Making Disciples in a Smaller Church

Making Disciples in a Smaller Church

While we often read and hear stories of the big companies and larger churches in our communities, statistics reflect that the significant majority of businesses (99 percent in fact) and churches are small.

Blessing of being Small

Perhaps there is something to be said for the blessing of being small that our culture often chooses to ignore. For such a time as this, in the midst of a rapidly changing context of church and ministry, I am blessed to serve as a pastor of a relatively small church. The journey of being pastor has been far from easy, yet it has also been a journey filled with blessings that I could never have imagined decades ago—blessings that have helped me celebrate that I am called to lead in a small church on a Big Mission.

Making Disciples who make Disciples

In the fall of 2017, the book Small Church on a Big Mission: Cultivating Missional Discipleship in Smaller Churches was published by 3DM Publishing as a journal of discovery. It chronicles my discovery of who I am as a beloved child of God and reflects the character and competencies that God has been developing in me over the last fifteen-plus years through a variety of ministry experiences. Most importantly, this is a journal of discovery in the call of discipleship and mission that God has placed on my life. This journey of discovery has led me to celebrate the blessings of being small while engaging in the Big Mission of revealing the Kingdom of God as we make disciples who make disciples.

Go Slow to Go Far

If you are looking for a new program that will provide you with a “let’s grow the church fast” strategy, you might as well stop reading.  I have come to realize that when it comes to culture change – you have to go slow to go far.  In reality, revolutionary cultural change often feels like it is moving at an evolutionary pace. 

3 Next Steps

If you are looking for practical principles for shaping your culture toward discipleship and mission that celebrate the bigness of God’s Kingdom, then I invite you to do three things: 

  1. Get some Information – pick up a copy of Small church on a BIG Mission with its focus on Personal Transformation, Practical Realities, and Purposeful Direction
  2. Follow someone who is worthy of Imitation – this was the most important step for me as I received coaching, encouragement, and challenge to grow in my character and competency as a disciple-making leader.
  3. Avoid the temptation toward Innovation – yep, you heard me correctly.  Don’t just grab this book and try to overlay it on your context as a program.  Instead, like the disciples who journeyed with Jesus – plan to abide and BE during a season of apprenticeship.  Trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you and tell you when the right time to move forward applying appropriate Innovation as you use these tools and resources of discipleship in your context. 

To connect with Jeff Allen, or to learn more about resources for discipleship and being a Small church on a BIG Mission – go to www.smallchurchbigmission.org or email Jeff at: pjallen@faithctr.org

FACING THE STORM

FACING THE STORM

By Eric Carpenter

The storm is not coming. It is here! Compare the RCA to a fleet of ships, the various classes. The current LGBTQ issues toss us in a great sea-roiling tempest. The eye of the storm has pulled us in.  The fleet slowly circlescrippled. Some already lost. Some separated and aligned with other fleets. If strategic, insightful leadership does not emerge NOW, the fleet will be scattered. Facing the storm demands biblically rooted and Spirit-empowered leadership NOW.    

The Rocky Mountain classis has submitted a paper (attached) and an Overture (see below) for General Synod. I have interacted with RCA leaders who have read these documents. Sadly, there is a significant misunderstanding of the core intentespecially among those most theologically aligned with us.  Here are some clarifications and a heartfelt plea. 

Please reread the overture and paper. Pray and reconsider the core ideas.

I myself have just read the 20 overtures included in the General Synod workbook.  We are a house divided. We will not survive the storm without a firm hand on the tiller.

The Rocky Mountain Classis Overture (RMCO) is unique among all the others. The theological positions on LGBTQ issues are easily discerned for each Overture.  Notice, however, that the RMCO does NOT argue for any one position.  Instead, it presents a discernment framework for developing a way to survive the storm and sail on.

When you reread the RMCO’s discussion of the three Pauline options, you will realize we do not directly advocate one particular position. We simply present a framework for discussion.  This is the unique intent of RMCO. 

