Archive for October, 2006

Hirsch and Frost

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Alan Hirsch Michael Frost
CRM’s Missio Team, in conjunction with Fuller Seminary and Forge-Australia, recently sponsored a 2-day conference at Fuller. This “Missio-Intensive” addressed the issue of missionality for the church of the future in North America.

The major presenters for the event were Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, authors of The Shaping of Things to Come (both pictured above) along with our own Hugh Halter.

CDs of these sessions can be ordered directly from Fuller Seminary or will be available through CRM online.


“The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church” (Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch)

Personal Sense of Calling

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Sam Head2 1-1
OK.  I need to come clean.

I need to explain why much of the focus on this blog (and in what I do with my time, energy, and passion) is on apostolic people and apostolic movements.  In my personal calling statement, there are three pivotal elements that shape my role, ministry assignments, and ultimate contribution …all things that CRM works with leaders to help them understand.  Simply stated, my personal calling from God is:

1. To challenge, recruit, sponsor and empower growing numbers of godly, high-potential leaders into apostolic ministry

2. To pioneer, nurture and grow apostolic structures which will multiply leadership for the Church in every nation.

3. To prophetically challenge the Church to holistic obedience and the giving our our sons and daughters to a missional life.


It is through this template that I view life.  It is consistent with my gifts and experience, and determines how my time, energy, prayer, and resources are focused.  To do otherwise would be disobedient to God’s clear leading in my life.  And through this pursuit, I believe I have the best chance possible of making my unique contribution to Jesus’ kingdom purposes.  Soli Deo Gloria.

Local churches as eunuchs?

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Church Plant[1]

Historically, local groups of Christians (churches) have multiplied in three basic ways:

1. The groups themselves multiply. There is variety in how this is accomplished: they hive, they divide, and all too often, they experience nasty splits.

2. An entrepreneurial, apostolic person starts a new group. I.e., a “church planter” with the gift of evangelism acts as the catalyst to start a new group or groups.

3. A apostolic team (missionaries), most often part of a larger apostolic movement, begins a new group or multiple groups while maintaining their own sense of community and apostolic, sodalic identity.


There are numerous variations and themes on these three basic models. But by and large, all church planting in any cultural context over the past 2000 years fits into one of these three categories.

It is also true that all three of these models are needed. However, a good historical case could be made for the fact that the majority of such new local church starts have been through models 2 and 3. The oft quoted mantra of “churches planting churches” (mode #1) as the primary way the Christian movement expands is simplistic and shortsighted.

While the ideal is always to build a bias toward multiplying into the DNA of any new group of Jesus’ followers, the reality is that the church in its local, 1st decision form is structurally limited in its ability to reproduce. Hence, the vast majority of local churches struggle not to be “structural eunuchs.” Local churches have their best opportunities for multiplying within their own cultural context, what missiologists call “M-1” cultural distance.

But when faced with cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic and geographic barriers, the church in its local form is structurally ill-equipped to reproduce and models 2 and 3 are needed. Even the very best, missionally committed groups of local believers face such structural limitations. The fact is that the reproducibility of the local church is greatest when in an interdependent and synergistic relationships with models 2 and 3 above. This is the biblical and historical pattern.

“The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World” is the slogan of the Lausanne Movement. Unfortunately, this vision has scant possibility of fulfillment without an accurate understanding of what comprises the “Whole Church.” Such a slogan is devoid of meaning if the definition of Church is limited to those expressions that are local in nature and ignores those essential apostolic structures that do the work in models 2 and 3 above.

Any portion of the Christian movement—because of truncated ecclesiology, lack of historical perspective, or missiological naivete—which bypasses that equal part of the Church in its apostolic, missionary form, does so to its own peril. The inevitable result is a net loss to God’s kingdom purposes in the world and many lives that may remain untouched by the redemptive presence of Christ.

Hypocritical Morality?

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Stephen Colbert
Comedy Central host, Stephen Colbert, recently did what I thought was a well-deserved number on a politician.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, (R-Ga) appeared on his show and Colbert asked him about a bill he sponsored in Congress to require the Ten Commandments to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol. Colbert’s question: “What are the Ten Commandments?”

