Friday, March 30, 2012

The brook detour...

Thanks for your grace in my silence. I have had a very fruitful time in North Carolina with some remarkable men and women. It is amazing how deep one can love men, when there has been such a history of a shared journey together.

I was reading through 1 Kings last week when something caught my eye. In both chapters 17 and 18, Elijah stands before the king. Well in and of itself that is not really that remarkable. True prophets will find themselves standing before rulers and those in authority over them. So my eyes then jumped to the texts between these two appearances. What happened between the two confrontations? What more did God have to do with Elijah? That led to quite an 'aha' moment.

God gave Elijah a 'brook detour'.

The rest of the chapter sees the prophet on a very specific divine journey. God had some deep work to do in him - and that is so often necessary before a larger faith assignment. We hate the God direction to isolation and a sense that we are being forgotten and left behind. God calls Elijah from a pretty cool prophecy moment when the heavens dry up. There is no time for him to be impressed with himself. Preparation for the next faith project is at hand.

Firstly God sends him to a brook. "Far from the maddening crowd" God will show him, as with Abraham, God will provide, 'he is my very great reward'. All too easily we begin to believe our last miracle... sell our podcast, write our book, move our DVD. But the Father says 'No. I have more to teach you - not in a classroom, but in a life or death situation.' I will teach you that I will take care of you. I love the fact that the food was brought by a raven. Wouldn't an eagle have been more cool? A raven? Not so much.

Secondly, God sends him to the widow at Zarephath. Its like, you have passed elementary school of faith -"I have provided for you. Now I will show you my provision for more than your needs". My how hard the 'widow assignments' are. After having to call a famine on the land, it is a little of a let down to go and serve a widow. That is certainly not the promotion in the marketplace. Before a large assignment dear friends, God will always send us on a very humbling chapter - it reveals his love for the disenfranchised and exposes our humility - real or imagined.

Thirdly, we get falsely blamed for something we did not do [the reason for the son's death]. This really hurts, especially when we are simply serving them. But the Father has to teach us about miracles through tenacious faith. Elijah had to pray three times [don't you love the old fashioned way of saying 'thrice'? It sounds quite spiritual actually]. He had to literally lay himself on a dead corpse such was his conviction that God would heal the boy. Biblical conviction will outweigh personal awkwardness and embarrassment. The boy lives - now Elijah is ready for the next assignment...

Dear friend, do not fear the isolation, for God does reveal himself to us that he can only do in the wilderness - ask Jesus himself. We will get sent on a fairly innocuous assignment, yet a most necessary, humble one. I do wonder if Philip knew that he was pulled from the revival in Samaria to speak to a eunuch on a dusty road. Mmmm. It does make you think. And then there is that miracle moment that only God can explain - but one we have to believe in and fight for.

The brook detour... we just can't live without it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Movement Dynamics - from Tim Keller

Movement Dynamics by Tim Keller

JANUARY 7, 2010

The Global Cities Initiative Conference took place in New York City on September 9 – 11, 2009. Over 80 cities were represented by ministry leaders and church planters. Tim Keller gave three plenary addresses at GCI. Go here for info.

September 9th – “Gospel Renewal”

September 10th – “City Focus”

September 11th – “Movements & Ecosystems”

His discussion of movement dynamics, with the following characteristics: [summary by Jay Lorenzen: Campus Crusade for Christ]

  1. Unified vision and beliefs,
  2. Cooperation and catholicity of spirit,
  3. Sacrificial commitment,
  4. Spontaneity and creativity.

Below is a summary of his points as Tim compared a movement with an institution. Let me suggest that you discuss these “dynamics” with your missional teams and help move your ministry to a movement and keep it from becoming an institution.


Oneness from common vision and beliefs: A movement is driven by a clear vision for a particular future reality, based on common beliefs.

