Archive for June, 2006

Business Leverage

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Lever
When business people get a chance to see, touch, feel and experience CRM Enterprise, they get it.

First, they understand the concept of leverage. A dollar invested in such a way earns a significant return because, as Stephen Covey puts it, that dollar is invested in “production capacity,” not just “production.” It keeps on earning.

Secondly, these business oriented individuals usually begin to salivate because finally they have discovered a way whereby they can put their own expertise and business skills directly to work for ministry purposes. Their abilities are valued.

Involvement with Enterprise is a real life illustration of the old adage about giving a person a fish or a fishing pole. What results from the fishing pole is exponentially more effective.

Objections to Business for Ministry

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Washingmachine
I can already hear some of the back room comments on my last post (June 27):

“Profit? How mercenary?”
“This just smacks of western capitalistic opportunism.”
“Make money? What’s that got to do with ministry? Why can’t they just trust God?”
“I can’t believe they are mixing business and ministry …God’s work will be the loser in such an unholy alliance!”

Please spare me the hate mail. I’ve heard it all before.

I’ve heard all the arguments from my friends on the left about the inherent evils of capitalism and likewise, know all the arguments from my friends on the theological right who frown on such “worldly” attention to lucre which they believe can only corrupt the purity of the gospel.

The sad fact is, when it comes to money and the wise even shrewd use of resources, Jesus’ admonition that “...the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves …” seems strangely applicable.

To our detriment, others have historically done a better job at this than those who have been followers of Jesus. For example, the Mormans have done it for years while most of those committed to historic orthodoxy have sat on our sanctimonious hands.

There is no biblical, historical or missiological reasons why business, wisely operated, cannot be utilized for Kingdom purposes.

Business With a Purpose

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

Money-1

The Christian movement is littered with the intentions of well meaning visionaries who either would not or could not find the resources to make their dreams become reality.

The primary purpose of the businesses created through CRM Enterprise is to quite simply make money. Profit is the bottom line.

There are certainly other worthwhile byproducts of these businesses. For example they

Provide jobs, often in economies where employment can mean survival;
Model good business ethics and mores;
Contribute to the overall welfare and development of the local and regional economy;
Develop nationals as entrepreneurs and business leaders;
Can provide a platform to legitimize ministry, particularly in limited access nations;
In word and deed, function as authentic expressions of the presence of Jesus in the marketplace

While these are all important and worthy ancillary benefits, the primary purpose of these businesses is not job creation, evangelism, tent-making, or enriching nationals so they will eventually give or tithe to their churches.

In reality, and by design, all of these side benefit have happened and are happening. But just because they happen does not insure that profit flows as a result. At the end of the day, we have deliberately chosen for these entities to turn a profit that can in turn be invested in ministry. These businesses are to be an economic wellhead to help vision, given by God, become reality.

Missionaries = Bad Business

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Empty Pockets
What is one of the best ways to screw up a business? Let the ministry types run it.

Of course there are some exceptions, but on the whole, those in vocational ministry are not good business people. In CRM’s Enterprise Division, we do our best to keep the ministry folks away from the operational aspects of the businesses because they rarely have the skills or the experience to know what to do.

Enterprise offers business men and women a unique opportunity to really go for it using all that God has entrusted to them. For some, this may mean taking a one or two-week trip a year where their unique abilities can be applied in the developing world. For others, it may mean packing it up and spending months or even years in locations around the globe pioneering such ventures.

And for many, it means being part of a Business Development Group which gathers other like minded and committed business people together to anchor such projects without leaving home, contributing advice, expertise, and even investment capital.

Missional Entrepreneurs

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

Filmmidworthitall
Money can be corrupting, particularly when it crosses cultures and creates crippling dependency. Such misuse in ministry and missions is legendary.

At the same time, deploying missionaries from the majority world (also called the “developing world”) across cultural, linguistic and socio-economic barriers can be a daunting challenges when resources are limited.

One of the solutions …and there are multiple …is to create income streams within the localized economy dedicated to the support of nationals in ministry. It means creating profitable businesses to undergird their efforts and particularly to help those who incur the substantial expense of leaving their own culture to move elsewhere for the sake of the gospel.

Such an approach to alternative means of funding never excuses the local church or local followers of Jesus from giving with joy and sacrifice. But it does provide additional resources that can accelerate the participation of those in these nations as partners with dignity in the global Christian movement.

