Category Archives: Mission

5 for Leadership

Here is a fresh 5 for Leadership. I hope you will be informed, inspired, encouraged and refreshed.

The One Leadership Secret That Will Never Involve A Mobile Device (or Any Computer)  This post comes from Terry Starbucker.  Terry highlights the power of personal conversation in the midst of a very virtual world.  Terry always shares very practical advice from his own leadership experience.

Why Leaders Should Celebrate Mothers Day  Here is another post from Kevin Eikenberry.  I highlighted Kevin last week-and this one is worthy too.  As we look back at Mothers Day, Kevin lists some leadership principles he has learned from both his mother and his wife.  Take a look.

How To Overcome One of The Biggest Frustrations In Leadership  I found this post on by Shane Duffey.  This is a timely article on leading up.  Shane talks about the culture of Newspring Church and what a healthy environment looks like for leaders to develop and have a voice.

African Christianity: A Gift for the Western Church  This is a very interesting article conducted in an interview format with Mark Gornick.  Mark spent 10 years in New York City studying African congregations and has landed on some important lessons for the church.  This gives some insight into an aspect of Christianity we often overlook.

Your Ministry Is Not Your Identity  This final post is by Paul Tripp on the Gospel Coalition web site.  Paul powerfully highlights how easy it is to make ministry our identity and what we must do about it.  This is a necessary read for anyone in ministry.

There are the 5 for this week.  Lead well!

India & Principles of Leadership

In June I spent two weeks in India observing an indigenous church planting movement. Operation Agape is a dynamic ministry of Indians reaching Indians in a holistic manner that is proving very fruitful. I was part of a three person design team that took 24 European emerging leaders to northern India to see if we could discern some movement building principles that could be imported back to Europe. This was the final experience of a 15 month European emerging leader training. I was fascinated by the simplicity and clarity of the vision and execution of this ministry.  I was also amazed and grateful for how well they served us.  We were not merely spectators, but full participants for four days of house church visitation.  Here are three observations I made as I was blessed by their leadership.

1. The overall vision and goals were crystal clear.  Dr. Alex Abraham is the director of Operation Agape.  In a genius move by Dr. Alex we spent our last day hearing about their vision and missional approach.  This was after four days of observing and participating in the mission with them.  This provided a double learning opportunity.  We finally were able to put meat on the bones of what we had observed in action.  We were able to get the “whys” and “hows” nailed down.  Dr. Alex humbly asked us to critique our experience according to their stated vision and approach.  He wanted to know, in our opinion, were they living out their stated objectives?  What came through loud and clear is that from top to bottom every leader in the organization clearly understood the vision and mission and lived it out with great enthusiasm.  And we could see it, smell it, hear it,  and taste it in our hands on experience with them.  Operation Agape knew what God had called them to do.  They talked about their vision a lot in many different ways.  They equipped every leader and follower towards that vision.  And they gave every willing person an opportunity to engage in the mission in a meaningful way.  I think most of us could have stated their vision for them before we actually heard it articulated.  We observed it and experienced it.

2. The missional approach was defined and executable.  Every project they do is based on PEACE.  P stands for proclaiming biblical truth.  E stands for equipping and training quality leaders with character and competence.  A stands for assisting the poor.  C stands for caring for the sick.  And E stands for educating the next generation through formal and non-formal schools.  This was lived out across several different strategies and through a strong patterning effort.  Even within the house churches themselves each committed follower knows that PEACE is the plan.  Every member also understands a very simple, but powerful communication strategy for proclaiming Christ: listen to the other person’s story, tell them your story, tell them Jesus’ story.  We were constantly being reminded of simple, yet profound and effective, approaches to carrying out the organization’s mission among a wide variety of it’s leaders and followers.

3. The number one objective of every leader was to raise up more leaders.  Nothing stood out more than the concept of rapid mobilization through the empowering of new leaders.  Every house church was expected to multiply itself.  When six leaders could be identified they were put through a one year training program that consisted of theological and practical leadership development.  Once the training was completed, four new leaders would be sent out to the next neighborhood and two would remain at the existing house church. In this manner they could ensure leadership continuity and supported expansion at the same time.  The rest of their leadership training was “on the go.”  These new leaders were mentored, monitored, and further equipped for what they would face in these new settings.  What was clear is that they did not wait for some day-but empowered leaders as soon as they could be identified, prepared, and released.  They rightly placed a premium on character and spiritual vibrancy-but not on experience or some indistinguishable leadership marker before they empowered them to lead.  Dr. Alex strongly believes that the best trainer is leading itself.

