Friday, May 29, 2009

re-defining success

Metric mania

Or…how does a church, ministry, or leader define “success?” What should we measure and evaluate to define impact?
Let me give you few things to chew on:

The Old Paradigm: most pastors and church leaders would define success from the following measurable quantities

1. Church attendance, membership, small groups, Sunday school
2. Baptisms, conversions, re-dedications
3. Money that came into the church

Notice how much this looks like a business model. It presumes we have products and services to offer and if they are “purchased” we are successful. The challenge of this is…how well would Jesus ministry be defines with this criterion?

quote from CG at swerve: "I was trapped in this for years, my emotions rode the roller coaster of attendance. After a strong week of attendance I felt good about myself and life. After a bad week of attendance, I felt like the world was crashing down around me." The same with budget, baptisms, etc.

Over the last 6 years I have looked at different criterion. The criterion I see God using in His word when talking with His servants.

These include:

§ How many can we bring in AND then disciple AND send into our communities to serve?

In other words Bringing people in matters…but so does Sending them out
5 stones is not doing great at bringing them in yet…nor are we great at discipling yet…but…we are getting much better at sending people out [Spain trip, Missional rev, VBS, etc]

How much money can we bring in AND then send out into the world to build the invisible Kingdom and transform people’s lives in tangible ways?

5 stones is dead-on-target with doing this pretty well. We are becoming a generous church. We no longer hoard money but give it to the denomination, the community, 5th Sundays, etc.]

How much love can we show God AND each other AND the world

In other words the attendance doesn’t matter so much as the attitude of those attending. How can we really love God in worship? Obey his word? And integrate His love for us into a love for one another and the world? How transformed are we by His love?

§ How many can we give AND send to help start new churches?

We are actively working to be a training church for seminary students who want to do this, and we will walk deeper and deeper into this in the coming years
How many Conversations with the world can we have instead of Converts?

IE: The means to salvations are relationships with the unchurched people of the world. Just trying to “convert” them is manipulative and annoying. Instead we should be looking for open doors to serve them and have compelling conversations with them about the substance of our lives. Being Missional w/o relationship is like being a used-car salesman. Instead of that we want to really love people no matter what, no matter how long it takes, no matter the results. And we trust, that love…over time…will transform others just as it has and continues to transform us.

Leaders being obedient to their call…no matter what others do or don’t do

IE: Jeremiah was alone and everyone thought he was nuts, Moses had whinners lining up around the block to complain, and Jesus watched many walk away when he said hard stuff. But when this happens to us we either blame ourselves or blame them…which is a waste of emotional energy and accomplishes nothing. Often leaders define success in weird ways but they need to define their obedience as something that brings glory to God, is the right example, and is worthy of testimony no matter what others think or do. Leaders lead…but also sometimes walk VERY, VERY alone. And in these places the leader must remember that part of the “success” God is looking for is INSIDE you and not OUTSIDE. IT is your character and Christ-likeness that is being defined and developed. Success sometimes is a long, hard, lonely obedience in the same direction. Noah understood this. Biblical success is always intertwinned in suffering and sacrifice. But in this you are NEVER alone.

What other things should we be looking to measure to redefine success in a more Biblical way?


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Extreme ecclesiology and campus ministry: “Church why bother?”


Do college students need to attend a “church?” Especially if they are already involved in campus ministry.

As someone up to my ears in this reality, I would like to make a few theological, practical, and observational points. I will break these out of the following outline:

1. The ecclesiology extremes
a. Barna’s “revolutionaries.” A very fluid understanding of ecclesiology
b. Monastic local churches. A very brittle, enclosed, and isolationist approach.
c. Searching for a balance of church, kingdom, and Church.
2. Fear factors
a. What “para-church” campus organizations fear?
b. What “local churches” fear?
3. Pure and impure desires
a. Impure
i. Numbers and vanity in leadership
ii. College students as cliché’s of energy, perception, and free labor
iii. Rationalizing what “church” is in order to do what we want to do
b. Pure
i. Serve college students
ii. Missional impact to college students
iii. Opportunities for use of spiritual and servant gifts of college students
iv. Mentoring and Discipling college students
v. Getting college students ready for their next “ecclesiological” experience
4. 3rd paradigm possibilities

