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Page history last edited by indychristian 13 years, 2 months ago

Change... Reformation, Renewal, Transformation, Innovation, Sanctification...


by Neil Cox -- written for the purposes of re-examing ourselves as quasi-leaders of cityreaching efforts across the country.



*** Warning:  Could be offensive to leaders who are satisfied with the state of the Great Commission in their cities ***




*** still drafting & very open to your comments or criticisms even***



[Ed. Note:   This could tend to be fairly critical, depending on your point-of-view...  not because I have the answers or better solutions really.  But I'm discontent with the status-quo, and willing to write out some hard questions to consider.  Surely God has called us to do more, and to be more effective in our cities.  I trust this piece may at least provoke positive change, even at the expense of some minor discomfort as you read this.  And if we're still friends at the end of it, surely it's God at work.]



I wish I had more of my model written out on the web that I could refer you to, to at least stimulate some thoughts on the topic, but here's at least one quarter of it -- Forgive me, we accountant-types tend to use 'quadrants' a lot.  **wink**  But if you're a chess player, perhaps you readily see the advantage to be gained by simply turning the board at times to gain a different perspective on the game/mission.  So here would be my 4 primary perspectives that I try to use re our mission at hand... "the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole city."...





Quadrant #1, the all-important perspective... God's Perspective.  If we were to dare to wonder aloud, how GOD sees the Church's current mission in this country -- the most well-resourced nation in the world -- what might be His status report? [Think of John's status reports on the 7 churches of Revelation, for instance.  So I ask myself about the 8th church, the Church at Indianapolis.]  Surely God would not read Barna's assessment (4% of Americans hold a biblical worldview) and say "Well done, good & faithful servants."  Perhaps our pastors & theologians could weigh-in more about what God's Perspective is, than I do... (although of course I have my thoughts... which tend to be a few main bullets re what I understand the main purposes of the Church to be & to do...  Then I quiz myself aloud... I wonder how we're (really) doing at those main things?).  Or are our most of pastors perhaps too 'vested' in the problem, and have too much at risk to announce the Church's 'dirty-little-secret'... ie, our current ineffectiveness?  Who will speak out?  [At the very least, we can lead people to read/study the scriptures for themselves, rather than merely accepting a weekly 20-minute inoculation at church... and then the Holy Spirit might convict them of these things, by illuminating the Word in us.]




Quadrant #2, secondarily... OUR NEIGHBORS' Perspective?  If the Church's charge is to love our God with all our everything and to love our neighbors as ourselves, surely THEIR perspective is at least one helpful way of assessing how we're doing.  Can you imagine our church-leaders hearing an honest (research) assessment put together by our neighbors, re how much the Church (near them) loves them (or not)?  How condeming it presumably would be.  Thankfully, among our leaders we have many compassionate, neighborhood-oriented leaders who might well rise up and speak loudly for this perspective.  [Btw, that's a very strong point among CCDA types -- and thus a great reason to collaborate closely with them, city by city, IMHO.]




Quadrant #3, Internal Perspective... what are the main internal processes we the Church need to be good at, in order to best carry out our God-given mission.  Nehemiah did not simply pray, he surveyed, he planned, he resourced according to God's lead.  And thus the wall was completed in a mere 52 days!  Are we at all so well coordinated in our sectors of the city(s)?  What might those key processes be?  Leadership?  Relationship Mgmt?  Mentoring/Discipling?  Timeline Mgmt?  Location/Hospitality Mgmt?  Communications, internal & external?  Other key processes?  And how, btw, are we doing at all these, as the 'Church' city by city?




Quadrant #4, CHANGE Perspective... And this is the perspective I tend to see most vividly.  Some call it the LEARNING, or INNOVATION, or even TRANSFORMATION perspective.  That is, if the Christian life is about radical change & lifelong sanctification... and if the Church is to be an integral system aiding & abetting this individual and corporate sanctification... then indeed isn't this at least a perspective we should review regularly?  If so, how do any of us change... personally or corporately?  [So this section is effectively my suggestions re how do we 'change things'... whether we're talking about things in our cities, about national organizations, the upcoming CIR, or even change among our Design Team for the CIR.  Bottom line, I suspect we all desire change in the way we carry out the Great Commission in our cities.]


