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.

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?

How did the Story-Formed Life Start

3 05 2008

This video is a description of my quest to find an effective disciple-making strategy and the ideas and experiences that started me down the path toward developing the Story-Formed Life discipleship training and using it as the foundation of our training centers.

Distinctives of Christian Training – Discipleship Series Part 3

26 01 2008

We’ve defined discipleship and unearthed training methods but what elements must be a part of Christian discipleship? Below is a list of seven that have been important for us as we’ve initiated processes intended for transformation from our old life into the life of Christ.

Strict Training – What little Christian training does exist it seems to have a level of intensity somewhere between Kindermusic and the Brownies. Perhaps this is why we would rather endlessly pontificate abstract general truths from the pulpit rather than get up in each other’s “bidness”. After all, isn’t hurting someone’s feelings a sin? (God save us from this lie).

Here’s a little explored passage these days. 1 Cor. 9:25olympiad.jpgEveryone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Notice that when Paul says “they go into strict training…but we” But we what? We go into strict training to get a crown that will last forever. We do? Do you remember the date you went into strict training? Further. Paul compares our training to Olympic training. Here is one of those cultural illustrations that actually still works for our culture but to no avail. We all know how Olympic trainers train but we have an Olympians skill at avoiding these kinds of uncomfortable Scriptures. Oh well, it’s only the Bible. And this was a long time ago. Maybe the people of Paul’s day needed strict training but today our transformed lives are so evident that all we have left to do is come together for 1 hour a week to celebrate the achievement of our unsurpassed maturity in Christ. Paul would be so proud (when the Christian activity of almost all mediocre Christians is “weekly celebrations” what exactly are they celebrating anyway?).

Faith-building – One big difference between training someone to master a skill (like playing the piano) and discipling someone in Christ-likeness is a shift from focusing first on behavior to faith. Jesus knew better than anyone that behavior naturally follows faith and the best way to transform behavior is to build the disciple’s faith. Our aim in discipleship is to tear down false beliefs that naturally lead to godless action and to carefully construct a new set of beliefs strong enough for the weight of real life.

Let me illustrate this process. In Genesis 1 we learn that men and women are created in the image of God (The Imago Dei) which is the foundation of our worth and that every human being. It’s a nice idea but I’ve never met a Christian that believes it. On a scale of 1-10 the may, if they are lucky, believe in the Imago Dei at a 1 but they believe in the culture’s definition of human worth (performance, appearance, and self-esteem based) at a 8 or 9. So almost all Christians think of themselves and treat others just like the culture because we believe the same as they do. If you teach them about the Imago Dei they will say to themselves “Come on, I’ve heard this before. I already know this.” And they are right, but they don’t believe it.

You see, the instant their faith in the Imago Dei grows (to say a 6) and surpasses their faith in the culture’s definition of human worth (say it falls to a 5) that person will instantly change. No joke. I’ve seen this over and over again. What is not instant is the process of increasing one’s faith in the truth and the deconstruction of one’s faith in the lies. Jesus didn’t care about what people knew, he cared about what they believed. We’ve replaced an obsession with faith with one of knowledge. A discipled congregation for most leaders is when their church knows all of God’s truth once they spent 20 years preaching through the Bible. Never mind these things they “know” they only believe at a 1. So how do you build faith instead of merely impart knowledge? It requires specific training methods we’ll build on later but for now I’ll say its often the dynamic interaction of two methods 1) intensely, intentionally and personally testing the real beliefs of trainees through invasive questioning followed by 2) aggressively, systematically deconstructing worldly beliefs by a skilled faith-filled Spirit-led trainer the trainee trusts and respects.

Christ-centered – He is our model our inspiration and the physical embodiment of the truth we are growing to believe. The Gospels that painstakingly describe Christ’s life must paint the target.

