Getting real about where we are at

10 02 2009

The loss so many of us have suffered (directly or indirectly) as a result of the dramatic downturn in our economy has been both very real and very painful. As a result there has been a contraction that is not only felt in the economy but in our ability to see the magnificent opportunity we have at such a time like this. We know the facts: 1) God is good – He cares about me and my family; 2) Our relationship with Christ is strengthened during times of suffering; 3) There are others with greater needs then us; 4) The gospel is for exactly such a time as this; and 5) We are the ones blessed and now called to bring Christ’s redemption to those around us.

What we don’t know so well (because so many of us have never experienced times like this before) is the opportunity. What if the vision to build bridges to our community was for such a time as this? What if that vision was manifest primarily by reaching people in real need? What if living that vision started now – completely disassociated with any relocation plans? What if we trusted God with our future and focused on the needs at hand?

Some of us have answers to these questions: 1) It’s not that bad in Tallahassee; 2) Give it a year or two and things will be getting back to normal; 3) We are already serving the community – look at what OFS does each week.

Let’s say for argument these answers prove to be true – can we say we have acted like Christ by just maintaining the status quo? What if it takes five years to “get back to normal?” What if things get worse?

Here’s a course of action that needs our serious consideration (pertaining to Wildwood Church):

1) Admit that the relocation project is stalled.
2) Admit that leadership has been detached from one another and in disunity for some time and that only recently have steps begun to correct this problem.
3) Admit that our finances are in decline – presumptively because of the economy.
4) Admit that we are not sure when we will move forward with relocation plans but to do so now would be not only imprudent but an unethical use of resources with the increasing needs in our church and community due to the state of the economy.
5) Offer to return funds to people who gave to the relocation project who are experiencing financial hardship or who are dissatisfied with the lack of progress with the relocation plans.
6) Get permission to use the funds given to the relocation project to meet extraordinary needs of individuals and families in our community who have been affected by the economy.
7) Implement a church-wide collaborative form of communication to identify those extraordinary needs and solutions for those needs.

Risky? Without a doubt. What if people take us up on the offer to get their relocation contributions back and we give the rest away to people with extraordinary needs (and we do all that with a diminishing general fund)? But then think about the risk if we don’t act. What value is a vision to reach our community that we largely ignored during a time of crisis?

Perhaps it is premature to sound the alarm – perhaps this recession will not get much worse and be over sooner than expected. I am not a pessimist by nature but these are truly uncertain times – we have never tried to come out of a recession when the rest of the world was in it with us and the financial system had experienced such widespread failure.

No one knows the rules of how this game gets played out. Hoping for a soft landing and a speedy recovery is not a bad thing but I also don’t think it is a bad thing to discern what God would have us be about. Could it be that these uncertain times are the very windows of opportunity to advance God’s kingdom in our community? I think that this may be the real – the reality of what God is up to – that we need to be about.





Missional leadership

26 01 2009

missionalleader

Alan Roxburgh is leading a series of webinars that coordinate with his book The Missional Leader.  The book is an excellent resource providing some very practical guidance for leaders in post-Christendom.  Christianity Today reviewed the book shortly after it was published in 2006.  The following comments are from that review: 

“The book first describes this new term ‘missional.’ Leaders no longer view themselves as heads of a hierarchy, and church members no longer look only to the “professional” Christians to get the job done of reaching and caring for their communities. Missional leaders are more interested in cultivating community than controlling outcomes through programs and buildings. Such congregations are beginning to breathe in the same air and dream incredible dreams because they are learning to allow God’s Word and his Spirit to lead them rather than agendas, budgets, and traditions. People who would never have dreamed of taking leadership roles are discovering purpose in the community of believers.

“Essentially, in this model, the leader is a facilitator skilled at bringing out the deeper issues among the community. Rather than providing solutions, he asks good questions and embraces, rather than resolves, tension. The missional leader seeks to cultivate the congregation’s imaginative power rather than attempting to shape it into a pre-determined form.

