Archive for the 'Movements' Category

Influence – Steve Addison

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

One of the most effective and critical components of a strategy whereby the Christian movement can have a transformational effect on the world is through the multiplication of local churches, ie., groups of people wholehearted committed to following Jesus and together living out the presence of his kingdom in a given locale.

steve-addisonI know of no one today who is a greater, more persistent champion for such church multiplication than Steve Addison.

I’ve known Steve and Michelle for over 20 years.  Throughout that time, through thick and thin, the planting of churches and developing leaders who can do such work has been the consuming passion of Steve’s life.

He’s doggedly overcome considerable obstacles to stay this course.  What has resulted is that Steve has evolved into one of the leading authorities anywhere on the planet – well at least in Australia, which means the whole world to an Aussie – on movements, particularly church planting movements, and how they have repeatedly been God’s vehicle for winning back his lost creation.

It’s all finally getting into print in Steve’s new book:  Movements that Can Change the World published by Missional Press.  There is also a plethora of great resources on Steve’s blog:  www.steveaddison.net/

Anti-organizational Bias

Saturday, June 14th, 2008
whitefield1.jpg wesley.jpg
It seems fashionable today in missional circles to exhibit an anti-organizational bias. “Organization” and “structure” have become dirty words and smack of institutionalization, bureaucracy, hierarchy and modernity.

Even around CRM, we’ve been striving to purge “corporate” language and replace it with nomenclature that resonates with words and concepts that are non-business like, non-controlling and egalitarian. But I wonder, at times, if all of this neo-organic trendiness is inadvertently throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

It is an innate part of the human condition to organize. As every student in sociology 101 knows, human beings always bring structure to their relationships. There is not a movement throughout the 2000 years of the history of Christianity, no matter how spiritually vibrant or well-intended, that did not organize itself in one way or the other if it was to be fruitful and sustainable.

A powerful case study is the comparison of George Whitfield (1717-1740; above left) and John Wesley (1703-1791 above right).

Whitefield was the best-known preacher and one of the most widely known personalities in public life throughout England and America in the 18th century. He traveled through all of the colonies drawing enormous crowds and was one of the most recognized public figures in America before George Washington. Benjamin Franklin listened to him (without sharing his convictions) in Philadelphia and was astounded that his voice could be heard by tens of thousands at one time. He preached over 18,000 times and crossed the Atlantic seven times to itinerate in the colonies and was of the first to ever preach to slaves. Along with Wesley, he is credited as the co-founder of the Methodist movement.

Wesley, while also a speaker, focused on the organizational structure of the movement. He gave it shape and form through the infamous Methodist societies, classes and bands with their intense accountability and discipline. He was the organizational genius behind the movement.

It is bad history to devalue Whitefield’s contribution. His leadership was inspirational. But when it comes to the depth of social influence and sustainability of the movement, Whitefield doesn’t come close to the long-term impact of John Wesley. At the end of the day, effective organization won out.

Any movement, no matter how dynamic or how infused it may be with the power and the presence of the Triune God, is not sustainable without organization. Effective structure is essential.

What happens is that the organization that evolves to serve the movement invariably outlives the original movement, and what’s left is a shell that is powerless and impotent. But that inevitability is no excuse to write off the necessity of structure without which the immediate becomes transitory and even less is sustainable for the future.

The Hidden Mr. Wesley

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008
wesley-grave.jpg

Yesterday, Patty and I were returning from a lunch with a couple in the Marylebone area of central London.

We noticed a very small, shaded urban park on Marylebone High Street and took a detour through it, discovering it to be part of an old church graveyard. And there in one corner, we came across this monument which was over the grave of Charles Wesley.

I think I was stunned by its obscurity. And awed by the thousands who pass it daily in this major shopping area who have no earthly idea of who lies six feet under.

Along with brother, John who was the organizational genius, Charles helped bring into being the Methodist movement. He was the creator of a new epoch of religious music (sometimes called “hymns of the human school”) which, through easy melodies, words and style, made worship accessible to the unlearned masses and the illiterate.

While John provided the intellectual and theological firepower for the movement, Charles provided the emotional fuel by creating music that had an irresistible appeal through such songs as: Jesus, Lover of My Soul; Hark the Herald Angels Sing; Love Divine All Loves Excelling; and Christ the Lord is Risen Today.

What a remarkable legacy and what obscurity in death.

