Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

How Does One "Preach Missionally"?

[Edited 1 Feb 2007]
The title of this post comes from a question raised by Shannon in response to a previous post where I claimed to be doing this - preaching missionally.

Actually I don't really know if this is what I am doing, but it certainly feels like it is. This has been for the most part an unintentional, "God-guided" process - and I say that with qualification - it seems to me like God has led me and my fellowship down this path, independantly of a broader understanding of the missional/emerging movement. At least until more recent times when my studies of missional/emergent Christianity have helped a lot of the other stuff, the "God-guided" stuff gel and fall into place. And I really do say this with reservations - I know how presumptuous and even arrogan these kinds of statements can sound. So feel free to pull me up on this.

I have posted (below) my response to a couple of things Shannon asked and I think they are good questions/comments. At the moment though this is really looking a lot like the "Shannon and Andrew" show - I know I get a few other lurkers and visitors to this blog so I would really like to throw out the invitation and urge, encourage, and pester you into joining in this discussion.

I think these topics (missional leadership, missional preaching, missional living etc.) are all incredibly important, and I know I want to learn and know more and the best way I know to do that is to do it with other people!

Shannon Asked:

How does one preach "missionally"?

Good question, and I guess I can only respond out of my own direct experience. Hopefully some others can weigh in on this conversation and shed further light/criticism etc. on it.

I would say that in what I would call "missional preaching" I am regularly focussing on three points:
1) The kingdom of God;

2) The centrality of Christ and;

3) The royal priesthood (or Luther's priesthood of believers).

These are the three core topics I have found myself continually coming back to in so many areas of ministry/life, and I think all three are key to preaching and living missionally.

There seems to be something fundamentally different about a fellowship where one person wears all the hats and calls all the shots and where more of a team effort is applied.

Of course in my context, this doesn't mean we all sit around and make every single decision together. There are plenty of things I make decisions about - there are also things others make decisions about, but generally each one in their area of expertise.

Where we come together is where we overlap or where there is uncertainity. Getting to this point hasn't been easy. There are still those who want to come back to (what I beleive is a completely unworkable) place where all decisions are made corporately - even to the point of involving the membership in some pretty mundane decision making.

It's a work in progress and I am anything but an expert. The term "missional" in the sense we are using it in this discussion is new to me. However the concept, at least as I think I understand it, isn't. It encourages me to see and hear how others in similar and also vastly different circumstances are being led in the missional direction.

Maybe I'm Pedantic, But ... Email!

If there is one thing that really bugs me, it is tardy email replies. With the internet we have an amazing medium for quick, easy contact. Yet for some people the average time taken to reply can still run into weeks.

I recently responded to an "urgent" request for interested participants at a training day, I included a request for information so I could decide whether or not to make it a definite in my calendar or not. That was over a week ago, and I still haven't had the training confirmed. And this probably happens on a daily basis.

I am often forced to follow up emails with telephone calls which, to my way of thinking, really defeats the purpose of email!

I make an effort to respond to all my emails within 24 hours, in fact I usually respond to them as soon as I get them, as I find this is the most efficient way of tackling them. If I leave them too long they are likely to disappear off the screen and out of my memory for good!

So get with it! Answer your emails straight away and make the net a nicer place!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Leadership Thang II

The following post is clipped from a reply I made to Shannon's comments on my last post, Growth in the Midst of Confusion (which should probably have been called Patterns in the Midst of Change).

Shannon got me thinking and I have tried to clarify - what is still not terribly clear even in my mind - why I see "pastorcentric" ministry as detrimental to longterm real - as opposed to transferred - growth in the local church.

Please know there are no fingers being pointed here - these are my observations and could be (are very likely are) wrong.

Let's hear what y'all have to say!

As I see it, leadership is essential. A filter for leadership has been given to us by God - it's called spiritual gifts (it's primary role is equipping, but it is also a filter). The leadership will be a representative sample of the wider membership but will still only be small in number - dependent on the size of our fellowship - when compared to the total number of members/congregants. It will be based on leadership gifting, where responsibility is given according to gifts which are recognised by a general consensus of fellowship members.

