Authentic Church: Road to a Re-newed Reality

Celtic Transformation

I have been mulling on something the late Francis Schaeffer said:

“There are four things which are absolutely necessary if we as Christians are going to meet the need of our age and the overwhelming pressure we are increasingly facing.”

No doubt that the Church, in our culture as well as other cultures, faces increasing and overwhelming pressure.  Pressure to cave. Pressure to capitulate. Pressure to compromise.  These pressures come from both  subtle and overt threats from the culture and from the government, as George Orwell predicted in his classic 1984.  Perhaps even more devastating is the subversive seductive pressure. The craving of the church to be “relevant”, to fit in, to be liked, so people will come in great numbers, so we can be considered successful, has seemingly replaced a commitment to faithfulness and fruitfulness.  This mindset seems in line with Aldous Huxley‘s “nightmarish vision of the future” in his opus Brave New World.  And while there is certainly nothing wrong with a desire to be liked, nor to see our churches full, these consuming desires are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus, and consequently, I fear, resulting in an increasingly impotent Church.

So what are Schaeffer’s four things?

Schaeffer labeled them Two Contents and Two Realities.

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Bounded-Set vs Centered-Set


Some time back I posted a piece titled Numbering Those On the Ranch, exploring the concept of what missiologist Alan Hirsch refers to as a “centered-set” metric for evaluating a church.  More recently I stumbled across a post by Bob Thune, of Coram Deo Church in Omaha, explaining his understanding of Centered-Set verses the more traditional Bounded-Set metric. I appreciated what Thune had to say, so I wanted to post it, even if primarily for my own benefit, as a resource for future use.


There are two ways of thinking about social groupings: centered-set and bounded-set. These terms come to us from the field of mathematics (set theory). In recent years they’ve been applied more broadly by sociologists and missiologists. The fountainhead of most of this thinking in the Christian church was Paul Hiebert, a missiologist at Fuller Seminary.

Hiebert suggested that our minds categorize people according to either “bounded set” or “centered set” thinking:

Bounded Sets

  •  are formed by defining the boundaries – the essential qualities which separate something inside the set from something outside. Heibert’s classic example is “apples.” Either a fruit is an apple, or it isn’t.
  • Maintaining the boundary is crucial to maintaining the category.
  • Bounded sets are static sets – they don’t change, they only add or lose members.
  • The important thing is to “cross the boundary” to be part of the set.

Centered Sets

  •  are formed by defining a center. The set is made up of all objects moving toward that center. As an everyday example: “bald men.”
  • While a centered set does not focus on the boundary, a boundary does indeed exist. The boundary is clear so long as the center is clear.
  • The objects within a centered set are not categorically uniform. Some may be near the center and others far from it, even though all are moving towards the center.

Hiebert asserts that Americans tend to think almost exclusively in bounded-set categories. And this affects our understanding of Christian discipleship. We tend to “stress evangelism as the major task — getting people into the category. Moreover, we… see conversion as a single dramatic event — crossing the boundary between being a ‘non-Christian’ and being a ‘Christian’” (Hiebert, 1978).

Hiebert argues instead for a “centered-set” way of thinking about Christian conversion:

A Christian would be defined in terms of a center—in terms of who is God. The critical question is, to whom does the person offer his worship and allegiance? …Two important dynamics are recognized. First there is conversion, which in a centered set means that the person has turned around. He has left another center or god and has made Christ his center. This is a definite event—a change in the God in whom he places his faith. But, by definition, growth is an equally essential part of being a Christian. Having turned around, one must continue to move towards the center. There is no static state. Conversion is not the end, it is the beginning. We need evangelism to bring people to Christ, but we must also think about the rest of their lives. We must think in terms of bringing them to Christian maturity in terms of their knowledge of Christ and their growth in Christlikeness.

Theologically, I find some aspects of Hiebert’s argument poorly nuanced. He would do well to differentiate regeneration (the invisible, immediate work of the Holy Spirit on the soul, which is in fact a decisive event) from conversion (our experience of that event, which often feels more like a “process” than like a decisive moment). Those who have applied Hiebert’s set theory to individual salvation (Brian McLaren, for instance) have tended to drift in fuzzy doctrinal directions.

