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:
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.