Category Archives: Leadership

There has got to be a better way?

“There has got to be a better way for wealthy churches to partner with churches that are in deprived communities. You know a number of years ago I heard an African-American gentleman who is the head of a ministry that is in a deprived community and he was speaking to the leadership of a very white very wealthy church and this African-American leader said to this very wealthy church that was supporting his ministry I need to confess something to you. I’ve been lying to you for the last ten years. Because you folks want to send short-term teams into my church and into my community and I make up stuff for you to do. I’ve had you paint the walls of my office so many times that the paint is starting to chip off and you folks go out into the community and you do all kinds of crazy things that I spend weeks mopping up after you because of the chaos you’ve created and I keep on telling you that I want you to do this stuff because quite frankly I need your financial support.”

Watch the rest of this challenging video clip from Brian Fikkert below.

Brian is the co-author of the book When Helping Hurts. You can download a free e-book version here.

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Why I once, sort-of, kinda liked Mark Driscoll

origin_5666901492These days finding someone who was a fan of Mark Driscoll can be harder than finding a white person who supported apartheid. So perhaps I should come clean…

I once, sort-of, kinda liked Mark Driscoll.

What was I thinking, you wonder?

But it turns out there was something to love about, in particular, early Driscoll. Something that made me look the other way on a whole bunch of other things that should have mattered a whole lot more to me than they did at the time.

What could I have possibly loved about Mark Driscoll?

In short, here was a guy who was in my broadly speaking theologically conservative camp saying the things that I felt in my gut; and wished I had the moral fibre to say out loud.

Early Driscoll challenged the status quo of a church preoccupied with itself. He told us to get out into your city, listen, learn, serve, get to know people by name. Go onto their turf, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Get out of your Christian culture bubble! Build friendships with those who don’t know Christ… and not just the ones who are like you. Engage the culture of your city. Enjoy your city. Care for the poor. Make good music. Brew good beer. Driscoll called us to structure our lives and our churches around the lost not the found. People matter more than programmes, he said; and your doctrine does not imprison you but rather it sets you free to be good news in the world. And he did all this without chucking in his evangelical theology. He was passionate. He was unashamedly missional. He told us to take risks and to not play it safe. He encouraged us to be both innovative and evangelical.

I never met Driscoll but God used him to breathe life and breath to my soul.  To be ok with risk and innovation and new things. To be ok with being misunderstood or excluded for the sake of mission. I am not sure Driscoll even intended all the consequences of his teaching in my life but God did.

Strangely what Driscoll also taught me is to be ok with my “gut.” When something is “not right” don’t keep quiet. Don’t just be sure you are wrong or have misunderstood. Verbalise it. Be the one in the room asking the uncomfortable question. Say the thing that others are feeling and not saying. That thing that needs to be said. Even if you are not invited to the table of acquiescence again.

A lot has been said about Driscoll’s “demise” and what a good thing that could be for the church. And with most of it I agree.

But the thing that saddens me most about Driscoll’s demise is that the naysayers win the day.  The play-it-safers appear to be proved right. The middle-of-the-roaders and the keep-doing-what-we’ve-always-done-rs are given the high ground. The don’t-rock-the-boaters and the-status-quoers are given more ammunition for their already impotent justifications. The too-scared-to-tryers or the-afraid-to-be-wrongers happily cheer from their isolated corner. The keep-it-respectables and the play-by-the-rulers are further entrenched in their unsullied convictions. Do what we’ve always done they say and you will not go the way of Driscoll. We’ve seen it all before and it never works they say. Do it our way, it’s the way we’ve always done it.

I wish Driscoll was not wrong.

But he is

But still don’t listen to them.

Your life is not your own. You have been blessed in order to be a blessing to the world. Give your life away in service to our Saviour. Dream big Kingdom sized dreams. Risk everything for mission. Share the gospel passionately. Share your bread with the hungry, your home with the hurting, your table with unlovely. Love deeply. Share generously. Embrace innovation for the sake of mission. Get out into your city. Into the dark, lost and forgotten places. Let the light shine in the darkest places of your community. Let your lives be a bold and beautiful declaration in word and deed that it is good to live under the reign of King Jesus.

Don’t listen when they rebuke you, when they roll their eyes, when they shake their heads and say one day you’ll see.

Block your ears to the world of good advice and run. Run to embrace God’s bigger, better and altogether more glorious call on your life.

I think Driscoll got lost, I hope he finds his way here again.

Photo Credit:  mhcseattle via Photopin

Four31: What Could It Look Like?

