Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Organic CP6

Sounds vaguely chemical... but actually, this is a continuation of an extremely lively email discussion that may have grown too large for the email format. Initiated by Joseph Holbrook's "Organic Church Planting, Part 6" paper, this conversation has ranged far and wide, and included comments from across the world and across the generations. Welcome and weigh in!


Brian Emmet said...

The latest part of the conversation was initiated by Jimmy A's challenge to the overly heady and complicated turn he felt the discussion had taken on. John M and Jamie J, among others, responded as to why conversations like this can be important and helpful.

josenmiami said...

Jamie J's response to Jimmy was interesting...considering that Jamie was questioning the value of "just talking theory" (my words not his) in the blog without application. Jamie, does that indicate a change in your views? Or does it indicate that you are more comfortable with an email format than a blog format?

steve H said...

Just letting you know, I'm on track with you here.

Jeremiah said...

I'm here too.

josenmiami said...

Jeremiah, I finally got around to responding to you on the subject of church structure...it was way too long...three pages. But I sent it to the gmail discussion group. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback.

I am a little dubious if we will be able to carry the email conversation over to here...but I am thinking I might do a weekly email "summary" of some of the blog highlights as a weekly reminder to the guys who are less blog inclined...and to keep up the email interaction.

Thanks Brian, for your on-going facilitating and dry humor!

Brian Emmet said...

Jose, I'm not sure my facilitating is all it's cracked up to be--I posted my blog suggestion and presto!--all the Organic CP 6 emails seem to have dried right up! So much for "serving" the brothers with my "organizational" "gifts"!

Jeremiah said...

I didn't get the email on church structure, that I know of, maybe I accidentally deleted it. I'm actually getting less technically proficient the older I get so that wouldn't surprise me.


That email discussion was pretty strange (I mean the way it happened etc., not the content) and I think it had run its course for the most part. I don't think the blog itself did it. I'm honestly not sure which I like better, the blog or the email. I got the feeling the email was actually a little easier to keep focused on the topic, but why that would be true I have no idea.

I'm finding I pretty much only have enough time in a given day to check one source though.

josenmiami said...

Jeremiah: I sent it to the google discussion group. You might have to check your gmail to find it.

I think between Robert logging off for a week, and encouraging us to move over the blog format, and everyone being busy, it probably killed it as I predicted. Although, one juicy email would spark it right up... far be it from me! Its ok, the email discussion had probably run its course...I never intended to start that much discussion in the first place.
I will be pleasantly surprised though if the other guys show up here.

Robert said...

It is alive brethren! I am having a respite in the mountains of Colorado...but could not resist dropping in. Jose, do a few more e-mails using the distribution list to stimulate the move over to a blog. Let everyone know that" Even a kick in the caboose is a move forward."

John M. said...

I'm here. Lot's of familiar "faces", none from the list of "non-bloggers" that Joseph compiled. What a pity.

Robert said...


go back to e-mail and kick some booty! Some of these folks need to learn how to follow beyond convenience:)

OUT OF THE BOX said...

Hey, brothers. My work schedule keeps me so busy I have not had time to comment or read all the material, but am following along the best I can for now. At some point I will jump in with a comment.

boy with a ball said...

Hey guys,

Don't be to quick to write off that email string. I am not sure we will get the critical mass in here but one way or the other, I believe there is still quite a bit of life in the discussion.

Billy Long said...

The "out of the box" comment above is me. I just figured out how to get this thing to show my name instead. So I'll jump in when I get the chance.

josenmiami said...

Hi Billy! welcome.

Hey Robert, how is vacation going? You richly deserve it...hope you and Sue have a wonderful time.

Jeremiah and John, I still don't know how the google discussion group works...but I went there and checked and the stuff on church structure is sitting there. I thought it was supposed to be forwarded to your inboxes but perhaps you have to go to the Covenant thinklings discussion group. Both of you have posted there before.

Brian Emmet said...

Looks like we're in a bit of an in-between time here. Jamie, and others, can you help me understand the resistance to blogs? I did not at all want to cut of the email discussion, but as soon as I mentioned that I had set up this post here at covenant thinklings, the email ground to an immediate halt. Maybe the conversation had reached that point anyway, but I was surprised at how quickly it shut down. Any thoughts? I don't ant to insist on the blog format, but honstly, I was getting bit tired of my inbox being crammed with "Re;Re:re organic cp6"--it was all good stuff, don't get me wrong. I just found myself less disposed to read it thoughtfully. But that may just be me.

Anyway, I'm off for the next few days for our annual church retreat/family camp. Leaving today, home Sunday, and we're going to beautiful Freedom, NH, where the sun always shines, but the internet doesn't go!

josenmiami said...

Brian, I don't think it was because of your email mentioning this. I think it has more to do with the obvious resistance that many have to learning new technology. At least half of the guys who were giving valuable contributions and insights, have never been to a blog, don't know how, don't want to learn, and will not show up here. Unless there is a good, provocative email sitting in their inbox, eliciting their opinion, they just won't respond.

As the song goes, "Thats just the way it is..."

I did notice some incongruity in Jamie rebuking Jimmy for not appreciating the email dialogue, and Jamie himself resisting going to the blog format to just "talk theory without praxis" a while back. I am still waiting for him to explain why he likes the email discussion more than the same discussion in a blog.

Robert: I brought back some really good ca├žacha with me.

Jeremiah said...

OK Jose,

I read and responded.

BTW how old is Jamie?

boy with a ball said...

Hey guys,

I was just sent this and thought it interesting as a backdrop to our discussion not so much due to the generation to generation connection as to the future of the church and what it will need to be and not be to achieve her mission...

USA TODAY: Young adults aren't sticking with church

In today's issue of USATODAY, there is a report on a recent survey from LifeWay Research - the core of the study is this:

Seventy percent of Protestants — both evangelical and mainline — age 18 to 30 drop out of church before age 23 and give multiple reasons for their departure. 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church.

It's instructive to look at why they hit the exit:

• Wanted a break from church: 27%

• Found church members judgmental or hypocritical: 26%

• Moved to college: 25%

• Tied up with work: 23%

• Moved too far away from home church: 22%

• Too busy: 22%

• Felt disconnected to people at church: 20%

• Disagreed with church's stance on political/social issues: 18%

• Spent more time with friends outside church: 17%

• Only went before to please others: 17%

People who became de-churched were more than twice as likely than those who continued attending church to describe church members as judgmental (51% for dropouts, 24% for those who stayed), hypocritical (44% vs. 20%) or insincere (41% vs. 19%)

Contrast this with the reasons cited by the 30% who kept attending church:

• It's vital to my relationship with God: 65%

• It helps guide my decision in everyday life: 58%

• It helps me become a better person: 50%

• I am following a family member's example: 43%

• Church activities were a big part of my life: 35%

• It helps in getting through a difficult time: 30%

• I fear living without spiritual guidance: 24%

The sense that all is right with American churchianity, that nothing is broke - well, that simply seems like a generation of people deciding to stick their head in the sand.

All the hype of mega this & growth that, of programs and preaching rock stars - well it brings to mind a quote from an English man who himself was dechurched - Eric Arthur Blair (better know by his pen name George Orwell):

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

The article closes with this:

"Unless religious leaders take younger adults more seriously, the future of American religion is in doubt," says Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow in After the Baby Boomers, due in stores in September.

kevin said...

I don't know how I got in but I think I'm cyber active..Brian, would you confirm you got this..Kevin

josenmiami said...

Jeremiah: I think Jamie is around 34 or 35...close to your age.

Jamie, You said - "The sense that all is right with American churchianity, that nothing is broke - well, that simply seems like a generation of people deciding to stick their head in the sand."

I have been trying to say the same thing in this and several other blogs in about two dozen different ways and I have gotten nothing but grief for it from the guys (at least some of them). I hope you have better luck.

boy with a ball said...

Let me be clear...that was what the story said...my only words were at the very beginning.

steve H said...

In response to the statistics about 18-30 years olds and church, I'm currently meeting with a young couple in their 20s who will soon be getting married. The son of a former elder in a covenant church, the young man was in a covenant enviroment during his younger years -- at a time interestingly enough when the church was doing well in some ways but at the core was coming apart (in other words people were exiting, sometimes several families at a time). By his high school years for various reasons his family was not connected to any particular church.

The young man went to a "Christian high school" and for awhile attended a growing evangelical church.

When I questioned the couple about their faith, he responded, "I still believe in all the things I learned in covenant, but I was turned off by organized religion by my experience in the Christian school. Since high school I have just not be interested in any church I have seen."

I responded, "I'm turned off by a lot of what I see in organized religion too. Our church is pretty
'disorganized.' You're sure welcome to come and visit with us if you want!"

Later the young man and his fiancee who has little church and Christian background both expressed interest in meeting our friends and visiting our worship service.

Another thing the young man brought up was that he really desires the kinds of relations he remembers from his youthful experience of covenant.

Can't make a generalization out of one case -- but it certainly is exciting AND it makes me wonder how many people are out there who experienced something in a covenant church that has ruined them for typical American Christianity.

steve H said...

At John's suggestion I post the following creeds. Concerning the fundamentals, I don't know how we'd state them better. Filling out what's behind the words and phrases will be an exciting "project" throughout eternity, I'm guessing.


I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead, who ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.


I believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven,and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; and suffered and was buried; The third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven,and sits at the right hand of the Father; And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end,

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets; And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.

I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.
I look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the Life of the world to come. Amen.

Jeremiah said...


Good post on the poll.

I agree with the head in the sand comment. I personally don't think the generational loss we are seeing has to do with the churches necessarily being screwed up, as much as most/many Christian families I know that use Christian school tend to take the approach that if I get the kid into a Christian school and get them into church, they will become Christian. I think this mentality is fostered by the churches, but the final responsibility rests on the shoulders of the parents. We have got to train parents how to train their kids. One trend I've seen a lot of is first generation Christian parents producing kids that revert. I think this is because when someone converts they probably were raised in a non-Christian environment, that person had a model for a parent who was non-Christian, so the person converts, and becomes a parent. They then raise their kid the way they were raised and get the same result, a non-Christian person. They then pray in desperation for years and their kid eventually comes back.

We have got to comunicate to people that if the Grace of GOD came to them through a conduit independent of their upbringing that they need to learn how to parent their kids so that they are the conduit through which God's grace comes to their kids.

Anyway that's my thoughts on Gen transfer.

josenmiami said...

Jeremiah, I strongly agree with your point about the real problem being the parents (imagine that - ;-)

I have a friend who was a pastor of a large, succcesful church with a great youth group and private Christian school. His oldest two kids went through the SS, the youth group and the private school...and ended up not following the Lord (the 2nd oldest eventually came back to the Lord if I am not mistaken).

At some point, he launched out of the pastoral role into a more difficult cp role and ended up in secular employment, tentmaking and meeting with a small group in his home with his younger children. No SS, no youth group, public school, in stead of private school...nothing but a family praying together (and a few friends).

All of his younger children are walking passtionately with the Lord!

it is about the family. The modern consumer tendency is to specialists...and the same tendency has bled over into the church...hand your kids over to the Sunday School teacher and youth pastor to "fix" spiritually...intead of taking parental responsability.

Jeremiah said...

what? gasp!?! we agree!



Yeah, I was thinking about this more. As near as I can tell, most of my generation are the spawn of the hippies, who rebelled against their parents conventions (who probably were only cultural Christians and didn't have the full relationship) and then came to Christ afterwards. the same pattern then gets repeated with their kids. Of course I'm speaking in broad generalities.

Jesus said if we gain the whole world but lose our soul what good is it? My kids and my wife are my heart and soul. Again Paul says that if someone doesn't care for his family he is WORSE THAN AN INFIDEL. Even on my best days I manage to screw up with my kids and I find myself crying out that Jesus, the Son of David, will have mercy on me and that the Father will draw my children to His Son. At the end of the day, if His Amazing Grace doesn't come into my life with effect, I really am lost on the black sea of despair. Praise GOD He is mighty in battle!

I know I'm not saying anything new here, its just what's on my heart a lot lately. All these discussions we have are good and useful, but if my kids don't love Jesus with all their heart, mind, and body I really don't give a rip. I'll be like the guy in ecclesiastes with no one to pass it all to.

John M. said...

Hey Everyone,
I started back to school today, and I can tell already that you won't see me posting as much. It will be a challenge to keep up reading, but I will do my best on that.

Joseph, I found your post on the other blog, although I haven't read it yet. I actually opted out of receiving emails when I registered. Hmmm! I just try to check the blog every few days to see if there are any new posts.
Do I have the reverse of the same affliction some of the others do?

I have some thoughts on Jamie's post and Steve and Jeremiah's comments, but I'm too tired now.

boy with a ball said...

Hey guys,

Once again, my part in that post of the USA Today article was just to take what was sent to me and post it. The thoughts and views were of whoever sent it.

To Brian's point, what made the email so electric is that it was a medium that everyone was comfortable with, almost ensuring that the entire recipient list was reading it. We had that sense that we were all in a real conversation...the nature of email as our modern evolution of the old letter sent by post.

The blog world is more of a newspaper...in that people have to go get it and then page through it. And unfortunately, it is a newspaper thrown to a curb that many of the older men and some of the younger men do not know how to reach easily.

Many of us do our daily business on email...receiving and sending bills, doing work, etc...so it is going to touch us every few minutes. Blogs are more recreationally approached unless you are a big-time blogger or a student.

