Friday, September 30, 2011

Multi-siting: History

"Moses listened to his father — in — law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens." Ex 18:24

M and I went to our son's Parent / Teacher evening at school last night. It was outstanding. Not only was the warmth and excellence of presentation inspiring, but there was no weak teacher. But, lest I rant and rave too much, let me cut to the chase, the history teacher [Mrs TL] was inspiring. Her quest to marry the Roman world and parallel it with modern USA was captivating. I wanted to take the class. Add in her deep love for Jesus and boy coming home and talking about the torture methods of the Romans, then I knew we were onto something good here. I love history. Well taught, it reflects the immanence of God in the great redemptive narrative of humanity.

Steve Turner, the English poet wrote: "History repeats itself, has to, no-one listens". The Ecclesiastes author wrote that: "There is nothing new under the sun." History must always be the pastor's friend. To think we are facing things for the first time is misguided ignorance. To think that we will automatically not make the mistakes of the past, is willful pride. To be an honest student of history, is to prayerfully reflect humility and teachability, so essential for these days of rapid change.

What has history taught us of "Multi-siting" so far?

  • In the 70's, Paul Yongi Cho brought the notion of "Cell, Congregation, Celebration" to the church world. His church was growing so rapidly that he needed an evolving structure that would cope with this remarkable growth, through salvations, that came from their deep and profound passion for prayer. May I suggest that multi-siting happens because we are experiencing growth, not to grow? I have seen a number of churches do it to grow and end up with exhausted folks who are simply spent by being called to duty twice per weekend.
  • We tried that in the 70's. It did not work nor did it last. Here are some reasons: firstly we took a model that worked in Asia and tried to simply apply it in Africa. We did not do our cultural / contextual homework to find a form that truly was ours by revelation and conviction. Secondly, the leadership set in place was not well chosen nor well trained before or ongoingly. We floundered. Thirdly, the areas chosen to "congregate" were not given enough forethought, with no pre-launch services. Fourthly, these gatherings were not perceived by the people as weighty priority times. The Sunday night service was the big gun because the loaded gun preachers ministered there. The 'congregations' were the experimental form for emerging worship leaders and teachers. That was a recipe for failure. It was not long before we brought everyone back to the central base with another good God idea left in the trash heap of poor management. Looking back, it certainly could have worked and prevented the future calamity of the celebrity resigning, but we simply handled it so badly without substantial theological homework and thorough sociological study.
  • Jethro counseled Moses to divide the Israeli community into smaller to larger manageable units. There are a number of wise pieces in his counsel: firstly, there are different sizes of leadership giftings — captains of tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands. This form of local church architecture empowers these leaders of different capacities. Choosing the right leaders for the right grouping size is essential. Secondly, these leaders must be men who are comfortable to be captains and followers at the same time. If not, this tug — a — war will exhaust and deplete the lead guy as the wrestle for final captaincy will gut all involved. Thirdly there is room for individuality without losing the central DNA of the brotherhood. Conformity is not the goal of multi-siting. Gospel expansion is, therefore multi-sites will take on the flavor of the context more than branding of home base.
  • Collaborative leadership matched with very sharp discernment is imperative to doing this well. There is a renewed model of divinely inspired leadership on project planet earth. The old style one man, top down, impositional style is yesterday's story and as always, is a one generational gig. Multi-siting is impossible without a truly inclusive leadership heart. There needs to be such honesty at the eldership level that they can find the heart of God together. I cannot state that strong enough. Coming to faith in 1976 and being part of church planting movements, every time there is one strong leader who dominates the landscape, the movement has a one generational dimension. It will be captivating for a decade or so, then it will wain as his influence diminishes. True trinitarian team work will not only work better but will go beyond the one generational wonder.
  • Project intentionality is absolutely essential. Multi-siting costs. Allow me to be blunt. This is not simply a "lets try it and see if it works" type gig. It has to be driven by theological conviction, prophetic affirmation, effective leadership training and ongoing development. It has to be treated as one does a church plant with the same level of excellence in advance. It needs to push for maturity to stand on its own feet soonest but benefits from the depth of ministry investment that the central base offers.
These are some passing reflections. I hope they help. Thank you for your kind tweets, facebook comments and emails. We are loving serving you in this way.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


"They spoke in tongues and prophesied... God did extra-ordinary miracles... the name of the Lord was held in high honor... the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power... the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord" Acts 19

Don't you love the expansive world of the Holy Spirit? When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he asked the new, fresh believers if they had been baptized. Their reply was that they had received John's baptism. I can only imagine the joy with which he told them that there was another baptism - the baptism of the Holy Spirit! After praying for and over them, they started speaking in tongues and prophesying. And then - well, and then the city went viral... extraordinary miracles were done, radical conversions created rage in the city as it actually effected the economy as businesses were impacted, and the whole of Asia Minor heard the gospel within two years. That is an incredible story.

