Links of the Week

  1. 10 power principles on church strategy. These are 10 principles we work hard to keep in mind at Revolution.
  2. Tony Morgan on It’s about life change, stupid.
  3. Ed Stetzer on Missing the missional mark.
  4. If you are on twitter, here are 111 can’t miss twitter tools.
  5. Perry Noble on the Difference between a coach and a critic part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.
  6. Clayton King on How to pray for your pastor. I can’t tell you how important it is and how grateful Katie and I are when people are praying for us.
  7. Tim Keller’s review on The Shack. Great review of this book. As always, Tim says it better than all of us.
  8. Scott Thomas on How can a loving God allow devastation in Haiti (and in my life)?
  9. Ten reasons churches stall. Great article on how to keep your church healthy, vital and growing.

Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church

book-cover1Paul and I just got done reading Reggie McNeal’s book Missional Renaissance. It was an interesting read.

I definitely resonated with a lot of the book as the ideas he points out are many of the reasons that we started Revolution. There were also a number of things that really rubbed me the wrong way.

One of the most helpful things was his definition of missional leaders:

Missional leaders experience what God is doing and then tell others about it. In this way, they act as journalists to help us experience it, too. This means they spend time with God in prayer, asking him to show them what he is doing. This usually crafts a very different agenda for them than just doing what clamors for attention in their inbox. And it means they immerse themselves in life. They journey out of the citadel into the streets. Missional leaders, in touch with God and with the world, speak convincingly of what the people of God must do. You will not be around such leaders long without learning that their heart is being shaped by their encounters.

What this books kind of works around but never says is that we need to change how we view the doctrine of the church and how that plays out on a weekly basis. Our ecclesiology. Is the church here for the people in the church? Or is the church here for those outside of the church? What is God’s mission? Keeping the convinced comfortable and happy? Or finding those who are not convinced?

McNeal then works through 3 shifts that churches must work through to get back on mission and function effectively as a biblical church.

  • Shift from an internal to an external focus.
  • Missional is a way of living, not an affliation or activity.
  • The missional church engages the community beyond its walls because it believes that is why the church exists.
  • People don’t ‘go’ to church; they ‘are’ the church.
  • The member-culture church violates the intent of God for his people by focusing its efforts on the spiritual silo
  • Shift from program development to people development.
  • We must change our ideas of what it means to develop a disciple, shifting the emphasis from studying Jesus and all things spiritual in an environment protected from the world to following Jesus into the world to join him in his redemptive mission.
  • Loving God and loving our neighbors cannot be fulfilled at church. Being salt and light can not be experienced in a faith huddle. Engaging the kingdom of darkness requires storming it, not habitually retreating into a refuge.
  • Even among the self-defined committed, the evidence is clear that church activity is no sign of genuine spiritual vitality. The lifestyles and values of church members largely reflect those of the culture.
  • The missional church assumes that service to others is the first step, not some later expression of spirituality.
  • Shift from church-based leadership to kingdom-based leadership.
  • Missional congregational pastors now pastor the community, not just the church.

If there was one thing that drove me nuts, it is the same thing that drives me nuts about most books about the emergent or missional church. “If 2 or 3 guys are hanging out having a beer together, talking about life and God, then this is a church.” No, this is not a church. This is 2 or 3 guys having a beer together talking about life and God. Not a church. I was actually surprised to see this in McNeal’s book.

Despite this, the book does ask a lot of great (and much needed) questions that leaders and churches need to wrestle with. The reality is that the way we are doing church is often so off mission it is crazy. Thankfully, more and more churches are moving away from the program driven church, where we have a million things happening at our churches.

We have decided at Revolution to just do a few things and do them well. This will enable us to better reach people, as well as help them on their spiritual journeys.

McNeal’s definition of missional is one I struggle with. In the conclusion he tells the story about an organization that collects food during super bowl weekend to fight poverty. It has become a national organization, having thousands of volunteers and collecting lots of food. He says, “This is the missional renaissance in full flower.” My struggle with this is, how is this missional? This is being a good human. Is me handing out food being missional? Is me serving someone being missional? Those things are missional, but that can’t be the full definition (I’ve been sitting on these questions for awhile and will post some thoughts soon). But the question still remains, is missional just being human? Or is it something more? My feeling from the book is that McNeal sees it as being human. That just doesn’t sit with me well.

While he talked about moving away from a program driven model, which I think is good. The problem with his move to people development and getting people to serve outside of the church is that this can quickly become a program. So, while he fights against adding programs, he adds one. Which he admits to. Which seemed contradictory. It is amazing, as hard as we try, we can’t seem to kick the complex church. It might come in different shades, but it is still there.

While I found a lot of good things in this book, I was challenged a lot, disagreed a lot, agreed even more. Which makes this a good book. This is definitely something you want to read with someone else to chew on this together. Even though I heard from someone “this will replace Missional Church as the banner book in the missional conversation,” I have a hard time with that happening. But hopefully, it will get some leaders thinking about how to be on mission with God.

If you are interesting in this conversation and what McNeal has to say, I would say to read his books The Present Future and Practicing Greatness. This felt like he needed to write a book on the topic that he already covered in these books, which were better.

Thought: Missional Church

“Mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation. “Mission” means “sending,” and it is the central biblical theme describing the purpose of God’s action in human history. God’s mission began with the call of Israel to receive God’s blessings in order to be a blessing to the nations. God’s mission unfolded in the history of God’s people across the centuries recorded in Scripture, and it reached its relevatory climax in the incarnation of God’s work of savlation in Jesus ministering, crucified, and resurrected. God’s mission continued then in the sending of the Spirit to call forth and empower the church as the witness to God’s good news in Jesus Christ.”  – Darrell Guder, Missional Church

Links of the Week

  1. Ben on never needing a resume again
  2. Perry on 4 types of staff members (great post)
  3. Brad on what a missional church looks like
  4. Dave on 5 leadership lessons it took a long time to learn

Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, & Create Movement

Church Unique was a great read. One of the things I have struggled with as a leader is getting past how I have seen lead pastors lead. In a modern world, churches were led top-down, the lead pastor came up with the vision, heard God speak and rallied the troops so to speak. In the world we live in now, this model doesn’t work. The problem is that there still needs to be leadership, accountability, etc. But how does that happen?

That is the questions this book tries to answer. In some ways it succeeded, in others, it failed. It is hard to get past what we have always known into a new world of understanding.

Here are a few things that jumped out:

  • Clarity makes…uniqueness undeniable, direction unquestionable, enthusiasm transferable, work meaningful, synergy possible, success definable, focus sustainable, leadership credible, and uncertainty approachable.
  • If your primary focus, or paradigm for effectiveness, is trying to enhance your limitations, you will end up worse off than when you started.
  • The assumption is that more information will produce clearer direction, but just the opposite is true…Too much information shreds the big picture into so many small pieces that the vision is hopelessly lost. More information equals less clarity.
  • Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear.
  • When it comes to clarity, new levels bring new devils. The higher the leader goes, the harder the leader must work to stay clear.
  • Imagine how much more we would get done for the kingdom if no one cared who got the credit.
  • Your church can’t be anything it wants to be, but it can be everything God wants it to be.
  • You can teach what you know, but you only reproduce what you are.
  • If you copy someone else’s vision, who will accomplish yours?