Don’t frown and give up. Forbear one another in love

I’ve just preached on sanctification and the fruit of the Spirit. There I rediscovered the fruit of forbearance or patient endurance, and it struck me in regards to the RCA.  Yes, many leaders feel done with this issue. That’s how I felt ten years ago, so don’t talk to us about forbearance. However much we want them to, these issues aren’t going away. They must be dealt with.

Instead of using the discussion recommended by the RCA, the RMC reframed the conversation according to the attached paper.  Each RMC participant read it prior to the gathering. There was a formal presentation, and then we broke into small groups for discussion.  Several important comments came up.  An Elder remarked, “This frame work is incredibly helpful. It clarifies what I think about these issues. Who else is using this framework?”  The answer “No one besides us, the RMC.”  

Then a pastor commented, “This framework is really asking us to pull back and think theologically and biblically about the nature of the LGBTQ issues before us.”

Another Elder stood, his voice shaking, “It is incredibly important that we get this right.  If these issues are not ‘disputable matters’ and we treat them as such, we grieve the heart of God.  But if they are indeed ‘disputable matters’ and we don’t treat them as such, then we grieve the heart of God.”

As a classis, most favored a particular “direction.” We continued, however, to discuss what our role should be, and agreed that it was not to share our conclusions. Instead, we invited the RCA to use this framework in approaching LBGTQ issues. From this discussion then, the Overture grew, inviting the denomination to “get this right together.”  Let us discern the prophetic voice for this time.   

Forbearance, perseverancehear my plea.  We do not ask for the same old discussion, but for a new framework. This could be the beginning of the end of the matter.  

Support this approach. Advocate for the discernment framework.

Our RMCO can be supported or denied by both conservatives and progressives. From friends and co-laborers across the theological spectrum, I have heard both affirmation and resistance. The RMCO framework allows for peaceable discussion, for innovation, for truth to emerge.

To return to the storm analogyhere is an opportunity to stop shooting at each another from our little boats. Let us prayerfully reflect and discuss how we can move away from the center of the storm. This may be in different directions, or as one. At least, it will be away from the raging storm that threatens to destroy us all.  

General Synod 2018 Overture #18

Definitive Resolution and Direction to LGBTQ Issues

The Classis of Rocky Mountains overtures the 2018 General Synod to request the GSC, the regional synods, and each classis to engage in discussions regarding a definitive path forward for the Reformed Church in America at their next stated meetings. Given our current state of contention and division regarding scriptural interpretation and application of LGBTQ individuals’ status and participation issues at all levels of denominational polity, the time has come to determine the future of the RCA. These issues have been detrimental to the creative energy and efficiency of the denomination, particularly during recent years, and we need to progress toward a resolution that is compatible with the scriptural interpretational beliefs of all involved.

Though the questions submitted via R 17-56 at the 2017 General Synod were meaningful for discussion, in their present format they do not lead toward definitive resolution of these issues.  Given that, a set of questions for further discussion at all levels is proposed herein. Results of these discussions are to be summarized and shared with the 2019 General Synod by the General Secretary and/or his appointed representative.  This should be accomplished in consultation with the GSC, regional synod executives, and classis pastoral and/or elder representatives as appropriate.

The questions proposed for discussion are:

  1. Does scriptural interpretation provide that alternative sexual lifestyle behavior is a “disputable matter” rather than one that is indisputable? (See Romans 14.) If deemed a “disputable matter,” what are the reasons and what should the related action be? A possible resolution could be the development of “conscience clauses” within each level of church polity (church, classis, regional synod, general synod) to establish policy for scriptural acceptability of alternative sexual lifestyle behavior. The resultant action might then be the maintaining of the unity of the Reformed Church in America as one denominational body, allowing for differences in scriptural interpretation of these issues.
  1. Does scriptural interpretation provide that alternative sexual lifestyle behavior is not a “disputable matter” but one over which to “break fellowship” and begin disciplinary action? (See 1 Corinthians 5.)  If so, what are the reasons and what should the related action be? A possible resolution could be to begin disciplinary procedures through our judicial system, as outlined in the Book of Church Order, Chapter 2.
  1. Does scriptural interpretation provide that alternative sexual lifestyle behavior is not a “disputable matter” but one over which to “separate for mission” and initiate the process of a peaceful separation? (See Acts 15:36-41.) If so, what are the reasons and what should the related action be? A possible resolution could be the orderly creation of different denominational entities that would be compatible with their own scriptural viewpoints and convictions surrounding LGBTQ issues.

As with any proposal having significant import to the future of the denomination, the entire process should be constantly covered in prayer, focused on Holy Scripture, and provide an open and accepting environment for authentic and honest discussion within relevant assemblies and with one another to further God’s purposes within the Reformed Church in America and the world we are called to serve.

DISPUTABLE MATTERS?

DISPUTABLE MATTERS?

Note: The following article gives some background to City Classis’ recently approved Framework of Life Together (Link to Framework).  Bill White (City Classis) is a planting pastor of City Church Long Beach.  Here is one discussion on “Disputable Matters”.  City Classis’ Framework will be discussed at the Regional SUMMIT April 17-18.

At the City Classis meeting in February, as we considered the weighty topic of how we could move forward given the theological differences among us surrounding human sexuality, a number of people brought attention to the need for more earnest, biblical discussion around what Paul calls “disputable matters” (Rom 14:1). Since I was on a team of leaders from our local congregation that spent 20 months looking at biblical passages about LGBTQ inclusion in the church, I offered to host a two hour bible study over lunch. Upwards of twenty elders and pastors gathered for a spirited conversation.

So here’s my take on how that bible study went, as well as the overall tenor of the classis meeting. Of course others might nuance it differently, but at least this is one window into that time together.

Like our classis, the room was more or less equally divided between those who would say they take a more traditional approach and those who would say they take a more progressive approach. To warm up and see if we could model the kind of dialogue that the Apostle Paul seemed to think was possible for followers of Jesus, we started off looking at a couple of key passages before we got to Romans 14. Could a real dialogue be possible between dedicated, passionate followers of Jesus who see things so differently?

Genesis 1-2

We broke into teams to look at the best traditional arguments against LGBTQ inclusion from Genesis 1-2 and at the best progressive arguments in favor of LGBTQ inclusion from those same texts. The key was that each team had people with both perspectives on it. So a group of traditionalists AND progressives worked on the best traditional arguments, and a group of both progressives AND traditionalists worked on the best progressive arguments. Then, one of the progressives presented to the room the best traditional arguments, followed by one of the traditionalists presenting the best progressive arguments.

No straw men here! We weren’t taking pot shots, we weren’t throwing around putdowns like ‘homophobe’ or ‘low view of scripture.’ We were wrestling with what’s really there in the bible, and trying to sort out what it means today. There were plenty of questions and lots of clarifying, and mostly a lot of love and respect. People actually listened.

Wrestling with Genesis 1-2 from different perspectives…

Romans 1

After not nearly enough time in Genesis 1-2, we moved on to Romans 1 with the same procedure. We read the text out loud in our diverse groups and then dug in again and wrestled with the scriptures. The conversation was so rich that we all wished we’d had more time. It yielded references to Augustine, various Greek words, ancient Near East culture, modern science and fancy words like ‘etiology’ – and long lists on the board of the best traditional and best progressive arguments from that text.

(Aside: The arguments lined up quite similarly to those of the LGBTQ Study Team here at City Church of Long Beach. In case it’s helpful to review the best arguments from both sides, here is the blog I wrote afterwards summarizing our remarkable journey through that text as a blended group of progressives and traditionalists seeking truth together in scripture.)

