Friday, August 31, 2012

The Challenge of Pastoral Leadership: The Corporation-Sized Church

The National Congregation Study from Duke University reported that 50 percent of churchgoers in the United States attend 10 percent of congregations.  These are churches that average 350 and up regular participants on a Sunday. This size congregation, whether 351 or 10,000 plus, is usually referred to as the corporate or corporation size church.  Certainly, there is a great deal of diversity in leadership when considering this great a size range, but once a church passes 350 in Sunday morning attendance the expectations of the pastor and the competencies required to lead effectively change in several important ways.

Although some may react negatively to the designation, the pastor of this type church is usually seen as the chief executive officer.  Even more importantly, the person is this position becomes a symbol for of the congregation and its face to the community.  Theodore Johnson says that this church is seeking “a leader with mythic qualities.”   Wow!  How many can measure up to that standard?

In fact, very few ministers have the ability to lead this type of congregation.  Some perform effectively at the lower range but the larger the church becomes, the greater the challenge to lead.

The pastor of the corporate size church is expected to be an extraordinary communicator, especially since his or her preaching ministry is often multiplied through various broadcast, cable, and online media outlets.  The pulpit is her or his primary means of guiding, discipling, and motivating the congregation.  He or she must be a master teacher as well, offering clear and pertinent Bible teaching in a number of settings including publications.

The pastor of the corporate size church leads the church to provide pastoral care not only through trained and equipped volunteers but through a staff of professional ministers.  In fact, he or she may well be presiding over multiple mini-congregations within one church—senior adults, single adults, youth and their families, children and their families, and participants in the music ministry—with each led by a professional staff member.  These ministries may be the size of a pastor-centered or program size church!

This situation requires a pastor who accepts his or her role as unifying symbol but realizes that he or she is “first among equals” or “chief of staff” to a group of trained and competent individuals.  Failure to adopt this position will assure frustrated ministry leaders and a revolving door approach to staff leadership.  Perhaps the greatest challenge this pastor faces is to articulate a vision that will unify not only a complex congregation but a diverse staff.

If a pastor is to be effective in the corporate size church, he or she must become a student of leadership, knowing his or her strengths, learning from others, and taking the initiative to train and mentor those in the congregation—whether paid staff or volunteer leaders.

Some pastors in this size church abdicate the role of staff leader to someone else, usually an administrative pastor who not only takes care of the business of the church but becomes the “chief operations officer” supervising other staff ministers.  I must admit that I have a bias against this approach.  There is certainly a need in this size church for competent administrators with business savvy, but if the pastor is to be lead effectively, he or she must plan, pray, dream, and work directly with other ministers.   To do otherwise is to become only a figurehead for the congregation and the community.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Challenge of Pastoral Leadership: The Program-Sized Church

We all know pastors who are wonderful friends, good in pastoral care, and effective preachers, but they are not good team leaders.  Maybe you are one.  These individuals find themselves in a church of 150 to 350 in attendance and find that “they are not in Kansas anymore.”  They are now in a church that has so much going on that they cannot keep up with it all.  What has worked for them before does not work now. What has changed?

When a church passes the 150 mark in Sunday worship attendance, programs and ministries have multiplied.  The pastor can no longer be the coordinator of everything but must depend on others to take the lead in specific areas. This requires a different leadership style.

Some consultants refer to this as the program-sized church.  I would welcome another title because I believe that this term fails to describe all that a church this size does.  Such a church is not just running programs, it is developing people, growing disciples, and reaching out in community ministries in ways that a smaller church cannot.  Perhaps a better term is “distributed leadership” or “team-led” with the pastor as the one who points everyone in one direction.

The pastor in this type of congregation must not only be a caring preacher but an effective preacher, calling worshippers to a deeper level of commitment and involvement.  Members of this congregation want a pastor who is a master teacher, providing insights and guidance that they have not found elsewhere.  In conducting pastoral care of members, the pastor is much more dependent on trained and equipped lay leaders to help shoulder the responsibility of checking on shut-ins, visiting the hospital, going to nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and helping those with special needs.  Such tasks may be carried out by the deacons, Sunday school or small group leaders, or another group of responsible volunteers as well as other ministry staff.

