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Archive for the ‘missional’ Category

I Claim this place in the name of …

Posted by functionalchurch on 2012/11/29

New Chinese passport map of disputed area.

New Chinese passport. The dotted line in the lower right corner shows the disputed area that China is claiming.

Have you ever thought about the idea of laying claim. I remember as a child looking at pictures of early European explorers visiting “new” lands and, after planting a cross or a flag, claiming that place in the name of the king (or queen or whoever). Now before you get offended remember that I share both European and First Nations blood 🙂

Recently you may have read one of the following articles regarding China’s new passports. Apparently the show a map that includes disputed portions of the “South China Sea” as being a part of China. As you can guess, various countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the USA have made their opinions known. That’s because they also have claims in the area. It is a problem that has been brewing over many years but has recently come to a head. Time will tell how this will be resolved.

I began to think about the church and about missions. Do we lay claim to things that don’t belong to us? I wonder what people in the 10/40 Window think about all the maps of their countries that have been distributed over the years? I wonder what “Manila Ben” or whoever Saddleback named their target audience thinks when s/he sees the various effigies of who they are and how to “reach” them?

The concept of “claiming” implies concepts like good and bad, right and wrong, good and evil. Those doing the claiming always come out on the good side, while those who are claimed are always on the wrong side. But is this really the way missions works? Can any of us claim to be perfectly and totally connected to God? Aren’t we all on a journey?

Are we making unfair claims upon the people of the world? Do we have any other choice? Do those people then have the right to make a similar claim upon us?

What do you think?

Posted in church impact, cross-cultural, discipleship, ethics, good news, kingdom of god, missional, missions, philippines, transformation, truth-telling | Leave a Comment »

Anthony Bradley’s Functional church made practical –> On “loving the city” long-term

Posted by functionalchurch on 2011/02/23

Functional church anyone? This guy (Anthony Bradley) has got the idea right. But not just the idea, the practice that goes with it! He doesn’t care about forms and appearances but is solely concerned with church engaging society. I like it a lot (even if it is scary).

A functional church really has to get down to this level — the behind-the-scenes-not-pretty-but-really-where-the-problem-is kind of stuff.

It’s one thing to set up a place to get together and talk but it is quite another to take a stand and try to root out some really issues.

Here is the link to the article:

On “loving the city” long-term (in contrast to well-intentioned hipster, neo-paternalistic versions) – The Institute.

What things would you add to the list?

Posted in Anthony Bradley, church, church impact, discipleship, ecclesiology, ethics, good news, kingdom of god, legacy, marturia, missional, personal impact, service, transformation | Leave a Comment »

Cultural Dependency & Systematic Theology: At Odds in the Search for Emancipation?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/11/14

A lot of my work involves finding solutions for economic problems. Quite often I am that solution (at least on a short-term basis). But we haven’t found a long-term solution yet. We do teach on Capacity Building at SEATS but some things I have been reading lately have made me wonder if we are on the wrong track. Recently I have been thinking about the following questions and ideas:

If cultural & economic dependency are linked (as per Ali Mazrui), what does that say for teaching systematic theology cross-culturally? Since theology defines church culture, must it then be developed by those within the culture so as to not contribute to cultural dependency? Is it just adding to the problem? Is developing Asian Theology then the key to eliminating economic dependency in Asian churches?

These questions came as a result of reading my Dad’s Master of Education thesis from 1990. Kind of makes me wish I had read it earlier. Referencing Mazrui, Dad makes the statement “that cultural autonomy can be achieved through a strategy of domestication, diversification, and counter-penetration.”

Examples of this strategy (with comments) as applied to my cultural setting might include:

1. Use local language. SEATS training is conducted in a blending of English and Tagalog so perhaps we are going in the right direction here.

2. Connect to other Asian churches/cultures. SEATS itself is cross0-cultural but we haven’t been able to really link up Filipinos with other Asian church groups at this level. This will allow Asians to have more voices in the conversation than simply westerners.

3. Diffuse Filipino values into the mission. This, as pointed out in the thesis, is already on the way to being accomplished since there are a large number of Filipinos in Canada and Filipino churches working with the BGC Canada. Early in our career we even had a Filipino director of Global Ministries. His influence was definitely felt in our movement, even though he later moved on to other things. SEATS itself has a completely Filipino board. One idea would be to allow other Asian board members to help fill out the conversation and bring balance.

In your opinion, what is the best answer to this problem?

Posted in capacity building, christian life, cross-cultural, leadership training, missional, missions, pastoral training, philippines, theology, transformation | Leave a Comment »

The Church, the World, and the Kingdom of God

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/06/25

My favourite theological motif is derived from the story of the Loving Father (also known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son). It is in fact a story about the world, which is synonymous with the family of God. The story is about a Father with two sons. One son wanders off in search of his own joy in life (but ends up realizing that true joy only lies in his father’s household). The other stays at home and faithfully works for his father (but ends up developing a non-loving attitude toward his sibling). The father is very interested in both the return of his “lost” son, as well as the proper attitude of this other son.

