Archive for July, 2006

The Supremacy of the Church Local?

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

Bolton Hill Steeples.Sized

“The leadership of nurture structures (congregations and linkage structures) on whom we largely depend for our Christian education have always tended to a mono-structural view of the Church. In fact, our theologians tend to define the Church in terms of this nurture structure.” —Charles Mellis in Committed Communities, pg. 6.

This mindset that Mellis refers to (and then goes on to effectively deconstruct in his book) is what I refer to as “the supremacy of the church local.” It’s that ill-informed concept that says the church in its local form is the only legitimate expression of the body of Christ. In this view, the congregational/diocesan form is the only true expression of what “church” is.

Unfortunately, this truncated view of the church has prevailed, as Mellis notes, in Western theological education except in the field of missiology. While missionaries and other apostolically gifted individuals are often required to endure a classic theological curriculum (including Greek, Hebrew, and other assorted irrelevant subjects) to get duly certified for ministry through an educational system biased toward the scholarly, those headed into pastoral ministry for the church local and its hierarchal “linkage structures” (ie, denominations) rarely have to immerse themselves in missiological studies.

It is a rare pastor who is exposed to the theology of mission or the history of missional ecclesiology. While they may have studied church history from the perspective of doctrine, heresies and apologetics, they seldom examine the fundamental structural dynamics that are essential for an understanding of the health and expansion of the Christian movement. For example, few ever wrestle with a volume such as Kenneth Scott Latourette’s A History of Christianity or any seminal texts on a theology of mission. How many pastors-to-be have been immersed in Newbigin, McGavran, Winter or Bosch?

What can suffer as a result is an understanding and appreciation of those apostolic structures upon which the vitality of the Christian movement has always depended. This lack of understanding is widespread in the West. One sees it across a broad spectrum from the traditional/historic churches of modernity, including the mega-churches—which are particularly susceptible because of their perception of self-sufficiency—to the emerging church movement.

Yet when leaders—pastoral, lay, and those leading apostolic movements—all “get it,” the resulting synergy that occurs from such a biblical, Spirit-directed interdependence is a tremendous thing to experience. And when it genuinely happens, the name of Jesus is renowned among the nations in an Ephesians 3:20 way, “...immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

Why Missionaries Can Be Irritating

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

Oursler

C. Peter Wagner in his seminal work on biblical holisim, Church Growth and the Whole Gospel writes:

“Mission structures, at least the better ones, do not have a broad vision. They are single-minded and concentrate on one task. Their narrow vision is part of their very nature, not something to be criticized.

The better mission structure leaders frequently exhibit three characteristics which broader-minded pastors need to understand and appreciate (although at times it is difficult to do so).The better mission structure leaders are:

1. Convinced that their task is the most important task in the kingdom of God
2. Convinced that their particular organization is going about the task better than any other similar organization.
3. Have a low need for people and a high dedication to the task.”


“Church Growth and the Whole Gospel: A Biblical Mandate” (C. Peter Wagner)

Celtic Missionality

Monday, July 24th, 2006

Glasnevincross

The Celtic movement combined a profound commitment to trinitarian theology with a deeply experiential/sensual/visual spirituality. Celtic understanding and practice of community and holism was exemplary. And their missiology was highly incarnational with a remarkable understanding of apostolic structures. A Celtic monastic community’s purpose was:

“… to root your consciousness in the gospel and the scriptures; to help you experience the presence of the Triune God and an empowered life; to help you discover and fulfill your vocation; and to give you experience in ministry with seekers.”

As CRM develops and multiplies such apostolic communities around the globe, this isn’t a bad statement of what those communities of transformation should encompass.

A wonderful example of Celtic apostolic passion—firmly grounded in trinitarian spirituality—can be found in this portion of the famous Celtic prayer, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate:”

We rise today
In power’s strength, invoking the Trinity,
Believing in threeness, confessing the oneness,
Of creation’s Creator.

For to the Lord belongs salvation,
And to the Spirit belongs salvation,
And to Christ belongs salvation,
May your salvation, Lord, be with us always.