Prelude to dialogue:

Church or the concept of church seems to be the focal point of many arguments these days. Is church useless; is church just me and my believer friends; is church a building or attendance on Sunday mornings? These questions and many more populate the blogs, books, rants, and questions of students and those he seek to minister to them. An ongoing challenge seems to be that very few people start with a definition of what “church” is. What did Christ intend when he said he would build it? What did Paul and the apostles actually build? While I don’t have time for that dissertation let me say a few obvious things. These are “backbones” of general orthodoxy and not worth arguing over. They are easily proved by a cursory look at the plain teaching of scripture.

1. The Church is both universal [all believers everywhere] and local. IE: It is Glocal.
2. The Church exists to continue the ministry of Jesus. This includes the gospel; the kingdom; healing; social justice; teaching; morality; worship; miracles; etc. IE: it is missional
3. The Church has a structure. Jesus is the cornerstone; saints and apostles the foundation; Pastors; elders; deacons; etc. IE: There is ‘some’ structure to the relationships and these relationships have different leadership mandates and authority. And leadership and authority imply that there will be followers. IE: No loose cannons
4. The Church has a relational imperative. The gifts of church members are for building up, healing, teaching, maturing….each other. IE: Everyone is a contributor and Everyone is a consumer while everyone constructs the “Church.” It is both organic [relationships] and organization [systems, goals, and structures]
5. The Church is constructed with the principles, precepts, and promises of Gods word. Thus we cannot make the word “church” into whatever we want it to be. It is an idea and a living organism designed by God. Therefore we will attempt to build, plant, or rebuild the church always within sight of the obvious blueprints of scripture. IE: Church isn’t just one local assembly, and it isn’t a coach-a few friends-and a dialogue or social justice intervention. IE: He tells us what Church is; we don’t tell Him what “church” we want.

The ecclesiology extremes

In the book “revolutionaries” by George Barna the interviewed people had all abandoned institutional church for a variety of reasons. The veracity of their critiques I will applaud as probably very accurate. However, unlike the apostle Paul [who saw the same problems and more] they have chosen to abandon any form of church instead of focusing on constructing her. Barna never puts in play a comprehensive theology of what the church is, and thus panders to critiques that are to be expected from young idealists. Thus instead of asking “what does Jesus desire the church and me to be,” the reader is left instead to ask “what do I enjoy and want to do for Jesus?” Thus fellowship becomes blogging and slumming with Christian friends, deep involvement in social justice without the gospel being told, and a variety of other things that really look nice but are probably masquerading to some degree a deep seated spiritual selfishness. We become the primary authority over our own lives; we engage what we want, when we want, how we want; in short we get to be single and not enter into married life. Married life being in this case the family of the church. The messy, awkward, weird, fun, hilarious, etc life of the church. Having read probably 10 books and countless articles along these lines over the last decade I simply find this sad, blind, and stupid. The obvious and complete lack of biblical credibility for this seems not worth mentioning. Except for the fact that this position is gaining numbers exponentially and is in my mind a very real threat to the orthodoxy and orthopraxis of the church.

Monastic local churches

On the other extreme are the monastic churches that often believe every reference in the Bible to “church” means a local assembly. This is simply untrue and bad exegesis and theology. These churches believe everything in the church should be attended by everyone in the church family. Outside events, kingdom events, other churches are viewed with either suspicion or downright hostility. In these situations there is no connection between churches, all authority rests in the local governance of the church, and they often see themselves as the final outpost and remnant of orthodoxy. The message is “join us, do everything with us, hide from the world, and hope they join our freakish little cult.”

Searching for a balance of church, kingdom, and Church.

Any church situation needs to begin with some sort of general biblical definition that includes all the exemplary data, commandments, and obvious instructions.

