I've been thinking about the communal nature of the church for the past few months and I found this message by Francis Chan to be helpful.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
"Institutional decline is like a disease: harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages; easier to detect but harder to cure later."Jim Collins
I'm no perfectionist. I don't expect to get things right the first time around, but I'm always up for finding ways to prevent unnecessary future barriers. My wife gets annoyed when she waits for me as I stand by the door before heading out, assessing whether I have everything in my bag and pockets. Even when I'm in a rush, I often feel like lingering at the door to assess possible forgotten items is worth the delay if it could possibly prevent the devastation (couldn't think of a less dramatic word :) that comes with clinching empty pockets as the bill comes around. The earlier I catch the mistake, the easier it is to solve the problem. I eat with my mouth open, grind my teeth, slouch while typing on the computer, and my wife recently informed me that I walk with a funny bounce. We have bad habits because we didn't fully realize its eventual chronic implications. It appears harmless and fragile in its embryonic stages, but it becomes destructively concrete as it ages. This time of year is a great opportunity to assess the disciplines and habits we live out day to day and to discern whether it is helping to build upon the vision God has placed before us.
I just spotted this helpful article on a site my friend posted on facebook that details the importance of the early stages of a church. Be sure to check out the link.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
"The church cannot understand itself alone. It can only truly comprehend its mission and its meaning, its roles and its function in relation to others"Jurgen Moltmann
"The Church is the Church only when it exists for others."Dietrich Bonhoeffer
"What the church does internally with no intention of impacting the world outside itself is not mission. But when a local congregation understands that it is, by its nature, a constellation of mission activites, and it intentionally lives its life as a missionary body, then it begins to emerge toward becoming the authentic Church of Jesus Christ."Charles Van Engen
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I'm finding more recently that my main issue with mainstream churches today is not with their attractional models, extravagant sanctuaries and inward focused programs, it goes much deeper than that. The root of my issue is the lack of capacity to effectively adapt. The church today is realizing its need to change in this uniquely dynamic era, but change, in the way we've seen it in the past, is not adequate to describe the kind of shift that needs to take place today. I have been learning more recently that the way in which we change requires change itself.
In the book, The Missional Leader, Alan J. Roxbury and Fred Romanuk make an important distinction between continuous and discontinuous change that help us understand why leaders are finding it difficult to effectively adapt to the current mode of change in society. "Continuous change develops out of what has gone before and therefore can be expected, anticipated and managed", it's change within a familiar paradigm. "Discontinuous change is disruptive and unanticipated; it creates situations that challenge our assumptions", an "unpredictable environment were new skills are needed", so dynamic that a static set of skills will prove insufficient to stay in stride. We simply do not live in a linear, cause-and-effect predictable world. Many leaders are trained to have skills that function within the framework and linear path of continuous change, but it requires a completely different process of learning to construct within a discontinuous changing environment. Roxbury and Romanuk say that
"the classic skills of pastoral leadership in which most pastors were trained were not wrong, but the level of discontinuous change (in this postmodern era) renders many of them insufficient and often unhelpful at this point. It is as if we are prepared to play baseball and suddenly discover that everyone else is playing basketball. The game has changed and the rules are different." (p.11)
As I alluded to in a previous blog, I feel as though we underplay how exponentially rapid change is occurring and how much reform and adjustment needs to be made as we expand the kingdom of God. The simple acknowledgement that the way we learn and adapt requires a new set of skills and a revised frame of thinking is a step in the right direction. The book The Missional Leaders probes deeper into this subject and gives great clarity in how leaders can facilitate change within their congregations. It's a great resource! This blog basically scratches the surface of what this book discusses.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
For the past two weeks, I've been surrounded by conversations revolved around the need for miracles and the supernatural in our proclamation of the gospel. As interesting it is to talk about missional strategies and discipleship models, the framework and structure is essentially lifeless without incorporating people whose lives have been encountered by the living God. We really need to believe that God can work miracles, that we can receive a prophetic word for another, and that we can caste out demons and call forth peace for those around us.
