TLA: Tell us about Forge Hollywood. What do you find is the biggest hurdle to shifting someone’s paradigm to begin living as a missionary?
JR: Forge Hollywood is a local Hub of Forge America/Forge International. Forge partners with the local church to mobilize the everyday people of God to participate in the everyday mission of God.
- We inspire the church to take steps towards mobilizing the people of God to participate in the mission of God.
- We equip the church to mobilize the people of God to participate in the mission of God and pioneer new expressions of the church across neighborhoods, networks, work spaces, and third spaces.
- We provide the church pathways to pioneer and send new expressions of the church across neighborhoods, networks, work spaces, and third spaces.
- We provide the church the necessary tools to connect new expressions pioneered.
I started Forge Hollywood as a way to pull individual members out of my Sunday community and train them to live as missionaries. After training about 50 members and sharing their stories on Sunday, we began to see more of a hunger from others to all live this way, which allowed us to bring this language and priority into our gatherings more often. Forge was part of my change strategy for our church when I arrived five years ago. Innovation cannot be dumped into a community from the pulpit; too many people react negatively to ANY change. It has to be diffused into it from Innovators, to Early Adopters, to Early Majority to Late Majority to Laggards, in order for it to be organic and accepted.
TLA: Forge provides coaching for churches. Is it hard to get a church’s leadership to understand what Forge is doing and want to train their leaders and congregants to view life this way?
JR: Forge started by training individuals but over time as more and more local churches and even denominations see the need for a more robust individual disciple who can make disciples, we are investing more energy in partnerships with local churches. We serve local churches with coaching, mentoring and can even lead local six-month small group learning cohorts for their leaders or congregation. Sadly, so many Hollywood churches have yet to make the paradigm shift needed for the new reality that is rapidly approaching so we have not seen as many churches participate here as Forge is seeing in other parts of the country and Canada/Europe. I meet monthly with some “freaks like me” who are pioneering new church plants, missional initiatives, and Food Trucks in the city for coaching, encouragement and ongoing training.
TLA: Your staff works closely with Epiphany Space, which is a coworking space in Hollywood. What have you learned from this partnership? What would you want to pass along to other churches who may have an opportunity to work with/in a coworking environment?
JR: Epiphany is our best example of a food truck church. A local community of believers who lead with a mission to bless artists, then seek to create community amongst them, then finally offer ways that the community can engage in acts of worship like prayer and Bible study when they are ready. Eccleisa’s small staff team offices out of Epiphany to model that all believers need to be embedded in the local culture as disciple makers. The partnership is a mutual blessing. Melissa Smith is the main conduit between both worlds, as she serves on our Ecclesia Pastoral Team and is also the Founder and Director of Epiphany Space.
We have spoken to other churches about starting coworking spaces. The key is that the space has to feel like a neutral space, where non-believers will feel comfortable. The best thing to do would be to take part of the building, set it aside for co-working and be sure to strip it of overt church branding, iconography, etc and then build a team to operate it in a way that is consistent with the needs and desires of the community it seeks to serve (artists, tech startups, small businesses, etc.) You have to believe that blessing people with space and supporting their careers so that they flourish and grow has Kingdom value in and of itself. If you create the space to merely “do evangelism” it will never feel safe to the secular community who sniff out inauthenticity now more than ever.