Mastery of the Bible

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

Openbible
This excerpt is from an email that J. Robert Clinton, professor of leadership at Fuller Seminary, puts out weekly. Bobby’s admonition is worth repeating.

________________________________________

“In my opinion we have only one guarantee for an effective lifetime experience as a leader. We must be people of the Word.

In one of my opening classes I use an illustration, which shows that most leaders who have studied at Bible Colleges and Seminaries in the U.S. actually stop really studying the Bible for their own personal growth and lifetime basis for decision-making between the ages of 30-40. The conclusion that I draw in Having a Ministry That Lasts is:

Effective leaders should have an appropriate, unique, lifelong plan for mastering the Word in order to use it with impact in their ministries.

Few leaders master the Bible without a proactive, deliberate approach, which plans to do so. It does not just accidentally happen. For what I mean by “master,” see my book, Having A Ministry That Lasts.

My studies in the volume Focused Lives (1994) revealed that all of the 8 leaders studied the Bible as a lifelong pursuit:

Simeon (1759-1836)—Strategic Mentor
Gordon (1836-1895)—Missionary Minded Pastor
Brengle (1860-1936)—Public Saint
Morgan (1863-1945)—World Class Bible Teacher
Jaffray (1873-1945)—Missionary Pioneer
McQuilkin (1886-1952)—Bible College Founder
Mears (1890-1963)—Recruiter of Leaders
Maxwell (1895-1984)—Missionary Trainer

All were people of the Word all their lives. While they had their own unique approaches to study of the Bible, they were disciplined in doing so. And they finished well!

Daniel was still studying the Word in his-mid 80s. I [Bobby] have about 15 more years to go to catch-up with him. Do you have some plan for mastering the scriptures over your lifetime? Are you still studying, learning, and growing in the Word of God—whether or not you are preaching or teaching something?”

Logistics and Movements

Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

Logistics

“Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your vision and strategy are if you can’t get the soldiers, the weapons, the vehicles, the gasoline, the chow or the boots to the right people at the right place at the right time.” – Tom Peters

I see it all the time. People with great ideas and passion. Men and women with incredible vision. The blogging world is full of this type of verbiage. But how do you make it happen? How does one translate ideas into reality?

Great vision, without the resources and the means to carry it out, is only a dream.

The Christian movement is littered with people of magnificent vision who never were able to translate their idealism into action. And the critical issue all too often the acquisition of resources. It’s logistics. As General of the U.S. Army, Omar Bradley of WWII fame bluntly put it:

“Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.”

The lesson to be learned: Behind every great movement, somewhere lurking in the shadows, is someone with logistical genius.

Competent vs. Spiritual Authority

Friday, July 21st, 2006

St. Michael The Angle

“The leader is rarely – possibly never – the best performer. The best leader is rarely the best pitcher or catcher. The best leader is just what’s advertised: the best leader. Leaders get their kicks from orchestrating the work of others – not from doing it themselves.”

– Management guru, Tom Peters

In my early years of leadership of CRM, I received some stinging criticism that I was “out of touch with the field” and “needed to go back and get my hands dirty doing the same thing as those we were sending around the world to do.”

With my proverbial tail between my legs, I had a chat with Bobby Clinton. In his indomitable wisdom, Bobby helped me to see that leading from a posture of “competent” leadership was quite limited and that I had already outgrown the ability to lead in such a manner. I should not expect (nor should others) that I could minister as competently as the growing number of those whom I led. Their skills, language abilities, and specialized competencies far outstripped mine. I could never keep up. Instead, he suggested I focus on two things:

1. Spiritual authority was the preferred posture that I should grow into where people follow because I have grown in my ability to hear from God and then lead from his perspective.

2. When faced with such criticism, to respond by saying: “You’re exactly right. I can’t do what you do as well. But neither can you do what God has called me to do in my leadership of the whole.”

That was liberating!

20th Century Turning Points

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

3-1(200)20Th-Century#1B77C6

Historian Mark Noll writes:

“If it were possible to summarize the momentous changes in world Christianity over the course of the twentieth century, five themes might emerge:

  • The decline of Christianity in Europe as a result of a steady erosion in Western Europe and the traumatic class with communism in Eastern Europe.

