Sunday, November 24, 2013


Dear reader

M and I are taking a three month sabbatical until mid February.

I may write while I am away... otherwise, have a most memorable Christmas and reflective new year on divine assignment


Monday, November 4, 2013

Trinity in Ephesians II

I love the story behind the story...

Paul helped plant the church in this very influential city. His love for the community was tangible. His leadership stamp was evident. His ongoing influence with her did not stop when he had moved on - even when he was in prison. His investment was ongoing.

That is why this letter is so exquisite. I am pretty certain that this was not the first time he was to teach them on any of the subjects he covered. For 2 years he taught the core group daily. One could speculate with some accuracy that these timeless truths were rooted and grounded in the foundation of the church.

Yet he covers them one more time. Amazing. He is not held captive to teach the latest, coolest conversation. I remember when Terry Virgo [great British apostle, now in his 70s] heard the new buzz word "missional" he asked what it meant. He listened humbly then responded by saying "Oh you mean being evangelistic".

The first mention of the Trinity is found in chapter 1:11 - 14

Father: Paul anchors the Father part of the conversation around the eternal, perfect plan and purpose of His will. "made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose... as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth... according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will". This is an amazing mystery. Paul bleeds the sovereign nature of our God. Without apology, he boldly declares that there are not many plans for the universe. Just one. There are not many dreams to consider - just his. There are not many wills to honor - just his. He is going to renew all things. [Rev 21:5]

Son: Many of the great gospel foundational pieces are declared in this chapter. "blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing ... chose in him before the foundation of the world... In love he predestined  us for adoption as through Jesus Christ... first to hope in Christ. In him you also when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and believed in him..." Oh what a glorious salvation.

Spirit: Paul now adds the Holy Spirit in the grand final seal of this glorious salvation. "In him you also when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." This is a most essential part of this story. The Holy Spirit is the guarantor. He makes sure that that he began in us he will bring to fruition / completion.

The Father planned it, the Son purchased us for his Father and the Holy Spirit placed a seal on us who believe. A most beautiful trinitarian waltz of redemption - and that set in before time began.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Trinity in Ephesus 1

My dear friend Michael Eltringham emailed me last night from Dubai, with a great textual reminder from Paul's writings.  He wrote: "I've been stirred, more recently, around his [Paul] clear view on both those he deems are part of his world (sons) and body of truth he teaches EVERYWHERE- 1 Corinthians 4:17 "For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church."

What a great encouragement. 
1.   As we have seen in Paul's writings he encourages us to approach theology with great humility, patience and brotherly love;
2.   Ephesians 4 gives us the key pieces in Paul's theology that he cannot compromise on;
3.   His life and his theology line up fully - wow, what a challenge  to imitate;
4.   He teaches the same message everywhere... not pressurized to teach the latest, coolest, even politically correct;
5.   Lastly, he is so convinced that his disciples teach the same message. The authenticity of life and message lining up, matched with the diligence of the same message taught everywhere, empowers the disciples to do likewise.

In whatever theological conversation I find myself, my mind drifts back to the Trinity. The questions immediately being to flood my mind:
1.   Is this debate in anyway evidenced in the Trinity?
2.   How do the Father or the Son or the Spirit display this conversation?
3.   In what way do the persons of the Trinity remain united and diverse in this truth at the same time?
4.   Are we guilty of elevating one person of the Trinity more than the others in a way that is different from the texts?
5.   Where do my preferences and prejudices sneak in to disrupt my full and mature grasp of the subject?

I am loving restudying the book of Ephesians. It is a remarkable story. We read of the community being established in Acts 19. We read of her pending demise in Revelation 2. And in-between we find this great six chapter letter in which Paul seeks to keep this church he loves, on course. When we read this letter that way, we find pieces of truth we may otherwise miss because we may read the book as a theological  treatise rather than a letter that tucks into the unfolding of a church plant - at a very vulnerable moment of her unfolding story.

We will spend the next few blogs exploring what the Trinitarian verses in this letter, teach us about our God

Friday, November 1, 2013

Maintain... Attain

Dear friends

I am sitting at my desk writing the chapter on the E4 gifts for my book, when I was reminded of two key phrases in this great chapter. "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"vs2 + 3 and then "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God"vs 13

As we script and scribe the "genesis" story, I have listened with intrigue where guys draw theological lines in the sand - in or out, buy in or stand back. As we are all bible people, the obvious question is where did the apostles [if any] draw lines in the sand to define walking forward on mission together?

When I read this text there are two loud petitions from Paul. They are not the lines we are vulnerable to [reformed vs armenian, charismatic vs cessationism, pre-, post-, millennialism…]. Rather Paul appeals firstly that we "maintain the unity of the Spirit". He simply does not applaud theological arrogance, aggression or sectarianism. His first appeal is to humility, patience, love and peace. We are required he says, to maintain what we already have! I think he would say the same today. He is not short of conviction however. The strong theological  pieces that he requires adherence to are "one body, one Spirit…one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…" That is what he demands that we maintain! 

Secondly he endorses the theological journey that we are all on. He does not leave us in one dimensional simplicity. He draws us on to greater depths - "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the Son of God". This great little word "until" means that we need the E4 gifts until the unity of the faith can be achieved. Because we are not there yet, we both still need the gifts as well as the humility that comes from still being on a journey and not knowing everything.

