Saturday, December 18, 2004

(I want to respond to Barry here rather than in "comments" so there aren't any length constraints. Barry is the senior Pastor of the Vineyard in northern Kentucky and is my wife's uncle as well. We come from differing generations, background and mindset but agree on quite a bit too such as kingdom theology, a heart for being missional, experiencing the spiritual gifts and we both think his son, Joe, is pretty Rad. We have mutual respect and relational time invested so I really enjoy our conversations. This is a response to his comment in my last post. Ok, now you're all filled in.)

Hey Barry,
I'll try my best to clarify atleast a couple things. Its not a "right" or "wrong" dichotomy but rather just a different set of values and how one measures success. I'm not an expert but I have served in ministry in both paradigms.
Simple structures typically have less financial overhead, utilizing 20% of income for community needs and 80% is available for missional purposes instead of the other way around. This is why many simple church pastors are bi-vocational and don't have a permanent facility to upkeep. Trying to make sure that the tail (buildings and budgets) doesn't wag the dog (church).
Simple structures see relationships as an end and not a means to an end. If one is establishing kingdom relationships then one is sucessful, without needing more tangible things to happen. Its kind of like seeing with a different set of eyes.
Simple structures are more in the arena of art than science. There isn't a linear formula to follow, its a relational approach if one is intimate with the Father then the Spirit leads on in what to do.
Simple structures have less centralized leadership models. I don't advocate a completely flat leadership structure for 2 reasons: 1) Christ is the Head and 2) Not much happens w/out leadership. Simple churches have leadership that tries to be more fluid and less top down. Because there aren't many assets to manage (physically speaking) there is somewhat a built-in checks and balance system against those who have faulty agendas or seek power. However, Brian McLaren once challenged me to realize that just because a church doesn't have positions and buildings doesn't mean that there aren't power positions for people to fight over (i.e. anabaptist traditions in eary American History) and I think he was right. Leaders in simple structures have influence but is more fluid and less formal. Its an attempt to have a community where if people have the spiritual gift to lead then they should lead, without all the assumptions of what that must look like as Western cultured folk in 2005 A.D.
Simple churches have a different set of goals in mind. Instead of wanting to build one big church in a short amount of time, it seeks to build a large network of very small churches over a long period of time. Instead of a 3-5 year business plan, I am literally trying to chart a course for 30-50 years. Its a much slower approach, seeking depth over growth but realizing that they are not opposable ideas. I believe that all healthy kingdom organisms grow, its a by-product of being "in Christ".
Simple churches intend on being a multiplying body of small churches (3-20 people each).
I suppose simple churches are somewhat of a natural by-product of the postmodern worldview and deconstruction but it is not a new idea and has existed in the Body in history particularly in places where persecution pushed the churches underground. Its hard to differentiate modernistic structures and postmodern in one blog post but this is my attempt. 5 years ago, I thought simple church structures was my origingal idea and that I was all alone. What I've learned since is that thousands of people like me all over the world have been thinking the same thoughts and coming to some of the same conclusions for our contribution to the Body. Either we are all into the same heresy or the Spirit wanted to start writing a different story perhaps preparing some branches of the Church for a specific purpose and future. (that's my best prophetic guess)

However, let me conclude with this thought. Because we live on this side of Kingdom without fullness yet, the Church ultimately should be a bigger idea than what modernist or postmodern attempts have brought it to so far. Church health is "loving God" (worship, teaching, community) and "loving neighbor" (mission, evangelism, care), if we are about these things regardless of our ministry models, this seems to be what Jesus was calling us towards. I once heard you say during a teaching that "there is no plan B for Church", that this is what we have and we have to figure it out. I couldn't agree more and that has stuck with me. So as we as leaders continue to deny ourselves, submitt ourselves to Christ and listen to the Spirit, I pray that our fruits are a taste of Kingdom Come and I believe it will take all of us to get there.

thanks for the dialogue, I would welcome many readers out there to chime in and keep the conversation going but be nice or Barry and I will send out the Hitmen :)

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