When a pastor either moves to such a church or the church he or she is serving grows into this stage, there are certain challenges.  First, the pastor has become a team leader who supervises, coaches, and encourages either paid or volunteer staff to carry out the work of the church.  The level of expertise required to do the work of this church takes more time and concentration that the pastor can provide, so the pastor is now dependent on others to lead. Very often the persons on the ministry staff are area specialists with abilities and skills developed over years of ministry. Sometimes they are new to ministry and seek a mentor or coach in the pastor to help them make the transition.  This is often the point where the pastor exclaims, “I never learned this is seminary” and is probably right. Unless the pastor has experience as an associate in a congregation like this or has a good background as a manager in the secular world, he or she has probably not acquired the skills necessary to lead effectively.

The second challenge is to align various segments of the congregation around a common mission and vision.  Just as the staff is more diverse, the congregants tend to be as well.  Very often, both staff and members are motivated to move forward, but they are going in different directions!  Whether the vision of the church is that of the pastor or one birthed through a congregational discernment process, the pastor becomes the point person responsible for aligning everyone toward achieving that vision.  The pastor must use all of the resources at his or her disposal—the pulpit, administration of staff, leadership of committees and teams, personal persuasion—to accomplish this.

Quite honestly, some have the skills to do this (or can develop them); others do not.  The pastor must not only be aware of his or her own personality and communication style, social and emotional intelligence, and spiritual gifts, but his or her deeply imbedded strengths.  If a pastor has not gone through a personal career assessment or developed a relationship with a trained life coach, this is the time to do both.  Doing so will save the pastor a lot of frustration, disappointment and despair.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Challenge of Pastoral Leadership: The Pastor-Centered Church

When a church moves from a worship attendance of less than fifty into the 50 to 150 range, a different style of pastoral leadership is required.  Perhaps another way to approach this is that if a church wants to transition to this next level of participation, the pastor must be able to fulfill a different type of role.  This may well be one of those “chicken and egg” quandaries.  Which comes first?

One may object to “the pastor-centered church” as the descriptor for this size congregation, but the fact is that the pastor is the nexus—the coordinator, the linchpin, the network node—through which everything flows. This is not an ego thing on the part of the pastor, but something that the members expect.  They want someone who will be the administrator of a growing church.

Although the pastor continues to perform the “priestly functions” of office (marrying, baptizing, and burying), he or she is expected to be more proficient in communicating the Word of God.  As a preacher, the pastor in this size congregation embodies the caring ministry of the church, aware of the needs and crises that take place and being the calm at the eye of the storm.  In teaching, the pastor is expected to apply the Bible to issues faced by the congregants—family issues, moral choices, and values.  In this function, the pastor links orthodoxy and orthopraxy—right believing and right acting—in the life of the church.

This type of congregation calls upon the pastor to lead through personal relationships and by being the one who delegates responsibilities, provides support in their execution, and recognizes achievements of members.  The pastor is the first among committee leaders who involves, encourages, empowers, mentors, and praises the “worker bees” in the church.  In addition, the pastor is often the primary Christian educator in the church, so he or she trains and coaches those who teach in most of the age groups.

The pastor in this congregation uses all of his or her relationship and emotional intelligence skills, but the greatest challenge here is time management.  Being the administrator does not mean that the pastor has to perform every task or even be present at every meeting, and this requires some wise choices about use of professional and personal time.  Failure to do so can lead to burn-out, poor health, and marital issues.

In this stage of church development, the pastor is the generalist, the “jack of all trades,” who is helping the members lay the foundation for both personal and organizational growth.  Some pastors function best at this level and are happy to continue in this role.  Others realize that they are willing to do this for awhile but they long for the day that the church will transition to a new model or the day when they accept the call to different type of church!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Challenge of Pastoral Leadership: The Family Church

When I was in seminary, I had the opportunity to pastor a small church in the hill country of Texas.  The first floor of the building was the church; the second floor was the Masonic Lodge.  There was only one deacon and he was in his eighties.  None of the other men in the church could be elected as deacon because they were divorced or had married a divorced woman.  They were kind and generous people who were used to having a seminary student as their pastor.  They expected him to be there for a couple of years and then to move on.  They were basically a big extended family who often had problems assimilating newcomers.  They loved me, but they knew I was not there to stay.