How to Kill a Movement

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

Movement Killer-3

1. Require education for the leadership
2. Demand conformity of methodology
3. Refuse to provide administrative help and let it suffocate under it’s own weight
4. Get spooked by supernatural phenomena outside your paradigm
5. Make no room for younger, less experienced leadership
6. Be obsessed by theological purity
7. Put the safety of the people involved as a higher priority than sacrifice
8. Centralize the funding
9. Punish out-of-the box thinking
10. Manage it by goals and strategic plans
11. Reward faithfulness rather than entrepreneurial ability
12. Get tied to property and buildings
13. Let your critics define you
14. Be threatened by giftedness that’s not like you
15. Create an endowment
16. Treat creativity as heresy
17. Refuse to exercise discipline for the right things
18. Make sure you are related to existing institutions for credibility
19. Promote on the basis of seniority and longevity
20. Insist that decisions be based on policy instead of values
21. Make nurture and conservation of gains a focus
22. Don’t be intentional about leadership selection
23. Be risk adverse under the guise of stewarding your people
24. Justify your reluctance to raise money
25. Have a big need for approval and affirmation

Above all else, control it if, God forbid, he actually shows up!

The Essence of Movements

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Movement1-1

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.

Why the Spread of Christianity?

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Jesus In The Sisiine Chape
I believe the History of Christianity by Kenneth Scott Latourette, the esteemed Yale historian, is the most comprehensive and rich overview of the Christian movement ever written.

The genius of the work is in its perspective. Unlike reading dry church history—which for me is akin to eating sawdust—Latourette is dynamic and vibrant. He brings to life the great epochs of the Faith and views Christianity through the twin lenses of expansion and decline. His is a history of a movement.

In his first volume, he outlines an array of reasons that led non-believer to embrace the Christian faith. In summary, the reasons are:

Signs and wonders, supernatural healing and demonic deliverance.
An explanation of the purpose of life.
People’s religious hunger and a sense of moral impotence were met.
The discovery of ‘truth’ in Christ.
Christian churches were the most inclusive and the strongest of all the various associations in the Roman world. They cared for the poor, the imprisoned, the aged and the infirmed. Solidarity of fellowship.
Inclusive of all races and classes, both men and women
Combination of flexibility and uncompromising adherence to its basic convictions.
Constancy of the martyrs.
Christianity lived the moral transformation which it demanded. High morality.
Miracle of moral rebirth.
Immortality by pointing to the historic Jesus.
Committed fellowship and a community of worship and mutual aid.
A faith sanctioned by immemorial antiquity as it pointed to the long record preserved in what it termed the Old Testament.
Intellectual satisfaction by presenting literature prepared by some of the ablest minds of the day.

    But he leaves the best for last. He points to one feature that stands out above all else. He writes:
    “Careful and honest investigation can give but one answer, Jesus.

    It was faith in Jesus and his resurrection which gave birth to the Christian fellowship and which continued to be its inspiration and its common tie. It was the love displayed in Christ which was, ideally and to a marked extent in practice, the bond which held Christians together.

    The early disciples united in declaring that it was from the command of Jesus that the Gospel was proclaimed to all, regardless of sex, race or cultural background. The new life in Christ might express itself in many forms, but its authenticity was to be proved by high, uncompromising moral qualities as set forth by Jesus. Hence the combination of flexibility and inflexibility.

    As against the mystery religions, those cults which had so much superficial similarity to Christianity, it was partly belief in God, partly a theology, a metaphysic, which gave the latter its advantage, but it was chiefly that as against the mythical figures at the heart of the mysteries, Christians could point to Jesus, an historical fact.

    Through the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus came the moral transformations which were so marked in the Christian fellowship. The loyalty of the martyrs was to Christ, and his example and the promise of eternal life through him sere their sustaining strength. It was through the sign of his cross or by the use of his name that miracles were wrought. It was a true insight, even if exercised in derision, which named the members of the new faith Christians and in the city where non-Jews were first won in large numbers. Without Jesus, Christianity would never have been and from him came the distinctive qualities which won it the victory.”

    *Painting is Christ at the Last Judgement, Sistine Chapel, Rome.


    “A History of Christianity: Beginnings to 1500” (Kenneth Scott Latourette)


    “A History of Christianity: Reformation to the Present (Volume 2: AD 1500 - AD 1975)” (Kenneth Scott Latourette)

New Book by Alan Hirsch

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Alan Hirsch
Alan Hirsch has just come out with a new book that I highly recommend, “The Forgotten Way: Reactivating the Missional Church..

In it, he makes a compelling case for the inherent spiritual DNA—what he calls “Apostolic Genius”—that exists in every individual who follows Jesus and in every community of such individuals.

It’s important reading for anyone serious about the future of the Christian movement and what is necessary for us to participate with the Spirit of God in the type of spiritual dynamics that can, and should, affect the course of history.