The pastor will be one of several other leaders, and responsibility for the ministry of the fellowship will rest, first, upon these leaders as a plurality, and secondly, upon the members.

I think there are many missionally minded pastors out there serving in what are outwardly CEO roles (I mentioned a couple who greatly influenced me in my post The Leadership Thang) but - and its a big but - who are going to keep running into problems getting their congregations into a missional mindset simply because of the very structure they are forced to work in and around. I believe this is where frustration and burn-out comes from in pastoral service.

IMO the very operational structure of a CEO-type church leads to an abrogation of God-called ministry within the members. Most members, regardless of what is being preached from the front (the fact that there is a front from which to preach is also part of the problem), will continue to see the primary ministerial role as resting upon or at the feet of the pastor. They will tell themselves this is why they contribute to his salary each week - so he can do the things they cannot do or don't have the time to do themselves. And therein lies the problem.

If you were to come to my fellowship (i.e. the fellowship to which I belong and where I serve - not mine because I own it!) you would see things still very much done in the way I describe above, but it is here - in the structure itself, that we have begun to implement change. A long time ago I started preaching "missionally" but central to this was also an ongoing and gentle encouragement (at least that is how I see it!) to act missionally. And the greatest benefit I had in this was that I was not in a recognised position of pastoral leadership. I was seen as one of the leaders, but I was not "the" leader. In this approach we are seeing change start to take place in our structures. I think - even though there may still be a long, long way to go - this is part of the solution to the problem.

Missional and traditional styles or philosophies of leadership (i.e. traditional in the sense of the form or structure we operate out of - dare I call them "modernist" - and have operated out of for the best part of the last 200 years) are simply not compatible - I would go as far as saying in many ways they are mutually exclusive.
Does this make sense? :)

Again - these comments are based on my perceptions (which have been influenced by prayer and bible study) but are, at the end of the day, still just my perceptions.

Bring it on! :)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Patterns in the Midst of Change

Several fellowships I have a loose connection with, and one I am a part of, have recently faced some challenging times. The catalyst in every case, and for different reasons in each situation, has been loss of pastoral leadership.

What's interesting is, in every instance, the same 3 things happened;

1) A core group (including people not previously involved with "leadership") came forward to take responsibility for the congregation,

2) Members began to take on roles generally associated with the pastor's responsibilities and

3) A number of families moved off to other churches (actually just about everyone in each instance went to the same large, purpose driven church down the road!).
Fellowship number one decided to make its goal the sourcing of a new pastor. This took place over a series of months and around 2 and a half years ago a new man took to the pulpit.

Immediately just about all of those who had stepped up to the plate disappeared into the background. A few who wanted to stay involved in areas of ministry taken up in the absence of a pastor were effectively pushed out of those ministries and alienated by the new leader.

Today this fellowship is the very model of the CEO-led, attractional fellowship. It retained most of its post-pastor members and has even grown a bit when new Christians have moved into the area. All in all though, it's a Sunday centred church where the pastor calls the shots and is personally responsible for the bulk of the ministry.

Fellowship number two (actually my own), amid some turmoil and because of a difficult financial situation, had no option but to struggle on without a paid pastor. A divided leadership meant some new people (i.e. new to the fellowship's leadership team) had to step up to the plate. For around a year an interim, caretaker board was left to make sure things didn't completely dissolve. Members took on ministry roles, and some began to pursue a missional agenda - sounds sneaky, doesn't it! In reality though it was independent of any major outside influence and with no knowledge of the modern missional/emerging movement.

12 months down the track the fellowship had grown smaller, but the attitude and outlook of those who stayed was slowly beginning to change.

Today, after around 2 years, most have come to accept that there are other ways (other than the CEO pastor way) of doing church. This acceptance has introduced a new level of vitality and personal commitment to the fellowship. Things are happening now that have never happened before. There's still a long way to go, and like the Israelites in the Promised Land, a time may come when they decide they want a "king" again. But for now God is leading in a new direction and a new and exciting picture of the future of the kingdom in this part of the world starting to take shape.

Fellowship number three - the newest to experience the loss of a pastor - is today at the cross roads.

