Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Brainless Dog

Yesterday 2 of my boys and I took our 8 month old puppy to the park to get him to run off some of his endless supply of energy. The park we chose has a huge grass field that was free of all people and only had one little dog freely running through the open space. Since the other dog was off his leash, I released mine and the two dogs happily ran laps around the field.
I entered into conversation with the other dog's owner who was sitting in the grass and enjoying herself as she watched two happy dogs stretch their urban legs.
Out of the blue my dog ran over to this kind lady who was obviously a dog lover, he walked behind her, and without warning he lifted his leg and peed on her back.

That's right. My dog peed on the back of a completely innocent person for no apparent reason.

I really never encountered this situation before so finding the appropriate words at a time like this is not an easy thing.

In a split moment, I thought through every possible explanation that would justify my dog's actions or that would at least calm the situation before I faced a lawsuit for letting my dog mark his territory on a middle-age women's back. In the end all I could do was stare speechlessly as this woman actually laughed at the situation and said how she didn't mind.

Of all the people in the world that my dog could have gone up to in order to pee on, he chose the one who loved dogs so much that she didn't even mind serving as the object of his relief. So though it seemed that he was completely brainless for mistaking a woman for a fire hydrant, he actually was brilliant for choosing the one person in the park who would not seek to have the dog destroyed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

R.I.P. Gramps

Ken Peterson 1929-2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Missional Church: Leadership

Another book that is on my list of things I will never write is a book about religious leaders called, "The Devil Inside". It is a book that, if it ever would be written, would deal with the history of the Church from the very beginning and it would look at the patterns of problems that have always existed. One point in this book that will never be written is that as culture changed and the church became more and more Western as opposed to its Eastern roots, it also became more similar to the institutions of the "world". When this happens, the leadership become more "professional" and less Spirit-Led. I don't want to give it all away in this post because then you will never purchase this book and I won't be able to keep food on the table for my family.

The point is that current issues for many "spiritual" leaders is that the people they lead don't actually want them to be spiritual. The way leaders are put on pedestals and then knocked off from those pedestals creates unhealthy patterns of behavior and it often unleashes the darkest sides of these leaders.

In the Missional Church, the leadership emphasis is on a plurality of leaders who serve through a commitment of mutual submission to one another. This form of leadership removes the pressure of being a "senior pastor" and it helps to remove the temptation of leaders to attribute the success of a local church to one individual. The shared leadership structure also models "unity among Christians" that Jesus emphasizes in John 17. It tells the world that in Christ, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. It says in Christ, people with different backgrounds and personalities can share a common vision as they are led by the Holy Spirit.

Shared leadership also helps us remove our own "idols of ideas". Sometimes as leaders we think that because we have experience or training, we are the ones uniquely blessed to hear from God and our ideas are the right ones. When we face opposition to our ideas we often do not want to back down because our experience tells us our ideas work or because if we are going to be criticized for our church's direction, it might as well be a direction we choose. But this comes down to the fact that we hold our own ideas as an "idol". It is something that we are unwilling to part with. In holding on tightly to our own ideas we are also saying that God cannot speak through others. With shared leadership, where multiple leaders share an equal voice, we consequently lay down the idol of our own ideas and we trust that God is able to use the collective wisdom of the group.

This leadership also eliminates the idea that we are above reproach from others. This structure actually calls for others to challenge the leaders and hold them accountable for their lifestyles. Of course problems can still occur in this system but many of the challenges of modern Western Christianity are at least diminished.

You might be saying that this system is too idealistic and that it will fail. (In fact I had a person I really respect tell me that this will fail). You are right that this system is idealistic but check the teachings of Jesus and tell me He wasn't challenging and idealistic. You are also right that this system will fail if you are comparing it to the ways of "the world". For the leadership structure of the missional church to be successful, a intentional commitment to humility, love , and grace must exist as well as the realization that only through the power of the Holy Spirit will we ever find true success.

Ephesians 4:1-3 ...Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Current Reads

It has been a while since I have shared my current/ recent reading list and because I want to post but I don't feel like thinking, I thought this was a perfect time to give my update:

"Same Kind of Different as Me" by Ron Hall & Denver Moore -This is a great true story that is pretty well written and has a solid message. You only need about 4 hours to read this so it is a good quick read.

"The Shack" by William Young - The concept for this book is great and the characters are completely lovable. This is a very unique way to present a picture of God. Some of the conversations were a bit too "Christiany" at times and it is not spetacular writing but overall it is worth reading.

