Saturday, January 23, 2010

Covenant Communities

Creating community in a church is a much greater challenge than running programs, and most of the problems we face in the church are the result of broken relationships and lack of community.

As we see a new type of church leader emerging; authentic community will become one of the primary standards by which church health will be measured, rather than church size or the number of quality of specific ministry programs.
So the question quickly comes up, "what is authentic community?"
Someone best described it as "real people, in real relationships being real, all the time."
I simply call it, entering into covenant.

Rick Warren has said there are four levels of relationships that people engage into.
The first and most shallowest is Studying together, then
Sharing together, then
Serving together and finally
Suffering together.

This type of community is difficult, messy and sometimes impossible. But it starts with a willingness to engage in time frames that don't fall into the normal "meeting time."

Those that are living at a deeper level of community constantly find themselves with each other in homes, coffee shops or anywhere on almost a daily basis; it's deeper than a "Tweet" or "Facebook" wall post.

Are you engaging into authentic relationships and creating covenant communities?

Am I?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In The Trenches

I've been asked more than one time, "what's it been like for you to not be on a staff at a church for the last two years?"

One word. Enlightening.

I'm currently reading a book called, "Transformissional Coaching" by Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl.
I would love to put some of my highlighted notes on here for you to enjoy, but the truth is, I'd probably get sued for plagiarism; it's got so much in it that there are literally some pages that only a couple of sentences are NOT highlighted.

For me, the book is valadating why I feel and think the way I do. I've often felt like a rebel or felt hindered in sharing my views for feeling they were "too out there."

As a real quick point of reference and to explain the word transformissional, here is a little breakdown.
Keep this in mind while I share; Times are changing! My kids (4 & 6 years old) will most likely never know what an audio tape was. Much like I never experienced the 8 track. Likewise, young people today view churches like: Willow Creek and Saddleback as "traditional!" That's mind blowing!
It begins with the three major paradigms.

The Traditional Church (1900-1980)
  • Modern with a rational worldview.
  • They are pastor-and program-centered.
  • Worship style is traditional.
  • Spirituality is determined by attendance, adherence to rules, and position in the church.
  • Most visible religious figure is Billy Graham.
  • Missions was always viewed as an "over seas" endeavor. Some would go, others would pay and more would pray.
The Pragmatic Church (1980-2000)
  • Includes the church-growth and seeker-church movements.
  • Huge use of media, technology, and innovation.
  • Worship style is contemporary and performance oriented.
  • They tend to be ahistorical and minimize religious symbols and architecture.
  • Market driven and success oriented.
  • Evangelism focused mostly on reaching the "seeker" and "getting back" the once churched. And they did, thousands returned because now church was relevant for them and their children.
  • The most visible religious figures are Bill Hybles and Rick Warren.
The Transformissional Leaders (2000 to present)
  • They are prone to deconstruct and reconstruct ministry.
  • Have an aversion to performance and programs in the church.
  • Prefer to emphasize the development of authentic Christian community.
  • Love to blend the ancient with the contemporary in their worship and environments, such as presenting stained glass on video screens.
  • Church is viewed as a small part of something larger that God is doing, not as the center of spiritual activity.
  • They hold to an entirely different view of evangelism. Recognizing that most people with a postmodern worldview have had no experience with a church.
  • We seek to engage the culture by caring and relating to individuals on their own turf.
(and that was the abbreviate version!)

I agree when they write that neither seminary nor seminar will prepare us to do ministry in the postmodern future.
Equipping will be just in time to keep pace with the rapid changes in culture and ministry
Equipping will be on the job; skill formation and spiritual formation will take place in the midst of ministry.
Equipping in Bible and theology will take place on the Internet, where knowledge is easily and immediately accessible.
For economic and other practical reason the church will regain it's place as the center of ministry training rather than the seminary.
Most training, however, will take place in the trenches of culture. Culture and cocommunities won't be transformed unless a new approach for equipping leaders emerges.

I personally believe it's going to have to be relational. We will continue to need coaches, mentors, teachers, and pastors; we will also need to see an increase in spiritual fathers.

As I travel the globe and see a wide spectrum of churches, one thing remains the same; young transformissional leaders who want and desire spiritual fathers.

Malachi 4:6

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What Do You Do With The Baby?

In order to fully understand the thoughts in this blog, I suggest reading my post called "Family Matters" where I talk about what I have formulated as the three types of ways to start a church.
If you haven't read it go to it now, then come back.
Go ahead, I'll wait.

The Parent.
The Step Parent.
The Illegitimate Child.

