Tuesday, December 11, 2007

31. The Role of Institutions in the Kingdom

The role of institutions in the Kingdom: A short philosophy.

Innovation is rarely embraced with eagerness within religious institutional contexts. This is because the nature of institutions are fundamentally predisposed to self preservation. The prophetic critique that often creates the combustible environment for innovation is often snuffed out by the aristo and bureau-crats of the institution. This has made for an interesting dilemma for the apostle. Often scorned or perceived to be a threat to the established order, they have no other choice but to launch out with entrepreneurial passion, founding new, and often more relevant, communities, ministries and churches. This bold and courageous venture is commonly entered into without the blessing of the institution, both in word and in resources. This makes for a difficult start. (But it sure empowers faith in the living God who supplies all our needs!)

It seems that when we approach this dilemma, we always assume the existence of the IC is a given. Sort of a taken for granted notion that the IC is always a part of the equation, that apostles always emerge from with in the institutional context. Almost as if the institutional church (IC) is the mother environment from which these giftings owe their emergence. It is true that the apostle is teased into action by the frustrating dynamics of the institutional context. But these vital gifts in the body do not have to have such a dysfunctional, reactionary beginning.

I want to suggest that apostles can emerge out of organic communities in a much healthier way. Simple Church is a great environment for the apostolic gifting to not only operate, but flourish. In my past experience with the IC, apostles emerge only after they are vomited out by the institution. This happens for various reasons, but primarily because the institution can not stomach the kind of innovation that apostles seek after.

An organic community is much more conducive for the apostolic function for several reasons. In an organic, simple community, there is no building to keep funded. There is no paid staff to keep. There tends to be less concern about self preservation of an entity or established order of things. In this type of environment, apostles are free to innovate, explore and pioneer new and exciting things for God without threatening every ones "stuff". Without the institutional dynamic of self preservation at work, new and innovative efforts can move forward without bureaucratic opposition from the powers that be. The institution is not there to call into question and frustrate the efforts of apostolic innovation.

So where does that leave institutions? Do they still have a place in the Kingdom? One of the major faults of the IC is it tries to embody the full spectrum of the Kingdom within the confines of an institution. This is impossible! Most of the metaphors used by Jesus to describe the Kingdom are organic. Fruit, Yeast, Seeds, Trees. As such, the Kingdom can be expected to find its most vibrant expression in organic environments.

That being said, the Kingdom, by its very nature as the rule of God, requires engagement with all aspects of life. Institutions are a reality that will never go away. This means that the Kingdom will interact and utilize institutions. So I am not promoting an anti-institution approach to Kingdom life. What I am promoting is a repositioning, a re-framing, or as my buddy Patrick would say, a re-aligning of the institution as it relates to Kingdom tasks.

Instead of viewing the role of institutions as the primal facilitators of the entire spectrum of Kingdom activity, they should take on a more focused role of specialization in Kingdom tasks. For example, starting a Hope Pregnancy Center, a Community Garden, a Youth Center for at risk youth etc. As institutions, they will be susceptible to all the trappings of institutional dynamics. But they key difference is that they are not trying to be the end all expression of the Kingdom. They are nor broadcasting themselves as striving to be the full embodiment of the Kingdom. They are specific, focused efforts to embody the Kingdom in specific ways.

What I am saying is that we need to turn the whole thing on its head. The spontaneous, organic, fluid environment of Simple Church can be a breeding ground for the birth of new and innovative communities, including institutions that have specific Kingdom tasks. Apostles do not have to be the step children of the IC, or the refugee poster children of missionary societies. Institutions do not have to be shunned or hopelessly tolerated by Simple Church. They can be an expression of Kingdom tasks, having their origins in the fertile evironment of organic communities.

Monday, December 10, 2007

30. The Process of Institutionalization

The Process of Instiutionalization (PI) is a complex phenomenon. While looking into this topic, there have been several times that I have sat back and wondered "How deep does the rabbit hole go?" This topic can be approached from so many different angles and has so many nuances that it is difficult to give a "one size fits all" description of the PI. For example, an individual may experience the PI on a personal level long before the group takes on an institutional feel or look. This personal dynamic requires a whole different diagram and discussion. (forthcoming hopefully.) This is also true from the other perspective. An individual can remain "uninstitutionalized" well into the life of a group that has been officially institutionalized.

