Archive for August, 2006

32 Years

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Dscn0264 1
Thirty-two years ago this evening, Patty and I tied the the knot at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, AL.

It’s been a great ride! Never in my wildest imagination did I ever presume God would give me a life-time companion of such grace, inner beauty and elegance. It has been an enormous privilege to enjoy 32 years of her presence.

In recent years, she’s weathered severe illness and limitations that neither of us would have anticipated. While it has not been the script we would have written or chosen, it’s obviously been the script divinely and uniquely designed for us. We would wish these events on no one but regret none of them in what they have taught us about ourselves, each other, and the all-sufficiency of God.

Through it all, Patty has grown deep in a relationship with Jesus that is marked by a contemplative even mystical life of prayer and a ministry of inner/emotional healing for those wounded in soul and spirit. God flows through her with gifts of mercy and compassion that are uniquely coupled with strong leadership skills and a heart for loving and mentoring younger women.

Because of what we’ve been through, we consider each day a gift. With more of life behind us than lies ahead, we are committed to making the most of the future and most excitedly, doing it together, much more in love than when we said “I do” 32 years ago.

Hard Leadership

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Hannibal

“We will either find a way or make one.” – Hannibal crossing the Alps

Bobby Clinton writes:

“I was quite impressed with Hannibal’s 18 year campaign against Rome. I have no problem imagining him saying the above quote. His crossing the Alps was just such a “making a way.” There are times in our pilgrimage for soft leadership, “finding a way” (consensus, relational, getting ownership, etc.) and then there are times for hard leadership (deciding and convincing, forceful) when we must “make a way.”

Interesting that “soft leadership” is the present mode in vogue in the West. Yet as Bobby notes, that’s not the only way that effective leadership is always exercised. We see both hard and soft throughout history and both are certainly evident throughout the biblical record. While leavened by the tether of scripture, the type of leadership demanded in any given setting is highly situational and depends on what is needed in the context.

In my own experience, when I have been compelled to lead “hard,” it has often come with a price particularly when exercised among independent self-sufficient people in my own culture. I have had to learn over the years to be at peace when opposition or criticism may arise and realize that often, it may be the result of poor followership and not necessarily because I have been compelled to lead with decisiveness and “make a way.”

Missio Intensive

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Missio Intensive-4

CRM’s Missio Team, in partnership with Forge, Australia will be sponsoring a unique conference in October. Hosted by Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, this two day conversation will feature Alan Hirsch, Hugh Halter, Michael Frost, Matt Smay and others. It will focus on the nature of a missional/incarnational church in the North American context as it engages the culture around it.

Also being introduced at this gathering will be Missio’s MCAP (Mission Church Apprenticeship Process) for those looking for a relational distance-learning community of like-minded church planters.

Five Essentials for Effective Leadership

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Leadership-Lessons

Warren Bennis, one of the most respected authors on the subject of leadership and founder of The Leadership Institute at USC, writes that the crisis of leadership in our institutions and governments is in many ways the most urgent and dangerous threat facing the world today because “it is insufficiently recognized and little understood.” Drawing on 40 years of studying leadership, Bennis says that effective leaders share five characteristics. They have:

1. A strong sense of purpose, a passion, a conviction, a sense of wanting to do something important to make a difference.
2. Are capable of developing and sustaining deep and trusting relationships. They seem to be constant, caring, and authentic with other people.
3. Are purveyors of hope and have positive illusions about reality.
4. Have a balance in their lives between work, power, and family or outside activities. They do not tie up all of their self-esteem in their position.
5. Demonstrate a bias toward action and while not reckless, they do not resist taking risks.

Billy Graham in Twilight

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Billy Graham

No one person in the Protestant world comes as close as Billy Graham does to being a unifying, patriarchal figure. Having personally spoken in front of more people than any other individual in history, Graham’s decades of ministry around the globe have been marked by humility, integrity, and the clear anointing of God.

Now at age 87, he is experiencing what leadership emergence theory calls “afterglow” and NEWSWEEK magazine labeled “In Twilight” in its August 14th, 2006 cover story. The article is well worth the price of the magazine or can accessed free at msnbc.com

There is much that can be learned from a leader, such as this, who is finishing well. Nestled in the NEWSWEEK article are many memorable quotes, among them:

“All my life I’ve been taught how to die, but no one ever taught me how to grow old…. The older I get, the more important the eternal becomes to me personally.”

