Brian Kannel is the Lead Pastor of York Alliance Church, a growing cell church in south central Pennsylvania. He is also the author of numerous study guides, including Discipleship According to Jesus and Up in Smoke: A Study of Ecclesiastes. Brian and his wife Amanda live in York, PA with their four children.
Brian writes in the introduction:
In April of 2010, God used the Eastern Pennsylvania District Superintendent and the Elders of York Alliance to call me into the role of Lead Pastor of York Alliance Church (YAC). I must say, that mantle was one I accepted with more than a little hesitation, fear, and trepidation! Much of that was related to the heavy weight of responsibility that comes from such a position along with my continued realization that I am fallen, broken, and incapable of adequately filling such a role in my own strength. However, through nearly a year of deeply hearing from God, I had become convinced that He was leading me into this role, and that His strength would be made perfect in my weakness.
The church that I inherited had many incredible strengths. Among them was a clearly defined vision statement that neither I nor the leadership had any intention or desire to change. It reads as follows:
York Alliance Church is seeking to be an outreach-based church,committed to exalting Christ and loving people by becoming disciples that make disciples. In all of this, prayer is the first work.
In some ways, this statement had provided the filter that was necessary for us to embrace over the past 15 years of ministry. However, as I evaluated our church, the spiritual growth of our congregation, the development of the dozens and dozens who had come to faith over the past several years of ministry, and the issues that had been challenging and even divisive during those same years, I realized that there were two questions that needed to be answered.
The first question was this: What are the core values that make York Alliance the church that it is, and more importantly, the church we long to be? There are many churches that would affirm our vision statement, but that choose to do ministry in very different ways than we did it. While we were in no way opposed to various ways of doing ministry, it was vital for us to understand what we would be about, and stick to those ways. Through much study, discussion, and prayer, we arrived at seven “Family Values,” which make up the subject matter of this book. The determination of these seven values was absolutely vital to who we are as a church, and they soon became a much better filter for ministry than our vision statement had provided.
The second question proved to be a more difficult one: What is the basic process for discipleship at York Alliance Church? We were not a church cluttered by programs—we had transitioned to a cell church model a decade earlier and had eliminated just about all extraneous programs in that transition. However, as I wrestled with this question personally and asked the same question of dozens of key leaders, our responses were mostly blank stares. Sure, there were paths in which a person might become a disciple. We had acquired a series of books that provided a path for discipleship, even though very few actually utilized them. Several mentoring/discipling relationships were working well in the 1:1 setting. The “right” LIFE group (our name for our cell groups) could effectively provide a path for some who were wired in the right ways. However, we all agreed: There simply was not a clear, identifiable, and easily communicated path for growth in the faith.
And so we wrestled—for months. We talked through what was necessary for growth. We talked about our newly minted values and how they related to our vision. We talked about images that brought visual clarity to theoretical concepts and processes. And ultimately, we arrived at a process. A relatively simple one, and, hopefully, a clear one. If the Family Values make up the subject matter of this book, it’s the hourglass discipleship model that gives it structure and form and, I pray, that brings these theoretical concepts into practical, everyday life… because, values that don’t get dirty in the dust and grime of everyday life aren’t worth all that much, no matter how true they are.
That’s the context for all that follows. When Jesus called His disciples at the beginning of His ministry, He did so with a simple command: “Follow Me.” The incredible truth that we so often miss is that the New Testament writers assumed that, as we grow in our faith, we would indeed actually become more and more like Him. This is nowhere more evident than in Jesus’ own teachings. Yet, so few in the church actually reflect this truth. May we, dear reader, by the grace of Jesus, be those who do.
Here’s to the journey.
Grace and peace,
York Alliance Church