Saturday, November 27, 2010

Early Preaching Whitefield - Evangelist

I hope you enjoyed the little extract about Whitefield's conversion. I loved the sense of thirst and what that translated for him. I do get a little nervous by the modern charismatic definition of spiritual thirst. It seems so subjective, disconnected from scripture, connected rather simply to manifestations. His thirst was directly linked to the wonder of the gospel and the biblical consequence it brings.

Today's quote comes from that section which speaks of Whitefield as an early preacher. Remember, he was a highly intelligent man who gave himself to study, reading the scriptures in Greek...

"I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees; laying aside all other books, and praying over, if possible, every line and word. This proved meat indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily received fresh life, light and power from above. I got more true knowledge from reading the book of God in one month, than I could ever have acquired from all the writings of men.

[In spite of his age and counter the rules of the day which said that one could not be ordained before the age of 22, he was ordained at the age of 21 on June 20, 1736]

In preaching that men, of all ages and conditions must be 'born again' or never 'see the kingdom of heaven' though there were some in the land who believed it, he found himself practically alone, going forth as a herald of a doctrine which the public agreed to consider as new; but which he felt, God had made known to him that he might proclaim it to others, and thus revive the power of Christianity in the land. And as God had raised him up and enlightened his mind for the work, he doubted not that God would be with him in the performance, and make his strength equal to his day. He went, therefore, fearlessly as well as earnestly and affectionately, about his work.

Moved in his inmost soul by the sight of his fellow-men, ready to perish and yet ignorant of their danger, he could not fetter himself with the rules by which ordinary men were taught to construct dull sermons; he must pour forth the desires of his heart and the convictions of his mind. And he did pour them forth, in a style natural and clear, animated and pathetic [sic], which sometimes the intensity of pathos rendered truly sublime. He poured them forth in a voice of wonderful flexibility, compass and power and accompanied with the most graceful, impressive and appropriate action.

In look, attitude, gesture, intonation - in all that constitutes the manner of an orator, the world probably never saw his superior, perhaps, never his equal... but it was his ardent love for souls that were perishing, his sense of the unutterable importance of the truth, which God had raised him up to proclaim to a world that had forgotten it, and his firm assurance that God was with him to give that truth success, that was the fountain of his power. When he proclaimed that truth and besought men to hear it and think of it, that their souls might live, they could not refuse. They were interested; they were affected, they were alarmed. They were persuaded, that they must 'strive to enter in at the strait gate'; that if they continued to neglect salvation, they should not escape final ruin..."

I have loved reading of an evangelist in full flight. In a day of generalists, coaches, mentors, and generic teams, I do wonder if we are losing the wonder of the evangelist. Their raw gutsy power, their rich theology shaping a gospel appeal, and the role they play in opening nations is so pivotal and yet seconded to the fringes of the Jesus journey as we seek to be contextual, current relevant. I would love to enter into convos with those evangelists whom the Father is raising up for this next decade...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Early Whitefield

I stumbled on this book called The Great Awakening by Joseph Tracey. It was first published in 1842. What has been intriguing has been reading the passionate Whitefield as he fought his way to salvation. These obsessed men and women are the world changers. There are truly so many ways that men and women seek to castrate a Jesus lover to conform to their image and comfort. To step outside their boundaries, requires their immediate and instant denunciation. Another's passion simply exposes their mediocrity.

Here are some quotes:

George Whitefield was born at Gloucester, England on the 16th day of December in 1714. His father, Thomas Whitefield had been a wine merchant, but was now an inn keeper, died two years after his birth. ... [George] distinguished himself among the boys at the public school by his progress in Latin and by his speeches and dramatic performances... his mother kept the inn; as the decrease of business enforced more economical arrangements, George was obliged to leave his Latin... and assist in the drudgery of the house. He put on his blue apron-"washed mops, cleaned rooms, and in a word, became a professed and common drawer for nigh a year and an half".