  • The renovation of the Roman Catholic Church, symbolized by the 2nd Vatican Council, to reflect both cultural conditions of the modern world and the growing presence of the Two-Thirds-World in the Church.

  • The displacement among Protestants of Britain and Germany as the driving agents of Christian expansion by the United States.

  • The expansion of Christianity into many regions where the Christian presence had been minimal or nonexistent, including China, Korea, many parts of India and much of Africa.

  • A change in the pressing issues bearing upon the Christian heartland, from the jaded discontents of advanced Western civilization to the raw life-and-death struggle of poverty, disease, and the tribal warfare in non-Western civilizations.”

Turning Points

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Acsi History 1

Historian Mark Noll in his book, Turning Points, lists these twelve events as the most decisive moments in the history of Christianity

70 – The Fall of Jerusalem: The Church Pushed Out on Its Own.
325 – Council of Nicaea: Realities of Empire.
451 – Council of Chalcedon: Doctrine, Politics, and Life in the World.
530 – Benedict’s Rule: The Monastic rescue of the Church.
800 – Charlemagne: The Culmination of Christendom.
1054 – The Great Schism: Division between East and West.
1521 – The Diet of Worms: The Beginnings of Protestantism.
1534 – The English Act of Supremacy: A New Europe.
1540 – The Jesuits: Catholic Reform and Worldwide Outreach.
1738 – The Conversion of the Wesleys: The New Piety.
1789 – The French Revolution: Discontents of the Modern West.
1910 – The Edinburgh Missionary Conference: A Faith For All the World.

Five were primarily political but with great religious implications. Five were the initiation of movements, four of which were missionary in structure and intent. Three were actions to conserve and consolidate the Christian movement and/or Christendom. Four were schismatic and resulted in new initiatives breaking from old institutions.

Some resulted in advance of the Christian movement. Some contributed to its decline. And some are mixed in their results.


“Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity” (Mark A. Noll)

War in the Middle East

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

 41894622 Gaza203Ap-1

CRM has people serving and living in Lebanon. It is hard to describe the difference it makes when the scenes on CNN are places I’m familiar with and where I know people on the ground. The geo-political becomes profoundly personal.

As this conflict has exploded onto headlines around the world, these courageous folks yesterday wrote:

“The situation is devastating and maddening … It is war, war at large… Your prayers (and the prayers of those who know us) are very much needed. Prayers for safety, for peace in this country, for mercy and grace… We fully trust the Lord, the Almighty with our lives, our families and the ministry. We wholeheartedly believe that He does hold tomorrow. We trust that even in the darkest moments of such wrath and intense anger, His mercy and goodness will prevail. There’s a huge atmosphere of depression and desperation in the country and the Israeli forces are applying a complete siege, which is creating panic among the people. Yet we believe God is good…”

The Gospel of the Kingdom

Saturday, July 15th, 2006

180Px-Geladd
He looked frail and walked unsuredly. But when he stood up to speak, – without notes and with only an open bible – there was power not limited by advancing years and failing heatlh.

When I sat in George Eldon Ladd’s (1911-1982) class on New Testament Theology, I had no idea what I was being exposed to or to whom. I really didn’t get it. I was in my mid-20s and had no idea of the definitive theological work he was doing that would serve as such a needed corrective to evangelical protestant theology in the 20th century. Ladd’s exploration of the “already/not yet” concept of the kingdom of God forced both covenant theology and dispensationalism to rethink their systems.

I was naive to a biblical understanding of the Kingdom of God and how that theme should shape so much of our perspective on life and ministry if we are truly the biblical people of God living under Jesus’ kingdom rule. Even now, thirty years later, I’m still struggling to “get it” and how it broadly applies to all that I do.

His titles include: The Blessed Hope; Crucial Questions about the Kingdom of God; The Gospel and the Kingdom; I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus; Jesus and the Kingdom; The Last Things: An Eschatology for Laymen; The Meaning of the Millennium; The New Testament and Criticism; The Presence of the Future. His major work, that is a broad summary and is used widely today is: A Theology of the New Testament.