Many ministers pastor this type of church while in seminary.  It is a part time charge and gives a beginning pastor a place to “learn the ropes.”  This is the size church that many bivocational pastors serve and find it the place where they can do their most effective ministry.  We often refer to this as the family-size church or “the family chapel” because most members tend to be related to one another and, even if they are not, they operate the church as if they were a family (with all the joys and sorrows that encompasses).

Family churches usually have about 50 participants on a Sunday morning.  In this setting, the pastor is the chaplain of the family.  They just want the pastor “to love them” and accept them the way they are.  There is often a patriarch or matriarch who is the leader of the congregation, even if not officially designated as such.  This person has been around long enough to see a number of preachers come and go.  They are not necessarily opposed to change; they just see it as unimportant or irrelevant.

There are some necessary competencies for a pastor to be successful within the confines of the family congregation.  The pastor should be able to preach and teach the Bible with some level of skill and clarity.  The pastor also exercises pastoral care through visitation, calling on the sick, and performing “priestly” functions such as baptizing, officiating at the Lord’s Table, conducting funerals, and performing weddings.

In the family size church, the pastor is not seen as a leader but more as a “sounding board” and advisor to the patriarchs or matriarchs in the congregation.  Any influence the pastor has comes in relationships her or she develops with the real leaders of the church.

This is not to say that the pastor of a family size church is a lackey.  He or she must exercise all of the emotional intelligence at his or her disposal—self-awareness, self-management, relationship management, adaptability, etc.—in order to serve effectively and meet the needs of the church members.  Unless the pastor grew up in this congregation, he or she will never really be part of the family but can learn to meet the spiritual, liturgical, and pastoral care needs of the members. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Challenge of Pastoral Leadership

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog on the challenge that a pastor faces in transitioning to leadership in a larger congregation.  This promoted a response from a pastor friend in another state.  I share his comments with his permission:

“I tried to pastor a large church with a medium-sized church style.  It just about killed me.  I resigned before I did them serious damage.  They still love me, but it was extremely painful to face my ineffectiveness when I had done well in other churches.  I was a picture of ‘The Peter Principle’ of so long ago, i.e., promoted one too many times.  However, I was at an age that I didn't feel like I had the time or energy to change as dramatically as I needed to change, so I returned to the kind of church where my gifts best fit, and left the larger situations to those gifted for them.  I guess I will spend the rest of my life wondering if I should have tried harder to press my growing edge.”

Change is never easy, but I wonder if my friend has sold himself short.  Perhaps if he had been able to receive the right kind of support and encouragement, he could have built on his inherent strengths and developed the skills necessary to minister in a larger congregation.  His comments do point out the fact that various sized congregations have different needs and require specific competencies of their pastoral leaders. 

Over the next couple of months, I want to look at different size congregations and reflect on the necessary competencies for a pastor to be effective in each situation.  By its very nature, such a task is fraught with danger!  Each church is different, but my experience (and that of folks who are much more competent in this matter than I am) points to the differing needs of the family church, the pastoral or pastor-centered church, the program or distributed leadership church, and the corporation church. 

I look forward to this exercise.  You may not agree with my taxonomy or my observations, but your feedback would be appreciated.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Marketing or Ministry?

In a recent blog, I commented on the diversity among the speakers at the recent Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit.  Some might dismiss this intentional effort to include women, blacks, Hispanics, and internationals as affirmative action or “quota” programming.  I see this more as an attempt to address an oversight and move toward a change is practice and attitude.

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, has explained that church leadership suddenly realized one day how homogenous they were and how heterogeneous the Church was meant to be.  They began to intentionally seek out African-Americans and members of other races to become part of their lay leadership, their worship teams, and their staff.  They not only wanted to be more inconclusive but they wanted to visibly communicate their desire to be more inclusive.

