Thursday, March 27, 2014

genesis DNA Spirit

"God therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." Matt 28:19

I love the Holy Spirit.

Coming to faith into both a Reformed theological story as well as a Charismatic experience was an act of divine kindness. I thought everyone believed what we believed and did what we did. It was only after a while that I found, to my surprise, that all did not have the same story.

Now I must say right at the outset, I have a prejudice against the charismatic subculture that has caused so much damage globally. But the sheer beauty, tenderness, intimacy and empowerment that the Holy Spirit brings, is too magnificent to neglect, ignore, hinder. We certainly don't want to be guilty of of believing in the Father, the Son and the Holy Bible [ as a substitute for the Holy Spirit]- either by proclamation or practice.

In our Statement of Faith we wrote:

"We believe the Holy Spirit indwells, sanctifies, leads, illumines, and graciously empowers for godly living and service all who come to faith in Christ. As well as the continuation of all the “charismata” of the Spirit, and that He desires to fill and empower believers for ministry, mission, witness, and for the building up of His church in love."

The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity and deserves to be honored, listened to, heeded, responded and discerned. As this is about our DNA more than our theology allow me to explain.

We simply cannot achieve our divine mission without this third person of the Trinity. We have to surrender our right of prejudice and preference as to what he can do, and how he can do it. That does not mean we cast our brains aside. It does mean that we become students of the scriptures to learn of the ways in which the Spirit has ministered. Then accept the responsibility to be students of church history, to see how he has led the church in days gone by.

The older I get, the more committed  I am to die daily. It is so easy to justify disobedience to cultural sensitivity. That dear reader, dishonors the one we really need to be sensitive to.

Back in the day we borrowed the phrase from some of the British leaders who spoke of being "naturally supernatural and supernaturally natural". There is no room to change voice tone, gain a quiver in our prayers, to shake and somehow do things that appear more mystical. I simply do not see that in the life of Jesus, nor in his ministry. Whenever we are asked about such things I simply look for it in the life of Christ. If it is not there, clear and evident, it may still be God, but we cannot make it the big thing, if it is valid at all.

We want all of the Holy Spirit. We do not want to quench him, hinder him, resist him, prescribe to him, liturgically exclude him! Rather we want to be led by him, walk by him, live by the him, be empowered by him - see him evident in our daily lives, our weekly gatherings, our mission moments. Without him we simply cannot... 


genesis DNA Mates

"I used to call you servants... now I call you friends..." John 15:15

This is the glue!

When we began this intoxicating journey of church planting, we were ignorant, naive and passionate. We knew we wanted to "do life with mates". That was not a mantra or an official DNA piece. It was a passion. We were not professionals looking for a promotion or artists looking for a gig. We saw God is "three in one". The beauty, mystery and wonder of the Trinity drove us to believe that the glue of this story was our friendships ["communitas" as Alan Hirsch calls it - friendship forged under fire].

Then we looked at Jesus. The Jesus approach always seemed to be through the door of relationship. From before the beginning, through the beginning "let us make man in our image", the power of relationship was the glue that held every narrative together. When Jesus called the disciples to himself, there was not an employment arrangement with job descriptions. No this was the second person in the Godhead who was inviting 12 men onto a journey, to become friends, find 'communitas' through the depth of his tragedy as they became a true band of brothers "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" W Shakespeare

I know the modern western church is systems driven. That is not our story. We love what the Australians call 'mateship'.  We love the front door to be real and true relationships. There needs to be a God joining of hearts. This takes time to see if there is substance to this connection.

This is a journey in "mateship". It is not the Chris and Meryl road show. Dear Lord forbid! It is a group of men and women, who God has joined together, sharing a deep and growing love for each other, on mission. Some of us have been friends for over 20 years. We have labored in different vineyards together.  We have walked the streets of foreign cities together. We have shared platforms together. We have planted churches together. We have dreamed together. We have cried together. We have prayed together. We have not always seen eye to eye - but have believed God has affectionately put us together in the looseness of friendships, not the claustrophobia of a system.

Others are newer friendships. Like courting, it is still sometimes a little interesting, even awkward as we take our baby steps forward. That is how these honest, real friendships work. There are days they are remarkably easy, then other days they require effort, labor, clarification, conversation. But if we are in it for the long haul, then it is worth it.

These friendships cannot be idols. Strong mateship can sometimes demand a loyalty beyond the Lord's requirements or  truth honoring. I do not want to live there, nor do we want leaders we are walking with, to ever feel this subtle but deathly pressure.

