Archive for the 'Apostolic Ecclesiology' Category

Anti-Movement Dynamics

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

This painting, by French artist Jehan-Georges Vibert (1840-1902), “The Missionary’s Adventures,” is of a Franciscan in the inner sanctum of the eccleastical hierarchy. It is a striking, visual representation of how to kill a movement.

It is also a graphic depiction of the dynamic that can exist between the church in its missionary, apostolic form and the the church in its ecclesiastical or “modalic” form.

Missionary Report

“Vibert is best known for his satirical scenes from ecclesiastical life. Here he draws a contrast between the inspired and modest missionary and the prelates in the midst of their comforts. The cardinals lounging on the sofa and purple-robed bishop savoring his tea are indifferent to the monk’s account of his mission and to the wound he received carrying it out. Ribera’s terrifying ‘Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew’ (Museo del Prado, Madrid), on the wall in this luxurious interior, adds a harsh note of irony to the scene below it.” – (from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City).

Apostolic Passion

Friday, May 19th, 2006

In this brief article, Floyd McClung presents one of the best treatments I know of regarding the nature of what it means to live “apostolically.” McClung is the founder and director of All Nations Institute in Trinidad, Colorado. For many years, he served as International Director of YWAM. He began his international ministry in Afghanistan.

This is well worth the read.

Apostolic Passion.pdf

CoNext

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

We made a decision in CRM over a decade ago that we would not evolve into a multi-national corporation, rather we would embrace a global ministry model that was an internaitional partnership of national CRM entities, relating to one another on a relational, fraternal basis. We call that international partnership, CRM CoNext ...which represents going “together into the future.”

Each year, the leadership of these national CRM entities get together and this was our gathering at the end of 2005 in England. Five nations were represented:

CoNext 05.jpg

From L to R: Randy Gonzales – Venezuela, Bobby Booze – Hungary, my admin assistant – US, Steve Addison – Australia, Tom Middleton, my ministry assistant – US, Sam Metcalf – US, and Ian Hamilton, UK.

Participation in CoNext requires CRM ministry that is moving toward the inclusion of nationals on on our staff, nationals in leadership, and nationals being sent as missionaries. These five nations are on that track to varying degrees.

In September 2006, we will probably add to this number folks from Africa and Korea. Today CRM staff live and minister in 23 nations. In the next decade, we hope to see that expand to over 50 countries with at least 20 of those as CoNext partners.

We believe missiologist Ralph Winter got it right when he wrote:

“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.”

CoNext is CRM’s response to this issue and we believe has huge advantages. We beleive such partnership:

1. Leads to less dependence
2. Allows for more effective contextualization
3. Has an exponential potential for multiplying
4. Keeps our emphasis on relational interdependence transcending organizational ties.

More on Barna’s “Revolution”

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Barna Book Barna Pic

George Barna’s book, Revolution, is a good read. The pluses are:

1. It is going to grandly irritate those who are blindly clinging to the deck chairs on the Christendom Titanic.
2. As always, his stats and research are the best and very illuminating. He backs up what most intuitive observers of the church scene in the West have been feeling and saying for many years.
3. Because he is a researcher and not just a polemicist, he will be hard to argue with.
4. It’s a tight, concise, no-holds-bared volume. He pulls no punches.

Two critiques and a question:

1. Throughout the book, I believe he uses the term “church” in too limited a manner. Barna uses it almost exclusively to describe the institutional, traditional form that he so effectively dismantles. The ecclesiology and the definitions that he appears to embrace are too narrow. The language and the way he so hesitantly uses the term “church” sows confusion as to biblical realities.

“Alternative Faith Communities” are church. “Cells” are church. “Spiritual Mini-Movements” are church. “Family Faith” expressions are church. The term “church” is not exclusively owned by the traditional, institutional, attractional, congregational form historically dominant in the West. Let’s get beyond it. (more…)

Barna on the Local Church

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

“...if we place all our hope in the local church, it is a misplaced hope. Many well-intentioned pastors promote this perspective by proclaiming, ‘The local church is the hope of the world.’ Like most advertising slogans, this notion is emotionally appealing The trouble is, the sentiment is not biblical. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the hope of the world. The local church is one mechanism that can be instrumental in brining us closer to Him and helping us to be more like Him. But, as the research data clearly show, churches are not doing the job. If the local church is the hope of the world, then the world has no hope.” – George Barna in Revolution, pg. 36.

Definitely worth a read.  More tomorrow.

Revolution

The Two Structures of God’ Redemptive Mission

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Sodality-Winter On Two StructuresA seminal article in understanding apostolic, missionary structures is Ralph Winter’s The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission (downloadable at left). While more an historical treatment than a theological one, Winter clearly describes this missiological reality in the Christian movement, how God has always worked through two basic forms of “church” to accomplish his purposes.