“The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church” (Alan Hirsch)

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.

Logistics and Movements

Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

Logistics

“Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your vision and strategy are if you can’t get the soldiers, the weapons, the vehicles, the gasoline, the chow or the boots to the right people at the right place at the right time.” – Tom Peters

I see it all the time. People with great ideas and passion. Men and women with incredible vision. The blogging world is full of this type of verbiage. But how do you make it happen? How does one translate ideas into reality?

Great vision, without the resources and the means to carry it out, is only a dream.

The Christian movement is littered with people of magnificent vision who never were able to translate their idealism into action. And the critical issue all too often the acquisition of resources. It’s logistics. As General of the U.S. Army, Omar Bradley of WWII fame bluntly put it:

“Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.”

The lesson to be learned: Behind every great movement, somewhere lurking in the shadows, is someone with logistical genius.

20th Century Turning Points

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

3-1(200)20Th-Century#1B77C6

Historian Mark Noll writes:

“If it were possible to summarize the momentous changes in world Christianity over the course of the twentieth century, five themes might emerge:

  • The decline of Christianity in Europe as a result of a steady erosion in Western Europe and the traumatic class with communism in Eastern Europe.

  • The renovation of the Roman Catholic Church, symbolized by the 2nd Vatican Council, to reflect both cultural conditions of the modern world and the growing presence of the Two-Thirds-World in the Church.

  • The displacement among Protestants of Britain and Germany as the driving agents of Christian expansion by the United States.

  • The expansion of Christianity into many regions where the Christian presence had been minimal or nonexistent, including China, Korea, many parts of India and much of Africa.

  • A change in the pressing issues bearing upon the Christian heartland, from the jaded discontents of advanced Western civilization to the raw life-and-death struggle of poverty, disease, and the tribal warfare in non-Western civilizations.”

Turning Points

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Acsi History 1

Historian Mark Noll in his book, Turning Points, lists these twelve events as the most decisive moments in the history of Christianity

70 – The Fall of Jerusalem: The Church Pushed Out on Its Own.
325 – Council of Nicaea: Realities of Empire.
451 – Council of Chalcedon: Doctrine, Politics, and Life in the World.
530 – Benedict’s Rule: The Monastic rescue of the Church.
800 – Charlemagne: The Culmination of Christendom.
1054 – The Great Schism: Division between East and West.
1521 – The Diet of Worms: The Beginnings of Protestantism.
1534 – The English Act of Supremacy: A New Europe.
1540 – The Jesuits: Catholic Reform and Worldwide Outreach.
1738 – The Conversion of the Wesleys: The New Piety.
1789 – The French Revolution: Discontents of the Modern West.
1910 – The Edinburgh Missionary Conference: A Faith For All the World.

Five were primarily political but with great religious implications. Five were the initiation of movements, four of which were missionary in structure and intent. Three were actions to conserve and consolidate the Christian movement and/or Christendom. Four were schismatic and resulted in new initiatives breaking from old institutions.

Some resulted in advance of the Christian movement. Some contributed to its decline. And some are mixed in their results.


“Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity” (Mark A. Noll)

Gathering of a Movement

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

174946880 049C0577D5

This was the scene June 16-21 in Santa Barbara, California as close to 700 people, from over 25 nations on every continent, gathered for CRM’s once-every-four-year staff conference.  It was held at Westmont College.

This was a remarkable event. Although there are many incredible things to describe, probably the most prevalent impression I came away with was the overwhelming presence of God.  God’s anointing was palatable from the countless personal encounters and intense relational times to the plenary experiences of worship.

For an apostolic movement such as CRM, there is no substitute for simply being together with those of like heart, passion and commitment.  Being together and celebrating our common vision as a multi-cultural kingdom community had a spiritual and emotional dynamic that was at times overwhelming.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Sustaining Dynamic Community

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

Horizonta[2]

We arrived today at Westmont College for CRM’s World Wide Conference in Santa Barbara, CA. This unique, every-four-year event brings together all of those serving with CRM around the world and their families for five days. Close to 700 people will participate.

So why are we doing this? Why go to all this effort and expense?

In May of 1997, during a discussion prior to the first such event in Hungary, those of us in CRM leadership were wrestling with this very issue. John Hayes (who leads InnerCHANGE, CRM’s order among the poor) eloquently articulated (as only John Hayes can) the importance of such a gathering and why InnerCHANGE staff – who probably have the least amount of money available to apply toward such an event – were committed to attend.

