2010 Men’s Conference at Mo Ranch, Texas

Last weekend I had an opportunity to attend the 2010 Men’s Conference at Mo Ranch, Texas. Mo Ranch is a Presbyterian camp located in the Texas Hill Country. The following are three panoramic images I took during the conference with my iPhone using Pano.

Panorama at Mo Ranch

This photo shows the river area and the big water slide, which unfortunately was closed this year. Last year I went down it several times. It was very exciting!

Panorama at Mo Ranch

The BBQ on Saturday night is always a highlight food-wise. The brisket this year was some of the best I’ve ever had.

Panorama at Mo Ranch - Saturday BBQ!

The best parts of the men’s conference at Mo Ranch are fellowship and worship. The short video below of the men’s choir on Saturday night will give you a small taste of the experience. It really is wonderful singing with over 400 men and worshipping God together. Most of the songs we sing are in unison with just two leaders up front, but a choir practices during the weekend twice for this Saturday evening performance.

Choir singing at Mo Ranch

The Sunday morning sunrise service at the Men’s Conference is another highlight. It’s rare for me to get up this early and worship God with other men as the sun is rising, so this makes for special memories.

Sunday morning service at Mo Ranch

This year at Mo Ranch was particularly special because my father, Tom, was able to attend with me. This is a photo of us after the Sunday sunrise service. The original photo was a bit underexposed, so I tweaked it using ToonFX Paint.

Wesley and Tom Fryer at Mo Ranch

The monday morning after the Mo Ranch weekend, Dad and I were able to play 9 holes of golf before he drove home at Cimarron National Golf Club in Guthrie, just north of Edmond where I live. This was a REAL treat as well, even though I didn’t play very well! Best ball is a great thing at times like these.

Golf in Guthrie, Oklahoma

Golf in Guthrie, Oklahoma

Each day, every day is a gift from God. I am thankful for this past weekend’s opportunity to draw closer to God, my father, and other men from our men’s group in Edmond. The weather was perfect, and the time “offline” and in God’s beautiful creation was sorely needed by yours truly.

If there is any way you can attend I strongly recommend the annual Mo Ranch Men’s Conference. It’s always held in early May.

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Notes on The Missional Church (from June 2007)

These are my notes from a meeting on 6-16-2007 at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma about “Missional Church” and reviewing a recent congregation survey about our church’s readiness to become a more missionally oriented church. (MY OWN THOUGHTS ARE INCLUDED IN ALL CAPS.) I originally posted this on a WordPress.com blog which I have since not visited or used, and am deleting– so I’m cross-posting this to both share it and create my own digital archive of these notes.

After today, listening groups will be formed which will meet once per month for the next four months. These will be discussion groups to focus on the issues we’re outlining today.

What is missional church? 2 summers ago we developed a vision statement for our church, and out of that came our focus on missional church. Our mission statement:

“The First Presbyterian Church of Edmond (PCUSA) is a vibrant Christ-centered church whose people are called by God to seek and do His will. We reach up to God in joyful reverence and awe in worship. We reach out to neighbors near and far with a witness of His salvation and message of hope. We reach in to teach and encourage each other, to know and apply God’s Word and to utilize our spiritual gifts in His service.”

We are committed, through our vision, to “assume a missional identity”

– We will cultivate an environment in which missional imagination emerges. We begin the process of becoming a missional church that discerns, celebrates, and participates in God’s redemptive mission in the world.

There are LOTS of different ideas about what missional church means

– lots of different perspectives

– it is a new paradigm, not just a “tweak”

– it is a philosophy

– a way of understanding church

– hopefully it will be a movement

Missional church is NOT:

– simply more mission

– an evangelism program

– a new way of doing foreign missions

– a method for church growth

– the “next” way to do church

– a post-modern way of doing church

– an anti-traditional pattern of church

an “emergent church” often tries to throw out everything traditional, and do something different

– that is NOT missional church

Came from the writings of Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, the experience of Western Europe

– same trends in North America

– The Gospel and Our Culture Network (GOCN, www.gocn.org)

— the idea of reintroducing the gospel into our culture in North America

– “Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America” by Guder et. al. (1st project of the GOCN)

DEFINITION of missional church

– there is no simple, straightforward definition

– it is NOT all confusion either, however

– there are themes we can develop to get a picture of what it is

Overarching Themes

– Western Society as a Mission Field

— seeing the world as God’s mission field, of which we are a part

– Mission as the Missio Dei (Mission of God)

– The Church as a Contrast Society

— in Christendom, the church WAS the center of the culture

— not true today

Our Community as a Mission Field

– Christianity is almost dead in Western Europe

– In Canada emerging generations no longer know the Christian narrative

– the US is not far behind

– “the facade of suburban mega-churches” can give us the false impression that all is well with the churches in North America

– We must fundamentally rethink the “come and see church” and become missionaries to our culture