We live in a limited world if we think that government and structure alone will transform our cities. It is not the wineskin we are looking for to stop our cities in their tracks. Rather we do want the wondrous wine of the Holy Spirit to do the true and actual transformation. We can have enormous fun experimenting with wineskin, structure and form. However no matter what our form is, the greater questions are : "Is the Lord in the house?"; "Are the people prophesying?"; "Is the supernatural so true and impacting, that the city is actually shuddering under this reality?"

There are two prophetic pieces we need to consider. The first is: "Has the Father spoken to us about going mutli-site?". Friends I am a little nervous that leaders are engaging in this conversation because it is the flavor of the month. It is absolutely necessary to know that this approach is necessary, we can do no other, because God has spoken. One cannot engage is this colossal move in a flirtatious way. This is a high cost engagement.

I am working very closely with my dear friends at Rock Harbor Church here in Costa Mesa, California. They are a mega-church who have stepped into this journey after much deliberation, prayer and reflection. They are launching their fourth site next month. All their sites are doing fremarkably well - but it has been massively costly in time, effort, team work, finances, labor, and clear leadership. They are doing it because God has spoken and for that reason alone.

The second prophetic piece is: "What is the end picture?". The sheer excitement, growth and mobilizing of the people is not enough. These are all wonderful pieces but what is the prophetic outcome going to be? What is the end game? As multi-site is not in the bible per se, it is scaffolding towards another building. What does that building look like?

With the privilege of being part of a church planting movement in the 70's that imploded, then part of one from the 80's till mid-2000's that fragmented, I think these are some of the pending conversations and consequences:
  • Glorious Multiplication - as with a family, muli-siting incubates these sites that will "grow up and leave home". They will get strong, get their own identity and get established as their own autonomous, independent churches, with fatherly blessing and endorsement,
  • One Generational - if it is built around one key personality, it will have a one generational life. When that person dies, he must either set in a clear exit strategy ahead of time of all communities becoming local churches or there could well be sibling rivalry that will implode the movement,
  • Branding Unity - please be student of history. Every movement / denomination starts with an organic bunch of radical Jesus lovers who set out to change their world with hard core conviction. Soon the real need for shape and form begins to enter their world. By the second /third generation, the system is perceived to be defended at all cost and branding has become the glue that holds all together and not the radical gospel that so changed all their lives. This is a 'must do' conversation ahead of time,
  • Rebellious Visionaries - Is there room for the maverick, city shaking visionary, who may start out as a loyal, multi-site pioneer. However, soon enough, the juices of leadership begin to grab at his gift of leadership. The prophetic whispers of calling and shepherding begin to shout louder than loyalty to the status quo. What happens then? Is he seen as a rebel that must be removed from office or celebrated and released with his community, as son who has become a father?
  • New Denominations - Simply put many of the current multi-sites are tomorrows denominations. For some that is viewed with delight and a sense of celebration [I am currently reading a book on the founding of the Assemblies of God - that is how denoms evolve]. If that is your passion, then celebrate you must. If that is not, then faith must keep driving your soul but this time with the theology of biblical multiplication in mind. One form getting bigger is therefore never the goal. Rather, there is a celebration of setting the many on their journey rather than trying to keep everyone in your own cul-de-sac.
  • Gospel Expansion - the goal of multi-siting must surely be the gospel. If any other motivation really drives us [like fame, popularity, self promotion, community franchising] it will have a very short life and will devastate many. This must be a gospel vehicle more that an ecclesiological experiment. If the gospel keeps compelling us, there will be wineskin flexibility, changing as the gospel requires it. If not, the wineskin will become the goal and changing it will be heretical. Jesus is the big story. Actually, Jesus is the only story.
Let the prophets speak. We do need their voice at this time. Not prophesying what we want to hear, but what will the consequences of this action be...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


"God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Increase, multiply and fill the earth.'" Gen 1:28

Whenever I engage in any new study, I go back to the garden. The first three chapters of Genesis are a wondrous wonderland of truth that reveals the original divine intention. It gives us these great kodak moments that show us what God desired before the fall. The great "before the beginning" trinitarian dance of full unity yet celebrating diversity, opens our eyes to many deep conversations, especially when the topic of conversation is ecclesiological entrepreneurialship.

The revelation of this text is the heart of God in a perfect world is fully apostolic. The garden was never a destination but a point of departure. That was where 'increase' would start, but from which the "earth was to be filled".

"Increase" happens when we get married and have kids. "Multiplication" happens when our kids leave home, get married and have kids. "Fill the earth" is when we deposit into our kids a massive apostolic story, whereby they believe they can play a role in changing the world, giving themselves to a journey that traverses the nations.

"Increase" happens when we grow our churches, one person at a time. "Multiplication" happens when we church plant or multi-site. "Fill the earth" occurs when we embrace the apostolic heart of God and present to the church a large apostolic story that they feel they can impact the world by being part of a larger story than simply their community.

