Monday, January 31, 2011

From the hill tops III - fathers

Fathers! I have had the privilege of having 4 'fathers'. Men of the highest standing, gifted, capable, flawed. At a later occasion I will write more intimately about these men. Let it be said for now, Pat, my biological dad is a strong man of enormous courage and guts who taught me to run at danger and never give up. Ken, Meryl's dad, a gentleman of true dignity, taught me to view all men with respect and gave me the lense of trust that profoundly impacted my parenting and pastoring. Carl was the man who laid theological foundations deeply into me. A man of massive gifting and empowered me with a thinking man's faith. Fourthly Dudley, a leader of significant focus and leadership, gifted me with a passion to see the nations changed - a bold audacious 'hill to die on' baton.

Fathers! "So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill" Ex 17:10 I have loved being a father for some 24 years now. There was a pivotal moment in my parenting, that changed my life. I took my 2 little girls before the Father and honestly confessed my inability to raise girls. In a moment of deep prayer the Father spoke to me and said these simple words: "Raise them for another". I knew then that my parenting was not to reflect me nor was it for me. I had to raise them to give them away - to Jesus the lover of their souls and their 'man' who would love them in a journey of faith.

Fathers! Moses went to the top of the hill to empower Joshua - from a distance. A father who had a son but was preparing him to become a father. I cannot adequately describe my passion to see sons become fathers - and fathers delight in that. Here in the USA the way all 'problems' are solved in the church is to throw money at it and to hire a staff member. This is further worsened by the fact that many churches founded some 25 years ago are now scrambling to get a pastor. A top down leadership model has abandoned sons to orphanages and salaring hirelings. In the world of apostolic movements, the sons are not empowered to become fathers. They are called to serve the system rather than to have their transition to fatherhood celebrated.

Fathers! Moses built an altar. This celebration of the Lord's victory declared "The Lord is my Banner". Some sons live under the frustrations that 'they are never ready'. Over protective fathers never qualify them for their journey of faith. Jesus left 11 20 something's with his message of redemption. When I was at NASA recently, I was told that the average age of those who were on the 'floor' coaching the Apollo craft and crew to land, was a mere 26. I was astounded. All those lives, all that equipment and all the space proess was in the hand of a few 20 somethings.

Fathers - I know it is not easy, but it is imperative that we empower our Joshua's to their journey of faith... even if it means we risk with them... even if it means we have to move into the shadows... even if we do not think they are ready... nor may it be convenient for us... but they have to go and fight their Amalekites.

Friday, January 28, 2011

From the hill tops II

Jon Tyson takes his elders to a hill top point to look out over the city of New York. From this vista, they engage in deep conversations and weighty times of prayer for the city they love and their community that they are laying their lives down for.

There is something inspiring about the view from the heights. The oversight quotient of leadership gets drawn out and sharpened. It is so easy to become preoccupied with what confronts us daily, directly at the rock face. It is easy to become focussed with the small and forget the big picture, the meta-narrative, the whole mandate that we are required to lead the God community into.

Exodus 17 is a marvellous "From the hill top" story. It is a people on the move...The whole Israelite community set out... We simply cannot forget that we are a people on a journey - be it personal being transformed from one degree of glory to the next or a community who are on their God authored exodus out of... into.

This two part chapter is worth reflection and meditation. The first part finds the people quarreling ... grumbling. As a leader, that is exhausting. Moses' prayer is that of a desperate man: "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me" The Lord's instruction is simple: "Walk on ahead of the people..." These simple words carry a ton of truth. As leaders we can simply not allow ourselves to get bogged down by the grumbling and quarreling. We build community families. Families quarrel. The immature with each other. The siblings with each other. The parents with each other. That is the reality of our journey toward maturity.

The Lord's exhortation to Moses is simple : "Get walking". These are not the times to climb off the wall [ala Nehemia] to become the quarrel solver. "Get walking" - it is the time for the visioneer to re-engage himself in the big picture. "Get walking"- find a garden to walk with the Father in the cool of the day. "Get walking" - rediscover the pathway and create the vaccum to draw others back onto the journey. "Get walking" - find the hill top , a hill to die on, a reason to lay our lives down. "Get walking" - is the moment to move from caretaker / manager to prophet-pioneer. "Get walking" sometimes means calling an enlarging friend who will not climb into the hole with you, but will 'apostle' you out of the darkness of your challenge and breathe God life into your bones, to empower you to "get walking".

Too many churches get bogged down with a 'pastor / teacher' matrix which often shrinks them, to the newest or largest pastoral matter to resolve. The elder team are to be men who lead 'vision - driven' kingdom communities, where there is more emphasis on the journey than on the grumbling, faults and flaws. "Get walking..."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

From the hill tops I.

We have just had the most delightful few days away. 13 of us went to a cabin outside of Houston Texas. As pastors / planters some are new to our friendship world whilst others have loved the friendships for 30 years. With no agenda but 'hanging', we laughed our way through the 4 days. With the explosion of endless shooting, the necessary fireside story retelling, and the spontaneous theological convos, we loved our time together.

I am learning so much these days. Always captivated by the timeless truths of Genesis 1 and 2, I cannot but seek to find the solutions to earthly challenges without first referring to these 2 chapters of the sacred text. The matrix of "family", is so often the frame for the practical solutions the church stumbles over. In the west, there is a temptation to seek clarity by either embracing the trauma of the corporate business model - impersonal, professional and hierachical; or there is the drift towards the influence of rampant individualism that repeats the fragility of the book of Judges ["everyone did what seemed right in their own eyes"].