– requires more than adjustment

– calls for a new kind of church

The Mission of God

– in Western churches for centuries, the church focus has been on HOW God serves and meets our needs

– in the early church the focus was more on WHAT GOD HAD DONE in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus

– we need a GOD-CENTERED understanding of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection

– we need to focus on what God is doing, and wants to do in the world

– we need to discern how we are called to be part of that mission

– we are not the ENDS of God’s mission, we are the instruments

Ecclesia, in Greek it means “called out”

– used in a political sense in Greek society

– the Church is an ecclesia: called to public life as sign, witness and foretaste of where God is inviting all creation in Jesus Christ

– the church is not just a synogogue (a gathering)

– Church is formed around beliefs and practices which demonstrate a way of life which cannot be derived from the culture in which it is found

The Kingdom of God is inviting all of creation to come in

– the way of life modeled by the church STANDS IN CONTRAST to the ways people are living in the culture

– it can’t be derived from the predominant culture

How do we get there?

– church must return to its sources

– not by copying or reverting to some past

– by discerning the shape of a faithful presetn and future

– this will be context specific

– not a strategy adapted to our setting

– by being the church of our setting

What you are going to become like is very specific for your context

– something that is working in California will not be able to just overlay on us and be successful

– so we need to disern

Dialog: conversation between two people

– Newbigin suggests a Three Way Conversation: between the Church, the Gospel, and the Culture

– the person leading John’s doctoral program has criticized the GOCN as not including the interaction with the CULTURE enough

– Roxburgh proposes a 3 way conversation between the Contrast Society, Missio Dei (God’s mission to the world) and the Missionary Context

The Bible is a missionary text from start to finish

– Isa 58:6-10

– this is missional language

– a vision of the people of Israel being the light on the hill

The Reality

– Matt 5:14-16

– Jesus envisioned his messiahship in close terms to the vision of Isaiah

– “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.”

Also, Eph 2:8-10

– image of light emerges again

– “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the light consists in all goodness, righteousness

Part of the way we respond as a missional church is identifying needs that are unmet in a local or global community, we act to meet those needs

– foster care, literacy, homelessness, etc

– being a sign, a witness, and a foretaste

This survey is focused on asking how do we do things, and are we doing it in a way that promotes missional thought and understanding

we are not attempting to be a social agency by any means

– but we are attempting to be a witness to the kingdom of God

– they ways in which we discern needs and seek to meet them should differentiate us from secular world

Example is the OK governor’s marriage initiative (Oklahoma Marriage Initiative) and the work of churches on this issue

– we also can and need to be an example for the other CHURCHES in our community

– many of the other churches in our area are NOT doing these types of things

– we are doing some of these already, and that is good

– there is a strong need for CHURCH LEADERSHIP

– re-conceiving the idea of the life of our church around this idea

Is an idea of the CHURCH itself being a missional field part of this? YES.

– Daryl Guder’s follow-up book focuses on this, the continuing need to reconvert the members of our own churches

– “The Essence of the Church” was another followup book by someone else

So what is going on here at FPC Edmond?

The Genesis

– The Vision statement of our church, formulated through a process started 2 years ago

– have had some reorganization, rethinking the ways we as staff function in the church

– John came up with a position statement of “Missional Leader”

— that means the intent of John’s role is to provide leadership of areas that will move people to a more missional understanding of church

— problem with reading the literature is you really get on fire for doing this, but no one is really sure how to do this

Missional Leadership cohort at Fuller Theological Seminary is Alan Roxburgh

– he is going all over the place trying to move things along

– works primarily at an adjudicatory level (at a presbytery level often)

– is trying to initiate a process of conversation within the contexts in which people are working

Missionaal Leadership Cohort claims

– “our culture is experiencing rapid tumultuous change that is affecting the very structure and significance of church leaders.”

– “As leaders, we are at the center of this transition, facing the challenge of how to re-vision church leadershipo to meet the uncharted requirements of being a faithful church in a postmodern world.”

– “Church leadership needs Spirit-empowered, missional leadership that has a dynamic impact on the church as well as their local communities.”

– “Through the Missional Leadershp Cohort we are equipped to engage our culture with broadened perspectives and practices grounded in the Biblical narratives.”

Favorite phrase of Alan: “Rapid discontinuous change”

different leadership is needed that is very adaptable to changing contexts

– spiritual lead leadership is very important

The first year the focus is primarily on the person enrolled in this program

– focus on leadership and the CONTEXT we are in (lots of reading on the cultural context)

– goals: develop missional leaders, use a missional leadership assessment process, learn about change, transition, systems and leadership, also the theological basis for missional leadership

In this program, if you change churches, you have to start over

Year Two: focuses on ecclesiology (the church) and works with processes for forming missional leaders

– forming missional systems

– assessing church readiness for missional change

– research methods for studying missional congregations

– missional ecclesiology in the North American context

Year Three: focuses on missiology with attention to developing the frameworks and skills for cultivating missional change in our actual ministry context

– engaging missional contexts

– assessing primary themes and issues with organizational systems related to innovative transformation

– constructing local theologies (that does not mean reinventing the gospel, it means that we are Presbyterian, PCUSA, suburban, fairly homogenous, etc… what do those things mean for us in our missional focus, not changing our doctrinal theology but HOW DO WE LIVE our theology in our context?)

