Spring syllabi - Bethel Seminary
Tweets Feb 24, 2015 to Sept 22, 2015

Notes on 3DM and The Order of Mission

Below are some notes on the connected organizations associated with Mike Breen's LifeShapes and huddles: 3DM, The Order of Mission (TOM), the Covenant Kingdom Network (CKN), and Network Church Sheffield (NCS). Corrections welcome.


In a book chapter, Bob Whitesel tells some of the history of St. Thomas' Anglican Church in Sheffield, England out of which this movement emerged based on interviews with Mike Breen, Paddy Mallon, Bob Hopkins, Mal Calladine, Mick Woodhead, and Paul Maconochie in June 2007; and Jo Saxton in June 2011:  

Whitesel, Bob. "St. Tom's: From Gathered to Scattered." In The Gospel after Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions, edited by Ryan K. Bolger, 291-302. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012.

Whitesel also writes that "Dr. Eddie Gibbs has been involved as a member and board member of St. Thomas' for over two decades."

Ryan Bolger summarizes the chapter this way in the introduction of the book: 

In chapter 24, Bob Whitesel analyzes St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in Sheffield, England, specifically focusing on the impact that losing their venue had on the congregation. This church grew into the largest Anglican church in England in a fairly brief period, and Whitesel’s essay examines the nature of that growth. The church is a local ecumenical project, in this case a Baptist and Anglican church yoked together. When Mike Breen joined the church in 1993, significant changes came to the community. He created a program called Lifeshapes as well as small groups where primary discipleship happened. Groups of three to seven small groups formed clusters, and these extended families created a midsize space between the small group and the larger congregation. It is at the cluster level where most growth occurred. In 2000, St. Tom’s moved into The Roxy nightclub. Many unchurched joined at that time. They met twice each Sunday at The Roxy and once at St. Thomas’ Crookes parish. Multiple subcongregations developed. The next year, The Roxy was condemned, and they had to find a new venue rather quickly. Seventeen cluster groups began to meet weekly all over Sheffield. After a year, they grew to thirty-five clusters with 2,500 members, most under the age of forty. Clusters developed their own culture and leadership. Eventually they created nine celebrations, all distinct, around Sheffield. They soon moved into a huge warehouse, and the numbers of meetings contracted at that point. During the church’s history, the quickest growth happened when they lost their venue, but the community continues to grow.

Ryan Bolger, "Introduction," The Gospel after Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), xli.

Whitesel and Bolger report that they have not continued to study 3DM since this research in 2007-2011.


What is 3DM?

3DM primarily does consulting on how to use Mike Breen's LifeShapes and huddle materials. For example, it will coach 7 people for $9,240 per year. The organization 3DM has their own publishing wing 3DM Publishing. An emphasis in Breen's materials is "family on mission: "3DM functions as a 'family business.'" Breen and his wife and a lot of their children and sons and daughters in law were on staff at 3DM.  (This link is still live [now removed Aug 18, 2015] but it is not linked to from the main 3DM website). Breen began his work in the United Kingdom and then brought it on the United States. An entry on “missional community” in Wikipedia says:

“In the mid 2000s this model of church began to spread to the United States. Early pioneers in this movement, such as Community of Joy in Phoenix, Arizona, Norman Community Church in Norman, Oklahoma and Trinity Grace in New York City were some of the first American churches to embrace this structure.”

But Walt Kallestad who is the current pastor of Community of Joy, and published Passionate Church and Passionate Life together with Mike Breen, does not seem to have carefully continued using Breen’s special terminology of huddles and LifeShapes. There does not seem to be any reference to Breen or 3DM now on the Community of Joy website. Breen seems to have preached there and been a pastor there in 2007.

Norman Community Church looks like they do the 3DM model to some extent. They link to 3DM but also other places like Bethel Church in Redding, CA which used to be part of the Assemblies of God so Norman looks like it draws from independent movements of all sorts.

3DM claims to have partnerships  says it "works alongside and partners with" organizations including Wheaton College and Northern Seminary. Breen taught one summer course at Wheaton (summer 2013) the syllabus which has now been removed. [Correction 9/20/2015: Wheaton College does partner with 3DM by giving 3DM staff a discount and credits for some of their work at 3DM].  Northern Seminary people say they do not have a future relationship with 3DM. 

What is The Order of Mission?

Breen had also founded a Church of England "3rd order" non-profit registered in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina and the United Kingdom [the contact info for TOM is now Simpsonville, SC and Denmark. "Pawley's Island" has mostly been removed from the 3DM website so no location for 3DM is visible- August 18, 2015] called The Order of Mission (TOM). The Order of Mission is a "third order" or "Acknowledged Community" which at its founding received some kind of formal blessing from the Church of England [link removed - revised TOM history now at TOM history August 18, 2015] "In April 2003 (6th) The Order of Mission was inaugurated by the then Archbishop of York, David Hope." Here is a list of other Anglican "orders" (which means they have include vows) including it.