[Whilst at Oxford] he spent much of his time in reading the Greek Testament and in prayer. He gained more clear, rational and affecting views of his own sinfulness and saw how hopeless was the effort to remove the sense of guilt by a series of observances. He remained in this condition till as he informs us: "One day, perceiving an uncommon drought and the noisome clamminess in my mouth, and using things to allay my thirst, but in vain, it was suggested to me that when Jesus Christ cried 'I thirst' his sufferings were near over. Upon this, I threw myself upon the bed and cried out. 'I thirst, I thirst'. Soon after, I perceived my load to go off; a spirit of mourning was taken from me and I knew what was truly to rejoice in the Lord. At first after this, I could not avoid singing psalms, wherever I was; but my joy gradually more settled and blessed be God, has abode and increased in my soul, saving a few casual intermissions, ever since."

Some years afterwards, in reply to objections, he said: "My crying, "I thirst, I thirst' was not to put myself upon the level with Jesus Christ. But when I said these words, "I thirst, " thirst', my soul was in agony; I thirsted for God's salvation and a sense of divine love. I thirsted for a clear discovery of my pardon through Jesus Christ and the seal of the Spirit. I was at the same time enabled to look up to and act upon faith in the glorious Lord Jesus as dying for sinners and felt the blessed effects of it".

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Key Factors in the Theory of Change:[1]

Pastors are rarely good agents of change. They tend to be lovers for whom the people’s comfort and wellbeing is the highest goal, or they are teachers for whom the text and its accurate management is the greatest goal. Sometimes the church is led by a prophet for whom the “Word of the Lord and immediate obedience” is the numero uno priority. This can then be very muddied with much blood and pain.

Yet change is here to stay. Commerce and industry are pioneers in the study of change. If a company does not adapt, it will die. Pure economics drives this reality, whereas the church often can rely on other ingredients like tradition, need, sentimentality that provides somewhat artificial buoys to keep the church afloat in the short term. May I suggest that we become students of change, reading all we can from all quarters of human study so that we can be more effective in this conversation? I have led 2 churches through dramatic changes. I have sought to influence a number of church planting movements to embrace change. A more profound knowledge of this dynamic would have helped me enormously during these changes. I thought theology would have been enough. It was not. Here is a simple adaptation of an introductory table for the change conversation:

Dimensions of Change:

Theory Combinations:

Scriptural Pointers:


In general to create a culture of change, specifically to replant the community.[2]

Is 40:10-11, 42:6-9+14-16, 43:1-3+18-19, 45:1-7, 46:9-11, 48:2-5+17-19, 54:1-8, 60:21- 61:3. 2Cor3:16-18.

Hos 2:23 “I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one’”


‘Set direction from the top, engage the people from below’

Acts 15 is a great case study of ‘the church, the apostles and the elders…”


‘Focus simultaneously on the hard [structures and systems] and the soft [culture]’

Luke 5: 36 – 39 – this conversation about garments [culture] and wineskins [structures] has to be visited theologically and anthropologically and not sentimentally.


‘Plan for spontaneity’

Is 46:10 – 11 “I make known the end from the beginning…my purpose will stand… what I have planned, that will I do”

Jn3:7 + 34 “The wind blows wherever it pleases… so it is with everyone born of the Spirit”

Reward System

‘Use incentives to reinforce change but not drive it’

Heb 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus… who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…”

Isa 49:4b “Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God”

Use of Consultants

‘Consultants are expert resources who empower employees’[3]

Eph 4:11 – 16 “It was he who gave some to be apostles… prophets… to prepare God’s people for works of service…until we all reach the unity of the faith… become mature… each part does their work”


Through collaboration and partnership, by getting the right strategic people into the room define the future and the next step very clearly. Communicating it at every opportunity. Open and honest communication

Hab 2:2 – 3 “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that the herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it, it will certainly come and will not delay.

[1] Adapted from Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria, “Cracking the Code of Change”. Their model is for corporate business. I have adapted it to the notion of change in the church.

[2] These are my words to place clarity on the discussion for churches.