Year Four: Creating a missional church action plan

the Challenge

– Heifets (sp?) at Harvard Business schools identifies 3 types of challenges

– Type 1 Challenge: readily identified problem with a technical solution

– Type 2 challenge: complex situations that can be broken down into multiple type 1 challenges with technical solutions

– Type 3 challenge: there are no technical solutions available. Addressing the challenge requires changes in core values and understanding. This requires “adaptive work”

– the thing that characterizes “adaptive work” is you DON’T WANT TO DO IT (people deflect, resist– this requires a different type of leadership)

The journey we are on is a type 3 challenge

– it requires us to RETHINK WHO WE ARE

– coming out at the end can be very rewarding

The Missional Change Model (Figure 5.3 from one of Roxburgh’s books)

– awareness

– understanding

– evaluate

– experiment

– commitment

Awareness is about getting the language out there

Understanding involves synthesis of these ideas

Evaluation: we get a handle on the concepts, but start to look at where we are in the process

Commitment is where you buy in

we are NOW actually in all these places, because this is not a uniformly linear process

– iterative process

Stage 1: Creating awareness

– through intensive communication events, both one-on-one and in groups, leaders tak people through dialog and discussion about the need for missional transformation of the church.

– getting the word out

– diffusing

Stage 2: Creating understanding

– dialog serves to bring thinking and feeling modes of understanding together into a coherent pattern of understanding

Stage 3: Evaluation

– congregation is evaluated in light of awareness and understanding

Stage 4: Creating experiments

– people are now starting to think experimentally

– people identify actions they believe will move them towards becoming a missional church

– critical word is ACTION, people experiment through action

Stage 5: Commitment

– people commit to getting others involved in the process of moving through awareness to understanding, to evaluation, to experimentation, and finally to commitment

Everett Rogers book in the 70’s: “The Diffusion of Innovation” (looks at farming and medical innovations)

– process begins with the 10-15% of congregation that are innovators

– timeline looks like: 1st 18 months, 10% through the MC model

– 2nd 18 months: these folks lead next 15% through

– By the end of 3 years, there is 25% commitment

– 3rd 18 months, 50-65% of remaining led through

– unfortunately 10-25% fight and resist, some will leave

For us, 10% of our regular worshippers is about 80, while 10% of our entire congregation would be 180

As we get people who are committed to the model

– Rogers says whenever 25% of a poplution buys in, then the process takes off

– I’M THINKING THIS IS ANALOGOUS TO THE “TIPPING POINT”

In traditional church, staff are professionals who provide goods and services to the members of the congregation

– in the missional church, people do not come to have their needs met, they come to be SENT

Foundational Assumptions

– God has instilled his missional imagination in the hearts of his people

– since God always works through the least, the last, and the unlikely, God is prepared to work through typical North American congregations

– Congregations are still at the heart of God’s purposes and can become centers of missional life

– missional leadership is the cultivation of the missional imagination of the people of God from among the people as new forms of social relationship and new forms of engagement with the context

– missional leaders cultivate communities of discourse around practices of Christian life from which emerge missional imagination and actions

God always works with the least, the last, and the unlikely!

– the point is YOU (as a human) cannot bring about the transformation of a congregation into a missional church, but GOD CAN!

Missional leadership is helping to cultivate this process

– communities of discourse

I LIKE THAT TERM “COMMUNITIES OF DISCOURSE”

I ALSO LIKE THE IDEA OF SERVING AS A CATALYST FOR CONVERSATIONS

– THIS WAS MENTIONED YESTERDAY AT MEN’S GROUP, IN THE CONTEXT OF SUFFERING OFTEN SERVING AS A CATALYST OF CONVERSATION WITH GOD

Foundational Assumptions (con’t)

– bottom up

– an effective methodology for initiating and sustaining missional innovation requires a process that begins from where people are currently located and connects them again into the memory of the narrative and tradition of the story. It is a bottom up process that begins where the people of God, themselves, are located”

Notes on our Congregational survey and results (Missional Church Readiness Survey)

The survey

– Alan showed a snapshot of his kids, and talked about how a snapshot provides a look at ourselves at the present

– provides an opportunity to engage in conversation around that

– not a magical program or imported strategic plan

– will help us have an informed awareness of the church’s readiness for the transitions required for missional transformation

