Archive for February, 2006

Is leadership passé?

Monday, February 27th, 2006

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“Many emerging churches have experimented with the idea of leaderless groups ….Whatever the roots of the leaderless group, be it Scottish Presbyterianism, the 1960s, postmodern deconstruction, a reaction to controlling charismatic leaders, or the desire for respect, some within emerging churches believe the leaderless option may be going too far.” – Gibbs and Bolger in Emerging Churches , pgs 196-197.

The modern era, as many others, has had its share of leadership deficiencies and failures: control, hierarchies, big egos, prestige, competitiveness and the shameless use of power.

Unfortunately, in a reaction to such a lack of genuine servant leadership within the Christian movement, there can be a swing to no leadership, or leadership gets redefined in way that essentially guts it and renders it impotent. How sad.

It’s a common dynamic throughout the history of the Christian movement. There is an abuse and an overreaction: Epicureanism produces asceticism …the misuse of charismatic gifts faces cessationism …sexual lasciviousness results in abstaining from all sex …and the list can go on and on and on.

An emphasis on godly, servant leadership is never passé. Unless we want to take out a razor blade and slice out passages of the NT text that clearly deal with the gift of leadership, it’s there. However we may want to construe it, label it, or deny it, leadership is necessary. And its healthy exercise is essential for the vitality and life of any expression of the body of Christ.

If we look to Jesus as model, we cannot escape John 17:4. In the midst of this passage where he prays and pleads for those who are his kingdom followers in present and future generations, there is this stunning, oft overlooked sentence where Jesus states:

“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”

This is pre-passion talk. It is before God’s redemptive purposes were fulfilled. So what is “the work?”

While there are many right and true things we could attribute to being “the work” in terms of Jesus’ kingdom presence and ministry the preceding three years, good hermeneutics compels us by virtue of the context to the inevitable conclusion that “the work” to which Jesus was clearly referring was the calling and development of the 12 disciples. His selection, training, and impartation of life and vision to the 12, and even more focused on a sub-group of 3, was “the work.”

Jesus, the master missionary, knew that the future of the movement he was launching depended on those who would lead in his physical absence. Those who would follow him as leaders for the masses were his priority. They were “the work.”

If so for the Master, how so for us?

The Leverage of Leadership

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

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“Leverage” is a well-understood and important concept in the commercial world. Few capture its cruciality in the realm of practical ministry – which spans eras, culture, and world view – better than Robert Coleman.

“Jesus concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with people whom the multitudes would follow. People … who would lead … were to be his method of winning the world to God.

The world is desperately seeking someone to follow. This is the decisive question of our age. The relevance of all that we do waits on its verdict, and in turn, the destiny of multitudes hangs in the balance.”

Robert Coleman in The Master Plan of Evangelism


The leverage of leadership can never be underestimated. One person has the potential for effecting thousands. The investment in the life of one can never, ever be underestimated.

Servant leadership is expressed in different ages and different cultures in varying ways and is a contextualized spiritual function. But the essence remains the same. Jesus as leader and Jesus as incarnational missionary remains the supreme model for those of us pursuing him as kingdom travellers.

The best of Steve …

Friday, February 24th, 2006

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Steve Addison’s list of “Twenty Suggestions of What to Do While We’re Not Multiplying Churches” is a must read. I wish I could have come up with a commentary as satiricle, humerous, and as the Aussies say, “spot on” as this one.

Experiencing missional community

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

NieuCommunities is a superb opportunity for those intereseted in exploring, in community, God’s plans and kingdom purposes for their lives.

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Pretoria, South Africa.
Glasgow, Scotland.
Vancouver, B.C.

Check it out. www.nieucommunities.org

The people who don’t fit in …

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

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The famous Scottish poet, Robert Service, penned a brief work that I believe unwittingly captures the emotional dynamic of apostolic gifting probably better then many of the theological tomes that I’ve come across. In the first two verses of, The Men Who Don’t Fit In he writes:

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!
These are the ones who don’t fit in
For whom the world is too small of a place


The last two lines are my edit and addition. Regardless of the gender bias (which is understandable considering the age in which he lived), Service emotionally captures the essence of apostolic gifting …spiritual entrepreneurialship that involves action, crossing significant barriers in the going, and creating something new in a pioneering context.

tall skinny kiwi comments on Alan Hirsch

Friday, February 17th, 2006

Andrew Jones, www.tallskinnykiwi.com, recently commented on an earlier post of mine (Jan 31) about conversations with Alan Hirsh. Andrew specifically had some reflections about Hirsch and Frost’s book, Shaping of things to Come.

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The comments were insightful – and provocative – so I wanted to post them separately so they would not be overlooked. He wrote:

“Shaping is a wonderful book and i love it but there are one or two things that i would add to the conversation.

1. we cannot avoid complexity. simplicity is needed in a world of complexity. simple structures enable emergence. but the end result is a multilayed ministry approach and mindset that relates to complexity (which is not the absence of simplicity)

2. new forms of hierachy are emerging but they are not institutional. aggregation on the web involves relational hierachies of information. emerging church movements, in my opinion, DO display hierachical tendencies but they are dynamical and horizontal (bring to front or send to back) – as is the dynamical hierachy of the Truine God in his creation.