[3] All these quotes are from their table

Stott: 4 cornerstones to All Souls Church London

While I was with Deryck Barson in New York this week, he showed me this quote that is worth getting to you - too long to tweet - but a good conversation piece:

At All Souls Church in London in the 1950s, John Stott pioneered a kind of church that united
  • vigorous gospel evangelism,
  • concern for the needs of the neighborhood and the city,
  • discipleship of people for the integration of their faith and their secular vocations, and
  • a high regard for expository preaching and theology.
Most churches, however, tend to major in just one or at most two of these—either evangelism/church growth or social justice issues or arts and culture or sound doctrine and exposition, and so on. All Souls and other traditional center-city churches (such as Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia) found ways in the last generation to balance these ministries and keep them interdependent and interrelated.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reflections from New York

I love New York. There is something compelling about this extraordinary piece of land that juts out into the ocean. The mixture of romance and tragedy, of affluence and homelessness, filters down every street and alley way that crisscrosses the city. This time of the year warms the dweller's heart as the leaves drift from their branches where they perched for the summer, while below, the bustles of Christmas lights, color, sounds and smells begin to bristle the sidewalks.

They love their city. That is part of the mystery. Like the wonder of the feminine form, this brazen city has many lovers. Her dwellers speak of her with affection and intimacy. What was once an arrogance, seems now to be replaced by a quiet confidence - "this city shapes the world... and we are part of her". And new suitors are flooding to her beauty and mystery.

I loved meeting new friends. Aaron Coe is a young passionate Southern Baptist pastor who has been drawn to the NYC story. Meeting him in a very cool hip cafe, I listened with delight as he told his story of the evolving affection of New York drew him from the safety of the south to the intrigue of the north. Having planted his church, that he has now handed over, to starting SendNYC- a catalytic call to plant 100 churches in the next 10 years. There is no arrogance. A simple confidence in his God who loves this city, permeates and leaks out of his growing passion. He is a very good man, with an eager heart and hungry soul.

It was my honor to lunch with JR Vassar. Formerly a teaching pastor in Dallas, he too left the privilege of a career laid out for him, to journey into unchartered waters. Supported by 12 partner churches he set off to the Big Apple. His confident humility settled him at the doors of Redeemer Church where he engaged in the conversation of postmodern urban church planting. Our Texas BBQ lunch had us engaged in the story from Southern styled ministry to the evolution required to serve Manhattan. His "Apostle Church" is gaining traction and it is easy to understand. He is a leader who is humble in his questioning, yet confident in his calling - a leader with a hill to die on and an army that will follow him. This is a very good man.

Just before we flew out M and I met with Mark Reynolds. As one of the architects of the Redeemer planting movement, this is a man loaded with knowledge, discernment and strategic thinking. In honest humility, Mark is a wealth of resources, yet chooses to engage you in your story first. A strong and very capable man, yet one who has chosen to invest his life in the shadowlands of training and coaching rather than being a platformed player in his own right. I am looking for many a future conversation learning from this gift to the body. We really did like him and appreciated our time together.

Lastly, we spent much time with our dear friends Deryck and Cathy Barson and their community. From the amazing Sonia who moved out of her apartment so that we could have a little space, to meeting some brand new, hot off the press Jesus lovers, we love this very brave community, Landing on these shores 12 years ago with little besides a love for Jesus, a word from the Father and a dream, they have given their all. Initially planting "the model", they expected God to fill their church, many tears and prayers later, the kindness of the Father broke in on them "You don't plant a church, you plant a message - the Gospel, and watch God plant the church". This is a very courageous community. When others may have been tempted to give up, they have persevered. They are emerging from the ashes of their journey with gems of believers and jewels of truth. Their story will be told, their discovery will empower many. I am so proud of them and love them deeply.

Next year, we will stand amazed again as we will find ourselves in that city of mystery. God is there. His mercies are new every morning. They are there, palatable, real and growing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reflections from Toronto

There is something exquisite about the early morning when the mists robe the tree laden skyline hauntingly. For those of us who live outside of the snow zones, we do miss out on some of the wonder of these mornings.