I remember the first time I read this. The lights finally went on! I was not some misfit. I wasn’t an aberration in ministry.  Just because I was not gifted or called to be in a pastoral role in the church in its local form, I still had an equally valid calling to ministry through God’s church in missionary form. My gifts and experience clearly indicated a “sodalic” calling. And people with sodalic, apostolic callings must have apostolic structures if those callings are to be adequately fulfilled.

Two Cultures …

Sunday, April 9th, 2006

Culture Wars-thumb1.gif

“There is a fundamental schism in American cultural, political, and economic life. There’s the quicker-growing, economically vibrant …morally relativist, urban-oriented, culturally adventuresome, sexually polymorphous, and ethnically diverse nation …and there’s the small town, nuclear-family, religiously-oriented, white-centric other America, [with] ...its diminishing cultural and economic force …[T]wo nations …” – Michael Wolff, New York, 2/26/01, pg. 19.

This is reality. And the clock is not turning back. The challenge to the Christian movement is how to be in word and deed the presence of Christ in the culture Wolff describes as the future. Good missiology tells us:

1) The new won’t be influenced by imposing cultural norms from the old.
2) The old, like nearby cultures the world over, will only be marginally effective, if at all, in influencing the new.
3) The new requires fresh, indigenous expressions of authentic biblical reality.
4) These new expressions, if they are effective, will probably not be recognized as stereotypical “church” by both the secularists of the new or the religionists of the old.
5) These new expressions will require missionaries, in the classic sense, who can cross language, cultural, and in some cases, socio-economic barriers to incarnate the gospel of Jesus in a holistic way and stimulate the emergence of these new expressions.
6) Not every follower of Jesus is a missionary, i.e., not everyone has the skills, gifts or calling to do this.
7) Missionaries need missionary structures if they are to be effective.

8)Missionary structures are not the same as followers of Jesus gathered in these new expressions for community, mission, and nurture (i.e., local churches in the truly biblical sense).
9) Therefore to have a sustainable movement in the new, both the church in its local form and the church and its missionary form must be present and play interdependent roles.

The Emerging Church…Fish or Fowl?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

images-15.jpeg

One of Ryan Bolger’s observations from the research that he and Eddie Gibbs did of emerging communities of faith, both in the UK and the US, is that many of these communities are morfing toward a contemporary form of monasticism. Some are increasingly taking on the form of orders.

As the emerging movement has picked up momentum from is beginnings in the UK in the 90s and after 2000 in North America, it faces the same dilemma that confronted the Protestent reformers and many other renewal movments throughout the history of the Christian movement. Are emerging churches apostalic structures/entities or are they churches in local form? Are they orders or are they contemporary “parishes?” Are they sodalities or are they modalities? They can’t be both. (more…)

Missionaries from Singapore?

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

Singapore map.jpeg

With churches which by most measures are some of the healtiest and most vibrant in Asia, a strategic geo-political location, and an economy/standard of living that is the envy of the world, what are the obstacles that prevent Singaporean Christians from serving as full-time cross-cultural workers in countless needy areas around the globe?

While I have not studied it in depth, I have seen enough for it to mystify and concern me. Several cursory reasons stand out from my interaction with Christians in this city-state that is an anomaly for Asia.

1. Attitudes toward higher education stunt the missionary sending compulsion. The drive inherent in Confucian-based cultures for educational achievement results in few feeling they are “qualified” for such ministry. This is puzzling in light of the corresponding corollary that too often, higher education increases ministry ineffectiveness.

2. Family ties and obligations are particularly strong. As in many Asian societies, the demands of Luke 12:26 are particularly challenging.

3. An uncomfortable percentage of Singaporean churches adopt an attitude of “going it alone” when it comes to missions. This basic misunderstanding of missional ecclesiology means that far too many Singaporeans who do follow God’s leading cross-culturally are sent by local churches that are structurally and missiologically incapable of overseeing, leading, or caring for them. It is an interesting case study, to use Ralph Winter’s phrase, of the “amateurization of the missionary task.”

4. Would that Singaporeans demonstrate the zeal, commitment and spirit of sacrifice evidenced by their Korean brethren. If it is happening, I haven’t seen it. Unfortunately, it may be that the materialism and pursuit of personal peace, prosperity and job security so prevalent in North American Christianity has likewise begun its neutering, numbing affect in Singapore as well. How sad.


Singapore has enormous potential. May it step up and take its rightful place as a major contributor to God’s Kingdom purposes around the world.

The people who don’t fit in …

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Images

The famous Scottish poet, Robert Service, penned a brief work that I believe unwittingly captures the emotional dynamic of apostolic gifting probably better then many of the theological tomes that I’ve come across. In the first two verses of, The Men Who Don’t Fit In he writes:

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!
These are the ones who don’t fit in
For whom the world is too small of a place


The last two lines are my edit and addition. Regardless of the gender bias (which is understandable considering the age in which he lived), Service emotionally captures the essence of apostolic gifting …spiritual entrepreneurialship that involves action, crossing significant barriers in the going, and creating something new in a pioneering context.

