Monday, September 27, 2010

Is there a better way 1? -with added last paragraph

I do love the early mornings that jet lag gifts you with. As I sit and write this blog, the family sleeps in the quiet peace that comes from the joy of being together after the separation that a two week trip provides. We loved our time in London and Paris. Yes, we loved the cities yet the deeper love comes in spending days with the pastors and their wives.

I am not sure why I love spending time with pastors. I do know that our Father loves pastors, their wives and children. With around 3500 churches in the USA closing annually one cannot but feel the pain of those who have labored long and hard yet these churches no longer exist. There is so much pain in the hearts of wives, over 80% of whom wished their husbands were in another line of work. Conferences do not provide the answers for their journey. These events [and they are legitimate] certainly inspire, equip and enthuse, but do not offer the apostolic moments that scripture speaks of. These precious people are so important to Jesus. He loves them deeply, cares for them endlessly and empowers them daily. Yet they need to know that there is 'flesh and blood' who will do life with them.

When I look at the texts, I see apostles showing deep affection for the churches that they worked with. Paul said "I carry daily the burden of all the churches". He prays for them deeply, personally and intimately. He longs to get to them. He does not only write long theological treatise. Rather, he writes to specific churches about specific matters yet keeps the personal and fatherly role ingoing and clear.

I am saddened by what poor alternatives these pastors are often offered. Instead of this personal partnership, friendship and applause, the modern church offers:

1. Denominations that invariably priorities the tradition of the system before the support of the individual pastors,

2. Networks that are often driven more by a form of ecclesiological expansionism, than care for the individual leader,

3. Generic teams that provide a general leadership essence, but loses the intentional, personal apostolic partnership that scripture speaks of,

4. Independence is seen as the only alternative because of the perception that this is what works best.

May I suggest a few biblical reminders:

1. Apostles and prophets lay foundations [Eph 2:20] not presidents, coaches, mentors or team leaders... why is this such a challenging truth to embrace?

2. Every church in the New Testament had at least one apostle involved with them [as in Colossae] while others, like Corinth, had several,

3. Paul was a father to the church at Corinth, yet he spoke with equal apostolic confidence to the Colossian community, yet he had never visited with them, but was invited to journey with them,

4. There was no territorialism. Paul fought the notion of "us and them". He would not allow the churches to be identified with one apostle. I do not know if I have to let my naivette die, but I still long for the reality of relationships to be evident but the trauma of sectarianism to be avoided at all costs.

5. Apostles are not the top of the pile! They are not the CEO of the church world. They are not the mafia family heads and are certainly not the creators of new monolythic protestant papal structures. Paul said they were the scum of the earth, pioneers [first of all], eunuchs to the bride. If we were to use a modern business metaphor, it may well be that they are consultants to the churches - where the local elders are the highest human authority, always remaining autonomous yet desiring interdependence and belonging.

If an apostle is to be a 'father in the house' could these be the implications?

1. He accepts the full privilege and responsibility for the 'children / churches' who come from his loins - they are not numbers on a denom list...

2. He is open to adopting orphan 'children' whom the Father may send his way - churches without clear spiritual family and roots...

3. He knows that he is not called to build a corporation or an extensive organization with corporate structures and mid-management, but a family,

4. His focus is to prepare his 'children / churches' to leave home not to create a life time of dependence,

5. His tasks include to bring the 'children / churches' to maturity by equipping them for the journey with doctrine, direction, discipline, biblical design, remembering the delights of the journey,

6. He invests more time when the 'children / churches' are younger - the role changes as the church gets more mature and he is needed less,

7. He fashions his 'children' both one on one as in the date with Dad, as well as the dining room table moments, whilst remembering how the children imitate his faith and life's decisions-they do life together,

8. He does impart a family DNA but celebrates that, when they leave home, they draw from the best he gave them, adding their own flavor to their story,

9. Ongoing relationship is never demanded but certainly longed for. A healthy family is not seen by gatherings through manipulation but togetherness by desire.

10. A healthy father does not impose his dreams on his children. Rather, he progressively finds more joy in partnering with the 'children' on their journey, rather than what he has achieved.

11. Healthy families are not insular, isolated, myopic. They collaborate with others both in joy as in sorrow. They benefit from the perspectives of others, often marrying into new family lines - thus the kingdom advances through the many and the elitism of the few is avoided at all costs...

12. Parenting ideally is done in plurality... we journey with other apo friends seeking opportunities to collaborate.

OK some closing thoughts: While I was in Australia recently, I was asked if there was room for churches and leaders to belong to a broader brotherhood and a bigger story. I believe that with all my heart. If we can resist the tendency to drift toward denominationalism and hold loosely to a brotherhood, if we can prevent conformity but celebrate unity, if we hold out against sameness and applaud unique diversity, if we will denounce territorialism but love the real, authentic, God relationships then I think we can do it - enjoying a brotherhood but loving the space that this God journey brings

I trust some of these thoughts help...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Our LA Transition

Hey guys

I am sure by now you have heard the whispering evolutions of the Southlands story.

