God Directed Deviations

Christianity, Culture, Discipleship, Mission, Missional

Losing Your Missional Rhythm?

11220852_10153386353550087_4264804667560796886_nI have been participating in what’s commonly called a ‘drum circle’ for the better part of the last 4 months. People from all over the world have come to our tiny town in the middle of the Andean Cloud Forest to sit in, sometimes with the most bizarre percussion instruments, and make beats. It’s a very odd but fun community of hippies, nomads, and regular folk looking for a diversion. Many of the locals have taken the time to make their own drums and percussion instruments consisting of materials found locally. I too have made several.

Javier, the one who spent nearly 3 weeks with me in teaching to make a drum, has left our group for a time. He’s also the one that establishes the base beat or rhythm when we gather together to play.  ‘Javi,’ as they call him is an consciencous man from another country who has carved out a life here. He’s a philosopher, and has much to say about the good treatment of other people.

Without Javi at our drum circle, we struggled and are struggling a bit in establish a good corporate rhythm. It’s as if he could sense the angst, or joy, or anger of the group and begin a base beat that reflected the same. Once Javi begins playing the rest of the group begins as well. In the beginning of a session, there’s a lot of synchronicity. Then comes the improvisation. While Javi maintains the base beat, people begin to experiment and explore and the sounds of the community erupt with unique rhythms, songs, and sounds that would make no sense were they to exist by themselves.

Now that Javi is gone, several have tried to establish that base beat at our circle, but it’s proved difficult. The first drummer, the one who dares to expose him or herself, really puts themselves out there. If that person’s rhythm is off or just plain bad, the rest will try to accompany, but it just because a porridge of dissonance.

I was thinking about how mission is like this. There are lots of mission, or even ‘missional’ leaders that are gifted in sensing the pulse of a local culture and establish base beats of movement. Others come along side and there’s overwhelming synchronicity. But I think we make our Javi’s into more than there are supposed to be and that synchronicity as well. We, the church, aren’t open to improvisation and the diverse rhythms of the Holy Spirit.

We call these rhythm establishers ‘leader’ or even ‘missional gurus,’ but I think many of them would cringe at the idea. Javi would never say that he leads the drum circle. But he senses, feels the tone, and strikes the skin of his drum with an uncanny discernment.

Somewhere along the missional way, we’ve lost our Javi’s or forced them to beat the same drums and repeat the same rhythms as everyone else. We’ve made then into ‘leaders,’ with all of the binding assumptions and requirements and lost our improv. I miss Javi at our circle. Now, after a few weeks, other Javi’s are emerging. Others are sensing the mood and the pulse and improv is picking up again.

The missional movement, by choice or force, has lost it’s rhythm. It’s lost its Javi. The normal reaction to those who would stick there necks out and dare to drum a different beat is theological warfare, competition for recognition, and even outright explosion from community.

They don’t want to lead, they just want to play the drum in a way that inspires others to do likewise and create environments of creativity, freedom, improvisation, and a good beat.

Has the missional movement lost its rhythm?  

Blogging, Christianity, Church, Discipleship, Ecclesiology, Hierarchy, Making Disciples, Missiology, Missions, Organic, Short-Term Missions, The Church, Theology

The Church Acquires its Real Nature, Unique Identity, and True Vocation from Mission. God’s Mission.

3leaves“The church is a community of faith. Under no circumstances should we lose this very concept of the church. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not establish an institution that came to be called “church.” He gave a particular mission to his disciples: Go forth into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 10: 15). In fact the raison d’être (reason for existence) of our church, its true richness and real value is neither in its structure nor in its hierarchy, neither in its theology nor in its spirituality. Its true richness lies in its missionary engagement, evangelistic witness and diakonal action. We should remind ourselves that mission does not come from the church; the church acquires its real nature, unique identity and true vocation from mission. Hence a church becomes church when it fulfills its missionary calling.” ~ Aram K’eshishean

This post is the third in a series of posts that are designed to get your mission committees, small groups, cohorts, and bible studies talking about mission.  The first, “Two Churches, One City, Almost No Common Ground in Mission,” is an interactive scenario which can create a lively discussion. The second, “The ‘Church’ Only Exists When She Exercises Her Missionary Charge.” is a round table discussion of sorts with 3 questions at the end.  Feel free to tweet any of the short quotes above by hitting the ‘tweet this’ link after each.

