The Challenge that will Transform the Church

28 06 2008

There is one simple challenge that a church can take that will once and for all

  • Shift the mission to disciple-making
  • Cause the church to be structured into small bodies (missional communities)
  • Release the 5-fold ministry to focus most of their energy on expansion

I’ve mentioned this challenge in several of my past posts especially here and here but I just discovered that it was posed by an episcopal priest named George Martin in the publication “Today’s Parish” where he wrote –

“Perhaps pastors should imagine that they are going to have three more years in their parish as pastor—and that there will be no replacement for them when they leave. If they acted as if this were going to happen, they would put the highest priority on selecting, motivating, and training lay leaders that could carry on as much as possible of the mission of the parish after they left. The results of three sustained years of such an approach would be quite significant. Even revolutionary.”

I want to work with ANY church leaders willing to serious consider taking this challenge. We need to STOP planting churches that are improperly structured requiring endless maintenance by full-time workers and the lack of serious discipleship and deep community that are their natural byproduct. It’s very simple. Structures that really make disciples, foster community and release the 5-fold are available if we’ll have the courage and fortitude to leave the familiar paths and take this ancient neglected path back to sustainable Kingdom expansion.

Please talk to me if you want to explore this.

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Daily Rhythms of Walking with God

26 06 2008

Taking a quick break from our discussions about church and community-wide discipleship I want to share something very personally important to me – the design of my daily rhythms of walking with God.

In the same way discovering the HOW of church has been like being lost in a foggy maze without a guide, discovering the HOW of a vibrant, growing walk with God has been equally if not more difficult. But lately I’ve been feeling like my head is starting to peak above the fog and I want to throw out there some practices that have been immensely helpful to me (partially because I feel very few people have been willing to open up to me on HOW they walk with God daily). I’m beginning to become convinced that the key (at least for me) is the development of a rhythmic life where rhythms exist to serve as boundaries that give freedom in which I can flourish.

I’ve constructed 5 types of rhythmic boundaries to my life –

  1. A morning rhythm
  2. An evening rhythm
  3. Spontaneous rhythms
  4. A weekly rhythm
  5. Life rhythms

In this post I want to share my morning rhythm.

First, I went out and bought a pretty big white board so I could design the rhythms, make quick changes and see them easily throughout the day.

Next I wrote out all the elements that I wanted to be a part of my morning

  • Shower
  • Dressed
  • Breakfast
  • Task List
  • Write
  • Prayer
  • Task List
  • Family Meeting

I wrote down an initial progression on the white board and did it very rigidly the next morning. I would make observations of how my energy flowed from one to the next. I reordered the rhythm and added and subtracted elements and attacked it again the next day. Sometimes I needed to tweak how I did a specific element, what I did at prayer or writing or the family meeting etc. It took about 3-4 weeks of a lot of observation, strategizing and prayer before I felt I arrived at a sustainable life giving rhythm that would only have to be tweaked on occasion.

So today this is what I do EVERY morning in this order

  • Get up immediately when I wake (I don’t use an alarm)
  • Shower (this is done daily more to give energy and washing my face is what REALLY wakes me up)
  • Brush teeth and get dressed
  • Write for 20 minutes (writing stimulates my mind like a shower stimulates my body so by the time this is done I’m fully awake)
  • Make Breakfast for me and my wife (I make the Chunky Strawberry Smoothie every morning)
  • Family Meeting (while eating I meet with my kids to go over what they accomplished yesterday and set up tasks for the day for home school)
  • Prayer (I spend about an hour in my room starting with worship then writing prayers and pace the room after each or using the olyptical to pray through each item and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance on Bible reading)
  • Task List (I end the day asking the Lord what he wants me to do that day and write each item down in a notebook, prioritize the list and get to work)

I’ve also made a number of decisions to protect my morning rhythm like I NEVER meet with anyone or have a planned event before 11am for example. A lot of the success of this rhythm, however, hinges on my evening rhythm which I’ll share later

I’ve never actually shared my rhythm with anyone so I’d be interested to hear if others do similar things or if you can give me any tips on things I might be missing.





The Slippery Slope of Extrabiblical Eccelesiology

24 06 2008

A quote from Richard Hanson in Viola/Barna’s book Pagan Christianity perfectly summed up a concept I’ve consistently encountered.

95% of my conversations with others about HOW to do church seem to center around this practice of reading their current model back into the biblical text.