Over the past decade and a half, CRM has undertaken the creation of these types of businesses – owned by the CRM ministry entity in those nations – and they are proving very successful.

Called CRM Enterprise, this division of CRM starts and multiplies profit-making businesses for the support of ministry. The short film above, Worth It All, describes one such scenario in Ukraine.

Business as Calling

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

Let’s get it straight.

Working in a business or a profession should demand just as much a divine sense of “calling” as being a pastor or crossing a cultural divide as a missionary.

Os Guinness in his volume, The Call, does as good a job of theologically unpacking this as anyone. At its core, the issue is overcoming the sacred/secular split of modernity and engaging a “whole life” spirituality. It means abandoning the artificial gap between the traditional church and contemporary culture.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus, in word and deed, in the marketplace is ministry. It is just as sacred …and in many instances, more sacred …than what may happen on Sunday mornings. It requires equipping, empowering and releasing this vast multitude of men and women to be the presence of Jesus in and through their business venues and relationships.

Guinness3

Business People and Ministry

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Pic-Business-People
Historically, the Christian movement has pretty much said four things to business people:

1. “Give us your money.”
2. “Get involved with the local church. But all too often in the modern era that may mean work as an usher, serve on a board, teach fifth grade Sunday School, or undertake some other task usually unrelated to your vocation.”
3. “If you really love Jesus, give up your business/professional career, go to seminary, and become a real person of the cloth.”
4. “We have this business manager’s job at the church or this CFO’s role in the organization and we really need someone to deal with the filthy lucre. Of course realize, that if you ever take such a role, you’re really not in ‘ministry’ and those duly ordained are doing the real stuff.”

How sad.

But there much better ways – when our messed up theology about vocation gets fixed- whereby those called as business men and women in the marketplace can make a huge kingdom contribution through the use of their gifts and business acumen. More to come.

Sustaining Dynamic Community

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

Horizonta[2]

We arrived today at Westmont College for CRM’s World Wide Conference in Santa Barbara, CA. This unique, every-four-year event brings together all of those serving with CRM around the world and their families for five days. Close to 700 people will participate.

So why are we doing this? Why go to all this effort and expense?

In May of 1997, during a discussion prior to the first such event in Hungary, those of us in CRM leadership were wrestling with this very issue. John Hayes (who leads InnerCHANGE, CRM’s order among the poor) eloquently articulated (as only John Hayes can) the importance of such a gathering and why InnerCHANGE staff – who probably have the least amount of money available to apply toward such an event – were committed to attend.

I was so impressed by his arguments, that I asked him to put those words into writing. What resulted is a timeless explanation of why getting people together like this is an essential in an apostolic movement such as CRM. John’s words today are as timely as when they were written almost a decade ago when he said:

“Years ago, I ransacked the gospels for practical insights into sustaining dynamic community over the long haul since that was important for InnerCHANGE (and CRM as our larger apostolic community) if we were to survive in our ministry.

In the short term, I sensed community would come naturally and easily. . . as we were all pioneers thrown excitedly together in some difficult, challenging contexts. But I was concerned that we would fall prey to the deterioration of relationships that seems to mark so many movements or organizations with the passage of time.

Luke 4:24, in which Christ references the proverb, “A prophet is without honor in his home town” seemed to speak a warning to our hope of maintaining a close, relational atmosphere for the long haul. What we wanted was more than “team,” more than “organization,” it was family. (more…)

Space for God

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

Space For God

My good friend, Tim Cahill, invited me to join him and couple other men for a “day in the park.”

What this really is is an extended time of solitude and time alone with God. We met in a nearby regional park (where I often walk and pray myself), spent about an hour together and then separated for the bulk of the day to be alone with God.

It was a wonderful time, like water to a parched soul. With a major event coming up next week with close to 700 CRM staff, family and friends gathering for a once-every-four-year event, finding this island of solitude in the midst of the preparatory chaos was a blessed parenthesis. It provided time and space for centering my emotions and spirit on Jesus and to regain a sense of his real and even manifest presence in my life through time in the bible and prayer.