There seems to be a very strong push from within to head down a similar road to ours, to capture that which at the moment is an aberration, created of necessity, and make it the norm. Becoming less concerned with the attractional side of things and embracing a more missional philosophy of ministry.

Where they will end up is yet to be seen, but there journey sounds like it could be an interesting one.

What struck me most in all of these separate situations, was the way the same pattern existed in each examples; a pastor is lost, people step forward, direction is found, people pull together and work as a plurality to achieve an end result. The end result was different for fellowship one, than for two and possibly three, but in every case it was achieved as a result of a group effort.

Where will any of these fellowships be two years from now? I guess the answer to that question lies with God. But my sneaking suspicion is, those that choose and stay with the missional road will be in a very different place to the fellowship sailing the safer, traditional route.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Leadership Thang

I have been thinking, praying and reading a fair bit about leadership over the last few months. In the past I have been pretty critical of the traditional "pastor at the top" model of church leadership - without going so far as to suggest we should do away with pastors altogether.

Much of my emotion comes from negative personal experiences. But I have to say I also have had some very good "pastoral experiences" - Tony A. and Mike F. being the most notable (you guys know who you are if ever you happen by this blog - your impact on my life has been incredibly significant , thank you!), and either way, I have learned a lot through all my experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Well, today I received my "ministers accreditation card" - it's my proof that a denomination is actually crazy enough to certify me (no pun intended), but it has also led me to do some pretty deep thinking about what the role of the "leader" really is in the 21st century church.

So this Sunday, after much sweating and many prayers, I bit the bullet and preached on leadership from Ephesians 4. I have found this particular passage enlightening in my own journey. In verses 11 to 16 Paul simply explains the necessity of spiritually gifted leaders in a healthy church.

It is a passage that knocks traditional (and centuries old) notions of pastoral hierarchies on the head, it also destroys any (hard) post-modern dictum of a church without any delegated leadership.

Gifted leadership is, it would seem, essential for the vitality and efficiency of the church.

As I studied these verses I was given a picture of a church where the leaders, working out of their God-given abilities, reflected the ministry of the Master - Jesus, and where the members reflected the ministry of the leaders. I guess you could sum it up by saying, any church ministry is only ever as good as its leaders and when the leaders are working from spiritual gifts it's going to be many times more successful than when they aren't.

The words of Paul; "Imitate me as I imitate Christ", are echoing through my mind. How easy it is, as a follower of Jesus to quote these words as Paul's - "see, Paul said we should imitate him as he imitates Christ, but for God's sake, don't imitate me!". In reality these are the very words we as individuals (whether in recognised leadership roles or not) should all be confidently aspiring to say to those we fellowship and minister to and alongside. Now that, at least for me, is a rather daunting reminder of what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is really all about.

Yet if the members are ever going to be able to confidently encourage each other this way, the leadership has to be willing to confidently encourage the members first - not simply with hollow words, but with lives that reflect the statement. And if we accept what Paul has to say in Ephesians 4, the only way the body is going to be able to do this (i.e. "work properly") is when the leadership gifts are being recognised and used.

Rick Meigs on his fantastic blog; The Blind Beggar, has posted a list of contrasts between "missional" and "maintenance" (you can substitute "attractional" here if it helps) congregations. A large section of this list deals with leadership - we could do a lot worse than to use it as a mirror; is our life/ministry reflected in the missional list or the maintenance?

As we look at the 5 gifts of leadership given to the church and their New Testament analogs, it's interesting to see how all of them relate so well to a missional/incarnational framework of ministry.

Rick's post, Asking the Right Question, is HERE

For a look at definitions of the general roles associated with each of the 5 leadership gifts, check out this post on John Smulo's blog, called Wanted: Fivefold Ministry Team.

Part 4 of Frost and Hirsch's book The Shaping of Things to Come also takes a fairly in-depth look at the 5-fold gifts of leadership (they call it APEPT leadership - you can read some of my earlier comments relating to this section of Frost and Hirsch HERE).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Comet McNaught

I took these photos of comet McNaught last night (17th of Jan). Unfortunately the coma is a little blurred, its all because of the crudy auto focus on my mid range digital camera - anyone want to buy me a Canon EOS digital?

