The task of self renewal

Tightrope WalkerHistory teaches us that eventually innovative organisations and movements drift into decline and conservatism. By 1909 the incredibly successful Limelight Unit of the Salvation Army was effectively shut down by incoming Commissioner James Hay, an austere Scotsman. Less than ten years before, the unit had produced the world’s first full-length film (see “Why should the devil....) How can dynamic movements protect themselves from this inevitable trend?

Business writers Porras and Collins have identified two characteristics that protect visionary organisations from decline. Firstly, they balance self-confidence with self-criticism. They are self confident in their clarity about their mission and in the setting of audacious goals and willingness to make bold and daring moves to achieve those goals. Yet they practice self-criticism. They pursue self-induced change and improvement. They are their own harshest critics. Secondly, they balance a conservative commitment to their core identity and mission with a dynamic drive for progress. The drive for progress pushes an organisation towards continual change and forward movement in everything but the core ideology. The unchanging core ideology provides a base of continuity around which a visionary company can evolve, experiment and change. The dual commitment to both its core ideology and its progress provides catalyst for continual learning, renewal and growth.

According to Tanner dynamic organisations and movements use conflict constructively and creatively. They practice the discipline of "fit-split-contend-transcend." They are very clear about their identity and mission (fit) yet they encourage vigorous debate, experimentation and diversity in methods (split). Out of the ferment of this constructive conflict (contend) new possibilities emerge (transcend) and the movement continues to renew itself over time.

Dynamic movements maintain this creative tension between conserving their identity and mission while being willing to change everything else in the pursuit of achieving that mission, setting audacious goals and becoming its own best critic. Dying institutions are the opposite–willing to sacrifice their unique identity, conservative in setting goals, unable to face the reality of their mediocre performance. They just don't care any more.

James C. Collins, Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Managing on the Edge: Companies That Use Conflict to Stay Ahead (Richard T Pascale)

How to find an apostle when you need one

Chris Marantika

You don’t graduate from the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Indonesia unless you have started a new church in an unreached village with twenty-five baptised converts. There are no exceptions.

Under the leadership of its principal, Chris Marantika, the seminary’s goal is to plant twenty thousand churches by the year 2015. One church in each of Indonesians twenty thousand villages. Over seven hundred churches have been planted this way and the college has started thirteen branch seminaries throughout Indonesia. Chris Marantika is just one example of a modern “apostolic” leader.

Don’t worry, Marantika doesn’t write Scripture. The unique ministry of the Twelve Apostles and Paul, is unrepeatable. They were God’s chosen witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ and to the authority of the New Testament. Yet Paul is clear that “the Spirit continually and charismatically gives to the Church the function of apostle” (Snyder: see 1 Cor. 12:28-29; Eph. 4:11). What do apostles do? How do we recognise them today?

1. Pioneer Evangelism

Paul’s ambition was to preach where Christ was not known, rather than build on someone else’s foundation (2 Cor. 10:13-16). His ministry was mobile. Paul recognized the lasting impact of the gospel in a region would not be made by him and his team. Their role was to “pick ripe fruit” and then leave a body of believers behind who would evangelize the region in depth.

2. Starting New Churches

For Paul, evangelism was not complete until a new church was started. “Paul pictures himself not as a maker of bricks but as a builder of buildings” (Bowers: see 1 Cor. 3:9-10). Once formed, the new community of faith became a living witness to the grace of God and a means of continuing mission.

Paul believed the work of an apostle was to preach where the gospel was unknown and to plant churches where there were none. As those churches came to a basic level of maturity, the apostle moved on to a new untouched area to begin the process again (Coombs: see 2 Cor. 10:15-16). The pastoral work of a local church may never be finished. The ministry of an apostle in a region can be completed.

3. Strengthening Churches

The nurture of emerging churches was a key aspect of Paul’s apostolic ministry. He regularly revisited the churches he had founded.

Paul describes himself as a “father” of the churches he started (1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Thess. 2:10-12). He speaks of his daily concern for all the churches (2 Cor. 11:28). The goal of Paul’s ministry of church strengthening was that the churches would stand on their own feet and participate as partners in his mission.

When Paul asserts, “I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:19), he refers to the scope of his apostolic mission which included: (1) pioneer evangelism, (2) the nurture of emerging churches and (3) their firm establishment as congregations (O’Brien). Once this had occurred, Paul could move on to new regions. These were Paul’s key apostolic tasks.

