Friday, July 29, 2011

Glenridge Part 3

Just landed in Durban South Africa. This is a big weekend. On Sunday I am so honored to preside [with others] over the handover from Rory Dyer to Ryan Matthews.

We started as a group of friends in Sept 1983. The heady days of the charismatic renewal were behind us. We knew that we wanted a community that was burning in our heart. I think every believer should be part of setting a flame burning that is a new church plant. The wonder, the beauty, the uncertainty, the challenge... should fit into every believers story.

For 14 years Meryl and I led this community. She is a beautiful bride - not yet without spot wrinkle or blemish. Yet she has shown herself to be gutsy, pioneering, creative, tenacious and loaded with love. We loved leading her.

Rory and Mel have done a most outstanding job of leading this lady. They loved her, expanded her. They stretched her and cared for her. They fed her and challenged her.

But it is time for new captaincy - a new chapter with new players and thrust, a new season with new truths and emphasis, a new era with new architecture and catalytic forward movement - but one message - the redemption story with a risen Jesus.

I feel so honored to ongoing be part of an incredible journey.
Thank you

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gathering for the 80%

My friend Alan Hirsch has been very helpful on many placing future lenses on me. As a seer, thinker, describer of future affairs, he keeps probing with strategic questions on how we view, respond, prioritize the not-yet-Jesus lover. I guess coming from a secular Jewish background, he cannot help himself.

Although it varies from city to city, country to country, culture to culture, the ratio of churched, exchurched and unchurched, does influence how we do our gatherings. I know, we do not want to be overly attractional in our mindset, however we would all agree that the weekend gatherings are still a pivotal part of our window to the world.

If the ratio in our city is something like 10% churched, 10% exchurched and 80% unchurched, where is our focus? Most churches focus passionately seeking to recruit the churched, as well as the exchurched. The gathering anchor points, seek to answer the questions that these folks may ask: Are we 'reformed' or are we 'charismatic'? Are we 'traditional' or are we 'hipster'? Are we 'missional' or 'attractional'? All these little categories tend to influence us hugely.

But what if we focus on the 80%, how would we do our gatherings differently? Let me propose this line of thinking passionately. [My cadre in the kingdom - Todd Proctor has been very helpful in this regard]:
  • The Welcoming Team [from parking lot to the door, from ushers to coffee servers] are to be stirred to see their role in bringing people to faith in Jesus - they are the gate keepers of the kingdom, the line of first contact - with authenticity and true affection, they are to love guests to the gathering,
  • The Worship needs to be far more unchurched sensitive. The believer worships every day. They are found in His presence whether in the car or in the bedroom. To now be sensitive to others are acts of missionary sensitivity not compromise. The unchurched do not worship. To be sensitive to them is to honor them and acknowledge their presence informally. An hour of endless 'worship', one song after the other, may bless the believer but lose the unchurched even before the word is preached.
  • The Songs selection is always of important consideration. There are those that are current and prophetic to the communities journey. There are those that are strong in theology and substance. All of this is good. But by considering the unchurched may I propose that we front load the gathering with a short set, especially of hymns, ancient and modern. The postmodern mind delights in feeling connected to the ancient. The unchurched understand there will be hymns - even if they have only seen it in Mr Bean or Will and Kate's wedding. The rear book end of the gathering, can be far more spacious and exploratory. It is a response to the word preached. It can have elements of reflection and mediation - with breaking of bread being very empowering. This way we can get in both the ancient and the Spirit led spontaneous without losing the guest. Dear elder, stand at the back of you gatherings and I suspect you will be surprised at how different it is back there.
  • The Announcements are community times - each person who speaks, let them introduce themselves, so the unchurched may know who they are and why they are doing what they are doing. Let the announcers be good at their task both in cultural sensitivity as well as effective communication. A moment to celebrate the ordinary believer is a moment well spent.
There is obviously much more in this conversation. These are intro thoughts to help transform the lenses with which we as leaders go into our gatherings.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Satan sifting Simon

As I was journaling this morning, I could not help but think of the many of you for whom the last years have been unbearably painful. You have sought to be strong, courageous, tenacious, even tried to be patient.

We have wrestled through the stories of Joseph to find strength and a model to imitate. As a father, I would love to have found a way to get you out of your terror, but that is not to be.

As I was reading through Luke this morning, I read: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:31 - 32.

In the many solutions on offer out here in the cyber world, so little is offering the muscle of warfare. The Reformed camp speak very little of spiritual war fare. There is more of this conversation in the "Kingdom now" camp.

What if you are center stage in the sifting conflict right now? What if Jesus is crying out right now for you at the right hand of the Father? What if Satan has designated you for sifting separation? You are in his radar and have to fight your way out!

