Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Notes from Recalibrating Concepts of Church

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

“Recalibrating Concepts of Church” is part of George Fox Seminary “Ministry in Contemporary Culture” series and was held on February 4, 2009.

What they wanted to do at this presentation was to bring five noted authors together to discuss a single issue “Recalibrating the Church“ and then allow for interaction and conversation between each other and the conference attendees. The authors were: Alan Hirsch, Dan Kimball, MaryKate Morse, Len Sweet and Frank Viola. It was moderated by Lance Ford.

Recalibrate Photo
(The hand is an actual part of the graphic image.)


Recalibrate: To calibrate something anew. Calibrate means “to standardize by determining the deviation from a standard so as to ascertain the proper correction factors.”

From the perspective and context of their latest book, each author had 20 minutes to deal with what they felt needed to be recalibrated in the church.

The following is an edited and condensed version of my notes. They are often paraphrases of what I was hearing and don’t reflect all that an author said or their exact words. The interaction between the authors was some of the best stuff, but hard to capture.

Dan Kimball — They Like Jesus But Not The Church

We have to go back into our communities and see them as a missionary would.

Instead of having a model to copy, we rethink how a missionary would plant a church reflecting the values and people of the local community.

The NT gives some guidelines on what a church is, but there is almost unlimited freedom in how it happens.

Some things that need to be recalibrated:

  • Recalibrating leadership “ (Eph 4:11-12) There is no difference in status between those who are paid staff and those who aren’t. Staff = everyone who serves on mission, not just those paid. Pastor = shepherd.
  • Recalibrate language — We have to change our language. For example, being the church instead of going to church.
  • Recalibrating buildings — The building is your equipping center.

Not-yet-Christians often fine Jesus followers creepy. One of the others mentioned that creepiness often is a reflection of attitude.

Len Sweet — Do you think Christians were any less creepy in the 1st century than they are today? Lots of laughs, but interesting point.

Frank Viola “ Reimaging Church

“Reimaging Church” is a theology of church as organism as opposed to organization.

The most important chapter in the book is “Church Practice and God’s Eternal Purpose.”

Gen 1-2 — God created people who were not in need of salvation. There are over 30 themes in these two chapters that speak to the internal purpose of God. These themes are like golden threads throughout the entire narrative and find there culmination in the last two chapters of Revelation. Therefore, winning souls is not God’s eternal purpose. It is not the end, it is the beginning.

Dan Kimball — But we are in a post-fall time. What were Jesus first words to the disciples? They were about making them fisher of men and his last words were to go make disciples. How can we not make this an important aspect of what we do?

I don’t recall a satisfactory answer to Dan’s question, but in his book Frank says this, “Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not against any of these things. On the contrary, I’m strongly for them. But God has a purpose “an eternal purpose“ that humans were to fulfill before sin entered the scene. And He has never let go of it. Everything else is and should be related to it.” He then quotes DeVern Fromke as saying, “Redemption is not the end, but only a recovery program. It is but a parenthesis incorporated into the main theme.”

Marykate Morse — Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence

Her theme was “Recalibrating the Concept of Power.”

One thing we have to figured out is how to get along with one another. We have to get our hands on this thing called power.

Myths about power:

  • Myth: Leadership is embodied in a person whose thoughts and ideas must be followed. Actually leadership should be a corporate experience. The group is part of the process. Leadership is an activity, not a role. It is a process between people.
  • Myth: Power is a corrupting thing. Actually power is a very neutral thing. It is just something that is able to cause or effect change. It is how it is used, there is a stewardship issue. In Luke 7 you can see how Jesus contrasts with Simon. Power is a good thing to cultivate when you think of it as something we use to bring others into the conversation and involved in community.

She said that other myths are covered in her book.

I think it was Len Sweet who strongly suggested that we read about the body language of power in her book.

Alan Hirsch — ReJesus

Reformation is not the critical process, but refounding is. We don’t need to reform church, but we need to find and practice the way of the Founder.

Rebooting is a recalibrating process. This is just what needs to be done within the church, i.e., reboot the church. But we are in uncharted territory, because the model that has been our guide for 17 century’s, although good and effective in its day, will not work in our post-Christendom culture.

ReJesus — Getting back to Jesus. Taking us back to our founder. There is nothing more important to the church than rediscovering Him. It is Christology that will rejuvenate and recalibrate the church.

