The Benedict Option: Sam Rocha’s Critical Review and Robert Webber’s Secular Saint

There’s been quite the discussion about Rod Dreher’s recently released book, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. It seems to me there’s a lot of hype surrounding its content and applications. It reminds me of what we saw in the “emerging ministry movement” of 20 years ago, with leaders looking for The Next Big Idea that would supposedly change the playing field for relevant ministry. However, such answers often ended up being lists of glib tips and methods and models that supposedly worked anywhere — a nice bypass for the painstaking local work of cultural exegesis and careful contextualization.

I’m not a fan of hypeful answers to complex questions. I prefer figuring out the broader context as a better way to give a more reflective response instead of universal principles that easily slip into quick-fix programs. And, since I have been writing about many things post-modern, post-Christian, and post-Christendom for 20-plus years, I thought it might be helpful to post several resources and thoughts to contribute to the discussion. Continue reading

Review of *UnLeader* by Lance Ford

Hear ye, hear ye … I have just posted my first-ever book review on Amazon!

It is for UnLeader: Reimagining Leadership … and Why We Must, by Lance Ford (Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2012). I received a review copy in September 2012 and read it then — and have peeked at it (and the stack of notes I wrote!) off and on ever since. I was planning to post a review last year, but other circumstances took over for a while and many things disappeared into that vortex.

However, what the time-lag added to the writing of my review was the reality that for 16 months, UnLeader keeps coming back to mind as really something extraordinary. I hope what I’ve posted will give a fresh and helpful perspective on grasping the value of what Lance Ford has produced, and the gift it is to the Kingdom. I also hope you will buy a copy, read it, and be changed by the  powerful and empowering message that Lance Ford offers!

And here is that review … Continue reading

Seven City-Reaching Systems

Summary: The recent process of evaluating Pastor Tim Keller’s “gospel ecosystems” approach to city-reaching inspired me to think about other approaches that I’m aware of from the past 20 years of experience and research. And so I wrote this post to offer an initial overview of seven distinct systems for reaching cities for Christ. The overview for each approach includes something about its ministry emphasis, theology, and generation-group appeal. If we look at these approaches as a set, I suspect we’ll be better able to develop a more comprehensive and contextual strategy for wherever it is that God’s providence has rooted us in. Continue reading

“Gospel Ecosystems” and Its Organic Features

Summary: This series began in response to a blog post by Dr. Dave Fitch on Pastor Tim Keller’s concepts and practices of “gospel ecosystems.” My previous post in this series about Keller’s approach to collaborative city outreach was “Gospel Ecosystems” and Organizational Systems. There I summarized Keller’s key elements in organizing people and processes as best I could from the information in his white paper and video, and then suggested where we’d need more information to evaluate his approach more fully and fairly. Finally, I focused in on research and development topics related to church planting assessment tools. I see this as a crucial part of contextualized ministry for emerging paradigms and cultures.

In this post, I take a similar approach, but addressing aspects of organic systems that could make or break “gospel ecosystems.” After summarizing Keller’s elements, I list areas that need more detailing. Then I focus on prevention and intervention related to various agents that would subvert the system and make it unsustainable. I conclude with an Afterword about the overall topic of “city reaching strategies,” and give some initial thoughts on the approaches I have seen in the past 20 years. Continue reading

“Gospel Ecosystems” and Organizational Systems

Summary: In my previous entry, Thoughts on Pastor Tim Keller’s “Gospel Ecosystems,” I noted that I planned to post a section of “appreciative inquiry” to summarize what I think his approach offers for social transformation enterprises. I prepared for this by viewing the Cape Town Lausanne video of Pastor Keller that Dr. Fitch linked to, and reviewing Keller’s Cape Town white paper PDF: “What Is God’s Global Urban Mission?”

In working through reflections on this material, the product didn’t turn out as I originally expected. It ended up as two posts, one with a summary of positive points in his organizational systems, the other on his organic systems. Each includes my concerns and what I still can’t figure out from the links Dr. Fitch provided in his post on the subject. I do apologize that there is repetition in these from my last post, and also that, unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to merge these posts or to search for answers to my remaining questions. But I would rather post it now, repetitious and open-ended, rather than wait to I can merge the material … which could be an unknown span of time, given priority projects I must finish on deadlines.

Anyway, the writing process helped me clarify my own thinking in general about systems approaches to collaborative Kingdom enterprises for social transformation. Meanwhile, for a snapshot of my recent views on ministry collaboration systems that are organic, contextual, and transgenerational, see my post that overviews developing a 100-year missional plan. Continue reading

Thoughts on Pastor Tim Keller’s “Gospel Ecosystems”

Dr. David Fitch recently posted Tim Keller’s “Gospel Ecosystem”: 3 Dangers In a Noble Idea. He invited feedback on the accuracy/validity of his take on Pastor Keller’s approach to urban transformation. Dr. Fitch was especially interested in whether the planks in Keller’s “gospel ecosystems” are (or could be misused to be) as (1) reductionistic and/or (2) potentially imperialistic. Also, to paraphrase, he wanted to know (3) whether Pastor Keller’s approach assumes that social structures are neutral and need only be improved by influential Christians, or whether there are personal forces of evil at work that must be resisted and sometimes the existing social structures must be resisted or replaced.

My short answers are: (1) Yes (probably). It appears to be incomplete and not fully interconnected. (2) Yes (potentially). Anytime you talk about influencing culture, and you don’t talk about the wisest and worst ways to do that, you leave the way open for horrific misapplications. And (3) I don’t have a yes or no due to insufficient information. But I do believe this is a particularly crucial issue. Some theologies don’t believe in Satan as a personal force of evil and that means social action is merely based on enlightened decisions by people instead of also spiritual warfare against an enemy who would rather see us enslaved or dead. Other theologies give principalities and powers too much purchase, and therefore overfocus on spiritual warfare in their attempts at solutions for social transformation. This post gives a more detailed expansion of these espresso answers to Dr. Fitch’s questions. Continue reading

Sweet Notions Already Shows What Future Mission and Ministry Will Look Like

Summary: This post profiles Sweet Notions, the most recent social enterprise start-up element in the Matryoshka Haus international network. I see this decentralized network as a forerunner in missional ministries and Kingdom enterprises. With nearly a decade track record to its credit, Matryoshka Haus continues to develop organically with components of contextual discipleship, creative collaboration, micro-businesses, and social transformation movements.

Sweet Notions “rethinks * restores * and reclaims” through sales of donated fashion accessories. It also sponsors Design Camps – a safe environment for empowering women by training them in marketable skills to “upcycle” accessories. Sweet Notions is definitely an ongoing case study to watch, if you want to see more than glimpses now of what holistic mission and ministry will look like later.

Continue reading