But I find Hiebert’s insights immensely helpful when applied to ecclesiology. This is where I first encountered the set-theory rubric, as applied by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost in their 2003 book The Shaping of Things to Come. Frost and Hirsch argued for viewing the church as a centered set rather than a bounded set. Why not build a church by defining the center rather than patrolling the boundaries? Why not place the gospel of Jesus Christ at the center of the church’s life and practice, inviting everyone to reorient their lives around Him? In this way, we continually invite Christians into deeper and deeper discipleship, while also inviting non-Christians to deal with the claims of Jesus on their lives. As Hiebert himself acknowledges, this does not mean there is no boundary; there is just “less need to play boundary games and to institutionally exclude those who are not truly Christian. Rather, the focus is on the center and pointing people to that center” (Hiebert, 1978).

It is my personal conviction that: a) this is what the New Testament church did (see, for example, Galatians 1:6-9; Colossians 1:6; Romans 1:13-15); b) this is what it truly means to be a “gospel-centered” church; and c) this is the only way to have a truly missional church, where non-Christians are treated with true Christian hospitality AND are regularly being converted to faith in Jesus.

Leading in the Construction of Christ’s Church

Blue Construction

As one who has benefited from reading Jim Collins, John Kotter, Stephen Covey, and several other leadership gurus from the business world, I found this quote from Tony Morgan‘s Developing a Theology of Leadership  to be a very helpful reminder and convicting corrective:

It is true that we church leaders can learn from business leaders, but the corporate world should not set the foundation from which we lead. We can also learn from fellow church leaders, but they are also human and don’t provide a perfect model for Biblical leadership. When we look to other leaders, we are essentially holding on to our traditions rather than embracing the truth about leadership found in God’s Word. The Bible needs to become our filter for truth in every area of our life and ministry just because we see others doing it doesn’t mean that’s how God designed it.

Like Morgan, I still believe there is much to be learned from those who are effective in business, government, coaching, and other spheres. But as a pastor of a church – an under-Shepherd of part of the Church that Jesus is building – it is essential that I not fall for the notion that I will or can gain the most wisdom from these sources. I must never neglect or assume what the bible has to say about Leadership. Instead I must constantly submit all ideas of leadership, from whatever sources, to the scrutiny of the Scripture.

Matthew 16.18 reminds me that I am but a foreman, and that it is Jesus who is the architect, developer, and contractor. My job is to follow his design, and his lead.

5 Things Church Members Wish Pastors Knew

Germoe Cathedral Impressionism (Slimm)

Anyone who has ever served on a ministry staff for any measurable amount of time knows the twin realities of the incredible joys and the exhausting difficulties.  Perhaps this tension is part of the reason why there is such large drop out rate among pastors and other ministry leaders in the American Evangleical Church.  Ministry is a tremendous privilege, to be allowed to be with people at both their best times and their worst, but it carries with it inevitable frustrations and hurt feelings, which frequently seems to lead to burnout, exhaustion, and isolation.

Part of the problem may be the disconnect between what those in pastoral ministry do, and what those in the congregation assume – and want – their ministers to do.   Just like some of the memes of various professions that one may see on Facebook or some other social medium suggests, there is often a difference.  Misconceptions easily become a source of tension.

Recently I re-read an article by Jason Boyett that I find helpful, reminding me to look at things from the other side: 5 Things Church Members Wish Pastors Knew.  it reminded me of one of Stephen Covey assertions from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:”seek first to understand, then to be understood”. While I may desperately want to be “understood”, I have little to no control about what people may understand about me.  But I do have the ability to try to see things from the other side; to understand why people may not appreciate the same things I do, or agree with all that I may believe and say.

