America and Mexico Humble me



For the least 3 weeks, I’ve been in America & Mexico. I didn’t really know why I was going, but now I know I really needed it. What was this trip about?

 How many guitarists does it take to change a light-bulb?
One… and the rest to say to themselves, “I could have done that.” 

I laugh at that joke, because I recognise in myself the propensity to compare myself, to over-estimate myself and under-estimate others. Well, when it comes to guitar, I haven’t thought that way for a long time, knowing my priorities & limits mean I’m not a patch on most other players. But my field of comparison or positive self-illusion would be Christian ministry. Secretly I think I’m pretty good at my bit – maybe not so secretly as I’m aware of a certain arrogance of which I’m not proud… guilty as charged.

However on this trip I have been humbled by meeting, and seeing in action, the skills and ministry expertise of some very amazing people. I’m seeing quality outreach ministries out there that I could not do, not even close. And I’m seeing nuances and strengths of ministries I’d not credited enough previously. I’m finding myself saying, “No I actually couldn’t have done that: that’s amazing!”

I think I can see why God had me go on this trip in a mystery-listening mode. He wanted me to travel with open mind & heart, to watch & learn what He is doing with people who are submitting to Him their lives, skills, talents, gifts, in ways that are out of my league! 

I met simple street preachers who spearhead simple but effective churches. They have kept the gospel DNA pure, without losing the holistic implications of it. Their methods are winsome and bold, and locally appropriate. I’ve come to not just respect but greatly admire the international OAC family. They even let me have a go at it.

I met architects of incrediblycomplex networks-of-networks of evangelistic, transformative churches, who have managed to distill leadership development pathways into simple stages. And we’re talking complex leadership & strategic infrastructures at the top end – and it’s producing a new church-plant every 11 days, now that the networks have spread! And the number of men engaged is wonderful to see. Over my head… oh I understood what CCC and NewThing leaders were saying & doing, but because I haven’t done that apprenticeship, I don’t have that capacity to initiate or lead what they’re doing! I’ll have to start at the bottom if I want that.

Willow Creek baptisms

I met people whose corporate management systems and attention to detail have created a kind of hospitality & servanthood that left me shaking my head in wonder. Willow had 70 baptisms one weekend, and I saw it jump to 90 before my very eyes, and felt the truth of what was happening. And I saw how their generosity works to combat consumerism.

Too often I have crossed that fine line between simply articulating the benefits of what I’m doing vs devaluing the work of others. Positive illusions & negative attributions. And now I feel a bit like Job after God showed him a thing or two – I repent in dust and ashes.

I learned to appreciate anew what God can do with methods-other-than ours. Sure, Cheers is an extraordinary model, incarnated in Banksia Grove in ways that make real practical sense. Sure, hierarchical structures can create co-dependence but they don’t have to, and even if they do, God can still use them in spite of it. Cheers isn’t the best way, it’s just our best way – so far.

Forge prophetically espoused good missionary practices, and exposed problems with church systems in western cultures, but once the prophetic message was delivered and better practice inspired, more practical help would be needed by missio’s in the field, which we weren’t equipped to do. But…

Forge America has been learning those extra bits of know-how. Al & Kim have taken the humility dose, and learned new things from entrepreneurs, & skill-sets we didn’t have in Oz. Kim has garnered some great people and (WA-esque) synergies. Forge has returned to its core pioneering DNA; it’s found right people for the right tasks; it now has working, intentional strategies for reproducing; ways to actually structure networks of networks; and knows who to connect missios with for their next stages of development. It has a youth-forge, a better financial engine, and much better synergy within itself, and with other organizations. ForgeAm has both recaptured it’s pioneering edge, and matured a lot, learned lessons it needed if it was going to be more than a prophetic voice.

I’d like to think Forge Am can reboot a better Forge Aus, to make the prophetic dream real afterall. It will take a dose of humility, forgiveness, and lesson-learning, but I can see it happening because ex-Forgers are experimenters who don’t quit on the first failure. We’re not too proud to try something crazy for God’s Kingdom. Not afraid to eat some humble pie.

So the question for me amid all this inspiring stuff, is, what is my contribution? 

Jim Collins’ “Good to Great,” advises me to pare down to my core: evangelism is my sense of passion, gifting, and blessing, when I feel the Spirit at work in me. Putting into words concepts that help people find their way back to God – inSpiring faith in Christ’s mercy and grace, and its holistic implications.

Now also I have this excited respect for the rest of the Body of Christ, and I think that’s where this trip has been helpful, stirring in me a deeper appreciation for what’s possible in other parts. Maybe since I left Craigie  in ’95 in search of a “better way,” I have incrementally depreciated the norms. This trip has been a corrective, and perhaps might lead to greater co-operation between evangelists and the mainstream, and the other 5-fold ministries (apostle prophet evangelist pastor teacher).

So now I need to work out how this fits together. What I need to stop doing, and what to start. Please pray for me to get this right. 

The Trip itself:

  • LA: Whiteheads, Grant & Bev & Sam – Awww thanks so much for the soft landing in USA. For the water, the coffee, the shoe-shopping, the English pub, and sharing the LA-leg with me. Ssstaples?
  • LA – Mosaic, Hollywood: serving Hollywood artists, local community & associated people. Good chat with Erwin, filled in some of the story from his side about TW handover. EM had more of the knack of translating TW’s elegant planting theory on the ground. When took over leader job, he protected the pulpit – from TW.
  • LA – Tribe, dinner in biggest arts community in LA, which is found flourishing in sheds & buildings in industrial area, like a granny smith apple tree. Encouraged tribe to keep sewing together heaven and earth.
  • Long Beach – thanks Jensen’s for letting me crash, the great soup, and trusting me to share ecclesia with your crew. I love the community of straight up practitioners. Also a catch up on the other side of the EM/TW clash, which ended badly, clumsy at best. Looks like the board didn’t know how to handle the conflict, or the end, properly. Needed AO’s Teamwealth & T-Grids.

