Protest averse Protestants

5 12 2008

lutheratwormsOccasionally as we engage people in conversations about restoring aspects to the church  that  appear to have been lost (5-fold ministry, structuring like a body, the mission as city-wide discipleship) I’ll hear through the grapevine of a person (often a church leader) that writes us off saying “they think they are the only ones who know how to do church”.  Their summary judgement seems intended to allow them to avoid the uncomfortable process of wrestling through biblical concepts that are unfamiliar and, therefore, might require some change.

What I find terribly ironic about this reaction is how quickly Protestants seem to forget their history.  Protestant comes from the word “protest” and was given to our movement because we had a heart to reform and restore things to the church.  And reform we did.  Every Protestant church today stands on the back of 40 or more very hard won restorations that are far more fundamental than anything we’ve ever suggested.  Things like salvation by faith, the authority of Scripture, the priesthood of all believers and on an on.

So a Protestant who refuses to engage in any further reformation or restoration conversations is actually saying, “our church has finally figured out the final restoration and we now, alone, represent the fully restored church.”  In a phrase, they cease to really be Protestant.  They fall prey to the objection one Catholic voiced over the Reformation when he said, “you will simply replace one pope with thousands.”  Sadly, his prediction has become a functional reality.  Just look at the language we use.  Someone who believes strongly in the tenets of the Reformation during the 1400’s is said to be “reformed”.  Not a refromER or reformING but reformED.  As if all that needed to be reformed occurred 600 years ago and now we can truly stand and say the reformation is over and we are now reformed.  They are theologically Amish and chose to pause theological converation at an artibrary date in history but without the Amish integrity to admit it.  If we were living through the reformation today doubtless 90% of the people who are committed Protestants today would have been the most ardent supporters of church status quo because their actions reflect protecting church tradition as their most passionate agenda.  How did this happen?

I believe true humility is for all of us to admit that we have a long way to go to see the church fully restored and we need to graciously and rigorously engage in restorative conversations.  This should be an ongoing part of our Protestant DNA. So please, don’t cut off the conversation prematurely but give us all the benefit of your wisdom and experience as present and future generations continue to discover elements long forgotten but in need of restoration.





Observing the difference between an apostolic and evangelistic mega-church

6 09 2008

You all know I’m not excited about the mega-church model but, since we’re all familiar with mega-churches like Saddleback and Willow Creek, I wanted to illustrate, within the mega-church model, the difference between an apostolic ecclesiology (Rick Warren) and an evangelistic ecclesiology (Bill Hybles).

And this is it –  An apostle is obsessed with developing a discipleship process that works and an evangelist will almost always sacrifice discipleship for evangelism or “mission”.  Evangelists are essential but they should NOT develop church models!  Evangelists must equip multiple churches on how to move out missionally but today almost all evangelists are church planters (developing unique missional church models) who create evangelistic movements in a city and call them the local church.  30 years later we can see what happens.

In this video Rick Warren (who is clearly apostolic) critiques Willow Creek’s (a church model designed by 5-fold evangelist, Bill Hybles) approach and what the Reveal Study demonstrates about what happens when a church does not have a clear discipleship process as the foundational of their ecclesiology.  Missional friends please take note.

So here it is, a video demonstration of the continuous clash in our day between apostolic and evangelistic church strategies.





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings Part 4 (how does this BETTER release my gift than a paid position?)

28 08 2008

Many of my friends in the house church movement refuse to deal with the issue of how to BETTER release 5-fold callings using a New Testament structure.  They are content to tell John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren that they should sit week after week as an equal member of a house church gathering and they wonder why gifted 5-fold ministers reject their model as an unrealistic step backward.

We need 5-fold ministers to be MORE released and for their influence to broaden not lessen.  So how does a New Testament structure that does not depend on the 5-fold endlessly maintaining individual churches, actually better release the giftings of those “called into ministry”?

