The fifth and final way I want to discuss that the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is through relaunching as a network of DMM churches. When I say final way, I only mean it’s the final way I’m going to discuss. I’m sure there are many other ways the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved, but these are the 5 that I’ve come to understand. I’ll trust the Holy Spirit to guide you and your church into exactly what he wants you to do.
Back to relaunch.
Honestly, one year ago, I probably wouldn’t have even included “relaunch” in the list. Not because it didn’t belong in the list but because I wouldn’t have even known it existed until I got to witness what the Holy Spirit has done in our church over the last six months. It’s been remarkable!
So, instead of telling you what a relaunch might look like in general terms, let me just share our story over the past six months of what it could look like in specific terms.
When we announced the 1,000,000 in 10 years vision at our 10 Year Anniversary, all I could really even envision was “transition.” We were a large church and we were transitioning to a new God-sized vision that would leverage everything at our church to reach the million.
Around that time, we at least had the thought that if the “leverage” experiment went well and people responded to the vision, we might not even have a “traditional” church gathering one day. If we were casting vision for people to be sent out to plant churches, and if we were casting vision not to invite your friends to church but to start a DG with their oikos, and if we were casting vision for the other great churches in town that people could join if they didn’t sense the Lord leading them to join us on this new journey, we suspected that a day could come when not many people were left. But again, at the time, we had thousands of people coming, so we just filed that thought in the back of our minds & went on with the “transition.” We didn’t take it too seriously or even discuss it at any length.
And what happened in the two years following our “transition” is that people caught the vision we were casting!
Hundreds went through our DMM training and some of those began to form DMM churches that met in their homes (much like the 50+ church planters we sent out at the 10 Year Anniversary). And those that we sent out began to pursue the lost, not by inviting them to Experience Life, but by inviting them and their family/friends to read and apply the Bible together in their home. The hope was that these Discovery Groups would commit their lives to Christ together & that many churches would be planted.
On the other hand, many others in our church prayed about it & sensed the Lord leading them to join other great churches in town. And by the way, we didn’t consider this a loss. I’m friends with many of the pastors in our city & I would gladly entrust the wonderful people God had sent to us to any of these incredible churches! We encouraged people in that direction if that was how the Holy Spirit was leading them. We totally understood that this vision may not be one that the Lord leads everyone to pursue with us. And we were ok with that. We thought that, like Gideon, we may have “too many” with us and the Lord might want our number to be smaller so he gets more glory in the “victory” he would bring (Gideon started with 32,000 warriors & the Lord only wanted him to go to battle with 300 so they wouldn’t be tempted to boast that they saved themselves by their own strength — Judges 7:1-7). We knew we were just responsible to do what the Lord had told us to do & we wanted to encourage others to do the same.
As a result of this “transition,” we were getting to both directly & indirectly “send” many people out from our church to the next assignment God had for them.
In the years following the 10 Year Anniversary, we began to realize that a day could come soon where our “leveraged” elephant ministries wouldn’t be needed anymore. They had accomplished the purpose for which they were leveraged. Namely, raising up workers to join us in making disciples & planting churches to reach the million!
We realized about 1.5 years into the “transition” that the Lord was, unbeknownst to us, actually using the “transition” to help us “relaunch” Experience Life as a network of DMM churches across the country. Like I said before, this wasn’t really on our radar at the beginning. While we thought it could be a possibility one day, it wasn’t something we were aiming for our setting goals toward. And we thought “one day” might be 10 or 20 years from now or more. We were just trying to follow the Spirit’s leading in making a “transition” and trusting that he’d then show us the next steps to take. And he did!
In the month before our 12 Year Anniversary, almost 2 years into the transition, our leadership met and we believed the Lord had made it clear that he wanted us to “relaunch” soon. In order to do that well, we wanted to once again reorient the way we did our weekend gathering to give everyone the opportunity to come along. Instead of sitting in rows of chairs, we put out tables & had a staff member sit at each table. And for 6 weeks, during the Sunday morning gathering, we modeled DMM church and cast vision for being sent out together to form DMM churches across our city. Those 6 weeks were so powerful!
We were determined that if the Lord was leading us to “relaunch,” we were going to make sure everyone had the opportunity to understand the vision, ask questions, take time to pray, and join us for the journey if that’s how the Spirit led.
