Saturday, April 28, 2012

191. Apostolic Ministry and Team Formation Part 2

In the previous post, Apostolic Ministry and Team Formation Part 1, we looked at the qualifications Peter laid out in Acts 1 for adding a new team member to the ministry and apostleship of the "12."
Essentially, the qualifications deal with exposure. The new team member needed to have been exposed to the ministry of Jesus in its entirety.  They needed to have observed Jesus from beginning to end. Following Jesus all that time while he was coming in and going out among them meant they would have been exposed to Jesus' mission, message, methods and miracles, the essential components that propelled the ministry of Jesus into becoming a movement. Most likely, Mathias and Barsabbas were a part of the 72 that Jesus sent out in the limited commission.

Their exposure to the ministry of Jesus form beginning to end is positioned them to experience unity on the team. The unity they had as a team was not based just on feelings or affiliation. Because they had been exposed to the ministry of Jesus from beginning to end, they were essentially grounded in what Mike Breen refers to as the 4 V's of culture: Vision, Values, Vocabulary and Vehicles. Here is a brief break down of the 4 V's:

Vision: "This is where we are going."
Values: "This is why we are going there."
Vocabulary: "This is how we will talk about it as we go there."
Vehicles: "These are the patterns, processes, and procedures that will help us get there."

If we apply these 4 V's to Jesus' ministry, it could look something like this.

Vision: The kingdom of God
Values: God loves people
Vocabulary: The parables
Vehicles: Discipleship, mission, extended family (oikos), prayer etc.

I am ofcourse painting with a really broad brush stroke here, but you get the idea. The 11 apostles had a level of unity in these areas that, say, James the brother of Jesus, could not have. James was not with JEsus from the begining, so, his exposure to Jesus was limited.

Unity around the 4 V's on a team is essential whether on the frontier or back at the settlement. One reason they call the settlement the "settlement" is because these 4 V's have literally, already been "settled." At every settlement is a core group of leaders who covenant together around these 4 V's in one way or another. This is what allows the settlement to stay together. One key difference between the settlement and the frontier however is that not everyone at the settlement has to have full buy in to the 4 V's in order for the settlement to succeed. Every settlement has a core of leaders who guard (and sometimes propagate) the 4 V's through out the organizational culture. In addition to this inner core, there is an outer ring of people who do not necessarily have buy in to the 4 V's. Some in the outer ring do not even know about them. Still some do not even care about them! Yet the settlement still keeps going because there are a group of leaders who embody and guard those four generative components of the organizational culture.

Things are different on the frontier. There is no outer ring of people in the start up phases of frontier work. When doing frontier work, it is the job of the leader(s) to provide clarity in these 4 V's for those who will be joining the team. The pioneering team is a micro-settlement. They carry with them the DNA of the 4 V's that will lay the cultural foundation for the first extended family on mission. The leader(s) say "This is where we are going (vision), and this is how we are going to get there (vehicles)." The way the leader(s) talk about the vision and vehicles when questioned by potential followers will be a starting place for establishing the vocabulary and uncovering the values that steer the pioneering venture. The initial leaders of the pioneering venture are the initial core leaders that are essentially the custodians of the culture that will be seeded and embodied into the founding systems of the plant. There is no outer ring, the leaders are both the inner and the outer ring, making them the first ecclesia to be planted and propagated in the new field. If there is no unity at the core, there will be no unity period. And Jesus was really clear when he said a house (oikos) divided against itself can not stand.

When a team has clear, definitive unity around the 4 V' out! This is a recipe for kingdom breakthrough! Listen to what Luke tells us in Acts 2:1-4. 

"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

The word for "one accord" in 2:1 is homothymadon. The word picture is a smoldering conviction, much like an ember or coal in a fire. So question....what happens when you blow wind on a collection of smoldering embers? They produce fire! This is exactly what happens on the day of Pentecost. The wind of the Spirit comes and catalyzes the unity that they already had as a result of the exposure they had to the ministry of Jesus. The Spirit did not work ex-nihilo. He was a catalyst of the training the apostles had already received as a result of their exposure to the discipling of Jesus. Once again, discipleship seems to be the foundational work that the Spirit utilizes to catalyze missional movements

Just so you know I am not stretching things here with the word "homothymadon" it would be good to notice that it is the same word used in Acts 15:25 where the apostles, elders and leaders in the Jerusalem council come to a unified decision (conviction) about the status of the Gentiles and the statutes that they will deliver to the churches planted by Paul and Barnabas. Unity here is not just surface level affiliations. They deliberated about this topic of the Gentiles, and they came to a place of unity as a group to where they could say they were all with "one accord" as to their decisions. 

