Why do we do it the way we do it….

Though today the places we visit and the conditions we meet may be vastly different from those of the Scripture record, yet in principle the experience of the first apostles may well serve as a our example… Christianity has lost its original purity, and everything connected with it is in a false and confused state. Despite that fact, our work today is still the same as in the days of the early apostles – to found and build up local churches, the local expressions of the Body of Christ.

– Watchman Nee, “The Normal Christian Church Life” 1980.

 

Today if a man ventures to suggest that there may be something in the methods by which St. Paul attained such wonderful results worthy of our careful attention, and perhaps of our imitation, he is in danger of being accused of revolutionary tendencies… All I can say is, “This is the way of Christ and His apostles.” If any man answers, “That is out of date,” or “Times have changed” … I can only repeat, “This is the way of Christ and His apostles,” and leave him to face that issue.

– Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: “St. Paul’s or Ours?” 1962.

The above quotes came from the first chapter of Frank Viola’s latest book, “Finding Organic Church“. In this first chapter Frank writes,

To my mind, it’s a profound mistake to ignore what we find in the book of Acts concerning the manner in which Christian communities were birthed in the first century.

From there, He walks through the four models of planting churches found in the book of Acts. Any serious missional student, church planter, missionary, Pastor, seminary student, Christian, should read this book for the first chapter alone.

Thanx!

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Mental Defragmentation…

Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I have been getting adjusted to Facebook and Twitter. They will not replace my blogging, but I have enjoyed getting in touch with folks I haven’t seen or talked to in years. Though, a few I could have done without.

Anyway, I just want to unload my mind now:

  • I hate computers. It seems like I have faced computer difficulties around every corner this summer.
  • I love what we do for a living. I have enjoyed the summer to chill out and get ready for what we hope to be a VERY productive and busy Fall.
  • I can’t wait to see our new website for All Star Fundraising. We have a final logo, and should have the site up within the next month.
  • I love simple church. I love our friends we do life with. These folks challenge me and encourage me. See some pics here.
  • Kacey and I are getting ready for trip to Orlando, FL, to meet Frank Viola next week. Should be a great time to hang out and meet new people.
  • I am supposed to have a conversation today with a guy who emailed me from Memphis a couple of days ago regarding a network of folks in Memphis who are interested in simple church.
  • Kacey and I are praying about starting a new church. We believe it’s close.
  • Some friends of ours are about to make some huge changes that will effect us in a big way. Good changes we believe. Can’t share too much yet.
  • We are trying to help another new church get started on the other side of the city.
  • The CrossLifewebsite will be going through some major changes over the next several months. It will become way less of a “church” website, and more of a network training portal for simple/organic church. We aren’t really sure what that means yet other than the fact we believe this is what God wants us to do with it at this time.

Finally, I have been reading a lot this summer. I will be reviewing some books, but for now, I will just list them:

  • “The Monkey and the Fish” by Dave Gibbons
  • “The Rabbit and the Elephant” by Tony and Felicity Dale
  • “The Stewardship of the Mystery” by T. Austin Sparks
  • “God’s Spiritual House” by T. Austin Sparks
  • “Prophetic Ministry” by T. Austin Sparks

I am currently reading and very much enjoying “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee.

That’s about it for now. I am still planning on getting on a blog “schedule” for posting book reviews, meditations, website reviews, and random stuff. Just haven’t figured it out yet…

Thanx!

Interesting Comparison…

http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2008/fall/11.34.html?start=1

The link above is to an article written for Leadership Journal. It is a must read for any serious missiological student. This article is a joint interview between Neil Cole and Ed Young, Jr. It’s about a 15 minute read.

I would love to hear from any who actually read the article. What do you think? Which approach to missionality is closer to Scripture? Which is more practical? Which is more reproducible? Which is more focused on Jesus?

Frankly, I think this article reflects a tremendous shift in Western missiology.

Jesus Was Not A Christian!?…

Another Interesting Quote…

Since I seem to be in the quote stealing mood lately, I’ll offer another from Alan Hirsch’s Blog:

The Gospel is like a seed, and you have to sow it.  When you sow the seed of the Gospel in Israel, a plant that can be called Jewish Christianity grows.  When you sow it in Rome, a plant of Roman Christianity grows.  You sow the Gospel in Great Britain and you get British Christianity.  The seed of the Gospel is later brought to America, and a plant grows of American Christianity.  Now, when missionaries come to our lands they brought not only the seed of the Gospel, but their own plant of Christianity, flower pot included!  So, what we have to do is to break the flowerpot, take out the seed of the Gospel, sow it in our own cultural soil, and let our own version of Christianity grow.

–Dr. D.T. Niles of Sri Lanka (as quoted in this post.)

The idea he shares in this particular post has to do with what I would call our obsession with the idea of “church planting”. On a personal note, I still refer to myself often as a church planter. Hirsch challenges this connotation and offers in its place the idea of “gospel planting”.

I like the thought, for it is in the planting of the Gospel, the resulting life-transformation, and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus builds His church in a natural, organic way.

So are we actually planting churches or are we planting the Gospel? Intersting thought to ponder.

Thanx!

Great “Organic” Article.

I came accross this article on this blog: http://churchplantingnovice.wordpress.com/

I just decided to post the whole thing here…

There are a variety of models for church planting that have proven effective. Church Planting Village lists five main models:

  • Program-driven
  • Purpose-driven
  • Relationship-based
  • Seeker-sensitive
  • Ministry-based.

Ed Stetzer includes all but the Program-driven model, but notes that only 19% of planters (among Baptists) actually identify themselves with a model. My guess is that this low percentage is a product of post-modern scorn of models, as well as ignorance regarding models. Whether you like it or not, your church plant methodology will put you in the orbit of some kind of model.

