Saturday, March 13, 2010

How Shall We Then Meet?

When we look closely at the different aspects and effects of certain numbers in group life, the question gets raised as to whether or not these understandings of numerical dynamics can actually help us gather more intentionally.

So rather than being frustrated with different sized groups, when we get to know the dynamics of numbers, it is possible we can really begin meeting more strategically. If permission has been given to do church differently, why would we insist on meeting the same way, with the same format, even the chairs set the same way, in the same room, basically doing the same thing week after week?

Many are feeling significant disinterest with our basic larger weekend gatherings called "church." Some of that sense of disconnect is not at all about the need to gather as the church but the sheer boredom with too many meaningless meetings built around the same old predictable formats of the "song, sit, sermon syndrome," weekend after weekend.

Meetings or Gatherings?

No matter what we do with changing the meeting format, time, place, style, we are still called to get together. The Hebrews 10:25 mandate is interesting in that most translations use the term "assembling ourselves together." For me personally that was always been a put off. The first thing that comes to mind is my old High School assemblies, large meetings where all the students filled the bleachers and the gymnasium floor for some special, usually boring, presentation.

The word is actually best translated "to gather together" (epi-sun-ag-ein). It could mean any number of people, even smaller numbers of people. No set quota of what constitutes a gathering, simply a gathering together.

Jesus uses the same word in talking about eagles (or vultures as some translate) gathering around a body (Luke 17:37), and/or a mother hen gathering her chickens under her wings (Matthew 23:37). It is hard to see large crowds in all of these pictures, with rows of chairs and platforms and programs. It seems more about a gathering around something. Maybe even something more like an intimate circle.

So, yes, we do need to gather or flock together as God's people, and our verse in Hebrews 10 might even point us towards "more often" as we see that Day approaching. We do need to be near each other, in relationship with each other, and in communication with each other in order to do and be the "one another's" so explicitly laid out throughout the New Testament.

Sometimes in our exotic attempts to create new kinds of meetings or new forms or new structures that will bring about that greater new place with each other, we forget some basic principles.

Life in God, in His family, is not about meetings as much as it is about His purposes in a meeting. It is what we are gathered around. It is what He does when we get together, or what He wants to do in the center of each gathering. It is about a connection not just a crowd, it is about affection, about fidelity, a feeling of being gathered around Him as we are gathered with each other.

No new structure will guarantee that, but it is about whatever He has called us to gather around.

Too often doing the same things again and again, giving into the habitual forms of Christian conformity can become a great enemy to true community. If we just go to the same pace and do the same things we assume we will experience community. Not so. It could even be that these kinds of early gatherings at the end of Acts 2 were not even planned meetings but really people caught in the act of being unable to stay away from each other. They just had to keep gathering around their new found life in Christ, and all that that meant.

We know they had a strict cultural Temple model, it shows up in the very next chapter (Chapter 3), as the miracle happens on the way to a certain hour of prayer at the Temple. So I am not so sure that what we see happening in the end of Acts 2 is because of necessarily a newly discovered agenda, a new plan, a new liturgy, a new curriculum, or a new manual, as much as their lives were so radically changed by Jesus, with many unable or unwilling to leave Jerusalem so they simply had to drop in on each other as often as possible to share that wonderful new radical life in God.

They weren't going to house church because of somenewly designed revelation, they weren't going anywhere, they just couldn't stay away from each other's homes, and getting daily involved in each other's lives. Sure, they continued to go to Synagogue or Temple for a while, but Christianity was well on its way to becoming an unstructured lifestyle and growing relationships together rather than some new address to meet at.

We need to pray for one another during these days of transition. Many seem to echo this idea that they feel they are in what might be coming out of a "deconstructionist zone" or even coming through a season of "detox," concerning their prior habits of meeting or gathering with other believers.

In this season the Jeremiah (1:10) wrecking crew is busy "rooting out," "pulling down," "destroying," "throwing down," what seems old, or antiquated, or non effective in the many ways we have gathered and seems to bestirring up a great hunger for the for His Manifest Presence, and a deeper, more authentic community.

I think it feels a whole lot like the first part of the Sunday Night TV Series "Extreme Home Makeover." You know, the part when the existing house or structure gets demolished. The needy family is whisked off to some exotic vacation site as they watch their old house get razed to the ground via computer from a distant site. And then with full speed cooperation, the hyper-construction crews begin the remodel, the rebuild, accomplishing their task in record-breaking time.

Transition seems to always take us to extremes. Either old house or new house, but with so much work in the middle. Kind of like church, either fewer meetings or maybe even too many meetings.

We seem to polarize between extremes of passive isolation, try to survive outside the body in the "just Jesus and me phase," or in the opposite of the frantic addiction to activities as we jet about looking for the next watering hole, the next glory fest, the next angel filled conference, the newest church in town, ad nausea.

We must not become discouraged; this transition of learning to gather differently will take some time. We are carrying a lot of institutional baggage as we have done meetings so many certain ways for so many years. And we don't have to just throw everything out and wing it either. Instead we get to become even more intentional as we hear God's voice together on how we are to now gather.

Predictableness or Planning?

If we understand that we have the freedom to gather differently in this "permissional time," it means we can experiment with more intentionality and more direction, not less. And that we can actually use what we have learned about different-sized, different-focused gatherings to our advantage as well as God's advancement of His work in us.

We of course could choose by default to let all of our gatherings remain stuck in the "sit, soak and sour," mode of days past, or actually and delightfully and intentionally get God's mind and plan for the different kinds of gatherings He wants to lead us into. He is very willingly to work with us if we will work with Him.

When preparing to gather, go ahead and ask some leading questions. Where are you in your walk with God? Where are you in your relationships with others? So, why are you going to gather with this certain group? Where do you want God to take you, where do you want the night to go? What are you willing to do to get there?

Answers to these kinds of questions may help when you know what it is you are wanting or looking for in a gathering with others.

When Looking For Intimacy and Friendship

Try gathering in a smaller group. Maybe even a very small group. Maybe 3 or 4. Gender specific. With the purpose of learning to walk together as deeply committed, trustworthy and authentic covenant friends (Amos 3:3).

Hang out with these friends in such a way that as Neil Cole (Church Multiplication Resources) says in his simple outline, you create a place where sin is confessed in mutual accountability, God's Word is read repetitively in context and community, and souls are prayed for strategically, specifically and continuously.