So, for my fellow ministry leaders, here are Boyett’s five assertions:

  1. Who you are reflects upon your membership. Churches reflect the character of its most visible pastors and ministers. “It’s not always fair,” one church member told me, “but people associate churches with the pastor.
  1. Churchgoers have lives (and ministries) outside of church. “I don’t eat and breathe this church,” a parishioner said.
  1. They value excellence but not showiness. Everyone makes mistakes. Every speaker, worship leader, or musician can have a bad day on-stage. Church members realize this, but at the same time appreciate good preparation.
  1. They want to be led…with honesty. Stories abound of churches that embarked on an exciting new vision only to backtrack a few weeks into it for a variety of reasons — too few volunteers, lack of funds, complaints from prominent church members, or some other kink.
  1. Sometimes, it looks like you have it easy. Anne Jackson, the author of Mad Church Disease and a former church staffer, once blogged about the perception — which she felt was well earned — that church staffers can be lazy. The post’s comment section should be required reading for pastors and ministers across the board.

To read more


Happier Elsewhere: Singing ‘Happy Trails’ to … Some

On a Soap Box

I appreciate the practical wisdom Ed Stetzer provides in a post titled: Why I Have No Difficulty Helping “Issue Christians” to Move On.  Few seem to think this way in our consumerist church culture, where numbers are the only measuring stick of success, and faithfulness is but a tool to… well, numerical success – so long as it works.  Pastors are under so much pressure to produce measurable “progress” that it is difficult for many to watch any living, breathing, potentially financial supporting body depart.  Not so much for me – anymore.  I’ve learned, through the pain of many mistakes, some folks just cost too much to keep around.

Does that sound heartless?  Sometimes it still feels that way.  But nevertheless, it is true. Not just for my sanity as a pastor, but for the unity and the peace, and the health of the church,,, some people should move on.

The people I mean are not the poor, or the unkempt, or the socially awkward or even outcastes.  It is not my place to shew them from Christ’s church.  Though the world may see no benefit of having such people around, these are exactly the kind of folks Jesus expressly instructs us he wants to be made at home in any church that belongs to him. The ones I have in mind are not the outcastes, but the self righteous: those who have stumbled upon the one “key” to resolve the worlds problems – and the churches – if only enough people would buy into their one key.  What is the key? Who knows.  I’ve seen all sorts of different sure-fire “answers”.  Sadly, for such folks, “Christ and him crucified”, is never the key.  (See 1 Corinthians 2.2)  Their issue, whatever it may be, is their substitute for the gospel – or at the very least a supplement to the gospel.  (See Romans 1.16; Galatians 1.6-8)

My one caveat about encouraging folks to move on is when the gospel is at stake.  Like Stetzer, if it appears evident that person does not understand the gospel, I am hesitant to have them move on before I (or someone) has opportunity to explain it to them.  Whether the person is not a Christian or a professing Christian who seems to have adopted some issue(s) in addition to or instead of Christ as their identity, their passion, their assurance, I want to make sure the gospel has been made clear.  Once the gospel has been clearly presented, then I go on to explain that our church is passionate about the gospel, and living out the implications and demands of the gospel, that we want no other issue to drive our church.  I invite them to stay IF, now that they understand, they want to grow in this understanding and expression of the Christian faith; but tell them if that is not their desire that they’d be “happier elsewhere”.  (That “happier elsewhere” phrase is one I used to mock when I was in college, when learned that sororities – including the one my wife was in – used this as a polite “line” to cut less-than-desired pledges.  And now I have adopted it. Except… I mean it as no mere polite line.)

Stetzer provides sage advice that I encourage young pastors, and all church leaders to consider, and to appropriately apply.  You will find that in the end you gain from it far more than you lose – both in numbers and in peace.

10 Warning Signs of an Inwardly Obsessed Church

Researcher Thom Rainer warns of signs of a church that is so inwardly focused that it has ceased to be the church of Jesus Christ and has become, at best, a museum to (assumed) past glories, in which the membership makes up the board of directors.   Rainer writes:

Any healthy church must have some level of inward focus. Those in the church should be discipled. Hurting members need genuine concern and ministry. Healthy fellowship among the members is a good sign for a congregation.

But churches can lose their outward focus and become preoccupied with the perceived needs and desires of the members. The dollars spent and the time expended can quickly become focused on the demands of those inside the congregation. When that takes place the church has become inwardly obsessed. It is no longer a Great Commission congregation.