The interviewer goes on to comment:
“Graham now prizes peace. He is a man of unwavering faith who refuses to be judgmental …a resolute Christian who declines to render absolute verdicts about who will get into heaven and who will not; a man concerned about traditional morality … who will not be dragged into what he calls the “hot-button issues” of the hour. Graham’s tranquil voice, though growing fainter, has rarely been more relevant.”

The Necessity of Functional Structures

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

Earth

C. Peter Wagner writes:

“The better mission structure leaders are convinced that their task is the most important task in the kingdom of God. Whether it is Bible translation, church planting, relief and development, evangelistic crusades, church renewal leadership training, or what have you, the leader of the group doing it had better think that is the most important thing in the world. Those who don’t can still lead mission structures, but not as well.”

Two frequent objections to such a view are:

1. Why aren’t all of these tasks innate and generic to the church in its local form? If they were, there would be no need of such specialized initiatives (sodalities) and the egotistical people who all too often lead them?

A REPLY: Many of these functions are carried on by the church in its local expression particularly in neighbor and near neighbor relationships. But universally – throughout the history of the Christian movement and biblical history – specialized structures to carry out such functions have been formed and ordained by God. They are particularly necessary when cultural, social, linguistic, or geographical barriers must be overcome for the function to be carried out. Missiologists would persuasively argue that the church in its local, nurture form is ill-equipped and not structured by God to carry out such roles. It takes the church in its missionary form to fulfill the missio dei in its totality.

2. Such a perspective disrespects all those committed to local church ministry. There is an underlying disdain for the generalists who labor tirelessly in local communities of faith be they lay or professional.

A REPLY: One of my best friends is a family doc. He’s a generalist. And he’s a good one. But he knows how and when to refer me to a specialist. While I Iove and respect his medical acumen, I would never expect him to operate on me if I had a brain tumor or if I had cancer. That’s not his role. But when he works in harmony, respect, and interdependence with such specialists, I get the best medical care possible.

Likewise in the Church—consisting of both the church in its local form and the church in its mobile/apostolic/missionary form—there are different structural roles needed for God’s plans and purposes to be effectively carried out. And we find these structural roles universally, across cultures, across time and involving every imaginable type of church expression. The glorious diversity of this structural mosaic demonstrates the creative genius of God and is not something to be feared or decried.

Developmental Stages

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Tree Sillouetts
Describing developmental stages for those who lead, J. Robert Clinton writes:

1) Younger, less experienced people in leadership, need the focus of spiritual formation in their lives, in whatever studies or experiences they are involved in,
2) More experienced people need ministry formation in what they are studying and experiencing.
3) Older more experience people need strategic formation at this point in their lives.

Spiritual formation is the shaping activity in a leader’s life which is directed toward instilling godly character and developing inner life.

Ministerial formation is the shaping activity in a leader’s life which is directed toward instilling leadership skills, leadership experience, and developing giftedness for ministry.

Strategic formation is the shaping activity in a leader’s life which is directed toward having that leader reach full potential and achieve a God-given destiny.

In real life, these formations are mixed up, happen simultaneously and are sometimes overlapping. But for the purpose of definition they can be separately identified. And when studying the early formation of a leader, the middle formation of a leader and the latter formation of a leader the observations above hold in general; most spiritual formation occurs early-on; most ministerial formation develops over the first several years of ministry; and most strategic formation develops as one matures in ministry and begins to focus on longer term direction.

Apostolic Community in Vancouver

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Vancouver City Scape[1] Vancouver Team-1

Last week I spent with CRM’s NieuCommunities team in Vancouver, Canada.

Along with four interns, this new team is pioneering life and ministry together as an apostolic community in a highly secular, urban context. And they are are doing it wonderfully. Makes me want to move north!!

Nc Banner

Clinton on Authenticity

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

James
J. Robert Clinton from his studies in the book of James writes:

“Christian faith which has the ring of authenticity is:

• tested and strengthened by temptation,
• manifested in life style,
• illustrated by control of one’s words,
• is rooted in character with proper underlying motivations, and
• waits for the Lord’s coming with expectant prayer-answering faith.

Authenticity is a dominant trait looked for by “post-modern” people examining Christianity particularly in light of the HIV/Aids pandemic, the millions of kids at risk and the injustices in our world. Does our Christian faith have a ring of authenticity? Is it manifested in a life style that is challenging the great needs our world? In light of these issues, James comes alive in a fresh/new way.”

