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Church and Culture from Acts 29 Thursday, February 23, 2006 |

Steve McCoy has a great post on some recordings that were made at an Acts 29 conference back in 2000 or 2001. Steve originally got them from Kevin Cawley (pulling from his vast archives). Here's Kevin's post:

I consistently get emails in response to my Missional Ecclesiology readers guide asking if I'm aware of any sermons/conference lectures that treat these issues in a systematic fashion. Beyond the excellent A29 Boot Camp sessions (2005) and the (forthcoming) A29 2006 Boot Camp sessions, the only real source I'm aware of is, to my knowledge, no longer accessible on the internet. It is an old (the first?) church planting boot camp at Mars Hill. I got another email today asking the same question, and so I decided to upload these sessions in hope that others will benefit from them as I have.

The sessions below are some of the best comprehensive teaching I have heard on the theological foundation of the church and a practical implementation of a missional ecclesiology. I downloaded these sometime in late 2000 or early 2001. My guess is that they simply didn't make the transition over from Mars Hill's old .fm site. (If A29 removed these for a reason, please let me know and I'll take them down.)

Church, Gospel, & Culture part 1
Church, Gospel, & Culture part 2
Church, Gospel, & Culture part 3
Church, Gospel, & Culture part 4
Church, Gospel, & Culture part 5
Church, Gospel, & Culture part 6
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Quotes on Missional Church Saturday, February 11, 2006 |

Mission is the mother of theology. -Martin Kahler

Our categories for the discussion of mission will prove, again and again, to be too small over against the comprehensive nature of God's mission. -Darrell Guder

There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. -David Bosch

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Book Review: The Ascent of a Leader - Thrall, McNicol, McElrath |



Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, Ken McElrath. 1999. The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.

INTRODUCTION
What is the kind of environment that creates trust? What kind of leader do people want to follow? These questions and more are succinctly answered in this book that explores what it looks like to climb the ladder of character as opposed to the ladder of success. It carefully lays out the processes and steps a leader can follow in order to become the kind of leader that others will want to follow. This is not a book about techniques, but instead a book about cultivating character, authentic relationships, trust and community. Prodding us all as leaders to pursue deep character, this book shows the path the true and lasting influence, and how we as leaders can leave a lasting legacy.

What are the principles for cultivating environments that uphold and empower others and yourself? Every culture has artifacts, or measurable outcomes, values, and underlying assumptions. And leaders are those who can not only navigate that culture, but can manage and lead effective positive change within it (p. 26). Great leaders, especially, are able to not only navigate cultures, or environments, but also cultivate the kind of environments that empower others.

"Grace begets grace," the author argues (p. 29). But how do we get such environments of grace? By climbing the ladder of character (p. 31). Climbing this ladder includes stepping up through an act of trust (p. 61), choosing vulnerability (p. 75), aligning with truth (p. 91), paying the price (p. 109), and discovering your destiny (p. 137). As this ladder of character, as opposed to a ladder of capacity (skills and abilities), is climbed in a grace-driven environment, the reward is a legacy of positive influence.

What kinds of relationships ground and sustain us in leadership, and give us a legacy of positive influence? The book rightly states that "everyone of us has needs that can only be met by God and others" (p.44). These interpersonal relationships are the bedrock of our leadership. In this sense, teams must move beyond just mere performance, and move into relationship and personal fulfillment. Just completing a task or a function does not make a successful team. What makes a team successful is it's relationships, the ability for each individual to meet needs and have their needs met (p. 47). When concern is given, love is shown, and needs are met, relationships in this environment are moving close to significance, not just success (p. 48). Environments of grace produce fruit - acceptance, honesty, and affirmation (p. 51-57).

Why do leaders need to be in and create an atmosphere of trust and vulnerability? Being in and creating atmospheres of trust and vulnerability seem to go hand-in-hand, according to this book. Although there are inherent risks in trusting people (p. 66), the book asserts that we still need others (p. 68). In fact, God created us to trust Him and trust others (p. 70). So, the result, the authors assert, of not living in authentic community, with vulnerability and trust, will hurt the leader and those who follow (p. 76).

They do make a great point that isolation (at least an unhealthy type of isolation) and influence do not ultimately go together (p. 76). The book also asserts that when leaders become vulnerable, thereby initiating and creating an atmosphere of vulnerability, they give others influence and the ability to speak into and shape their lives (p. 77). This is the same as submission, mutual submission. Vulnerability is a two-way street that expresses and sustains integrity, and creates an atmosphere of authenticity, which earns the leader trust. This trust expands influence and even productivity (p. 82-83).