I have been coming up to Canada for about 12 years now. The Canadians are very intriguing people. Applauding the cultural diversity from which they come, the Canadians seem to have enormous grace to still honor the ethnicity of the new immigrants. Whilst there is an authentic pride in being Canadian, it does not come with an arrogance but a quiet gentle humility. They will give you respect and the benefit of the doubt, but to cross or dishonor them, is to incur their distance. It may not be combative. It will probably just be quiet disengagement. They are a very noble people, strong, courageous and tenacious — a people of God's choosing.

Then I went to a hockey game. It was like being at a cultural worship service. The music was inspiring, the big screens showed the words. The announcer provided the continuity as the gladiators pounded each other in regal combat. I loved it. The adrenals powered as I got into shouting my ignorant passion across the ice, assuming someone would find my perspective essential to the evening's proceedings. I satisfied myself with such ignorant wisdom taking the silence of my Canadian friends as obvious endorsement of my strategic perspectives. I actually think a few Afrikaner words splashed with some key rugby ideas resounded as I suggested "Slaan hom" as a fight broke out. A very good worship service.

These are not easy times for the church in Canada. It seems like there is a divine realignment as men and women are finding new collaborations in the kingdom. New roles and responsibilities are being placed upon these tender shoulders. The heavenly chiropractor is realigning stooped shoulders and lifting lowered eyes. There are good conversations being had on how to grow beyond the ceilings that have held the churches captive for some time. For some the old ways are being held on to with tenacious glee. For others, there are new ways being sought with hungry anticipation. I am glad I came. There is much partnership a father needs to bring into this next chapter over the next while.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beyond 150 - Apostolic Partnership

Our conversation wrestles with the community that finds herself stuck around the 150 mark. Universally known to be one of the most difficult sociological groupings to break free from and enter the next level of growth, development and impact, it is a most worthy study indeed.

In our last blog, we started exploring the role that apostles play in this transition. We cannot complete a full study of the role of the apostle throughout the biblical text, not throughout church history as space does not allow for this, nor is it the subject under discussion. That will have to wait for another time. However I do believe that God has given the church gifts that empower every church on their journey, during every chapter, through calamity and disaster, as well as through times of success and growth.

So, how can apostles help churches through the 150 mark? Here are some suggestions:

1. "He gave some to be apostles..." Eph 4:11. Churches need more than fathers, coaches, mentors, teams. It is the God authored role, that is God appointed, anointed, prepared. I am amazed how easily we neglect this as if it is an optional extra. The apostles lays foundations [Eph 2:20]. These foundations are needed when:
  • When the community is being formed,
  • When the community has gone through devastation and foundations need to be relaid,
  • Before there is growth, enlargement,
  • Before there in increased profile or impact.

2. "If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord" 1 Cor 9:2 It seems like each church in the New Testament walked personally and with reality with 2 or 3 apostles. This was not sole ownership or territorialism. Yet the relationships were real and the involvement ongoing. When Paul wrote his letters one, can hear the detail with which he knew each community, with his instruction clear and essential. The churches he worked with were the evidence of his apostleship. Churches did not work with generic teams nor nebulous committees.

3. "Saul...[stayed in Antioch] a whole year they met with the church... they stayed there a long time... Paul stayed there for a year and a half, teaching..." Paul's approach was not like Peter's. His modus operandi was to be available with a full life's investment, to a few churches at a time. He invested himself in their journey to empower them forward. He went to them. He stayed with them. He taught them. [look at Acts 20:17 - 38]

4. "They returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them..." Acts 14 21 - 22 There is certainly a space in the apo journey for quick return visits to churches. The notion that the only way is long protracted visits to churches is not an accurate picture of the New Testament experience. Short visits of love, prayers, encouragements and fresh apo instruction are just as valid.

