When Does Church Planting Become Kingdom Subversion?

21 09 2008

This post may feel like it’s coming out of left field but hear me out.  Anyone who studies church planting is very familiar with stats about how it’s the best method for reaching non-believers, how it allows you to create a form more effective in reaching emerging cultures and how there are not enough churches for the growing population.  However, I must seriously ask the question, “if Paul were to arrive in my city today would he plant a new church?”  My answer is that he probably would not.  He would most likely see this activity as an anti-Kingdom move and here is why.

Paul never planted a church in a city with existing Christians, and, even though he preferred to go to unreached cities, he spent a lot of time in cities with preexisting churches (Rome, Ephesus and Jerusalem to name three).  When Paul went into a city with an existing church he seemed to always –

  1. Recognize and honor the city church that already existed there (Acts 19, Romans 15-16)
  2. Build on the already existing foundation (as he did in Ephesus with the church Apollos already planted).
  3. Focused on imparting some gift or teaching they were lacking (Romans 1:11, Acts 19:6)

The thought that Paul would disregard the work that existed in that city and start a separate group that exclusively followed him would have seemed to Paul to be terribly divisive and self-aggrandizing (1 Cor. 3:4-5).

Paul would think it most strange that a church planter would move to a city and not even consider the possibility of working with the hundreds of churches that already existed there.  But here is where modern day church gets us all twisted up.

Paul only knew of 3 types of churches –

  1. The Universal Church (all believers)
  2. The City Church (all believers in a city)
  3. The Body Church (a small interdependent group of disciples usually gathering in a home)

Paul always wanted to build up the city church and today that doesn’t exist.  So I have come to this simple conclusion.  If Paul were alive today he would go into a city and attempt to create a city-wide church.  That city-wide church would disciple all the believers in that city and its natural fruit would be various body (or house) churches.

I’m sure that brings up a thousand more questions about how to organize it, would any existing churches join it and how do you agree on doctrinal questions.  All of these I’m working through (and the Bible answers each) but it starts with a very simple conviction – today there is still only one city church in your city (although it is mostly ignored) and it’s the only hope your city has of experiencing a city-wide sweeping move of God.





Mark Driscoll’s Thorough Evaluation of the Emerging Church

13 09 2008

Wow, if you had only 1 hour to hear a contemporary critique of the emerging church I would highly recommend downloading the link below –

Mark Driscoll at Xenos on the Emerging Church

Mark identifies 4 streams of Emerging (I can’t remember Mark’s exact titles):

  1. Hipper Church (Dan Kimball)
  2. House Church (Alan Hirsch)
  3. Emerging Reformers (Mark Driscoll)
  4. Emergent Liberals (Brian McLaren)

Not sure where Mark would put me (City Church to Body Church to Apostolic Teams)?  I wouldn’t personally identify with any of the streams he’s listed.  Hopefully that means we’re not emerging. 🙂 (I much prefer to be Restoring).

Mark gives an especially detailed critique of the theology of both Brian McLaren and Rob Bell.

Mark’s serious and far more careful tone is very refreshing and his call at the end against reactions I thought was also important.

If you get a chance to listen let me know your thoughts.





God’s Growing Anger with my Generation

4 09 2008

I had a very unusual experience last week that I wanted to describe to you.

Every morning I ask the Lord to teach me and he usually gives me a passage of Scripture that we converse about.  On this morning I immediately heard “Numbers 14” so I read about how Moses interceded for the house of Israel when they refused to go into the Promised Land.  God promised that none of that generation would enter in.  He initially wanted to destroy them and make a nation out of Moses but Moses knew the heart of God and made an argument with God that, for His glory and His reputation, He should find another way.

Then I felt God turn to me and tell me to intercede for my generation.  And as I prayed I began to feel the growing anger.  I’ve never felt this before (except for a specific person) so I asked the Lord why he was angry.  This is the Word I felt He gave me –

“Fruitless has been my careful cultivation of this generation”

Now I’m not a prophet so I rarely get specific words from the Lord especially for others so this is new for me.  I took it to the Gathering of our Body and it was immediately confirmed as I submitted it to them.  I’m sure many of you are sceptical of this kind of thing (as am I) so lets just explore the possibility that our generation (I’m thinking of us Xers) have not born the fruit God intended us to bear.

Just think of the resources poured out on our generation in the 70s and 80s

  • Multiple Youth Pastors in every city and town
  • Flourishing para-church ministries like Young Life and Youth for Christ
  • Bible Colleges in every corner of the country
  • International Stability (none of us were drafted into any wars)
  • Financial Stability like no other time in history
  • Societal Stability where most of America was safe and justice visited upon criminals

So these were God’s astounding gifts to our generation and where’s the fruit?  We seem so caught up in our self-focussed conversations about what we want church to be that we can easily forget that God is an investor expecting a FULL return, many-fold, for all he has poured into us.  Where is the fruit?  Do we even care if we’re fruitful?  Have we forgotten that God demands a return?  Do we really think all of these blessings are simply for our enjoyment?

I get the picture that we are like a Judges Generation.  When God grants peace we run to our idols until God shakes things up (removes the hedge of protection and abundant blessing).

During the next 20-30 years many of us will be leaders of American Christianity.  Here are three things I think we should do –

  • Pray and stand in the gap (like Moses did) for our generation.
  • Stop ignoring or recasting the question about our fruitfulness so that we can be self-focussed.
  • Band together to see a world-wide movement of God bearing fruit for many generations to come

What do you think we should do?





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.