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Report from the LCMC National Gathering Part 4

Report from the LCMC National Gathering, Part 4:  Mike Breen, 3DM discipleship movement

(A bio on Mike Breen from the LCMC website follows this report)

 

 

I really enjoyed Mike Breen’s presentation.  He was specifically asked by Mark Vander Tuig  to give us a talk Mark had heard once before, a talk about feudalism in the church.  I will do my best to condense Breen’s excellent one hour lecture on history from the Roman Empire to today into a few short paragraphs.  It was amazing.  If you have the opportunity to ever hear it, be sure to listen to it.  

 

Mike grew up in a military family where he learned that the last thing the commander says is the first thing you do.  So as a Christian he takes Jesus’ parting words to his disciples in MT 28 very seriously.  Making disciples is the essence of his faith.  

 

The Gospel is simple and hard.  It is not easy.  But it is not complicated.  

So is making disciples.  It is a simple reality, but hard to embrace.   Either Jesus is worthy of following or not.  Simple.  But living out your life as a disciple is hard.  Jesus says to make disciples.  We believe we should.  Easy.  But doing it is hard.

 

What Mike said about his early success in ministry in the Church of England really struck me.  He said that he had an amazing ministry, won the acclaim of the hierarchy, got to be on TV and celebrated, but now, what he started is almost all gone.  He thought long and hard about why that was.  He realized that he himself could draw people to himself but that unless he taught them how to make disciples themselves, it wouldn’t be sustainable.  In the church we didn't work out how to make a disciple that could make a disciple.  So many of our “successful” churches growth It depended on their influence

 

His last assignment grew to be the largest church in England.  But since he taught them how to make disciples, they’ve gone on without him.  The church has doubled since he left.  Instead of counting how many people attend church on a Sunday or how much they give, this church now counts how many people are in intentional discipleship groups. That is how they measure their success. 

 

Anyone can make a disciple - people want to be like you.  But what we want is a disciple who can make a disciple who can make a disciple.  

 

In our culture, success means bigger, faster, stronger.  In the Bible, fruitfulness is the concept that is used.  Fruitfulness means reproduction.  It is a kingdom principle.  In making disciples, you celebrate what God has done in you reproduced in another person.  Fruitfulness is to have lots of children.  In making disciples it is to have lots of spiritual children who go on to have lots of spiritual children.  

 

In the world it is commonly understood that it is better to have healthy family than a successful business.  In the Church we need to understand that it is better to make disciples than draw big crowds

 

During the last supper in Luke 22, Jesus is having quality time with his disciples.  The disciples are beginning to brag a bit over brandy and cigars.  They ask, “Which of us will be the greatest in your kingdom?”  They don’t understand that they are co-heirs of a kingdom given by covenant.  They don't understand that they aren’t to function as world leaders.  In the world, Leaders = power and provision.  They have power and they are expected to provide for their constituents.  That’s how the world works.  In the Roman world it was:

 

Caesar

Senate

Nobility

Free voting citizens

The mobility - mob - slaves = 50% of the population.

Don't be like that, Jesus says. 

 

Edict of Milan 313, 270 years after Pentecost or so.  Constantine declares Christianity the religion of the Empire.  Before this the Church was brutally persecuted.  To be found out to be a leader of the Church was to be executed.  But it was during these years that the Church grew from 120 to 50% of the population.

 

How?  The Church before 313 had no buildings.  No public leadership structure.  

 

After the fall of Rome and the onset of the Dark Ages, the Church preserves culture.  There was a hierarchy:  Nobility and Serfs.  It was a social contract called feudalism  but it was the same old system.  The nobles had the power and they were expected to feed and protect their people.  

 

What ended the Dark Ages?  Famine and war and urbanization.  Things began to change.  Feudalism ends with French Revolution in France after 3 years of failed harvests.  It ends in England after WW I.  Fight for king and country. 100,000s of men die.  

 

What happened to the world system then?  Feudalism didn’t really end.  It took on a new form:  Marxism.  Marx replaces the aristocracy with the government / State, but the State still has all the power and it is still expected to provide for it’s people.  Socialism is reignited feudalism.

