May 3, 2008
A change of pace for a moment:
I am in the midst of writing an eighty page paper documenting the process we have gone through to birth two mission groups. Hopefully we will have our website updated with more of our history in the next few months.
A mission group is a group of people that join around a passion to serve others, usually driven by one or more entrepreneurial leaders gathering a team. These leaders are joining their passion with some area of God’s redemptive purposes in this world. The group develops its own leadership, mission, purpose, values, and organizational structure. The group functions under the VCC board of directors until it reaches viability. Once the group and the Board agree it is time, the group spins off with its own 501c3 status and becomes an entity unto itself.
Our dream is that we would help birth multiple mission groups over time. We know of folks who instead of planting a conventional church are actually planting a mission group with the dream of a church being birthed in the midst of the mission. There has been great conversation about sustainable models of church in the past week or so. It is a much needed conversation. One way I believe we have to think about the future, no matter what size congregation we are is how to garner resources beyond our size. Church of the Savior has pioneered a way to bring the healing ministry of Jesus right into the neighborhood with their mission group model.
While not adhering exactly to the COS model, they gave us an imagination to what we perceive is God’s path for us. You see we began a journey about five years ago to discover why our church had a reason to exist. When we began to ask that question partnered with inquiring prayer, our vision of what it meant to “be” the church was forever changed.
We are only five years into our journey toward what we now name as our grand experiment. I wrote a piece for Scot McNight’s Jesus Creed blog that will be posted sometime in the next few weeks while he and Kris are in South Africa. It is a short piece on how and what we focus on as a congregation so I won’t go into that here. I will link to it when it is up at Jesus Creed.
Bullet points for my paper:
We decided to grow a church big rather than grow a big church
Mission group development, includes those dreadful words from the 90’s; mission, vision, values. Somehow in the mission group context they are life giving if you want to be faithful to the mission.
Leadership – what kind of leadership within the church is required to let go of control enough to let others run with their passion and vision. This seems to scare pastors. We are often asked (sincere) questions that reflect this fear: how do you make sure leaders of mission groups stay on track with your vision? What about resources, do they take away from people giving to the church or serving in the church? Our vision is to “incubate” kingdom activity through those that are responding to God for the sake of the world. The mission group model has shown us that there are resources of not only money, but time and talent beyond what our local church could ever provide. The amount of resources that are available when you invite people to partner for a grass roots cause continues to amaze me.
There is a need for structure to organize around the mission. We are a mysterious blend of organic community and organizational structure for the work of the kingdom.
All kinds of people get to play. Those that follow Christ and those that wonder about following Christ but in the meantime want to make the world a better place work together for kingdom purposes.
We partner and collaborate with the City, the School District, Social Service Agencies, the local Food Bank, the County Housing Authority and many other sectors of our city. We are at the table where the needs and resources of our community are discussed and then addressed as best they can in collaboration to make the “community livable again”.
More later including:
Some specifics in mission group creation, including financial sustainability.
How a congregation moves through the kind of change necessary to cultivate incubating passion for God’s healing in our world…incubating, or the term “birthing” is interesting. My friend is a doula, she has a lot of stories for walking alongside a woman giving birth. I, myself have given birth tree times and my husband’s first wife, Wendy was a mid-wife. He witnessed the pregnancy process and birth of hundreds of babies. The birthing metaphor is fitting for where our journey has taken us these past few years and very metaphoric for where we are heading.
May 2, 2008
Jenell Paris in talking about the Emergent Movement. I would add great thoughts here for us to consider as the Vineyard finds a way forward.
May 1, 2008
The following post is from my perspective as a woman who has served in the Evangelical tradition of the Church for the past thirty years. There are many groups marginalized from the Church today, at the center of each group are those that hold the power to give access, to share power with those at the margins or those that have been denied to function in all of their God-given gifting, talent and calling.
