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Month: November 2007

Church Structures in lieu of Community

plate_xl.jpgI spent the morning with Eugene, who heads up our missional communities at Kaleo.  One of the challenges we've faced as a church centers on discipling people and seeing leaders emerge to give their life to be on mission.  The following idea struck me from our conversation:

We often need structures to overcome our lack of community. 

How can any person's life be changed by attending weekly programs?  Isn't this just a portion of what Willow Creek 'Revealed' in their failure to create meaningful disciples?  And they were THE model for the typical evangelical church.  Kaleo is diving headlong deeper into life-on-life mission to San Diego.  Recently a sermon was preached where we outlined part of what this may look like:  (This is a summary of the message preached 11/4)

Kaleo Community Covenant

We promise to honor one another, be members of one another, live in harmony with one another, build one another up, be like-minded towards one another, accept one another, care for one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, be kind to one another, forgive one another, abound in love towards one another, comfort one another, encourage one another, stir one another up to love and good deeds, confess our sins to one another, be hospitable to one another, greet one another, fellowship with one another, submit to one another while not passing judgment on one another, not provoking one another, not envying one another, not hating one another, not slandering one another, and not bearing grudges against one another.

We do all this because Christ has loved us in each of these ways and this frees our hearts to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34).

Again, this requires that we re-think a lot of things such as where we live, our patterns of life, how 'ministry' is done.  But all of us long for this type of community. 

Domains: Beyond Missional Meandering

Bob RobertsLast night, David Fairchild and I spent the evening with Bob Roberts.  He had just returned from Hanoi to speak at a conference here in San Diego.  He laid out a vision for how he believes churches will truly change culture, grabbing a piece of paper and pen he began to draw different diagrams of how this connected.  (These diagrams and the ideas will be included in his next book, so I'll leave that alone.) 

One of the larger parts of our conversation centered on the churches ability to transform society through Christians living their beliefs out in the 'domains' of society.  (Something I blogged similarly about in The Church as Movement – Organizing Decentralization and Transforming Cities – The Church beyond the Spiritual Box).  While most of the Western church is talking about being missional through engaging culture, we should be focused on changing culture.  Non-Western countries have been doing domain engagement for a long time.  Bob shared a story of South Korea and how the gospel radically changed that culture.  In both Ghana and South Korea Christians attempted to do mission through crusades and traditional means at about the same time in history.  This failed miserably in South Korea and so missionaries began to establish schools and health clinics.  Later, these became universities and hospitals.  It was through entering these domains, South Korean society changed.  The long-term difference of the gospel change in the cultures of Ghana and S. Korea are starkly contrasted based on this domain engagement in S. Korea.

Bob believes to truly redeem society Christians must engage these domains.  The primary thrust of this is done through community development.  (Kaleo Church has partnered with churches around the country to begin Re:Novo City Group aimed at this very idea.)  Planting churches is the means, seeing cities changed by the gospel is the goal.  

Read more about Bob Roberts Philosophy & Ideas on Mission, Church Planting & Being the Church

BONUS: Bob Roberts may be the Kevin Bacon of church planters/pastors.  Through him we can connect (within a few steps) to everyone in the world.  Here's a few examples of people he knows: 


Ed Stetzer, Bono, Nguyen Minh Triet (President of Vietnam), Condoleezza Rice (Secretary of State) & Abdullah Abdullah (former Foreign Minister of Afghanistan).  I could have mentioned dignitaries, business men (execs at Disney & Facebook), emerging guys, conservative pastors, church planting network leaders and other church planters.  But this guy is a connector.

I look forward to our continued relationship with Bob and his glocal vision. 

New Forms of Doing Church

tch-logo.pngSession: Things that make (Steve Timmis) go 'Hmmmm…'

The first thing that makes Mr. Timmis go hmmm is the fascination with new ways of 'doing church'.   It doesn't take much to see a number of new books, blogs and conferences speak to the changing nature of the church.  (In fact, it's a subject I've posted on many times.)  Timmis quoted J.C. Hoekendijk, a Dutch theologian.  In Hoekendijk’s view, a keen ecclesiological interest was generally a sign of spiritual decadence.

"Our God is not a temple dweller. In the strict sense of the word he is not even a church god. He advances through time; ever again he lets the new conquer the old. He is not a God of the 'status quo,' but rather the Lord of the future, the King of the history of the world, and, as such, also Head of the church…We must maintain the right order in our thinking and speaking about the church. That order is God-World-Church, not God-Church-World" (J.C. Hoekendijk). 