In an age where people do and don’t want to be indemnified by there activities, the church’s indignity always come by being and doing. In Him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

Are you ‘in Christ?’ ~ “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)

Are you ‘living’ for and in Him? ~ “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.” (Colossians 2:6)

Are you moving in Him? ~ “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18)

‘Being the Church,’ a popular sound bite, is only possible by being in Christ, living for and in Him, and moving as he would move. You can’t just “be the church” without mission. The church locally become a local church when she engages mission. If the local church spends most of it’s energy, time, resources, and money sustaining its own being, then it’s skipping steps one through three and trying to leapfrog into a false identity as a ‘Christian Church.’ Likewise a follower of Christ can not be identified by simply ‘being.’ Individuals must also be in Christ, live in and for Him, and move as He would move.


Do you agree or disagree with  Aram K’eshishean’s quote and my follow-up? Why? 






APEST, Apostles, Christianity, Culture, Ecclesiology, Evangelists, God's Kingdom, Hermeneutics, Hierarchy, Leadership, Missiology, Mission, Missions, Pastors, Prophets, Short-Term Missions, Social Justice, The Church, Theology

Let’s Rescue Missionaries from the ‘Pastorate.’

HTB19_eeFVXXXXcxXVXXq6xXFXXXLInsanity, according to Albert Einstein is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The ‘pastorate,’ an unfortunate term, has caught many a missionary by the tail and impeded the work of God in the world. When the lasso of the pastorate is thrown around the missionary, and likewise the assumption; ‘all missionaries are pastors,’ is insisted on or strongly insinuated, it has grave consequences for pastors and missionaries and to mission and church.

1.  It puts an unnecessary yoke on the missionary who may be gifted in other ways.

Not every missionary is given the Ephesians 4:11 gift of being pastoral. In fact, most missionaries are apostolic, evangelistic, and prophetic. To restrain the missionary or to demand the pastoral function of a missionary is to be either biblically presumptuous or just plain lazy. That one is sent of God into the world to herald the good news (mark 16:15), to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in foreign contexts, or even to ‘do justice’ (Micah 6:8) does not require a pastor or a person with pastoral gifting.

2.   It’s backwards.

It’s Christology – Missiology – Ecclesiology.  First comes Jesus in all things concerning mission and church. Christ informs mission and mission informs church. Jesus determines the mission through the Holy Spirit, and the mission determines church. To place pastoral authority over mission is to put church before mission. This is completely backwards.  If it were true, then you’d have to create a pastor before you could have a missionary.  Think about that for a moment. The trajectory to being a missionary, if the current systems of things are correct, is to train up pastors and then release some of them as missionaries.
You’d be hard pressed to substantiate that from scripture.  The pastor derives his authority from being in the midst of a congregation working and worshiping WITHIN them, not OVER them. (1 Peter 5:1-4) The church doesn’t have a mission. The Mission, God’s mission has a Church. If there are key roles which seem to have authority on mission, then that authority should be derived from the foundation laying work of people gifted in the apostolic and prophetic. The pastor’s leadership role in mission may be third at best. Don’t trust a pastor who wants to run the mission program and keep control over it. Trust the pastor who is disposed to leaving his congregation behind with a well developed group of leaders to search for the one lost sheep. That’s the heart of a pastor.
3.  It creates something which Jesus was emphatically against.
Hierarchies, or tiered structures of authority are not to be practiced by the church. Jesus’ words in Matthew 20:25,26 and Mark 10:42, 43 are precise in their propositions and clearly understood by their audience.
“You know that those who are considered rulers of the unbelievers use their self-given authority to dominate, or ‘lord over’ others, then their higher officials exercise authority over them, and so on… It shouldn’t be that way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”
By the way, the word ‘servant’ in those passages is the word ‘deacon’ in Greek, and the deacons serve ‘among’ the brethren, not over them.
The church plays a joke on itself if localities of it believe they can establish hierarchies without ‘lording over’ others. The pastor is not the key person in effective mission, the first mobilizer, the central catalyst, or even the one in charge of mission. To make him so is to reject Jesus teaching.

4.  It reinforces the unbiblical Idea that only an ordained pastor can commission a missionary.

‘Pastor’ is not a title. It’s a gift. The pastor is not in charge of the congregation and is not an extension of God’s authority on earth. The pastor does not commission the missionary. The pastor obeys the Holy Spirit and with the congregation, sends them out with every resource available from the local congregation. That includes the prayer, the equipping, the resources, and the commitment to follow through until the end of their journeys. The pastor, like the missionary, obeys the Holy spirit. It would be a faulty hermeneutic to assume that the church in Antioch ‘commissioned’ or ‘ordained’ Paul and Barnabas. They did not. The Antioch church obeyed the Spirit. That’s it. Paul and Barnabas obeyed the Spirit. That’s it. In fact, if we look closer at Acts 13:1-3, we’ll see that pastors are not mentioned, and the ones who laid hands on Paul on Barnabas were most likely those who were gifted in the prophetic and teaching.

