Wednesday, April 21, 2004


I was talking with someone the other day about denominationalism. The prevailing philosophy regarding denominations is that they are somehow inherently ungodly or anti-Christian. This belief is born out of the "one church" ideology which, although is a valid Biblical view it is often taken out of context. We must accept that on a global scale all believers make up "the Church" and it is that global "Church" which Christ will return to redeem. But the fact that the church is made up of many segments embracing many different styles and viewpoints is not in any way categorically unscriptural. It is important to recognize that every denomination in existence has its origin in a genuine move of God. To deny this fact is to risk becoming sectarian and exclusionary... the very thing most denomination-bashers hate the most.

I taught a series of sermons years ago in which I discussed how the nature of Christ, his personality traits, seemed to be divided between men and women... women tending to be more emotionally based and reflecting the nurturing, compassionate, creative sides of Christ... while men tend more toward rationalism and reflect the constructive, strategic, warrior nature. And when we marry and become one flesh we are only then the total reflection of the nature of Christ.

I lay that argument out simply to say I believe that denominations serve much the same purpose. The nature of the Church... the global Church... is such that no single segment of it is a perfect representation of the Bride of Christ... each of those movements that eventually birthed a denomination were given a truth... a portion of the nature of Christ which they championed. Often they were born out of backlash to an immobile or stagnant movement which had championed another truth but had begun to deny the new revelation. Therefore the new revelation becomes that which the new movement champions. As time progresses each denomination seems to have a unique ideology... a concept or truth that distinguishes them from others. Just coming to mind I can think of Assemblies of God championing the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I think of Calvary Chapels championing exegesis, Baptists and evangelism, Nazarenes and holiness, and you can think of others, also. The tendency is for one group to perceive the others as in error but the truth is more likely that they all hold a truth as revealed by the Holy Spirit... and they perceive their truth as THE truth... but it is only when they come together and can embrace all of these truths together do we get a real picture of the Bride of Christ.

Now some will say that there are areas that are completely contradictory and that is true. Obviously it can't be true that you can lose your salvation and it be also true that once you're saved you're always saved. It can't be true that the Holy Spirit empowers us to speak in tongues and it be also true that tongues are demonic. But the truth is somewhere in there when we put it all on the table. I'm not a proponent of abandoning the identity of a movement. I sincerely believe its the tension between these perspectives that keeps us out of more error than we have now. I can't help but think of Catholicism through the centuries when, as the only purveyor of truth, they became corrupt. A person should find that area which God has called them to... that which he has asked them to champion... and do so.

We will always find ourselves in error when we determine that our position cannot be flawed. There is NOBODY and no movement that has perfect doctrine and is without error. That is the only sane and truly healthy perspective to hold.

Secondary or Subordinate Vision

In a recent conversation with a former associate pastor we discussed the issue of secondary vision... pursuing the vision of another. This is essentially what an associate pastor is asked to do... and most of the associates I have known have a vision of their own that lies dormant, voluntarily subjected to the vision of the Senior Leader. This is as it must be... the Senior Pastor sets the vision and direction and all lower level leaders must find their fulfillment in executing that vision. Ideally you would match up visions... an associate who has vision that fits nicely into that of the Senior Leader's and allows both to be fulfilled, but this doesn't seem to be as common as you would hope. There are, however, associates who are certainly called to Senior leadership and have a God-given vision of their own... and repeatedly quenching their own dreams begins to take a toll on them spiritually and emotionally. There is a time when it is beneficial to all parties for an associate to "leave the nest" and go pursue that which God has birthed in them.

Part and partial to this conversation is the realization that there are hundreds of people with visions who would be more than happy to spend you and your talents and callings on their dreams. And it would be easy and somewhat natural for someone to jump at the chance to be 'needed' and go fill a role in a small church plant or other ministry... but doing so doesn't address the main issue... the vision God has given the individual. I have had many people invite me to come work with them in this or that church plant... some I have pursued... most I have not. There is no shortage of people who would be happy to wear you out for the kingdom...

If you are called to Senior Leadership then you will not be fulfilled indefinitely in an associate role. Working in a subordinate position should be viewed as training time or it will be unfulfilling. I love where I'm at and the people I'm working with... I love the type of church they are and are trying to build... but I still consider myself in training. The most difficult part of working this way is dealing with the fact that your opinions or decisions are not final... they are simply considered suggestions. Having come from a Senior Leader Role this has proven to be frustrating at times.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Program vs Vision

Just a thought...
I have been heavily involved in putting together the "40 Days of Purpose" Campaign at our church the last few weeks. As the opening services start this week I have noticed some things.

The anticipation and expectation are palpable. Its exciting to walk into the church and feel the 'buzz'... the air is supercharged and we have been experiencing some wonderful services as the campaign dates near. Why the newfound energy?

For whatever reason we have not experienced this kind of expectancy since I've been here. It has been 'business-as-usual' for the most part over the past 18 months or so. I have written before about the need for a clear, articulate vision to generate and maintain enthusiasm and purpose and that is something that has been difficult to clearly define here. Its not that there is no vision but it is not as clearly articulated as it could be... chances are very few people in the church could tell you what it is. I have, however, been involved in churches where the vision was very clear and articulate and those churches maintained a similar expectancy to what we are now experiencing.

This leads me to conclude something that is a revelation to me... a programmatic campaign can serve as a substitute for an articulate vision. In the absence of clear purpose a program can generate a similar enthusiasm. Since this is a new concept to me I cannot say whether or not it is sustainable... I fear it is not... but I am enjoying the current wave and feel a tremendous challenge and responsibility to not waste it but to harness it and lead it... particularly as the campaign concludes in early June.