Brothers I am nervous that we draw theological lines in the sand that: 
a.  are not evidenced in the text as non-negotiables;
b.  that imply we are right and others are wrong;
c.  that does not give room for the 'new' that God is bringing our way  [- just think how all of our theologies have deepened, grown, even changed in the last few years]. 
e.  what else is the Father going to change, reveal, enlarge us on? Will we be ready or resistant to it? [History tends to point to those who had the last revelation, fight the new when the Father brings it]

Lastly, there is a "new" that the Father is rolling into the church. It is far more than cool buildings, skinny jeans, hipster rhythms. Isaiah prepares every generation with the same prophetic call:
"Behold the  former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them… And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths they have not known I will guide them…" Is 42:9 + 16

Can we therefore walk in the door of relationship / family [ a divine knitting of hearts], then discover theological clarity en route [ be patient with humility and love], finding all of these pieces while we are on mission together? I think that is how it happened in the scriptures.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I love staff meetings...

M and I ran 2 churches for 27 years... and loved it.

I remember the first Tuesday after we had handed the church over, that we sat looking at each other while the staff now met without us. What pain? What loneliness!

Why did I so enjoy this regular  Tuesday slot and what made it so important?

1.   I loved connecting with the team first thing at the beginning of every week - relationally. I loved having my fingers on the relational pulse of the team before we "got down to business". Coffee, laughs, stories and general update essential;

2.   We loved the scriptures - a good strong devotional or mission specific time in the scriptures always lifts our heads;

3.   We prayed together - not just a courteous prayer to invite Jesus in. Rather a good solid time for team prayer, be it in thanks for the wonder of his kindness as well as petitioning for the decisions we now need to make;

4.   Time: This meeting was not timeless - that drives all nuts. Grant everyone the dignity of a beginning and an end time. Start on time and end on time;

5.   We do need clarity of purpose. For the team to function as such, one needs to be clear on intent and objective, watching out for the rabbit trails that so easily hijack the meeting. Keep eldership conversations for elders meetings. Keep pastoring pieces for pastoring conversations. These times are great to translate vision into strategy;

6.   Collaboration requires all to be heard - beware of those with many words drowning out those who are quieter but crucial to the team. Orchestra the conversation so that all are heard and feel like their contribution is valid and essential;

7.   All of these meetings are most empowering when all the team leave knowing what their assignment  is for the next week. The ministry can be vague enough without us leaving folks to wallow in the endless waters of spiritual needs. Give them specific tasks that can be measured and by which they can be held accountable.

These are just some thoughts as I sit here in my study finishing my day here in LA.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Together on Mission

The large third component that shapes our story is…

Together on Mission…

Again, several of you have asked me questions about this part of the conversation. This is an evolving journey that we will explore and fine-tune other. Here are some guidelines going forward:

1.   Mission is in the very nature of God - he is a sending God who sent his Son who sent his Spirit;
2.   Missio Dei [the mission of God] is "renew all things";
3.   Jesus in turn calls the church to "disciple all nations" as our part of the missio dei;
4.   This includes discipling individuals, creating discipleship cultures, discipling nations…
5.   Added to this, there is a clear call to make every believer a 'missionary', every church on mission, whilst establishing a missional culture in each,
6.   The E4 gifts are there to both lay these foundations as well as equip and empower each church on their own journey,
7.   Every church must be responsible for the enactment of their mission / lampstand,
8.   However every church cannot achieve all that God calls us to do alone , so "together we can achieve more" [to quote Terry Virgo]
9.   Every church is to maintain the integrity of her mission, yet also find that God space that can only be achieved together [2 Cor 10]
10. This could mean pioneering new situations - planting on new shores, raising funds together to finance planting, creating new doors of opportunity in new nations, working together with the poor or social justice, certainly in prayer - mutually covering each other. This passage in 2 Cor 10 is very helpful to frame this part of the conversation as is Agabus coming to Antioch and prophesying about the coming famine, followed by the other churches raising money toward that end…

Mission of Multiplication:
1.  A major component to our mission is [like Jesus] to identify emerging apostles, invest into them,
2.  In due course [Gal 2] initiate them into their own apostolic adventure / sphere,
3.  They will be celebrated out, with clarity of calling, definition of doctrine, participation of partners,
4.  It would be wonderful if they wanted to keep connected, although on their own story, there will be no obligation,
5.  Genesis as a name of an apostolic sphere will end with Meryl and me, as the multiplication would already have taken place. 

This is as we see it now, but God has a way of bringing increasing revelation the further we grow. I was listening afresh to a prophetic word that Julian Adams gave us almost 2 years ago. It is amazing how much the Father has done since then.

Sharing a Common Theology

Thanks for all the feedback. It has certainly been encouraging.

Sharing a Common Theology...

The second component that I am asked about is the theological piece: "Where do you stand theologically? Do we all have to have the same theological positions?