TOM and 3DM are very closely linked [link removed. TOM links to 3DM regarding a book - Aug 18, 2015] as both were headed by Breen and based in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. 3DM markets the LifeShapes material of Breen and The Order of Mission takes as its “rule” the LifeShapes.

"As an Order we have committed to a rule or pattern for life that has at its core the vision of embracing a life that is simple, pure and accountable so that the mission of God is not hindered. The pattern we have chosen to use to help us live this way is called Lifeshapes. Lifeshapes Lifeshapes is a set of practical tools for missionary living grounded in biblical insights that enables Order members to live the TOM way. Lifeshapes is not a philosophy or a programme, but rather concepts that embody what it is to be a follower of Jesus and to pattern our lives after him. Lifeshapes are powerless unless put into practice and it is expected that an Order member will be well grounded in their use."

TOM's "Leadership and Accountability" [updated link to TOM "Leadership"] and constitution [link to it removed - Aug 18, 2015] say "Accountability to the wider church is maintained through Visitors to the Order" but there is no list of who these people are. The Visitors used to be listed (June 2014) at the founding church's (St Thomas’ Church Sheffield-Philadelphia) website but they were all retired and not in the positions anymore where they were listed: "TOM is held accountable to the wider church by John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, David Coffey, President of the World Baptist Alliance, Eddie Gibbs, Professor of Church Growth, Fuller Seminary and Kent Hunter, President of Church Doctor Ministries."

Neither 3DM nor The Order of Mission are members of the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability).

Transitions in 3DM, TOM, and Network Church Sheffield (April 2014-March 2015)

There has been a lot of transition in the last year in 3DM and TOM and Network Church Sheffield circles.

Prior to April 2014, Paul Maconochie announced that he would step down as Senior Leader of the the founding church in the UK for 3DM in the summer of 2014. It is called the Network Church Sheffield and consists of two sites or "bases": St Thomas’ Church Philadelphia, Sheffield and King's Centre Christian Church, Sheffield. Maconochie relates how he had attempted to balance his work with the church with his work with 3DM UK between 2011-2014. In that resignation letter, Maconochie tells some of the history of the church and 3DM. Maconochie had been full-time at the church prior to 2011 but then went part-time to start 3DM. "Rich Robinson and I were released from our church role part-time, to set up '3-Dimensional Ministries' (3DM) as a separate ministry so that churches that we train and coach pay for this instead of our church effectively paying by donating our time while paying our stipend . . . I remained the Senior Leader, with my role being to hold the overall vision of the church." He mentions also: "We developed the idea of a church network called 'the Covenant Kingdom Network' (CKN) as a response to churches that say to us: 'we want to be one with you.'" But later, he says he stepped back from his work with 3DM UK to attend to the church because it was not doing well.  Among other issues of communication, there was "a lot of strain on our finances, which were also affected by the end (in 2011) of a 4-year period of external funding from the USA ." To give more time to helping the church, Maconochie writes, "I significantly reduced my time working for 3DM UK in order to increase my time working for the church again. I also stepped down as a director of 3DM UK." Maconochie gave this explanation of the relationship between the church (Network Church Sheffield) and its partners.

We have also unanimously renewed our commitment to be a part of the wider movement
which grew out of this church, alongside The Order of Mission, the Covenant Kingdom
Network and 3DM. Within this context we want to continue to recognise Mike Breen as the
overall spiritual leader of this movement. Mike does not have the authority to make decisions
about the running of Network Church Sheffield, but he does have similar authority to other
non-executive Board Members to speak into our church life, and operates alongside the
Baptist Regional Minister, Graham Ensor, the Bishop of Sheffield and our House Church
Representative, Ray Booth. As a leadership team we consult with all of these leaders and
allow them to speak into the way we operate.

Later he mentions that the church is consulting with what he called above non-executive Board Members: "We are in discussion with the Bishop of Sheffield, who is working on a way to easily recognise these potential new Bases from a C of E point of view, and with Graham Ensor the Baptist Regional Minister, who is looking at ways to help us financially with these plants. He has offered fund-matching from the Yorkshire Baptist Association to help us financially with each new Base we plant!"  

In another April 16, 2014 post, it is again made clear that the four-person Executive Team board or "The Strategic Leadership Team" merely consults with the denominational representatives. "The Strategic Leadership Team relate to all three of our denominational streams through regular meetings with Bishop Steven, Graham Ensor the Baptist Regional Minister and Ray Booth representing the House Church stream."

After explaining this history and the changes that had been made over the years at the church, Maconochie announces that he will be leaving in the summer of 2014.

