Archive for May, 2008

34 Years Ago

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008


I’ve journaled for many years. Today, I happened to pull off the shelf one of my earliest volumes and came across an entry in 1974, shortly before graduating from college. I wrote …

I have some fears on leaving college:

1. I fear loosing my idealism. Being out “in the real world” seems like it can produce narrow conservatism because of a constricted worldview.

2. Instead of being a critic of society and culture, I am fearful I would become a defender of it. I’m afraid of the encroachment of the world’s cultural values and that they would take over instead of maintaining a biblical perspective.

3. I fear clinging to security and particularly to money, and loosing a pilgrim mentality.

4. I fear loosing the excitement, freshness and looseness of being young and identifying with my generation in their 20s.

5. I fear not being able to be a “radical” for Jesus, i.e. capitulating to bourgeois complacency.

6. I fear intellectual stagnation and ceasing to learn and think.

It’s a sobering checklist and causes me to pause and evaluate how I’ve done over these past three decades. But what’s more sobering is the fact that all of these are still very real concerns and they have not been mitigated by 34 years.

Looking for Community

Sunday, May 25th, 2008


“I don’t look for community. My responsibility is to be community to those whom God brings across my path.” – Sherwood Lingenfelter

At the most recent meeting of the CRM-US Board in San Francisco, I shared dinner across a platter of Ethiopian food with Sherwood Lingenfelter, the provost at Fuller Seminary whose wife, Judy, serves on our board.

We got into a discussion about “community” and because Sherwood has a book coming out soon on the topic, I was fascinated by his observations. This was one of the notable take-away lines that doesn’t need any commentary.


(Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership)

Politics and God

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008


As we enter into a heated political season in the U.S., a passage, written by Richard John Neuhaus in the 1981 founding statement of the Institute on Religion and Democracy is an appropriate and powerful reminder:

“Jesus Christ is Lord.

That is the first and final assertion Christians make about all of reality, including politics. Believers now assert by faith what one day will be manifest to the sight of all: every earthly sovereignty is subordinate to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.

The Church is the bearer of that claim. Because the Church is pledged to the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus, it must maintain a critical distance from all the kingdoms of the world, whether actual or proposed.

Christians betray their Lord if, in theory or practice, they equate the Kingdom of God with any political, social, or economic order of this passing time. At best, such orders permit the proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom and approximate, in small part, the freedom, peace, and justice for which we hope”

Leadership and “Community”

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008


There is a perception, which has existed throughout Christian history in various forms and expressions, that the best form of decision-making exists when the “community” together determines the mind of God.

Such an egalitarian view has obvious strengths and there is truth to such a perspective. It has served as a much needed corrective to authoritative, dictatorial leadership and hierarchical structures that have thwarted God’s plans and purposes. Democratic theory is based, to a degree, on the concept that better decisions can be made when multiple eyes are brought to bear on an issue. And if we take seriously the concept of human depravity, the checks and balances of those around us can provide necessary adjustments to the limited and perhaps skewed perspective of one individual.

In modern leadership theory, much to do is also made about “goal ownership” and the importance of everyone “owning” the goals and direction of a group. Giving everyone the chance to feel good about a decision and to believe that their voice has been heard certainly makes the carrying out of any decision easier. Also, in cultures where democratic values are in the warp and woof of the value system, there is often a deep-seated sense of entitlement that everyone should have a say, regardless of role, responsibility, or giftedness.

On the other hand, communal decision-making also has its weaknesses. It can evolve, as DeTocqueville so eloquently pointed out, into the “tyranny of the majority.” Just because the community believes something or decides a particular way, does not make that decision right. Nor does it insure the presence of the Spirit of God in the process or the outcome.

Shirley Jackson’s sobering play, The Lottery, comes to mind where a small town American community ritually selects one of its citizens every year for stoning in order to insure a good harvest. Or on a larger scale, we see that democratically choosing leaders does not insure a moral or right decision. Adolph Hitler, who was democratically elected , is a good case in point. Communal decision-making does not necessarily equate with good decision-making and can descend into group grope.