These are my thoughts. May not be a true reflection.

I love dialogue between all of you men who have a record of action in that it is like sitting at the Round Table in Camelot and hearing the stories of building the Kingdom. I thank God that there is room at the table for the younger men to learn and to share what God is speaking and doing in them. It is what intergenerational interaction should be...reciprocal but with the correct level of filial piety and the correct level of valuing our youth.

I see the email string as a very exciting conversation rather than a simple hub for the part of me that can talk so well about Kingdom truths that I forget to go out and live them. I have been thankful for it.

I do really like that this kind of discussion taking place on the blog would allow for others to be invited in.


josenmiami said...

hi Jamie,

good points in contrasting the email medium with the blog medium. It takes a little more intentionality to come to the blog and "read the paper."

So...are you willing to concede that there is value in this kind of conversation? You seemed a little sceptical at first that there would be any practical value.

John M. said...

Hey everyone. Jamie, thanks for the info from USA Today about 20-30 year olds "de-churching". My contention is that many if not most of them are not leaving God, they're leaving what is to them an oppressive, hypocritical, performance-based system that is more interested in externalism and outward appearance than in justice, righteous and matters of the heart. That sounds harsh, but I think it is true. Note, that statement is my assessment of what I think theirs is, not necessarily my own, although I understand the basis for theirs, and I'm not far from that myself much of the time.

In his book, "They Like Jesus But Not The Church...insights from emerging generations", Dan Kimball makes the same point again and again, from personal interviews with real people approx. 20-35 yrs., some of whom were raised outside the "Christian bubble" (his term, which I have adopted) and some of whom were raised inside it and have departed. The title itself tells the story. Some may prefer to modify the title to "their perception of the church". Obviously their perception is not accurate of Jesus' Body, the real "Church". But that's not what they have left. What they have left is their experience or perception of the visible church that has touched their lives in one way or another. Those of us who are in the "bubble" really need to listen to what they're saying.

I recently had a conversation with a former "Covenant Church" 20 something (turning 30 this year), which totally tracked with what Kimball says in his book. When I mentioned the title to him in relation to his friends, he said, "That's exactly right!" When I mentioned the "Christian bubble" idea to him, he responded, "I couldn't wait to get away to college so I could get out of that bubble. Every time I came back to visit, I felt forced back into the bubble by people's expectations." By his own testimony, he still prays and relates to the Lord, although he has not been part of an active Christian community of any kind for several years, and some aspects of his lifestyle would be questioned/and or judged by many who are still in the bubble.

Steve and I have mentioned Sinead O'Connor's new album, "Theology". There's not a lot of commentary, because most of it, except for a couple covers, is Old Testament scripture set to her original music and sung with incredible depth and emotion. Here interpretations and the depth of her voice and heart emotion is what grabbed me.

There is one song, though that I believe expresses poetically, the mindset/heartset of the emerging generations. (Even though she just turned 40, Sinead is very post-modern.)

Here are the lyrics:

Out Of The Depths

Out of the depths I cry to U oh lord. Don't let my cries for mercy be ignored. If U keep account of sins oh who would stand? But U have forgiveness in your hands.

And I've heard religion say you're to be feared. But I don't buy into everything I hear. And it seems to me you're hostage to those rules that were made by religion and not by U.

And I'm wondering will u ever get yourself free. Is it bad to think U might like help from me? Is there anything my little heart can do to help religion share us with U?

For oh you're like a ghost in your own home. Nobody hears U crying all alone. Oh U are the one true really voiceless one. They have their backs turned to you for worship of Gold and stone.

And to see U prisoner, oh makes me weep. Nobody hears U screaming in the streets. And it's sad but true how the old saying goes, 'If God lived on earth people would break his windows'.

I long for you as watchmen long for the end of night. (Punctuation added.)

Before you start analyzing her theology (I know you guys!), listen to what she's saying; listen to her heart.

John M. said...

I did it again (long post). But I'm not apologizing, though, because that was what I wanted to say! :)

I want to introduce everyone to a someone I met yesterday. His name is Lance. He and his wife Lacy have a blog: http://www.swimmingagainstmainstream.blogspot.com/

We got to talking about the church, emerging generations, Alan Hirsch (author of "The Shaping of Things to Come" and "The Forgotten Ways"), Howard Snyder etc. Lance recently graduated from Asbury Seminary and is pursuing a job with an agency that works with refugee resettlement and torture/trauma counseling for refugees from troubled areas who have witnessed massacres of loved ones and other atrocities. He expressed interest in this blog. I invited him on. So, if you hear from "The Salmon" (you have to visit his blog to understand), that will be Lance.

Robert said...

The post by Jamie provokes a focus of particular interest to me...you might say felt need. The traditions of the Anglican church where I currently serve are rich with theology, a deep dedication to apostolic Faith, a high view of scripture and strong expositional preaching every week. There is also the reality of a church culture that requires platforms of access through engaging relationships and offerings which are perceived as relevant.

This leads to my question. Are we dealing with a Wal Mart culture that has cultivated a consumer mentality that expects all needs to be met under the same roof? People are engaged as consumers, not disciples. Mega churches have the critical mass to provide "programs" for every level. Most smaller churches don't have that luxury. By "programs" I am not thinking institutionally as much as arenas of engagement that assist the uninitated to be assimalted into genuine Christian community to become fervent disciples of Jesus. What does the move from consumer to disciple look like for those in their 20s and 30s? It is one thing to engage their world missionally...another to disciple them to the Kingdom. Then, what does that look like?

josenmiami said...

good questions Robert. I agree with you about the influence of the "walmart" culture and the consumer mentality. It seems pervasive in many quarters of the church, particularly, in those sectors of evangelicalism most impacted by church growth methodology. I'm afraid that it is at least partly an unintended consequence of attempting to grow large churches through cultural relevance.

It is refreshing to hear about some of the positive things you are encountering in Anglicanism.

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, guys, I'm glad to be back. We had a great church retreat--interestingly, we had a good representation of teenagers, including some friends of church kids.
I'm kind of cherry-picking my comments here, in that I'm not trying to respond to everything I've missed.

Blog vs email--still don't see why email is perceived as more... authentic/real (??) then a blog. My suggestion would be for Jose to initiate another fiery email string to pull everyone back into the conversation.

Kevin, if you're reading this, you're reading it, which means you made it, you're "here"!

I found the USAToday piece sobering, and silly. Of course the church is full of judgmental hypocrites--that's one of our primary social functions, keeping all those people off the streets! While I am sobered by the statistics of reversion, I think it masks a somewhat dangerous idealism: "I want to be a member of a church of SERIOUS Christians, people who pursue justic, love mercy and walk humbly with their God, and do it 24/7/365 with no lapses or letups." Or it could be a grouping of folks who are serious about not holding one another to much more than a regular gathering to share our thoughts and fears. I fear the creation of "boutique churches," small, intimate groups of "real" disciples who keep themselves unstained from the judgmental hypocrites with which those other churches are filled. I'm as guilty of this kind of thinking and doing as anyone.

This is not a comment about "institutional" "versus"
"organic" churches: whatever we plant/build, we have to help one another get over ourselves, our preferences, our generational peculiarities, and our petty provincialisms. Sorry, but I don't see the rising generation as any less narrow than us old farts, just narrow in some different ways.

The problems with going away is that you can come back with a lot to say...

josenmiami said...

hmmmm...although I agree with most of your comments about idealism and the church, Brian , I am not sure I am able to connect them with the USA today article. I had to go back and re-read the article...

70% of young adults dropping out of Protestant churches is definitly sobering for me, but probably I would not describe it as silly. However, I can see how you might consider some of their reasons for dropping out as silly.

I am with you on the idealism issue, and I understand (or am beginning to) the need to love the church as she is with all of her warts and wrinkles...

... but...

what do we do with Jesus' statements about the problem of wineskins? It was not Barna or Gallup who brought that issue up, but Jesus. From what I can see, there IS a huge cultural shift going on, and probably a corresponding alteration of wineskins initiated by the Holy Spirit under the direction of the master builder and chief cornerstone (Jesus).

Just to throw some hot coals on the discussion, here are some stats I found over at www.jesuscreed.com today about pastoral burn-out:

*Churchgoers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks.

*Pastors who work fewer than 50 hours a week are 35 percent more likely to be terminated.

*50 percent of all congregations in the United States are either plateauing or declining.

*The typical pastor has his greatest ministry impact at a church in years 5 through 14 of his pastorate; unfortunately, the average pastor lasts only five years at a church.

*80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.

*33 percent of pastors confess “inappropriate” sexual behavior with someone in the church.

*20 percent of pastors say they view pornography at least once a month.

*According to Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Ministries Division, approximately 20 percent of the monthly calls to their pastoral care line deal with sexual misconduct and pornography.

*20 percent of pastors admit to having had an affair while in the ministry.

*12 percent of pastors say that since they’ve been in ministry, they’ve had sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse.

*80 percent of pastors say they have insufficient time with spouse.

*70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.

*70 percent say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they started out.

Statistics from
Pastors at Greater Risk, H B London, Jr., and Neil B Wiseman, Regal Books, © 2003

- I responded to the jesucreed blog with one of my typically provocative comments that the sooner the pastoral "office" disappears and followers learn how to practice the "one anothers" the better (big innocent smile).

Reading through this list (and the rest from the blog) pastors sound, on the whole, like a rather unhealthy, dysfunctional group of people. No wonder they don't have many friends!

(disclaimer: this was deliberately provcocative -- there were only about 3 posts over the last 3 days -- lets see how many are over the next 3 days!)

boy with a ball said...

Hey guys,

I think you are seeing a convergence of an entire culture (not just one generation) with that Wal-Mart influence which means that the younger generation is both conditioned for the church-lite/drive through mentality while also rejecting the fact that it isn't authentic and is less than their hearts are crying out for.

I think the two generations are together "building" church-lite for very different reasons...you are familiar with those reasons from your own church work.

I do think that Brian hits the whole Bonhoeffer Life Together attack on idealism that is important...but I think that Joseph is right to say that that is too much of an oversimplification. You could have probably written off Luther and Zwingli similarly. Those crazy kids!

I get a little sick with both tendencies here...aggrandizing the immature and highly carnal outcry of the next generation (many of which are avoiding taking up their cross rather than embracing it) or dismissing the heartcry of those in that same generation who are looking to "go further," who are willing to pay the price and who are looking to you all as guides due to your own pretty radical break from what was before. I don't think it was completely because of lack of character that you pushed for more. Some of it is a part of progressive revelation?

So the question is, "What is He saying?" and then, "What do we do?"

Jeremiah said...

alright I'm back.

I had to go to Ft. Wayne to cut down a tree for my Grandma. We hit it like a hurricane.

Just don't get between my chainsaw and me and open sky! :)

There is another societal issue which I think is important in how a group of people view the Church. There is a man who demographically would belong to the older set here who my dad consults about things. The guy is a licensed counselor and has been there, done that etc. His comment is that people tend to relate to God the way they related to their dad and to the Church the way they related to their mom. If this is true (and in the last 5 or 10 years that I've been collecting incidental annecdotal evidence I've been satisfied that it is) then is it any wonder that in a generation of latchkey kids who have survived the abortion holocaust we have maternal bitterness issues which are manifesting towards the Church? I'm sure there are lots of other more complicating things which feed into the carnal calculus of a societies rebellion against GOD, but I think this is probably one important piece anyway.

boy with a ball said...

That's a great point, Jeremiah.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, I was not and am not advocating for church-as-we-do-it--I don't support the pastor-driven model, and do not practice it. You are confusing me just a bit: you have a heart to see our covenant/kingdom DNA passed on to the next generation, and to the present world, but you don't seem to want that to happen in the form/structure we've known... so what does it mean to "reproduce" ourselves? If "historical covenant churches" have taken on some/many of the forms of "church" that you think miss the mark for the present culture, why ask the question, "Will there be any Covenant Churches in 20 years?" This is in response to your wineskin question: if covenant churches as we know them represent old wineskins (would this be your contention?), then we're better off moving beyond/away from them... which I think would mean there won't be any need for the old skins in the new world.

Honest, I am not trying to re-cover ground we've gone over. My point was that the church will always have her share of hypocrites, judgmental folk, careless, slipshod disciples, half-hearted followers, etc. I would maintain that the presence of those sorts of folks is actually a sign of success, although obviously too much of that influence would be lethal. All I'm trying to say is that auuthentic love includes the difficult task of learning to love the unlovely and unlovable, and that I sometimes think I hear a desire to to see an expression of "church" without all those warts and blemishes, defects and weaknesses. I do not mean that I hear that from you, but that I hear it in the more general conversation our culture is having about "church," along the lines that Jamie mentioned.

I am not trying to shoehorn people into traditional forms, and want to respond to younger people, or any people, who are seeking, in the best sense of the term, for "more." My frustration comes when it feels to me like the "more" entails an unwillingness to love those who aren't up to some proper level of authenticity and genuine commitment. You guys know that the process of shaping people is long, difficult, and inefficient. By all means, we can do away with pastors, churches, creeds, budgets, Sunday Schools, Christian schools, youth groups, worship teams, buildings, and anything and everything else we object to, and we will not have gotten as far as we might have thought or hoped: we'll still be faced with a bunch of sinners in the process of sanctification. I am totally in favor of anything that will help us engage that more faithfully and fruitfully.

Robert said...