In my research of churches and consultation with churches, I have kept a checklist of potential signs that a church might be moving toward inward obsession. No church is perfect; indeed most churches will demonstrate one or two of these signs for a season. But the real danger takes place when a church begins to manifest three or more of these warning signs for an extended period of months and even years.

1. Worship wars. One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change. The order of service must remain constant. Certain instrumentation is required while others are prohibited.

2. Prolonged minutia meetings. The church spends an inordinate amount of time in different meetings. Most of the meetings deal with the most inconsequential items, while the Great Commission and Great Commandment are rarely the topics of discussion.

3. Facility focus. The church facilities develop iconic status. One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of rooms, furniture, and other visible parts of the church’s buildings and grounds.

4. Program driven. Every church has programs even if they don’t admit it. When we start doing a ministry a certain way, it takes on programmatic status. The problem is not with programs. The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry.

5. Inwardly focused budget. A disproportionate share of the budget is used to meet the needs and comforts of the members instead of reaching beyond the walls of the church.

6. Inordinate demands for pastoral care. All church members deserve care and concern, especially in times of need and crisis. Problems develop, however, when church members have unreasonable expectations for even minor matters. Some members expect the pastoral staff to visit them regularly merely because they have membership status.

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Drilling Down

I have greatly benefited from being introduced to Tri-Perspectivalism.   While it is an odd sounding word, as a concept Tri-Perpectivalism is reasonably easy to grasp.  It is a multi-facted perspective, or looking at things from three distinct perspectives, rooted in the personality and offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King.

John Frame was probably the first to touch upon this leadership-personality grid. Dick Kaufmann contributed significant practical insights and applications.  And David Fairchild has taken the whole thing a step further.

Speaking at a conference in Fall 2010, Fairchild explained that there are different types of prophets, priest, and kings. While each individual has a primary wiring (i.e. Prophet, or Priest, or King) each also has a secondary, or modifying, perspective.  Fairchild suggested:

In fact, the secondary perspective is sort of like their delivery method. In other words, you might be a priest and enjoy counseling, but your secondary is king. So you enjoy working with people that need pastoral care by applying wisdom to their particular situation like finances or work related counsel. This is effortless and easy for a kingly priest, but not so for a priestly priest.

Let’s explore some breakdowns:

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Steve Childers is Founder and President of Global Church Advancement. He is also professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando.  In a former life Steve was an effective pastor and church planter.  A  number of years ago I had the privilege of taking a doctoral class in church planting under Steve’s tutelage.  I have appreciated him ever since.

Now Steve has done us the favor of, not only sharing his great insights about ministry and church planting but, chronicling his biggest ministry mistakes.  These mistakes are obviously beneficial for fellow pastors to aviod.  But I think that these short, insightful confessions can also profit others in church leadership, be it those holding official office or those with unofficial influence. In fact, some of Steve’s insights translate to the values we hold that shape our lives and congregations.

In no particular order:

  1. Failure to Understand the Importance of How I Define Ministry Success
  2. Managing My Time and NOT Managing My Life
  3. Not Understanding the Difference Between My Goals and My Desires
  4. Not Understanding the Difference Between Pursuing the Grace of God and the God of Grace
  5. Failure to Understand the Way Up is the Way Down
  6. Failure to Understand the Priority of People Over Programs
  7. Not Understanding Product Living vs. Process Living
  8. Failure to Initiate Supportive Relationships

Living Together as the Church

The late theological statesman, Edmund Clowney observed:

“If we lack interest in the church we lack what was for Jesus a  consuming passion. Jesus loved the church and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5.25).”

Jesus’ love for his church is evident throughout the pages of the New Testament.  In Matthew 16.18 Jesus promises to build his church. In fact he promises to empower it and protect it to such a degree that even Hell itself can not stand against it.