When one traces the redemption story through the scriptures, there is a quiet traveling companion that reflects these three ingredients. The progression of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob then the boys, reveal a similar story. Looking at Jesus and the eleven, again these three ingredients are passionately revealed after three years - Jesus "increases" his ministry to the eleven [not to one], they in turn "multiply" their ministry and through this call, they "fill the earth" - not through one movement or organization, but through many.

What heart of man, brings God's heart much joy in this multi-siting conversation? May I be as bold as to suggest:
  • Creative Entrepreneur - God is introduced as a creator. I suspect he loves entrepreneurs who explore and expand the boundaries of kingdom activities. It requires risk and risk requires faith. This delights him,
  • Apostolic Leader - the garden always reminds us that God's intention was to "fill the earth". A leader who engages in this big picture brings a smile to heaven,
  • Gospel Exploration - when the gospel truly captures our heart, we simply cannot keep it to ourselves. There is something inside of us that demands retelling, to ever new contexts and spaces,
  • Leadership Gifting - ministry has a very real possibility to take the person with a leadership gift and make a manager out of them, sucking life out of them. We cannot "hide our light under a bushel,"losing that Spirit empowered grace manifestation with the deathly repetition of daily ritual. The gift of leadership is a grace from the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, and we must find ways to express it,
  • City Transformation - in our journey, we became so comfortable with the 'disciple the nations' priority that we forgot our Jerusalem. Multi-siting has been an act of divine mercy to remind us that the city we minister in is still uppermost in his mind. Not that we are to go it alone, but we are to give it much greater attention,
  • Cultural Reality - in Acts 2, we are told that: "we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God" vs 11. Whist this does talk of tongues, it also tells us that everyone has the right to hear the gospel in their own tongue. This architecture now empowers us toward that goal,
  • Ecclesiological Flexibility - the notion that there is one model or pattern may be ecclesiological arrogance or ignorance. The village in Africa will never have the same shape and form that the kingdom community has in Manhattan. That is also true in our cities when we wrestle with demography, economics, travel distances and other cultural / contextual realities. We simply cannot do everything at one place, at one time, in one language...
  • Empowered Priesthood - a healthy church will grow. The larger the church, often the more unhealthy she becomes. By percentage, fewer people are active in ministry relying more and more on the few stud celebrities. Multi-siting mobilizes the priesthood without losing the momentum of growth that a healthy church produces.
I believe in multi-siting. It may just require some weighty and deep conversations before the journey is embarked upon. We will go back to the future tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Multi-siting: Menace or Mission.

All around the world there is a rumble as the large "caterpillars of the kingdom" [massive earthmoving equipment of the eternal] are engaged in new apostolic architecture. The soil of old ways are giving way to the excitement of fresh design, inspired leadership, activated believers and catalytic conversations of city transformation. But how do we know if this is the Father inspired? How do we know if this is not just the inspiration of a few good men and not the sketches of the original creator?

Whenever, we are facing a new situation, how do we respond? Obviously we cannot simply say: "we have never done it this way before". That little line has left many great God ideas on the trash heap of territorial defenses.

What is our yardstick of rightness? Here are 4 yardsticks that have helped us over years:
  • Scripture - what does God have to say about it in the text?
  • Prophecy - what have the prophets been talking about?
  • History - we have to let church history be an ally. Unfortunately we are not students enough of history, so we tend to repeat it,
  • Philosophy - what are the DNA distinctives that define our story, God given values? Does multi — siting deepen these essentials or water them down?
At the outset, I am often asked what I think of this new phenomenon. I am absolutely persuaded that the Father is revealing something of his own heart to us architecturally. This is not the first time this kind of form has found its way into the church, even in modern times. However I do, briefly, want to express my concern as to the motivation that some are engaging this new story with:
  • Celebrity-ism - that once again the need to have a king is raging in the paddock, the danger of building around one personality raises many legitimate concerns,
  • Imperialism - it is hard to resist the temptation to increase our sphere of influence more, to stake our claim in new suburbs, cities and boroughs,
  • Terrorism - the terror of being left behind, that others will grow quicker than us, get into our space,
  • Territorialism - in our quest to protect our perceived boundaries, we do this multi-site thing as a form of 'border patrol', [we just won't say it that way],
  • Jones-ism - "keeping up with the Jones", well everyone else is doing it so we had better do it to,
  • Evolutionism - where there is no real concern about the smaller churches, even if we empty them of their people, let the 'fittest' survive,
  • Isolationism - whereby we are the best show in town, offer the best product & program therefore we do not need others, we are our own entity.
These are a few motivations that require honest, humble reflection and repentance. I am a believer in multi-siting. I love its entrepreneurial opportunities but we will all face the fire test where God puts our labor to the flame. If our motives are really self - idolatrous, then it will not stand the divine fire test. It may take a few years but it will all come tumbling down. It becomes idolatrous when we speak of the new communities / sites more than Jesus, the new doors more than the gospel and the numbers more than the trinity. Then I suspect it is time for some raw honesty.

