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]