I was deeply impacted by this brief experience in India.  I predict a few more blog posts as I further reflect on what was lived out before me.  Until then . . .

Operation Agape’s web address is listed below.  I believe them to be an organization worthy of your interest and support.  Check them out:

Dealing With Complexity

Leaders often try to simplify their lives–their mission. But I think that is the wrong approach. If you are not leading something that is complex you are not leading anything of significance. In other words a mission that carries significance is automatically complex.

Here is the bottom line–the key to complexity is not simplicity but focus.

Over the next few posts I will deal with this issue of complexity. I recently had the opportunity to lead our team leaders here in Italy through some content on this topic-see what you think.

Let’s begin with what are some of the sources of complexity. There are both good sources and bad sources of complexity.

Some bad sources of complexity might be team conflict, poor decision making on your part or on the part of a subordinate, a leader living only in the urgent (instead of the important), and a leader being over controlling (not willing to give away power). These types of issues add to a leader’s complexity–but only in an energy depleting way. They will also take you off focus.

Some examples of right or good complexity might be blessing and success. Success always creates more problems. These are usually the kind of problems we long to have–never the less they create more complexity and take energy and focus too. Giving power away is good and right for a leader to do–it develops others, allows leaders to maintain the right perspective, and invites ownership and creativity. There is a right way to empower others–we will save that for a later time. Another form of right complexity is when the scope of your mission is greater than your resource base to accomplish it. That may sound crazy–but this is what challenges your leadership senses and forces you to trust God. This calls out for godly stewardship. These are the kinds of complexities a leader wants–this is what cries out for focus–not simplicity.

More on Presence and Proclamation

I have spent more time thinking about the need for both presence and proclamation. I also happen to be studying 1 John for my devotional time. 1 John 1:1-4 stood out to me as a great biblical picture of both presence and proclamation. Read below.

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– 2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us– 3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

John is saying something significant about Jesus Christ. First, he is combating heresy that had crept into the believing community–the heresy was that Jesus was never truly a man. John counters with his real life experience of Jesus. John even goes overboard on describing his personal experience of Jesus. But second, John wants to make sure that his readers understand that this Jesus “was made manifest.” In other words this eternal God took on a real presence–a human presence. Notice too that what John experienced–that which was made manifest–had to be proclaimed. There were two reasons for this proclamation–that these people might have fellowship with John and his companions–and that they might have real fellowship with the living God–Father and Son. And this proclamation brings John’s band great joy.

John links presence and proclamation. The very real life experience of Jesus results in a very joyful proclamation of Him. The result is sharing–participation–for that is the real meaning of “fellowship.” When one responds to this proclamation they get the great privilege of participating in Christ–and in the body life of other believers. That brings us back to presence. It seems in the Scriptures that there is no presence without proclamation and there is no proclamation without presence. They simply go hand in hand.

Presence and Proclamation

My family and I recently made a trip to Cinque Terra. As the name describes this is a cluster of five lands–five small villages along the western Italian coast. A seven mile hiking trail connects these five villages in a very picturesque journey. We spent four days exploring, eating, resting, shopping, and hiking. The rugged coastline is one of the prettiest I have ever seen–it is well worth the time if you ever get the opportunity to come to Italy.

On one particular day as I was off doing a little exploring on my own–something stood out to me. In every one of the five villages there is at least one–if not two or three–Catholic churhes. Usually they hold some of the most prominent locations in each setting–often at the very center of the town. Now these towns are small–I can’t imagine that any one of them has more than a few hundred full time residents–yet there is at least one church for each community.

This thought occurred–if fulfilling the Great Commission in Italy were only about “presence”–then the Catholic church has done the job. All over this country you would be hard pressed to find a city, town, or village without a church building at the center of town architecture. Sometimes even today the debate goes on that really all we need to do is be present in the lives of unbelievers to draw them to Christ. Or some would say that this is the primary thing we must do–we must stop being only attractional in our strategies–and we must be more missional by being very present in the places where unbelievers live, work and play. I was forced to go back and re-read some of the passages in Scripture that we look to in describing this missional mandate. And sure enough–it is hard to escape the need for presence. “Going” implies location. “All the world” implies location. But there is one other critical element that one cannot escape either–proclamation. Throughout the New Testament the gospel is something to not only be lived out and demonstrated–but something to be communicated–proclaimed.