Flustered, the Congressman replied “All of them? You want me to name them all?” He struggled to name three.

Honestly, I’m not sure I could accurately get them all right and in order if I was put in a similar spot. But then again, I’m not sponsoring such legislation.

What Followers REALLY Need

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Sheep
“Followers want comfort, stability, and solutions from their leaders, but that’s babysitting. Real leaders ask hard questions and knock people out of their comfort zones and then manage the resulting distress.”

Ronald Heifetz and Donald Laurie in “The Work of Leadership,” – Harvard Business Review

Followership

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

Elephants
Sam Rayburn, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives:

“You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow.”

Os Guiness in “The Call”:

“Curiously, the twentieth century, which began with some of the strongest leaders in all history – some good like Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, many bad like Lenin and Stalin – ended with a weak style of leadership codependent on followership: the leader as panderer.”

Journalist/Historian Garry Wills:
“...followers may be considered a hazy and not very estimable lot – people to be dominated or served, mesmerized or flattered. We have thousands of books on leadership, none on followership … The ideal seems to be a world in which everyone is a leader … Talk about the nobility of leaders, the need for them, our reliance on them, raises the clear suspicion that followers are not so noble, not needed – that there is something demeaning about being a follower.”

Jesus:
“And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own.” (Luke 16:12)

Multiplying Apostolic Orgs

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

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“It is astonishing that most Protestant missionaries … have been blind to the significance of the very structure within which they have worked. In this blindness, they have merely planted churches and have not effectively concerned themselves to make sure that the kind of mission structure within which they operate also be set up on the field.” – Missiologist Ralph Winter in “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission”


I just returned from London where I met with those who lead CRM’s ministry in eight nations where nationals are the leaders and nationals are in one stage or another in being sent as missionaries.

Rather than be a multi-national corporation, we have deliberately determined that CRM will evolve as an international partnership of apostolic entities which are the mission structures Winter describes.

We believe the the results will be exponentially powerful in the multiplication of new kinds of leaders for new kinds of churches all over the globe.

Pictured above are leaders from Venezuela, Hungary, U.K., Africa, the Middle East, Korea, the U.S. and Australia.

Russian Despair

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Russian Woman Russian Family-2 Rural Russian House

“I’m going out
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s up or down.
Or who’s holding your hand, an angel or otherwise …
The cold has worn me out.”

“People have a lack of hope.
All their efforts are in vain.
They have a feeling of eternal emptiness.”


Thes are words from 21 year-old Russian musician Nikolai Zavada and originally posted on www.mysuicide.ru (now shut down).

I came across Zavada in a stark front-page series in the LA Times on Russia: A Dying Population: The nation is succumbing to a low birthrate, disease and despair. These articles document a country that continues its slide into mass misery and hopelessness. It states:

“Russia is rapidly losing population. Its people are succumbing to one of the world’s fastest-growing AIDS epidemics, resurgent tuberculosis, rampant cardiovascular disease, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, suicide and the lethal effects of unchecked industrial pollution.”

Rural RussiaEattherichOrthodox Church

I believe Russia is one of the most difficult mission environments on the planet. In a conflicted culture where East and West converge but which never experienced the Renaissance nor the Reformation, oppression and suffering are pillars of the national psyche. It is an overwhelmingly sad place. And it is an exceptionally difficult place for the good news of Jesus to take root and thrive.

In the early 90s, mission to Russia was the latest fad as countless short-termers and religious cowboys from the West poured in to take advantage (more…)

Neo-Monasticism

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Intercession

“The tragedy is that Christianity has become ayes-man for the culture,” says Boston’s University’s Prothero. Non-prosperity parties from both conservative and more progressive evangelical camps recently have been trying to reverse the trend…. a sprinkling of Protestant groups known loosely as the New Monastics is experimenting with the kind of communal living among the poor that had previously been the province of Catholic orders.”- TIME, September 18, 2006, “Does God Want You to be Rich?”