Well, let us collage these questions with a few key family matrixes:

1.   As with any family, there is always room for difference, dialogue and debate around the dining room table, but we remain family;
2.   The father has strong convictions but does seek to empower his family to forage for their own convictions and not impose his opinions on the rest of the family;
3.   One of our major cornerstones is to raise up and release many apostolic stories from this one, so we should live with some blurred edges as all will simply not agree on the minutia of every position [even great men like John Piper and Tim Keller do not, or Dudley Daniel and Terry Virgo do not…]
4.   I do like John Tyson's phrase of "generous orthodoxy"… if I am accurate in my understanding of what he means by that;
5.   We are all on a theological journey. As I sit here and type this, I do think with great fondness of all of you. Like me, you are still discovering the height, depth, width length of all theology. Right now, some of us are very weak in our pneumatology, others on their biblical eldership, others in turn in the grasp of the kingdom, others again in the confidence of eschatology, some also in their grasp of biblical apostolicity… To draw a line in the sand is to produce great and grave theological arrogance. This position that "I am right and have fully grasped all there is on this subject", is to be vulnerable to becoming the biggest resistors of the next move of God when he comes - history tells us this happens every time. The last wave of 'new revelation' teachers are often those who fight the next wave of 'true truth' [F Schaeffer] when it comes.
6.   Theology is best processed with love and humility, together… listening closely to each other more than always wanting to convince others of our position.
7.   But as you all know, I am a man of passionate conviction. However I do place a comma behind all of my theological positions, as I am still on a journey of revelation - which only the Spirit can walk me through fully.
8.   We have to agree [Amos 3:3] on eternal matters, there is some wiggle room for other differences.
9.   I had a great lunch with Andy Rodgers yesterday. He helped me understand some of the theological conversations that differ between the boomers and the mosaics / millennials… for examples, some boomers are still debating whether the gifts are for today while the Yi generation is not asking those questions. They are seeking to understand how they work in the body. Or Mark saying to me that this generation is less intrigued by the what and more captivated by the how…
10.  I do think that the man made divisions are very unhelpful. As I wrote earlier, in different parts of the world, these words carry very favorable or unfavorable associations, so it is best to simply land in the text.
11.  I am pretty sure there will be big theological conversations [Acts 15] in the future. We will be having these in the light of the practical outworking of our Mission together. These we will have with honor and respect, seeking to find the Father's heart and the Spirit's revelation.
12.  Lastly, we do want to be open to whatever the Father has for us, by way of new revelation for the next wave of truth as it comes. The alternative is too costly to consider.

I am very passionate about: 
i.   A high view of Scripture and the Sovereignty of God
ii.  A Trinitarian Foundation - all flows out of that,
iii. Gospel Centered - that is our message in all its fullness,
iii. Spirit led - this ongoing empowerment is impossible to live without,
iv. Kingdom advancement - already and the not yet, mobilizing every believer,
v.  Healthy Families - the nuclear model of all God life
vi. Communities of Faith planted - to influence and impact their world through multiplication,
vii. Elder led Churches - in plurality, with captaincy, as fathers in the community,
viii.Discipling the Nations - is our mandate / mission within the mission of God,
ix. The E4 grace gifts - are vital to empowering each church and leader on their journey, 
x.  The Parousia - we anticipate his return

A Family of Churches

Hey guys

The last few months have been very empowering as we are finding more and more clarity in the unfolding genesis story.

The first part of clarity is that we are "A Family of Churches".

Simply summarized:
1.   We love the Family Hermeneutic
2.   We see God refer to himself as Father and Jesus as Son
3.   The apostles [esp Paul and John] use that language consistently
4.   God asked me "Will you be a father in my house?"
5.   We all desiring to be part of a strong, empowering brotherhood, forged on assignment together,
6.   There is a deep commitment to empower each church on their story [as parents seek to raise up their kids on their own adventure]
7.   There is a unique love for each other as God has knitted our hearts together,
8.   As with each child, unity and diversity is celebrated,
9.   Family does embody 'partnership',  so it is not just "what genesis can do for us", but a mutual commitment to love, service, faith adventure and sharing of resources as and where appropriate,
10. This is not an organization to join, nor a network to align with… therefore new guys can engage us through the door of relationship and see some 6 months later if they and we sense a God knitting of hearts, with a common theology, together on mission.
11.  We certainly encourage "churches planting churches" hereby maintaining uniqueness and integrity, but also see 2 Cor 10 say that there are new areas of mission that we will embark on that we will see us do it together.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Our Mission - Family I

M and I had a wonderful coffee with Terry and Wendy Virgo on Thursday afternoon. They are a remarkable couple who have held a solid and straight course for over 40 years of ministry. Their mandate to disciple the nations by planting churches has seen them doing this in over 60 countries, with hundreds and hundreds of churches. {New Frontiers is there UK based ministry}

What has been more amazing is to see the humility with which they have multiplied their movement. Rather than simply hand over to one man, they have followed the pattern of scripture [and especially Jesus] by seeing around 20 apostles emerge form their ranks. These they identified, empowered and are now doing wonderful kingdom advancing things globally.

What intrigued me was why they avoided the language of network, movement, denomination, organization... so I asked him. I believe I represented him well when he said that they found themselves using the language of "a family of churches". A conversation then resulted in which the theological accuracy of such a phrase came under scrutiny. The study and debate empowered them more as they began to see it  throughout the text.

As we are exploring the evolving genesis collective story, we are seeking to find the language that is both
 biblically accurate,
 historically proven,
 prophetically essential,
 culturally acceptable.

