Paper Pt XXII: Endnotes


1Matthew 4:18
2NT Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004) p 102-103.
3Genesis 1:3-25
4Genesis 12:1-3
5Ephesians 4:6
6Ephesians 1:22
7Romans 8:20-21
8Genesis 1:26-31
9Luke 13:34, Isaiah 49:15-16
10Isaiah 54:5
11Ephesians 1:23
12Romans 8:19
13Ben Fielding, “He is Lord” This is our God Integrity Media, 2008.
14N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003) p 272 par 5.
15Colossians 1:20
16N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003) p 728-731.
171 Corinthians 1:22-25
18John 20:21-22
19Ephesians 2:14
20Ephesians 2:10
21Pastor Jimmy Siebert, Antioch Community Church, Waco, TX.
22Acts 4:13
23Pastor Mike Kerns, Vineyard City Church, Redding, CA.
24Phillip Yancey, Church: Why Bother? (Zondervan, 1998) p 33.
25Mark 5:18-19
26Matthew 10:5-8
27Luke 10:1
28Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, John 20:21-22, Acts 1:8
29Matthew 9:37-38
30John Wimber, Founder of the Vineyard.
31N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003) p 242.
32Matthew 28:19-20
33Ephesians 2:14-16
34Ephesians 2:14
35N. T. Wright, The Holy Spirit in the Church (Fulcrum Conference Islington, April 29, 2005) Section VI Paragraph 2.
36John 12:32
37Ephesians 3:10
38John 6:15
39Matthew 8:18
40John 6:66, Luke18:18-30, Matthew 8:19-20
41Luke 14:27
42John 12:23-25
43Matthew 5:3-12
44Dallas Willard, The Apprentices (Leadership Journal) para 15.
45Thom and Joani Schulz, Why Nobody Learns Much of Anything at Church: and How to Fix It (Group Publishing, 2004) p 31-32
46John 4:1-3, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:46
47Pastor Mike Kerns, Vineyard City Church, Redding, CA.
482 Corinthians 4:8
49John Wimber, I’m a Fool for Christ. Who’s Fool are You?, (Mercy Publishing, 1987) DVD.
50Lori Sharn, Mother Teresa Dies at 87 (USA Today, 9/5/97) para 18.


Paper Pt XXI: Do We Really Want Success?


The Cross is the God-sanctioned corrective to self-seeking humanity. It is the message of salvation, and the method of salvation. Jesus, fully God and fully human, was crucified to end the power of rebellion. As people joined to Him through the Cross and shaped by that same Cross, we must craft our praxis from a fully ‘Cruciform’ theology. It is not overly critical to say that we are too often missing the point. We, for all our attempts at orthodoxy, often fail at orthopraxy.

It is obvious that our failure at this point will not hamper God’s ability to move forward His Kingdom agenda. In the long run it may not matter much to God, it will, however, matter to us. In missing the point of God’s Kingdom project we will simply write ourselves out of redemptive history. Other movements have done so, will ours?

It is unlikely that the Vineyard movement will soon succumb to anything like what has stricken many of the mainline denominations. Perhaps, considering our spiritual DNA, we may never end up in the dry dustbin of bureaucratic structure and stale institutionalization with its incipient credentialism. There are, however, other ways of missing the point; crass commercialism and rampant individualism contradict the Cross as surely as calcified institutionalism. Ego-driven success is surely a sin as great as milquetoast mediocrity.

We must do away with standards of success that do not align with scripture, that are flatly contradicted by the life and ministry of the apostles, and stand in contradiction to the power of the Cross. Perhaps we should do away with the language of ‘success’ altogether. Mother Teresa was asked (in light of the continuing problem of global poverty and in spite of her heroic life-long efforts) if she ever got discouraged. She responded, “No. God doesn’t call me to be successful, God calls me to be faithful.”50 Scripture says the same thing, only in different words.

16"In that day," declares the LORD, you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master.' 
17I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked.
Hosea 2:16-17

It is our drive towards ‘success’ that has brought the Baals of individualism and consumerism into the Church. My prayer is that this paper would encourage the Church to cease striving to be a successful servant, and seek instead to become a faithful Bride.


Paper Pt XX: Tools That Speak Volumes

Each of these four areas should be seen as a very effective tool for communication; tools that must be implemented with a critical eye towards the message they communicate. In each of these four areas the Church is guilty of bad praxis that communicates bad theology. I am convinced however, that it is largely unintentional. This does not excuse it, but is rather a much greater indictment against us. We are guilty of engaging in practices we have not thought about. We are going through the motions, and they aren’t even the right motions.