SUMMARY OR SYNTHESIS
Many leaders, especially those influenced by the corporate world, view success in terms of achievement. Climbing the ladder of success is part of what it means to achieve. In this book, the authors redefine what success really looks like. Character is the key to long-lasting and true influence, and relationships of grace are what drive a lasting legacy. If you're looking for a book that will help you see leadership in terms of what it is, positive influence driven by character, grace and relationships, then this book helps to flesh out all of those ideas.

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Book Overview: Renovation of the Heart - Dallas Willard |



Willard, Dallas. 2002. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO. NavPress.

Prelude:
I do know in my own life that cultivating the disciplines of grace are what lead to spiritual formation. I am circumspect of anything that claims to be the "key" to spiritual victory. His language here is not cautiously optimistic. I have seen too many that have been shipwrecked by false promises of "do this, do that and *voila*" to be too naive to share his optimism at this point, but I do pray that God would make me open to any insight that is congruent with His word.

Chapter 1 - Introducing Spiritual Formation:
It is true that the heart is the factory of the affections, the driver of the will, as I understand it. I think the Bible is clear about that. Doesn't God want more from us than to pittle around with mud pies when we could be feasting at a banquet? I appreciate that he has both guarded against legalism and license (p. 23). And I also appreciate his definition on p. 22 that rings of Paul's desire "until Christ be formed in you" (Colossians).

Chapter 2 - The Heart in the System of Human Life
I am beginning to appreciate Willard's focus on the heart and its contingent effects on the spiritual life. He is right in saying that this process is holistic (p. 31) and I've never before drawn the inferences he does from Psalm 16. How many times have I just engaged my mind without my heart, body and emotions? Although he mentions that "loving your brother" is the basis of the Social Context, I was a little disappointed that he did not expand that to include the poor and oppressed.

Chapter 3 - Radical Evil in the Ruined Soul
I have always sensed, believed and taught others that the foundation of all trouble, pain and evil is our fallen nature. The Bible is clear, "there is none righteous, no not one" (Rom. 3). As Tim Keller has once said, "we are far more sinful than we ever dared believe." We must realize our utter ruin before we can turn to God in complete and utter abandon, thus being open to His grace.

Chapter 4 - Radical Goodness Restored to the Soul
"Taking our cross," "dying to self," and "losing our life" are paradoxical in tone, and yet, as Willard points out, they are the foundation, the genesis, of spiritual formation. This, I think, needs to be my starting point. Too often it is not. But I pray that "to step with Jesus into the path of self-denial" (p. 75) would be my path also.

Chapter 5 - Spiritual Change
I appreciate Willard's calm confidence that spiritual formation can really happen (p. 77). And I agree that we do not, and could not, see ourselves as we ought. There is grace in the slow, gradual growth of our sin-awareness (p. 79). "The interpretation of grace as having to do with guilt is utterly false." Yes! Because we "consume the most grace by leading a holy life" (p. 82). Oh how my heart melts when reminded of this fact. He introduces here the general pattern for spiritual formation - VIM. Vision, Intention, Means.

Interlude
How encouraging it is to know that the "greatest saints are not those who need less grace, but those who consume the most grace" (p. 93-94). I pray that I would be one who is that kind of consumer.

Chapter 6 - Transforming the Mind, 1
He mentions that our thoughts are the first place that change can and should take place. I wholeheartedly agree. Now that he has laid the foundation for spiritual formation, I can see that he will probably start with the mind and work outward. What struck me is how ideas and images can powerfully transform our thoughts, for good or evil (p. 97-99). Temptation always starts with an idea. Also, in order to have a vibrant spiritual life we must think well (p. 106).

Chapter 7 - Transforming the Mind, 2
Feelings are also important for spiritual formation. They must be redeemed and renovated as well (p. 117). In bondage, feelings are god. In God, feelings are subjected. The key is not necessarily to avoid sin, but to avoid temptation (p. 119). We shouldn't deny feelings, but subordinate and replace them (p. 123). We should cultivate right feelings instead - faith, hope, love, etc. (p. 128).

Chapter 8 - Transforming the Will (Heart or Spirit) and Character
By changing my thoughts and feelings, the will can be implemented to result in transformed character. "Single-minded devotion to God" is what characterizes a submitted will (p. 143). On the other hand, the deception of our pride can lead to self-deception, moving us towards duplicity (p. 147). I appreciate the emphasis here on the tendencies we have towards multiplicity, and not oneness of motivation, feeling and action. Surrender, participation in God's will, and single-minded focus is the remedy.

