In this episode of the Future Church Podcast, Carrie Williams (Special Projects Director for Exponential) talks with Arman Sheffey of Unshackled Network.
Unshackled Network is a decentralized network of microchurches that are innovating ways to help those on the margins of Lake County, IL to experience freedom in Jesus by exploring new ways to develop a presence among the poor and vulnerable. Since March 2019, they have launched four microchurches: one reaches those in their 60s and 70s on fixed incomes, one reaches gang-related and at-risk youth, another reaches middle-class, justice-minded Jesus seekers looking for ways to engage the church around the intersection of Jesus and justice and finally, and one is a microchurch that reaches Hip-hop lovers and uses music to engage men 13 and up.
Listen to Episode 4 of the podcast and access the show notes below.
Future Church Insights:
1. Arman explains the unintentional start of his first microchurch.
Arman was trying to connect with young guys who enjoyed music, and he had just released a hip hop album himself. In a one-on-one conversation with a couple of guys who were really into hip hop, they began talking about the formation of simple gatherings. In the process, he was trying to figure out, “What would God have me do?” And God answered. They began meeting in his basement studio, making music, writing lyrics and talking about the Lord. They called this new gathering Beats, Bars, & Bible.
2. Arman talks about his first experiences with the idea of microchurches.
He didn’t go into any sort of search with the end in mind. But God kept impressing on him that there was so much more. He visited the Tampa Underground where his mind was blown with all sorts of creative ideas and different expressions of the church, and he had never experienced anything like it. It felt less like a system and more like family.
3. Arman talks about Unshackled’s leadership model.
He explains that as the Lord raises up leaders, they are free to lead and follow as the Lord leads them. There is spiritual oversight – are they staying submitted to the Lord, continuing to be a disciple themselves as they lead others? But they are hyper focused on the calling of the leaders and want to help equip and empower them. Monthly, Arman meets with each leader one on one, and that’s where they really go deep into how things are going. He asks the questions that help him discern how they’re doing spiritually, emotionally and beyond. They also gather as a group monthly where they share leadership struggles and challenges, get encouragement, ideas, and a sense of community.
Goals and Desired Outcomes of Unshackled Network
- Every marginalized population in Round Lake Area actively missionally engaged by microchurches in our network.
- 25 Churches/Microchurches launched by 2025 (He wrote this on a napkin after an Exponential event before God sent him out to plant).
- Confirmed active Jesus-worshiping communities in every neighborhood in Round Lake Area.
More of a reader? Download the transcription here.
Key Quotes from the episode from Arman Sheffey:
“We were really formed because the Lord broke our heart for the need for there to be ministry that connected with people that weren’t currently being reached by those in some of the mainstream or normative traditional methods.”
“I believe in 2018 . . . when He was setting me loose to the poor, the thing that I really knew for sure He was saying was, there’s more . . . there’s so much more.”
“If you’re looking for a why with microchurches, it’s the amazing intimate relationships that we’re actually able to have that are nothing like I ever experienced in any of the other churches I was part of.
“But this has felt like a whole different thing, a family.”
“I feel like for me the biggest challenge in a lot of this is over complicating things . . oftentimes when I get out of the way, the Lord just does his thing and it’s way better than anything I can plan.”
“There’s only three things that are consistent. And it’s the ecclesial minimum that we’re really grabbing ahold of . . . it’s worship, community, and mission.”