Narrative-based – What are we building faith in? Unfortunately we’re still recovering from a devastating period of human thought called “the Enlightenment” which ripped truths out of contexts, which tends to work fine for disembodied abstractions like math, but is devastating for theology (truths about God). We are living in God’s story and the Bible is mostly narrative, so we can experience God through his real life actions, not so we can dissect him in neat pieces for scientific evaluation. People need to become personally identified with who they are through the story of God. This Story-formed Life contains the categories for all the faith elements necessary for life changing discipleship.

Calls to Repentance – As disciples work through the story and identify truths they clearly don’t really believe (given the evidence of their life) we need to call them to repentance in every area. Radicle disciples have chosen to turn their back on lies and reorient their lives toward the truth the first step of which is repentance every time.

Spirit-filled – No doubt some have received teaching about the Spirit that they use as their excuse for avoiding this activity. I’m sorry but Jesus didn’t command the Spirit to make disicples, he told the disciples to make disciples (and us by extension). But with that said, discipleship, like everything in the Christian life, must be done through active dependence on the Spirit. Few things are more amazing to watch than a discipler, filled with the Holy Spirit, unearth the secret faulty foundation of a trainees heart in a way that brings a flood of freedom, life and Christ-likeness.

Lifelong – It doesn’t stop until we reach full maturity (which doesn’t happen in this life) so this process needs to keep going. But it’s precisely this unending nature that makes it so important to separate training into clear, burstable, bite-sized modules. Modular training allows everyone to start where they actually are at, but gives freedom to push well-trained disciples even farther in their pursuit of the Christ-like life.

In part 4 I’ll describe what we do at Koine to give one (imperfect) example of these principles applied.

Restructuring the Church for Explosive Growth

19 01 2008

What if there was a way to restructure the church that would –

1. Consistently train church members into devoted disciples
2. Create deep community and body life
3. Release the priesthood of all believers
4. Free up to 90% of church resources for expansion

What would you say? Let me guess – “Come on Jeremy, you hopeless idealist. We all know that only a fraction of our members will grow into fully-devoted disciples, that community might happen on accident if people find friendship, that people will only be released when given small jobs by full-time clergy and that it takes 95% of our resources to pay for our staff, facilities and ministry expenses.”

Really? Should we settle for these kinds of results? Most have because they don’t see anyone getting different results. But I contend that, no matter how adamant you may be to see these four things happen in traditional church structures, you cannot achieve results that your system is not designed to produce. It’s a systemic problem. People in the business world understand this. They have to be brutally honest about the flaws in their system using the business axiom –

“Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting”

We have to admit that the reason we’re not making disciples, creating community or fully releasing others is because our system is not designed to produce these results. It’s designed to produce something else. Often a passive, sacrificially giving, spectator who consistently attends church meetings and services. A far cry from fulfilling the Great Commission.

Let’s do a quick thought experiment. What if we were to build a system from scratch that was simply designed to make disciples, create community and fully release each other’s gifts? What would the church look like? The church would look strangely similar to the first church. There are only three very simple structures you need to build in order get these results but you need them all at the same time. Only building one or two will not give you the desired results.

Structure One – Body Church. This is a group of people (15-25) who live life together (like a body), regular share meals (like a family) and consistently gather in homes to build each other up under the direct headship of Christ.

Structure Two – Discipleship Training Center (the city church) – This is the School of Tyrannus idea where the teachers and trainers of a cluster of body churches (3-5) hold constant trainings designed to “make disciples” “teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded” and would be overseen by a group of city-wide elders.

Structure Three – The Apostolic Team – This is a diverse team of people with apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching gifts that take responsibility for the health and well-being of many different city and body churches while using most of their resources to expand into new areas without ever neglecting the needs of existing works.

This strategy works, its simple and it leads to explosive growth both in maturity of individual believers as well as Kingdom expansion into new areas. It’s what Paul and hundreds of other apostolic teams did in the first century. Its why Christianity spreads virally (until it becomes institutionalized like in the West today). This strategy is the reason why every believer reading this post is a Christian today.