Helping people make such space for God and learn how to hear him is increasingly the focus of Tim’s life and ministry. I am deeply grateful for the contribution that my “reflective, mystical friend” has made in my life through such a calling. I am grateful for Tim being a catalyst around which I, and others, are invited into a deeper union and communion with Christ.

Brian McLaren

Friday, June 9th, 2006

Mclaren
I met Brian McLaren almost 20 years ago at a church planting conference near Atlanta. We were both inconspicuous nobodies back then (a status that I have maintained rather well). We enjoyed an afternoon together wandering the north Georgia woods in intense conversation about many of the themes and issues that have blossomed into that portion of the emerging church world for which Brian has become one of the most visible spokespersons.

I was impressed then, as I am now, by his grasp of historical themes. The attached audio file of Brian (McClaren.mp3) is a wonderful macro view of how we evolved to postmodernity in the West. While a couple of years old, this talk is still an excellent primer on the influences that are shaking the foundations of Western culture.

It saddens me as I have watched Brian increasingly become a lightening rod for criticism of the emerging church, some of which has been vehement. When I read his books, 95% of what he writes I wish I could say with as much skill and clarity. Then there is the 5% at which I cringe and wonder, “Who is helping vet these comments? He doesn’t have to say that to make his point!” From where I sit, it seems that some of the wounds he is experiencing may be self-inflicted.

This seems odd to me as I write these words, since I am no stranger to the same dynamic but on a much less visible scale. I know the feelings. And I know that it is easier to comment on someone else’s dilemma when I am not in the middle of that fray and when I have been the object of blessed obscurity.

However, being an effective change agent does not require being a martyr.

Brian, may the God of all steadfastness bless you in the role he has thrust upon you. May Proverbs 3:3 characterize your posture and conversations, where “truthfulness and kindness” are yours in abundance (even if you have to wrestle with how “truthfulness” is perceived, like we all must, in the reality of a postmodern world!)

McClaren.mp3

My Genes!

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Spotlighting the Best of Local Music: Bodies of Water

by Evan George
(Review appeared in the Los Angeles Alternative, June 2, 2006)

V5N27 Ss
The best time to get into a band is, generally, not when you’re famished on a street corner waiting for a man named José to finish baking the extra large pizza that a dozen stoned college kids have sent you out to fetch for a birthday party. Which may be the reason that the first time I heard Bodies of Water diligently bashing out some earnest four-part harmonies from their garage—which happened to be not a hundred feet away from the pizza parlor that I was sitting in front of—I muttered the kind of things under my breath that only a man intent on eating deep fried eggplant would mutter.

Since that day nearly two years ago, the L.A. transplants that make up this gospel-pop four piece have honed their vocal chops, their hand-wringing melodies and their spunky instrumental acrobatics, but more importantly, I am no longer waiting for José’s pizza. I am ready to receive their message of “Love All.”

According to the band itself, three of the four members had no experience on their chosen instruments at all and all four were acquaintances through various degrees of luck and happenstance. David (guitar/vocals) and Meredith (keyboard/vocals) had been writing songs in the comfort of their own home for a while when they decided they’d like to perform them for an audience bigger than a street corner pizza joint crowd. Meredith knew Kyle (bass) from high school where he played the violin quite competently. And their recent friend Jessie said she’d love to try playing drums… for the first time ever.

Their simple beginnings as a band stay with them today. Bodies of Water prides itself on being as natural in its aesthetic and sound as its name portrays. Songs of joy, songs of pain, but mostly just good old fashioned testimonial songwriting. And if there’s a religiosity to the band’s songs it seems to be more than just the trappings of a bunch of indie rock kids trying to play gospel. When they say that a divine hand moves us in ways we can’t understand, it ain’t ironic. And when they squeal together in upward spiraling melody mountains, it sounds like truth seeking, not posturing.

The Highland Park foursome have released an E.P. to little fanfare but are in the process of recording a full-length that will be released later this year. In the meantime they’re playing more than a few shows that—even if not technically—will land them on a street corner near you.

Modalities

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

steeples.jpg


“The nurture structures down through history have been loathe to provide such channels , and slow to bless those that have emerged. In fact, they have often clawed at the heels of those members who have reached out for deeper forms of commitment.” – Charles Mellis in Committed Communities


Missiologists use the technical term “modalities” to refer to the church in its local, parish, or diocesan form. It’s the cross-generational and the essential structure that conserves the fruit of the Christian movement.

