Wednesday, March 25, 2009

44. Breaking New Ground!

Some of you know about the organization we have started The Harvest Network. We want to help people feed themselves. The motto is "Don't Buy It, Grow It." Up until now our main project has been with the Clarksville First Church of the Nazarene and helping them use their food pantry ministry and their property to create a Jubilee garden. Working with this church has a lot of benefits from a Kingdom standpoint I might add. Great people there.

We also have another focus where we want to help people start growing their own food in their back yard. This past Saturday me and Tiffany went to a low income neighborhood right next to the projects here in Clarksville and went door to door to create awareness about The Harvest Network, sort of a "here we are, use us if you want to start a garden." We knocked on this one door and their was a couple with 6 kids who want to start a garden! We met with them this past Tuesday night to help them plan their garden and this weekend we will be helping them to till it up and plant. This is our first family to work with as The Harvest Network and we are so excited.

Please pray for all of those involved for the Father to work his will into the situation.

43. Neil Cole on Organic Leadership

Isn't it great when you find out you are not crazy? I sometimes feel crazy when I think about "organic leadership" and simple church stuff. I know the power is in God and not a model, but our models come from somewhere: our values, paradigms and mostly tradition. Neil Cole has a great interview on

He reviews his new book "Organic Leadership." It was sort of funny that he was saying some of the same things I was saying in a previous post about organic leadership. I'm not crazy after all!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

42. God of Wonders

What is God brewing here in Clarksville? Honestly I don't know. Most of the time he does not let us know before hand. It sure would be nice to get the down low on his activity though. Especially where we fit into the picture. Me and Tiffany have been going back and forth about what God is up to and the implications for our purpose here in Clarksville.

One thing is for sure, we serve a God of surprises. I have been trying to trace God in our journey here in Clarksville and sometimes it is as clear as day what he is doing, and at other times I just want to tell him a few things, if you know what I mean.

One thing I can bear witness to, God honors faith. The kind of faith in Hebrews 11. He honors the kind of faith that builds before you can justify the outcome. The kind of faith that sticks to morals when it costs. The kind of faith that orders your life around a sure principle of God. The kind of faith that just looks down right stupid to the outsider. We serve a God of wonders! And while he is beyond our galaxy, he is also present in us. If we can abandon our selfish preoccupation, and be lifted out of our own mode of self preservation, God fuses us with LIFE, FAITH, HOPE and LOVE, all from the Spirit. Faith is so given and taken for granted, and yet it is so axiomatic to our walk with God. I don't want to be ordinary. I don't want to operate out of fear or mundane expectation. I believe, help my unbelief.

Friday, March 06, 2009

41. New Gnosticism?

This is one of those words that you tend to hear about in lofty theological or philosophical conversations. Do not dismiss it too quickly though. It has remained hidden from us (no pun intended) for too long. The readers digest version of this word is, physical matter is bad and we need to escape form it. To go a little bit deeper, the human body is bad, and we need to escape from it. To go even deeper, it's what the Gnostic's of John's day were pitching to certain Christian communities. They said "We have the secret to escaping from this evil prison of the material body and the basic elements of the world."

Don't kid yourself and think this is only an issue that "they" had to deal with back in the NT times. No, this is alive and well today. Not necessarily in seed form, but definitely present. For example, it is full blown in how we view eschatology and what will happen when we die. N.T. Wright talks about this in his new book Surprised by Hope. Gnosticism has seeped its way into the root of our theologies, eschatology's, and especially our spirituality.

I want to offer a possible new form of gnosticism. A derivative if you will. Those of us in the simple church movement sort of pride ourselves in not being "institutional" or tied down with programs and structures. Some even say that programs are what you do when you don't know how to listen to Jesus! While I would not go that far, I can see the point behind the statement. There is no doubt in my mind that religion, programs, buildings and structure have a powerful tendency to take over and replace a relationship with God. They can be a crutch, a habit....lets be honest, an idol! That being said, the above mentioned things are not bad in themselves. Institutions, as Mark Willis recently said to me in a chat, boil down to this: People coming together to accomplish something, and doing that something over a long period of time. This is of course the readers digest version. But the point I am getting at here is that you can not escape institutions! Any kind of pattern or habitual habit, from a sociological standpoint, smells of institutionalization. Institutions, like our bodies, are not bad. Our bodies are fallen and have limitations and trappings for sure, but God is for our body and the earth, and will redeem them in the new creation. Institutions, while having some glaring limitations and downfalls, that need to be addressed and called out mind you, are still social realities. They, lik eour bodies, can be instruments of God and can be used by him for his glory. To be totally non-institutional is first of all, from a sociological standpoint naive, and from a theological standpoint, flirting with gnosticism. Institutions are an inevitable byproduct of human action, and they do not need to be escaped from indefinitely, but rather put to proper use. In short, they need to find their rightful place in the Kingdom. I have a few ideas about that rightful place, but God rules over all and will redeem all in the end.