Marks of a movement

1. Organized around a common vision for the future.

2. All leaders and key players share same goals.

3. Forward movement through arriving at consensus or near consensus on next stage in reaching the vision.

Marks of an institution

1. Organized around by-laws and ground rules.

2. Each leader/department presses for own differing agenda.

3. Forward movement through negotiated compromises to form agreed upon ‘strategy.’


Emphasis on cooperation across lines: A movement is peopled by workers who put the vision ahead of other differences and learn from and work with people of other preferences, temperaments, and secondary beliefs.

Marks of a movement

4. Leaders have high tolerance for ambiguity and organizational “messiness”; what matters is the cause and vision. Result: lots of cooperation with those outside your organization who share the primary beliefs and vision.

5. Responsibilities of leaders overlap; everyone ‘owns’ the overall organization’s health; result is much cooperation within. Emphasis on ‘roles’ – who you are in the movement. Structure looks more ‘flat’ and like a network of teams.

Marks of an institution

4. Leaders have high need for clarity and compliance; what matters is proper procedure. Result: little cooperation with those who don’t share secondary and tertiary beliefs.

5.“Silo”and turf consciousness; the result is contentiousness. Emphasis on ‘tasks’-what you do in the organization. Structure is more ‘top-down’ like a pyramid of individuals


Devotion to God’s kingdom over self or tribe: A movement is peopled by workers who put the vision ahead of their own interests and needs.

Marks of a movement

6. Great sacrifice is tolerated: low pay, long hours, poor conditions. Leaders need less approval and encouragement; self-starters.

7. High level of trust. Less need for accreditation and close supervision.

Marks of an institution

6. Individual needs more important than progress of the whole. Workers need rewards, much accountability from top.

7. Little trust. Constant meetings. time-consuming reporting, long approval processes.


Spontaneous growth without top-down command: A movement constantly generates new ideas, new leaders, and new initiatives across itself—not solely from the top or from a command center outside of it.

Marks of a movement

8. Movement spreads through recruitment from relationship networks. Organic growth through friends’ enthusiasm and an appeal to sacrificial commitment.

9. New ideas are solicited and incorporated quickly. Lots of openness to creativity; freedom to try and fail. Leaders give workers more support than control.

10. Relationships strong; much “off-line” thinking occurs through friendships. Leaders naturally attract and ‘train’ new leaders through relationships.

Marks of an institution

8. Organization grows through formal processes of communication and “sales” appealing to individuals’ self-interest.

9. Innovation is seen as threatening if not coming from top. Great fear of any failure. Leaders keep tight control, give little support.

10. Few friendships; little happens outside of meetings. New leaders have to be recruited through formal processes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Gracious Marriage

Eph 5:18 - 33

These are my notes from a co-teach Meryl and I are doing with pastors and wives today. The notes may be a little sketchy, but I hope you can make head or tail of them. I have been fascinated by this text as it is read and applied through the eyes of the gospel - how to live in a grace-filled marriage. Meryl is doing the ladies stories. Here are my notes:

Husbands - Very clear, specific Spirit focus so that there is no ambiguity as to who he is addressing and what their response is to be.

Love - this is not to be determined by personality, prejudice, culture or age. This is to reflect all the forms of love found in the scriptures - phileos [Friendship], agape [unconditional fellowship love - treat her as you do the 'sisters' in the church and then better still], storge [fondness through familiarity / family style], eros [romantic, emotional connection]- this is supernatural! Every man [pastor] is to offer this width of love to his wife - all 4 components that C.S Lewis spoke of

Your wife - this is a clear call to be a “one-eyed man”, where she is the measure of all beauty, chosen by God for collaboration, borrowed but to return as his daughter.

