Wisdom from Al Roxburgh

February 25, 2005

I really like the insight here, from Alan Roxburgh:

For leaders, cultivating growth is about becoming an abbot in a
congregation rather than a pastor. An abbot is a leader who forms a way
of life among a whole poeple. Missional change is primarily about
formation–and formation is about the habits and practices which shape
new ways of being the church. Cultivation is an ancient word taken from
agricultural practices. It is an organic metaphor rather than one of
managment or warfare. A gardner or farmer understands that the life and
purpose of plants or crops is not something over which the farmer has a
great deal of control. And so, leadership as cultivation is not about
people fitting into your strategy; it is about providing the
environment in which missional imagination buds and develops and in
which the farmer may well be astonished by the results.

Amen and amen.  This sort of understanding of the role of leadership is becoming more prevalent in newer expressions of Church.  However, leading in this way is incredibly difficult, especially within denominations and groups that don’t have traditions in place.  Because there aren’t clearly understood systems and practices in place, the leaders have the challenging role of creating systems without falling into the habit of fitting people into a strategy.  When most people enter a church, they look for already-existing systems and strategies, and wait to be invited into one of those systems.  If they are a bit more assertive, they’ll step in themselves.  The idea of having ministry built around them, and having leadership on tap to assist them in expressing ministry, is a foreign one for most people.  And so, at Missio Dei, we are trying to develop an ethos of participation, where everyone is involved, and where decisions are communal decided (which doesn’t mean everyone has a role in every decision), but this is easier said than done.  We all have varying cases of a Constantinian-hangover, where we look to the leader(s) to decide and do things.  And at this stage, some people need to be re-parented in their understanding of church before they can really grab ahold of their God-given ministry. 

Stop Inviting People to Church

February 23, 2005

I ripped this from House Church Blog.  It is an email that Roger received from Mike Lyons, and I want y’all to read it:

I have made a promise to myself. I will stop inviting people to my church.

Hear me out now.

I spent nearly a decade with my well paid job in the church trying
to get people to come to church. We would develop strategies,
advertising through TV, radio, print, internet, marketing plans…
wowing them with worship experiences, video, dramas, amazing sermons,
direct mail strategies.. on and on..whew. all designed with one aim.
That when you would invite your friend, they would say yes and go to
church with you. All you would have to do is invite them, they would
respond to the engaging message and multi-sensory worship, become
curious, eventually come to Christ, and eventually become a part of our
church. The problem is, it didn’t work very well.

Sure some came, just enough to make us think we were being
effective. But still as the Barna Institutes research shows " The
unbelieving world remains unconvinced.", and each year the Church
continues to loose ground and a credibility voice in our communities.

(Disclaimer Note: I still love, support and honor any church that is
doing all it can to reach out to others. God will still work through
imperfect people as well as strategies.)

Allow me to be very honest. I see too many of us in the house church
falling into the same trap and pattern of fruitlessness. And some are
suffering unnecessarily from disillusionment. I hear the same words
over and over, "If only we could get more people to come to our house
church." Sound familiar? The benefits we offer are different, but the
hope is the same. Please come to my church.if we could get them there
they will be so captured by our Jesus through our community, intimacy,
casualness, or great food… that they will accept Him and become a
part of our church. Old habits die very hard don’t they.

We can no longer afford to be "come here" people, we must be a "go there" kind of people.

I can honestly say that I have never invited someone to join me for
coffee, lunch or breakfast and had them say no. Not ever, not once.

I’m slow but I’m learning.

Here’s to forsaking old habits.

May His presence dwell in you richly,

Mike Lyons

Eschaton and Mission: A post by Chris Brenna

February 22, 2005

Greetings, Missiologists, I had nearly forgotten the posting privileges graciously bestowed upon me by the Great Mark, but I thought I might offer the perspective of a self-styled "Eschatologist."