Now I will be the first to say that the conventional style church needs to become self conscious and aware of its institutional limitations. To keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is a definition of insanity (thank you Einstein) Some structures do indeed constrict life and are even void of life. But maybe another approach is to ask ourselves, "What kind of structures allow life to permeate and flourish?" I will no doubt come out on the side of the organic approach to community and leadership, but this should not be too short sighted. We all speak from our gifting and personality. I do believe that organizations can set themselves up in ways that not only allow the life and vitality, already present in people, to flourish. But they can also play a role in nurturing that life as well. It is a reciprocal relationship. The challenge is to discern what structures do this in your context. So, I guess in the context of this discussion, I am an agnostic?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

40. Staying Connected

Starting a Christian community from scratch is hard work. Even in the Bible belt, surrounded by churches and "Christians", there can still be a sense of, well, I will go ahead and say it, alone-ness. We at Ikon have been 8, 20, 12 and so on when it comes to numbers. We all have sort of transitioned into a more simpler form of Christianity for various reasons. I think a common thread that runs through the group is, we ant to focus on authentic community, spiritual formation, and following Jesus without the negative side of tradition and religion, and dare I say, too much institutional-ness.

Doing such a venture in such small numbers is a real challenge though. I have been reconnecting with some people from conventional churches and the fellowship has been great. We all need to be connected with our Jesus family. we also need to be connected with the church at large in some fashion. Starting this non-profit, The Harvest Network has been a great tool for me to step back into the conventional church circles and re-connect with some great folks. I am also seeing God work in all kinds of places. God works in people, regardless of their church model.

All that being said, I am refreshed by two groups here in Clarksville. Clarksville First church of the Nazareene and Mission Clarksville. Here's a shout out to two different models of church, with God working in both of them for His Glory.

We need each other, regardless of our philosophy on ecclessiological models. How's that for unity!

Monday, March 02, 2009

39. House Church Mega Church Hybrid?

I found a cool church in Kettering Ohio that has been able to pull off the House Church Mega Church model. At first I was a bit skeptical, but it seems like they allow the house churches to be autonomous and treat the Sunday gathering as a tool to celebrate what God is doing in the House Churches. I am so encouraged to see this happening there. I have often wondered what we would do if our house church began to multiply.

I would love to go visit them and see what it is like in real life. Outside looking in it looks pretty cool. Could this be a good approach if you value the big gathering? They even use the APEPT model for their leadership teams and such.

I plan on calling them to talk some about their model and their values. Here is a link to their web site.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

38. A Different Front Door

Thinking a little bit more about organic leadership and communities, I had an epiphany the other night in bringing these thoughts together with some other posts about institutions. Previously in another post I suggested that the role of institutions is specialization in Kingdom tasks. I recently talked to an old college buddy of mine whom I have not talked to in over ten years. Needless to say we have both changed a lot since then. Surprisingly though, he has been having some of the same thoughts I have been having about leadership and community. In fact, he is preparing for a church plant in the Atlanta area as we speak.

The cool thing about it though is that he is not going to do the traditional franchise model of church planting. Instead, he is going to "parachute" into a new area by starting a non-profit organization.

I have been having similar thoughts about church planting lately, but my conversation with him sort of helped me connect some dots. In order to share the good news in Clarksville TN, we need to develop relationships with people. Doing the house church thing can sort of make it challenging to do this. However, we have recently started an organization called the Harvest Network which will help people grow their own food in their back yard. My thoughts now a days are leaning towards the non-profit functioning as sort of a hub of relational activity and then as a result of those relationships, new vibrant families of Jesus would form. Sort of a spin off, or by-product of the non-profits activities

In other words, the non-profit is the engine that generates a meaningful, redemptive connection with the community. It is out of these relationships that new organic communities of the gospel can be formed in peoples homes, Starbucks, or anywhere. In the franchise model, traditionally speaking, you get a building to do church and attract people to the services. In this model (I am not sure what to call it) you may get a building, but it is for the purpose of serving people day in and day out through whatever services your non-profit will provide. The organizations service to the community would then be the catalyst to form relationships with the lost. If I were to diagram this, it would look something like this:

The only way to pull this off is to have intentional relationships with people outside the interests of the non-profit. These kinds of relational pockets and networks already surround a lot of the non-profit organizations. The apostolic role in this situation would be to facilitate communities out of these pockets, made up of individuals who are open to relationships and the gospel. In this model, the non-profit would appear to take the place of the conventional style institutional church, while having a lot of the same benefits that institutions bring to the table. The major difference is that the non-profit''s interests are not to draw people indefinitely into itself. The non-profit naturally creates the formation of organic communities, while the conventional style church traditionally sees organic communities as a crop to be harvested and gathered into the confines of the church. This model reverses that and does not see the non-profit institution as a final destination. The organic communities formed around it would instead be the fertile ground for the seeds of the gospel. The goal would not be to get them into the box, but to get the gospel to them right where they are, and better yet, to nurture their faith in that very context. You would not ask them to "come to church". You would ask to eat lunch, have a cup of coffee, pray with them. Share their story and pray.