Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Among

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28)

When Wendy & I taught last week at our Crossroads DTS, we used the above verses as part of our discussion on what it means to serve each other in mutual submission. I've always loved the fact that this brief passage makes it abundantly clear that Jesus rejects the world's way of "lording it over" others, which is definitely going against the flow of most CEO-driven church models, as well as aberrant understandings of "being under authority" or "under a covering".

I've noticed something peculiar over the years, however, which this passage also addresses. Jesus is calling people to be leaders who "lead among" rather than "lord it over". And the peculiar thing I've noticed is that (perhaps not surprisingly) this runs counter to the contemporary wisdom that puts gifted people into administrative positions that suck the life and vitality out of them.

Allow me to elucidate...

Say you have a gifted evangelist in your midst. In many instances, somebody in leadership notices how gifted this person is. They bring a recommendation to the governing board for the church/ministry. The governing board decides it's a brilliant idea to take this gifted evangelist and put him/her in oversight of all things to do with evangelism for the whole church/ministry. This is based at least partly on the idea that the five-fold gifts of Ephesians 4 are meant to function in a governmental oversight approach, for the equipping of the saints.

However, 99% of the time, the gifted evangelist just gets frustrated. People aren't responding to the initiatives or training that he/she is providing to get more people involved in evangelism. They are also now required to attend numerous staff, elder, board, and ad hoc meetings. Lots of meetings. Meetings that sometimes question the work ethic of the evangelistic overseer, since there aren't as many "results" as had been hoped.

Meanwhile, the poor evangelist has pretty much ZERO time to do what they're passionate about: evangelism. So, they become increasingly frustrated and lose their vitality, and eventually they get the "left foot of disfellowship" and the search is on for the next "anointed" person to fill the vacancy. Or sometimes (and this is preferable) the frustrated evangelist realizes that he/she is not functioning in their gifts and callings, and escapes the prison of "oversight", and gets back in the trenches doin' the stuff that brings them life and bears fruit in the lives of others. (And they find they don't miss all the extra meetings!)

Here's why I think leaders -- including (maybe especially) the five-fold ministries -- are meant to "lead among":
  1. You steal the life and vitality out of them if you imprison them in a purely administrative oversight position, which

  2. Doesn't allow them to lead by example -- "among" -- so that people can join with them and rediscover the maxim that "more is caught than taught";

  3. A "rear echelon" approach, like that of a general directing his troops from the safety of a healthy distance away from the battle, isn't leadership, it's directorship.
    A European friend once told me that he was puzzled by our church-as-army metaphors; to him, a true "leader" was at the front lines, literally leading his troops into battle and sharing the danger. A general who directed from a safe distance would not be considered a trustworthy leader.
  4. A frustrated overseer who'd rather be in the trenches, and in community rather than directing programs, is incapable of passing on the passion that he/she naturally holds for ministry. Let them "lead among", and we'll see more people released into ministry.
Maybe we should start a DTS based on the theme: "Among"...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pre-Outreach Update

How long has it been since my last post? Have I really joined the ranks of absentee blog-writers?

Bad blogger! Negligent blogger!

I have a few (hopefully justifiable) reasons for why my busy-ness has resulted in a scarcity of new blog posts... 

at left: potential cover artwork for Post-Charismatic

YWAM Discipleship Training School

We're having an incredible time with our Crossroads DTS. I mentioned earlier that two students became followers of Jesus in the first couple of weeks, and in the time since, we've also seen some significant healing in peoples' lives in terms of past hurts and even marital tensions. We're halfway through the lecture phase, and the outreach is being planned to take place in Australia & Western Samoa. (Wendy & I will be staying in Canada to mind the YWAM base this summer, while everybody else is gone on outreach.)

The Tyranny of Book Reviews

I have requested my removal from the list of "50 select bloggers" doing book reviews on selected titles sent to us (me). I was honored to be invited to participate, but it was becoming increasingly awkward considering my usual "code of conduct" re: online book reviews.

Specifically (to avoid spurious speculations), I like to choose which books I review for this blog. When I get books delivered sight unseen, and I am obligated to publish a review about them, it gets awkward. My personal code of conduct has been that I simply don't publish negative reviews. There's far too much negativity in greater blogdom already.

Also, in the past, I have turned down offers of free books (for the price of a review), because I knew what the author(s) stood for and I didn't want to be a platform for their agenda.

And -- full disclosure -- I've recently been feeling convicted that I agreed to do the book-club reviews partly because of pride. Not only because of pride, but I've been realizing more and more that it was a contributing factor. I was flattered by the idea of being part of a "select group" of bloggers. Dang... spiritual growth can be humbling!

Desired Use of Available Time

I want to invest my "free time" in this busy season with reading books and listening to  teaching CD's on the Kingdom of God, as Jesus and His first-century hearers would have understood it. I'd like to revisit the whole foundation of the Kingdom of God as the logical follow-up to Post-Charismatic. (That's assuming that I will write another book in the future. The jury is still out on that one.)

Speaking of the Publishing Journey...

Post-Charismatic has gone through the first edit completely, and is now in the hands of one of the senior editors. Believe it or not, while I may be chomping at the bit to see it published, my book is not the only one Kingsway Communications has on its plate, and these things just take time.

at left: alternate cover artwork. It's the publisher's decision...

I've also discovered that contacting people to ask them to read the book, and write an endorsement for it, is a very awkward thing to do.

Not unexpectedly, some have declined for various reasons. One merely saw the title and flat-out refused to even look at the manuscript. Others have been gracious and encouraging in their responses.

In the end, only Todd Hunter (former National Director of Vineyard USA) agreed to write an endorsement for the book.

That leaves me feeling encouraged and humbled all at the same time, which -- again -- is good for my soul.

Death Warmed Over & Cloned

WARNING: Disturbing Content

I've discovered a disturbing set of clones in recent months. Surprisingly, they're both part of the emerging generation of youth and young adults.

The first is the offspring of mega-church ministries. These youth have been raised on entertainment and pre-fab "experiences" (worship times, youth conferences, etc.), where everything is tightly scripted and controlled. You can easily spot them when an informal gathering of Christ-followers happens:
  • Often, they're conspicuous by their absence -- if it doesn't drive their adrenaline higher than a quadruple-shot caramel mocha latte, they're not interested
  • they're uncomfortable with people sharing about their spiritual lives if it's not part of the "program/meeting" -- genuine, unscripted conversation about spiritual things is foreign and unsettling
  • While they know all the correct Christian lingo/jargon, they live with a perpetual smirk towards any of their peers who "really believe this stuff"
The second set, which you'd normally think would look quite different, are nearly identical clones of the first: the off-spring of the house church movement. These youth have been raised on cynicism, isolation, and general crabbishness. They are likewise not too difficult to spot:
  • While their parents insisted that they -- not the institutional church -- were the real source of instruction and spiritual formation, it seems sometimes that the ball was dropped somewhere, and faith became a privatized, "don't ask, don't tell" personal experience
  • they're uncomfortable with people who are genuinely excited about their faith-walk with Jesus -- they just aren't used to being around people who speak about their faith "out loud"
  • while they aren't as familiar with Christian lingo/jargon, they exhibit the same elitist smirk when they encounter peers who "really believe this stuff"
I freely admit that these are generalizations -- to a degree -- yet I have been meeting a disturbing and increasing number of youth and young adults in recent years who come from radically different ecclesial settings, but when seen side-by-each, the first word that comes to mind is "clone".

Another word -- "intentional" -- suddenly takes on an increased sense of urgency.