This kind of intimacy and friendship takes time, and will not be the only meeting you participate in. But it can be a very meaningful part of your growth together with a few others. Start with an hour or each week. over coffee, and watch it grow into spending significant quality time together. In these smaller groups no leader is necessary, no curriculum is necessary, no is workbook necessary and no training is necessary. Just a willingness to grow together and to grow up!

Neil Cole's little pamphlet about these small but powerful Life Transformation Groups on his website.

When Looking For Family and Faith

Try simple church with 5 to 15 people gathered around a full meal enjoying the ebbs and flows of life as a family. These cross-generational meals can include everyone, kids and all. We all have to eat; we all enjoy each other's presence. And there during the buzz of the family-like meal we can hear, chat, interrupt, laugh, cry and pray together as an extended family.

When the meeting gets too large and the family-like dynamic changes, make necessary adjustments, and start new groups.

Do projects together, have outings together, go camping and bowling together. Involves the kids in different ways, as you basically enjoy an evening meal together with friends. And all of this can be highly attractive and contagious to your pre-Christian friends and neighbors, so keep some places at the table open for others. You just start by scheduling a meal, inviting others to come, and watch God do the rest.

When Looking For Prophetic Strategy and Spiritual Warfare

Find those spiritual warriors in your community who are fighting and winning spiritual battles. The ones who know how to pray, how to see in the Spirit, how to heal the sick and how to operate consistently in the authority of the believer. Basically, if you want to have a prayer gathering, find people who know how to pray.

This army is growing everywhere; start asking where they meet, what they do, and how you can share your specific and strategic needs with them.

These people are involved in intercessory groups; they are technicians with the Healing Rooms. Many are covert, and by no means drawing attention to themselves, and yet their reputations are known by the Spirit.

When you get together with these kinds of strategic people, the strategies will come in the meeting. The prayer direction, the national or international focus points. I heard of one group that watches the news channel and then pauses it when it calls for a strategic kinds of international praying.

Looking For Radical Worship and Celebration

Just listen for the sounds; you hear them everywhere these days. From boom boxes to huge sound systems. From iPods to finely-tuned stereos. Sounds of war, sounds of intimacy, sounds of celebration. Thunderous stomps over injustice, sweet, angelic melodious sounds for soaking and contemplation. Wild and crazy sounds that send you leaping and jumping. Romantic, and wooing sounds that have you in tears and silence.

Gather the musicians and singers and dancers around these sounds. Remember when David set aside the 4,000 musicians and the 288 singers to sing before the Lord 24/7. Then take these sounds to the streets, to the city parks, to the apartments courtyards, to the office complexes, to the coffee houses, to the beaches and of course to the cathedrals and chapels. Make room for the spontaneous sounds, not just the pre-learned songs of the day.

Find your own sound that builds with the others. And then give yourself to the full release of your sound, the participation of the instrument that you are. It is more about the sound you carry than your instrumental or musical talent.

Looking For Empowering and Equipping

What about walking through the Scriptures with some friends, asking freely and openly for insight, revelation and application. Gather a reading group around a certain agreed upon book, or listen to a CD/DVD series and discuss it openly. Even discuss it in public places, like a local coffee shop or a park, or the clubhouse at your apartment complex. Watch the curious interaction with others that God can cause in these open settings.

Gather some of your friends around someone's specific life message. A local teacher or pastor in your community, one of the fathers and mothers in the faith that you all know can be brought into your group for great times of teaching and feedback and interaction.

Have several of these spontaneous gatherings to empower and equip each other. Keep asking God what He wants to say to you, and keep listening, as He will direct you to invite others who carry a certain timely message for your group.

Whatever You Do - Do it With Friends

Doing the Kingdom with friends is what Christ modeled for us. Life in God is not meeting-focused, but is relationally lived. The signal most pivotal verse in this season of my life about relationship and connection comes from Mark 3:13,14 as Jesus called the twelve to first be "with" Him, and then second, to "send " them. Whatever you are called to do these days, do it with Jesus and with others.

This is no time to be stingy with creativity; this is no time to be boring or predictable. Do these gatherings with freedom and delight. Do them with new meaning, with bold intention, and radical passion. And don't wait for all of these gatherings to be planned and scheduled by someone else, don't wait for the special announcement to make the Sunday bulletin. Like Nike said, "Just do it."

This is a new day of getting together. It is time to gather and pursue deep authentic faith communities all over our region as we celebrate our Creative Creator.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Missional House Churches, Part Two

A standing concern for us over the recent years of emphasis on housechurching and community, is that if we are not discerning and careful, we can get so ingrown, so addicted to loving our intimate fellowship, that we might forget to be missional, to go beyond us, and possibly even deftly ignore the enormity and the timeliness of the God’s Great Commission and today’s ripe harvest.

But, I also have the greatest of hope, that in moving towards the more authentic living of our faith in our homes, in our neighborhoods, and in our daily lives, we might be able to steer more effectively towards the lost and steer away from some of the great mistakes that have been made by believers in the past in trying to reach those who do not yet believe.

Here’s Life America!

When my family and I arrived in the Bay Area of Northern California over thirty years ago, we came into the city God had called us to at a time when the entire nation was in the throws of one of the most extensive campaigns it had seen to date. “Here’s Life America,” was a multi-million dollar evangelistic effort sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ, originally founded by Bill Bright.

It was localized in 253 major metropolitan regions of the United Sates, involving no less than 14,500 local congregations across the country.

It was claimed that during that crusade three-fourths of all Americans were exposed to the campaign’s catchy slogan, “I Found It.” You could see it on bumper stickers, billboards, and massive television commercials everywhere.

Without question, North American churches had joined together into what was perceived as a quantum leap forward in the attempted evangelism of this nation.

At the end of the day though, when it was over, all indications were, that whereas “Here’s Life America,” was a streaming media success, it had proved to be a drastic evangelistic failure. As the facts of all the empirical studies came in, it saw merely a trickle of new members actually added to the body of Christ, with some experts concluding that this massive effort had virtually no measurable impact on church membership in the United States.

Motives Matter

Somehow, something deep, something core, something essential had been forgotten. It was the simplest reality that when a person comes to faith, or commits his or her life to Christ, ultimately they do so for reasons that are important to that individual person.