Mexico:

  • Misael – legendary job with the conference. Servanthood personified, and clearly uber-proficient guy. A pleasure to ride with you in the trunk! Robby G – for introducing me to the OACI family. Chris M – uber-skilled guy. Anatolly – festivals, street-preaching, with BU church-planters, 24-42 churches in 7 years. “If I get arrested it will be my sabbatical.” Holiday Inn, Guadalajara Centrico Historico, thank-you.
  • Street preaching > + contacts > Bible studies > church plants. Keep it simple where simple will do!
  • Secular westerners are hardened towards the gospel, everywhere.
  • Strategic Plan for OAC Australia 
  • Strategic Plan for OACWA

Chicago:

  • Whiteheads, Brandy, thanks for waiting for me, and still hosting me anyway, & Sidney, Scarlett, &Violet, thanks for the morning crazies. Darren, top book, top work, top bloke. Claimjumpers, yeah! Jake thanks for stoogie night, even tho Bulls lost.
  • Christian Community Church – Dave Ferguson, thanks for coughing up the goods when I put the stethoscope on your heart, and inviting me into the meet with Joe. Great to meet Eric & brian and Jon etc. Serious Franchise CEO-level strategies goin’ on there. And Joe’s network achievements in Russia, & reaching his limits. Yet CCC also simplified what they are doing in mission to Reach-Reproduce-Restore, & BLESS (Begin with prayer, Listen, Eat Serve, Story-tell). I was introduced to CCC office staff, and chatted with Kirsten who added Restore to their DNA.
  • New Thing does networks of networks, now there’s a new church plant every 11 days! Eric has some serious strategic skills. English clubs > BS > ch plants. KISS at coalface.
  • Willow Creek, Dr B’s cafe, 7 huge auditoriums, and multi-meetings per day. Alpha upgraded, Axis (way to go Laura!) Shifting restorative services to Sth Barrington to more closely align outreach gospel with services. Staff of 375+, need business/structure skills to run it. 5 campuses including DuPage. 7000-seat Big House. Closely guarded pulpit/teaching. tens of staff per service handling shop-front details etc… Gives heaps away for building funds (BH Fridays), cars, clothes, services, schools, partnering parents in intentional parenting. And remember all the Baptisms.
  • Steph, Lily & Chase, thanks for having me, and being so interested in how this “cousin” thing works. Reece, mate – thanks for the car-keys & TomTom, and all the insights into Willow, DuPage, and your world.
  • CCC-East Aurora – A piece of Mexico. Keep up the good work.
  • Hometown – a billionaire’s dream of infrastructure for community. And KH is doing a Cheers-esque work there. (Starting with 4 other couples).
  • Forge America – Kim has done great work. Networked in, slowed down, listened, learned the culture and from the past, made good connections > synergies, especially with CCC (auspice), & New Thing (structures of networks). Hubs, in KC, CA, KC, and with Wheaton, Johnson. People with necessary skill sets. Boot camps underway this year, 3.0 Youth-Forge, publishing. Renewed DNA (network of networks, pioneering primary, Reproducing systems, & structures for networks). Thanks Carter, Brian, Eric, for the insights and camaraderie. Thanks Kim for the honesty – pass on my love to Al. There is plenty of DNA for a better resurrected body. (The story doesn’t make sense without Phil’s part, but would he confirm it?)
  • Cheers 24 does Psalm 24 – there was nothing like our Cheers. You guys are so culturally amazing! :-))) I really enjoyed watching the swimming pool version of Psalm 24 that you guys did while I was away!

The Take-home Lessons: 

  • AO’s Leadership Teamwealth & T-Grids. – are handy everywhere. Add them to my roles in OAC (WA,SA,Aus,Zone,International), and SU, and Cheers.
  • KISS at the coalface. Simple as can be: street-level evangelism (however its done) PLUS church planting is the kind of synergy we want to see.
  • Super-strategy-structures can work, are even necessary when you’re running thousands! And thousands at a time can work too (Willow baptism night). Churches sometimes need to be complex, and require specialist skill-sets. But if they have good DNA* they can do ecclesia-missionary work.
  • *DNA more important: It doesn’t matter what the structure, simple or complex, it’s what you do with it that counts – the DNA. The orientation, what you’re fundamentally trying to accomplish, how for-the-other you are, how you manage the inner animal-defaults, whether you have the basic elements of worship, discipleship (disciplines like BLESS – Begin w prayer, Listen, Eat, Serve, Storytell) and a mission (like Reach-Reproduce-Restore).
  • ForgeAmerica – is now better than Forge Oz: (more like WA was, and then some.) They’ve found people with necessary skill sets, to provide: auspices, synergies, renewed DNA (skills for networks of networks, ensured pioneering is primary, viable income streams, boot camp content got underway this year.) Plus a kind of Youth-Forge, publishing, reproducing systems, & structures for networks (New Thing). I think ForgeOz can get back to its feet, improved, and encourage the DNA-holders to do mission even better than before. (In addition I suggest we add Andrew Olsen’s leadership stuff, and evangelism skills.)

So there you go. That’s a lot to process in terms of recommendations and changes. Please pray for me as I make necessary changes, so I know what to add and to subtract – all to the glory of God! 

Chicago deep-dish pizza - seriously!

For these and other pics from my trip, go to my FB page.

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