Having said all of that, there are some fundamental elements to the PI that have a somewhat universal presence. This diagram is an overly simplified view of some of these elements in the process. The PI can happen on an individual level far before it manifests itself and is embodied in a group context..The pyramid is inverted to represent the small beginnings of a group of about 10-15 people. The increase in group size is represented by the expanding width of the pyramid as it moves upward. The next level would be 15-50 people. The next would be 50-200 and so on. Use your imagination.

The size of a group is critical to the development of the PI. As a group expands in size, it is propelled into the different phases of the process. This increase in the size of a group brings with it certain needs that demand a response from the group. Who is going to be responsible for __________? How will we accomplish __________? What about ____________? When the needs of the group reach this level of complexity, it forces the group to divvy out the work to preassigned roles. As a result, a hierarchy is either formally, or naively, informally created. As the group grows even larger, the needs of the group outweigh the capacity of the individuals to address them. (hi amanda) This is when the need for full or part time staff arises. This is usually accompanied with a central facility out of which to operate, if that has not already been acquired.

This process outlined above, though vague and lacking all the elements of this complex phenomenon, gives us a good framework to discuss the tipping point of institutionalization for a community. From a sociological perspective, once habits are formed by the group, with a certain degree of frequency, say once a week, then they are already flirting with institutionalization. Repetition is the fertile soil from which the seeds of institutionalism sprout. This is an important factor to keep in mind when we talk about the "institutional church" as opposed to the "organic church."

I would like to suggest a subtle, yet significant word to introduce into the conversation.


This term acknowledges the fact that, despite our best efforts, there will always be an element of the PI in our communities. Because we will undoubtedly develop patterns, habits and even rhythms of behavior in our communities, we will always be flirting with institutionalism. There will always be, from a sociological perspective, an institutional element in our communities. This is true without even addressing the size issue and all the complex dynamics that surface when a house church goes from one group to three groups or goes from 10 to 20. I think we would all agree that when we say "The Institutional Church" (IC) we are coining a term to describe what churches have become as a result of the PI. For most of us, our experience with the IC has led us to encounter some of the worst repercussions of institutional dynamics. Hierarchical control, abuse of authority, money centered, self-preservation, ritualism, traditionalism, corporate-ized ethics and methods in discipleship and evangelism etc. To call this type of church an IC is exactly on target in my opinion. But my word of caution to us is that we not become naive to the fact that there are also elements of institutionality in our own communities. Naivety on our part in this area will make us susceptible to becoming the very thing we have fled. Instead of being a traditional IC, we will be an IC with a different look.

The discerning question then is not "Are we institutional?" but "What degree of institutionality is our group experiencing?" Or more specifically, "What is the tipping point, and how do we stay organic and fluid enough so that we do not fall prey to the monstrous demands of the institutional dynamics?" (Maybe some one needs to come up with a top 10 list of "You know your institutional if....) The real goal is to avoid the constraints and limitations that come from being institutional. This will of course mean that we will want to avoid becoming a full blown institution. But the distinction I am calling for has to do with identity and focus. Our focus and identity come from the gospel and embodying this gospel in the world, not from being "non-institutional." I may be stating the obvious, but it is worth saying none the less. Being organic and non-institutional is a tool for the mission, not the mission itself. There is a big difference.

This tipping point in the PI will be different for every group. It will not be a clear cut and predictable line that can be laid over top of random communities in a universalized fashion. It will ultimately need to be communally discerned through objective analysis, intuition, and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Trust me, those who are phobics about institutionalism, of which I am one, will sound the alarm when we have begun to progress (or should I say digress) into heightened levels of institutionality. You know the deal.

As rule of thumb, staying small goes a long way in safe guarding the PI. I don't say this as a cry for huddling up in our own little worlds and not engaging the mission of God. But can't we be on mission with God and still be organic, fluid, flexible and free from institutional constraints? I would say yes! Thank God yes! This is what the Simple/House Church movement is saying at this moment. It is an experiment for us personally, and I am loving every minute of it!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

29. The Bureaucratization of the Church

Check out this quote from Peter Berger's book The Sacred Canopy. This guy even fore casted the seeker sensitive movement and the "marketing" of religious goods by churches to a pluralistic society. He was writing in the 70's!!!!

