Shawn Brace is one of the hidden assets of the Adventist Church. Working from his base in Bangor, Maine, he is a thinker, an author of five books, and a tireless networker and exchanger of ideas revolving around church planting, spiritual growth, and missiology. Across the Adventist Church, thought leaders know Brace and his work, and that’s because he does much more than just talk about cutting-edge and powerful ideas—he refines them and then tries to implement them.
There are some compelling examples of how Brace is involved in refining and implementing ideas for bringing the message of salvation to his community. One is his regular and intentional ministry presence in a bagel shop (before COVID-19 shut it down) to the point that he became a de facto pastor to other regular customers. Another is his work with members of the Bangor church to start home groups and intentional, regular discipling training.
But the area of effort that may yield the most eventual fruit is one that Brace calls a “leadership residency” and it is underpinning a renewed focus on the pursuit of the fundamental Adventist mission by the Bangor church, something that he calls a “restart” for the church.
“As a part of our restart efforts as a church, we realized that we didn’t want to simply grow our church but to multiply it,” said Brace in a recent interview. “But in order to multiply, we needed to have trained leadership, so I got the idea to do a ‘Leadership Residency,’ which means an intentional effort to train a group of people to carry out spiritual leadership in the church and community. The idea is basically to multiply the pastor function, and it is essentially a ‘local seminary’ of sorts, where over a two-year period these members are trained in the important and necessary areas of leadership development.”
The training is far more than doctrinal training. The goal, in fact, is to help people grow in all facets of life and become leaders and resources to the church and community. “In the pursuit of that aggressive goal,” said Brace, “we decided to focus on four key areas of formation: emotional, spiritual, theological, and missional. In essence, each member of the residency will pursue emotional health and how to lead others in this area. They will also pursue a greater personal spiritual connection to Christ, how to understand the beautiful theology of Adventism within the framework of the gospel and the big story of Scripture, and how to pursue God’s mission in contextual and relevant ways to the world around us. It’s a very ambitious program.”
Brace understands the need for depth in the program, and it therefore pursues a strategy of quality over quantity. “After much prayer and consideration, I recruited four individuals to join me in our first cohort. They come from diverse backgrounds and various faith journeys. Some are lifelong Adventists and some are more recent followers of the faith. The intention is that after two years of training, they will be ready to either plant a new Adventist church in the Bangor area or beyond, or take a more prominent leadership role within the existing church. But whatever direction the Lord guides them to, they will be more skilled and more fit for doing great work for the Lord.”
Brace has a podcast where he explores the world of ideas revolving around spiritual growth, church planting, and missiology. You can find his podcast at missionlab.podbean.com.