Here are three ways –

Way #1 – Apostolic Teams. Instead of the modern phenomenon of teaching churches, evangelistic churches, pastoral churches etc. that arises from one member of the 5-fold leading one church, all of these should be on a balanced team.  This team would plant and shepherd many works resulting in each of the 5-fold always working in their area of calling and gifting while providing the correct gift balance to each work they are assisting.  This also eliminates the isolation many ministers feel as they will always go out in teams of 2 or more to do their work.

Way #2 – The City Church (Training Centers). The real domain of the 5-fold is the city church (that does not exist today).  5-fold ministers need to establish the city church (like Paul did with the School of Tyrannus) and then equip the whole church in an entire region from there.  Not only does this better release their gift in breadth (they equip the whole city) but also in depth (they refine particular trainings that they can impart better than any other).  Many 5-fold have specific teachings that they do better than almost anyone else (because of the depth of their faith and understanding in that area) but, nevertheless, they preach sermon after sermon hopelessly diluting the impact of the specific messages God has given them to impart to many.

Way #3 – New Works. Any city of above 20,000 people that does not have a city church where an itinerant 5-fold minister can come in and train the Christians in that city NEEDS A NEW WORK.  A new work is the process through which we establish a city church in a new region (beginning with a training center for the city).  Look around and see how many places, both in America and throughout the world, need a new work.  The 5-fold cannot be fully released without the re-emergence of the city church.  Of course not all the Christians are going to recognize your training center as the city church but over time hundreds and then thousands will see the fruit, and be trained there as you bring the 5-fold of the city together to disciple the city as a whole.

So this New Testament way of releasing moves 5-fold from –

  • Isolated Pastors to Apostolic Team Member
  • Using a Portion of their Gifting to Ministering from the Center of Their Gifting
  • Ministering to one fraction of God’s church in the city to Ministering to the City Church

Yes, they can be BETTER released in a New Testament model than in our current model.

So we’ve asked and answered the top 3 objections to making this transition from paid positions to released callings.  Now we need to have the courage and determination to make this shift happen in our generation.





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings – Part 2 (how am I going to feed my family?)

26 08 2008

People with a 5-fold calling on their life who are trained and consistently demonstrate fruitfulness in their ministry need to be fully released in their calling.  This includes seasons where they are financially supported in part or fully but this support should primarily come to release the call on their life not to indefinitely hold them to a church or ministry position.

Here are some steps toward getting to that place of financial freedom (imagine you were taking 6-24 months to transition out of the paid position and work through these steps).

Step 1 – Discover your burn rate. Every start-up business has to know how much cash they burn through in a month and carefully hold that line so they can see if they’re headed toward ruin and need to raise more money.  In the same way if you combined all the income you would receive monthly if you left your pastoral position and subtracted your monthly expenses the negative number that would result is your burn rate.

Step 2 – Decrease your burn rate. Cut monthly expenses as much as possible including perhaps a less expensive house.

Step 3 – Diversify your income streams. Many families have only one stream of income and that is the paycheck of the bread-winner.  Because “making a living” is totally different than being “released in your calling” you will not always DO what makes you the most money.  But if you have one income stream this puts both your family and your ministry (calling) at continual risk.  I would recommend developing at least these 4 streams of income – work, support, investment and product (and developing these in this order is the next 4 steps).

Step 4 – Get a super-flexible (non-ministry) job (i.e. a trade). Paul had his tent making business and this is not to say he supported himself 100%.  It simply means he could support himself whatever % he might fall short on a given month and I believe EVERY 5-fold person should develop this.  The best way to do this is to offer some service that is needed by many people and can be done at any hour of the day or night and you control how many hours you put into it.  Here are some examples of trades that allow for this – computer programming, graphic design, internet marketing, editing (video, writing etc.) there are hundreds of others (each of these can be learned in 6-12 months).  You can also get another type of job that is very flexible as opposed to super-flexible like adjunct teaching, counseling etc.  Either way, you need to be able to get money every month (flex work between 10 and 30 hours per week) without compromising your calling and a trade will help ensure you have that ability.