The problem of wineskins revisited...Jose and Brian and everybody else. We use words with the assumption that everybody is using them the same way. "Wineskins" is a good example. When Jesus is talking about old wineskins, is he talking about about the synagogue or about the greater issue of the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant? I think we need to be cautious about too quickly identifying something as an old wineskin. BTW...old wineskins can be reconditioned for good use.

Here is a thought..."with regard to the basic value of history, God's people were rarely chastised for not being progressive enough but were condemned because they failed to remember. The Israelites were commanded to place twelve stones at the border of the promised land to remind them that it was God who faithfully led them there and not their own effort. Remembering is a component of almost every aspect of our relationship to God. God's people were told to "remember this day" at the exodus and were instructed to "do this in remembrance of me" at the Last Supper." (Sidewalks in the Kingdom p.105)

Does a new wineskin call for doing away with bread and wine in preference for pizza and coke at communion? There are some who are actually doing that in an effort to cast off the old way of doing things. What about traditions that serve well? What about the need for a generation to leave their world of it being about "me" to learn the drama of redemption, the language (verbal and bodily) of worship, reverence for things handed down and the virtues of Kingdom culture rather than insisting that everything be translated into my comfortable world. Their is something about losing life to gain life.

So, what do you think an old wineskin is?

boy with a ball said...

Great points, both Brian and then Robert.

I think that the whole "truth in conflict" thing is big here and requires going deeper. Just as every U.S. citizen is not a cold-hearted, gun-toting cowboy...we will probably find that hanging out around generational stereotypes in this situation misses the mark.

I think we all agree that we are called to a life in the Spirit that connects us to both the past and the future. Jesus certainly fulfilled all that came before and yet there were those who camped out in what had come before and who did not follow Him.

I see Brian's concern and share it. I see many young people doing alot of rejecting and criticizing rather than responding and becoming something. I also am watching what so many have been saying for years now...something is changing and the way the Church is being manifested is metamorphasizing.

I have at times sensed pressure from both sides of this discussion. Some in the traditional church have seen Boy With a Ball as too far outside of the box. Others who are celebrating the "out of the box" church have struggled with our decision to stay so close to Hugo Zelaya's church here in San Jose. Yet last night, a woman from Colima, Mexico who we met two weeks ago in a Kinkos in San Antonio and who had a "woman at the well" experience with the Lord that day, gave her life to Jesus here in San Jose, Costa Rica in a "traditional church" meeting led by Hugo last night. I will be working with Hugo this week as we prepare her to head back to Colima and start what I can only imagine will be a housechurch.

I am going to need a good bit of Brian's perspective and experience as well as a good bit of Joseph's perspective and experience in order to help plant new church expressions that will truly reach the hearts of the next generation and to connect them in a right way beyond their generations. I will also need them both to help traditional churches learn to truly reach the hearts of the next generation and to connect them in a right way beyond their generation.

josenmiami said...

Well… I was right! We had 3 posts in 3 days, and after my controversial post of this morning, we had 5 posts in just the time it took me and Deb to get back from our appointment with the oncologist!

Jamie, I am glad that you are feeling the dialectical pressure from both sides: the pastoral and the missional. It’s good for you. To everyone else – one of the best “practical” things we can do to help the current generation, the church, and what the heck, the whole world! is to get behind Jamie Johnson and make sure he has the resources (people and financial) and tools to do the job that the Holy Spirit has commissioned him to do. If some of my disappointments and frustrations serve to help Jamie and company, then it will have been well worth it!

Jeremiah: you make an excellent point about how the younger generation relates to the church (and God) being a reflection of how they have been accustomed to relating to mothers and fathers. So, in a sense, we (the baby boomers) are reaping as a generation what we have sown.

Brian: I was not referring to you, or to Covenant Churches. As is normal for me (I think), I was thinking in the “big picture” sense of current Western ‘evangelical” Christianity. Sorry if I made you defensive or touched a raw nerve (again?). When you say “My point was that the church will always have her share of hypocrites, judgmental folk, careless…the presence of those sorts of folks is actually a sign of successl” I am totally in agreement with you.

As I have said before, I have no interest in trying to change existing churches only in finding innovative and biblical ways of reaching the unreached….especially the young unreached. My impression is that among the Covenant churches we have done a better than average job of caring for pastors and people. That is probably one reason we have NOT grown a lot…we have not treated people generally as consumers but as people who need and deserve care.

My point in posting the stats was that I think current Western church life is foundering. I hope that among us (including you rascally institutional types) we will be part of the solution, regardless of what size or kind of congregations we are leading. If I succeed in gathering these tribal-vampire people around Christ in a committed fashion, or the University grad students, all I ask is your prayers and blessing if the end result looks different than the congregation that you are leading. I would also add, that if I am going to start new communities of faith anyway (far from a given in my present circumstance … but at least likely for Jamie) what harm is there in doing a “self-critical” analysis of western church life to see what can be improved for the next generation? Doesn’t a winning football team review their game footage to critique themselves in order to constantly improve their game? If it is actually true that 70 percent of pastors are friendless and burning out their families, why shouldn’t I, as a church planter, give that some reflection and try to build safeguards in new works that I am attempting to initiate? Isn't that how the covenant movement got its start in the first place?

Robert: I would tend to say that wineskins are the scaffolding… not the building, or perhaps the shadow, not the substance. Nonetheless, wineskins are necessary in the same way that a skeletal structure is necessary in an organism. As I have pointed out before, old wineskins are needed to contain old wine…. And the old wine is better! Three cheers for good aged wine! Give me an old French wine anytime over a new California wine….The only good thing about new wine is that it eventually mellows, ages and becomes vintage wine…IF it is not spilled and lost due to inadequate wineskins (either not new, or not renewed). No new wine = no old wine (sad face).

I would guest that Jesus was referring to the whole package: the old covenant, the old “vertical-only” theology (replaced by Jesus’ emphasis on care for the neighbor) and the politicized religious system with corrupt leadership. However, the amazing thing about the church has been its constant capacity for self-renewal in age after age… some old wineskins becoming renewed, other new wineskins being developed. There is no reason to think it will be any different in this historical age.

On a personal note: the doctor confirmed today what we already were suspecting. A mass has returned under Deb’s left arm, and stretching over to her breast. Her cancer count is also up. Looks like we are headed to another round of chemo-therapy and some possible surgeries (at least a biopsy). As always, we appreciate your prayers. Our time together in Brazil was priceless.

I am starting some of my reading for this semester tonight…classes start next week. Between classes, TA work, reading 3 to 4 books a week, AND giving emotional support to Debbie during this round of chemo….you will see me in here a lot less…nevertheless we have the joy and the peace of the Lord.

Robert said...

How about a blog pause for prayers on behalf of Joseph and Debbie.

Lord Jesus, we pray that the same Spirit that accompanied you in that initmate moment when you were raised will now abide upon Debbie Holbrook, quickening her body and causing all things to line up with your design. Give Joseph strength for his studies and wisdom for his beloved. Especially we pray for your presence and anointing. It is in your powerful Name that we pray. Amen

John M. said...

Good discussion everyone. Some thoughts:

*I agree with Joseph about the old/new wine and old/new wineskin. Jesus didn't put a "value" on the old and new, He simply made a statement that you can't put new wine in old wineskins.

*We're not talking about an either/or here, it's both/and. Many in the emerging generations have a great respect for the old/ancient paths and wisdom of the ancient Church. Perhaps, many of them like the ancient Church much better than the contemporary (Western) Church.

*Old wineskins and new wineskins should learn to co-exist and co-work, not fight each other.

*Some people will be best served by one, some by the other. Some leaders will have a heart for one, some for the other.

*Many in the emerging generations will synthesize the wisdom and traditions of the past with culturally sensitive approaches that will look and be "new", but will still retain the best of the old.

*Individuals in the emerging generations are neither more or less carnal and self-centered than any other generation. If they are more out front and obvious with it, perhaps, that is good. Maybe they are not as hypocritical as some in the past, and don't try to mask their selfishness as much.

*Each generation manifests it's carnality and selfishness in distinct ways. This generation is no different.

*If we are taking a missional approach toward our culture, we need to have enough faith in the transformative, creative power of the Holy Spirit, the presence of Christ and the Word of God to believe that if we share Him with the individuals swimming therein, that He will be faithful to show them what they need to see and empower/envision them to express and live out the Kingdom faithfully in their generation.

*We should be there to share, mentor, teach, add experiential wisdom, etc; but we should not try to force them into a pre-conceived mold, but let them and God create the structures (wineskins) needed for now.

*We should listen to Jamie's caution not to engage in generational stereotypes. Many of my 20's and 30's friends challenge me with their commitment to radically live out a Kingdom lifestyle no matter what it takes. Some of my heroes are 20-30 something's who are laying down their lives (and their material possessions) and sometimes literally risking their lives for the sake of the Gospel. There's a lot more out there like them that I haven't met. I also know some of the emreging generation who are into the Gospel lite, consumer mentality, and others who just plain aren't ready to lay down their own agenda for God's. But to be honest, I see a whole lot more of that in my own generation (Baby Boomers) and perhaps in some of the older of what has been called Generation X. In the younger generations I see less lukewarmness and Christian veneer. I see those who are either hot or cold -- not as many who are lukewarm.

*Even for those who look like they don't "give a damn" about God or His Kingdom, I think if we engage them missionally (non-judgmentally, and as true friends, and learners of who/what they are and where they're coming form and the wounds they carry) then we would be surprised to find that their heart hungers for genuine reality and that they are not far from the Kingdom -- if we look where God looks -- not at their tattoos, piercings, and/or self-centered lifestyles -- but at their hearts.


*God is radically committed to the emerging generations. He is counting on us not to judge them, but come along side them and be true spiritual parents to them.

*Like it or not, God is messing with the Church's eclessiology. If He is changing the channel, we need to listen carefully so that we can be on His wavelength. I don't mean by this that we should abandon our present post, shut everything down or anything like that. In fact part of His activity could be to refurbish and renew some old wineskins, as well as create some new ones. We just need to be careful to hear what the Spirit is saying...and then do our best to do what He tells us to...I'm pretty sure that it won't be the same for everyone.

John M. said...

Look at the last pharse. Is this God's heart?

Matt. 9:17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Robert said...

Whatever the form takes...the wineskin, there will be a rhythm...Word that speaks, awareness of falling short, need for forgiveness, assurance of absolution, acceptance at His table and empowerment that enables us to go out to serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. You can't drop any of those elements from the life of Faith without something lacking. Contextualize those elements however seems fitting, they will be there if we are celebrating the Great Tradition...the Faith once handed down.

John M. said...

Amen to Robert's prayer for Debbie and Joseph. We agree Lord. May all the cells in Debbie's body line up with your will and with your Kingdom. May mercy, grace, peace and healing be abundant for Joseph and Debbie, now and in the days to come. In your name, Jesus, amen.

steve H said...

I add my amen to the prayers for Debbie and for you, Joseph. I put a fresh request for prayer out to our community.

I'll be out of town a couple days to support my Dad in person again.

Since we were trying to move the email conversation to the blog, I'm copying the email I sent yesterday here.

If you haven't read "Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense" by N. T. Wright, you probably should. It may be for many postmoderns what C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity has been for many moderns.

Also I recommend an article by the Anglican archbishop of Uganda in "First Things" [http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6002]. It is enlightening and stirring, and also it touches, from a different perspective, on many of the themes we have been batting around.

For some weightier reading I recommend John D. Zizoulas, "Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop During the First Three Centuries," Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Brookline, Massachusetts. ISBN 1-885652-51-8

I am particularly interested such matters as Zizioulas' statement, "...it was not just any assembly, but strictly speaking, the 'eucharistic assembly' that was called the 'ekklesia' of 'Church.' This is clearly shown by a careful examination of the information we can glean from the most ancient texts we have, namely Paul's epistles."

[Zizioulas also has written "Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church" and its follow-up "Communion and Otherness:Further Studies in Personhood and the Church." These tow books are tough reading for me but have huge implications -- insofar as I can understand them.

boy with a ball said...

So...perhaps this is a bit off subject...but I keep being handed all of these books that talk passionately about apostolic teams. I also hear rumblings about how even our organic connection can be fleshed out to provide greater support and connection for our leaders and their congregations.

Many times it is painted as this picture of churches of all types...house churches, traditional churches and the leaders of both...being visited, spoken into and equipped by teams that include representations of the five-fold giftings.

I then travel and see that each church has an area or two that could benefit from someone with depth in that area spending time with them to help them develop.

I am blessed to be around my pastor Robert and to benefit from his team...most of which have traveled through my city here in Costa Rica or have had me in theirs. I am blessed by watching Paul Petrie's leadership of his team.

So is "this," "that?" In other words, is the modern, very real expression of that "apostolic team" concept what we are seeing or is it a dynamic that we should be shooting for developing and fleshing out in a deeper way?
Finally, am I a stupid mid-thirty year old who missed this day of training? Are you all snickering at my idealism or cluelessness?

I guess the idea of an apostolic team weds the ideas we are talking about for me...it brings the institutional in the form of a team of gardeners into the organic and it allows for my all-time favorite word...development.

mbrennan said...


I've always noticed how much our local church benefits from visiting apostles. The key is in the hand of local elders. If they are looking for outside encouragement and input they will certainly find it. I would love to see more visiting apostles speaking into local churches, sharing experiences from other communities, and challenging locals. It's hard for a local elder to encourage the local church in being "outward" because it naturally infuses a sort of instability. Perhaps this is why so many local churches guard their pulpit "religiously"... And well they should, but not so much that the mission of the Kingdom is aborted for the sake of stability...

boy with a ball said...


