The Sin of Sheep Cloistering

17 12 2008

packed-sheep

As we go into cities and challenge people to make disciples in the city through the development of a city-wide training center, people with a deep commitment to one institutional church sometimes wonder if this activity is “sheep stealing”.  We believe every disciple and every body of believers needs access to the all the 5-fold gifts (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) in order to mature.  Today, instead of receiving equipping from all five (as Paul commands for church maturity in Ephesians 4) we are led and equipped by only one of the 5-fold gifts (the teaching church, the evangelist church etc.).

Because institutional churches are often based on a strict hierarchy where everyone ranks under the Senior Pastor who has only one of those gifts, if I were to attempt to shift your allegiance from that man’s ministry to another man’s ministry, I would be considered a “sheep stealer”.  Under Paul’s apostolic structure this allegiance shifting was an impossibility.  Paul believed Jesus alone was the head of church and Christ’s under shepherds (elders) were over all the believers in that city.  So if you were a Christian and you lived in that city you were automatically under that group of elders and you were equipped by ALL the 5-fold ministers in the city and ALL the 5-fold ministers traveling through the city.

What Paul was dead against and preached against was the practice of sheep cloistering in a city.

1 Corinthians 1

10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

Then later he writes in 1 Corinthians 3

3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?

5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

So the real sin and danger is that one man would cloister sheep into a single pen, under his ministry alone, and structurally and functionally cut those sheep off from the ministry of others in the city with equipping ministries.  Sheep instinctually want to be cloistered but the 5-fold during the 1st century (Apollos, Paul, Cephas etc.) continually pointed them to the one unifying head of the church, Christ.  In our day the 5-fold actually feed the sheepish desire cloister.

How have we drifted so far from the apostolic structure of the church that what is considered a sin today “sheep stealing” (equal access to equipping God’s sheep) was considered a virtue to Paul and what is considered a virtue today, sheep cloistering, was considered a unity destroying sin to Paul and the first century Apostles?

There is a structure that gives all the sheep in the city access to all the 5-fold equippers and aligns them under one unified head.  I pray for the return of the city church with one mission (making disciples), with one label (Christians) under one head (Christ).

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Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings Part 4 (how does this BETTER release my gift than a paid position?)

28 08 2008

Many of my friends in the house church movement refuse to deal with the issue of how to BETTER release 5-fold callings using a New Testament structure.  They are content to tell John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren that they should sit week after week as an equal member of a house church gathering and they wonder why gifted 5-fold ministers reject their model as an unrealistic step backward.

We need 5-fold ministers to be MORE released and for their influence to broaden not lessen.  So how does a New Testament structure that does not depend on the 5-fold endlessly maintaining individual churches, actually better release the giftings of those “called into ministry”?

Here are three ways –

Way #1 – Apostolic Teams. Instead of the modern phenomenon of teaching churches, evangelistic churches, pastoral churches etc. that arises from one member of the 5-fold leading one church, all of these should be on a balanced team.  This team would plant and shepherd many works resulting in each of the 5-fold always working in their area of calling and gifting while providing the correct gift balance to each work they are assisting.  This also eliminates the isolation many ministers feel as they will always go out in teams of 2 or more to do their work.

Way #2 – The City Church (Training Centers). The real domain of the 5-fold is the city church (that does not exist today).  5-fold ministers need to establish the city church (like Paul did with the School of Tyrannus) and then equip the whole church in an entire region from there.  Not only does this better release their gift in breadth (they equip the whole city) but also in depth (they refine particular trainings that they can impart better than any other).  Many 5-fold have specific teachings that they do better than almost anyone else (because of the depth of their faith and understanding in that area) but, nevertheless, they preach sermon after sermon hopelessly diluting the impact of the specific messages God has given them to impart to many.