"Palestine: Peace not Apartheid" by Jimmy Carter- If you already know the history of the Middle East you can skip this book. Apart from giving a good overview of the history, he says absolutely nothing in this book.

"Giving" by Bill Clinton- Good stories of how people are giving time, money, and talents to help others but this is not worth reading.

"Total Church" by Tim Chester & Steve Timis- It reads like a textbook but it contains great descriptions and reasoning for the "Missional Church". Don't take this one to bed with you if you actually want to read it but don't skip it.

"In a Sunburned Country" by Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson traveling in Australia... telling it like only he can.

"Tremendous Trifles" by GK Chesterton. This is always worth picking up to read a few chapters, although some with sharper minds, such as my wife, do not always agree with this assessment.

"The Bible" by God. No review needed.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Missional Church: Programs

In addition to "The Shaping of the Church" my wife requested that I regularly address issues related to the idea of the "missional" church. She requested this partly because the word, "missional" is not yet a fully recognized word and also because the concept of living as a missional church is a process that is going to take some time. So, here you go...

One major idea of the missional church is that we want to create communities where people are the "Church", meeting one another's needs and bringing the love and grace of Jesus to all they encounter. We want these communities to replace the usual routine of going to a building several times a week and expecting the paid people and super-volunteers to meet the needs of everyone and to tell people about the love and grace of Jesus. The exciting, yet difficult thing, about all of this is the fact that this means we cannot view our local church as a place that must meet all of our perceived needs. We can no longer expect the pastors to be perfect, to never give a bad sermon, to never sing out of key, to never hurt someone's feelings, to never say anything offensive, and to never go on vacation when one might encounter a crisis.

Following the missional style of church means that our smaller communities are the places where many of our needs are met and they are the places where the true power and goodness of the gospel of Jesus is lived out and seen by the watching world. If we play this out to all areas of our lives, this also means that the missional church is not a place built on "traditional" programs because in this type of church the programs must be an organic flow that comes from the rhythms of our daily lives.

Someone asked if we have a men's ministry and I responded, "Yes. It is the men in our church sharing life together and blessing the other men that they encounter in their everyday lives through our gracious living". One arm of our "Men's Ministry" might be a few guys from the church who love to play poker hosting a regular time with other guys in the community where they can play poker, enjoying some refreshing cold adult beverages, and model Jesus' values to one another.

What about Children's ministries? We do offer some things for kids during our large group gatherings but our real children's ministries happens in your own home and with the people that you are sharing life with. Just this week I had someone say that they needed to go to a larger church that can offer an exciting children's ministry and then one day when their children have left the house, they will look for a church that is "more crazy in the ways they follow Jesus". In other words, this person said that they wanted their children to learn to be consumers of church until one day the children will leave the house and then the family will try to not be consumers of church and then they will take their faith more seriously. It is disheartening to know that this is the perspective of most in our culture as we simply want to be satisfied by our churches so that we do not have to join in the difficult work of living the ways of Jesus.

In a missional church we are fighting against a culture that wants its needs met by the programs their churches run. That is why so many people get pissed off and leave when the music changes, the speaking series is too challenging, the new pastor wants to get back to basics, or when the children don't come home entertained. What we have created is a religion that is as consumer driven as the local mall (sometimes with even more options offered) while at the same time losing all sense of the uncomfortable, dangerous, life-changing message of Jesus.

At the missional church, you will not find a place that works to have the best music, flawless services, entertaining skits, and state of the art facilities. You will find men's and women's ministries that call the men and women to live the ways of Jesus in the community with other men and women. You will find Children's ministries that ask parents to follow scripture's advice to teach their children and model the image of God in everyday life. You will find youth ministries that include the youth in the life of the church as we model lasting principles of treating one another with grace and humility as we bear one another's burdens and love at all costs. You will find evangelism that happens as we join in our own culture's celebrations instead of creating our own "christian" alternatives that drive deeper wedges of separation. You will also find other "experienced" pastors standing at a distance telling everyone who will listen why this system won't work.

I know we are fighting against a culture that is as consumer driven as any place probably on this entire earth but what better place to follow the ways of a subversive revolutionary Savior? I really do not believe that when Jesus said he will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it, he was not referring to a church that has perfect models for attracting people and putting them through a "discipleship" program. When he said the gates of hell will not prevail against it I believe he meant it would be a church that creates disciples in the cracks of our society and in the very face of hell itself. This cannot be done in buildings that are designed to imitate culture while at the same time creating an obvious separation from real life and "spiritual" life. Missional means to go out. Discipleship means to create imitators of Jesus. This is the program that causes those gates to shudder.