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by Brandon Hatmaker on January 29th, 2013

Teenage girls aging out of foster care and/or orphanages are known as the highest "at risk" group in our nation. It’s estimated that a teenage girl on the streets will be approached within 48 hours by a “pimp”, resulting for many in a season or even a lifetime of sex slavery (See the stats below). So much work is being put into rescue, and so little into prevention. Without prevention, the cycle continues.
This may be closer to home than you think. Not long ago I met a 30-something year old woman visiting our church. She had come with an ANC family attempting to help her transition off the streets of Austin. After a season of prostitution, drug abuse, and panhandling… she was trying to find a way to start over.
 
She was bright, well spoken, and had a hopeful look in her eye. And after spending some time with her I asked the question, “How did you get to where you are now?”
 
I’ll never forget what she said next.
 
“I was 18 years old when I aged out of foster care. And as I sat on that street corner with a small government check and a duffle bag with everything I owned inside… I thought to myself, ‘what do I do now’? And it was like I had the word ‘vulnerable’ written across my forehead. And the men out there… the men… it’s like they were predators who could just sense my vulnerability.”

We've got to do something.
 
ANC is proud to announce a new partnership with Caring Family Network and LifeWorks Austin. Together we are piloting a program called “Legacy House” in which we will be working directly with these young women in helping them finish high school (or get their diploma equivalent), transition into work and/or college, and find a sustainable living situation. Along the way, teaching them the life skills necessary to live a successful adult life. Our hope is to develop a reproducible process that can one day be utilized across the Austin area (and other cities). But for now, we are starting with a single house in south Austin just a stone’s throw from Austin New Church.
 
We are currently looking for a Female Resident Director to live in the home and work with the 1-4 girls in the program along side their caseworkers, mentors, and sponsors. This position has a lot of flexibility (we want the position to fit the person) and includes all housing and living expenses. Since the girls will either be at work, school, or training throughout the day, this position comes with some flexibility on finding a job or maintaining a current job in Austin. We would also consider offering additional income for anyone seeking to relocate here to be a part of the ministry. We are hoping to fill the position in the next 30 days.
 
Please take a moment to help us out. If you or someone you know might be a good candidate for this position, please click HERE to ask us a question or let us know of your interest (sorry, we are no longer taking applications). .
 
In the meantime, please repost this to facebook, tweet it, email it, repost on your blog… or do whatever you can to help us find the right (amazing) person to help us walk along side of these young women.

 
Statistics (Based on studies done by Orphan Hope International, Casey Family Programs, and the State of the Worlds Children Report):
  • 15,000 orphans age out of state-run institutions every year in the US:
  • 46% will not earn a high school diploma or GED
  • 98% will not earn a Bachelors Degree
  • 51% will be unemployed.
  • 30% will not have health care/insurance although they qualify for Medicaid
  • 15-20% will commit suicide within the first year.
  • 25% will have experienced homelessness within the first year.
  • 30-40% will have been arrested within the first year.
  • 84% will become parents within the first year.
  • 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become "hardened criminals".
  • 1.2 million children are trafficked every year... 70% of the victims of Human Trafficking in the US were foster kids.  
Factors proven to reduce this numbers dramatically (up to 50%)
  • Emphasize permanency: Connect youth with supportive adults & systems.
  • Develop a written transition plan.
  • Ensure completion of HS Diploma
  • Increase education support Networks to keep all avenues of education open.
  • Provide toolbox of important personal docs: Birth Certificates, ID, SS Card, etc…
  • Educate on addiction and substance abuse.
  • Increase access to Health Insurance. 

We believe we can provide each of these and much, much, more for the kids coming into this program. Simply giving a place for a girl to be encouraged (as an adult) to finish their high school degree is significant. Having someone help them transition to whatever next is rare.

by Brandon Hatmaker on January 1st, 2013

The missional church movement has been quite interesting to watch over the last few years. This is especially true as we’ve attempted over-and-over to clearly define what it actually means to be missional.
 
So here’s a quick attempt at bringing some clarity to the subject of “Missional” in the context of church. It’s not an exhaustive list… but it's some of the stuff I've learned and am still learning along the way.
 
  1. Indeed “Missional Church” should be a redundant title. Unfortunately it’s not. Bottom line, every church should seek to be missional (sent) in one form or another. How does that look? I can’t tell you because I don’t know where you live, work, and do ministry. But whatever it is, it must be culturally contextual and gospel-centered. The gospel doesn’t change. The method does. 
  2. While the word may seem faddish, the heart of “Missional” is not a “fad”. It’s not a phase, a trend, or a strategy to plant a church… if anything it’s a "strategy" to plant the Gospel. It’s not just another “seeker sensitive” effort to do church better. It’s has to be an honest attempt to model the incarnation of Christ believing that to do so means to live as a sent people. If It’s not, it’s not missional.
  3. “Missional” is not a return to a historical social gospel. Relax. The modern missional movement does not attempt to reduce the gospel to form or function. It doesn’t seek to hurry the return of Jesus by fixing things. It does not claim to be THE gospel… it claims to be a part of the gospel: One that is doctrinal, personal, AND social. One that saves, transforms, AND renews.
  4. “Missional” in its purest form is inextricably linked to biblical Discipleship. Every believer is disciple and every disciple a missionary. Both across the street and across the tracks. Let’s return to our greatest commission… it’s not one that makes converts… it’s one that challenges us to live and teach a new way of living… to make disciples who live like Jesus beyond Sunday. Only then will we embody good news.
  5. “Missional” is bigger than serving the poor. You can serve the poor all day long and still be a jerk to your neighbor. Missional is a posture with everyone you come in contact with. It’s a response to truly loving and understanding mercy. The kind of love and insight that you can’t help but extend to others. That said, serving the least is a huge part of a missional posture no matter who you are. I’ve come to believe that mission (serving the poor) is one of the greatest teachers of missional (loving your neighbor).
  6. “Missional” does not capture fully the essence of church. We are clearly called to worship God in two forms: By our lives (missional/incarnational), and by our affections, voice, and collective attention (exaltation/proclamation/etc). We’ve clearly been called to two directions of relationship: (1) Vertical and (2) Horizontal. We live our faith vertically to God and horizontally to others. This is nothing new and is laced throughout scripture: The first four of the Ten Commandments are about us in relationship with God (vertical), the last six about our relationship with one another (horizontal). The Sermon on the Mount where Jesus listed the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 (Which I believe to be a pretty good outline on a new discipleship in Jesus), Jesus lists eight things… the first four have to do with us and our attitude towards God (vertical) and the last four have to do with our attitude and response towards each other (horizontal). Finally, Jesus himself when quizzed on the greatest of all the commandments responded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (vertical) … And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself (Horizontal).”
  7. Honestly, I’m not sure I have a #7. But I feel weird about ending on 6. If I had one it’d be about the word “Missional” itself. Admittedly, it’s probably not a great word choice. Mostly because of our history with the word mission and missions. It’s a tad confusing. “Missions”, although a part of it, by itself is not “Missional” (see #5). One is something we do… the other is a posture. We’ve overused and abused the word to a fault. Unfortunately it’s become a junk-drawer word that annoys people. We’ve got missional ministries, missional efforts, missional communities, missional mailouts, missional staplers, and missional soundboards in our missional soundbooths. But I think maybe it’s a term that’s worth fighting for now that we’re learning to sift through the static. I like using it in tandem with the word Incarntional. Maybe missional is the “what” and Incarnational is the “how”. Or maybe we do what my friend Hugh Halter suggests and just use “missionaryish”. Would that help any? 

by Brandon Hatmaker on November 24th, 2012

I'm thankful to be a part of the church today. Honestly, I haven't always felt that way. Not long ago my frustrations with the church overwhelmed my hope for the church. That's not a good thing... and I've since realized it shouldn't even be a "thing" because there is ALWAYS hope for the church.