Romans 14:1-15:7

The rest of our time in bible study was spent in the end of Romans, where Paul wrote vigorously to keep the church in Rome together in the midst of major disagreements. In essence, Paul describes a middle category of beliefs that lies between essentials and opinions. These beliefs are truly important, and yet sincere followers may find themselves understanding them differently because of how two or more biblical truths exist in dynamic tension. We worked and wrestled together to discern what qualifies as a disputable matter, what the limits are to not causing ‘someone else to stumble’ (14:20), and whether this applies to how congregations treat other congregations.

One of the things I found particularly helpful was agreeing together that Paul’s intent for using the disputable matters approach in Rome was certainly not to replace proper discipline nor to promote an “anything goes” mentality. It was to manage life together across theological differences where those in covenant relationship highlighted different emphases in scripture to the point of causing real tension.

In the formal business meeting, after more intense conversation, debate, and disagreement – all marked by great respect and love and, really, affection – the classis ended up overwhelmingly (84%) approving the proposal (included in this Regional Synod of the Far West newsletter) that stops just short of a disputable matters approach to LGBTQ inclusion in the local church. This almost-but-not-quite approach is meant to honor the request of a few congregations for more time for study and discussion.

Throughout all of these conversations, the most compelling insight for me and I’m sure for many others was simply that we began to model a disputable matters approach. I wasn’t articulate of it till later, but we were starting to live into the very thing we were talking about. Even as we discussed difficult passages like the creation narrative, Romans 1 and, ironically, the phrase ‘disputable matters,’ we recognized differences, we traced how those differences were based in scriptural understandings and convictions, and we continued in community together while having challenging but honoring dialogue. Not everyone agreed but everyone stayed in the room, and doors remain open for continued dialogue, debate, and growth.

Enclaves of Hope

As any number of commentators have pointed out, since the 2016 presidential election our country has become increasingly fractured and then deeply entrenched in their separate camps. Sadly, this seems to have been true in our gathered, denominational life as well. Yet there are some places where the borders are porous, where there is real progress being made in fierce and gracious conversations.

For example, I’ve heard that the most recent Rocky Mountain Classis meeting was marked by great dialogue around the three frameworks Rev. Eric Carpenter proposed to the Regional Synod for how to have these conversations. Also, Bruce Bugbee reported last month that the Regional Synod executives had their best connection ever and made deep commitments to better dialogue. Wes Granberg-Michaelson used the phrase ‘enclaves of hope’ in a Sojourners piece to describe just these phenomena. He was referring specifically to the City Classis dialogue around human sexuality, but I’m certain he’d say the same about the Rocky Mountain Classis dialogue as well.

In a local context, I can say that living together in honest diversity centered around Jesus is actually possible. As a response to the denomination-wide invitation of the past five presidents of the RCA, City Church of Long Beach started a group in 2016 as a venue for those who disagreed to gather around scripture, centered on Jesus, and to have have Spirit-led conversations about human sexuality. This January, that LGBTQ Study Team concluded, and the entire group (traditionalists and progressives and those in between) presented to the congregation our united perspective, which was a disputable matters approach.

In the two months since that Sunday, not a person has left our church. In those same two months, I and the other pastor at City Church of Long Beach haven’t had a single significant conversation with anyone in our congregation about questions of LGBTQ inclusion! It’s not that we avoid those conversations (we had anxiously prepared for them!) – they simply did not materialize. Instead, the congregation has focused on what God has been up to in our midst and in our community. We’ve had more conversions and baptisms than we had all last year, and we’re gaining ground in both budget and attendance. Conversation led to clarity, which led to consensus, which freed us for mission. Our radically diverse church (no one ethnic group or age group is a majority) has come to realize that the person of Jesus, the mission of God, and the leading of the Spirit are enough to keep us together.