Like Terry, I have difficulty trying to define an unfolding story with concepts like:
network - could be relational but can be to vague, lacking government and mission;
movement - purpose but lacking shape and biblical architecture;
denomination - often has credibility and history but tends to lack biblical accuracy and relationships;
organisation - has form and shape but lacks biblical gift recognition and Spirit led flexibility;

I think this notion of an apostolic sphere having strong family ingredients is worth considering...

Here is a link to Terry' wonderful teaching on the Ephesians 4 grace gifts:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Believing in the Future: Quotes from David Bosch

Believing in the Future (Toward a Missiology of Western Culture) - David J. Bosch

“And in more recent book, K√ľng depicts the contemporary world as post-Eurocentric, post-colonial, post-imperial, post-socialist, post-industrial, post-patriarchal, post-ideological, and post-confessional.
The “post-“ phenomenon is not just a fad. We have truly entered into an epoch fundamentally at variance with anything we have experience to date.”

“It is a permissive society, without norms, models, and traditions, an “immediate” society, without past and often without future: people live utterly in the present and seek instant gratification.”

“People in the West are inundated by a veritable deluge of information and entertainment, mainly via television, a circumstance that gives rise not only to shattering pluralism but also to widespread pollution of the mind.”

“It is important to keep in mind that the fathers of the Enlightenment were all Christians; they viewed what they did and said as service of God.”

“John Locke, for instance, insisted that theology cannot be at odds with science, for revelation, on which theology was based, is nothing less than an exalted form of science.”

“It is not that the new worldview publicly opposed religion or proscribed it, rather it fostered a private religion that had no real function in society as a whole. And the underlying “Christ against culture” stance in Protestantism meant, in practice that religion was relegated to the private sector, to the world of values, where people are free to choose what they like. “

“Religion lost the function it had in an earlier era – that of explaining the world.”

“The philosophy behind this is “ Since there is no absolute value, I consider all values to be equally unimportant,” or, “Since there I more than one value, I appreciate all values equally.””

“Both dogmatic scientism and extreme relativism had disastrous consequences. In one case the point of departure was the utter reliability of unaided reason; in the other it was personal preference or experience.”

“The illusion that human hopes for freedom, justice and true progress can be realized by relying on reason or human resolve alone, or by the mechanics of economic, technological, or political development, has finally exploded.” 

“It is interesting to note that the word, mission, in its modern sense, was first used in the sixteenth century by Jesuits in Northern Germany to refer to their work of reconverting Protestants to Catholicism.”

“The church should recognize…that she is in reality a missionary Church, not only in heathen lands… but in every country”

“Because God is a missionary God, God’s people are missionary people. The church’s mission is not secondary to its being; the church exists in being sent and in building up itself for its mission.” 

“Ecclesiology does not precede missiology; there cannot be church without an intrinsic missionary dimension, the church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning.”

“Mission is more than and different from recruitment to our brand of religion; it is alerting people to the universal reign of God” 

“This is, after all, in keeping with the Enlightenment worldview: religion is a private affair, its truth claims are relative and have no place in the public sphere of “facts”. But Christian theology itself also contributed to this notion, as it increasingly individualized, interiorized, ecclesiasticized, and privatized salvation.”

“It belongs to our mission mandate to ask questions about the use of power in our societies, to unmark those that destroy life, to show concern for the victims of society while at the same time calling to repentance those who have turned them into victims, and to articulate God’s active wrath against all that distorts and diminishes human beings and all that exploits, squanders, and disfigures the world for selfishness, greed, and self-centered power.”

“This is not to suggest that we will build God’s kingdom on earth. It is not ours to inaugurate, but we can help make it more visible, more tangible; we can initiate approximations of God’s coming reign.”

“Reinhold Niebuhr, in his Moral Man and Immoral Society ([1932] 1960), had so thoroughly exposed the self-confident rationalism of the secularists, the self-confident dialectical materialisms of the revolutionaries, and the holier-than-thou pseudo-innocence of the Christians. “

“The task of postmodern theology is to interpret the Christian message at a time when the rebirth of religion, rather than its disappearance, poses the “most serious questions”. “There is, apparently, “more God than we think”.” 

“Authentic religion, says Josuttis (1988:17), endangers the emerging post-modern worldview. With the easy integration of religion into its system, it has swallowed a poison that it will find hard to digest (:16). The biblical faith, however, contains elements that are much more intractable and antagonistic to the new worldview than may be expected (:19). Faith in the one God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ does not fit into the pluralistic post-modern order.”

“The missionary can proclaim the living God to one’s contemporaries, seeking the searchers, providing new roots to the uprooted, caring for those who do not care, giving direction to those who, in a despair they are not consciously aware of, live by the horoscope, and gently touching the deeper stirrings in the heart of those who sense that what they enjoy today cannot be all there is, those who seek after “the spiritual dimension of life” and “an antidote to dehumanization”.

“Unless you understand, you shall not believe.”

“Belief is, in fact, the source of all knowledge.”

“Deny the existence of any meta-truth and meta-narratives against which we may test our convictions, and therefore and in relativism and subjectivism indeed, in irrationalism.”

“A sense of imperfection is essential to the Christian faith.”

“A missiology of Western culture must include an ecological dimension. The time is long past that we can afford to exclude the environment from our missionary agenda.” 

“It follows from the previous point that a mission to the west must be countercultural, though not in an escapist way.”

“A mission to the West will have to be ecumenical.”