Are you equating traveling ministers with no authority in a church setting with apostolic teams?

josenmiami said...

hi Jamie,

I have recommended to several people the article by Ralph Winters on the "Two Redemptive Structures of God" which deals with the idea of the apostolic company through church history, and Watchman Nee's book, "The Normal Christian Church Life" which is a very careful quasi-inductive study on the work and apostolic companys, in my opinion, the best I have read. A lot of people have talked about the amazing underground church in China… my guess is that Nee’s teaching in this area may get some of the credit.

In ACM we identified that concept of “apostolic teams” and have attempted to build ACM around that organic concept. All-in-all, it probably has worked pretty well, although in my opinion, one of the weakenesses of what we have done is the failure to distinguish between the apostolic company on the one hand, and the needs of the churches on the other.

Both Nee, and my friend, Dick Scoggins, see apostolic teams primarily as teams of two or more apostles, working together, rather than teams of apostle plus prophet, plus evangelists, plus teacher-pastors. The team that I attempted to develop here in Miami suffered from this shortcoming: one apostle plus one prophet does not make an apostolic team.

Nee believes that the “apostolic” is not a gift – it is a commission from the Holy Spirit. Any particular apostle may also be a pastor-teacher, an evangelist or a prophet as his gift…he (or she) is an apostle because of the commission of the Holy Spirit.

I personally believes that what we have in ACM is more like “apostolic families” composed of a mix of apostles, missionaries and pastor-teachers rather than distinct, clearly functioning apostolic teams. The upside is diversity, the downside is that the missionaries get frustrated and the pastors get frustrated…we end up doing neither function justice.

We also would do well to dispense from some degree of territoriality: there are churches in Paul’s sphere that would benefit from Robert or Gary’s gifting, and there are churches in Robert or Gary’s “spheres” that would benefit from Paul or Michael Cook’s giftings. There would even be great blessing in certain situations if Paul or Robert, or Robert and Michael would go in tandem to work as a two-man team…. But we have not been wired to function that way.

The most effective apostolic team I have seen is one that Dick Scoggins participated in Rhode Island. 3 tentmaking apostolic guys planted an assortment of 50-some congregation, traditional and house churches over a 20 –year period while working full-time in business and in the school system. Dick is now repeating this model with some British guys in midlands England. Their team is composed strictly of apostolic types, both seasoned and apprentices, and they primarily focus on cp in new people groups, and mostly leave the development of the churches to the local elders and the other Eph. 4:11 ministries… although they do intervene in issues of moral failure, doctrinal error or crisis.

I tend to think that the apostolic team needs to primarily focus on penetrating new groups and leave the “church development” to the Eph. 4:11 gifts, although that may reflect my bias toward the “Pauline” side of the apostolic. Dick S. has developed a scriptural model that also includes “Petrine” apostles who are more focused on the Covenantal people of God.

I would encourage you to learn all you can about this, go actually look at working models, and choose the models that seem 1) the most scriptural and 2) the most effective to you. Do not stay stuck in our rut out of loyalty to us or to the past…do not be politically correct. You have a responsibility to run your race well…learn from our mistakes and build on our shoulders but do not let us hold you back.

Brian Emmet said...

OK, as a local elder-pastor, I would WELCOME input from apostolic teams--not just "outside speakers; those are easy to come by--but folks who share something of our history and values (but not necessarily being "covenant insiders" from the Year One) and who have the kind of gifts and commissioning from the Spirit that we've been discussing in the last couple of comments. We're having Robert and Sue out this Sept--for the first time in 5, 6, 7 years!--which doesn't feel quite often enough.

I furhter agree that I would very much like to see ACM--not the organization, bt the peope/churches of it--provide more resources for Jamie and Joseph, as has also been discussed, or at least mentioned. Not that J & J are the only guys doing anything interesting--maybe just the guys who need the most help.

[He said with a friendly smile.]

So, Joseph and Jamie: what do you need? I'm serious: what do you need?

And to my first point: I don't know how to fund the extensive traveling that would be necessary for Joseph to visit my congo once every 12-18 months, for Jamie to do the same, for Robert to do the same (perhaps more often), for... It's not that we necessarily need all that input, but it sure would be fun to get it!

Jeremiah said...

alright, I don't know anything about "apostolic teams" but I've been trying to work with an idea regarding the "five fold" ministry for some time now in a microcosmic setting and I don't know if this has any relevance to what you guys are discussing or not, but its all I got. (says the beggar with a crumb of rice)

It seems to me that the biblical model is that when GOD builds something He uses the prophet to "drop the bomb" of His word and vision. This then is the foundation. He then uses the evangelist to spread that word around. Next the Pastors and Teachers come in and help the person/people/church/nation/ etc. apply and understand the word. The Apostolic has the governmental responsibility to act as a "thumb" to the "fingers" of the other 4, mixing with, and in general, coordinating what they do. As I've said I've tried to do this in small settings, not ever with something as large as a church, but I see something here, that I think if it can get legs under it will carry some weight. I know I have seen it be very very effective, but it requires a couple of very key elements. First of all it takes very committed relationships where the players are comfortable having their weaknesses exposed to the others. Secondly it takes Pastors and Teachers who are committed to the long term working out of the word and also honor the Prophetic. Secondly it takes a Prophet who is patient enough and trusting enough of the Pastors and Teachers so He doesn't interfere and try to speed up the process. Finally it takes an Apostle to be there and stay engaged with real, Godly, Authority. I'm sure this is totally not what you guys are talking about and as my day for travel etc is not for a long time yet maybe I don't have much else to add.

John M. said...

Jeremiah, biblically the apostles and prophets are the foundation, not just the prophet. Also, I'm not saying that apostolic ministry never functions the way you describe it, but I think that most apostolic ministries are much more pioneering and proactive -- doing more than just administrating and facilitating others gifts.

Jeremiah said...


I agree with you 100% on both counts and think what you are saying is completely consistent with what I've put forward.

In regards to the Prophet, I think the Apostle really should be regulating the prophetic. I've noticed that when Apostolic guys are around Prophetic guys, there is a stabilizing factor that the
Apostolic brings in which really serves to channel all that wild energy into a usable form. While Pastors tend to just react to protect their sheep, the Apostolic tends to guide and direct, harnessing what is there. A great example is how the Apostles (beginning with the Chief Apostle, Jesus) were continuously doing exactly that with the Prophetic books. This is how I see these two functioning together to form that foundation (of which Jesus is Chief cornerstone)

In regards to the Pioneering effort, I think you see that when the Apostles work in conjunction with the Evangelists doing much the same kind of thing in the "outward thrusts". I confess though to not really having experience with the pioneering efforts as far as building on virgin ground. Biblically, the model I see for the pioneering effort is just the Disciples preaching the word where ever they get scattered to and the Apostles coming along after and helping them with what they need. But again, I don't have a high regard for my own opinion in this matter of pioneering and don't expect anyone else to either. I rather hope DS is reading and will weigh in on the issue, I would dearly love to have his wisdom on the matter.

josenmiami said...

Hi Brian, you are too kind!

What I really need, besides love and prayers, no one on this side of eternity can give me. I am quite content right now… our support base (assuming it continues at its present level) is enough to get me through another year and a half of graduate studies. I am choosing to equip myself for tentmaking while at the same time carrying out my mission from the Holy Spirit to reach secular young people and gather them around Christ. I have no “grand vision” for forming teams and planting churches now…that vision died and went into the ground. So…there is no current need for additional support. If I make it through to the PhD (approximately 3 plus years away), I hope to be self-supporting -- teaching at the college level and to continue doing outreach as a college prof. If that scenario works out (I am more aware than ever of our inability to know the future, much less control it) I might release what little support I have and encourage my supporters to redirect it to either Jamie or Paul Petrie, who are both doing great and significant apostolic works. Of course, I know that everything can change in 3 years and I have no way of anticipating the future.

Regarding the passage about the church being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, there is more than one interpretation. One interpretation is that it is referring to the scriptures written by the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. In other words, the scriptures.

Jeremiah, you can do fruitful study of the concept of apostolic teams (and the "work") starting with Acts 13 and continuing to the end of Acts. Dow Robinson studies the Pauline model of teams, by overlaying the greetings and mention of people’s names by Paul in his epistles overlaid with Acts 13 through the end

Brian Emmet said...

I've initiated a new post--you can do that when you are The Adminstrator and Host--so please visit and comment, even if/as you continue the conversation here. I must admit that 'Organic CP 6' is my favorite title so far--it just sounds cool! Is it a cleaning product? A shampoo? A mysterious scientific something-or-other...

...only Joseph knows!

josenmiami said...

If you get a chance to visit my blog, you will see that I have already dumped the name "organic cp6" ...and changed my paper to "multiplying communities of faith"

mbrennan said...


To your question:

"Are you equating traveling ministers with no authority in a church setting with apostolic teams"

No. I am referring to the portion of an apostle's existence where he has planted a church, handed it over to a local body of elders, and returns there to encourage them from time to time. We see this in Paul's writings, his instructions to Timothy and others. It seems to be a part of the apostolic call to build up the body. "The Work" as Joseph has referred to is just that. Building up the Body through the proclaimation of the Gospel umong the unreached, encouraging the local churches, and discipling future apostles. As Joseph has referred to often, "The Church and the Work" and "The Normal Christian Church" both give outstanding Biblical insight to the ministries, gifts, Church and the work. As Joseph said, the apostle is simply one who knows that God has set him/her apart for the building up of the Body - local and universal. They are separated out of the locality to work as an outside force. Notice how these "offices" are separated form Elders, Pastors, etc...

"1Co 12:28 - And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues."

Paul essentially says that apostles, prophets, teachers are a part of the gifts of the spirit to build up the Church. This is different from the reference to apostles in Ephesians. Nee does a great job expanding this further.

I would guess that an apostolic team is Paul, Timothy, Barnabas, etc... groups of apostles engaged in the work. Apostles can exhibit multiple gifts - encouragement, teaching, wisdom, prophecy, etc... sort of the Kingdom utility man. The gifts are added as the apostle understands that he/she is officially sent.

Just thoughts thrown out against the wall. I think that we should just relate. Sometimes we make this a little harder than it should be. We just need to be deep friends that can speak to each other candidly. That's a team.

josenmiami said...

Jamie's question abuot apostles who do not have authority in a local congregation may indicate an assumption about apostolic authority. I would say that an apostle only has authority in a local congregation to the degree that the people (and the elders) in the congregation give him authority. Paul had authority in Corinth because he was the spiritual father of the church... but apparently, Cephas and Apollos also had some degree of authority as apostles that had been given them by the Corinthians.

Timothy often did not have much authority...for which reason Paul had to encourage the Corinthians to receive him as an authoritive representative of Paul.

Authority ultimately comes from God, but it always involves charismatic influence based on personal integrity and moral character more than a title or position. Authority that is based strictly on a title or position without any personal influence backing it up is hollow.

mbrennan said...

"I would say that an apostle only has authority in a local congregation to the degree that the people (and the elders) in the congregation give him authority."

That's exactly it. Once an apostle plants a church and hands it over to local leadership, he/she then only has authority by invitation. That protects the locals from false apostles.

josenmiami said...

invitation, and I would say "influence". There might be cases of moral failure, or doctrinal error where an apostle might have to intervene without an invitation...but his intervention would only be effective if he had a lot of influence.

kevin said...

Thank you Joseph for your coherent comment about incoherency. I am following the dialogue, and because of a number of things going on here I haven't been able to respond with due diligence. But I am in the loop and reading the posts. Kevin

josenmiami said...

sorry Kevin...I was just giving you a hard time! It comes from a heart of deep affection toward you.

Robert said...


There is a consistent string of thought that an apostle only has authority in local works that "give" him that authority. That is so "congregational think" and a prevailing attitude. We look at our collective yellow pads to see if we can approve of the apostles input. Can you imagine that in the first century when people depended upon the messenger to bring the Faith? God sends apostles and prophets with His Word. If the local leaders deem it acceptable...yahoo, the apostle scores! If they don't cast a thumbs up...send him packing. This is the product of democratic, congregational, egalitarian, my revelation is as good as your's think.

If someone comes to a local setting with apostolic gifting and is not recognized in that capacity, it is the local congregation that is the loser. They are left with their opinons.

But then that raises the question of recognizing those who have apostolic calling.

Apostolic ministry plus recognition = Kingdom. Apostolic ministry minus recognition = local opinion. The opinion of local leadership minus apostolic input = individualism that is communicated to local constituents who think that their opinion is as relevant as the local leaders. Local constituents minus the authority of local leaders = God knows what.

Is there order that matters?

I am intentionally over the top ...just wanting to jack up your thinking regarding apostolic ministry and how it functions. I hope somebody's blood pressure is rising.

Gary said...

No comment at this point. Just following Joseph's directions to Dennis on how to step from one moving vehicle (email) to another (blogs) without serious damage. If you read this, I made it!

josenmiami said...

I am going to check my bp right now... it was way to high last May as I finished my semester, but the 6 weeks in Brazil seemed to bring it down to within acceptable levels.

good points Robert...but surely you are not suggesting that all of the apostles in the NT were duly recognized and operating with 'official' credentials?