But as Mellis so tartly observes, it’s not the structure that takes new ground nor is it on the cutting edge of the new, particularly when faced with cultural, social, linguistic, or economic barriers. Rather the modality preserves what is and provides a place where all can belong. When healthy, it presses for deeper commitment and vibrant spirituality. It is particularly effective in its own immediate cultural milieu and has a transformation kingdom impact. But when people get really committed, watch out!

Modalities were never intended by God to do what the missionary structures do. To expect local churches to have the same sense of discipline and focus that the apostolic forms of the Church—the “sodalities”—evidence, is an unfair expectation and is usually the result of a truncated ecclesiology. There is no theological, biblical, historical, or missiological evidence that such an expectation of the church in its local form is warranted. It is the expectation of the whole Church, but the whole Church is much more than the modalic structure.

When sodalities are healthy, they do two major things for modalities. First, sodalities renew modalities. Secondly, sodalities multiply modalities. While I cannot unequivocally prove it, I think most of the evidence throughout the history of the Christian movement points to the fact that more modalities have emerged as the result of sodality activity than as a result of the activity of other modalities.

Ultimately, we desperately need more and healthier modalities. Hundreds of millions of those who follow Jesus find their spiritual home in these local expressions of the Church. But we also need hoards of new sodalities.

As a sodality leader, I have a bias. I admit it. That is because in the final analysis, the effects on the world of Mother Teresa and a few thousand of her fellow sisters is exponentially greater than hundreds of thousands of nominal pew sitters. The tragedy is that the pew sitters, as Mellis observes, all to often are the biggest obstacle to what God wants to do through those committed few who have submitted themselves to an apostolic calling and consequently have aligned themselves vocationally with an apostolic structure. May their tribe increase!

The Catholics Got It Right

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

 Wikipedia Commons 8 8F Benedikt-Von-Nursia 1-500X600

The primary engine of spiritual vigor and missional vision within Roman Catholicism has been the religious orders. the Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans, Sisters of Charity, Jesuits, etc … The orders, actually unnumbered, have been, and remain to this day, the backbone of the Catholic Church.

Figures are hard to come by, but best estimates optimistically put the worldwide number of women in orders close to 800,000 and about 200,000 men. The Statistical Yearbook of the Church puts total Catholic adherents at slightly over 1 billion at the end of 2004. That means that those committed to religious orders number around .1% of the total church. That is point one percent.

What is amazing is the phenomenal impact that such a small number exercise. The influence of those called to apostolic vocations far exceeds their numbers. The facts are that:

Most renewal has flowed historically from the orders into the modalic, diocesan structures of the church.
The best popes usually came from the orders.
The expansion of the Catholic Church is due almost in whole to the evangelistic and proselytizing efforts of the missionary orders.

One of the greatest errors of the Protestant tradition was the reaction of the reformation to these Catholic structures. The reformers, in their repulsion against all things Catholic, threw out the proverbial baby with the bath-water. For close to 300 years, the results were a truncated ecclesiology that hampered the Protestant understanding of the missio dei.

Even through there were some notable bright spots in this sad history, such as the Moravian Movement of the early 18th century, Protestants never fully recaptured the dynamic until 1792 with the emergence of what has been labeled in generous hindsight the “Modern Missionary Movement” stimulated by Englishman, William Carey.

When Protestants finally got their act together, the “orders” they multiplied were in typical Protestant fashion and true to stereotypical Protestant organizational culture: chaotic, decentralized, and highly entrepreneurial. While sorely lacking in the discipline, historicity, and hierarchical structure of Catholic orders, these countless sodalic, apostolic entities have had an enormous effect around the world throughout the past three centuries.

It is important to note that while all orders are apostolic entities, not all apostolic entities or structures are orders. That is true of the Catholic church and true of non-Catholic orders as well. Orders, by definition, are a particular sub-set of apostolic movements. They capture perhaps most poignantly the essence of what apostolic structure is all about and how it can accomplish remarkable results with so few people or resources.

*Image is of Benedict of Nursia (c.480-543) developed the leading “rule” that established the paradigm for monastic life and ministry that has lasted for 1500 years in Roman Catholicism.

In Praise of Cool Docs …Who Make House Calls!