Much of what Timmis sees in the contemporary fascination with ecclesiology is an obsession with the church itself.  Timmis warned that the emerging church, can in it's restoration attempt end up recovering the form of church rather than the heart.  As they lead the Crowded House (a house church movement) they see the nature of what they are doing as a gospel initiative not an ecclesiological experiment.  Timmis states, "Any non-gospel initiative is an exercise in self-indulgence."

Reflection: How is the nature of your church a gospel initiative?  

Church Planters NOT as Pastors – ReThinking Leadership

Session: Elders & the Local Church

stevetimmis.jpgOne of the sessions Steve Timmis led at the Total Church conference centered around the challenge to plant missional churches and develop leaders fast enough to plant additional churches.  The Crowded House, Timmis' said, like many churches is leader hungry.  One of the Achilles heels of house church movement is the need for a higher leader ratio.  In fact, this same inability to find good leaders is a common rationale behind video venues or large churches.  In this, Timmis quoted Darrin Patrick (who is defending video venue strategy) who struggled finding people to plant churches (in the 250 people range) in his city:

One reason it didn’t work was that we couldn’t find enough planters with a heart for our area who could plant a self-governing, self-supporting self-reproducing church….I believe that there are few guys with the calling and requisite skill set to plant a reproducing incarnational/attractional church. This is evidenced by the 70% failure rate in church plants. I saw this in our own context as we simply couldn’t find the guys with the calling and skill- set to give people to. Now, this has not stopped us from planting locally as we just sent out an elder and people to plant about 45 minutes out in the burbs. We have another intern who hopefully will plant in the next two years. My point is that if your church is experiencing growth like ours, you cannot plant fast enough, chiefly because of the lack of called, qualified, church planters.  

Read full post: Darrin Responds at Bob Hyatt

paul.jpgTimmis, upon reflection asked is the problem we face the leaders or the types of churches we are planting? When he examined Paul's missionary journey, Paul traveled through cities where people converted.  Paul returned in under two years and more likely after a couple months to appoint elders.  Timmis surmised that the problem then cannot be our leaders but the types of churches we are planting and the leader requirement necessary to run them. 

paul-map.jpgIs is because of our Western idea of church that we seek leaders who can create reproducible, incarnational/attractional churches that grow to 250+ in order to split and start over again?  Where do we read these requirement of elders in Timothy & Titus, asked Timmis.  These are two conclusions Timmis came to:

1. We need to re-think leadership in the local church.  Much of our leadership shortage stems from wrong assumptions.  Churches can appoint elders, who fulfill all that is required in Timothy & Titus.  This means we select elders by the grace evidenced in their life, not by the attractional qualities they hold.  How many of these guys are in your church right now?

2. Church Planters have a unique set of gifting that are best served planting churches.  (Timmis called church planters 'apostles') Since there are fewer of these 'initiators/gatherers'  they ought to do more missional church planting (often done in a team setting where people travel with them) to plant churches.  The skills these 'apostolic leaders' possess include: Visionary, Creative, Adaptable, Productive, Impatient – always wanting to move things forward, self-starters and a bit of a maverick.  These skills serve the planter well to create new works, but often these skills make them poor leaders of established churches.

Throughout the conversation, Timmis stressed that he was 'thinking out loud' and hadn't firmed up on these conclusions.  But I post this because these ideas are something we all will need to think through as we seek to change cities by the power of the gospel.

Total Church Conference – Summary

I returned last week from the Total Church conference in England.  (I wanted to post earlier, but was having some technical difficulty).  In attendance there were 50 church planters from around the world, many were hybrids, traditional churches looking to become more missional or house church movements.  The central theme was gospel & communityTim Chester led excellent morning devotionals that were portraits of Jesus life.  The first was dealing with Jesus came eating & drinking, dealing with messy community life reaching to the margins.  The second devotional was Jesus at the table, which sprang from the women washing his feet.  The final devotional dealt with Jesus' interaction with the men on the road to Emmaus.

Steve Timmis led mid-day sessions that sparked conversation.  Over the next few days, I'll post a few summaries on the sessions.  Some highlights of the posts to come:

Things that make Steve Timmis go 'Hmmmm…' –  Steve held a session where he brought up a few issues that churches have to think through and offered commentary on these.  I'll post a few of the ideas which included people's fascination with new ways of doing church, preaching workshops, gender specific ministry, video venues & big churches.

Leadership Development in the Local church – A discussion on developing leaders, church planting and the ongoing role of elders leadership in local churches.  

Sharing Lives – More on how the Crowded House makes decisions with the community in mind.  Something that will always rock our American sensibilities.  

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