Having said that, our DNA acknowledges that this relational glue takes time. If it took Jesus 3 years with 12 men and one betrayed him. We accept that those true and deep friendships will take years to form. What we desire, is deep, honest, true, real and authentic relationships that are generous, inclusive and kind.

Leaders and churches that want to journey with us cannot look for membership forms. This is not a club they are joining or a network they qualify to connect with. This is a "A Family of Churches, who share a Common Theology, Together on Mission." There is between 6 months to a year where walking together will require keen steps of coffee, meals, getting to events we are holding, training days we are hosting, getting some of us into the community and see if there is indeed a sharing of heart, a connecting of soul, going on mission together - has God joined us together!? As this happens the other cool conversations can continue - that of theology, ecclesiology, missiology to see if there is more in common than friendship.

We were not designed to do this alone, nor were we architected to live in hierarchy. We were designed to live in a world of love, honor, gift recognition and real true relationships - bringing glory to the Father, proclaiming the great gospel of the Son and doing it all in the power of the Spirit .

I want to do it with mates...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

genesis DNA E4

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers to..." Eph 4:11

When I was first trying to understand the ways of God, I was very intrigued by the story of the Ark. My subsequent study seemed to point to this stunning conclusion - only one seafaring vessel would be able to withstand the forces from below, the power from above and the sheer turbulence at sea level. That was this vessel God designed. That made me sit up and ask: "The church faces similar challenges. Did God give such specifications for her as well?"

The church has been designed to withstand the forces of darkness from below, the weight and glory of God from above, and the turbulence from the daily fight . As specific as God was with the ark, he has not left us guessing. The Ephesians 4 gifts are major contributors to keeping the church-vessel buoyant and on course in this project planet earth.

To spell out what they do in a short blog like this is trying the impossible - so I beg your grace. These ascension grace gifts are those that Jesus distributed to certain folks - not all believers. [This is opposed to the "charismata" gifts of the Holy Spirit available to all]

Here is a very simple [or too simplistic] set of thoughts on each of these E4 gifts:

Apostle - the 'sent ones' who are entrepreneurial masterbuilders, laying foundations in churches so that the gospel can advance to all nations;
Prophets - by "foretelling" and "forthtelling" they are committed to ensuring that the "wells are unblocked and the life of God flows uninterrupted in each believer and in every church";
Evangelists - are proclaimers of the gospel, seeking to reach every man, woman and child with the gospel, being reapers of the harvest whilst seeking to give every believer a passion for this harvest field;
Pastors - their deep felt conviction is to nurture, disciple and walk every believer and church into health, wholeness and maturity;
Teachers -they are guardians of the truth. Their zeal is for accurate exegesis, that the bible is fully understood, communicated and applied, placing it in the context of the day.

For the sake of brevity may I make a few comments to bring clarity and a sense of value to these gifts as we understand it:
*  These gifts are not for all but "he gave some to be...". They cannot be learnt or trained into. They are Christ given and he chooses who he gives them to;
*   These gifts are not the top of the spiritual food chain - the new celebrities in a idol driven culture. They are servants of the Most High and eunuchs to the bride, readying her for her groom;
*   They are not local church offices [like elders and deacons] but are trans-local gifts who dispense their grace to churches, that they have relationship with;
*   In essence their task is not to "guest teach", but rather to provide ongoing collaboration with local churches to encourage, empower and equip them on their journeys;
*   Every church needs all 5 these gifts to invest into their community as they bring vital anchor pieces for health and maturity;
*   Sometimes their ministry simply blesses [it empowers but the E4 gifts and the church are not on the same journey], sometimes these gifts build [meaning their partnership in the gospel is ongoing to construct  both a local and a larger story];
*   Apostles and prophets lay foundations. These are needed when a church is being planted [launched], when a church is being replanted [she has grown stagnant, stuck in old ways], when she entering a new chapter [growth, influence, profile] or when calamity has struck [leadership failure, church split...], then these two gifts are needed on the ground with the community;
*   Apostles have spheres of influence [2 Cor 10] that includes the specific churches that they are working with at present. These other gifts work with them to complete the mission God has given them;
*   The local church is the big story NOT these gifts. This must be maintained at all times!
*   These gifts not only build up the churches but offer the churches a togetherness "together we can achieve more" Terry Virgo;
*   Like Jesus, these 5 [or some say 4 gifts as they see the pastor and the teacher as one office] gifts are there to multiply - like the parable of the mustard seed that becomes a large tree in which the birds make their nests - more churches, more leaders, more nations...