Paul certainly had 'fatherly' influence in Corinth, but he had to defened his apostoleship and lean heavily on his fatherly influence in order to try to speak into that situation. There were at least 3 out of 4 groups that were not inclined to receive Paul's apostolic help: those who were following Cephas, those who were following Apollos and those who were following Jesus.

There was also much debate about "false" apostles... I think the NT situation was far from as clear as you seem to be advocating.

Additionally, a strong NT scriptures for what you seem to negatively describe a congregational self-government. I beleieve that in our movement we have dissed "democracy" without much clear study of the alternatives. Democracy has usually been a bad word among us...but what is the practical alternative? Some kind of theocratic authoritarianism?

Brian Emmet said...

Welcome, Gary and Kevin, glad you made it. Paul tried to post, but said something about all the instructions being in Dutch (??), so I'll be curious to see hat happened there. Old dogs can learn new technologies, as your lives abundantly illustrate!

As a mere pastor I don't have much to add to the apostolic discussion... besides, we pastors have been gumming up the works for so long, it's time we stood down, let the apostles figuere everything out, and then invite you (voluntarily and democratically WHILE recognizing and receiving your authority!) to our churches to straighten us out. [This is friendly banter, OK?]

I noticed that you noticed my comment about my shiny new post and that you have chosen to ignore it. It ain't easy being a Host... as you know, we can continue this discussion, while perhaps offering a few first thoughts on the new post. Or not.

steve H said...

I haven't commented on the matter of the apostolic / apostolic teams etc. When I read Nee years ago, his material made a lot of sense. When I heard a couple sets of recording by Dick Scroggins that made a lot of sense. What I heard about apostolic companies from Dow a number of years ago made a good deal of sense.

Frankly, most of the material from the more recent flurry on the apostolic that I've read or heard leaves questioning how much many of the contemporary advocates of the apostolic are overlaying their own assumptions and novel interpretations on the Biblical material.

And to tell the truth, I don't understand as much about the apostolic and all the other ministries now as I used "to know."

As an elder in a small local community, I DO KNOW WE NEED INPUT AND ADJUSTMENT FROM BEYOND OURSEVLES and we do what we can to get it. Our limited budget has kept us from bringing in all that I would love to have.

One of the most fruitful things we have done within our limited budge is cultivate close relationships with several leaders who live and work near by -- men like Bill Livingston (when he was in Louisville, Dennis Cole, Ted Sandquist, Bryce Anderson (a KMI brother from Vincennes, IN) and Billy Henderson (who leads a Lexington KY church with similar values as ours. A few times we've had several of these men come at the same time so that we could benefit from the "synergy" of their combined interaction and input.

Beyond that about the best I've been able to do is to stay in touch with Dennis Peacocke and other KMI brothers, Paul Petrie, Joseph Holbrook, Charles Simpson, and now Bob Mumford again through personal correspondence and/or phone calls and/or conferences -- and on a few occasions visits.

John said...

Like Kevin, I periodically check in to see the responses to the current topics. Having set under and walked with the teachers of our sphere for close to forty years, I'm amazed at our diversity of thought over things we thought we settled many years ago. This has been good to see...holding on to those nonnegotiables, sorting out what God is saying to us today.
Brian, you continue to do a great job. Blessings to all!

Robert said...


Actually I wanted to see if anyone was paying attention. Sometimes I enter a post and I get the impression that people thought I farted...mainly because there was no response!

In fact, I agree with you. Not everyone is going to recognize a particular apostolic gift. Paul was one thing to some and another to others. Here is my fine point. People recognizing...or not recognizing does not define apostolic calling...it just determines whether they are going to benefit from this Christ called ascension gift. Local congregations don't determine that gift...it is what it is. If they recognize it as such, they get the benefit...if they don't, they won't. That does not change or determine the gift. Yes, there are credentials...but not man given. The Lord will confirm His Word through His servant...those He appoints...He anoints. More later...

Jeremiah said...

I'm always amazed at how prolific the writing is on this post.

The real question being danced around here is authority and what legitimizes it. If we learned anything from the long sad story in the OT of the peoples reception of the Prophets, as Jesus recaps so concisely in the parable of the vineyard, it is that Spiritual Authority is completely independent of what the people think, how the people act, or what the people say. Obviously Jesus was not received by "His own....Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become..." As Robert said, the benefits of Authority are dependent on the peoples reception of it, the the legitimacy is not.

This then forces a painful question. What legitimizes authority? Not actions, we should have learned that lesson from Saul and David. David still recognized the legitimacy of Saul's annointing and authority even though Saul had rebelled and was acting in an unlawful manner (Paul reiterates this principle in the NT)

So what does? I've been watching men in my father's generation wrestle with this question for 15 years, at least, and they were probably doing so before hand. The R.C. has their answer, the E.O. have theirs. But protestants have a real hard time here and the result seems to be that they either:

1) Ignore the question and take the egalitarian approach, which is downright rebellious heresy rebuked so often scripturally as to be pointlessly redundant to list them all.

2) Try to live in some sort of authority relationship and legitimize whoever their choice for "pope" is and why that is ok.

3) Convert to Catholicism.

I haven't yet seen Door #4.

I can say this. The Authority Question is the most important one to Jesus. He equated understanding and recognizing authority with "great faith" (i.e. the centurion) and it was the only "Trap" the pharisees set that He recognized as a legitimate question. In fact, He had such High regard for the Authority Question, that His admonition was to do what the Pharisees say (i.e. honor their Orthodoxy) but don't do what they do (i.e. ignore their Orthopraxy) because they "Sit in the Seat of Moses". I think that is pretty much the tack the protestants I know who have converted to Catholicism take.

I'm not advocating conversion. But there really are very few options when the
Authority Question comes up and it is completely unproductive to dance around them.

interestingly, the ones I have seen convert are the ones who had low regard for relational building which has led me to formulate that "If you plant the seed of Authority, but don't plant the seed of Relationship" the person will convert to Catholicism when the seeds grow up. And I'm not saying Catholics aren't relational either.

I think most people reading this probably have walked through door #2. That might be an interesting conversation also.

Robert, I am completely unaware of your intestinal situation. Normally my lack of response to a given post is an indication of indifference or agreement. In this case, I didn't think your first post was over the top enough.

Alright everybody, fire away!

mbrennan said...

Salem... I just hope that apostles will consider part of their mission the encouragement of existing local churches and that local elders will consider them a great resource. It should be held in balance. It's a great balance. One group thinks globally and outwardly, and the other thinks wholeness, stability, and family health. Good tension that produces fruitful followers.

mbrennan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
josenmiami said...

ok, here goes...I don't want to leave anyone out...if I do, forgive me!

Kevin, you made it in! Come back and comment my friend. It is addicting.

Matt: you always have good things to say. I hope we can have a conversation soon...perhaps over the telephone? Where are living now?

Jeremiah: I am pondering your comments. Don’t want you to feel that I am passing over you…but not sure I agree or disagree…let me think and get back to you. I do agree that the nature and source of authority is an important issue.

John! Welcome! Glad to know you are tracking along with us.

Brian: sorry dude, I went to post the first comment on the new thread, but I was going to use the “s” word… as in, “not sure if I have changed my views, or I just decided I don’t give a s____” and then I realized that I might be violating protocol. Look at it this way, you asked a question of such deep significance, and that requires such profound humility, it may take a few days for anyone to get the courage to post first. In the meantime, Jamie got us going on a real potboiler…and Robert turned up the temp!

Gary, welcome.

Steve: good point. Truthfully, none of us know as much as we used to think we knew. That is probably the beginning of wisdom. We do need input from outside of ourselves.

Robert, thanks…a little playful provocation always helps get a response. I checked my bp after reading your post and it was 135/75….well within acceptable limits. Last Spring, before the trip to Rio, it was averaging 145/90 (with me on medication) not good. I think we are close in our thinking on the apostolic… ultimately, although it was Jesus who commissioned the 12 (and one might argue, Paul on the road to Damascus), it was the Holy Spirit that commissioned the 2nd generation apostolic team to the gentiles out of Antioch, even though the “prophets and teachers” affirmed the initiative of the Holy Spirit by laying hands on Barnabas and Saul. It seems to me that more needs to be studied and considered about the role of the Holy Spirit in selecting, preparing, and sending “sent ones”. Thank God for the Holy Spirit keeping the apostolic heart alive in the church for 2000 years! Perhaps the key issue is not so much figuring out conceptually how apostles should operate ideally, but rather praying to the Lord of the harvest to raise up a bunch of them and laying our lives down to help the Holy Spirit prepare, equip and send them.

I just read Michael’s email. Amen Michael! The voice of wisdom and experience. To quote Gary quoting Watchman Nee, may the Lord make us into crucified men (and women); crucified apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers… elders and deacons.

I think that God has deliberately left large areas of ambiguity in ecclesiology as well as other aspects of theology in order that we should learn to depend on the Holy Spirit rather than a carefully documented “rule-book.” This is probably the ultimate lesson from the book of Acts…the Holy Spirit was the actor, the initiator, the guide and the corrector of the work. Witness St. Paul and company’s long, 3 month trek across Asia minor in Acts 16…the Holy Spirit was actively closing doors, denying access and deliberately frustrating Paul’s team’s “intentionality” and “strategy” (thats for you Jamie) until finally Paul has a dream (very strategic) and the whole team (“we concluded”) decides that God is calling them to Macedonia (a little bit of conciliar decision making?). And thus it has always been in the work of God in the nations….closed doors, frustrated attempts, bungled “strategery”, and subjective dreams leading to new serendipities.

To paraphrase: The kingdom of God does not consist in concepts and theoretical understandings, and much less in words, but in dunamis – righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

mbrennan said...


I'm in Mobile. Email me at mbrennan@ebridge.org and I'll shoot you my cell #.

I would love your feedback on the latest article I have submitted to secular social news site Newsvine. I'm seeing some interesting things there. All the commenters are non-followers of Christ. Most are atheist, secular, or new age.

Why Gandhi Understood Jesus Better Than Most Modern Christians

I hope I don't scare anyone there. You know how hard it is to build a bridge when you basically can't use the terms "church" and "Christian". When I criticize "Christianity" I am referring to "Christendom" actually. It's just that is all secularists know.

My efforts on Newsvine are inspired by the work that Gary and our Muslim Christ Follower friends are doing in our Arabic language social site. Gary is just ramping up to run "e-small groups" with Arab Christ seekers. The group teachers are Arab followers of Christ that have taken lessons drafted by Gary and contextualized them deeply. The Sermon on the Mount, readily accepted wisdom by all Muslims, is basis for discussing the "teachings of the prophet Isa (Jesus)". We figure that if you strip Christianity away and disciple people to DO what Christ said, they will eventually see that they must "die" in order to follow Him. That opens the door to baptism. After all, isn't the great commission to baptize men into their death so that they can DO the things that Jesus said to do?

Anyway, Gary and these guys are seeding the Muslim heart with the DNA of the Kingdom. What more could you ask for? Lots of great opportunities for those that can proclaim the Kingdom from a heart of Agape without using old terminology. It has the same explosive potential it did 2000 years ago and 40 years ago for that matter. Thank God that His Word finds a way.

josenmiami said...

Matt: I am totally with you on this... I have started quoting Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Plato, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Buddha alot -- it seems to help communicate with secular postmoderns.

Jeremiah said...

Joseph did you just say you are quoting Plato? Gasp! Blood pressure rising, Head... feeling dizzy... :)

Boy this is fun and the more we know each other the better it gets.

I was thinking about a few things on my way home from work regarding the last post and the Lord said some things to me about it. Regarding what's behind door #2, there is the Mandate from Heaven. this is consistent with Psalms 75:6 "No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another." It is also consistent with where the following men received their Authority: Paul, John the Baptist, Jesus, All OT Prophets where it is recorded, etc. The Catholic idea of Apostolic succession is, I think valid in the sense that I think Authority is passed that way, but I think Biblically there are other models too.

OK back to the kids

boy with a ball said...

Okay...I think we actually blew my intellectual capacity to process or frame or respond out in that last flurry.

I wanted to respond to Brian's question about our needs by saying that I, for one, need this. When I have frustrated Joseph with using the battle analogy, I have really meant that I desire this out of you all. I don't need you to walk into squatter's settlements or to attend every conference we hold. I need this.

The great advantage of youth is that we get to build on all that you hand us. The sad part is that you have already gotten tired of conversations that we never got to be apart of. I have been thrilled by the last two days to the point of tears and amazed by your willingness to "go at it" again on some points that carry great pain for you. I know it seems repetitious but it has been foundational for me. You have "fought" beside me and for me just by allowing me to participate in your wranglings over these things. Thanks.

Brian Emmet said...

You know, another of the advantages of this blogging is that I now have sermon notes for the next 47 years--thanks!

I think part of my thinking about our need to reflect on how our thinking and practice may be changing as a result of these conversations goes to points made by Jamie and Matt (and others). There's a tendency, I think, in our "normal" blogging to state what we think/know now, without reflecting on how we got to where we are. One of the things that's changed for me over the past 30 years is my approach to "certainty". I used to think that the Gospel meant being certain about just about everything--"the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it!"