5.  It sidelines the majority of the church and sustains the ill-conceived notion of a clergy laity divide.

 Missionary development, formation, and sending is done by everyone in the local church and all others in the universal church that have influence, or those who are met ‘along the way.’  Everyone gets to participate in the building up of a missionary. Everyone gets to be a missionary in that sense. Whether one goes or stays has little to do with the missionary impulse to live as sent ones in the world. (John 17:21) There is no clergy and laity in the church. If there’s no clergy, there’s no ‘Pastor’ in the commonly accepted notion of the word.
6.  It usurps and distorts Ephesians 4:11-16
Making the pastor the key to missions or requiring the pastor-ization of the missionary is an act of violence to people, to the word of God, and to mission itself. The church, for the better part of the last few centuries, has excised the apostle, prophet, and even the evangelist from the ‘the work’ (mission) of God in the world. The pastor-teacher has taken control, pridefully, of everything. The weekly service, the centrality of that event, the pulpit, and the pastor have done a hostile takeover of mission. This is not to be so among you.  That is unless, of course you actually think that the church has already
“attained to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13)  If it has, then you’re right, there are no more apostles, prophets, and evangelists. But, then again, there would be no pastors either.
It’s time to stop. A missionary is a wonderful gift of God whose talents and abilities can be as diverse as God’s creation itself. The missionary is willing to pay a price that few understand. The missionary shouldn’t have to pay the piper of a domineering pastor who wants to control at a distance. A missionary can be pastoral, but doesn’t have to be. Stop automatically assuming that missionaries are pastors. Stop training up missionaries to be pastors when they could just as well be prophets, or evangelists, or even apostles and teachers. Stop calling every missionary you see ‘pastor,’ and call them ‘brother,’ or ‘sister’ instead. Stop using pastoral theology as a catch-all in the preparation of a missionary. Stop teaching homiletics to better the show and start equipping servants/deacons to be great sent ones in the Kingdom of God. If the church keeps going back to those things which aren’t working, then by definition, we’re insane. As always, a few questions:

Who leads mission in the local church’s sphere of influence?

Who leads mission where there is no local church?

Who leads mission where there are multiple overlapping local churches?
Two more:
Do missionaries have to be pastors?
What does it mean to ‘lead mission’ anyway? 
Culture, Discipleship, Evangelism, Making Disciples, Missions, The Church, The Gospel

Can a Local church (ekklesia), be Born in a Day?