One of the things I've enjoyed observing is what's been labeled as the Modern Missional Movement. Church leaders are not only asking the questions we've avoided for years.. It seems we're finally asking the right questions and with the right motives. We're finally putting an equal amount of thought into what a church can and should be to the unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched of America. As with many "movements" of faith, initially we swung a little too far to the other side of the pendulum, but over the last few years we've begun to see a very healthy conversation and perspective on both a gathered and scattered church. One that values both proclamation and incarnation.

One of the things that has brought health to this conversation is the increased discussion about missional discipleship. Writings like Mike Breen's blog "Why the Missional Movement will Fail" have certainly helped open our eyes, and the shift towards missional as a part of making disciples has been a very healthy and necessary thing.

While there are a handful of things bringing health to this conversation, there are two blazingly obvious areas that I feel still threaten our understanding of Missional... and potentially expose a lack of understanding for what Missional means.
1. Missional is not just a modified or modernized form of Evangelism:

Missional isn't your grandpa's evangelism. I know that was a gross overstatement. Some of our "God fearing" grandpa's could teach Alan Hirsch how to live on mission. But there was a day when the majority of outreach was limited to an evening out with the deacons going door-to-door hoping for a "divine moment" to present the gospel to a stranger. This might possibly have been someone who visited the church that morning and happened to fill out a visitor card and quite often just a surprised neighbor. 
Today, "visitation" and other evangelism efforts seem to have given way to other strategies that are super creative and innovative. Pastors and church leaders have certainly learned to speak the language of our culture. But the question is: to which culture are we speaking?

Here's what I mean by that: I recently had a friend send me a pic of a facebook group called "Missional Wear". This is a very creative group that makes Christian t-shirts and accessories designed to create conversation. Honestly, their stuff is really good. Way better than the "His Pain. Your Gain." shirt I wore in college. And who wouldn't want a beer glass with a picture of Charles Spurgeon on it?

But I would argue that it's not Missional.

Missional is a posture. It's a way of life. It requires being present and making true friendships. Missional doesn't get in a hurry. Honestly, Christian t-shirts and "tracts" might actually get in the way of missional. Missional doesn't assume someone wants to talk with a total stranger about faith. In fact, Missional might be a little suspicious if they did.

Now, hear me out... first of all, their product is really awesome (Best I've seen). And there can be MUCH fruit from wearing it, owning it, and leading with it. I'm not arguing that. What I am arguing is that this type of thing is more a form of direct evangelism than it is a missional posture. It's a different thing.
Second, and I'll keep this one short... 

2) Missional is not a Child Sponsorship or international Mission Trip:

I'm writing this in the airport as I'm about to board a plane to Uganda for the next 10 days. I'm looking forward to my time on the ground there. I'll be able to see first hand what I've only heard about. I'll get to train pastors. I'll get to speak to thousands of Ugandan Christians. I'll get to visit some of the true heroes of faith who are literally pouring their lives out to the true "least of these".
But what I'm doing is not missional. It's biblical. It's necessary. And it's certainly a PART of being missional (Personally I don't believe you can truly engage culture and ignore the needs of culture). But going on a mission trip, sponsoring a child overseas,  even pouring yourselves out for a community renewal project in your city does not fully encompass the idea of Missional.

I had a conversation with a pastor not that long ago talking about taking a trip to help children displaced from their homes in Haiti. He's words: "This is gonna really be missional."

I'm not sure that it is.

I don't want to confuse the issue. In fact, the reason I've written this post is to add clarity (and maybe offer a little redirection). One of the most important things we can do is expand our understanding of what a missional posture can and should involve, not capture it or reduce it to form or function. Missions is a part of Missional. Evangelism is a part of Missional. But by themselves, too often fall short of communicating a holistic Gospel that saves, transforms, and renews.

Thoughts?

by Brandon Hatmaker on October 23rd, 2012

For a while now I have been in contact with and riding with a non-profit biker organization called the Guardians of the Children. Their vision is three fold: To (1) provide protection for victims of child abuse, (2) to provide assistance to families, and (3) increase public awareness of abuse in it’s many forms.
 
After a season as a “probationary member” of the Hill Country Chapter, I’ve recently had the honor of being “patched in” as a member and am now part of an incredible group of men forming the Austin Chapter becoming the 24th GOC chapter spread across 11 states (Picture: "Cholos" getting patched by Hill Country President "Oz" and VP "Burnout".)
 
As a part of the Austin biker community, we’ve been invited to be a part of two major associations. The first is the Confederation of Clubs and Independents. The second is the United Clubs of Austin. Each with several hundred bikers involved. Each run by an elected board of bikers representing the various clubs through out the central Texas and Austin areas. Literally every Biker club and organization of every kind is represented in this group.

Bikers certainly come with a stereotype. Just like any group of people... a typically unfair stereotype... based on a small group of people ruining it for the rest. That said, I've learned a lot from the biker community. In fact, those I've spent the most time around and now consider good friends are some of the best people I know. They've taught me a lot about unconditional acceptance and unity.

But to be honest with you, I wasn't so sure what I'd find among such a large number of patched members of varying clubs all in one room together. Here’s what I’ve found…
 
These two organizations represent an amazing group of men (and women) and the associations created are really doing what they’ve set out to do: Foster brotherhood and benefit our community in ways that not one of us can do alone.
 
Last Wednesday I sat in a meeting with 300+ bikers that announced and coordinated 8 different benefits that will be held through the holiday season. These events will assist everyone from local Children’s Shelters, to orphanages, to families in need. This, just following an announcement that one of our ‘brothers’ had a kid needing heart surgery and has to raise $10K before the procedure will be approved. A hat was passed around… literally a hat… and more than $3K was raised in a matter of 5 minutes. Then we closed the meeting with a short devotional by our chaplain... everyone stood and took off their hats... and we prayed. Meeting adjourned.
 
Now, It’d be one thing to say this was a unique meeting and that this kind of thing is rare… but it’s not. It happens every time.
 
I’ve seen grown men, presidents of their club, come before the UCOA asking for help as his wife is dying from cancer. I’ve seen clubs stand, invite, and support one another as they rallied around the wife of a member who lost his life in a recent accident. I’ve seen benefit after benefit. Gift after gift.
 
And I’ve seen a code among these men that refuse to do anything but show loyalty and respect to one another (as long as they show loyalty and respect back).
 
Many of these men are veterans, not all are without a history, present and past… but they’re rallying to try and do as much good as they know how. Like most of us, we don’t always succeed at that, but we’re learning… and more than anything… we’re trying.
 
Things aren’t always as they seem.
 
Next time someone rolls up next to you at a stoplight on their Harley, don’t reach over and lock your doors or roll up your window. Fellas, you don't have to try and look tough. Maybe just give a nod. Maybe a smile. But don’t make assumptions. Maybe he won’t do the same about you.


by Brandon Hatmaker on October 10th, 2012

Bear with me, this won't take long.

