Thursday, December 14, 2017

In talking recently with a friend and colleague, I heard a story that exhibits one church under two philosophies of ministry.  While operating under one paradigm, the local church saw the upcoming city festival as a monetary resource for the church.  With all the city festivities happening two blocks away, people would need a place to park.  So the church set up attendants at the entrance of their parking lot and charged festival patrons five dollars per car.  And when a few families didn't have the cash for the transaction, the attendants ran them off the church property! 

A few years later, the same church approached the city festival differently.  A new paradigm was in play.  This time the church's approach was one of blessing, not confiscation.  The church provided free parking for festival goers, opened the church bathrooms for city use, and created a tent area where mothers and fathers could change their young ones, complete with donated wipes and cremes.  The city was so impressed they asked the pastor if the church could be the "baby changing church" each year for this community event.   

As I reflect on these two scenes, two thoughts come to mind.  One, Leadership is key.  Leaders shape culture.  Leaders attend to the paradigms.  As has been said, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." 

Two, a missional stance toward the city is reflected in service and blessing.  Churches that practice missional ministry see the church as the hands and feet of Jesus for the city, not the city as a means to prop up a church.  One approach is utilitarian; the other is incarnational.

Which paradigm reflects more accurately the heart of Jesus? 

Which paradigm has earned the right to share about Jesus in an increasingly pagan culture?

How could your church pivot towards your city?



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Image result for mutton busting

Recently I saw one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time--"Mutton Busting."  In the world of professional rodeo, this is a standard event for children, a way to introduce the next generation of steer wrestlers, barrel racers, and cattle ropers into the fold.  A child that can ride a lamb will one day ride a horse or a bull.

The object of mutton busting is simply to hold on!  A young child is placed on the back of a sheep, he or she grips the soft wool tightly, and the animal is sent skittering across the arena.  The winner is the one who can stay on the back of the animal for the duration of the journey.  Of the fifteen or so riders I saw, most took a tumble before the ride was over.  It's quite a wild ride for a youngster!

Something about the image of a child on a lamb caught my imagination.  The small fingers buried deeply in the wool.  The total commitment to hang on as the sheep led the expedition.  I had a quick vision of a life committed to Jesus.  The Lamb of God is on a mission and we are holding on tightly, going where he wills.  The ride can feel bumpy.  The landscape flies by in a blur.  We can feel out of control.  But what a thrill, what an adventure!

The image of holding onto a wild Jesus reminds me of another animal reference.  Susan and Mr. Beaver have a conversation in Narnia about Aslan the lion.  "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good." (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).

Jesus is the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God.  And he's very good.  But a life with Jesus is an unpredictable life.  Jesus leads us into places in our soul perhaps we would rather not go.  Jesus leads us into the world to show the world his goodness and his love.  To follow him feels sometime like hanging onto the back of a careening lamb.  It may not feel safe.  But the journey is good.

"'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."



Sunday, January 8, 2017

Long Train Runnin'

Freight Train

I once heard the musician Moby describe the angry reaction guitar players had to electronic dance music and its rapid proliferation: "It's like yelling at a freight train."

What a great image!

Something so massive, with so much momentum coming at you.  It's very hard to stop.

That's the way it feels with the challenge of moving a church into missionality.  The prevailing models of church under Christendom have such a force that to attempt a shift into a new direction seems like yelling at a freight train.  It won't stop.

But if the train is heading towards broken track, it has to!

The current model of church, "come to us, the professional church" has had a good run.  It has planted churches, made disciples, formed seminaries, linked arms through denominations, developed amazing programs, fostered creative youth, sports, medical, and other outreaches, and overall been a dominant part of western civilization.

But the world has changed.  What happens when the current models of church don't keep up with population growth?  What do we do when 70-80% of the unchurched population doesn't relate or care about anything the church is doing, despite our best efforts?

It's time for the church to be the church in the world.  Instead of come to us, perhaps it's time the church train its people to truly minister out there.

Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (John 20:21).  I think its time we recapture the full dimension of sending.

To get your head and heart around these monumental shifts in church paradigms,  I highly recommend the following:

Michael Frost, The Road to Missional, Baker Books, 2011

Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways (2nd ed.), Brazos Press, 2016

Reggie McNeal, The Present Future, Jossey-Bass, 2003 

Alan Roxbugh and Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader, Jossey-Bass, 2006

And if these, and other works, move your heart in a new direction and you are ready to apply the missional paradigm, I highly recommend CRM's The Missional Pathway!

I'd love to meet you and begin the journey together! - Just fill out the Contact Form to the right of this message.