(Painting is the Apostle James by El Greco, circa 1610-1614, who was known as the first great genius of the Spanish School).

13 Ways to Squash a Leader

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Under The Thumb
Here is short list on how to frustrate, stifle and squash a leader, particularly those with any sense of apostolic gifting:

1. Force them to go to school
2. Give them too much money
3. Tell them all the reasons why something can’t be done.
4. Swamp them with paperwork and administration.
5. Give them people to lead who are excessively needy.
6. Limit their travel and keep them in mono-cultural contexts.
7. Consistently correct them when they are provocative or prophetic in their communication.
8. Make certain any initiative they take must go through multiple steps of approval.
9. Insert “conserve” and “maintain” into all their conversations.
10. Have someone who “gift projects” strong pastoral gifting supervise them.
11. Tell them to stay when they want to go.
12. Make certain they have plenty of rules and policies to live by.
13. Give them a precise, detailed, inflexible job description.

Any suggestions about what could be added to the list?

Lincoln on Leadership

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Lincoln02

No figure in American public life has been studied, analyzed and dissected as much as Abraham Lincoln.

While not a new book, Donald Phillips volume, Lincoln on Leadership examines the 16th president in light of his leadership strengths and abilities. Some of the principles Phillips derives from Lincoln’s leadership are:

Advocate a vision and continually reaffirm it
Build strong alliances
Circulate among followers continuously
Search for capable, intelligent assistants
Encourage innovation
Persuade rather than coerce
Influence people through stories and illustrations
Be results oriented


“Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times” (Donald T. Phillips)

A High View of Culture and Risk

Sunday, August 13th, 2006

Racism-1

Is a high view of culture the same as discrimination? Can an understanding of homogeneity as an anthropological principle be a veiled excuse for racism?

It can and it has.

However, by insisting that those who are moving toward Jesus must evidence a “oneness in Christ”—meaning a willingness to cross cultural barriers to embrace Jesus and mix freely with those not of their own linguistic, class or racial background—we present unnecessary and artificial barriers for people to become followers of Jesus. While we expect such “oneness” to eventually prevail as an ultimate value as people mature, expecting it as a prerequisite for belief is neither biblically or missiologically warranted.

As C. Peter Wagner writes:

” ...just as a knife can be used as an instrument of mercy in a surgical operation or as an instrument of horror in a murder, the homogeneous unit principle can be used for good or for bad. Properly applied, it can be an effective force to reduce racism; wrongly applied, it can support racism. It must be admitted that the principle carries with it an element of risk.”

Paul’s Missionary Band

Saturday, August 12th, 2006

Paul & Barnabas-1

“...is it really so strange that Paul, who was responsible for so much of the New Testament’s formal teaching, would not describe the missionary band? After all, he was demonstrating its function at every step.

And he also demonstrates his relationship to the local nurturing fellowships that he and his teams planted – by the way he wrote to these congregations in certain cities.” – Charles Mellis in Committed Communities, pg. 15


One of the frequent objections to an understanding of missional ecclesiology and the structures necessary for its implementation is that the bible does not specifically address sodalic, apostolic entities as “church.” However, this criticism is spurious for several reasons:

First, just because we don’t find the description overtly in the post-gospel writings does not exclude the description from being legitimately applied to Paul and his apostolic band. There is no textual reason that would prohibit all of the biblical and essential descriptors of “church” being equally applied to such mobile, apostolic structures in the same way they are applied to a geographically local, modalic entity.

Secondly, much of the post-gospel writings in the New Testament are actually missionary (apostolic) types instructing local church types how to live, minister and function.

Lastly, as Mellis states, against the backdrop of the 1st century and the common understanding of Jewish proselytizing bands, there was little reason to write about it. Paul and the 40+ people who made up his missionary operation simply lived it out. What they demonstrated by their actions was a ministry dynamic that was a common, well-understood practice of the day.

(Painting “Paul and Barnabas at Lystra” by Flemish master Jacob Jordaens, (1593-1678) hangs in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia)

Embezzlement and Mission

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Moneys

“Emboldened by lax procedures, trusted church treasurers are embezzling each year $21 billion out of church funds, but only 5% ever get found out.   Annual church embezzlements by top custodians exceed the entire cost of all foreign missions worldwide.”
—from World Christian Trends, 2005, Center for the Study of Global Christianity.

Disgusting.

From a Hospital in Denver

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Patty At Torrey Pines

We have been in Denver for Patty’s regular check-up and evaluation at the National Jewish Medical Center.