In Ephesians we are told that we, the followers of Christ, are the Body of Christ. (Ephesians 5.30) And the way the world will know we are his people is through the way we relate to one another. (John 13.35)

OK. I know that there is little, if any, new ground being broken here so far. What I have written is widely understood and little debated by those who are followers of Christ.  But while these principles are widely known, lesser understood is how we can -and should – practically live out our life together as Christ’s Church.

The folks at 9 Marks have developed a wonderful little e-book that helps lay a solid foundation and offers wise instruction about life together.  It is titled: Living as a Church.  Originally a Sunday School curriculum, each chapter is only about 3-4 pages designed to spark conversation as well as instruction.

Below are the links to the various chapters. I commend them all, but they are also of value considered by subject of interest.

  1. Introduction: Unity- God’s Goal for the Church
  2. Church Membership: Context for Unity
  3. Preaching: The Foundation of Unity
  4. Corporate Prayer: God’s Power Creates Unity
  5. Church Government: Godly Authority Fostering Unity
  6. Fellowship: Building a Bond of Unity
  7. Discontentment: A Test of Unity
  8. Church Leadership: Submission for the Sake of Unity
  9. Church Discipline: Preseving God-honoring Unity
  10. Serving & Giving: Sacrifice for the Sake of Unity
  11. Worship: Praising God in Unity
  12. Corporate Evangelism: A Harvest of Unity

Questions of Prophets, Priests, and Kings

Some time ago I introduced the concept of Tri-perspectivalism, the recognition that every Church ought to reflect the three offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King.  Each person, or Christian leader, has a natural inclination toward one of these perspectives, but all three are equally necessary to reflect Christ in our Body.

There are many questions that can be, and have been, asked. Perhaps among the most practical is: How do I know which I am?  To answer that question there is no substitute for experience – exprience in service and experience of genuine relationships.  But questions may still remain if we are not certain what we are looking for. 

In an address from the 2009 Acts 29 Bootcamp, Darrin Patrick offers the following questions. Patrick suggests that persons inclined to each perspective tend to ask reflective questions:


  • WHAT does the Bible say?
  • WHERE are we going because of what the Bible says?


  • HOW are we going to do that?
  • WHY are they/we doing that?


  • WHO?  (Priests are all about people and shepherding.)

Do you find yourself frequently asking any of these questions? Perhpas it is an indication of how God has wired you.

Mistaken Identity

Like many churches throughout the land, our church is entering into a season of officer nominations. As a presbyterian congregation, specifically, we are inviting the members of our congregation to submit the names of fellow church members who they believe fit the Biblical requirements, found in Titus & 1 Timothy 3, for the offices of Elder and Deacon. 

Also, like many in other congregations, some of the members of our church are not quite sure what exactly these offices mean, nor what those who serve them are responsible to do. 

In a post on Coram Deo, Bob Thune offers a brief but helpful explanation, dispelling one of the more common misconceptions about Elders…

Click: Elder vs. Board Member

Right People, Right Direction

There are two common maxims offered to pastors when entering a new ministry.  Both are wise and true. But they are mutually exlusive:

  • “Don’t change anything in the first year.”
  • “If you don’t change anything in the first year, you will never be able to change anything later.”

One way to resolve the tension is to realize that not all churches are the same. And not all churches are in the same condition when a pastor, or others, assumes leadership. Therefore wisdom dictates applying the proper suggestion to the present state of the church. 

For instance,

The first established church I pastored was a total mess.  The church had existed for nearly 50 years, and had fired every pastor. The longest tenure, prior to my arrival, had been 5 years.  Presbytery was sick and tired of the church’s shenanigans, and threatened to remove them from the denomination if they persisted.  The church averaged about 25 people on Sunday morning, and had only two children under age 18.  Obviously change was needed. Equally obvious was that change needed to happen immediately.

The second church I pastored had enjoyed solid numerical growth in the years prior to my arrival. Much of this growth was not healthy, however, but that was not particularly apparent to most people.  There were a lot of good things going on, but still areas that needed attention and revision.  Wisdom would have been to learn the landscape and go slower with initial changes.

