Archive for the 'Articles' Category

So What Should a Local Church Do?

Monday, March 31st, 2008

What is a local church to do?In my 3-28-08 post I vented. My frustration with the ineptness demonstrated by folks in megachurches who sometimes control the purse strings and make decisions that damage lives and retard God’s kingdom purposes simply boiled over.

It was triggered by a very real situation where three families serving very competently and effectively with CRM in diverse areas of the globe were stung by a church last week, which made such hurtful, ill-conceived decisions and then used the l0-40 window as justification.

But on a more constructive note, what should a church do when faced with decisions on the allocation of resources for those committed to serving in a missions posture? How do you realistically juggle priorities? What is a church to do? Several years back, I wrote the attached article to address just that issue. It lays out a practical formula and process where such financial decisions can become a “win-win” for all involved.

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

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.

The blocs …

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

There are numerous ways that we can look at the world and the challenge it presents to the Christian movement.

One of the more common ways to divvy up the pie has been to view the world through ethnic lenses …through the grid of “people groups.” This of course is consistent with the “ta ethne” of Matthew 28 and is an incredibly useful means of evaluating the task remaining to those who name the name of Jesus and take seriously his imperative to disciple the nations.

Another helpful perspective is to look at the world through socio-economic levels. We do this often in InnerCHANGE, CRM’s order among the poor, as we grapple with engaging that portion of a population in any given context which is “poor” and even “desperately poor.” This also is a profoundly biblical means of viewing people since God’s concern for the poor throughout the whole of scripture is a theme that is commonly overlooked and minimized.

And there are other lenses through which we can take a close look at the challenge such as urban vs. rural or developed vs. developing world, etc …

But there is another way that gives us perspective to view the world through what I would call “belief blocs.” When we parse up the global scene in this manner, the whole of humankind can be broken into three major camps:

1.)The Religious Bloc

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The religioius bloc is the largest of the three and it is primarily composed of those adherents to the major non-Christian world religions: Islam, Hinduism, traditional Chinese religions and Buddhism:  Islam with 1.3 billion followers, Hinduism with 870 million;  Chinese relgions with 405 million; and Buddhism with 379 million.  All told, these blocs make up 40-50% of the world’s peoples.

2.)The Secular Bloc
Despair Question Mark-1 Skeptic-1

This is the bloc that is getting increasingly astute attention and analysis in the West as Christianity rapidly continues its disestablishment from western culture and as the cultural phenomena of “Christendom” passes into history. We find the secular bloc primarily in the post-industrial, increasingly post-modern West, although there are also significant pockets of this bloc evident in the booming urban centers of the developing world which are inevitably influenced by the dynamics of globalization.

It would be a mistake to view all secularized peoples through the grid of the postmodern which is actually a subset of the secular. While the shift in the West from modernity to post-modernity is titanic in its nature and implications, there are huge percentages of secular peoples who cannot be lumped together with those whose worldviews are decidedly postmodern. This includes large numbers of nominal Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants who are decidedly secular but have not navigated the jump to post-modernity and may not for several generations.

3.)The Animist Bloc
Mask Animism Idols

A large percentage of the world remains in what anthropologists refer to as animism, that form of belief that melds the natural world into the spiritual and is expressed in a dizzying array of folk religions.

Unfortunately, this is the bloc that has defined missionary efforts in the popular mind throughout the West and has been hard to shake. Jungles, pith helmets, tribal groups, etc., are still the images that have shaped the popular understanding of the missionary task when in fact, the secular and the religious blocs are by far the majority of the world’s peoples.

So what does this mean? A few thoughts and observations:

1. Missionary efforts to advance the Christian movement must be tailored very differently for each of these blocs. Conversely, the training necessary for those who minister within and to these three blocs is quite different. One size does not fit all.

2. The religious bloc has historically presented the most stubborn obstacles to the advance Christianity. Most missiologists agree that the key to future success within these blocs lies in effective contextualization although the ongoing debate about what that means and how far one goes in such a process is robust.

3. While the reality of the postmodern world in the secular bloc is a macro trend, it is mistake to superimpose that phenomenon onto the other two blocs when in fact, most of those in the religious bloc and the animist bloc have never even entered the modern world.

4. People may be in separate belief blocs and yet share many other cultural characteristics. While belief and worldview are seminal components of culture, they are not the only elements.

5. These blocs are not geographically determined. In fact, one can go into any major world-class city and find peoples from all three blocs living side-by-side and sociologically intertwined. While they may be physically near-neighbors, they may have great gulfs separating their belief systems.

6. All three of these blocs should be legitimate foci of missional effort, both from the local church expressions of the Christian movement that may be co-existent and/or near and from the apostolic expressions of the movement which are called of God and designed specifically for the crossing of cultural, socio-economic, and belief system barriers to represent the good news of Jesus.

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.

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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.

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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…)

The Role of the Supernatural in Radical Contextualization

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

We are witnessing a roaring debate in missiological circles these days over the issue of contextualization with the particular flashpoint being the appropriate and respectful engagement of the Christian movement with the Islamic world.

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One of the seminal articles about this is found in the the proposal of the C-1 to C-6 scale (which I heartily recommend) that specifically addresses how Christianity can and should respond to the challenge of Islam, which is by most estimations the paramount challenge to the worldwide Christian movement in the coming century.

Most astute and experienced cross-cultural workers have a bias that good ministry inevitably moves toward C-5 to be optimally effective in any given context. That’s been the genius of biblical Christianity from the beginning and one of the keys to its effectiveness and expansion throughout throughout history.

But I have a question that I have yet to see addressed by those who advocate radical contextualization …those on the far end of the scale. It’s a question prompted by a recent experience in Africa where I was invited to attend a mosque, have my own space to kneel, worship, pray, and participate during the Friday service. Because of a schedule conflict, I had to declined. But the opportunity forced me to reflect on what happens on the C-4 to C-6 end of the scale.

(more…)