5. "When we pray for you..." Col 1:3. Of all the texts I can choose to indicate the prayer side of the apo partnership, I have intentionally taken this Colossians one. This church was not planted by Paul, nor did he ever visit it, to the best of our knowledge. It seems like one of his disciples [Epaphras] went home, planted a church and called out to Paul. Paul was by now in prison. He could not get to this community, yet he was invited in to be an apo voice into the church as she wrestles with the matter of false teaching. So his apostolicity is reflected in his prayer and in his writings. This in no way indicates less of an apo role. Between emails, skyping, texting, blogs, podcasts, telephones and cell phones, the partnerships can be real, with the benefit of all the modern technologies.

I know for some of our readers this may seem very intriguing. If your background has been denominational or independence, this may seem very different for you. We have sought to find our way around these truths for almost 30 years now. We have done it well. We have done it poorly. Yet, in all of this, I am persuaded that God way is still the best.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beyond 150 - Apostles

It is not often one has the privilege to wake up to the sound of rain pounding down on our LA roof. The early Monday morning, after a very powerful Sunday set of gatherings, brings a deep and pleasant smile to my face.

I have been leading churches for 27 years. For around the same amount of time, I have been involved with church planting, church replanting, church closures, church mistakes, church growth, church discipline. The list goes on. This is an intoxicating journey to see what the Father loves, what the Son does, what the Spirit empowers. The full weight of heaven is behind the scriptures, as "The Lord said to me, 'You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.'" Jer 1:12. We do not have the prerogative nor the privilege to determine which part of the text we choose to apply and which part we choose to neglect. Nor can any of us have the audacity to suggest we have "the model or the pattern". There is a vast amount of humility required to journey within the understanding that our revelation is progressive but our obedience needs to be immediate. As the Spirit reveals truth to us, we have the obligation to a full and complete response.

This series is about moving churches through the challenge of the 150 mark. There is no fixed formula nor a one size fits all. However there are some clear biblical road signs that can be very helpful indeed. One of the major "Forgotten Ways" [to quote my friend Alan Hirsch] is the partnership between apostles and the local churches. All to easily, we have used non-biblical alternatives to explore this deeply desired role. We have used words and concepts like coaches, mentors, teams, team leaders, superintendents, regional coordinators, mother churches when the scripture is very clear on who the key players are and what their roles are to be. I am certainly not wanting to be pedantic here. I simply want to take us back to the text to have the right conversation, ask the right questions, take the right actions.

"I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now..." Phil 1:3 - 5.

Our hierarchical minds mixed with some poor experiences, invariably leave us very wary and wounded by a possible opportunity for control, dictatorship, excesses — and rightfully so. However we are not to throw out the baby with the bath water. God has no plan B. From the sublime moments when Jesus chose 12 men and designated them apostles, to his last few moments on the planet when he handed his apo authority on to these men, to the picture painted by the Book of Acts, his intention was clear — he gave his gifts to men, to "equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God... grow up in every way... held together by every joint..." Eph 4:11 - 16.

In my next blog we will look at how this partnership can catapult the church through the ceilings that surround them. We will also look at the other parts of the Eph 4 giftings to empower planters to push through these limitations. In nearly three decades I have seen the Father seek to reintroduce these gifts to the church. As they have been abused and misused, the Father has seemingly withdrawn them, to reintroduce them to the next generation to see if they can be a wondrous partnership one more time. Can we do it right this time around?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dr D.M. Loyd-Jones on Revival

So I am at home doing some preparation for my coming trip to Toronto, when I came across this chapter by the Doctor, on Revival and it got me yelling. Those of us who are on a more reformed / charismatic journey can sometimes be a little sluggish when it comes to expecting God to come with Revival power. Well listen to what the good doctor has to say:

"... there are two main groups. There is a group that always talk about revival and only about revival. They are only interested in the exceptional and the unusual and they tend to 'despise the day of small beginnings', the regular work of the church and the regular work of the Spirit in the church. The other group so emphasize the ordinary, regular work of the church and of the Spirit in the church, that they distrust the whole notion of the unusual and the exceptional. The answer is of course that both are wrong. Let me quote from Buchanan on The Office and work of the Holy Spirit. [written in 1856]...

