we connected with Duneland through the Nazarene Job Board. We were intrigued by their commitment to being a different kind of church for a different kind of world. Also, because I also felt God leading me to doctoral work, I wanted an associate role to free up the mental and emotional energy for study time. This year I started my first classes in a PhD in Organizational Leadership at Eastern University. It's still early, but I'm planning to study how to help the Church of the Nazarene adapt in the 21st Century by having difficult but important conversations and how safe space to do that impacts pastoral satisfaction and tenure. Duneland is very gracious in giving me time to work on this.
CPL: How has your preaching changed since moving back to the States?
In Korea, I wrote out manuscripts for every sermon because we translated them into Korean every week. (50% of our church was Korean, and some of those didn't speak English well.) But here in the US, I only write out full manuscripts when I have time or when I'm struggling with the wording. Most of the time, I preach from an outline. However, I've noticed that outlines can get me into trouble because it's much harder to regulate the length that way.
Another big difference is that in Korea I was the senior pastor, so I set the preaching schedule and topics. I chose the series and did 75-80% of the preaching. However, that pattern is flipped now. Greg sets the preaching schedule (with some input from me), but it is primarily within his thought framework. That's more of a challenge on topical series. Also, I only preach about once a month, so I feel more freedom from the weekly grind of sermon preparation. I love preaching, but now I can spend most of my time investing in our leaders (or potential leaders).
Last, my preaching has changed some simply because the context has changed. I speak faster now since I don't have to slow down for non-Native English speakers. I also use more idioms and cultural references. Simply watching more American TV and listening to the radio when I'm driving has opened up a whole new bank of sermon illustrations. My sermons in Korea were a little more scholarly, too, since some two thirds of the church had advanced degrees. On the other hand, now I'm a little freer in expressing my personality and views. As a church on the campus of a Nazarene university in a socially conservative context, my sermons indirectly represented the university, so I had to be a bit more careful what I said. Now, I can let loose a little and just be myself more when I preach. About a month ago, when I said, "I'm not a traditional pastor," the whole congregation started laughing because that was so obvious.
You and Greg Arthur (lead pastor) work together pretty seamlessly in leading worship and preaching each Sunday. Tell us more about how you do this effectively.
One thing that really helps is that we trust and respect each other deeply. We are on the same page philosophically and theologically. We never have any fears of what the other is going to say when we preach. (Well, Greg might have a few fears now and then because I can be a little unfiltered, but he turns me loose nonetheless!) Last year, we both did a lot more traveling than usual, so for maybe 30-40% of the Sundays one of us was missing, but we just carried on without missing a beat. Taking vacations or visiting family is basically stress free in terms of ministry. That freedom is really helpful for our mental health.
Maybe it's because I've been a senior pastor before, or maybe it's because we both have 15 years or so of ministry experience, but we can just roll with the service, trading out parts (announcements, communion, prayers, preaching, etc) without much friction. Now that we have a new youth pastor and a new team leading the music portion of worship, we're spending more time planning each worship service and the parts of the service. We're intentionally coaching Katie (our youth pastor) in each element of the service so that she can also move in and out of any portion of the service without friction and without losing any quality.
Weekly staff meetings help. We also try to have lunch as a pastoral staff regularly. This summer we went kayaking with the whole staff. Greg and I regularly take a few hours a week just to talk about life and how things are going in the church. I think this kind of intentional team building shows on Sunday morning. We genuinely like each other, and we know and trust each other. That comes across when we stand up and start talking and when we make transitions.
CPL: How do you both plan the preaching year? Sermon texts and emphases?
This has changed over the years. We're both creative and strategic, so when we first started working together, we spent a lot of time trying to plan out sermon series that would accomplish our goals for the church. Slowly, we began to get the sense that we were kind of getting in the way with all of our strategic planning.
We also began to face the reality that a creative series isn't going to change much in terms of how our people live. Only the slow, hard work of deep discipleship will really embed the transformation we're hoping for. Basically, we began to rethink the role of preaching and corporate worship in the life of the church.
As we see it, preaching is the heart of the worship service (together with the Eucharist, which we celebrate every Sunday), but preaching is not the heart of the church. Discipleship is the heart of the church. We could be fantastic preachers in a church with mediocre disciples, and we would totally miss the point of pastoral ministry.
The heart of discipleship is learning to hear God's voice and to respond faithfully, like Jesus did. So our worship services and our preaching in particular play a supporting role to the church's primary mission of discipleship. Corporate worship is still important. It's an empowering celebration. It forms our identity as a spiritual family on mission in this place. It gives us the opportunity both to speak to God together and to hear from God together. In our context, it also functions as a gateway into the deeper community. Preaching plays a part in all that, but only a supporting role.
Maybe the biggest growth step for us is that we've realized we can't make the church go where it needs to go through our preaching. We decided to preach through the book of Luke for an entire year, sort of following the lectionary, just to get us out of the way as sermon planners. We wanted to stop trying to make something happen and just try to help our people hear the Spirit speak through Jesus' stories. The result has been a beautiful and patient growth (in both depth of our people and number of people who call us home).
Next year, we are thinking we will probably continue this trend by spending some time in the Old Testament and maybe in an epistle (again, loosely following the lectionary). We're still talking and praying and thinking about this together. When we get some broad outlines, Greg will flesh out the details. Then, he'll take it to the worship team, which is now embracing a team-based approach to planning our worship services. We're really looking forward to seeing what they cook up for their first Advent.
Josh Broward is Associate Pastor at Duneland Community Church in Chesterton, IN. Josh joined the pastoral team in 2013 after serving 9 years as the pastor of Korea International Church of Nazarene. In addition to pastoring, Josh is a writer, professor, and consultant.