It's so easy to fall back into a place where the supernatural becomes unpractical and unlikely. We revert back to the natural means of communicating the gospel and we tuck away the supernatural options into our old keepsake boxes. We mix it along with all the other objects that represented a radical childlike faith that once caused us to rely fully on the Holy Spirit. The courage and leaps that were once highly esteemed as youth have now become childlike to a fault, irresponsible and not relevant for this context or demographic. At what age do miracles become not relevant? At what level of education or towards what demographic is prophetic words unnecessary? There comes a point where many of us stop believing that God heals, that he speaks, and that he intervenes in our world. We say we believe in our minds, but our inaction reveals the true state of our faith.
The video below is a great preaching by a friend named Brian Orme who inspires us to do missions in a way that involves a greater reliance on the Holy Spirit. Side note, this guy is one of the funniest preachers I've ever heard. I hope you receive as much out of it as I did.
Monday, November 2, 2009
In the 1960's a man by the name of Wesley Baker gave a new name to a phenomenon common knowledge to many church leaders - "the disturbing difference between the committed few and the uninvolved many" (149). Baker calls this phenomenon "factor Beta".
"Look at the perish today. Made up, usually, of a small inner core of believers who assume the necessary posts of leadership with gratitude and devotion (albeit frequently naive), and surrounded by a cloud of uninvolved and mildly approving witnesses,..."Wesley Baker
Even to this day it is common to see churches comprised of 10% active, core, dedicated people and 90% inactive, peripheral, semi-interested people. The question is how we are to work with this problem? Is it too much to ask the 90% to embrace their missionary call? Do we simply ignore the 90% and settle to work with the 10%? How much does this problem have to do with our ecclesiology? What must be rethought in order to redeem and reinstate the 90% towards it missionary calling?
Laity & Clergy
Charles Van Engen elaborates on this idea by explaining the wrongful distinction between the laity and clergy. "It's biblical to distinct the laity in gift, function and ministration - but there should not be a distinction in holiness, prestige, power, commitment, or activity...." we seem to assume "that the layperson in a certain discipline is one who dabbles, muddles, tries hard, but certainly does not have expertise.... there is no biblical basis for such a distinction in the Church." (151). Fullness will be found when the other 90% join in ministry.
Separating the Converts from the Workers
Neil Cole argues that we have drawn a wrongful distinction between the convert and the worker. "They are not two, but one." In most cases the convert functions as a better worker within the harvest than one who is mature in the faith. The new believer is probably the best evangelist to be sent into the fields, the most capable and authentically charged individual whose words and life transformation will do more for his/her community then any paid charismatic professional can do within that same context. Cole says that "all these advantages are lost if we immobilize new converts out of a desire to protect them". The failure to instill a missional mindset early on simply propagates the 90%. Instead of equipping the believer as a missionary, we train them for ministries oriented around maintaining the status quo of the 90%.
Santa's Little Helper
The error most common with the church is the way in which they equip the 10% to do ministry simply within the church - such as visiting the sick, ushering, leading prayer or Bible study groups, and teaching a Sunday school class. Van Engen points out how that "lay ministers" function like "little elves in Santa's toy shop, scurrying around doing and making goodies which Santa (the "minister") will dispense." (153). The church needs to stop underestimating the capability of the laity. It needs to function differently than a our world of specialists and empower the ordinary to accomplish the great commission. The church needs to shift its emphasis towards equipping the whole church to be a missionary people, a whole body that is actively engaged in the community in which it resides.
Inspired by a reading of God's Missionary People by Charles Van Engen.
Monday, October 26, 2009
The video below is a great resource in beginning to learn about Church Planting Movements. I'll start this blog with David Watson's bio that I took from his website so you know where he's coming from:
"David Watson serves as the Vice President of Global Church Planting with CityTeam Ministries, San Jose, CA. His primary responsibility is to catalyze Church Planting Movements in difficult to reach cities and countries around the world. The primary methodology used is the training of local leaders in evangelism, discipleship, disciple making, church planting, leadership, church planting strategies and church planting movements. God has used the leaders David trained to start over 40,000 churches in the past 15 years, and more than 2 million people have been baptized as a result of God’s moving in the areas where trained local workers have devoted themselves to God’s work."