Here again, you might criticize this approach, but there is a management axiom which applies here:  “What gets counted gets done.”  If you want to make a change, you have to keep track of your behavior.  A person who is serious about an exercise program keeps a record of walking, running, or other activity as a means not only of documenting progress but to provide a level of accountability.

When people started seeing diversity in the life of Willow Creek, they knew that their friends of other races or ethnicity were welcome and started inviting them to attend services.  Visitors of various races realized that this was a place where they would be accepted.  By modeling a desired situation, the church grew in a new direction.

I think this is one of the values of the Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching that is promoted by Baptist Women in Ministry.  Whether church members will admit it or not, many are uncomfortable about women preachers because they have never heard a woman preach!  Many women in ministry today testify to the first time they heard a woman in the pulpit and the affirmation it provided to them to pursue God’s calling in their lives.

Some have suggested that one route to discipleship is “behave until you believe.”  In other words, if you practice something long enough, the habit or practice will become an important part of your life.  Perhaps if we practiced diversity and equality more, they would become part of our churches’ lives.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Changes at the Creek

The two-day Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit was inspiring and informative as usual.  In addition to those attending on the South Barrington campus, about 70,000 participated by satellite feed in hundreds of local sites across the nation.  The conference is videoed and will be repackaged and used to reach about 160,000 leaders around the world in the next year.

Some things about the Summit have remained unchanged over the years.  There is a strong evangelical spirit; Hybels and his team leave no question that every person would be better off knowing Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.  Worship is always spirited and well-done, but it has evolved over the years (more about that below).  There is a strong commitment to learn about leadership not only from church leaders but from those in the business, not-for-profit, and educational sectors.  Cutting-edge technology is important as well, and the Willow Creek Association has learned how to use all available digital tools to facilitate communication, learning, and giving.

Even so, I have observed some changes over the years. These are personal observations but I think valid ones.   For one thing, the Summit is more egalitarian and more inclusive than it once was.  Of the twelve platform presenters this year, three were women—one African-American, one of Chinese ancestry, and one Indian.  The program has even featured a couple of women preachers in recent years, although clearly from evangelical churches.  This is certainly not by chance!

 Among the male speakers this year, there was an African-American, a Hispanic pastor from El Salvador, and a Canadian (but I digress).  The racial representation among speakers overall was 40 percent non-Anglo.  The desire to be more racially and ethnically inclusive is also reflected in the make-up of the worship team.  Once typically all white, there is clear racial diversity among worship leaders.

The choice of speakers from several countries reflects a growing global awareness by the planners of the Summit, the Willow Creek Association and Willow Creek Church.  Although the Summit has always highlighted overseas ministries, it has become a common practice to feature speakers from other countries; in fact, Mario Vega, the Salvadoran pastor on this year’s program, preached in Spanish with an English translator standing by.  They come as examples and teachers and not simply as “exhibits.”

Worship has also changed.  Although it continues to be “in your face” and innovative, the music is not always loud and more meditative aspects have been added, including some ancient-future worship touches.  This is undoubtedly due a commitment to bring on new leadership on a regular basis (including Bill Hybels’ son-in-law).

Hybels comes out of a business background and has always brought that viewpoint to his leadership and the Summit.  He is a habitual reader of books by business and leadership leaders like Patrick Lencioni and Jim Collins, who have become mainstays at these conferences.  In recent years, however, the program has featured more speakers from business backgrounds, including young entrepreneurs with a social conscience.  Marc Kielburger, one of this year’s presenters, is a great example.  He and his brother Craig have founded two non-profit organizations that help children and youth minister to their peers around the world—Free the Children and Me to We.  Kielburger is also a Rhodes Scholar with a law degree from Oxford and a magna cum laude graduate from Harvard, so he is not your typical entrepreneur.  The brothers identify themselves as “shameless idealists” but nothing on their website indicates that they or their organization is a Christian mission.  They do seem to be making a big impact on the global consciousness of young people, however.

As a follow participant and I talked over lunch Friday, he asked me, “What do you think the future of the mega church is?”  As we discussed the question, we both felt that the megachurch movement has peaked and there will be fewer on the scene in twenty years (part of this due to the retirement of founding pastors).

