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.

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.

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)

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 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.

Is The Church A Fortress or An Army?

22 10 2007

FortressWhen you read the New Testament do you get the picture that Jesus and Paul were hoping that some day there would be thousands of Christian fortresses across the Earth where the people of God could gather apart from the world once per week and then disperse individually back to their normal lives? Or do you picture an army of disciples in small platoons, living life as one and going throughout the Earth training disciples, confronting evil and spreading the Kingdom. My experience is that 99% of Christians say they picture us like an army but sadly my experience has also been that 99% of the time Christians actually build the church like the first picture – a fortress. These two pictures are not compatible. They are drastically different visions of the church and you can’t become an army by building a fortress and you can’t win a war by only playing defense.

For the past 6 months our community has been in intensive discipleship training. We believe training is not something you do for a season but something every disciple is doing continuously. But training for what? An army trains for two reasons – to defend AND to attack. Jesus and Paul were almost always playing offense and the modern church seems to almost always play defense. It’s time to rethink our strategy.

Are Sermons Destroying Christianity?

26 09 2007

***UPDATE  – While I continue to greatly struggle with the dominant use of weekly sermons as a means of training disciples I don’t like the spirit this post was written in and so I’m removing it from my blog***