The Frustrated Pastor …

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

I met Eric in the Emerging Church course at Fuller. He’s 29, married, two kids, finishing a seminary degree and holding down a role on a pastoral staff in South-Central Los Angeles, and he is frustrated beyond description.

Eric Pfeiffer.jpg

He is a strong, godly leader with clear apostolic gifting. He oozes with potential. But serving in a pastoral role has been a serious mismatch of who he is and the expectations of a local church. I’m not sure which will happen first …his local church killing him or he killing it!

The sad thing is how many people like Eric I meet on a regular basis …men and women with apostolic fervor and passion desperately thrashing around to find their niche in ministry. And all too many have been led to believe that the only path they can travel to fulfill God’s calling on their lives is pastoral ministry in a local church setting. How tragic.

The fact, historically, biblically, sociologically and missiologically is that:

Apostolic gifting must have an apostolic structure for that gifting to be adequately lived out and and fulfilled.

Until Eric and those like him find their niche in apostolic entities where they can thrive, move beyond maintenance to missionality, and be cut loose to see their vision soar, their lives will be models of frustration with a numbing lack of meaning.

Eddie Gibbs notes that 50% of those who graduate from American seminaries and who eventually end up in pastoral ministry drop out within ten years. My guess is that an uncomfortable percentage of that number is made up of the Erics of this world.

So to Eric and other like him, there is hope. You’re not crazy. You’re not a rebel. There is nothing “wrong” with you. May God lead you to right apostolic entity in the days ahead where you can make your ultimate contribution to the Kingdom.

PS: Get in touch with me to find out more about one such entity that I know a lot about. Have I got a bias? You bet!

The Celtic Movement and Apostolic Ecclesiology

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Comparing Celtic monastic communities and contemporary (or historical) local churches is like comparing apples to oranges. Monastic communities were not the same as the local churches they created.

ireland.jpg Iona-1.jpeg Patrick.jpeg Celtic Cross.jpeg
A fairer comparison would be to compare local congregations of today with the local churches that were spawned by monastic communities. The diocesan structures actually emerged as a result of the apostolic activity of Celic monastic communities. The historical interplay in the centuries following Patrick between the parish/ecclesiastical structure that evolved and the lingering effects of the monastic communities is a fascinating study in movement dynamics.

Celtic monastic orders were:

Sociologically flexible
Geographically mobile
Relationally transient

These communities were a “way station” for most converts. Except for the “2nd decision” people who made up the core of the monastic community, most participants were transient. They moved through the community and into local churches spawned by the monastic community. For the majority of those who were converted, the monastic community was not their permanent spiritual home.In the early stages of the movement, the abbot of the monastic community was the primary ecclesiastical authority and exercised his leadership over the monastic community as well as the churches the community spawned.

St. Patrick.jpeg 2002-09-10-2Island-of-Iona_0877.jpg Celtic Ruin.jpeg Cross silouette.jpeg
Historically, a shift inevitably occurred where authority shifted from the monastic communities to an ecclesiastical hierarchy. This shift was closely related to the leveling off, institutionalization, and even stagnation of Irish Christianity. Some church historians would probably describe this as “Catholicism in Ireland coming of age,” but in fact, this shift would more accurately be the beginning of an institution gaining ascendancy over a movement, modality over sodality, and the pastoral over the apostolic. (more…)

Alan Hirsch Reflections

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Alan Hirsch recently spent an evening in our home with a handful of younger CRM staff.

Alan Hirsh.jpeg

National Director of Forge in Australia, Alan – along with Michael Frost – is the author of The Shaping of Things to Come, in my view, one of the best books on the emerging church and the future of Christianity in the West. I highly recommend it.

The following are a few of the more poignant highlights from my notes during our evening of conversation …some are quotes and some are close, but all are used with his permission:

Missional effectiveness is determined by: 1) Apostolic environments, 2) Disciplemaking and 3) Organic systems (there are two others but they might be too much to explain). These are the most self-evident ones.

The West has complicated the church and made discipleship simple.
China has a simplified the church and made discipleship complicated.
Good disciples produce good leaders.

Apostolic leadership draws out the innate leadership in all of us. The management of meaning is an apostolic function.

The centralization of power institutionalizes a movement. (more…)

Steve Addison

Monday, January 30th, 2006

Steve is my peer and mate and directs CRM-Australia.

His blog, Worldchangers: On movements for renewal and expansion of the church is a must for any missionally minded person. Check it out at www.steveaddison.net

Addison photo.jpg

Until his book on this topic comes out, Steve’s site is one of the most comprehensive places on the web to tap into some of the best missiological thinking regarding movements. It is choked full of great stuff and his insights are the best!