Today, as alluded to in TIME, there is a burgeoning interest in such structures due in part to a renewed commitment among the emerging generation to social justice, ministry among the poor, concern for the environment, and other elements of a more holistic, biblical gospel.

However, neo-monastic movements among Protestants are nothing new. Even though the reformers in the 16th century threw the proverbial baby out with the bath water when they overreacted to Catholic orders, Protestants have repeatedly reinvented and reintroduced such apostolic structures throughout the past five hundred years. The most notable thrust came with William Carey, popularly known as the “father of modern missions,” in the 1790s and every succeeding generation has repeated the process, often oblivious upon whose shoulders they stand.

For example, an editorial in Christianity Today, first published in 1988 and republished since, made a compelling appeal to “re-monk the church.” A cover story in the same magazine in September, 2005 gave a fascinating overview of such contemporary movements.

CRM’s InnerCHANGE is just such a neo-monastic structure, a present day “order among the poor.”

Presently, a fascinating issue is what direction will the “emerging church” go? Some of these new missional expressions are evolving toward such neo-monasticism and others toward the church in local form, two structures which are distinct from one another but equally “church” in the biblical, historical and missiological sense. I believe the health and vibrancy of the emerging movement may well depend in part upon its ability to recognize and embrace the distinctives inherent in both structures.

Any hope for the renewal of authentic Christianity in the West will require a plethora of such neo-monastic movements. As in each of the eight great epochs of the Christian movement since Pentecost, such sodalic, apostolic expressions are designed by God as necessities that infuse life, vitality and spiritual power into the broader church and society. They are not aberrations. They are essential.

Never Alone

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

Ukraine Group Photo
I just returned from several weeks in Europe: the UK, Ukraine, Romania and Moldova.

Whenever I travel, I never want to go alone. That’s a waste. Too much can happen relationally during such intense and sometimes turbulent times on the road.

In this cool photo (taken at Spohad, a portrait studio that is a CRM Enterprise business in Ukraine) is the troupe that participated in this portion of the latest trip:

L to R: Ryan (my admin assistant), Deedee (CRM’s VP for Finance), Tim (business guy and chair of the CRM-US Board), Jeri (CRM Enterprise staff living in Romania), Colin (Director of CRM Enterprise), Don (business guy and long-time personal friend/supporter) and me.

Unsung Heroes

Saturday, October 7th, 2006

Moldova

Argentine and Shawni are missionaries in Moldova.

He’s Moldovan and she’s from Ukraine. They met in university in Romania and returned to his native Moldova after graduation. She is a medical doctor but prohibited from practicing since they moved. Together, they are part of a team that gives leadership to a nascent church planting movement in this region of the country. Three new churches have emerged from the efforts of this team.

They are quality leaders. Quiet, deep, tenacious, servants committed to multiplying a new generation of leaders and churches in this former Soviet republic and beyond.

Wherever I come across fruitful movements such as this, inevitably at their core are people like Argentine and Shawni. They don’t write books. They don’t spout theory. They don’t blog. They simply do it.

A Movement in Moldova

Friday, October 6th, 2006

Moldova Speaking Moldova Leaders
Last week I was in rural Moldova (former Soviet Republic) and had the joy of observing a burgeoning church planting movement.

Pictured here are the leaders of three new churches that have begun to multiply. I had the privilege of spending an evening discussing issues of leadership with this group. This has all happened because of a team of Romanian missionaries sent to live and minister in the region three years ago. (The leader of this apostolic band, Dan, is in the center with the red jacket and translating for me at left). These missionaries come from a similar church planting movement in Northwestern Romania called Ecclesia which CRM has been involved with for many years.

As in most such movements, the core issue is not structure, education, or money. It’s all about the leaders—their character, spirituality, and giftedness—and their willingness to live sacrificially for the sake of Jesus and his kingdom.

Muckers

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

 D Inventors 1 0 E L Edisonpattern
Edison’s Muckers crica 1876

“In selecting what he called his ‘Muckers’, he [Thomas Edison] prized curiosity, reasoning, resilience and versatility over specialization …He was a magnet for talent from all over the world. Over time, a team of virtuosos emerged that he entrusted to deliver on his dreams and generously rewarded in return.”