Missional Church Readiness Survey

– intended to identify key missional challenges

– initiates an 8-12 month process

– not a program that fits all churches into the same mold

– allows us to discover our own forms of mission in our particular context

– requires listening to one another

Congregational Function Patterns

– four different patterns

– may display characteristics of each pattern across the various aspects of its life

– indicates self-understanding of the congregation

– patterns of recognizing and reacting to changes in context

Survey had 4 different questions followed by open responses

– each questions addressed the different patterns (no accident there were four questions of each)

– for this reason, it is rare to see “strongly agree

Response patterns:

1- Reactive

– the “circle the wagons” approach

– focused on maintaining the status quo

– church “turns in” and protects itself

– reacts to external changes and challenges

– ME: THIS IS THE “STATIST” PERSPECTIVE ARTICULATED BY VIRGINIA POSTREL IN HER BOOK “THE FUTURE AND ITS ENEMIES”

2- Developmental

– “Field of Dreams”

– assumes that what we do will attract other people, and that works, but what we typically do is attract people from other churches

– a desire to reach out to new realities of the context

– seek to do this by improving what they are already doing

– assume this will attract people to the church

3- Transitional

– realize that the emerging generations often don’t come to church anymore

– the church realizes we have to go OUT to attract others

– “Head ’em up, move ’em out”

– work on experiments

– in transition toward a new understanding of the church

4- Transformational

– “on the trail”

– after a long period of transitional learning and discovery the congregation becomes committed to a different set of values and a different self-understanding

– committed to a new way of life focused on engaging their changing contexts and the people in their communities in order to communicate the good news

The Future

– desire to develop a new future

– not by developing a strategic plan (this assumes that it is possible to know what the future will look like)

– the future is something we discover together on this journey

– the future emerges from among God’s people

John’s Dad put together the 5 year plan for Phillips Petroleum, but the company always ran on a one year plan

– he found the process to be an unfulfilling task

– the future cannot be predicted with certainty

– the future emerges from among God’s people in this view

THIS CLOSELY PARALLELS WHAT VIRGINIA POSTREL IDENTIFIES AS A “DYNAMICAL VIEW” IN HER BOOK “THE FUTURE AND ITS ENEMIES”

The four readiness factors of the survey

1- church processes

2- church focus

3- congregation

4- community context

Each have subfactors

church process factors

– leadership

– planning

– structure

– staff

church focus factors

– financial

– organizational

– communication

– programs

congregation factors

– practices

– ministry

– involvement

– energy

community context factors

– integration

– connection

– impact

– growth

We are generally blind to our own systems unless someone forces us to look at them

– if you have a train, the tracks determine where it goes

– if you want to change the direction of a train, you have to change the tracks it’s on

Our congregation in the global view is mostly in the transitional and tranformational view

– more thinking in those modes, not necessarily ACTING according to those views yet

I AM WONDERING WHY THE CHURCH DID THIS AS A VOLUNTARY SURVEY OPEN TO EVERYONE, INSTEAD OF A RANDOM SAMPLE WHICH WOULD LEND ITSELF TO BE MORE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CHURCH POPULATION AS A WHOLE

– CONCLUSIONS ARE BEING SHARED WITH THE ASSUMPTION THAT THESE SURVEY RESULTS ARE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CHURCH MEMBERSHIP’S IDEAS AS A WHOLE, BUT ACTUALLY THESE ARE JUST REPRESENTATIVE OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC WHICH VOLUNTARILY RESPONDED TO THIS SURVEY

– I WOULD GUESS THERE ARE MANY MORE PEOPLE IN OUR CHURCH IN THE REACTIVE AND DEVELOPMENTAL VIEWS, BUT THOSE PEOPLE ARE LESS LIKELY TO RESPOND TO A SURVEY LIKE THIS WHICH IS ORIENTED MORE TOWARDS THINKING LIKE THE TRANSITIONAL AND TRANSFORMATIONAL VIEWS

– SO I SUSPECT THESE RESULTS ARE SHARPLY SKEWED (THIS IS MY ATTEMPT TO LOOK AT THIS AN ANALYZE IT WITH SOME PERSPECTIVE FROM QUANTITATIVE STATISTICS)

Church leadership

– thought is the church Session mirrors the ethos of the congregation

– measured the spectrum from inward directed and maintaining tradition to outward directed and engaging the context

Ministers and staff

– does the system have staff primarily taking care of the members or engaging them in ministry and mission?