The reasons may not seem vital to that one’s family, to that one’s friends, even to that loving friend who is endeavoring to lead that person to faith. But the final reasons are deeply essential and critical to that individual who decides to commit their life to becoming a follower of Jesus.

Experts call the reasons people do things, “motives.” And because it is generally premature to ask someone to do something unless you first understand how he or she feels and thinks, it seems clear that we may have to be willing to put aside our reasons why our friend should become a Christian and try to see into their world, and try to understand their needs, before we offer the greatest of solutions to all of life’s problems.

Seeing Or Hearing

One of the saddest parts of today’s church is that for the most part it has become hidden from life, locked weekly into the four walls of our “stained-glass” wombs, and not available to be seen, witnessed and experienced in the everyday, and interacted with in the normal context of a person’s life.

Like some kind of weird “witness protection” system, we have hidden the most powerful witness of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the very people that Christ has changed, filled and empowered to live His life in the world.

People simply do not hear our answers to questions that they have not yet asked for themselves. Any canned presentation, even by the most well meaning Christian towards some hypothetical, average person is like trying to selling tickets on the Ark to someone who has been praying for rain for two years.

The church is to be the visible expression of Christ in this world. It is to be in view of the others. So that by watching or viewing the church, people absorbed as a body of believers, other people can sense, can feel, and can even ask questions. The world must experience the living fullness of Christ.

That is why living church 24/7 in a real world, out in front, for all to examine and to see is so critical. The church is an eternal presence in a fallen, temporal world, but we must have influence. And if all we do is go to meetings, whether in a building or a home, and never interact in the context of others, we have very little influence.

Listening Or Lectures

As Dena Brehm once stated, “Just by way of observation preaching was done to those who didn’t yet believe, dialogue was done with those who did already believe.” When we preach down to others, rather than live in front of them, we keep them at the distance of their unbelief. When we eat with them, laugh with them, cry with them, and most of all listen to them, we become a bridge into their world rather than a disjointed, disconnected religious wedge of condemnation.

When we listen to others we find out what is really going on in that person’s life. Then, and only then, we might be able to offer some help to where they are. Even better, we might even be specifically asked to help, at which point the Gospel the Good news of Jesus alive in me has become attractive.

Evangelism is not a course, not a subject, and not a goal. Loving people is. Loving people until they ask “why.” Our primary relationship to those outside the faith is not to try to get them to come to a meeting, endure a lengthy sermon and walk the aisle to an altar call. It is to do good works, helping them with any needs that they may have. Whether that be babysitting for them, helping them find a job, or simply having them over for coffee and listening as a friend.

So, how can we do that when we are constantly running off to meetings, even meetings to better learn how to share our faith? How can we do that as we continue to hide behind the excess of our religious activities? As it has been well said, “Preach the good news to everyone, everywhere you go, and when necessary, use words.”

“We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond to them.” - Abigail Adams (1744 - 1818)

A Virtual Visual Living Witness

That is why I so love doing church in a natural way, in a natural setting like a home, an apartment, a yard, a park, an office, in the marketplace of life. And with real people in real-life situations. By observation our neighbors see what goes on, even hear what is going on, long before we try to pounce on them with the “sinner’s prayer.” The fact that we have time to spend with them, the fact they are not made to feel like the objects of our evangelistic zeal, but rather friends, friends we like being with, and friends we actually care about goes much further than our quick wit with the Four Spiritual Laws or the Roman Road.

What is missing for many people, who might normally be curious about the Christian life, is they don’t get to see the Christian “life.” They only get to see us going off to another Christian “meeting.” They need to be exposed to how we live, how we struggle, and how God continues to transform in the midst of the same difficult circumstances that the whole world lives in.

When we live out this 24/7/365 Christian life, and live it next door, and even invite those neighbors in to participate, we have created a context that makes what we have to offer real. At the end of the day, we only have one thing. We don’t need to compete with the world’s intellect, music, style, wealth or lack thereof.

We have a unique commodity. The living, breathing example of changed, transformed lives. And seeing them, live, care, cry, struggle, share, hurt, heal, all is part of the picture.

So, lets get about the business of “being the good news,” before we attempt to present or proclaim “the good news.” Evangelism is a conversation, not a sermon. It is a proactive interaction not a pedantic put-down. It is a series of inclusive acts, not a pattern of rejection or manipulation to adhere to a list of rules.

Jesus was a “friend of sinners.” Now does that describe today’s kind of Christianity that is only known for its objections and political judgment?

Let’s keep the conversation going, keep the neighbors coming, and let’s include them now, even before they “pray the prayer,” so that we understand they will very likely “belong before they believe.”

Finally, let’s be reminded that part of God’s corporate mission for us is that we would live in transforming communities. Communities that not only feel like family, but act like family when the going gets tough, especially when it is time to confront a brother or sister, and walk them through the “hard times.”

Andy Christopher on community recently wrote, “Though community is to be sought after, it should not take the place of a real reverence for the Lord and a respect for His prerogative to reach down and blow up whatever plans we cook up together outside of His specific command.”

Changed lives, intertwined with other changed lives, living for the world to see. What a concept of a missional community!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Missional House Churches, Part One

"The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few." (Matthew 9:37)

A standing concern over the recent emphasis on housechurching, especially with its strong emphasis on the need for deeper fellowship and more authentic community, is that we might be once again concentrating too much on those already saved, fixated on catering to their emotional, social and edification needs, getting too ingrown, becoming less missional, and ignoring the enormity of the Great Commission and today's harvest.

Some might even warn us, that the Scripture says to, "Pray to the Lord of the Harvest," (Matthew 9:38) not, "Pray to the Lord of the Fellowship." So, is there a sense of caution here about too much fellowship, too much navel gazing, too much community?

Rethinking Fellowship

I don't think that the emphasis on housechurching is a Great Commission problem if we constantly rethink the goal of fellowship, the goal of community. When we remind ourselves that purpose of gathering as believers is mutual edification (Hebrews 10:24, 25), and the exposure to the multi-faceted giftings of a local body then the exposure to true and authentic community actually can help produce happier and healthier saints. Who in turn are naturally more effective as living witnesses to their world.

I have wondered for a long time whether our classic emphasis on Matthew 28; Mark 16, Luke 24; John 20; Acts 1 and the Great Commission has been all that effective in motivating people to evangelize effectively. I do believe in a Great Commission, in The Great Commission, and I desire deeply an empowered, living community of faith that embodies and incarnates that message of Jesus to the world.