Chapter 9 - Transforming the Body
Our body must become our ally in spiritual renovation (p. 160). To align my body as an ally in the spiritual formation process, there are 4 things I can do: 1. release my body to God, 2. no longer idolize my body, 3. do not misuse my body, and 4. properly honor and care for my body (p. 172-174). Resting by keeping the Sabbath is a tool as well.

Chapter 10 - Transforming our Social Dimension
Assault and withdrawal are the two ways in which our social dimension is deformed when we wound or are wounded by others (p. 181). I know that I have maliciously acted against the good of another - assault. Or I have been indifferent, apathetic to their good - withdrawal. I remember someone saying that the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. Our cure: abandon defensiveness and see ourselves as whole in Christ (p. 194-195).

Chapter 11 - Transforming the Soul
The soul "correlates, integrates and enlivens everything going on in the dimension of the self" (p. 199). It is helpful for me to view it this way, as an umbrella to all other activities. This puts into perspective the necessity for balance in all the areas, not just feeding my mind and ignoring the social dimension. I must acknowledge my soul's importance, understand what the Bible teaches about my soul, and rest in the yolk of Christ to have rest for my soul (p. 215).

Chapter 12 - The Children of Light and the Light of the World
The children of light are to be unique. Our thought life should be characterized by thinking about God; feelings characterized by love; will characterized by goodness; bodies poised to do good; relationships characterized by transparency; soul characterized by Christlikeness (p.218-220). We should be marked by a sustained relationship with the Lord (p. 226). Again, I so appreciate the balance here.

Chapter 13 - Spiritual Formation in the Local Congregation
I agree that a major function of the local church is spiritual formation, equipping and building up of the saints (p. 233-234). However, spiritual formation, as done within the context of mission, is conspicuously absent here. It is the Missio Dei that inspires us to reflect the character and inner-working of Christ in our lives through mission, moving out in concentric relational circles. I wish Willard would have started here, instead of making spiritual renovation just another set of activities (i.e. "Outreach is one essential task..." p. 244 - italics mine).

Postlude
I have appreciated Willard's balance, and will apply much of his insights and teaching, but I feel that there is something missing. Mission is not just another activity, but is the whole scope of the redemptive plan of God, yea, the very nature of God Himself. God is mission, therefore spiritual formation exists, not vice-versa. Had he started with this premise I feel that this would have been a stellar book. I still, however, commend it as a work that is much needed in our culture.

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A little fun with poetry Friday, February 10, 2006 |

Justin Taylor posted a great little rhyme about Predestination. (You can read it here for context...) Someone later posted a critical comment about the rhyme that went something like this:

It is folly to pick a side in a debate that has spanned centuries and claim dogmatic certainty. While I don't claim to know if there is even a middle ground, I do accept its mystery.I look forward to being humbled when we cross the great divide when the sovereign God welcomes us home purely on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ. It is then when we will bow the knee and accept the gentle rebuking revelation of our sincere error and prideful discernment.

So, I decided to write a little rhyme myself to respond to this critical comment. It went something like this (with a few slight changes from the original):

Your comment above, though written with love,
Belies the hoaxes below it
To which I’ll reply, with a grumble and sigh,
‘Cause I know that I’m not a poet

I don’t understand, how on the one hand,
You claim to not know middle ground.
But “to pick a side”, you surely did chide
Was “folly” and not even sound.

Now how can this be, (just between you and me),
Can you have both sides of the issue?
I have to cry foul, with a menacing scowl,
(But if I’m too harsh I’ve got tissues).

You make an assumption, that all of us bumpkins,
Must agree with your nice “middle ground”
Even though you did say, you weren’t sure that’s THE way,
But “mystery” instead to be found.

Your philosophy here, which most of us fear,
Is like Kant, and not really like Paul
For he said Bereans, more noble than Cretans,
Could KNOW ‘cause they studied with awe.

You’re right in a way, when you forcefully say
The debate has spanned over time,
But does that give you the right, to say with such might,
That certainty is our only crime?

To say it this way, is the same as to say:
“‘Cause Open Theism is older than dirt,
“We cannot condemn, this theological sin,
“‘Cause time, not truth, is our worth.”

I don’t think it’s humble, to callously stumble,
Around in the dark without truth
But what’s even worse, and should be a curse,
Is to say we should stumble, not sleuth.

Chesterton said it well, when he used to tell
Of a man who wasn’t even able
Because he was “humble”, (and that’s where he stumbled),
To believe in the multiplication table

I agree with G.K., in that we suffer today,
From humility that’s in the wrong place.
We doubt of the truth, and the biblical proof,
And say that’s humility’s face.