The essence of our mission lies in Christ’s urging in John 20.21: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."  We are an essential link in the cosmic chain of the mission of God.  This is an essential emphasis for us, especially timely in our generation and culture as we are hemmed in by an American Church that seems to have lost all sense of that mission.

We do well to remember the Great Commissions in the context of this mission.  "Go and make disciples of all nations…" and "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation…" are the sending commissions found in Matthew and Mark respectively.  "Love one another" is our commission from John.

From these passages, we acquire the senses of both purpose and necessity that are inherent to our mission.  But it wasn’t just these two forces that guided the early church.  They had a tremendous awareness of the purpose and necessity of their mission, but what explains the rapidity of their early expansion is their sense of urgency.

In 1 Peter 4.7, we read, "The end of all things is near…"  This explains the essence of the early Christians’ urgency.  They believed vehemently that Jesus’ return was imminent.  We still argue about whether or not we are in the "end times."  I wonder if we have lost that theological sense of urgency in our church life.  It is this that makes me wonder if an emphasis on the Eschatos (that is Christ) might offer a needed infusion to the missiological movement in the Church.

Count Down

February 16, 2005

Just to let you all know…in a matter of weeks, missionThink will be transformed.  My friend Jeff Gauss and I are relaunching as the new home of our nonprofit group.  My blog will still be available there, but will be only one component.

The new site will offer more resources (like articles and stuff), have more information about the upcoming mission:think 2006 conference on the Gospel in an Affluent Culture, have forums, have information on church consulting, and host both my blog and the blog of Jeff Gauss. 

All of this should be changing next month, so please make a mental note.  If you stumble upon mission:think in the future and things look different, that’ll be why.  Don’t be frightened.  Don’t panic.  Things will be ok.

A More Perfect Consumer Church

February 15, 2005

I’ve got some ideas that could help make the Church in America even more consumer-friendly.  After all, since we need to be incarnational, it is our duty as the Church to unreflectively embody the consumerism of our day.  Let me know if a church is actually doing any of this stuff:

eHarmony apparently does a lot of good matching men and women together…if their commercials are to be believed.

They should come up with an eHarmony-type-site for people shopping for churches!  Why not?  A church could fill out a profile, and individuals could also fill out a profile and they can be matched.  That would significantly help streamline the consumer process.

Most churches that are worth-their-salt have coffee shops now.  Why not cup holders on the backs of seats for the coffee?  And why not a number of strategically placed cream-and-sugar stations throughout the auditorium?

Let’s take the Satelite Church Model one step further.  Instead of merely sateliting (having a celebrity pastor broadcast his sermons [either live, or recently recorded] to handful of "satelite" congregations), I say that people at home should pay for a subscription to have the sermon piped into their home weekly, so they don’t have to get dressed at all on Sunday.  For an extra fee, they can have someone visit their home weekly to tell them the latest gossip, so that their church experience is complete.

The technology exists to allow someone to have a fully customized Bible.  For each chapter of the Bible, the reader should select which translation offends them the least.  After they’ve made their way through the entire Bible, deciding upon translations on the basis of comfort alone, they can send their customized translation into a printing house that will leather bind it and ship it back.

On second thought, my previous idea wouldn’t work, since it requires a lot of reading.

I think mega-churches should have fun fundraisers.  Here’s one that I think could work in many churches over 1500: "Win an afternoon with Your Pastor!" People could buy tickets, and whoever wins the raffle can spend an entire 3 hours with their pastor.  Of course, the pastor would need to have someone else preach that week, since spending time with regular people cuts into sermon preparation and large-organization leadership tasks.

Finally, I’m thinking of going into business.  I’m going to mass produce a bumper sticker that looks like this:


The sticker will be coated with a dry-erase material so that it can be changed, based upon how one is feeling that day.  This takes the pressure off of having to submit to Jesus in any way, and instead making him the romantic personfication of whatever ideal we personally find the most satisfying. 

