UPDATE: 6:53pm Hey I just received the topics for the Nines and I took a look. Guess what? It's much more practical and personal this year, compared to 2010 and to what I was thinking. The topics are about family, personal fitness, working with staff, gracefulness with difficult people, etc and NOT even remotely about the subject matter below. So, if I decide to submit my video(s), then it will probably be NOTHING AT ALL like the wild ranting and raving that happened this morning after I drank too much coffee. If it was, Todd would probably reject it. And rightly so. But you are welcome to read the blog post anyway.
ORIGINAL: The speakers for The Nines are now open for nomination. Want to pick me?
I really like The Nines. I enjoyed speaking last year. I love the way in which this online event takes place - free and available to all. But what worries me, and why I would like to get my voice in the midst this year, [AGAIN], is that almost all of the speakers are coming out of the old church paradigm, giving motivational talks about how to keep an outdated model of church/ministry running a little longer, getting that extra mile before conking out and giving way to a global reality that is currently being ignored.
Church as we have known it is passing away. CCM. Publishing. Seminary. Conferences. All passing away or morphing into something different. There is a new paradigm. But this process is taking longer in the USA due to the residual church which is still packing a punch and, unlike in many countries, has the luxury of existing a little bit longer.
I believe there is a lot USA can learn from the global church, especially in areas of the world where the church is growing rapidly and ministering widely in all areas of life. There is some serious catching up to do if Americans want to contribute to the bigger scene, which they have done for many years.
I also worry that this lag time will hinder the global Christian movement. Many Americans, turning up overseas to bless ministries and start new ones, have no idea how to operate in the new paradigm and they take up too many resources in forcing the old paradigm to work. Not only this, but the structures they start are usually the first ones to be dismantled by governments who are not friendly to Christianity and even less so to anything that smells American.
Last year at the Nines, my talk tackled the recession and how we can harness the potential of voluntary poverty to fine-tune our ministry strategy, returning to Luke 10 to discover the way of Jesus and his disciples - principles of ministry that actually work better in a resource-poor environment. I filmed the video at a semi-legal punk squat in Germany where young people live in converted fire engines and UPS vehicles, finding a way to live together sustainably. I suggested the recession could teach us how to live together sustainably and fulfill our mission. I still believe that.
A few things have happened to me since last year:
1. I have been around the world, literally, and I have seen some new stuff that really challenged me. [Ask me about China]. Although I want to stay connected with the old, I don't want to waste my time extending its shelf-life if I can better serve God by promoting and participating in what He is doing now.
2. I participated in the Lausanne World Congress in Cape Town and was able to realign my ambitions and missional direction into the flow of the global church.
3. I have witnessed a revival of missional micro-business and social enterprise, in both mission, monastic and church structures, that I feel is more connected to the early days of Protestant mission, and modeled in the New Testament, and I believe will help us all move into successful, sustainable ministry in these times of recession. The Moravians did it. William Carey did it. We need to do it also.
Let's use the recession as a time of re-orientation and recalibration RATHER than ignoring it and just asking for MORE MONEY to do the same thing which has suddenly got a lot more expensive.
This year, if I get nominated [hint hint] I want to start on the assumption that the old paradigm is already over and the new has begun. How do we do church NOW?
Church as we have known it is not the first option for the next generation. Neither is it an affordable option. It is not sustainable in the long term. It was birthed out of surplus and nurtured in a favorable environment. It is supported financially by "tithing" which is a doctrine under suspicion by the next generation, who, like some Reformation movements, consider it heretical and a poor substitute for biblical generosity and having "all things in common" [koinonia].
Seminaries are in trouble. They depend on accessibility to easy credit for student loans which should not be an assumption in these tough financial times. Having a "high student count" is not a sign of success. My guess is that most of those M.Div students will not walk into the paid positions they are training for. Many will return to Seminary to work on a doctorate to get the competitive edge. Having racked up 7 years of debt, students with overseas missions aspirations will never find the support to pay back their loans, let alone their high monthly support required to live a similar life in a more expensive country with a weak American dollar. There are not enough paid positions awaiting Seminary graduates and the pay is not sufficient to eliminate their loans in a reasonable time. It is more common now for young people training for ministry to avoid Seminaries and Bible Colleges or not consider them an affordable option.