Genesis Collective - Defined

Genesis Collective: draws its name from two primary texts. From Gen 1:28 we draw on the divine original intent that God created man to “increase, multiply, fill the earth…”- the heart of apostolic Christianity. Secondly, Eph 4 shows a collective of E4 leaders receiving the ascension gifts of Christ to walk alongside churches empowering them on their story.

Genesis Collective is:

An E4 collaboration of friends who seek to -

  1. Forge apostolic architecture in transforming large churches into missional movements around the gospel,
  2. Catalyze emerging leaders and communities into gospel centered church planting / replanting,
  3. Intentional fashioning of Jesus followers into missional, gospel-inspired leaders.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Prophet's Call - Tough

" I have put my words in your mouth. See I have set you this day over nations & over kingdoms, to pluck up & to break down, to destroy & to over throw, to build & to plant." Jer 1:10

These few verses reflect some of the greatest pain for the prophets. Even the youngest and most immature prophet has the eyes of insight without always having the words of instruction to communicate this clearly.
Most prophets 'see'. "What do you see Jeremiah?" Jer 1:11. Whether it is by dreams, visions, words of knowledge, insight, gift of the discerning of spirits, prophets see. What do they see? From what my friends tell me, like a movie unfolding before them, they can see both the faults and flaws of the individual or the context and often see the Father's required response.

Can you imagine how difficult that must be? Obviously they are never given the whole picture,[ that is why we operate with other gifts as well], but what they see is so clear, so obvious, so simple that they are astounded that others don't see it as clearly as they see it. Prophets are rarely politically correct, and never for long, they are destined for collision with the status quo. Of course one may periodically have a wounded prophet is so fashioned by their pain that they cause conflict without empathy. But they never start out that way.

It is so important for us to spend some time considering why God has prophets in his arsenal. By listening to prophets and their very challenging gifts we can begin to offer them grace and in turn get a very powerful ally in the movements and God moments that every body of believers need. Let them speak. Let them explain what they see and we will be far healthier because of it.

Many churches and apo movements are now some 30 years down the road. The more institutional and systematized we become, the less we want the prophets. Their ingrained fear of the constrictions that "the model" produces, the less we want to hear their voice for we know that they will be voices of radical change. But they are our key to redemption. They are the ones we need to listen too. They see the end from the beginning. They understand where this will all end up.

That is why they will do so much "pulling down" before they get to the "building and planting". The old scaffolding that we used in the previous chapter, they will help us tear it down. The old mindsets that have replaced the spacious, spontaneous Spirit led life of a young movement, have to be torn down. The "theology" that so wondrously fashioned the last days will be confronted as the Father has us on a fast track of "the full counsel of the word of God", so the past emphasis will be adjusted. This is rarely met by applause by the status quo leaders. The leadership style that was so effective in phase one of the movement, now has to change to adjust to the new day...

I hope I have been helpful in these few blogs. My desire has been to honor this most poetic of gifts. They are so needed in these days of massive transition. As I am not a prophet, I cannot presume to be reading them correctly, so my desire is to bring their story to the spotlight of collaborative conversations. Be that as the gift of prophecy operates at the local level or as the office of the prophet at all its levels. Lets engage together. We certainly need this most weighty of gifts.

Friday, September 23, 2011

When Jesus is not at the center -

From my friend Nick Davis ; a summary of thoughts by Os Guinness -

Os Guinness poses that where Christ is not the central gaze, church leaders and ministers become one of the following:

  1. Pundit – the one for whom everything can be known; everything can be pronounced on, centred professionally on the importance of information. Knowledge is more powerful than Christ’s Humility.
  2. Engineer – the one for whom everything can be designed, everything can be produced, centred professionally on production. Production and administration are more important than Christ’s Love.
  3. Marketer – the one for whom everything can be positioned, everything can be sold, centred professionally on consumer satisfaction. Impact is more important than Christ’s Truth.
  4. Consultant – everything can be better organized, everything can be better delivered, centred professionally on management. Efficiency and workflow are more important than Christ’s Life.
  5. Therapist – everything can be gotten in touch with, everything can be adjusted or healed, centred professionally on healing. Human need is more important than Christ’s Mission.
  6. Impresario – everything can be conveyed to advantage through the presentation of images regardless of any reality, centred professionally on public relations. Sensation and Corporate Experience are more important than Imitating Christ.

Guinness states that these pathologies arise as a result of “church growth’s uncritical engagement with modernity”. In other words, the focus is on audience and church growth, no matter how rousing and noble the public ministry appears. “Sovereign Audience” has eclipsed “Sovereign Word” (“Dining with the Devil”, pp 69-70).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Prince has fallen

I received the second most dreaded call on Sunday. The first is someone close has died. The second is someone close has fallen. The absolute shock and disbelief flooded my mind as a distraught wife accounted the story that had just unfolded.