Just some thoughts (removing tongue from cheek).

Kingdoms and Principalities

February 14, 2005

This is my friend Chris.  He blogs at  His specialty is politics of a neo-anabaptist sort.  In other words, he thinks Christianity is a subversive political movement…interesting stuff.  Image33


February 14, 2005

Here’s my friend Brandon.  He blogs at  His blog features random, yet insightful, cultural commentary. 


What is the Gospel?

February 11, 2005

Here’s a written out version of a short presentation I gave last night at the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort Meeting:

What is the
Gospel? It would easy to tell you what
the Gospel is not, since many people have focused on the necessary task of
deconstruction in their quest to arrive at a more faithful faith. It’s not merely a "ticket to
heaven" it’s not merely being saved from God’s anger. It’s not merely a
poetic ideal by which we are to live. There is an element of truth to all these things which the Gospel is
not. Part of the problem is that the
Gospel is not easily boiled down into clear action-steps or principles. The Gospel is trinitarian, and the Trinity
cannot be contained.

Nevertheless, it
is useful to start with a statement–a broad and horribly insufficient
statement of what the Gospel is, so that we have somewhere to start. I could put some energy into being wildly
creative about my own definition of the Gospel…and in so doing make myself
look good, but the best encapsulation of the Gospel that I’ve ever read comes
from Frederick Buechner in his little book "Wishful Thinking."

writes the following:

Read more

Violent Ikea

February 10, 2005

Apparently, the crowds were so rabid to buy sensible furniture at a newly opening Ikea, that several people got hurt.

_40815441_ikeacrush203Stuff like this happens every once-in-a-while…usually it involves some kids toy.  But I guess Ikea is like a toy store for adults–all those cute green chairs…those gayly colored place settings and sleek-yet-relatively-inexpensive couches.  And everything has uber-cool names like: "hopen" and "nilsby" and "alkov." 

Ikea has everything for the would-be-modern-sophisticate; I can understand why someone would want to get to Ikea for the opening…but what I can’t understand is why they’d desperately want to get to Ikea.  I’ve bought a few items at Ikea, but none of them have changed my life.  Sure, Ikea is a consumer’s paradise: low cost, high yield.  And everything is so sensible-yet-daring…it is both semi-edgy and different, yet reasonably semi-edgy and different.  But come on people, I sincerely doubt that you can’t wait a few days for that myso sno quilt you’ve been eyeing.

The sad thing about this whole incident is that they say that the reason for this abnormally-fierce response is that the area in which the store is opening is "poor."  As though poverty can be fixed by Ikea’s prices.  An estimated 6,000 "poor" people stormed Ikea…wanting their slice of consumer utopia.

For the throng of Ikea-shoppers, I have one question: what was so horrible about your existence, what was lacking so much, that you had to storm Ikea?  What is contained within the happy-colored blue-and-yellow facade that promises so much satisfaction, that you’re willing to crush people in order to secure it?

The Buffy Void

February 9, 2005

I confess.  I am a Buffy the Vampire fan.  And nothing has filled the void created by Buffy’s absense.  Ignorant people have suggested "Charmed" or "Point Pleasant" to fill the void. The thing that I liked about Buffy was that it could treat darkness in a serious and silly way at the same time, all the while treating human inter-relations in a very honest and vulnerable way. 

Buffythevampireslayer3I’ve always loved the fantasy genre for being able to give us the cognitive distance necessary for us to be able to examine our own lives, and our own society.  Because we are seeing an alternate reality to our own, we can analyse and judge it in ways that we couldn’t otherwise.  And unlike other unrealistic shows, like the OC, or Desperate Housewives, Buffy is blatantly unrealistic.  And it revels in its unrealism.  It is deeply embedded in the myths that shape our own society, but it embodies these myths in dark, disturbing, and often hillarious ways.  No show does that (at least not on broadcast TV).  And because no show can do what Buffy does, I feel a small void. 

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