This strategy also requires no full-time people in the first two structures and, therefore, no permanent church positions that result in the disaster that is building churches around the gifts of one man. It gives all full-time workers deep community and support with others on the apostolic team ensuring no one becomes isolated or burnt out by working outside of their gifting. It is flexible enough to pour resources into areas that are growing fast while allowing almost instant response to threats that emerge to established works (dispatch a person or team).

I’ve only scratched the surface of the benefits but even with this slight amount of detail can someone please tell me why Paul’s strategy is not preferable to ours?

Why wouldn’t we do this?

The Pastor-ization of Christianity – An Alternative

17 01 2008

internetmap.jpgThe story has been repeated endless times. Whether you were at a Christian camp, on a missions trip, at a youth group meeting, or spending alone time with the Master you suddenly began to believe there was nothing you would rather do than minister to others. There are a million different ways you can experience this call on your life but its what happens the moment afterward that is rather uniform and that must be questioned.

Within seconds most of us have built in our minds the narrative for how this decision will play out in our lives. Unless you decide to become a missionary overseas you will decide attend a Bible College or Seminary and be trained to fill a full-time pastoral position in an institutional church for an indefinite period of time (maybe for the rest of your life). A few will choose to plant a church with the intention of quickly taking off the church planters hat and donning the pastor’s hat, and this is even more commonly a life-long commitment to pastoral ministry.

But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if, instead of 99% of ministers taking permanent pastoral positions, no one is supposed to take that path? What if this kind of call is apostolic and not pastoral? First lets consider how men interpreted this call in the first century and then explore an alternative path.

Where are the Pastor’s of the first century church? Where do we get our biblical foundation for the way virtually all church ministry is directed today? Of course the answer is, we know of no Pastor who held a permanent position in an institutional church in the first century. The closest example people use is Timothy at Ephesus but was he their permanent Sr. Pastor? This would be an enormous stretch and reading our context into the Scriptures. When you turn to the book of Acts. where first century church practice is actually described, you never see this pastoral position in action. Church after church the apostles travel to and not one mention of these church’s having pastors. Letter after letter Paul sent to direct these churches how to mature and not one mention of the existence of a Pastor nor the admonition to seek calling a Pastor to help. Even churches in desperate straights like Corinth were not encouraged to lean on a single leader. In fact, Paul makes reference to the visits of many other apostles (there were literally thousands of little “a” apostles at that time) who had temporary ministries in Corinth but none settled down there. Why?

Because neither Paul, nor any of the first century apostles, would stifle a church, nor damage Kingdom expansion by holding a position in a single church. They believed they were to work their way out of job and quickly. Two years was the maximum time Paul spent anywhere and that was in a huge city where much training was required. Are we happy with the net effect of replacing thousands of scrappy, entrepreneur, independently funded apostles (and no paid Pastors) with millions of institutionally trained stay-at-home Pastors (and nearly no apostles)?  I’m not suggesting that every Pastor has apostolic gifts (that they can begin a new work) but that every gift (including the pastoral gift) should find its place within an apostolic team (be dispatched to temporary assignments as a part of the larger apostolic ministry).

So let’s imagine…

What would happen if EVERY pastor in the U.S. decided to leave their church in under 2 years and that their position would be dissolved after they left (no one could come and fill in the vacuum). Here’s a short list of what would happen –

  • Kingdom expansion would EXPLODE in growth with millions of trained ministers being released on apostolic missions to start new works or assist with struggling ones.
  • Lay ministry (non-paid disciples) would be released and, for the first time in our country, we would see the royal priesthood emerge.
  • Churches would be totally restructured from large complicated institutions into home-based bodies with almost no overhead, living in community.
  • Billions of additional dollars would be available for even further releasing of apostles
  • Cities would create a city-church structure over the house church complete with a School of Tyrannus to organize constant discipleship training, host visiting apostles, city elders to shepherd the smaller bodies and organize city-wide ministry efforts to bless their communities.
  • Apostolic networks would be formed where gifted ministers would be dispatched to equip churches exactly in the area of the minister’s strengths and that church’s (temporary) need.