 What will take the place of the megachurch?  I am not sure, but I think that the kind of ministries and charities that Hybels and the WCA highlight at these meetings may give us a clue.  Whether churches or not-for-profits, they will be entrepreneurial, agile, and commited to helping people.  And, I hope, Christian.   But they will be as different from the megachurch as the megachurch was from the neighborhood congregation.


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Idealism is a Terrible Thing to Waste

The best presentation of the first day of the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit was the last message of the day by Craig Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch.tv (yes, that is the name of the church) in Edmond, Oklahoma.  He addressed the need for intergenerational cooperation in leadership development.  His comments were both inspiring and practical.

Groeschel pointed out that if generations are going to work together and learn from each other, it must be intentional.  He suggested three ways to do this.

Create on-going feedback loops so that various generations can talk to and listen to each other.  He uses listening groups made up of older and younger congregants to give him feedback on his messages.

Create specific mentoring moments. This is not only older to younger mentoring, but also includes reverse mentoring where an older leader can learn from a young leader.

Create opportunities for significant leadership development.  Don’t just delegate responsibilities but also provide young leaders with the authority to carry out the task. 

Although he had some harsh words as he identified the younger generation as the “entitled” generation where “everyone is a winner,” he also pointed out that our young adults and youth will not be satisfied with the injustices they see in the world that they are receiving from us.  They are ready to do something about the needs they see around them.

This fit well with the comments made earlier in the day by Marc Kielburger, the co-founder of Free the Children and co-CEO of Me to We.  Both organizations mobilize youth to help their peers around the world.  Fast-talking and charismatic, Kielburger and his brother have tapped into the idealism of Canadian youth and are now expanding their movement to the United States and Great Britain.  His enthusiasm is contagious.  As I listened to him, I thought, “If the church does not engage this generation in global leadership, we will loose them as well as the world.”

Our youth have more opportunity than any previous generation to know what is going on throughout our nation and around the world.  They are widely traveled; most high school seniors from even middle class families have traveled outside the United States at least once during their teen years.  Many of our college students are doing overseas trips or cross-cultural immersion experiences as part of their studies.  They are world citizens.

A good example of this world awareness is a young woman in our church who just graduated from high school and has already joined with friends to establish a not-for-profit organization to raise money for a village in Haiti.  In addition to raising funds, they have also gone to the village and worked with the people.  Remember, she is not even in college yet!

 If the church does not encourage and empower our youth and young adults to address the needs they discover, they will find other means to do so.  This was my big take away from day one of the Summit.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Going to the Summit

Pastor Bill Hybels serves as host and speaker.
God willing, I will spend the next two days attending the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit at a satellite location in our state.  The purpose of the Summit is stated as:  “The Global Leadership Summit exists to transform Christian leaders around the world with an annual injection of vision, skill development, and inspiration for the sake of the local church.”

I have lost track of how many of these I have attended—one on site in South Barrington, Illinois, and the rest at various satellite locations.  Some may wonder why I bother to attend a meeting put on by a megachurch located in an upscale suburb.  Although I may disagree with some of the presenters from time to time, the Willow Creek Association consistently enlists some of the most interesting and knowledgeable communicators of the day to present  practical ideas about leadership.  The speakers are drawn from churches, universities, consulting groups, and not-for-profits.

In recent years, the Summit has particularly highlighted young entrepreneurs who exercise servant leadership either through their businesses or not-for-profit organizations.  They may not necessarily be Christians, but their actions testify to what Christian should be about.

This year the program includes some of my favorites like Patrick Lencioni, Jim Collins, and John Ortberg.  There is a nod to the political realm with former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, and these forays into the political realm are always fraught with potential controversy (as when Bill Hybels invited President Bill Clinton several years ago).  Other speakers include Sheryl WuDunn, author of Half the Sky:  Leadership in the Face of Oppression; Marc Kielburger, Co-Founder, Free The Children; and Pranitha Timothy, Director of Aftercare, International Justice Mission.  Other speakers include pastors Mario Vega, Craig Groeschel, and host Bill Hybels.

This is always a stimulating time and I hope to share some highlights in upcoming blogs.