One of the benefits of some modern Biblical scholarship ("Hey, guys, does anyone have any idea where Brian is going? Cue theme music for 'The Twilight Zone'!") is pointing out that Scripture may in fact give us a version of what we're doing here--the different parts of Scripture are in dialogue/conversation with one another. The unity of God's Word is not rooted in "it all says the same thing" in a narrow modernist sense, but rather that... hmmm, I think I just brain-farted with Robert and circuit-fried with Jamie! Lest you be tempted to rescind my secret decoder ring, I obviously don't mean that we are doing or creating Scripture in a blog, but that what we're doing may have more in common with the process of enscripturation than I used to think...

...which tells you more about me than anything else, eh?

And since it's all about me, that's probably a good thing, eh?

Robert said...

Ghandi was a biggot. Look at his history in Africa. I can give you some research if anyone is interested. He is definitely not what pop press represented him to be. Mother Teresa believed in ultimate reconciliation...what are you going to do with that?

John M. said...

I think Robert just farted again. It should stir up some chatter, though. Personally, I'm not touching it -- the topic, not the fart.

Joseph...Buddha???..just kidding.

B,t,w, Robert, my father-in-law (my Dad too) was a bigot, and I still loved him and gained much from him.

Maybe Mother Theresa understood more about God's heart than we do...

Brian, I have a post for your shiny new thread in my mind, but I can't get over their to post it because reading all this keeps me up way past when I should be in bed and still get up and go teach school in the morning with any kind of coherency.

Speaking of coherency, Brian, if you can get coherent sermon notes from this blog, you are a genius.

Seriously, what's happening here is an awesome phenomena. I think it's a God thing. I think the Holy Spirit is creating in and through us as we corporately interact. Yes Lord! More Lord! (Not more words; more of His creative power to change us! If that takes more words, let it be!)

Robert said...

John...you got it. It has nothing to do with loving them...it has to do with relying on their thinking as a premise for logically addressing the future. If Ghandi viewed blacks as inferior or Mother Teresa grappled with God's salvific actions towards the impoverished, we are left with the challenge of measuring those "ideas" in the light of orthodox understanding of scripture. It has nothing to do with loving them or respecting their work for humanity. It leads to hard sayings and difficult questions. When notable personalities are casually proposed as exemplary, should we assume that their assumptions are a basis for addressing the future? I am convicted by the example of Mother Teresa's dedication to the poor. I don't believe in ultimate reconciliation.

This is a rabbit trail I suggest we not engage in the light of the larger subject. My terse comments were not intended to derail the conversation.

josenmiami said...

so Robert...who's thinking should we rely on? how about Martin Luther who was also a bigot? Calvin who burned a guy at the stake? or the cluster of corrupt popes just before the Reformation? or...the evangelical "family-values" group formerly represented by Ted Haggard? Or Bishop Gene what-ever-his-name-is in the Episcopal church?

Seems like there is plenty of human failure to go around. I guess that is why Jesus is so special...

Robert said...

My sentiments exactly...about Jesus. It always goes back to Him. Meanwhile, we have to figure out what to do with what we are viewing through a glass darkly. Maybe the dark part that distorts is, in fact, our own unsanctified humanity.

Jeremiah said...


I agree with you regarding needing this. I really resonated with the comment about the Old Guys being tired of the conversations we've never had.

The patience they've had with, particularly me, on this blog has been generous in the extreme and it has really let me "stretch my legs" on a lot of these ideas in a way I haven't had in a long time.

Regarding the "glass darkly" I think the glass is the same as the Sea of glass in Rev. 4 and then, interestingly the sea is gone later on. I've thought for some time that the glass is time, which distorts so much and is always the trickiest part of prophecy to figure out. I hadn't really thought about it being carnality, but that would fit to.

Anyway, I'm going on vacation for a week and won't have web access that I know of. When I get back I'll post my favorite Ghandi quote.

mbrennan said...

The reason I quote liberally from somewhat questionable sources is because of the truth of the statement and the effect of where it comes from. When I quote Gandhi on Jesus it doesn't strengthen their view of Gandhi, but their view of Jesus. Sadly they esteem many men more than Christ, but isn't that what lost people do? I also take Paul's example of quoting Pagan Greek poets to prove a point about the universal truth of the Kingdom. Christianity and Christians do not have a lock on truth. Many people understand certain aspects of the Kingdom without knowing what it is or who the king is. The Magi for example. Men who had 0 history with Yahweh, but who could see the Kingdom of God in Creation. These men exist in all systems today, and by helping them focus on the laws of the Kingdom they begin to see the King who embodies them. "Teaching them to DO". Belief comes as they fail to incarnate the ideals of the Kingdom. They find they must die and be born again. Of course we're talking about "outsiders" and being "wise in the way we approach them". This doesn't fit inside Church. Church is a place where Christ is Lord. In the world, their still searching for the answer. Just like I was before He revealed Himself to me.

mbrennan said...

Here are some good quotes. Like David, Moses, and all those before us, Gandhi was screwed up, but these truths aren't:

A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.
Mohandas Gandhi

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
Mohandas Gandhi

A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.
Mohandas Gandhi

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.
Mohandas Gandhi

Action expresses priorities.
Mohandas Gandhi

An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.
Mohandas Gandhi

josenmiami said...

wow... good quotes Matt! I will copy and paste them into my quotes document.

Jeremiah: I have actually been misquoting Plato...a friend corrected me the other day and told me that it was Philo who said: "be kind to everyone you meet for they are fighting a great battle."

boy with a ball said...

I have been realizing lately that we as a group don't feel very good about institutionalizing ourselves...but we are all pretty big fans of institutions.

Joseph spends most of his time at FIU which is a pretty big institution. Robert has worked in radio and now for an Anglican work...both institutions. Paul works with the European Union...a pretty big institution.

Most of us as pastors have encouraged a heck of alot of kids to pursue higher education...at a whole lot of institutions. We read and recommend alot of books published by publishing institutions. I won't keep going even though I could really get on a roll here by mentioning airlines, food and beverage companies, municipalities, etc. that we all touch daily.

So...we are not anti-institutional. Is it that we are just meant to float around the institutions others initiate other than the local churches we plant and pastor?

When I was in retail, each local store had to do all of the work of drawing clientele, servicing them and maintaining the store. We had almost weekly visits from District Managers who equipped us and brought in resources that were life-changing in that they helped us do our jobs better. They also helped recognize talent in our stores that could be shared with the other stores. We had conference calls, daily memos, training programs and more sent to the store constantly.
Monthly or so, a Regional Manager came in to walk through our stores and see how the District Manager was doing...also meeting key talent so that they could be placed company wide. I could go on and on...but the translocal authority situation was a tremendous help.

I am a person who hates it when people try to use business models to apply to the church. But I have to confess to you that I miss having District Manager walkthroughs and I miss knowing that we were walking into each day with translocal connections that could be brought to bear on our individual situations.

Help me out here. Do I just need to drop these humanistic perspectives or did God put me there to help me here?

josenmiami said...

gosh Jamie, you are even more of an agitator than I am! If you keep it up, I might be able to retire in a couple of years. Robert! If you want us to stop sending emails, you better talk to this guy!

Ok, posting Paul’s response to Jamie on July 31st:

(Paul P. July 31st)
Dear Jamie,

Thanks for your note, and your questions. I'd like to add a few thoughts to Joseph's.

I agree that being "organic" in our perception of relationships isn't contradictory to being strategic and intentional. They can go hand in hand.

Let me give you a little background on the concept, from my memory bank. I met the Lord in 1961, before the Charismatic Movement began. The only churches around, at least that I knew of, were primarily organizational - even if they were alive spiritually. One joined a church organization. One's allegiance was to (or difficulty was with) the institution to which one belonged.

I think none of us thought in terms of the centrality or relationships in those days. As the revelation of relationships began to dawn on the Body of Christ, it had many dimensions and forms. But, for me at least, Jesus model became the centerpiece. Jesus did a great many things for and with a great many people. But the core of His life, and the thing He finished (John 17) was with 12 men that the Father had specifically given Him. And they were the future of His movement, His church. There isn't evidence that structure played a large part in the early days when Jesus was physically here with us.

Now that's not to say that God isn't interested in structure. Israel had lots of God-given structure. And I don't see that Jesus had any intention of dismantling that structure. He honored it. But the center of the Father's purpose for Jesus' life (His death was another matter) was to train 12 men with the goal of them becoming His friends - which they are today. And as His friends they took His message to places far from Jerusalem and spread His life to many. Now they sit on 12 thrones helping Him govern the 12 tribes of Israel. So they had/have structure, responsibility, probably strategy, and definitely intentionality. But the heart of this "Thing" Jesus started at the Father's initiative was friendship. Jesus' parables speak often of the organic nature of the church. And friendship is organic.

One brilliant thing about an organic approach is that friendships can take on any kind of cultural clothing, institutional or organizational clothing. But the institution must remain the clothing, and not become the substance. When the institution does become the substance, individuals and relationships are subordinated to the good of the institution, rather than the antithesis.

Seeing relationships at the heart of God's purpose was a huge revelation that began adapting our thinking.

As a missionary, who has several times changed cultures, I've meditated on the Jerusalem Council and Paul's transition. For the Jews who had been reared and trained in Jewish religion and culture, the two together had become one package, inseparable. So Jesus was added to Jewish culture and ceremony. That was appropriate within the Jewish context. It was when the context was different that Jewish ceremony and tradition was no longer central.

That was Paul's issue with the men in Jerusalem. Eventually the council decided only 4 things were necessary for Paul to communicate to the new, non-Jewish converts. That was a remarkable decision, and a difficult one. They loved their Jewish heritage. Some couldn't make the change. They were the Judaisers. They were spreading Messianic Jewry to none-Jewish churches in Europe, "disturbing, troubling minds, and burdening," (Acts 15:24-29).

Paul's initiative in Europe developed into what we have now as Western Christianity (including Eastern Orthodoxy). There are marvelous traditions, revelations, institutions, etc. that have developed from Paul's small beginnings. Today 1.3 billion people belong to the Catholic Church world-wide. Catholics have done a bang-up job. Among our friends in politics in Europe, a large percentage have Catholic backgrounds which laid good foundations for a revelation of Jesus. So institutions can serve God's purpose. But they are not the center of His purpose.

What am I saying? Jesus relational model, with friends who were given to Him by the Father, and who would stay as such for eternity, is, and shouldbe, the living center of any other model that develops, from the simplest village gathering of believers in Mexico or Congo, to the most developed and sophisticated models of Catholic or Orthodox structures in Europe. This isn't the case now, but I know that what the Father wants above all is relationship with and love for Him, and relationship with and love for one another.

But life is a messy business. Good beginnings can deteriorate. Mixture is the norm! And we're in an up-hill battle to keep 1st things 1st. And 1st things are relationships and love. They'll also be the last things – the eternal things. Hope and faith will pass away. Only loving relationships are eternal.

So much more to say!

Best to all,


mbrennan said...


I personally think that business (take Daniel and Joseph) can be a holy training ground with many practical lessons in it. In fact, when younger folks want to talk about certain issues and seek advice, I just want to say, “Get a job…” Let a boss teach you about stewardship, faithfulness, etc… That district manager came whether he felt like it or not! That’s faithfulness and accountability. Daniel and Joseph didn’t make it to the top just by supernatural means. They were faithful, they made decisions about mammon. They were faithful with mammon and even better, faithful in being poured out before God. Their faithfulness is doing menial tasks made them excellent as faithful intercessors. Praying is work. Serving is work. We’ve all heard brother Charles thanking God for his days picking potatoes and sweeping out storage rooms. I think God honors excellence, whether it’s “born again” or not. Nebuchadnezzar had a pride problem, but God gave him dominion in the Kingdom. We can learn a lot from very unspiritual people… kind of like the shrewd manager Jesus talked about (Luke 16:8).

I opened the can of worms about “anti-institutional”. I didn’t mean anti-institutional, but anti-institutionalism… There is a huge difference. The department of Motor vehicles in Mobile, AL is not the same as Nike. Both are institutions, but they don’t share the same level of effectiveness. What I was after was institutionalism and it’s tendency to take ideals that were meant to be incarnated by the members and removes them into a purely corporate ideal. We’ve all been a part of great organizations, institutions, etc… where each member from the Janitor to the CEO or Chancellor fully embodied the ideals of that institution. That’s why we admire the founding Fathers. They didn’t just talk, they walked the walk. They incarnated courage and liberty. Today there is a huge separation between the ideal of America and the incarnated reality. We’ve all lamented this in the church. The fact that the members are not Doers, but spectators. I hope that is clearer. I have personally been a part of great institutions that have a way of reproducing the ideals of the institution in individuals. The University of Notre Dame is a place where I learned that you can’t rest on your laurels. You have to play as Rockne did or people will stop thinking you are a great institution. “We’re Notre Dame” doesn’t get you very far when you are squaring off against a 300 pound defensive end. He doesn’t care who you are. You have to show him that Notre Dame is different. This is what I yearn for in the church. Forget about telling people who we are and what we stand for. Incarnate. Each member incarnating will build the body. Vine and temple of living stones. Fluid and rigid. “Truth in tension” as Stephen S. says…


boy with a ball said...

Sorry guys to retread old ground. I am going to take some time to reread the older messages and make sure I don't waste our time.


josenmiami said...

Jamie, I was being playful... it was not intended as a rebuke. Trust me, you are never a "waste of our time"

after you read Paul's email (and any others regarding institutions) I would be interested in hearing any concrete proposals you have for needed institutions.

Robert said...

We need to back up and define how we are using terms. Matt, I am with you big time on the distinction between institution and institutionalism. The implications are huge.