This comet is the most spectacular I have seen with the naked eye in about 10 years, and any comet with a tail like this one is, generally, a once in a lifetime experience.

McNaught was discovered by an Australian amateur around 12 months ago and is only going to be visible for another couple of nights - if you haven't already checked it out, your really should (it's even fairly easy to photograph).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

White Fellas Bad Attitudes

My mind is very much on Rwanda at the moment as I am preparing for a visit in May. This time I am heading off on my own for a week in Uganda at the Amahoro Africa conference with Brian McLaren from the US and other local (i.e. African) contributors. John Mihigo, my friend and co-conspirator in the CUF-Day 4 Rwanda Mission Partnership will also be joining me in Kampala for the week, before we fly back to Kigali together to meet a team of 6 flying in from Australia for a couple of weeks work.

So you can expect more Africa/Rwanda related posts over the coming weeks and months.

That brings me to the topic of this post - Bad Attitudes!

This is a personal story related to me by a Rwandan friend, and even though I would very much like to name names, to spare my friend the embarrassment, I won't.

My friend is employed (but receives no regular pay) in a church ministry position, he is also a linguist. From memory he speaks at least 4 languages, and is a talented interpreter. He is often sought out by visiting film and TV crews and Christian speakers and teachers to provide an interpreter service, which can mean long days away from the community he serves and at times, from his family.

As he doesn't earn a regular wage from his church work it is his work as an interpreter that provides a means of earning an income and feeding his family. So when I was told that on occasion, while interpreting for visiting "Christians" he is not paid, I had to find out more.

One time he spent a couple of weeks interpreting for a visiting American Christian "leader". The days were long and travel was involved. I spoke to him after this guy had returned to the States and he told me how tired and rundown he was following his time as an interpreter, including a loss of weight, which can be extremely serious for these guys who get by on so little food at the best of times. It turns out that the whole time he was "working" for this guy he was not paid a single cent. To make matters worse, he wasn't even provided with a single meal for the entire time he was away. He also had to cover his own transport costs in getting to and from the venue each day.

Now my friend is very gracious, his view of all this was that at least he had an opportunity to hear what this "great American teacher" had to say.

Now I am happy to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he thought someone else was taking care of it, someone else was organising meals or payment or both. But, at the very least he surely owed it to my friend to find out.

I know how seriously my friend and many Christians like him in Rwanda take their faith and their opportunities to serve and be obedient to God. Since then I have heard other similar stories of (usually American) Christians coming and taking advantage of local Rwandans.

I was, to say the least, astounded. It is stories like this that make me embarrassed to be a westerner.

While the guys who bare the brunt of this kind of disgusting behaviour are not likely to speak out against it, I think that we can certainly bring it to the attention of the world and encourage those who travel to and are involved in any sort of ministry in these developing nations to take every opportunity they are given to generously and lovingly look after those locals who give of themselves to ensure their "missions" are successful.

Maybe you have heard some similar stories - If so, I'm interested to hear of your experiences.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Fresh Water for African Community - The Tank's Arrived

Here are a couple of photos sent to me by my friend and colleague in Rwanda, John Mihigo. They are of the new 10,000 litre rainwater tank that is currently being installed on Mt Kigali. This is the second tank purchased by the CUF-Day 4 Rwanda Mission Partnership. The first, a single 5000 litre tank was installed when I was last in Rwanda in 2004.

This tank will solve a couple of problems. The fellowship building is the largest building on the mountain - it is prominently visible from many parts of Kigali and even from Google Earth! - and has a fairly substantial roof area. During the 9 rainy months the rainwater runs off the roof and down the mountain, doing damage to the dirt access road and to mud brick housing - the main form of building material on the mountain. So the rainwater tank will collect a substantial amount of this run-off, improving the relationship the fellowship has with the surrounding community.

Secondly it will supply fresh, clean water to a large number of households. There is currently no infrastructure on this part of the mountain - no electricity and no running water. Fresh water is bought at a government standpipe several kilometres down the mountain and carried in 20 litre jerry-cans, mostly by children.

So the new tank will diminish the need for the kids to spend their days trekking up and down the mountain and providing an easily accessible source of fresh, clean drinking water for at least 9 months of the year. In fact, being rain water, it will be even fresher than the scheme water from the government standpipe which still requires boiling because of pathogens in the water.