However in all of this, it has increasingly been a question for me whether I am supposed to
lead this next phase or give my time to the building of the wider movement. It feels that this
'Network Church Sheffield Senior Leader' role needs someone who is focussed much more
on Sheffield and much less on the national and international networks and movement. 

In a subsequent message on April 3, 2014, Maconochie clarifies his plan "to move in July from leading Network Church Sheffield to overseeing the wider network of churches that have connected with us."  

On April 29, 2014, the Network Church Sheffield appointed new leaders Peter & Anne Findley to replace Maconochie. "They are leaders within the Covenant Kingdom Network, and the Order of Mission."

In July 2014, Maconochie moved to Grace Gathering, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA to oversee leadership development and to also work with 3DM Networks USA and under the reorganization continues as head of the executive team of 3D Movements

In April 2014, the council of elders at North Heights Lutheran Church (Arden Hills and Roseville, MN) removed the 3DM LifeShapes curriculum. Ten staff including the senior pastor resigned in protest. The announcement from the church has now been removed: North Heights Lutheran Church (Arden Hills and Roseville, MN) Removes 3DM (April 2014) http://www.nhlc.org/3dm

There was a response (June 2014) posted from USA 3DM leaders Dave and Kim Rhodes that has since been removed as well: http://margarethe.net/ebenezer/3DM_response_NHLC_4.10.14.pdf

One thing they wrote is that: 

"The Order of Mission is a covenant community of missional leaders officially acknowledged as a religious community within the Church of England . . .  Mike Breen is the current Senior Guardian of the Order of Mission. This title was not chosen by Mike, but was given by the Church of England." 

But no one else in the Church of England has the title "Senior Guardian" and an expert in the Church of England tells me this title “Senior Guardian” is not something that is not conferred by the Church of England. It is not necessarily a problem to have the title because churches and organizations are always making up new titles, but the title should not be linked to the Church of England.

David and Kim Rhodes announced in November 2014 that they would be leaving as 3DM US Team Leaders to take a job at a church in Atlanta. Ben Sternke also left his position as Director for Content for 3DM in October 2014 after having been in the position since July 2013. Matt Tebbe left his position as Coaching Associate at 3DM in October 2014 after having been in the position since December 2013.

On Jan 8, 2015, Mike Breen announced that he and his wife Sally were stepping down from leadership of The Order of Mission.

Furthermore, it is possible that Breen has also stepped down from leadership of 3DM. Breen is not listed on the front of the 3DM Movements website among the leadership though his blog is linked to. Apparently, 3DM released a statement that has since been removed but seems accurate: “UPDATE FROM THE BOARD: As many of you are aware January 1, 2015 marked the completion of the 3DM decentralization process.  3D Movements now fully operates under the leadership of the 3Dmovements Board."

After Breen’s resignation on Jan 8, 2015, on Jan 15, 2015 it was announced that TOM would elect a successor to Mike Breen. They also mentioned that Pawley’s Island, South Carolina would no longer be the headquarters for TOM.

“As you know, at present the Secretariat role is held by David and Susan Sisson, based in Pawley’s Island, USA. However we are a global Order and the Secretariat will need to be based wherever the new Senior Guardian is based, which means the geographical location and the personnel of the Secretariat will more than likely change. There will be a staged transition as David and Susan hand over the various aspects of administration for the Order.”

It was announced on March 1, 2015 that the Network Church Sheffield has continued to have financial problems (which Paul Maconochie had mentioned in his resignation letter the year prior) and therefore had to lay off staff Nick and Marjorie Allan who had overseen one of the bases that make up the Network Church Sheffield. 

On March 26, 2015, The Order of Mission announced that a new “Senior Guardian” had been elected: Keld Dahlmann, formerly "Guardian in mainland Europe."

Why this post:

In my course Discipleship in Community, I feel like it is important to read Breen's work since many people are interested in it. I require students read: Mike Breen and Steve Cockram, Building a Discipling Culture: How to Release a Missional Movement by Discipling People Like Jesus Did (Pawleys Island, SC: 3 Dimension Ministries, 2011), 43-62, 203-230. We read it appreciatively and critically as we do other resources. See my syllabi at: http://www.andyrowell.net/andy_rowell/2015/02/spring-syllabi-bethel-seminary.html I also teach Organizational Leadership and Church Governance and Introduction to Transformational Leadership courses, where we look at organizational issues so that may explain some of the interest in structure and organization. 

Revised: May 13, 2015 5:23 pm to remove Sisson move detail, change order of chronology, remove editorial recommendation, add information about NCS, add information about 3DM. 

Revised again: May 14, 2015 11:39 to add information from Whitesel and Bolger and to move comment of "Why this post" to body of the text, this and previous comment unpublished for now.

Checked and updated most of the links: August 18, 2015.