Saturday, December 4, 2010

Is there another way? Apostolic Scaffolding

I love the early mornings. Many years ago, the Father spoke to me about opening the gate for our marketplace folks as they enter that exciting world daily. [I was studying John 10 at the time. Jesus as our good shepherd] My response was 'Father will you wake me up? This is not naturally me'. I did not want to fight the alarm every morning. So for a couple of decades now, I have loved waking up before the sun comes up, over coffee review the day, gather around the sacred text, see which folks and which churches the Father would have me pray for. I have loved knowing that by the time others drag themselves from their beds, they have been prayed for and their day covered in partnership.

The apostolic conversation is such a pivotal one for the evolving church in the twenty-first century. Bringing all the ingredients of 'apostles, apostolic, apostolicity' to the table is essential to ensure healthy churches that will not be one generational wonders.

The apostle is a master builder [1 Cor 3]. He is not a theoretician or an idealist. There is clear evidence of the fruit of his apostolicity seen in the leaders he has raised up, the churches he has worked with, the doctrine he has declared and the contexts he has pioneered.

The notion of 'master builder' is one of both architect [designing each situation uniquely as it requires yet upholding the universal building code of the text] whilst also being the engineer / builder [fully functional, practical and helpful, never building a one size fits all, with the fruit of his labor being seen in churches still powering many years later].

In order to build, scaffolding is needed. I remember being mesmerized by the building of these huge tower-like structures in Hong Kong when I saw them for the first time. The amazement was not the height of the structures but the scaffolding made of bamboo. They towered into the misty skies, flexible yet firm enough to empower the builder to take this building into the unknown. Then as the building neared completion, these scaffolding structures were dismantled. They were not incorporated into the building no matter how effective they were in helping the building go up.

Here are some scaffolding convo pointers:
  • What is clearly and truly biblical that we have to include in every church — that is every church worldwide needs to have these ingredients in place as the texts demands — whether it is a village church under a tree in Africa to an urban plant in New York to a secret house church in China? We must always go back to the text.
  • What is prophetically essential for now but will need to be removed when the season changes? What has the Father said that requires our immediate obedience yet only involves today's responses. Tomorrow they will be different.
  • What is culturally imperative as a key to the heart of that community? Paul's genius in Athens is still worthy of our scrutiny. However we cannot become slaves to this piece of the puzzle as it is scaffolding and the culture convo does change as culture evolves.
  • What is contextually vital for the church to be planted or replanted in a given locale? The story needs to be known, the historical trends understood, the people's lenses translated. Yet our response to these realities require scaffolding solutions and not building blocks that will stand till he returns.
  • What is Spirit led ? The Spirit is like wind that 'blows where it wills, so it is with everyone born of the Spirit of God'. It seems like every move of God starts with that life but never resides there. What starts out as spontaneous, flexible, changeable so often ends up as fixed, rigid, repetitive.
  • What is gospel centered? The gospel does not and will not change. There is one meta-narrative, one Jesus story that will be the cornerstone and foundation. To change that is to imply it is scaffolding — tragedy. Yet there is glorious freedom to robe that gospel with the coat of many colors-full of creativity, fun, joy.
  • What is yesterday's success may become tomorrow's curse. As with a child growing up, so one cannot ongoingly rely on the First Grade applause or the Third Grade victory. Each year requires its own transitions and achievements.
  • What are some of the keywords that will determine ongoing apostolic impact? Let me list a few: humility, teachability, organic, flexibility, togetherness, partnership, demolition, evolution, courage, love... or in simple Trinitarian language - Unity in Diversity.
Hope this helps the conversation in your community to ensure apostolic effectiveness is not lost with dead repetition without organic God life.


  1. very helpful,Chris! What would you say is the difference between prophetically essential and Spirit - led. Also the difference between culturally imperative and contextually vital?domthey not overlap?
    All in all great thoughts though.

  2. Agree with Alan on these thoughts Chris. Great concepts.

    I am curious as to your thoughts on the "prophetically essential" as well. What forms do you envision this taking? How do you think the church can manage change on a consistent basis like that?