All the following components are linked with the husband’s leadership. Now the ministry has many uniquenesses that we spoke about last month. Let me recap on a few:

  • Living in the pain and privilege of the public life - it is not a curse, but you cannot let it rule you,
  • Living without clear work & home - friendship & function lines - it is imperative that the husband provides clear intentionality or the blurring of the lines will create conflict in the home,
  • Living with the joy of emotional expenditure yet ensuring that I do not get to empty, as my family do have the right to expect me to be a resource to them,
  • Living free - not allowing the family to accrue hurts, wounds, disappointments, people leaving / criticizing / being insensitive
  • Living within our ‘faith means’ - not within our 'budget means', our leadership is essential to lead our family in our budgetary journey - and it must be a faith journey

As Christ loved the church - he is the measure of this love [in the same way] - so how did the incarnate Christ love the church? It is only possible to love your wives this way if we are ongoingly, continuously, filled with the great empowerer...

  • Be filled with the Spirit Eph 5:18 vs drunken debauchery... we get refreshed in beauty, not illicit sensuality,
  • Walk in the Spirit Gal 5:16 vs desires of the flesh [cant get married for the flesh]sexual immorality, impurity...
  • Led by the Spirit - vs vs led by the law [everything is not always right or wrong; good or bad; black or white...we do need to find the discerning wisdom to be Spirit led and not always default to the letter of the law - like Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery]
  • Fruit of the Spirit - vs governance of the flesh - being dictated to by these emotions, but rather letting the Spirit be our guide and fruit producer,
  • Live by the Spirit vs not conceited, provoking, envying...[where some marriages dwell]

he gave himself up for her - he was the giver of grace!

  • Undeserved mercy 1 Cor 15:10 - I am who I am by the grace of God
  • Unmerited favor [approval, acceptance, special blessing]Rom 5:15
  • Free character of grace Rom 3:21 - 26, Eph 2:8 - 9,
  • Distinguished from the law Gal 3:1 - 14
  • Cause thanksgiving... do not lose heart 2 Cor 4:14
  • No to ungodliness Tit 2:11 - 14
  • My grace is sufficient for you - 2 Cor 12:7 - 10
  • To each grace is apportioned - divine empowerment 1 Cor 12 Rocognize, respect, their grace gifts

he might sanctify her - “appears to be the present process of making her holy in character and conduct by the power of the indwelling Spirit” John Stott

he might cleanse her - understanding as Peter said: “Like wise, husbands live your wive in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1Pet 3:7. When are they weaker? Roger Foster said when they “menstruate, gestate, lactate” - monthly cycle, pregnant, nursing... and that maternal instinct is also released if you build your church with the family in mind

he might present her - we will present our wives to their eternal groom... is their beauty more captivating, their perfume more intoxicating, their worship more exhilarating, their affection more liberating, their soul more purified

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies - now what did Jesus do with his body? From my vista, he took it to the cross - in his quest to bring liberty, salvation, redemption to all, he offered himself as a living sacrifice - our wives must have the sense that we are not just laying our life down for 'his bride' but for ours as well

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Missing Gospel Component

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come” Matt 24:15

I am so delighted God has brought the gospel back onto the center stage. The joy of the journey is the rich rediscovery of the beauty of this redemption narrative.

Amidst the wondrous truth package that is setting the captive free - [propitiation, expiation, redemption, atonement, justification, ransom, ...] comes a component that has fallen through the cracks.

This gospel has an 'uttermost' component to it. To fully get the impact of this gospel, is to ensure that it is not limited to individuals, communities or even cities. This gospel "will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations then the end will come".

I drive a Land Rover. Next to the gear stick is a button that identifies 5 different road conditions. When one drives on ice, in ruts, on hills, embankments or freeways the button will adjust the vehicle to cope with those conditions. Now as with many SUV drives, I have never taken my car off road [I did drive over the sidewalk once, but I am not sure that counts.] That means that I am only using 20 % of my "Landie's" potential. All the other 80% remains locked in the vehicle but my lack of engagement leaves it underutilized.

That is true for most believers and churches. There is a component to this gospel that only gets released when we apply the gospel in our own lives -the first 20% - driving on the freeway. Then there is a power that gets released when we apply the gospel in and through our local church, another 20%. Then when our faith stretches us to embrace our city as a point of gospel application, another 20%, so to our nation another 20% and then the final 20% to the uttermost.

