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.





Is Serving the Poor the Christian Mission?

13 07 2008

Update: I’m suspending this post.  A friend has asked that I phrase this as a question and work my theology through more deeply with him before writing such firm convictions so I’ll gladly do that and post later my thoughts after submitting some of these ideas to those I trust.  In the mean time feel free to continue to post your thoughts on the subject so I can gain further insight.





3 Powerful Tools for Discipleship

7 07 2008

Often when I discuss discipleship with church leaders they point to some program – yearly conferences, small groups, sermons etc. that they see as their attempt to disciple their congregation.  But if you go a step deeper and try and discover if the tools they are using are actually effecting lasting change they’re not sure, they just assume.  It’s almost like they want a program to exist so they can feel like discipleship is happening and get on with what they think of as the “real mission” (growing bigger, maintaining church, planting churches, living in community etc.).

But pulling off a program for discipleship does NOT mean you are off the hook.  If you choose tools that are simply too weak to transform believers into devoted, obedient disciples what difference does it make?  You have not and are not fulfilling our Commission.

I believe discipleship is the mission and I am on a constant hunt for the most POWERFUL and EFFECTIVE tools in existence to create lasting change in the life of a disciple.  These tools also must be accessible for everyone.

Here are the three tools we use in conjunction with each other to disciple the bodies in our city (this 3 part approach also fits into a triperspectival frame work of prophet, priest and king).

1. Teaching Courses (75% content, 25% application)

These are courses like the Story-Formed Life and Koine Essentials where we spend 1.5 -2 hours midrashing and then go into training groups for the last half hour.  These have been extremely effective at building and growing foundational beliefs essential to the disciples life.

2. Traning Intensives (75% application, 25% content)

These are intensives like Rhythm Training and Walking in the Spirit where we teach a concept for half an hour, workshop the specific implications out for each individual that they will follow the next week, and debrief and pray over what happened when they tried last week’s training.  It is not uncommon to see someone’s entire approach to life completely transformed during the 5 week intensive, equipping the disciple with the tools and practices to live out the life of Christ.

3. Mentoring Relationships (50% content 50% reactive to what is going on with the disciple)

Whereas both Teaching Courses and Training Intensives are done at the Training Center level (city church) the Mentoring Relationships happen at the body level and are overseen by the Elders.  Currently we are doing this in groups of 3-4 (one mentor with 2-3 others) and we are experimenting with Greg Ogden’s 25 week process called Discipleship Essentials (you just need a starting point each week so curriculum is not central to but helpful).  After the 6 month process the mentoring is not complete until those going through the process mentor their own group of 2-3 for 6 months (thus a one year process).

Combined these tools are strong enough to truely and completely transform people’s lives.  We have to stop making excuses and focus ALL of our attention on fulfilling the Great Commission (make disciples…teaching them to obey everything) and not get side tracked by some other cool sounding mission, causing discipleship to be side-lined by a competing passion.





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.





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).





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.





If You’re Reading this You Might be an Apostle

30 05 2008

If I were to fault just one factor that is leading to the decline of Christianity in the West it would be this –

Men who have been given apostolic gifting in the West settle for growing large churches

and in our generation

Men who have been given apostolic gifting in the West settle for starting and growing a “new model” church.

This has and is devastating the movement of Christianity in our day.

And who are these apostles? One easy place to find them is guys who like to read and write blogs that discuss church structure.

I want to ask and answer 3 simple questions –

1. How do you know if you’re in Apostle (a good modern word would be architect)?

  • NOT because you’re a superstar (a huge misconception)
  • You enjoy studying church structure
  • You understand the implication of structural changes on an organization
  • You want to spend more time using your gifts for the Kingdom rather than anywhere else
  • You’re pretty good to excellent in the business world
  • You feel uncomfortable with the idea of being a life-long pastor in a particular church
  • You can read an appreciate a good organizational chart

2. What should an Apostle do

  • Adopt a model of church that allows you to plant a work quickly (under 6 months) where it will grow without your (or any paid person’s) constant involvement (this will create a pattern of exponential growth).
  • Start 2-6 new works per year
  • Form a team of 6-10 5-fold people (by releasing other 5-fold people that grow up in your new works)
  • Constantly network with other Apostles (read, write and debate)

3. Why shouldn’t I just plant/pastor a church

  • You will turn what is supposed to be a balanced organism into an organization around your gift (or other 5-fold gifts)
  • You will deprive many churches of your help that need apostolic assistance
  • You will contribute greatly to the decline of Christianity instead of enflame its exponential expansion
  • You will always feel somewhat stifled in the pastoral position

I believe the main reason why thousands of apostolic teams are not criss-crossing the globe is because our current unbiblical model of church has replaced itinerant Apostle with Senior Pastor. And if your church is lucky enough to land and domesticate an Apostle as your Senior Pastor then he will out think and out grow the churches around him making your church the happening place in town.

So instead of Apostles building hundreds of works in their lifetime that release thousands of people, today they suck the life out of hundreds of churches releasing only themselves and a few others. It’s been a poor exchange and God wants it to change.

I believe there will be a re-emergence of Apostolic ministry in our day that will reverse this effect. So, if you’re reading this, begin preparing.

(check out Len’s excellent article on The New Apostles)





Five Questions for my “Missional Community” Friends

25 05 2008

So I’ve been pondering this recent iteration of church many I know are developing which seems to go like this –

  • Start a worship-service(s)
  • Identity leaders
  • Have the leaders form “missional communities”
  • Create advance training programs for leaders
  • Use missional communities to create the small community feel for your church and serve the city/neighborhood (which is the missional part)

Most likely an oversimplification but here are my questions about the overall approach

1. Why apply the word “church” to your network instead of the missional communities themselves?  If people are living 1 Cor. 12 body life in these missional communities, then why promote the worship service expression as a church instead of the body?

2. Isn’t using the phrase “missional community” itself a reactive statement?  Most people in our generation feel the biggest problems with the modern church is a lack of community and a lost focus on mission.  But when you create a model designed to counter-balance the mistake of one generation you’re doomed to over correct and miss other essentials (see below).

3. In this model isn’t discipleship destined to become the 3rd wheel?  Your typical member will be attending weekly worship services and weekly missional community gatherings, so how can discipleship training be a primary focus for 100% of your people?

4. Are you sure that a worship service is the best way to gather people?  I fear many of you guys almost immediately outgrow your ability to disciple and enfold the people you are gathering.  The minute you achieve the “new cool church in town” status I’m concerned the maintenance requirements for these numbers will begin to tweak your model in an unwanted direction.

5. Are you designing a church that you (or some other paid person) will have to indefinitely maintain?  If you could structure a church that could grow and reproduce without paid staff and those of us with 5-fold callings could build new works isn’t this better for the Kingdom?  Paul did it this way why shouldn’t we (or have we found a better way than Paul)?

I’m writing this because I feel closer to you guys than any other group I know but I can’t figure out why we differ on these things.  Your help is appreciated!