I woke up early this morning to work on a new training for an upcoming conference. I'll be speaking primarily to pastors seeking to turn their church inside out, hoping to make missionaries out of consumers.

And when I say missionaries... I mean people who aren't afraid to invite a neighbor to dinner. Someone willing to program into their lives one whole day a month to "loving" other people and another day to "bless" a stranger. Someone who can actually cross the street and ring a doorbell with a plate of cookies (or bottle of wine).

Wait. Is that what I really mean? Does that define an American missionary? Could this really be all there is to the modern Missional Movement.

The answer is no. There's more to it than that. The truth is however, that we've fallen so far from a biblical understanding of "living on mission", that we've had to reduce our instruction to the lowest form of Sentness. We do this to help baby-step people into their mission field. Because, well... because people don't really want to do this.

But I'm NOT convinced that we DON'T know how to make friends or to be a blessing (yes, that was a double negative). I'm pretty sure we know how to be nice. We know how to be a friend. We know how to not be selfish. It's just that we are.

After working on my session this morning, I read this BLOG that my wife wrote yesterday from Haiti. For some perspective, do yourself a favor and read it. Try not to start making excuses for yourself and dismiss it half way through... just read it (sorry, I should give you more credit than that). Be honest with God. Take a look at the church you see in America and the kind of "hope" we hope for. See the difference?

Is it possible we're missing the point?

If you've read my book Barefoot Church, you know I'm not a guy who just likes to deconstruct the church. I love the church. I will fight for the church. There is always hope for her. But it starts with repentance and transparency about where we truly are, not an illusion of where we think we are.

Today, I'm simply peeling back another layer of scales off my own eyes. While there are amazing leaders and churches out there who are truly teaching and living a holistic gospel and who are making disciples who live on mission, it's still the vast minority. I'm thrilled that we are in a moment of time that we're entertaining new and innovative thinking in regards to mission... but as we start leaning that way... my prayer is that we identify a true biblical mission centered on Christ and His Gospel, one that loves mercy and seeks justice, and one that doesn't settle with just being "nice".

All this to say... keep going. Keep teaching people to cross the street and cross the tracks. Encourage random acts of kindness and city-wide service projects. They are necessary steps in getting us off center and moving us towards biblical discipleship and true mission. But don't stop there. Paint a bigger picture from the beginning. Help people know their trajectory. Point them towards a Gospel that saves, a Gospel that transforms, and a Gospel that renews a very broken and desperate world in need of Good News.

by Brandon Hatmaker on August 26th, 2012

It's official... I'm going to be leading an online group this fall for leaders leading others through the Barefoot Church Primer. This will include an interactive daily blog and weekly leader video blog. Full details coming soon but we're targeting a September 24th starting date. In the meantime, let me know of your interest by listing your name, church, city, state, and any question or comment you might have in the comment section below.

Click HERE to learn more about what we'll cover in the 8 wk study by reading the "Hole in our Discipleship" BLOG.

Order Barefoot Church Primers online at a discounted rate by clicking HERE.

by Brandon Hatmaker on August 2nd, 2012

The longer I lead as a pastor, the more I realize how significant our call to make disciples really is. Jesus left us no room for misinterpretation… this is our greatest commission.

Collectively, we’ve done a great job at creating programs, studies, events, and processes for just about every angle you want to study scripture or increase in knowledge. Every age group and demographic is represented. I’m thankful for the gospel-centered pursuits of the church today. It’s just plain biblical.

The more we dig into scripture and the life of Jesus, the more we see the necessary connection between what we learn and how we live. His life painted a beautiful picture. What we’re learning is that a true Disciple proclaims the gospel in both deed & creed.

Our struggle is (see the New Testament) and has always been (see the Old Testament) our ability to move from knowledge to application. Fortunately, the surge towards missional/incarnational community has been a huge step forward for the church and has offered an appropriate place for mission to happen through community.

The argument is no longer about whether or not this is something we should be doing. The conversation is now more about HOW we do it in our current context, HOW we balance the gathering and scattering, and HOW we do it in a way that proclaims a pure image of the Gospel.
One of the greatest challenges is found in how the church responds to our culture’s call and concern for social action. We’ve been here before… and it ended poorly. A historical social gospel scares all of us, and it should, social action should never become our gospel.

But it should be a huge part of the life of a Disciple.

Church leaders, here is my proposal: As we make disciples, it is our responsibility to teach our people to serve outside the church. It’s as simple as that. We have to empower them, equip them, and release them. We have to help them understand why we’re calling them to serve others. We have to explain the reasoning, the hope, and the impact it will have on us, those we serve, and the collective posture of the church.

But most of us simply tell our people to go serve, and assume they know how.

Here’s what I’m learning: Most of our people don’t know how. Neither do most of us. The number one question I hear as I spend time with church leaders around the nation is “Where do I begin?”
So let me propose an eight-step process to begin leading your people to engage need. This is the process we use at Austin New Church. And it’s proven to be pretty productive. It’s from the study I wrote based on the book "Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture" called the “Barefoot Church Primer: An 8-week Guide to Serving through Community”. The Barefoot Church Primer is designed to walk small groups, community groups, and/or missional communities through the discovery process of understanding, discovering, and engaging in their context. In it we spend a week on each topic listed below.

Whether you are a church leader or a church attender, you can apply these to both your life and your processes. This process gives permission to learn and offers a biblical foundation before it gives a task. It intentionally walks through a discovery process that if ignored, I believe will inevitably fall in on itself. I think the best part is that it isn’t a program it’s a process. It’s up to you to figure out how to apply in your context. I hope it proves helpful to you.
  1. Embrace Social Action as a part of the Discipleship Journey: Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he told us to serve the least. The most beneficial impact will be on those serving, and the community that serves together, not just those being served. Embrace the learning process as a part of the journey. You’ll be amazed at how much we learn when we’re confronted face-to-face with poverty, brokenness, and disorder. (Barefoot Church Primer Week  1: The Journey)
  2. Settle your Gospel Theology in regards to Social Action: Go ahead and press into scripture. It holds up. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself wondering how you missed it before (you may even do some repenting). There is a very sound reason we serve and scripture is clear. Even so, your serving will eventually come into question, either you’ll self-doubt or someone else will. If you do not settle this in advance it will leave you reeling constantly. This is one of the main reasons I wrote Barefoot Church and is the entire focus of the second week of the Barefoot Church Primer. Tim Keller’s book Generous Justice is also an amazing resource. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 2: Becoming Good News)
  3. Teach/Learn about the Doctrine of Mercy: Scripture calls us to love mercy. Most of us don’t even truly understand it. Only when we fully “get” God’s mercy towards us will we begin to love it, appreciate it, and want to offer it to others. All else is either false or selfish motivation. A heart for mercy is the biblical motivation for Justice. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 3: Mercy)
  4. Teach/Learn about Biblical Justice: Biblical justice is not about making sure people get what they deserve. It’s more about the pursuit of making things the way they should be. We are to seek Justice. Understanding what this means is critical. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 4: Justice)
  5. Expose Need: Here is where the “doing” begins. One of the most critical steps of serving is to actually take a moment to see what the needs really are. At times our preconceived ideas can get in the way of really making a difference. The flip side is also true, at times we struggle to see need that is right beneath our nose. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 5: Expose)
  6. Encounter Need: While a service project or event is rarely going to bring resolution to a need, it will certainly provide a great starting point for people to begin to “taste and see” what we’re talking about. This is a necessary step for people learning to make a difference and can often create the initial tug on a heart or mind to do more. Since a service event/project is beneficial but should never be the "end all", we plan these quarterly instead of monthly. Monthly and weekly service is reserved for those engaging need through missional/incarnational community (Barefoot Church Primer Week 6: Experience).
  7. Engage Need: Create a platform or place for people to take a more personal interest in a specific need. A small group or a Missional Community is a great place for this to take place. Often we see needs at an “event” type project that can be followed up with in the coming days or weeks. Encourage and even train your people to be looking for these needs along their way. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 7: Engage)
  8. Move Beyond the Program: We hope that eventually this becomes a regular part of a disciple’s life. If you are growing, the PROGRAM of serving will eventually get in the way of a LIFE of serving. When we undertand the biblical basis for social action, as we grow, it will become an intuitive part of our daily/weekly rhythm. I hope you see that this is the end goal. Be sure not to control the process with hopes of keeping people inside the box. Plan to release people into their own mission field. (Barefoot Church Primer Week 8: The Intuitive Life)

