The Voyage


Dietmar Lichota on Flickr

Today I want to simply offer up a Puritan prayer from the book The Valley of Vision, which is a wonderful collection of Puritan prayers. I usually read one a day–and I find that the richness of the language and how these Puritan brothers viewed God, usually stirs my soul to a greater love for Christ. I also find that often there are leadership gems hidden in the thoughts and purposes of these prayers. Below is from pages 202-203 and simply entitled Voyage. Enjoy!


O Lord of the oceans,

My little bark sails on a restless sea,
Grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely;
Suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course;
Let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals;
Bring me to harbor with flying pennants,
hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled.
I ask great things,
expect great things,
shall receive great things.
I venture on Thee wholly, fully,
my wind, sunshine, anchor, defence.
The voyage is long, the waves high, the storms pitiless,
but my helm is held steady,
thy Word secures sage passage,
the grace wafts me onward,
my haven is guaranteed.
This day will bring me nearer home,
Grant me holy consistency in every transaction,
my peace flowing as a running tide,
my righteousness as every chasing wave.
Help me to live circumspectly,
with skill to convert every care into prayer,
Halo my path with gentleness and love,
smooth every asperity of temper,
let me not forget how easy it is to occasion grief;
may I strive to bind up every wound,
and pour oil on all troubled waters.
May this world this day be happier and better because I live.
Let my mast before me be the Saviour’s cross,
and every oncoming wave the fountain in his side.
Help me, protect me in the moving sea until I reach the shore of unceasing praise.

The Emerging Church Movement

I am currently reading Organic Church by Neil Cole. I have read several books out of the emerging church movement. Cole’s work is quite insightful and adds some well thought out principles to the Emerging Church conversation. I also see several things that concern me about the movement and some of its pundits. But there is no doubt that what is being said and what is happening is significant–and will stir the mind as to what God is up to.

As I have reflected on some of these works it strikes me that we are in a crucial season for the Chruch as a whole. The very identity of the Church is up for grabs. I currently believe that there are several critical questions that are being asked both inside and outside the Church. Leaders will have to provide answers and directional clarity. Here are what I consider to be some of those key questions that will impact the Church for the foreseeable future:

1. How will the Church ultimately repsond to the homosexual community?
2. What will ultimately be the role of women in leadership within the Church?
3. What is Church?
4. How do we do Church?
5. What is true church growth?

All five of these must be answered with humility and with charity–but all five must be answered biblically. To do less will lead to heresy and dysfunction. These are some of the very questions that the Emerging Church Movement is raising and seeking to answer. Where I believe the movement is shining is in the realm of ministry philosophy. Where I see some stumbling is in the realm of theological clarity.

More later.

The Other Three Critical Components

The picture to the right is a depiction of Jesus and the twelve on an outer wall of the Montserrat cathedral. While quite striking I did notice that all 13 figures are portrayed as very old and pretty stoic–I wonder if that is how they really lived and led in this new venture called Christianity in the 1st century.

Today, I want to complete the description of what Alan Hirsch posed as six critical components of church DNA for the 21st century. In the last post I attempted to describe Jesus as Lord, Missional Incarnational Impulse, and Apostolic Leadership. Now for the other three:

4. Disciple Making
Hirsch argues that we are not really that good at this in Western Christianity–but we are comfortable with the notion because the concept is familiar. Hirsch sees this as the core task of the church–and it is vitally connected to the center, “Jesus as Lord.” The scriptures tell us that we are to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ–to become true representatives of Jesus out in the world–this takes real discipleship. Hirsch also advocates that we disciple both believers and unbelievers–and know that some will be evangelized along the way. This makes sense in Hirsch’s paradigm in light of an incarnational gospel–because this is a life on life approach to both evangelism and discipleship. One of the key phrases you will hear from Hirsch is that “we must lower the bar on church and raise the bar on discipleship.” He feels we have weakened discipleship in our current settings–even in the midst of an emphasis on small groups. Discipleship should result in a person embodying the message of Christ–and embodiment of the message is essential to transmission of the message. Hirsch goes one step further in stating that the quality of our leadership will be completely in line with the quality of our discipleship. The bottom line of discipleship is a deep involvement in a person’s life. Discipleship is face to face and it is primarily experiential. It is not just about educating a person’s mind–but engaging them in experiences that cause them to trust God in new and fresh ways.

5. Organic Systems
This is how we organize movements. Hirsch argues for organizing according to natural life systems. It has the “feel” of a movement–very spontaneous, flat in its organizational structure, and self reproducing. At the core, people absolutely believe in the message of the movement. Power and authority are distributed out–not centralized. There really is a sense of chaos and organization working together. The centralizing piece is the DNA–the core concepts or principles of the movement–but there is great freedom in the function of living our that core DNA. These core values combined with freedom of function is what can propel the movement and keep it organic.

