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Jan '05

The Theology of Codependency or Doing the Denominationally Impossible

“It is impossible to plant a church with any less than 5 leaders.” As I sat at a recent conference on church planting provided by “my” denomination, these words made me shudder. I could not believe what I was hearing. As I sat there and listened to “my” denomination I could not help but wonder what the heck Rick Warren was thinking moving to So Cal with only his wife and small child…He was two leaders short. What was Bill Hybles thinking…What was the Apostle Paul thinking…traipsing around the world starting

churches. And many times that irresponsible jerk would leave after like three or four weeks leaving a single pastor to take care of that church that was sure to die. [Note the Sarcasm]

I have been debating the future of my relationship with “my” denomination as of late. Not because I want to rebel. Not because I think the grass is greener. Not because I just want more freedom. The main reason I have been contemplating my future with “my” denomination is because I feel God has spoken to me regarding the church that I am about to be a part of planting. When he spoke I felt him say that our future work should be non-denominational.

This, however, did not sit to well with some of the leaders in my life. They were puzzled. “I’m not sure why you would NOT want to be “’Insert “my” Denomination here”’ when that has always been your history!” It was hard for them to conceive of beginning a church outside of a denomination.

Doing Things Differently…The Same Old Way
Why is it that all of my friends that are in fulltime ministry want to do things differently but continue to use the methodology of their denominations? I believe that for many it is a matter of denominational codependency. In a recent conversation with a fellow church planter, he spoke candidly about how he did not know if he was sure how to plant a church outside of a denomination. It was almost as if he had come to believe that it was impossible to plant a church outside of a denomination. This perplexes me. Why is it that we have a tendency to go back to old methods, models, and structures when we have such a desire to make a real difference? Is it the money that may or may not come with being a part of a denomination? Let’s look at the reality of the situation from a monetary standpoint:

The vast majority of people that I see planting new churches are under the age of 35. Many of whom have been youth pastors, associate pastors or both. For them they have never made a real salary. It is not the money that drives them. But when planting a church there is a tendency to look at where the resources are going to come from and have absolutely no idea how that is going to happen. Different denominations have different “policies” or “programs” to remedy this situation or at least give it a good start. In “my” denomination if you go through the multi-step process, pass the assessments, and gain permission from the right people, they will give you $20,000 if you are on your own and $12,500 if you are planting out of a parent church.

The Hard Numbers
So where does a church planter get his much needed resources if not from a parent church or denomination? This has been a question I have been wrestling with for some time. Last night God began to speak to me about the raw numbers:

  • If a person makes $50,000 per year (a reasonable salary for a senior pastor)
  • AND needs $400 per week for renting a facility to meet in (the average in my home town of seattle)
  • THEN the church plant only needs 59 giving units that will commit to $100 per month to keep this afloat. Infact if the pastor tithes his full 10% he alone will be giving over $400 each month. Thus eliminating 4 of the 59 units.

How hard is it to find 55 units that will give $100 per month…That depends on how many people you know, how well you know them and how much money they make and are willing to commit to.

If Not Mulah Then What?
So if money is not a good reason to continue the denominational conquest of the church plant scene, why do most young men (at least the ones I know) continue to look solely to the denomination they are a part of for “permission” to start a church? I believe it is because of codependency. When this idea first popped into my head I did a Google search on the word “codependency.” The second link was from a website on recovery issues. (http://www.recoveryresources.org/codependency.html) The site gave a list of common characteristics of codependency. Look at this list:

  1. 1. My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you
    2. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you
    3. Your struggle affects my serenity. My mental attention focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain
    4. My mental attention is focused on you
    5. My mental attention is focused on protecting you
    6. My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way
    7. My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems
    8. My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain
    9. My own hobbies/interests are put to one side. My time is spent sharing your hobbies/interests
    10. Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
    11. Your behavior is dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
    12. I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel.
    13. I am not aware of what I want – I ask what you want. I am not aware – I assume
    14. The dreams I have for my future are linked to you
    15. My fear of rejection determines what I say or do
    16. My fear of your anger determines what I say or do
    17. I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship
    18. My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you
    19. I put my values aside in order to connect with you
    20. I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own
    21. The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours

I was struck by how many of these characteristics reflect many pastors’ relationships to a denomination. I am sure that not all denominations are this way but I was struck by how codependent we have become, at least in “my” denomination.

What would happen if we began to clean up the relationships we have with our denominations and demanded health in those relationships? How would the Body of Christ flourish if we were to remove the growth inhibiting policies, programs and pressures that many denominations exist to dole out? I am in no way anti-denominational, but I do want to ask some tough questions.