Relationship-driven Models

Relationship-driven models are on the rise and include House, Cell, and Missional Community churches. Because of their relational emphasis, these churches are typically drawn to the more Organic method of church planting. Early in our core team phase, Austin City Life was thinking organically but still held onto “the Launch” as a part of our methodology. Most Organic churches jettison “the launch” in favor of a people-focused ecclesiology. We did just that, but the reason was more Spirit-led than “organic”. I’ll take a stab an explaining what I see as the difference between Organic and Spirit-led church.

Organic Church

As I see it, there are two main types of Organic Churches:

  1. Unintentional Organic: clueless organic church planting because you like stuff that is different. A kind of “wherever it grows” attitude.
  2. Intentionally Organic: informed organic church planting that builds structural lattice for the plant of church to grow on. Relies on gospel soil, relational stalk, and thoughtful structure.

Although we certainly appreciate #2 more than #1, we have sought to cultivate a Spirit-led organic church, which fosters slightly different growth. I’m not saying that the Spirit is absent from the approaches above, so bear with me. The Spirit-led church places its emphasis on relationship/community underneath its reliance on the Holy Spirit to grow and mature a missional church. Spirit first, community second, not community first, Spirit as an holy nod.

Spirit-led Church

The more I learn about being a Spirit-led community, the more I realize I have to learn about what it means to follow the Spirit, not just the organic growth of spiritual disciples. Craig Van Gelder defines the church as: a people of God who are created by the Spirit to live as a missionary community.” For Van Gelder and for us, Spirit-led is more than a nod; it animates decision-making, structure, organization, community, and mission. Van Gelder lays out his theoretical ecclesiology in Essence of the Church and a functional ecclesiology in The Ministry of the Missional Church.

One of the strengths of being a Spirit-led church is the emphasis on church as our identity, not our responsibility; its nature over its function. We need to plant and grow churches based, not on function (organic or otherwise), but on natureSpirit-led missionary communities. On this Van Gelder writes: “Failing to understand the nature of the church can lead to a number of problems. Defining the church functionally—in terms of what it does—can shift our perspective away from understanding the church as a unique community of God’s people.”

Our models and methods should be determined from our ecclesiology, not form our ecclesiology. This is why I make a distinction between theoretical and functional ecclesiology. Others would call the latter a Philosophy of Ministry. Whatever you call it, you models and methods should be primarily governed by the Holy Spirit and a biblical understanding of the nature of the church. In my next post, I’ll try to unpack and illustrate this from our own experiences.

I really identify with this article. Good stuff.

Thanx!

Kinda Where We Are…

Hey, first, I want to turn my few readers out there on to my links page. I have a ton of great resources for you to learn about what we are doing these days.

I find it difficult to explain when people ask how we are doing, because most people just don’t understand our journey to this point. Most of the people we know are and always have been inside the institutional church. That is all they know and understand, which is exactly where I was for a long time. Let me interject this: It was in an institutional church that I heard the Gospel and was saved. From an early age I learned about God. So I am thankful for the institutional church setting in my life. However, I also inherited a lot of extra-biblical baggage that weighed me down with religious stuff and often snuffed out my relationship with Jesus. Over the course of time, I have learned that much of what is done as “church” is not only NOT in the New Testament, it wasn’t even thought of until many years after the original disciples were gone. So much of what we do and say, can easily be misunderstood by well-intentioned people. Our words are sometimes even twisted by people who seek to bring us and our friends harm. I want you to understand that we are not heretics. We have not left the faith. We are very orthodox in our beliefs. The problem for most people is the way we seek to live out those beliefs tends to be a little different, causing good people to raise questions in their minds, and stupid people to speak evil of us behind our backs.

Our goal with CrossLife is to help people connect to God through His Son Jesus. We only desire for people to authentically grow in their relationship with Him. Often, the flurry of activity, programs, practices, and stuff of “regular” churches actually become a substitute for a growing relationship with Christ. I know this, because I was an integral part of such systems for many years. This, of course, is never the intent, but it tends to be more of a reality than an exception. The score card for “effective” church ministry becomes buildings, budgets, and butts in seats rather than life-transformation. All the work that goes into to keeping the institution alive, quite often detracts from what God is trying to do in the world, which is redeeming a people for Himself.

So, you may ask, is “house church” the best way to “do” or “go” to church? I would whole-heartedly say, NO. Why? Because it is actually IMPOSSIBLE to “go” to or “do” church. The church is the people. No one can attend church. Church is not an activity or a meeting. The church is the BODY OF CHRIST, and His body IS NOT built with brick and mortar, whether it is a small house or a gigantic “sanctuary”. You may say, that this is a squibble over semantics, and to that I would say that the evidence shows that most people actually think of the church as the “place” they worship God, give their offering, and sit for an hour a week to hear the professionally-trained “man of God” speak. We train our kids to think this way early on, and it catches on quite nicely. Never, do you see that being taught or lived out anywhere at all in the New Testament. In fact, you would be very hard-pressed to find most of what is commonly done on a Sunday morning in Scripture without wrestling those Scriptures away from their original context.

So, here’s the point, the focus should not be where you may attend church or how big it may be. Instead, the question should be, are you being the church? Is your life being transformed from day to day through your ever-growing relationship with Jesus? Is your walk with Christ being intertwined with other people who are on the same journey? Is your journey impacting those who are moving away from Christ?

These are serious questions that deserve a real answer. Remember, our life is not about what church we are a part of, but how we live out the life Jesus Christ sacrificed in order to give to us. If you would like to read further on these issues, I would invite you to check out my books section and my links section.

Thanx!