Sacramental Leadership: An Interview with Bill Woolsey

Bill

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I recently got a chance to talk with Pastor and Leader, Bill Woolsey and spend some time asking him several questions about leadership, engaging culture, and what he describes as “sacramental entrepreneurs.”  As a church worker, I am greatly encouraged by Bill’s desire to reach lost people with the message of the Gospel and his desire to do it in a way that is also distinctly Lutheran.

Bill Woolsey is a Pastor at Crosspoint Community Church in Katy, Texas.  He is a Pastor in the LCMS and is also the founding leader of FiveTwo, a “how to” network for sacramental entrepreneurs.  FiveTwo runs an incredible conference for sacramental church leaders every fall called the WikiConference.

Note: Every interview that I’ve done until now has been a text-only interview.  Recently in my mind I’ve been tossing around the idea of podcasting and this is a way of experimenting with the idea.  I’m just trying to create the interview I’d want to listen to.  Let me know what you think so I can decide if more should be made like this.  You can also find text for a portion of the interview below.

fivetwo

Me: Tell me about FiveTwo.  How did it start?

Bill: Well, we got started basically out of a holy discontent.  I have worked with church planters in our denomination since about 2000, and so in 2009 by this time I had convened a number of annual events for church planters, but there were mainly about 30 guys or so at the most.  And in talking to a lot of those guys, we were frustrated that, on one hand, our denomination – and it’s no different than any other mainline denomination, but it wanted church planters to go out and start new churches, and yet when they did, if they did it effectively, reaching lost people, they were often shot at or it’s you’re a heretic.  And so, it was like you live in this dualism of you love me and you hate me at the same time.  And so, we realized that there was really no one who was systemically supporting and caring for church planters and what we would say pouring courage into them, so to encourage is to pour in courage, right?

So, we said, “Somebody needs to do that.”

I invited 12 church planters to a meeting from around the country, all LCMS-ers, urban, suburban, rural, city, large and small, but these guys have been doing it, and they were bearing fruit, so they knew what they were doing.  Nine of us got together then here in Katy in a room for 24 hours.  

We brought in Will Mancini, who was doing some consulting with me in our congregation.  We asked him to help us figure out what to do with our angst.

And so, he did, and it was out of that, out of Scott Ritchie, a dear friend of mine, was teaching us about the feeding of the 5,000 and landed us on this understanding that the food belonged to the boy, it belonged to the community.  It didn’t belong to the disciples, so what the disciples needed to feed the community was already in the community.  It just needed to be blessed by Jesus.  And that whole concept then resonated with us, and we said, “Wow, that’s awesome, and that’s what we ought to be about.”

ME: Last year was the first time I went to the WikiConference.  When I was there, I got the sense that this wasn’t just a church planting network.  It that the case?

Bill: Fantastic, we started out with saying “Lutheran churches who wanted to plant churches.”  Well, as we got into this, we saw that God had positioned us uniquely to fill a gap where we had already started establishing a network.  We then also saw that if we kept talking just to church planters or just to congregations who wanted to plant churches, it was a very small number.

And we needed to throw the bigger tent, so that’s what’s happened over the last few years is that we have really – God’s revealed to us more and more clearly what is our purpose, and our purpose is to make sacramental entrepreneurs, and that’s what we’re really trying to do.  And we want these sacramental entrepreneurs then to start ministries that make baptized followers of Jesus out of lost people, and these are community-oriented ministries.

Me: Tell me more about this “sacramental entrepreneurs” idea.  What is that?  Entrepreneurs are often thought of a starting a business, what are these kind of entrepreneurs starting? 

They could be starting spiritual communities.  It could be a business as mission, a kingdom enterprise, a small group, a mom’s group, a preschool, or a new worship service.

It could be a whole new church.

The goal is that it is indigenous to the community.  It’s speaking the language of the lost person with the endgame that you are taking lost people and you’re helping them become baptized followers of Jesus.  And the sacramental part is important to us, because the sacramental speaks to mainline historical church, so a sacramental entrepreneur is the man or woman who has a high love for the sacraments.

They get the mystery, they get the power, they get the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine and water.  So, on one hand, they get that theology, they love that theology.

