Thursday, May 31, 2012

196. The Difference between Discipleship and Ministry

As I talk with various leaders, I am finding that there is typically a misunderstanding about the difference between ministry and disciple making. Describing the difference between disciple making and ministry is kind of like describing the difference between a square and a rectangle. A square can be a rectangle, but a rectangle is not necessarily a square. They both have four right angles and four sides, but only the square has sides of equal length. Applying this to ministry and discipleship, you can do ministry without making disciples, but you cant make disciples without doing ministry.

Think about it like this....Jesus could have taught every sermon and parable in his ministry without the 12 disciples being around. In fact, Jesus could have healed, spoke truth to the Pharisees, died for our sins, and rose form the dead...all by himself.  Jesus could have had a dynamic ministry without ever discipling anyone.

So why invite 12 guys to follow you around and give them access to your life? The answer is this: Jesus wanted to build more than a dynamic ministry, he wanted to build a movement. In order to build a movement that outlives the founder, you have to make disciples. Ministry is not enough.  Some churches have dynamic ministry going on, which is great! God will move in and among his people when we obediently serve people. But without disciple making, it will never be become a movement, and you will likely be limited in the amount of ministry you will be able to do as well. After all, who is going to lead those ministries? Who will lead new ministries? Who is going to minister to the people you reach through those ministries? Without making disciples, you will not be able to develop leaders, and without leaders, ministry can only go so far.

However, if you make disciples, then you will get more ministry, and the people who come into the orbit of that ministry will come into contact with people who can make disciples, and this will eventually lead to more ministry and missional ventures in the long run. Sounds simple, sounds cute and trite, but don't be fooled. This is really how it works.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

195. The False Dichotomy between Leadership and Servanthood

It is becoming increasingly popular to create a false dichotomy between leadership and servant hood. As the logic goes, having an organizational structure that identifies someone as "the leader" is somehow tyrannical and loaded down with exorbitant pitfalls. Truly spiritual people and organizations use "mutual submission" and "team based models" of leadership, as the logic would ensue.

First, let me say that most of the blogs and talks I hear on this topic are, at best, looking to shape leadership around the sacrificial, servant based, kenotic (emptying of self) values of the cross outlined in Philippians 2. We have all experienced the ego-centric leader, power hungry and addicted to prominence. However, I think that the term leadership is broad and often eludes simplistic definitions, especially when we factor in the dynamics of organization and cultural context. I will not offer a definition of leadership here, I'll leave that to the exploration of the reader. I will however ask one question that I think deserves attention and may have the potential to draw this kind of false dichotomy out into the open and expose it for what it is. The question is this:

If you were to ask any of the 12 apostles during Jesus' ministry who "the leader" was, what would they say?

There is no doubt that they would have said. They all, without question, would have said Jesus. Jesus was "the leader" of the 12, and the 12 knew it. This was not just a Jesus thing, it was a rabbi thing. In other words, it was the nature of a rabbi-disciple relationship. There is a leader and a follower.

This may at first seem overly simplistic, but facing up to this reality that existed between Jesus and the 12 leads me to ask another follow up question:

When Jesus told the 12 to go and "make disciples", wasn't he telling them to now become "the leader" with a potentially new group of followers?

The answer in my mind is an obvious "yes." If discipleship is fundamentally about imitation, then when I am being discipled by another person, I am choosing to follow that person for a season. It is an incubation period where I learn how to be a leader by following a leader. If I am imitating the one I am following, then by definition I am imitating a This means disciple making is fundamentally about leadership training. When it comes time for me to expand my role from one who is being discipled to one who is also making disciples, then I will, by definition, be "the leader" of those who are following me.

The problem with most discussions about leadership is that they often don't factor in the equation of disciple making. An organizational structure that includes "the leader" does not have to be tyrannical or abusive, or un-spiritual. If so, Jesus would have been all those things. No, leadership can be exercised in such a way that the power and authority afforded to the leader can be stewarded for the empowerment of those who are following "the leader." This is how Jesus did it, and he asks us to imitate him. This is why I think that the practice of making disciples is axiomatic to any discussion leadership.

I have been on a church planting team in Montgomery Al that was organizationally structured with "the leader" and other "co-workers" who synergized around the over arching vision and values of "the leader." We had staff meetings, argued, debated, shared perspectives, and sometimes hotly disagreed. At the end of the day though, when we could not agree, something had to give. As naughty as this may sound, "someone had to make a decision." And this fell to "the leader." We trusted his heart, as well as his openness to us, and the Spirit. If we didn't, we would not have "followed" him as a leader. He was accountable to us in areas of character, as we all were to each other. How could we not be? We shared our lives together and were in close enough proximity to each other to notice character flaws and address them when necessary.