This is a most traumatic of stories. A son, a Jesus lover, a prince in our world had stumbled. Why? Noone can know for sure. Even speculating cannot be helpful as we simply do not know. We know the enemy is on the prowl - if he can't get us in our weakness, he will go after our strengths.

We know that ministry carries massive emotional expenditure, so we need to have dear friends around us who will speak honestly to us when they see the signs of wear and tear beginning to show - and we need to be humble enough to listen to them.

But this blog is not about possible causes and consequences. It is about respect, honor and love. Our dear friends need our highest value response. They need us to say little and pray much. They need our highest hopes, greatest faith, largest forgiveness, whilst we honor their privacy and space to take the needed steps forward.

We must say little. Knowing some of the details, I have been deeply disappointed by the misinformation that is swirling around. Please dear reader, say little. A prince has fallen, his wife is finding Jesus in the most traumatic of times, his kids are confused and hurting deeply. Now is the time to show true brotherhood, sisterhood, communitas. This needs to be Christian Community at her best. Our speech needs to be laden with hope and comments limited to what builds faith. Details are not important now. Please do not be inquisitive to create an information feeding frenzy - much of which is incorrect anyway. Rather let it be a time of "information humility" - I choose to hold my info and thoughts. God will bring all things to the light in His time.

A Prince has fallen. A wife is finding Jesus. Kids are hurting - please let this be our finest hour as we uphold them in our arms of prayer.

A Prophet's Call - Excuses

"I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth" Jer 1:6

I am not sure there is a deeper spiritual wrestle than a prophet with their gift.

Rarely is there an experienced prophet who has journeyed over many years, who responds like Isaiah did - when the Lord said 'whom shall I send... here am I send me."

Jeremiah seeks to distance himself from the stirrings of the prophets mantle that the Father is putting on him. His excuse was : Cant speak... too young. Moses tried the they won't listen, cant speak, have no eloquence, no miracles...

A true prophet of weighty gifting is a very reluctant prophesier. Unlike the word brought by a teacher, who does their study, their prep and then can deliver it with some passion, the prophet carries it differently. They get the seed of a word. The true prophet rarely simply gives it. This seed then incubates inside of them, Not dissimilar to pregnancy. They mull, meditate and muscle with it, often for months before they deliver it. When they feel like the word has come full term and the time is 'now', the waters break. As with giving birth, it is rarely quiet and sweet.

We non-prophets expect the delivery to be pleasant and acceptable - but it is like saying to a mother - 'please deliver your baby quietly, without screaming, sweating and passion. We do not want to embarrass the visitor...' The mother will probably look at you, cuss you out or slap your raw foolishness. No husband will ever say that to his wife in the delivery room... his life will be in danger.

I am obviously not condoning prophetic silliness nor excess. What I am trying to do is bring greater clarity between leaders and prophets. It may well be that there are more 'prophets and teachers moments'; 'apostles and prophets convos'; 'prophets with prophets gatherings' I am not sure but I am absolutely persuaded that the church dearly needs prophets.

We need their eyes and ears [1 Cor 12]. We need them to reveal the heart of the Father to us as we tend to drift toward mediocrity and compromise way too quickly. We need them to blow the wells of God life that get blocked up by sin, distraction, confusion, legalism all too quickly. We need them to point us to places beyond the horizon, beyond the rainbows of empty promises but into the spaces of divine inheritance. We need them to keep our hearts ever tender, soft and worship laden.

Their excuses are often to protect them from us - the very people who dearly need them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Prophet's Call - Set Apart

"Before you were born I consecrated you, I appointed you a prophet to the nations..." Jer 1:5b.

These are massive words. The prophet knows! I am yet to meet a true prophet who does not know that they are one. The prophet awareness often does not start somewhere in year 10 of their spiritual journey. Many would say that, looking back, there were some of these stirrings in place even before they officially came to faith. They may have struggled to make sense of them, but this is a gifting that was seeded in them even before they were born.

The prophet knows! They may not want their gift, like their gift or even operate in their gift, but they know that they have this gift.

The prophet knows! We are not talking about being prophetic, the spirit of prophecy or the grace manifestation of prophecy of 1 Cor 12 that many may step into from time to time. I am taking about the full "doma" of prophecy - the Jesus ascension gift [its all about him isn't it?]

The challenge that begins to emerge, is that these prophets find it very difficult to work with or supposedly be accountable to some who are uncertain about their gifting, unclear about their calling and mediocre in their journey. They are often told to be accountable to their elders [of the local church] but they find this extremely difficult. As believers , ordinary men and women, these prophets have a very good God gift in local community and its leadership, where they are accountable for who they are as people, to leaders who see them on a daily basis.