"The contemporary situation of religion is thus characterized by a continual bureaucratization of the religious institutions. Both their internal and their external social relations are marked by this process. Internally, the religious institutions are not only administered bureaucratically, but their day to day operations are dominated by the typical problems and “logic” of bureaucracy. Externally, the religious institutions deal with other social institutions as well as with each other through the typical forms of bureaucratic interaction. “Public relations” with the consumer clientele, “lobbying” with the government, “fund raising” with both government and private agencies, multifaceted involvements with the secular economy (particularly through investment)- in all these aspects of their “mission” the religious institutions are compelled to seek “results” by methods that are, of necessity, very similar to those employed by other bureaucratic structures with similar problems. Very importantly, the same bureaucratic logic applies to the dealings of the several religious institutions with each other.
Bureaucracies demand specific types of personnel. This personnel is specific not only in terms of its functions and requisite skills, but also in terms of its psychological characteristics. Bureaucratic institutions both select and form the personnel types they require for their operation. This means that similar types of leadership emerge in the several religious institutions, irrespective of the traditional patterns in this matter. The requirements of bureaucracy override such traditional differentiations of religious leadership as “prophet” versus “priest”, “scholar" versus "saint,” and so forth. Thus it does not matter very much whether a certain bureaucratic functionary comes out of a protestant tradition of “prophetic” ministry or a Catholic tradition of “priestly” one – in either case, he must above all adapt himself to the requirements of his bureaucratic role." Berger, Peter. Sacred Canopy p. 139-140

Especially interesting to me is his observation about the nature of intstitutional demands for personnel. If we apply this to the gifting in the body of Christ, just think about how many gifts are being wasted and under developed in the institutional church. the very nature of the institution does not allow giftings to operate. It is a black hole that is concerned about self preservation and maintenance. Doesn't it strike you odd that an institution can pretty much function without ever drawing on the rich fund of APEPT giftings?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

28. Paul as Interpreter of the Gospel

If we apply this definition of authority to Paul, the POWER would of course be the gospel, and the EMPOWERMENT would happen in the community which the apostle establishes through the preaching/teaching on the saving significance the GOSPEL. Paul, then, would initially be the link between the community and the gospel. This seen in Romans 10:17ff where Paul says that the link between the lost and the word of Christ is the preacher.

But Paul is no mere consultant. His concern and anxiety for his communities forbids him from exiting backstage for a quick get away. It is true that his role as link between the gospel and the lost only lasts until someone obeys the gospel. But at that critical point, the relationship between Paul and those who trust in the gospel is immediately transformed. His initial role of link mutates into that of a father

This synchronized shift from link to father happens as a result of the peoples new found relationship to the gospel. Once a person or group of people accepted the message of the gospel, their relationship to the gospel, and therefore to Paul, changed. This point is critical in framing the discussion about apostolic authority. While Paul retains his unique apostolic experiences as noted above, he is still simultaneously subordinated to the same gospel which he preached and which the new community has obeyed. Listen to Shutz on this:

The gospel is not an exclusive apostolic possession. On the contrary, the apostle is owned and authorized by the gospel. He does not stand as a unique and exclusive bridge between the gospel and the Christian, between the power he interprets and the goal of that interpretation, the Church. He mediates between the gospel and the Church to be sure; he links cause and effect. But all Christians participate directly in the gospel itself. They do not stand in Paul or some other apostle, but in the gospel. They were not baptized in him, but in Christ. This has specific implications for understanding Paul’s concept of apostolic authority. Just as the apostle must be understood in reference to his own autobiography and the relationship between his ‘self’ and that power which shapes it, so he must be understood in the context of a community in which every member has an autobiography which embodies his membership in Christ.Paul and the Anatomy of Apostolic Authority p. 249


In this diagram, it is important to notice that the apostle and the community both participate and are subordinate to the gospel. Both parties receive power from the gospel while simultaneously being vulnerable to its demands. Paul is first a disciple, and then an apostle. To get this out of order is to overlook the rich context out of which Paul functions as an apostle. His vulnerability to the death and resurrection of Jesus as a disciple is the foundational paradigm out of which he functions as an apostle. There is no bureaucratic separation between discipleship and apostleship. Both are intimate expressions of dying and rising with Christ. In other words, it is Paul’s cruciformity that shapes the character of his apostolicity. As such, when it comes to his relationship with other disciples, and even the communities he establishes, he is equally accountable to the claims of the gospel. This egalitarian relationship to the gospel and its implications for discipleship sets a healthy framework by which the nature of apostolic authority can be discerned.