Four years ago, Patty was diagnosed with a lung disease called MAI (Mycobacteium Avian Intercellulare) and we go to National Jewish because it’s the leading respiratory hospital in the nation with doctors who specialize in this type of infectious disease. This bacteria is a cousin to TB and especially difficult to treat. Three years ago, Patty had a lobe of her left lung surgically removed and she’s been through several years of grueling regimes of multiple, potent antibiotics.

This visit was encouraging. Her lungs appear stable and no further indication of damage was seen on the CAT scan nor indication of the MAI in cultures. While no doc will ever use the world “cure” for this disease in women, this visit was probably the best check-up we’ve had.

TIME magazine ran an article several years ago on this bug. One of the physicians referred to in the article—Gwen Huitt—is Patty’s doc. We are immensely grateful for the professionalism and the quality of care we’ve received at National Jewish.

Compared to where she was three years ago, this is a remarkable recovery for Patty. While it has been slow and arduous, she’s about 80% back and functional. We are both grateful. In many respects we believe that God has graciously given us our lives back to a degree that we had not anticipated possible three years ago.

This experience has also given us a whole new perspective on people with disabilities and physical suffering. And the implications for our understanding of God, his presence and purposes in our lives have been profound. While we wouldn’t wish this affliction on anyone, we wouldn’t trade the lessons learned.

Logo Link to TIME magazine article on MAI

Culture and Belief

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

Interracial Hands 2

“People like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic or class barriers.” – Donald McGavran

This statement by Donald McGavran, probably the premier missiologist of the 20th century, has far reaching implications. As an anthropological fact, there is virtually no empirical evidence that can refute this descriptive observation of human behavior. Some of the implications are:

1.  As followers of Jesus, we are the ones who must cross the barriers …we must go to where people are and not expect them to come to us. Hence the necessity of missionality.

2.  This is a phenomenological observation, not a theological statement. It is a description of reality, not a statement of what should or should not be.

3.  Understanding this principle greatly informs how we help people become followers of Jesus. It relates to those who are not fellow travelers in the Kingdom and who have yet to follow Jesus as King. This is not a statement regarding the ideal way that those who follow Jesus should relate to one another as they grow and mature as disciples of Jesus.

4.  If we “front load” the good news with moral or social requirements rather than the basic decision to follow Jesus as King—no matter what that may entail—we create artificial barriers and most people will not respond. We become, in practice, anthropological pharisees. Such moral front-loading can be indicative of a ethnocentric arrogance which places my own moral agenda ahead of the unique moral agenda and priorities that the Spirit of God may have for another person or culture.


“Understanding Church Growth” (Donald Anderson McGavran)

What Would It Take to “Lean In”?

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Beirut5 Beirut4

What would happen if Christians—particularly those in the comfortable, complacent West—genuinely leaned into those areas of the world rocked by war, religious persecution, poverty, institutional evil, famine, totalitarianism, etc …  For example, what would it take to send communities of men and women who could be, in word and deed, the presence of Jesus into an area like southern Lebanon as the fighting wanes in the days to come? (photos above)

Where are some of these places where those committed to Jesus would find most inhospitable in today’s world?

North Korea, South Lebanon, Somalia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Timor, Yemen, Sudan/Dafur, Libya, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Cuba, Afghanistan, and more ….

Let’s be clear.  In all these places, the church does exist.  There are courageous followers of Jesus who as nationals in their own lands are harassed, destitute, persecuted and sometimes martyred.  But who is there to minister among and alongside them?

What would it take?  How do we get teams of skilled, well-trained, deeply committed individuals into such places?  We know it would require people who understand the realities of spiritual warfare and how God uses signs, wonders and the supernatural for his kingdom purposes.  I suspect they would be mostly single men and women, prepared for hardship, physical suffering and even death.  It would necessitate a neo-monastic commitment and a clear sense of apostolic calling. And it would take the appropriate apostolic structures without which such undertakings would be foolish and cavalier.

The fact is there are no “closed” countries to the gospel of Jesus in today’s world. There are only “creative access” countries.  There is no nation on the face of the planet where committed followers of Jesus cannot go to live and minister as representatives of the living Christ.  We can get into any place as long as we are willing not to have any assurance we could ever come out.

So where are such people?  Where are those in the Christian movement with the same zeal that we see demonstrated daily by those in the Islamic world willing to blow themselves up in suicide forays?  Perhaps Greg Livingstone is correct when he says that Christians will never be taken seriously until we are willing to populate Muslim jails.