Main Entry: in·sti·tu·tion
Function: noun
1 : an act of instituting : ESTABLISHMENT
2 a : a significant practice, relationship, or organization in a society or culture..the institution of marriage; also : something or someone firmly associated with a place or thing ...she has become an institution in the theater...: an established organization or corporation (as a college or university) especially of a public character ; also : ASYLUM 4

Please note the connect of practice...relationship...organization. Maybe the word, among many others, needs to be redeemed. Institution, organization and heirarchy are generally viewed as things to be avoided in covenant circles. Fact is, if we did not have Brian to host and initiate, Joseph to throw coal on the fire and generally be the "troubler of Israel" and everybody else throwing dust in the air, we would not be doing theology.

Covthinklings.blogspot.com is, in fact, an institution if we abide by Webster -practice/relationship/organization. We are engaging a practice...we have relationship...and we are organized enough to move this forward. Based upon that...covthinklings.blogspot.com is an institution...ACM is for sure an institution. Maybe institutions are really good! Do we need to hand out atenolol (for those that don't know...that is blood pressure medication).

How do we get beyond these posts being so damn long? Folks dropping in half way don't have a prayer of catching up. Maybe we need a marshall like on a golf course that keeps everyone playing within some established rules...like no more that 3 distilled posts per week. We have proflific writers...but some have more time to engage than others.

Got to tell you that sometimes I pick up having to do a sprint when I need to run a marathon. Hey, that's my issue...let the horses run.

Robert said...

Don't know what a "proflific" contributor looks like..."prolific" was intended indicating fruitful productivity.

josenmiami said...

I agree with you Robert...we have been too fearful of redeemed structure in our circles. Using Paul's measure of institutions as "serving" relationships, and I would add "serving the purpose of God" I would be interested in hearing more from Jamie about what kind of structural development he would find helpful.

John M. said...

Robert, I think the posts would be even longer if we only each posted once or twice a week. And it would eliminate the conversational, round-table approach, making the blog simply a "wall" where we hung up our weekly essays. I like the corporate conversational model much better. It's more relational and less institutional. Smile wink This thing has a life of it's own. I don't want to kill it.

Robert said...

Being as we have popped the 100 barrier on this one...it is too late to appeal for another format. The challenge remains for those who don't have the time to engage because of busy schedules. Their contributions are of equal significance but are not registered. That means the "posters" carry the day toward outcomes that are not measured by others. Guess we have to accept that as the limits of a blog...and the responsibility.

josenmiami said...

are you appealing for egalitarianism in the blog world?

John M. said...

Yeah, that sounds pretty "democratic" Robert! :)


Brian, you may have a problem with keeping the new thread purely reflective and on topic. Those who are newly invited in and those who have just come back after an absence are going to assume that it is the active thread and leave their posts there. Ex. Sean's last post and Bama Stephen's (Stephen Simpsom is assume) recent post.

Brian Emmet said...

John, I suspect you're right--I don't mean to try to over-control things... we do seem to be keeping two posts going at once, this one and the more reflective one. Let's see if that continues...

mbrennan said...

Thanks Robert. Great comments on Institutions vs ism...

mbrennan said...

I just got the 2007 CSM Gatlinburg CDs. Anyone want to talk about post-foundationalism and getting your hamburger cut? Perhaps in a new post?

Robert said...


Do I have permission to cut your hamburger...how about peel your shrimp? Now that gets down and dirty!

Robert said...


For those who don't have the background on either the Gatlinburg conference or our mutual history with Bill in Mobile around his deep fryer...that last post could raise serious questions.

We are actually talking about hamburgers and shrimp!

Brian Emmet said...

Uh, thanks for the clarification, guys, but I still don't have any idea what you're talking about! No need to clarify--that would be like having to explain the punchline of a joke: it just goes all flat and lifeless.

josenmiami said...

in Gatlinburg last year, Bob Mumford told a story about a dad cutting his young son's humburger without his permission ... and used it as an illustration of giving God permission to intervene into our lives.

Bill Lawler used to do these huge fish fries using shrimp in Mobile -- thus providing a social space for people to gather together and bond with one another. It was a gift.

mbrennan said...

The question I've been asking myself is "am I building ministry that relies on me?" "Am I building in a way where my ownership is the key to the life of the ministry?" "If I disappeared, would the ministry continue on as a living body?" "If God told me to let it go, would I be able to?" "Am I defined by the work I am attached to or by full submission to Him?"

I once asked my Pastor, "Why don't we sell all the church property and give it to the poor? All the people that continue to meet from house to house are the church. All those that continue to seek fellowhsip and encouragement are the ones that were truly following." He got mad, but settled down. It was a pretty harsh question. Lot's of people's salaries were tied up in that structure. They couldn't do something like that. There was also the thought that selling the building and dispersing of much of the form would leave some sheep out in the cold... What if they were wolves in sheeps clothing? What if they were cats wearing sheeps clothing? You ever heard the phrase "hearding cats"? Kind of like "If the Holy Spirit can't sheperd them, what makes you think the elders can?" I thought about all this when I saw Paul's statement, "deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." It scared me to think that we could be keeping people from Jesus by holding them in a mesmerized state of inaction. It's in love that we release people into His hands. Is this the ownership issue?

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks, Matt--thoughtful stuff. I'm re-posting from the other pat of this thread:

Hey, younger men: William, Sean, Patrick, John, Jimmy, Matt, and others I've missed: we're missing yourr voices here. What's up: just busy? Prefer email? Prefer something more practical, a discussion that occasionally actually arrives at something approaching a conclusion? Intimidated by the dazzling brilliance and profound insights that drop like pearls from the grizzled brows of the old boys (now there's a mixed metaphor!)?

Anyway, we need and want your ongoing input, at least as much as you need ours...maybe more. So chime in: where would you like to see us head next?

Brian Emmet said...

Matt, I'm not sure that buildings, etc. are either here or there--as Paul said in another context, we're not better off for having them, nor better off for not having them. A buuildjg can be an idol, as can meeting in homes/clubs/bars/under a bridge. I think a healthy church will always be something of a mixed multitude--some totally serious folks all the way to hangers-on/spectator-types. Another way to put it is that I don't think it's a very healthy situation to expect to have all rock-solid, sold-out disciples. I went through that a while back, the kind of "we're the Green Berets of God's kingdom, the guys who are totally committed!" sort of thinking about being 'a real church.' I've found that some of the folks I was pretty sure were dead weight and a drag on the work actually had some treasures to offer.

mbrennan said...

"I don't think it's a very healthy situation to expect to have all rock-solid, sold-out disciples. "

You're right. You know from experience. I've had limited experience, but I have figured out that spending time with the one's that are "worth it" is highly inexact. One of my good friends had a football coach that said, "Everything ain't everything." We say that to each other any time we start talking in absolute white washed, vanilla terms. Preach the ideal, live in the real.

Thanks for sharing from your experience. It's better than speculative insights.

I know that Patrick just started back teaching school. I'm sure that has him busy. Others are getting back in as students, etc... I'm sure they will emerge soon.

boy with a ball said...

Hey guys,

Brian intimated that this discussion has gone well but without much conclusion. Joseph encouraged me to mention some things that I would see as helpful for those we walk with.

I do not want to force my half-baked ideas on anyone so I have published a page and a half reply to Joseph's proddings at the following address:


(You should be able to just cut and paste that address into your web browser to get there.)

My overall all belief is that the next generation is best helped by the older generation being faithful. They will follow our example. We will reap what we sow. My other deep belief is that you are a treasure...and a treasure that we are stewards of. My hope is that we will be good stewards of all that is in you, of the time, or our resources and of these young people God has given us in order to accomplish our purpose in our generation.


Sarah said...

Matt, I think your question about selling the church property, giving the money to the poor and seeing who remains is very valid -- more people should be asking those types of questions. It would at least help clarify our values and priorities. Not that God would call every organized church that owns property to do that -- but He may be calling some. (Probably is, if they are listening) Talk about making an impact. Imagine the attention that would draw? If handled properly it would be a wonderful opportunity to use the media to communicate Jesus' humility and heart for justice for the poor and oppressed. He at the very least would want us to be willing. It probably is raising the "organic/institutional" thing again, and we have to hold these in their proper tension as "both/and" and not exclusively "either/or". I do know that God called me out of a structured, salaried situation into more of what you described would remain after the buildings were sold. When I sensed God leading me that way, the whole salary issue rose up immediately. After giving it some thought, I realized that, that could not be an issue. If I allowed it to be, then I immediately became a hireling who was finding his provision in a man-made system, rather than from God. When I left, I took a rather large salary cut, but I'm not on the street, and I have all I need. If we listen, God will call some of us (not all!) to get out of the bubble.

Robert said...

Sarah...thanks for the "out of the bubble" comments. What are we willing to do to bust out? How about a little ID from you to know what a "bubble buster" looks like and why?

josenmiami said...

great thoughts Laurel...I was especially caught by this passage:

"Each generation has only seventy or eighty years to get it right...And yet the generation of people he led did not get it right. I wonder if ours has."

The tock is clicking (spoonerism) is my generation...one of the most idealistic in history. Don't know about my generation...but I certainly and pressing forward so that at least I will get it right before I am gone.

thanks for contributing. Are you planning to continue to a post-grad in history? I am starting my 2nd year in a PhD in history next week.

I have posted some thoughts on democracy and Christianity on my blog - www.c-far.blogspot.com if you get time or have the interest to drop in.



PS: you and Billy are two of my favorite people!

mbrennan said...

Thanks Sarah. I think we have to ask hard questions and be honest with ourselves. I think this type of thinking relates to becoming like Caleb who was willing to continue the journey even though life was quite comfortable in the wilderness camp. Even if we don't sell our respective organizations, divest, etc... it helps to think that through. If we are talking about what is "real" in a ministry, it is the relationships. It's scary to think that you can meet every Sunday and have little to no relationships. You can go to the office every day and have little to no relationships. It doesn't mean we have to quit our jobs, but it may mean we need to shift the focus to relationship building rather than organizational building. Holding them in tension of course.

Robert... Uncle Bill still does the fish fry the night before Christmas eve. It's still the best fried seafood on the Gulf Coast.

josenmiami said...

great thoughts Laurel...I was especially caught by this passage:

"Each generation has only seventy or eighty years to get it right...And yet the generation of people he led did not get it right. I wonder if ours has."

The tock is clicking (spoonerism) is my generation...one of the most idealistic in history. Don't know about my generation...but I certainly and pressing forward so that at least I will get it right before I am gone.

thanks for contributing. Are you planning to continue to a post-grad in history? I am starting my 2nd year in a PhD in history next week.

I have posted some thoughts on democracy and Christianity on my blog - www.c-far.blogspot.com if you get time or have the interest to drop in.



PS: you and Billy are two of my favorite people!

josenmiami said...

crap...sorry folks!

I am breaking in a new laptop with all kinds of security protocols (including fingerprint recognition) and I have no clue why it kept pasting in here comments I made on Billy Long's blog...sorry!

Sarah: Welcome!! At first, I thought you were my daughter Sarah who I have been inviting to come in here and comment. I totally agree with your comments and I am super blessed to have some 'sista's' visiting...
please come back and continue to contribute your thoughts.

jeff said...

Hi everyone, Joseph invited me to comment ...I'm a long time reader, first time blogger. I'm part of a small covenant church in WI. I was wondering how the discussion fits in with Bob Mumford's idea that God is extracting the internal/eternal integrity of the Kingdom of God from the modern church and changing the outward appearance for the postmodern era? J.I. Packer said "All Christians are at once beneficiaries and victims of tradition ... beneficiaries, who receive nurturing truth and wisdom from God's faithfulness in past generations; victims, who now take for granted things that need to be questioned, thus treating as divine absolutes, patterns of belief and behavior that should be seen as human, provisional, and relative." I agree with Sara that it is a both/and type of tension between the way things are and the way things will become, whether we like it or not. For me, some of the institutionalism of "church", even all of the newer stuff, is a lot like David being told he needed to wear Saul's armor to fight Goliath. It weighed him down, restricted his mobility, and would have prevented him from being successful. I have been learning to travel light, without a lot of the armor I used to wear, thought I had to wear, or was taught I had to wear. I sometimes want to reach back and pick up a piece because I've used it before and it fits well, but the Spirit says leave it in the basement. I have benefited greatly from Joseph's teaching on "abandoning our life" as we journey into the kingdom and not letting what I have known through years of "experience" get in the way of hearing what God wants me to know about what He is doing now. I'm also interested in what Sarah has to say about being a "bubble buster". Matt, I have asked the same questions. Jamie, as an older guy I will try to remain faithful but my generation still gets a shot at God's purposes. BTW, I have found if you leave those half baked ideas in the oven long enough ... Thanks for reading.

Robert said...

Jeff...identifying what constitutes "Saul's armor" to be set aside is a critical issue. Kingdom extraction involves recognizing those things which should be brought forward into the future. A consistent theme of scripture is reference to the past. It is a very bold move to propose that we are hearing and getting it better than those who have paid a great price to hand us what we carry in our back packs. It is one thing to travel light...another to run into the future without the tools we need to address the future. Who decides what gets dumped in order to reach the goal? This is all a bit esoteric. Saul's armor can be anything from the past. What does that mean to you?

John M. said...

Hey Sarah, Welcome! I'm interested in this "bubble busting" business too. Let's hear your thoughts. Could you define what you mean by "the bubble"? I resonate with what you're saying.