I just wonder how much of the power of that message comes through the latest evangelism trend, over-zealous evangelists or by being rightly related to our Heavenly Father and to His people; the body of Christ?

For years as a city pastor I attempted to do everything in my power to help create the kind of unity that would emulate Psalm 133 and fulfill Christ's High-priestly prayer in John 17. Wondering all along if we would actually have a greater impact on our culture if we got caught truly in love with God and with each other?

Father And Me Then You And Me

A reread of Jesus' prayer might reveal a different focal point, "that they all may be one, as You Father are in me," (John 17:21). Is it possibly putting a greater emphasis on the relationship of intimacy and oneness between Jesus and His Father first, rather than the exclusive inference to the horizontal one of fellowship unity between you and I. First of all, with worldwide Christianity now boasting 37,000 denominations, what a daunting task this horizontal unity presents. I am simply thinking out loud as to whether we may have overstated the horizontal part of this unity and may have missed the greater vertical intimacy that will be followed by the fruit of the horizontal oneness. I do know this, that when the vertical relationship between my Father and I is intact, that automatically sheds light and dynamic on my horizontal relationship with others.

I also know that when my relationship of intimacy is broken with the Father it creates a very difficult environment for any true or meaningful fellowship with one another. I have come to call this the "sucking sound of fellowship."

Get some Christians together who do not have a working personal history with God, and their need for community is out of proportion, out of balance, and it screams "community" when the actual need is for intimacy with their personal God to be restored. The migration Christians from fellowship to fellowship is more likely a pilgrimage or search for Him rather than for each other. As we pursue Him, our love, our patience, and our way of being with each other radically changes.

The Cadence of Christ

I guess what I am saying goes back to my past reference on the classic sequence of Jesus in His own personal ministry in Luke 6:12 - 19. It seems there was a very distinct purpose to the sequential priorities in the life of Christ. (1) He spent the night in solitude (intimacy) with the Father, (2) the morning in fellowship (community) with His friends, and then (3) the afternoon in healing and deliverance (evangelism) with the harvest.

I have experienced much inward turmoil over these priorities in my life. So much of my ministry life in the early days was spent in neglect of that Secret Place/Sacred Space with Poppa. Even my fellowship with others that was spotty at best. Much of that seasons was consumed with serving God by serving others, all under the guise of serving the needs of the institutional church.

In the end, I outwardly may have achieved the success of numerical growth, but inwardly I lacked a deep fellowship with God, and a deep friendship with others. I always seemed to muster adequate vision beyond me, giving myself to missions, and to outreach in it many forms, only finding the emptiness in doing without knowing the Father or being really known by my brothers and sisters.

Back to the sequence of Luke 6, or what I call the Cadence of Christ. When these priorities are in order, things seem to be different. So let me go even further than the just the concern for too much fellowship. I think the priorities are even different than that. First, we spend time, much time with the Father, then time, deep time, with our friends, not just doing church business, but living in healthy community. And the results of this living in God and with each other will make a far more effective influence on the Harvest field around us.

I do want to work harder at being more intentional in my inclusion of the lost in my daily life, but when the mission overrides my relationships with God and my brothers and sisters, I am destined for burnout or bitterness.

I am more and more convinced that the best outreach comes through a life that is fulfilled up in upreach (To God) satisfied in inreach (To the saints) and then released in outreach (To the lost).

Given that scenario, I want to jump into this new year, and this new season committed to pursuing a new generation of healthy sons and daughters and healthy brothers and sisters who can better reach a lost and drifting society.

Our need is not slicker, more media-savvy approaches to evangelism. The message of Jesus' redemption is clear; the gospel is and always will be the Good News. The message will not change but it can be seen clearer and better and more distinct when we live it out with God and each other.

We are still "in this world," we are still exhibit A, to make the message more believable by how we live.

Or as Daniel Oudshoorn writes,

"Therefore, if the western Church hopes to be missional, it must learn to speak Christianly in the midst of Babel. Instead of changing the gospel message the Church must proclaim the gospel in its original form and allow the way it lives to interpret that message. The Christian message cannot simply be employed to provide Christian living with cultural approval. Instead Christian living, coupled with faith in the Holy Spirit, ought to provide the content and meaning of the Christian message. When Christianity is proclaimed in this way then the Church will be equipped to reveal a radical new way of being human in the midst of a western culture.

It is the indwelling and embodiment of the Christian story that makes it comprehensible (and perhaps even appealing) to society. It is the actions of the Christian community that exegete the Christian message."

A Prophetic Wanna-Be

I have always wanted to be more prophetic than I am, often desiring those laser-beam, precision, end-times words that everyone seems to be seeking. Especially today with the whole world in turmoil. So I am sorry, this is such a simple word.

Our finest hour is in front of us, and we will be up for it as we learn to take "baby steps," in living out our faith. A simple return to the main and the plain of loving God and serving one another by meeting the most of basic of needs in front of us, will return us to the potency and power of our message.

Begin by returning to the Father, carving out huge chunks of time, just learning to sit and rest in His presence. Secondly, keep living a life that moves towards authentic community, spending good amounts of time in deeper fellowship with one another, enjoying life as family, as we learn to gather, to eat, to share, to laugh, to pray together, and to genuinely care for each other.

Guaranteed, when we do this, our souls will be filled, our lives will be enriched, and the message of Jesus Christ will gain a great credibility in the eyes and ears of our skeptical culture.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Challenge of the New Church

There is an old story about five blind men who were given the task of describing an elephant. Depending on where the men were positioned, they in turn described the elephant as a mountain, a fire hose, a tree trunk and a spear. (The blind man who grabbed the elephant's tail and thought it was like a fly-swatter had the presence of mind to keep his mouth shut.) The story doesn't go into detail about the fighting that took place between the other four to resolve the issue, as apparently none of them considered that they could all be partially correct.

God is infinitely more complex than the elephant. Many of us have had an experience with God that has given us a certain impression of what He is like. However, God is just too big for us to experience more than just a small part of Him. Many people live their entire lives being satisfied with their partial view of God, either by choice or out of ignorance that there is perhaps more to see. Others learn to relate to others who have a different experience of God, and hopefully increase in their knowledge of Him in the process. However, we don't increase in our experience of God by merely relating to other Christians. To do that, we must occasionally reposition ourselves, stepping out of the box of our personal traditions, so that we can experience God from new angles.