This is not to say leaders don't need accountability structures and communal processes to season their leadership. This is deserves another blog post, admittedly. The point I am making here is that we don't have to throw the baby out with the bath water. What we need to do is learn how to lead as Jesus led his disciples. We can not improve on what Jesus did. He called people to follow him, trained them, and empowered them to become leaders themselves. He gives us the authority to do the same thing (Matthew 28:18-20). Only now, it is not just "follow me." Our fallen nature requires an exception clause: as I follow Christ.(I Cor 11:1) Our leadership is held to the same standards (if not higher) as those who follow us. We all follow Christ, but not all are making disciples. Those who are making disciples both follow Christ and lead others in doing so, only to make other disciple makers, which is to say, by definition, leaders. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

194. Review of Multiplying Missional Leaders by Mike Breen

Wisdom is demonstrated in not just knowing what to focus on, but  also knowing what not to focus on. This kind of wisdom only comes from years of practice in one’s field. It takes experimentation, failure and a track record of success and fruitfulness to develop this kind of wisdom. Not many leaders have been willing to pay that price.  

Mike Breen’s new book, Multiplying Missional Leaders: From half-hearted volunteers to a mobilized Kingdom force, offers us the rare opportunity to peer into the mind of a wise, seasoned missional leader. For the past 20 years, Mike has poured his life into developing Biblical tools and strategies that effectively train leaders to reproduce themselves while pioneering missional communities. The global movement of disciple making, leadership development and missional communities that he now leads is essentially the culmination of a lifetime of experimentation and unquestionable fruitfulness both in Europe and the U.S.

Reading his new book is like lifting up the hood of a car and seeing what the engine of a missional movement looks like. Concepts in the present day missional movement that tend to be stand alone topics are integrated and brought into meaningful relationship with one another.  Topics like the fivefold giftings of APEST in Ephesians 4, the role of leaders in defining culture, the need for both discipleship and leadership, the criteria for selecting and training new leaders, the role of of an oikos(household) for leaders of leaders, the importance of developing both character(who leaders are) and competence(what leaders can do) in leaders, as well as an organizational process (pipeline) for training leaders, are all woven together in complimentary ways that show how each part plays a role in moving towards a leadership culture. Finding a book that brings all of this together is a rare find indeed.

While Mike gives us a broad view of the essential components for multiplying missional leaders, you can rest assured that the principles he lays out are not grounded in theory or trendy new speak.  No, this book has been written by a seasoned leader who has extracted these principles from scripture and enacted them on the ground in the real context of a post-christian culture. Mike Breen has focused the wisdom and success of the last 20 years into a rich, yet profoundly simple, format that brings together both the principles of scripture and the wisdom of experience into an integrated, systemic, process oriented approach to leadership development.

 All in all, this book will help bring clarity to areas of leadership that, up until now, have remained foggy, fragmented, and overly fixated on either or thinking. It brings a refreshing kind of wisdom that can only be found in seasoned practitioners who have walked the line and done the hard work of experimenting, learning from failure, and crafting their hard earned insights into useful principles that can serve the next generation of leaders. Save yourself some time, heart/head ache, and unnecessary failure and read this book. You, and those you lead, will be glad you did.

Friday, May 04, 2012

193. Apostolic Ministry and the Entrepreneurial Orientation Part 1

In our book The Permanent Revolution, me and Alan Hirsch spend a bit of time taking about the entrepreneurial orientation of apostles. The staple quality of entrepreneurs is what sociologists call "opportunity recognition." That is, entrepreneurs have an innate ability to recognize opportunities for either making money or advancing a cause. Where some see deficits, entrepreneurs see an opportunity for development. Where some see gaps, entrepreneurs see opportunities for growth. Where some see vacancy, entrepreneurs see opportunities for ventures. You get the idea.

Another staple quality of entrepreneurs is their ability to take risks. Entrepreneurial people have a certain tolerance for risk and ambiguity. They like the idea of launching out into the unknown and get a unique satisfaction out of making it to the other side, despite the odds. The destination sometimes is just as exciting as the journey itself.

As "sent ones", apostles have a God given drive to launch out and start new things. They thrive on the idea of taking risks and pioneering new ventures into unknown territories. This is a gift, one that should be celebrated and embraced.

However, like all giftings form God, they have to be exercised under the Lordship of Christ and go through a process of maturing and filling out. One of the common mistakes that immature apostles often make is responding to opportunity without a clear word from the Lord to do so. Just because you recognize an opportunity does not mean you should respond to the opportunity. On any given day, I will be driving through my city and think of several businesses I could start. I could list off to you the restaurants that are not in my city, the services not being offered in my city by various vendors and companies in other cities. I will see a trailer park and think, I could probably start a church there...who could I get to do that with me. I will drive by a huge city park with about 15 soccer fields while a soccer tournament is going on and think, I need to start investing my time in that people group, I know I could meet a person of peace there. On, and on, and on it goes. Sometimes it is just fun to play with the idea in my head about how it could all  look, and then sometimes it is quite frustrating to me because I become disoriented with all the opportunity that surrounds me.