For me sifting speaks of separation, the large from the small, the good from the bad, the strong from the weak, the true from the false. It is throwing to the wind all that is in the basket to see what comes down as true and valuable. Satan knows the hour in vulnerable. He knows that the sanity and safety of Jesus' presence in actuality is about to change. He is about to leave and the disciples are all going to need to grow up - become apostles in their own right. In this vulnerability is their change of role, increase of responsibility and profile, Satan is keen to see what is fully and truly there. He already had Judas in his pocket - now he goes for the big gun. If he could get these two - two of twelve, he has pretty much erased Jesus' life's work. Isn't that what you feel - lifetime work is being challenged?

Jesus does not stop Satan. That is amazing. It is like Jesus trusts the investment in Peter's life. Jesus is comfortable with the wobble, the denial, the walking away for awhile. The journey to process from defeat to strength, is part of the Jesus story in our lives. Jesus simply prays. It is time for Peter to step up. I do not believe in apostolic succession, so I am not sure why Peter is specifically targeted. But, I am not sure it matters. You have been targeted and that is what matters.

Be encouraged. Here is Jesus' simple pronouncement:
  • I have prayed for you - Jesus could have intervened, but for a greater cause, and a higher moment, Peter has to go through this moment,
  • Your faith may not fail you - the gift the word of faith movement gave to the church was the resurgence of faith... we simply cannot 'hide' behind his sovereignty by not activating our faith - this one we have to win... in the power of the Spirit, by faith, through grace,
  • When you have turned again - I am so amazed at grace... Jesus knows of Peter's stumbles... even though he had walked with Jesus for 3 years. Had seen many miracles and personal moments, even as a leader / apostle, he will stumble, and grace will be there to pick him up. Jesus can cope with our foibles... but can we?
  • Strengthen your brothers - that is what this is all about! Defeating the enemy to regain a growing faith that we can lead others. There is little like a the pain of failure to soften the heart of a legalist to love and strengthen the weak on their Jesus journey.
I am so sorry that you are hurting... even if it is because of your own foolishness. But, come back and strengthen the weak. They need you now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Why have people left my church?

I am enjoying the sounds of my family waking up around me. The chatter of the grandkids is always music to the ear. With our departure date from Perth coming ever closer, each little moment is savored.

With the privilege of ministering in churches around the world, these last few years have been amazing. Watching, listening, trying the grasp the prophetic moments in God's unfolding narrative, has been captivating. Besides the brand new church plants, there has been a remarkable number of churches who have experienced large numbers of folks leave them. The pain and heart ache has been overwhelming for these Jesus-people lovers. Some of my dear church planting friends have been somewhat stunned by this pain. Many of them gave up lucrative careers in commerce and industry, to love Jesus' bride, but it has cost them so much. Why? Why has there been such a leaving of churches around the world?

As always, there is not one simple reason. Here are a few matters that I have observed / experienced:
  • As the God story in a new church unfolds, the next chapter reveals new roles, responsibilities, with new players being added, and not everyone can cope with the changes;
  • There is a new season that God is putting the churches through - truth that he has given to the churches is now being put to the test - will we truly believe it, will we truly live it personally as well as communally;
  • God is not sentimental - but we are. In our quest to build relational churches, we have placed a higher value on these relational matters - for example loyalty is a higher value than obedience, so when folks leave our churches we are devastated, but Jesus and Paul had folks leave them;
  • God has applied the fire test, with mercy - looking to see if what we built would stand - as painful as what that is, rather now than later;
  • Rebellion has surfaced in the hearts of some - simply raw naked 'I want to do things my way, at my time, with my captaincy';
  • Leadership errors are also there. I do not know a leader in our world whose motive is anything other than loving Jesus and serving the bride - but mistakes have crept in - how these are handled have been a source of trauma;
  • Some of those who helped to plant were only ever scaffolding - sent for a season to help, that is their genius, then they are to move on to help others;
  • Distorted 'grace' application, surprisingly found people leave churches in a most ungracious way, often now going nowhere, connecting with no community, revealing their hearts;
  • Building family rather than church-although family is one metaphor for church, there are many others - this small intimate mindset is now doing more harm than good in some contexts;
  • Mission has lost its edge - pleasantville Christianity has found its way into heart - the passion to abandon ones-self for Jesus has died in the hearts of some.
  • And lest we forget, we have an enemy who is committed to our demise...
As painful as these times have been, they are unfortunately necessary for this new future - lets not stop doing the future together. In spite of the pain dear friends, let us find a sweet place with Jesus and a safe place with our partners in the gospel.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rebrand-from Richard Branson

Recently I have so enjoyed reading 2 of the most intriguing entrepreneurs who have been involved in Rebranding - recalibrating their business - Richard Branson of Virgin and Howard Schultz of Starbucks.