by Brandon Hatmaker on June 5th, 2012

We need your help! Just a few days ago 23 kids were rescued from an orphanage in Haiti that was confirmed as being involved in human trafficking.

These kids have been abused and neglected. Several of the children are sick with fevers, coughs, diarrhea, malnutrition, swollen bellies, and one little boy has rat bites on his feet. The tiniest baby has fever, vomiting, diarrhea and is very skinny. They had to start an IV on him for the night. One 8-year-old weighs just 18 pounds and is the size of a 2-year-old.

As you might imagine, they have some immediate and critical needs. We have a team from Austin New Church heading to Haiti on Monday, June 11. This team will take the first batch of donated supplies to the God’s Littlest Angels (the orphanage who took in the kids). We usually buy all supplies in Haiti, but for this trip we will need the supplies to come from America due to cost and accessibility. Which means, next Tuesday we will be able to tangibly help God’s Littlest Angels and the kids.

Austin Churches – can you ask your church to donate the following THIS week? Our team next week, will take suitcases full of the following supplies:
  •     Boys and Girls Underwear 2-3T
  •     Boys and Girls Underwear Size 4
  •     Anti-fungal cream
  •     Skin Lotion
  •     Baby Oil
  •     Bath Towels
  •     Diapers for age 2 and up
  •     Wet Wipes
  •     High Protein/High Calorie Powder Drink Mix
  •     Pedialyte Powder
  •     Size 18 months to 3 T elastic shorts and T-shirts
DONATE NOW ONLINE (CLICK HERE).

If your browser is not allowing the above link to work, click HERE to go directly to the HELP ONE NOW blog and scroll down to find the "DONATE" button.

100% of online donations (minus transaction fees) will go towards purchasing food in Haiti, (rice, beans, fruit, etc) or will be sent to God’s Littlest Angels to buy more supplies. God’s Littlest Angels will make the final decision. Of course, all donations are tax-deductible.

We will work with the God’s Littlest Angels on a long-term strategy once we meet the short-term needs. For now, please do the following:
  • Pray. For real, we need God to move. Pray for God’s Littlest Angels funds to provide for the kids. Pray for the kids, they are broken, hurting and in need for healing.
  • Give: Donate cash (online) or supplies (to your local church) now. Again, 100% (minus transaction fees) will go directly to purchasing food and supplies. We will keep everyone updated on the amount raised through this blog, and we will take some pictures of the supplies when we take them to Haiti next week.
  • Spread the word – tweet this link, FB this link, email your family and friends, and ask them to get involved. We need to spread the word.
For more information, check out the HELP one Now BLOG.

by Brandon Hatmaker on April 20th, 2012

Jesus gave us clear marching orders: Love God. Love your neighbor.

We know who God is, where most of us get stuck is on the “neighbor” part. Who is our neighbor? What does it mean to “love” them? How do I balance local with global? Which is more important? Before we answer these questions, I think we need to ask ourselves another one: Why are we asking?

"But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" – Luke 10:29

There is a rise in the church of socially minded Christians truly seeking to make a difference both locally and globally. This is a good thing. Yet, even with the right motive, we often get side tracked as to who and how far our service should reach.

Awareness, access, and ability are no longer barriers even to the average Christian. They are no longer impediments in defining our neighbor. The gospel declares that everyone in need is our neighbor. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked the expert in the law which of the three was a “neighbor” to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers. His answer: “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus’ response: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

Jesus did not define “neighbor” by proximity. He defined it by mercy. The whole world is our neighbor. Only after we move past the argument of who our neighbors are and what Jesus meant by loving them will we be moved to accomplish anything of significance. Until then, our questions remain excuses.
” (Barefoot Church, pg. 37)
But where do we start? And how do we get going?

At times we can be incredibly ignorant to what’s going on in the world. I’ve always believed that the first step to engaging real need is to learn about the need itself (See Isaiah 1:17). Somehow we must learn to see the need as it truly is. The need must be EXPOSED. From there, we can begin to make educated decisions about how we can EXPERIENCE or ENCOUNTER that need in order to ENGAGE it more deeply and more personally.

There are some incredible opportunities in the Austin area to learn from the best. World Vision has begun a local initiative designed to educate and expose need called the Austin Campaign for Children. The campaign's focus is to “Help break cycles of poverty through reaching out to the world’s most vulnerable children as we open hearts across Austin.”

Between now and June 1st there will be a series of concerts, events, experiences, and opportunities to not only educate the people in the Austin area… but to give tangible next steps. Their goal is to impact the lives of 2,000 children living in extreme poverty through the efforts of the Austin community.

We literally get to start locally to have global impact. Thanks World Vision for coming to our neighborhood and helping us see the whole world as our neighbor.

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*To find out more on World Vision’s local initiatives, click HERE to see a list of their regional offices.

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Brandon Hatmaker is a church planter, missional strategist, and author. He pastors Austin New Church (www.austinnewchurch.com) a missional church focused on serving the under-resourced through strategic partnerships, is the co-founder of Restore Communities (www.restorecommunities.org), and is author of “Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture” and the “Barefoot Church Primer: An 8wk Guide to Serving through Community”.

by Brandon Hatmaker on April 5th, 2012

I recently heard about a pastor who renounced his faith. Apparently, he’s decided that God does not exist and that what he’s taught for so many years is not true. This saddens me.

This saddens me. But it doesn’t surprise me.

In fact, if you were to go back and listen to his sermons, you can hear the doubt in his seemingly rhetorical questions. You can feel him lob out ideas and thoughts that mirrored his internal struggle. I don’t know how long he lived on this island of doubt, but he obviously reached his personal tipping point.

His concerns are shared with countless others who are critics of faith and the church. Their claims:
  • There is a lack of power in most churches.
  • There is a lack of radical transformation in most believers.
  • There is a lack of unity in both.
  • There is a lack of Kingdom-mindedness.
  • There is a lack of love, peace, gentleness, kindness, and mercy.
  • There is too much ignorance and apathy on issues of justice.
I certainly don’t want to cast stones at the church just for the sake of casting stones. She’s the Bride of Christ. There is always hope for the church. And I’m committed to fight for her.  But if we were to take an honest look, we’d find that these accusations are more often true than false. In fact many of us, if not most of us, have seen them at different points and in different forms in our own life.