So let’s do it! Let’s ask every Pastor to make a pledge to dissolve their position in 2 years or less and to be released on an apostolic mission. Let’s stop talking about seeking the Kingdom first and let’s actually do it. Don’t let petty excuses stop you. Yah, it would be an act of trust. You would actually have to be led by the Spirit to find your next assignment. You would actually have to trust God for provision instead of a comfortable compensation package. You would actually have to earn the right to be heard everywhere you went instead of listing academic credentials on a resume. But if you’re called by God you can do it. And if you’re not called to this type of ministry you should stop anyway.

If we had the faith to try I believe this approach would see the nations discipled in 2-3 generations. Jesus said “Go” not stay, and every apostle of that century obeyed and kept going (their obedience is why we are here today). Why should we be any different?

Mission Detachment

11 01 2008

subtitle: “Why 95% of all Christian Ministries should Immediately Cease to Exist Because They Are Detached From Our Mission ”

Disclaimer – What I’m about to write I actually do believe but only recently and I’m putting it out there so it can undergo further testing so give me your honest response.

I used to believe that Christian activity involved a conglomeration of often separate mini-missions and each one was an end in itself.

Feeding the Poor
Assisting the Fatherless and the Widow

And various people could more or less pick what area they are most passionate about and either create a ministry inside their church (if they go to a big church) to fulfill the mission or join a para-church ministry that has a specific focus on that mini-mission.

However, I’ve recently undergone an enormous shift with regard to my belief about the Christian mission. Specifically that we have one central mission – to make disciples. This is how the Kingdom of God expands upon the Earth. This is the activity that consumed the life of Jesus, of Paul and it is the narrow enterprise that they released their trainees to do.

So here’s the question I’ve been working through – what is the logical conclusion of our central mission of discipleship to every area of the Christian life?

One conclusion I’m throwing out there today is this – if discipleship is the mission, then is it appropriate to build ministries that are detached from that central mission? Feeding the poor with no strategy to disciple them. Building Christian community apart from a clear discipleship process. Launching a worship service as the primary goal of the church instead of making disciples.

Isn’t this the problem? Isn’t this the reason the country with the most ministries, the most churches, the most seminaries is having a decreasing impact on the lives of professing Christians?

What if 100% of people involved in ministry in the United States only continued if their ministry was structured and driven by the goal of making disciples. I believe 95% of them would cease to exist. And then what would happen? Those gifted people would be forced to reconstitute their ministries in alignment with our mission. The food kitchen worker would only continue if they worked hand in glove with those willing to pour time into these souls not just food into stomachs. Imagine the worship leaders, prayer warriors and mercy ministers all coordinating their efforts in line with an intentional discipleship process that actually transformed people’s lives. Imagine the massive change this would create and the Kingdom fruit that would result.

But who wants to design a coordinated focussed attack around a clear mission when we can all simply group up with people who share a like-minded passion for a mini-mission?  It would be like in war where all the pilots went to one battlefield, the mechanics to another, and the fuel supply to a third. When they begin to fail at their mission and the general tries to bring them into alignment or orders them to disband they might cry out “But what we’re doing is so important.”. Yes, but it’s not as important as the mission and you’ve been given gifts and training for the purpose of the mission.

So why not either disband or reorient all Christian ministries around our mission?

Here are some of the objections that have been raised thus far:

1. “Why shouldn’t we just increase discipleship instead of alter or disband existing ministries?” Everyone seems to say this at first but I think what Christians so often fail to realize is that the good is the ENEMY of the best. What that means is the main enemy of discipleship is NOT the sinful world but the well-intentioned ministries that, on one hand, suck the resources, passion and personnel away from discipleship and on the other, subtly replace that mission with another.

