Church at East had it's first official "Family Meeting". Immediately after service we gathered to discuss the transition from Austin New Church East to the Church at East. We realize many of you all didn't have the chance to make it, and some of you emailed us to ask if we had recorded it or had a recap. While we didn't think to record it, below is the recap:
- A New Name :: This is about identity! Up until last week we have been, Austin New Church East, and have been a branch of Austin New Church. We are now, the Church at East, an autonomous board, elder-team, and entity. The reason for the name change had nothing to do with animosity or rights, but only about identity. We wanted a name that best lined up with who we are as the church in our part of town. We felt that this name communicated that we were a people who didn’t just meet in East Austin, but were a people who were FOR east Austin. This is not to say, we all live in East Austin, we don’t. But many of us do, and many of the places we serve and volunteer are located and/or focused on and in East Austin. We wanted to be a church for East Austin. And I think we are.
- Why the need for autonomy :: there are several reasons:
- (1) Leadership: For several years we had dreamed of the idea known as "plurality of Elders". A team of equals, where a trump card couldn't be played. A team of diverse men and/or women who would have to submit to each. A team of people who would have to say, "it seems good to us and the Holy Spirit that we should..." A team that reflected Jesus not one individual person. We recognize this is the hardest way to lead, but we feel it is the best, and are committed to reflecting this vision of community in our leadership structure, as at the end of the day, if the leadership rule is true that we truly do "reproduce who we are", then we want to reproduce a people who are mutually submissive to each other, who values and sees the gifts and strengths in their brothers and sisters, and is committed to confession, justice, mercy, and faithfulness together, a people who are each other's keeper.
- (2) Concentrated focus: The need for each place to have leadership that is focused on their specific location and people as opposed to have our energies constantly split, especially since all of the ANC pastors are part-time. I work part time for Allies Against Slavery and Austin works part time as a woodworker at WoodWork @ 17th. To have our energies split between two different churches and our part-time gigs was stretching us too thin.
- (3) Maturity: At the end of the day, the church isn’t a place, it is a people. It's a people committed to Jesus and people in a particular place. This church that you all have been attending and becoming for the past 2 weeks or the past 2 years, is a church that we, the people who consider it home, should be responsible for. It is part of our maturity and discipleship. It is time for us to grow and take full responsibility for the church we are - financially, practically, theologically, and every other way that we could have relied on the ANC (the mother ship) for. While it is Jesus who builds his church he rests each local expression of his church on his people to live out, and it is time we took full responsibility for that.
- The Network :: Part of the purpose of our the move to autonomy was to strengthen and deepen our idea of a church planting network. One of the things that was said on Sunday was, “if you know the history of ANC, the question shouldn’t be ‘why are we doing this now?’ rather the better question in light of our vision and history would be, ‘why did it take so long to get to this point?’, because this was always part of the vision.” Looking at our growth and finances over the past several years and attempts at church planting, we believed the best thing to do, was to have two autonomous churches, birthing the new Austin New Church Network. The ways we will stay connected are through a monthly meeting together of the pastors; planting and supporting smaller churches and church planting; the quarterly Restore Weekend; and our love for this city!
- Leadership Structure :: we have taken on a “board of elders” leadership structure. To know more about that generally, click HERE. To know more about why we leaned into this leadership structure and know who are new elders are, click HERE. We are still fleshing out what it means to be a Restore Leader in conjunction with being a deacon, we will update this as we come to a better understanding of this all. In short, the reason we are using this sort of leadership structure is quite simply the belief that as broken humans, it is far too easy for any local expression of the church, if we have a single-lead-pastor structure, the church will likely take on the characteristics of that single leader - both his/her strengths and weakness. the problem with that is, the church is supposed to look like Jesus not me or Austin, so by creating an elder board that is made up of two part-time paid teaching pastors (me and Austin) and four (lay-leaders), we feel we can hold more true to the Church at East as a mirror of Jesus to our city.
- Giving :: All giving from here on out is to the Church at East. Obviously you can make out checks to the Church at East on Sundays, but we also have online giving up now as well. Giving online helps us with end of the year records for tax purposes, and helps you in the way of convenience and setting up recurring giving/tithe/offering. To give on line, click HERE.
If you have any questions that were not addressed here, please feel free to email me at Mdh1199@gmail.com or Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org