 

In America, Breen says, we tried a different experiment.  In the Colony days we started out feudal (land grants/slavery).  But then things changed.  New ideas.  

No taxation without representation.  Life, liberty and freedom.  Every one responsible for their own.  Build your own.  

 

What emerged was the most powerful, generous and collectively compassionate people the world has ever known.  And a system where people didn’t lord it over one another.  

 

But a virus was maintained in churches, especially European import churches to the U.S.  Feudalism.  What does he mean?  Look at how we measure the success of the Church?  How many peasants (attendees/congregants) do you have?   How much tax (offerings) do they pay?

 

The clergy are then expected to provide for people.  To feed them, spiritually speaking.  Drive past a church on a Sunday morning and listen in on a conversation in the parking lot:  One congregant asks another, “Did you like the sermon today?  The music?  Are you getting fed?  I’m going to go where I’m being fed.”

 

This is the same mentally that serfs have.  They aren’t responsible for their own provision.  There exists a poverty mentality within feudalism, “we don’t have enough food!”  The leaders are seen as the providers.  We don’t make disciples.  We just feed one person at a time.  The system prevents us from production - from fruitfulness - from making disciples who make disciples.  Our current structure for doing church is like a condom that keeps us from having spiritual children.  

 

Instead, we should make disciples the way Jesus did it.  He had a tension between invitation and challenge: 

Come = invitation

Go = challenge

Throughout the three years he spent with his disciples, you saw an increasing calibration of both.

 

Invitation or challenge?  Which comes easiest to you?  To your congregation?

 

At this moment in the presentation, I took a moment and texted Pastor Tina.  She concurred with me:  Zion is a low invitation, high challenge church.   We are in the proverbial “valley of the shadow of death” according to Breen.  But we are very near the border of High Invitation, High Challenge and we have to keep going.  Where we are is necessary for our future together.  

 

Then Breen went on to use a graph to demonstrate the various combinations of invitation and challenge.  In the upper right is Jesus.  High invitation (relationships), high challenge culture.  To the upper left, high invitation low challenge.  To the lower left, low invitation, low challenge.  In the lower right, low invitation, high challenge.  

 

High invite, low challenge  = cozy culture

Low invite, high challenge -  Feel stressed, discouraged.  Only as good as last week. So you go on retreat, to reset the invite/relational piece.  But you’re doing amazing ministry.  

High challenge, high invite - Jesus builds toward this.  This is the goal.  

Low invite, low challenge - Anglicans   Every ones bored.

 

Increasing challenge, "I'm not responsible for making disciples, or your kids, either.  You are."

The journey toward the Church that Jesus wants is the withdrawal of invite and the move to high challenge.  The invitation comes back as we accept His challenge.  

 

The Jesus model of Church, to Breen, looks like America.  Everyone  is expected to stake a claim, to participate, to work on their own spiritual development and on making disciples who make disciples.  Such a church is free from feudalism in all it’s forms.  It is new.  Thanks for reading.  PJ 

 

 

Mike Breen bio from the LCMC website:

Mike Breen has been an innovator in leading missional churches throughout Europe and the United States for more than 25 years. In his time at St. Thomas Sheffield in the UK, he created and pioneered Missional Communities, mid-sized groups of 20-50 people on mission together. The result, less than 6 years later, was the largest church in England, and ultimately, one of the largest and now fastest growing churches in all of Europe. In 2006, Mike was approached by Leadership Network to lead an initiative into church planting. Through this partnership, more than 725 churches were planted in Europe in just three years.

 

Today, Mike lives in South Carolina, leading 3DM, a movement/organization that is helping hundreds of established churches and church planters move into this discipling and missional way of being the church. Mike is the Senior Guardian of The Order of Mission (TOM), a global covenant community of networked missional leaders. He has authored numerous books, including Launching Missional Communities, Building a Discipling Culture and Covenant and Kingdom.