Apostolic leaders today

I have met church leaders who share Paul’s apostolic vision. They want to reach this generation with the Gospel and they know that multiplying dynamic churches in every place, reaching every people group is the most effective form of evangelism.

I am thinking of a young man who has a vision to see churches of the poor, reaching the poor throughout Asia. I am thinking of a leader who is renewing his denomination by revitalising its churches and starting new churches across his nation. I am thinking of a suburban pastor who has transformed his church into a ‘leadership farm system’ where pioneering leaders emerge who are sent out to pastor and plant churches.

Each of these leaders, in their own way, model for us what apostolic ministry looks like today. We need them. Leaders with apostolic vision who see people groups, regions, cities and nations reached for Christ. They don’t need business cards with “apostle” printed on them. They do need us to make room for their ministry.

Going deeper

Paul Bowers, “Fulfilling the Gospel: The Scope of the Pauline Mission,” Journal of Evangelical Theological Studies 30 (June 1987): 185-198.

William E. Combs, “Aspects of the Apostolic Ministry: A Model for New Church Development” (D.Min. diss., Fuller Theological Seminary, 1982).

Peter T. O’Brien, Consumed by Passion: Paul and the Dynamic of the Gospel (Homebush West, NSW: Lancer, 1993).

“The Community of the King” (Howard A. Snyder)

“I Cannot Dream Less” (Ray Wiseman)


Why should the devil have all the best tunes?

Soldiers Of The Cross
Soldiers Of The Cross

It was January 22, 1882. The theatre in Worcester, England was so packed that even William Booth had trouble getting in. The overflow crowd, refused admission, broke down the door to gain entry. The music was lively and contemporary. After one song, Booth turned to his hosts and asked, “What tune was that?” That’s “Champagne Charlie is my name”. “That’s settled it,” William Booth decided as he turned to his son Bramwell. “Why should the devil have all the best tunes?”

The adoption of such music was soon put to full use by the Salvation Army. Many of the people who came to faith through the Salvation Army knew none of the hymn tunes or gospel melodies used in the churches; the music hall had been their melody school. An early pamphlet made the Army’s position clear by saying that it “considers all music sacred when used with holy purpose”. In 1880 William Booth had already written: ‘“Secular music, do you say, belongs to the devil? Does it? Well, if it did I would plunder him for it, for he has no right to a single note of the whole seven. . . . Every note and every strain and every harmony is divine and belongs to us. . . . So consecrate your voice and your instruments. Bring out your comets and harps and organs and flutes and violins and pianos and drums and everything else that can make melody. Offer them to God and use them to make all the hearts about you merry before the Lord.”

As it spread around the world the Salvation Army continued to demonstrate their commitment to using whatever means they could to communicate the gospel. On the evening of 13 September 1900, when 4,000 people packed themselves into Melbourne Town Hall for the premiere of Soldiers of the Cross—probably the world’s first full-length film presentation. Thirteen segments of film, accompanied by live music, were interspersed with magic lantern slides (an early form of slide projector) and an evangelistic message by Salvation Army Commandant, Herbert Booth. The film told the story of Christ and the early Christian martyrs in Rome. Martyrs were crucified, beheaded, burned at the stake and thrown to lions. The Age newspaper the following day praised the show’s ‘savage but soul-stirring realism’.

Herbert Booth, son of William Booth, the Australian leader of the Salvation Army had encouraged Joseph Perry to investigate the possibilities of using the new medium as an evangelistic tool. Perry’s enthusiasm led to the setting up of the Salvation Army’s Limelight Unit in 1892, probably the first regular film production unit in the world. At the birth of the Australian nation, the unit was commissioned by the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria to produce the official films of Australia’s Federation Inauguration Ceremonies in Sydney and the opening of the first Federal Parliament in Melbourne.

No doubt other more established denominations were better endowed with resources for such an undertaking. Why was it that an upstart movement in an out of the way, newly formed nation should be on the front line of adopting new technology for their purposes? The early Salvation Army demonstrated while movements are conservative when it comes to their theology and mission, they can be very pragmatic in the means that they use to achieve the audacious goals they set themselves.

Related:Lights in Darkest England

Reappearing nuns


Despite the devastation of the last thirty or more years (see “Disappearing nuns”), there are some signs of renewal and hope for religious orders. Those signs are evident among the newer orders that have remained true to their spiritual tradition and are still making the traditional demands of religious life. Those orders are successfully recruiting new members. Both DiIanni and Wittberg have described how the thriving communities are re-establishing an emphasis on “intense community life” and “communitarian living.” Nygren and Ukeritis have found that the orders that are most healthy have reinstated monastic practices and a sense of clarity about their life and work.

