Monday, September 25, 2006


What is the response of the Church to the myriad of obstacles that oppose the advance of the Kingdom of God in the world? Any disciple of Jesus is aware that we very often respond very poorly to this ever present challenge.

I see five different ways in which we tend to respond to obstacles...

1. Ignorance is bliss - in this case we don't think; don't pay attention to the cultural realities we live in, live in a nostalgic past, and are duped into believing that obstacles don't exist at all. We think this is a faithful position for we're clinging to that which was handed down to us, when in fact it is highly unrealistic, even insane, and not blissful at all, but the place where the blind lead the blind.

2. Retreat and run for cover - in this case we are clearly aware of the obstacles and respond by fearfully running for cover, barring the doors, and segregating ourselves from a corrupt culture in the name of preservation and holy living. Here we observe culture for the purpose of knowing what to abstain from in our spiritual bubbles. This may appear wise, even understandable, but it hides the light under a bushell and produces legalists of the first order.

3. Can't beat 'em, so join 'em - in this case we recognize that the current of culture is truly an obstacle and so we accomodate ourselves to the drift of the world around us. We believe this makes us relevent, when in fact it makes us unnecessary and leaves us without anything to say that prophetically challenges the culture we've swallowed hook, line, and sinker. We end up being irrelevent even to ourselves.

4. Can't join 'em, so beat 'em - in this case we are not living in ignroarce. We also see outright accomodation as an untenable position, but neither is retreat, and so we fully engage the obstacles by beating up those in the opposite camp. We become champions of the "us" versus "them" and become placard waving militants who are constantly berating rather than embracing. We see evil in everyone who doesn't see it our way. We end up incapable of love.

5. Troubleshoot - in this case we clearly recognize the cultural obstacles that stand in our way, but we creatively search for ways to join the debate, live the Christ-life, love our enemies, and advance the Kingdom by all means possible. We are not ignorant of reality, but neither are we naively swallowing every seductive sales pitch or so selling out to the culture that we present no discernably different voice. We look for ways in the power and wisdom of the Spirit to turn obstacles into opportunities that will bring all things under Christ. We have eyes for where God is at work; where he is present; where his Truth is, even if it is presently unseen.

So, how are you joining the advance of the Kingdom of God's light? How are you responding to the obstacles of these days in which you live?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I've been reflecting lately on what it means to have balanced leadership in a local congregation.

First, what purpose do leadership gifts serve within the body of Christ? To answer that we need to turn to Ephesians 4 where we find that the gifts of apostle (course-charter and initiator of new Kingdom advances), prophet (those who remind us "thus saith the Lord"), evangelist (they gifted in moving the Church toward effectively sharing Christ), pastor (the nurturers), and teacher (they who awaken our understanding of God's word and make it applicable to daily living) are given to the Church in order to move the body toward maturity and unity. These leaders are called to equip the saints for ministry, not to do ministry for them. They are coaches and trainers, not the athlete before the spectator. Balanced leadership, then, would mean a body calling out people with these gifts and releasing them for their God-appointed purpose.

Second, most congregations hire, after the first or lead pastor, one or more pastors who are generally asked to oversee a specific task or demographic within the body (youth, children, worship, etc.). In essence we add supported staff as new programs are birthed or as problems arise that need fixing or as our volunteer pool runs dry. This is not balanced biblical leadership. Balanced leadership would actually mean having supported leaders that function as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the equpping of the saints. So, rather than think of balance according to programming function, can we begin to think of balance in relation to these gifts? We may ask a pastor-gifted servant to oversee youth, but the purpose would be the nurturing and discipling of youth and the equipping of youth for that purpose, not to run a cool program to entertain. The focus here is on balanced equipping of the body to become an initiating, Truth speaking, Christ-sharing, care-giving, and Truth instructing people.

Third, in our own context at Zurich Mennonite I am wondering what this would look like? How do we begin to balance our leadership as above? I see myself as primarily a prophet-teacher and Associate Pastor Tim is an apostle-evangelist (to clarify here: I believe each leader is capable of all the gifts to degree, though one or two will be dominant and the primary place where that individual truly is a "gift" and feels alive - in this sense I would secondarily be an apostle while Tim would be a teacher [according to what I have observed]). So, it would appear we as a body are not as well equipped on the pastor-nurturer side of things and ought we consider what it might look like to call out supported leaders in this area to provide a little more balance? We have taken baby steps toward this by calling out a Leader of Pastoral Care on a volunteer basis for a mere five hours a week, but is this enough to provide true balance?

Balanced leadership fosters a healthy, maturing Church - that's God's plan. How do we move further in this direction?