When doing frontier work, it is absolutely essential that the initial team has "homothymadon," unified conviction as to the 4 V's. Initially, this is set forth by one or several leaders on the team. Those who join the team are essentially covenanting together around these 4 V's. They achieve a state of "oneness" that will hold them together as they traverse the rugged landscape of doing mission on the frontier. Just like any relationship, when times get hard, you lean on the covenant that holds the relationship together. When there is a disagreement among the team members apostolic band about one of the 4 V's, it can pose a real challenge to the viability of the missional venture. 

On the next post, I will explore a little bit more about why unity in the 4 V's is so crucial when doing frontier work. We will go straight to Jesus on this one, the pioneering leader of the movement we all belong to. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

190. Apostolic Ministry and Team Formation Part 1

Having the right people on the team of an initial church plant takes initial precedence over your cleverly devised plans of having strategic missional impact. The WHO really is more important than the WHAT. This is not to diminish the  importance of strategy for a new church plant. It's merely to say that there is a cart and a horse issue here going on between the WHO and the WHAT. The WHO is the horse and the cart is the WHAT. The people come before the plan.

So do we see any primacy being given to the WHO in the New Testament when it comes to apostolic ministry? We most certainly do!  How about when Paul and Barnabas have a parting of the ways when it came to the issue of whether or not John Mark should be included on the team for their next journey? This is clearly a dispute over the WHO.

The clearest example I can think of however takes place in Acts 1 when the 11 Apostles were assembled together with the 120. The issue of who was going to replace Judas as one of the 12 was front and center. Jesus had ascended and was no longer around (physically speaking.) The 11 Apostles were in the process of transitioning into their role as leaders of the movement Jesus started which put them in a new season of life and ministry. They were on the front end of something new...the very first "church plant" if you will . Success in this venture was highly critical to say the least.

Before we get to the heart of what Acts 1 has to say to us in relation to the WHO of church planting, I want to take note of several things that are helpful to keep in the background as we process Acts 1 from a church planting perspective.

1. The 11 Apostles did not have a WHAT yet. Yes they had been discipled by Jesus, but they themselves were a bit confused about how things were going to unfold. For all they knew, Jesus was going to restore the kingdom of Israel and they would all be promoted to sitting in the thrones that were promised to them by Jesus in Luke 22:29-30. They were doing a lot of praying and waiting, but they really did not know WHAT was supposed to happen next. They were only given instructions to wait.

2. They were not actually given instructions to replace Judas. This is a bit of conjecture, but the text does not reveal it to us, so I am making a leap here. But the point is, Jesus did not leave them instructions to replace Judas and fill the empty slot. Instead, Peter takes the initiative and says that they should find someone to add to their number. It is almost as if Peter is imitating the actions of Jesus when he spent all night in prayer and selected the 12 from among the other disciples. Make of this what you want, but I think it is worth noting that Peter assumes the role of a leader and makes a decision to add someone to the team. This is what leaders do.

Well, so much for footnote observations. Now for the meaty stuff.

Acts one has given me a really good framework to assemble some key principles when it comes to the WHO of church planting. The following are some principles I have formulated that may be helpful to those of you who are in the beginning phases of wrestling with the WHO and WHAT of a new apostolic venture.