I visited some of these churches while touring–it is rare to find more than a dozen people at mass. Certainly the Catholic church has made many efforts to be present in the lives of people everywhere. But presence is not all that is required. There must be a faithful proclaiming of the simple and pure gospel message of Jesus Christ to accompany any presence. While I would completely agree that attractional ministry will not take us where we want to go–neither will simple presence among the lost. There must be both presence and proclamation.

The Emerging Church Movement

I am currently reading Organic Church by Neil Cole. I have read several books out of the emerging church movement. Cole’s work is quite insightful and adds some well thought out principles to the Emerging Church conversation. I also see several things that concern me about the movement and some of its pundits. But there is no doubt that what is being said and what is happening is significant–and will stir the mind as to what God is up to.

As I have reflected on some of these works it strikes me that we are in a crucial season for the Chruch as a whole. The very identity of the Church is up for grabs. I currently believe that there are several critical questions that are being asked both inside and outside the Church. Leaders will have to provide answers and directional clarity. Here are what I consider to be some of those key questions that will impact the Church for the foreseeable future:

1. How will the Church ultimately repsond to the homosexual community?
2. What will ultimately be the role of women in leadership within the Church?
3. What is Church?
4. How do we do Church?
5. What is true church growth?

All five of these must be answered with humility and with charity–but all five must be answered biblically. To do less will lead to heresy and dysfunction. These are some of the very questions that the Emerging Church Movement is raising and seeking to answer. Where I believe the movement is shining is in the realm of ministry philosophy. Where I see some stumbling is in the realm of theological clarity.

More later.

The Other Three Critical Components

The picture to the right is a depiction of Jesus and the twelve on an outer wall of the Montserrat cathedral. While quite striking I did notice that all 13 figures are portrayed as very old and pretty stoic–I wonder if that is how they really lived and led in this new venture called Christianity in the 1st century.

Today, I want to complete the description of what Alan Hirsch posed as six critical components of church DNA for the 21st century. In the last post I attempted to describe Jesus as Lord, Missional Incarnational Impulse, and Apostolic Leadership. Now for the other three:

4. Disciple Making
Hirsch argues that we are not really that good at this in Western Christianity–but we are comfortable with the notion because the concept is familiar. Hirsch sees this as the core task of the church–and it is vitally connected to the center, “Jesus as Lord.” The scriptures tell us that we are to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ–to become true representatives of Jesus out in the world–this takes real discipleship. Hirsch also advocates that we disciple both believers and unbelievers–and know that some will be evangelized along the way. This makes sense in Hirsch’s paradigm in light of an incarnational gospel–because this is a life on life approach to both evangelism and discipleship. One of the key phrases you will hear from Hirsch is that “we must lower the bar on church and raise the bar on discipleship.” He feels we have weakened discipleship in our current settings–even in the midst of an emphasis on small groups. Discipleship should result in a person embodying the message of Christ–and embodiment of the message is essential to transmission of the message. Hirsch goes one step further in stating that the quality of our leadership will be completely in line with the quality of our discipleship. The bottom line of discipleship is a deep involvement in a person’s life. Discipleship is face to face and it is primarily experiential. It is not just about educating a person’s mind–but engaging them in experiences that cause them to trust God in new and fresh ways.

5. Organic Systems
This is how we organize movements. Hirsch argues for organizing according to natural life systems. It has the “feel” of a movement–very spontaneous, flat in its organizational structure, and self reproducing. At the core, people absolutely believe in the message of the movement. Power and authority are distributed out–not centralized. There really is a sense of chaos and organization working together. The centralizing piece is the DNA–the core concepts or principles of the movement–but there is great freedom in the function of living our that core DNA. These core values combined with freedom of function is what can propel the movement and keep it organic.

6. Communitas
Notice Hirsch does not list number six as “community.” He is not advocating that just mutual fellowship will get the job done. He is aiming at something else–he is aiming at community built around shared faith experiences. This creates a different quality of community and bonding. Two critical aspects of this communitas are liminality (being thrown into something that is over your head) and ordeal (the actual challenge or goal to be reached). Hirsch points out that we see this both in Scripture and in our culture. In recent times, events such as September 11th and the Tsunami tragedy served to greatly rally people together in community to minister to the victims. In the Bible we see Jesus taking the 12 out and exposing them to many faith challenging situations–resulting in a greater learning and bonding. A part of this is to help a disciple really learn to live out their faith in the world. This also provides the sense of adventure in life and in the movement.

There you have it–six core components that Hirsch would say are essential if the 21st century church is to survive and have significant impact. I have been thinking at two levels as I consider this–both for my church here in Austin and for Campus Crusade as whole. I am still thinking–join me. I look forward to your musings on this topic.