This is a picture of God and his relationship with the world. Some people of the world have wandered off in search for joy. Many return to God. Others are safe in the church but sometimes end up having a dim view of those who are not yet there.

It reminds me of something I read from David Fitch over at Reclaiming the Mission. He made a statement about in March 2010 that has stuck in my head. Here it is:

“There is no dividing line between the church & the world. The church may precede the world today, yet it is only living today what the world itself is ultimately called to in the future. The church in essence bleeds into the world ever calling it to its true destiny. As a foretaste of the renewal of all creation, the church cannot be discontinuous with creation. It cannot be discontinuous with the world because the church is in the process of becoming that very world renewed in Christ. Neither can it merely blend into the world for then all Mission & renewal is lost. Its presence will be in, among & for the world even as it will be distinct from the world. This is what it means to take on the incarnational nature of Christ. It is this very incarnational nature that requires the church to be a discerning community which at times both refuses conformity with the world while at other times joining in (with what God is already at work doing).”

This resonates a lot with me because it is where I see the church’s role in the world right now. We can’t transform something if we are not involved in it. Note that the very concept of transformation implies that there is not a wholesale accommodation to the world, just a participation in what God is doing to enact that transformation.

I just have a nagging question: What is the relationship between the church and the Kingdom of God? David points out that the church is a “foretaste of the renewal of all creation.” But if it is a “foretaste,” it can’t be the final product. In the following sentence we read, “the church is in the process of becoming that very world renewed in Christ.” Is it the church that is becoming the world renewed in Christ or is the renewed world the kingdom spoken of in Revelation 11:15 – “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will rule as king forever and ever.”

I guess what it comes down to is this: Is it ok for me to work at building the church or should I instead work at building the kingdom? Or is to do one to do the other as well?

Posted in David Fitch, jesus, kingdom of god, missional, missions, parable, personal impact, transformation, truth-telling | Leave a Comment »

If Powerlessness Means No Power How Can I Lead My Church?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/05/23

“You know, Mike. The hardest one of the 4 for me is Powerlessness. As Pastors we need to guide our churches. Without our power, people will not move and the church will not grow. So there needs to be a balance.” Phil was wrestling with one of Michael Frost’s Four Ps of Incarnational Mission. As a churchplanter among middle-class Filipinos, he is concerned about the future of his church and the best way to minister to this group.

Phil was a part of SEATS latest School of Ministry class. In an effort to return to the roots of our movement we have been revisiting the Gospels under the guise of a hermeneutics class. Called “Understanding Jesus: Mark.” I thought it might be interesting to combine Frost’s understanding of Incarnation and Incarnational Mission with the stories we see in Mark. Here is a brief summary of each of the four:

Presence – Do what Jesus would have been doing, if he were here.

Proximity – Identify with those to whom we are ministering, much in the way Jesus identified with nearly everyone to whom he ministered.

Powerlessness – giving up our position of power – be it money, position, education, or whatever – and depend upon God for the things we need in ministry. Rather than trusting in my own power, I trust in God’s.

Proclamation – it is all worthless if we never get around to discussing and presenting Jesus as the good news.

Granted these summaries may not accurately reflect Frost’s concepts since they are my summaries but they did form the basis for our discussion in class.

Of course, like Phil, we are all ok with 3 of the 4. We are happy to see that we represent God’s presence in the world, that we drawn near to others just as he drew near to us, and that ultimately, without the good news being proclaimed, there is no value to our mission. But when we get to that pesky #3 – Powerlessness – something seems to hold us back. We begin asking questions like Phil: How do we balance leadership with servanthood? Am I just supposed to sit back and let my church fail? To sit back and let people just do what they want?

The key to all of this is to remember that in Powerlessness we are imitating Jesus. Perhaps the Trinity had a similar discussion “before the foundation of the earth” where they debated the nature of the Incarnation. Perhaps they thought about all the positives and negatives as they discussed the plan. Certainly God’s concerns are bigger than ours. If I am concerned about my church and its growth, God is concerned with the universe and its growth. But yet, when all is said and done, God chose to use powerlessness as a key part of how he presented his love and salvation to us.

Another key is to remember that it is not really Powerlessness that is being spoken of but rather a dependence upon power that is not our own. Jesus is constantly speaking of how he is the one who depends upon the Father for certain things. We also read how it was the Holy Spirit who filled him and enabled him to do his marvelous acts. When we embrace powerlessness, we set aside our own resources, powers, abilities, etc and embrace humility and dependence upon God in it all.