“Mission is, rather, the communication of the good news about the universal and coming reign of the true and living God.”

“We have, at long last, come to the conviction that mission in the Third World must be contextual.”

“A missionary encounter with the West will have to be, primarily, a ministry of the laity.”

“I have to take this one step further: in the context of the secularized, post-Christian West our witness will be credible only if it flows from a local, worshiping community. Newbigin (1989:222-33) suggests that the only hermeneutic of the gospel is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.”

“However, unlike philosophical schools or scientific experiments, theology has no life unless it is borne by a community.”

“Christians are sitting on a gold mine called the church, but unfortunately the very categories we have been taught as Western Christians make it difficult for us to notice that it is gold.”

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Miracle Story

Great miracle Story!

4:07pm Oct 2

I wanted to take a moment to reach out to you and re-introduce myself and my wife Ashley to you (pic attached). You may not remember us as I know you encounter many people in your travels but we briefly met when you visited Portland this past June and spoke at Solid Rock.

Before I go much further, allow me to briefly share our story. Not long after Ashley and I were married in 2009 we decided we wanted to start a family. After a year of trying without success we started to meet with fertility specialists. They communicated to us that our chances of conceiving naturally were less than 5%. We began a series of intrauterine procedures, seven to be exact, all without success. We did finally discover that one of the procedures was successful but resulted in an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy and we lost our child. A few months later Ashley went through an IVF procedure which was also unsuccessful. After close to 4 years of trying, we began to think we may never conceive on our own. We started exploring adoption and more or less put "trying" behind us for the time being.

We were in the audience when you spoke at Solid Rock on Mark 2:1-12 about the faithfulness of the men who lowered their paralyzed friend down to Jesus. You touched on the gift of healing prayer over barren wombs you and Meryl have been blessed with. After the service Ashley nudged me and insisted we go introduce ourselves to you and Meryl and ask for your prayers. You both laid hands on her and spoke believing/faithful prayers asking the Lord for healing and the blessing of not just one, but many children in our life. As we wrapped up you said confidently "call me in 3 months." 

Well....I don't have your phone number so this will have to do. I'm happy to report that your believing prayers, along with the prayers of many loved ones were answered as we discovered not long ago that Ashley is pregnant. Today is the first day of her second trimester. We are thrilled that we will be starting a family and agree that there are many children in our future whether we continue to conceive naturally or adopt some little ones into our lives. We would just like to thank you for your prayers, your message of hope and redemption, and for the amazing work you and Meryl continue to do. Know that we are praying for you and your family as you continue the Lords work of making disciples through Christs love.

Many blessings,

[Name withheld to honor privacy]

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Our Mission - Partner

  1. I John, brother...
  2. John, servant who bore witness to the word of God...
  3.  I John... partner
This three part series was designed to be given as a talk at the genesis collective time away in Malibu. We wanted to explore the theme of "Mission" and our role in it the Mission of God.

This third piece looks at the role of "partnership" - between the Ephesians 4 giftings and the local church.

To quote Seth Godin again: Tribes need leadership. Sometimes one person leads, sometimes more. People want connection and growth and something new. They want change”

“Some tribes are stuck. They embrace the status quo and drown out any tribe members who dare to question authority and the accepted order... Every tribe, though is a movement waiting to happen, a group of people just waiting to be energized and transformed. A movement is thrilling...” Seth Godin
The conversation about “partnership” is seen in this context is John, the third apostle working in the area [Paul, then Timothy], engaged on mission with the 7 churches in the region. So often we default to Paul when studying the role of apostles rather than Peter or John. Added to this is the apostle’s heart to and for these churches.
But let us stand back for a moment and talk about Mission Theology:

In his epic account, David Bosch wrote: Mission was understood as being derived from the very nature of God. It was thus put in the context of the Trinity, not ecclesiology or soteriology. The classical doctrine on the ‘missio dei’ as God the Father sending the Son and God the Father and Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another ‘movement’. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world... our mission has no life of its own; only in the hands of the sending God can it truly be called mission...In the new image is not primarily an activity of the church but the attribute of God...It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church. Mission is therefore seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is an instrument for that mission...
The primary purpose of the missiones ecclesiae can therefore not simply be the planting of churches or the saving of souls; rather, it has to be service to the missio dei, representing God in and against the world, pointing to God, holding up the God-child before the eyes of the world in a ceaseless celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany. In its mission, the church witnesses to the fullness of the promise of God’s reign and participates in the ongoing struggle between that reign and the powers of darkness and evil...
The missio dei is God’s activity, which embraces both the church and the world and in which the church may be privileged to participate.”

Darrel Guder writes in turn: This ecclesiocentric understanding of the mission has been replaced during this century by a profoundly theocentric reconceptualization of Christian mission... Rather mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation... God’s mission unfolded in the history of God’s people across the centuries recorded in scripture and it reaching its revelatory climax in the incarnation of of God’s work of salvation in Jesus ministering, crucified and resurrected. God’s mission continued then in the sending of the Spirit to call forth and empower the church as a witness to God’s good news in Jesus Christ. It continues today in the worldwide witness of the church in every culture to the gospel of Jesus Christ and it moves toward the promised consummation of God’s salvation in the ‘eschaton’...the biblical message is more radical, more inclusive, more transforming than we have allowed it to be”

Chris Wright says it simply:
“Fundamentally, our mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation” .

