By Mark Nelson, Executive Director

As the church attempts to maneuver its way through the waters of an unprecedented cultural moment, many people have realized the need to reframe our God-given mission in order to release the church’s God-given potential. Johnson University, with funding from the Eli Lilly Foundation, created Three Rivers Collaborative (TRC) to help churches and church leaders journey together through such waters.

A great missional challenge has been set before the church:

  • How do we embody the good news of Jesus to a world in which the majority has rejected a spiritual, God-centered narrative for life and has moved beyond Christianity into a post-Christian understanding of the world?
  • How do we maneuver through a world that longs for everything Jesus has to offer, yet has decided the form of religion they have witnessed looks nothing like Jesus?
  • How do we learn to ask the courageous questions we have been afraid to ask and proactively face the cultural issues and social shifts we’ve been avoiding?

The ultimate goal of TRC is not to bring about new programs in a church. Instead, the goal is to have conversations that push us to rethink and reimagine and reframe the mission of each of our church communities. We want to offer and embody what N.T. Wright describes as: “The good news (that) comes knocking on doors that we didn’t even know we had; it flings open the curtains on windows we didn’t know existed to reveal the rising sun flooding the room with glory when we had imagined that all light came from candles; it woos our cold hearts and awakens them, like someone falling in love for the first time, to a joy and fulfillment never before imagined.”

And so, beginning in fall of 2021, TRC will create and lead learning communities of strategic leaders into a yearlong (and more) collective journey of exploration and application. These pastors and leaders from a variety of churches will attempt to understand, translate, integrate, and multiply this good news into each of their contexts.

In order to cultivate a collaborative learning community centered on mission, TRC will be built around a series of retreats, workshops, and immersion trips with churches learning from a variety of teachers, coaches, and practitioners from the Johnson University community and around the world. While geographical and cultural contexts may help identify participating churches, we will focus on leadership teams who are comfortable learning collaboratively, sharing their experiences, and forming a true peer learning environment. These leaders will lead churches that are open to movement, are able to move past institutional limitations, and are ready for adaptation within their own cultural contexts while clarifying and refining their mission.

To learn more, visit the Three Rivers Collaborative website.