Thus we must maintain balance and avoid the extremes. In other words Jesus didn’t say to the apostles “I am the CEO and I am creating VP positions for each of you. One will be social justice, one will be intentional community, one will be teaching…” Instead he appointed apostles and believers to make disciples that would then build churches [the Church] that would then integrate with one another and affect the world by building the Tangible Kingdom within it. This balance makes is akin to the family unit [the church] being the backbone of civilization [the Church]. Without this we end up splintered and fractured, or to put it another way without healthy local churches [families] we end up with either a highly dysfunctional civilization [see headlines on any given day] or we end up with a “Children of men” scenario where there are no children to populate the future.

This affects the average college student in a very real way. They [as we all do] need a balance of:

1. A fluid ecclesiology of peer relationships. A parachurch ministry at a campus can provide this, and give them natural and organic experiences and relationships to nurture and support one another. But this fluidity needs to be connected to something more.
2. A firm ecclesiology of hierarchical relationships. A local church where they can be mentored, serve one another through their spiritual gifts, be under authority, and be preparing for the fact that this is the last train-station for peer based / generational ministry.
3. A fortress ecclesiology of kingdom relationships. The Global Church connection where they can be a part of affecting the world-wide revolution of Christ. This includes mission trips, support for ministries world-wide, intercessory prayer, etc.

Without this balance they are prey to extreme autonomy; life without protective authority; a lack of family support; unhealthy focus on self spiritual pleasures; inability to enter a generationally diverse ecclesiology; stifling of spiritual gifts…and in general an indulgence of selfishness. And while America has turned college into a rebellious rite-of-passage against parental authority figures…anarchy will not be a reality-based option after they graduate. This delusion has isolated many college students and left them as easy prey for the enemy both at college and immediately afterwards.

Fear factors
What “para-church” campus organizations fear?

Most “para-church” organizations actively support local churches. However they have several fears about them that are mostly valid. These include:
1. Local churches just want free “labor” at their church.
2. Local churches will try to pull students out of involvement with us, and into them.
3. Local churches just want to use students as props of energy and momentum
4. Local churches fear they are getting old and want to “see” some young folks so they can feel better about themselves
5. Etc.

What “local churches” fear?

Most “local churches” want to support para-church ministries, except that:
1. “real” ministry is in the local church
2. “real” church is only the local church
3. Para-churches remind them of the fact that they are irrelevant and they secretly are annoyed at their own failures and displace blame on others.
4. Para-churches often don’t support their distinctive: Calvinism, Charismaticism, …ism’s galore etc.

Pure and impure desires
a. Impurity in the local church
i. Numbers and vanity in leadership IE: the numbers in attendance make me “feel” better about ‘my’ church.
ii. College students as cliché’s of energy, perception, and free labor. IE: “those college kids should run the youth ministry.”
iii. Rationalizing what “church” is in order to do what we want to do.
b. Purity in the local church
i. Serve college students
ii. Missional impact to college students
iii. Opportunities for use of spiritual and servant gifts of college students
iv. Mentoring and Discipling college students
v. Getting college students ready for their next “ecclesiological” experience

3rd paradigm possibilities

It seems to me that there are endless possibilities to facing these challenges creativity. This I will list some sketches which are meant to be erased and redrawn in various situations. They are neither exhaustive nor authoritative. They are ecclesiological dreams.

1. Local churches teaming-up with kingdom para-churches on local campuses. In order to do this:
a. Local churches need to support these groups financially, with deep relational resources invested, and with submission to the relevance of the missional approaches they use.
b. Para-churches need to support local churches by interlocking their programming with churches when possible. IE: don’t do so much programming that there is no room for local or global church involvement.
2. College ministries need to teach ecclesiology to college students in the generalities of the paradigms I have listed above. Most focus on missional, moral, or experiential agendas. They will need to broaden this if they wish for balance in the present and survivability in the future for their college students spirituality.
3. Deference for the sake of unity needs to become orthodoxy in these matters. College students are not clichés, toys, or objects of desire. They are God’s children and deserving of respect, foot-washing, love, care, etc. They are highly at risk in this developmental timeframe and “mom [para-church] and dad [local church] squabbling and getting a divorce, doesn’t help them. In fact this lack of stability and integration may be one of the reasons they are so at-risk to start with.
4. Local churches need to broaden their ecclesiology and para-churches need to narrow theirs. Both need a theology of kingdom to unite and bind them together.
5. We need models of this being initiated, evolved, and adjusted so that we can learn from one another. This is what 5 stones community church is attempting to do.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The 5 D’s of Leadership [modified from swerve blog for our context]