However, as far as the gift goes, I am not sure that the local elders / pastors are the correct biblically empowered leaders who can or should provide prophet partnerships. In older models, elders tend to be business types who are concerned with the business affairs of the church or pastors who are more concerned with the peace of the sheep than with the "now word" from heaven. True pastors will recognize the weight of this gift, will provide a safe shepherding enviroment for their wrestles, will love them deeply, and pray with and for them often, caring, trusting, encouraging them consistently.

Scripture seems to offer this matrix for prophetic co-journeys:
  • Prophets and apostles journey together, each needing the other - Eph 2:20, Acts 11:27 - 30,
  • Prophets and Teachers - Acts 13:1 - 3,
  • Prophets with prophets - 1 Cor 14.
I hope this helps and does not confuse. We are wanting to learn from our mistakes so that the next generation of prophets, elders, pastors and apostles do not have to painfully learn the lessons that we can pass onto them easily.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Prophet's Call - DNA

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" Jer 1:5a

One of the most amazing things about prophets is that it is in every pore of their being. It is something that those around them don't always understand, and they themselves want to switch off.

Jeremiah is told that God knew him before his was formed in the womb. That little window is very powerful to get a glimpse into a number of prophet realities:
  • The prophet is formed in intimacy and thrives there,
  • The prophet begins to dry up when the community times are great in friendship, word and even good hymn singing but lack divine intimacy,
  • They simply cannot live without eternal intimacy,
  • Their whole DNA is wired to this end - the way they eat, sleep, think, see and feel even the way they relate to people, generally they are not able to cope with compromise or mediocrity - anything that reflects God poorly,
  • Their gift does not switch off as it is the central essence of their existence - they can do no other,
  • This level of intimacy knows the heart of the Father in a very deep and honest way - that is why they get into trouble sometimes because they speak the Father's heart [it may be in a very clumsy awkward even accusatory way] and it is rarely well received,
  • They grieve consistently because they can feel the Father's heart for the well being of the church...
I hope this conversation helps...

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Prophet's Call - the Word

"Now the word of the Lord came to me..." Jer 1:4

Recently I had meals with two prophets in about a twelve hour window of each other.
Well, I did not know that God had so much to say. Hardly anything that happened did not
have a "And the Lord spoke to me about..." in there. Sheesh, I felt quite awed by the number
of "God spoke" moments in our conversations.

I love prophets. They are so black and white, so persuaded that God speaks and they hear
him consistently, continuously and correctly. That is both inspiring as well as dangerous. We
know that none of us hear God perfectly all the time and even if we did, we only ever prophecy
in part, we hear in part and we understand in part.

Joseph believed he got the right interpretation of his dreams that he shared with such
pride, joy and naked ambition. May I suggest he missed the whole point? At the end of his life
if one was to ask him what the big 'google' picture was of his life, [did he still interpret the
dreams in the same way?]I think he would not have said that it was that his brothers bowed
down to him. Rather I suspect he would have said that the big picture / whole story of
his life was that he would always serve another man's story... first his dad, then Potiphar, then
the jailer, then the cupbearer, and then Pharoah. Joseph took a small part of the puzzle of his
life and made it the whole story with tragic consequences. Prophets are passionate to hear God
speak, but they must be reminded he never gives one person the whole story.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Prophet's friend's longing...

I am not a prophet. So why write a blog series about prophets? There is something very beautiful about those who reside in the Father's presence. The radiance that emanated from Moses' face when he had been with the Father, was striking. Of all the gifts that Moses may have commented on it was only of this one that he said: "I would that all God's people would prophecy".

The prophets transcend both Old and New Covenants, with various roles and contributions throughout the scriptures. I guess that means it is a gift that the church simply cannot live without.

Yet prophets limp so often as they feel their gift is not celebrated, honored and validated. While pastors and other leaders have had such bad experiences with real or pseudo prophets that the only true victor in this story is the enemy who loves to silence the prophet — at all costs!

I think there is a way forward. Through the width of the prophetic journey, we can with humility and honor find a God solution... here is my longing:

  • To see prophets spoken of with love, honor and gratitude,
  • To rediscover the collaborative partnership between apostles and prophets — they really do need each other,
  • To see the office of the prophet given fresh conversation as to their New Testament "job description" and the role they play translocally into communities,
  • To find creative ways that can father / disciple / train up the emerging prophets, that they don't have to stumble and stutter their way forward as their forebears had to — what is the modern 'school of the prophets'?
  • To discover the right ways that they can be used as "impact players" to break open new contexts or to go in and blow open the wells of churches that have faltered and fallen in the heat of the battle,
  • To find ways forward to empower prophets to be released to be given to His presence and the courage to salary them to do just that,
  • To explore the way forward for prophets to be truly accountable with the words they bring — to make sure they are well weighed, they are revisited to see if they did happen, forums for correction where error occurs [but in a context of honor and celebration],
  • To be courageous enough to discipline a prophet if and when needed, so the sheep can truly feel secure with this great gift, knowing it can be trusted, for when it errs there are consequences,
  • To create forums where prophets and pastors can iron out their differences and see in each the value that they themselves do not carry - can we get rid of the suspicion that sometimes enters these relationships?
These are some of my reasons to reenter the conversation... maybe I am an incurable romantic but I naively believe this can happen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What I love about prophets...

