Thursday, April 29, 2010


Last week I had a most wonderful time visiting two church plants in North Carolina. A number of times during this short week, I was reminded that this is why I do what I do. There is nothing clamorous about partnering with churches. It is raw, honest, real. Sometimes our times together are stirred by great God stories. Other times that are simply tender tears that punctuate our conversations. The pain of a Judas revealing himself, a Korah led rebellion, an Absalom styled takeover attempt, are some of the common stories that pierce the heart of the planter. I wish deeply it were not so. But they do occur, and we have to simply love the planters through this dastardly pain.

I have just started reading a new book on Leadership called: "Leaders who last" by Dave Kraft. It is inspiring in its simplicity by a seasoned author. Here is a little excerpt from the introduction:

"I share Paul;'s sentiment expressed in 2 Corinthians 11:28: 'There is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.' There are many things to be concerned about today in the church scene:
  • A multitude of churches have plateaued, are dying or are already dead.
  • Antiquated forms and methods that no longer work are still in use today [some are from the 90's that are not in today's vocab- my addition]
  • Worship wars are raging.
  • There is a lack of deep spirituality among church members.
  • There is an absence of intentional and relevant outreach....
Here are a few obvious contrasts in the way we need to lead today compared to the ways we've led in the past:

Past leaders Future leaders
Organizational Relational
Operate in Committees Operate in teams,
Command and control Permission-giving
Degreed and elected Gifted and called,
Linear and pyramidal Overlapping circles
Share propositional truth Tell stories
People of the written page People of the screen
Tightly structured Highly flexible
Emphasize position Emphasize empowerment

Some very good convo pieces as we evolve our churches in their God authored journeys.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I love the study of leadership. Of course it has to start with the Trinity. Any other point of departure will drift us towards personality bias, cultural convictions, gender emphasis, age influences and simply personal preferences. Three very distinct personalities [each celebrated], each fully and equally God [without jealousy or territorial lines], each in love with each other [easily pointing to one purpose]. Yet the Father is the one of whom Jesus says ; " I only do what I see my Father in heaven doing".

Turnaround churches [or replanting] truly require a specific form a leadership — not unlike parents taking in a foster child who has been deeply hurt by their journey, now lacks trust and lives with suspicion. Rather than bearing one's own child, this new child has developed habits — some good, some bad yet the love of the parent, with perseverance and tenacity may bring the child back to wholeness.

George Barna "Turnaround Churches" lists the following attributes necessary for these kinds of leaders:

Intro comments:
  • Christianity is revolutionary in nature. The basis of this faith movement is to motivate people to willingly and joyfully accept and practice things that are unnatural in light of the prevailing influences and systems in our world,
  • ... the end of the goal of a movement is to bring people closer to the very being of God by radically transforming the beliefs, values, and lifestyle of the individual,
  • Such a movement, which is spiritual in essence, cannot be sustained without the blessing of God and the power of the Holy Spirit pg. 61
  • A Team builder,
  • Provides Vision,
  • Grows Spiritually,
  • An Encourager,
  • Strategic Thinker,
  • Takes Risks,
Ed Stetzer says that comeback churches were always led by strong leaders. Christian or biblical leadership can be defined as:
  • A person,
  • involved in a process
  • of influencing and developing a group of people,
  • in order to accomplish a purpose
  • by means of supernatural power pg. 37 "Comeback Churches"
This has been a long journey for me. Almost 14 years ago, M and I arrived to take over a limping community with a greater past than they were currently living in presently. Four years ago, the Father spoke very clearly about replanting. One year ago we eventually moved to a new county and city yet only about 10 minutes apart by car but another world apart in decision making. Here is my list of leadership attributes I had to find in His grace. Unfortunately I have not led well at all times through this process, so these are not a record of my photo album of performance. Rather they are more like lessons learnt:

  • A very clear word from the Father, endorsed by those "over us in the Lord" as well as those "alongside us",
  • A deepened daily prayer life unlike any one has ever had before,
  • A disciplined study of theology so that one never gets sidetracked by other ingredients nor place too much importance on perspectives, prophecies...
  • Preach the gospel! The tendency is to make the pulpit a combat zone. Jesus is our advocate! The pulpit is sacred to the pure proclamation of the scripture, not for self defense,
  • Is the hill that we will die on, one that is truly of eternal consequences?
  • Have a team in place of those empowered by God to give sound counsel in all the facets that this change will bring,
  • Be very careful in the extent to which we involve our spouses. They are our friends, lovers and partners. We must show huge wisdom in this partnership during this change,
  • Be patient-it is through faith and patience we inherit the promises,
  • Set up many "Community Conversations" to empower the congregation through openness, transparency and letting them be part of the journey,
  • The pastoral team needs to be on their toes to discern the wiles of the enemy to sift some, show much love, grace and patience-but when folks have decided to leave, let them go,
  • It will take raw guts! Please do not be easily swayed by the nuances of those who are unhappy or disgruntled. It is a time for true, strong, humble Jesus Lover leaders,
  • Set yourself in for the long haul-this is not a part-time lover moment. The church must know you are there for the journey, that this change is essential for the future impact of the church,
  • If there is a replant in a new city, enter the city with gratitude for those who have gone before, engage those who are there now, making sure that you are not using the city to prostitute your pleasures,
  • Take some time to exegete the new context and culture,
  • Read, read, read... it requires so much humility to learn from others,
  • Define the vision, preach a large picture that folks want to be part of, letting everyone see that their story fits into the bigger story,
I would love to hear from those of you who have beens stretched to the hilt as you have had to lead turnaround churches....


It is Saturday morning, and I am catching my breath after a very full week. The aroma of spring is felt in the blossoms of this community called Southlands@thegallery. The perfume of heaven pervades her daily challenges of life in LA. Laughter is once again being heard in the corridors of God life in this passionate group of Jesus lovers. I am so proud of them.

It is now one year since we replanted the church. The move which crossed county lines as well as city boundaries also had to cross the lines of comfort, convenience and above all, obedience to a very surprising God word. For some the call to replant was a moment of fun, adventure, faith and obedience. For others, it was not part of their life story and they quietly disengaged to walk a different path. Then, there were those who have fought us tooth and nail. I am saddened by their decisions but it is never about how I am treated down here, as much as it is about the 'great audience of one' that we will all have to face. The true truth will be seen, fear of the Father will be revealed, theology and the text will be the yardstick for our obedience. Nothing else will be the true measure - not prophecy, not perspective, not opinions...

Back to Saturday morning... I look to grab a moment for reflection and pull a book from my shelf that grabs my eye. It is an old George Barna book called ; Turnaround Churches". All the statistics point to a weakening church in the USA. Those that are around 25 to 30 years old are very vulnerably poised as they slip into decline or have plateaued. In an age that was driven by celebrities, so few churches truly sought to be seedbeds of leaders, so many churches are now leaderless, as stagnation creeps in. The future will require us to raise up many who will do more replanting of churches, possibly, even than planting churches. [Alan Hirsch has a very good chapter on the sociology of movements in his book 'The shape of things to come']

Here are helpful quotes from a very simple book:

"Most memorable about the Chrysler story was the fact that a dead company was resuscitated under a dynamic leader who had a defined, well articulated vision for his organization and had the drive and skills to bring that future to pass. In a nation starved for strong and effective leadership, people forgave the idiosyncrasies of the man in the light of his ability to perform as a strong leader" pg 10

"turnaround pastors are rare" pg 15

"The typical experience seems that, once a church loses its momentum, the most probable outcome is either death or stabilization at a much smaller size" pg 17

"Four Organizational Phases;
  • Plant / childlike phase-full of zeal, energy and those with a pioneering spirit,
  • Developmental phase-loses some of the entrepreneurial innocence and starts to get set in her ways-discernible traditions, predictable series of programs, and policies, confronts the perplexities of facilities and infrastructure,
  • Mature phase-when a mature church accepts change, it tends to be incremental rather than revolutionary... those who reign as the 'pillars' and systems that were developed to allow the ministry, but simultaneously serve to limit, if not to prevent, innovation and rapid responses to opportunities,
  • Plateau phase- the dominant motivation that undergirded the initiation of the ministry has dissipated-often gradual decline... not fully aware that they have begun the slow slide into ministry oblivion-the zealous people who initially carried the church-those represented the ministry heart and passion-lose their aggressiveness for Christ and his purposes or depart for new churches... pg 20 -22