I was so impressed by his arguments, that I asked him to put those words into writing. What resulted is a timeless explanation of why getting people together like this is an essential in an apostolic movement such as CRM. John’s words today are as timely as when they were written almost a decade ago when he said:

“Years ago, I ransacked the gospels for practical insights into sustaining dynamic community over the long haul since that was important for InnerCHANGE (and CRM as our larger apostolic community) if we were to survive in our ministry.

In the short term, I sensed community would come naturally and easily. . . as we were all pioneers thrown excitedly together in some difficult, challenging contexts. But I was concerned that we would fall prey to the deterioration of relationships that seems to mark so many movements or organizations with the passage of time.

Luke 4:24, in which Christ references the proverb, “A prophet is without honor in his home town” seemed to speak a warning to our hope of maintaining a close, relational atmosphere for the long haul. What we wanted was more than “team,” more than “organization,” it was family. (more…)

Celtic Passion

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

Celtic Cross And Church

“I will kindle my fire this morning,
In the presence of the holy angels of heaven,
God, kindle Thou in my heart within

A flame of love to my neighbor,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,
To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall …”

- Celtic Prayer to begin the day from the Carmine Gadelica

“The Celtic Christian Movement proceeded to multiply mission-sending monastic communities, which continued to send teams into settlements to multiply churches and start people in the community-based life of full devotion to the Triune God.”
- George G. Hunter in The Celtic Way of Evangelism

There is much to learn from the Celtic movement as we seek to re-introduce authentic, expressions of orthodox, biblical Christianity in the increasingly postmodern, “neo-barbarian” Western world. Hunter’s book, and other studies, provide provocative case studies of a movement replete with missiological implications for our era.

For CRM, there are striking (and deliberate) parallels between this ancient movement and InnerCHANGE and NieuCommunities. May God multiply all such movements.

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.

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 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…)

Puritans, Holism and the Emerging Church

Monday, March 20th, 2006

One of the characteristics of the emerging church is the abolition of the sacred, secular divide and corresponding dualism that such an artificial and unbiblical distinction fosters in how followers of Jesus in postmodern culture live their lives. As Bolger and Gibbs put it, “For these communities, there are no nonspiritual domans of reality.”

As has been true with other renewal movements, this not a new perspective. While powerfully articulated at various junctures throughout the history of the Christian movement, one of the more interesting case studies of such holism is the English Puritan movement of the 16th and 17th century.

Baxter.jpeg Cromwell.jpeg John Owen.jpeg
LeLand Ryken calls them “…worldly saints – Christians with earth as their sphere of activity and with heaven as their ultimate hope.” Few in Christian history have lived out biblical holism as fervently where all of life belongs to the Lord and His kingdom rule permeates all. (more…)

Is leadership passé?

Monday, February 27th, 2006

12Apostoloi4

“Many emerging churches have experimented with the idea of leaderless groups ….Whatever the roots of the leaderless group, be it Scottish Presbyterianism, the 1960s, postmodern deconstruction, a reaction to controlling charismatic leaders, or the desire for respect, some within emerging churches believe the leaderless option may be going too far.” – Gibbs and Bolger in Emerging Churches , pgs 196-197.

The modern era, as many others, has had its share of leadership deficiencies and failures: control, hierarchies, big egos, prestige, competitiveness and the shameless use of power.

Unfortunately, in a reaction to such a lack of genuine servant leadership within the Christian movement, there can be a swing to no leadership, or leadership gets redefined in way that essentially guts it and renders it impotent. How sad.

It’s a common dynamic throughout the history of the Christian movement. There is an abuse and an overreaction: Epicureanism produces asceticism …the misuse of charismatic gifts faces cessationism …sexual lasciviousness results in abstaining from all sex …and the list can go on and on and on.

An emphasis on godly, servant leadership is never passé. Unless we want to take out a razor blade and slice out passages of the NT text that clearly deal with the gift of leadership, it’s there. However we may want to construe it, label it, or deny it, leadership is necessary. And its healthy exercise is essential for the vitality and life of any expression of the body of Christ.

If we look to Jesus as model, we cannot escape John 17:4. In the midst of this passage where he prays and pleads for those who are his kingdom followers in present and future generations, there is this stunning, oft overlooked sentence where Jesus states:

“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”

This is pre-passion talk. It is before God’s redemptive purposes were fulfilled. So what is “the work?”

While there are many right and true things we could attribute to being “the work” in terms of Jesus’ kingdom presence and ministry the preceding three years, good hermeneutics compels us by virtue of the context to the inevitable conclusion that “the work” to which Jesus was clearly referring was the calling and development of the 12 disciples. His selection, training, and impartation of life and vision to the 12, and even more focused on a sub-group of 3, was “the work.”