There are those both inside and outside the church who simply look at the evidences (or lack thereof) and deduce that what we believe… must not be true.

But what if these things aren’t evidences of a lack of truth? What if they don’t disprove God (which btw, I don’t believe they do)? What if, instead, they were evidences that we are somehow missing the point or that our strategies simply aren’t working that well? What if we’re unknowingly serving a church structure and/or a Christian culture that no longer values, teaches, or holds to the example Jesus gave us? What if the lack of these kinds of fruit is the result of a misguided approach to tilling, planting, feeding, pruning, and harvesting?

I’m certain the problem isn’t with God or with truth. The problem is with us. And since God is sovereign, I think He’s definitely up to something. I just hope we don’t miss it.

How long are we going to put up with an empty faith? How long will we tolerate a seemingly powerless church? How many bible studies and worship services must we personally attend while staying the same day-after-day-after-day? How long? (Note: I'm a huge fan of worship and bible study... I just believe it should change us and how we view God).

We need to take this more seriously or eventually our powerless faith will turn to doubt. At bare minimum we’ll fall prey to self-condemnation, insecurity, and spiritual anxiety (ring a bell or two?). If we do not seek and find the real Jesus, filled with grace, truth, and power… it’s only a matter of time. We can no longer ride the fence. We can no longer settle and expect not to suffer the consequences. Our post-modern world and post-Christian culture is not set up to hold our spiritual hand anymore. We won’t hold the line just because someone else tells us we’re supposed to.

And neither will our “neighbors”.

The good news is that Jesus didn’t call us to a powerless faith. He called us to an incredibly full faith, which results in peace, joy, and purpose. And He gave us some direct insight as to how that happens. He redefined what it meant to be a disciple in Matthew 5 where He outlines what selflessness looks like. He literally challenged us to stop thinking about things that served us, and to start thinking about ways to serve others. He even promised some pretty awesome provision for each step along the way.

It’s time we owned this, people. Someone else cannot make the decision for us.

Church leaders, we need to take an honest look at what we value about the church, our selves, and other people. We are called to be and make disciples with the hope of building the Kingdom, not just make converts with the hope of building our churches and padding our stats. Jesus never gave us the keys to the church, He gave us the keys to the Kingdom (Mt.16). We need to daily submit ourselves to this vision. We need to repent and change the way we view success. We need care more about what God says, than we do what our peers or those who consume what we provide say. We cannot live and/or lead as if this is not a huge problem, temptation, and risk.

Christians, we were called to love God and our neighbor, not love our own agenda and serve our own appetites. Let’s stop blaming our pastors and/or our church and let’s start living it ourselves. Many of our church leaders would rather do this anyway, but they’re afraid we won’t let them. We need to live a faith that serves something besides us. We need to fight individualism and consumerism. They serve as direct barriers to the Kingdom. We need to constantly be asking God, “What do you want me to give up next?” both personally and collectively.

This is the tension we must live in. And Jesus calls us to head into it with both guns blazing.

God invites us to test His ways. He challenges us to taste and see. Try something different than serving yourself. Open up your definition of church to mean a way of life, not just a location or a timeslot on Sunday. Expand your understanding of discipleship. Seek to be Good News to someone in need. Give yourself permission to model grace and goodness. Don’t reduce it to form or function. Prayerfully offer your heart and soul. Let this be your sacrifice.

And if you don’t know where to start, start with the poor. Start with those who have absolutely nothing to offer you back. This exemplifies the genius of Jesus’ teaching. Bottom line, Jesus knew exactly what He was doing when He challenged us to serve the least.

Wherever this leads us, I believe that it will be in that place, that we’ll experience God’s presence and provision. We’ll begin to understand and cherish the paradox. It’s there where we’ll finally find the Jesus we read about in scripture. We’ll see Him at work (in us). We’ll wonder how we ever had any fellowship with Him anywhere else. And then, my friends… we’ll feel the power, the confidence, and the affirmation that we’ve been searching for.



by Brandon Hatmaker on March 28th, 2012

Austin New Church closes it's doors on Easter. It's one of the most powerful and certainly one of my favorite Sundays of the year. Instead of gathering inside, we gather outside for a time of fellowship, food, and communion with our homeless brothers & sisters in downtown Austin. As usual, we will be meeting at the corner of 7th & Neches from 4-6pm.

As most of you are aware, our Easter Downtown Grillout is different from our regular time with the homeless community. We bring our lawn chairs, enjoy a meal with them, share in communion together, and listen to some great live music. It's quite the event.

Since this includes all of us and not just a "team", your participation is needed to make this grill out happen.  There are two things we need you to do:

1) CLICK HERE to register for the April 8th event (4-6pm).

2) We need each Restore Group to bring 20-25 Gift Bags with the following items:

  • shampoo (personal size)
  • soap
  • toothpaste/brush
  • deodorant
  • comb/brush
  • chap-stick
  • sun block
  • short socks
  • laundry detergent (optional)
If you're a part of ANC, please plan on being there. If you're not, but want to join us... here's just a glimpse of what to expect (Dont' miss the pics at the end. They're my favorite part):


by Brandon Hatmaker on March 22nd, 2012

The number of socially concerned Christians is on the rise. Likewise, so is the number of socially concerned Churches. This, in itself, is a good thing. But, can I be honest for a moment? We’ve got a fatal flaw that, if left unchecked, will undo any of the good we’re trying to do:

We pretty much make everything about us.

We’ve been charged with the biblical mandate to learn to do right (Isaiah 1:17), to love mercy (Micah 6:8), and to seek justice (Pretty much the whole Bible). And many of us are trying. Including me.
  • I’m still learning how to “do right”.
  • I’m still learning to increasingly “love mercy”.
  • I’m still learning what it means to biblically “seek justice”.
And while I’ve seen indicators of our nature to “steal the fame” from the beginning, I’ve realized that it only has the potential to grow stronger the deeper you get. I’m thankful that as we try, we’re given the biblical permission to “Learn to do right”. This assumes one reality: God already knows we don’t know how.

Here's something I'm learning...

There’s a pattern among those we serve. I’ve observed it in pretty much every service environment, but its most profound among the homeless. And it tells us something about ourselves. Let me explain by sharing their questions:

Where does your church meet?

What time are your services?

Is there a bus stop nearby?

They ask these questions, even those who never plan on coming.

Here’s what I’ve realized. The homeless have very little if anything to offer us. They know that, and although there are those who “play the game” there are many who are genuinely thankful for what we do. The only thing they have to offer back is what they think we want: The possibility that they’ll come to our church.

Why would they think that? Why can’t they just accept a hot cheeseburger or new pair of shoes without thinking we have an agenda? Why are they lining up looking at us weird waiting for us to hand them outreach tracts? Why are they talking in “King James” version and quoting bible verses to us all day?

Everyone knows this except us: We're self-centered and too often act with a self-serving agenda. This is why so many non-profits, schools, and city officials are afraid to partner with us. I wish I could say it wasn’t true, but we’re just as conditioned as the one’s we serve. Whether it’s the homeless or the working poor across the interstate, there are reasons we do what we do. And and honest look might reveal it’s not the reason we think or the Gospel proclaims.