We must move definitively out of the old paradigm and into the new one. We must not equivocate; we must be ruthless in rooting out wrong-headed praxis. The call is to abandon our successful side-shows, and enter the Master’s arena.  Here we are on less sure footing, we are with St. Paul “pressed and perplexed,”48 acknowledging that we are but children and students. We must confess that we can
successfully attract a crowd that will open their wallets or nod their heads at the appropriate times, and yet fail at church. We would do well to remember God’s word to our founder, “I have seen your ministry, John, now let me show you mine!”49


Paper Pt XIX: What Does that Mean?

Defining: Unreflective Praxis

Over time the meaning of the words we use can drift, the way that we use them can shift; the stories we tell may faithfully use the old language, but horribly misconstrue their meaning in the new contexts we are in. Fifteen hundred years can allow for quite a bit of drift! An important effort of the Reformation was to rethink traditionally held definitions. Not in an attempt to simply change existing ones for newer
ones, but to refine them for greater accuracy.

We must stop using traditionally defined words, concepts, practices, definitions, strategies, models, and methods without any significant and comprehensive reflection.

We must start defining words, concepts, practices, definitions, strategies, models, and methods in light of God’s Kingdom power and purpose revealed in the Cross.

This is a process that provokes a tremendous emotional response in those who look on; sacred cows will die, perhaps even our own; and so some fear and trepidation is expected. But, as we watch others play with matches near our cherished traditions, we must clearly state this, “We are not lighting a match to destroy our definitions, but to see them more clearly, and then compare them to the truth.“


Paper Pt XVIII: Emphasizing IS Prioritizing

Prioritizing: Majoring on the Minors

Educators talk about something they call Hidden Curriculum.45 A perfect example would be a History class that accomplishes the goal of teaching students facts about History, but does so with a method that has the unintended consequence of causing students to dislike the study of History. The hidden curriculum is, ‘history is boring.’ This can be said another way; what is taught, and what is learned, are not the same things, and so we must think through our curriculum from the learner’s point of view, not the educator’s.

This applies practically to the Church in our previous point on ‘counting.’ A large attendance isn’t bad, nor is counting it bad; rather, it is simply not comparatively all that important! After all, Jesus seemed more interested in hiding from the crowds, and sending people away (directly or indirectly), than in counting the number of His followers.46

The same goes for most of what passes for ‘Church Growth’ wisdom. Strategically thinking through the various church systems we employ, designing creative logos or corporate names, crafting precise mission statements, or implementing programs that meet congregational needs, are all varyingly good things. However, they are not best; something can be good, yet be 52nd on the list of importance.

We must stop prioritizing issues of secondary importance! There are appropriate times to deal with minor issues, but we cannot ever allow them to usurp the place of major issues.

We must start prioritizing what is primary! We must make our focus a theology and practice of the Kingdom of God; in terms of power, justice, and the Cross.

The amount of time spent on something, and the priority that it has in the discussion, communicate something. Our current practices often have the effect of communicating that something is 1st or 2nd when it is actually 52nd. My pastor would call that “majoring on the minors.”47 We will stand before our King and be held to account for the way we pray and teach people to pray, the way we serve and teach people to serve, the way we sacrifice, and teach people to sacrifice; not for the flashy mailers we do or don’t send to encourage church hoppers our way.


"My Rights" and Circumcision in Acts 16

This song is from my old life before Jesus, and I think it typifies the American cultural values of individualism and self-determination. Here are the lyrics:

My right to say what I want
And think the way I wanna think
My right I wanna speak my mind
My right to yell my right to scream
My right no one's ever gonna
Tell me what I have to do
I'll live my life the way I want
I don't care about your little world
And I can't believe you're telling me
What's good for me how do you know what's good?
And I can't believe you're telling me
What to believe, get away from me - my right
No matter what I do, to you
Is one big mistake
Well I'm sick of you I know I'm right
You sleazy money grubbing fake
My right my life my soul my mind
My body my existence means
That I don't have to listen to you
It's my right cause I'm a human being

The message? Stand up for your rights!


Here is a passage from the book of Acts, it comes right after the great Church Council in Jerusalem to determine the question of the Gentiles and the Law:

1He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

"...so he circumcised him..."

Four very important words for any man to read!

Why did Paul circumcise Timothy?

Because he was taking him on a journey through a region with many Jews.

What was the purpose of the journey?

To let everyone know that circumcision was no longer required!


A very different message than the one our culture gives us!  Paul is clearly compelled to fight for the rights of others (he goes to Jerusalem to battle against those who would compel Gentiles to obey a Jewish Law), and yet wants to teach his young disciple not to stand up for his own rights.  The message is, make sure people know you didn't have to do this, but rather that you chose to do this for their sake.

