Thursday, March 21, 2013

214. A peek into the Fuzzy Front End of the Permanent Revolution Part 3

As I reflected on the metaphors Paul used to describe his relationship with others, I also came across language that was not so egalitarian. While Paul leaned heavily on egalitarian metaphors, he also recognized that by virtue of his role as a founder of new communities, there was a certain relational matrix that emerged from this kind of activity.

By virtue of being a founder, there exists a certain degree of authority built into the relationship between the founder and the community that was founded. It is built into the nature of founding things. Said another way, it is axiomatic to Pauline forms of apostolic ministry.

Paul frames the nature of this relationship with the of parent/child metaphor in I Corinthians 4:14-17 when he says:

I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.

Paul uses this metaphor of father/child to describe his role as the catalyst of planting the seed of the gospel that gave birth to their community. Paul is a parent to the Corinthians in this respect. By virtue of Paul's role in the development of the community, he occupies a sphere of influence that only a founder(s) can occupy. This sphere of influence is, it should be noted, only reaches into the communities he founded. So Paul does have this kind of relational currency with those communities he has not founded. Looking at some of the metaphors Paul uses to describe his role in the communities, we can discern a certain relational terrain associate with the landscape of apotolic ministry. Some of these metaphors are:

1. Foundation Layer - I Cor 3
2. Father - I Cor 4
3. Ambassador - II Cor 5
4. Founder - I Cor 4
5. Worker - II Cor 6

It is important to recognize that while Paul occupied a unique sphere of influence in his communities, he did not lord it over them. So for example, listen to what he says in II Corinthians

Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand...

So while Paul is a parent to the Corinthians, he is not paternalistic. While he occupies a sphere of influential authority in the communities he founds, his posture towards them is not authoritarian. Paul was able to find, as Michael Gorman would say, a way of exercising authority in a cruciform way. That is, his authority in those communities originated in the gospel, and was expressed in alignment with the values of the cross - weakness, humility, sacrificial love etc.

The next post will attempt to outline how some of these metaphors relate to one another with respect to spheres of authority. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

213. A peek into the Fuzzy Front End of The Permanent Revolution Part 2

This is one of the earlier diagrams I was working on at the forefront of the project. I was fascinated by all the metaphors Paul used to describe his relationship with the communities he founded. This first diagram was centered around the metaphors that communicated a more egalitarian relationship. Paul had no reservations about referring to himself as a:

1. Fellow Worker
2. Brother
3. Disciple
4. Partner
5. Priosner
6. Soldier
7. Slave

All of these metaphors can equally describe any one in the body of Christ. You do not need to function apostolically to own these terms. This is important to recognize when looking into the nature and function of apostolic ministry. Paul is first a brother in the Lord, then a "father" in the gospel. Paul is first a disciple of Jesus, then a leader for Jesus. Paul is first a partner in the gospel, then a steward/custodian of the gospel etc.

There is an egalitarian nature to Paul's ministry as an apostle. He is not an elitist. He is a fellow worker in the gospel, right along side of the communities he plants. However, as we will see in the next two posts, he does use metaphors that help frame his role as an apostle among the communities he founds. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

212. A peek into the Fuzzy Front End of The Permanent Revolution Part 1

Warning: You are about to enter a "PLUG" zone. One of the coolest projects I have been a part of in the past 10 years was co-authoring a book entitled The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church. It actually took about 2 1/2 years to collect all the ideas, synthesize them, and formulate them into a coherent format.

Alan helped out tremendously with the coherency factor. As an INTP (mbti) he is a more systemic thinker than I am. He is more prone to accuracy and symmetry. As an ENTP, I lean towards accuracy, but my sweet spot is in seeing things from multiple perspectives and scavenging for new ideas and information. Our strengths  turned out to complement each other quite well. Essentially, I populated the text with concepts and ideas, and Alan helped hone it into a coherent, systematic presentation. It made for a great partnership in producing the book in its final form.