Although this is brief summary, I hope this peaks your interest for more study...

genesis DNA Indigenous

"For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles" Gal 2:8

When Steve Turner wrote: "History repeats itself, has to, no-one listens"... his prophetic poetic heart was calling for moments of deep honest review of all that has gone before. We should benefit from the lessons learnt of days gone by. They are our greatest tutorial.

It is therefore really good to reflect and debrief our story with honesty and biblical transparency. In the heat of the engine room spiking, we were so busy with global evangelization that we did not sit back and consider our ways, reflect on our processes. Why are several decades was what we were doing still so South African? Was that what the Lord required or was it our lack of consideration?

The last few years have been a gift of divine generosity to sit with friends and review a rather remarkable 3 decades of ministry. There have been some amazing moments of God interruptions and Macedonian calls. There have been some painful moments, where the hurt en route, was deeper than ever imagined. But in all of this, God is still great, His Mission is still global renewal, the Gospel is still revolutionary and our Call is still to churches, cities and countries.

As we studied the text, over and over again, certain things seemed to emerge:
*   Jesus raised up 12 men in whom he entrusted this grand assignment to disciple all nations;
*   They were to spearhead this adventure with no one man replacing him as a global pope - one man over all the work of the then church;
*   He also sent other apostles who "fell from the sky" [Michael Eaton] like Paul and Barnabas;
*   Each apostle was given a specific sphere [2 Cor 10] - Paul to the Gentiles, Peter to the Jews were the most obvious;
*   These spheres were not lines in the sand with a spirit of territorialism, rather there was a clear sense that Jesus was the head of the church, no man was;
*   There is a difference between first generation pioneering apostles and the second and third generation apostles - these latter gifts  were to provide apostolic continuity in a multiplied adventure not to simply repeat the legacy of the past;

These and other key moments of reflection began to shape our thinking massively. One of our cornerstone commissions in the unfolding genesis story, is to -

Recognize, raise up and release emerging indigenous apostles, to develop their own journey, in the context in which they minister. When that happens, our work in that area is complete. 

We are pretty passionate about establishing indigenous apostles and apostolic spheres in every context where we currently serve. They know their culture. They understand the storyline of their world. They know the pitfalls of their warfare. They understand the nuances of their context's silent screams. They get the gospel's work in their territory.

When that has been achieved, we will move on to the new place the Father opens up for us. There we plan to repeat this process... and again, and again. As Paul says in Romans 15 "But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain...: vs 23 - 24.

Like Peter, this apostolic sphere may be among a specific nation or ethnicity or however the Father plans to define it. The very multiplying nature of the heart of God is so empowering. We are not seeking to simply add more churches, nations to our spiritual landscape. Rather we want to follow the example of Christ, to see as many indigenous apostles and their spheres, raised up and released before we too will say: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Tim 4:7

This is a radical departure from the classic way of building apostolic movements where the emphasis is addition under one leader. That is not our story. As a father I have loved seeing my kids grow up, find their story, leave home and live out their divine global gospel assignment. That is why this approach to biblical apostolicity seems so obvious to us. We are simply repeating what we do at home onto a global stage.

genesis DNA Believe

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of... Preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season..." 2 TIm 3:14 - 4:5

When we speak of blurred edges, we do not speak of theology, doctrine, belief. We have some things that we are convinced of. Of our theology we simply place an intentional comma behind our definitions. This is what we believe now, but the knowledge of the Lord is a journey - there is still so much to know of him - how high, wide, deep, long... we are yet to discover.

I had the most wonderful few hours last wednesday with 3 young pastors who have brilliant minds. Their journey's both factual and theological have been very different. However as we sat to write out What we believe... I watched God the Holy Spirit, empower us to find a common / similar set of beliefs, with laughter and amazingly great Starbucks. It was like God grabbed the 4 of us and simply drew us together - from many stories he is creating one.

This is what we believe ...

                We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.

We believe that there is one God, eternally existent and co-equal in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in his inauguration of the Kingdom of God, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory to consummate the Kingdom.

We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential, and that only by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, and not of any work or merit in man.

We believe the Holy Spirit indwells, sanctifies, leads, illumines, and graciously empowers for godly living and service all who come to faith in Christ. As well as the continuation of all the “charismata” of the Spirit, and that He desires to fill and empower believers for ministry, mission, witness, and for the building up of His church in love.

We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of judgement.

We believe in the church, local, global and historical, of which our Lord Jesus Christ is the head. The church is the redemptive community of Jesus called to demonstrate and declare the good news of Gods Kingdom in the world. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

genesis DNA Togetherness

"All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him..." 1 Sam 22:2

Don't you love that word - togetherness?