When apostolic authority is defined by the gospel, it has the ability to exert its own constraints on the fleshly tendencies of authoritarianism, egotism, imperialism, manipulation etc. The gospel is not only the paradigm for discipleship; it is the paradigm for leadership. Understood in this way, leadership is an extension of discipleship, both of which are to be cruciform in nature.

Monday, November 12, 2007

27. Authority as Interpretation of Power

27. Let’s begin with a definition of authority by Wayne Meeks from the introduction to Shutzs’ book Paul and the Anatomy of Apostolic Authority

The central point, which is the motif of this book, is that authority is best understood as the interpretation of power. That is, the authoritative person, in this case the apostle, calls upon the willing acceptance of his power by the followers by providing for them an interpretive framework, in the form of a master narrative or a pregnant constellation of metaphors, that makes sense of power that they themselves may experience or have experienced. In a sense, then, the interpretive process makes that power available to them. The interpretation of power is thus also an application of power. p. xxi.

An illustration of this definition of authority can be seen in the field of business consulting. When a company faces certain challenges and obstacles on their way to success, they tend to hire a business consultant to come in and help them through key phases of their development. The consultant will survey the business, conduct marketing analysis, study the business as an organizational entity, etc. When the consultant meets with the top dogs of the company, she will offer a successful model, plan or set of business principles for the company to implement.

In essence, what the consultant is doing is an act of interpretation. She is taking the wisdom and expertise she has gained from books, life experiences, collected data etc., and is interpreting this data in light of the companies unique circumstances. If the top dogs understand and ascribe to her proposals, she becomes an authority to their company. It should be noted however that, from the company’s perspective, this authority does not yet exist until they understand and decide to accept her proposals. This means that authority is a relational dynamic which is dependent upon the willingness of others to confer it.

This relational dynamic of authority gives it a sort of fragile quality. This is primarily due to it being dependent upon people’s willingness to accept another’s interpretation. Because authority is conferred upon an individual by another, it is within the ‘others’ ability to disrobe the individual of their authority. This divesting of authority would take place as a refusal to ascribe to the persons interpretations. A rejection of an interpretation, then, is invariably a rejection of authority. This rejection of authority brings with it a severing of connection to the source of power which the interpreter is trying to mediate.

Using Shultz’s definition of authority, power, in this consulting illustration would be represented as success for the company. What success would look like and how to get there is an act of interpretation by the consultant. Once the company subscribes to her interpretation, she becomes an authority to them. What this would look like initially can be seen in this diagram.

In this initial phase of the relationship, the consultant stands as a link between the company and success. From where the company sits, she is an exclusive channel to the access of power. This qualifies the relationship between the company and the consultant as that of giver and receiver. The company is in the position of receiving from the consultant by virtue of the consultants’ relationship to power. This places the consultant in a critical role. She must be able to both accurately interpret and fully communicate this power if the company is to 1. Ascribe to her interpretation and 2. Be empowered for success.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

26. Pauline and Contemporary Apostles. What's the Difference?

26. What's the difference? As the apostolic role becomes increasingly utilized and referenced in the EMC, House Church, Simple Church, Organic Church etc., there are a number of questions that are emerging in my own mind about this indispensable gift in the body of Christ.

One of these questions has to do with apostolic authority. All would agree that the Apostle Paul is in his own league when it comes to being an apostle. This is true for several reasons.

1. His EXPERIENCE of the Risen Lord appeared to him on the Damascus road and personally commissioned him and sent (apostled) him to the Gentiles.

2. His PROXIMITY to the founding events of the gospel makes his situation especially unique. His social and historical location in reference to the death and resurrection of Jesus, along with is relationships to the other 12 apostles point to a unique access to the Jesus tradition and the original historical witnesses.

3. His SIGNS of an apostle are spoken of as one of the identifying characteristics of his apostleship. No matter where you land on the spectrum when it comes to the miraculous giftings of the Spirit, Paul certainly occupies a unique position in this spectrum as it relates to the relationship between signs and apostleship.

4. His PNEUMATIC participation in forming the texts which later became canonized by the Christian community. This is a wholly different discussion, but for us it will do to say that Paul’s role in producing texts which later became a part of the canon make his apostolic role all the more complexly distant from our own.

