postmodern church planters is like hiking the mountains of British
Columbia--painful, scary, exhilarating, exciting, fulfilling! Each
day, you're bound to say "Whew!", "Wow!",
"What?", "Whatever!", "Whoah!", "Wohoo!"
all at once.
Two years ago, I made a commitment to
take a journey with a group of young, multicultural, Christian leaders.
The group became WavesChurch.
I'm also involved in mentoring the leaders of two newly planted,
second-generation Asian churches. Lately, the core group of another
international church development also invited me to be involved in their
leadership enhancement process.
I was planning to answer a few questions
about church planting in the context of postmodernism. In the
process, I ended up learning more questions. Here they are:
Can you be a mentor-leader without
hanging on to your positional authority?
Where do you base your leadership? Is it on the relationships of
authority or on the authority of relationships?
The Waves Church Planting Team asked me
to be their mentor. Jeff Wong was the Lead Pastor, Wayne Wong was
the Director of Cell Multiplication, John Tazumi was the Director of Youth
Connections and I was the Director of Leadership Development. I was
their mentor but a team member as well.
After a few months, Jeff Wong had to
reconfigure his ministry and tentmaking activities. He had to give
up the position of the Lead Pastor so Wayne filled in. I still
remained as mentor and team member.
Later, Wayne told me that he could
not continue to serve as the Lead Pastor. I had to assume the
responsibility until one of the pastors I was mentoring was ready.
All these changes happened in one year.
And we're still evolving.
All my training in modern leadership and
management told me that these changes would result in confusion and
instability. We would lose our credibility.
Well, it's not true in our case.
Our core group of volunteers became more
cohesive. Our Sunday morning core group became a real community.
Our team enjoyed a level of trust from our people which I haven't
experienced before. Our giving and attendance eventually increased.
Soon, I learned that, in a postmodern
context, the mentor's leadership is not based on the relationships
of authority but on the authority of relationships.
Will this enhance community life?
I was trained to search for excellence. My management professor
taught me to practice kai zen -- the Japanese concept of continuous
improvement. Responsible leadership means being prepared and being
thorough. All bases ought to be covered. Excellence must be
applied in mentorship.
I drafted a church planting ministry plan
for my team. It was based on a thorough theological study of church
planting and church growth. I did a careful demographic study of our
city and included quotes of big church plants and church growth names as
my authorities. The Waves Church Planting Ministry Plan was
presented to them in a way which I thought was very outstanding
There was a problem though. I
didn't see the excitement I was expecting. They didn't seem to be
excited by the numerical growth projections I calculated using MSExcel.
Something must be wrong with the plan!
One of them broke the silence: "Dann,
how would this enhance our community life?"
"What?" I answered defensively.
"Let's deal with that later. We have an urgent task to do based
on Christ's Great Commission and I'm leading you to do our best for the
"But Dann," he gently replied,
"church planting is all about building a biblical community.
This can only be done by being a genuine biblical community. Being
determines doing; doing determines having.
We cannot have a successful church plant and accomplish our church
growth goals unless we become a genuine biblical community."
After six months of being a part
of a biblical community, they eventually asked me about the Ministry Plan.
I guess I had my 'kai zen' about
community life and leadership.
Is this real?
Remember what Morpheus said in that hit movie The Matrix?
"What is real? How do
you define real? If you’re
talking about your senses, what you feel, taste, smell, or see, then all
you’re talking about are electrical signals interpreted by your
This new generation of church planters
demand that I teach them real stuff. They know what's mere image;
they know what's authentic.
I remember handing out a marketing plan
during one of our strategic meetings. I borrowed a decent board room
from one of my friends. I gave my team copies of a color-coded
analysis of our city's demographics. We were organized, we were set
for a smooth take off and based on my past experiences, such preparation
would have produced results. I thought that excellent results would
come from managing input-output mechanics.
So I thought.
In a very polite way, they ignored my
hard work. They tried to hide their skepticism. Finally one of
them told me, "Dann, you must have really worked on this technique
and it must have really worked in your past ministries. But it's
just a technique."
I was devastated. I found out that
my expertise really didn't impress them. Later they expressed that
they wanted to experience what the Word of God said about church planting
-- the power of God to change lives, the power of God to transform our
city, the power of God to bring the community leaders of Richmond to
recognize Jesus' Lordship.
As a mentor, I learned that ultimate
reality is really the interplay of the physical and the spiritual realms,
over which Jesus Christ reigns supreme.