It can be done. With CRM, we can get access to the places. We’ve got the capablities. We have the apostolic structure to facilitate such ministry in any nation.  All that’s lacking are the people.

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” – Jesus

Holism and the English Puritans

Saturday, August 5th, 2006

Sibbes Bulkeleyp Tyndale02 Perkins

Holiness is “...the beauty of earth and Heaven, without which we cannot live well on earth, nor shall ever live in heaven.” - Ralph Venning (1620-1673)

“The life of a Christian is wondrously ruled in this world, by the consideration and meditation of the life of another world.” - Richard Sibbes (1577-1635)

“...spiritualize our hearts and affections that we may have heavenly hearts in earthly employments.” – Thomas Gouge (1605-1681)

“If God be over us he must be over us in every thing.” - Peter Bulkeley (1583-1659)

“Have you forgot …the milkhouse, the stable, the barn, and the like, where God did visit your soul?” - John Bunyan (1628-1688)

“...there is difference betwixt washing of dishes, and preaching of the word of God; but as touching to please God, none at all.” – William Tyndale (1494-1536)

“The main end of our lives is to serve God in the serving of men in the works of our callings.” - William Perkins (1558-1602)

What could we learn from these English Puritans?

No divide between secular and sacred.
The integration of the physical and the spiritual
Living fully in the present because of the reality of the eternal.
Desiring the kingdom rule of Christ to be extended over all aspects of creation

(Pictured above: Sibbes, Bulkeley, Tyndale and Perkins)

Urban Realities

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Sao Paulo

“Within a year or so, more people will live in cities than in the countryside for the first time in human history: the 21st century will be an urban one. But increasingly, the urban core itself is downsizing. Already, half the city dwellers in the world live in metropolises with less than half-a-million residents. Second Cities—from exurbs to regional hubs, resort towns to provincial capitals—are booming.

Between 2000 and 2015, the world’s smallest cities (with under 500,000 people) will grow by 23 percent, while the next smallest (1 million to 5 million people) will grow by 27 percent.”

See the full Newsweek article, “Unlikely Boomtowns” at MSNBC


What are the implications for the Christian movement?

1. Can the movement adopt to forms of community that are appropriate to such urbanization?
2. What type of transformation is necessary for the leaders of such church expressions in order to adapt to this sociological change?
3. Since theology is never the same as truth, never neutral and always done within a context, how does it continue to adapt to the urban scene? While there has been good urban theology done the past fifty years, I am suspicious that it is inadequate for such a future. Sixteenth century theology is woefully deficient for 21 century urban realities.

Memorize Scripture?

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Images-2

In the early days of my relationship with Jesus, I was introduced to the spiritual discipline of memorizing scripture. While I have to admit it has waned in recent years, that investment was life-changing.

I think I’ve heard most of the negative reactions to this discipline such as:

How legalistic!
The Trinity is not the Father, Son and Holy Bible!
This is so “modern.” To focus on propositional truth in such a way is too passe.’
Memorizing is just a pretext for proof texts.
You gotta be kidding …this is too fanatical for me.

Early each Monday morning when I am in town, I meet with a small group of businessmen who are committed to seeking God and growing together in what it means to be followers of Jesus. Several months ago, I introduced the concept of memorizing scripture to the group.

It has been a surprisingly difficult undertaking for these men. These are people with MBAs who read stock quotes in their dreams. They have remarkable skills in finance and demonstrate business acumen that leaves me in the dust. Yet some have an aversion—even an emotional/mental block—to committing one verse a week to memory.

On the other hand, the ones who persevere in the discipline experience a remarkable transformation. God invariably uses what they have tucked away to influence their behavior, realign their thinking and transform their character. While not the only way God speaks, having scripture resident in the subconscious provides the Spirit of God a powerful tool through which he can communicate throughout the rhythms of everyday life. Memorizing scripture is a small investment with an enormous return.

I believe one of the big reasons most people shy away from this discipline is that they don’t know where to start. They need a structure. That’s why I usually encourage a person to start with the Topical Memory System published by NavPress. For those that want something more visual, Memloc has proven to be an effective tool.

However we cut it across the theological spectrum, there is no way around the benefits described in the longest chapter in the bible—Psalm 119—about a mind and heart that are enamored with the Word of the living God. And there is no better way for that to happen then to have portions of it committed to memory.


The Topical Memory System – (Navpress)