'The Holy Spirit is not limited to any one mode of operation in the execution of His glorious work; and His sovereignty ought ever to be remembered when we consider a subject of this nature... the former have given a too exclusive preference to what is extraordinary and striking; while the latter have fallen into the opposite error, of preferring what is more usual and quiet. We think it were better to admit to both methods of conversion and to leave the choice to the sovereign wisdom and grace of the Spirit...'

' We have been so much accustomed to look to the more slow, and quiet, and gradual method of maintaining and extending the kingdom of Christ, that we apt to be startled, and even to listen with some degree of incredulous surprise, when we hear of any sudden and general work of the Holy Spirit.'

God does it at the most unexpected times. You never know when He is going to do it; there is always a suddenness and unexpectedness about it... nothing so shows the irresistible character of grace as revival...

The conclusion of the matter is this: that we are called at this moment above everything else to pray for revival. God forbid that we should become a body of people who just denounce activism and do nothing! That has been said about some of us. God forbid it should be true!

What then are we called upon to do? We are called upon to go on with our regular work of preaching the gospel in all its fulness, in all its wholeness... Let us do everything we can by every biblical and legitimate means to propagate and to defend the faith. Let us use our apologetics in their right sphere. Let us do all that, and let us go on with the work of reformation in which we are engaged; but let us at the same time maintain the balance of which we were reminded by Buchanan. Let us pray for revival, because nothing else will avail us in the fight in which we are engaged. Thank God our efforts are producing results, and far be it from any of us to despise them or underestimate them; but it is not enough. The age in which we are living and the condition of the church not to mention the world, call for a mighty conviction of the sovereignty of God, the absolute necessity of the work of the Spirit, and these various other points I have been trying to emphasize. And that means that nothing less than revival is needed."

Quoted from Dr D.M. Loyd-Jones: The Puritans. The Banner of Truth Trust. qoutes from pg 15 - 20

Beyond 150 - Boot Camp

The movie "The Officer and a Gentleman" is possibly the best one to describe a major portion of how we do church. Obviously it is more than this, but it does reflect the a key conversational component in forging beyond our ceilings. The raw recruit arrives at the training academy with a story. It is not a pretty one. It is loaded with baggage that produces a serious attitude. There, awaiting the young gun, is a tough old narly drill sergeant. His uncompromising demeanor soon lets you know, this is not a sunday school picnic. This is preparing men for war. This is not frills and flowers but tough, raw, gutsy tenacity. Boot camp has begun.

One of the challenges of the church at 150, is it's highly [maybe even overly] developed sense of community. This, often formed more by sentiment than scripture, can be the enemy of the church. It can forget it is a people at war. A little conflict or challenge may well be the Father's way to take us from community to communitas. Alan Hirsch speaks of that in his writings, suggesting that this is the strongest form of Christian life — 'community forged under fire". In the same way that we watched the HBO series 'Band of Brothers," we were captivated that such a deep brotherhood was formed under the pressure of war. So too God uses the very nature of hardship to empower us for the spiritual combat which is at hand. "These were the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan [he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had no battle experience]" Judges 3:1 - 2.

The planting core have fought their battles of survival. They have landed on new terrain and have had to engage the enemy who does not want them to succeed. They have prevailed. Unlike many other plants, they have survived the trauma of the early days. Now others have joined them. However the new additions may not be as engaged in the nature of combat as much as they are enjoying the fruit and spoils of war. The urgency to go forward it is thwarted by the delight of 'communitas'. So what will change that?

Boot camp will! I do love 1 + 2 Timothy. I think they have been poorly called 'The Pastoral Epistles'. It seems like Paul has sent Timothy to Ephesus to provide leadership for a church that is beyond the planting stage. His instruction for this young leader on possibly his first leadership assignment, is weighty and clear. I suspect this is the text written as a "Boot Camp Training Manual". It is loaded with strong clear unswerving language that readies Timothy for the role of the officer as well as empowering him to lead his troops.

Blogs, I am reminded, are not lengthy mini-books nor are they manuals for instruction. I will therefore limit my thoughts to tickle your appetite for further reading, study and application.