3. an addition to Shaping – i think we need to understand bounded sets AND centered sets AND distributed sets (web)”

More on Wandering Prayer

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

“Be still and know that I am God …” – Psalm 146:10

Even living in a densely populated metro area, one can find places where the soul can more readily decompress and connect with God. And there are usually places, nearby and sometime hidden to first glances, where that pursuit can be more readily encouraged through the simple magnificence of the created order.

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These are sites this morning from my own moments of wandering prayer. They are scenes from one of the venues where I regularly walk and pray …places where I can “be still and know that he is God.”

Leaders and friends

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

Pictured here are three of the men who work closely with me: Tom Middleton (the tall one with the shaggy hair) is my ministry assistant, my personal assistant and Colin Crawley (the Brit on the far right in both pictures) who gives leadership to Enterprise International, CRM’s economic development arm that creates for-profit businesses to support ministry around the world.

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On the left, we are on the main balcony of Ceausescu’s palace in Bucharest, Romania and on the right overlooking the Danube in Budapest at night.

These three men, in their late 20s and early 30s, are a great source of joy and encouragement! I couldn’t do what I do without them.

Each carries significant responsibility. And in the future, each – with their very able spouses – will bear even greater responsiblities in leading CRM. Relating to them, and others like them, brings me great joy.

Friends and Movements …

Monday, February 13th, 2006

“Any movement which has benefited society in the long haul has at its core a group of people committed to a cause that they consider greater than themselves and to one another as friends.”

- James McGregor Burns

One of the facts I’ve come to embrace over the years is that movements run on relationships more than any other factor. I cannot think of a single movement – be it religious, social or political – where at its core there was not a profound relational dynamic.

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Some questions:

1. If I am part of a movement, where is the relational “nexus”
2. What is my contribution to the relational dynamic?
3. What is done to intentionally or inadvertently to nourish this relational dynamic?
4. What or who are the detractors to the relational synergy and how are they remedied or minimized?
5. Who are the key players in the relational mix? Who stewards the relational component of the movement?
6. Are the relationships based on the dual components that Burns articulates: a cause and friendship?

    Momentum in a movement is a precious commodity.  It’s hard to get and it’s hard to keep.  But the primary component of acquiring and sustaining momentum always has been and always will be relationships.

CRM Gathering …

Sunday, February 12th, 2006

Every four years, CRM staff, families and friends from all over the globe come together in one place for several days. This gathering is open to anyone interested in checking us out. All are welcomed!

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In 1998, it was outside Budapest, Hungary. In 2002, it was near Caracas, Venezuela. And in June of this year (2006), we’ll be doing it at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.

We begin with dinner on June 16 and conclude with breakfast on June 21. Designed primarily for stimulating relationships and time together, there will be great celebration and worship, all sorts of break-out opportunities for specialized interest, and pulling together area meetings from around the world. Erwin McManus will be speaking at several plenary sessions.

We’re planning on around 700 people which includes children. There are all sorts of special events and activities for kids as well as childcare for the youngest.

Lots of information and details can be found on the CRM website …linked to the banner above or click here.

Church planting movement dynamics compared …

Friday, February 10th, 2006

My good mate, Steve Addison, who leads CRM-Australia, has an interesting series going on his blog. It is worth checking out and joining the conversation.

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The question he is posing is: “Why is it that there is so much evidence of dynamic church planting movements in the developing world and so little evidence in the developed world?” I weighed in with the following comments:

“Of course, we could debate how we define a church planting movement. Is it just the rapid multiplication of groups of new believers or is it a “people movement” as missiologically defined or is it the results of classic revival and awakening or is it a combination of any these?

Regardless of the nuances (which do make some differences), some reasons off the top of my head why the developing world has been more conducive to such movements in the past 100 years are:

  • Appropriating ethnicity: A willingness to promote and allow the gospel to travel among ethnic pathways. Every such movement has historically been a respecter of culture and has moved via culturally appropriate networks.
    Openness to the supernatural: Rationalism, secularism and the fear of the supernatural stunt such movements in the West.
    Not distracted by things: Materialism and competing allegiances make for a dynamic of impotence in cultures of affluence.
    Upheavel: Social and economic dislocation and upheaval, which is rife in the developing world, has always been fertile ground for movements of change
    Persecution: Oppression (such as China) forces the believing community to live out its essential DNA which is inherently reproductive.
    Poverty: Physical need (which is the norm in the two-thirds world) produces believers who are move heavenly minded and have a more holistic view of the fragile veil between mortal life and the life hereafter.
    Keeping it simple: Simplicity in message and methods. The developed world has over-complicated, over-analyzed and over-theologized the message. And the West has over-educated, over-trained and over-controlled the messengers.”

While these thoughts are genuinely original, I realize (after writing and posting) they are quite in sync with Alan Hirsch and much of his conversation of January 31, particulalry the observation about “essential DNA” which I know has influenced my thinking. So credit is definitely due to Alan.