Way #3 – New Works. Any city of above 20,000 people that does not have a city church where an itinerant 5-fold minister can come in and train the Christians in that city NEEDS A NEW WORK.  A new work is the process through which we establish a city church in a new region (beginning with a training center for the city).  Look around and see how many places, both in America and throughout the world, need a new work.  The 5-fold cannot be fully released without the re-emergence of the city church.  Of course not all the Christians are going to recognize your training center as the city church but over time hundreds and then thousands will see the fruit, and be trained there as you bring the 5-fold of the city together to disciple the city as a whole.

So this New Testament way of releasing moves 5-fold from –

  • Isolated Pastors to Apostolic Team Member
  • Using a Portion of their Gifting to Ministering from the Center of Their Gifting
  • Ministering to one fraction of God’s church in the city to Ministering to the City Church

Yes, they can be BETTER released in a New Testament model than in our current model.

So we’ve asked and answered the top 3 objections to making this transition from paid positions to released callings.  Now we need to have the courage and determination to make this shift happen in our generation.





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings Part 3 (who’s going to take care of my flock?)

27 08 2008

A continual concern for Pastors wanting to be fully released is the group of people or the organization they may have often spent decades building.  Releasing 5-fold callings instead of filling in paid positions is such a different philosophy of ministry that its inconsistent to adopt this philosophy while seeking a replacement for your former position.  Your position must be dissolved.  But this requires radical restructuring.  So how is this done as part of your transition period.  Here are some steps –

Step 1 – Refocus your efforts toward radical discipleship training. The structures I’m about to describe where the body “builds itself up” (Eph 4:16) cannot be done if the average person in the body is a baby Christian.  You need powerful discipleship tools and a clear, intentional discipleship process.  Design this process to be 1 year and create entry points into the process every 3 months so by the time 2 years are over you have trained everyone that wants to be trained.

Step 2 – Release discipleship trainers. As you develop the modular teaching courses and training intensives that are a part of the discipleship process, quickly recruit, train and release teachers and trainers to take over those modules so that training is expanding and continually occurring without your direct involvement.

Step 3 – Allow trained disciples to gather in body churches. An equipped and trained body of disciples loving each other like a royal family does not need you or any other full-time person to supervise and weekly lead its life together (typical size 15-40).  The body with gather at least once a week and work interdependently througout the week as it seeks to continue to expand the mission of make disciples.

Step 4 – Replace your leadership of the church with the headship of Christ. This should be done toward the end of your time in that position but this often looks like dissolving or completely changing the focus of your weekly worship service.  Because this is the center of life for most churches and the service centers on the paid Senior Pastor it is a structure that replaces Christ’s headship with a human head.  This often involves recognizing elders.

Step 5 – Cast a Vision for Itinerant 5-fold Ministry. Use the training center you developed in step 1 and 2 to begin to train these disciples about how the 5-fold ministry should really work.  That those of us with 5-fold gifts should not be leading one church (tilting it entirely toward our gifting) but equipping multiple churches as a part of a balanced team that has all five of these people.  Also train them in the advantages in a 5-fold culture of “coming and going”.

Step 6 – Complete your financial support phase. We discusses this in Part 2

Step 7 – Begin to go on extended and regular ministry trips. For the next 2 years spend intensive time building up other works and when you return to your home base, spend intensive and intentional time building up the bodies and the training center you helped established through the steps above.  You’ll quickly find the right rhythm for the works you are equipping and establishing as well as what works best for your family.

So are your people being cared for?  Take a step back and consider the real impact of the above transition.

You replaced

  • Passive learning with Intentional Discipleship
  • Corporate Gatherings with Interdepenent Bodies
  • Human Headship with Christ’s Headship

And you released yourself and many others in the process.





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings – Part 2 (how am I going to feed my family?)

26 08 2008

People with a 5-fold calling on their life who are trained and consistently demonstrate fruitfulness in their ministry need to be fully released in their calling.  This includes seasons where they are financially supported in part or fully but this support should primarily come to release the call on their life not to indefinitely hold them to a church or ministry position.

Here are some steps toward getting to that place of financial freedom (imagine you were taking 6-24 months to transition out of the paid position and work through these steps).