6. Communitas
Notice Hirsch does not list number six as “community.” He is not advocating that just mutual fellowship will get the job done. He is aiming at something else–he is aiming at community built around shared faith experiences. This creates a different quality of community and bonding. Two critical aspects of this communitas are liminality (being thrown into something that is over your head) and ordeal (the actual challenge or goal to be reached). Hirsch points out that we see this both in Scripture and in our culture. In recent times, events such as September 11th and the Tsunami tragedy served to greatly rally people together in community to minister to the victims. In the Bible we see Jesus taking the 12 out and exposing them to many faith challenging situations–resulting in a greater learning and bonding. A part of this is to help a disciple really learn to live out their faith in the world. This also provides the sense of adventure in life and in the movement.

There you have it–six core components that Hirsch would say are essential if the 21st century church is to survive and have significant impact. I have been thinking at two levels as I consider this–both for my church here in Austin and for Campus Crusade as whole. I am still thinking–join me. I look forward to your musings on this topic.

More on the Innovation & Mission Seminar

Alan Hirsch presented six core principles for the 21st century church. Today I will try and give a brief description of the first three.

1. Jesus is Lord
This sounds obvious–but Hirsch took strides to exegete Duet. 6:4-5. He argued that the Great Shamah is not just about monotheism–but it is essentially about lordship. Jesus is not just one of many gods but He is God and He is God over every aspect of our lives. We in the west are famous for segmenting our lives–allowing Jesus to be Lord over the convenient parts. But the passage emphasizes that not only is Jesus Lord–but He is my Lord. In the diagram that Hirsch uses to portray these principles–this one is at the very center. This is bedrock and gives meaning to the other five.

2. Missional Incarnational Impulse
Hirsch described this phenomena as the kingdom of God being sneezed out–spreading like a virus. Like all social movements the gospel spreads from person to person. This is the missional aspect–every follower of Jesus “sneezing” out the gospel. This stands in contrast to what Hirsch calls the attractional model of many churches today–where we expect by putting on a great “show” the unbeliever will come to us. The incarnational aspect is that we must move among those we want to reach. Just as Jesus was God incarnate–donning human flesh and moving among us–so we must live, work, and play among others we intend to “sneeze” on. A virus does not spread very well from a distance–but it is almost impossible to stop when close up.

3. An Apostolic Environment
This is the leadership environment of the church. Hirsch argued that true spiritual leadership is bottom up leadership–not hierarchal. It’s authority comes from a life well lived–not a title. Apostolic leadership is leadership that extends the mission. The apostolic leader lives to extend Christianity and his chief concern is to protect the gospel message. Hirsch argues that these types of leaders are not valued today–the teacher/pastor gift is far more valued in our current model of church. Hirsch states that there is really a five fold leadership structure that is needed within every body of believers: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. But he would stress that he believes that the first three are rarely valued and empowered–yet very necessary. This is what propels the missional incarnational impulse.

I will follow up on the other three elements tomorrow. Think on these things.

Mission & Innovation

The second half of my week in Spain was spent at Montserrat–a 1000 year old Benedictine community north of Barcelona. The setting was incredible. The focus of the time was a conference on Mission and Innovation within the church. Alan Hirsch, coauthor of The Shaping of Things to Come, was the guest lecturer. Representatives from some nine different European countries and the U.S. were present.

Hirsch laid a foundation for why he believes that the current model of church will not be effective in reaching the 80-85% of the unreached peoples of the world. He cited statistics
showing the rapid decline of the current established church–noting that the current models are that of church growth and the attracitonal model.

Hirsch argued for six core elements of missional DNA that he feels are essential if the church is to survive and be effective in today’s postmodern setting: first and foremost, the clear biblical principle that Jesus is Lord; second, a Missional Icarnational Impulse; third, an Apostolic environment; fourth, Disciple Making; fifth, Organic Systems; and sixth, Communitas.

There were some great exchanges within the group as we sought together to figure out what it might take to become a more missional movement in Western Europe and the U.S. More later on each of the core elements.

Core DNA and Leadership

small__4046320876 (1)A few years ago I spent a week in Barcelona, Spain with a great group of leaders in a determined effort to be more effective in the mission. Ministry in Europe has been difficult for years, especially since WWII. Post war Europe became very doubtful and skeptical of Christianity. The history of discouragement and settling for something less in ministry is a painful reality among many missionaries.

Once a missionary, or a ministry, begins to “settle” for something less than their organizational calling, all kinds of bad decisions can be made.