I’ll assert it again, this time with a grin,
It is plain to a full demonstration,
That he’s a wild hog, who over his blog,
Dares ridicule Predestination.

Globalization - let the fight begin Thursday, February 09, 2006 |

Everybody likes a good fight. So I'm going to start one. A fake one, of course. Let's assume for a moment that Richard Florida (of the Creative Class fame) and Thomas Friedman (of The World is Flat fame) were to step in a boxing ring and duke it out... over the ideas behind globalization. Here's what I think it might look like:

Round 1:
Friedman - The World is Flat
Florida - The World is Spiky

Who do you think has landed the most punches so far?

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Why aren't there dynamic Church Planting Movements in the West? |

Steve Addison has posed a thought-provoking question:

Why don’t we see dynamic church planting movements in the West of the same magnitude that we are see in many parts of the developing world?

Sam Metcalf, along with others, has made some observations on why the West is not seeing the kind of church planting movements that other parts of the world are seeing. Concise and thought-provoking...

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How to name your new church plant... Tuesday, February 07, 2006 |

Mark Driscoll, of Mars Hill Church and Acts 29 fame, has a great new "system" for coming up with those hard-to-come-up-with new church names.

My personal favorite:

"Shekinah Dominion Tabernacle"

Redeemer Vision Campaign sermons Monday, February 06, 2006 |

If you're looking for great insights to ministering in the city, Redeemer Church has just finished their Vision Campaign and have graciously posted the downloadable sermons online.

(HT: DJ Chuang)

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How then shall we live... after post-modernism? Saturday, February 04, 2006 |

Andrew Jones has an interesting perspective on the 2006 Desiring God Conference. He raises a good point that postmodernism is, at best, fast-fading. (To be replaced, as Tim Keller notes, by "who knows what" in academia.) This raises some very interesting issues about the "what's next?" Neither Jones nor Keller will give us many hints, although Keller does give an appetizer here.

Best Jones line about the DG Conference:

I think its a good move, even though its a decade too late. I kinda wish they were tackling something more immediate - like the "Supremacy of Christ in a COMPLEX world"...
Read why, here.

Trip to Mexico Thursday, February 02, 2006 |

Kimberly posted pictures of our family vacation to Monterrey, Mexico on our family blog. We went to Mexico to visit with the Crawfords, who are missionaries there. A great time to be had by all!

DG Conference of the decade! Wednesday, February 01, 2006 |

Desiring God's National Conference is looking like it will be quite an event. Here's the skinny:

Theme: Above All Earthly Powers: The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World
Date: September 29 to October 1, 2006
Speakers: David Wells, D.A. Carson, Timothy Keller, Mark Driscoll, Voddie Baucham, John Piper

David Wells: "The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World"
D.A. Carson: "The Supremacy of Christ and Love in a Postmodern World"
Timothy Keller: "The Supremacy of Christ and the Gospel in a Postmodern World"
Mark Driscoll: "The Supremacy of Christ and the Church in a Postmodern World"
Voddie Baucham: "The Supremacy of Christ and Truth in a Postmodern World"
John Piper: "The Supremacy of Christ and Joy in a Postmodern World"


Keller, Driscoll, Piper, Carson, Wells... mmmmmm....does it get any better?

Who's in?

What's the fuss about McLaren v. Driscoll? |

Has too much hubub been made about the articles, responses, counter-responses, and counter-counter-responses with McLaren v. Driscoll? If you've missed it you can get it here. Andrew Jones has the most insightful responseto all the dust and smoke stirred up by all the bantering. Here's an appetizer:

Both men are disappointments. Brian McLaren is the worlds worst liberal - He may smile like a liberal and he certainly has the tone of voice of a liberal, he may even aspire to become a liberal to reach liberals but he frustrates his critics by not claiming to be a liberal nor holding liberal beliefs. He certainly reads their books and listens respectfully to their arguments - as we all should do - but at the end of the day, he is not a liberal and he certainly is not a pan-entheist. Many of his critics (who are many) solve this problem with a guilt-by-association game, which could be called "Six Degrees of Separation From Matthew Fox", which is interesting but not always convincing. Because when Brian eventually comes to what he is trying to say, there is scant real evidence to back up the claims that he is heretical.

Andrew continues:

Mark Driscoll is also disappointing as a radical. His emerging church has an unexpectedly traditional structure. And, moreover, his angst-ridden antics on stage (and now the blogs) attract those looking for blood but it turns out that he is actually a big softy and a loving pastor and friend - a nice guy who enjoys riveting, extreme conversation bordering on the violent.
Rude? Yes.
Spiteful? No!
Up to something? Probably, but love believes the best.
READ MORE...