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Pioneering for the Future: Part 2 of the Interview with Jon Coyne

Last week, I shared the front end of a conversation with Pastor Jon Coyne. Jon leads a congregation outside San Francisco in the heart of Silicon Valley. Gail and I and some of our team did some training there earlier this year at a Catalyst Event for 8 different churches in the area. A significant portion of the group is now in 1,000 Young Leaders or Multipli’s Genesis Leader. These churches know that the “attract a crowd and assimilate” is no longer an effective strategy for their area. Together, they’re leaning back on Jesus’ model of “discipling the few to be sent to reach the many.” 

Jock: Wise leaders today learn to listen to the “margins” where the future is already happening. For lots of readers across the Heartland, those of you on the West Coast are in the “margins” where their future is already happening!

Jon: We all want to kick the can down the road. Not admit certain realities. Not make adaptive changes.

Jock: You grew up in San Francisco?

Jon: I did. I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. It was marked with a lot of uncertainty and anxiety in many ways. We were in the middle of the Patty Hurst abduction. The Zodiac murderer and the Zebra murders happened when I was in middle school. We all worried about what would happen to us, to our community. 

The Unabomber bombed a building on my college campus at UC-Berkeley.

But I had a great church that nurtured me in the faith. I remember Lois, my high school Bible teacher. She taught that class for years! She loved us for who we were (which was not always easy!). She was a formative person in my life. She encouraged discussion. Let us ask questions. Helped us build community with each other. We still see each other once in a while. 

Jock: Now you’re in Menlo Park, south of San Francisco. What would you like to see long after you’re gone here?

Jon: Several things! 

  1. I’d love the commitment to mission in our church to be even stronger than it is today. 
  2. I’d love to see our young adults in our residency program and in 1,000 Young Leaders as next generational leaders in the Kingdom having greater impact than I ever will. 
  3. I’d love to see Christians who work in Apple and Google and Facebook living out their missional callings in those places. They’re like little cities in themselves.

Menlo Park is about 25 miles outside of San Francisco.

There’s a unique culture here in many different ways. People are transient. They come here to get wealthy. They work crazy hours with the belief that they can make it “big.” They postpone personal development (including spiritual development). They sacrifice for the dream. Because this is where it happens, right? But, the truth is that very few actually do get wealthy. 

Jock: You invest in a lot of pastors and congregations in the area.

Jon: I try to encourage some of our congregations and pastors. Our district is great. LINC Bay Area is really good at supporting and equipping pastors so that they know they’re not alone. I see a lot of pastors come and a few years later say, “I did everything that I did in other churches before that ‘worked.’ It doesn’t work here.” Then they leave feeling guilt and shame. I try to encourage, to coach.

Jock: You’ve been active in your district, helping to organize for the future. What does this look like?

Jon: 4% of people in the Bay Area attend a Christian church. All across the area we’re almost all small churches.

Sometimes when a church gets down to 3 or 4 members there’s not a lot they can do. Properties in the area here are very valuable and we need to recognize that faithful people of God have invested in them for as much as 100 years! We need to be good stewards of them.

We have a Misseo Dei West Foundation that is set up to receive assets when churches close and commit those resources for future mission for the benefit of the CNH District. It provides the responsiveness and accountability that ensures the monies are used for the purposes those congregations intended.

We also have the Legacy Task Force, which connects church leaders to unique skills to help churches…contractors, property managers, accountants, lawyers, construction people, etc. It can connect unique skill sets to what congregations need. This group was formed and now works under the district president.

Jock: What else would you like to add, Jon?

Jon: For people that lead denominations—Be careful that you don’t simply tell people that they are doing wrong. Take time to listen to the struggles. How do we take people to the cross to find forgiveness? How do we pioneer new innovative ways? 

For leaders in general? They’re already experiencing some of the world that we live in now. Leaders need to find ways to listen to people in their churches. Listen to people in their communities. How do we disciple people to reach their communities?

Last week I mentioned my seminary professor’s illustration…the Gospel circle in the middle with the world around it. The Gospel never changes. That’s our home. The big circle around the little ball is the ever changing world. Our task is to allow the never-changing Gospel to transform the world.

I love it when I see the Spirit work and people “get” that it’s by grace that I’m saved through faith. Not of my own works. That changes lives!

So, here are several questions for you and your leaders to consider at your next time together:

  1. What’s changed in our own community that’s different from what “it used to be”?
  2. Where do we need to admit that doing the same things and hoping for different results is not a good strategy? 
  3. What would we need to do to actually disciple and prepare people to live out the mission in their everyday lives and not just attempt to “inspire” them to do so? 

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