One of the keys to activating all the people of God involves the elimination of the sacred/secular divide when it comes to vocation. Here are some good words from a book by Tom Nelson called Work Matters:
The language of work as cultivation and creation in Genesis 2:15 is embedded in the Hebrew word avodah, which is behind the English translation “to cultivate.” The Hebrew word avodah is translated in various ways in the Old Testament. It is rendered as “work,” “service,” or “craftsmanship” in many instances, yet other times it is translated as “worship.” Avodah is used to describe the back-breaking hard work of God’s covenant people making bricks as slaves in Egypt (Ex. 1:14), the artisans building the tabernacle (Ex. 35:24), and the fine craftsmanship of linen workers (1 Chron. 4:21). Avodah also appears in the context of Solomon dedicating the temple. Solomon employs this word as he instructs the priests and Levites regarding their service in leading corporate worship and praise of the one true God (2 Chron. 8:14). Read more →
Around the world one of the most neglected areas of missiological research has been ecclesiology. Rather than finding new avenues for creatively contextualizing the congregation so that it might represent the gospel, we have exported church polities, church forms, church structures, and church traditions, superimposing them on all the cultures we have encountered. Although we have become conscious of the relationship of gospel and culture, we have yet to understand how drastically we must rethink that relationship.
To develop a congregational missiology for the Church is no longer optional. [Congregations] will either limp along struggling to maintain what they have, or they will rise to new life because they catch a vision of their unique purpose and mission within their individual context. This vision involves more than developing a philosophy of ministry—it impels action deeper than a call for better goal-setting and administration. Local congregations the world over will gain new life and vitality only as they understand the missiological purpose for which they alone exist, the unique culture, people, and needs of their context, and the missionary action through which they alone will discover their own nature as God’s people in God’s world.
~ Charles Van Engen; God’s Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church
Over the past several years there has been an increasing interest in church planting. As a result of declining attendance and the closing of many existing churches, every major denomination is focusing more resources toward starting new congregations. In recent years, we have also seen the creation of church planting networks that emphasize church planting across denominational lines.
In the midst of this proliferation of church planting, one of the most significant trends is the starting of new churches by bivocational leaders. Historically the phrase “bivocational pastor” was used to refer to a leader who served a church that was unable to compensate a pastor with a full-time salary. Therefore, the pastor would work a second, or third job, to supplement what the church could provide. In many cases, it was out of necessity not preference. However, today there is a new movement among bivocational leaders. More church planters who are choosing to plant bivocationally. They are making this decision out of the conviction that bivocational church planting actually provides a more desirable way to plant a new church, rather than on the basis of limited funds. In other words, it is becoming a first option, not a last resort.
While there is no need for bivocational church planting to compete with the more traditional approach—it is clearly a both/and proposition—there are some significant benefits to planting bivocationally, especially in a post-Christendom context. Lets consider three.
If you are looking for a group curriculum that will help people understand the missional-incarnational conversation better and give them the practical helps to engage God’s mission, I want to recommend the study guide called Missional Essentials. The small group guide was created with three different uses in mind:
Existing Leadership Teams that have begun to investigate the missional conversation and are interested in studying the concepts and practices together.
Small Groups interested in exploring the paradigms and biblical directives toward missional community.
Church Planting Core Teams seeking to develop a DNA of missional principles and practices as a way of shaping and forming their faith community.
Missional Essentials is designed in a one lesson per week format over a twelve-week period. Each weekly lesson is organized around the following six elements: Read more →
We now have a new set of problems, which have been engendered precisely by our dazzling achievements. One of those problems is the widespread sense that something is now seriously out of balance in the way we live. All the technological wizardry and individual empowerment have unsettled all facets of life, and given rise to profound feelings of disquiet and insecurity in many Americans. No one can yet reckon the human costs of such radical changes, but they may turn out to be far higher than we have imagined.
Accompanying this disquiet is a gnawing sense that something important in our fundamental human nature is being lost, abandoned or sacrificed in this headlong rush, and that this “something” remains just as vital to our full flourishing as human beings as it was in the times when we had far fewer choices on offer. Could it be the case that the global-scale interconnectedness of things may be coming at too high a price? Could it be the case that the variety and spontaneous diversity of the world as we have known it for all the prior centuries of human history is being gradually leveled and effaced, and insensibly transformed into something standardized, artificial, rootless and bland—a world of interchangeable airport terminals and franchise hotels and restaurants, a world of smooth surfaces designed to facilitate perpetual movement rather than rooted flourishing? A world of space rather than place, in which there are no “theres” there?