From when God made Adam in the garden, he said that it 'was not good for man to be alone...' The Trinity is the frame and foundation for all of life. This perfect togetherness is defined as being 'unity in diversity'. We were simply not made to be alone, work alone, partner alone [if that were possible].

When I met Dudley Daniel in 1983, he spoke then of this verse - a promise God gave him of those who would be joining him on this global adventure of discipling the nations. And we saw this happening. Many connected in from many backgrounds, with as many stories and God forged us into a strong fighting force advancing the kingdom. Paul echoed this sentiment when he wrote: "Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong...Let him who boasts boast in the Lord" 1 Cor 1:26 - 31

Whilst we were on sabbatical, we were enquiring from the Lord what he requires of us, He took me back to this text. The emphasis to me was not David as leader. Rather it was the glorious redemption of a gracious God who loves doing great things with ordinary people, together.

genesis has no dreams of global colonization. Rather there is the desire to see those who lead churches and even the churches themselves, journey from distress, in debt, discontented  to find new God grace rhythms to health and wholeness. Added to this is to see hub / base / lighthouse churches established who shine their light to provide love, protection, security, clarity and example to the smaller churches under their orb. And then of course, to see from each nation the emergence of an authentic indigenous apostolic story / sphere emerge [from one apostolic story, many]. That is a togetherness that is worth fighting for.

This kind of togetherness [like a family] celebrates diversity, uniqueness, creativity. It seeks to help every church find their own story whilst loving belonging to a bigger story at the same time. This kind of togetherness like a good father, who loves seeing each child as fearfully and wonderfully made without feeling the pressure to get each child to conform to one style, size or behavior.

Togetherness that revisits the scripture, embraces the solid foundation that the scripture provides [as we find it in our statement of faith], whilst allowing room for love, leadership, learning and humility. It values every church as well as incorporates a sense of belonging and the safety of not being alone.

"... you also are like living stones are being built into a spiritual house..." 1Pet 2:5
This house that the Father is building is not made of bricks[each one exactly the same - same words, theology, vocabulary, liturgy...] but of stones, each one gloriously different and yet similar enough to be built into a single house. This togetherness is not around conformity but similarity. Again I am not putting my passion on others, however the DNA that governs our journey is celebrating trinitarian unity and diversity. That is not an easy house to build, but it is a togetherness that is worth fighting for.

A peep into the language and imagery of the prophet reads: "I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together" Is 41:19. The clever people tell us these trees do not naturally live together. There ecological requirements are different - but when God joins us together on mission, it works... there is "a pool of water in the wilderness" vs 18

Those who in distress, in debt, discontented are not to be left in their trauma. True togetherness will place us on a journey "that you may mature and complete, lacking nothing" Jam 1:4. The perseverance that the trials will require include the challenges of togetherness. But I would not have it any other way.

genesis DNA Rights

"I will come and remove the lampstand from its place..." Rev 2:5
"I have received full payment and more. I am well supplied having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent..."Phil 4:18
"Are you not the workmanship in the Lord... for you are the seal of my apostleship...Do we not have the right to...nevertheless we do not make use of these rights...?" 1Cor 9:1 - 27

This is a beautiful part of the bible story. In the kindness of God we have key pieces from the life of Peter, John and Paul that gives us an inkling into the practical workings of the apostles and the churches they helped establish.

The part we have to get right is the holy tension of between:
*   Each church has a specific, God given assignment, mandate [what the bible calls a lamp stand ] for which they are to be accountable and intentional.
*  The apostles are to catalyze a togetherness, bringing churches onto a incarnational global stage, enlarging their world, especially where 'together we can achieve more' Terry Virgo.

Both are sacred and have to be upheld, supported and made possible. Many churches find themselves in the lopsided posture, that their church is the center of the universe and the only thing that really matters is what they are doing. Major parts of the text are neglected and ignored.

There is tragedy on the other side also. When the togetherness piece overwhelms the local community and their own lamp stand is ignored, neglected so that the 'togetherness mission' is all that matters, there is no divine smile on this action. This denominational mindset requires conformity to the system and surrender to the sacred lampstand the Father has given. Conversely, when churches place themselves in the center of the universe, not only do they lack the global nature of the apostolic but they will be ruined by their independence. It is  a huge tension we simply cannot forfeit.

I love the example of the apostles and elders working together in Acts 15. Here a profound theological crisis is looming. How will these leaders walk out this holy tension on a matter that affects all of them? My love for this story is multifold. Firstly, the apostles do not bombastically assume that they are the 'top dogs' and all have to listen to their decisions. Secondly, the elders are not territorial about their church and hold the apostles at bay. Thirdly, the congregation is in the conversation as all of this does affect them. Fourthly James gets up and wraps up the dialogue holding all the perspectives in place. This is a wondrous example of how this can work - the integrity of the local church, matched with the collaborative involvement of the apostles whilst the congregation are actively present.