I am not a prophet. By being surrounded by prophets — family and friends, for so many years, I have seen the inner room of divine incubation as they have wrestled with their God, their gift, their mandate, their personality. When we pull the trigger of criticism too quickly, we are forgetting some pretty key wars that surround these precious people. It is true to say, most prophets, I mean true, real salt of the earth prophets, would be ready to give up their gift for it is a very heavy burden to bear. It is not a mantle they carry lightly. It certainly does not give them much rest.

As I am writing this in the early LA morning, my heart does smile as so many of my prophet friends come to mind. This is what I love about them:
  • They absolutely love God - the glorious three person God whose mysterious first dance, before the beginning, has captured their heart,
  • They desperately love His bride — if they guard their heart against hurt and pain, the love that I have found in the soul of the prophet is profound. Their love is passionate and all consuming [Zeal for your house consumes me], kinda like table turning love,
  • They love their nation — most prophets hear the Father's groans about a nation slipping from her divine tracks and inheritance. Their love is often less sentimental and patriotic and more divine and eternal,
  • They love the word — it may not be all of the word in that they tend to lean towards the texts that bring clarity to their journey, but the good ones are big word lovers for sure,
  • They speak to see change — there is an inability in them to simply placate the pleasant. They can see the change needed, so it is not conceptual or philosophic — they can see it [what do you see Jeremiah?] and therefore declare it,
  • They are soul stirred to open up the blocked wells — where the life of God has been stifled. The sheer joy on their faces when they see folks flowing in true, pure and fresh God life is a delight to behold,
  • They love working in team - OK all you grumpies who have had some bad experiences with prophets, listen for a moment... when Paul and Barnabas got going in Antioch the prophets came down from Jerusalem - they want to gig with apostles, I think it is in their pre-pain DNA. Together apostles and prophets lay foundations [Eph 2:20] and prophets and teachers are found collaborating in Acts 13 - they do want to team together,
  • They are the best hope the church has from getting stuck in the mud of systems, principles and bureaucratic "the law" thinking — they need to be celebrated...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Making too little of Prophets?

I am a bible guy. Both in theological content [I am on a quest to know him and be known by him], as well in the architectural artistry of the divine designer, the scripture is beautiful in its creative revelation. There is a tendency by the church community to either live comfortably with modern expressions of form and shape more than with the textual design. Then of course there are those who carry the design like a badge of honor as self proclaimed, self promoted deliverers who view their gift as a divine right. and to be obeyed at all costs.

Can we enter a conversation on one of the most gracious gifts from the Father, when he gave us "prophets"? I am not adding the great disclaimer "-ic" as we do not want to simply speak of being 'prophetic' although that is certainly a most worthy conversational piece.

The subject of "prophets" is charged with dynamite. The vociferous protagonists who share their view that the prophet's voice ended at the end of the so-called "Apostolic Era," I am not sure we can truly engage meaningfully after we both communicate our differences, I guess we can have coffee together and talk about football.

The other extreme is equally challenging. Many prophets have such bruised souls, that they have retreated into their own reality — a world where God speaks to them endlessly and their hearing is the only one that can be trusted. This is a very dangerous world.

However, when John Wimber spoke of the "Quest for the Radical Middle," there was no element of compromise or reductionism. I suspect he simply wanted to re-empower the world with the wondrous reality of a super — natural collaboration that is not weird, damaged or excessive. I would love to see us celebrate the return of the office of the prophet — taking their rightful place in the plethora of other gifts and offices. To see the celebration of these offices, each honoring and appreciating the value of the other, is a dream that resides in my heart.

With no axe to grind, nor agenda to promote, I believe that the Father gave the church [his bride] all these gifts [not most or some of them] to ready her for this journey of faith. It requires true humility to say: "I have need of you". And then of course the scripture records the Father's heart by saying: "For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret [ plan-NIV] to his servants the prophets" Amos 3:7 ESV. If that is true, then maybe it is time to listen a little.

I would love to hear your story...

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Chapters

The Father is writing a glorious redemptive story. One chapter at a time. One

evolving moment at a time. As with the big meta-narrative, so with our lives. The Father

has been fastidious with the story of our lives. We are not the Darwinian products of random

chance plus miracle, in disconnected fragmented moments. Rather, we are the

wondrous players in a divine adventure, one chapter at a time.

Holding that each chapter has the full four seasons experienced, it is so sweet to see

the flow of the God life, as He sets out fulfilling his story in us - seeking to complete our

mandate as well as bring us to maturity.

