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)





Five Questions for my “Missional Community” Friends

25 05 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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.





Who Leads the Body?

4 04 2008

Each body of Christ is an autonomous organism that must grow into full maturity (in fact the full stature of Christ Eph. 4). When the goal is maturity you cultivate and train the organism, but one thing that stunts organic growth is to subvert it’s will. Forcing children, for example, into a structure of concrete where they are given no responsibility for their own actions will cause them to exist in a continual state of immaturity. This makes leadership a very tricky proposition. How do you provide enough structure so the organism grows in the correct direction but not so much that growth is stifled?

Have you ever seen a tomato plant growing up into a three ring tomato stake, bursting with6757504.jpg life? This tool was designed to provide just enough structure to assist the organic growth of the tomato plant and strikes that perfect balance for that organism. So what is the correct balance for the body?

In our community, cultivating the soil is like the continuous discipleship training we engage in but I want to explore what the three rings of the tomato stake and what this assisting external structure looks like for us.

Lowest Ring – The Apostolic Team

Each body receives ministry and nurturing from the 5-fold members of the apostolic team (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) that planted the new work. And they release team members according to the specific needs of that organism. If major restructuring is going on an apostle (architect) will assist. When serious doctrinal questions arise we send a teacher. When relationships are strained we send a pastor. None of these gifts work INSIDE the organism. They are external. They equip the organism (Eph. 4) so that it can build itself up. But they do provide that bottom layer of the structure.

Middle Ring – The Elders

At the center of the organism, surrounding and protecting the body’s growth is a team of elders. Elders are never given the charge to proactively “lead”. They shepherd the body. The word elder during the first century was not exclusively a Christian term but referred to the guardians of a city that often were stationed at the gate guarding what goes in, releasing and resourcing what was sent out, and dealing with what the city needed to remain healthy and prosperous.

The Top Ring – The Holy Spirit

It is through the Holy Spirit that Christ takes up the headship of his Body. Christ is not a part of the structure; he is the Head of the organism, but he released the Holy Spirit into each member of the body as a way for us to know his heart and follow his direction. This requires each member of the body to have a deep and consistent relationship with Christ so that, through the continuos filling of the Holy Spirit, each part of the organism can be unified, walking in step with the direction of Christ.

Notice there is NO human head to Christ’s body. Who would dare take up such a position and supplant the headship of Christ? But we have a track record as humans of rejecting the direct leadership of God, preferring the security of a human head. Three times in God’s historic work to bring us back into our Edenic relationship, we have rejected his headship.

At Mt. Sinai God tries to speak directly to his people wanting to make them a “nation of Priests” (Ex. 19) and they beg Moses to go and talk to God and be their surrogate. Then God tried to train the next generations of Israel through judges who were like elders, not taking God’s headship but leading the people under God. But the people demanded a human king. So in sadness God tells Samuel, the final Judge of Israel, that it is not he, Samuel, who is being rejection but “they are rejecting me as their King.” And then the final and most surprising supplanting of God’s headship is happening in our day. Jesus died on the cross, the curtain was ripped so that all God’s children can enter into direct relationship with him, not through a priest, and become the “nation of priests” God wanted. But we, once again, demand a human head and train, ordain and pay people to be priests on our behalf.

And so Christ’s waits for the church, the body, his bride, to align herself underneath his headship once again. What will we do?





These Three Things We Do

3 04 2008

The best methods and models are usually quite simple but all the theological and philosophical wrestling, testing and wandering that takes place behind the scenes can be a difficult process.  But we’re at a point now of great simplicity in our model so I want to see if I can explain it with one picture and a brief post.  In our church model we only do three things (and in a new work they are done in this order) –

  • Train Disciples
  • Grow the Body
  • Release the 5-fold Ministry

That’s it.  Kingdom ministry can and should involve a lot more activities after these things are done well and the work is mature but to launch a healthy, self-sustaining, reproducible work you only need to do these three things.

So if you look at this picture – the first thing we develop is the Discipleship Training Center. simplechurchmodel.jpg Trained disciples form and deepen healthy bodies and as body members are continuously trained and living in community we release those with a special 5-fold calling on their life (from Eph. 4 Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers) to start and strengthen other works.

So I’ve been teaching my kids this because, if my 4-year old can understand it, it passes the simplicity test.

And you can see why each part is essential.  A body (house church) without a clear discipleship training process both lacks a front door and a way to deepen and unify our one faith.  A body and training center without releasing the 5-fold has no way to properly steward the unique calling given to the 5-fold.  If someone with a 5-fold gift is not released the body will be so imbalanced by that gift it will build itself around one man’s gifts and personality (picture Mark Driscoll only using his full gifting in a house church for 10 years and you get the idea).

So it’s that simple and we know it works to bring back to the church three of the things remaining to be restored –

  • Radical Discipleship
  • Interdependent Community
  • Exponential Expansion

For the first time in my life I feel I know both WHAT to do about the church and HOW to do it.  I’m super encouraged!





On Mission in Kirkland, WA

27 03 2008

I wanted to do something unusual and talk about what’s actually going on in my life in the present.

On March 1st my wife and I, with our 4 kids, boarded a plane bound for Seattle to spend the next 2.5 months developing a new work in Kirkland, WA.

We’re members of an Apostolic Team sent out by our church in Fort Thomas, KY.

Our mission is simple – to develop and establish a Discipleship Training Center in Kirkland that will reproduce disciples who will birth new body churches that will send out Apostolic Teams to launch new works in other regions.

Our team from KY is currently April and I and Ford and Erin Knowlton and our Kirkland based team is Ben and Kami Crawford and Colin and Grace Jones. We expect additional members of our team from KY will pay an extended visit to building up this work in the near future.

So right now our weekly schedule consists of –

  • Team Trainings on Tuesday Afternoon
  • Team Outings on Tuesday Night
  • Story Formed Life on Wednesday Night
  • Body Gathering and Lord’s Supper on Saturday Evening
  • Assorted weekly mentoring meetings

I’m also meeting with other church leaders and planters in this area.

We’ve met significant challenges especially in the way of nasty contagious illnesses but we’re pushing through and we’re seeing disciples made as well as the budding of a new body.

Please pray for our team and that the Lord will establish this work for the expansion of His Kingdom.

For more regular updates on what’s going on check out:

And by the way…if anyone out there would be interested in launching a Discipleship Training Center please contact us. We’d love to help you get it started and send a team to assist in establishing the work.

Team Kirkland

teamkirkland.jpg





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.