Jan '05

Professional Clergy…Is that an Oxymoron?

Most Noble Profession
Noble profession. That is what full time ministry has often been called,. Is it noble be fulltime in a ministry? This is a question that I have recently been asking myself. In the last week I have been facing the prospect of resigning my position at my church, getting a “real job” and planting a church “the old fashion way;” a few people in a small group bible study in my living room. I

don’t know if this is the path God is leading me towards, however, as I have considered the prospect of working in the “real world” and pastoring a church at the same time it has caused me to ask myself some questions I don’t think I have ever seriously considered. In the following paragraphs I use the term “real world” to describe the lifestyle of the average person in America. It is in no way meant to be a derogatory term but as a kind of phrase that most pastors will be able to relate with. Here are a couple of the conversations I have been having with myself:
1. Can a full time pastor really know what the people they are pastoring are facing in “the real world” if they work in a sterile religious environment?
This is a question that has some big presuppositions. First of all it presupposes that there is some kind of disconnection between “the real world” and the environment that most pastors work in. I don’t know if I believe that fully or not. On one hand some churches in America are run just as good as some of the best businesses. On the other hand the average church in America has 97 congregants. How business like is the working environment in the average church? My experience is that it is not very professional. Professional however does not equate to relevance to the culture. The classic example of this is the lifetime professor that knows so much about his or her subject matter that they are highly esteemed but are so socially inept that they rarely leave their own house. They may be invited to speak to thousands at conferences but rarely attend a dinner party among friends. I wonder what the psychological effects of being in a “sterile religious environment” 50 to 60 hours a week are on a person over the course of 35 to 40 years of working. How long can a person work in that kind of imbalance before they become “brainwashed” to the point of irrationality?

2. Do full time pastors develop unhealthy attitudes because of their distance from the “real world?”
How far is the average pastor from “the real world?” I have been in full time ministry for going on 9 years. How far am I from “the real world?” This is a question I constantly ask myself. It is a great concern to me. My observation has been that some pastors that don’t even have the slightest clue about the smallest example of what is going on in current culture. They can tell you the latest example of the way that our government is trying to force God out of the public arena but they think “Desperate Housewives” is a support group for single mothers of troubled teens. What does this disconnection from current culture do to a person’s attitudes about those permanently immersed in it? In an effort to protect their spiritual purity many pastors have isolated themselves culturally. Does this cause them to develop unhealthy attitudes about the current culture and those immersed init? I believe that it does. Taken to it’s logical extreme it leads to isolationists like the Amish. This does not just apply to cultural relevance. I know plenty of disconnected pastors, who, in an effort to grow their church, have manipulated current cultural themes in their sermons, church programs etc. They know all of the latest songs, movies, TV shows, and websites but the reason they know them is in an effort to either look cool or in order to use them as a “hook” in an effort to seem relevant. These pastors are like Steve Irwin. He may know a lot about crocodiles but he will never know what it is like to be a crocodile. Attitudes that develop out of this kind of relationship with “the real world” lead to many, many misconceptions and are then propagated from pulpits on Sunday mornings all across America.

3. Most pastors I know go into the ministry because they have a passion to reach people. Is that passion slowly suffocated as they spend longer and longer outside the “real world?”
If my ideas as to the previous two questions are even close to accurate then this question is almost the natural conclusion. The longer a professional clergyman (or any Christian for that matter) is disconnected from the “majority” of those in our society I can only believe that their “passion” for the lost will begin to turn to disillusionment and cynicism toward current culture. Either this or it will lead to a resignation that we should just focus on the chosen few. I believe that the passion may not be suffocated completely but it will be redirected to something other than it’s original focus.

4. Would churches be better off if all pastoral staff were required to have some kind of job outside the church (jobs in the Christian community don’t count.)?
I am beginning to wonder if it would be a good idea for churches to require all pastoral staff to have some kind of job (at least part time) in “the real world.” This would do several things. It would first and foremost force pastors to confront what real people, that are not steeped in church, are facing every day. It would cause them to look differently at people who make decisions they may not agree with. It may even cause them to develop a compassion that many full time ministers will never know. One side benefit to this would be the relief to church budgets. This is a side issue that is fodder for another article. The answer to this question is: I don’t know. I have never seen a church try this for this reason. Most bi-vocational pastors are so not because they want to stay in touch with the world but because they have to be bi-vocational in order to financially support their ministry and/or families.