We think if we could just get everyone to church we could fix them. It would validate our service. They could be like us. And we could do noble things for God. Get them to church and we wouldn’t have to walk with them hand-in-hand. We wouldn’t have to be friends. We wouldn’t have to open ourselves up and make personal sacrifices (By the way, we tend to treat our neighbors the same).

We think that since they’re now quoting scripture that we are obviously impacting their faith journey. And we feel good about ourselves. And we think God likes us more (we’re an insecure bunch). And they know it. So they gush over us… and give us what we want… and we go home feeling all warm and fuzzy.

Don’t think less of the homeless… It’s not a malicious or deceptive act to give us what we really want. We’re playing the game too.

I’d consider it more a success if I spent an hour with a homeless guy and he never mentioned church, what he does wrong, or what he doesn’t do right. I know, sounds weird. But, I’d rather him talk about his story, his family, what happened that landed him on the streets. That would be an indicator to me that he’s not performing for me. And that maybe, just maybe, I really cared about his story. And that just possibly, my God might care as well.

This might be a good time for a side note: I still think it’s worth it, right, helpful, and productive to serve the way we’re serving and to continuously seek out new and more effective ways to engage need.

I also have an agenda. But I think it’s a good one. I want everyone who is a part of our faith community to be face-to-face with people who are in need. I don’t want to run away from the tension it creates in us. As a pastor I’m making disciples. And I want everyone to be among the broken, marginalized, abandoned, homeless, and lonely because that’s where we’ll find Jesus (Matthew 25).

But we need to do so and lead others to do so with a prayerful posture. Seeking the Spirit. Evaluating our motives. Searching our hearts and minds. And come without agenda other than to be faithful to Gospel and Kingdom.

This is a really hard thing to do. It’s embedded so deeply both in our church culture and our sinful nature. And it reveals a fatal flaw that saturates much of what we do. Every area of our faith can be impacted by it. And I pray we take note.

We need to stop serving the poor just because it makes us feel good. We need to stop serving the poor because we like bragging about it. We need to stop serving the poor because it’s the hip thing to do right now. We need to stop serving the poor because we’re hoping God will be pleased with us. All those reasons are about us. They steal God’s glory and they will be exposed for what they are.

We need to learn to serve the poor for bigger reasons. We need to serve because we’re made new and find our identity in Christ. Because we understand mercy and have fallen in love with the concept of offering all we have to people who don’t deserve it (like us). Because we are seeking justice for those who cannot find it alone (like us). Because we believe the Gospel. Because we take serious the ministry of reconciliation. Because there is a plan of redemption, and because God invites us to be a part of that story.





by Brandon Hatmaker on March 19th, 2012

I’m both excited and honored to be teaching at the Exponential Conference in Orlando, Florida (April 23-26) for a handful of reasons:

FIRST, I’m excited about the focus: Not only will it be one of the best opportunities for church planters, church planting churches, and pastors to be equipped and gain practical help in increasing their missional posture… but also that this year’s theme (“Sifted“) is focusing on our spiritual and emotional well-being as well. I was proud to be able to preview and endorse Zondervan’s newest release in the Exponential Series “Sifted: Pursuing Growth Through Trials, Challenges, and Disappointments” by Wayne Cordeiro (with contributions by Francis Chan & Larry Osborne).

SECOND, I’m excited to announce that “The Barefoot Church Primer: An 8-wk Guide to Serving Through Community” is now IN STOCK and we’ll have them available at Exponential. This was a resource based on my book ‘Barefoot Church’, and is written with the Missional/Incarnational Community in mind. It offers a step-by-step process to begin to discover and engage need in your community while building a biblical understanding of mercy and justice as they relate to a holistic understanding of the gospel. While we think it’s a great resource to help form new communities and for existing communities to begin focusing their attention outward, we also believe it to be a helpful Spiritual Development tool as you seek to “make disciples” through empowering a missional posture. (For a little preview: CLICK HERE)

THIRD, I’m super-pumped to be leading three sessions that I think will be incredibly helpful for those of you seeking to add to your missional/incarnational efforts (in the area of mercy & justice) while giving some fresh thoughts on some stuff you might want to consider (in the area of gospel & discipleship). Hope you can join me. Here’s some more info:

1. Launching Service based missional Communities: 10 steps to building community through engaging need. (Launching Missional Communities Track: Lab 1)

Most of us want Missional/Incarnational Communities that are truly focused on mission, but many of us don’t know where to start. Brandon will take you through ten steps that build biblical faith community (inward) through engaging the needs in a Community (outward).

2. Missional Saturation: 5 changes every church must make to gain & maintain missional momentum. (Nuts and Bolts Track – Lab 2)

“Missional Church” is a redundant label… at least it should be. At the very heart of biblical church lies a call to be a community on mission. Most of us agree. Many of us are trying. Yet too often we fail to make key structural changes that ensure lasting missional momentum. Join Brandon Hatmaker in an open discussion on 5 key areas of church structure that will undermine your leadership and kill your momentum if left unchecked.

3. Structuring to serve through Community: 8 critical steps to point small groups outward. (Creating Missional Centers Track – Lab 3)
Even a well-intentioned Missional Community can lose its focus and allow in-house needs to steal its time and attention. Join Brandon Hatmaker as he takes us through 8 critical steps to ensure your small group maintains its focus on making disciples committed to gospel centered community and mission.

by Brandon Hatmaker on March 16th, 2012

There are 35 homeless graduating seniors from area High Schools registered for a sponsorship program through Hays CISD. If sponsored, these students will get much needed assistance during the graduation season and additional help in transitioning to the next season of life. Half of those students have been sponsored. Austin New Church has committed to ‘adopt’ the remaining 17. Without sponsorship, many of these students would not get to enjoy the ‘little things’ that make graduation exciting and memorable. Your sponsorship will ensure each student receives: (1) Required inoculations for college, (2) senior pictures, (3) entrance to senior dinner and Prom, (4) a yearbook, (5) a gift card for clothing, and (6) a “Fresh Start Basket” including basic household and dorm needs.

ANC has committed to the remaining $4200 but we need your help. As a part of ANC or as a friend of ANC, we are asking for you personally, your Restore Group, your family, friends, or a group at work to consider sponsoring a student by donating $250 or helping sponsor a student by giving in $100 or $50 increments.

Click HERE to donate now.

This is yet another reminder to me of the great need that exists in every community. These are simple ways to help, but excellent opportunities to be good news. Good News to a homeless student or family. Good News to a school administrator, trying to help these kids in ways they can’t, often shouldering the burden alone, and Good News to all who hear what the church is about. Maybe you won’t partner with us. But I hope you’ll consider how you can serve the schools in your community.
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Posted on December 5th, 2011

Jeff Harter died last Friday. A tragic ending to what appeared to be a beautiful ministry and life. I don't really know Jeff. I know that he's a missionary to Honduras. I know that he's executive director of a non-profit that ministers to the rural deaf called "Signs of Love".

I went to his website this morning to learn more about his ministry. The front page had these words, a quote from Jeff:

"Send, go or disobey...I have exhausted myself looking for the fourth option. I am presently of the strong opinion that there are only three."