“…For all its idealism, The Missional Leader paints a realistic picture at least of what life could look like among churches willing to enter the chaos and make lasting change little by little.”

Early last year Chad Hall illustrated how The Missional Leader was “playing out” in several churches in a Leadership Journal article (pdf available here).  

webinars_350x225The webinars Alan Roxburgh is hosting are available here.  The next one is scheduled for February 16.  The first webinar was recorded and recently made available to the participants – I’ve posted it below (the Powerpoint can be accessed and printed from here):





Five things

13 10 2008

Andy Stanley closed the last session of the Catalyst Conference last week talking about stuff that he has on his mind. Tim Stevens summarized those five things on his blog Friday:

1) To reach people no one else is reaching, we have to do things no one else is doing (Craig Groeschel) – we have 175,000 people within 10 miles of Northpoint, and we aren’t reaching them. We aren’t going to reach them by building another church building. We have to do something no one else is doing.

  • Become preoccupied with those you want to reach rather than those you are trying to keep.

2) The best idea for reaching the next generation isn’t going to come from the existing generation, it’s going to come from the next generation.

  • If you are over 45 years old, you aren’t going to have any good ideas. It’s your job to recognize the good ideas.
  • Don’t do to the next generation what the previous generation did to you.
  • Be a student, not a critic.

3) I’m looking for what can’t be done in church, but if it could be done would fundamentally change the church.

  • It always used to drive me nuts that the communicator and the leader had to be the same thing.
  • Multi-site solved this. Now the great leader doesn’t have to be the teacher.
  • Like that, you may be the one to crack the code on something no one else has figured out that will fundamentally change our “business.”
  • Pay attention to people who are breaking the rules. It’s the rule-breakers who are oftentimes the problem solvers.

4) If we got kicked out by our board, and they hired a new guy, what would the new guy change or do different? Let’s walk out the door and walk back in, and make those changes.

  • The problem with ministry is that we’ve fallen in love with the way we’ve done ministry.
  • It’s not “no pain, no gain” — it’s “no pain, no change.” Without pain, there typically isn’t any change.
  • Ask: “Where are we manufacturing energy?” The things we aren’t very excited about, it takes energy to get it done, but the results aren’t stellar.
  • Acknowledge what’s not working. Own up to it. And own up to why you aren’t willing to do anything about it. What is it you fear? You need to deal with that. It is a leadership lid for you.

5) When your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near. You look back with smiles and lots to celebrate, but you don’t have a lot to work forward to.

  • Are you willing to be involved in the future more than the present?
  • Don’t let success overshadow your vision.
  • Success breeds complacency and complacency breeds failure.

Need ideas about what to do next?  …these sure are some great starting points.





The Bottom Billion

2 10 2008

Being “missional” is a recognition that our mission as followers of Jesus is to advance His Kingdom in the world.  As North Americans we have historically viewed that mission as primarily being outside our culture – we are now waking up to the reality it is also very much within our culture.  So, does that mean we stop doing “foreign missions?”  I don’t think it means that at all – in fact I think it would be very selfish to do so.  I do think, however, that there are critical things we need to learn about other cultures (just like there are things we need to learn about our culture) if we are going to be effective and good stewards of what God has given us and the life we  are called to live.

I had not heard of Dr. Paul Collier until I recently stumbled upon him on Ted. Dr. Collier is a professor of economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economics at the University of Oxford. He is a leading authority on African economics with a focus on the causes and consequences of civil war, the effects of aid, and the problems of democracy in poor countries.

What he has to say is not only very interesting but has has direct implications on how we can best help the poor and the consequences if we don’t. The gap between the developed and the developing world and the bottom billion widens ever year. Failure to act effectively will have disastrous effects on our next generation.