In a few previous posts I have been posting bits and pieces that begin to explain the thinking and the history behind why we have founded a new “simple church” network.  You can read something about why we feel the need for something new here.  Or something about the back-story here.  If you want to understand the name Four31 you can find that here.  You can read the values that we hold as particular communities and as a network as a whole here.  And you can read our dream for the future here.

When I was trying to put some of the many ideas buzzing around my and our collective heads on paper I was tempted to stop there because I have an allergic reaction to five-year plans or anything that tries to feed my desire to have the future all worked out.  Rather I have learnt that I have very little concept of what God is actually wanting to do through and in us tomorrow or next week never mind next year or the one after.  A road map is helpful as something to guide you, though. As long as you keep it looking more like a satellite map than a street map and you remember that you may not even have the right map in your hands.

Having said all that I thought it might be helpful to try to give people who are “for us” but don’t “get it” or who might “get it” if we could “show it” a picture of how it could all look.  That is if “it” even works and grows or if we even have the right map…

When we use phrases like “organic” or “simple” church it could often sound like we are advocating a no-structure approach to church. This is not the case; it would be more accurate to say that we are advocating both a structure-light approach as well as a fluid and flexible structure. We are content for our structure to grow with us and to be reinvented and re-imagined whenever necessary. We do not expect every part of the network to look the same as any other part. We expect uniformity in theology and values not in structure. We want our structures to free us for mission not conform us to ecclesiastical distinctives.

With the above points noted we have considered what a simple church network structure could look like. We envision four basic expressions of network life. These expressions are a guide not a prescription. Nor are they designed to be sequential “steps” to a pre-determined outcome.

1. Node:

A node is an area in which we are working but in which there is no formal gospel community as yet. Because much of what we are hoping to do will take the form of pioneering ministry, we expect that this will take time. Time to connect with people, to invite them into community and together envision what church could look like in this community and among this people.

If we have a trusted leader in an area then we have a node that is a part of the Four31 Network. We do want Gospel Communities or church plants to develop (and in fact we believe this cannot but happen when the gospel is at work) but we do not want to restrict belonging to Four31 to only those who already have a Gospel Community structure or who are actively in the process of forming one. We are committed to “commissioning” gospel men and women to get on with ministry in an area and allowing church to grow up contextually and organically without the pressure of immediate results or “church plant” expectations in order to legitimise the ministry.

Our hope is that Four31 can become a home to those who are called to pioneering ministry outside of the current church structures. And that together we can begin to envision what new and complementary structures might begin to look like.

Currently we have three nodes:

1. East City Area, Cape Town – Woodstock, Salt River, Observatory

2. Northern Suburbs, Cape Town – Bellville, Durbanville

3. Arizona, USA – Mission to the Apache Indians

2. Gospel Community: the most basic and fundamental unit of church life beyond one’s own family. A gospel community (GC) is a group of up to 20 people who have covenanted together to share life with one another and who share a common mission to an area or people. Some potential Gospel Communities that could develop around the East City Gathering for instance may include:

a) Area Gospel Communities into the areas of Woodstock, Lower Woodstock, Observatory and Salt River.

b) People Group Specific Gospel Communities to, for instance, Muslims, French Speakers, Youth, Students or Homeless People.  These Gospel Communities would exist as a missional team seeking to find ways to reach and serve that specific people group with the gospel.  This would not necessarily be a Gospel Community for those from that particular background but for those who want to reach them.  When people follow Jesus they could be integrated into a Gospel Community or this team may consider how church might be contextualized for these believers

3. Gatherings: As the number of GC’s grow it would be useful to group a number of these GC’s (3-6) around a centralized gathering. This gathering could share training, leadership, and some collective identity. This gathering (for instance the East City Gathering) could determine the frequency and appropriate shape of their gathering.

4. Network: As Gospel Communities multiply so new Gatherings would be formed. As the amount of Gatherings increase so these Gatherings would then be formed into a wider network of Gatherings.

In about an hour or so I will be heading out to this workshop.  I feel a bit like a first year crashing a professors staff meeting, but hopefully I can keep quiet, nod knowingly and not display my ignorance too openly.

I am particularly interested in these questions posed: Why should local churches be interested in this? And how does it fit with the work of our organisations?  These are some issues I have grappled with for a while now and will be hoping to get lots of food for thought today.

What is Transformational Advocacy?

Mike Breen: State of the Evangelical Union

This is a very interesting article by Mike Breen of 3DM. Lots of food for thought. Does anyone want to start a conversation on some of his thoughts?