Jesus promises power in this partnership. My prayer is that this missing gospel component gets rediscovered. Not by simply sending a few missionaries and hereby satisfying our gospel conscience, but embracing this call as a cornerstone in our community, seeking to get every believer involved at some level in this great story, this wondrous God adventure....

Monday, March 5, 2012

Call to the Nations

I got a late call up. Having returned from a very fruitful ministry time in the Middle East as well as London, I anticipated a free weekend when I got the text from my mate Proctor. It was Friday late afternoon and my weekend just took a very cool change of direction.

Rock Harbor church has been spending the last few months unpackaging the great story of God. I have loved the times I have been able to be part of the conversation - so when the call came to co-teach this weekend with him on the "Great Commission" from Matt 28, I was pretty stoked.

It gave me a most wonderful weekend to refleect on the many amazing heroes I know, who are 'discipling a nation' in a big or small way. These remarkable men and women will probably never have their story told in headlights nor have books written about them. They are ordinary people like you and me, who put up their hands as they wanted to belong to a bigger God story - an adventure that only God could provide.

I mean, there is the kiwi Tony who is passionate in his focus to refocus Nagaland in India. There is Sandy who has helped establish Jesus loving pre-schools in parts of the world where Jesus is simply not spoken of. Or do you know about Rob who has planted churches among the horsemen in Mongolia or Hennie who teaches army generals leadership through the scriptures in one of the most civil war destroyed countries in the world. An the list goes on and on and on - just remarkable men and women I love and respect so deeply.

But, can I ask, why has the call to the nations slowed down? Am I right? Well I think there are some very unhelpful reasons for this malaise:
  • The fragmentation of apostolic households have created uncertainty of love and partnership out there in the front lines,
  • The call to multi-siting has replaced the bigger conversation as many churches have become imperialistic in their quest for multiplied branding [I do believe in multi-siting - but it is a reason why few folks are responding to the call to the nations]
  • The international political uncertainty is not for the faint hearted. This so called 'Arab Spring' has toppled a number of secular Arab governments that have created social uncertainty for many,
  • The economic downturn world wide has reduced funds for bigger stories. Churches and believers have cut back on giving on many fronts. Unfortunately, the call to the nations does bow to the need for new buildings and more staff,
  • Many of the successful pastors are no longer relocating themselves. They are adopting more of a Petrine model of leadership - remaining in one church. The Pauline approach of establishing a beach head, then moving and doing it again, and again - is no longer a subject of primary conversation,
  • Nationalism has crept up the ladder of emphasis among leaders. Here in America, I do agonize, the call to the nations rarely is heard,
  • City transformation has captured the hearts of many. Of course that is a good thing. However Jesus simply did not give us an either... or - Jerusalem or the uttermost. He simply said and... and... and...
  • Insufficient courageous leaders who are calling believers to a large God adventure but will then walk with them in their simple obedience,
  • The missionary model keeps eliminating the call to foreign shores to the 'green beret' christians rather than seeing it as a mandate to all - businessmen and women, teachers, contractors, medical personnel....
Can we beat this drum again? Can we model the call again? Can we offer this next generation a big faith adventure that only God can fulfill? I hope so. I am hearing the call to re-engage Europe with the gospel. I am hearing the call to the Middle East. Who will join us?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The first four years

"In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid... And in the eleventh year... the house was finished in all its parts and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it." 1 Kings 6:37 - 38

These kinds of texts always capture my attention. Firstly, I suspect as it reflects M and my story. Secondly because it gives us a little guideline to building his church.

M and I are in the third leadership chapter of our ministry lives. From 1983 till 1996, we had the remarkable privilege of captaining the team that led Glenridge Church International in Durban South Africa. From the very motley crew of friends who found each other with a dream to build a beautiful church, we set out on a most wonderful adventure. It was a community raw in passion, diverse in personality and large in vision.