So each chapter seems to have these ingredients:

1. New theology - God will reveal more of himself in each new chapter. It is so good to

find out what that is early in the chapter, not forgetting what he revealed to us before,

2. New faith - God is always loving to see our faith both current and fresh, ever growing -

that brings him so much joy - we can trust him,

3. New roles - that is so difficult. We do tend to attach so much punch to the identity /

roles we carried in the last chapter - especially if it was a very good strong, robust

time. Every new chapter does tend to change our roles. That tends to be very

vulnerable and uncertain, but it is the way of the Lord,

4. New financial trust - every chapter will have a new financial faith quotient. We often

desire that part to be of our story is now over - namely, we have learnt the lesson,

now we live in financial security, without challenge. This is simply not so.

5. New relationships - we certainly carry many of our relationships over from

yesterday's moments. However it seems like the scripture tends to indicate the

delight of new relationships in every new day.

6. New partnerships - there certainly is more to this Christian journey than only

engagement around the last chapter's collaborations. That is how denominations are

formed. The kingdom advances with new partnerships with each chapter... Here

loyalty and sentiment are volatile foes of the kingdom

Hope this helps... we have been there a few times. They are exciting but vulnerable times.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

C2C in Oct

Hey all

It is so good to be home. A very fruitful trip but looking forward to this next spiritual semester. Being away has delayed some q's about C2C. Here is one of the questions:

Someone asked me who would benefit from the C2C convo we are having in Oct at Rock Harbor here in Orange County...

Given the interactory nature of the time together, I suspect it will be very helpful for:

1. The lead pastor - the ministry will be very empowering for captaincy and collaboration,

2. The elders - who, in team, will be wrestling with the primary matters that do lie before us,

3. Those planters - who are either new to the journey or who are wanting this journey, getting them there will be very helpful [including their wives],

4. The worship catalysts - we will have a number of worshippers lead, which will provide some width in the area where the ancient and the prophetic meet,

5. The kingdom entrepreneur - who blurs the lines between church and the marketplace seeking to empower both.

Hope this helps...

Don't forget to get your team registered

Muchos gracias

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Making too much of Elders?

It is wonderful to be back home here in LA. I was saying to the Father this morning that I was so thankful to spend the last 3 months seeing what he was doing around the world... I return to LA with such encouragement but wanting to see so much more happen here in our "Jerusalem". Here, we are still way too impressed with book sellers, conference speakers and leaders of large churches. It is so difficult to break from the celebrity minded church world to truly celebrate the stories of the great warriors of the kingdom, who will never get those accolades down here but will have great rewards in heaven.

A thought. The evangelicals has fought so long and hard to establish the true and wondrous biblical integrity of elder led churches. I will always be so grateful for those who labor with little reward, to return the church to her textual integrity. Being a bible lover, both in theological content as well as in ecclesiological shape, I do tend to get a little tender when we dismiss clear biblical shape for modern architecture - it will not last, at best being a one generational story of effect.

A thought developed. Have we now stopped our humble conversation around this matter and forgotten to keep learning? In many elder led churches around the world, I see them getting exhausted which is matched by the congregation getting frustrated for all that can happen has to be through the elders exclusively - very difficult if the E team have become the narrow part of the hour glass...

A thought expanded. Going back to the early church as seen in the book of Acts, what do we do with some of these case studies -

  • Acts 6 - the matter of the Hellenist and Hebrew widow conflict was resolved by the new layer of leaders we believe to have been 'deacons' - this valid role was not one the elders were to give themselves to - the result - the word of God continued to increase...
  • Acts 13 - the role of prophets and teachers was weighty and specific. There was no evidence that they were elders, yet they were task specific, empowered to fulfill this mandate as they worshipped, fasted and prayed, they sent Paul and Barnabas on assignment - no elders were seemingly involved...
  • Acts 15 - is the great theological debate. The apostles bring the key voices to the Jerusalem base for resolution. Those involved were "the apostles and the elders and the whole church" [vs 22]. The picture presented here is a most inspiring one of collaboration of apostles [the E4 gifts], the elders [the E team] and the whole church [the priesthood], not just the elders behind closed doors...
  • Acts 18 - keeps ever before us the role of marketplace voices, in this case folks who never seemingly hold a specific position of leadership in the church but are pivotal in the entrepreneurial conversation - here helping start the Corinthian church. Their eyes, ears and voices are so key to keeping the church sharp and moving forward...
Busy pastors simply become professional managers - managing moments, money, manpower and methods. This rends to deplete them and slowly grind the church to a desperate stumble. Can it be that we have to rethink this role and rethink who we bring into which conversations in our evolving church growth. Where and how in our churches, are our prophets celebrated? Where are those with the gifts of leadership and administration empowered? Where are those with marketplace lenses heard and legitimized? We simply must get the right people in the room for the right conversations or the elders will be over valued and over extended.

Just thinking...