After those 6 weeks, we “officially” relaunched into DMM churches across our city and ceased having gatherings at our Downtown Campus on Sunday mornings. There were still many of us “gathering,” just not in a church building. Rather, we were gathering across our city in many homes. And these DMM churches weren’t just “gathering” in the traditional sense to sing some songs and hear a sermon. Their “gatherings” were more like missionary strategy meetings where they were praying, devoting themselves to Scripture, and strategically planning how to take the gospel to parts of our city who need it most with the hope of seeing reproducing churches planted there.
One 16 year old girl that attends one of these DMM churches was asked by someone to describe the DMM church meeting. I loved her response. She said, “It’s a lot like the Book of Acts. Just go read that and you’ll understand.” Ha! There’s a lot of truth in that, though, from my own experience of being involved!
**Note: In addition to gathering in homes, all of our DMM churches gather together at our Downtown Campus for prayer, testimony and training on a regular basis to encourage one another and celebrate what God is doing across our city, although not weekly and not on Sundays.
During those 6 weeks of preparation for “relaunch” meetings, we were also encouraging our staff to begin forming or joining DMM churches. Many of them had not been in one yet because we still had gatherings on the weekends & most of the DMM churches met on Sunday mornings.
As our staff got involved in different DMM churches, you should’ve heard their reactions:
“How have I missed this all of my life?”
“How could I ever do anything else?”
“How could we ever go back?”
“How do we help everyone experience this?”
I think I can speak for most people who are involved in DMM churches by saying it’s one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever been a part of. In so many ways it’s what I’ve always longed for in church. Not that I didn’t love our church, I did! It’s just what I pictured when I read the New Testament but felt like I’d never experienced. It’s what I heard about overseas but never truly understood.
On an average week, just my DMM church alone will talk to almost as many lost people as our megachurch would receive as first-time guests on a weekend in our heyday. And there’s just 35 of us (including kids). It’s amazing what a small group of sold out, on fire disciple-makers can do when they strategize together & go out among the lost to make disciples & plant churches. I’ll write more in the future about all that happens in a DMM church meeting.
After forming my own DMM church and experiencing it for a few months now, I can say I better understand why the Holy Spirit would’ve used “transition” to lead us to “relaunch.” I can see now how a church like Experience Life could make more disciples and plant more churches by focusing on training, coaching, and resourcing a network of many churches rather than trying to build one big megachurch of our own (Ephesians 4:11-12). And that’s what we’re up to now. We’ve started churches not only in Lubbock now but in other West Texas cities, other cities throughout Texas, and even other cities around our country.
In a sense, this has come full circle for me. When we were first selecting the name for our church 12 years ago, we chose not to call it Experience Life Church, but rather, just Experience Life. The reason I gave for that at the time, although I probably didn’t fully understand it until now, is that we didn’t want to be just one church but a “movement” of thousands of churches aiming to help people experience all God has for them in this life. Now, 12 years later, we are beginning to see the realization of that dream. Thank you, Jesus.
In the 2 years since our transition, we’ve had the privilege of training hundreds of pastors from across the country (and even in other countries). And many of these pastors sense the Spirit of the Lord leading their church on a similar journey and many are joining us! We could’ve never dreamed this up! People’s hunger to experience (and obey) what they’re reading in the New Testament is growing! So many feel convicted, like us, that it’s time to take the Great Commission seriously and not just talk about it, but get out and do it!
We wrote the book, From Megachurch to Multiplication, mainly to explain to people in our city what the Holy Spirit has led our church to do since we knew there would be a lot of questions. We had no idea we would sell as many as we have and that people from all over the world would be reading it & contacting us for training & coaching.
It’s so exciting having many churches join us for the journey. It affirms so much of what the Holy Spirit has told us to do because he appears to be speaking to many other churches in the same way.
Like I said before, we didn’t “choose” this path to “relaunch.” In fact, we didn’t really know it existed. We just tried our best to be faithful with the “transition” and the Lord used the transition to help us “relaunch” as a network of DMM churches across the country just 2 years later. And looking back, of the 12 years that Experience Life has existed, I really believe these last 2 have been the most exciting and impactful!
I hope our story will inspire you to be led by the Spirit because he will take you to better places than anything you could’ve dreamed up. And you may not even have a framework for where he’ll take you now. But if you follow him, he’ll show you just what to do. And chances are, he’ll do infinitely more than you could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). Just like he continues to do with us.
If there’s anything we can do to help you or your church with the journey you’re on, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be glad to help!
As promised, here’s the link to the Google Doc I mentioned in the first post that simply describes each of the ways we discussed here. It is still a work in progress.