1. Peter starts off by explaining how Judas betrayed Jesus and consequently left a slot open on the team. This may seem obvious, but it is worth noting: everyone knew that the team had clear boundaries about who was in and who was out. You did not join the team by accident or by mere association. The leadership team of the 12 Apostles was clearly defined by both a number and a name. In referring to Judas Peter says in 1:17 that "He was one of our number and shared in our ministry." Peter understood the team to be made up of 12 people and that those twelve were a part of a specific "ministry."  There was a clear line to be crossed if you wanted to be on the team. The same should be true of apostolic ventures today. Naming the leader(s) and being clear about who is in and who is out with respect to leadership helps give the community a point of reference by which to gauge themselves in relation to those in the community who are putting themselves forth as models for imitation. Leaders define culture because by definition leaders have followers, and this means imitation is taking place. Without imitation, a culture can not form, and leaders are the ones who step forward and provide a model for imitation. Without a clear number and name for the leaders in the community, the followers will be paralyzed and the culture will morph and mutate towards any or every influence that comes to bear on the community.

2. Perhaps the most important thing to glean from Acts 1 are the qualifications Peter sets forth about who can join the team. Peter is really clear about this. The new team member would need to have been with them from the time of John's baptism to the time in which Jesus was taken up from them at the ascension. What is Peter getting at here? Why did the new team member need to have been around Jesus for the 3 1/2 years of his ministry in order to be a part of the team? One of the critical issues Peter is dealing with here has to do with whether or not the new team member has had adequate exposure to the teaching, training and tactics that the other team members have had in relation to the founder of the movement. Think about it, you are about to add someone to a team of 12 people who have spent the last 3 1/2 years together. They have all been discipled into a certain way of living and leadership in the kingdom modeled to them by Jesus himself. Those 12 people are now going to be tasked with representing the leader and continuing the movement that he started. Jesus built a particular culture with and among the 12. To add someone into that mix of 11 leaders who has not been acculturated is a recipe for division, something you definitely dont want in a start up venture. Jesus clearly taught that a house divided against itself can not stand, and this new team member is essentially going to be joining the leadership "oikos" or "household" of the 12. When you are about to launch out into the frontier and set your face towards the enemy, you need a level of unity and oneness on the team that can withstand the pressures of pioneering work. Peter was making sure the new team member would be on the same page and that they would not be inviting someone into their leadership culture who had not been adequately exposed to their cultural ethos of leadership and discipleship. 

As a side note, think about what it would have been like to be James, the brother of Jesus at this gathering in the upper room. He was in the group of 120 and was likely there when this whole process was taking place. How politically incorrect it was that James the brother of Jesus was not chosen to be a part of the team!! He wasn't even nominated!!! Talk about an awkward moment!!! Jesus' own brother didn't even qualify to be one of the 12!!! This just goes to show that decisions about WHO are really important when it comes to doing frontier work!!! Like some other the other members of Jesus' family, James did not follow Jesus form the beginning and therefore did not have adequate exposure to Jesus as a leader.

This was not an indictment on James' capacity or competence as a potential leader in the Jesus movement. It was merely an issue of exposure and experience with the cultural architect of the movement, the revolutionary leader named Jesus. 

3. Just so we don't get the idea that it was all about a mastery of scripture (teaching) skills (training) or strategy (tactics), Peter mentions something in his prayer that tips us off to deeper issues related to character. Peter says that the Lord is the one who "knows the hearts of men." Not only was there issues of exposure to the 3 T's, there were also issues of whether or not that person had the right heart to carry the weight of that leadership position. Did they have the right character in order to represent the leader of the movement? Since they could not know the hearts, they relied on the Lord's providential power to select the right person to join the team...they cast lots. How should we understand and apply this to apostolic ventures and team issues tell me :-) That's why there's a comments feature below.

4. Lastly, its interesting that while neither James nor Barsabbas joined the team, they both feature in Acts 15 (vs 13, 22) as critical leaders in the Jerusalem council. James still gave input among the other 12 apostles and leaders, and Barsabbas was still chosen as a "sent one" to be a delegate of the Jerusalem church and its decree for the newly planted Gentile churches. Not making the team does not limit your potential as a leader. It just means there is another time or team for you to join.

In the next post I will be going deeper into principle number 2 and the importance of unity teams doing frontier work.

Friday, April 13, 2012

189. The Life Cycle of Innovation by MissioNexus

I get the videologs on a regular basis form this guy. He is a really good thinker on systems, organization and missional fitness. This video is a jewel. He lifts up the hood and peers into the engine of innovation and how it relates to the church in the West.

Learning at the Speed of Life - April VLOG - The Innovation Lifecycle from ehdesign on Vimeo.