Traditionally, before taking final vows, members of orders are required to successfully complete an extensive four-stage formation program. Before Vatican II, formation programs were normally conducted within the religious order, thus reinforcing its unique “charism” or unique spiritual identity and mission. However, with the declining numbers that followed Vatican II many orders moved to intercommunity formation. A characteristic of the newer and revitalised orders is that they conduct their own formation programs and thus successfully impart their unique charism to new recruits.

Dilanni has observe three aspects that characterise the religious orders that are thriving in the post Vatican II world:

1. Explicit religious goals. They are committed to Christianity as classically understood rather than a vague faith that has died the death of a thousand definitions.

2. An intense community life. They are committed to a common life and to the practices that sustain community. The founder’s values are given community expression in oft-repeated symbols and practices.

3. A passion for an explicit worldwide evangelisation. They attract young people who are willing to minister anywhere on the globe and whose priority is evangelism.

Thriving orders make high demands on their members, they hold to traditional doctrine but are innovative in method. These growing orders have made an innovative return to their tradition, interpreting and reapplying it in a fresh way. In doing so they have sought “to make their mission relevant to the surrounding culture without being a part of the culture.” In the modern and now postmodern world they have become the legitimate heirs to a religious heritage that has known decline and rebirth throughout the whole of its eighteen hundred years.

Digging deeper:

Albert Dilanni, Religious Vocations: New Signs of the Times. Review for Religious, 52 (1993), 745-63.

Roger Finke, “An Orderly Return to Tradition: Explaining Recruitment of Members into Catholic Orders”. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Mar. 1997, 36:2, pp218-230.

David Nygren and Miriam Ukeritis, “Future of Religious Orders in the United States,” Origins Vol 22 number 15 (24 Sept, 1992), 271.

Patricia Wittberg, The Rise and Fall of Catholic Religious Orders: A Social Movement Perspective (Suny Series in Religion, Culture, and Society)

Seven Keys to Effective Church Planting

What sets apart effective church planters? To find out Dick Grady and Glenn Kendall sent a survey to 100 missionaries chosen as successful by their boards. It was returned by 85 church planters from all geographic areas. From their responses seven strategy principles were developed that successful church planters follow, whether they work in responsive or resistant places.

1. More effective church planters spend more time in prayer.

Regardless of field difficulties, those who prayed more tended to be more effective. the most effective church planters average four hours and 15 minutes more in prayer per week than their less effective colleagues.

2. More effective church planters use more broadly based evangelistic efforts.

The most effective church planters had a greater tendency to use outreach methods that provide a large number of contacts in a given community.

They invest productive time in discipling those who are more interested.

Starting the process, finding spiritually interested people, is best accomplished by some form of community-wide evangelistic campaign, with lots of noise, excitement, and activity, using many people.

They often use a variety of tools, including films, videos, door to door witnessing, surveys, public meetings, book tables, literature distribution, singing groups, drama, media campaigns, parades, special church services, extended prayer meetings and so on.

This principle supports the use of church planting teams.

3. More effective church planters are more flexible in their methods.

Each method has a target audience. Using a variety of methods extends the range of potential successes. The broader pool makes it more likely that people in families, clans, and groups will respond individually and simultaneously to the gospel.

More successful church planters combine flexibility with broad-based efforts. They co-ordinate multiple, broad-based methods. Evangelising in multiple ways simultaneously compounds their effectiveness. Each method appeals to and attracts a different cross-section of the population, building up the effort to find those who are interested.

4. More effective church planters are more committed to a doctrinal position.

They are very tight in their theology. The specific position itself is not as important as strict adherence to it.

It seems that in establishing new believers it is best not to get into doctrinal controversies, but better to transmit core beliefs.

5. More effective church planters establish greater credibility.

Credibility is established in two ways, by meeting social needs and by building relationships with community leaders.

Social work is not the primary focus of effective church planters, but one of the many activities done by the more effective ones. They do not say, "First we will fill your stomach and then you will be willing to hear our message." Rather, they say, "We will proclaim our message. If you want to have your stomach filled, that is possible too."

Building relationships means getting to know the political, religious, government, military, and other community leaders. After getting to know as many of them as possible, effective church planters develop a few deeper friendships. This reduces suspicions and helps alleviate future problems.