 



Saturday, August 04, 2012

How Things Have Changed

Social media and the Internet are easy targets.  Hardly a day passes that someone fails to blame a societal evil on digital media.  Sometimes the criticism is understandable, but we must always remember that these things are only tools.  If we let our tools control us, we would give us driving automobiles because they can cause deaths.  Yes, they can, but only when used inappropriately.

The digital revolution can be a blessing and, in fact, provides churches with resources that they could not even dream of a decade ago.  This delivery system strengthens the work of institutions and organizations that seek to serve the churches in a post-denominational age.  These ministries provide services that churches might one time have received from their denominations or judicatories.  Let me mention four of these (Disclaimer:  I have some association with all of these organizations, but this does not negate their contributions!)

First, denominations once offered social action or “Christian life” agencies to address ethical issues.  Many of these have fallen into disrepute for various reasons.  Stepping in to fill this gap is the Baptist Center for Ethics and its online presence ethicsdaily.com.  Under the leadership of Robert Parham, BCE addresses issues such as immigration, taxation, and interfaith dialogue through its website, daily e-news, video resources, and digital curriculum.  BCE and ethicsdaily.com together provide a voice of authority in the areas of ethics, cultural discernment, and social action.

Second, the Associated Baptist Press began as an alternative to a denominational news bureau, but it has become not only a provider of religious news but also opinion and cultural criticism.  Since CEO David Wilkinson came on board, ABP has developed new partnerships with other publishing entities and is pursuing a more robust Internet presence, seeking to provide a platform for a variety of voices with different perspectives.   It has become the “go to” site for those who want to know what is happening in Baptist life.

Third, in a time that calls for new approaches to theological education, Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas, has reached out geographically, culturally, and electronically to engage new student constituents.  President Molly Marshall has been willing to embrace creative approaches to theological education. Starting with new teaching sites in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, CBTS is launching new sites in Michigan and Florida.  The seminary has a partnership with the Myanmar Institute of Theology and has started a national Korean contextualized theological education program.  The seminary has also made a major commitment to online education and the use of web-based administrative tools. 

Fourth, when denominations encountered difficult economic times, early casualties in budget cuts were programs related to church administration, career development, and congregational health.  A number of organizations have stepped in to fill that gap.  One of these, PinnacleLeadership Associates, was organized by veteran counselor and consultant Mark Tidsworth.  Pinnacle offers consulting, coaching, and training services to congregations, clergy, and not-for-profit organizations.  Starting in South Carolina, Pinnacle now has ten associates in several states and is expanding its outreach through online means. 

In addition to the use of digital media to supplement traditional means of delivering resources and services, all of these entities share a commitment to work with various Baptist bodies and across denominational lines.  They have stepped up to help congregations and individuals who seek to be on mission for God in the 21st century, taking advantages of the opportunities in a changing environment.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Health of the CBF Movement


I appreciate the work on movements that my friend StephenCurrie has allowed me to share in recent blogs.  He ends his comments on the nature of “Gospel movements” with these conclusions:

“God invites human effort, and God does work through leaders and churches that care about restoration and reform.  But it is God who provides the source of movement energy through the Holy Spirit.  So we must pray fervently.  We must sow the Gospel widely and faithfully without the baggage of nuanced theological dogma or complex church practices that are more cultural than they are biblical.  Then, when the Holy Spirit stirs to generate a Gospel movement, Gospel seeds can germinate seemingly spontaneously in unexpected places.  And we can be in the right place at the right time to be part of something big that only God can do.”

I got the question again last week:  “What do you think the future of CBF is?”  We have at least gotten beyond the other question:  “Do you think CBF is going to make it?”  We have talked about CBF for several years as a movement rather than a denomination, so perhaps the question should be “Is the movement going to continue and grow in the future?”  I don’t have a hard and fast answer, but as I review Stephen’s comments over the last several blogs, I find a rubric to attempt to answer the question.