We are still collecting (actually we are always collecting) for the partnership. We are heading back in May and have a fair amount of aid airfreight to get there. If you would like to contribute please contact me, either via the partnership website or by emailing me - ahrigg AT gmail DOT com.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tagged - Again!

I've been tagged again - this time by one of my favourite bloggers, John Smulo.

This one is a little different to the last one, and has a restriction on the length of the answers - which I think is a good thing, given the amount of space I wasted the last time I was tagged. So, here goes (and these are tough questions!).

  • 1) What’s the most fun work you’ve ever done, and why? (two sentences max).
I've had heaps of jobs, but apart from my current work (which is really more challenging and rewarding than straight out fun) I would have to say the most fun work I've done was when I worked as director and production editor on a kids magazine style show. I got to work with a lot of famous people - film and TV stars and musicians - and go places you just normally don't get to go.
  • 2) A. Name one thing you did in the past that you no longer do but wish you did? (one sentence max)
I used to rock climb and abseil (surfing would have been on this list but I took that up again last year) and would like to get back into this but am not sure my body (particularly in relation to rock climbing) is up to it anymore.
  • 3) A. What two things would you most like to learn or be better at, and why? (two sentences max)
Where do I start?

1) Kinyarwanda - the local language of the Rwandan people. I know a little (a real little) but would love to get fluent as I am involved in a mission partnership there and would love to be able to speak to the people I work with in their own language. Imani'guhumugisha!

2) Blogging - I am better at repackaging news (aka other peoples ideas) - probably because of my background in TV news - than expressing new ideas or my own thoughts cogently.
  • 3) B. If you could take a class/workshop/apprentice from anyone in the world living or dead, who would it be and what would you hope to learn? (two more sentences, max)
Another hard one!

There are many people, but I think I would say the Apostle Paul. He was the master of missiology and I am so enthralled by the way he lived as a pretty ordinary kind of guy with a well above ordinary cross cultural ministry.
  • 4) A. What three words might your best friends or family use to describe you?
1) Tall - I'm nearly 6'5".

2) Busy - my wife just said that cause I was struggling with this question and asked for her help!

3) And I just can't come up with a 3rd.
  • 4) B. Now list two more words you wish described you…
1) Gentle - sometimes I think I come across as prickly.

2) Confident - not arrogant or self assured, but in God.
  • 5) What are your top three passions? (can be current or past, work, hobbies, or causes– three sentences max)
1) My family.
2) Ministry (particularly experimental ministry) in my local community and in the communities I work with in Bunbury via Mission Australia.
3) Rwanda and my Rwandan "family"
  • 6) Write–and answer–one more question that YOU would ask someone (with answer in three sentences max).
Q - What role has change played in your journey to now? (two sentences max)!

A - When I came to know Jesus Christ for who he really is (not some western, 18th/19th/20th century, white, middle class Jesus) my life changed for ever. All the bad stuff, my drug addiction etc. etc. that I had been trying to run away from and unsuccessfully deal with myself came into clear focus and through him and people who were genuinely committed to him and to change, I was able to change for the better. Of course this is a continuing process - people are like onions don't you know (apologies to Shrek - those who are also 'changing' will know what I mean!).

Phew ...

Last time I tagged only two of my victims blogging buddies actually responded, so hopefully I will have better results this time. I tag David at Church Blogger, Rodney at The Journey and Chris and Cindy at Tracking the Edge.

Blogger Archives and Daylight Savings

Since the calendar ticked over to 2007 last week (or was it the week before), my blogs archive list (over there in the sidebar) refused to show January 2007. For some reason it showed 2006 twice and added the latest posts to a second December.

I contacted Blogger for some help when I first noticed it in the first day or two of the New Year, but still haven't received any suggestions.

Today, however, it dawned on me - maybe it has something to do with my daylight savings settings - Western Australia began daylight savings for the first time in December - and so set my time zone in the Blogger back office to +9 UT instead of +8. And whatdayaknow! It worked. The archive function has been restored.

