AN UNSTOPPABLE FORCE Daring To Become The Church God Had In Mind.
Erwin Raphael McManus- Lead pastor at Mosaic in L.A. (c) 2001 GROUP -Loveland. Colorado. pp 224 price 32.95
Technology comes with a price, standardization at the cost of uniqueness. The church has become an organization rather than an organism. A pastor must become a "spiritual environmentalist" p.14, in order for the church to experience and survive in a "balanced ecosystem". p.15. This system is focused on a two-fold relationship, to God and to one another. A church as an organism is adapted to environmental change. Change is not an option. Reproduction and nurture characterize a healthy church. As in any life cycle the church needs to realize that it is impacted by birth, life, death (which results in rebirth,etc.).
Chapter None. Atrophy.
Survival for a church is not a scriptural goal. Serving is. Martyrdom is ultimate service. For a church, service results in strength. Success is often the result of risk and innovation. In a successful organization the absence of risk and innovation results in atrophy. When the focus is on preserving the past rather than creating the future atrophy is inevitable. Some of the causes of the decline of the church are discussed. They do not come from the outside. "Atrophy is....always about the substance of servanthood."p. 35.
Chapter One- Friction Fraction.
In order for the church to accomplish it’s God given task of redeeming the earth to himself there will be much risk taking and miraculous encounters. We are living in unprecedented opportunities of global ministry. Migration, urbanization, a population explosion, and a technological revolution, have created what the author calls ‘friction traction’ which is a significant factor in the methods of evangelism. Multiculturalism is a real challenge for serious evangelism. "If you change your view of reality enough times. you simply become less committed, even to the view you presently hold.."p.57. To refuse to change is not an option. Now we have a dilemma. McManus describes our multicultural world with the word "hyermodernism" which simply put is a world of ‘ maybes’. This doesn’t fit well with the Christian ‘secure’ view of things. Our focus needs to be tempered from knowing and finding to inquiring and seeking. Honest questions are okay.
Chapter Two. Momentum
There has always been change but the rate of change has accelerated dramatically. The church must be a movement not a monument. It is to be a refuge for the world not from the world. "The first century church didn’t keep up with the times...(it) changed the times."p.66. The formula for momentum is P=MV2. P is momentum, M is mass, V is velocity. In church momentum, the people are the mass, movement (speed with direction) is velocity. One without the other will not result in momentum. When willingness to obey is coupled with wisdom to know, velocity results. "Momentum increases proportionately to mass but exponentially to velocity." p.74. An apostolic leader is a catalyst not an entrepreneur.
Chapter Three Change Theology.
God is an unchanging God who changes everything. Rom.1;17b could be translated, "The righteous thrive in the midst of unpredictable change."p.82. One reason for resistance to change is the memory of the good things that have been replaced with something different, e.g. style of worship. Historically, for the Jews, the change from Saturday to Sunday as the day of worship was a huge change. Judaizers were fanatically opposed to the change. "The church was established on the promise of change."p.88. It is a trap to get hung up in the ‘good old days’. The church cannot be the agent of change if it is not prepared to change. When we look in the mirror we tend to see the past not the present and certainly not the future. "History is lost in nostalgia.:p.91. Memories must not be the place where we hide from the future, or for that matter, the present. "When you’re through changing you’re through." Bruce Barton.
Chapter Four- E-Motion
"Ethos is the e-motion of a community."p.97. Shared values (ethos) are a significant factor impacting those of a particular environment, especially the young. Culture, ethos, and environment make up an invisible force which must not be underestimated. Laws become powerless if they don’t reflect the ethos of a society. When ethos dissipates more laws and rules are made in an attempt to restore it. The unity of the early church was not because of the rules but the oneness of heart. When revolution succeeds it tends to become an institution. When Christianity changed from a global revolution to a global religion it lost it’s force. "The power of ethos born out of the Christian faith has dramatically impacted cultures around the world in a positive way."p.105. The apostolic ethos of the early church changed the world. Why does the ethos of the modern church not change the world? Perhaps it is because the modern church does not have an apostolic ethos.
Chapter Five. Cultural Architecture.
The values and cultures of nations are reflected by metaphors. e.g. Big Ben-Britain, Mardi Gras-Brazil. The cross, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are metaphors of Christianity. Names of churches are sub-metaphors and we must choose names that are not a liability. Stories and story-telling are a great art form for communicating truth. Part of God’s story is the church. Stories form culture. Culture is reflected in language, i.e. word usage and it’s meaning. There is a huge difference in treating words like hope, faith, and love as nouns or verbs, Aesthetics are an expression of cultural architecture. They involve musicians and poets. With new spiritual awakenings come a "rediscovery of music as a central form of worship."p.127. There needs to be a return of the creative arts to the church environment. The development of aesthetics is no longer an option for the church if it is to communicate effectively. "The spiritual leaders of the future will be more artistic than academic."p.130.
Chapter Six- The Cultural Architect.
"Leadership is a spiritual art form."p.133. That is why charisma is a common characteristic of successful leaders. "Form and function are one." Frank Lloyd Wright. This certainly applies to the church. According to Acts 2:17-18, God chooses visionaries and dreamers to begin movements. An ethos is established and shaped in a church through leadership and character, through stories, experiences, rewards, and blessings.
Chapter Seven. Spirit Design Theory.
An apostolic ethos involves three ingredients, love, hope, and faith. "Faith begins with God speaking and materializes when we respond,"p.150, in obedience. In God’s presence we are overwhelmed by love which expresses itself in servanthood. Our love for others and the demonstration of that love reflects the reputation of God. In one word, what matters most to God is relationships. "A Christ-filled world is a hope-filled world."p.160. The church is unstoppable with faith, hope, and love.
Chapter Eight. Re-Formation.
Transitioning a church is not an easy goal. To begin this process it is necessary to go back to zero, i.e."re-engage the Scriptures".p.188. Transition needs to be grounded in a theology of change. Transition requires prophetic leadership. "Problems are road guides on the journey to spiritual health and life."p.190. They cannot be ignored. Changes need to be relevant to real problems. When leaders change expectations they create problems because of a greater sense of urgency. A transition team is crucial to implement change. Architects of change must answer the questions,why and how, effectively. Pilot projects (experiments) are effective in the ‘how’ of change. They are "spiritually entrepreneurial endeavors".p.197. The final step in change is integration. Transition results in transformation.
Chapter Ten. A Radical Minimum Standard.
The law was the minimum standard in the Old Testament. Grace is the minimum now and it goes much further. e.g. Under the law the tithe was 10 percent. Under grace we are free to give much more. The Christian life described in Acts was the normal life. They were empowered and responded to the command to go-etc. It was and is the minimum standard of spiritual life. Membership in a church should not be characterized by exclusiveness but by opportunities to serve and take on responsibilities. When the minimum standard is applied to serving and sacrificial giving the results are unimaginable. Investments of relationships are part of serving in evangelism. Evangelism is not just for the elite, i.e. those with evangelistic gifts. "When we allow the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts and impassion us anew, it rekindles our first love. And when we cling to our first love, it results in a radical minimum standard." p.224.
Note: Each chapter ends with a series of questions under the topic, Fuel For Thought..
This book comes highly recommended by some well-known contemporary leaders. The author has taken a very personal impassioned look at the church and challenged us with an optimistic attitude about what the potential is for the church. Key to this church of the future (present) is deliberate honesty and a commitment to do what has to be done to make a significant spiritual impact on our ethos, locally and world wide. A must read for serious church leaders.