2. “Jesus told us to do many things including giving people a cup of water in his name and that is not discipleship.” So by this are we saying that Jesus was just as likely to set up a water distribution ministry but he just happened to spend most of his time discipling because that was his gift? No, Jesus discipled because that was the mission. Other things Jesus told us to do – visit the sick, feed the hungry are things you do as part of discipling and being a disciple. That was the way he did it not instead of discipleship like is being done today.

3. “Didn’t the early church have a widow feeding ministry in the book of Acts?” This was only for widows who were disciples. Paul even lays out the widow feeding rules in 1 Timothy 5 where he tells Timothy to only put widows on “the list” if they are believers who have no believing family to take care of them. It’s not hard to see how keeping disciples from starving is directly connected to discipleship. But are we to have a ministry to feed the poor outside the church?. Sure, if its a part of a larger strategy to also feed their souls. What if its just to feed them? I can’t find a single example of the early church doing this and I’ve been looking (someone help me here).

4. “Aren’t you being a jerk? People who are doing these ministries are doing them out of love.” Let’s go back to the war analogy. Is the general being a jerk when he insists that the elements of his coordinated attack work together and for the same mission? If you have 10,000 hungry people in your community are you being unloving when you alter your ministry to feed 500 because through coordination you can actually feed AND disciple 50? Does the Christian food kitchen and the Christian prayer ministry have the same mission or not? If they do then why shouldn’t we choose to only move forward when we work together and when our ministry is designed to accomplish the mission we’ve been given.

5. “What if God specifically calls me to feed someone and I don’t know why?” This, I want to declare, is the one exception to the rule (I’ve found so far). If the Holy Spirit prompts you to do something for an unknown reason you do it and you don’t ask questions about strategy. But that doesn’t mean you build an entire ministry around it if its detached from our mission. If God is calling you to start a ministry simply insist that it be designed to accomplish our mission and refuse to allow it to become a mini-mission off on its own.

The Tyrannus Effect – Paul’s Neglected Strategy for City-wide Discipleship

17 12 2007

paul1a.jpgHow have we missed this?

Ever since Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and began to use the techniques of Roman paganism (temples, priests, pagan holidays etc.) to institutionalize Christianity most people have completely ignored the methods of the first churches or the way Paul went about church planting.

Recent movements have begun to try and recapture this ancient way of doing church, believing the Constaninian transition was not an improvement, but that it was ultimately destructive to church life and practice. Many involved in church restoration see Paul’s methods as extremely simple and essentially free of structure; just encourage people to meet in homes, release gifts and live life in community. Each of these elements have been very helpful but they’ve neglected a necessary piece of Paul’s strategy which has thus far, rendered much of the house church / simple church practices virtually ineffective.

I call this missing element the Tyrannus Effect. It describes the impact of Paul’s primary church planting activity. How do you begin to plant a church? What do you actually do week in and week out from month to month, year to year? From what I’ve seen, if you don’t believe it involves the planting of a weekly worship service you believe it primary involves weekly meetings in homes. Neither was Paul’s primary activity.

In a little known passage in Acts 19 we get the clearest glimpse of what Paul spent his days doing when he wanted to plant churches in a city. Luke records that after Paul abandoned his original method of working through the local Synagogue he rented space in the School of Tyrannus and held daily discussions there for about a two year period. This is most likely what he was doing in Synagogues before this time and we know this was what he did during his house arrest in Rome (Acts 28). This discipleship center was the public and constant activity and he supplemented this by also training in individual house church meetings (Acts 20:20).

What this strategy results in is the Tyrannus Effect.