But, then we double-click on that and we say, “It’s not just that the power and the presence of Jesus is there.”  I mean, it definitely is, and that’s what makes it so beautiful in those rights, but also that presence of Jesus is in you and in your congregation. We are the physical reality of Jesus, his church is.  We are the body of Christ in the community, so we should be there to bless, not to take, to give, not to require, and you as a follower of Jesus, he is living and working in you.

You are his sacrament with a little S.  We don’t wanna go into capital S and have some people freak out theologically, but you are his sacrament and his sacramental presence.

Me: So, how do we do this in our culture?  Because we can’t just think, “Let’s play cooler music and trick people into liking church.”  What does being sacramental look like when it comes to being in our communities and blessing people in our communities?

There are three key aspects of a sacramental entrepreneur, three core values that we want to stress to this type of person or we see being present in this person.

The first one is a sacramental faith, and I’ve already kind of double-clicked on that to where it’s – you love the sacrament’s mystery power, but you are also the sacramental presence, expression, the sacrament of Jesus.  The church is the means of grace, right.  I mean, that’s the physical expression, bringing the Gospel in real historical time and space to the community, and so I’m okay with saying you and I as followers of Jesus are the means of grace.

The second core value, which feeds into your question, is respect for all, respect for all, especially those outside of the kingdom.

And then, the third core value is action oriented.  I’m not gonna just sit here and talk about it for years.  I’m not gonna study books on how to study the Bible as much as I’m going to get out there and start moving the ball down a field and doing something today.

So, in that second one, though, on respect for all, that’s where everything starts getting translated into the indigenous language and indigenous culture.  So, if I truly have a respect for all – and you are exactly right, I can’t play a certain kind of music just to get you, right.

I’ve gotta love you, and it’s my love for you and my respect for you even if you never love Jesus, even if you never come to faith, even if you never agree with me, it’s my love for you that leads me to jettison certain values that I used to hold dear in order to adopt your values that you hold dear so that I can earn the right to bring you the ultimate value that I hold dear, namely Jesus.

So, it’s a true missionary approach to life, but it flows from this wonderful, deep love for people who are not like you, who don’t know Jesus and who live outside the kingdom.

And so, I will change my music, and I will look for the beauty that God has put into the culture in which I live.  Now, one of the questions I ask guys is, “So, do you love the culture or do you hate the culture?”  Now, there are things about it you may not agree with, but it’s hard to reach a culture if you hate a culture, okay.

I would purport to you that one of the biggest struggles right now in our denomination and in all mainline denominations is that while some people give lip service to loving lost people, their value for the way they’ve always done it or their value for how that particular kind of worship expression speaks to their heart trumps their changing that and repositioning it into the language, the cultural language of that person.  So, it really is, it’s gonna look like some basic stuff.  This is not rocket science, but it’s a heart science, and so it really is positioning my heart or positioning my heart to embrace the things that are loved by others so that I can bring Jesus to them and get into their lives.

I can do life with them.  I can listen to their music.  I could even utilize their music.  I can speak their language in illustrations or the way I dress or whatever.  I’m earning the right to be invited to the table, and I can do that in large settings.  I can do that in small settings.  

If I’m gonna do it in large settings, i.e., a congregation setting, then I’ve got to have enough leadership chutzpah to convince the people to go there with me.  We need to create a worship environment that speaks the language of what we call “lawnmower guy,” the guy who would rather be at home mowing his lawn than sitting there in Sunday morning or in a worship expression.

There’s a ton more awesome stuff in this interview.  If you want to get the whole interview, listen to the audio.  And if you like, make sure you let me know what you think.

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Comments

  1. kathy schuck says

    Bill, it looks like you are doing some good stuff. I’m hoping to get to TX in July (a year from now) for a Compassionate Friends conference and would like to visit your church…haven’t been to TX in over 50 years, so thought this might be a good time to do a little exploring and visiting folks I know. Sounds like God is blessing your work…one of our pastors, Steve Hulke, thinks he knows you, so he might enjoy reading your material.K

    • says

      I’m not sure if Bill will see the comments here or not; I’d check out BillWoolsey.org to comment on his site. But you should definitely check out Crosspoint; Bill is doing some great stuff in his congregation and with FiveTwo, encouraging pastors throughout our denomination.

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