“The primary purpose of the church is to give a ravishing vision of who Jesus Christ is.”
Category Archives: Leadership
Remember, the answers to the crisis won’t come from within the current thinking. We have to both transcend and include our surroundings in order to go on a search for new answers. Key leadership must initiate and guide this journey, first by getting other leaders in touch with this sense of disorientation, anomaly, and crisis. Second, leaders should try to resolve the problems without recourse to the prevailing thinking, with its overused repertoire of solutions.
The Incarnation lies at the heart of the early church’s wrestling over what it meant to be the church in specific cultures. The concrete, material revelation of God in Jesus Christ was the basis of their thinking and practice. This is why the character and identity of those leading the church were articulated in terms of participation in God. But this participation was not about some private, otherworldly, spiritual practices having nothing to do with the public, political, social life of a people. it was in fact the very opposite. Participation in God meant forming a community of God’s people whose lives often challenged the political and social institutions of their day.
Churches, like college freshman, often struggle with declaring their major. The consequence of their indecision causes a major dilemma…With no clear sense of purpose, they never set a clear strategy. What they do to fulfill what they think God wants constantly changes. They languish in seeming shadow-lands where forward momentum always seems one step out of reach.
Transformational Churches have leaders who understand their vision and purpose. A clear desire for changed lives is part of the new scorecard. They are not always looking for another “thing” to try for faster results. TC [Transformational Church] leaders instead watch and learn from the best practices of others to inform an already clear understanding of their context.
I have been in several discussions recently centered on the question, “Is the way we do church today working?” Through these discussions, there is often a reference to the description of the early faith community in Acts 2:43-47. There is a passion for us to return to the simplicity of that experience and the home church model that many of those early believers gathered in. A Home Church Model is lifted up as the best model for us to experience growth in our love affair with Christ. That led me to ask, was their community model that culturally different? Was that difference because of Christ? And then finally, did the community work at producing Christ followers?
The focused reference when supporting a Home Church model is to point to Acts 2:37-42 and follows Peter’s sermon. Even before that moment, those that had followed Christ had been gathering before the sermon as referenced in Acts 1:15. These gatherings did not frame the totality of their spiritual development because we also see that they continued to worship at the Temple for prayer (Acts 3:1). In Acts 4:32-34, we have reference to how the community of believers shared with one another which provided the catalyst for Ananias and Sapphira’s sin and resulting judgment.
There were issues even though God’s power was being displayed. There was an issue of impartiality in the serving of those in need that led to divisiveness and an over dependence on the church leaders for assistance (Acts 6:1-7). The church leaders, to alleviate the situation, empowered others who were of great character and ability to help serve so ministry could handle the capacity of growth. Stephen was one of those selected and was carrying out his role so well he created an issue for those who did not know Christ which caused him to be put to death (Acts 6:8-60).
In Acts, we see that those who trusted Christ gathered often in homes. However it does not seem that is was an intentional decision as much as a practical one. Once a person trusted in Christ they were often ostracized from their previous relationships and cultural networks. This necessitated them quickly finding a new community or else they would turn their back on Christ and return to their previous community out of necessity of survival.
One of the things that did make their gatherings different was that they often bled past racial and ethically accepted grouping. This happened as those outside the Jewish community began trusting in Christ (Acts 10:1-48). Paul’s letters support the idea that this was a difficult issue for many early Christian communities (one passage is Ephesians 2:11-22). This unity in diversity is one of the hallmarks of the Christian community in its early life.
But did these early communities of faith, which often met in homes, work at producing followers of Christ? The answer is “yes” and “no”. The answer is “yes” because we have a history of men and women who practice their faith being passed down from generation to generation. We have an understanding of what it means to know Christ from their practice and commitment to Christ.
The answer is “no” because of the rest of the New Testaments gives us evidence that these communities struggled just as much as any community in living out their faith. Paul is constantly challenging them to manifest their new life in Christ and overcome sin patterns that they had ignored. Often these sin patterns where being fostered in their gatherings (1 Corinthians 11:23-34 is one example). James also has another example of how in their gathering they were showing preferential treatment toward the rich at the belittlement of the poor (James 2:1-13).
In the New Testament, I see the emphasis not on a model of meeting together but an ethos of what it means to follow Christ together that can have a diversity of cultural expressions. To say that the Home Church model works better and accurately fits the way the early followers made disciples is not helpful. They did meet together in homes. They did look different because of Christ. But their practice was far from successful because of their model. I think that the incarnation gives us great freedom in form but raises high demand in character and practice.
There is no doubt that how we do church today has many challenges. We as church leaders are in need to raise the expiation and constantly refine the programs and experiences we create to move people toward maturity in Christ. The model is not the issue. Each social frame work has advantages and disadvantages toward manifesting the Gospel. The responsibility for church leaders is to understand that environment and push on the inherent sin patterns to help people see what following Christ looks like in our day and age.
The people of God must have a visible, tangible, experiential shape. This is not, however, simply a sociological or organizational necessity. It is essential to the mission Dei. The witness to God’s loving and saving work in history is through the people God calls and sets apart for this mission. Every mission community is a historical witness to the work of God being carried out; it is concrete evidence of God’s purposeful action. This is what the Holy Spirit does: it forms mission communities so that the gospel may be incarnated in particular places, to be the witness to Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah ends inconclusively. We want to know the end, but there is no end. The last scene of Jeremiah’s life shows him, as he had spent so much of his life, preaching God’s word to a contemptuous people (Jer 44). We want to know that he was finally successful so that, if we live well and courageously, we also will be successful. Or we want to know that he was finally unsuccessful so that , since a life of faith and integrity doesn’t pay off, we can get on with finding another means by which to live. We get neither in Jeremiah…In Egypt, he continues determinedly faithful, magnificently courageous, heartlessly rejected-a towering life terrifically lived.
His kingdom society will be shaped not by power-mongering but by self-sacrificing service for one another. In fact, he reveals, his own life will be an absolutely perfect sacrifice and memorable example: He will give his own life as a ransom and as a martyr for them. He will die in order to take their death upon himself, and he will, at the same time, provide a model of how to live – by giving your life for others.
Christian theological claims about providence and anthropology are devoid of any meaningful content in the absence of eschatology. If there is no given telos, as opposed to a projected goal or objective, then the temporal acts of ordering creation are literally pointless meanderings, because they lack any point of reference for determining a direction over time.There is no eventual destination beyond the horizon only infinitely more horizons. If there is no given end, then providence is a vacuous doctrine, for there is no created order that can be said to unfold over time, and human acts are reduced to creative self-assertions, because there are no temporal trajectories with which humans may align their desires and will. Without an operative destiny, we remain enslaved to an infinite regress of historical cultural construction and posthuman self-creation.
In the secularizing times in which I am living, God is not taken seriously. God is peripheral. God is nice (or maybe not so nice) but not at the center. When people want help with their parents or children or emotions, they do not ordinarily see themselves as wanting help with God. But if I am going to stay true to my vocation as a pastor, I can’t let the “market” determine what I do. I will find ways to pray with and for people and teach them to pray, usually quietly and often subversively when they don’t know I am doing it. But I am not going to wait to be asked. I am a pastor.
There is a great review of the book at the Internet Monk.