This can work, if we are not obsessed with local church territorialism, nor apostolic imposition. Rather through honor and respect, each is Spirit sensitive and appreciative of the value and necessity of the other. I love the way the encounter ends: "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements..." Acts 15:28

genesis DNA Apostles

"first of all apostles... last of all apostles..." [1 Cor 12:28 & 1 Cor 4:9]

We love the local church - that extraordinary community of the king who are on assignment to show the world just what he is like. She is the big story and we are eunuchs to this bride.

In our statement of faith we declare that:
"We believe in the church local, global and historical..."

The simple purpose of this blog is affirmation and instruction. In spite of much local church deconstruction, we do not believe that wherever two Christians meet over a beer that is the church. Rather, there is a glorious architecture that the sacred text lays out, as to what the church is biblically. We affirm that every local church is autonomous and elder governed. [Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5]

This community of the king exists to partner with Him - the Father in fulfilling his cosmic plans and purposes, the Son in declaring and demonstrating the gospel of the kingdom till his return, with the Holy Spirit as he transforms and empowers us on this great, global, gospel, mission.

But this blog puts an added lens on the partnership between apostles and the local church. From our side we believe that:
*   the Ephesians 4 gifts exist to empower and equip every local church and believer on their journey,
*   the local churches are to be multiplying, reproducing organisms and we are there to aid the process,
*   each local church has a lamp stand [a divine mission] and the E4 gifts are there to ensure that they remain on track to fulfill this assignment,
*   elders are the highest human authority in the local church, so we are to honor and respect them in that role, walking alongside them, not lording over them,
*   believer empowerment is vital to this conversation - the E4 gifts are not to come and display their abilities to draw crowds, rather draw out these gifts in others, building faith and ownership,
*   as architects and engineers [masterbuilders 1 Cor 3:10] the apostles seek to help the elders / pastors find the God dream for their community, then assist in  giving it shape and form NOT impose a 'one size fits all' blueprint on all churches,
*   apostles are needed especially when the church is being planted, replanted, enlarged and when trauma / destruction has ravaged the community,
*   apostles are "sent ones". They need to put their feet on the ground to help lay foundations [digging theological, missional and community trenches] in these gospel communities. Therefore Paul worked with around 12 churches we think, and John with 7 in the book of Revelation. How can an apostle work with 100's of churches unless there are many apostles in the movement?
*  apostles also call the leaders together [Acts 20]. At times the weight and mystery of this gift is needed to invest into the leaders for the chapter which lies ahead esp guarding the truth,
*   apostles do create a sense of togetherness. I love what Terry Virgo drove as a prevailing energy in their story "together we can achieve more". Bringing churches together on a common mission is vital to this gift. Togetherness is a powerful weapon where we can achieve what no one church can achieve by themselves,
*   apostles are "first of all" [1 Cor 12:28] as well as "last of all" [1 Cor 4:9] but the bible never says "over all" that papal posture is not in the text. Even the great Paul was never over all the churches. They break ground as well as lead a rearguard action but do not position themselves as being between the Father and the local churches - danger, danger, danger...

This is obviously not a comprehensive list of what apostles do. Rather, it seeks to simply give a peep into the way that the Lord is directing us. We do not wish to be critical or judgmental toward those who do it differently. There is a simple quest to be obedient on our part to that which the Lord requires of us.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

genesis DNA Pioneer

"the wind blows where it wishes... so it is with everyone born of the Spirit..." John 3:8

In Eugene Peterson's delightful book entitled "The Pastor", he writes: " [I have a ] developing conviction that the most effective strategy for change,  for revolution - at least on the large scale that the kingdom of God involves - comes from a minority working from the margins..." pg 16.

As with many of our DNA pieces there are some God requirements we have to settle. This is most certainly one of them. When John [the baptist] appeared to "prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" Mark 1:3, he was in the wilderness. He was not found to be mainstream, taking the popular high road, he was not doing the white picket fence thing. He was out on the fringes of society, a voice crying out in the desert places.

We do not want to be guilty of appearing to be elitist by fighting for a remnant theology, thinking 'we are the only ones left' [as Elijah felt in 1Kings 19:14 - then God reminded him that there are actually 7000 others vs 18].