Our Boot Camps can include the ingredients of training that Paul puts into young Timothy:
By chapters of 1 Timothy:
1. - Calling; the officer must be certain of His call to lead in times of war,
2. - Devotion; the officer must have a personal devotion that will keep him strong,
3. - Character; the officer cannot be appointed unless he is of the highest God character,
4. - Doctrine; the officer will save himself & others with sound doctrine,
5. - Connections; the officer has a history of good relationships especially with the fragile,
6. - Apo Charge; the officer is given final commands — get all ready for war.

We can certainly explore these two epistles in further detail later. However I am not sure we can take our churches beyond the ceilings we are in without running our regular and intentional Boot Camps.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A comment on the 150 mark

This was a comment written in response to the "Beyond 150" series. I thought is was very insightful and is worthy a blog of its own. This is written by a dear friend, who can speak with a very proven track record behind him. Enjoy.

"Anonymous said...

Hi C.

Sitting in Singapore reading your blogs. After being in ministry for the last gzillion years & more and in particular having been on the "road" for the last 12 months; this journey that has afforded me the priviledge of "living" in many churches both large & small, I have come to a few conclusions that would influence me very strategically if I were ever to plant or lead a church again.

One, leadership development is not a culture in most churches-small or big. I see churches where the days are so very full of activities, which look so good but are not intentionally building any specific cultures. Rather there is a feeling of "I'm at the movies with much to choose from" that goes around. The leaders that are there, are always tired, unmotivated and duty bound! I would plant a church and create cultures by hitting 4 or 5 bulding blocks in different ways all the time. For eg - Marriage, Children, Doctrine, Leadership, Men & maybe one or two more. A once a year marriage seminar does not create a culture....

Secondly, I'm not convinced a church that is "missional" will grow through the 150 mark. I have not seen this to be proved in practice. The key that either locks the church into the 150 mark or unlocks it beyond, is the leadership taint or leaning. To use three words that I think will become more prevelant in the days ahead - Prophet, Priest, King is part of the solution. In travelling, where the church is led by very priestly type men, there is little evidence of the church going beyond the 150 mark. I heard details of a survey/study that the University of Natal did on pastoral (you know, growing sheep etc) groups around the world. Their conclusion was those groups grew to around the 149.8 mark then had to split, plant etc.

Thirdly, my observation reveals that churches that do not put in systems that undergird what they are about, [will not grow]. [Those who do not] give the other leaders some teeth, will not flourish,... [if they do not offer folks a mountain to die on] they are actually in maintenance mode. To be honest, this does not have much to do with the 150 mark but is actually more about going beyond the hundreds into thousands. Even very large churches that look incredibly successful are not really. It is just the numbers that make it look that way. If those churches restructure and got some new mountains to run at, they would be amazing. So, a comment has turned into a mini-essay. I felt good writing it and hope some are helped through reading it.

Blog on friend! Tom T."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beyond 150 - Rookie

I have loved being a father. In fact, I probably would have loved some more kids. However our relocation to the USA, with all that that demanded, let a few years slip us by before we made the call to have T. I love the uniqueness of each personality. Exploring each child's dream expanding their horizons, investing in each with "dates with Dad" . The wonder of dining room table conversations did much to fashion each child theologically, philosophically, relationally, morally. And I can never overstate the weighty, strategic role that M played in our kids lives. Her prophetic accuracy matched with her maternal intuition have been an extraordinary combination with much impact. Then of course, it is impossible to reflect on these things this early in the morning, without musing over the discipline differences each child responded to. For N a firm voice melted her. For D it required a firm hand of instruction on the seat of learning, for T it was a combination of the two. We can certainly not treat each child the same.

At the end of my last blog, I asked the question - 'What kind of leaders do we want to develop?' Here is the first blog in responding to that question.

When I visit the churches around the world, generally I see such a poor administration of leadership development. Rarely is it seen as a family raising kids. More frequently it is absent, or it is seen as a program / activity that the church is expected to have. For some it is a mish mash of bits and pieces whilst for others who have built highly relationally, leadership is a group of mates doing life together. But are they the right folks in the room to bring about change?