Eight Symptoms to watch:
  • Demographic changes-every year nearly one fifth of the nations population moves;
  • Inadequate leadership-churches to turnaround require strong visionary leadership;
  • Poor management-ineffective organization and operational management;
  • Old blood-relies exclusively on the "old guard";
  • Building campaigns-the roadside is littered with the debris of churches that have entered into major building campaigns;
  • The ingrown family-inward rather than outward focus;
  • Resistance to change-lack vision, leadership and a commitment to remaining relevant to their ministry context;
  • Spiritual health-lack of passion for ministry. pg 33 - 38
Isn't this helpful? Your and my church is not the first to go through this journey. Let us learn from those who have walked before us, to prevent us from having to make the same mistakes again. However may I state rather simply-it is very rare to encounter no pain, no misunderstanding, no anger, no false accusations, no false rumors, no broken relationships. If Jesus had these stats- 1 in 12 betrayed him to death, 1 in 12 denied him to loneliness, 1 in 12 doubted him, then I guess we will have to learn to journey with some of this pain too.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


So what do apostles do? One of the great tragedies of the church age has been the mismanagement, neglect or excessive emphasis on the role and functions of apostles. The purpose of this blog is not to present a case for apostles today. Rather, my desire is to hone in on one of the major responsibilities that apostles play today and have throughout the ages.

Having said that, I do believe in the weight and wonder of apostles today [and yesterday and tomorrow]. There simply is no biblical evidence that apostles were to cease existing when the first wave of apos died out. Not only did the Holy Spirit appoint many more that simply the twelve who walked with Jesus, but the Ephesians 4 text clearly indicates the church needs all of these gifts until the bride reaches maturity-something we are still journeying through. Furthermore, to say we no longer have apostles, then on what basis do we still have prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers? I do understand the nervousness that we somehow become captive to the human propensity to hierachicalism and make these men demi-gods. But let us not throw the baby out with the bath water. Actually there are more apostles listed in the text than any other gift. We should be stunned by their ordinariness not by some mystical super-human ingredient to this office.

I am often in discussion as to the true weighty job description of apostles. To some it is their anointing to operate in signs and wonders. To others, it is their propensity to plant churches or raise up leaders. To others again it is their ability to administrate large organizations and movements. Yet is this the evidence of the scriptures?

May I suggest the most important role of the modern apostles is to be 'the guardian of true doctrine'. When we look at the body of Pauline writing, there is a passionate commitment to doctrinal correctness even if he offended...

In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul stands with all humility on his true message - " For I have resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Christ and him crucified..." 1 Cor 2:2

Acts 20 sees Paul speak to the elders at Miletus with great affection. Included in this great teaching is his affirmation that"I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you... I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God... even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth... " Paul could not help himself. At every level he is defending doctrine and requiring the elders to do the same.

Galatians lets us see his drive for a doctrine true and steadfast. He is not unhappy to declare it unswervingly nor to challenge Peter around it unapologetically. Gal 1: "I am astonished that you are l so quickly deserting m him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to n a different gospel— 7 o not that there is another one, but p there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or q an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, r let him be accursed.9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, r let him be accursed.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying s to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a t servant [2]of Christ.

11 For u I would have you know, brothers, that v the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. [3] 12 w For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it x through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

When we silence the apostles, or make them the heads of organizations or pressurize them to become Christian 'celebrities', we weaken the church drastically. We need them to guard the doctrine of the church in all its purity. If not, every form of heresy, false teaching or excess will once again flood the church with chaos and confusion. The apostles seemed to have partnered together. There was little room for a one man show. There was a wonderful divinely inspired togetherness that kept any one man from drifting into excess. However in a world driven by the therapeutic quest of self actualization, so many today are a law unto themselves. Rather than seeing the wonder of togetherness they are mesmerized by their own 'new revelation' or doctrine. Rather than journeying with others, the ego of rightness, has opened the door for falseness that will again weaken a fragile church as we enter the last of the last days.

Can we let the apostles stand at the city gate and ensure the wonder of heathy doctrine? Our future depends upon it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


"It is finished" is how it started. Up until then, this mystery carpenter turned philosopher was intriguing but not extraordinary. Others had come with good stories, ideas and tales of freedom. Others had even done some mighty miracles. But the cross seemed to suggest another dimension of delusion. A man of grace being surrendered to a death of destruction. The collage of confusion that raged that day, seemed to suggest something else was brewing.

