Monday, August 29, 2011

Amending Scripture

  At the heart of evangelism and church planting is the Canon of Scripture. It should be what provides us with motive and method for everything we do and should not be subject to a vote. But it appears that like our United States Bill of Rights, the church has felt the need to correct its deficiencies with amendments. Now while they may not take the technical form of such, they end up functioning as such.
  Prior to my leaving the mainstream to plant a non-traditional church, I served in five traditional ones. As verbal as each was in declaring its allegiance to the Bible, every time I attempted to lead in creatively fulfilling our purpose of reaching the unchurched, I was confronted with either “we’ve never done it that way before” (better known as the last seven words of the church) or “we can’t do that because our Constitution and Bylaws says, ‘blah, blah, blah.’” It was never about Scripture! While it is necessary to have some agreed upon documents to satisfy the laws governing legal incorporating as a church, going too far beyond that by canonizing culturally attuned methodologies is akin to amending the Bible.
  In my last effort at leading a traditional church into evangelistic productivity, the legally required Trustees had assumed a governing role in all matters. The Chairman carried around a notebook with a newspaper article about a church fight that had pitted the Trustees against the Deacons regarding the disposition of the Pastor. It ended up in court where it was ruled that the Trustees were the legal guardians of the corporation and as such were in the position of final authority. I was frequently reminded of that article. In most cases, whether it is Trustees or Deacons, they are normally waving a copy of the church’s Constitution and Bylaws saying, “we can’t do that because it says here, ‘blah, blah, blah.’”
  While a particular governing municipality may require certain officers in forming the corporation, they do not stipulate how they are placed into that position. If the only spiritually binding document is Scripture, then great care must be exercised in creating assumed amendments that bind the hands of present and future leaders. Successful pastoral leadership requires the right to make decisions within the framework of Scripture. If pastoral leadership isn’t in a position to make a mistake, it isn’t in a position to lead.

Monday, August 15, 2011


  Last night my wife and I, along with another couple from our church, attended a Chicago concert at a waterfront venue known as Pier Six, in Baltimore. Pier Six is an open air, large tent arrangement that sits at the Inner Harbor of Charm City. On this particular 80 degree evening, as we were enjoying the music of a great band from the 60's & 70's, I had a church planting epiphany.
  I became an adolescent in the 60's and an adult in the 70's. While not sheltered from the prevailing cultural environment of sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll, I was nonetheless separated from it by my personal faith. I was somewhat familiar with the popular bands of that era but not immersed in them. I did not attend a single ‘secular’ concert during that period. Fast forward a few decades and here I am, a church planter, attending and enjoying a ‘secular’ concert with thousands of ‘heathen.’
   One of my church planting influencing texts is 1 Corinthians 9 where Paul talks about his own transformation from a ‘good Jewish boy’ to a ‘color outside of the lines’ Jesus promoting missionary. He was obviously driven by the incarnational principle of ‘becoming.’ Just as Jesus became flesh that sinners might be reconciled to God, so Paul felt compelled to become ‘barbarian, slave, free,’ etc. for the same reason. I am convinced that he went through a serious learning curve respecting what that meant since those were places, people and cultural practices foreign to his experience. It became obvious at the time that the traditionalists of his day felt like he had crossed the line. Thank God, he stood his ground and proved them wrong.
  Church planting has to be about right motives. I have known some who were in it for other reasons, like those who so wanted to be known as ‘Pastor’ that they saw planting as the way of achieving that distinction. What they fail to do was connect with the culture that didn’t share their personal need for recognition. Because I knew my calling was to reach a ‘Rock’n’Roll’ generation I find myself sitting at a Chicago concert in 2011.
  The incarnational journey has been interesting. I have been attending ‘secular’ concerts now for the last 18 years and have seen Journey, Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, Stray Cats, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, ZZ Top, Dennis DeYoung (Styx), Hank Williams Jr., Crosby, Stills and Nash to name a few, plus a Pink Floyd tribute band. In these venues I have been groped, hit on, flashed and offered a joint. How has that helped in church planting? I invariably run into people I know who need Jesus and in that moment and venue I become real to them and they, in turn, tell their friends who they saw at that concert. In Paul's words, "I become..... that by all possible means I might save some."