  • Prayer/Repentance... "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face/presence/ways... and turn from their wicked ways and instead do right things... then I will hear and forgive and will redeem their communities." (my paraphrase).  Thus I suspect we would all greatly agree that the very first and most important driver of CHANGE... is humility, repentance & prayer.  Yes?  Perhaps even to the point of LOOKING for things we need to repent of and pray about changing.



  • Adversity & Diversity... Bill Hybels once interviewed someone who said something I will not soon forget, when asked about the spiritual maturation process.  He said there are a couple of key life experiences in which we see quantum-leaps in our spiritual life... pain & cross-cultural experience.  It seems so absolutely correct.  And how about the diversity of gifts?  Might our coalitions be heavy in suburbanites and light in inner-city leaders?  Or heavy in certain gifts, yet very light on others?  What if we're only predisposed to pray... and not equally disposed to actively plan, pursue, serve... or witness... or teach, admonish,  exhort, etc?  Thus I think I see the wisdom of specifically seeking great diversity among the (Bible-believing) Church.  And YES it takes more effort (I'd hardly call it 'pain' though)... but it leads us to a much better place... and it stimulates our spiritual growth.  Further, diversity in the Church might be surprising to our neighbors looking on -- "My, how they love one another."  It's counter-cultural as against our more traditional, self-centered, consumer-driven 'Me-Church' -- you know, the 7th church we come to after driving by 6 others.  And btw, the undertone is always there -- we can drive by your church to get to the 8th church if you don't look enough like me and if you don't feed me the way I want to be fed (meaning, weekly at best).  John 17 suggests that our loving diversity must witness to our witness about Him.  Btw, there's a great African proverb (I'm told) which effectively says... "If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together."  Diversity takes a little more time, but it leads us to a better place.  And in the long run, it gets us there more quickly, too.  Practical application:  Would our coalitions actually dare to advocate for the multicultural-church principle found in "Divided By Faith" and "United By Faith" even though it flies in the face of 95% of Christian churches in America?  Frankly, I'm not sure we have the nerve.  But can you imagine if we were successful in radically loving one another, no matter what color, class, age or minute theological distinction... this might also radically change the effectiveness of the Church.



  • Innovation...  Another area we're NOT very diverse in... is diversity of age (youth) and levels of  the attendant 21st-century capabilities possessed by these 'digital natives'.  Example:  For a CIR, we draw maybe 300 people -- most are over age 50 --  while the 'INNOVATE' conference and 'CATALYST' conference draw thousands... mostly youthful.  We're kidding ourselves if we believe we are actually LEADING change here in the U.S.  It's somewhat akin to a pastor holding the microphone, but thousands of youthful folks snickering and texting each other on the back rows of the Church.  Who's leading whom?  He's the 'official' leader, but only de jure, not de facto.  My point is, we need to ensure we are TRULY diverse... and willing to undergo some 'pain' as we 'train for gain'... even if it's intentionally pulling in youthful leaders into the planning-team and learning new-paradigm skills... even ADVOCATING that our 300 attendees also need to get well-equipped for the battle we're in.  Practical Example:  Social-networking sites like Facebook, etc. are great tools that everyone is heralding these days... yet we the Church (really) have yet to do anything significant with it as an INTEGRAL part of our operation -- other than maybe to use it for its promotional value.  The average youth today uses social-networking 1.5 hours per day, according to recent studies.  Can you describe the Church of Jesus Christ to me without using terms or concepts like these... 'people', 'relationships', 'groups', 'causes', 'teams', friends', 'connecting', 'communicating', 'learning from each other', 'sharpening'?  So why aren't we bothering to actively learn & deploy these God-given, FREE, tools for connecting & communicating among the Church?  I can think only that our existing leadership does not personally feel a need for accelerating things (by being capable tool-users).  Could it be that our leaders are now self-content, now that they're atop the organization?  Consider the biblical requirement for elders... that they be 'respected' and 'capable'.  What leader in the 21st Century will be 'respected'... much less, effective... if not at least reasonably-ecapable?  Frankly, it calls into question our qualifications as biblical 'leaders'.  Perhaps we're actually holding back the Great Commission in our cities... and need to just step back and turn over the (official) reins to younger, more capable leaders.  Or innovate ourselves.



