Friday, April 27, 2007

AMiA Network Gathering ... further reflection

Last week I promised that I would talk a little about the specific subject that Reggie McNeal spoke about during our network gathering in Little Rock. This was certainly the highlight of the gathering for me and Reggie's presentation style and wit certainly kept us engaged. He was presenting material from his book, "Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders". Click here for more information on the book.

Here's an extract of my notes from the day ...

Great leaders bless people – portals for the kingdom of God.

Jesus doesn’t disallow greatness, just puts it in a different context – “like a little child” – not wrong to be ambitious for greatness

Greatness involves SERVICE and HUMILTIY … all about heart attitude, not external position

Service involves COMPETENCY and SKILL SET

1. Discipline of SELF-AWARENESS

If you don’t know who you are, you don’t know why you do what you do (comes with living but not automatically). People can be in their 50s/60s and still be very unaware personally

- Family of origin (knowing loved, secure, dealing with conflict (biggie), etc) - Great leaders take responsibility for personal growth to overcome obstacles

- Talent – what giftedness you bring to the table

o Hidden addictions/compulsions

o Dark sides (we all have them – arrogance one of the hardest to deal with)

- Personality (God does not call us in spite of who we are, but because of who we are)

- Life Experiences (if you’re looking for God in your life, look for the “new” things)

- Passions/Interests (might God be interested in what you enjoy doing?)

These things help us become more strategic and operate out of our “sweet spot”

When did you first become aware that you were a leader? … good question to ask

Never too late (or too soon) to start this journey of self-awareness

2. Discipline of SELF-MANAGEMENT

- Difficult emotions (not wrong to have emotions) – e.g. fear, anger, etc (often we’re not aware of the motivating emotion)

- Time

- Money

- Bodies

- Brains (negative people single most brain-draining – great leaders manage exposure to such people) Protein is good brain food!

- Boundaries – can’t rely on emotions when comes to boundary adjustments because because they have been ‘bent’ towards an unhealthy position

o ‘compliants’ – hard to say ‘no’ due to desire for acceptance

o ‘avoidance’ – build high walls, can’t get in

o ‘controllers’ – passive controllers give most personal pain, know how to hook you, bait is guilt

- Expectations – managing them

o Of people in leadership constellation (eg Jesus with disciples)

o Your expectations of yourself

o Of your followers – don’t set yourself up for disappointment

3. Discipline of SELF-DEVELOPMENT

- Lifelong learning also includes an amount of unlearning (see how Paul had so much ‘unlearning’ to embrace the message of Christ – that by a Pharisee) In a relationship we are constantly unlearning things

- Building upon your strengths (talents issue), not develop/focus on weaknesses

o Gallows Strength Finder

o What makes you feel really alive? Comes easy to you, get feedback on, get better at Your talent will show up in any assignment

o God didn’t make people to get work done, he made work to get people done.

o Burnout happens because we get worn down by the minutiae of things that give us no energy

o Your strengths are also your needs – you need to do what you’re good at

- need to figure out how you ‘lower your rent’ to focus on what you are good at, as well as release others to do what they are good at

- recruit, partner with others (for the grunt work!), outsource (if you can) or quit doing it

4. Discipline of MISSION

Jesus had to go to the nearby villages also. That’s why he came, not to keep ministering to the crowds. [People are drawn to winning causes not losing teams.] Great leaders know why they are on the planet and they are prosecuting that mission. This terrifies the enemy. He uses;

- Discouragement (why we all need cheerleaders in our lives]

- Debilitation (such as operating in areas for which not talented)

- Distraction (biggie)

5. Discipline of DECISIONING

Great leaders make fewer, better decisions. Learn from your decision-making process. Number of components involved;

- Information – right amount at right rate

- Are we answering the right question?

- Do you have the right people involved?

- God help me see what you see” – prayer to pray for 90min in a park, Starbucks, mall, etc.

- Is this the right timing?

- Do we know the results we expect?

6. Discipline of BELONGING

[People vote for the problems they know rather than the problems they don’t know]

- For some your family don’t get it, but it doesn’t have to be the book on you


- Co-workers, mentors, different groups to which you can belong

- Great leaders value community, they understand they’re better because they are connected to others

- Beware the lone ranger leader

7. Discipline of ALONENESS

Great leaders practice aloneness. We all experience wilderness, sometimes because we’re driven there, due to our mistakes, we may seek it out, you’re left alone by others, a spouse walks out, times in our life when we’re suddenly isolated.

Great leaders treat this time differently from most who want out, want to tell everyone what they’re going through. Great leaders ask what they can learn from the experience about God, me, etc. They leave the timing of release in God’s hands.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

6 Tough Questions for the Church

This past week, Carol and I traveled up to Little Rock, AR for one of our Network Gatherings. It was a very encouraging time, one in which we both sensed a good deal of affirmation about our ministry and the particular vision God has given us for Austin. It was good to meet Archbishop Kolini and Bishop John from Rwanda - I would certainly recommend the bishop's new book, 'The Bishop of Rwanda' (click here for details). I also got the chance to teach on the subject of Holiness and was encouraged by the amount of positive feedback.