It's amazing the difference a little thing like time zones can make to software functionality.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Coffee in the Arvo Mark II

Our attempt at Binningup to create a "proximity space" is happening again this weekend; our second "Coffee in the Arvo" cafe afternoon at the community hall.

The last one was a bit of a success - we got a good turn out from the community and got to meet some new people, who hopefully, will be coming back.

I think I have ruined the coffee though - the people we hired the coffee machine from oversold us coffee the last time, which meant I had a heap left over. When I had my cafe I never had enough coffee left over to have to worry about storing it ground, so I wasn't sure what to do with it. The guys we bought it from said to just keep it in the fringe (of course they wouldn't take it back) - however it's in a brown paper bag and, judging from the lack of that rich aroma freshly ground coffee has, I think it has gone stale! It cost me 30 bucks a kilo and I have nearly 2 kilos left, so I am pretty annoyed about this.

Will post the outcome of Sunday afternoon's cafe, if your in the vicinity, feel free to drop in - 4pm till whenever at the Binningup Community Hall.

Alternate[Or] - One Month to Go

There's just under a month now until the whole 'alternative' gathering thing gets underway. The 8th of February is D-Day. I am finding myself swinging backwards and forwards between a niggling fear of it being a complete failure and the comfort of knowing that, in reality, it's all in God's hands.

I think one of my greatest weaknesses (on that note, I had to do a personality profile yesterday and found out I am a "designer", it was an interesting process - you can read some of my thoughts on personality profiling HERE) is that I tend to race ahead on my own. I feel at times I'm a lot like the little boy, who while walking through the bush, takes off down the track leaving his parents behind, and follows new paths without thinking too hard about which path they will want to take. In the past this has ended up with me being on my own in some kind of stinking mess, crying out to Dad (God) to rescue me.

I guess I've had to learn the hard way that things work out better when I let him do the leading and I do the following - but at times, I still need reminding. And right now I am wondering if this isn't one of those times.

The invitations are going out to those people we have been involved with and who have shown an interest. I am trying to balance the tension of the attractional and the missional, without giving into that part of me that is the marketer - "Roll up, roll up and see the greatest show ever to come to the community of Binningup ...". The fellowship leadership has been given the low down again on the whats and whys of this thing called Alternate[Or] and the regulars will be receiving an info sheet over the next few days.

If you are reading this and you can spare the time, I would really appreciate it if you could offer up a few words for me and for this "new" thing we're attempting (Alyssa and I specifically). I want to be sure it is all the right time and that God is in this and behind this.

Thanks for reading this and for your prayers - I can feel the fear that was creeping in beginning to subside already!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Crypto-Christianity - The Flipside of the Cultural Assimilation Coin

Sky Jethani at Out of Ur posted the following interesting piece on early Christianity in Japan. While the warning to the consumerist style of modern Christianity is clear, I think it also gives those with an emerging/emergent leaning something to ponder as well.

Ironically, it is often our zeal to protect our faith that leads to its loss. Abram was called to leave his country and follow the alternative ways of God. But when feeling threatened Abram disguised himself with the ways of Egypt, allowing his wife to be taken into Pharaoh’s house. Later, God called Israel to be separate from the nations—an alternative people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. But in time they felt threatened and asked God for a king (a leadership model employed by their enemies) to protect them. The peoples’ desire was innocent enough. They still wanted to follow God, they just wanted to do it in a way more “like the nations around them.” The Lord warned that a king would rule over them just as Pharaoh had in Egypt, but the people refused to listen
Read the whole thing HERE!

Picture by Gordon Fortune - "Clones" - Used with Permission

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I've Forgotten My New Years Resolution

Just to prove how committed I am to really implementing positive change in my life, I thought I'd tell you about my New Years resolution. Then I realised, I've forgotten it! This is for real ... I thought up a great, achievable New Years res and before I had time to even consider putting it into play, it left my brain, quite possibly never to return!

So, in memory (or not) of my original New Years resolution I thought I'd start a list of some new New Years resolutions (if I write them here it will be harder for me to permanently forget them later).