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

Dr. Tim And Christine
Tim Schmidt, came to see my daughter today as she is recuperating from a week in the hospital.

He is a very cool doc and deserving of praise. And not just because he came to see Christine.

Tim has served on the CRM Board for over a decade and has done a couple of terms as chair. He’s also affectionately known as “Compudoc” to hundreds of CRM staff serving throughout the world. An excellent physician, he is always available to them on email and accessible 24-7 if there’s an emergency. He’s been a virtual godsend for everything from life-thretening illnesses to pre-natal exams and spider bites.

He’s also very much in the know about things missional and astute as they come in understanding the type of ministry to which God has called CRM. Couple that with a deep, abiding and mature walk with Jesus and we’ve got a package for whom all of us are grateful.

Apostolic Structures-Why So Important?

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

Coptic Crosses - Peter

A biblical, historical, and missiologically informed ecclesiology realizes that sodalities are as equally “church” as the church in its local form and are part of the same body but with different functions and structure. Apostolic expressions of the body of Christ are as legitimately “church” as the parish/diocesan/congregational expressions.

So why is this so important?

The biblical and historical record shows clearly that apostolic structures are necessary for the overall health, multiplication and vibrancy of the Church. They are not some passing necessity that exist because “local churches can’t get it right.” Rather, they are designed and ordained by God to do things that the church in its local form is structurally incapable of performing.

This issue has significant personal implications for me. I have an apostolic movement that has been entrusted to my responsibility and leadership during this season of my life. So it is sad, at times, to see others in positions of ecclesiastical responsibility and leadership question the legitimacy of such structures.

Sometimes I believe they do this out of genuine historical and theological ignorance. Other times, it may be because they are threatened by the fervency and passion of the apostolically gifted folks who gravitate toward such ministry. And all to frequently, they react with the perception that apostolic people and movements will drain their local congregations or denominations of their most motivated people and resources, which while understandable, is patently unfounded when we view the discussion through a biblical perspective.

Characteristics of Apostolic Structures-An Overview

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006

St. Pete Church

Apostolic structures, or “sodalities” as missiologist Ralph Winter defines them (see the post and article on April 18, 2006), have a unique set of characteristics that sets them apart from “modalities” or local church structures:

  • Sodalities are primarily task-oriented and focus around a shared sense of mission, often narrowly defined.

  • They help modalities be healthy and to create new modalities.

  • Sodalities frequently multiply modalities as well as more sodalities.

  • Apostolic structures are 2nd decision structures. In 1st decision structures, a person belongs based on a decision to follow Jesus. In a 2nd decision structure, (while including the same initial commitment as first decision people), people make an additional vocational commitment. It’s a commitment based on giftedness and specific calling.

  • The life span and life cycle of a sodality is typically longer than a modality because the sodality can enforce discipline. People can be “fired” from a sodality for not doing their job. That is a standard that the church in its local form rarely attempts.

  • While sodalities can form within denominations in the Protestant movement, they are frequently trans-denominational.

  • The impetus for renewal and spiritual vitality most commonly flows from sodalities into the modalities.

  • The issue of commitment is a critical factor that distinguishes these two basic structures that make up the Church.

A biblical, historical, and missiologically informed ecclesiology realizes that sodalities are as equally “church” as the church in its local form and are part of the same body but with different functions and structure. Apostolic expressions of the body of Christ are as legitimately “church” as the parish/diocesan/congregational expressions.

We know from history that during eight great expansions and declines of the Christian movement, when churches in their local form and churches in their apostolic form work together in mutual interdependence, the overall movement flourishes and advances.

It is not a question of either or. It is not an issue of one structure having supremacy over the other. Both are needed, necessary and valid.

Home from the Hospital

Friday, June 2nd, 2006

We brought Christine home form the hospital today.

We got a call this evening with the definitive diagnosis …an acute attack of Epstein Baar virus (infectious mononucleosis) aggravated by a bacterial infection. Quite a cocktail. We are relieved that it is nothing more serious in the long haul and are glad to have her under our roof as she begins what will be a gradual recovery.

We’re appreciative for the many who prayed. We began the week with considerable anxiety. But as I wrote to CRM folks in an email on Tuesday: “It seems obvious that folks have been praying. There is a settledness that has rested on us, and even in the hospital room, that was not there yesterday. We’re grateful.”