  It is impossible to cover every theological perspective, every debate, every position held. What we can do however, is begin the define what the mission is that we are called to.

The word “partner” means:
  •   W.E. Vines Dictionary: “koinonos - an adjective signifying ‘having in common’ in spiritual life and business”
  •   Websters Dictionary:  “...two people who dance together; one who plays on the same team with another”

Biblically, this word ‘partner’ is applied at 3 levels:

1.   With the other Ephesians 4 gifts that the apostle worked with:

2 Corinthians 8:23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit.

Philemon 1:17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would me.

2.   With the churches who partnered with him and he with them;

Philippians 1: 5 ...because of our partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Philippians 4:15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.
3.   With the churches through which that new spaces, places and people were opened:
2 Cor 10:13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence.
Let me then summarize all of this in our context: 

I believe that the great redemption narrative that traces the text gives us the backbone of divine mission throughout the text:
“Be fruitful [increase], multiply, fill the earth” to Adam Gen 1:28
“Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth” to Noah Gen 9:1
“... I may make my covenant between me and you and may multiply you greatly...For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations... I will make you exceedingly fruitful I will make you exceedingly fruitful and I will make you into nations and kings shall come from you...” Gen 17:1 - 7, 22:15 - 18, 26:1 - 7, 28:3 - 5, 35:9 - 15, 48:2 - 6,
“They are the shoot that I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor... the sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations” Is 60: 21 - 61: 11
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Matt 28:18 - 20

What is our Mission?
“The art of leadership is understanding what you can’t compromise  on”
So great leaders don’t try to please everyone. Great leaders don’t water down their message in order to make the tribe a bit bigger. Instead they realize that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far more powerful than a larger group could ever be” Seth Godin

  1. I believe the Mission Dei is the renewal of all things; ETERNAL
  2. I believe that our part of that is to “Disciple all Nations”; GLOBAL
  3. I believe that we need to agree that together [ as a brotherhood of mutual love and co-engagement] we can achieve more; TOGETHERNESS
  4. I believe that we plant churches that can influence and impact their communities, cities, countries with the gospel which expresses itself with both salvation as well as social justice; TRANSFORMATION
  5. I believe that our mandate includes recognizing, raising up and releasing all 5 of the Ephesians 4 giftings; as well as all other forms of leadership; GREENHOUSE 
  6. I believe we need to be intentional to identify the emerging apostles, especially in each nation / context, seeking to release them as soon as we are able, to launch their own apostolic stories / spheres - seeking to get each country to have at least one or more of their own apostolic stories; APOSTLES
  7. I believe we need to see Genesis Collective as a story, end with Meryl and I, but the legacy, DNA and essence living on in the lives of many.leaders, fathers, pastors, apostles [and E4 giftings] , as well as pioneers, entrepreneurs, creators, risk takers, fire brands and challengers of the status quo. MULTIPLICATION...
As my friend Brian Barr said: What we really are and have been doing for many years is:

"be fruitful and multiply"

- reproducing disciples

- planting churches

- multiplying movements 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Our Mission - Truth

  1. I John, brother...
  2. John who bore witness to the word of God & to the testimony of Jesus... vs 2
We now move to the weighty and meaty part of our conversation. Whilst we love the first component, we know that we also need to find commonality around areas of common belief.

In his fun little book on “Tribes”, Seth Godin makes some key contributions that are helpful to our conversation:

A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea...
“Tribes are about faith - about belief in an idea and a community...”

Steve Addison writes that “Movements that change the world” have the following similar ingredients:
White Hot Faith
Commitment to a Cause
Contagious Relationships
Rapid Mobilization
Adaptive Methods

Tim Keller whose genius has helped all of us, has summarized this conversation when he added: “It is an ‘organized organism’ with these movement characteristics:

Unified vision and beliefs,
Cooperation and catholicity of spirit
Sacrificial commitment
Spontaneity and creativity

Amos teaches us: “Can two walk together lest they be agreed?” Amos 3:3  What is clear, is that there does need to be a body of truth that resonates within this brotherhood  that is essential for future endeavors. So what are the common belief convictions that create the unified, family agreement to empower us on mission together? 

The Australian rancher does not use fences to control his livestock. The harshness of the context has created a most unique way to keep the cattle from drifting. The lesson is that one can trust wells [sources of life and a unifying set] to keep a brotherhood together, one does not need fences [highly defining requirements that demand ‘in and out’ conversations.] 

      I do not find man made lines of separation than we have designed, to be very helpful. We do not want to define ourselves by these human categories. Not only are they divisive, but they tend to represent a subculture, a set of behavioral norms, that add to the confusion. We will not be defined by either these groupings nor by the subculture that they represent. 

Calvinistic vs Arminian
Charismatic vs Non Charismatic
Premillennialism vs Postmillennialism vs Amillennialism
And so forth...

     John was in exile because of what he believed in. All that he needed to do was to go to the temple, that was built for emperor worship - take a pinch of perfume, place it on the altar and say "Caesar Kurios" [Caesar is Lord] and he would have lived in piece. Yet he was unwilling to do so and exile was the punishment for this aged saint. What would we die for? What would we go to prison for? They are the truly high theological values that we must pursue in our togetherness.