5. Is it possible to maintain a grasp on “the real world” and still be a full time minister?
I think it may be, but it would take some real determination, planning and desire in order to do so. I think of people like Bill Hybles who recently started a small group in his home ONLY for unsaved people from his neighborhood. The purpose is solely to develop relationship with these people. I think of my good friend Wes Davis who has purposely placed himself in a position of being in the world in order to develop a relationship with people not just that he might be able to lead them to the Lord but also to show them love. From his realtor, to the men on his park and rec basketball team, he has made a conscious decision to get out of his office. This, however, came out of not having an office to begin with. That is another story. So, yes, I think it is possible but it has to be a real desire that becomes something you commit to until it becomes a lifestyle.

6. Does there come a time when the size of an organization dictates full time staff? If so how do they maintain their grounding in “the real world.”
The answer here may depend on the leadership skills and support staff of each individual pastor. There are some pastors whose skill level would allow them to run a church of 2000 people in their spare time even if they were working 50 hours a week outside the church. Other pastors need every minute of every workday just to keep up with the demands of the job. This, may actually be the heart of the issue. I think a lot of pastors, because of their skills, find themselves having to immerse themselves in their church just to keep it afloat. Remember that just because someone has the call of ministry on their life does not mean that they have the gift of leadership. Skill level, although immensely important, is only one reason why they may find themselves immersed. The demands many churches make on their pastors can lead many to have to immerse themselves. Business meetings, counseling, budgeting, vision casting, teaching, preaching, guiding, recruiting, fundraising, hiring, firing, staff meetings, administration; these are the things most pastors face on Monday mornings alone! No wonder they find themselves immersed in church life.

The position I find myself attempting to take is: What can we do to force pastors to be connected “to the real world?” And what are we requiring of them that may be keeping them from doing so? The answer to these questions may be a more effective solution than getting a part time job…but I don’t know. Starbucks has a better retirement plan than 90% of pastors.

Jan '05

Doing Church Differently

Many have undertaken to “teach” or discuss how The Body of Christ in the new millennium is going to have to be different than the church has been in the past, at least this is the case with the church in America. I do not even begin to purport to think that I have any edge on great thinkers or writers like Sweet, McLaren, or McManus, but I would like to offer my take on what the church in the next generation is going to have to do in order to impact the world. Something it is not doing very well now.

So I would start by saying that the first thing we do is put EVERYTHING on the table for debate. We do nothing just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” There are some things churches do because they have a biblical mandate…But the VAST majority of how we structure our churches and what we do in them is tradition. So that is where you start, guided by some principals:

Relationship first and foremost. Our relationship with God and others…These are not two separate things but interconnected.
cultural Relevance – We must reach our culture from the context of where people live everyday…Just like Paul did with the Epicureans….This unknown god that you worship, This is who I am presenting to you.

Genuineness - People being allowed to be who they are and not having to “play church.” This gets messy, but our goal is Genuine people, Genuinely seeking God, in a Genuine community.
Community – Real community…The kind of koinonia that the new testament talks about..Not a commune but real community…The kind of community that others are drawn to even before they find out about Christ. The kind of community where the people have “all things in common and share one another’s needs.” How do you do this without being a commune or a cult? Good question, I don?t know. But I know it starts with people that are seeking to be real and involved with others, not self centered.

Service - For too long the church has done “outreach” I think we need to stop doing outreach and start doing “out-loving” or “out-service.” Loving and blessing a community (in this case Wallingford)asking ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in return…Not even asking them to come to our church. That will come in time but not until we meet people where they are and “earn the right” to be heard in their lives….Without love (this means not only we have it but they perceive it) I am but a resounding gong.

Evangelism - Evangelism has to stop being something we do and become who we are. I believe it is the job of the church to not setup evangelistic events but create a culture where evangelism is what we are…People becoming the church; that is what it’s all about. Evangelism must ALWAYS be in the context of relationship and the church needs to design systems and equip people to do just that…Build relationships. Evangelism needs to be at our heart, but not our motive…Does that make sense? Our motives are twofold: Jesus Christ, and the people he came to save. Those are our motives (well, they should be).

In the coming days I hope to break each of these down and discuss it in detail. Again I do not do this to “bring forth some new revelation,” but to pr0cess it myself.

Jan '05

God HATES the Seahawks

I don’t believe that God cares about sports. I know, thousands of NFL fans in Greenbay now want me dead just for making a statement like that, but I really believe it’s true. I do believe that God cares about the people playing the sports. Cares doesn’t even come close. Does he care about the outcome of the games? I really don’t think he does. I have however come to the conclusion that God does care about the Seattle Seahawks. In fact, I will even go so far as to say that it may be God’s will that the Seahawks not get past the first round of the playoffs.