The ideal of the executive ministry speaker who wears nice clothes and flies to nice places to say in nice hotels and eat at nice restaurants while speaking to nice people who pay him a nice honorarium to do so . . . and then returns to his nice home . . belongs to a different world. That world has passed away.
Come on people. The carnival is over. Lets admit it and talk about how to start again.
The Christian music industry as we have supported it, is over. I have been talking with the people who started it and they tell me its over. I believe them.
The Christian publishing industry, as we have enjoyed it over our lifetime, is over. It will regroup. It will adapt, slowly. But it will never be the same. And the opportunity provided by the old-media to new-media publishing transition will be open to new players. This is already happening.
The church planting movement, in its ecclesiocentic and unholistic form, has played out its song and is now doing an unrequested encore. If the old models of church are not working properly in our own countries, why export them to places that are already experiencing successful multiplication with simpler and more sustainable models?
The emerging church movement, despite continuing the conversation on eschatology, ecclesiology and ethics in the USA, has peaked, matured, in some cases failed, in others succeeded, has been adopted and co-opted and has run its course. Many of new movements among the next generation are starting from a different place under a different label. I get asked for book recommendations on the the new thing but nothing comes to mind. But its reality - I see it!
Prayer meetings are focused on making our outdated methods work better. Maybe God wants us to change what we are doing before he blesses it?
Mission-shaped mission, as it happening around the world, does not look like traditional missions any more than mission-shaped church looks like traditional church. Why do we continue to look for the same thing? We seek David, but end up with Saul. God teach us how to see.
Movements happen on the fringe. But we continually aim at the mainstream. At the same demographic. Which gets smaller and smaller each year. We fight over the one sheep because nobody wants the 99 who don't fit our ministry profile.
The rise of monastic-style communities and missional social enterprise centers in the Protestant world are providing a new way of doing training, business, missions and whole-life discipleship that are replacing the role of seminaries, large churches, and Christian conferences. But you will not hear that from leaders of seminaries, pastors of large churches or from organizers of Christian conferences. Obviously. McDonald's does not sell pizzas.
I saw American missionaries overseas sell their washing machines and move back to USA. There are many reasons why, but nobody is talking about missionary attrition. Our best missionary families, who know the language and culture, are returning due to lack of funds and in their place we are sending teams of teenagers to visit mission pilgrimage sites on a 3 week tourist trip. Something has gone wrong.
We have missionaries who are living better than the people who support them back home. Is it too much to ask for a voluntary asceticism to match the mission call? Can we talk about creative living arrangements? Sustainable lifestyles? Greater co-operation with other agencies rather than duplication and repetition? Of course. But maybe the problem is a lack of sustainable models in the home country that they can draw from when they go overseas?
If Americans want to play in the sandbox in global missions and sustainable holistic church ministry then they need to listen to what the majority world is already discovering and implementing. I am sorry if that is hard to hear. But I don't know a nicer way to say it.
In Hong Kong I asked a Seminary student what Chinese theologians he was reading. He said none. His Seminary only offers Western books - mostly American. I asked him the reason for that, considering the church in America is losing ground each year while the Asian church continues to move forward. He didn't know. Is it possible the American church is just a whole lot better at self-promotion and image-maintenance than other countries? Or is there some substance behind it? Does the American church have a voice among themselves and also to the world?
Last year I visited the global emerging church in about 25 countries on 5 different continents. I don't have the full picture but I have a bigger one than I used to have. I gathered a few stories. I met some godly young people who challenged my paradigm of doing ministry. I learned some stuff. I saw some stuff.
Sorry if I am ranting. Or sounding angry. And you know I love America - my wife is American and so are our kids. But stuff is bubblin' . . .
Nominate me and Ill tell you what I saw. You will find my name WAY WAY down on the list, just below Harold Camping. ;-]