This summer has been an extraordinary one. When the text says that "in His time He does things swiftly", well those words have proven wildly true. We entered the summer somewhat breathless. There was a weighted sense that it would be a big one for us in many ways. Our prayers were passionate that the summer would see the lawsuits draw to a faith-filled close, that righteousness would prevail and somehow the kingdom would advance through some pretty dastardly days.

As it became apparent that this could happen, we went through a 4 day prophetic download that came out of left field. As you know, we had been exploring a model of ministry with Alan taking more and more of the local leadership load, allowing Meryl and I to focus more and more on the translocal story. This shape, we anticipated, would be the format for the immediate future. Well when the Father spoke, it left none of us with any doubt that we were to push through with the track of expectation, allowing Alan and Rynelle to embrace the captaincy of this extraordinary community, with Meryl and I being released to a broader conversation.

We are delighted that Alan and Rynelle will be leading this team. Their ever evident love for "this girl" matched with their clear leadership passion and their rich visionary juices, set them up perfectly for the task that lies ahead. Southlands is entering a season of peace and blessing and Alan and Rynelle's captaincy will surely reflect that. The handover will take place on Sunday the 10th of October when Michael Eaton is with us. The core community here at Southlands seems to have seen it coming so, it was no surprise to the family.

What will Meryl and I be doing? There is so much still shaded with faith in its uncertainty. At best we can offer the following in this journey of faith. We will remain based here at Southlands, continuing in a teaching role whilst we fulfill an ongoing Eph 4 voice into the community. There seems to be a call for us to prioritize connecting, collaborating and working with other networks, movements and allies [remembering Gill Patterson's prophetic word given in London in the summer of 2007 - Gal 1 and 2]. We will certainly give due priority time to the churches who wish to partner with us [Phil 1], always seeking ways to bring them to maturity and empower them on their own journey, fulfilling their mandate and mantle[Eph 4] . Thirdly, we are looking to give time to church planters around the world, aiding, supporting and working with strategic churches in this their task.[Acts 20]. There certainly will be a strong pioneering ingredient in there somewhere. And finally we will be giving more time to the writing of resources that, we trust, will be helpful for pastors, leaders and the great priesthood of all believers.

Thanks for your friendship and prayers over the years.

We are strapping on our seat belts in what seems to be a new chapter requiring raw faith, journeying with friends and seeking to a life of humble obedience.

With much thanks

Chris and Meryl

Awaiting God

It is early Saturday morning here in LA. It has been a 'wow' week that will be remembered for many years to come. My reflections saw my mind drift towards the wonder of this God I love - God who is one, the God who is three, the three who are all equally God.

At the same time, there is a storm brewing around Hawkin's book that declares that gravity can "make something from nothing". A call to a fresh apologetic response to the New Atheists is also on our radar. Loving the Lord with all our mind does require an intentional intellectual call to what Tim Keller call "presuppositional apologetics".

However this morning I want to suggest a different call. This is a call to a new divine visitation. Our redemptive narrative has shown a story of God breaking into project planet earth. For two thousand years, we have seen this breaking in, in many forms and shapes. Invariably, God surprises us. Rarely does he visit with us in a way that we expect. May I suggest that this will be true this time round again?

The trinity reflects a "unity in diversity" that is courageous and surprising. God who is one, consistently calls us reflect a journey of unity in true Biblical authenticity. It is not a sentimental one forged by feelings, nor is it a structural one fashioned by institutions. The unity the Bible speaks of Jesus requests that "they are one even as we are one" and then Paul announces it this way: "

Ephesians 4

1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

I wonder if the next move of God will be more miraculous than signs, wonders and miracles. I wonder if the next divine visitation will not be seen by shakings, manifestations and tongues. I wonder if the next God encounter will not be fiercely individualistic and self-centered. Could it be that God will bring a Spirit of Unity? According to this text, this move of God could be evidenced with massive humility, sharpened respect, hastened patience. Could it be that the heavenly bell will toll for a "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"? It will not be highly structural nor massively organized. It probably will not be built around celebrities nor super studs. I suspect we will see more of the trinitarian partnership in this coming move of God than we have tended to acknowledge is in the Biblical text. Unity will be spoken of with due reverence and respect. This will not be a cause of the few and the naive. It will be the evidence of a triune God revealing himself to a fragmented world. Then we will realize that the "more" we so often long for is actually realized in Him, who is three, yet perfectly one.

Amazingly, some will be angered by this. Others will be disappointed and say it is not a 'move of God' at all. Others in turn will again default to their denominational territories that they will defend passionately. But then again, maybe I am wrong. Even now, come Lord Jesus.