 

Mike has been married to Sally for over 30 years and they have 3 grown-up children. Mike’s passions include contemporary design and architecture, travel, movies, cycling, golf, fine wine and food...though not necessarily in that order.


Report from the LCMC National Gathering Part 3

Report from the LCMC National Gathering Part 3

Gemechis Buba

(a bio of the Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba from the LCMC website is found at the end of this report).  

 

Gemechis Buba is a favorite speaker at LCMC events.  He is always very Biblical and very Christ centered and a joy to listen to.  He prays powerfully and is a man full of the Spirit and truth.  In my mind, Dr. Gemechis Buba sets the theological agenda and gives us the Scripture, the other speakers come along and tell us how to implement what he said.

 

Dr. Buba began by bemoaning the loss of many seminaries and Christian higher education schools to liberal theology.  Liberal theology, which believes that all people will be saved regardless of their commitment to Christ or how they respond to his call to, “Follow me,” kills mission.  If everyone is saved there is no incentive for the Church to “Go into all the world and make disciples.”  Liberal theology is now being exported to other countries in the world and it represents a great danger to our historic faith.  

 

In the Church, we need more leaders faster.  Our future depends on how many leaders we are training today.

 

We need to put more boots on the ground for Jesus.   Gemechis’s father was a pastor, a district president, in prison for his faith in Ethiopia during the brutal communist regime.   At that time, the church was in retreat.  Property was seized.  People were jailed or killed.  The communist government looked like it would last forever.  But his father never stopped developing leaders so that when things changed, the church would be ready.  It was people like Gemechis’s father that built leaders for the church, who God used to fan the explosive growth of the church today.  Leaders make leaders.  Leaders grow churches.   

 

Today, churches are “scared of the magnitude of the mission field.”  We must overcome our fears and move forward in faith.  Why should we be different than the Ethiopian?  We aren’t even in prison yet.  We must make leaders.  We must advance the kingdom and build the Church.  We must get ready for the future that God has in store for it will surely come.  

 

The theme of the Gathering was “Ambassadors for Christ” based on Paul’s concept found in 2 Corinthians 5.  

 

An ambassador, per the diplomatic websites, is a “chief of mission.”  

 

An ambassador is a master at building relationships.  An Ambassador for Christ must be a master of building relationships with:

With God.

With Host Culture.  This means we must understand where we are.  Protocols.

With colleagues 

 

How do I become an ambassador?   I must make an absolute commitment to the discipline of learning.  Ambassador’s learn - furociously.  Our primary teacher is Jesus.  “Learn from me.” (MT 11). 

 

An ambassador must have absolute confidence in his king and in his kingdom.  We do not merely compare religions like the liberal theologians, we promote our own.  We do what we do so that people meet Jesus.  We don’t want to be a “center for cultural Christianity.” Ambassadors need to be able to explain what their mission believes.

 

An ambassador must have an absolute obedience to the Scriptures, especially in times of trial.  Mt 4:1.  The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. He relied upon the Scriptures during his trials.  “Ambassadors are not to change/debate His policy.  We are here to implement his policy.”  “Thus sayeth the Lord.”  

 

An ambassador is ready to lay down his life for the mission.  The ambassador communicates the mission faithfully, even in dangerous environments.  Our mission is not to please the world, it is to please Jesus.

 

Jesus said, “the workers are few, harvest plentiful.”

As world population expands - 7 billion today - did we increase the number of ambassadors?  No.  We need to be like farmers - use combines.  We need to maximize our capacity for mission.  Look at the growth of the Church in China, India, Indonesia.  It isn’t the clergy.  It’s disciples making disciples.  

 

We’ve lost the thrill, art, ability of discipleship.  Where is the thrill in the church about discipleship?  What do we do at Zion with new believers?  We don’t know how to make disciples.  And when someone does come to Christ, we’re so quiet about our joy.  

The churches have gone to courses about discipleship but we don’t know how to do it.  We are living in a major discipleship crisis in the church today.  Teach us, Lord, how to do it.  We must pray the Lord of the harvest.  