Structure

– structure precedes organization

– structures control the behavior of the congregation

– not an external second thought, but an internal system

ANSWER TO MY QUESTION: WHY DID WE NOT SURVEY A RANDOM SAMPLE OF THE CONGREGATION, JOHN RESPONDED THAT THE SURVEY WAS TRYING TO FOCUS ON THE 10% OF INNOVATORS IN THE CONGREGATION

– THE PROBLEM I SEE WITH THIS IS THAT AS WE ARE LOOKING AT RESULTS, SOME PEOPLE SEEM TO BE TRYING TO USE THESE SAMPLE RESULTS AND GENERALIZE TO THE OVERALL POPULATION OF THE CONGREGATION

– MY POINT WAS THAT WE NEED TO REMEMBER THESE ARE SKEWED RESULTS AND SHOULD NOT BE INTERPRETED TO REPRESENT THE CONGREGATION AS A WHOLE, THESE RESULTS FROM THIS VOLUNTARY SAMPLE CAN ONLY BE GENERALIZED TO REPRESENT THOSE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH (AND SOME NON-MEMBERS AS WELL AS STAFF WHO ARE NON-MEMBERS) WHO RESPONDED TO THE SAMPLE

– ALSO CONFOUNDING THESE RESULTS IS THE FACT THAT ALL STAFF WERE REQUIRED TO RESPOND TO THIS SURVEY. I ACTUALLY THINK STAFF RESULTS SHOULD NOT BE INCLUDED IN THE OVERALL RESULTS, SINCE THEY WERE ALL REQUIRED TO RESPOND. IT IS GOOD THAT THOSE RESULTS ARE DISAGGREGATED FROM THE RESPONSES OF OTHERS, BUT IT IS A DIFFERENT RESPONSE METHODOLOGY TO REQUIRE ALL STAFF TO RESPOND AND THEN LEAVE IT OPEN FOR VOLUNTARY MEMBERS AND NON-MEMBERS

Strengths perspective of social work counseling

– looking at strengths to empower people toward that change, rather than emphasizing the weaknesses and negative sides

If you want to see where the priorities of the church really are, then follow the money

– how does the church build its budget

– % increase over prior year

– a limited pie divided among competing claims

– commitment to innovation and ministry

Alan asked John which sub-factors seem to be most important

– finances seem to jump out to John

– it really is important how we conceive of finances, that reflects how we conceive our mission

– we really are kind of “maintenance” in terms of budget and the survey’s results

I THINK THERE WOULD BE VALUE TO DO A SIMILAR SURVEY THAT WAS RANDOMLY SAMPLED FROM THE CONGREGATION AS A WHOLE

Communication

– the type of info regularly communicated to the congregation and the way it is communicated are clues to basic commitments

– what are the most significant messages, what is happening inside or as an invitation to a new future

A leader can come into an organization with lots of innovative ideas, but the personality of the predominant culture really shapes sustainable change

– the new ideas can either last as long as that leader is in place, or…

– the predominant culture can mitigate against those new ideas, and eventually the innovative change agent leader is given the boot

Church energy measured by

– what do people turn up for?

– give money for?

– value more than anything else?

Member involvement

– people join and participate in a congregation at a variety of levels

– reasons for involvement reflect the ethos and expectations of the church itself

– what are people actually doing in terms of involvement irrespective of what the church might act or expect

Example: a church that announces everyone should be involved in a small group is doing good of 60% of the congregation is in compliance with that expectation

We do have a pattern of the church being faithful to identified needs brought to the attention of the congregation by the pastors / leaders

With some of these questions that are supposed to be “transformational,” John feels the questions seem to still be more “developmental” in focus

MY QUESTION: HAS THIS SURVEY GONE THROUGH THE PROCESSES TO TEST RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY?

BIG PROBLEM WITH THESE BAR GRAPHS IS THAT THE NUMBER OF RESPONDENTS IS NOT REFLECTED IN THE BAR HEIGHTS, WHICH REFLECT THE PERCENTAGE AGREEING WITH EACH STATEMENT

– SO AS A RESULT, THE 4 NON-MEMBERS WHICH RESPONDED TO THE SURVEY ARE SHOWN AS A RELATIVELY EQUAL BAR TO ALL OTHER GROUPS

– AGAIN, I AM THINKING A RANDOM SAMPLE SHOULD BE USED

– IT SEEMS MISLEADING TO SUGGEST GENERALIZATIONS BASED ON, IN THE CASE OF NON-MEMBERS, THE RESPONSES OF JUST 4 PEOPLE

– THOSE RESULTS SHOULD POSSIBLY HAVE EITHER BEEN LEFT OUT OF RESULTS, OR THOSE PEOPLE’S RESPONSES SHOULD HAVE BEEN AGGREGATED INTO A GROUP WITH A LARGER NUMBER OF RESPONDENTS

– SOME QUESTIONS ON COMMUNITY INTEGRATION REMIND ME OF DISCUSSIONS WE WERE HAVING AT WPC IN LUBBOCK, ON SERVING “FROM THE HEART OF LUBBOCK,” BEING FOCUSED NOT JUST ON OUR OWN CONGREGATION AND SERVING OUR OWN NEEDS, BUT ALSO REACHING OUT INTO THE COMMUNITY

In terms of growth, our church is one of the only growing presbyterian churches in our presbytery

– we grow about the same as our overall community demographics

– important question: how many people are joining our church who were previously not members of another church (I WONDER IF WE KNOW THE ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION. THIS OBVIOUSLY GETS TO THE IDEA OF EXPANDING CHRISTENDOM IN THE 21ST CENTURY)

John’s impressions

– there has been some good groundwork

– most of the positive responses have to do with our intentions and our desires

– we still lack meaningful interaction

– most of our interaction is historical

– we have critical areas to attend to

Response to: What about the Hope Center, Habitat, etc

– lots of those things spun out of our church in the 1980s

– we got into a church growth mode in the 90s

– we maintained those things we had started, but we may not have been continuing to innovate

Where do we go from here?