The corresponding results take a ministry off center, and the unique contribution that the organization was meant to make is lost.

At the end of the day, “settling” happens because leadership fails to keep mission critical things central in the life of every member of the organization.

A large portion of our time together in Spain was spent trying to better determine what the core DNA of every staff member in Europe should be.

DNA is the basic component of life that makes someone or something truly unique and identifiable.

The notion of cloning is not the goal, according to God’s design.

The concept of a core identity with freedom of expression is how organizations adapt and innovate.

That was what we were after in Spain. We wanted our organizational DNA to be defined by the irreducible minimum. We wanted to stay principle and value based, not method driven. In other words, if a staff member has the core organizational DNA embedded in their ministry lives then there can actually be great freedom in strategies and methods. This will actually provide the breeding ground for great innovation, and leadership can be confident that the creative methods will not lead to another destination. Core DNA can be a commitment to certain values, messages, etc.–but try avoid a commitment to methods. Whatever is core must be talked about and modeled a lot, especially by leadership. This is the stuff that you will get tired talking about as a leader. It’s the stuff you must reinforce and reward all the time.

The organizational atmosphere must emphasize the core DNA. That is your organizational calling. It is why, according to God’s economy, you exist.

We took the first step that week in thinking this through for our setting. Things of this importance take time and prayer. Not only is the list of essential ingredients important, but so is the means of delivery. The implications are huge–for building the kingdom of God and for retaining healthy staff.

What are your thoughts?

(photo credit)

The Heart of the Leader-Part II

In my last post I mentioned a book I am reading called Less is More Leadership by Dale Burke. Burke begins his book by discussing the value of the heart of a leader. “Great organizations are built on great leadership. Great leadership requires great leaders. And great leaders are gleaned from the fields of good people-men and women of moral character, strength, and conviction.”

Last time I looked at spirituality as a crucial component of the heart of a leader. The other critical element is that of humility. While Burke makes the case that spirituality is the power of convictions–he also argues that humility is the power of servant leadership. It is interesting to me that anyone can go to Barnes & Noble and find a bunch of books that tout the value of servant leadership. But most offer superficial ideas about what that means. I think Burke nails it when he highlights humility as key. Burke inseparably links humility with service. He states, “Humility expresses itself through the practice of serving others.” In one sense I think Burke is saying that you don’t have to define humility–it simply shows up as you serve others for other’s sake. Philippians 2:3-5 probably best describes the attitude of humility as Paul points to Jesus Christ as the ultimate servant–not looking out for selfish interests, but regarding others as more important than yourself and being concerned with the interests of others above your own interests.

Humility is not about weakness nor inferiority. Burke builds on the notion that humility actually empowers a leader. According to Burke, humility does the following eight things:

  • Accepts responsibility
  • Promotes objectivity
  • Increases teachability
  • Stimulates creativity
  • Expands flexibility
  • Boosts team morale
  • Fosters loyalty
  • Pursues excellence

A sense of pride does the exact opposite of these traits.

Burke also offers five ways to speak humility–try these on today and see what happens:

  • Say “Hello” to those you encounter-it tells others that you notice them
  • Say “Please” instead of giving orders-it tells others that you respect them
  • Say “Thank You” to those you serve alongside-it tells others that you value their contribution
  • Say “Can I Help” to those you work with and to those who work for you-it tells others that you are willing to serve
  • Say “I’m Sorry” to those who have experienced your mistakes-it tells others that you are not perfect

The Heart of the Leader

I have been reading Dale Burke’s excellent book, Less is More Leadership. He begins by emphasizing the heart of a leader. He states, “Great organizations are built on great leadership. Great leadership requires great leaders. And great leaders are gleaned from the fields of good people-men and women of moral character, strength, and conviction.” He argues that the heart of the person called to lead must be comprised of two essential elements–spirituality and humility. Today we will look briefly at some of Burke’s thoughts on spirituality. Burke says, ” . . . spirituality-the power of convictions-stabilizes the leader at the core of life, strengthening character and providing the moral guidance so necessary for great leadership in the 21st century world . . .”

He goes on to say, “Spirituality is the hub of life and leadership. It answers the following:
Whose voice is important when everyone has a different opinion?
What values should never be abandoned when others are willing to bend the rules or rewrite them?
Which vision is worth pursuing when we can’t do everything?
What are the vital relationships, the people who really matter most?”

Burke raises four critical components of spirituality that leaders can neglect over time–to their demise: voice, values, vision, and vital relationships. For the Christ-centered leader the God of the universe revealed in Jesus Christ is the starting point for all four components. It is His voice that we must attend to first. His values revealed in Scripture must be our foundation. His vision for His kingdom must dominate our futuristic thinking. And He is the most vital relationship we can ever chase–and must do so daily.