The real treat of the gathering though was to hear Reggie McNeal speak on the subject of leadership. About three years ago he wrote a book entitled 'Present-Future Church' which had a real impact upon me (and many others I suspect). I would certainly also recommend this. I actually preached a sermon series based loosely around the 'six tough questions for the church' which he lays out within the sections of this book. Perhaps some of you remember the series?? :0)

Anyway, I wanted to outline here the basic contents of that book for your reflection as to why we are doing what we are doing at BridgePoint. Next week, I want to summarize the teaching Reggie presented on Leadership Greatness.

Six tough questions for the Church

Reggie McNeal

“Church world has largely forsaken its missional covenant with God, to be a part of Kingdom Expansion

Basic (Wrong) Assumptions

  • If you build the perfect church, they will come
  • Growing your church will automatically make a difference in the community
  • Developing better church members will result in greater evangelism
  • The church needs more workers (for church work)
  • Church involvement results in discipleship
  • Better planning will get you where you want to go.

Six new realities of the present future

(Most church leaders are pre-occupied with wrong questions)

1. Collapse of Church Culture

Wrong question: How do we do church better?

Tough Question: How do we Deconvert from churchianity to Christianity?

2. Shift from Church Growth to Kingdom Growth

Wrong Question: How do we grow this Church? (Get them to come to us?)
Tough Question: How do we transform our community?

3. New Reformation: Releasing God's people

Wrong Question: How do we turn members into ministers?

Tough Question: How do we turn members into missionaries?

4. Return to Spiritual Formation

Wrong Question: How do we develop church members?

Tough Question: How do we develop followers of Jesus?

5. Shift from planning to preparation

Wrong Question: How do we plan for the future?

Tough Question: How do we Prepare for the future?

6. Rise of Apostolic Leadership

Wrong Question: How do we develop leaders for Church work?

Tough Question: How do we develop leaders for Christian movement?

These would be good questions for us to wrestle with in prayer before the Lord, in our LTPs and at our home gatherings.

The second half of our trip was equally exciting as we got to go down to Houston for our grand-daughter's first birthday party. So, just had to include a photo of her with proud granddad!

Looking forward to our gathering this coming Saturday evening - new time, new (old) location, same good, faithful God.

Much love,

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"Organic" vs "Institutional"

What do we really mean by the expression "Organic Church" and what difference does this make to how we might do church?

I wanted to follow up my previous post with a question I sometimes hear and one that is important (to my mind) if we are to truly live in to our calling and election in Christ Jesus. Actually, even the question itself betrays a more institutional mindset - church is not primarily something we 'do', but something we are. As the apostle Peter says, "you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." [1 Peter 2:9] What was once true for Israel under the old, obsolete covenant, is now true for everyone who comes to him (Christ). But Peter begins with who we are out of which flows a responsibility to declare God's praise.

Peter says that we have been born again (spiritually) through the imperishable seed, the living, enduring word of God [1 Pet 1:23]. The true church therefore, does not depend upon human organization and religious programs and a hierarchical leadership that controls the agenda. Rather, it depends upon the presence and power of God in each one of us personally, and among us corporately, mediated through the Holy Spirit. This eternal and enduring life is within us all, the reality of the Triune God brought to earth and experienced by human beings.

T. Austin-Sparks puts it like this,
"God's way and law of fullness is that of organic life. In the divine order, life produces it's own organism, whether it be a vegetable, animal, human or spiritual. This means that everything comes from the inside . . . function, order and fruit issue forth from this law of life within. It was solely on this principle that the New Testament came into being. Organized Christianity has entirely reversed this order."

So what are the characteristics of this organic expression of church that we should be looking for and promoting?
(i) everybody playing a part (no clergy/laity divide)
(ii) face-to-face community
(iii) open meetings (vs a dominant leader/speaker)
(iv) servant leadership (through example)
(v) Jesus is the focus and the leader of the community

Paul put it another way when he said, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." [
1 Cor. 12:7] Frank Viola put it this way, 'whenever we sin-scarred mortals try to create a church the same way we would start a business corporation, we are defying the organic principle of church life. An organic church is one that is naturally produced when a group of people have encountered Jesus Christ in reality and the DNA of the church is free to work without hindrance. Organic church is not a theater with a script. It’s a lifestyle—a spontaneous journey with the Lord Jesus and His disciples.' (

One more thing I wanted to say about our DNA - remember the previous post. DNA stands for our need for balance in our life of Divine truth, Nurturing relationships & Apostolic mission. I believe that means for us personally but also that we be instilling these values and priorities in those whom we're discipling. I do believe that the Life Transformation Partnerships provide an excellent vehicle for seeing this really happen. Where we can commit to read the Scriptures and listen to God, to develop authentic friendships of vulnerability and trust, and to be encouraged to be faithful in life and mission. These partnerships are 2-4 people at most and as a discipling relationship matures, these should naturally (even organically!) multiply.

If you are not in an LTP or would like more information, please email me at

Growing together in Christ,