A few additional notable items:

  • In January United Nations Secretary-General Ban Kimoon declared 2008 to be “the year of the bottom billion” citing the work of Paul Collier. 
  • Marvin Olasky interviewed Paul Collier last year in World Magazine linked here
  • “One of the most important books on world poverty in a very long time.”–Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things Magazine




Karios

29 09 2008

 
Karios is a Greek word that means “when all things come together” and the identifier for a network of neighborhood churches in the Los Angeles area.  Their web page is worth a visit to get a flavor for what this new church is all about. They are part of Great Commission Ministries, an affiliation of missional churches – many of which serve university campuses (including a new church plant at FSU). Yes, this is cutting edge but not without solid backing (with guys like Rick Warren, Howard Hendricks, John Maxwell and Luder Whitlock on their Council of Reference).

In particular I thought their vision statement was well written and provides an excellent example of what a church in our post-Christendom culture should be about: 

As a community we are
          gathering a variety of wounded people together
                    crying out to our Creator
                              “breathe new life into us.”
                                        so we can see broken communities…
                              becoming communities of faith
                    bringing the reality of God’s reign
          neighborhood by neighborhood





Missional renaissance

9 09 2008

I just received an email from Leadership Network featuring four churches who have decided to move in a more missional direction.  I found the brief summaries of their stories both encouraging and motivating.  Change is not only possible but it can also bring more life to the congregation and the community:

Some strange and wonderful things are happening at Rivertree Christian Church.

After praying for 12 years about purchasing a local 85-acre farm and finally coming to a point in the congregation’s history where leaders thought they could pull it off, the church took a different direction.

Greg Nettle, senior pastor for the Massillon, OH church, explains: “When we announced that we’re not going to put up a $40 million campus…that we’re going to be committed to being generous as a church and give money away…people cheered in every service,” Greg says.

The announcement and the congregation’s response were unusual because such a turn of events is counterintuitive to most pastors’ dreams of growing a church, buying land, attracting even more attenders and seeing new Christians invite friends to help the church grow even larger.

Instead, some churches today are pursuing a different course that takes them out of the four walls of their church buildings and into surrounding communities. This adventuresome spirit is sometimes even taking them to other continents.

This shift toward first motivating church members to serve in their communities, rather than initially inviting community members into the church buildings is what some ministry leaders around the country are calling a missional impulse. And because this is not a new desire, but the revival of an old one, this ongoing transition is being called a missional renaissance.

The motivations leading today’s missional churches to adopt a more incarnational approach vary. And the leaders of these churches are motivated by a variety of influences – both internal and external – including Scripture, books, the example of other Christian leaders, or the success of a particular ministry within their own church.

Tim Senff, director of ReachOut , a ministry of Crossroads Community Church (Cincinnati, OH), identifies 2004 as the year his church began a serious movement toward more missional involvement with its local and extended communities.

The catalyst for the change was a building campaign in which church leaders decided to dedicate a percentage of the money raised toward practical assistance for others. Most of these designated funds helped the church build an AIDS hospice in Mamelodi, South Africa. Brian Tome, Crossroad’s senior pastor, had visited South Africa in 2003, and brought his passion for the project back to Cincinnati.

Crossroad’s leadership was surprised at the people’s response to the challenge and it began a season of change in the ministry emphasis of the church. Tim Senff reports that the congregation’s “Go Mamelodi” trips have “rocked the church” and “helped them to see the power of what the local church can do when they come together as a team.” Read the rest of this entry »





“The PCA: A Missional Church?”

2 09 2008

Church denominations have meetings periodically and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is no exception.  The PCA has an annual “General Assembly” which is a great place to catch up with friends but where there seems to be little forward progress made on reaching our culture with the Gospel.  I must confess that I have very limited experience with such meetings (I have attended only one – I think it was in 2003) but I have reviewed the summaries of some of these meetings and they don’t appear to vary much (here are the “highlights” from 2008).  Two years ago, however, there was a message that needs to not get lost in the annals of the denomination by Randy Pope who addressed what it means to “become all things to all men in order to win some to Christ.” Here’s what he had to say about how to do that in the context of present day western culture:

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