Step 1 – Discover your burn rate. Every start-up business has to know how much cash they burn through in a month and carefully hold that line so they can see if they’re headed toward ruin and need to raise more money.  In the same way if you combined all the income you would receive monthly if you left your pastoral position and subtracted your monthly expenses the negative number that would result is your burn rate.

Step 2 – Decrease your burn rate. Cut monthly expenses as much as possible including perhaps a less expensive house.

Step 3 – Diversify your income streams. Many families have only one stream of income and that is the paycheck of the bread-winner.  Because “making a living” is totally different than being “released in your calling” you will not always DO what makes you the most money.  But if you have one income stream this puts both your family and your ministry (calling) at continual risk.  I would recommend developing at least these 4 streams of income – work, support, investment and product (and developing these in this order is the next 4 steps).

Step 4 – Get a super-flexible (non-ministry) job (i.e. a trade). Paul had his tent making business and this is not to say he supported himself 100%.  It simply means he could support himself whatever % he might fall short on a given month and I believe EVERY 5-fold person should develop this.  The best way to do this is to offer some service that is needed by many people and can be done at any hour of the day or night and you control how many hours you put into it.  Here are some examples of trades that allow for this – computer programming, graphic design, internet marketing, editing (video, writing etc.) there are hundreds of others (each of these can be learned in 6-12 months).  You can also get another type of job that is very flexible as opposed to super-flexible like adjunct teaching, counseling etc.  Either way, you need to be able to get money every month (flex work between 10 and 30 hours per week) without compromising your calling and a trade will help ensure you have that ability.

Step 5 – Raise your own financial support. Don’t be too afraid to do this!  Imagine your burn rate is $6K and your income streams bring in $4K.  You are $2K away from being released in your calling and you probably know people who will gladly make up the difference.  A few things to remember about this.  Don’t think it is more noble to compromise your calling to have a ministry position and less noble to ask for support and be fully released.  I would reverse those two.  The church ought to give the vast majority of its money to 5-fold callings not to paid positions and you need to be a part of helping the church make that transition.  During part 3 of this series I’m going to describe how to structure a church without paid positions and once that happens you don’t need a building or staff and close to 100% will go to supporting 5-fold.  When that begins to happen raising support will be easy but in the mean time we need to be willing to do this.  Here’s a group that has amazing resources that help 5-fold raise their own support – http://www.globaltrainingnetwork.org/.

Step 6 – Invest some money. 10-20% of your income should go toward passive investments designed to release you and provide for you later in life.  This is also to assist your children when you’re older and after you are gone.  Do not neglect this area.  Pastor’s are not exempt from the need to be smart with their money and think multi-generationally.  This also provides an area where God could pour out blessing giving you unusually investment opportunities and bless those opportunities abundantly.

Step 7 – Continually productize parts of your ministry.  This means write a book, create a training course, audio courses, video training etc.  This does two things.  1. Can provide a stream of income from what you are already doing in ministry 2. Exponentially increase the scope of your ministry.

After 6-24 months of aggressively working through these steps with other 5-fold who have done and are doing the same thing you will be supported for your calling and NOT through a position.  Remember the minute your income streams overcome your burn rate in a sustainable way you are free.  It’s not easy but it’s right and it’s worth it.





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings

25 08 2008

When we feel “called into the ministry” we almost immediately, without thinking, get on a training track to hold a paid position in a church or ministry.

When we transition to an understanding that those “callings” are usually our first realization that we are one of the 5-fold ministry gifts given to the church (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher listed in Eph. 4) we need to ask, is the best way to be released in a 5-fold gifting taking a full-time paid position in a church or ministry?  What are the alternatives?  Ephesians 4 describes these 5 gifts as equippers of the whole church (in context church here = universal church) and are not commanded to lead a single local church but to train many (read here and here for more on this).

Then we have a huge problem.  Once a pastor or paid ministry position holder realizes they are 5-fold and, therefore, they want to be released to minister to multiple bodies and multiple city-churches, they get paralyzed by three difficult questions –

  1. How will I make money (feed my family)?
  2. Who will take care for the people I’m actively caring for now?
  3. How does this BETTER release my gift then holding a paid position?