It has been my intent over the few years to keep "walking around the elephant" and to take as many others with me as I can drag. As a result, it was often hard to describe our various home groups, as we rarely did things the same way twice. We had, as our primary values, relating to God, and relating to each other, and found that these values could take on many forms. I often found that it was the group who was dragging me around to some new view.

However, working within the structure of a church, even a smallish church, has proven to be more difficult. There seems to be an innate rigidity in the typical church that resists attempts to do something new, or merely to do something in a new way. No matter how much we talk about valuing organism over organization, it seems as though where two or more or gathered, the system (or "the machine," as we say) takes over.

Of course, everyone resists change to some extent. The fact that we were created with skeletal systems indicates that we are creatures who depend upon a certain amount of structure. People groups also require a certain amount of structure. Put 50 people together and they will in very short order create some kind of functional system, whether it's just to decide who will go get the chips and beer. But, take 50 people, or even 10 people, and have them start a "church," and superfluous structures begin forming out of thin air - or rather, out of our notions about what a church should be. The concept of traditional church has a power that is almost impossible to withstand.

I think this has a lot to do with the cultural expectations of "church," which unfortunately seem to have become the Western church's secondary cornerstones. A few years ago I sat in a room with about 12 people as we considered how to start a new church. The question before us was, "what are the essential elements of a church?" I was astounded at many of the responses, and by the extraneous work that people were willing to take on (which, by the way, took time and energy away from developing community). Things like the Sunday Morning Service and the Head Pastor model, though neither has any real New Testament basis, have actually become foundational to our concept of church.

Let's take another look at our blind men. Each one, being fairly happy with their position at the elephant, starts laying a few stones. The first one, the Head Pastor stone, marks one corner, directly across from the cornerstone marked "Jesus." The next stone, the Sunday Morning Service stone, marks another corner, and so on. Pretty soon the foundation is laid and the church is built, and there it will stay, with no means of ever discovering what lays outside the box they now call the church.

So how do we do church differently? How can we create a structure that does not prevent us from discovering the many facets of God? What we need is something that moves - we don't need a monument, we need a hovercraft!

The first thing we need to do is realize that the aforementioned cornerstones are not cornerstones at all; we cannot afford to entrench them. They may be useful tools for some churches at some times, but they are not essential to being the church. The only essential elements of church that I can see are contained in this statement: "wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." That is church, pure and simple. Relying too much on anything else creates immobility and contributes to an "us and them" mentality within the church (something that Paul warned against in 1 Corinthians 3:4).

We also need to establish among our people the value of remaining fluid. However, in order to do that we need to provide some new, transportable base upon which to build this fluid structure. We already have, of course, our only real foundation, which is the Gospel of the Kingdom. To this we add no other foundation; we only add the "architectural guidelines," if you will, for our structure.

My current thinking (my thinking is pretty fluid, too) is that all we really need besides the Gospel is inherent in the Gospel itself, which can pretty well be described by the intertwined concepts of "relationship" and "community." The Gospel is only lived out as we are first in relationship to the Head, Jesus, to the rest of the Body, the Church, and of course in relationship to the world. Again, we come back to Jesus' statement, "wherever two or more are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them."

So, then, we have the foundational rock of the Gospel, which of course, rests solely on the work of Jesus. That, in effect, is our "elephant." To be a church, I think we should be in relationship with the entire elephant, not just the part we think we know, or like, or what fits our personality. At least, we should be willing to be in relationship with the entire elephant, though we know that is impossible considering our human limitations. This means we must have, as one of our highest priorities or values, a commitment to being fluid enough to be in relationship with all of God. This, of course, presupposes a belief that we, ourselves, are myopic in our view of God and of the Church, as well as in our view of ourselves.

Next, we must be committed to each other. Throughout our journey we will, hopefully, bump into various other like-minded people and "clump" together (the fellowship that Todd Hunter has been working with calls itself "a fearless clump of seekers"). We will also hopefully "convert" others along the way, who will also clump with us. This is a natural, organic development of church. In my opinion, this is The Way It Should Be. We need to have as a co-equal value, a commitment to those that God has clumped together.

This commitment includes allowing our interaction to lead us in new understandings of God. Not valuing the "head pastor" as essential, we will probably not have just one person navigating the way; the direction of our journey will be set as we interact as a group with God.

A third value (actually, it's part B of our 2nd value) needs to be a commitment to the rest of The Church. Again, we cannot afford to have an "us & them" mentality. In our fellowship's journey together around the elephant (we are no longer a blind man, we have become a visionary fellowship), we will encounter both other visionary fellowships as well as the structures built by our blind men. They each have an experience with God that is also part of us; for in reality we are the same body. As John Donne once said, "no man is an island." The same holds for fellowships. We are part and parcel with each and every visionary group and blind man who has a relationship with God, and we must value that to the same extent that we value relationship within our little fellowship clump.

Of course, we need to realize that most of the blind men, as well as many of the other visionary groups, may not hold to this value, and may despise what they perceive as our lack of foundation. No matter - we must continue to value them, and to look at their position to search out any truth that we may need to discover.

What else do we need? Oh yes, a good Sunday School program. OK, so I am just kidding. I don't think we really require anything else. Everything else - missionary sending, outreach, Bible study - all will come naturally if we are truly and honestly relating to God and are sensitive to His leading. My theory is that our commitment to being fluid and walking around the elephant will make our fellowship more apt to follow the leading of the Spirit. When the woman at the well tried to engage Jesus with a theological discussion about which mountain God was at, Jesus gave her a remarkably postmodern answer: God is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. With these commitments - as this really what I have been talking about - everything else should follow.

However, let us state one more relational commitment, which is implied in our commitment to the Gospel: our commitment to the world. Though it is my belief that the church exists primarily to be in relationship with Christ, Jesus came For God So Loved The World. Because it is Jesus' mission to be the mediating savior of the world, our commitment to Him and our relationship with Him joins us securely and permanently to His mission. Though this is the subject for another time, let me just comment that our growing relationship with Jesus only comes as we join Him in going where He goes and working along side of Him.