Burke suggests that taking aim at true spirituality will “simplify the life of the leader by focusing on fewer people to please, a few core values to protect, and a clear vision to pursue.”

One More Leadership Lesson from the Boston Marathon

Here is a picture of the elite men’s winner of this year’s Boston Marathon. His name is Robert Cheruiyot from Kenya. His time was a new course record. There is one more aspect of marathon running that strikes me as having parallels to Christ-centered leadership. The issue is that of nutrition. It is a well established fact that nutrition plays a huge role in the life of an athlete in performing well. For years carbo-loading has also been a well established practice for long distance running–or any endurance event. It matters how you eat before a race and it matters how you maintain your nutrition during a race. I just read an article about the most common mistakes for marathon runners–and one of them is not considering proper pre race nutrition. You don’t want to eat an exotic meal the night before a race. It will definitely mess with your digestive system resulting in some unwanted race time consequences. Not only do you want to build up and maintain a regular eating regimen for best results–but you also want to build the same race day habits that will serve you best. So eating the same types of things at about the same time will help your body regulate what you need during the race. You also want to combine the right combination of water, sports drink, and other foods or gels during the race to maintain needed calories during the race. As the other posts have suggested all of this really matters if you want to finish and do well.

Nutrition is important for leadership too. What you take in will come out. I recently saw an out of context quote by Andy Stanley that said he did not believe there were any real differences between secular leadership and Christian leadership. Now to be fair to Andy I’m sure he was taking aim at the false dichotomy that people can create between the two–mainly not employing best corporate practices in the church that will aid in leading and managing the church. And I imagine if you pressed Andy he would readily agree that there are some differences–even Scripture notes them (Matthew 20:20-28). I would strongly suggest one huge difference is where you are drawing your “nourishment” for leading. If we are not “drinking deeply daily” from the truth of God’s Word then we only have ourselves as a reservoir for practicing our skills. And I have found that I will quickly slip into all kinds of bad practices when that is true. So it is imperative that a Christ-centered leader be in the Word individually and corporately to lead well and to ultimately point people to the face of Christ. It wont do to “binge” every now and then–or always eat “sweets”–or only eat what is easy and likeable. We must digest all of God’s Word over time and do so in daily chunks. And we must gather with other like minded pilgrims to be under the teaching of God’s Word so that the ally of community keeps us from false teaching and practices. This will absolutely impact who we are becoming as a leader and how we lead. It will make the difference in finishing well and finishing at all. Lead well!

More Leadership Lessons from the Boston Marathon

The hardest parts of any marathon are the beginning and the end–specifically the first three miles and the last three miles. The problem with the first three miles is managing your adrenaline, arriving at your desired running pace (not that of the crowd), and just flat feeling kind of pained and stiff. It always seems that in the first three miles your breathing is rougher, your legs feel out of synch with the rest of your body, and you are constantly watching your feet so as not to land on someone else’s foot and turn an ankle. After three miles the runners thin out and you settle in to your desired stride and pace. The hardest part of Boston’s first three miles is the immediate down hill feature of the course that tempts you to get out way too fast–not keeping enough in reserve for the Newton Hills.

The reasons for the last three miles being so hard are probably more obvious. I always feel like I have been at the mall all day with my wife–and I desperately just want to sit down. Mentally you know you are only a 5K from the end–but you actually start to question why you ever thought this would be fun and you vow never to do another one. At the Boston Marathon you have already endured the Newton Hills and your legs are just shot. I found myself having no thoughts at all–just the notion that if I make it to the end I can gulp down a big yoghurt smoothie and a bag of potato chips (that is part of what they greet you with at the end of the race).

I think there are leadership lessons here once again. Many young leaders are so excited about their first leadership responsibility. The adrenaline is flowing, the temptation to “get out too fast” is right there, and you have yet to really find your leadership pace and capacity. A lot of mistakes are made by young leaders–and honestly that is part of the leadership learning curve. We are all well aware how hard it is to finish well in leadership. The temptation to quit–or to cut corners–or just to settle–is great. Paul said it well in 2 Timothy 4:7–“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” That should be our aim. I am convinced that three traits are vital to seeing leaders finish well: humility, always remaining a learner, and intimacy with Christ. These things will carry us when our leadership legs are tired and the temptation to quit is great.

One of the greatest things about the Boston Marathon is the crowd–especially in the final three miles as you near Boylston Street and the finish line. Thousands of people are lined up on both sides wildly cheering you on. We too have a great cloud of witnesses rooting for us to finish strong (Hebrews 12:1-3). We must run with endurance the race set before us with our eyes ever fixed on Jesus! Lead well–all the way to the end!