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Archive for June, 2009

I’m in Melbourne this week at an Arrow Leadership Australia conference. It’s a ministry designed to fast-track the leadership development of church and para-church ministers. we have nothing really like it in our context.

Just talking with one of the Melbourne Anglicans here. They have a fascinating system, with a step between curate and rector. Called ‘Priest in charge’ (don’t worry about the lingo for the moment), the idea is that there is an on-the-job probationary period of 2 years, during which there is a lot of input for you from the Regional bishop, archdeacons, etc – a leadership development program, 360 degree assessment etc.

Sounds like an interesting possibility?

I hear the objections – can we trust the bishops with this power? But I think the time has come to move past this objection. Planning for a worst-case-scenario world is more likely to deliver it, it seems to me!

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So, this is a biggy …

from flickr by gerryblog

from flickr by gerryblog

In case I hadn’t mentioned it before, 80-85% of churches in the Diocese are plateaued or declining. At present we have 2 basic strategies for responding to this (we also run conferences etc, but these are not systematic or specific).

  1. give them some money to kick start them.
  2. replace the Rector.

The problem is, we’ve run out of the first, and we have to wait (sometimes decades) for the second. Hence, 80-85% of churches etc. In other words, we have no real response available.

Now, as you know, I’m arguing for a third strategy – a deliberate program of church revitilisation, using a 3 pronged approach of a line-in-the-sand consultation, a coach for the following 12 months for the Rector and church, and an ongoing leadership peer-cluster for the Rector.

There is also a 4th strategy, which is to plant new churches. This is more a work-around than a solution, and is needed why? Because of Rector tenure.

The key, of course, is to do it well! Not punitively, not unilaterally, not impatiently. It should be difficult, but not impossible, for a Rector to be helped to find a new church to serve.

Some principles

  • just because a Rector is struggling in one place, doesn’t mean he has nothing to contribute – plenty flourish at other places. No one gets written off.
  • the church, parish council, and bishop must be agreed – no unilateral action.
  • 12 months notice should be given – no hasty action.
  • notice should be given only after help (the consultation / coach / cluster) has not helped or been refused – the accountability is two-sided.
  • Others?

One way to normalise this is to provide for a mandatory review of a ministry, say, after 5 years (this is Al Lukabyo’s idea). This builds in the expectation that such a thing is normal, and just part of the process. On the other hand, it may tend towards shorter incumbencies, which correlates with church decline.

Either way, tenure is an anachronism whose time is over. We desperately need to be much more nimble in responding to churches in trouble.

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A big day of meetings, so the next post in the discussion will wait til Monday. But meanwhile …

Is there a tension in fundamental  direction between a Knox/Robinson view of church (any time Christians are around the Word of God, there’s church) – which is our basic ecclesiology, and which tends towards church = word of God being taught; and a missional church, which is all about church = go get ’em?

More abstractly, what does our practice of mission tell us about our actual ecclesiology?

And what sort of ecclesiology is needed to sustain a missional church?

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The second big development – there will be no national church planting network linked to Acts 29 and Mark Driscoll, as reported by Mikey Lynch on Sunday.

That was potentially one contribution to the second big question:

from flickr by anderspace

from flickr by anderspace

How to balance the competing priorities of church planting and church revitalisation, and how to structure a church planting program in a Diocese where every square inch is already in a Parish?

The fact is, there is nothing given about the number of churches / Parishes we have. And church planting, especially missional church planting, is the flavour of the year.

At the same time, to state the obvious, every place a church plant could be located will already be in a Parish, often a Parish that is struggling (since most are).

So the question becomes, do we go for a church plant, or a revitalisation, in a particular area? And if it’s a plant, how will it relate to the already-in-place Parish?

There are all sorts of murky things here. On the one hand, Rectors are prone to spectacular defensiveness, resisting review and at the same time, fearful that a church plant in the area they serve will make things harder, not easier, for them. A NIMBY mentality can apply to church plants as well as second airports! However, as I understand it, more churches in an area is good for all the churches in an area, and raises the spiritual temperature altogether.

On the other hand, there is enough smoke to suggest that often, the result of a church plant is not missional, but transfer of keen, often younger and energetic Christians, from the existing Parish to the plant, the net result being a shuffling of deck chairs. Rectors are understandably skeptical of the large dreams dreamed by Sydney church planters – can we point to 10 genuinely missional plants?

So what principles should apply as we seek to work out these competing priorities? How about this as one: no church plants in a  Parish until the Parish has been offered (and refused) both

  • a consultation/coaching program
  • the plant to be structurally a part of the Parish, with one bank account, one Parish Council, one Rector

Church planting and revitalisation combined?

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from flickr by tim berry's photostream

from flickr by tim berry's photostream

2 significant developments – 2 significant questions – 1 at a time.

With the SMH article last week breaking the story about the huge cut in Diocesan resources, and consequent slashing of funding for ministries, it seems to me that the big issue is:

Will funds for direct parish ministry be preserved via the Regional Councils, or will the funding of Diocesan organisations be disproportionately maintained?

This is a very telling decision. It will show us a great deal about who we really are and what we really value.

Our rhetoric is that the Parish is the center of the Diocese, and in our heart of hearts we know that’s true. And of course, funding the Dio Orgs is ultimately about the parishes, albeit indirectly and eventually – though as John Maynard Keynes said, in the long run we’re (the churches?) all dead!

But when it comes to budget time, the squeakiest wheels get the good oil, and the fact is that the Dio.Org leaders will be present at meetings, whereas those who would be given grants won’t be. The squeaking will go all one way – will the money?

My understanding is that:

  1. around 15-20% of churches in the Diocese are growing
  2. many of those churches have been significantly helped by grants from their Regional Council
  3. at the same time, other grant recipient churches haven’t grown

The wrong conclusion to draw from this is that grants are an unreliable tool, and can be dispensed with.

The right conclusion is that a grant used well is one of only 2 tools we have for helping parishes to grow (the other is to change the Rector), so we need to be much better at making sure the grants we give will be used well, rather than fail to kick-start a church’s growth. Remove them, and the number of growing churches will decline.

Funding for Moore College runs about the same level as the total allocation to the Regions. It will be interesting to see how they each fare.

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Here’s how Keller runs it.

from flickr by blakophoto

from flickr by blakophoto

Quoting Luther’s Treatise on Good Works, Keller says that any breach of the last 9 commandments – that is, any sin – is really at the same time a breach of the first commandment. How? Because any sin is done either out of pride or fear, which is the having of another god before the Lord. In the case of pride, that god is oneself; in the case of of fear, that god is some other created thing. Either way, it is breaching the first commandment.

Of course, for Luther, the first commandment is all about faith. To have no other gods before the Lord is an entrusting of oneself to the living and true God in faith. And so sanctification is by faith in this sense: as I enact the reality that I no longer live out my life in any area in either fear or pride (which are the two forms of idolatry) – that is, as I have only one God, and trust him – so I will sin less and less.

Repentance, therefore, is first and foremost about re-directing trust to where it belongs, and so sanctification is by faith.

Keller gives some fabulous examples of how to preach this, which I’ll listen to today. But for now, has anyone adopted this kind of thing as a method of approaching the question of application in preaching?

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The most stimulating thing I have heard for a long time is a series of talks by Tim Keller on application in sermons.

His starting point is that application can’t be mere moralism, a kind of sanctification by working really hard, as compared to justification by faith.

I’ll write more tomorrow, but what do you think sanctification by faith might look like?

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