 

Ambassadors have betrayed Him in the mission field.  Sometimes we believe we are smarter than the king.  We’re more educated than a 1st century carpenter.  Our scholars think they know more than the Bible.  Here we go back to where we started.  The future of the faith is not in liberal theology.  It is in preparing our people to make disciples of Jesus and releasing them to go and make disciples.  Thanks for reading.  PJ  

 

he Rev. Dr. Gemechis D. Buba is currently serving as the Missions Director of the North American Lutheran Church. He is originally from East Africa, Ethiopia and is currently living in Columbus OH with his wife Nassisse Baro Tumsa and Labsi Gemechis.

Dr. Buba received a Bachelor of Theology with high distinction from Mekane Yesus Theological Seminary, where he served as a Professor for two years. After working on his Masters of Theology in Church History in the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, he moved to the United States for further studies. In 2003 he received a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Christian Education from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA. In 2006, Dr. Buba earned a Doctorate Degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, specializing in Missional Leadership.

Ordained in 2001, he has served as a Seminary professor, mission developer, Senior Pastor, Vice President of Southeastern Black Lutheran Pastors’ Conference, an assistant to the Bishop of Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, two term president of the world wide union of Oromo Evangelical Churches Inc., founder and president of Leadership Development Systems Inc.

Dr. Buba has led, chaired and lectured on multiple international events through revivals, leadership development conventions, theological conferences, evangelistic gatherings, church assemblies and academic forums.

He has traveled extensively and served across the nations of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Germany, England, Norway, Sweden, USA, Australia and New Zealand. In his journey across this globe he has ministered the Gospel of Jesus Christ in three languages: English, Oromo and Amharic. He has authored and translated numerous articles, booklets, books and produced materials for Christian educational use.

Above all, he is proud to be called a Child of God, which is the highest privilege and authority in the Kingdom of God. 

 

Report from the LCMC National Gathering Part 2

Reggie McNeal.  

(Reggie’s bio piece from the LCMC website is placed at the end of my report for your information).  

 

Out of the three keynote presentations, I unashamedly enjoyed Reggie’s the best.  If I had the money, I’d gladly pay the fee for Reggie McNeal to come to Des Moines and evaluate our ministry and help us move forward.  I know this isn’t the case with everyone.  I talked to one colleague who felt that Reggie is unfair to large churches and is unnecessarily cynical and caustic about the Church.  Full disclosure here:  I don’t think the Church in North America has must of a future in it’s current manifestation and so I agree with Reggie’s more “extreme” views.  This will definitely color my opinion of his presentation.  I apologize in advance if my interpretation of his remarks is not accurate.  Although it sounds like he’s used to being misquoted.  

 

Every church has problems.  But, “Healthy churches deal with a better set of problems.”

“We gotta get out of the church business and get into kingdom business.” 

If you want to be ambassadors, shouldn't you represent the home office well?

90+ times Jesus talks about the kingdom.  

We need to learn to talk about Church as a verb, not a noun.  You don't go buy music at the record store any more.  Nor do you go to a bank.  You “bank.”  The Church needs to be known by what it does, not by it’s location or it’s building. 

 

The Church is important but it isn’t the goal or end of everything.  We’re not here to worship the Church, rather, the Lord of the Church. “We start the Bible in the garden with no church, we end in a city without a church.”   The Church is a vehicle that gets from place to place.  The Church is an avenue of blessing.  Our job as the people of God is to bless the world.  It’s a continuation of the covenant God made with Abraham in Gen 12.  (“By your name all the nations of the world will be blessed.”)  The wording is different than Genesis 12:  we are to be ambassadors, the light of the world, a city on a hill, the bringers of hope to the hopeless, etc.  It’s all about grace.  It’s all about blessing people.  

 

Reggie suggests that we regularly encourage our congregations to practice blessing people - “Go out and bless 3 people intentionally this week.  Not randomly.  But with intention.”  

 

He also encourages churches to keep track of and celebrate “God sightings” on a regular basis.  Where have you seen God at work this week?  

