Monday, September 29, 2008

Missional Communities 4

I never intended to do all this on missional communities, but I am enjoying it.

Apostles! Well I will give you my own perpsective on what I think about the apostolic role within missional communities.

Firstly I don't think apostles are necessarily fathers, apostles are "sent ones" Paul was a father in a number of situations but the whole idea of titles and position which some how give status and power and an unatural right for someone to manipulate another grouping is wrong.

Matthew 23: 8- 12"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

So when I think about the word apostle I think servant.

Romans 1: 1 "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus...."

I have my own issues around this, where I have seen apostolic ministries basically going on a territory hunt and it has almost been about "how many churches can I gather to me to feed my ego." I have also seen them put on a pedestal and treated like superstars, not necessarily because they wanted it more because our church culture is often looking for a king!

So you end up with these extremely gifted church consultants who roam the planet, get treated like Gods and live very unaccountable lives, sadly for me that has been some of my experience of apostolic ministry. Thankfully this style of apostolic ministry is dying out.

You then have the recent Todd Bentley mess, where a band of mature christian leaders who have apparently abandoned the gift of discernment and are seeking to get a bit of the lakeland glory, set a guy apart as an apostle to the nations and get it very very wrong. This further undermines the roles of the apostolic today. Believe me despite their explanations and apologies these guys have something to answer for.

Anyway putting all that aside, I have to get over my own issues and recognise that missional communities need apostolic input

In 1 Corinthians Paul talks about laying a foundation as an expert builder, in Ephesians he talks of God's household being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. When you read the epistles they were foundational. This is where we need apostolic input to ensure the foundations that we are building on are strong.

There has to be a humility on the part of small community leaders, they have to be willing to ask for help. If they don't ask for help or receive apostolic input they leave themselves vulnerable.

What does it look like? For me it could work in two ways

1. The person who travels in regularly from outside, keeps in regular contact, offers support, correction and training. They don't necessarily do it all themselves they can be a sign post and connector as well as a consultant. This is close to the old school method but done out of servanthood and held lightly it can be very effective.

2. I would like to see more like this one: older church leaders who have got their congregations ticking along nicely being financed by their church to go and live with small communities for 6 months and help them put some foundations in place, love and encourage the group without leading it then step back into the role mentioned above. Sent ones.

One of my concerns is that most of these new communities are so far out on the edge that they don't know who to ask for help. We also come up with the question, who appoints the apostle? especially if they are a very disconnected group...

Anyway please don't read this as a set of conclusions, just thoughts I haven't fully landed yet.


Dave Carrol said...

I guess that's the thing. Yes there have been abuses of title, and really calling. But I think it's a misunderstanding on every side of the purpose of the apostle.

Really its the role of the ultimate servant who makes himself a servant to the personal destinies of those in the "community". Paul longed to be with the churches to show them love and did so as he mentored and taught them both while he was there and through his letters.

I know that some of the mainline pentecostal denominations in NA throw the role of the apostle (or even acknowledgment that such roles are even necessary or exist in these days) totally out altogether. Then churches force pastors and teachers and bean counters into role of leader and visionary. They either fall into the trap of small reserved manageable thinking or getting their spirit's crushed because they are so filled with personal compassion that they just can't handle making hard decisions that are necessary but might hurt an individual.

To me... the proper role of the prophet and apostle (and subsequently teacher, pastor, evangelist) is the biggest thing holding churches (and organic communities) back. Because this IS a good Godly structure to things but it's all filtered through humbleness and love.

Tanya Heasley said...

I like the way you're thinking Brian.

If an apostle is a 'sent one' or 'servant', does that mean all Christians are apostles because we are all 'sent' into the world to 'serve'?

Also you're right about titles and positions. I've seen many people who've shown promising leading skills become corrupted, domineering and egotistical once they've gained leadership. Even the ones who seem quite humble change when they have status and power.

My concern about smaller communities moving away from larger ones is the exclusivity of it. I think there could be a danger of us and them syndrome and those who stay behind may feel left out. But if the two communities stay unified in their diversity then both will prosper.

Mark G said...

With post 3 I had thought of Jesus' quote about being the servant of all. Leadership has to be primarily about serving; and also we are all called to follow Jesus, whatever title we or anyone around us might have. It seems so often that we can leave Jesus outside of our churches or communities as he is too much of a disturber of our way of doing things to fit into our models/ plans/strategies.

Also I think just like you are drawing from Nouwen's writing, we need to open ourselves to draw leadership and support from the whole of the Church (not just the bits "like us")?