These distinctions, while not exhaustive, should be kept in the background when referencing Paul as a paradigm for the apostolic today. While the tasks and roles of the contemporary apostolic do overlap with Paul's apostolic role, Paul nonetheless occupies a unique place, a penthouse suite per se, when it comes to being apostolic. Some more discussion needs to be had on this topic. I will see what I can come up with on this. Any suggestions out there?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

25. Communities and Boundaries

So what exactly is it that forms communities? From the sociological perspective, a key ingredient to the formation of a community is a common ideology. In fact, this is probably the foundation of most communities. For example, most churches or denominations are formed around ideologies, or doctrines. Adherence to the ideology places one ion proximity to the group. In some communities, there must be a public recognition of the groups ideology in order to be admitted into the circle. If it is not true for initiation into the community, adherence may be a "staying feature" which secures ones status of "in" and not "out". there are of course varying degrees to which members have latitude to veer away from the ideology. A good example of this would be the political realm. While the political ideology of Democrats or Republicans have identifiable characteristics that distinguish them, you would be hard pressed to find unanimous agreement between Republicans on every issue, despite their fundamentally shared ideology.

If ideology is a foundational element that elicits community, then what are the implications of this for the body of Christ? It is my experience that when a group of people share the same ideology about things, they seem to gravitate towards one another. This happens for obvious reasons. There is comfort in being around people who think like you. There is also the broader interest of collaborating for specific tasks. Not to mention the discussions and learning that arise within a group who intentionally seek to press out the implications for their shared ideology on other part of their life.

You can see this in action with the EMC. There is a different ideology floating around out there about how to be the church, live as a christian and engage in mission for God. It is this different ideology that has elicited the EMC with all of its different tribal expressions. I am excited about this new move of God in the church. It is a breath of fresh air for me and a lot of other people.

What fascinates me about pioneering a community formation is the concept of ideology, praxis and boundaries. These elements are located close together, but I struggle to map their exact coordinates. I am inclined to say, in a linear fashion, that ideology leads to praxis, which then leads to visible boundaries. The only problem with this idea is that we do not live in an air tight, theoretical world. In between ideology and praxis is our culture, worldview, heritage etc. And in between our praxis and boundaries are flesh, hypocrisy, and imperfect knowledge. In other words it is a lot messier than we want it to be.

I have found some relief in the concept of bounded-sets and centered-sets which was first presented by a sociologist named Paul Heibert. Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost in their book The Shaping of Things to Come, discuss this concept at length. I like their metaphor about the wells and the fences. When it comes to herding cattle, you can either build fences to keep track of the cows, or you can build wells, which then become centers for cattle to gather around. The fences would be cultural norms, moral codes, external behaviors and even doctrinal confessions. The well would be a strong ideology that informs and shapes the above externals, but does not erect a barricade to those seeking water.

In the bounded set, it is easy to see who is in and who is out. The only problem is that it erects a barrier to those outside. Not to mention the enormous temptation for legalism. I mean, you could be standing right next to the fence, wishing you were on the other side the whole time. But to everyone else, you seem perfectly fine because you are adhering to the external code.

In the centered set, it is a lot harder to patrol the borders of the community. But really, the goal is not to get people "in the fence". It is to get them closer to the well! So they can drink and stay healthy. So, the question is, what is the well? It is most ambiguously an ideology. It is too simplistically Jesus. Is it more realistic to say that it is the gospel? I want to say that it is. The more I look at this Christianity thing, the more I see that the gospel, if understood and applied, is the foundational ideology for Christian existence and community. Within the gospel is the churches DNA, its ideology and its power. When people are facing this, seeking this and living this, they are drinking from the well.

So what do I mean by the gospel the scholar would say? I would point you to a book by a scholar Michael J. Gorman called Cruciformity: Paul's Narrative Spirituality of the Cross. This book is dynomite! For me, it was the find of a decade. I found myself crying in awe of the cross and all the things I missed about the gospel in the Pauline writings. It is a must read. If the gospel is articulated and embraced, it becomes the governor of morality, relationships, spiritual formation, community, all the good stuff we try to facilitate with our own schemes. Paul does this by offering a pregnant constellation of metaphors. Could it really be this simple? Yes and no. The gospel is God's foolishness, but it is also a mystery. In other words, the well runs deep.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

24. The Apostolic Realm

There are so many questions that surround the Apostolic Realm for me. For instance, what is the difference between the Apostle Paul and the ordinary apostle when it comes to "authority"? What is the task of the apostle? How does the apostle relate to the communities they have founded? what is the balance of power and authority between the community founded by an apostle and the community which is in turn founded by that initial community? Do apostles today appoint elders? (This would be a prescriptive question for Titus and Acts) When is an apostles work done? What is the measure of success? What is the DNA which he is supposed to embed in the community? and what about the other gifts? What is the apostolic role with the other gifts? Do you see what I mean? There are so many issues to discuss. So many angles to approach this from.