6. More effective church planters have a greater ability to identify then work with people who have a loosely structured religion.

Where the religious structure is fairly loose, church planting tends to be more successful. This finding corresponds to the principle that says church planters ought to work among more open people first. As they respond, church planters can build on multiplied contacts provided by new Christians among more resistant people.

This confirms what Donald McGavan has taught, that "resistance arises primarily from the fear that 'becoming a Christian will separate me from my people.' " (Understanding Church Growth, p. 191).

7. More effective church planters have a greater ability to incorporate new converts into evangelistic outreach even though they had minimal training.

First, new convert evangelism takes advantage of natural bridges for sharing the gospel while the new convert still has the greatest number of non-Christian friends.

Second, as new believers do evangelism, they develop a stronger commitment to the gospel.

Third, as they share their faith, new believers immediately are hit with questions about what they believe. Rather than destroying their faith, this forces them to study and learn more about it. Their quest for maturity is need driven.

Dick Grady & Glenn Kendall, "Seven Keys to Effective Church Planting," in Evangelical Missions Quarterly, No. 28 (1992) pp. 366-373.


Movements and the World Christian Movement

The Church must be forever building,and always decaying, and always being restored. T. S. Eliot

I grew up in a Baptist church. I came to faith in a Youth for Christ rally. In my teens and twenties the church I attended was shaped by the influence of Evangelicalism, the Charismatic renewal and the Church Growth Movement. In high school I joined the Interschool Christian Fellowship. At university I joined Intervarsity. In my early twenties I spent two years with Youth With a Mission in Holland. In my thirties I joined Church Resource Ministries to pursue a call to fuel a nation wide church planting movement in Australia. My life and ministry are richer today because of this diversity of influences. All of the entities that shaped my Christian faith are movements within the world Christian movement.

Christianity, as a religious movement, is comprised of groups of people pursuing corporate and personal change. Christianity is a movement of movements - Catholicism, Monasticism, Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism - to name a few. Each of these movements within Christianity is served by movement organizations - the Benedictines, the Presbyterians, the Assemblies of God, the Church Missionary Society. These movement organizations see to accomplish the objects of the movements they serve.

I was corrupted in my first year of church history at our denominational college. I discovered that church history is not just the history of theology. It is the history of the movements that have shaped who we are today. There is one church down through the ages. Yet that one church is in a constant state of flux as new movements and others decline. Church history is the story of the people and groups who have changed the world. We can learn from their experiences - from their successes and failures - and apply the lessons in what God is calling us to do in our generation.

Spontaneous Expansion

Roland Allen

The spontaneous expansion of the Church reduced to its element is a very simple thing. It asks for no elaborate organisation, no large finances, no great numbers of paid missionaries. In its beginning it may be the work of one man and that a man neither learned in the things of this world, nor rich in the wealth of this world.…What is necessary is faith. What is needed is the kind of faith which uniting a man to Christ, sets him on fire.

Roland Allen

Out of his mission experience around the turn of the nineteenth century in China Roland Allen reflected on the factors that encouraged and inhibited the spontaneous expansion of the gospel. These were his conclusions:

Factors that encourage spontaneous expansion:

• When people whose lives have been impacted profoundly by the gospel tell their story to those who know them.

• When from the beginning evangelism is the work of those within the culture.

• When new Christians are immediately given the opportunity to learn by ministering to non-Christians rather than sitting in a classroom.

• When the church is self-supporting and provides for its own leaders and facilities.

• When true doctrine results from the true experience of the power of Christ rather than mere intellectual instruction.

• When new churches are given the freedom to learn by experience.

Factors that inhibit spontaneous expansion:

• When paid foreign professionals are primarily responsible to spread the gospel which is seen as an alien intrusion.

• When the church is dependent on foreign funds and leadership.

• When spread of the gospel is controlled out of fear and both error and godly zeal are suppressed. Allen believed the great things of God are beyond our control. He observed that control produces sterility. “Our converts have not gone astray but they have produced nothing.”

• When it is believed that the church is to be founded, educated, equipped, established in the doctrine and ethics and organisation first; then it is to expand.

• When emerging leaders are restricted from ministering until they are fully trained and by doing so learn the lesson of inactivity and dependency.

• When we attempt to convert by clever argument rather than the power of Christ.

• When a professional class controls the ministry and discourages the spontaneous zeal of those who are not members of their profession.

Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church (pdf)

“The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes That Kinder It” (Roland Allen)