The Parable of the Hungry Girl

Paper Pt XVII: We Count What Matters

Counting: Poor Labeling Effects

A major effort of Environmental and Health advocates is changing the labels on our products. They are doing this because the label affects the consumption decisions people make. When we count something, or label something in a particular way, we create a sense of importance about that aspect of what we are labeling or counting. If this food product is indistinguishable from that one in all areas except for price, the obvious choice is the cheaper product. If however, there is new information added to the decision making process (it was produced in ways that don’t exploit labor, it is from a local producer, it uses a higher quality standard, etc.), we may choose the more expensive product.

Labeling is a key issue for the Church as well. Dallas Willard has said, “We need to stop counting people and start weighing them.”44 This is a critical task! It will require a lot more effort and ingenuity to take qualitative measurements instead of quantitative ones. However, it is not impossible, and to fail to do so is to fail at our calling.

We must stop counting the wrong things! If we count attendance, offering, and square footage, we are reinforcing the false value of these things, and we will continue to see the Church leveraging our resources to produce more of these things.

We must start counting the right things! A potential list of ‘hidden ingredients’ that we could start placing on the Church label could be thoughtfully created out of the fourteen implication listed in this paper. If we start counting these things we may actually begin to see the Church leveraging our resources (perhaps even intentionally decreasing in attendance, budget, or facility) to pursue these things.

In short, we need to think deeply and critically about the effect our labeling has on Christian holiness, community, and mission.


Paper Pt XVI: Where do we Shine the Spotlight?

Spotlighting: Imitating Popularity

Much is often made of the primacy of place given to athletes, actors, and musicians in our culture, simply because they are able to score points, look cool, and, well… Conversely educators, carpenters, retirees, or even simply ‘moral’ people, are never placed into the spotlight for these characteristics. Cultural exegetes are right to say that this communicates our cultural values; we place more importance on ‘being cool’ than being wise, skilled, or having good character. In short, what we give attention to, what we spotlight, communicates what we value.

In the Church we continually spotlight communities, ministries, and leaders who have a large attendance and polished administration.  These individuals are the speakers at conferences, they are the regional overseers within denominations. They are the authors we read, and the blogs we link to. We need to rethink this practice, and begin to choose what we highlight, in light of what is actually valuable, and what true indicators of the Kingdom’s presence are.

We must stop spotlighting people and ministries because of their size or polish! This merely reinforces the stereotype that Church is about large crowds, charismatic speakers, and anointed musical performances.

We must start spotlighting people and ministries because they faithfully articulate and practice the theology and praxis we see manifested in the Cross of the Messiah. We must highlight those ministries that successfully model the equipping role of leadership, that send out with no regard for ‘personal ministry success;’ that identify with the broken, and effect justice; that embrace the Cross.

To clarify, we don’t need to stop highlighting large ministries as a rule, we simply need to think critically about what we are trying to accomplish when we choose who and what we highlight, after all Jesus wouldn’t qualify for our spotlight! In beginning to spotlight (for example) churches that successfully send out Church planters instead of large Churches, we will communicate a value for Church planting that will result in a greater leveraging of the movements resources towards this value; moving it from a stated value to a lived value. The same is true for Churches that successfully reach multi-cultural populations, establish centers for artistic and cultural influence, etc.


Paper Pt XV: Show and Tell


As we said at the outset, what we do communicates our theology. Even the ‘roommate wanted’ ads attached to the Church bulletin board, intentionally or unintentionally, speak to what we think about God. In four specific areas we will attempt to diagnose the underlying problematic theology, and recommend practices that communicate a theology of the Kingdom, centered on the power and purposes of God as revealed in the Cross.

Most of what has been presented above is not new material, nor is it peripheral to the discussions going on in Christian circles. The main contention and concern behind this paper is the failure of a thoughtful and cohesive implementation of Kingdom theology to the everyday practices of the Church. We are talking the talk, but not walking the walk. We are guilty of bad praxis more often than we are guilty of bad theology, but whatever the root cause, the agenda must change. The agenda going forward must be to find ways to make each of these areas an avenue for fostering a Kingdom Vision of the Church, in terms of God’s purpose and power revealed in the Cross! It is in the following areas (Spotlighting, Counting, Prioritizing, and Defining) that a more thoughtful praxis will enable us to fix our focus on the whole story, instead of our lines, or our costume.