 

“How can we bless you?”, ought to be what every church asks of it’s members, neighborhood and what individual Christians ought to ask of people they meet.

 

What is the Church?  “Airports are connectors, not destinations.   But without them you don't get to where you need to go.”  The job of the Church is to connect people to Jesus and to mission.  Mission is not so much programmatic,(although it may be expressed programmatically),  as it is 

 

“We are doing more and more stuff at the church house while these kids are going to hell.”  To hell with more programming.  Near almost every church there is a school with kids who are struggling.  Maybe it’s an under-resourced school.  Maybe there are kids with broken families or special needs.  But there are enough schools for churches to ask them, “How can we serve you?”  Reggie told the story of one Episcopal priest who talked to the local principal and said, “How can I bless you.”   She thought she was nuts.  She was advised by others to test him.  So she asked him to be the crossing guard.  He did it.  And there began a beautiful relationship between the local church and the local school.  The school calls the church for everything.  The church is a blessing to the school.  

 

 Ask yourselves this question:  “Is our city any better because we're here?”  Has the church made any difference in the life of your community?  If it hasn’t, aren’t we doing the Master of the Church a dis-service?  

 

Reggie says that some react negatively to the concept of the church blessing the people of the world  He says they ask:  “What about the Word?”  In other words, what about evangelization.   Reggie responds:  “The Word is a whom.   So, be doers of the Word.”  What did Jesus say in John 13:   “Behold I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done.” (Wash feet).  And, “By this, all men will know that you are my disciples:  by the way you love one another.”  

 

Be doers of the word.  What did the early church in the Roman world do?  There were a tremendous number of girl babies left to die because they were not boys.  The early Christians took them home and raised them as Christians.  Years later, when all the Roman boys were looking for wives, who did they marry?  Christians.  

 

And again, in Rome, when the plague came through town.  Who stayed and tried to minister?  The Christians.  Many died.  But those who were ministered to and survived could not help themselves but to become followers of Christ.  They had been shown a very great and beautiful love. 

 

“The church needs to move from an internal to an external focus;  from a program driven to a people development culture.”  Programs are useful in that they help to develop people.  Which is the goal.  Perhaps we’ve lost sight of the goal here.  Perhaps we’ve become a program driven church which values having programs more than the end of the program:  the development (transformation of people).  

 

For instance, why do we evaluate, even within families, on the basis of participation instead of result.  Example:  Most people think that having a God conversation with your kid goes like this:  “How was Sunday School today?  Are you going to Youth Group on Friday night?”  

 

A youth director in the Twin Cities said that he no longer started at the point of saying “What kind of program do I want to have?”  Rather, he asked,  “What kind of kids do I want to send into the world?”  It’s about mentoring.  And also about mentoring mentors.  Turns out, mentors grow because kids ask questions.  We need to ask more questions in church.  

 

How can we get churches to ask the right kinds of questions?  Just expose them to the virus.  For instance, for your sermon, interview the principal at the local school.   Ask, “How can the church bless you?”  Then people want to help.

 

We also need to learn to change what we celebrate in the church.  Instead of celebrating what we did in church, how many people we had or how much money we raised, why not celebrate what we do in community?

 

Regularly ask your congregation these kind of questions:

What are you learning?

What are you experiencing?

How are you growing?

What did you learn about God?

 

It’s time for pastors to move from being institutional managers to a movement leaders.

 

Consider that your congregation is already deployed in the world in various industries and sectors for mission.  

Release business leaders into the marketplace. 

Release artists into the society. 

Release teachers into the classroom and school.  

Keep asking people, “How can you bless?”

Teach your flock “How to be a person of blessing.”

How do we serve our community?

 

It’s time for a new scorecard.  Our old scorecard evaluated us on how much money and how many people we brought in.  It’s time for something different. 

 

Begin by asking what kind of resources the church already has = prayer, people, time, facilities, money.