I thought of a few points that might help us focus on the key concepts that relate to Powerlessness:

1. So does the ‘Pastor’ have to be the best at everything? If we believe this, we will never be able to embrace powerlessness since we will need that power to keep up the hectic pressure and pace we need to set for ourselves.

2. Does the church depend upon the ‘Pastor’ for its existence? Obviously we need to answer “No.” It is Christ upon whom we depend for our existence as a church. As such, maybe we need to let go a little bit and see where God is leading. (See #1, above).

3. How do our gifts play into this concept of powerlessness? The fact that the Spirit manifests himself through gifts he gives to each Christian as he sees fit means that one person can’t carry the whole load. We need to give up our idea of the pastor as the key figure in the church, as the one with whom the church lives or dies and embrace the fact that each part of the body is crucial to the future of what God does through us!

4. The concept of team understands powerlessness and uses it effectively. “There is no ‘I’ in team” is an old saying that has some truth to it. Team means we do it together not that you or I do it alone.

5. Is ‘Pastoral’ leadership based upon leadership through power, or leadership through example or leadership through serving? Jesus is pretty clear in saying that power isn’t to be the basis for our leadership. In fact, in his example of washing the disciple’s feet, he showed that it is really through servanthood and example that our leadership lies.

What are your thoughts on powerlessness and how it relates to leadership?

Posted in church, church impact, ecclesiology, jesus, leadership, leadership training, missional, pastoral training | Leave a Comment »

How is God at work outside the church?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/03/25

For the past few days I have been musing about the question “What is God doing in the world?” Ed Stetzer and others (here & here) have been writing about it on the Missional SyncBlog. The background of the question is a concept that is gaining momentum in the church based upon the role of the Church in the world and the role of God. For many years we in the church have thought that the church has a mission in the world. While there is no real problem with this there a little confusion seemed to develop along the way as to who was ultimately responsible for seeing this vision to fruition. Recently, as we began to ponder the work and mission of God, we realised that it is in fact God who is working in the world and we in the church must join him in his mission to the world. So that leads us to the question above as to what exactly God is doing in the world, more particularly, apart from the church? Meaning, what things to we need to look for as we try to let God set the agenda rather than we ourselves setting the agenda? More to the point, is God saving people outside of the church as well?

Then it came to me. Perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible can help us understand how God is at work in the world. John 3:16 says, “God loved the world in this way: he sent his only Son so that whoever believes in him will not die but will have life that lasts for ever.”

There seems to be two things that we learn from this verse:

1. God is actively involved in loving the world.
2. God active love of the world is shown to the world in a very specific way: through Jesus.

What are the implications of this?

1. God’s love for the world does not appear to hinge upon the world’s love for him.
2. Jesus is essential to this display and experience of love.
3. The church, as Christ’s body, must then actively showing God’s love to the world.
4. Wherever we go, whomever we meet, whatever we experience, we must remember that God is in love with that place, that person, us. Asking the question, “What/Who is God loving here?” will go a long way towards us understanding his work in the world. The Parable of the Family (Luke 15:11-32)

If we think of an example we can think of the parable of the loving father. God, of course, is the father, and he loves his children regardless of whether they stay with him or not. Much has been made of the fact that “while he was still a long way from home his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him.” (v20) For the father, the son has never really left. He knows and waits for the day he will return. The Father also loves his older son saying, “you are always with me, and everything that belongs to me is yours.”

The so-called prodigal son is one of those kids he loves. Who is the prodigal? He represents those who have chosen their own way over God’s way – even those who are the most offensive and hateful in our eyes.

The Father also loves the older son. Who is the older son? The older brother could be described as those who are in the kingdom but who are not appreciative of what the Father’s love means for them and for the world. They enjoy the fact that they are working hard for God but appear to be unwilling to enjoy their relationship with the Father nor to want to share the blessings with others.

The key is that the prodigal son has to return to his father’s house in order to be received by the Father. The irony is that the older son doesn’t really appreciate his own situation: he doesn’t enjoy his position in the household and he doesn’t let anyone else enjoy the goodness of the father’s home either.

So, how does this relate to the church?

First of all it is important to see that God loves everyone, both inside and outside the church. He loves those who give their lives to him. He loves those who have chosen following him as a career-path. He loves those who are seeking to destroy the church. He loves those who haven’t yet heard about him. He loves those who have chosen to live their lives in opposition to him. He loves corrupt politicians. He loves abusive parents. He loves prisoners, criminals, gang members, hockey moms, blue-collar workers, management, employees, unions, scabs, parents, teens, kids, teachers, administrators, predators, stalkers, etc. If God loves these people then we need to join him on his mission of loving them. If I want to know where God is working in the world I just need to find someone whom the world doesn’t love and start loving them.