– listening groups

– session retreat

– missional action teams (MATs)

Listening groups

– composed of 5-8 people who commit to meet 4 times over 4 months

– each group has a reporter

– each meeting will have 4 pages of reports, a 1 page question guide, and a report form

– each group should have a cross section of the congregation (no pre-existing groups) and NO pastors (staff) – elders are fine

I AM STRUCK BY THE PRESENTATION STYLE OF LOTS OF TEXT ON THE SCREEN, VIRTUALLY NO IMAGES (WHICH THIS ONE IS, EXCEPT FOR BAR CHARTS) AND A PRESENTATION STYLE WHICH EMPHASIZES MORE STORYTELLING AND IMAGES. I KNOW THE PURPOSE OF THIS IS TO SHARE DATA, BUT I WONDER OF THE EFFICACY OF THIS PRESENTATION MODE IN TERMS OF LONG TERM RETENTION AND MEMORY TRANSFER.

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The Abolition of the Clergy

This past Wednesday night, I had the pleasure and good fortune to attend John Gruel’s presentation “The Good Life: Vocation” at our church’s Wednesday night class offering time for adults. John used R. Paul Stevens’ book “The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective” as the basis for his reflective lesson. According to John, Stevens had wanted to call his book “The Abolition of the Laity,” but John stated he thought a better title would be “The Abolition of the Clergy.” John is sharing a two-part series on this book. MY THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS HERE ARE IN ALL CAPS. EVERYTHING IN LOWER CASE IS A PARAPHRASE OF HIS POINTS FROM HIS TALK AND HANDOUT/NOTES.

This book is theologically in line with the “missional church” movement, which John has studied in his doctoral program with Fuller Theological Seminary and often teaches about in our Wednesday night classes for adults. In the message, John mentioned the world “Allelon,” which means:

All members of the people of God belong to one another, minister to one another, need one another and contribute to the rich unity and ministry of the whole.

A Google search for “Allelon” brought up the website Allelon.org. The mission of Allelon is:

…to educate and encourage the church to become a people among whom God can live, as sign, symbol, and foretaste of his redeeming love and grace in their neighborhoods and the whole of society- ordinary women and men endeavoring to participate in God’s mission to reclaim and restore the whole of creation and to bear witness to the world of a new way of being human.

I didn’t bring my laptop to this class session, so I took rather copious notes by hand on the paper handout which John provided those in attendance. (Class learning sessions like this would be perfect for using a Netbook with a reasonably large-sized keyboard, but I don’t have one yet.) I found this presentation and discussion to be both interesting and personally relevant, as I think it provides excellent guidelines for how we should view the Protestant Reformation as “not over” and understand our need to act as members of the Church universal in our daily lives. In his teachings, Jesus did not distinguish between laity and clergy. The hierarchical church structures which have existed historically and continue to be maintained in varying forms today are not an inheritance of Jesus’ teaching, but rather of the Roman influence on the early church after Christianity was accepted by Constantine I and later mandated (upon pain of death) by other Roman Caesars.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: A Rickmann

Stevens’ thesis in his book and one to which John also ascribes is this: The Bible presents a theology of the people, for the people and by the people of God. Ordinary people should be able to understand “our” theology which is presented in the church. There are neither laypersons (laity) nor clergy in the New Testament, and it is potentially counterproductive to focus on the ministries and mission of the Church today as being carried out primarily by “the clergy” rather than by everyone who comprises the church throughout the world. This “us versus them” mentality is often counterproductive when members of the church as well as non-members look to formally ordained clergy to carry out acts of ministry rather than seeing us all as Jesus’ hands and feet empowered and equipped to do God’s work on earth.

This perspective does not discount or ignore the need for LEADERSHIP in the church, both historically and in today’s world, but does note that it was the Roman and worldly emphasis on hierarchy and position which brought the use and focus on “clergy” versus “layperson” roles in the church which we find commonly in virtually all Christian denominations today. The missional view is that we need to consider not only the life of the people gathered (ekklesia, or ‘the ones called out’) but also those dispersed in the world (diaspora) in the marketplace, government, professional offices, homes and schools.”