As a woman navigating leadership in the church (not the church I serve but the wider church) my experience has been “ being caught” between two worlds. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church where I didn’t question the issue of leadership. From my perspective the way a woman attained leadership was to become a nun. Having left the RC at the age of eighteen, my next church experience was in a Pentecostal/Evangelical church where male and female leadership was modeled. My next church experience was in a Vineyard church that embraced biblical equality. It wasn’t until the time of my ordination in 1996 the realization hit, I had been insulated from how far behind the wider church was on this issue.
While I believe this falls under an issue of justice, I have learned to restrain from pugnacious arguments on this issue. In some ways, restraint has been necessary to get a hearing, but at other times, since this is an issue of justice, I have used my power to speak up even when it is not “politically correct” to do so.
Part of the issue of power and understanding power is being self-aware enough to know when you are reacting and when you need to stand for what’s true. These are not easy issues, especially when you have felt the injustice of someone judging you because of your gender. In many ways this injustice is not unlike the caste system, one does not have control over what position in life they are born into.
This brings me to the question at hand. How do we change structures in the Church that have not allowed women access? I know this is a complex issue with many implications when you are dealing with denominational structures. What I do believe is that if people that are in the seats of power will not share power (this usually comes with a cost), i.e., step aside and let those without access have space, then real change, systemic change does not occur.
The Vineyard is in the midst of navigating how to give women access to all levels of leadership. This means changing structures that have been in place since the Vineyard’s inception that have not allowed women equal access. This is reflected in the amount of female lead pastors, the AVC Board of Directors, (all men, while their wives attend and give input, their vote does not officially count), and in countless other ways.
My husband and I have been asked to participate on a task force within the Vineyard to address empowering women for senior leadership. This is a great start. However I still have questions.
How do we navigate this kind of change? Local Vineyard churches are autonomous, with each church deciding its own governance and stance on women in ministry. It is a centered set movement. However, when we come together for regional or national events, there will now be women recognized in senior leadership. I believe this decision has caused some churches to disengage from the Vineyard.
The implications of how to move forward in a movement that embraces both sides of the issue of women in ministry but nationally adheres to a Theology of the Kingdom in this area is no easy matter. I don’t for a minute think I can speak to all of the issues that this kind of change in a movement raises.
What I can speak to is the issue of power. You see, I believe when this kind of change is on the horizon, the people that hold the power must be willing to step aside and make room for those very ones that have been without access. This means when you have an all male board of directors, a few of them would give up their vote to qualified women. It means that if you are a woman with access to power in the existing system you lobby for the women who are as our founder would say are, “doing the stuff” and you hand them the mic so to speak. Does this come with a cost, you bet it does. This kind of change does not come without the cost of someone giving up their “rights” their “place” for the sake of the “other” think Jesus.
I am hopeful that our movement can have the courage to make the necessary change structurally to give women access. I believe that the intention is to do so. Will those that actually hold the power be willing to step aside (not out) and share the power they possess to make space for others…I hope so.
What changes in structures do you see that must happen for this kind of change to occur?
April 29, 2008
“The church is an ecclesia, which means an assembly that has been called out in a public way as a sign, witness, and foretaste of where God is inviting all creation in Jesus Christ. The church, in its life together and witness in the world, proclaims the destiny and future of all creation. Local congregations are embodiments of where God is calling all creation to be through the power of the Spirit. The God we meet in Jesus calls the church to be a community of people who no longer live for themselves and their own needs but as a contrast society whose life together manifests God’s future for the whole of creation.
As a contrast society, the church is formed around beliefs and practices, which continually school and form it in a way of life, which cannot be derived from the particular culture in which it is found. The culture in which we find ourselves, and within which we are called to be that people, is now designated as late-modern or postmodern. It is a context where the explicit story is that everyone lives within his or her own expressive rights. We live in a context where it is simply assumed that the operative and appropriate means of living in a tolerant and open society is to create environments, which do not step on or over any specific set of personal rights, feelings or wants. This is part of the madness of the needs-centered, seeker-driven mentality of the church. These approaches actually believe they are faithful to the tradition when, in fact, they undermine the elements essential for missional faithfulness. We want to affirm everyone’s need for personal autonomy to such a degree that we have lost the resources provided by Scripture and great tradition to shape, form and create a people as a contrast society.”