On this journey with City Church of Long Beach and with City Classis, I’ve become increasingly convinced that our inclusion into the Body of Christ is constituted not by our assent to a set of principles but by Jesus’s own initiation towards us, as evidenced in our baptismal vows.  This sacramental view of what it means to be part of the God’s family is not just theory. In these fierce and loving classis conversations about disputable matters and in other places all over the region, we are moving from theoretical discussion to lived reality. I am convinced that real dialogue and real partnership are still possible for those who disagree.

Bill White

Bill@CityChurchLB.org

562.400.3934

www.CityChurchLongBeach.org

ONE WAY A CLASSIS IS REFRAMING THE DENOMINATIONAL DISCUSSION

ONE WAY A CLASSIS IS REFRAMING THE DENOMINATIONAL DISCUSSION

The following is an open letter from Rev. Eric Carpenter to the Rocky Mountain Classis. This is something Rocky Mountain Classis is doing to move their conversation forward regarding the right questions for churches to consider in the LGBT discussion and denominational unity.  What we believe will guide the steps we take. Share your thoughts…

LGBTQ: What is the right question?

By Eric Carpenter

At the last General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, the delegates requested that a denomination wide discussion take place “in light of the current state of contention and division.” The RCA provided three questions that should be included in this discussion:

  1. How do we understand the biblical calling to live together in a unity of fellowship and love for one another?
  2. Are we willing to see the Reformed Church in America embark on a serious division, and what is our part in bringing reconciliation and restoration?
  3. What do we believe is God’s intended future for the Reformed Church in America?

I confess, that as I read the above questions I had a profound sense of disappointment.  Progress cannot be made if we simply remain in vague generalities. I am concerned that if we don’t ask the right questions, then our denominational discussion will prove unfruitful and we will simply keep kicking the proverbial can farther down the street.

My conviction is that if we are going to move towards resolution we have to not only name the “current state of contention and division,” but also discuss the nature of the contention and how we believe the Lord is calling us to pastorally address our present state.  In other words, in light of the present struggle, where do we go from here!

Naming the Issues:

I believe there would be a general agreement regarding the dilemma that we face as a denomination. The issues aren’t simply beliefs and convictions about the LGBTQ community, or even simply the authority of scripture in light of these issues.  But an important reality to be named is that we have leaders within the RCA (pastors, church planters, elders, professors, teachers) that have extremely divergent convictions regarding LGBTQ issues.  In both beliefs and practice around these issues, we do not have unity. 

On one side of these issues, are the self identified “Conservatives” or “traditionalists” (pastors, church planters, elders, professors, teachers) see these issues through a lens of righteousness and sin. These leaders hold to a traditional view of marriage and sexuality, and any same-sex sexual activity is considered sin.  These leaders see these issues as not only clearly stated in scripture, but also historic and orthodox. 

On the other side of these issues are the self identified “Liberals” or “Progressives” who do not share in these beliefs and convictions regarding the LGBTQ community.  These leaders (pastors, church planters, elders, professors, teachers) believe that a same-sex covenant marriage can fall under the blessing of God.  They are “open and affirming” of same-sex covenant relationships, believing and advocating that gay persons in same-sex marriages should be allowed to serve at every level of leadership within the church.  Some of these leaders are advocating for constitutional change within the RCA, allowing the denomination to become “open and affirming.” Other progressive leaders simply want to be allowed to live out their convictions without facing reprisal or discipline.

Three Pauline Resolutions:   

In the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul, we see him handling a number of different issues and disagreements.   Depending on the nature of the issue or disagreement, he gives different council and wisdom.  He prayerfully considered each situation, and then gave direction and a course of action based on the nature of the situation.  I think there are three approaches or resolutions that we can find in Paul, and then discuss which one the Lord is calling us to in light of the issues that we face.

