It’s important … to note that it’s futile trying to change the church, or a denomination, without first changing the paradigm or genetic codes that guide it. It’s because of this that reframing the central paradigm of church is one of the keys to change and much-needed innovation. A paradigm shift is a change to a new game, a new set of rules. And this in turn means we must reactivate our underutilized imaginations….
Bill Easum says it this way: “Following Jesus into the mission field is either impossible or extremely difficult for the vast majority of congregations in the Western world because of one thing: They have a systems story that will not allow them to take the first step out of the institution into the mission field, even though the mission field is just outside the door of the congregation…. Churches wanting to break free from the quagmire of their dysfunctional systems and climb out of their downward death spiral must learn to feel, think, and act differently than they do now. The times in which we live require us to change our life metaphors, something akin to rewiring the human brain.”
Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson from On the Verge: A Journey Into the Apostolic Future of the Church.
The first week of March we will be starting a new Forge America cohort in Kansas City and Lawrence. Forge is a training network that seeks to awaken missional imagination in the church through the development of leaders who; live and serve incarnationally, have a holistic view of life and mission, and who are able to rethink church structures recognizing that one size does not fit all.
Forge exists to train people to think and live like missionaries where they live, work and play. Our purpose is to equip leaders with the theology and practical skills necessary to birth new missional communities as well as equip existing churches to engage God’s mission more fully. The primary way this is accomplished through Forge’s nine month learning cohorts. For more information check out this brochure. ForgeBrochure_Inside ForgeBrochure_Outside Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This past week I spoke with a man who was a missionary in several different countries in Southeast Asia for 28 years. He shared with me, with tears in his eyes, how heavy his heart was for the church in the United States. He knew after being away for so many years, and being embedded in a context that was clearly not Christian, that the current state of the church was in desperate need of serious recalibration. His story reminded me of the events surrounding the life of Lesslie Newbigin as a missionary to India.
We are perfectly designed to achieve what we are currently achieving. I think that line from Alan Hirsch can be applied to the church in the United States today. And when we do, I think we have to admit that there isn’t a lot to brag about when it comes to what we are “achieving.” I also think it is safe to say, that regardless of the indicators that are used to measure church health – attendance, membership, baptisms, giving, impact on communities, etc. – they are all trending in the wrong direction.
I have never been more convinced of the necessity for the church to change. Regardless of the size of a congregation – 10, 100, 1000, or 10,000 people – the church must recapture its missionary nature and learn how to best activate all of the people of God to engage in His mission. This will involve rethinking deeply held assumptions we have about God, the church, mission, leadership, discipleship, and evangelism. In my opinion we must begin to experience substantial paradigm shifts in each of these areas. But in addition to changing the way we think we also need to reorient our lives around new practices relating to a theology of place that involves our neighborhoods, biblical hospitality and social spaces we inhabit. The time is now.
Some of the sessions will include conversation around:
We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory. . . .
Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama
As a church planting catalyst I am often asked to recommend books to church planters. If I can give only five books to a planter, I believe the most helpful writings (theologically, missiologically and ecclesiologically) for planting today include:
Church Planting: Laying Foundations by Stuart Murray
The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
Starting Missional Churches: Life With God in The Neighborhood edited by Mark Lau Branson and Nicholas Warnes
The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim
The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community by Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight Friesen
If I can expand the list to add five additional resources, I would include:
Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine Pohl
The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
God Next Door by Simon Carey Holt
The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods by Peter Block and John McKnight
Missional Essentials: A Guide for Experiencing God’s Mission in Your Life by Brad Brisco and Lance Ford (I recommend this last book as a resource to take every member of a church planting core team through as a group to ensure everyone is on the same page in regards to language and missionary practices.)
Even though the majority of church staff, as well as church planters in the United States, are bivocational (working both in and outside the church) there are few people talking about the why and how of bivocational ministry. The number of bivocational pastors is increasing rapidly, but the vast majority of training and conferences are led by people in “full-time” ministry, from large churches that have large budgets. We want to try to change the conversation.
Starting in January we are going to begin to offer several BiVO cohorts to encourage church planters and staff from existing churches to better understand the benefits and challenges to bivocational ministry. We also want to equip those who are already working full-time jobs that feel led to start fresh expressions of church.
In January we will start several regional cohorts by clustering people together in different parts of the country. Then in February we will start city specific cohorts in several cities, including Dallas, Chicago and Kansas City.
Possible Cohorts Participants:
What is Involved With Each Cohort:
Costs: $100 monthly ($600) or $500 up front payment
Requirements Before Cohort Begins:
Facilitators: Hugh Halter and Brad Brisco
Hugh is the national director of Missio focusing on church planting and renewal. Hugh has authored The Tangible Kingdom, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church, TK Primer, FLESH, and BiVO. Hugh has planted two churches, both of which were bi-vocational stories. For a sample of Hugh speaking on the importance of bivocational ministry check out this short clip from the Sentralized conference.
Brad is currently the Church Planting Catalyst for a network of churches in Kansas City; where he recruits, trains and coaches church planters. He holds a doctorate in the area of missional ecclesiology; his doctoral thesis was on assisting existing congregations in transitioning in a missional direction. He serves on the National Leadership team for Forge America. He is the author of Missional Essentials, a twelve-week small group study guide, and The Missional Quest.
If you have questions about the cohorts you can email Brad at email@example.com
I love this cover of “I Believe in Father Christmas” originally written by Greg Lake of “Emerson, Lake and Palmer” fame. What is especially interesting about U2’s rendering is a very subtle yet thoughtful change in lyrics. What was originally:
“They sold me a dream of Christmas, They sold me a silent night, They told me a fairy story, Till I believed in the Israelite.” Becomes; “But I believed in the Israelite.”