Paper Pt XIV: A Successful Church

The Cross and Ecclesiastical Success

It should be clear to any individual reading the canonical gospels that our formulation of a ‘successful ministry’ was foreign to Jesus. Perhaps we had better restate that; it was not foreign to Jesus in that He was unaware of the concept, but rather in that He explicitly and repeatedly rejected such a concept of success. Jesus deliberately rejected fame and the approval of the crowds,38 He hid from people who wanted to be with Him,39 said and did things that made people leave,40 and used a metaphor of torture and death for discipleship.41

12) Carrying the Cross – Our Master has made it clear, by personal example, and plain teaching, we must embrace suffering, and die to self. This stands in direct contradiction to the stated aim of most Church programming. A friend attributed the following anecdote to pastor Rob Bell (Mars Hill Bible Church, Grandville, MI): He was asked by a visitor, “what programs do you have here to meet the needs of me and my family?” If only more pastors would give this response, “we only have one program here, ‘Come and Die!’ “

13) Identification with the Broken – If the Cross is the center of the Church then we should share the same passions as the man who hung from that Cross. We should find, welling up within us, an attraction to those places where we might encounter hunger, danger, injustice, addiction, oppression, or poverty. This is the shame of the Western Church, we have retreated from the brokenness of the world, and then congratulated ourselves on how well our programs work without those broken people. We must reverse the trend of Christians emigrating to homogenized suburban communities pursuing idols of safety and security.

14) Necessary Failure – If the Cross is our Victory, then we must reexamine our language of ‘success.’ For Jesus, success, was abandonment and failure. We must think through our use of language; we say, “healthy things grow,” but Jesus said, “unless a seed dies, it will produce nothing.”42 Our yearning for success has more in common with the gospel of prosperity, than the gospel of the Kingdom. We must create contexts where failure is a part of our culture, where our failure and that of others is a normal occurrence, and where polished presentation is not the sign of God’s presence.43

Of course none of this is a repudiation of God’s good creation. Embracing the Cross is not an end in itself; but rather the only road to Resurrection and New Creation. Rebellious humanity needs to be crucified with Christ, not because we are human, but because we are rebels.

God has glorified Jesus and has promised to glorify us in Him. His very promises of justice are an affirmation of creation. We must prevent, however, an attempt at justice that does not involve the Cross, for that would not be justice. Resurrection is on the other side of the Cross. We must embrace the lessons taught by suffering, we must submit our egos to death, indeed, the motive behind our lust for success is simple pride.


Paper Pt XIII: The Purpose of the Church

In claiming justice as the mission of the Church, we are rethinking commonly held beliefs and practices. This does not negate the need for evangelism, and compassion ministry, but rather places these essential pieces in their proper, more comprehensive, context of ‘salting and lighting’ the earth. The purpose of the Church is to proclaim the Victory of the Cross to the powers,37 but also to participate in and implement that victory as both a manifestation of the presence of the Kingdom, and a sign of its future consummation.


For Bernard

John takes 8 stickers, 4 black and 4 white, shows them to his three friends Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and then sticks two to the forehead of each friend so that each of them can see all the other stickers except for the two in John's pocket and the two on his own head.

John then asks each of them if they know what color stickers are on their head:

Matthew says, "No."
Then Mark says, "No."
Finally Luke says, "No."

So John starts to go around again:

Matthew says, "No."
Mark says, "Yes."

What color are Mark's stickers?


Paper Pt XII: Implications for Purpose

This also raises another important question; are we building the Kingdom or waiting for it to show up? Here, I will borrow language from my betters; Kingdom justice is both ‘now and not yet.’ We are not so much building the Kingdom as building for the Kingdom. Just as a musical instrument can be a work of craftsmanship or artistry in its own right, so too is the Church to be working for justice outright in the ‘now.’ Yet, as that same musical instrument, for all of its inherent beauty, cries out for a master musician to come and play; so too the justice the Church has brought about cries out for a time in the ‘not yet’ when the Master will come and bring justice of a deeper, fuller, and better sort.35 The justice that is effected within this age is a sign pointing to the Justice of the Coming Kingdom.

10) Christian Storytellers – If, then, we are to be signposts pointing towards hope, we will need to write new parables to tell the world. The Church desperately needs adepts in the arts. Not just any art will do; we need art that avoids the twin extremes of superficial sentimentality and pointless self-expression, and opts for the radical middle. We need art that is a prophetic voice weaving tales of God’s reality in the language of the world. The voices in our collective cultural framework are telling other stories, we must tell The Story.

11) Eucharist – We must reengage the ritual practices of the historic Church. The meal Jesus commanded us to share is the Cross in our midst. By it we are bound to the death and resurrection of Jesus, bound to each other in a union that bridges all other differences, and bound to the Kingdom purposes of the Crucified One who “gathers all to Himself.”36 It is Jesus’ lasting parable for the Church; the story we are invited to find ourselves in.