In ministry, we tend to be a little nervous of learning from the marketplace - the very place the Father used to educate and empower Paul who wrote so much of the New Testament. I have been so amazed that God never fully funded Paul from churches or even rich believers. Why? Could it be that he needed to be in the very energy and vitality of the marketplace to learn from it, gaining even some of his vocabulary from it to communicate to so many cities, cultures and contexts.

I think it would be wonderfully humble of us to listen, observe and learn from those pioneering the marketplace - and if we are truly honest, are changing the world more than we are.

In this book Business Stripped Bare - Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur, Branson has a chapter on Brand. Using different words, we are doing the same when we plant or replant our churches. We are defining our DNA, mission and community - our distinctives / lampstand, believing that is why we exist, what we are to do, how we are to do it. Here are some quotes from him:
  • We offer our customers a Virgin experience, and we make sure this Virgin experience is a substantial one and consistent one, across all sectors of our business. pg 43
  • You should focus on what you know. You should also focus on what gets you up in the morning. And for most people, that means you focus on one core business. pg 44
  • You see, what gets me up in the morning is the customer, and the idea of giving the customer a good time. No other brand has become 'a way-of-life' brand the way Virgin has. And we achieved this, not by clinically deciding one day to become a 'way-of-life' brand but simply by following our appetites and the things we are curious about. pg 46
  • Good brands reflect the histories of the time and the group of people that made them. They cannot be easily copied. pg 49
  • A brand should reflect what you can do... Get the brand right from the start, by being honest with yourself about what you are offering. A brand will eventually date you, so I think you're better off intelligently evolving it as we have always done than tritely updating it. pg 49
  • Remember a brand always means something and ultimately you can control the meaning of your brand only through what you deliver to the customer. pg 50
  • A brand [should not appeal to] any particular demographic but to an attitude of mind. pg 63
  • The bonding power of the Virgin brand has permitted us to take the bold decision to give everyone the opportunity to be entrepreneurs in their own right. pg 86

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Boomer and Millenial

I had a very empowering conversation with a young replanter recently. Corridor moments are so key in our journeys. They are not planned or scheduled. They happen within the realities of life, so often becoming such key moments.

Over a coffee, in his lounge, we found ourselves drifting towards the difference between our two generations. Obviously, we have to make sweeping statements when speaking about generations. I cannot say that I am able to understand fully what he meant nor can I assume that I can completely capture the heart of his reflections.

The most impacting comment started it for me, when he said that: " your generation wanted to die for something while my generation want to live for something." Wow, this was a very weighty moment as I knew we were onto something here.

It is true of my generation - certainly in RSA. We did want to find our hill to die on. Having grown up at a time when the military was compulsory, we did go to the army, some into combat. Secondly, we had to lead our churches through the trauma of a socio-political entity coming to an end as the nation was teetering on civil war - riots did pound our streets. Our economy was fragile and we had to lead our churches through those days. When Dudley came along and gave us a hill to die on, we put up our hands - we wanted to die in a fight worth fighting, and he gave us the privilege of giving up our privileges and securities. Most of my generation left for the nations, often times living in cities we did not love at first, serving in other cultures in which we were not comfortable... and we took our families with us.

This generation coming through now, certainly in the anglo-west, are not interested on where they die, but where they can live. Whilst they honor us hearing our stories, they are not ones they want nor ones that they desire to emulate. They want to live. They want the freedom to fly. They want their own faith stories built around life. They want to belong, but to a conference of peers. They do not want to be led, being told what to do, how to do it, when to do it. They do not want E4 gifts coming into the church and engaging them on weaknesses and failings [unless they really are life threatening]. They will not ask questions like: "Where are we erring? What should we do better? What are our weaknesses?"

Where we wanted to belong to a brotherhood that we would die for, they have no such compunction. They want to belong to a brotherhood, but one that celebrates victories. I fly to Brisbane in a few hours. Our dear friends Leon and Sonja planted a church there a few years ago. This year has not been an easy one for them. But we said that we would do life together and if things get tough, we would be there for each other.

The Millenials are not driven by the same priorities. Life is to be shared, but more around the things that we can celebrate - "I will come to see when I hear of the new folk God is adding, new salvations, baptisms and the like. I am so sorry to hear if my mate is having a hard time, but I am not necessarily going to try to get to you." - this is what I am hearing being said.

For the Millenials, it seems that where I belong, get connected with, is determined more by how I will benefit that by what it will cost me. I want space, freedom of choice, selecting my involvement, what I believe, what I do.