“A Theology of the New Testament” (George Eldon Ladd)

An Indictment

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

 38185719 300Dna Hand

“It is all about spiritual DNA: who does the American evangelical look like? Does he or she resemble Jesus in his focus, values, and mission? Our analysis has concluded that Jesus is not the spiritual father of our Evangelical culture. Our Evangelical world is more about our peculiar cultural values and what we like and dislike rather than a reflection of Jesus. If we take a hard, objective look at the Gospels, we will see a great deal of similarity between our Evangelical values and the values of the Pharisees rather than the values of Jesus.”

The full article, “What DNA Are We (Really) Reproducing” by Fran Patt appeared in this months issue of “Mission Frontiers” magazine. It is a scathing indictment of what American Christianity exports under the guise of “missions.” He concludes by saying:
“If we are content to maintain and promote a mission strategy that accepts the status quo in North American Christian culture, we can assume the strong likelihood of either failure or recidivism in our training of missionaries.”

Paul or Peter? Two Models of Apostolic Leadership

Monday, July 10th, 2006

P Elgre Apostlepeterpaul

In the most recent issue of Mission Frontiers, Dick Scoggins has an excellent article on “Nurturing a New Generation of ‘Pauline’ and ‘Petrine’ Apostles.

It is incredibly insightful, brief and well worth the read. To summarize:

“Pauline apostleship is exercised by pioneering, mobile communities which start local communities of the Kingdom where they do not exist. A second form of apostleship – what I call Petrine apostleship – is also portrayed in the New Testament …[and] is more prevalent than I had imagined.

...there is an apostolic ministry to the unreached (the Pauline), but there is also an apostolic ministry to the exisitng people of God (the Petrine).”

*Painting is Greco’s famous “Apostles Peter and Paul” circa 1592

Isaiah 6

Friday, July 7th, 2006

174883748 B9C8829249
I had the privilege of speaking the opening night of the CRM Conference.

As I had prayed and thought for months in advance about the content of this important evening, what evolved was an illustration from my own life of what it means to be a “sent one” in an apostolic, missionary vocation. Hence, this message from Isaiah 6:1-8.

It can be downloaded as an MP3 file.

Gathering of a Movement

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

174946880 049C0577D5

This was the scene June 16-21 in Santa Barbara, California as close to 700 people, from over 25 nations on every continent, gathered for CRM’s once-every-four-year staff conference.  It was held at Westmont College.

This was a remarkable event. Although there are many incredible things to describe, probably the most prevalent impression I came away with was the overwhelming presence of God.  God’s anointing was palatable from the countless personal encounters and intense relational times to the plenary experiences of worship.

For an apostolic movement such as CRM, there is no substitute for simply being together with those of like heart, passion and commitment.  Being together and celebrating our common vision as a multi-cultural kingdom community had a spiritual and emotional dynamic that was at times overwhelming.  Soli Deo Gloria!

525,600 Minutes

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

Clocks
Contemporary poets are most often sung, and these lyrics from Seasons of Love (from the musical Rent) capture a poignant fact of life, which coincidentally, is profoundly biblical

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets,
In midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 4:14

“These are evil times, so make every minute count.” – Ephesians 5:16


As someone for whom more than half of life is over, these lyrics and the truth embodied therein carry extra meaning.

Summary Thoughts on Business and Ministry

Saturday, July 1st, 2006

Exponential Functions
A few clarifications:

Because the businesses created by CRM Enterprise are actually owned by the CRM entity in the respective nations, profit distribution is a decision that entity makes, i.e. ministry perspective dictates use of money earned.
The profit stays in the country/region where it has been made. These businesses do not suck resources out of the local scene. They are not exploitive.
While CRM entities own the businesses, there are a variety of ways individuals – nationals and ex-pats – can participate as equity partners in the ventures.

Business integrated for ministry purposes is part of the future. It is one of many practical means of dismantling the unhealthy modern wall between sacred and secular.

For more information on how CRM is doing this through Enterprise, check out the stories on the link or connect with Colin Crawley at colin.crawley@crmleaders.org