The present church I pastor, Walnut Hill Church, was in many ways healthy when I came on board.  My predecessor had enjoyed 16 years of relatively effective ministry, and the Interim Pastor between us was (and is) a gem. The church leadership had come to a conclusion that this church, while in many ways good, was not functioning on all cylinders, and therefore needed to take the opportunity afforded by a transition to reevaluate the ministry.  Change is needed, and even desired, but what is the best approach: quick or slow?

Change is always needed. My college football coach, Johnny Majors, frequently reminded us that we never stay the same. Each day we either get better or we decline.  And, at least in this way, what is true of football teams, and athletes, is also true of churches and organizations. 

But one of the problems resulting from change, perhaps especially in a church, is disenfranchisement.  People have invested themselves in a church long before changes are even on the radar. In fact, people are often part of a particular church, even with it’s warts and weaknesses, because they like that church the way it is. When change starts taking place, whether systematic or unintentional, fear often accompanies it.  And fear keeps whispering in the ear: Am I sure I will still like this place if it changes?   

This is an important dynamic working against change, and against leaders who bring change.  And the problem is enhanced when the leader is focused more on bringing the change, and the anticipated positive results, than they are on the people in the church.  Not only is this recipe un-pastoral, it is ultimately ineffective.

I am not suggesting that the leader is responsible to appease all the people.  That is not possible – and it is not our job.  I am suggesting that sometime, as pastors, we have been so exhorted by the experts and the know-it-all books to make necessary changes for the sake of the ultimate “potential” good, that we may lose perspective.  We are anxious for success but forget what our success really looks like.

While it is true that to lead any necessary change, to chart any specific vision, risks losing some people, I wonder what place among our priorities  Jesus’ instruction to “count the cost” holds. I wonder if we tally everything up correctly, or if sometimes we cook our books like ENRON did – counting only the gains, ignoring the losses. 

The fact is sometimes some people need to go. This is especially true in an unhealthy church. (How else did it become unhealthy unless the stakeholders allowed it to become unhealthy and unfaithful?)   This is a sometimes painful reality. (At other times it is really not so painful. It may even feel blissful. But, as pastors, we’re not supposed to say that.) The questions are: How many losses are necessary? How many are appropriate? How many could have been averted, yet still allow the church to be faithful to the new (or renewed) vision and purpose? 

Tomorrow I plan to post the insights of leadership expert, John Kotter, about the stages of effective change. That post will apply Kotter’s insights to the mission of bringing appropriate, and necessary, change to the local church; and the ways pastors and churches  commonly act unwisely. Chief among them is moving too quickly to implement a new vision. But that will be for tomorrow.  At present, however, I want to ask the question: How many people might we keep if we were wiser about the change process?  What if we  moved a little slower, in cases that allow for it?  Of course, we will never know the real answer. But one thing I am convinced of: More harm than good is done in many churches because of unwise implementation of change.

In a post last week I introduced the following quote by Jim Collins, from his best-selling book Good to Great

The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, “Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.

I am convinced what Collins observed should be an important element for consideration in the early stages of all church vision and mission planning.  Clearly his approach does not eliminate the loss of some – maybe even many – people. But his approach does guard against the loss of good people who avoidably become disenfranchised due to  premature implementation of new direction. 

One last observation. Collins is not stating that the leader does not have any idea about where he/she might like to take the “bus”.  He is saying that the effective leader places a priority on the right people, and does not see himself as the sole navigator.  I suspect that the effective leader may well have a good idea of where the bus should go, but in genuine humility he is willing to consider the God-given insights of others.  What Collins is suggesting, as applied to the church, is that we lead to where God would have us go, and be less concerned about whether the destination is primarily according to the leader’s preconceived atlas.

Putting a Bus Stop at Our Church

A generation ago it was not uncommon for a churches to have bus ministries. Volunteers would drive a bus to pick people up from around the community and shuttle them to and from the church.  Jim Collins, in his best-selling book Good to Great, seems to suggest churches still need to get people on and off the “bus”.  But Collins, if we apply what he writes to ministry, has a more allegorical idea about the Church Bus:

The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, “Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.