About this cover, @U2.com writes:
Like pretty much all of their other Christmas references, this is not a happy song. It’s about how our modern world has corrupted the simple beauty that a Christmas tree can offer. Edge’s chiming guitars sound completely in their element as a delicate, Christmassy effect. Lake used part of the Prokofiev composition “Troika” in between the verses, and Edge’s guitar version of it is utterly amazing. Adam and Larry chose to go with simple, sparse, deep rhythms that help drive home the gravity of the song. When I’m watching the video they made, with the cold-looking steam and the blinking, flickering lights all over the floor, and Bono shoots up an octave to cry out, “I wish you a hopeful Christmas. I wish you a brave new year. All anguish, pain, and sadness leave your heart. Let your road be clear,” it gives me goose bumps.
I have just finished reading a fascinating book titled How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein. The author provides ten profiles of individual men and women from around the world who have found solutions to a wide variety of social and economic problems. For Bornstein, social entrepreneurs are transformative forces. They are people with new ideas to address major problems, who are relentless in the pursuit of their visions. They are people who simply will not take “no” for an answer. They will not give up until they have spread their ideas as far as they will possibly go.
As inspiring as each of the stories are, the aspect of the book that I found most interesting was the common theme found in each of the profiles. In every single example the “success” of each social entrepreneur was not because they were necessarily more confident, persistent or knowledgable, but in every case it came back to their motivation; the “why” behind what they did.
Bornstein concludes the book by discussing 6 qualities of successful social entrepreneurs. Each of these qualities are related to their motivation, or their why. I think they each have a lot to say about apostolic ministry. Here is a brief summary of each of the six characteristics. I find each to be extremely insightful, and I believe can be helpful when considering the broad changes that need to occur in most of American Christianity.
1. Willingness to Self-Correct
Because of their motivations, highly successful entrepreneurs are highly self-corrective. This may seem a simple point, but it cannot be overstated. It is inherently difficult to reverse a train once it has left the station. It takes a combination of hard-headedness, humility, and courage to stop and say “this isn’t working” or “our assumptions were wrong.” Particularly when your funding is contingent on carrying out a preauthorized plan. However, the entrepreneur’s inclination to self-correct stems from the attachment to a goal rather than to a particular approach or plan.
Interestingly, the inclination to self-correct is a quality that seems to distinguish younger entrepreneurs from their older and better established counterparts. It is a quality that seems to diminish with time as entrepreneurs become increasingly attached, or even chained, to their ideas.
2. Willingness to Share Credit
There is no limit to what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit. But for entrepreneurs, a willingness to share credit lies along the “critical path” to success, simply because the more credit they share, the more people typically will want to help them. It too grows out of their motivation. If an entrepreneur’s true intention is simply to make a change happen, then sharing credit will come naturally. However, If the true intention is to be recognized as having made a change happen, sharing credit may run against the grain.
3. Willingness to Break Free of Established Structures
Social entrepreneurs can bring about change by redirecting existing organizations, but most of the time the citizen sector is where entrepreneurs find the greatest latitude to test and market new ideas. While there is considerable freedom in the business sector, businesses are limited to marketing products and services for which it is possible to capture profits within a relatively short period of time. Many organizations that produce great value for society do not generate profits or take longer to break even than investors are willing to wait.
4. Willingness to Cross Disciplinary Boundaries
Independence from established structures not only helps social entrepreneurs wrest free of prevailing assumptions, but it gives them latitude to combine resources in new ways. One of the primary functions of the social entrepreneur is to serve as a kind of social alchemist: to create new social compounds; to gather together people’s ideas, experiences, skills, and resources in configurations that society is not naturally aligned to produce.
People typically self-organize around interests, work, culture, and proximity. Universities are divided into faculties, governments into agencies, economic and social activity into industries or fields. Social entrepreneurs approach this state of order with a need to engage the world in its wholeness.
Faced with whole problems, social entrepreneurs readily cross disciplinary boundaries, pulling together people from different spheres, with different kinds of experience and expertise, who can, together, build workable solutions that are qualitatively new.
5. Willingness to Work Quietly
Many social entrepreneurs spend decades steadily advancing their ideas, influencing people in small groups or one on one, and it is often exceedingly difficult to understand or measure their impact. Often they become recognized only after years working in relative obscurity. Once again, this comes back to motivation.
A person must have a very pure motivation to push an idea so steadily for so long with so little fanfare. People of ambition fall into two groups, those who want to “do something” and those who want to “be someone.”
6. Strong Ethical Impetus
The bedrock of social entrepreneurs relates to their ethics. It is meaningless to talk about social entrepreneurs without considering the ethical quality of their motivation: THE WHY. In the end, business and social entrepreneurs are basically the same animals. They think about problems in the same way. They ask the same types of questions. The difference is not in temperament or ability, but in the nature of their visions. In a question: Does the entrepreneur dream of building the world’s greatest running-shoe company or vaccinating all of the world’s children?
At some moment in their lives, social entrepreneurs get in their heads that it is up to them to solve a particular problem. Over time, their ideas become more important to them than anything else. Every decision passes through the prism of their ideas. Although it is probably impossible to fully explain why people become social entrepreneurs, it is certainly possible to identify them. And society stands to benefit by finding these people, encouraging them, and helping them to do what they need to do.
“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves” ~ Thomas Edison