When they observed that I was learning to
live the biblical, supernatural reality beyond mere doctrinal statements,
they began appreciating my color-coded demographic analysis.
Will you do it yourself?
The topic was Developing
Effective Outreach Teams. I was speaking before a graduating
class at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia.
After the session, Wayne Wong, a graduate student who was writing his
thesis, approached me and started asking me questions: "Do you
actually do all those things you talked about? Can I come with you?
Can I be a part of your outreach team? Will you show me the
Wayne accompanied me in my evangelistic
activities at Richmond Centre Mall. We were praying for, and
relating with, Mr. Kam Pong, a respected Tai Chi teacher among the Asian
community in Richmond.
In February 1st, 2000, after almost two
years, Mr. Kam Pong committed his life to Jesus Christ. He went to WavesChurch
the following Sunday. He said: "Waves was used by God to lead
me to commit my life to Jesus Christ." Wayne was there with Mr.
Kam Pong for almost two years.
Wayne didn't finish my seminar. He
just asked me to 'show him the ropes'. He is now the Chief Operating
Officer of WavesChurch and he leads his own outreach team at the
University of British Columbia campus.
Postmodern leaders respect mentors who
just don't talk about outreach and evangelism but are doing it themselves.
I guess it's his turn to lead a seminar.
Can I trust you? Pete
Penner is a talented youth leader. I believe being a pastor-teacher
is one of his spiritual gifts. Unlike most of his fellow Mennonite
friends, he did not study in a Bible college. He's an engineer.
He reflects deeply on the Word of God--both in his private reflections and
in his public exposition. The Lord used him in his College &
Career Sunday school class as the size grew from 7 to 35 in a year.
He really loved and cared for his flock.
The church felt that the group needed a
full time pastor. They soon found a seminary graduate. The new
pastor did what he thought was best; he did all the ministries himself.
In the end, Pete ended up giving up his pastoral ministry because he
was not a clergy. He became disillusioned for a year hopping
from one church to another.
The Lord gave him a new ministry to start
a new congregation as a daughter church of an international church.
He was later commissioned by the church as a "tentmaking church
planter." Being a teachable servant, Pete asked the church if
they would help him develop his leadership skills.
That's when the church board invited me
to mentor Pete. He learned that I was one of those
"clergy-type, former religious bureaucrat kind of guys."
Winning his trust was an uphill battle. Later, he believed that I
meant it when I kept saying: "Pastoral ministry is not a monopoly of
After a couple of months and many
one-on-one fellowship times over Caramel Machiattos and Café
Lattés, he finally said: "Can you show
me how to plant a church?"
Why are you mentoring me? Jack
is a multi-gifted person. He is an artist, musician, counsellor,
excellent public speaker, and a doctoral student of theology. I was
trying hard to get him to work for our denomination as a church planter.
So I started sharing our organization's vision statement. I invested
more time with him. He was about to graduate in a few months.
During one of our lunch fellowships, he
looked straight into my eyes and gently asked: "Am I one of your
That question stunned me.
"It's my job," I said. "Part of my responsibility is
to recruit and train church planters for global ministries."
"Dann," Jack responded, "I
want to mentor and be mentored unselfishly. I don't want to be
recruited into a denominational mission program. I want to plunge
into building biblical communities. I want to advance the Kingdom of
God, not a denominational flag."
Jack and I are still having our monthly
mentorship sessions. I'm no longer a denominational recruiter.
He's now serving as a church planter -- with another mission agency.
Are you really open to new ideas?
WavesChurch used to meet
in a hotel. Nothing seemed to be happening. Our people didn't
seem to be excited enough to invite their friends. I was thinking of
renting a classroom in a nearby Baptist church.
Our church currently meets in a tea
house. It was Jeff's idea.
Jeff Wong is a creative songwriter,
artist, musician and church leader. We have been working together at
WavesChurch for two years. He now serves as our Chief
Information Officer. During one of our prayer sessions, Jeff shared
with me his idea of having a worship service in a tea house.
I agreed. I have been praying for a
place of worship where everybody would feel at home.
But Jeff continued: "We'll serve tea
while we worship. We'll have food and drinks while we're listening
to BiComm." (BiComm is Biblical Communication, our term
Our Coaching Team (pastoral staff)
invested a couple of weeks debating about the issue. We had to
review our biblical theology of worship, our theology of food and drinks,
etc. We were forced to delineate what is culturally appropriate and
inappropriate; what is biblically accurate and inaccurate. The
debate could have been exploited by Satan to divide us but God's mercy and
grace led us to victory.