Collins’ insight offers great wisdom to those leading churches and minstries.  Thom Rainer picks up and develops this idea, in his book Breakout Churches, calling it the Who/What Simultrack. I am certainly giving it serious consideration as the church I have the privilege to pastor, Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church, gives thought to our mission and vision. 

First, I think Collins’ observation is consistent with Solomon’s counsel of Proverbs 15.22:

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Anyone can offer a two-bit opinion. But to gain wise counsel we need the insights of the right people.

Second, it reminds me that people are at the very heart of God, not necessarily success.  To be  successful a church must focus on people. People are our mission, not programs.

Third, it inclines me toward humility. If Collins is right (and I believe he is) then I cannot do this alone.  I need the people God will bring into the picture, or will put on the bus, in order for us to be what God intends us to be and do what he has purposed for us to do. We have already seen examples of that, as God has brought certain people, and their gifts, to add to those who were already aboard. 

Fourth, it promotes patience. There are people who we need to get on our bus, but they won’t get on until we get to their stop.  It is foolishness, and counter-productive, to assume that the people  already with us will do all we need done; that they will do what God has not desgined them to do.  We must patiently depend upon God to introduce us to the people he wants to use.  As Rainer points out: Better to leave a postion unfulled for a long time than to rush to fill it with the wrong person.

Reflecting Jesus in Christ’s Church


If, as most Christians profess, Jesus is indeed the only Head of the Church, it seems reasonable that Christ’s Church should reflect His personality in it’s ministries and structure. 

One way that Jesus is reflected in the ministry of faithful churches has been the recovery of a balanced Word & Deed holistic ministry. By balanced I am in no way suggesting a compromise. Instead I am referring to churches that are uncompromising BOTH in their pursuit of sound Biblical and theological instruction AND in thier practice of meeting the real – spiritual and tangible – needs of their neighbors. 

This only makes sense, since Jesus is himself the Word Incarnated and the one who “came to serve, not to be served”. (See Mark 10.45)  Jesus’ service was expressed through miraculous practical, provision and help. And Jesus is the one who said to his disciples: “Just as the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (See John 20.21)  Traditionally churches have structured their leadership into the offices of Elder and Deacon, in accord with Biblical directive, to reflect Word & Deed. (Elders = Word; Deacons = Deed)

But I am increasingly becoming convinced that there is another, an additional, way that the personality of Jesus should be expressed in the Church.  This additional way, often referrred to as Tri-Perspectivalism or Multi-Perspectivalism, should be expressed in the Leadership Structure and in the ministry of the church. In fact, I am convinced that it needs to be the guage by which we evaluate the faithfulness of our congregations.

The Bible teaches that Jesus exercised three distinct offices:

  • Prophet
  • Priest
  • King

Each of these offices carry a significance.  In exercising these three offices Jesus also reveals aspects of his personality.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes for us how Jesus exercised each of these offices:

Q. 24. As a Prophet, Christ reveals the Will of God to us for our salvation by His Word and Spirit.

Q. 25. As a Priest, Christ offered himself up once as a sacrifice for us to satisfy divine justice and to reconcile us to God; and He continually intercedes for us.

Q. 26. As a King, Christ brings us under His power, rules and defends us, and restrains and conquers all his and our enemies.

Another way of looking at these distinct roles is:

Prophet is concerned with understanding and communicating God’s Truth, and applying it to every aspect of life.

Priest is concerned with the Spiritual Renewal and Transformation of all Christ’s People. The Priest is concerned not only for the conversion and intial reconcilation of the Believer to God, but also that all our lives be increasingly lived out in the joy and freedom that the Gospel secures and applies to us.

King is concerned with the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom, with both the Future fulfillment and Present Realities in mind.  In that sense, the King is concerned about both the mission and the structures of his Church.

What I have discovered is that each of these offices offers a unique perspective for leadership and ministry.  Each is equally important. Each must be equally considered. If all three are not equally considered the ministry of the church is unbalanced. In fact, if all three aspects, or perspectives, are not equally considered the ministry is not only unbalanced it is unfaithful.  It is not faithful to reflect the whole person of Christ, who is not only the Head but also the Model. Continue reading