I want to clarify and make sure you understand; that when I say illegitimate child, I am in no way referring to the actual child of how we think in the natural. I don't believe there is a such thing as an illegitimate child, God has a purpose and a destiny for every person. It's been best said, "there are no such things as illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents."--Rick Warren.

When I use term illegitimate child--I'm referring to whatever reason starting a church without the blessings of the Pastor or leadership where you attended or served volunteer, staff at ANY capacity before starting your "new work."
For the rest of this post, I'll refer to the "illegitimate child" as "unauthorized church plant" for clarity sake.

Over the the last year or so as I've surveyed new church plants, a majority of them (not all of them) would fall into the category of unauthorized church plant. One or or two would fall under a church split acknowledgment, those that say they did not come out of a church split would also say they started without the open blessings of their previous pastor, regardless-----unauthorized church plant.

While surveying these unauthorized church plants, I've ran across a few (not all of them) that no doubt are doing great things for the Kingdom of God. It's clear they are impacting their city, winning souls and making disciples for Christ. Lives are being changed and I rejoice with them and cheer them on.

So my question is.....
Whether it's a messy church split that has had years to recover, leaving a church without that pastors blessings and starting a church or simply leaving the church you've attended for years and going across the street and starting a new work......does the end justify the means?

Or to put it in the context of a father/son, parent, step-parent mentality......what do you do with the baby?

Acts 18:4-11 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized. One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

A mentor of mine gave me that verse to ponder, and I have been. He was not advocating for starting a church next door to the church.
I guess the real answer has to come from the pastors and leadership that caused the unauthorized church plant to begin with, right?

I'd also like to point out that I do recognize two other major issues that are key in these verses that play an important role to a satisfying answer to the specific issue in those verses, you can tell me if you see them too. ;)

"What do you do with the baby?"
I'm all ears, give me some wisdom to think about how this plays out.


Yours for His Kingdom!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Healthy OR Cancerous?

I am Spirit filled.
I am a person who is lead by the Spirit.

Holy Roller. Super spiritual. Mystical. Weird. Hyper-emotional.
I am not.

With so much misrepresentation about the Holy Spirit from the charismatic world, it's no wonder we live in a culture that wants nothing to do with Him.

Yes Him, not It.
So you probably guessed I'm not a huge fan of the lyrics, "send it on down, send it on down, Lord let the Holy Ghost come on down."

I've even discovered with well meaning church leaders; when it comes to things like: church growth, strategy, direction, casting vision, or structure there are some who play the "just be lead by the Spirit" card.
In fact, I'm sure there are those who think I rely too much on leadership tactics and books instead of the guiding of the Holy Spirit. The reality is, that is the furthest thing from the truth.
Why the confusion?

Because when it comes to leading, we tend to think in an "either/or" mindset.

Are you Spirit filled OR structure oriented?
Are you "sensitive to His guidance OR strategic on your own?
You're EITHER lead by the Spirit or by man.

Whenever I'm asked, "Pastor Vince, do you believe I should just rely on the Holy Spirit for direction OR really be strategic and read leadership books and explore different structures to lead my ministry?" I always just answer, "yes."

Leading a church or a ministry is not an "either/or" issue when it comes to the Holy Spirit and structure.
It's an "AND" issue.

Before God created man, He created the sun, stars, moon----we call this the Solar System. Scientist today have discovered there are billions of little details in the universe that enable life to exist on Earth. Everything from: the color of the sun, to the tilt of the planet, to the amount of salt in the water, to the carbon in the air. There are so many, and if any one of those were just a few points off, life could not exist.
God created a system so man could have life.

Jesus feeding the 5000 had his disciples first get the people in groups of fifty. (Luke 9:14)
And there are many, many, many other examples to give, but long story short---God is a God of order.

One last thought as you pray and seek God to give you wisdom and breathe on your ministry, and then make plans, set strategies, cast vision and set up structures for the upcoming year---

Having structure in a church is like having healthy cells in your body, after all we are referred to as "the body of Christ."
If you look at a healthy cell under a microscope you will see clean lines of the membrane making up the cell, it will look very much like a honeycomb; each one in order and connected.
If you look at a cancerous cell under the microscope you will see the membrane looks a lot like a lava rock; no clear lines or clearly distinguishable sub-system.
What's amazing about the healthy cell and the cancerous cell is that scientist tell us it's not what's "in" the cells, it's how they are "structured", that makes them different.

Wherever God breathes His Spirit into lifeless clay, both life and form spring forth. To operate a ministry with life (Holy Spirit) but without form (structure) you're producing a fast growing carcinoma. (cancer)