(Photo: Acts 29)
The church planting group Acts 29 Network will keep its mission focused in the same manner as before despite a recent change in leadership, said the group's new president, Matt Chandler.
"There's no vision shift here. It is a location shift and a restructuring," Chandler, also lead pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, told The Christian Post. "I want us to keep doing what we are doing. I want us to keep planting churches and being on mission and do that in a way that is edifying and encouraging to our network. I'd like to see us be able to do that more effectively and more efficiently.
"My hope is steadfastly to continue to plant churches that make much of Jesus, that lift up on high the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and see men and women saved by that message."
Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll announced that he was stepping down from the reins of Acts 29 late last month to make room for Chandler, the lead pastor at The Village Church in Highland Village in Texas. Driscoll remains on the organization's current three-member board which also includes The Journey's (St. Louis, Mo.) lead pastor, Darrin Patrick. The group's headquarters will move from Seattle to Dallas.
Driscoll seemed to have left the door open about the possibility he would remove himself from the board if needed for the greater good of the group, he implied in his statement last month about his decision.
"I want him on the board. He's a great advantage to the men, the movement, and the network as a whole," Chandler told CP when asked about Driscoll. "I think culturally and theologically he has some spectacular gifts. Driscoll will absolutely remain on the board. He would gladly step off if he thought that was best for the network. I don't think anybody believes that's best for the network."
Driscoll and Chandler acknowledge that Acts 29 was in need of some restructuring. The network of church planters that "emerged from a small band of brothers" to more than 400 churches in the United States and networks of churches in multiple countries had not been overhauled since its beginnings.
"A29 was feeling growing pains," Chandler said. "For well over a year we noticed at the national board level that there were some cracks in the organization. Not necessarily of people, but how we were running Acts 29 as a network. We were really running a network of 422 churches on six continents the same way when it was 80 to 100 churches on one continent.
"There were some multiple issues across the whole network that was feeling the strain of trying to run the network as though we were still 80 to 100 churches. We honestly haven't tweaked things as we've grown," he explained.
Acts 29 will not only be moving its Seattle-based headquarters to Dallas, but deciding how to continue with its connection to Mars Hill Church, also based in Seattle.
"A29 was so kind of meshed into Mars Hill that right now we are just trying to untangle where one begins and the other ends. We are gathering information right now. Our hope is that A29 is completely in Dallas by September," Chandler said.
"Acts 29 has been primarily funded by and run by Mars Hill," he noted. Chandler estimates that about 80 percent of the organization was funded by the church and it is a matter of deciding on the operational priorities moving forward, including which employee positions to keep.
"Those are some of the questions we are trying to answer even now," he said.
Chandler said that his main goal is to empower the pastors and ministry leaders of the organization.
"I think there are a lot of guys in the network that are extremely gifted that have never really been asked to do much in the network. I'd like to ask some of those guys to really step up and take some serious ownership of the network," he said. "In regards to just the immediate future, that's my hope is to really empower very gifted, very godly Jesus loving guys to really play an important role in the shaping of A29 culture and ultimately the care of our pastors and the churches we want to plant."
When asked about what makes Acts 29 unique, Chandler responded, "My favorite aspect of it is that it's a cross-denominational network and the thing that always draws my heart to it is that there are so many philosophical styles of ministry in A29 while holding the same theological convictions.
"Whether you are a missional community church or a multi-site church, or a megachurch, or a church of 60 meeting in a school, the reality is that I know guys in the network who love the Bible like I love the Bible, love Jesus love like I love Jesus, love the Gospel like I love the Gospel, who are doing church in a very different way than I'm doing church, but I can learn from them and they can learn from me," the author of The Explicit Gospel added.
"This kind of mutual edification that occurs when guys are doing things differently than you are, but with the same heart and beliefs that you have, ultimately creates an environment where maybe a lot of the vitriol you see online can die down as we see that we are on the same team."
Excited and humbled to be in this new role, he added, "It's massive. I'm excited about seeing a lot of churches being planted all over the world. I just want to keep beating that drum … training and releasing men to plant churches all over the world … in the hard places, in the rural places, in the urban context, suburbia. I just have a passion towards that and love giving my life towards that end."