Recently, (while speaking of what it means to belong to a faith community) I have heard it said, our culture is swept up in elevating the rights of the one at the expense of the whole (we have become narcissists in search for personal autonomy) however, in the community of faith it is often the opposite, we elevate the whole at the expense of the one, folks lose themselves and don’t know how to differentiate in a way to belong inter-dependently.
Years ago a very wise person suggested that the “one” and the “whole” always are held in tension. There are times when a person is in intensive care and is dependent on the whole. But most of the time, part of our ability to heal is in our ability to give, to serve, to follow the example of Jesus self-sacrificing love. Elizabeth O’Connor, scribe for the Church of the Savior has much to say about the tension of belonging to community and healing our true selves in many of her books.
April 28, 2008
“Good deeds create goodwill which eventually leads to good news”
Amen and Amen
April 26, 2008
I am now buried in heading into what I hope is my final year as a doctoral student. I have an enormous amount of writing due as of now. I am way past deadlines and need to take three more courses and write my dissertation between now and June 2009. I may begin using this space to post some of the thoughts I wrestle with…maybe. Part of my time management to get through the next year means very limited blog reading or blog posting (unless it has to do with my project)…
Today Pam Hogeweide tagged me as a subversive blogger.
“subversive bloggers are unsatisfied with the status quo, whether in church, politics, economics or any other power-laden institution, and they are searching for (and blogging about) what is new (or a “return to”) – even though it may be labeled as sacrilege, dangerous, or subversive.”
Thanks Pam…I will never forget the first time I met you:)
Okay, because I cannot spend much time on this I am going to quickly tag 5 bloggers I would consider subversive:
Now back to work!
April 25, 2008
Yesterday I had a noticeable spike in hits on my blog. When I looked to see where they were coming from…
The second website had some pretty interesting information such as:
Information For Those Left Behind
The Left Behind Letters Letters to the tribulation saints
Oops, I Guess I Wasn’t Ready! If you missed the rapture
The Post Rapture Survival Guide A plan for the left behind
Second Chance for Salvation There is still hope
Memorandum A note from those who were raptured
April 22, 2008
Rob Bell (though he was a huge part of it) was not the only reason last Tuesday evening was such a great time. Person after person that I have talked with have commented that this is the way church ought to be. Walking in the door there were smiling faces, tables of food, wine flowing, great live music. Right away you knew you were entering a party and you were welcome. People were hanging out, lots of laughter, lots of conversations around the room. Over the next half an hour the space filled.
Jim Henderson master creator of all things OTM is brilliantly skilled at creating great spiritual conversations. He knows how to network people (from very different backgrounds and ideologies) and bring them together. He asked Rob Bell to talk about his new book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians (Zondervan) coming out in Fall 2008 Everyone there loved his talk, so much to think about.
Rob and I had talked about the conversation we would have about women in leadership. I was excited for this conversation because I knew how Rob had courageously led his own church through the change of an all male leadership structure to include women on every level of leadership.
Another surprise hit of the evening was Andy Himes’ monologue about his growing up in the South in the 60’s and the injustice that surrounded him, even in the church. It caused him to lose his faith as he saw blacks repeatedly mistreated. It was powerful.
It was all so good, I wish we would have had more time to hear more from Doug Pagitt, Todd Hunter and Sunil Sardar. Sunil Sardar is the founder of Truth Seekers, an organization dedicated to end caste in India. Did that register? Ending caste…please pray for Sunil and Truth Seekers.
We, Vineyard Community Church say thank you to all who came and participated. Everyone made it a great happening.
April 17, 2008
Podcasts are now up from the evening with Rob Bell et al
April 16, 2008
Last night to finish out the inter-spiritual day of the Seeds of Compassion gathering, Jim Henderson asked us to host a reception at the Vineyard. We had a bit of a party. The band led by Kelly Carpenter was awesome. My experience with Jim is he is like Oprah, he loves to give people a voice…he had a couple of hours and a bunch of people he wanted to give “stage” time. He planned several short, 20 minute segments. He asked me to lead a conversation with Rob Bell about women in ministry.