11125093_10153450248615087_2028852251_nCan a local church (ekklesia), be born in a day? On the surface this would appear to be a simple question, but unpacking it with our own experiences, assumptions, and theologies can be prove to be a bit challenging.
Before you attempt to do that, here’s a brief story.
Last week, with a team of short-term missionaries, I visited a place which I will not name, and up to that point, had little or no gospel awareness. There was a bit of plowing going on since December of last year. We brought food to families who were in need, we visited with some afterwards, and I’ve been present among them quietly on more than a few occasions.
When we entered the village, I sought permission to enter a public elementary school that had about 50 children.  I introduced myself to the administrators and asked if I could bring some folks in to share a message of God, give them some gifts, play with the kids.
With slight hesitation,  that permission was granted. The gates were unlocked and I entered. It’s still a bit strange to me to be granted access to a public school after 10 years here in Ecuador, but in the rural fringes, people are much more disposed to a ‘cultural exchange’ without the hangups about proselytizing etc.
After speaking with the kids for a few minutes about what was going to happen next, I brought the team of 60 onto school grounds. They were super excited at the sight of  a strange looking bunch of Gringos bearing gifts, but also very curious.
For the next few hours, the kids were loved on, listened to, played with, lavished with goodies, facepaint, balloons, and THE MESSAGE OF THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS. While there were some gospel presentations made to large groups of kids in traditional ways, there was also a tremendous amount of one on one time.
As a missionary who has made major paradigm shifts in the way I present the gospel, make disciples, and do ‘church planting,’ I am always afraid that short-term missionaries will be more disposed to dog and pony shows than communicating love and a transforming message. It takes a long time to build trust with individuals and even longer with communities, and I guard that trust forcefully. But with this team, things were different.
While it’s hard to pull short-termers away from their agendas, this particular group of people were ready to meet needs and be flexible to the Spirit’s leading.  They were teachable and in sync with what was going on around them.
As our time at the school drew to a close, the parents of some of the children started to come to pick up their kids. In fact, almost a dozen sets of parents came. It’s unusual because normally only a few parents come and the rest of the kids walk home.
The fervor of the gospel being relayed was still present. Some members of the team, including myself, sought to share the gospel with the parents and the administrators of the school. This may seem sort of cold or intrusive or even like cliché pressure tactics associated with ‘evangelism,’ but it was not. There was genuine interest expressed by EVERY SINGLE PARENT that walked into the school grounds.
I had a thousand thoughts running through my head. Questions that are common to evangelism etc., like “Aren’t we supposed to be ‘earning our right to speak into their lives?’ and “Is it right to ‘preach’ to those that we have not established a relationship with?” and even “Is all of this just more of the same Christian activity that inoculates people against the truth of Christ?” Finally, “Is this what ‘church planting’ is supposed to look like?” Yeah, it might be a little strange to ask myself these sorts of questions after having spent nearly 10 years on the mission field, but a bit of self-reflection and analysis is important when so many lives hang in the balance.
Despite some of the apparent stereotypical behavior going on, God was in our midst in a special way. Almost every parent received the message of the gospel with joy and tears.
We packed up our beads and bobbles, took a break, and then split up into small teams to ‘blanket’ the entire community with the good news. Yes, we went house to house, knocked on doors, and had a myriad of genuine conversations with most of the community.
The receptiveness of the gospel prevailed. The word of God prevailed. (Acts 19:20) Nearly everyone we came in contact with listened to and received the gospel.
As the day was going on, people from others teams were ‘reporting in’ about how miraculously their day was going. I’ll have to admit I was stoked! It was then that I thought, “Is it possible that a local church, an ekklesia, could be born in a single day?” Maybe it was the wrong question, Maybe I need to reexamine my ecclesiology. Maybe I need to reconsider what a church or a church plant really is.
You see, I’ve been so down with normal functionless Christianity that my pendulum has often swung too far in the other direction. My weariness of congregations that have no ministry, no mission, no reconciliation, no justice, and no transformation outside of church doors has made me critical of every inkling or semblance of those sorts of behaviors and attitudes.
As the day was drawing to a close, I met with a man and his family who were very inquisitive about what was going on in his community. We took the opportunity to explain what and WHO was going on. After sharing the gospel with him and his receiving of it, he said “Look, I understand what’s going on here. I also feel like I need to provide a place, a place out of the weather where my neighbors and I can gather together and grow together in this message and in the person of Christ that you told me about.” He then offered his home and very spacious garage and covered parking area. BOOM! People and place.
To me, there’s no doubt that a local church can be born in a day. I watched it happen, and this wasn’t the first time. The last time it happened like this, it transformed a another local community which is still thriving spiritually. I am hoping that it will repeat itself here.
So, one more time… Can a local church (ekklesia) be born in a day? 
Evangelism, Ministry, Missiology, Mission, Missions, Social Justice, The Gospel

What About Plowing In Short-Term Missions Trips?

SONY DSCIf we’re honest, much of short-term missions is about harvesting. The unsettled urgency to ‘win souls,’ and the expenditures towards that end drive the reaping, plucking, and gathering of ‘fruit.’ In many cases that fruit is considered to be the canny but hesitant confessions of unripened and uncultivated hearts, or the hastily repeated prayers of  an accommodating people.
When did inducing the labor of preemies become the norm in mission?
 In Jeremiah 4:3, The Lord says;
“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns.”
Plowing is to be done corporately by the people of God with people who are not yet of God. Plowing is a family affair. There are planters and waterers in abundance and they have their rewards, but where are the plowers?
Plowing isn’t glamorous, there’s little recognition to be had in it, and it’s just plain hard work. It is most strenuous and the most unyielding stage in the harvest process. There’s nothing do show for your efforts except overturned dirt. Who remembers the work of one who plows?
Many times, people will say to a mission’s coordinator, “Put Us to work!” or “We’re not afraid of getting our hands dirty,” or even “We’ll do whatever it takes to be of service in your context,” but the hard word of plowing rarely enters into the picture. Could you imagine the look on the faces of a locally sponsored church mission that reported, ” We plowed up much fallow ground and prepared the way for others to seed, weed, and water?” Can you sense the tension of the impending question;
“Umm, that’s great, but how many souls were saved?”

“Where are the sharecroppers? Where are the cultivators of love? Where are the plowers of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 


A few questions;
What if your next short-term mission trip dedicated itself fully to plowing?
What would that look like?
How would you muster support for this mundanely perceived aspect of mission?