The whipping was particularly brutal. The marriage of tears and taunts were particularly troubling. The dying seemed to be particularly speedy. But it was the darkness that rolled in that carried more than moisture. The hairs on our arms rose as if to defy an evil that slipped through the gaps of heaven. It seemed as if demonic cackles filled the blackened skies to announce a naked victory. As the darkness enveloped him, he glanced once more as his weeping mother through bludgeoned eyes. And then he breathed his last.

Two men lowered him to the ground. These normally rough and rowdy occasions, were now contrasted by a deafening heavenly silence. The weight of injustice hung wearily like a deepening mist across that forsaken hill. Yet their love was loaded and their affection fiercely public. This broken naked frame was soon robed in regal dignity. What butchery did not afford him, surely his burial would. The setting sun chased the pain of burial as a wealthy tomb seemed somehow fitting for a man of no known means.

By Sunday night the rumors were rife. The cult followers had stolen his body said some. The pub conversations were intense as others in turn denied this passionately saying that death had been avoided and he had been revived to walk back in to the city. Of course who could believe it all anyway? After all a woman had run in to town to announce the impossible. Such delusion. Such deception.

There I sat in deep reflection. A broken heart and despairing mind. Then he was there. I knew it yet could not open my eyes. He was there and touched my sagging shoulders. I had never believed him. I found his words so rare and idealistic but this time his voiced pierced my soul as he called me "brother". That was all. Then I knew. I fell to my knees and wept. My brother was the messiah and now I knew. His tender touch held me as I heard his voice call my name. It was the beginning...

Friday, April 2, 2010


What kind of leaders will the future require?

Is that a crazy question to ask? Do not all ages, times and seasons require the same kind of leaders? Yes and no. There is a foundational package of essentials that every leader needs to carry. However, each new generation requires a form of leadership expression that is appropriate and true to that day. Joshua was not a Moses. The disciples were not Jesus. Timothy was not a Paul. Yet the world has shaken under the weight of the leadership of even just these few men.

In the book "Colossians Remix" the authors expressed some of the ingredients that are defining the emerging generation.

From “Colossians Remixed” by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat

A Few of the Characteristics of Postmodernity

  • There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes or says that he believes, that truth is relative pg 17 [from Allan Bloom pg 25]
  • Postmodern allergic reaction to absolutism pg 17
  • Precariousness, helplessness, dislocation, dispossession, nihilism and cultural disquiet-that is the way to read the times pg 19
  • The first thing that we need to say about post-modern culture is that it is a culture of betrayal. This is at the very heart of our cultural crisis and is the emotional source for a widespread hermeneutic of suspicion… betrayal can breed either rage or numbness… Pg 22
  • Smashing Pumpkins: “we are all dead yeah we’re all dead / inside the future of a shattered past” Virgin Records 1995
  • … not the stories of emancipation and progress after all but the stories of enslavement, oppression and violence pg 23
So, these selected pictures of the generation that is emerging from the shadows, shows a very different world to that that we boomers and busters were born into.

Here are a few "just thinking" suggestions of the kinds of leaders needed:
  1. A deeply passionate, yet honest, raw and real love for Jesus,
  2. Lovers of the scriptures with a continuous quest for knowing with educational humility,
  3. A sane and deep hunger for an authentic God encounter element to the faith journey-more than simply knowledge,
  4. A very sensitive application of our Jesus truth with great understanding to the journey of others yet with no compromise,
  5. Our faith cannot revert to a pounding call to a higher morality; true 'grace in all its forms'-the gospel-pure and simple,
  6. Gutsy, compelling community is to reflect the legitimacy of the leadership,
  7. The leader must validate the journey of others... everyone's story counts,
  8. Team is a big battle cry of a generation that is intrinsically anti-church celebrity,
  9. The emerging leader is clearly seen as one who feels deeply about the plight of the poor, disenfranchised... their faith cannot only be expressed around meetings,
  10. This kind of leadership is to be patient to establish credibility as there is not an automatic respect for authority especially not positional titles. Followership will have to be earned,
  11. Can the preparation of these leaders be more Jesus style, around dining room tables and less around classroom desks?
  12. Leadership of the future will need to blow a clear trumpet of vision and purpose. Numbness and boredom has produced a very passive generation-Leaders are going to need to be key finders to open the door of faith and hope to a limping generation...
More to say, but enough for now... what do you think?