Here is a list of theological essentials that reflect our sense of commonality: [I am intentionally steering clear of man-made groupings and categories. These are not scriptural and are very divisive and therefore unhelpful]
  1. A Trinitarian Foundation,
  2. The Inerrancy of Scripture,
  3. A Gospel Centeredness,
  4. Disciple Making,
  5. The Kingdom Advancement,
  6. The Spirit Empowerment,
  7. Believer Mobilization,
  8. A Elder Led Local Community in partnership with E4 gifts,
  9. The Strategic Role of the E4 Giftings,
  10. A quest for a model of multiplication,
  11. SocialTransformation and Renewal,
  12. Anticipating His Return.
These theological pieces are all loaded with prayer, discussion, debate and humility. Let us not ride our warhorse of theological preference, but find the weighty theological pieces that empower us all going forward.

Our Mission - Brother

  1. I John your brother...vs 9

   Whenever we engage these kinds of conversations, we are stuck between biblical accuracy and cultural acceptability. In our quest to walk through that fine line, we find much joy in John's language found in Revelation. His love for the 7 churches is clear and apparent. He does not feel the need to impose his role as apostle on them. Rather in true Johannine humility, he uses this language as he appeals to relational rather than positional authority. John is very comfortable to describe himself as brother, but this was a word forged in reality not a religious title.

     The temptation to default to business, pragmatic or religious models are avoided. John is building a family. Every word he writes in his gospel, his epistles and here in the apocalypse, builds strong healthy relationships modeling the very image of family. 

This is more than:
  1.   membership of an organization,
  2.   association in a network,
  3.   co-laborer on assignment,
  4.   friendships without mission.

The word John uses here “adelphos” - from which we get ‘philadelphia’ - brotherly love, the community possessed of this relation [It is fun to consider the letter to the church in Philadelphia] 

 What the bible speaks of is more than just ‘being mates hanging together’. Each of the more known apostles, uses this term to describe their understanding of their evolving story. 

Peter: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God” 1 Peter 2:17
“By Silvanus, a faithful brother, as I regard him... 1 Pet 5:12
Paul: “Tychicus will tell you of my activities. He is a beloved brother and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord”  Col 4:7
“Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss” 1 Thess 5:26

This was NOT a religious term. It is the family framework that leeks into every page of the text.
 There is a deeper call that is laid out here. This is more than, 
  •   membership of an organization, or denomination whereby loyalty to the tradition is the highest value;
  •   a network whereby the system provides the safety of connectedness as the highest glue;
  •   mateship whereby all things are incorporated or rejected not based on truth but on maintaining the friendship as the highest value;
  • a movement if left to its own energy can produce forward mobility  - the highest value is mobility but not the long term relationships.
The group that John is addressing has experienced the most dastardly of tribulation and persecutions. There is something weighty that is forged under these circumstances that deepen 'men' walking together.

Communitas ... happens in situations where individuals are driven to find each other through a common experience of ordeal, humbling, transition and marginalization. It involves intense feelings of social togetherness and belonging brought about by having to rely on each other in order to survive...communitas describe the dynamics of the Christian community inspired to overcome their instincts to ‘huddle and cuddle’ and to instead form themselves around a common mission that calls them onto a dangerous journey to unknown places - a mission that calls the church to shake off its collective securities and to plunge into the world of action, where its members will experience disorientation and marginalization but also where they encounter God and one another in a new way” Alan Hirsch

I want to be part of this kind of "brotherhood"
  1. It is loaded with a togetherness that is forged through challenge; 
  2. It is a depth of relationship that is a high value, like the Ozzie ‘digger’, the bonds soldiers form under fire, combat and death;
  3. It is clearly of divine authorship, God bringing us together, a knitting of hearts that withstand tough and combative circumstances;
  4. It is comfortable with uncertainty;
  5. It is fashioned by collaborative engagement;
  6. It has leadership in plurality, just like a family;
  7. It is parental in its model, seeking to raise up 'children' to “leave home”;
  8. It is strong, robust and radical,
  9. It holds true to the big picture and these family relationships do not separate over non eternity pieces,
  10. It empowers each church on her own unique story - not requiring all to conform into a single image, DNA yes, conformity no - just as each of our children carry our DNA but we do not require conformity;
  11. It produces authentic joy and friendship with the desired accountability...
  12. It is in for the long haul - that is what biblical family is, that is what biblical family does.

There is no desire in our hearts to build another way. That does not mean that others are wrong and we are right. Rather, it helps us define our distinctives, framing our story in a way that we see in the text and by the way we are wired - seeing life through the lenses of family.

So  if John speaks to these seven churches from the position of brotherhood, then we want to create the culture of Family  among the churches 

Our Mission - The Beginning

Our Mission
There is an amazing story similarity that draws us all together. Yes it is Jesus but many who thirst for Him are not here nor would they be comfortable in this gathering. So what is this common ingredient?

“We all believe that we can effect change, through the gospel, in ways that are different to days gone by.”

We are not Catholic, Lutheran, Wesleyan, Pentecostal... or any other grouping. Somehow, we believe God is on about new ways the old gospel can be displayed to a skeptical world.