Jesus, the master missionary, knew that the future of the movement he was launching depended on those who would lead in his physical absence. Those who would follow him as leaders for the masses were his priority. They were “the work.”

If so for the Master, how so for us?

The Leverage of Leadership

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

 Mall Crosses Celtic-Cross-Westend

“Leverage” is a well-understood and important concept in the commercial world. Few capture its cruciality in the realm of practical ministry – which spans eras, culture, and world view – better than Robert Coleman.

“Jesus concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with people whom the multitudes would follow. People … who would lead … were to be his method of winning the world to God.

The world is desperately seeking someone to follow. This is the decisive question of our age. The relevance of all that we do waits on its verdict, and in turn, the destiny of multitudes hangs in the balance.”

Robert Coleman in The Master Plan of Evangelism


The leverage of leadership can never be underestimated. One person has the potential for effecting thousands. The investment in the life of one can never, ever be underestimated.

Servant leadership is expressed in different ages and different cultures in varying ways and is a contextualized spiritual function. But the essence remains the same. Jesus as leader and Jesus as incarnational missionary remains the supreme model for those of us pursuing him as kingdom travellers.

The best of Steve …

Friday, February 24th, 2006

inactivity.jpeg

Steve Addison’s list of “Twenty Suggestions of What to Do While We’re Not Multiplying Churches” is a must read. I wish I could have come up with a commentary as satiricle, humerous, and as the Aussies say, “spot on” as this one.

Friends and Movements …

Monday, February 13th, 2006

“Any movement which has benefited society in the long haul has at its core a group of people committed to a cause that they consider greater than themselves and to one another as friends.”

- James McGregor Burns

One of the facts I’ve come to embrace over the years is that movements run on relationships more than any other factor. I cannot think of a single movement – be it religious, social or political – where at its core there was not a profound relational dynamic.

Celtic Cross Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus.jpg

Some questions:

1. If I am part of a movement, where is the relational “nexus”
2. What is my contribution to the relational dynamic?
3. What is done to intentionally or inadvertently to nourish this relational dynamic?
4. What or who are the detractors to the relational synergy and how are they remedied or minimized?
5. Who are the key players in the relational mix? Who stewards the relational component of the movement?
6. Are the relationships based on the dual components that Burns articulates: a cause and friendship?

    Momentum in a movement is a precious commodity.  It’s hard to get and it’s hard to keep.  But the primary component of acquiring and sustaining momentum always has been and always will be relationships.

Church planting movement dynamics compared …

Friday, February 10th, 2006

My good mate, Steve Addison, who leads CRM-Australia, has an interesting series going on his blog. It is worth checking out and joining the conversation.

steve-addison1.jpg

The question he is posing is: “Why is it that there is so much evidence of dynamic church planting movements in the developing world and so little evidence in the developed world?” I weighed in with the following comments:

“Of course, we could debate how we define a church planting movement. Is it just the rapid multiplication of groups of new believers or is it a “people movement” as missiologically defined or is it the results of classic revival and awakening or is it a combination of any these?

Regardless of the nuances (which do make some differences), some reasons off the top of my head why the developing world has been more conducive to such movements in the past 100 years are:

  • Appropriating ethnicity: A willingness to promote and allow the gospel to travel among ethnic pathways. Every such movement has historically been a respecter of culture and has moved via culturally appropriate networks.
    Openness to the supernatural: Rationalism, secularism and the fear of the supernatural stunt such movements in the West.
    Not distracted by things: Materialism and competing allegiances make for a dynamic of impotence in cultures of affluence.
    Upheavel: Social and economic dislocation and upheaval, which is rife in the developing world, has always been fertile ground for movements of change
    Persecution: Oppression (such as China) forces the believing community to live out its essential DNA which is inherently reproductive.
    Poverty: Physical need (which is the norm in the two-thirds world) produces believers who are move heavenly minded and have a more holistic view of the fragile veil between mortal life and the life hereafter.
    Keeping it simple: Simplicity in message and methods. The developed world has over-complicated, over-analyzed and over-theologized the message. And the West has over-educated, over-trained and over-controlled the messengers.”

While these thoughts are genuinely original, I realize (after writing and posting) they are quite in sync with Alan Hirsch and much of his conversation of January 31, particulalry the observation about “essential DNA” which I know has influenced my thinking. So credit is definitely due to Alan.

I am hopeful Alan will unpack much of this and more in his next upcoming book. If anything like Shaping of Things to Come, it should be excellent!

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…)