Sarah said...

Thanks for the comments and questions. I feel like I have stepped into an all-male club that has just been opened to women. It's all legal and everything but rather intimidating. I am glad I ventured in here, though.

I've actually been reading along for a while and have found the discussion quite intriguing and sometimes very stimulating and challenging.

You probably wonder how I got here. Well, a friend of a friend (I'm not sure who the original "friend" is.) has been forwarding the email chain to my friend. I'm not sure when that started, but a few weeks ago, my friend started forwarding them to me because he knew I thought a lot about these kinds of things. When someone posted the link to the blog, I came on over and started reading here, and finally got up the nerve to post. So, now you have it.

Regarding the "Christian bubble" idea... I would describe it as the cultural laundry list that most local churches and church groups have which defines who is "in" and who is "out". I'm not talking about core biblical values, although sometimes things on the list are narrow/specific interpretations of the Bible. But most of the stuff is merely the members' cultural preferences. Sometimes they are specific to one local fellowship, but most of them are fairly universal within the evangelical church.

Most people inside the bubble aren't even consciously aware of the list, but let someone violate it and everyone notices.

Things like use of alcohol, tobacco, certain words and language usage, body decorations (tattoos, piercings), certain types of clothing and hairstyles. Hanging out in certain environments like clubs, bars, and the like, preferences in music, movies and other cultural niches.

In some churches if you demonstrate involvement in any of these external activities, you are not welcome even initially. In others you are welcomed warmly, but if you want to "really" become part of things, then you are expected to "clean up your act". If you don't the welcome wears thin, people begin to question your commitment, and eventually things cool off dramatically.

These are the external dimensions of the bubble. Then there is an unspoken attitude and mind-set that is assumed that all "members" will absorb. Political, cultural conservatism, a republican agenda etc.

These things cause most unchurched, secular people to never show up, or if they do because of a friend's invitation, they are hard-pressed to jump through all the hoops to be accepted, and most of the time have no desire to jump through those hoops, so they don't return.

Many of my friends think Jesus is pretty cool, and would enjoy knowing some more about what kind of guy he is, and what he had to say. But when they hit the bubble, they can't find Jesus inside there (at least the one they think exists form their superficial contact with the Bible or it's sayings). All they are able to see and experience is all this man-made stuff.

That causes some of them to decide they don't want anything to do with either the church or Jesus, because they can't identify or understand his followers. For others, although, they don't want to be involved with the Church,they are still very interested in Jesus.

I was not raised in church. My parents never went, nor did they send me. They were just kind of children of the world, who encouraged me to form good values, but never really gave me a context in which to do it. I really never thought much about religion until my freshman year of high school, when I made a new best friend who was an evangelical Christian. I went to church and to camps and youth group with her, and by my sophomore year had committed my life to Christ. All I knew was what I had been exposed to, and I jumped in with both feet. I was involved closely with church life all through high school and received the same formation as the others in the youth group -- not real deep, but a strong emphasis on personal salvation, avoiding hell and getting to heaven, and having a personal relationship with Jesus.

College is another story; and now the work world, but I did retain my relationship with the Lord, and through some small groups of like-minded believers I have grown in my faith.

My conflict came when I tried to get some of my friends inside the bubble. It just didn't work, as I described above. They were interested in hanging out and talking over a beer or at someone's apt., so I found myself doing this more and more, and getting fellowship from my group of Christian friends who meet regularly for prayer, mutual encouragement and some Bible study. Gradually I just drifted away from the bubble that we call church, and rarely venture inside it anymore. I have seen a couple of my friends become followers of Jesus, and a few others are definitely moving toward him rather than being passive or moving away. It's actually quite exciting most of the time -- although I sometimes miss the large corporate worship services and camaraderie of the larger church body. But when I do duck back into the bubble it is very hard not to be critical because I tend now to view it through the eyes of my unchurched friends. So I feel really conflicted to the point that I rarely venture there. It actually seems foreign to me now.

Sorry this is so long. I "busted" the bubble by just moving out of it and not participating anymore. I'm certainly not an expert at the things that are being discussed on this blog, but I am very interested in how to follow Jesus outside the bubble and how to form communities of his followers who do not create their own bubble, if that is possible.

Robert said...

Sarah...who the heck are you? Are you willing to be more self dislosing as to where you are and where you have been affiliated? Your comments are so well articulated and represent a huge generational passage. I have no interest in targeting your context but it will help to know what the "bubble" means to you. Not all bubbles are the same. Some are more culturally defined than others. It would be a mistake to generically define the bubble. Without implicating any given situation, what is the bubble for you? If you can't make a connect with where you have come from to where you are...there is something missing. What is it? I know where I have come from and where I am going...I want to bring what is valuable forward into the future. Because I don't find myself compelled to have to draw lines..."bubble boundaries"...I am deeply interested in your journey that leads to the need for disengagement. If you were local, I would buy you a beverage of your choice and listen deeply.

Brian Emmet said...

Sarah, very glad to have you (back)! I add my thanks for your thoughtful and perceptive comments. Please stay in the conversation with us!

jeff said...


This is a condensed version. I wrote a lot more but it was turning into a term paper. Here goes ...

For me, Saul’s armor means to take on what others have had work for them (ideas, processes, structures), in good conscience, (David tried the armor on and walked around in it) only to find out it doesn’t fit and then have the courage to take it off and realize it is ok to take it off. David was being both strategic and intentional when he did this, yet not hindered and encumbered. The heritage we have and the debt we owe those who have gone before us is tremendous. You can build on it, but can’t take it all with you. I always have to look at why or how certain practices, ideals, biases, and traditions started,” the man made stuff” as Sarah said, in the light of scripture. Then bring it to the Lord and ask if it needs be set aside in order to keep following Jesus and proclaiming the Kingdom. It doesn't mean that it is wrong, but that it doesn't fit me for the situation I am facing. What constitutes Saul’s armor is at the same time personal, situational, and possibly generational.

Sarah, thanks for your comments. I am looking forward to hearing from you again.

josenmiami said...

Jeff, I agree with you about "traveling light" ... for me as a missional person among secular people it is an absolute necessity, especially in trying to draw young people around Christ.

I would say that we should let Jesus, the Holy Spirit, scripture and the people we are attempting to reach determine what we jettison and what we keep.

Things that Jesus made very clear, such as loving God with all our hearts, loving our neigbhors must be kept front and center. The scripture from Acts 2:42 listing those things to which the early church devoted itself to has been very helpful to our group.

And, ultimately throughout the book of Acts and throughout history, the Holy Spirit has guided the process of the incarnation of the word of God in every generation and every people group.

As Dow has taught, as we sow the word of God and the word of the kingdom into the soil of a culture, or a people group, it will incarnate itself within that specific culture in ways that might surprise us. This is something we may not always predetermine.

I have a short essay I posted on my blog about our experience of "deconstructing" the church that I will send you as an attachment.

Robert said...

In principle, the idea of pressing ahead...leaving some things behind is a scritural idea for sure. In Jer. 48:11, we see Moab being chastized for settling on his lees. It is a graphic picture using wine making as a metaphor. Lees represent the sediment from the wine aging. To get the good wine you need to pour off the wine and leave the lees behind. I think Bob Mumford would agree this word picture supports the idea of Kingdom extraction. Pouring something forward into a new vessel and leaving the residue behind for whatever you do with that stuff is clearly supported by this text.

This raises a very significant question. What constitutes "lees?" If we don't talk about particulars, we can set a precedent of calling anything that discomforts or challenges our present context as being something that should be left behind. The Jesus Seminar exercised the perogative of deciding what about the life of Jesus should be brought forward and accepted...and what gets dumped. The schools of higher criticism in Germany proposed demythologizing the Gospels to bring the real message forward. The seeds of this kind of thinking has led the Episcopal church to the sort of liberal thinking that has led to endorsing homosexual bishops and the blessing of same sex marriages. This is all in the name of love, tolerance and inclusiveness. BTW, they really believe they have a sound basis for their logic.

My request for a more clear understanding of what defines the "bubble" is in the interest of knowing what we are really talking about. At some point, this involves counciliar response. Arius promulgated the idea that God's Son, who assumed our identity in Jesus, had not been God's Son from all eternity. This provoked the Council of Nicea which produced what we have as the Nicean Creed. The significance of this gathering was a presevation of aposotlic teaching handed down from the foundational apostles. What if Arius and his "contemporary" thinking about Jesus had carried the day? Point is, we need to be careful about what we dismiss as out-of-date thinking...residue. We are not called to relate to postmodern existential experience at the expense of orthodox Faith preserved in antiquity. Specifics on what represents "lees"...the "bubble" will help this conversation. Anybody have bullit points? Let's get specific...

josenmiami said...

yes, good points Robert. I am sure that most everyone in here will agree with you about the value of the creeds and the orthodox teaching of the church fathers.

I think what Jeff and I are talking about (and indeed, what most of us are talking about when we talk about "organic church") are mostly recent evangelical innovations such as Sunday School and the sinner's prayer as a magical formulation.

There are, however, some traditions that go back to the patristic church that need examination as well. I remember hearing Dow Robinson comparing evangelical Sunday services to "Greek Theatre". I personally continue to have serious reservations on the whole "clergly-laity" division that seems to have existed from early in the 2nd century, nearly as soon as the last apostle died.

I agree that it is good to be specific and concrete in what we discuss. I do think that the Holy Spirit will guide us in our changing practice within the boundaries of scripture.

John M. said...

Robert, I see the "bubble" as cultural and attitudinal, not doctrinal. I don't hear anyone saying that they want to innovate with or reject the historic doctrines of the Church. I think the emerging generations are concerned about authenticity and orthopraxy. They want to see the Church walking the walk; they want to see people living what they say they believe. They are concerned about doing what the Bible says, rather than just believing what it says. In fact they would question the sincerity of someone's belief if they are not actually doing anything that reflects the belief.

They are concerned about justice for the poor and oppressed. They are concerned about social issues, but very much against party lines.

They feel the bubble squeezing them into a conservative, uptight, right-wing Republican mold and they don't feel comfortable there. They see the bubble becoming a Christian ghetto that is pretty much a closed system. They want to reach outside the bubble to the world and the larger culture, and can't seem to do that effectively while staying inside the bubble.

They are interested in community, simplicity, authenticity in relationships and doing their faith with other like-minded followers of Jesus. They are not interested in ecclesiastical structures, budgets that go almost 100% to supporting the bubble, the buildings, and the staff that is paid to maintain the bubble.

They are much more attracted to Acts 2:42-47, and Jesus hanging out and traveling around with his disciples than maintaining a big, slick building with lots of specialized programs, plenty of paved parking, lots of digital equipment, snazzy, entertaining sermons etc. But amazingly, they will look past all that if they find sincerity, authenticity and some of the qualities mentioned above.

Actually all of the above is very encouraging to me.

Brian Emmet said...

I appreciate the ways in which I think John's last comment advances the discussion... and also provides a reflection point on Jamie's comment on the other currently-active post (the one "above" this one on our blog site). So speaking for myself, I have no quarrel with the items on John's listing of what the current generation is looking for. John obviously wasn't preparing a complete/comprehensive list, but it is a good response to Robert's request for a clearer delineation of "the bubble." Can someone help us take a next step?

John M. said...

Thanks Brian. I took the risk of "speaking for" the younger generation based on conversations (too few), readings, and a subjective (prophetic, I hope?) sense. I would appreciate hearing from the younger folks reading along to see if they think my observations have merit or if I'm off base. I think Joseph has had more "real life" experience at this than I have, so I would like to hear him weigh in also.

Jeremiah said...


Welcome Sarah and others!

I will catch up on the other blog list later and I'm sure Joseph LOOOOVVVEEEDD my email. (which I discovered some new thoughts on from WSC's History of the English Speaking Peoples on vacaction) I'll comment briefly here. Vacation was fun. Its always interesting what an 8 yr. old, 6 yr. old, and 3 yr. old will do with pool balls in a house you don't own. :) I'll save the story for another time/venue.

Regarding this entire discussion regarding the "Bubble" and speaking as someone of the "younger" generation in age, all I've got to say is that I don't really care as long as the Kingdom of GOD is coming from Heaven to Earth in the most efficient way possible. As a strucutural engineer I definitely see the value of structure whether it is in buildings, organic living things, or structures. I also know the incredible headache that the rest of the world considers my beautiful beams, columns, trusses and X-braces (witness the cut X-Bracing I witnessed today in an industrial building).

The problem I see everybody complaining about in regards to "structure" isn't the structure, but the accumulated garbage that has been hung on the structure for, in some cases, years. Like going into an old attic, there are ancient artifacts and strange machinery hung all over the place and many don't know why its there, where it came from, or what it is supposed to be used for. Often, when the meaning is discovered, (like the wonderful creeds posted a couple of weeks back) cries of delight, shouts of joy and wonder resound.

But if the stuff obscures Jesus, cut it down. (My translation of Phil. 3)

OK, since my kids still aren't making money, back to work. LOL :)

josenmiami said...

hi guys, I'm back on campus for my frist day in this semester...you won't see me much for the next 9 or 10 months...

Jeremiah! I love you man...I liked your comment on "accumulated garbage"... I agree. Regarding Democracy or Theocracy...you have a lot of catching up to do on emails...enjoy!

Brian Emmet said...

Please visit and respond to the new post "You're Invited" from Aug 28.

Robert said...

I am assuming this one has been put to bed.