I want to share something about a word the Lord gave me about two months ago. The previous plant I was involved folded about 9 months ago partly because of team issues. As a result, me and my wife are in transition right now and waiting on the Lord to reveal to us what he wants us to do next. I was in my bed one night about two months ago lamenting to God about how long he was taking to reveal "whats next" for us. As I wined and complained, the Lord directed my attention to the story of Peter walking on the water. I began to meditate on this story and I felt like the Lord said something to me. It was a word of rebuke. He said that I needed to learn from Peter and start asking permission before I step out of the boat. As I began to abide on this word for the next month, the Lord began convicting me about how quickly I moved into this previous plant and did not spend enough time observing, reflecting and listening to the Father's voice on whether or not I need to move forward into this particular opportunity. We did have team issues that ultimately led the team to disband, but I the Lord spoke a clear word to me that I did not ask his permission to move forward into this opportunity. I just moved forward and asked God to bless it.

So how do you know if you should respond to an opportunity? This is really important question for apostles to engage in.  As I reflected on the story of Peter walking on the water, there were three particular elements to Peter stepping out of the boat. Recognize Opportunity, Request Permission, Respond Accordingly.

Here are some of my reflections on these three components.

1. Recognized the Opportunity: He saw Jesus walking on the water and thought to himself, I want to do that too! Jesus is on the water, why don't I join him there!

2. Request Permission: Peter said to Jesus, "If its you, tell me to come out to you on the water." Peter did not just assume Jesus wanted him out on the water with him. Just because we see the Lord working some where, doesn't necessarily mean he wants us to join him there. When we recognize an opportunity, we should first ask permission form the Lord to "step out of the boat."

3. Respond Accordingly: Peter heard one word form Jesus...Come. That's all he needed. The important thing to see here though is that he is responding to the voice of the Lord, not to the opportunity itself. Just because you recognize an opportunity doesn't mean you should respond to the opportunity. What if Jesus would have said "It is me, but don't come out. I will meet you on the shore. Keep your seat in the boat with the rest of the team." My guess is that Peter would have stayed in the boat. But then again, this is Peter we are talking about here :-)

So the proper flow is to move from recognizing an opportunity to requesting permission, and then to launching out. It would look something like this.

If apostles are "sent ones" then it implies someone else is doing the sending. There is an actor external to the apostle that is directing the apostle towards a specific opportunity. The apostle is not the one who sends themselves, it is God who sends the apostle. So in essence, apostles respond to the voice of the Lord, not to the opportunity itself. If we bypass "requesting permission" and go straight to "responding" then our apostolic ventures will take on a certain "opportunistic" feel to them. Instead of being led by the Spirit, we will find ourselves being led by our own cravings for adventure and novelty. Mission then becomes a tool for self-actualization and not a mans by which we worship-fully offer our world back to God.

Paul demonstrates this process of learning how to respond to the Spirit in Acts 16 when he is trying to figure out which direction he should be going for his next venture. The direction the Spirit gave in this instance was more indirect than direct. The Spirit directed them by forbidding them to go certain places, but He did not actually give them a direct word saying "Go to Macedonia." Instead, Paul had a vision of a man pleading with him saying "Come over to Macedonia and help us." Its interesting how Luke records the decision making process that they used. A vision comes to the principal leader of the apostolic band, but then Luke says we sought to go to Macedonia "concluding" that the Lord has called us to preach the gospel to them.  The impression I get here is that they deliberated on it and had to make a judgement call on what the Spirit was up to. The Spirit was closing all the doors around them, and then a vision of an opportunity in Macedonia came to Paul. The point of the story, among other tings, is that Paul was being sensitive the leading of the Spirit here. He was a man on the move, but he had a desire to move in step with the Spirit, not in step with his own agenda.

So what about you? Have you ever moved to quickly on an opportunity without seeking to hear form the Lord and get His permission? Next pot we will look at the implications of Peter's walking on the water, sinking, and coming back to the boat for apostolic ministry. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

192. Apostolic Ministry and Team Formation Part 3

So far, in the last two posts on Apostolic Ministry and Team Formation (part 1, part 2) we have looked at Acts 1 and 2 for indicators about the importance of unity for teams that are doing frontier work. Roughly speaking, the 11 apostles had the same vision, values, vehicles and vocabulary...the three generative building blocks of any culture. In order to keep this level of unity, they could not just add anyone to the team. the new team member needed to have alignment with those 4 V's. unity in these four areas were critical for the viability of the team and its missional venture.