 

Figure out how to deploy what you have.  For instance.  If your church is a church of prayer, why not follow the example of one church and put up a prayer booth at your next local fair?  Or go to teachers/schools, police and fire stations.  Tell them you’re praying for them and take requests.  Tell them simply, “We’re asking God to bless you.”  If you need a standard of evaluation, why not ask your membership to self report their community service hours?  Or ask, “Is your marriage better this year than last? “  Or, “Is your relationship with your children better than before?”  This kinds of transformative experiences are the things we should be evaluating.  It’s in these kind of things that people’s lives are changed.  

 

“Every hour you spend at church is taking you away from your primary mission field.”  These are hard words for a pastor to hear.  But if we’re serious about the Great Commission, I think we have to realize that our job is to equip our people to be missionaries.  And their mission fields are as diverse as our people.  

 

Imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have to financially support church structures?  We could give our offerings away.  Reggie suggests we find a way to give money away.  Take an extra offering, even $1 per person.  Decide who in the community needs it.  Report out.  He tells the story of one man who gave $1000 tip to a waitress at a Waffle House.  He said that both the waitress and the giver cried and cried.  It’s the kind of thing that changes people’s lives.  Shouldn’t our goal in teaching people to give be to grow generous people who will give to what's important?

 

At that point, time ran out and the session ended.  I followed up by going to Reggie’s breakout session.  Twenty three registered for the session (including myself).  But over 50 showed up.  There were people sitting on the floor all around the walls and up and down the aisles.  Proof, I think, that people were intrigued by his remarks. 

 

Breakout:

Question:  Isn’t it true that once you do something more than once it becomes a program?  

Answer:  Yes.  So what we’re really saying is to customize your programming for each person.  Intentionally suggest to people what kind of classes or programs will benefit them and why.  

 

Be sure to follow up with people.  If you ask, “what do you want God to do in your life?”  You are obligated to go back and ask people, “how it's going?”

Question:  How do you keep the kind of outreach you’re talking about from becoming “just another community service project.”  

 

Answer:  Keep the people development piece, that's what keeps it from being only a community service piece ...   Help people develop a response.,.. I’m doing this because Jesus loves the kids, or because I've been blessed.”  Also, we need  to train people on whether this environment is a seedbed or an open door.  In other words, are we building a relationship so we can tell them about Jesus or is it time to tell them about Jesus now?  

 

Always try to keep your outreach projects inter generational.  Send the seniors and the high school kids out on a project together.  They will come back best friends.  

 

Question:  What kind of leaders do we need in the church today? 

Answer: To be part of the Apostolic ministry, leaders need to be genuinely spiritual.  They also need to be entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks and fail.  And they must have a Kingdom vision (a vision bigger than their own congregation).  

 

Contrary to things that I’ve seen recently, Reggie insists that the development of the vision belongs to only a few people because only a few people can turn the wheel on a ship.  Where you want masses of people to be involved is in implementation.  Implementation is where you  want 100s of people to be on board.  Not in the development of the vision itself.  

 

Why is vision making left to the few?   Because in vision making with many there will be the necessity of some kind of vote.  Because as pastors we are in the job of creating winners.  And every time you take a vote you create losers. You lead a spiritual movement by listening to the Holy Spirit, not to the crowd. 

 

Reggie says to dream big.  How would our community be different if the church did this one thing?

 

Question:  What is a missional community?

Answer:  Missional community- not house church.  Under 2 dozen.    A micro church, no governance they see themselves as missionaries to their community. 

There are two models:  1.)  They may move to poor side of town together.  The get to know people, just be there and be apart of the community.  Then they teach their members how to create intentional spiritual conversations.  

 

Or

2.) A community of missionaries that lean on each other for resources and ideas about how to reach the community.

 

Both may: 

Worship maybe once a month

Meet together based on the rhythm of the constituents

Be connected to a network

Be trained by established churches

 

They exist to help people get trained and get deployed in their community as missionaries.  

 

Final comments:  You're not going to meet a soul where God isn't at work in his life.  Find out how to partner with God to bless that person. Introduce that person to Jesus and see where Jesus goes next in that persons life.  That's what is so much fun, to watch Jesus and what he does with people. 