The night began with Rob sharing thoughts from his new book. I think Eugene has a good synopsis here.
Next up was our conversation. Let me begin by saying I had a conversation with Rob in the afternoon about where I wanted to go with the conversation. I told him I was going to introduce the idea through the lens that for those that have changed their theological position we had to now look at how to do the structural changes to give women access. I asked him if he would agree that when you are dealing with structural change you are dealing with “who” holds the power in the systems you are trying to gain equilibrium …he agreed. I then asked him if he would agree that in our church tradition (Evangelical) or post Evangelical that power lies with white males…to which he totally agreed. I asked him if he would be comfortable with me “naming” the power structure and more specifically pointing out that he was a person within the system with power and influence to which he said he was cool with.
When the conversation happened, I found Rob to be nothing but kind. He told his story. When he stepped into a pastoring Mars Hill Bible Church (not Mars Hill Seattle) and how at the time they had an all male eldership. The church held the theological position that women could not hold positions of authority. Rob studied the issue and came to the conclusion that their view was theologically wrong. He changed it, lost elders and folks that did not agree left the church. Today there are women in all areas of leadership in the church. Rob did a great job communicating his heart and what he had done in his own church to empower women in every level of leadership. He said that he used to hear the old argument that there are two sides to this theological position but now he says there are not two sides, if you hold to the position that oppresses (probably my word) women you are just wrong.
When I asked him how he could use his influence beyond his local church to give women space he seemed to not fully connect. I gave him the example of how Jim Henderson tries to include women in every event that Off the Map hosts. Sharing the stage or the mic is a way to change the systemic issue of the male echo chamber in most corners of the Christian church. I asked him if he could use his influence to give women a voice in the same way as he has access to a very large stage.
He told another story of a young girl in his church and then he told me that we (women) should not go where we are not welcome. That last statement sounds different then what he said. He was saying, you are too sacred, don’t waste your time where the door is not open, which I totally get.
My point wasn’t so much that (I think this is where the disconnect happened, I probably was not clear enough) I wanted to go places women were not welcome as it was that women seeing other women in visible areas of leadership is vital to change the system. At the point I knew we were not going the same direction (not because we were adversarial) I changed gears and introduced a young woman from Canada. Jen is in her 20’s, single and the lead pastor of a Four Square Church ( a denomination stared by a woman) in Powell River B.C. She intentionally moved into low-income housing and works part-time at Starbucks. She is a smart, thoughtful leader that is truly serving Jesus in the way He has called and gifted her. Jen’s story was a great illustration of the point I was trying to make. Almost all of her mentors were and are male. She doesn’t have a problem with that, but she would like a few females as well…she just didn’t know where to find them.
I believe we need men and women working together to bring leadership in the body of Christ. I told Rob I wasn’t interested in women’s initiatives that did not include men. For me this is about a theology of the Kingdom. Men and women working together in every level of leadership in the church. IMHO women’s initiatives made up of only women tend to ghettoize women.
After our segment I had a conversation with Rob and his friend in the hall. We talked about several issues related to women. He thought our time went well. As we were talking a man approached us and thanked us for the conversation. He said his wife was called to be a church planter but they were in a denomination that would not allow it. He was encouraged by our talk that she needed to be able to pursue her calling. Now this is what I am talking about. If men that hold power would include women, women like Jen who can say what they are doing, women who are writers, church planters, scholars, etc. I know that something will be set in motion when men and women hear the stories.
I appreciate Rob having the conversation and being part of the solution. I think he is brilliant. I applaud Jim Henderson for always thinking about how to make space for women.
It was fun to meet Doug Pagitt, I’ve heard a lot about him. He was kind enough to let me use his rental car for the day. I met so many interesting people yesterday. It was a great party and now…I need to get some sleep and come tomorrow catch up on course work.