More than a decade has passed since Tom Nelson stood before Christ Community Church and confessed pastoral malpractice. “I blurted out what my heart had been holding back for way too long,” he recalls. “I asked the congregation I served to forgive me. I had spent the minority of my time equipping them for what they were called to do for the majority of their week. I had been perpetuating a Sunday-to-Monday gap in my preaching, discipleship, and pastoral care.”
Nelson, TGC Council Member and author of Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work (Crossway, 2011), was announced today as the President of Made to Flourish (MTF), a new network that seeks to help pastors close the gap between Sunday worship and Monday work “in order to empower them to lead churches that produce human flourishing for the common good.” Based in Kansas City, MTF was launched today by Christ Community with the support of The Kern Family Foundation (KFF).
In the broader faith-and-work space, MTF’s focus is on local church renewal. “Until the Lord tarries, the local church is premium,” Nelson says. “That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for parachurch organizations, but that God has uniquely designed the church to be the key for long-term sustainability, contextual engagement, and institutional transformation.”
Healthy local churches, though, don’t just serve themselves. As TGC’s confessional statement reads, “The church serves as a sign of God’s future new world when its members live for the service of one another and their neighbors, rather than self-focus. The church is the corporate dwelling place of God’s Spirit, and the continuing witness to God in the world.”
This focus on others is one reason KFF supports MTF. “The Kerns have a deep and abiding appreciation for excellent pastoral leadership, believing that healthy local churches led by capable, committed pastors can transform the moral fabric of our society,” their website reads.
Yet its main target isn’t culture, but pastors. “MTF is successful,” Nelson explains, “if more pastors across the nation are personally flourishing in their own lives and walks with God. When this happens, then their congregations flourish and, we hope, the common good flourishes, too.”
To this end, MTF intentionally seeks to engage a broad range of evangelicals, welcoming all pastors who can affirm the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) statement of faith, the orthodox view of human sexuality and marriage, and a high commitment to Scripture.
Originally founded by KFF in 2014, MTF already has a membership of more than 500 evangelical pastors. Under the leadership of Nelson and new executive director Matt Rusten, MTF wants to dramatically increase that number by creating 50 city-based pastor networks.
“Using the ‘teaching hospital’ model,” Nelson envisions, “‘teaching churches’ will provide leadership and mentorship to ‘pastoral residents’—that is, current and future pastors who want to gain a more robust theology of vocation and help their congregants more fully integrate their faith and work.”
According to the press release, MTF will focus on three main objectives:
- Building and nurturing a nationwide network of pastors and churches passionate about connecting Sunday faith to Monday work;
- Convening pastors and marketplace leaders for on-site, laboratory learning;
- Fostering collaboration among pastors and churches as they create pastoral residencies, develop marketplace leader internships, and plant churches.
One of the biggest obstacles Nelson foresees is pastoral isolation. “Too often we think we’ve got it figured out,” he says. “This can lead to arrogance and insularity, which can significantly hamper our growth.” By connecting pastors to one another and to intellectual, social, and financial resources, MTF aims to overcome this obstacle and transform pastors’ understandings of how people in their churches and communities flourish.
Even though Nelson will speak, facilitate, and provide overall strategic direction for MTF, he has no plans to step away from Christ Community Church. “I’m going to continue to give senior pastor leadership to my local congregation,” he says, “which can actually serve as somewhat of a laboratory to test our ideas and make sure they’re helping in real, meaningful ways.
Although MTF has brought on board Nelson and Rusten, they’re still building the team and spending a lot of time learning, observing, and adapting. “I’m taking the Peter Drucker approach—culture trumps strategy,” Nelson says. “We want a culture that’s teachable and humble, calling all of us—not just the pastors in our network, but our own team, too—to flourish.”