“Edison was one of the boys yet still the authoritative leader. If expectations on his team were at times impossibly high, the atmosphere was informal and freewheeling. The ‘Muckers’ did not work to any rules,’ said Edison, ‘because they were trying to achieve something.’ Announcing momentous success before the solution was even in his view. He stretched his Muckers, creating an astounding esprit de corps in the process.”


God, give me a life surrounded by a growing number of “muckers!”

(Quotes are from Bill Fischer, professor of technology management at IMD, and Andy Boynton, dean of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College).

Edison the Innovator

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

 People Images Edison
I’m on a flight to Eastern Europe and browsing through a British magazine with a synopsis of a study on Thomas Edison, the famous American inventor. Several lines have caught my attention:

“Central to Edison’s success was his ‘invention factory’, bringing together great people, constant prototyping and a culture of innovation and enterprise … He believed that, while ‘books show the theory of things, doing a thing itself is what counts.’ He saw failure as part of the inventive process.”

I continue to be amazed at how movements can ossify and institutionalize. Organizational gravity inevitably pulls toward institutionalization. The justifications used by the bean counters, policy makers, and those who must have rules and regulation are legion: “accountability…stewardship…excellence”...can all be admirable labels for clubs that are used to beat innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit out of an organizational culture.

In my experience the only way to keep an edge and a step ahead of the maintainers is to recruit and empower a steady stream of what Edison called “muckers.” They are the trailblazers who simply need running room and someone to believe in them. That’s why recruiting such men and women in the emerging generation is one of my top priorities. I believe nothing has the capacity to bring about as much lasting, transformational change as this. It’s part of my own personal mission statement. Part of that to which God has called me is:

To challenge, recruit, sponsor and empower growing numbers of godly, high potential leaders into apostolic ministry and

To pioneer, nurture and grow apostolic structures which will multiply leadership for the Church in every nation.

Power Encounters and Deliverance

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

 Images Handcuffs
The ability to engage in effective mission without an understanding of the supernatural is like getting into a fight with handcuffs on.

I’ve seen and experienced it over and over again—people being sent to represent Jesus and the good news of the Kingdom without a clue about the supernatural power of the Kingdom or how to appropriate it. The results range from the ineffective to the tragic.

Yesterday’s post (10-1-06) described a recent experience I had in Central Europe. Most missiologists and those involved in cross-cultural ministry use the term “power encounter” to describe such experiences.

I’ve seen numerous models of deliverance and dealing with the demonic over the years. While I’m far from an expert or one who by gifts and calling majors on such ministry, I appreciate its importance and the reality of the supernatural realm. I cannot dismiss such ministry simply because some approaches can be kooky and sensational.

No matter how we package it, most of us from the rationalistic West are stretched when we venture into the realm of signs and wonders. While the presence of the supernatural in the here and now may not be part of our world view, it is the backdrop of most of scripture and a reality that we deny to our peril.

A few of the better resources that have helped me grow in my understanding of power encounters are:

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“Defeating Dark Angels: Breaking Demonic Oppression in the Believer’s Life” (Charles H. Kraft)

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“Christianity With Power: Your Worldview and Your Experience of the Supernatural” (Charles H. Kraft)

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“The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare: Revised & Updated” (Ed Murphy)

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“Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Activity” (Mark Bubeck)

Demonization and the Power of Jesus

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

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It happened this week in a remote town in a part of the former Soviet Union.

With the CRM staff and nationals who work in this setting, we visited a family to whom they have been patiently serving and ministering. It’s a home full pain and woundedness.

The father, Ivan (not his real name) is probably in his late 40s and in wretched shape …eyes bleary, barely able to walk from a plethora of physical maladies, and in a semi-drunken stupor. While his wife, and several in the household are believers, others have been the object or the perpetuators of abuse. One son is in prison. The setting oozed with self-inflicted sorrow.

While actually only an observer and a guest, I realized after an hour into the conversation that all our rational conversation about spiritual needs was falling on deaf ears. The oppression and sense of the demonic in the room seemed (more…)