Step 5 – Raise your own financial support. Don’t be too afraid to do this!  Imagine your burn rate is $6K and your income streams bring in $4K.  You are $2K away from being released in your calling and you probably know people who will gladly make up the difference.  A few things to remember about this.  Don’t think it is more noble to compromise your calling to have a ministry position and less noble to ask for support and be fully released.  I would reverse those two.  The church ought to give the vast majority of its money to 5-fold callings not to paid positions and you need to be a part of helping the church make that transition.  During part 3 of this series I’m going to describe how to structure a church without paid positions and once that happens you don’t need a building or staff and close to 100% will go to supporting 5-fold.  When that begins to happen raising support will be easy but in the mean time we need to be willing to do this.  Here’s a group that has amazing resources that help 5-fold raise their own support – http://www.globaltrainingnetwork.org/.

Step 6 – Invest some money. 10-20% of your income should go toward passive investments designed to release you and provide for you later in life.  This is also to assist your children when you’re older and after you are gone.  Do not neglect this area.  Pastor’s are not exempt from the need to be smart with their money and think multi-generationally.  This also provides an area where God could pour out blessing giving you unusually investment opportunities and bless those opportunities abundantly.

Step 7 – Continually productize parts of your ministry.  This means write a book, create a training course, audio courses, video training etc.  This does two things.  1. Can provide a stream of income from what you are already doing in ministry 2. Exponentially increase the scope of your ministry.

After 6-24 months of aggressively working through these steps with other 5-fold who have done and are doing the same thing you will be supported for your calling and NOT through a position.  Remember the minute your income streams overcome your burn rate in a sustainable way you are free.  It’s not easy but it’s right and it’s worth it.





Go First to the Pastors? – To the Jews first then the Greeks

5 08 2008

During Paul’s initial missionary journeys you see a repeated pattern –

  1. Paul reasons with the Jews at the synagogue
  2. Those who believe he trains and they form churches in homes
  3. Those who don’t believe get jealous and stir up persecution against the Apostles
  4. When the persecution gets really intense (or when training is established) they move on

As I’ve mentioned before, I place a lot of stock in what the Spirit of God was doing in Acts and what he inspired Luke to write.  I believe we need to at least ask the question why?  Why did Paul use this pattern and if we were to do this today, what would it look like?

Today church planters are encouraged to avoid other churches like the plague and to focus on serving and reaching unbelievers.  When persecution got increasingly intense Paul did end up starting outside the synagogue with God-fearing Gentiles but something in him always said to go first to those who already know God.  Why?

It goes to the very nature of apostolic ministry.  An apostle wants to see the Kingdom of God take root in a whole city or an entire region.  He doesn’t serve a fraction of the church in that city (one denomination or a single congregation) but the entire church in that city.  So if he’s called to start a disciple-making work, why not work with cooperating churches?

The pattern might go something like this –

  1. Arrive at the new city and go meet with the ministerial association
  2. Offer to serve them for the purpose of creating a unified disciple-making work in the city
  3. Any who will listen cooperate with
  4. Begin the disciple-making work
  5. As people are being transformed some pastors may become jealous especially if many of their people are being built up
  6. Stay there until discipleship training and house church planting is established (or until persecution becomes intense and makes you the focus)
  7. Move to the next city

If we have no chance of creating controversy with the way we’re starting new works I have to ask, are we using the correct pattern?  Maybe, like Paul, we were not meant to see the denomination lines man, in his sin, has created.  Maybe we should see the church in the city the way God sees it – all of his called out children as one people.





Gandalf the Grey – Tolkien’s Apostolic Archetype

2 08 2008

(Warning: If you don’t enjoy fantasy you probably want to skip this post.)