In the army of God we are all positioned by his sovereign grace. He has asked us to pioneer. We are not called to either defend a legacy or uphold a tradition, take the safe route or aim at the popular mainstream. We are fighting on the fringes I guess.

When M and I look at our lives, we have simply never been allowed to go mainstream. From getting saved into the Jesus People Movement, we should have known this was not going to be a safe, popular journey. Secondly, planting Glenridge Church in South Africa, we were viewed with much suspicion by the mainstream church - we were simply too radical. Thirdly, helping form NCMI with Dudley back in 1983 [even before there was any form or shape to the movement], we were spoken against, treated as outsiders by the church in the nation. And so I can go on. One of the great moments of truth during our sabbatical was the realization that this is the story he is writing with us. Even when I try to go mainstream, there is no joy or delight.

The church is rarely changed from the 'inside out'. History seems to indicate that the church is changed from the 'outside in' - Luther had to step outside the then known church to bring change. So too with Knox, Wesley and so we can go on.

There is no pride in this role. Read the writings of Paul and you see tears, tenderness, loneliness, exile on the run, betrayal. We do not wish that on each other, nor do we have a martyr  complex [I love 'fancy', luxury... but it is not an option I suspect]. No it is simply accepting the mandate that the Father has given us to pioneer - clearing a path in the jungle for others to walk in, even letting them make a highway where we cut a pathway. To accept and embrace this journey is to walk with conviction and yet be open to 'blurred edges' - God is still on the move and there is more he wants to teach us. [I don't mean theological blurred edges. We have strong theological convictions although there always needs to be a comma after our definitions as he has so much more to teach us].

At times it is very uncomfortable to pioneer - think of the old wagons going west or ox wagons in Africa going into the hinterland. It was uncomfortable, vulnerable, scary, without certainty. A mission drove them. A conviction kept them advancing even if it cost everything. This is the journey we are on. It is in our DNA.

Friday, March 21, 2014

genesis DNA Partnership

"... of your partnership in the gospel..." Phil 1:3
"... I John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and patient endurance that are in Jesus" Rev 1:9

We are all on a quest to be both biblically accurate, prophetically obedient and culturally relevant. This is never easy, holding all these ideas in tension. It is not only seeking to be as close to the text as we can be, it is also placing all the conversations through the grid of "what does the Lord require of me?"

Whenever we try to find language to describe a togetherness, we are stepping a little into the arena of what is 'abiblical'. By this I mean, there is no clear biblical language that we can say is unequivocally textually true and must be adhered to without discussion.

For this reason, when this togetherness is declared, phrases like the following are used: "I belong to this brotherhood", "I am a member of this denomination", "I am connected in with this network", "I relate to this team". It is not too difficult to see why this kind of language is used.

However, the two verses mentioned above have been very empowering for us. Not only is the brother piece, a great intro to the notion of "a family of churches", but being "partners" especially around the "gospel", finds us exactly where we want to be - gospel centered and doing life with mates.

Partnership makes sense for the following summarized reasons:
1.   The local church is the divine emphasis, not the translocal gifts, they walk alongside not over;
2.   There is no evidence of local churches living and operating alone in the scriptures. It looks like they were always connected in with apostles, prophets...
3.   We love each local church living in the full measure of the mandate that God has for them and the E4 gifts are there to empower them to that end;
4.   The E4 gifts can partner by bringing in the big picture, matched with the ascension gifts that Christ gave, to build his church. The local churches can partner with the apostles by providing a base for these gifts to reside in, operate out of, offering community, adding muscle power, being launch pads for the next pioneering work, contributing to global gospel costs...
5.   There is therefore room for both 'sons' leading partner churches as well as 'orphan' leaders and churches, sharing a common assignment, that has to be real, authentic and collaborative.

We will explore this in more detail later. This DNA piece of partnership will look gloriously unique in each situation. This requires humility, honor, gift recognition, relationship and the desire to be part of a bigger story than 1 church can achieve.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

genesis DNA Unity

"maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace... until we attain the unity of the faith" Eph 4:3 + 13

This conversation of our unfolding DNA is not meant to suggest we are right and others are wrong. Quite the opposite. This is an exploration. This is a journey. When I look back on my 30 years of preaching, I have to say I am a little embarrassed by some of the things I taught - either by ignorance or misguided emphasis, the wonder of revelation does tend to put us on a story of truth unfolding, rather than a position of truth that is unyielding.

I have been through around 7 major moves of God - and I have loved them! Each has been a huge surprise, came in ways that caused us to stumble [just as he said he would as the rock of offense.] Tragically friends have not remained on the journey. From the Jesus People Movement to today, friends have subconsciously made a decision "this far and no further". By settling in their current theological position, it seems that they are like the foolish virgins who just weren't ready 'when he came'. 