So here's the first to start things off -

My 1st new New Years resolution for 2007 is try really hard to not bag out Rick Warren anywhere near as much as I bagged him out in 2006.
What are your New Years resolutions? Let me know and if I find one I like, I'll add it to my list.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Missional Apologetics

Apologetics is a topic that has interested me for quite some time. I have dabbled quite extensively with different forms of apologetical approaches, both on the web and in the real world. Most of them have revolved around a fairly traditional, "the Bible is fact and I can prove it" kind of approach, that also involved tackling dissenters head on. And, to be perfectly honest, with a few totally amazing exceptions, the results have been pretty miserable.

I stumbled upon some stuff John Smulo wrote about missional apologetics a couple of months back and posted on it here. I felt like a bit of a light went on when I read it. I was struggling with assimilating apologetics with the missional/incarnational approach, without actually realising I was already involved in missional apologetics. Again, relationship and trust are the key, things that I was very aware were missing from many of the other apologetical approaches I had taken.

Anyway - I really just wanted to point you in the direction of John's new Missional Apologetics website. There's not much there yet but I think this is an area that is increasingly important to talk about (along with missional evangelism - I sense the line between evangelism, apologetics and discipleship is very blurred when viewed from a missional perspective), and John's work on a Missional Apologetic Manifesto is fantastic. I introduced it to the leadership of my fellowship at our weekly prayer time this morning. Didn't get a chance to run through it but I am looking forward to hearing what they have to say.

Ok, Ok, Check it out -

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Missionally Aware - Is Leadership the Problem?

The following quote was taken from a post on the Blind Beggar regarding some research undertaken in the US on the views of protestant church leadership in the area of community outreach and evangelism.

The results are a little disturbing but I think reinforce the fact that one of the biggest hurdles facing the 21st century church has been erected by those with the most influence on the institution - the leaders, and more specifically, those installed in CEO-Pastor roles in local congregations.

Rick Meigs wrote:

... here are the excuses 4 out of 10 pastors gave for not offering more community related programs (with my interpretation in italics):
  • They would rather focus on spiritual needs than on physical needs (physical needs are the job of the government, we only deal with the spiritual).
  • They would rather focus on their own congregation than on the community (and I’d get fired if I didn’t).
  • Their community has no major needs (yes, they really said this).
  • They don’t see it as a major priority for their church (they must have deleted Mark 12:31 from their bibles).
  • Their congregation really isn’t interested in community outreach (we’re a private club and can’t be bothered).
These type of response demonstrate a strong lack of understanding of who we are called to be (an incarnational people), pastors bowing to the pressure of the congregation to focus on them exclusively, and an ignorance of the post-Christian culture we now live and minister within.
While the study Rick refers to was conducted in the US, from my personal experience I would think things wouldn't be terribly different here in Australia.

I believe, that in order to correct this unbiblical skew away from biblical models of leadership (not an easy subject on its own) we ultimately have to correct the CEO model of church leadership and return to a servant leader - eldership model, where leadership is entrusted to a team of suitably (biblically) qualified individuals and not the sole responsibility of one man.

But, in answering the question that forms the title of this post, the leadership, while being part of the problem, isn't the whole problem.

Unfortunately this top heavy and counterproductive approach to leadership is entrenched in the training institutions that produce the majority of church leaders today, but until the local church grows balls and is prepared to stand up and say "this is not what we want in our leaders" things are probably not going to change.

And this is as much a challenge to those dissatisfied folk in the local/traditional church as it is to the CEO-Pastor's themselves. Lasting change can only come from within. It can be a long hard process, but the future of the local church in your community depends upon it.

For those who are dissatisfied with the way their local fellowship is moving it's all too easy to pull up roots and head over to the mega-church in the next town, or to sit and complain and white-ant the church leadership or to get into a holy huddle and break-away - causing division. It's not so easy to stay and love the imperfect (recognising your own weakness and imperfections first!) and play a role in providing a solution, rather than just adding to the problem - and it is a problem!

Of course there does sometimes come a time when it is genuinely and godly to say "enough is enough" and to leave. But that should be the final resort, and not the first, second or even third, as is so often the case in many congregations currently struggling with the need to view ministry and leadership in different ways.

You can read all of Rick's post here. As usual, I think you'll find it insightful and, hopefully, challenging.