That’s Blasphemy
How can a Bible believing Seattleite like myself even entertain this blasphemy? I believe the feelings I experienced today as the Seahawks lost in the last 20 seconds to the St. Louis Rams echoed hundreds of thousands of Seattleites throughout the Northwest.

Before I explain, let me get two things straight. First, I am a Seattleite through and through. I was born and raised here with the exception of a short six year stint in Idaho (something I’ve come to liken to Israel’s exile to Babylon). I absolutely LOVE Seattle. Second I love Seattle sports. It is that love of Seattle sports though that leads me to my feelings that God has a hand in the sports success of Seattle teams.

History Shows it
History may be on my side too. Take for example the 1993 Seattle Sonics. For the entire season the Sonics had the best record in Basketball. Not even Michael Jordan himself could stop the regular season Sonics. They were dominant. Then in the first round of the Playoffs, they lose to a wretched Denver Nuggets team.

Take for example the 2001 Seattle Mariners. Maybe the best baseball team in the history of baseball. In 6 months a team that was never expected to do much of anything rose to the top of baseball and found a place in baseball history when they won 116 games. It was a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since the early 1900’s. That year the Mariners won their division by like 25 or 30 games. They were a cinch to be the world champions. The only things standing in their way were the New York Yankees. The Mariners made it all the way to game seven of the AL Championship. They were one game away from the World Series. Then…they chocked. The Yankees knocked them out in the final inning.

The Year of the Seahawks
So what does that have to do with the Seattle Seahawk’s loss to the Rams? As I watched in the Seahawks drop the game in the final few seconds, I began to think to myself, “I knew this would happen…it always does to Seattle teams.” I was defeated. So I did what any good Seattleite did…I took a walk. As I walked around my Greenlake neighborhood I began to wrestle with the theological implications of what I just watched. Theological implications? Yes. I began to ask myself if God himself was against the Seahawks. God himself? How else can you explain the fact that for the first time in my lifetime the Seahawks biggest problems were not a terrible quarterback, a bad coach, or owners that were hoping to lose so they could ship them off to Southern California.? In fact, this was supposed to be the year of the Seahawk. More than one writer picked the Seahawks to go all the way to the Super Bowl just four short months ago. Matt Hasselback has found his rhythm and leadership. We picked up Jerry Rice. Sean Alexander…Sean Alexander; Need I say more? Sean missed the NFL Rushing Title by only one yard! With chemistry like this how could the Seahawks lose? I still don’t know. But they did. In losing, they destroyed the hopes and dreams of Seattle sports fans everywhere.

But Why?
The question that occurred to me shortly after figuring that God must not want the Seahawks to win was: why? Why would God, the creator of the universe care about the Seahawks? The only answer I can offer is this: It is not the outcome of the game that God cares about but the people wrapped up in the game and it’s outcome. Maybe the reason that God doesn’t want the Seahawks to “go all the way” is because he wants to reveal the true heart of Seattleites. What is the true heart of Seattleites? I believe it is one founded in cynicism. Seattleites are very cynical people. Cynical when it comes to politics (just look at our recent gubernatorial election). Cynical when it comes to business (we all drink our Starbucks then call them “the man” on our way out the door). Cynical when it comes to religion. And I believe God may be revealing our cynicism in an area that really hurts: professional sports. Why is it that we as a city are so cynical when it comes to eternal things like God and Jesus but every September we really think the Seahawks might make it this year? Why is it that Seattleites think religion is for the foolish but we are foolish enough to put our hopes in a baseball team that has NEVER been to a World Series? Why? Because we are cynics; and cynics have a tendency to be irrational. So irrational that it will take some unusual methods to reveal our own hearts to us.

The season is over for the Seahawks, but in the Sonics are in full swing and the Mariners are only four months away. Seem like an unlikely method of speaking to people? I bet Balaam thought it unusual when his donkey spoke up too.

Until next year…Go Hawks!

Jan '05

Just Like A Brand New Computer

So today I upgraded my iBook to the latest version of Mac OS X – Panther. It was relatively painless and everything went well. I had to so that I could check my gmail from home. I use a PC at work so that was no problem but I could not check it at home as my iBook is all I have at home. Now my iBook runs faster than ever. I wonder why when I upgrade a 2 1/2 year old PC with the latest version of Windows it slows down to a crawl but Mac speeds things up to the point that it almost feels like a brand new computer! The only complaint I have is that I went to Revolutions (a coffee shop a block away with amazing coffee and free wireless access) and my airport card would pick up the wireless network and log on but not get an IP address so wouldn’t access the internet. It could have been that their web access was down but I was too lazy to ask.

So if you are a Mac person I HIGHLY recomend the latest version (X 10.3)! So far I love it.