I feel incredibly challenged by his words. In the shadow of his death, they seem to hold more gravity. Not sure why that is, they were just as great words on Thursday while he was still alive. But the fact is, they hold great weight for me this morning so I thought I'd share. Jeff was obviously a straight shooter, I hope you can appreciate that. Here are some more words that accompanied his first statement. I hope you wrestle with them today as I have:

"(As Christians) If we do not have a world view that involves “going” we are quite frankly disobedient to the point of sin. Go ahead and make an arguement that makes you feel better and makes my point “religious” or “too strong”. That is the problem with this discussion, left to our own we do not want to “go” and someone has to come along and provoke us to right thinking... Read Mark 16:15 written in 33AD... nothing has changed."



by Brandon Hatmaker on November 4th, 2011

I'm a part of a church who has a heart for the poor. We also have a heart for our city. From the beginning, our strategy has been to connect the dots between social action and Gospel, knowing that somehow, together we become good news, as we seek to walk in the ways of Jesus.

While many church plants "target" a specific demographic for their outreach, we started with less of a target, and more of an affinity; to serve the poor. What we found is that this concern stretches beyond socio-economic, racial, political, and even faith boundaries. Thus, we've served shoulder to shoulder with non-christians, skeptics, athiests, and believers alike.

Because of this, and because of the location of our gathering, ANC has become a church of THREE distinct demographics (give or take): 1/3 urban. 1/3 suburban. And 1/3 semi-rural. Each committed to gospel community. Each committed to serving the least. And each deeply committed to worship and Word. At our gatherings you'll see Tom's shoes, cowboy boots, and flipflops. We've got tattoo's and skinny jeans mixed with polo shirts and khaki shorts. We've got shaved heads, gray heads, and feaux-hawks. Honestly, it's been pretty cool.

Since we're a missional church, we've always had the heart to empower and release our people for ministry in their context. We hope that as missionaries to our culture, that we equip people to serve where they live. As a Christian leader, this has opened my eyes to a number of things. One of which is our perceptions... or better yet, assumptions... about the poor, who they are, and where they live.
I've always thought the poor were mostly inner city. That's where we started serving, mostly because it's where the homeless community tend to populate. But, I've seen the high-rise condo's being built in downtown Austin over the last 10 years, the one's I could never afford to live in. And I've wondered how anyone who owned a house downtown could resist a multi-million dollar offer to level their lot. The truth is, most don't. And the poor are moving out. They are literally being pushed to the fringes.

The more we serve, the more we learn to SEE need, the more intuitively we see it in our own context. We've noticed a growing trend at ANC, people wanting to serve and engaging need wherever they live. We have structured to encourage this. Because of this, we're learning a lot. We've learned that the rural poor have always been there, that the suburban poor are growing, and that we've still got a lot to learn.

Although I’m aware of the common observable cultural shifts, I’ve remained pretty oblivious as to the depth of demographic impact by the gentrification of city-centers, and it’s impending influential waves. What I forgot to consider was the where, why, and how it impacts BEYOND the city-centers themselves.


Linda Bergquist, a New Church Starting Strategist in San Francisco and co-author of Church Turned Inside Out, wrote a recent post on the LifeWay Research Blog about the suburbanization of poverty. Here’s just a taste:
“The stereotypical suburban community is becoming extinct in the United States. Today, a million and a half more poor people live in the suburbs of major metropolitan areas than in the center cities. It would be easy to blame the change on the recession, or to ignore the facts by proclaiming that the recession will soon be over, but that would be negligent. By 2005, when the economy was prospering, there were already more poor people living in suburbs than in U.S. cities. In 1970, only 20.5% of America’s poor were suburbanites, and by 2000, the number increased to 35.9%. Between 2000 and 2008, the poor population in the suburbs of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas grew by 25%, almost five times faster than in the cities they surround. At the same time, the suburbs are also becoming much more ethnically diverse. Why the change? Here are a few theories:
a. Employment decentralization. Major employers in every sector have moved their bases of operation to the suburbs. Population sprawl followed job sprawl.

b. Immigration. Some new immigrants now select suburbs as their primary points of entry into the country because the jobs for which they are most qualified exist in suburbs rather than in city centers.

c. Gentrification. The status of status is changing, and the upper middle class is choosing high-rise city living over suburbia. There is a values shift from ownership (automobiles, large homes) to accessibility (public transportation, proximity to work, arts). As cities become more attractive to them, housing costs rise, thrusting the poor down into the streets and out into the suburbs.

d. Perceived cost of living. Sometimes poor people move to suburbs because it seems more affordable. However, while housing costs are less, there are hidden expenses, such as car ownership and less access to human services.

e. High unemployment rates. Certainly the recession economy is a factor. It has not brought the poor to the suburbs, but it is the reason why many middle class people are suddenly poor and in need of assistance.
The most challenging aspect of poverty’s suburbanization is that it has caught social sectors by surprise. Governments, nonprofits, schools, healthcare systems and churches lack the infrastructures to help the way they do in the cities. Funding agencies are prepared to help the “urban poor” but have no mental category for the suburban poor. Money and volunteers flow inward to the city cores. Many nonprofits have lost the grants they need to provide wages for employees, yet have long lists of newly poor who need their services. Suburban schools are also unprepared for new kinds of students who enter the system from non-English speaking or reading impoverished backgrounds. Health care providers are serving new constituencies that lack insurance. Likewise, some suburban churches are facing membership declines and their congregations can no longer help fund programs. They seek causes, but are often unaware of shifts in their communities.

In the face of radical change, it would be humanly understandable for suburban Christians to assume a defensive posture. However, for such a time as this, the church is being called to a proactively biblical, missional and ethical response. To begin with, most Christians are aware of God’s commands to care for the poor (e.g. Proverbs 17:5, 21:13, 28: 27; Ezekiel 16:49; Mt 19:21, 25: 31ff), but in the suburbs poverty is less dense and therefore less visible. God not only demands giving to hoards of visible poor, but to any one with need “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother…therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land (Deuteronomy 15:7, 11).”

You can read the rest of the post as well as some pretty insightful comments HERE.
As we discuss poverty, I can't help but recall the teachings of Mother Teresa and her belief that there are three types of poverty in every community; spiritual, emotional, and physical.

Thinking this way will help us connect the dots between engaging need and Gospel. But it also exposes another part of this discussion.

My friend Vernon Berger, founder of His Voice Global, wrote a blog after watching a re-run of "The Wonder Years". I thought it interestingly insightful. It reminds us that while physical poverty is increasing, there's always been need in the suburbs. Here's a quote from the close of the episode where Winnie just found out her brother died in Vietnam…

"When some “Blow Hard” talks about the anonymity of the suburbs, the mindlessness of the “T.V. generation,” we knew that inside each one of those identical boxes with its Dodge parked out front, and its white bread on the table, and its glowing TV…there were people with stories. There were people bound together in the pain and struggle of love. There were moments that made us cry with laughter. There were moments of sorrow and wonder."

Here are some takeaways Vernon offers from the quote:

1. There are real hurts in the urban, suburban, and rural. None of them is “more strategic”.

2. If you live in the suburbs and minister in the suburbs, be encouraged, but don’t be lulled to sleep.

3. If you live in a rural context, yet think it’s some type of “second class” deal compared to the ‘burbs or an urban context, please stop that also. The rural context has just as much pain as the other two. Let’s not fool ourselves. Also, the rural has just as much victory!

Pain is everywhere. Victory is a foregone conclusion for those who are in Christ. Therefore, let’s just be people who want to faithfully see the Gospel of The Kingdom proclaimed everywhere no matter what the cost.