Could it be the case that one of the chief things neglected by this pattern of ceaseless movement is precisely the opportunity to live dignified and purposeful lives of civic engagement, the kind of lives that thinkers since the time of Aristotle have regarded as the highest expression of human flourishing? Is the living of such lives even conceivable in a world without “theres”? ~ Why Place Matters
So what is the answer? I believe part of the solution is found in allowing the Incarnation of Jesus to inform our posture towards the culture. See “The Priority of Incarnational Presence” in Next Door As It Is In Heaven
This week I revisited 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 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. Read more →
I am excited that the 2nd edition of Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways is finally being released today. The new edition has been thoroughly updated and revised. The new edition includes charts, diagrams, an expanded glossary of terms, new appendices, an index, a new foreword by Ed Stetzer, and a new afterword by Jeff Vanderstelt. I look forward to a new generation of church planters and other missionary-minded men and women being challenged by the book. Here is my brief endorsement after reading this new edition:
Reading The Forgotten Ways when it was first published revolutionized the way I understood God’s mission, the essence of the church, and my participation in both. I didn’t think it was possible, but with this second edition, Alan provides even greater clarity and challenge. If you are serious about the future of the church, then read every page and allow it to activate a movement within you and throughout the life of the church. This book will undoubtedly help the church recapture the forgotten ways and become the church Jesus always intended.
If there was one book I could require church planters and other ministry leaders to read this year, it would be this revised edition of The Forgotten Ways. If you haven’t read it yet, purchase a copy get started.
Over the past couple of months I have spent several days with denominational leaders from various tribes. Each of the groups have been discussing the “whys” and the “hows” of bringing about change in their existing systems. Some leaders come to the conversation through the realization that what has “worked” in the past is no longer effective (what I call a “crisis of influence”), while others enter the discussion because they have a strong sense that something isn’t quite right about how they think and operate as a mission organization (what I call a “crisis of mission”). Read more →
I agreed to participate in The Church As Movement blog tour to highlight the new book by J.R. Woodward and Dan White because I assumed, even before reading it, that the book would be a great help to church planters. After finishing the book this morning, I can say unequivocally, that my assumption was correct. J.R. and Dan provide a solid theological foundation, as well as transferable tools to create steps for (as the subtitle states) “starting and sustaining missional-incarnational communities.”
In the future I will share from other sections of the book, but for this post I want to focus on chapter two, which is titled “Polycentric Leadership.” In this chapter J.R. and Dan critique the two extremes that most churches move towards; either a hierarchical or flat approach to leadership.
In the first approach they suggest that a hierarchical structure to leadership lends itself to controlling leadership, a programmatic and individualist approach to spiritual formation, and an extractional approach to mission. “That is, mission is often defined as inviting more people to church, which has a tendency to extract people out of their local context and often disconnects their contribution from their everyday context.” While this is certainly not the case in every situation where a hierarchical approach is employed, I do find it difficult to argue with their critique.
For some who have reacted negatively to hierarchical leadership, they have moved to a flat approach. But as they point out, a flat approach often falls flat. “Instead of controlling leadership, there is an absence of leadership. This typically produces an anti-institutional approach to spiritual formation and being the church, and often leads to instability and a confused and unfocused approach to mission.” Which most often leads to stagnation and little movement.
Thursday, September 8, 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM
The Church & Culture in the West is under incredible change. Social/political/financial nuances continue to make the idea of engaging culture and building church a head scratcher. What is needed is a ‘missionary’ people committed to live and lead in the incarnational way of Jesus. This “Good News” will work but the leaders of this future church must understand:
Who should attend?
Presenters: Hugh Halter & Brad Brisco
For more information go to the Forge America site here.
My friend Hugh Halter, National Director of Forge America, has created a very practical resource for missionary engagement. At Forge we believe every neighborhood is now a missionary context, not unlike faraway places like Spain, Italy, Iceland or Nova Scotia. And in a pure missionary context the church can no longer ask the culture to act the part of the missionary and come to us and our church services. We must be the sent ones. We must be the missionaries.
So where does a good missionary start in any and all contexts? They must start where the culture is and find ways to create neutral, enjoyable, space where humans can connect, identify, and learn the context of each other’s stories. That is how we contextualize the gospel. And this is exactly why, as Alan Hirsch has said, “Party is sacrament.”
So what can you do?