Monday, May 23, 2005

Empowering Leadership

The church I work at uses a tool called NCD (Natural Church Development) to help us measure the health of our church. Measuring health in churches is a hard thing to do and if you are a big church this tool seems quite useful. One of the eight quality characteristics that NCD measures is 'Empowering Leadership'. This got me thinking because so often leaders act in ways that aren't empowering. So often we make top down decisions that don't include the church (the people) at all.

With NCD I believe that Empowering Leadership is a key to church health. If we have controlling people making the decisions themselves because that is safer then people are never going to take initiative and start living for God themselves. We might call it empowering leadership, but what we are actually doing is teaching people to sit and wait until we make the right call that they can then follow.

Even when leaders are making those decisions which are hard and seem to need to be top-down they should go about them in a way that is consultative and empowering.

How do we connect with so many subcultures?

In my thinking about planting something new I've been wondering about how we can connect with the endless number of subcultures that appear to exist. There really does seem to be an endless set of subgroups within our community that you could incarnate into and share the gospel with, but you can't do them all at once ... can you?

When I was at Steve Taylor's book launch the other week I had the thought

'Could the answer to connecting with all these subcultures be found in the process of multiplying?'

If we develop a community of God's people that connects well with a particular subculture and then that community grows, would it then be possible to plant from it into other subcultures?

There appears to be a serious amount of work in thinking through cultural boundaries and issues, so I'm not suggesting that this is a quick fix solution. I imagine it would take a hell of a lot of time, but maybe that's what we need to do. Take a lot of time with people rather than always searching for a quick fix ...

Unworkable Structures

I was chatting with a colleague the other day about how we put people in totally unworkable situations.

We verbally encourage them to get out into the world and live out the gospel. We challenge them to serve others, particularly the poor and marginalised, and we challenge them to reach out to their friends and family with the gospel. These things are great, I believe the church needs to work on serving and reaching corporately as well as individually.

But my problem is that right after we encourage them to go and do these things we remove their ability to do it by demanding too much of their time, energy, relationships and focus. The result is that either people become church junkies and spend all their time and energy in churchland or people become marginalised by the christian community because they spend their time out in the world witnessing to the truth and not participating in churchland ...

For years now I've wondered why we haven't seen people serving and reaching like we would hope, maybe a big part of it is that we build unworkable structures around them.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

grid blog :: pentecost 2005

If a key distinctive of the emerging church is its focus on mission then the celebration of a day such as Pentecost is a particularly important one.

For a long time I didn't understand the role of the Holy Spirit, I was quite confused about him (yes he's a him!). I was either swept up in self focussed super spiritual hype or I found myself quenching the Spirit by not allowing him any space in my life.

It wasn't until relatively recently that I learned about the key role that the Spirit plays in God's missionary work. The story below is a critical one because it really does set the tone for the book of Acts and what mission looks like in the New Testament church. Read and enjoy.

Acts 2
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"

13Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine."
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17" 'In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19I will show wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

22"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him:
" 'I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will live in hope,
27because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.'

29"Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
" 'The Lord said to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
35until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet." '

36"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Thoughts resulting from 'the out of bounds Church?' Book Launch

I went to the book launch tonight for Steve Taylor's new book 'the out of bounds Church?'. It was an interesting night which provoked a few thoughts I'll blog about. I noted my thoughts on my Treo so will just paste them appropriately.

A random thought hit me early on in Steve's talk.

'Some of the bigger established churches have been thinking these issues through, it's just that they are responding to them in a more traditional/institutional way.'

Recently the senior staff at my church were talking about what the defining marks of the church were, we also discussing incarnational mission and the problems associated with the attractional model in the current cultural context. The outcomes we arrived at as a result of this discussion were very much down the traditional/institutional path, but we did discuss the issues.

Some of the established church is thinking about the kinds of issues the emerging church is engaging with, it's more that (for whatever reasons) they are coming to different answers.

Not sure if anyone else does, but I find that a helpful thing to realise.

That said I think most of the established church isn't engaging with these issues and that is a sad thing. Maybe a role the emerging church could helpfully play would be to raise these questions for those in the established church who aren't engaging with them and to do it in a way that doesn't get their back up ...