 

Thanks for reading.  God bless.  PJ  

 

Rev. Reggie McNeal

Dr. Reggie McNeal enjoys helping people, leaders, and Christian organizations pursue more intentional lives. He currently serves as the Missional Leadership Specialist for Leadership Network of Dallas, TX.

Reggie’s past experience involves over a decade as a denominational executive and leadership development coach. He also served in local congregational leadership for over twenty years, including being the founding pastor of a new church. Reggie has lectured or taught as adjunct faculty for multiple seminaries, including Fuller Theological (Pasadena, CA), Southwestern Baptist (Ft. Worth, TX), Golden Gate Baptist (San Francisco, CA), Trinity Divinity School (Deerfield, IL), Columbia International (Columbia, SC), and Seminary of the Southwest (Austin TX), . In addition, he has served as a consultant to local church, denomination, and para-church leadership teams, as well as seminar developer and presenter for thousands of church leaders across North America. He has also resourced the United States Army Chief of Chaplains Office (the Pentagon), The Chaplains’ Training School (Ft. Jackson), Air Force chaplains, and the Air Force Education and Training Command. Reggie’s work also extends to the business sector, including The Gallup Organization.

Reggie has contributed to numerous publications and church leadership journals. His books include Revolution in Leadership (Abingdon Press, 1998), A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders (Jossey-Bass, 2000), The Present Future (Jossey-Bass, 2003), Practicing Greatness (Jossey-Bass, 2006), Get A Life! (Broadman & Holman, 2007), Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church (Jossey-Bass, 2009), and Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church (Jossey-Bass, 2011).

Reggie’s education includes a B.A. degree from the University of South Carolina and the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees both from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Reggie and his wife Cathy make their home in Columbia, South Carolina.

 

Report from the LCMC National Gathering Part 1

Report from the LCMC National Gathering

Part 1:  Personal Reflections in Praise of LCMC

 

I wish I could’ve taken the entire church to this year’s National Gathering of Lutheran Churches in Mission for Christ.  Seriously.  It was that good.  Speakers included our National Service Coordinator, Mark Vander Tuig; North American Lutheran Church (NALC) missions director and consistent LCMC fav speaker, Gemechis Buba; Reggie McNeal, the Missional Leadership Specialist from Leadership Network; and 3DM discipleship guru, Mike Breen.  I’ll devote one whole blog to each speaker and what they said.  I want everybody to know what’s changing out there beyond our congregation and the changes are significant.  I think we’re living in the middle of an enormous paradigm shift within the church in North America.  To me that means that these aren’t the easiest of times but they could very well be some of the funnest and most interesting to be the Church.  

 

This first post will be very personal.   This is our fifth year as a member of LCMC.  This is the third year I’ve had the pleasure of going to a National Gathering.  Each time I experience such a sense of relief and renewal that it’s hard to describe.  But I’ll try.  

 

Why I feel such a sense of relief:  Things were so bad in our previous denomination that I felt either hopeless or completely isolated at every meeting or convention we had.  There was no sense of camaraderie, no sense of being involved together in the most noble of pursuits, bringing the Gospel to the world.  But now I experience just the opposite:  here are men and women who have sacrificed a lot for the sake of the Gospel.  Many have left larger churches in another denomination in order to serve smaller, struggling churches in LCMC.  Most are earning less than they did before.  Many are living off early withdrawals from their retirement or pension.  Some have no visible means of support, but God provides.  Many are starting new churches with no salary.  Many have been beaten up verbally by angry people for taking Biblical stands.  I’m so glad to be part of such a devoted group of Christ followers.  There is an amazing sense of “being on the same team.”  

 

Why I feel such a sense of renewal:  It’s amazing to me as I walk down the halls to see the joyful reunions of friends who haven’t seen each other for a year or perhaps more.  More amazing is watching people praying for each other in a quiet corner or just right in the middle of a hallway.  I love being a part of LCMC because we pray about every thing and believe that God hears us and will act.  