Here are a couple of quotes I will be chewing on:

“You get a missional movement by starting a discipling movement. For too long we’ve had the missional conversation in lieu of the discipling conversation.”

“If you do discipleship, it means you’ll be creating leaders. Creating leaders rather than managing volunteers will make you re-think your Leadership conversation. And releasing Leaders into the missional frontier to make disciples will make you re-think you Missional conversation.”

“One of the things we try to ask worship leaders is this: “If you didn’t have an instrument and couldn’t sing, would everyone still see you as a leader in your church?” The sad fact is this isn’t often the case. Many worship leaders are hired guns and without the talent of their instruments or vocals, they would be little use to the church.”

“There has been so much talk about Missional Communities and discipleship in the last year, but people forget one grounding reality from the scriptures: In the New Testament, discipleship and mission always find their flourishing in an extended family. But in the last 100 years, we’ve really lost the extended family and we’ve lost the oikos on mission. (Oikos being the Greek word used in the New Testament for “households” that refers to the extended families existing as households on mission for the first 300 years of the life of the church).”

“If you don’t have Family on Mission, discipleship, leadership and mission aren’t possible. Family on Mission is the context needed for the rest to flourish. And at the end of the day, I want to be part of a movement that puts missional discipleship back into the hands of every-day people. You get that by learning Family on Mission.”

You can read the whole thing here

The Crowded House UK Trip 1

This is my second trip to visit The Crowded House in Sheffield, this time Jo and the boys are with me. We have paid hardly anything for this trip, we are really excited and more than a little bit nervous about three and a half weeks in a foreign country (make that another continent!) with two very busy under fives.

Two planes, two trains, a taxi, a whole lot of waiting, being caught in rush-hour at King’s Cross Station and very little sleep we arrived in Sheffield Tuesday afternoon.

A much needed shower, pizza for supper and a very early night followed!  Discovered though that our hosts only drink decaffinated coffee… going to be a rough morning!

Went for a walk in the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Wednesday morning, it was really beautiful and the boys got to run, shout, chase each other and pretend to be bears.  This northern industrial city surprises me more every day I spend here.

Wednesday evening the mini-conference that Jo will be mainly attending while I look after the kids began. They call it a house party, but that just conjures up, for me, images of Tim Chester dropping some rhymes while everyone chants “throw your hands up!”  Apparently it is acceptably understood by British Christians though….

And our hosts bought us some real coffee… true gospel hospitality 🙂

Wednesday evening I did, however, get the opportunity to go to a men’s event with Gavin Peacock (former QPR, Newcastle and Chelsea footballer and TV football pundit), who spoke on Biblical Manhood.  Although as you can see from the picture below he was fascinated by my explanation of the 4-3-3 system in the modern game.

Gavin‘s talk was particularly helpful, below are a few quotes Steve Timmis tweeted.

“God asked Adam, ‘Where are you?’, the Second Adam stepped up to answer and take responsibility.”

“A man can cry & be afraid but a man cannot whine, complain & blame”

“The call to manhood is not a call to be macho but a call to be mature”

“What is it to be a man and not a woman? A defining question of our culture”

“We’re called to be leaders by virtue of the fact that we’re male. It isn’t a competency issue; it’s a design issue”

“Be watchful, stand firm, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love”. (1 Cor 16:13,14). God’s Word to men”

“Overcoming sin in your life isn’t an effort thing so much has a faith thing.”

The Weakness of Theological Colleges

Let us never make the mistake that a degree alone makes a man fit for leadership in the church…

“The best training for a soldier of Christ is not merely a theological college. They always seem to turn out sausages of varying lengths, tied at each end, without the glorious freedom a Christian ought to abound and rejoice in. You see, when in hand-to-hand conflict with the world and the devil, neat little biblical confectionery is like shooting lions with a pea-shooter: one needs a man who will let himself go and deliver blows right and left as hard as he can hit, trusting in the Holy Ghost. It’s experience, not preaching that hurts the devil and confounds the world. The training is not that of the schools but of the market: it’s the hot, free heart and not the balanced head that knocks the devil out. Nothing but forked-lightning Christians will count. A lost reputation is the best degree for Christ’s service. It is not so much the degree of arts that is needed, but that of hearts, loyal and true, that love not their lives to the death: large and loving hearts which seek to save the lost multitudes, rather than guard the ninety-nine well-fed sheep in the British pen.”

C.T. Studd