To quickly summarize, I have boiled the essence of church down to a commitment to three relationships: 1) A vital, growing and changing relationship to God, 2a) A relationship to those we "clump" to, 2b) A relationship to the entire Church, and 3) A missional relationship to the world. These commitments will require some type of structure; don't misunderstand me as saying that all structure is wrong. I am just challenging us to rethink our structures, as I suspect that we can find newer, more efficient and more relevant structures.

As I have dialogued with people over the years about the lack of need for so much rigid structure in church organizations, usually referring to my home group as a model for how church could work, often there has come the argument that this can only work for a small group. Once a church reaches a certain size, they say - say 100, 200 people - you can't do church the same way; then you need to move into a more conventional structure.

I honestly don't know if that theory is true. Perhaps at a certain size, even with commitment to the values I have mentioned, fluidity is hampered. If so, then, it begs the question, "why do we need churches that big?" It sounds to me that once size is a problem, operating in smaller groups would be a solution, which is basic cell-church theory. The difference here, however, is that cell-churches have often fallen into the blind man category as they have entrenched themselves in their own positions.

I am not suggesting that the New Church cannot meet on Sunday mornings, or that they cannot have a single or head pastor. They can even own a building with a steeple, if they feel led, just as long as they don't make it foundational to who they are, or insist that others do it, too. The New Church needs an attitude of humility and a commitment to flexibility, founded upon the principle that "we know in part," that we need to know more [of God], and that we will do anything we need to do to know Him more fully and to communicate to the world.

That is the challenge facing The New Church by Alden Swan

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Famine For the Lord’s Words

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, not a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord,” (Amos 8:11).

Most of my life in the natural, like most Americans, I have lived off processed, refined foods, not organic, real foods. Foods, with the nutrients sucked out through processing and packaging. Some very wise friends in learning the benefits of good, right, healthy, real foods are helping Jane and me right now. For years others have tried to share with information with us, but I don’t think we were ready.

But I also think this has been the sad state of our spiritual diets as well. We have given most of our lives to the consumption of spoon-fed teaching. And as good and admirable as many of these fine teachers were and are, we were, in fact, being fed and have learned to live off processed or refined theology. Someone else’s recipe, someone else’s mix, someone else’s diet.

Once again, I repeat Bill Hybels apology to thousands of Christians. (Bill Hybels is the Founder/President of The Willow Creek Association).

The Willow Creek Association has undoubtedly had some of the greatest influence on the evangelical church in America as a movement in the last 30 years. In response to the experience-based environment of programs and participation so prevalent, Bill recently said, "We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have ... taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own."
While some use the Amos 8:11 text for their personal reinforcement of more teaching, more preaching, I personally believe it is just the opposite. It is a famine for the personal nourishment when the Lord speaks to you. When He speaks to you personally, out of the heart of hunger and His heart to respond and fill.

John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name. He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things I said to you.”

Outwardness and Inwardness

We all have two sides. Calvin Miller in his classic, “Table of Inwardness,” reminds us that outwardness as a Christian has for its greatest strength and greatest weakness the same thing: visibility. Outwardness has great appeal to all of us, even as it did in Christ’s day, but misused is fatal. “Beware of practicing piety before men in order to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). You have heard me for years refer to leaders who have a public identity without a personal/private history.

But likewise, the strength and weakness of inwardness is the same: invisibility. Inwardness draws us to that unseen reality. Inwardness says there is always more than what we see, always more than what appears or appeals to the eyes.

Outwardness too quickly denotes modern Christianity: going to meetings, doing things, teaching, preaching, testifying, praying for others, all in front of the rest of the world, or at least in front of other Christians, and many times in front of the room. And if we do these things well, man, the kudos will come, the pats on the back, the applause, even more to do these outward things more, which unfortunately has been too much of the motivation to keep on being better at being outward.

Man has always been addicted to outwardness, as God speaks to the prophet’s heart in the OT when He says, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart,” (I Samuel 16:7).

When it comes to inwardness, only you can tend that garden, and you tend it alone. Your guardianship of your inwardness is utterly crucial, since out of the heart come “the issues of life,” (Proverbs 4:23). And again, if you would survive the famine, it will be because you have tended your own personal inward garden well.

As someone pointed out we are like a ripe fruit which, when squeezed, displays its real contents. To this Jesus commented, that it is not what goes into our mouths, or even what we eat or drink, but what comes out of our hearts that defiles us, (Matthew 15:11).

What comes out shows or reveals what is in us, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). There is and will be an increased hunger to meet with God and be fed by God as we move into these difficult days. The world will also get a sense of who we have been with, somehow they will just know we spend time with Poppa, because of the individual sounds, the individual appeal we will carry. Our culture is already so skeptical of the canned, processed church. The one hour and fifteen minutes (the average meeting time of the successful, evangelical services) we devote to God has not produces health, nor hungers, except maybe in us.

Three Paradoxes of Inwardness

Aloneness-is-presence - However you find it. Spending time completely alone with God is really about the ultimate increase of His presence. Inner silence comes when you beat those demons that too often clutter and distract and fill us with you with every other sound. Inner silence only comes when there is true outer silence, and this only comes when you and God are alone.

Retreat-is-advancement - Go ahead, leave the “To Do List” behind, knowing that most of those screaming assignments will take care of themselves if you address the “tyranny of the urgent,” and go on a retreat with the Lover of your soul. Luther’s attitude was, “I have so many things to do today, I dare not ignore my time with God.

Beyond-is-within - No, you can’t do life in God, without God’s life in you. You must constantly be making room for more of Him. You must always be pressing out in order to press in. He is ready and willing to enlarge your capacity to receive more of Him. Yes, the “heavens do declare the glory of God,” (Psalm 19:10), but we get to be possessed by a transgalactic Omnipotence who comes to indwell us.

A DVD Diet

I am almost tempted to encourage everyone to lock up their CD’s, their DVD’s, shut off their podcasts, and maybe even leave some of the new books on your shelf. Just dedicate this new season to private meals between you and the Father. Go after God in the secret place, and treat each day as a steward by giving Him sacred space.

If we want be a people who survive the famine and even learn to help others survive, it will not be because we feed them, but because we model, by our own appetites and our own insatiable hunger for the fresh, full word directly from the Lord.

It won’t be easy, it is always war to shift our priorities towards Him, so remember, He will even, “prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies,” (Psalm 23:5).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Living In God’s Economy

When everything is shaking, as it is all around us, it is a good time to get into discussion about the things that matter. As financial markets worldwide have gone askew we get to take a good hard look at how God has called us to live in His Kingdom economy even during these volatile financial times.