 

I’m still amazed that I know so many people.  It seems that many of my seminary colleagues have jumped ship and joined LCMC.  Those are also tearful reunions for me.  It’s like two survivors from some great disaster meeting years later, neither realizing that the other had survived.  “You’re here!  We’re alive!”

 

It’s good to see old friends.  One thing that comes about because of the unique culture of LCMC is that your peers are really significant in your professional and spiritual development.  Since we don’t have a top down structure and there is no one telling you what to do or asking you to do reports, this annual gathering serves as a way for us to report out to each other the things that God is doing in our lives and ministry.  It’s a chance to share our joys and our sorrows and our frustrations.  It’s a time to listen to others and learn from their successes and failures.  

 

Mark Vander Tuig said it best during the opening of the gathering:  “The most significant conversations will take place in the halls over coffee and we like it that way.”   Or something to that effect.  

 

It was great to catch up with friends.  Some I’ve worked with and some I’ve met at previous gatherings.  This kind of networking is an important part of LCMC culture.  This is where you find out who needs work, who is hiring, who is planning on retiring, who is planning on starting a new ministry, who needs advice and who has advice to give.  This year I networked like crazy and made important contacts with our brother pastors in Congo and Myanmar, both significant countries to our current ministry at Zion.  I also learned a lot from conversations about having a multi-ethnic staff and how to work with ICE to get an R-1 visa.  

 

Did I mention Congo and Myanmar (Burma)?  LCMC continues to grow abroad and this year we elected our first international member to the board.  Amazing.  I think about how different this association is from our former denomination.  There isn’t a sense that we’re to help those poor people “over there.”  Rather, those people “over there” have a lot to teach us and we are equals, truly brothers in Christ.  I love that.  I couldn’t help but tear up when all the international members took the stage.  There are now 11 LCMC churches in India who joined the association at this year’s gathering.  A new church in Myanmar (Burma).  Amazing.  Great things are happening in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia and it’s exciting to be part of it.  I imagine that one day, international membership might even surpass North American membership.  That will be an interesting and significant shift.  I can’t wait.  That will really help us understand the Church as something that is bigger than we are, a truly global enterprise.  

 

This was the second time we’ve met in a convention facility instead of a church.  There are simply too many participants for most churches to be able to host the gathering.  This was also the first time we’ve met in a city where we didn’t have a strong group of churches.  We don’t have a single church in Denver.  A few in the surrounding suburbs but not many.  So we’re meeting outside our usual enclaves and I love it. It was a great facility with easy access to the airport and the facility lent itself well to accommodating all the breakout groups and kept us well supplied with coffee.  What more could you ask for?  

 

I think a lot of the things that make LCMC so exciting come about because it’s a mere 11 years old.  I’m not sure that older institutions could re-make themselves in this fashion.  I hope I’m wrong about that.  Because the whole concept of being in a denomination has to change.  At one time in our history denominations had a significant role to play in spreading the Gospel and discipling people.  I think those days have passed and we’re now on to something different.  

 

The thing that causes me to grow the most each year at the gathering is the quality of the teaching and the topics addressed.  I get so much out of these talks.  And each year the talks seem to get more and more relevant.  We must be in mission as a church or we will cease to exist.  The association is pushing us into mission.  I think in LCMC we realize that a lot of our congregations in North America might not survive.  If it’s even possible, they got involved in doing mission too late.  But we believe that each congregation is significant and has a unique way to present a faithful witness to Christ.  And sometimes, churches might even be called to die as a part of that mission.  It’s amazing what we have the freedom to talk about in this paradigm shift.  I can’t wait to share with you comments from the various speakers.  God bless.  Thanks for reading.
PJ


Ramblings about God, the Church and Everything.

  • after Jesus’ own heart, 
  • with relevant, Bible based teaching,
  • with passionate and authentic worship,
  • of prayer,
  • with a heart for our city and the world,
  • where the love of our Lord is evident in the way we live and minister together. 

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