  • Jesus defines our understanding of God. It is not just that Christ is God-like, but that God is Christ-like.
  • Jesus set the model for discipleship. The gospels need to be our primary text for studying about Jesus and how he worked.
  • Jesus must be the center of church. How is it that people can say they love Jesus and not the church? It is because the church doesn’t reflect Jesus and his values.
  • Jesus must set our mission. What is it that we need to do to be like Jesus? We need to discover Jesus and not holiness. If we are going to reflect Jesus we should take up his values and our mission should reflect those values.
  • Jesus sets the agenda and model of ministry. (At this point we were three hours into the presentations and my laptop battery was spent because I forgot to turn off the WiFi function. So I didn’t capture anymore on this point.)

Len Sweet — So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life in the Church (due out in March)

To be honest, I didn’t find much to take note of in Len’s presentation and he was rushed for time. It may have also had to do with my lacking attention span.

Update: You can read the reaction of others here, here, here and here.

Got any reaction or comments to share?

An Interview With Ed Stetzer

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Larry Griswold and Gary Blanchard from the Illinois District of the Assemblies of God did a six part interview with Ed Stetzer on the shape of the church in North America and what can be done about it.

An interesting discussion from a context many of us have not been a part of for some time.

The other parts of the interview can be found here.

Cole Vs. Young

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Image: Cole vs YoungThere is an interesting read titled “Coming and Going: Two Leaders. One Mission. Two Very Different Strategies.” It is an interview with Neil Cole and Ed Young Jr. which explores their very different approaches to ministry.

The following two excepts bring the contrasting methodology into sharp focus.

Ed Young: The worship event is the [emphasis is theirs] port of entry into the church. We have many, many, many, many other things that connect people to the church, like small groups and hospital visitation. Relationships are really important, but worship is the biggest entry point. So we are very intentional about our sermons and creating an experience.

Neil Cole: One of our early plans was to rent a coffeehouse to reach young people in Long Beach. We were getting ready to launch. But in the middle of one of our strategy meetings God spoke to us and said, Why not go to the coffeehouses where they are? Rather than trying to convert people from their coffeehouse to our coffeehouse where we could then convert them to Christ, we decided to bring Christ to them. So we started hanging out at their coffeehouses, and things started rolling. People started coming to faith in Christ.

Young uses a classic business model where product and presentation are designed to appeal to a consumer of religious goods and services. Cole understands that God is at work all around us, listens for His invitation on where to join Him, then acts in obedience.

Longtime readers of this blog won’t be surprised at which one resonate with me.

I wonder how much more of an impact Young’s “church” would have if they split into 200 one hundred member local neighborhood faith communities? Of course they can’t do this (I’m conjecturing here) because they don’t have 200 mature pastoral leaders (indictment of the model) and many of the people wouldn’t stand for it because they like/want to be consumers, not disciples (an indictment of the average American believer and the model).

Kingdom Epicenter Shift?

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Just thinking out loud in this post.

Looking at history, God seems to periodically shift the epicenter of his kingdom work, i.e., the place/people who profoundly shape the theology and praxis of the church for the rest of us. It appears to be an east to west progression.

I wonder if some most of the decline of the church in North America and the apparent indifference of its people to the “gospel” (however you want to define the gospel) is a reflection of God once again shifting the nexus of the kingdom to the west?

N.T. Wright on Future of Western Church

Monday, November 17th, 2008

N.T. Wright on the future of the Western Church and the post-post-modern Christian faith.

I find this quite fascinating and have given a lot of thought to what the church in North America might look like in the near and mid-term future. I personally am not looking to see a growth in numbers, but I do expect to see a deeper and stronger faith in those who name the name of Jesus. I expect to see a slow abandonment of the American machine/consumer/business model of doing church with a renewed emphasis on walking in “the way of Jesus.” I expect to see greater unity among the divergent tribes within the church and a shift from large/mega churches to smaller community based faith communities.

Tell me what you think the church in North America will look like in 10, 20 and 30 years out. Be brave and express yourself.

HT: Emergent Village

Home PDX

Monday, November 12th, 2007

“The Old Punk looks worried.

It’s 12:30 p.m. on a sunny summer Sunday, and Ken Loyd is supposed to serve lunch to 50 people. They gather at the western end of the Hawthorne Bridge awaiting his weekly church service. The food is the big draw, a hot meal on the one day when most soup kitchens shut down.

Loyd has had a rough morning. The Beaverton congregation providing lunch is late. The batteries on the toy microphone he preaches with just died. Athletes from the Portland Triathlon have nudged his audience of homeless men and women from their normal spot.

Less than 50 feet from where Loyd stands, athletes enjoy massages, organic pizza and microbrew. Though they just swam, biked and ran almost 32 miles, most look cleaner and better rested than the displaced.

