Archive for August, 2007

The Dysfunctional Status-Quo

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

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A good friend in his late 20s emailed me about his frustrating dilemma:

“Our ‘community/organic church’ has been working to define ourselves, our mission, and overall purpose. In the meantime, we are trying to work through some tough issues with one of the local churches that all of us have been previously associated with to one degree or another.

They approached us about a month ago requesting us to consider taking on the responsibility of starting a ‘postmodern’ church service, under their umbrella. Basically, they’re stuck and realize that they aren’t effectively reaching people under 35.

All us have close relationships with various people in the leadership of the church. However, all of us in our ‘community’ are very reluctant to fall under the umbrella of such a local church and we’ve been fairly vocal about that.

Just last night my wife and I had one of the couples in our community over and they informed us that they (more…)

Radicalizing Our Children

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

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“If you really want to keep your kids safe, middle-class, responsible people, keep them away from the gospels which will radicalize them. Don’t expose them to Jesus unless you want them to be martyrs.” —Alan Hirsch to CRM staff, August, 2007

I see all too often: parents who want their children to have enough Christianity to be respectable but don’t want their offspring to go overboard and become too committed.

Where this “enough but not too much” attitude may show up blatantly is when the son or daughter makes the jump into vocational ministry, particularly a missionary calling, and they have to raise financial support. Then the fat can hit the proverbial fan!

“I don’t want you begging for money!”
“Don’t ask our friends to support you”
“What are you going to do about retirement?”
“Can you really live off of that?”
“Do you really think this is a good way to use all that education we paid for?”
“You mean you may move overseas? When will we ever see the grandkids?”

Somehow the real Jesus who makes statements like Luke 9:23 gets lost in the well-meaning but mis-directed scramble to protect and preserve those whom we love from a God we do not really trust:
“If any person would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.”

As much as we may want to sanitize it, the cross is still a cross.

The Essence of Movements

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007


Sociologists Gerlach and Hines are often referred to because of their landmark work regarding change and the nature of movements. Simply stated, they argue that successful movements have five necessary components:

1. Structure
2. Recruitment
3. Commitment
4. Ideology
5. Opposition

Any movement can be evaluated on the basis of this criteria …Christianity, Islam, communism, pentecostalism, environmentalism, the emerging church, etc … When one of these elements is weak or non-existent, the movement is hindered and momentum and effectiveness can be lost. It simply runs out of steam. History is littered with such.

This theory can be descriptive or it can be prescriptive. I can use it to understand the nature of a movement or I can use it to help steer a movement and insure that it incorporates these essentials.

Demons and “Place”

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

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The demonic is real.

Some people have gifts in discerning such spiritual realities. I’m not one of them. Nevertheless, I have no doubt as to the existence, the influence, or the power of such beings and have had numerous experiences over the years where the demonic has manifested itself.

One such manifestation that we see in scripture and in reality is that demons can be attached to people, objects and places. Recently, I have been in situations where we took seriously the issue of “place.”

John and Deanna Hayes who lead InnerCHANGE, the order among the poor within CRM, have moved with their two girls to Tower Hamlets, a borough in the east end of London. The flat they are renting is part of “estate housing”—the British term for tenements—that house an amazing and wonderful cultural menagerie. Their immediate neighborhood is predominantly Bengali Muslim.

Along with John, Deanna, and the girls, Patty and I spent time praying through, and cleansing, their new digs. We went room by room, anointing each doorway with oil, commanding, in the name of Jesus, any residual spirits to be gone, and then asking the Spirit of God to fill each room with his presence, making it holy ground. We also prayed for the function of each room to be sanctified and empowered by the Spirit in every respect.

I would do this as a matter of course for any new home or lodging. I frequently do the same thing when I enter a hotel room for a night. Who knows what’s gone on in such a public place!? At least while I’m there, I would like it to be filled with the presence of God and be a safe island of rest.

While I may not necessarily see the overt results of such prayer, others may. A few years back, we were traveling and another couple stayed in our home. The wife has definite gifts of spiritual discernment but the husband doesn’t—he’s kind of thick like me. Nevertheless, both of them, apart from one another, had visions in the middle of the night of demons trying to scale the walls and parameters of the property but with no success. It was “protected” and holy ground.

I’ve also seen what happens when these realities are not taken seriously. For example, when CRM first sent people to serve and minister in Russia after the fall of communism in the early 90s, they stepped unprepared into a spiritually dark and profoundly oppressive setting. When demonic appertains began appearing overtly in their apartment, they thought they were loosing their minds.

While our rationalistic western world-view makes it hard to buy into such supernatural goings on, it’s very real. It’s unfortunate that sometimes this whole thing gets sensationalized and consequently dismissed. But we do so to our peril.

The Power of Modeling

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Fractured Face

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer

As our good friend, Bobby Clinton so succinctly puts it in his commentary on the Gospel of John:
“Leaders can most powerfully influence by modeling godly lives, the sufficiency and sovereignty of God at all times, and gifted power.”

1. A leader models what he/she wants followers to embrace.
2. A leader should proactively use modeling to influence followers.
3. Servant leadership values are best seen through modeling.

The fact is that we reproduce what we are. The best materials, processes, or presentations have little efficacy if they are not representative of a life that speaks with consistency. Life transformation is not really accomplished through the transference of information. It occurs through in the proximity of authentic relationships.

That’s why throughout CRM we value coaching, mentoring, and doing life together in some form of community as our primary methodology in the development of leadership for the kingdom. It is one of our values that distinguishes us from formal educational settings.

However, I confess that I have two ongoing struggles with this truth.

First, is my own inadequacy and unworthiness to be a participant with the Spirit of God in such a divine process. The older I grow, the more I see things in my own life that cause me to groan. There is so much that I don’t want to reproduce. I cringe to think that my sinfulness, which inhabits every part of my fallen personality, is what others would emulate. Ugh.

Secondly, I sometimes struggle with the intentionality of modeling. If we are honest, I think it is a challenge to say, “Imitate me as I have imitated Christ” without promoting ourselves in an unhealthy way that lacks humility. It can be an ego trip camouflaged by a spiritual veneer. Modeling becomes unhealthy when it is subverted to be more about me getting strokes and being the center of attention verses having the focus on those I am called to serve and the One for whose presence I am but a conduit.

Despite these reservations, I still want my life to exemplify the power of this biblical reality. I find that I do this best informally. Jesus called the 12 “…that they might be with him.” I usually get my best traction in such a process while traveling, over a cup of coffee, in the midst of some mutual activity or recreation, or sharing an adventure or memorable experience. I’m not the best coach, as some are, over the phone or in a structured environment. Knowing ourselves, knowing in what contexts we do this best, and being consciously committed to such a priority are keys to modeling being an effective ministry methodology.

I like how Bobby Clinton paraphrases Hebrews 13:7. My aspiration is to be, in some small measure, the type of leader to whom others can look and to live a life worthy of their imitation.

“Remember your former leaders. Think back on how they lived and ministered. Imitate those excellent qualities you see in their lives. For Jesus Christ is the same today, as He was in the past and as He will be in the future. What He did for them He will do for you to inspire and enable your leadership.”