Hanson writes –

“It is a universal tendency in the Christian religion, as in many other religions, to give a theological interpretation to institutions which have developed gradually through a period of time for the sake of practice usefulness, and them read that interpretation back into the earliest periods and infancy of these institutions, attaching them to an age when in fact nobody imagined they had such a meaning.” – Richard Hanson

This is so important to me because I believe, without this practice, so many true believers would fully embrace the design of the church given by the 1st century Apostles. But so many of us have decades worth of training which spins biblical teachings into a defenses for our current church practices. If we can at least get over this and admit that there is no biblical basis for the

  • worship service
  • weekly sermon
  • career clergy
  • church buildings

and that these are man made inventions that should only be used if we truly believe they will enhance our commission fulfillment, and not distort the Apostolic vision of the church. Only then will we finally have the flexibility to rediscover the Apostolic methods that lead to explosive, deep, natural, unstoppable Kingdom expansion.





Parts of the Apostolic Team

20 06 2008

I’ve written in the past that ALL the members of the 5-fold ministry should function as an itinerant team to found new works and build up existing ones. This strategy will lead to the explosive expansion experienced in the 1st century church.

One question people continually ask is how these 5 gifts function. Enter Mike Edwards’ excellent post on Apostolic Expansion. Mike has an apostolic ministry in our DiSC network (Discipling in Simple Churches).





Should every church align with a living apostle?

16 06 2008

I’m enjoying Alan Hirsch’s two recent posts on apostolic ministry part 1 and part 2. He writes –

To conceptualize leadership as influence, think of a magnet and its effect on iron filings scattered on a sheet of paper. When the filings come into the orbit of influence of the magnet, they form a certain pattern which we all recognize from our school days. Leadership does exactly the same thing—it creates a field which in turn influences people in a certain way, just like the magnet’s influence on the iron filings. The presence of a great leader in a group of people changes the patterning of that group. For instance, Nelson Mandela’s appearance among a group of people will impact them in a significant way. His physical presence will be unmistakable and will change the social climate of the room. Apostolic leadership qualifies the mood of this influence, but the dynamics of influence operates in the same way. It is precisely this field, this matrix of apostolicity that is critical to the emergence of authentic missional church. Because it is the task of apostolic ministry to create environments wherein which the apostolic imagination of God’s people can be evoked, the spiritual gifts and ministries developed, wherein which the love and hope inspired by the gospel can be make known. For instance, John Wimber would have exerted just this sort of influence. Within two decades, Wimber altered the shape of evangelicalism and underscored the role of the Holy Spirit in mission and ministry in a way that has changed us forever. Just as we still feel the influence of a John Wesley even though none of us have met him. Influence is a field that changes behaviors.

I asked the following question –

One thing I’m pondering regarding this apostolic influence is how it works when two apostolic influences collide.

For example, every denomination is aligned with an apostle, most likely the one who founded the group. But usually that person is dead making all of those churches inflexible.

It seems every church body must align itself with a LIVING apostle because there are always seasons where things must be altered.

When I talk to Vineyard pastors about change I’m battling the ghost of Wimbur, Methodist pastors, the ghost of Wesley etc.

Wimbur and Wesley might completely agree with a new direction but they are not alive to consider it so, instead, their apostolic work has been institutionalized and is, therefore, impervious to the work of a living apostle.

This seems a terrible tragedy because Pastors need access to apostolic ministry in order to make necessary course corrections and to be involved in explosive apostolic expansion.

How do we exist in a world where 95% of established churches have no access to living apostolic ministry and have a DNA that makes gaining that access unlikely?





What to do during a Small Gathering? Rediscovering the Forgotten Gathering of the Body

14 06 2008

As I’ve explored the various ways of doing discipleship training I’ve discovered that one of the main reasons our model differs from others is because we have very different purposes and practices for the small gathering (missional community, body church, cell, community group etc.).

I want to lay out what we do during what we simply call “The Gathering” and then make a few observations on how this impacts our overall church model.

We believe there is only one Gathering actually described and prescribed in the New Testament for the local church body (the one that met in homes during the New Testament). This Gathering was (and still should be) one of the greatest distinctives of the Christian church. In the book of Acts we know they gathered in homes and at the end of the epistles Paul was greeting churches that met in those homes, but what actually happened INSIDE of those homes when they gathered?