Years ago I did a study of Joseph. On his way to God’s ultimate plan, Joseph (as well as many other leaders) experienced five specific phases on the road to his destiny.

This week we’ll talk about the four phases (or D’s) most leaders experience.
The first phase is the dream. Your destination needs to align with God’s destiny for your life
Long before he had any credibility with others, God gave Joseph a dream.
It is noteworthy that those closest to him didn’t like or understand his dream. In fact, Joseph’s dream of future leadership incensed his brothers.
How do you uncover your dream, burden, or passion? It helps to wrestle with these statements and fill in the blanks.

I’ve always wanted to _________________________________.I believe I was created to _______________________________.
My deepest passion is _________________________________.
I’ve never told anyone _________________________________.
I’ll regret this if I don’t try ______________________________.

Maybe God has planted a dream in your heart to do children’s ministry or youth, or to fund water wells for those without clean drinking water, or to disciple 12 underprivileged kids, or to write new intimate worship songs, or to create Christian movies for children, or to find a cure for AIDS, or something else.

When God gives you a dream, don’t be devastated if everyone around you doesn’t understand. Every leader is first “alone” with the dream. It starts in our private place with God and goes public in God’s timing.

The Living Bible translates Eph. 3:20 like this, “God is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of –infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.”

If God gives you a dream, remember, He is able to bring it about.
What are you dreaming about?

The Second “D”
To pursue your dream, at some point, you’ll likely have to take an aggressive step. Phase two is to make the decision to pursue your dream.
This sounds easier than it is.

A friend of mine who occasionally flies a small plane recreationally once described to me the point of no return on takeoffs. He explained that on the runway, there comes a point that the pilot must be absolutely committed to takeoff. If the pilot isn’t committed at full throttle, he’ll run out of runway and won’t get the plane off the ground.
The same is true of the dream. At some point, you’ll have to make a faith decision.
Your faith decision could be as bold as leaving a job or moving your family to another country. Or it could be as simple as going public with your dream, starting to raise money, or forming a 501c-3.
No matter what the decision, to step toward your destiny will often require a daring step away from your security. In other words, if you want to walk on water, you’re going to have to get out of the boat.
Remember, it is impossible to please God without faith.
When did you make a big faith decision toward your dream? Or… Do you have a decision to make?

The Third “D”
If you seek Him, God will likely give you a dream or a burden. Once you know you’ve heard from Him, you’ll need to make a decision of commitment to the dream.
The third “D” is not much fun. Not every leader must endure phase 3, but most do. The third “D” is the delay.
Joseph had a dream. After going public with his dream, his brothers roughed him up and sold him into slavery. After being falsely accused, our hero ended up doing jail time.
It appeared that his dream would never come to pass. But a careful reading of scripture shows that God was with him each step of the way.
Someone said, “God’s delays are not God’s denials.”
You may feel like your dream is on hold. God may be doing something in you during the delay to prepare you for what God will do through you.
If you are in a season of delay, let the Living Bible’s version of Hab 2:3 speak to you. It reads, “These things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day.”