How does this fit into the unity piece? 

Firstly we are told:  "until we attain the unity of the faith". It is not a single conversation. We need to hold to what we believe with passion but not with dogmatism. We must place a comma behind it clearly indicating there is so much more of him that we do not yet know.

Secondly, it seems like most movements start with a particular "restored theological piece". This broad based unity is spacious and exciting in its discovery. However as the movement develops shape, form and direction it will move from a more vague sense of "unity" to some definition - one may say into 'uniformity". I sat at Starbucks yesterday with 3 great young minds setting up our statement of faith. What I loved was the diversity around the table and yet we could find a strong foundation for biblical conviction without anyone feeling like their theological cornerstones were being stood on. We will publish that statement soon.

Thirdly unity goes wrong when it moves beyond uniformity to conformity. There are many tragic  aspects to this thinking, not the least is that conformity always shrinks! There is no room to ask questions, to disagree, to shift in one's thinking - that is deemed unloyal. By then, the individual believer and local church has surrendered their unique story and maintaining the legacy of the system is the highest value. That is not our story. Like the trinity where unity and diversity is celebrated, so we too celebrate  the joy of that divine essence to reverberate in our story - we desire never to forfeit weighty biblical gospel truth, we want to enjoy both diversity while we walk in unity.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

genesis DNA Multiply

"increase, multiply and fill the earth..."

For those who know me, this is a text I love quoting. It gives us a wonderful inclination of what the Father had in mind in a sinless world. Like a family, when two people discover the wonder of love, marry, have children - we know that is full, rich and delightful increase. However, the very essence of parenting is to raise up the children to leave home, get married, have their own children - that is the power of multiplication. These children and grand children are then empowered on their gospel adventure that will fill the earth and this we celebrate.

When I first started studying what happens to movements in the second and third generations I found that they tended to implode or institutionalize. That was rather depressing, so I asked professors, global leaders and pastors if that was just the way movements are suppose to go. Well their answers were intriguing. But that is for another time.

Our DNA is to multiply - just as it happens in the family, so too we are looking to empower churches to do the same. We all know it is not enough to simply add more folks into our churches. Rather faith tends to explode when we multiply - be it campuses or church planting or global assignments. We have found that our communities want to know that they are part of a global changing story. Simply adding more Life Groups and programs does not ignite great faith.

But the part that excites us most is the multiplication of our sphere. When I look at the life of Jesus, he was fully and passionately committed to multiplication. He did not hand over his 'movement' to one man [even though the Catholics dearly want to motivate that he handed over leadership to Peter, there in insufficient biblical evidence to believe this.]

Rather Jesus prepared 12 men for this global assignment. The great multiplying texts of Matthew 28, Mark 16 and Acts 1 lay the platform for a new way of doing this apostolic journey. Our commitment is not global conquest of one imperialistic mandate - always adding more churches to the mix. Rather, we want to raise up AND release many authentic, indigenous apostolic stories in the countries and contexts in which we minister. When we have achieved this in a country, like Paul says in Romans 15, our task is done and we will move on to the next situation to repeat this assignment.

I have no desire to establish one single growing apostolic story. Rather the passion that grips our hearts is to multiply many apostolic households from this one [Like Terry Virgo has done with NF]. When M and I enter the twilight  years, genesis as a family of churches will ride with us. Our prayer and faith is that we would have seen the emergence of many wonderfully unique, context specific, apostolic families, led in collaboration by the Ephesians 4 gifts, proclaiming the gospel, advancing the kingdom and preparing the way for His return. That is a glimpse of true multiplication through our lenses.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

genesis DNA Jesus

Sharing a Common Theology...

I have loved my journey. God has been so kind and gracious, unfolding a unique story for which I am eternally grateful.

However, from time to time we have to look back, debrief and be biblically honest to see where weaknesses have crept in. During the sabbatical, I had that opportunity. It is easy to justify, defend and repeat yesterday's story but what good is that?

When I first started hearing Tim Keller's teaching on 'gospel centeredness' I was so stirred. [That was around 2007]. I had been saved for some 30 years and yet something gripped me afresh. A blog cannot possibly do justice to explain how deep this simple message drove into my heart. As profound as that was, I also had to ask why and where had I drifted from this beauty?

The sober honesty was, I had been captivated by our apostolic journey to that point. Such was the sense of gratitude and amazement, that I began to preach the 'brand', 'model', 'manual'. I wanted others to be as excited at what I had discovered, that I preached with great gusto. Those were intoxicating years!