Fortunately for us, one church royally screwed up their Gathering(s) so badly that Paul was forced to spell out specifically what should and what should NOT happen during The Gathering. This was the Corinthian church and the passage that described the practice of the Gathering was 1 Corinthians 11-14. As we’ve studied this passage here is a sample of the elements we’ve gleaned and put into practice during The Gathering:

  • 1 Cor. 11 – It starts with the Lord’s Supper as a love feast where everyone brings something to share and eats together remembering our Lord’s death and resurrection. This feast is celebratory in mood and is like a rehearsal dinner for the wedding banquet of the Lamb.
  • 1 Cor. 12 – We then clean up together and form a circle demonstrating that each gift or part is equally important for what is about to take place.
  • I Cor. 13 – Everything about this body and about The Gathering is done to demonstrate the unfailing love we have for one another as a spiritual family.
  • 1 Cor. 14 – Christ takes his position as the Head of the Body in a very real and physical way as we invite the Holy Spirit to come and various people bring what they felt led to bring “a song, a teaching, an interpretation, a revelation etc.” (1 Cor. 14:26)

Paul then ends this section by clearly telling the Corinthian church they have no right to ignore his prophetic teaching on The Gathering even saying that if someone ignores this teaching “he himself will be ignored” (I Cor. 14:38 )

So I want to be clear that we do NOT do The Gathering because it fits our ideal model of church. We ONLY do The Gathering because we believe it is the biblically prescribed way the church MUST gather.

However, as we have gathered this way we are beginning to understand how this form is unique and how it was carefully designed to achieve the proper function. This form of gathering:

  • Elevates Christ alone as the Head
  • Allows all gifts to be equal
  • Creates a family atmosphere (in a home around a meal)
  • Allows Christ freedom to move and speak
  • Forces us to depend on the moving of the Holy Spirit
  • Creates an opening for the prophetic word
  • Demonstrates our love for one another in very practical ways

Two major observation I want to make at this point are –

1. This is NOT a worship service, a replacement to a worship service nor does it have any relation to a worship service. When people put it into that category its disastrous. If you must put it into a preconceived category it should be as a spiritual discipline. Just like you have rhythmic spiritual disciplines in your life The Gathering is a weekly spiritual discipline the church (body) does together.

2. In this Gathering there is no leader but Christ. One of the most amazing things about the mess that was the Corinthian Gathering, where people were talking over one another, was that Paul never told the “leader” to get control of The Gathering. It’s an astounding omission!  When I hear people planting Missional Communities or Community Groups all the emphasis is on “leader training” and “leadership development” for these small groups but you are setting up these groups to have a human head. Christ must be the head of the body. That does not mean there are not elders or leaders. They are VERY important but they should NOT lead during The Gathering. They are equal participants.

We’ve acknowledge the following progressive implications of this model

1. This requires all body members to be at a high level of personal discipelship to do The Gathering
2. We need extremely powerful discipleship tools that work repeatedly
3. This is why BEFORE we can start a Body we have to start a Discipleship Training Center
4. After 20+ weeks of intense training a disciple can begin to participate effectively in The Gathering

Side note on Missional Communities – I realized that one of reasons my MC friends don’t get too jazzed about starting a DTC (Discipleship Training Center) is that they do systematic teaching during their Missional Community meetings, during leadership training and during worship services. So adding a 4th training process was over kill. In our model the DTC is where the systematic teaching and training happens. Although a lot of great teaching happens at The Gathering, we never prescribe training there. For us to set an agenda for The Gathering would violate Paul’s basic form which would turn it into a functionally different meeting.

Questions for discussion –

  • How can we ignore The Gathering as prescribed in 1 Corinthians in favor of other meetings?
  • How can Christ be the functional head when every Missional Community or Community Group has a designated “leader(s)”?
  • How can a “managed” or “led” meeting demonstrate the gifts as equally important?
  • Isn’t what the world needs to see is Christ’s Body? Why replace the biblical concept of body with the currently popular concept of community? Isn’t something lost here?




Live with us for a season at Storyhill

6 06 2008

Checkout the page I’ve added to give everyone info on the opportunity of living life with our family for a season – Stay at Storyhill.

Families, young marrieds, singles all welcome!  God’s been really challenging us to open our lives and demonstrating to us that discipleship involves being spiritual fathers and mothers which requires giving people greater access.  This is an attempt to be obedient to that calling and to see what God will do.