Then one day, in Hong Kong actually God spoke to M and me about handing this beautiful 'girl' over. Our task was done but the work was not yet complete. Amazing really - it took 15 years to build the temple. It had taken us around 14 years to set Glenridge on course and then our task was done. Under Rory and the team, the church blossomed, growing from around 1000 to 3000 planting many churches and casting a large gospel light over Durban and beyond.

The call to LA, USA was out of left field. We simply did not see it coming. In fact M and I thought we would relocate to the east. That was not to be. We were called to replant a church with a very fragile history. This was a very different experience. Leading her from 1996 till 2010, we labored hard with many wonderful friends to recapture this community's call to a multiplied future. Great years, hard years, many tears and much joy. Again around 14 years was taken to fulfill our part of this great assignment. And again God surprised us, by calling us to hand over the leadership of the Southlands story just as the task of reconstruction was complete and new traction was being found.

There does seem to be some evidence that it takes around 4 years to lay foundations. For those of you planting or replanting, patience is the order of the day. It is easy to overly evaluate the first 4 years in a new story or chapter. We simply do not know how well we are building during that window. It is hard, dirty, labor intensive work. The new leader is so desperate to get results quickly but do so at their own peril. Quick growth or slow tedious effort indicates very little during those 4 years. The seduction of numbers [rapid or slow] has been the demise of too many leaders. The only thing we must look is the quality of our foundations not the seats in a room.

The glory came fifteen years later... please no more one generational wonders. We simply cannot afford that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Summary of Movements by Tim Keller

With many friends looking to establish their own apo movements, I thought I would run this summary on movements by Tim Keller...

Summary of Tim Keller on Movements:

A movement is marked by an attractive, clear, unifying vision for the future together with a strong set of values or beliefs. The content of the vision must be compelling and clear so that others can grasp it readily. It must not be so esoteric or difficult that only a handful of people can articulate it. Instead, it must be something that all members of the movement can understand and pass along to others.

This unifying vision is so compelling that it takes pride of place. First, the vision leads to sacrificial commitment. Individuals put the vision ahead of their own interests and comfort. They are willing to work without high compensation, power, or perks. The satisfaction of realized goals is their main compensation. There is no more practical index of whether you have a movement or not. If the leader is making all the sacrifices, you don't.

Second, the vision leads to generous flexibility. In movements, however, the accomplishment of the vision is more important than power and position. So people are willing to make allies, be flexible, and cooperate with anyone sharing the basic vision and values.

Third, the vision leads to innovativeness. Movements are flatter because the commonly shared vision unifies and empowers. The vision is what matters - so anyone with a good idea about how to accomplish it is welcome to give it. Ideas flow out of the whole organization, top to bottom, which leads to greater creativity.

Finally, a movement is marked by spontaneous generativity. Spontaneous combustion means energy generated from within - a conflagration without the need for external ignition. A movement is able to generate its own resources, recruit its own new members and participants, and (especially) raise up its own new leaders. This does not mean that movements have no formal training programs. Rather, it means that first, the vision of the movement (especially as its content is disseminated) attracts people with leadership potential, and, secondly, that the work of the movement provides opportunities that reveal emerging leaders through real-life experience and then prepares them for the next level of leadership in the movement. Denominations or church networks that always have to recruit ministers and staff that were raised up in other environments, and that attract them mainly with good compensation, do not show signs of being a movement.

It is natural for new churches and ministries to try very hard to stay informal, non-codified, and non-centralized. But part of what makes a movement dynamic is a unified vision, and that always requires some codification and control. As time goes on, to maintain the main engine of movement-dynamics - a unified vision - a ministry must adopt some of the aspects of institutions. A strong movement, then, occupies the difficult space between being a free-wheeling organism and a disciplined organization.

A movement that refuses to take on some organizational characteristics - authority, tradition, unity of belief, and quality control - will fragment and dissipate. A movement that does not also resist the inevitable tendency toward complete institutionalization will lose its vitality and effectiveness as well. The job of the movement leader is to steer the ship safely between these two opposite perils.