Becoming an Antioch Church

31 07 2008

God has impressed on me lately the importance of not neglecting the Antioch model so I want to simply introduce some observations and how this tiny, new church plant was responsible for the single greatest church expansion in the history of our faith.

In our effort to plant and grow churches, in the past 50 years we have gone through 3 major model shifts –

Pastoral model – This is where someone with a 5-fold pastoral gift plants a church and stays there, growing and maintaining it for life.  This has and always will ultimately result in the decline of churches because there is no chance for exponential growth and the number of churches is always limited to the number of Pastors.

Evangelistic model – This was kicked off with Bill Hybles church plant in Chicago and has been reproduced a thousand times around the world.  This model is where a 5-fold evangelist plants a church and restructures it around their ability to enfold thousands of people.  If Billy Graham would have planted a church it would have been like this.  These churches tend to be 1000+ but are even more difficult to reproduce then pastoral churches because there are fewer 5-fold evangelists.  This model results in the fast decline in the number of churches the slow decline in the number of church goers and very fast decline in the number of devoted disciples since evangelists do not have the gifts or calling to thoroughly train disciples.

Church planting Churches model – Very recently there has been a call for churches to plant churches.  New churches are both better at evangelism and contextualizing the Gospel in emerging cultures than existing pastoral churches.  While this is smart strategically this model tends to carry with it the same problems as the above two if the model for church being used is based on finding the right 5-fold gifted person.  If they chose a new model (actually an ancient model) not basing a church on a person and his gifting they may become an Antioch church and learn how to reproduce in a way that expands the church.  I have the most hope for this model.

So what is the Antioch Church Model

Acts 13

1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

  1. The gathering of prophets and teachers.  It is important for the prophets and teachers of a church to spend time together before the Lord seeking his will for the church
  2. Sending out the most called and gifted of the group.  Any church that wants to see this kind of expansion can NOT be dependent on their most gifted members but must be preparing to build itself up (Eph 4) as they are equipped by those gifted members so they can send their best out and not suffer.
  3. Spiritually and financially support the Apostolic team you are sending out.

I know many of us have been trained not to pay any attention to Acts to find models.  We’ve learned well that what the Spirit of God did in Acts and what the Spirit of God inspired Luke to write in Acts should have no bearing on our models but we should instead follow what the spirit of Brian McLaren or Mark Driscoll says or trust in our own limited understanding of the Bible and our context to discern how to structure the church.  But I believe church structures must flow out of divine revelation and then work toward strategy because it is given to apostles in our day to understand what models and forms will result in the proper functioning of the church.  We cannot and should not divorce form and function because one leads to the other.

I’d encourage you to dig into Antioch and see if these elements are true of you and your church and for the sake of the Kingdom, consider the impact of this tiny, obedient body.

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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.





Should every church align with a living apostle?

16 06 2008

I’m enjoying Alan Hirsch’s two recent posts on apostolic ministry part 1 and part 2. He writes –

To conceptualize leadership as influence, think of a magnet and its effect on iron filings scattered on a sheet of paper. When the filings come into the orbit of influence of the magnet, they form a certain pattern which we all recognize from our school days. Leadership does exactly the same thing—it creates a field which in turn influences people in a certain way, just like the magnet’s influence on the iron filings. The presence of a great leader in a group of people changes the patterning of that group. For instance, Nelson Mandela’s appearance among a group of people will impact them in a significant way. His physical presence will be unmistakable and will change the social climate of the room. Apostolic leadership qualifies the mood of this influence, but the dynamics of influence operates in the same way. It is precisely this field, this matrix of apostolicity that is critical to the emergence of authentic missional church. Because it is the task of apostolic ministry to create environments wherein which the apostolic imagination of God’s people can be evoked, the spiritual gifts and ministries developed, wherein which the love and hope inspired by the gospel can be make known. For instance, John Wimber would have exerted just this sort of influence. Within two decades, Wimber altered the shape of evangelicalism and underscored the role of the Holy Spirit in mission and ministry in a way that has changed us forever. Just as we still feel the influence of a John Wesley even though none of us have met him. Influence is a field that changes behaviors.

I asked the following question –

One thing I’m pondering regarding this apostolic influence is how it works when two apostolic influences collide.

For example, every denomination is aligned with an apostle, most likely the one who founded the group. But usually that person is dead making all of those churches inflexible.

It seems every church body must align itself with a LIVING apostle because there are always seasons where things must be altered.

When I talk to Vineyard pastors about change I’m battling the ghost of Wimbur, Methodist pastors, the ghost of Wesley etc.

Wimbur and Wesley might completely agree with a new direction but they are not alive to consider it so, instead, their apostolic work has been institutionalized and is, therefore, impervious to the work of a living apostle.

This seems a terrible tragedy because Pastors need access to apostolic ministry in order to make necessary course corrections and to be involved in explosive apostolic expansion.

How do we exist in a world where 95% of established churches have no access to living apostolic ministry and have a DNA that makes gaining that access unlikely?





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)