These questions must be given sound and realistic answers for those holding paid positions to want to transition out of them. In the next few days I’d like to think through and discuss possible answers to each of these questions.  But if you hold a paid position in a church please ask yourself this very simple question first – if you could be financially supported, your people could be better cared for, and you could be fully released with better opportunities to use your gifts and NOT have to hold a specific paid position in one church would you want to?  Many have said to me, pastors don’t want this (and some truly don’t) but I’ve discovered that MANY would love to make this transition if you could only answer these three questions well.





Go First to the Pastors? – To the Jews first then the Greeks

5 08 2008

During Paul’s initial missionary journeys you see a repeated pattern –

  1. Paul reasons with the Jews at the synagogue
  2. Those who believe he trains and they form churches in homes
  3. Those who don’t believe get jealous and stir up persecution against the Apostles
  4. When the persecution gets really intense (or when training is established) they move on

As I’ve mentioned before, I place a lot of stock in what the Spirit of God was doing in Acts and what he inspired Luke to write.  I believe we need to at least ask the question why?  Why did Paul use this pattern and if we were to do this today, what would it look like?

Today church planters are encouraged to avoid other churches like the plague and to focus on serving and reaching unbelievers.  When persecution got increasingly intense Paul did end up starting outside the synagogue with God-fearing Gentiles but something in him always said to go first to those who already know God.  Why?

It goes to the very nature of apostolic ministry.  An apostle wants to see the Kingdom of God take root in a whole city or an entire region.  He doesn’t serve a fraction of the church in that city (one denomination or a single congregation) but the entire church in that city.  So if he’s called to start a disciple-making work, why not work with cooperating churches?

The pattern might go something like this –

  1. Arrive at the new city and go meet with the ministerial association
  2. Offer to serve them for the purpose of creating a unified disciple-making work in the city
  3. Any who will listen cooperate with
  4. Begin the disciple-making work
  5. As people are being transformed some pastors may become jealous especially if many of their people are being built up
  6. Stay there until discipleship training and house church planting is established (or until persecution becomes intense and makes you the focus)
  7. Move to the next city

If we have no chance of creating controversy with the way we’re starting new works I have to ask, are we using the correct pattern?  Maybe, like Paul, we were not meant to see the denomination lines man, in his sin, has created.  Maybe we should see the church in the city the way God sees it – all of his called out children as one people.





Strategy vs. Revelation – Striking the right balance?

1 08 2008

My whole life I’ve been an obsessive strategist by nature but many in the church have looked with suspicion on my gift believing that there is something inherently ungodly about strategy.

Statements like “we just need to be faithful” or “God doesn’t care about how you do it He just wants your heart” have shut me down making me feel less spiritual because I deeply care if what we’re doing is the best method.  As I entered the business field I was greeted with the exact opposite response where strategy is highly prized and respected.

This is one reason I think God is going to call many of his apostles from the business world.

But does focusing on strategy breed an unhealthy independence from God and dependence on man and his plans?  I believe there is truth to this concern about strategy as some have embraced ungodly strategies and have justified their independence from God as a “holy pragmatism” and have built forms of church that have no chance of creating a biblically functioning body.

So what’s the balance?

I believe the answer may be a need to work from revelation to strategy not from pragamtism to strategy.

God has given apostles an ability to understand how God’s revelation builds a God-given strategy that will have the unique ability to allow the church to function properly.  God is beginning to release the apostolic ministry in our day in a way never seen since the first century and you will know an apostle by their unique ability to understand how revelation impacts strategy.  This will bridge the gaps created in the previous generation by the faithful but strategy-less pastoral church and the revelation-ignoring pragmatism of the evangelist led church.

We’re about to see why God’s divine order is not to build the church on the gifts of the pastor, the teacher or the evangelist but to build the church “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” (Eph. 2:20-21)