Major branches within Christianity

Unapplied theology is more speculative and theoretical. Missional theology seeks to be “beyond academic theology” and instead be practical and applicable, addressing REAL life issues everyday people can both understand and apply.

The New Testament vision of the people of God (laos) was and is ONE people comprised (miraculously) of Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor, slave and free, all being together as the chosen inheritance of God.

We must focus on right ways of LIVING and not just thinking
– we must strive for wisdom, and not merely knowledge

John has worked with others here in the Oklahoma medical community (he is a former orthopedic surgeon) to offer a “Spirituality in Medicine” course for both doctors and nurses
– so many “theological” issues and situations are faced regularly by medical professionals, yet many have not had any type of formal preparation to address and deal with these contexts

Our dependence on the clergy in the West traces back to the Dark Ages when monks preserved the church traditions
– in the Western church, traditional emphasis is VERY hierarchical
– the term “clergy” did not appear until the third century, and was simultaneous with the appearance of the word “laity”
– The Old Testament (OT) traditions were very hierarchical, established, and formal
– OT world: all the people were called to be God’s people, but only a few (prophets, priests, wise men, royalty) experienced a special call to leadership to God’s people
– in the NT world under the Lordship of Christ, formal leaders were universalized or abolished: the outpouring of the Spirit: the whole church becomes the new ministerium, a community of prophets, priests, royalty, serving God

The emergence of the Clergy arose largely because of three influences:
1- Imitation of the secular structures of the Greco-Roman world
— After Constantine, the Roman Empire permeated the Church rather than the Church permeating the Empire

2- Transference of the OT priesthood model to the leadership of the church (led to the role of priests and bishops, as well as the Pope in the Catholic church)

3- Popular piety elevated the Lord’s Supper to a mystery requiring priestly administration
— originally communion may have been more like a “potluck” experience
— eventually in some Catholic church traditions, the people were able to partake of the bread but only the priest was able to partake of the wine, it was reserved for him to do on behalf of the people who were not able/worthy to partake directly of it
— this model contrasts very sharply with the Jewish tradition of celebrating the Passover meal, which is delegated authority to the male head of each household

From the 4th to the 16th centuries the clergy-lay distinction deepened and become institutionalized
– clergy were (and still today are in many traditions) expected to vicariously “do ministry” on behalf of the church (for example, go visit people in the hospital)
– clerus meant “portion” (part of ministry)
– there wasn’t a Pope in Rome until Gregory in the 4th Century, when as the bishop of Rome he become the #1 church leader and it was asserted that his line went back to Peter who was “the first Pope”

I THINK IT IS SO RIDICULOUS THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ATTEMPTED AND STILL ATTEMPTS TO PORTRAY THAT APOSTOLIC LINE OF PAPAL SUCCESSION BACK TO PETER, WHEN THAT IS NOT AT ALL WHAT THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST ESTABLISHED OR WANTED TO ESTABLISH!

The Protestant Reformation was essentially incomplete in changing this model of a clergy-led church

St Jerome translated the NT into Latin in the 3rd Century, in the Eastern church they still used the Greek version for many years

In the NT the qualifications for leadership are all characteristics and gifts

Community is the only biblical way of relating leaders to the rest of the people: One God, One People
– One God: 3 persons
– One people, not two (clergy and laity)
– no individual members and no hierarchy of ministries

HOW SAD THAT AS FALLEN HUMANS, WE HAD TO IMPOSE THIS HIERARCHICAL VIEW AND PARADIGM ON THE CHURCH. THIS REMINDS ME OF SOME FEMINIST CRITIQUES OF PATRIARCHY I’VE READ IN THE PAST. IT ALSO MAKES THE ENTIRE SITUATION WITH “SAINTHOOD” SEEM RIDICULOUS AND HOPELESSLY COUNTERPRODUCTIVE IN TERMS OF THE REAL WORK OF THE CHURCH. ESTABLISHING SAINTS MAKES IT SEEM LIKE OUR ULTIMATE PURPOSE AS CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE TO STAND OUT AS INDIVIDUALS IN THE CHURCH AS THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED AS “SAINTS” DID, WHEN THE EXACT OPPOSITE IS TRUE: OUR ROLE IS TO SERVE AS MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH, LEADERS YET, BUT NOT LEADERS WHO WIN GLORY AND INDIVIDUAL RECOGNITION / ACCOLADES FOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND DEEDS.