Most creative projects start in what is often termed the "Fuzzy Front End." That is, they begin on a canvas cluttered with disparate, seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts.

My first canvas was this little green book that I found one Saturday on the side of the road as I delivered packages on my FedEx route. Clarksville is home to the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. This transient population sometimes produces piles of "junk" on the side of the road. When soldiers get PCS'd or get deployed, sometimes they leave things behind for their former landlord to "manage" for them. On that Saturday, a random soldiers G.I. notebook made its way from the curb to my little black duffle bag I carried with me on my routes. I ripped a few of the pages out that had writing on them, and from that Saturday on, I began to populate the canvas with all things related to five fold and the apostolic.

So this little green book marks the beginning of an epic journey for me. The graphic on the front is what I drew on my lunch breaks at FedEx. The next few posts will be snap shots of some content from this green book. Some of this content made it into the book, some of it didn't. Either way, it is a peak into the fuzzy front end. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

211. Apostolic Ministry and Legitimacy Part 4

In  II Corinthians 3, Paul is looking to contrast his style of ministry with the super-apostles style of ministry. Perceiving themselves as "agents of transformation," they couldn't help but position themselves as central focal points in the community.

Paul comes against this style of ministry not just because it is false, but because it hinders the community from accessing the transformative power of the Glory of the Lord. Their superior rhetoric, manifestations of power, and letters of recommendation may at first seem to be a necessary component of leadership. I mean, who doesn't want to communicate well, demonstrate the power of the Spirit, and accelerate the establishment of our credibility through organizational legitimacy?

Paul does not have a beef with any of these things in themselves, it is HOW the super-apostles are utilizing these things in the community. If your rhetoric, gifts/charisms, or reputation stands in the way of people developing a fascination with the Glory of the Lord, then your style of ministry will ultimately bring death. It is the Glory of the Lord that provides the dynamic power to perpetually transform.

Paul understood this as both a follower and a leader. Notice the "we" language in 3:18 so characteristically debated in the book of II Corinthians. Paul includes himself with the community as one who needs to look beyond himself onto a greater, more glorious object of affection. Both the leader and the follower are perpetually transformed "from glory to glory" by beholding the Glory of the Lord. Notice the diagram below.

Paul is both a leader and a follower. He is both disciple and rabbi. Paul puts himself in front of the Corinthian community as an object of imitation because he too orients himself towards the glory of the Lord. He too is transparent and weak. To imitate Paul is to learn how to look towards Jesus and be shaped by the patterns of the gospel. To imitate Paul is to learn how to develop the patterns life that focus our attention on the Glory of the Lord. To follow Paul as a leader is to pattern ones life after The Pattern which he himself patterns his life...the gospel. So Paul is not just inviting the Corinthians to follow a leader, he is also, simultaneously, asking them to follow a follower. In doing so, the Corinthians would learn how to both lead for, and follow after, Jesus. this is essentially what Paul did with Timothy.(I Cor 4:15-19)

Seeing this logic within the text, I have no problem with leadership, using the language of leadership, or training other people to be leaders. The catch to this is, what style of ministry are we modeling for other people to imitate? Paul knew that superior rhetoric was quick way to establish legitimacy in the Corinthian context. He intentionally scaled back his rhetorical devices so as to side step the Corinthians tendency to be more fascinated with the container than the content. (I Cor 2:1-4)

Paul was quick to deflect attention off himself by exposing his suffering and weakness. When it came up as a point of contention to de-legitimize his apostleship, Paul utilized the gospel to legitimize his ministry. He essentially says "The reason I am legit is because the patterns of my life mirror(imitate) the patterns of the gospel."(II Corinthians 4) Ultimately, it was the gospel that funded Paul's apostolic legitimacy.

So question: what do you tend to lean on when it comes time to "legitimize" your ministry? Numbers, rhetoric, invitations to speak at other churches, charisms??? How we seek to legitimize our ministries will shape the style of ministry we engage in.