Friday, November 20, 2009

Gospel Centered Leadership I

What a journey it has been! The recent years saw us preoccupied with an ecclesiology that, Michael Eaton called "over realized". We preached 'model', 'pattern' passionately. But our God is gracious, kind and infinitely generous. He walked us back to the edges of our faith... to the gospel we had so sadly sent to the bookends of our convictions and gently drew us in. After 25 years of pastoral ministry I had to admit to a wonderful community that I had erred. This was a most humbling realization.

Those years saw us use many hubs as the center piece of our faith. At times we placed 'the nations' as our focus. At other times it was leadership development, church planting, being missional... of course we splashed it with community and even thought 'encounters' were worthy center pieces. What a tragedy. When we found that the gospel was not a tag on to a sermon to test the waters of salvation but the very vertebra of body life we knew so much had to change. When I read that Paul wanted to 'preach the gospel even to you [the church]' in Rome I knew I had lost my way somewhat. Then to read that he chose to know nothing but "Christ and him crucified" to the Corinthians, I knew a new and fascinating journey lay ahead of me.

This blog will take a few days to explore what gospel centered leadership might look like. I look forward to our conversation...


  1. Chris
    I recommend reading "Pastoral ministry according to Paul", JW Thompson - it has a wonderful insight into gospel-centred pastoring. He gives a wonderful 'job description':
    "As the founder of churches, he prays that God will work within communities so that they may be ready for the day of Christ. In the meantime, he continues to minister to his converts because his churches are an unfinished work. He envisions a transformation of his converts from their indivifual concerns to familial love. Paul is confident that God will complete the work that God began when the communities first accepted the gospel"

    He also writes:
    "Paul's goal is the transformation of the community that will turn from self-centredness to a corporate existence shaped primarily by the love exhibited by the self-denial of Jesus"
    To which he adds:
    "The success or failure of the communities to be transformed determines whether he has run in vain"

    I would put it to you that this last quote is closer to the heart of what should determine our 'success' as gospel-centred leaders - more than models, or even the capacity to raise other leaders (in fact, the whole 2Tim2 concept had been hijacked to promote the raising of leaders instead of allowing the emphasis to be on what they were supposed to do, viz. preach the gospel!).

    We have had a long season seeking to find out more of what our 'inheritance' is - (in hindsight, not surprisingly!) we discovered that the more we tried to discover the 'allness' of our inheritance, God kept narrowing it down, till we came to this conclusion - Our inheritance is God's purpose for us, and God's purpose for our lives is the gospel of His Son. Hardly rocket-science, but we had become so focused on the rainbow of the inherited effects that we were in danger of losing sight of the very prism through whom the rainbow is cast; to use another analogy: we were so eager for the gift that we nearly let go of the Giver, without realising that without the Giver, there is no life in the gift!

    Would love to hear some more of what you are thinking in these matters - I know we are far off and only an intermittent speck on your radar, but I haven't left yet!


  2. great blog, Chris! well said. And well lived.

  3. I look forward to hearing more...thanks for sharing your journey
    Rosemary Barson RSA

  4. great stuff, love it!

  5. Hi Chris, I have just stumbled over your blog and would like to lay down some thoughts.

    First of all, most of your terminology is foreign to me and seems kind of confusing. That's because I am an outsider and have not been involved in your personal and public journey as a leader and believer. But I think I am able to pick up some of where you are at. I used to be very, very involved with NCMI years ago when you and I both lived in South Africa.

    I too was preoccupied with what I call the 'outer appearance' of the 1st century Church (Ecclessia). I had a desperate desire to see the restoration of the Jesus community shown to us in the New Testament. So when I joined a local 'church' that related to NCMI I thought I would come closer to finding this community. But, being a young man and theological wet behind the ears, it took me a while to make sense of the puzzle pieces in front of me.

    The first thing I should have done when partnering with the vision of NCMI was look at the theological influences behind the mind of NCMI. I barely understood the origins and roots of the Charismatic movement, which NCMI has. It is amazing how the 'Latter Rain' movement had influenced NCMI's theology with 'dominionism' as well as their teaching on the 'apostle and prophets'.

    I maybe be wrong but it seems you are now trying to put together a communal expression for what I call the the 'inner-life' or the 'soul' of the 1st century Church (Ecclessia). This is what I think you mean by 'gospel-centered'. If this is the case, then you have an even greater challenge ahead of you. You have to now measure and test your inner and outer life against the doctrines, traditions and experiences of the religious systems and movements. Why? Because it is the revelation of the Word of Messiah confirmed by scripture that enlightens and transforms the soul. When Paul desired to preach the gospel, what do you think this was at its core? It was the knowledge of Messiah connected to the inner life for the inner man.I used to say back then, how can one run to the nations if one does not fully know your spiritual identity from the inner depths of the spirit of the soul. It is far easier to manufacture and replicate an outer garment for the body then impart life and knowledge for the inner life.

    So once you figure out the center of the gospel then the outer life will have to be addressed once again.

    In Him