We should be “one anothering” each other regularly in the Church

Celibacy was not a requirement for priests until the 6th century

In the Reformation, the priest was replaced by the pastor
– the sermon became emphasized over the sacrament of communion (in weekly services, as the purpose and focus of attending worship)
– the clothes of priests were replaced, when Reformed leaders become “pastors,” by the academic black gowns

A call is placed on all of us as Christians
– to belong to God: the call of discipleship
– to be God’s people in life: the call to holiness (to be set apart)
– to do God’s work: the call to service

The above are all “Christian vocations”
– personal / individual as well as corporate

Primary task of Adam and Eve before the fall: dwelling with and communing with God

1st thing in the book of Genesis that was not “good” – Adam being alone

In our world, work has become the defining experience of a person’s identity

THIS IS WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO TRY AND AVOID ASKING SOMEONE, WHEN YOU FIRST MEET THEM, “SO WHAT DO YOU DO?” ASKING THAT QUESTION TENDS TO IMPLY THAT THEIR VALUE AND YOUR JUDGEMENT OF THEIR VALUE IS INHERENTLY TIED INTO THE WAY THEY PRESENTLY EARN A LIVING.

the nature of work today has become more amorphous

Human work is a blessing and a curse
– SO WERE THERE WEEDS BEFORE GENESIS 3?!

Jesus is depicted as a worker (tekton: someone who works with their hands to make things) – a carpenter or stone mason

While the NT has no place for clergy as a separate category of believer, there are many references to leaders within God’s people
– a basic question of church leadership is: Should leadership be considered a function or an office
– the traditional view is to make it an office: clergy
– John’s view is that leadership should be a function

Interestingly and troublingly, a minister in the Presbyterian church can’t be a member of the church
– instead, pastors are considered members of a presbytery

Homework:
1- Consider your home, neighborhood, and workplace as arenas for ministry exploring opportunities for discipleshiop, holiness and service in your everyday life
2- Think of the ways you distinguish between clergy and laity and examine them for validity

JOHN IS GOING TO CONTINUE THIS STUDY NEXT WEEK. I LOOK FORWARD TO IT! I THINK THE MISSIONAL FOCUS “IS” THE APPROPRIATE FOCUS WE SHOULD HAVE IN THE CHURCH TODAY, USING THE BIBLE AS OUR GUIDE.

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PreSchool Christmas Message for 2008

This December I helped my wife at our church record four different preschool students (ages 4 and 5) read the Christmas story from the second chapter of Luke’s gospel. Since these kids can’t read, I told them what to say in short phrases, and then edited out my own voice from the draft recordings we made.

Shelly took photos of all the preschoolers dressed up in their Nativity scene and Christmas story costumes, and today edited together the photos (in iMovie HD6) using the combined and edited Audacity file I created for her from the childrens’ recordings. Her final video is going to be shown Christmas Eve at our church’s 5 pm family service.

This was Shelly’s first iMovie to create by herself from start to finish. I’m quite proud of her! 🙂

I’m not sure which production I think is better, this one which is completely in the voices of the preschoolers, or last year’s video production which was a combination of her voice with the preschoolers. We certainly put more hours into last year’s video. I do love hearing scripture through the voices of children!

When I was recording these verses, read by children, I got “goose bumps” several times. Reading God’s Word and hearing God’s Word read aloud can be a powerful experience.

May God richly bless you and your family this holiday season, wherever you may be on our planet. What a blessing that God sent his only Son into our world to redeem us and allow us to know him intimately. Through the voices and perspectives of our children, I think we can learn a great deal about how we are best-advised to both approach the throne of God as well as the challenges of our everyday lives: With a simple and pure faith.

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It matters how we worship

raise-handsI heard a great sermon this summer by my brother-in-law who pastors Cedarview Community Church in Newmarket, ON. It was one in a series of messages dealing with New Testament worship.

As someone who has grown up in a charismatic church, I’ve seen a lot when it comes to worship. Some of it very powerful and some of it didn’t seem very authentic. I’ve concluded that in many cases, worship is a matter of personal preference and taste. I realize now that God, while allowing us to be individuals does require us to follow some principles and guidelines. Most Christians sing hymns of praise. Why? Is it tradition? Partly but mostly because the Bible shows us time after time that singing and music are pleasing to God and is one way we can express ourselves to Him. Another practice which I’ve always been comfortable with was raising my hands. Until this message, I didn’t really know why.
As Christians, we see the teachings of the New Testament as the fulfillment of the old. When it comes to how we live, we understand the many ideas of the Old Testament were made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13) Part of how we determine what is and isn’t to be practiced from the Old Testament is checking to see if the ideas or practices are encouraged or reinforced in the new. The lifting of hands is mentioned several times in the New Testament. 1 Tim 2:8.

So here’s why we lift our hands in worship and what it means:

  • To remind us of our covenant with God.
  • To show our reliance on Him.
    • Exodus 17: 8-16
    • We need to physically see and demonstrate our reliance on God to each other
  • He likes it
  • To show surrender
    • Psalm 141:2
    • When someone is captured, they often are asked to put their hand up in surrender

So this isn’t about what church you go to or what style of worship you prefer, it’s something God has asked us to do because he desires worshippers. So the next time you raise your hands in worship, perhaps, if you’re like me, you’ll know better why you do it. If you don’t, why not?

Image:Worship During a Vertical Set
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrismoncus/281928443/

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