Both of these are counter scripture. The family is the biblical matrix. From the mandate of the garden, to the Abrahamic story, through the Jesus journey, measured by the model of the Acts communities and epistle education, the family is the default button for the divine architecture. The 4 generational heart of "Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the boys," is matched with the Pauline apo appeal of 2 Tim 2:2 "what you have heard from me, teach faithful men who will teach others also".

May I propose where most movements go wrong, is the fathers wait way too long to move from their positions of leadership - el dulce - to the role of releasing their sons to become fathers in their own right. This almost 'grandpa' role, is absolutely essential to the journey of families multiplied, not organizations established. May I honor my dear friend Terry Virgo. I have watched him start the process of empowering sons to become fathers in the NF story. Whilst they are chartering new waters, I do so commend them for pioneering a way for many to follow.

In my next blog, we will look at Ex 17 in this regard....

Monday, January 17, 2011

There must be more than this...II

Thanks for your chats, emails and facebook thoughts. I am on my way to a Houston ranch with a group of planters for 3 days of fun. Oh dear with these Texans and their guns who knows what will happen...

I have sent some of these thoughts to the leaders of Future Travelers for their perspectives. When I get to LA later in the week I will lay out the 4 things I think God is drawing us into. There is more. We are hungering for more of Him... if he does not satisfy fully, nothing else will...

Chat soon

Saturday, January 15, 2011

There must be more than this.

I have just had a very fun, strategic, intriguing time in Miami with Alan Hirsch and the Future Travellers crew. One of the lessons we wrestled with was around this question: When leaders cry out: "There must be more than this..." what are they desperate for?

It would be great to hear from you what you think this includes. May I make an appeal, please don't only give us your bias and preference? We would love to journey with these pastors. Some of them are from denoms, others from independent communities, others from reformed journeys... There is a deep cry in many hearts. Many are saying, "I did not sign up for this" meaning mindless repetitive

Also, think of in the light of the clear biblical matrix. What is the church called to be and to do? I am looking forward to your thoughts.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What these times demand...

Back from a fun vacation. Time to get the grey matter stirred to the great conversations at hand. There are many and they warrant much time. Here is one:

How do we interpret these times?

One of the things that I love about Paul Johnson as a historian, is his ability to integrate his historical navigation through matters political, social, spiritual, economic, ethical, educational and the like. As the church readies herself for this new decade, she should certainly consider all these matters to determine her role in a spiraling world. We need more than the revivalists suggest. We need more than theologians would engage us in. We need more than the emerging conversation has brought. May I suggest we need each other fully? The power quest of the revivalists will keep us hungry for more of His divine presence and power. We certainly do need the weight and wonder of sound theology to prevent us drifting into the murky waters of heretical chaos. And then, we certainly need the humility to listen to the young. They do carry the "purposes of God for their generation". That will offend us, [as we did when we were 20 something], they will stretch us, enlarge us, challenge us, but if our heart is captivated by Jesus, they will delight us.

I would love to hear from you about what these times require from the church world wide.

Numbers 1:28
From the descendants of Issachar: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families.

1 Chronicles 12:32
from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command;

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rummaging through Romans-Apo Credentials

Yes, I am fascinated by the role that apostle play in the church. Of course this is not the only gift given to the church, nor is it more important than the other gifts given to the bride. Yet, we would be averse to neglect this in our study of Romans.

As we understand this, Paul had never been to Rome at the time of him writing this letter. Yet his love and relational connectedness, is obvious, especially as one reflects through chapter 16. We can also speculate, that this fledgling early urban plant seeks Paul out to empower them with foundational theology as they endeavor to find theological sanity in a cosmopolitan world of ideas. Rome, as the prevailing civilization, gathered all religions, faiths and philosophies so planting this urban church is not dissimilar to planting in any one of the major capitals of the world today.

Chapter 1 is loaded with Paul's self disclosed credentials from which he feels the privilege to write to them:
  • a servant of Christ Jesus,
  • called to be an apostle,
  • set apart for the gospel,
  • Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we received grace and apostleship to bring about obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all nations.
Then he lets them know what he does, that as an apostle he cannot help himself:
  • I thank my God, through Jesus Christ, for all of you because your faith is proclaimed in all the world,
  • God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel,
  • I mention you always in my prayers,
  • Asking that somehow by God's will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you,
  • For I long to see you,
  • I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you,
  • I want you to know that I have often intended to come to you [but thus far have been prevented],
  • I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles,
  • I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians,
  • So I am eager to preach that gospel to you also who are in Rome,
  • For I am not ashamed of the gospel...
Doesn't this heart move you? His passion for His God, his understanding of his gift and what it is there for and his love for this church he has never visited, is so profoundly stirring. This is a very extraordinary man. He in NOT committed to establishing an international franchise. His love for the gospel and his commitment to bring all to the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all nations, seeps through every pore of his being. Every church is important, unique and special. His prayers are personal and intimate. His credentials are not how many churches he has planted nor how many miracles he has accomplished. It is that he is called to be an apostle... that his responsibility is to bring all to the obedience of faith... that he is there to speak the fullness of the gospel and that he prays for this community, seeking to get to be with them.