Our conversation today is about “The Mission”

It does for some fascinating study - from Luther to Calvin, from Chris Wright to NT Wright, from John Piper to Alan Hirsch, from Alister McGrath to Tim Keller, from David Bosch to Ed Clowney... the quest to revisit the ‘mission dei’ [the mission of God] and see how it overlaps with the mission of the church, is a fun adventure in its own right. Just when that mist becomes clearer, then we have to fine tune ourselves further to ask, ‘within that conversation, what is our mission?’. That is what this paper seeks to discover.

Read Revelation 1:1 - 11

Revelation was written as:
  • a letter - John to the seven churches that are in Asia... vs 4
  • a prophecy - Blessed is the one who who reads aloud the words of this prophecy... vs 3
  • a revelation / apocalypse - The revelation / apocalypse of Jesus... vs 1
This is incredibly helpful as it is not written to one church but to seven, so we get some idea of what is important to more than one church.

It is also most helpful as we see a third apostle writing through the lenses of his apostolicity. So often, we tend to define the 'apostolic' through the story of Paul. What has been so educating is to have the conversations, not just through one man [Paul] or two men [Paul and Peter], rather by a remarkable man who brings a new set of lenses that Paul and Peter do not. John’s story has been so eye opening for me. It has helped me to see in ways I had not done before.

The ship is safest when it is in port. But that’s not what ships were made for. Paulo Coelo

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tina's healing

This is Tina's story...

I love it when God heals. It is so in his person. He is healing! No we don't get enough cool stories of healing, but we will not shift in our understanding of who he is, what he does and how he heals today...

Hi Chris, 
I want to share with you what God has been doing in me since you taught at Rock Harbor last and prayed for me. I am Tina who came to you Sunday morning for prayer as a 'woman with a bleeding problem'. I had gone to the Saturday night service and I felt the Spirit nudging me to go for prayer, but ignored it, but He was persistent all night and the next morning I knew I had to come back and have you pray for me. Without too many details; stray and random bleeding that I had been experiencing stopped that afternoon and everything has been working as it should these last two months. I have had these types of issues (no bleeding, too much bleeding, infertility) since I was 16....16 years...half my life. I often doubt that this normalcy will last, but then I hear His Spirit whisper 'healed'....a sweet promise of His loving kindness. Thank-you for your faithfulness to go and do and say as God directs you. Thank-you for your loving prayer.

Reflections about Exponential

Reflections are good. There is such kindness in listening and learning from our story, so sitting on the plane last week flying home, I realized that writing my thoughts down would be most helpful - even if it was just for my benefit.

Todd Wilson is a remarkable man. To have been the primary catalyzer of this event and yet to do so in the shadows speaks volumes of this man's humility. In a celebrity driven culture, it is so tempting to get your bit of the 'sun' [the spotlight] and yet to see Todd consistently avoid that, is amazing.

Geoff Surratt similarly. As the one who is the administrative leader, he too avoided 'fame like the plague'. His quiet but persistent commitment to practical excellence made a very complicated event run smoothly [or so it seemed to me] - 5300 leaders present, with many workshop, sessions and conversations, plus a global link up... a very good job.

I went to 'listen, look, learn', more than I went to teach my sessions. It was very humbling to see the width of movements, denominations and organizations present. I was deeply impacted by the passion that all had to serve Jesus, plant healthy churches, influence the nation through the gospel. It felt like I had a little God window to see what he feels about his church in the USA. It is so easy to forget about the broader body and zone in exclusively on our part of the vineyard. Not only is it sad but I wonder if it is not simply rank arrogance under the guise of focus?

There are still many lessons of translation that I have to learn. Many of the words, thoughts and ideas are still being communicated by a cultural framework with which I am comfortable but which is lost in translation. I watched my friend Alan Hirsch [ a fellow South African] as he too taught and communicated his ideas in a way that was understood by the audience. I am still learning to 'speak American'.

I also loved the fact that the pulpit was not used to self-promote. We did all receive a request to steer clear of that, but I did feel there was an honest desire to walk humbly and transparently before God and man. This was very much appreciated.

There is always more to say, but let me move on to some of my saddnesses:

A young church planter and I were in a conversation - a great guy, born in Argentina but raised here and is replanting a Baptist church in a major city here in the USA. When I asked him how he was enjoying the time he leaned forward and spoke in a whisper "the perspectives in the workshops have been so pragmatic. I am used to all matters being taught through the text, yet that is not the case here all the time". I have to agree. Some of that which I listened to was more filled with psychology and economics than scripture. The text still needs to be our primary matrix.

Although the statistics vary, one that I read said that around 80 - 85% of church plants fail in the USA. One of the workshop leaders said that around 6000 churches close their doors in the USA annually. Around 3500 are being planted but we currently need around 60,000 church right now. The urgency that these statistics indicate that we have to look at our approach to planting through fresh lenses - biblical lenses. The answers can be found there, but it will require us to be patiently tenacious ['through faith and patience we inherit the promises'] to complete the reformation that we are currently in. I am a little nervous that the business of church planting [coaches, mentors, consultants, even sometimes networks] are surrogates or scaffolding for the true biblical 'partnerships' of apostles and prophets walking alongside these brave, bold and courageous men and women...

I loved the time and trust that you look at dialing in for next year's conversation around "Seek and Save that which was Lost". There is a humility in learning from each other, yet there are many from different movements, denominations and organizations from which we can learn much - "many streams make glad the river of God" Psalmist.