But the scripture teaches us: "For what we proclaim is not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord..." 2 Cor 4:5. I blame no-one for my drift. I had begun to 'preach ourselves'.

So we have loved rediscovering the beauty, wonder, mystery and joyous liberty of Christ - his eternal promise to liberate us, his incarnation, the simplicity of his life, the humility of his death, the majesty of his resurrection and the spectacular anticipation of his return. This is a more exquisite message to preach - liberating and life transforming. The discovery of theology has been captivating. The emergence of Ephesians 4 teachers as a result, is a matter of much delight.

From the penal substitutionary atonement, through the path of justification, redemption, restoration, reconciliation, sanctification, the gospel pebble splashes the pond through the matter of kingdom advancement to the great 'missio dei' where God's promises that he will 'renew all things', with the church his primary partner in this great project.

I love biblical apostolic architecture but I can no longer preach 'the model'. Jesus is just too intoxicating and too expansive.

genesis DNA Family

"a family of churches"

How does one frame an apostolic story?

For some it is a conversation about starting a movement. For others it is a network and of course for some it is simply maintaining a legacy of the denomination they are in, and given their lives to. Whilst I get the reasons why these words that been used, there was something in me that was not satisfied with those options for us. M and I wanted to find words and essence that reflected our story.

 Then there were old friends who journeyed with us from days gone by, who asked us "Are you going to start a team?". Now I know what they mean. The conversation from the 80's onward were all about "the team". Again I do not want to speak disparagingly of those for whom that is their apostolic framework, but we struggled to find that in the text in the way we felt God taking us.

2 Corinthians 10 speaks " we will not boast beyond limits but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us..." This area of influence is exactly the grace space that God has assigned to us. However, this is not the language that either the world or the church understands. So we looked for other language that reflected this glorious triune God, the personal injunctions that the Father has spoken to us, as well as language that folks understand in all nations, cultures and contexts.

Of course God asked us to call him "Father". Good start. Paul, the apostle, refers to himself : "For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" [1 Cor 4:15]. Then the Lord spoke to me in 2006 asking me: "Will you be a father in my house?".That simple question was powerful - our story would have a strong family dynamic, whatever it would look like. Meryl and I love being parents. We love being a father and mother. It reflects the notion of having children, investing into their lives, then raise them up to leave home, having their own God adventure. That we love.

I asked Terry Virgo how NF discovered this phrased. I loved hearing the story. Now it is our turn. I asked if we could use the same phrase as we are driven by the same desire. In his graciousness he agreed of course.

So genesis collective is a 'family of churches, sharing a common theology, together on mission'

Sabbatical Feedback

What a fabulous sabbatical. The first month was quite difficult actually. The beauty of our setting was in combat with our own internal wrestle to rest. Amazingly challenging.

The second month was so much better. God was able to sooth my soul. Being a person driven by mission, giving time to personal reflection was a new motivation. God was so good. He did three things actually:

1.   He refreshed me. After 30 years of salaried ministry [ we are all full time], we had to give ourselves some time to pause, reflect, debrief and let the waters of divine grace wash our souls with his love. The perspective one gets from these moments [set against the beauty of Laguna Beach], is very empowering. I have certainly not done all to his glory. At times I have used God words to hide my own naked ambition in the shroud of veiled ego. Humbling to sit in that great audience of one and face up to that - yet not with judgement but with gratitude. I felt like the Father was actually pleased and thankful for our story, our obedience, our faith. Those moments are some of the most sublime of my life.

2.   He healed me. Like any athlete, the privilege of the race is often matched with the injuries one picks up along the way. I had to face up to my limps - some of my own making. Others from those closest to us. The journey we have had, one that has been pioneering, radical, jungle cutting was always going to leave the bleeding evidence of the trail. At times it was my own foolishness that caused the pain. At other times it was the work of the enemy in the lives of others to sow destruction. However the deepest pain is always found by those closest to us - 'et tu Brute' I believe Caesar said... or 'do what you have to do' Jesus said to Judas. Paul said 'even Demas has forsaken me'. Nothing can prepare us for that, and yet no ministry story is without that pain. God needed to heal me. And he did, but not without deep times of petition appeal.

3.   He directed me. At the age of 55, I have one more 'at bat'. The next 25 years simply have to count. I loved the unfolding clarity that those days brought. It is not glamourous, or sexy. It is simply beautiful - empowering folks on their God journey... putting them on their global gospel story.

I am going to spend the next few blogs, talking around the DNA / distinctives that have shaped our lives and now will forge this apostolic future.