So what is the Tyrannus Effect? It is what happens when your primary focus in a city is NOT the churches themselves but is on discipleship training through discussion. And this is what happens through this shift in focus:

  • Churches form naturally around those who are being trained
  • Complacent converts are quickly changed to committed disciples
  • The level of discipleship city-wide is continually increasing
  • Unity among the churches is developed through a common discipleship process
  • New believers are immediately immersed in the essential “renewal of their mind”
  • Teaching and training gifts are released for the benefit of the whole city
  • Disciples have a city-wide Kingdom vision vs. a preoccupation on an individual church
  • Individual churches are deeply interconnected with one another and equipped simultaneously
  • Discussion-based training replaces sermonizing as a means to a long-lasting, faith-building group discovery experience.
  • A central base of operations (city-church) exists for recognizing elders, releasing the five-fold ministry and dispatching trainers to other localities

For the past year we’ve been experimenting with the Tyrannus strategy and have experienced the beginnings of this effect first hand. I can’t imagine what would happen tomorrow if the biblical teachers and trainers in a city came together to disciple the city. This unifying of willing disciplers is the next phase in our strategy to bring our activity in line with Paul’s method.

What should you do if you want to experience the Tyrannus Effect in your city?

  1. Create a clear, repeatable discipleship process
  2. Transition each lesson from lecture format to discussion-based training
  3. Hold regular gatherings in an appropriate location where people commit to the discipleship process
  4. Open up the training to the whole city especially to other churches
  5. Keep expanding bringing on more trainers and more training modules until training discussions are happening daily
  6. Dispatch trainers to other cities to begin discipleship training centers in other regions
  7. Encourage discipled believers use their gifts to build up their church bodies.
  8. Send 5-fold ministers (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) into the churches to stir them up
  9. Recognize city elders who can help shepherd churches (this will apply mostly to home-based churches).
  10. Continually communicate and network with all the churches and ministries in your region offering this training as a means to build up the churches and expand the Kingdom

There are many unique challenges to doing this in areas that are very churched with many dis-unified denominations (this may be why Paul preferred to go to areas that were unreached). But we desperately need to create a way for the church to return to our central mission and the final command of Lord – “to go and make disciples of all nations” one city at a time.

Why Discipleship Training should be Centralized

15 12 2007

I’ve been discussing this over at Drew Goodmanson’s blog and wanted to post my thoughts here as well. The following describes why I believe it is essential to centralize the discipleship process instead of putting the responsibility for discipleship on the smaller community.

Well, the easiest way to describe the difference is to use an analogy like joining the Marines. A marine goes through at least 10 weeks of intense training BEFORE they join their unit.

Why shouldn’t you just, give them a gun, put them in their unit and let them get on the job training? It would not be nearly as effective.

1. Repeatable Tasks Can be Perfected. This is HUGE. In Marine Basic Training the drill Sergeants and support staff have the advantage of doing this over and over again, getting the best trainers to focus on training, gleaning from hundreds of years of training experience that has gone before them etc. They become extremely effective in a way that others can’t begin to emulate. We’ve seen this is also true in discipleship training. This is one of the reasons the massive 1 to 1 discipleship movement that started in the 40s failed to really succeed at the task of endless multiplication. Not everyone is a gifted trainer.  Few people are.  Its a unique gift and needs to be carefully refined.

2. The Outcome Must be Clearly Defined and Measured – When we send people into communities hoping that they will catch what they need through relationships (even intentional discipling ones) you will get as many results as there are trainers and even if you have a defined outcome, it will rarely be achieved. This is not true when you centralize training. You can define exactly what you want the disciple to learn and do and you can easily and clearly measure whether your training is producing the desired result.

3. Unity and Quality must be maintained over time – When new people come in are they going to get the same training? Having everyone in a community totally committed to the same training produces a common faith that brings unity and gives all the disciples in each community a clear expectation of what to expect from each other.

I’m not saying that training is not going to incidentally happen in community. The Marine is going to learn a lot in and from his unit but that on-the-job training must be separated from the core training and the latter should be centralized.

