Thursday, April 24, 2014

How I'm Leading Church (Tonight's Spiritual Formation Tele-Class)

Tonight I'm meeting by phone with the 12 pastors who have joined me for my Spiritual Formation Tele-Class. I've assigned everyone to pray 30-60 minutes/day, for these past three months. Tonight we'll share what God has been saying to us and doing within us throughout these times.

Plus, I'll lead a discussion on Ruth Haley Barton's excellent Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.

Here are some notes I'll share from.

HOW I’M LEADING OUR CHURCH (May I add, "imperfectly.")

1.   I have a personal prayer life and Christ-abiding life
2.   Our staff – prayer & abiding in Christ
a.   We individually pray
b.   We come together and share what God is saying and doing
c.   Barton – “When we began this venture, we were all leaders in a variety of ministry settings where we were achieving some level of effectiveness and success. But we were missing something. We were missing a place where we could be with other leaders—not just to work together, socialize and network, or even to be inspired to be better leaders—but to attend to our ongoing process of spiritual transformation in relative anonymity.” (94)
3.   We teach this to our people
a.   In our Ministry School
b.   Youth and children learn how to do this
c.   Special events focusing on spiritual formation
d.   Home Groups
4.   Mission Emerges From This Kind of Togetherness
a.   “The idea that we could gather first of all to be together around the presence of Christ in life-transforming ways was a truly winsome thought. We sensed that eventually a mission would emerge from our togetherness.” (95)
b.   Our “doing” comes from our corporate “being.”
5.   Spiritual transformation leads to discernment.
a.   “As we studied and reflected on the dynamics of spiritual transformation, we also discovered that spiritual transformation is not an end in itself—it leads to the ability to discern and do the will of God.” (p. 96)
b.   “What we do flows out of who we are in Christ.” (96)
6.   Hear from God first; then move.
a.   “A defining characteristic of any truly spiritual community [is] the shared commitment to move forward as we are led by the Spirit, not by our own thinking and planning. We are not opposed to planning; in fact, it is an important second step. But we are committed to discernment—listening deeply for God’s direction—as the precursor to any plans we make.” (99)
7.   Experience, not theory, breeds conviction.
a.   “Early on we agreed that we would not teach theories or concepts we merely wished were true. In fact, we actually wanted to experience transformation in community even more than we wanted to teach it! When it came time for us to teach, we agreed to follow Jesus’ example in his conversation with Nicodemus: “We speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen” (Jn 3:5).” (100)
8.   We share how God is breaking us.

a.   “Growing self-knowledge is a crucial aspect of engaging fruitfully in a discernment process because it reduces the risk of the community falling apart due to people not being willing or able to own their negative patterns and sins.” (101)

1.   “Discernment” Is a Fruit of a Presence-Driven Church

Barton writes that some pastors have the "vague sense that our approach to decision making should be different from secular models—particularly when we are leading a church or an organization with a spiritual purpose. The problem is that we’re not quite sure what that difference is. In the absence of a clear consensus, that difference often gets reduced to an obligatory devotional (often viewed as irrelevant to the business portion of the meeting) or the perfunctory prayers that bookend the meeting. Sometimes even these well-meaning attempts at a spiritual focus get lost in the shuffle!" (Barton, Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups, Kindle Locations 180-185)

This difference is: God. God's presence. God, doing the leading. God, doing the building. Because unless God builds the house, we are laboring in vain.

What's needed is: discernment. 

"Discernment," writes Barton, "in a most general sense, is the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God—both in the ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives. The apostle Paul says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can discern what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2). This includes not only the mind of each individual but also the corporate mind." (Ib., Kindle Locations 186-189)

What's fundamentally needed is mind-renewing transformation. Pastors and church leaders must therefore themselves be living in the rivers of constant spiritual formation and transformation, in order to discern what the will of God is. This is what the whole "church" thing is about. Barton writes:

"It is hard to imagine that spiritual leadership could be about anything but seeking to know and do the will of God, and yet many leadership groups do not have this as their clear mandate and reason for existence. This raises a serious question: If we are not pursuing the will of God together in fairly intentional ways, what are we doing? Our own will? What seems best according to our own thinking and planning? That which is merely strategic or expedient or good for the ego?" (Ib., Kindle Locations 201-205)

Ch. 5 – Community

Be converted to community.
          Be committed to being a “transforming community.” (90)

“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity.”
-      - Dietrich Bonhoeffer (86)

Is the way we are doing life together in ministry transforming or deforming?

Gordon Cosby writes about his experience founding Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C.

"Our written commitment has grown out of our life together. The life occurred first and then it was put down in a written commitment. To make a formal commitment without having drunk deeply of the life of the group is simply to take a husk that can mock us. Only in commitment can there be real belonging.” (91)

Individuals are encouraged to become very clear about what values they need to know are in place in order for them to lean into the group as a trustworthy community. (91)

1.   The Language of the Presence-Driven Church

Language Shapes Reality

“Our commitment to being a community has been and continues to be the most essential thing about us. We knew that if we called ourselves a leadership team, a management team, a board or a cabinet, that might be all we would get—a method of governing that is basically secular in its orientation, with a few spiritual elements thrown in. At the very least we would have to work hard not to let that terminology define us according to whatever expectations normally go along with it. Language really does shape reality.” (97)

a.   “Connectedness” and “obedience” (rather than “success” – or: “success” is defined in terms of connectedness to God and obedience; “faith” rather than “success” – without faith it is impossible to please God)
                                         i.    Qualitative rather than quantitative
b.   “Disciple” rather than “decider”
c.   “Influence” rather than “numbers” (attendance; budget)
d.   “Discernment” rather than “decision-making”
e.   “Listening” comes before “speaking”
f.     “Relationship” (with God and one another) replaces “rules of order”
g.   To change a way of speaking is to change the culture. (Wittgensteinian language-games; the Whorffian hypothesis; see Kenyan scholar Ngugi wa Thiong’o)
h.     When a way of speaking has changed a culture has changed. A church’s culture will change from Program-Driven to Presence-Driven as Presence-Driven Leaders (PDLs): 1) live the Christ-abiding life themselves, foundationally and continuously; 2) lead their people into God’s empowering presence; and 3) nurture and champion the God-produced fruit-bearing. As this happens, over time, the “language-game” of the church will change. When the language has changed the reality has happened.