The Fourth “D”
If you serve God, Satan will be upset. He will send everything at you to get you off-page with God’s destiny for your life.
The fourth “D” is the crucified life, a life of sacrifices and pain. The fourth D determines the strength you will need for your destination. This “D” will drive you into deeper dependence on God. The fruit of this dependence will be increased determination. The Fourth “D” is the discouragement and determination
Joseph had to endure accusations, and injustice. He was betrayed and hated. People guessed wrong at his motivations and character. And Joseph was at times surrounded by selfish and self-serving people. He could choose bitterness or grace; hope or hopelessness; faith or feelings of failure. But Joseph as a slave or in prison always did the best he could with what he had, where he was. Discouragement teaches us resilience on the anvil of pain.
If you are in a season of discouragement remember these promises and principles:
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 1 Peter 4:12 [ Suffering for Being a Christian ] Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.

The Fifth “D”
God gave Joseph a dream. Even as a very young man, Joseph made a decision to go public with his dream—even though he only faced resistance. If he experienced one step forward, he immediately fell two steps back with unfair treatment and false accusations.
Like many others, he had a dream, made a decision, and experienced a delay before reaching what some would call the final “D”—his destiny. God elevated Joseph to second in charge over all of Egypt.
Some might look at Joseph ruling like they do at other great leaders. People often say, “They are an overnight success.”
In reality, there is no such thing. When God blesses you with what others call your destiny, you’ll know God was with you each painful and grueling step of the way.
Like with Joseph:

§ He was with you when he gave you the dream.
§ He was with you when you made a decision of faith.
§ He was with you in divine delays.
§ He used discouragement to refine your determination

Because He’s been with you every step of the way, you won’t forget Him when you are living your dream. And even if you never get to experience your greatest dreams, He will be still with you.

Ultimately, that’s what matters most.

Friday, May 1, 2009

We are growing as a church. Slowly numerically, good growth financially, spiritually, biblical literacy, missionally…but we also need to grow prayerfully.

It is part of becoming a “sticky” church. Get used to the term, you will hear a lot about it in the coming year.

A sticky church sticks together, and people that come into contact with it want to be stuck to it. A sticky church worships together; plays together; serves together; laughs and cries together and prays together.

Praying together allows our hearts to hear one another and enter into deeper community. It grows our empathy; it ignites our passions; and it teaches us about one another. Public prayer has more than one audience. It is aimed at God, but it also splashes over each other. We hear hopes, wounds, confessions, dreams…and knowing these things about each other helps us to become a deep community. Vulnerability and transparency heal wounds; bind hearts; and draw us into one another.

Thus this Sunday night we will enter our prayer summit with these expectations.

And we will have a rhythm. The rhythm goes like this:

1. Adoration:
a. We will have a time to worship God and thank him for who he is; all he has done; and all he is doing and will do through and with us. Our voices become songs which are prayers.
2. Confession:
a. We will have a time for you to ask God to forgive you. Both of the things you have failed to do as well as have done wrong. This includes our failures as church leaders, missional ambassadors, evangelists, etc. Failure is a NORMATIVE part of the Christian experience of yearning towards and never reaching perfection. Forgiveness and Grace fill us with hope, even as confession empties the burdens of our guilt and shame. Confession is just a healthy short-accounts apology. It helps us be responsible, and pulls us out of the delusions of excuses and rationalization. Confession is always the first step towards true joy, though it seems to be headed in the opposite direction. Confession without forgiveness leads to despair…but we have Christ and His grace…and forgiveness in his hands is hope!
3. Intercession:
a. We will have some time for people to be prayed for. For us to in unity ask God for help. In this way we no longer feel like islands, but feel like a part of a whole. Our voices are no longer monologues, but become a choir singing to heaven. Our loneliness is ended, and our longing is joined by others. In intercession we share burdens and carry one another. Indeed as the poet has said “each of us are one winged angels and can only learn to fly by embracing one another.”
4. Prophetic praise and revelation
a. We will end by having a time for anybody to share a scripture that has come to mind, and encouragement, or a revelation for our church family. A chance to say thanks to God and each other; a chance to see the future; a chance to see better where we are. Any “awkward” words become a chance for our elders to discern. It is a time for whatever God may desire to speak-back to us to be heard by all of us. For when we sing to Him, He sings back!

Hope you can be there, it will be great



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