Ever since my friend Luke Crook forced my to read The Lord of the Rings in 7th grade I’ve been enamored with the character of Gandalf.  What is it about him that resonates so deeply with me?  As I’ve been studying the nature of apostolic ministry I continue to be struck by the similarities between Gandalf’s role (and the role of the 5 wizards) and the developing biblical picture I’m getting regarding God’s apostles.

Here are a few parallels:

“The Wandering Wizard” – Gandalf is itinerant and insists on building up other groups but being beholden to none.  He takes REAL responsibility for his role in providing guidance and strategy without settling down in any one place (the flaw of Saruman).  In the Silmarillion there is an interesting narrative about the White Council (Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, Saruman etc.).  Galadriel wanted Gandalf to be the leader of the White Council but Gandalf refused because “he would not be subject to any summons”.  He will not be rooted to one institution because it would interfere with his ability to serve many (this also must be true of apostles) which leads to my second point.

“Servant of the Secret Fire” – My favorite scene in The Fellowship of the Ring is when Gandalf faces the Balrog of Morgoth.  Gandalf is already visibly shaken by being hit by a counter spell at the tomb door and suddenly Legolas cries out Ai! Ai! A Balrog!  And you know when the powerful, wise, hundreds-of-years-old elf freaks out you’re in serious trouble.  But when Gandalf faces off with the Balrog on the bridge he tells the creature “I am a servant of the Secret Fire” and the second I read that for the first time I was entraced.  Tolkien has amazing literary restraint.  He tells you very little about the history of Middle-Earth but just enough to give his works a sense of almost endless depth and history.  Now I’m a big enough geek to read Tolkien’s other books and notes and I know that Gandalf was sent by the Valar to Middle-Earth to counter the growing threat of Sauron.  But Gandalf’s self-identity as a servant of something secret and unseen by those who knew him is exactly the kind of self-identity needed for an apostle.  Apostles are not superstars they are servants of the unseen Kingdom of God, not building fortresses like Saruman but on the move, tirelessly serving and building up the forces of God’s people to face their enemy which leads to my final point.

“Stormcrow” – Gandalf was given the name Stormcrow by some because his arrival always seemed to be perfectly timed with a season of war of either expansion or defense.  Likewise God’s apostles often arrive to shake up foundations and move God’s people forward which can be unsettling for those who are desperately trying to defend the status quo.

There are many others but I thought I’d list a few and expose my hopeless geekdom for public display once again.





Strategy vs. Revelation – Striking the right balance?

1 08 2008

My whole life I’ve been an obsessive strategist by nature but many in the church have looked with suspicion on my gift believing that there is something inherently ungodly about strategy.

Statements like “we just need to be faithful” or “God doesn’t care about how you do it He just wants your heart” have shut me down making me feel less spiritual because I deeply care if what we’re doing is the best method.  As I entered the business field I was greeted with the exact opposite response where strategy is highly prized and respected.

This is one reason I think God is going to call many of his apostles from the business world.

But does focusing on strategy breed an unhealthy independence from God and dependence on man and his plans?  I believe there is truth to this concern about strategy as some have embraced ungodly strategies and have justified their independence from God as a “holy pragmatism” and have built forms of church that have no chance of creating a biblically functioning body.

So what’s the balance?

I believe the answer may be a need to work from revelation to strategy not from pragamtism to strategy.

God has given apostles an ability to understand how God’s revelation builds a God-given strategy that will have the unique ability to allow the church to function properly.  God is beginning to release the apostolic ministry in our day in a way never seen since the first century and you will know an apostle by their unique ability to understand how revelation impacts strategy.  This will bridge the gaps created in the previous generation by the faithful but strategy-less pastoral church and the revelation-ignoring pragmatism of the evangelist led church.

We’re about to see why God’s divine order is not to build the church on the gifts of the pastor, the teacher or the evangelist but to build the church “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” (Eph. 2:20-21)