From the earliest days God was saying something to us about our giving, and how different it would be. First through books, like the one by Al Houghton, “Purifying The Altar,” then by deliberate acts of moving away from the funding of facilities and programs, not charging at conferences and/or events, releasing, resourcing and empowering leaders based upon their callings, not their social status or their educational system, and giving generously to the poor, the needy and the oppressed of the nations.

As we have been assigned to address the subject of “doing church differently,” that includes “giving differently.” It means confronting those so-called “financial laws,” that exist in the church today that are actually a part of the old religious system tying people to false realities and expectations in the areas of giving.

Confronting Old Financial Laws

* Compulsory (Malachi 3 - Storehouse) Tithing Laws- tithe to this or that ministry and receive grace for enough, withhold those tithes and be cursed.
* Mandatory Prophetic Offering Laws – pledge and give this prophetic amount or this monthly percentage that usually correlates to some prophetic number over a period of a year above and beyond the tithe and break the financial curse, and if need be even charge it to your credit card.
* Selective and/or Directive Sowing Laws – direct your seed to this ministry, instead of that ministry, if you really want to get a good return on your investment.

Financial Reformation in the 21st Century

About 500 years ago in 517, the church encountered a radical confrontation that would become known as The Great Reformation. We heard much about the call to the return to the authority of Scripture and the return to “simple salvation by grace through faith.” But that is not all that was addressed.

What we don’t hear as much was about the call for reformation in giving. In the movie "Luther", Martin Luther is contending over the practice of "paying indulgences" to the Roman Catholic church in order to "free a soul from sin and purgatory.” Martin asks the religious authorities this question; "If God will forgive sin for money, why won't He do it for love?"

If salvation by grace alone was restored to the church, what about God's grace for physical provision? Aren't these provided by grace as well? The way many Christians still give today, it seems as though we continue to "pay indulgences" to religious institutions in order to receive God’s grace for finances.

Grasping Kingdom Finances

We need to be asking the same question Luther asked. "If God will supply our needs for money, why won't He do it for love?" Of course, the answer is, we know He does. Jesus set this straight with His words about the Father’s care for us.

“Therefore take no thought,” saying, “What shall we eat?” or, “What shall we drink?” or, “Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:31-33

“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:24

Not a bit of religious performance or duty here. Real faith and trust, just like receiving salvation, just like receiving healing. We are invited to believe in the Father’s love and receive provision from Him. In these stressed times, we have good financial news. Jesus purchased it all at the cross.

Jesus satisfied all (including financial) religious obligations. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Romans 10:4

Jesus took all (including financial) curses. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Galatians 3:13

It begins and ends in His love. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I John 4:10

1) Realms of Supply - The Natural Order of Investing - Sowing and Reaping

All that God has created in the natural world operates on the principle of sowing and reaping. It is the process of life, and increase. God is at work in the world supplying seed to the sower, the sun and rain for growth. Because of the fall sowing and reaping includes the process of sin and of death. We can sow to the flesh or the Spirit in our human activity. The Spirit brings life, and the flesh brings death.

Man sows into the natural order in everything he does, whether seed in the ground or helping others. Paul was talking about this when he said, "he that soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully." (1Corinthians 9:6) in referring to the Corinthians financial gift. Furthermore, Paul says that God supplies grace so that we have the seed to start with.

God’s Kingdom invades the natural order when He gives to us, or we give to others. Sowing and reaping is how God made things to work. Romans says that Christ Himself upholds the whole universe. It is the created order that operates on the principle of sowing and reaping.

So even when the odds are against a certain outcome of your sowing process, weather goes bad, crops spoil, everything is bad and nothing works, our God still supplies. Even when the stock you invested in under what you thought was good counsel fails, God does not fail you.

2) Realms of Supply – The Natural Order of Marketing - Buying And Selling

The order that man creates or operates on is the basis of buying and selling. Because of the fall, man judges and sets value on everything. We trade value for value. We sell our labor for money. We buy the product of labor with money.

We all see that the present financial crisis was created by greed in buying and selling. Men borrowed to speculate in building, buying and selling for a profit. On it went with houses, stocks, commodities, oil, and food. Prices were driven upwards until it went beyond our ability to pay the interest on the money borrowed. Buying and selling collapsed because there is no confidence in the artificial values. Sadly, Christians have also been a part of this, but God wants our heart for the Kingdom.

“Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Cesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.” Matthew 22:19-21

Buying and selling isn’t a bad thing, as log as usury and manipulation is not behind a spirit of greed, and even when we end up “losing money” in an unfortunate transaction, God is still your supply.

3) Realms of Supply – The Kingdom Order of Generosity - Giving and Receiving

The Kingdom of God operates best through the principle of generosity and giving and receiving in obedience to God’s leading and direction. It begins with God’s love for the entire world, His giving nature and continues through His people receiving His nature and giving to others.

Giving and receiving begins with God loving and giving to us. He created the world for man and put us in it to enjoy it and fellowship with Him. He loved us even while we were still sinners, and gave Christ that we might receive life and freedom. He puts His love in our hearts (Galatians 5:6). He invites us to freely receive His grace. (I Corinthians 2:12). Then in turn He urges us to give,

"...Freely ye have received, freely give." Matthew 10:8

As we learn to “pray and obey,” and learn to “receive and to give in obedience,” we are set free from the fear of lack and receive changed hearts, so we can liberally give out of God’s direction, and our delight, because it is all God’s, it all belongs to the King who gives liberally, so we can give and release liberally.

That is Kingdom Finances. Giving and receiving in the Kingdom of God is not a law and never under compulsion, other wise it is not giving, it would be taking. He gives, we receive, and we then “pray and obey,” giving intentionally in His nature.

This is why Paul says:

"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. " II Corinthians 9:7

As Kingdom Citizens:

1. We love the King – Giving to Him
2. We love other Kingdom Citizens – Giving to Them
3. We Love non-Kingdom citizens – Giving to Them

Jesus was condemned because he hung out with the sinners, and prostitutes. He poured grace on the cultural outcasts, the undeserving and rejected. We participate in the Kingdom when we give to others with the heart of the Jesus. Jesus told us in being like the Father we even get to bless the wicked.