We decided to try Jeff's idea. (To
learn more about this experiment, click
As a result of this idea, our people
started inviting their unchurched friends. Our attendance doubled in
two months. There are however people who still find it difficult to
worship in a café setting but they continue to
attend being very supportive of our leadership. We continue to
listen to them and to include them in our kai zen process.
While writing this article, Jeff phoned
me. He said that we were already using 80% of our seating capacity
at the tea house. He suggested we should start looking for another
tea house for our second congregation. (This is one of those 'church
growth' stuff he used to dislike.) I said he should lead our team in
Will you take risks with me? John
Tazumi moved from New Jersey to Vancouver to join our team. He used
to work as a missionary to GenX and Y with a well-established, US-based
mission organization. He knew that Waves was just a newly organized
postmodern church planting initiative. He knew that Waves did not
have money or any asset at all. He knew that we would be operating
from our laptops/palmtops and cellular phones because we had no money to
rent office space.
While praying for this planned move, he
met Edith. They became good friends. Transcending the
limitations of time and space, they developed a relationship that led to
John moved to Vancouver believing that
this was God's leading. For him, joining "a group like
Waves that was embryonic, inter-generational, and reaching the culture,
was my dream." He took a risky step of faith.
His first three months with us at Waves
was an uphill battle. The support from his American partners did not
arrive as expected. It took sometime to process the transfer of
money from US to Canada. During those times, John basically lived
with six hundred Canadian dollars per month (some American tourists call
our money 'Canadian Pesos'). Vancouver, BC, is one of the cities
with the highest cost of living in North America.
In the midst of all these financial
challenges and risks, the Lord showed his faithfulness to John. The
Lord provided him a decent car which he purchased in cash. He and
Edith had a wonderful, memorable wedding where God was really exalted and
glorified, and those of us who attended were tremendously blessed.
The story of risk and 'stepping out'
should have ended there.
But our church planting journey reached a
stage when I was required to serve as full time pastor, while preparing
the next Lead Pastor. Along with other personal reasons, I had to
resign from my position as a missions director of a Canadian denomination.
I had to raise my support. Who would support an unknown church
planting initiative like Waves?
As of this writing, the Lord has been
faithful in providing the needs of my family.
These questions prompted me to dig deeper into the Word of God about
leadership and mentorship. Here are the mentorship
characteristics I want to have:
Heart of a servant.
This is the foundation of biblical leadership (Mt. 20:20-28). All
mentor-leaders will rise and fall based on servanthood. Biblical
servanthood is motivated by Christ's sacrificial love. The Lord
Jesus Christ rejects position power as the basis of leadership in the
Kingdom of God.
Soul of a teacher.
God taught us about Himself through the life and work of the Lord Jesus
Christ (Jn. 1:1-14). His very existence served as the object lesson
of servant leadership (Jn. 13:1-17). Jesus Christ is the Great
Mind of a manager.
Stewardship or management is crucial to our obedience to the Great
Commission and to the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Jesus
Christ taught His disciples how to strategize their ministry (Mt. 10), how
to manage their God-given resources (Mt. 25:14-20), and commissioned His
followers that global evangelization is best accomplished through
"making disciples," that is, through trained and committed
Strength of a leader.
The strength of Christ's leadership is His humility (Phil. 2:1-11).
It is through life-giving servanthood and humility that we will experience
effectiveness in leadership (Phil. 4:9).
Are these biblical leadership
characteristics relevant to the questions of postmodern mentorship?
Of course. A friend sent me this
email: "By transforming themselves into learning leaders,
managerial mentors can serve as stabilizing forces in times of chaotic
change, offering a fresh sense of shared purpose and direction for the
organization and an unparalleled learning opportunity for the
Let's climb the mountains of
postmodern mentorship. It's painful. It's exhilarating!
It's fulfilling! It's fun!
Dann is a pastor/church
planter/artist/leadership consultant/sci-fi enthusiast. During the
past two years, he has been mentoring the pastoral team of a postmodern
church plant called Waves.
Dann is married to Joji,
his college sweetheart. They have three GenX children, Jojie Alethea,
L'nielle Joy, and Daniel Byron. They live in Richmond, British