To read Vernon's post in it's entirety click HERE.

by Brandon Hatmaker on November 1st, 2011

I read an interesting Blog this morning. The author shed light on some words from Henri Nouwen, concluding that, "Like every human organization the Church is constantly in danger of corruption. As soon as power and wealth come to the Church, manipulation, exploitation, misuse of influence, and outright corruption are not far away." His solution was simply to serve the poor.
Here were Nouwen's words: "How do we prevent corruption in the Church? The answer is clear: by focusing on the poor. The poor make the Church faithful to its vocation. When the Church is no longer a church for the poor, it loses its spiritual identity. It gets caught up in disagreements, jealousy, power games, and pettiness. Paul says, “God has composed the body so that greater dignity is given to the parts which were without it, and so that there may not be disagreements inside the body but each part may be equally concerned for all the others” (1 Cor.12:24-25). This is the true vision. The poor are given to the Church so that the Church as the body of Christ can be and remain a place of mutual concern, love, and peace."

I'd hate to oversimplify anything so significant, but I can't help but notice how much less selfish or petty the church becomes when we were are committed to pouring ourselves out for others and focusing on ministries that place us face-to-face with poverty and need. Something happens when we as "the church" take the focus off of ourselves. But could we really go so far as to say that it would prevent corruption? Could it possibly even be one of the major reasons Jesus called us to serve the poor?

How significant do you think it really is? How vast is it's impact? I'd love your thoughts.

Posted on October 26th, 2011

There is one question about "Barefoot Church" that we are hearing more than any other question: Are there plans for a study guide or some type of workbook? The answer is a resounding YES! Please read below to find out more...

by Brandon Hatmaker on October 24th, 2011

I’ve had a number of conversations recently on how we keep “serving the least” from becoming just another ‘check-the-box’ church thing to do. And to be honest, even as a church focused on serving the poor, we don’t always succeed at that. I think at one point or another we all slip into going through the motions or even serving for the wrong reason. Even the best intended social effort can become normalized, rote, and lose it’s focus.

There is a reason why Jesus calls us to not only count the cost, but to deny ourselves and take up our cross DAILY. Because when we don’t… we tend to drift the wrong direction. The same is true through our efforts to serve. If we're not intentional about each act of service, we can hijack a really good thing and make it something it's not supposed to be.

This is a timely conversation for Austin New Church.

Every 5th Sunday ANC exchanges it's gathering for a day of serving the greater Austin area and surrounding counties through our non-profit partnerships. Each October, ANC and Restore Communities commits that day to working with Help End Local Poverty (H.E.L.P.) through an effort we call Garage Sale 4 Orphans.
Last year we raised enough money, through multiple garage sale locations, to help finish build out an orphanage in Haiti and drill a well that provides water for hundreds of people each day for an orphanage and its community in Zimbabwe.

This years efforts will focus on breaking cycles of poverty in Haiti by providing homes for single parent families displaced by the earthquake as well as transition homes for aged out orphan girls, one of the most highly targeted group of children by the human trafficking trade.
So we’re selling our stuff. Wait a minute… let’s be honest… we’re selling our junk. We’re selling the stuff that we don’t need, don’t want, or have too many of. Last year we raised $13K (or so) in a matter of hours. It was nice to finally get rid of some of my extra stuff. My garage was clean again. Not exactly a pure motivation.

It’s not really a huge sacrifice to give this stuff away. Since we’re doing the sale on Sunday morning, we’re not even giving up another day of our lives to the effort. It’s in place of “normal” church. So what are we doing? What is the purpose? How is this significant? How do we NOT slip into complacency, minimize the effort, or make this about us?

There are a handful of things that will happen this next Sunday through ANC and our Garage Sale efforts. Each an opportunity that exists any time a church serves together, each a part of the bigger picture for why we serve, and a glimpse of what happens when we do. We have to consistently come back to the reason we serve. It’s vital to the overall mission. Communicating them may be THE difference in keeping our efforts from becoming rote, about us, or worse… another project we could just “skip” and take the day off.

With this in mind, here are a few reasons why we’re doing Garage Sale 4 Orphans. I hope we see each as an opportunity and motivation for all we do outside the walls of ANC:

  • 1) Partnership: (Kingdom) First and foremost, we always hope to put our money, efforts, heart, and minds where our collective mouths are. We are doing some great work in Haiti with our friends at Help End Local Poverty (H.E.L.P.). Not only are we spreading awareness through our events, with the money we raise we will build houses. They will become homes to single parent families who currently live on the streets. They will offer hope and a leg up on their fight against the cycles of poverty. They will be homes to orphan girls who age out of local orphanages. Thus, they will reduce the risk of these children falling in the hands of those who will take away their dignity, their humanity, and their freedom. While we’re committed to helping this initiative with or without the garage sales… the sale will help us get a head start… and will do a few other things along the way…

  • 2) Community: (Unity) I love hanging out and working shoulder to shoulder with the people of ANC. Just like you, I don’t know everyone in our faith community. This Sunday will provide one of the best opportunities to get to know others that you might not normally get to spend time with. In every church there are people who feel disconnected. They feel like they are on the outside looking in. Maybe that describes you. When you serve, plan to be a contributor not a consumer. Go with the intention to be a part of the team. Initiate conversations. As we grow as a faith community, taking advantage of this opportunity to get to know each other is critical. One thing I know… Serving together serves as a catalyst for community.

  • 3) Posture: (Gospel) This one is huge to me. I’m really concerned about how our skeptics and onlookers view the church. You should be too. People are watching. And they already have an opinion about the church. While I believe they are looking for hope, they’ve also got preconceived ideas about what we do, why we do it, what we value, and how we feel about them. Whether their thoughts are fair or not doesn’t matter. Their perception is their reality. And the church has given some pretty good ammo over the years. Serving together gives us a great opportunity to change the way our city and/or community view the church. I think it blows people away when they see or hear about not just 10% or 20% of a church serving… but an entire church… doing something where they literally gain nothing. Just giving of themselves for the sake of others.

I’ll never forget the day one of my neighbors walked by my house while I was in the front yard, saw the ANC sticker on my truck, and asked...

“Hey, do you go to that church? That ANC church?”

It was obvious she didn’t know I was the pastor. I replied, “Yes, I do.”

She continued, “I hear you guys do really good things.”

“Really? That’s good to hear. Thanks for sharing that.” I replied.

“Can I go to your church?” she asked.

I gotta be honest with you. I’ve been a Christian for a long time now. I’ve been a pastor for a while as well. It’s rare to have someone ask if they can come to your church. And it wasn’t because she heard about our great band or good teaching. It was because she heard we did good things.

I’ve learned a lot from serving. And I’m reminded today that it’s got to be about something bigger than just checking the box of serving. Jesus said it this way…

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

So if you’re a part of ANC… plan to join us this coming weekend (and future weekends) with a renewed vision for why we’re doing what we’re doing. Bring your lawn chairs and plan on staying. If you’re a social butterfly, spread your wings. If you’re a social recluse, pray for strength, trust in God, and let your serving and seeking of community be an act of worship and sacrifice to Him.

If you’re not a part of ANC and you’re just reading this blog for whatever reason, I urge you to consider the impact service has beyond the surface. Look at the opportunities for it to be worship. Look for the opportunities for it to reveal the Gospel. Pray that through it all, God will continue to transform you into the man or woman God desires you to be.