“Bless them that curse you, and pray for them, which despitefully use you. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”
Luke 6:28, 35

Evidentially, the Heart of the King is that, "He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil."

Apparently, blessing the ungodly extends to finances as well. A little later in this passage Jesus tells us that being like His Father we will abound in His mercy and grace and giving.

“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” Luke 6:36-38

This passage is not just about giving to the saints, giving to the ministries. Giving to Kingdom citizen, but also it’s about giving to those outside the Kingdom of God. It's invading man’s order with Kingdom giving. “The men shall give into your bosom.”

As Kingdom Finances comes from the Heart of the Father:

-Be merciful
-Judge Not
-Condemn Not
-Give To Those Who Don't Deserve It
-Give To The Poor
-Give To Those Who Cannot Repay

Acts as stewards of all the good things of God.

God is fully willing and able to supply His people with more than enough. As sons and daughters of the Father, blessing with the same heart of compassion and love as the Father, we will give to His Purpose and His People, with His Passion.

When all the institutions and kingdoms of men crash, the auto industry, the stock market, Wall Street, these do not affect God’s Kingdom. In the days to come, we will have more to give, and more to give to. God’s value system will take over our dependence on man’s system.

In times like these it is imperative we operate according to His Kingdom economy concerning our receiving and giving. As believers living in God’s Kingdom, by God’s Kingdom realities get ready for a year of abundance preparing to receive abundantly and give extravagantly.

Nine means Fullness, nine spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12, nine fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, a woman carries a child full-term for nine months. In the worst financial market in our lifetime, God is ushering us into a year of Fullness.

His Kingdom is real and His Kingdom is here, so we can give and receive freely and generously.

Go ahead and get lean, as many are giving away extra baggage, getting out of debt, etc. Get lean, but not mean, instead get and stay very generous.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Liminal Leadership

Something feels deeply "new" about this upcoming year for me. It could be out of my hope, because 2008 was such a tough year for everyone. But this new year and this new season doesn't feel routine to me by any means. It feels radically different, and potentially very exciting.
My friend Len in Canada ( continues to challenge me about leaders finding their "space," in this new shift of leadership for the next generation. Len wrote the article, "Leading From The Margins," that was so influential in pressing me to write my new book. The book, "Where Would Jesus Lead?" is with Graham in concept edit mode, going to more edit next week. The whole book is built around this idea of leaders finding new places and new spaces to lead.

Len sends along Alan Roxburgh's following proposal concerning leadership: The primary work of leadership is to continually stand in the place (space) where it is compelled to ask the question of what God is about among this group of people who comprise this local church in this specific context at this particular time. Obviously, this definition is thoroughly conditioned by a larger story we describe as Missio Dei.

What is particularly helpful to me about this definition is this concept of "space."
Roxburgh writes,

"This descriptor of leadership suggests that one of its primary metaphors is spatial. Leadership functions in a certain kind of space rather than out of a set of definitions, formulae or assumed Biblical types. The understanding of this special metaphor is crucial for the formation and practices of a missional leadership. Without attention to this matter of the space in which leadership dwells, it is impossible to understand or shape a missional leadership in our late modern context. The questions we need to ask about being missional, therefore, are not drawn from the world of business or the social sciences, nor are they about how to apply supposed New Testament patterns to the contemporary church. Questions about what God is up to in the world require us to ask what kind of space church leadership must indwell at this moment in late modern societies. If leadership indwells this axis of God's activities in the world and the local context, then its primary location is in what we will call the "spaces between." The basic metaphor describing and assessing Christian leadership is spatial - it is about indwelling a space between."

Liminal Place and Space

"Liminality" is from the Latin word līmen, meaning "a barely perceptible threshold," or a place in between two worlds, or a place of transition. It is a mysterious place, a bridge place, and a unique place of balance between the people you are leading and the God you are both following. It is destined to be more of a prophetic place than a pastoral place and definitely more of an obscure place than an obvious one.

It is a strategic cooperation with what God is telling those you lead and what God is telling you. It is in this new tutoring place that we act, as a guide and a coach, a fellow traveler on the same journey without become the focal point of the excursion. It is so mysterious the Irish used to say, "It is the place between the foam and the sea."

The questions we need to ask about being missional, therefore, are not drawn from the world of business or the social sciences, nor are they about how to apply supposed New Testament patterns to the contemporary church. Questions about what God is up to in the world require us to ask what kind of space church leadership must indwell at this moment in late modern societies. If leadership indwells this axis of God's activities in the world and the local context, then its primary location is in what we will call the "spaces between."

It asks the big question. Is your leadership style all about you and your ministry and what you get from leading? Or it is about serving those you lead, helping to get them going on the God journey they are destined to trek?

Next Generations of Leaders

The hunger most evident in the next generation is for fathers and mothers, not even close friends. Fathers and mothers that will forego their own controlling preoccupations with how things used to be done, giving space to their willingness to enter into the experiment, stepping off the map to go where God might lead the next generation.

A relationship is required, but a script is not. Times of resting, times waiting in prayer and times of silence represent more of this new adventure than the exhausting attempts at pre-research to make sure every step is sure-footed. Like mountain goats, the instinct of where to step and where to go comes in the moment, and not the pre-planned staff meetings. It is a journey with forward movement at its goal, and not just another dress rehearsal that ends in disappointment.
So, find those you are called to lead, especially the leaders you are called to rise up. This time don't over-lead or over-feed. Get into the journey with them, and see how God will use you both. He will use your tested experience and obedience and as well will turn up the pace as He capitalizes on the speed of the younger leaders you are running with. It is a new pace, not tried; it is a new direction, not learned. It is the excitement of a new trip for both of you.

Some Ideas On Learning To Lead In This New Place

1. Ask God who are the specific ones in the next generation you are to come alongside.
2. Don't spend too much time referring to the past, make it clear where you come from, but get quickly to what God is doing now.
3. Listen a lot. Both to God and them.
4. Do some treasure hunting to see if the one you are to coach and lead has a sense of gifting, destiny and passion. Ask a lot of questions.
5. Does the one you are leading already have a sense of footprints and knows where to go?
6. Begin with times of prayer, silence, listening to God, writing down what the Father whispers, and doing prophetic acts.
7. Always be reminded that this is a divine appointment. Don't worry about quick fruit, enjoy the whole process.