1) Disputable Matters:

This phrase comes from Paul, in Romans 14.  He was talking about a few controversial issues at the time.  He says, “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” Rm. 14: 1 One matter that Paul considered “disputable” was: is it okay for a follower of Christ to eat food sacrificed to an idol?  He was encouraging the Christians to no quarrel but to love one another even though they may disagree with each other on this issue:

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” (vs. 13)

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (vs. 19)

So I think a very legitimate and important discussion is not necessarily what everyone believes about homosexuality, but would this be an issue that is “disputable” and therefore we seek to love one another well in the midst of disagreement.  If Paul was the leader of the RCA, would he speak verses 13 and 19 to us as sisters and brothers in Christ? 

It is interesting to note that Paul had his convictions about this subject (see vs. 14) yet decides not to argue his point but to argue for unity in the midst of diverse opinions on this subject. 

If we believe that these issues surrounding homosexuality fall in the category of “disputable matters” then we should let words of Jesus in his priestly prayer be a lens through which we proceed:

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity.” John 17: 22-23a

I believe that a modern day issue within the RCA that is a “disputable matter” is infant baptism.  Though the denomination has pretty clear views on this subject, in practice we allow our leaders and churches to live in diverse convictions and practices.  Should issues surrounding homosexuality ultimately be handled as we do infant baptism? I know leaders on both sides of the issue that would advocate this kind of pastoral approach. I think people of these convictions should be allowed to discuss their point of views.  They should be able to express their reasons why they believe we should handle our present conflict as a “disputable matter.” And this should not simply be a temporary fix until one side “wins”, but this should be an approach that is established and permanent. 

2) Breaking of Fellowship:

There is another instance in Paul’s letters that he does not encourage unity in the midst of diversity, but says that sin must be dealt with.  He is rebuking the Corinthian church for celebrating sexual sin rather than removing the perpetrator from their midst. 

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 1 Cor. 5: 1-2

Paul does not want discussion on this matter; he has already passed judgment (see vs. 3) and is reprimanding the church for inaction. This is not unlike the words of the resurrected Christ to the church in Thyatira where he held against them that they “tolerate” (see Rev. 2: 20) a false prophetess and her teachings.

If we believe that the issues surrounding homosexuality fall in the category of the “Breaking of Fellowship”, then we then we should let words of Jesus in Matthew 18 regarding the dealing with sin be a lens through which we proceed:

“If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Mt. 18: 17

I think a modern day example of this is the exclusiveness of Christ.  The RCA has removed pastors or churches for being Universalists.  This was not an issue to live in unity over, but to be dealt with and then the individual “removed from community” if they do not repent.  Is homosexuality this kind of issue? 

I do ask this question of both sides of the issue.  I know both conservatives and progressives that do not believe we can live in diversity over this issue.  If homosexuality is indeed an issue of social justice, then we must not compromise in any way.  If homosexual activity is exclusively a matter of righteousness and sin, then we must not compromise or tolerate in anyway.  I think people of these convictions should be allowed to discuss their point of views.  Why do they believe that this is a “deal breaker” for them, and not a disputable matter?

3) Separate for Mission:

There is one more option that I see in the life of Paul.  I think it is less clear and precise but worthy of consideration.  In Acts 15, we see Paul and Barnabas’ successfully advocating for Gentile believers in the Jerusalem Council.  But then right after that, surprisingly and somewhat sadly, Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement about whether to bring John Mark, who had abandoned them previously. We are told that their disagreement was so sharp they decided to separate and pursue their own next mission.

They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.  Acts 15: 39-40   

I am sure that Barnabas and Paul still considered one another “brothers in Christ.”  They still were connected to the church of Antioch and to one another.  And yet, they separated to pursue God’s next mission, yet in different directions with different companions.  We learn that this separation was for a time, but in some way it was resolved (see 1 Cor. 9: 6 and 2 Tim. 4:11) 

I could not think of an example within the RCA such as “Infant Baptism” or “Universalism”, but I do think we see an example or form of this in another denomination.  Our Episcopalian/Anglican sisters and brothers have separated over these very same issues.  They have avoided a complete split, but have established a three year agreement of separation.   They are still unsure how this will be resolved in the coming years.  Perhaps this option should be considered if we are ultimately not sure if this present matter is “disputable” or something that we must break our unity over.  But regardless, I believe it is a pastoral and denominational response that is worthy of consideration.  What could this potentially look like for the RCA?  How do we begin the process of separation with the possibility to explore and evaluate further?  People of this perspective should be able to share their perspectives.