I am convinced. The greatest weakness in most churches is systematic, intentional leadership development. There are several reasons that are clearly observable. Here are a few:

1. Most churches do not have a theology for this evolution. It is therefore not a priority,
2. The pressure to pursue education has made that the highest virtue for many when seeking to expand the team,
3. Culturally, the hire - fire approach to leadership selection is so deeply flawed for many reasons but primarily it does not empower the sons in the house to "Eagerly desire the greater gifts"
4. Leadership development is handed from the lead guy to another pastor as a program in the calender.
5. We drift too easily from the biblical ingredients of leadership positions and qualifications to appointing leaders based on criteria that have no biblical requirements,
6. In smaller churches, many leaders are appointed for reasons of faithfulness, loyalty, sentiment or simply because they are mates. They may satisfy a short term desire not to be alone, however they may not be the key folks in the room to have the entrepreneurial conversations for growth,

May I suggest a better way? Leadership development is not a program but a lifestyle. It is not an activity as much as a conviction. It is not to be given away as much as it is to be imparted. It seems like we have to go back, with humility, to the text and rediscover the privilege of this lost art. Whether we look at Jesus or Paul, there are certain realities that are clearly evident that both apply with extraordinary effectiveness. I am persuaded that it is one of the primary weakness that need to be addressed if churches want to go beyond the 150 ceiling.

This blog cannot possibly cover all bases. However it can begin the process of change in your community. For the sake of simplicity allow me to present these thoughts in point form:
  • Jesus chose 12 men to do life with. Paul chose several including Timothy to be as a son to him["To Timothy, my true son in the faith" 1 Tim 1:2] We cannot neglect nor diminish the desire for and the power of investing into "sons", one on one, face to face, bringing them in to our world, discipling them into leadership hereby multiplying ourselves,
  • There is certainly place for group instruction [ "When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority...." Luke 9:1]. There is power in group training, discussion and doctrinal development. Leadership training 101 is absolutely essential. These times should be held regularly in our communities. Teaching through the three great Leadership Development books [poorly called the Pastoral Epistles - 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus], is a very powerful way to keep leadership fashioned around the gospel,
  • May I strongly suggest all churches have a monthly Leaders meeting. A little teaching may be helpful here, but it is a very strategic gathering to process what God is saying and doing in the community and what the response must be. [Acts 13:1 - 3 "In the church at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers:... while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said...]
  • Over the years I have loved an "All Leaders Gathering". I am persuaded that "all believers are called to be leaders!" From the garden when man and woman were given a clear leadership mandate, to becoming more like Christ who is leadership, we have sought to get all leaders past, present and future into the room. During these gatherings, we endeavor to ensure that there is a weighty theological content, a strong visionary quotient to keep everyone on the same page and good God stories - accounts of what God is doing in the community- splashed with prayer. This is not preparing leadership for the church only but empowering all our folks to be leaders wherever they may be in the marketplace. I remember one of the men who use to attend these gatherings was CEO of his company. He would take notes at these times and present them to his board the next day - loaded with content but without too many texts - they were amazed at his presentations and this fashioned the soul of the company. [Acts 15 is a great example of this kind of gathering.]
  • Lastly, the role of the Ephesians 4 giftings in developing the leaders in our communities cannot be overstated. From the reason for these gifts as stated in Ephesians 4, to the model we see in the book of Acts, what is clear that apostles particularly are there to train the leaders [Acts 20:17 - 38] help equip, select, appoint leaders [Acts 14:21 - 28; Titus 1:5]. Apostles are not the CEO of the church world. They are not "over all" but "first of all" - by example they lead the way in humble service, love and sacrifice. Their role we will discuss later.
I cannot stress the role of Leadership Development enough - especially if you want to go through the 150 mark. Creating a leadership culture inspires the community to be entrepreneurial, believing God for the new and unexpected, it empowers folks to be creative, bold, expansive and not simply repeat yesterday, tomorrow - which is 'death by management'. When we create that leadership culture, people take ownership of the future and buy into a dream worth investing our lives into.