So where did they get this idea of unity from? Is it something they crafted on their own, or are they imitating the strategy of their original leader, Jesus?

Ironically enough, Jesus modeled and taught this concept of unity to them at the very beginning of His own ministry. In Mark 3, Jesus goes up to a mountain and invites 12 disciples to join Him as a team. After he chooses them, he goes with them into a nearby house to get their grub on. The crowds sniff Jesus out once again and interrupt their meal together.

Jesus' family catches wind that that He has selected 12 disciples to form a special group, and they say, literally, "he has lost his mind!" His family starts treking up to Capernaum, but before they make it to the house where Jesus and the 12 are staying, the Pharisees show up and claim He is casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus gives a discourse on unity exposing the fallacy of their accusation. Once His family arrives, some of the people in the house alert Jesus that his family is standing out side. After they traveled all that way, you would think Jesus would give them an ear...but he doesn't. Instead, he looks around at those in the house with him and essentially says "This is my family."

There are two things I want to pay attention to in this section of scripture that I think throw some light on how Jesus provided a model to the 12, from the very beginning, that unity is important for team members who are doing pioneering work.

1. Chemistry: Notice how Mark says that Jesus called to Him "those He himself wanted." This means Jesus chose people whom He had a personal preference for. The basic gist here, I think, is that Jesus liked the guys He chose. He wanted to be around them, and they wanted to be around Him. This is really important when it comes to teams doing frontier ministry together. There needs to be a certain level of chemistry between the leader and the team, as well as the team members themselves. Jesus chose two sets of brothers you know (Peter & Andrew, James & John.)  This should say something to us about the need for personal connections among the team members.

2. Location: This is more subtle, but I think it is key to the interpretation of the text. Mark says in 3:19 that the discourse on unity and the teaching on extended-family all takes place in a house. Now this would be peripheral to me if I didn't know that the word for "house" in the text is "oikos"....the N.T. word for what we would call an extended family of anywhere from 12- 70 people (12 being in the incubation phase.) Jesus teaching on unity is taking place in a physical structure (house) where the relational structure of oikos, extended-family, orbits. This plays into the next observation.

3. Entities: Jesus mentions 3 entities that can not stand if they are divided: kingdom, house, individual (Satan.) If we are looking at scale here, kingdom is macro, house is "meso" and the leader would be micro, in this setting it is Satan. At the very base level, the leader has to have unity within themselves. As James would allude to, he can not be a double minded man who is, by default,  unstable in all his ways. The leader of the oikos provides the point of reference around which the oikos/household can unify. A collection of oikos/households can eventually grow into a "kingdom."

4. Extended family: Jesus essentially says that his family is comprised of those who are seeking the kingdom. What a great thing to establish in the beginning of his ministry, right at the forefront of selecting his team to be with him and travel around with him. Jesus frames the nature of the community that is beginning to coalesce around him as an extended family/oikos/household.

Isn't it interesting that Jesus chose 12 guys to function as a team and the very first "sermon" he gives is on unity, followed by a description of the community as extended family, and it is taking place in a house (oikos).....hmmmm....I cant help but connect the dots here myself. Unity, Team, Oikos, all adds up to a strategical moment for Jesus to, in his typical creative fashion, kill several birds with one stone. Both the location and the content of what Jesus says combine to give a graphic portrayal of what Jesus is expecting from his new team and how he understands the nature of their relationships with him and each other. They need to function like a household, like an extended family with a level of unity that can resist the pressures of the adversary.  

It is not by accident that Mark, in the composition of his gospel, affords literary proximity to Jesus' teaching on unity and the extended family with Jesus' selection of the is literally in the same textual block of his gospel. (It precedes his next teaching block of the parables on the kingdom in Mark 4.) As the first gospel, Mark is looking to resource the discipleship and mission of the early Jesus movement. In one chapter, he does what all story tellers do: he compresses multiple themes into one story that provides a dense survey of necessarily principles related to discipleship, mission, teams and extended family/oikos.

Jesus knew what he was doing, and so did Mark as he recorded it. We have here, in Mark 3, the founding event that would later resource the 12 as they dealt with team issues and the need for unity at the beginning of the venture. Like every good leader, Jesus began with the end in mind. he did things in such a way that his followers could look back on their experience and draw valuable principles to help them move into the future.

Well, this concludes my thoughts thus far on the need for unity in apostolic bands launching out to do pioneering work. The frontier is not easy. It is filled with challenge and adversity. Don't go into the frontier with just anybody. Go there with people you have chemistry with, people who have a sense of unity and alignment around the Four V's of vision, values, vocabulary and vehicles. Covenant together around these four things and lean on that covenant to get you through hard times. It is the "oneness" of covenant that makes kingdom work possible.