Loyd has no time to note the incongruous setting. The minister, aging hippie and recovering drug addict, is too busy fretting. He rubs a hand through his silver Mohawk as if trying to summon a genie from a bottle. He’s losing his crowd. Where is the food?

So begins an article in the Sunday, November 11th addition of our local daily, The Oregonian, on Ken Loyd’s new church in Portland of street kids called Home PDX. Deborah and Ken Loyd started The Bridge where Deborah is still it pastor.

God, I love this couple and their intentionality — for going and being Christ to those on the margin. Our Lord calls them Blessed.

Read the full article here and also hear Ken and Deborah’s heart in this YouTube clip.

Six Major Shifts

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Chuck Warnock over at Confessions of A Small-Church Pastor has noted six major shifts taking place within the church today. Most of us know this stuff, but its good to be reminded of how things have fundamentally changed in a post-Christian culture.

Six major shifts are taking place in churches — large and small — and here’s how your church can benefit:

1. The shift from observation to participation. I read a quote from a 23-year old graphic designer recently who said about her generation, “We’re creators.” The age of the spectator in worship, learning, and service is over. People want to participate, not just observe.

2. The shift from religious education to spiritual formation. During the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, the education model drove church programs. Church buildings consisted of a maze of small classrooms. Churches enlisted “teachers” and planned curriculum. Now the shift is to spiritual formation. Willow Creek has just discovered that church programs, based only on an educational model, don’t make better disciples. Spiritual formation — building in the practices of faith in everyday life — produces “self-feeders” that Bill Hybels now says he wants to produce.

3. The shift from “what does it mean” to “what does it say” in Scripture reading. Ancient practices like lectio divina — divine reading — make followers of Christ aware of what Scripture is saying to them, not just what it means. Paul literally wrote, “All Scripture God-breathed.” The old view has interpreted that to be the explanation for how scripture was inspired. The new view interprets that passage as meaning that God is present today in the pages of Scripture and that God speaks through Scripture to us now.

4. The shift from “hereafter” to the “here-and-now.” Following Christ is not just about going to heaven when you die. Rick Warren’s PEACE plan for aid to developing countries, and his ministry to those with AIDS has helped broaden evangelical awareness of our call to do things now. Care for creation, service to community, engagement with culture — are examples of the shift that there is good news in this life, too.

5. The shift from the individual to the community. For the past 100+ years, we’ve focused on the individual as focus for salvation and spiritual growth. We now realize that community is both the incubator and facilitator of our spiritual lives. New expressions of community are helping people find their calling, their passions, and a new relationship with God.

6. The shift from belief to practice. People want to do something to express their spiritual commitment now, not just learn something. More groups are now focused on “doing” rather than “meeting.” The ancient idea of the apprentice is that a person learned by doing, not just listening. The spiritual director of the ancient abbeys provided guidance in how to live, not just what to believe.

Michael Frost on Missional Church

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Australian Michael Frost talks about what it means to be the missional church, addressing the 2007 Presbyterian Global Fellowship Conference in Houston, Texas. The video is about 50 minutes long, but wow, it is well worth the time.

(HT: Andy)

Jim and Casper Go to Church

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Jim Henderson (Jesus Follower) & Matt Casper (Atheist without an agenda) talk a little about their visits to a number of large mega churches.

The Impact of Transfer Growth

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

I was reading something the other day regarding immigration and its impact on a society. The author noted that a large influx of immigrants from places with different forms of government and societal norms don’t usually assimilate (they have critical mass and therefore can form enclaves to preserve their culture) and therefore can often overwhelm the existing culture and norms of the host society or country, causing confusion and discord. But if immigration is limit to a level where the host society is able to absorb and assimilate the immigration, the immigrants over time adopt the culture (values and norms) of the society.

Now, this post isn’t about immigration, for or against. What the author got me thinking about was the impact of “immigration,” i.e., transfer growth, on new church plants. Many of us have experienced what happens to a faith community over time as Jesus followers transfer in from other faith communities. More often than not, the original vision and values that were the guiding principles for the plant get lost or watered down by the desires and values of the “immigrants.” This can cause confusion, discord, ill feelings and loss of vision and focus.

Back in June I posted my short list of the practical ways a faith community can be missional from the beginning. I’d like to add a ninth item to that list.

  • From the beginning, require those wanting to become an active part of your community to go through some process that allows you to absorb and assimilate them into your “go to them” missional core values and vision. Be at peace when you see those who choose not to assimilate immigrate elsewhere.

The bottom-line is that a large amount of transfer growth may not always in your communities best interest.