I can not find any good books out there addressing this in a theologically practical way. There is one book called Paul and the Anatomy of Apostolic Authority by John Schutz. This is the closest I have come to a book discussing these topics. But it really does not do the trick for me. it is a little too rabbit trailish on proving points which can be assumed from the get go. Although he does have a great section on the language of authority that Paul uses in his letters.

Do any of you have any books suggestions out there? Some of this needs to be explored because there is a minfield out there surruonding this apostolic idea. Mainly, the explosive potential of people claiing apostolic authority and power out of their own egos.

Monday, October 08, 2007

23. The Life of an Apostle

The following is taken from Margaret Wheatley's website

The challenges of paradigm pioneers.
While those who want to support new leaders are struggling with the dilemma of scale, individual leaders face very challenging conditions. They act in isolation, often criticized, mocked, or ignored by the prevailing culture. They have no way of knowing there are many more like them, pioneers struggling with new ways of leading. It is a constant struggle to maintain focus and courage in the midst of such criticism and loneliness. And, there are other challenges for these pioneers. These arise from the dynamics of paradigm shifts and how people generally behave when confronted with a new world view.

New leaders must invent the future while dealing with the past.

In speaking with these new leaders, it is very clear that they refuse to carry the past into the future. They do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past having, in many cases, personally suffered from ineffective or brutal leadership. They want to work in new ways, but these new ways of organizing, the new processes for implementing change, have yet to be developed. It is their work to invent them, and so they do double duty. They must simultaneously invent a new process or organizing form, and also solve the problems created by past practices.

It is difficult to break with tradition

It is not easy to invent the new. It is difficult to break free of the training, history, and familiar practices of the prevailing culture. New leaders certainly know that bureaucracy doesn't work, that corruption destroys communities, that aid administered from the top down most often fails. They refuse to repeat these practices, but they, like all of us, have been raised in these traditional ways. Past habits of practice exert strong pressures. When crises mount and people feel fearful and overwhelmed, we default back to practices that are familiar, even if they are ineffective.

Supporters want them to look familiar.

Those with the means to support new leaders often complicate their pioneering work by wanting them to use familiar and traditional leadership processes. Those with resources often feel it too risky to support experiments with new practices. It feels safer to ask for traditional strategic plans, business plans, measurements, and reports, no matter what the context of the initiative. On the surface these seem to be important skill sets, but there is now substantial research demonstrating the failure of these methods to produce desired results in the most traditional of organizations. Perhaps supporters are risk-averse, perhaps they are unaware that these methods don't work. Whatever the reason, sponsors insist that pioneering leaders conform to the past. Resources are not available unless new leaders can demonstrate competency in familiar leadership practices, even those that have consistently failed to achieve sustained change.

And when resources are scarce, and competition grows among different projects, it is easy for pioneers to lose their way. Against their best judgment of what works in their community, they agree to comply with procedures and practices they know can't succeed. Over time, they fail, not from lack of vision or willingness to experiment, but because they have been held back from those experiments. We destroy these pioneers by insisting that they conform to the mistakes of the past.

There is no room for failure.

As pioneers, it is impossible to get it right the first time. No one has yet drawn accurate maps--explorers learn as they go. The maps that pioneers create will make it easy for large populations to migrate easily to the future, but their own explorations require great sacrifice and constant learning. Our present culture doesn't support this kind of experimentation. We want right answers quickly; we ask people to demonstrate success early in their ventures. We evaluate them based on short-term measures. We seldom give adequate time for the explorations and failures that are part of mapping a new territory. Instead of offering additional resources to their explorations and experiments, we abandon them in favor of safer projects that employ familiar, flawed means.

We want them to fail.

This is the greatest, unspoken difficulty pioneering leaders encounter. Society does not want them to succeed. To acknowledge their success means we will have to change. We will have to abandon the comfort of our familiar beliefs and practices. People naturally flee from such changes and thus, even as the old ways fail, we hold onto them more fiercely and apply them more zealously.In his seminal work on paradigms, Thomas Kuhn described the behavior of scientists when confronted with evidence that pointed to a truly new world view. (see The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1996, 1974) When the new evidence clearly demonstrated the need for a change in paradigms, scientists were observed working hard to make the evidence conform to their old worldview. In defense of the old, they would discard or reinterpret the data. (This was always done unconsciously.) And in the most startling instances, they actually would be blind to the new information-even with the data in front of them, they literally could not see it. For them, the new did not exist.