Determining a Way Forward

I am not writing as a “conservative” or a “progressive”, I am writing as someone longs for resolution so that we might began to focus more and more resources on mission rather than this area of conflict.  I have strong theological convictions about homosexuality, but I am undecided regarding the best way forward.  I think these “pastoral responses” would potentially be very fruitful discussions that could potentially indicate the direction that we should take. 

If a majority the assemblies that are going to be having this denominational discussion found themselves supporting one of the three options, that could provide huge clarity to future General Synods and our future General Secretary. 

Recommended Process and Questions:

Seeking the presence and the counsel of the Holy Spirit, I would like to put forward a suggested process for our discussion. 

  1. Forming the Discussion: Send out this position paper which builds the argument for shaping our discussion around Paul’s three pastoral responses.
  2. Pre-Classis Study and Prayer: In preparation for the discussion, can we invite classis members to study and pray through the three following passages:  Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 5 and Acts 15.
  3. Questions for Discussion (Part 1): 
  1. What do you think makes an issue a “disputable matter?” What do you think makes an issue one that we should “break fellowship over”? What do you think makes an issue a “separate for mission” one? 
  2. In your opinion, do you think the questions and convictions surrounding the LGBTQ community should be handled as a “disputable matter”, a “breaking fellowship” manner, or a “separate for mission” matter? Why or why not? 
  3. What ways would we be able to “live in unity in the midst of disagreement” with regards to the LGBTQ community?
  4. What are the options/recommendations before us if we ultimately decide to “break fellowship” over these issues?

      Questions for Discussion (Part 2):

  1. What do we believe is God’s intended future for the Reformed Church in America (In light of our discussion)?
  2. Is there enough unity within our classis to make a recommendation, or should we simply report the content of our discussion? 
  3. If we have enough unity as a classis, what would our recommendation be? 
SPEED OF THE LEADER, SPEED OF THE TEAM

SPEED OF THE LEADER, SPEED OF THE TEAM

One mentor used to tell me, “Speed of the leader, speed of the team.”

As I reflect on my leadership over the years, that has proven true in both positive and negative ways.

On one hand, when a leader develops, grows and matures, members of the team are inspired and empowered to improve as well.  Members of a team or staff look to the leader to set the culture of excellence and development.  They will often follow the example and direction the leader sets with the tone and tenor of their life. In this way, “more is caught than taught.” So if we want our teams to improve, we must start by seeking to grow and develop ourselves.  Leaders who want to exponentially maximize their influence create an environment where feedback and growth are part of the culture.

On the other hand, a leader has the potential to slow or halt a team’s ability to function if they become the bottleneck in effectiveness.  We’ve all witnessed leaders in both the church and the marketplace impede the growth of their mission because they neglected their own development and equally important, they refused to empower gifted catalytic leaders in their midst.  By holding back those gifted to lead out of lack of vision or being threatened by the gifts of those around them, the community suffered or did not experience the vibrant potential growth that was possible.

It is critical that we continually pursue growth in our leadership, and it is essential that we are diligently on the lookout for gifted leaders around us and under our care that we can call out and empower to lead in their gifting.  If you are so inclined, set a goal this month by jotting down the answer to 2 questions and committing to take action by Christmas:

– What are 1 or 2 ways you can develop your capacity and talent as a leader?

– Who is someone in your community that is perhaps more advanced than you in a particular area that you have not yet empowered, and how will you encourage and unleash them to lead in their gifting?

God bless you as we hope and strive for leadership in our churches to consistently increase, and thus the Body of Christ increases its ability to follow Jesus for the renewal of the world!