  • Research, Study, Learning... primarily via our perfect guide, the Bible.  But I'll also add... other textbooks, history books, contemporary books, articles, news, that could enhance our abilities to lead cityreaching efforts.  I'm guessing that most of our leaders read very little on the information highway, much less use it to actually LEARN new things.  Think about it -- although we focus on 'prayer-care-share', do we really focus on PREPARE?  Interestingly, Bill Hybels (Willow Creek) recently concluded after researching his church's activities for years... that they'd failed to pursue some of the right objectives.  They're now changing gears and focusing less on 'activities'... and more on developing 'self-feeders'... members who will eat/sleep/drink the Word.  How much attention are we cityreachers focusing on encouraging our city-Christians to go intentionally study/learn God's Word as if it would change the World?  Or are we all pretty much just winking at it each Sunday?  I ask you, do Christians primarily desire for our kids to go to Bible College to grow their faith in the knowledge of God so they can consummately replicate more disciple-makers?  Or instead do our pastors & parents desire our kids get university degrees that will translate into lifelong wealth & security?  Admittedly, these sorts of hard questions about the foundations of how we do church in our cities... could rock the boat beyond what our leaders want to really try to rock it.



  • Goal-setting & Self-discipline... The Apostle Paul certainly did.  He always had a plan, even though it was subject to change.  Stated objectives, city by city... might well help us to focus on the mission at hand... and it would help us assess whether in fact we are actually DOING cityreaching... or only talking about it.  [I find myself culpable in this as well.]  Tell me, which city among all our cityreaching constituents actually have a real PLAN (with objective measures) for reaching their city for Christ?  And if not, who's training these leaders?  Will our CIR participants come away with any kind of a plan, or even a skeletal outline?  Do we even have a definition of cityreaching that could be measured to see if in fact we're actually DOING it?  To date (Sept 2008), current national leadership has dismissed suggestions that they buy & provide the annual city research that already is available via the Barna organization.  $3,500/yr... split among how many cities... is how much apiece?  Is the problem that we're currently too closely tied to other research gurus (but who fail to provide such meaningful insights into our particular cities.  Or perhaps we're dismissing Barna's fairly radical insights suggested by his research.  I can think of no other reasons we wouldn't ALL want the very best research available for each of our cities... every year... to see if in fact, we're really making a difference or not.



  • Mentoring & Accountability... Wise Counsel... Coaches... are we being coached by someone outside ourselves... and even somewhat 'accountable' to report progress?  But alas, the human nature tends to NOT want to be accountable... nor even report our progress (or not).  And thus change won't happen 'naturally' -- we need to intentionally sharpen each other using biblical models of accountability.



  • Extending... ie, Linking for change... Partnering... it's a great way to effect change in our ministries & citywide endeavors -- intentionally partner with other cityreaching type associations & coalitions... eg. CCDA, etc.  Sadly, even our various cityreaching ministries conflict with each other... rather than always looking for ways to bring them closer together.  This ought not be.  It's an embarrassment when we 'say' we're all about collaboration in the name of Christ... yet fail to collaborate well with some of our best of partners... and even compete for attendance.



Ok, there you have it... some fairly poignant thoughts on areas we might prayerfully consider, re how best to change the way we're doing 'cityreaching'.   Bottom line, 'institutions' and 'innovation' are often opposites.  I think Jesus showed us that the kingdom is upside down from our natural inclinations.  He was radically counter-intuitive (thankfully in awesomely loving ways), and on the other hand, institutions which are configured around wealth & control... are rightfully in jeopardy when it comes to the mission of the Kingdom. 


Change, according to II Chronicles, starts with us. 


Perhaps we need to take a close look at ourselves and see if we've become more content & institutional than missional and driven.













[Per email from Gailyn Van Rheenen:  Author, 'Missional Helix']

Thanks for your reflections.  I appreciate your perspectives.  I would like to see you define "God's Perspective" much more broadly if it is to equate with "Theological Reflection" and to reflection progression from theological to practice.  Theological Reflection deals with the major themes of the biblical narrative like missio Dei,  the kingdom of God, incarnation, etc., and reflection upon the tenets of the Christian faith (humanity, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, End Times, etc) out of which practices of ministry and church planting are based.  The richness of theology is missing and there is little from theology to cultural analysis and practices of ministry and/or church planting.  Too frequently practices are done by human creativity rather than out of a movement of the kingdom of God within and through us.











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