When the paradigm is changing, it is common to experience each of these dynamics. How often do we see an innovative approach, and then characterize it as traditional? How often do we observe new leadership practices and deny their existence? How often do we treat their successes as anomalies or as exceptions to the norm? How difficult is it for us to acknowledge them for what they are, radical departures from tradition, the first trail markers of our way to the future?

Mohammed Junus, the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and pioneer of micro-lending to the poor, tells the story of trying to get support from traditional bankers for his first loans to poor people. Dr. Junus wanted to loan very small amounts of money (often not more than a few dollars) to give Bangla people the means to start their own businesses. Whatever evidence he presented, the bank's reply was always the same: "The poor are not credit worthy." Frustrated, he then loaned his own money to the poor, and was paid back on time. But the bank's response was the same. Even after several years of successful lending to the poor, Dr. Junus was still greeted with the same old belief, "The poor are not credit worthy." He realized that no matter how much evidence he might accumulate to demonstrate the contrary, the banks would never see his evidence nor change their beliefs. (Grameen has since loaned millions to the poor, and developed a model for micro-lending that is used worldwide.) http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/supportingpioneerleaders.html

I couldn't help but think of apostles as I read this article.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

22. Teacher

Excuse me...I have a question. The function of teaching in the traditional church has by far been the championed gift for the past 100 years. Think about it, what do you do the majority of the time while you are at a traditional style church? You sit and listen to someone teach. Now I do not want to come across as downplaying this important gift in the body of Christ. I have had life changing paradigm shifts from powerful teaching and teachers. But if I can repeat an age old saying "Too much of a good thing is not so good."

In the second movie of the fantastic four, these two heroes try to get married and have a happily ever after. The only problem is, the bad guy wont quit. I use Mr. Fantastic to represent the teacher because in the movie he is the genius in the group. (And...there is only four of them and there are five gifts!) He is the man with the information they all need. And while the biblical idea of teaching is more than just transferring information to another host, the institutional church has certainly narrowed this gift down to Sunday school and the sermon.

I chose this picture because it represents what has happened to the body of Christ as it pertains to the five gifts. Teaching and Pastoring have married each other and dominate the traditional style of church. (Although I would jokingly say that it is primarily a patriarchal relationship between the two. There is normally not much real pastoring going on in traditional churches.)
This unholy wedlock is partly due to a natural process of institutionalization in which organizations and communities solidify and turn inward to manage their identity and existence.
Institutionalization is usually seen when the organization begins marking off the borders of their group to clarify who is in and who is not. The establishment of boundaries is of course not necessarily a bad thing. There are idoelogical boundaries for the community of God. Like the gospel, the identity of Jesus etc. And there are praxis boundaries like the moral catalogues in the epistles etc. In fact, all communities have boundaries, whether they be ideological, praxis, images, locations etc. While boundaries are a necessary ingredient of community formation, they are not intended to function as barricades to outsiders.
So what does this have to do with pastors and teachers? When the functions of pastor and teacher enter into holy matrimony, to the neglect of the other gifts, (leave and cleave) this is exactly what the community ends up doing!
This is not necessarily because the pastor and teacher want to usher this in. It is really a byproduct of the apostolic, prophetic and evangelistic gifts being relegated as black sheep in the family.When the first three gifts of APEPT are missing, the Jesus community reflexively aligns itself with preserving the present order and patrolling it's borders.

I am not advocating that we do not need teaching and pastoring. I am merely saying that their needs to be a great divorce followed by a family reunion. In order for that to happen, at least three things need to take place.

1. Break up the incestuous relationship between pastor and teacher. Their union is natural in that they feed off of each other. But it is unnatural in that they are members of the same family! The gifts of teaching and pastoring are all to ready to pair up and sequester themselves off into a position of patriarchy in the church. Breaking up this disastrous duo means making space for the other gifts in the body.
2. Allow the teacher to teach the body about APEPT and their dynamic roles in the body of Christ.
3. Read Alan Hirch's two books The Shaping of Things to Come and Forgotten Ways. (This one is easy.)
There are a number of inhibitors to allowing APEPT to function in the body. but this is a start. Awareness is step number one.