Blog Debate

Well yesterday was my first official day of having a blog. Funny, I hate bandwagoning, but that seems to be what I am doing here…but I digress…So last night as I was opening my wife’s eyes to the wonderful world of blogging I told her about an article I received from a mutual friend. She had received the same email with said article. I am still debating as to whether or not to link

this blog to it. The reason it came up was that it was an article written on a mutual acquaintance’s blog. The debate came because it has an inappropriate (well inappropriate to me and my wife and most decent thinking Christians) picture of Pam Anderson on it. The trouble comes because it really is a good article about church growth and the current state of the church of Jesus Christ. So as of now I am undecided. I am going to let my wife read my blog first (as she has yet to see it at all) and then I’ll decide. More to come!

Jan '05

Wallingford, Here We Come

For some people “Once in a life time” opportunities happen…well…more than once. Sometimes I feel like one of those people that has had multiple “Once in a life time” opportunities. From my amazing relationship with my wife, to my kids to the places in the world that I have had the chance to visit, I feel like God has smiled on me most of my life.

A Recent Smile
Recently God has again given me a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. For the past two years God has been calling me…Wooing me…Drawing me into a dream. It was a dream that I could never have come up with on my own. It was a dream

born out of a frustration with the health of the modern church. I feel that modern American churches are in the single most unhealthy state they have ever been in. Ironically I also feel that we are about to enter a time of spiritual renaissance. The problem as I see it is that the church as we know it is illequipped to handle the “new church.” I think people are more open to the Gospel than at any other time in my thirty years on earth. So out of a desire to see things done “differently” God placed in my heart the desire to plant a new church. I don’t even know if I would call it a church but more of a community. More on that later.

When and Where?
The first two questions that come to me as I prayed were when and where? I truly believe that if this dream is from God then the timing would be one that would be good for my current church as well (http://westsidechurch.com)For the last 5 years Westside has been our home. But if God was calling us to go I have always been the kind of person that “jumped” without hesitation. But timing was an issue. I felt like God was increasingly stirring in me this desire, so I sought the counsel of my pastor and in talking to him we decided that on or around Easter 2006 would be the first “service.” Where though? That was something that God really had to speak about to my wife Heidi and I because we have known we are called to Seattle but Seattle is a big place. After some prayer we have decided that God is calling us to plant in Wallingford.

Doing Church Differently?
How will this Wallingford community of believers be any different than any other church? Good question. Here is what I know now: God has called us to start a community of Genuine People, Genuinely Seeking God, in a Genuine Community. Maybe we should just call it “Genuine.” We’ll see. This “community” will be made up of people interested in not going to church, but becoming the church. A community that spreads “virally” (Thanks Wes). A community that can honestly acknowledge that we are all “in transition” spiritually but are not content to stay there. Growth is not an option.

Who Ya Gonna Call?
So who would want to join in this exciting adventure? Well the first person I called was Nick Smoot. Nick is my best friend and the best pastor I know. Nick has a heart for people in the same vein as Jesus did. His genuine (there’s that word again) compassion and love for people challenge me on a daily basis. Who else? I don’t know. Maybe God is calling you. There is one thing I can guarantee: For the churched it will be a tough transition. We can no longer “do church as usual.” But if you are up for the challenge let’s see where God leads us!

Here we come
So Wallingford here we come. But not in a we’re coming to get you sort of way. Or in a wait until you see how cool we are. Or in a come let us bend your ear sort of way. We’re coming saying, “Wallingford, how may we serve you?”
Mark 10:45 For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”


The Beginnings of a good thing

We all desire our 15 minutes of fame don’t we? Well Blog fans, now we can get ‘em…and maybe an extra second or few along with it. It is funny because about 15 years ago I started keeping a journal. Journaling has become a part of my life, however, I don’t get the same therapeutic benefits out of it that others do. Why? Because I don’t write for me, I write for others to read. It is a sickness I know, but I think it is what school conditioned me to do. I have always done it. Maybe it is the fact that I am a pastor and public speaking is a huge part of my life. Maybe it was my 6 years as a radio DJ that trained me to worry about others liking what I was playing. Maybe it is just some deep ceded need to be liked. I don’t know. But what I do know is that now with this blog I can write (journal) and now everyone can read it.

The only issue is that now I have to be selective about what I write because others will be reading it. Funny. That never concerned me before when I was journaling. Well we’ll see how this goes and who knows, maybe I’ll like it!


This Blog Crap sucks if you have pop up’s blocked

Ok Now I am really pissed. I just spent like over an hour writing a really good post about planting a church and the piece of crap IE pop up blocker erased everything because of the spell check. This sucks!

I’ll rewrite it later.

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