I am hopeful Alan will unpack much of this and more in his next upcoming book. If anything like Shaping of Things to Come, it should be excellent!

the Imago Dei

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

From the Scopes Monkey trial to the present day, it is discouraging in North America to see followers of Christ choosing battlefields and going to war culturally on the wrong turf. Lines get drawn in unfortunate places and the Christian faith suffers from self-inflicted wounds.

Regarding this issue of origins, what really makes a difference is the understanding and commitment to the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:27). Contrary to lots of the populist and emotional rhetoric, the real crux of the matter is not how creation happened, but the fact that humanity’s origin is not a matter of time, plus, chance plus matter but that we are created and have our genesis in the very being and essence of the triune God.

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It’s when the Imago Dei goes that humanity inevitably descends into the nihilism of a Nietzsche, the hopelessness of a Camus and ultimately the practical consequences of an Adolph Hitler. Without the Imago Dei, the whole basis of morality and ethics in Western culture simply evaporates. It’s the image of God that really counts and where historic Christianity has always drawn the line.

One of the best elaborations of this theme that I have found over the years is the treatment given it by Francis Schaeffer in his little, often overlooked volume, Genesis in Time and Space. It’s worth the read.

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Genesis in Time and Space by Francis Schaeffer

The Frustrated Pastor …

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

I met Eric in the Emerging Church course at Fuller. He’s 29, married, two kids, finishing a seminary degree and holding down a role on a pastoral staff in South-Central Los Angeles, and he is frustrated beyond description.

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He is a strong, godly leader with clear apostolic gifting. He oozes with potential. But serving in a pastoral role has been a serious mismatch of who he is and the expectations of a local church. I’m not sure which will happen first …his local church killing him or he killing it!

The sad thing is how many people like Eric I meet on a regular basis …men and women with apostolic fervor and passion desperately thrashing around to find their niche in ministry. And all too many have been led to believe that the only path they can travel to fulfill God’s calling on their lives is pastoral ministry in a local church setting. How tragic.

The fact, historically, biblically, sociologically and missiologically is that:

Apostolic gifting must have an apostolic structure for that gifting to be adequately lived out and and fulfilled.

Until Eric and those like him find their niche in apostolic entities where they can thrive, move beyond maintenance to missionality, and be cut loose to see their vision soar, their lives will be models of frustration with a numbing lack of meaning.

Eddie Gibbs notes that 50% of those who graduate from American seminaries and who eventually end up in pastoral ministry drop out within ten years. My guess is that an uncomfortable percentage of that number is made up of the Erics of this world.

So to Eric and other like him, there is hope. You’re not crazy. You’re not a rebel. There is nothing “wrong” with you. May God lead you to right apostolic entity in the days ahead where you can make your ultimate contribution to the Kingdom.

PS: Get in touch with me to find out more about one such entity that I know a lot about. Have I got a bias? You bet!

Emerging Church Course

Saturday, February 4th, 2006

Along with Tom Middleton and Charlie Johnson, I’m in the midst of auditing a two intensive course at Fuller on The Emerging Church. Taught by Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs (pictured below), it’s a unique opportunity for me to stay current on the the thinking and evolution of the movement. And it’s a privilege to have the chance to interact with people who have the breadth, perspective and insight of Eddie and Ryan.

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One of the things I have appreciated has been their articulation that much of the emerging church’s critique of the institutional, “Constantinian” church in the West is, in reality, taking good missiological eyes and turning them toward our own domestic backyard. It’s really the stuff that good missionaries have been doing for decades cross-culturally. Now those insights and biblical, historical and theological understandings are being focused literally across the street because of the massive cultural and social changes rocking Western culture as we continue the transition to postmodernity.

I strongly recommend their book, which just came out. It provides one of the better overviews of the emerging church. A must read for anyone itent on understanding …and appreciating …what God is doing in our midst.

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Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger

The Celtic Movement and Apostolic Ecclesiology

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Comparing Celtic monastic communities and contemporary (or historical) local churches is like comparing apples to oranges. Monastic communities were not the same as the local churches they created.

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A fairer comparison would be to compare local congregations of today with the local churches that were spawned by monastic communities. The diocesan structures actually emerged as a result of the apostolic activity of Celic monastic communities. The historical interplay in the centuries following Patrick between the parish/ecclesiastical structure that evolved and the lingering effects of the monastic communities is a fascinating study in movement dynamics.

Celtic monastic orders were:

Sociologically flexible
Geographically mobile
Relationally transient

These communities were a “way station” for most converts. Except for the “2nd decision” people who made up the core of the monastic community, most participants were transient. They moved through the community and into local churches spawned by the monastic community. For the majority of those who were converted, the monastic community was not their permanent spiritual home.In the early stages of the movement, the abbot of the monastic community was the primary ecclesiastical authority and exercised his leadership over the monastic community as well as the churches the community spawned.

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Historically, a shift inevitably occurred where authority shifted from the monastic communities to an ecclesiastical hierarchy. This shift was closely related to the leveling off, institutionalization, and even stagnation of Irish Christianity. Some church historians would probably describe this as “Catholicism in Ireland coming of age,” but in fact, this shift would more accurately be the beginning of an institution gaining ascendancy over a movement, modality over sodality, and the pastoral over the apostolic. (more…)