First, are we developing leaders indigenous to the movement?  The answer is definitely “Yes.”  The first two executive coordinators came out of the conflict among Baptists in the south.  Both Cecil Sherman and Daniel Vestal were well-known denominational leaders with a stake in the status quo who took the courageous action of “shaking the dust off their feet” and moving on.  Sherman was the community organizer who mobilized moderate Baptists and churches.  Vestal was the strong pastoral presence who helped members of the movement deal with their grief.  We now have a new generation of leaders for a new task—maintaining the momentum.  Many of them have come to maturity after the birth of the CBF movement, so they don’t have some of the old prejudices to overcome and can concentrate on nurturing the movement in new and creative ways.

Second, Stephen suggests that “the energy of movements is generative.”  From the perspective of “putting new wine into new wineskins,” the jury is still out for CBF.  Certainly CBF’s emphases on incarnational missions, the missional church, and women in ministry have breathed new life into many Baptist churches and organizations, but we have thus far failed to embrace the ”radical transformation” that he identifies as inherent in Gospel movements.  Perhaps my view is skewed as “an old guy” who has been in denominational life too long.  Others with fresher eyes may have a different perspective. I still wonder how open we are to real and sustainable change.

Third, Stephen suggests that movements are spiritual and arise spontaneously.  I must affirm that there is much in the life and history of the CBF movement that can only be credited to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Doors have opened, people have made sacrifices, and ministries have been birthed in unexpected and unplanned ways.  CBF people have been good about responding to this work of the Spirit.  We have been “at the right place at the right time,” as Stephen says.

Fourth, movements employ simple patterns of church life and spiritual practice “without a lot of baggage” according to Stephen.  We are not there yet.  CBF was initially a grass roots movement, arising from churches and individuals who wanted “to do a new thing.”  Movements transition quickly into an organizational phase and then an institutional phase.  This is not bad in and of itself.  Coherent structures are needed in a modern world in order to accomplish certain goals.  The danger is that such structures encourage a gate keeping mentality rather than a permission giving approach.  They discourage rather than encourage the work of the Spirit. CBF has recently adopted a new organizational structure that promises to continue to give voice to the grass roots and to encourage cooperation among moderate Baptists.  The way that this is implemented and practiced will determine whether we meet this test of being “a Gospel movement.”

When I was asked about the future of CBF, my response went something like this:  “CBF is going to fulfill a special need for churches in the coming days.  It will never become a denomination like the old Southern Baptist Convention was, but the new SBC is not the denomination that the old SBC was.  It is no longer as horizontally integrated or cohesive as it once was and will never be again.  Churches have to make more decisions for themselves and need different kinds of partners.”

Can CBF grow and prosper in the coming days while maintaining a movement mentality?  Only time will tell.  

(You can read Stephen's complete paper here.)


The birth and growth of movements


Stephen Currie continues his comments about movements.

Movements are spontaneously sparked on the periphery. 

Human effort is not a good predictor of where Gospel movements will happen because it is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Movements do not arise out of central planning of church leaders, so we cannot work harder or smarter to generate Gospel movements.

Movements are spiritual, and arise when the seeds of the Gospel are widely sown.  This is how the center of New Testament missions shifted from Jerusalem to Antioch.  A few men began preaching the Gospel to Gentiles, and they received it gladly.  For a Jewish sect that was inconsequential in the wider Roman world, we realize that Antioch was very much on the periphery, and far away from the activity and control of church leaders in Jerusalem.  Antioch emerged spontaneously, and that is happening today in places like India and China.

Movements must be easily reproducible.

Movements spread when simple patterns of church life and spiritual practice are passed on to new believers.  Rick Warren observes, “Simple does not mean simplistic.”  Today’s churches are too complex to be the soil for Gospel movements in our culture.  They require specialized expertise to maintain.

When I look at how Paul established practices for the churches he started, it is striking that there is little or no energy expended on building institutional structures.  What structure Paul does give us are roles and responsibilities.  In 1 Timothy and Titus, we see the roles of overseers, elders, and deacons.  In Ephesians 4, we see the roles of apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors.  And the influence qualifications of these leaders come from maturity defined by sound relationships and sound doctrine. And Paul tells us, “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church (Ephesians 4:12 NLT).

With simple forms and easily defined roles and responsibilities, the New Testament church was free to expand exponentially without the bounds of institutional forms.  In this way, leadership is easily transferred and multiplied.  No buildings and programs to maintain.