One unsettling aspect of communal decision-making is the fact that in certain forms, it can neuter the biblical gift of leadership and see leadership as primarily a facilitative function. Anyone who attempts to lead is simply the “facilitator-in-chief.” True leadership is abdicated to the group and in some modern and increasingly postmodern settings, this abdication is justified as “good process.”

Gibbs and Bolger in their book Emerging Churches, devote an entire chapter to this issue and how one of the characteristics of many emerging churches is “leading as a body.” This is clearly a reaction to the hierarchical and controlling models of leadership all too characteristic of modernity, which of course are anathema to “...many younger leaders who represent a culture of networking, permission giving, and empowerment.”

What is unfortunate is that in embracing “leading as a body” as these authors describe it, the proverbial baby may be thrown out with the bathwater. Such a reaction guts the legitimate exercise of the gift of leadership and leaves it impotent. When “all are welcome at the leadership table,” those with the gift of leadership are dis-empowered. It is a misconception that genuine servant leadership, when framed by kingdom values, must always be expressed by democratic, egalitarian, and consensual process. That’s hard to justify theologically, biblically, or sociologically and the final result is no leadership at all. In the end, genuine community is the real loser.

Leadership When God is Silent

Friday, May 16th, 2008


Bobby Clinton observes that most leaders invariably hit a time, usually in mid-career, when they confront a “faith challenge” and ask questions such as: “Is God really real? Does he do what he says? Can he be trusted?”

“I do not have hard data on this just intuitive insight from observing leaders over the years and anecdotal confirmation along the way as I deal with leaders. But Biblically I teach it from Habakkuk. Habakkuk is a typical leader who faced a faith challenge mid-career. Habakkuk is a core book for me from which I teach on this notion of a faith challenge.

…teach on this to leaders in CRM as you inspire them to stay with it and respond positively to God’s faith challenges that come their way.”

I’ve seen this spiritual dynamic in the lives of others and I’ve experienced it myself. I saw it from a distance with John Wimber when his British colleague and friend, David Watson was dying. I’ve heard it described by personal friends and colleagues.

And of course, Mother Teresa’s spiritual pain, which was revealed so transparently last year in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, is a riveting example of this dynamic where she was quoted as saying:

“… as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand.”

In all these experiences, Clinton is right that the ancient words of Habakkuk speak with contemporary relevance:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Tangible Kingdom Video

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Not Spiritual Enough?

Monday, May 12th, 2008


CRM-US is looking for a new VP for Finance.

Because it is predominantly an administrative role, the person doesn’t have to raise all their financial support. In fact, all we ask is that they generate ¼ of their need via gifts from friends, family and churches who believe in them and their call to such an essential missionary function. We subsidize the other three-quarters.

We recently approached a reputable, well-known head-hunting firm in California to see if we could employ them to undertake a search for this position. They turned us down. The reason?

“ … doing a search where someone raises their own support is in conflict with our goal of presenting four excellent candidates. It takes a special person who trusts the Lord enough to raise their own support…and to find [such]candidates is just too tough a search for us to take on.

While we really respect those in service to the Lord who raise their own support; it take a much deeper spirituality in one sense for someone to do that.”

I guess our option is to accept someone with less spirituality. Not.

Emerging Leaders

Saturday, May 10th, 2008


Each year since 1998, I have tried to pull together what I’ve grown to call a “Leadership Mentoring Group” made up of guys in their 20s and early 30s.

These are men who are usually grappling with issues related to calling and what God wants to do with their lives. Most believe they are headed into some form of vocational ministry. We meet one evening a month for several months.

This is the latest group that wrapped up this week.

They read through several books such as Clinton’s Making of a Leader and Connecting, and we process a lot of leadership and spiritual formation stuff together. The end game is coming out with a sense of personal calling.

When I look at this group, the caliber is remarkable. They have the potential to affect the nations for the sake of Jesus and his Kingdom presence. Dominus, planto is sic!

Tangible Kingdom

Friday, May 9th, 2008


A must read.

This book, written by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay who lead CRM’s Missio team in Denver, (published by Josey-Bass and available on, is a challenge to the Christian movement to live out its missional, incarnational calling. It is illustrated with loads of personal experiences from Hugh and Matt’s own journeys as practitioners.

Tangible Kingdom captures the reality of missionality in a moving, practical way.