Of course we can’t equate the love God has for the world with his condoning the practices of the world. Certainly God created everything good, but we, in our sinful state, have turned the good into the bad. We (& the world) must return to God in order to receive the benefit of salvation. God’s promise to us is that creation will not have to groan anymore as he restores everything to its original holiness.

How then does it inform us as to what God’s work is outside the church?

Without Jesus, there is no salvation. The Bible also says that unless we repent, we will not be able to share in the salvation Jesus gives. But, the Bible is also clear that God does love the world. The church as Christ’s body is the representation of God’s love in the world and is tasked with showing that love to the world.

Posted in church, church impact, ecclesiology, missional, missions, personal impact, transformation | Leave a Comment »

Emerging Ecclesiology and Church Leadership

Posted by functionalchurch on 2009/07/14

A number of years ago while I was still in a student at Canadian Baptist Seminary. I wrote a paper entitled, “Women in Ministry? Of Course!” It was a biblical study of the role of women in ministry and attempted to wrestle with the ongoing debate of whether or not women should be pastors.

The other day I was in conversation with a colleague and we were discussing the pastoral role. He has gone on record as saying that the call to be a pastor is the highest calling. I have gone on record as saying that the call to be a pastor is not the highest calling. In fact it is equal with all other callings of God, whether to be a teacher, a plumber, a carpenter, a businessman, etc. As we were chatting about the issue, I took note of my assistant working away at her desk and realised that if it is indeed the highest calling to be a pastor, she would have not hope of responding to that call. In fact, if it is indeed the highest calling to be a pastor, one half of the human race has no hope of fulfilling God’s highest purpose for their life.

It got me to thinking about the book I am now reading. I have been captured by The Forgotten Ways, by Australian missionary Alan Hirsch. In it he talks of new forms of church that have been emerging in the last 40 years or so that are better equipped to respond to the cultural milieu within which we live and minister today. His contention is that attractional models of church that were so valid in the years from Constantine (ie. Christendom) are becoming less valid in a world where there is an increasing plurality in the religious scene. No longer can we assume that society is Christian.

This reflects the wisdom of Dr. Ken Davis, my seminary church history prof. He talked of two types of Christianity existing in the world. One he called Corpus Christianum. or the Body of Christianity. This is that organisational force that is formed when Christianity becomes official, established, powerful, etc. It may or may not truly reflect the desires of Christ even though it says it does. The other he called Corpus Christi or the Body of Christ and reflected the Believer’s church – ie. those who have chosen to follow Christ and who actively on a daily basis to take up their crosses and follow him.

Hirsch says that the current concepts on church leadership were formed out of the Constantinian model of church (ie. Corpus Christianum). Since society was officially Christian, there was no more need for Apostles (to protect the truth) or evangelists to proclaim the truth. The church settled on pastors to shepherd the flock that already existed. This form exists until today but was developed out of the new realities of church in AD300. He contends that the church needs to return to the 5-fold leadership described in the Ephesians 4:11 – “He also gave apostles, prophets, missionaries, as well as pastors and teachers as gifts to his church.”

Coupled with Hirsch’s thoughts on church leadership, I was also reminded of another book i’m reading, this one by someone perhaps as diametrically opposed to Hirsch’s philosophy as you can get. After serving on the staff of one of the most famous “attractional” churches of our time – Willow Creek – Don Cousins moved on to create his own church consulting agency. His latest book, Experiencing Leader Shift, is his take on church leadership today. He clearly states that there is no specific spiritual gift of leadership mentioned in the Bible and that in fact our present understanding of leadership today focuses on only one type of leadership: namely that of the leader-who-can-make-grand-plans-and-carry-them-to-fruition. In layman’s terms, basically people who can successfully lead their faith communities into mega churches. Cousins discounts this leadership style as being the spiritual gift of leadership. He also points out that 92% of American pastors don’t see themselves in this way and therefore feel that they are not adequate to the task. He proposes (and this is where the comparison with Hirsch takes place) that biblical leadership is in fact plural – made up of 5 different gifts that all create leadership in different ways within the church.

So how does all of this relate to the issues of women in ministry? Perhaps we have created a debate where no debate needs to exist. If, as contended by Hirsh and Cousins, church leadership is not defined by one individual who preaches every Sunday, heads up board meetings, leads Bible studies/cellgroups/home groups/care groups/etc, casts vision for the church, protects the church theologically, declares the will of God for the congregation, etc. and is rather a plurality of people gifted in the areas of apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, shepherding, and teaching, then (boy this is a long sentence) there is a place for both genders to be involved in church ministry and even leadership. Now women, along with men, have the chance to achieve their highest purpose in Christ through the appropriate exercise of their gifts and new understandings of church leadership.

Posted in attractional, church, church impact, ecclesiology, leadership, missional, missions, transformation | Leave a Comment »