This little blog cannot fully cover all the ingredients in this big conversation. Although I am obviously on a massive learning curve with the Millenials and see much of what drives them as quite selfish, I am grateful for the journey that they are on. I am not sure that my generation was supposed to lay our lives down in the way that we did, all of the time, in the way that we did. We did sometimes surrender our need to know what we believe, what we should do, where we should go, to the very thing that had given us so much life.

I am not sure if our story is a reflection even of a generation or if it was simply the telling of our journey. Anyway, these are helpful moments as we do want to partner together into the future, benefiting from their life's lenses and they from ours.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Replanting - miracle and mistakes

Wrestling through the chapter on Culture /postmodernity and the Replanter... would love you to help me a little here... it is not one we have done that well over the years. Having helped churches in over 60 countries of the world, I think we have been particularly poor at this. Yet Paul was a genius at it - getting the marketplace conversations, engaging the language of nations, understanding the economy of words, the drama of the courtroom and the poetry of the thinkers of various cities and states.

We must enlarge our culture conversations or we will remain leaders of the 90's. There are many folks who are still there so we can do OK, but lose the long term war.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Earth as 100

A friend sent me this...

"If we could shrink the earth's population down to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

There would be:
  • 57 Asians
  • 21 Europeans
  • 14 from the Western Hemisphere both north and south
  • 8 Africans
  • 52 would be female
  • 48 would be male
  • 70 would be non-white
  • 30 would be white
  • 70 would be non-Christian
  • 30 would be Christian
  • 6 people would possess 59 % of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the USA
  • 80 would live in substandard housing
  • 70 would be unable to read
  • 50 would suffer from malnutrition
  • 1 would be near death
  • 1 would be near birth
  • 1 would have a college education
  • 1 would own a computer"
OK, so lets start this Christian thing again. If this was our matrix, what would our Christianity look like?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pastoring our city - 10 questions

I am loving the worldwide call to take ownership of our "Jerusalem". For our journey, it has been very easy to respond to the call to the nations. That is the dream that grabbed our soul from the 80's. We moved nations and continents. We raked up frequent flyer miles as we had a dream to die for, a hill to die on.

But God, rich in mercy, would simply not let us mature with lopsided development - one muscle group over all the others, has called us to attention. The Acts 1 and Matt 28 mandate remains: "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost..."

Defining our city in the modern world is a fun theological and sociological exercise. It does depend on many factors both factual as well as perceived, mindsets as well as boundary lines. So in the spirit of Luke 15 here are some questions:
  • How do we define our city limits?
  • What is the demographic of this city?
  • What are the things that define the city sociologically?
  • What are the questions the city is wrestling with?
  • Who in the city has a similar heart that we can / need to be partnering with?
  • What are the key action points-the limp of the city?
  • How can I preach into the soul of the city?
  • What is my prayer passion for my city?
  • Where can my church lay down our life for the city?
  • Who are the key voices in the city that we need to connect with?
I would love to hear from you...

Relocation mindset changes

It has been almost a month since I last blogged... what a month. In that time left LA for Perth. Had the joy of seeing my third grand baby born. Then flew to London to preside over the handover of the Kingsgate Church in Kingston as well as spent the chunk of the Tuesday meeting with some pastors. Loved the conversations.

After returning to Perth Oz, I preached here in the Lifeworx community which I loved. I postponed a trip to Brisbane to be with our dear friends Leon and Sonja Bowles to later in the month, so that I can spend 2 weeks putting in the fundamental shape to my book: "Replanting: The mistakes I made".

On Sunday afternoon I had the joy of ministering with M and Tom and Una, being asked by Mark T to empower them as leaders as they prepare to move the church from the suburbs to the center of Perth. It was a very special time. With the chats came great prophetic Holy SPirit moments. Fabulous.

Here are the 10 mindset changes I suggested that need to make in order to make the move truly kingdom impacting. Here is the summary:
  1. From a 1 dream / 1 DNA story to a collage of dreams as they all add their dreams to a bigger dream but still with 1 DNA,
  2. From 1 family essence to many family points around the city,
  3. From 1 locality / facility to several catalytic points around the city,
  4. From 1 suburb to 1 city with many suburbs,
  5. From largely 1 ethnicity to a multi-cultural community,
  6. From 1 preacher to many missionaries to the city,
  7. From 1 worship team and style to many worship teams with many styles and emphases,
  8. From ministering to a few to ministering to the multitude / pastoring the city,
  9. From 1 gathering point of growth to many growth points and centers,
  10. From 'everyone does everything' to 'everyone does one thing'.
Each a larger story with a great convo required...