I’ve said nothing about how we actually translate this in our community so let me say briefly that it involves –

1. A 9-week training (the Story-Formed Life) EVERYONE goes through at least one time per year. And 5 additional 5-week trainings that make up the core of our discipleship process.
2. Training NOT to be confused with teaching. We drive toward defined outcomes, have individual application discussions each night and follow up the next week.
3. Intense Interaction – Our goal is to deepen faith in a way that changes lives NOT to impart knowledge. Interaction using strategic questions is FAR better at this then a lecture.

The average person goes through more than 20 weeks of intense training BEFORE they enter one of our communities. By that time they are really prepared to contribute understanding the mission the tools and their role.

This has completely transformed our struggling church into a deeply committed force for the Kingdom and made our common life far more rich.

The Perfect Church Service – the Worst Experience

13 12 2007

worship1.jpgI posted some questions about the church on a forum I frequent and received some enlightening responses I’d like to share (with their permission).

Below is perhaps the most thorough and thoughtful description of a church service I’ve ever read from the perspective a new comer.

WARNING: His language is real and raw and we hereby deny any liability for flashbacks or offenses that may result. It’s important to see things from a variety of perspectives and as these churches almost always give new comers feedback cards that come back with canned responses, here’s what you won’t get in your survey.

Enjoy –

“My biggest issue with church is the suffocating emotionality of it all.

First, I pull into the parking lot and make my way past the hip, extroverted greeters who high five the youngsters and give me the over-friendly welcomes.

Then I make my way through the halls of people milling about and chattering. This part isn’t so bad except that I get the distinct feeling that everyone is “being Christian” at this point. All the body language and vernacular seems calculated to reflect their true Christian core. Everyone is suddenly called brother and sister and the amount of caring they show over the most trivial aspects of each others lives is both impressive and disturbing. Frankly, I suspect many of them are just doing what they think a dutiful Christian should do with no actual understanding why they should even care.

After that, I sit in the pew and consider why I’m there. Why did I come to Church? What am I seeking? What is going on here.

About 5 to 10 minutes later, some lead vocalist person shouts into the mic “Let’s all stand up and praise the Lord!” and the cool-Christian-rock-band tears into an up-tempo worship number. Wow, everyone is having such a GOOD TIME! The vocalist inevitably starts clapping in time to the snare hits while bopping their head and lyrics from the powerpoint slide flash across those nifty projection screens backed with some artsy-fartsy image of a cross or serene lake or the clear blue sky. The music is usually based on a verse from Psalms, but fixed up to show that this church understands rock and roll and is cool with youthful energy.

Some people in the congregation squish their eyes shut and extend their arms upwards and palms out while getting real into this praise and worship time. Others, bop and clap along with the beat and others stand next to their spouse seeming very robotic like.

After 10 to 15 minutes, someone (usually the worship/music director) segues into a soothing piano piece. Everyone closes their eyes, the lights dim and (s)he starts a prayer in a voice that, frankly, sounds like they’re getting good oral. Very breathy and overwhelmed by the majesty of the Father.

The worst part is when they (sometimes) do the “let’s turn around and greet each other this morning” and the pews come to life with hugs, handshakes and more over friendly greetings.

At this point, I feel like a turtle that’s having it’s shell ripped off by a bunch of curious, but unruly schoolboys and the actual message hasn’t even been delivered yet. Once we get to that part, I’m fine. But once it’s over we have to back to more flamboyant praise-and-worship. Ugh.

It’s just the sheer ritual, robotic, trance-like nature of it all. Very uncomfortable to me. And I don’t dare ask questions or tell people that I’m not a Christian. Or tell them I’m a truth seeker who’s read just as much of the Hindu and Buddhist texts as I have the Bible. They’re not so happy-go-lucky then.

I just hate being around anything that tries to twist my emotions around before delivering some bit of self-proclaimed truth. I wonder if lots of people in the congregation are like that. Is their knowledge of God just what they get after hearing some loud worship songs and being told what they already know? Or do they go home and read texts authored by apologists from other religions when they’re not emotionally high?”