Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pastoral leadership perspective #3: He's a visionary

Anthony Payton, Come As You Are  Community Church
I once bumped into Pastor Anthony Payton at Starbucks. My friend Brooke and I were sitting right behind his table, chatting away about seminary stuff, and womanhood, and who knows what else. We were going a hundred miles an hour. I can't imagine what he must have been thinking of us as he tried to prepare his sermon for the following Sunday.

When I went to the restroom, Brooke struck up a conversation with him, and the rest is history. We learned he was working on a series titled "God's got an app for that," and we talked about seminary and ministry...and how God moved him from the mental health field to start a church. I think there were 12 people at the beginning, including his own family. Fifteen years later, there are about 600 people. As you can imagine, God took Anthony Payton's "OK, Lord," and ran with it.

Specifically, God built Rev. Payton as a visionary and an entrepreneur—and through an amazing story of recovery from addiction and faith in Christ, he gave him a platform and a ministry.

On Vision:
As Pastor Payton pointed out, churches that are predominately African-American in attendance tend to be pastor-centric, or based on the pastor's vision and leadership. For Anthony, this meant spending one week alone praying for God's vision for the ministry before it even started. The mission statement is reviewed every  Sunday morning: Teaching saved souls to reach lost souls, by becoming fully devoted followers of Christ. The vision hasn't changed, except as it is influenced by the people the church had versus those they now have. For seven years, they sang with taped tracks only, a great sacrifice for their church. They started in a 3,000 square foot building, and now they own a 12,000 sf building where they lease out space to a charter school to pay down their debt. Anthony's goal: to transform their neighborhood as "their Jerusalem"—using the church's resources to reach people in their local area.

On Mentoring:
Not many people can say they've been training their eventual replacement for five years. Anthony has. In fact, he believes it's every pastor's responsibility to mentor his or her replacement. He also mentors young pastors in Brazil through mission trips, and he works to stay connected with the younger generation in his church, and to encourage their men and women in mentoring opportunities. Anthony believes he spends 75-80% of his time developing leaders.

On Being a Change Agent in the Community:
Anthony's vision to create a welcoming church that would become multicultural continues. That's why he sought out a retired Caucasian pastor and regularly invites people of different ethnicities into the church doors. When the church had the opportunity to buy an abandoned building, they did--then rented it out to businesses run by people of different ethnic groups. His philosophy: develop fully-devoted followers of Christ to launch them out to other places and ministries, as God calls.

Anthony's current challenge? Stop the flow of vision for awhile so the Lord can send people to administrate and oversee the ministries currently in place. While he waits, he continues to guide through his primary ministry of teaching and preaching.

Current leadership reading list:
The Law of Respect by John Maxwell
21 Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John Maxwell
favorite pick: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Frank I. Luntz

For pastoral leadership perspectives #1 and #2, click below:
perspective #1, Carla: She's a connector
perspective #2, Jim: He's an innovator

What are your thoughts on a pastor-centric church versus an elder-or-congregation led church? What other visionary/entrepreneurial opportunities have worked for a church near you? 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Important Review of Love Wins

Last week, I downloaded Love Wins to my Kindle. My husband and I started reading it together, a chapter here, a chapter there.

This book isn't even up for discussion in my seminary—it appears people assume Rob Bell is a heretic, so they simply don't want to read the book at all, or to enter into a discussion about it. "Rob Bell doesn't believe in Scripture." The end. And this, I fear, leads to an unhelpful climate, where we as Christians pretend we and others around us aren't asking questions about salvation, the questions about who is "in" and who is "out." Because people are asking these questions, for sure. The question is, will we be prepared to answer them?

I haven't finished the book myself yet, so reviewing it would be pointless. But I have gleaned some important insight into Love Wins from New Testament scholar, Scot McKnight. Scot considers himself an Anabaptist and knows the intricacies of the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures as well as the Greek language, so he has incisive insights into Rob Bell's claims. Where they make sense biblically, and where his reasoning and approach fall short of the Bible's claims on the subjects of heaven and hell.

In the end, my hope is that Love Wins will drive us back to the Bible, where we discover a God who is both just and merciful. And a world that desperately needs us to embody the whole gospel—the love of Christ through our actions and through presenting the gospel, so that each person who chooses to can be saved through Christ.

Here is Scot's 6-part review:
Love Wins 1 - orthodox?
Love Wins 2 - hell
Love Wins 3 - questions
Love Wins 4 - where is heaven?
Love Wins 5 - hell
Love Wins 6 - universalism or libertarian free will?

Have you read Love Wins? Why do you believe the book has provoked so much controversy? What does a Christlike response to the book look like?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Half the Church Giveaway Winner

I desperately wish I could send all of you a copy, but some of you will need to buy this one for yourself. The winner is....Brenda M.! Brenda, email me your address at suzanneburden @ gmail.com, and I'll send you the book.

Thank you, Martie, Holly, Brenda, Tom, Cal, Rebecca, Pam, blu wings, and Kaye. And now, your chance to watch two short videos that relate to men and women being set free to use their gifts together for God's Kingdom. Please watch and sound off on what you think by commenting.

The Half the Church video:

For more information on Half the Church, listen in to the 10-part Moody Midday Connection podcasts with author Carolyn Custis James here.

What do you think? What remains to be done to help men and women work together effectively for God's Kingdom?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Half the Church book review and giveaway: comment to win!

*Giveaway open Wednesday, April 6 to Friday, April 8 - post a comment to enter (details below)*

This author has impacted my current journey into ministry more than any other. If that's not praise enough, in her new book Half the Church, Carolyn Custis James asks a bold and timely question about the body of Christ:

"Can the body do what it was created to do—can it even survive—if half of the body isn't fully functioning and the rest of the body is deprived of their ministries?"

Zondervan, Hardcover, $18.99

Here's why I believe you should read the book:
There are thousands of women often cited as exceptions who have fully owned their identity as God's full image-bearers and as "ezers" -- the strong Hebrew word God used when He created Eve, calling his daughters forth as warriors. (It is usually translated "helper," but a deeper study reveals there is more there than meets the eye.) I'm not talking about feminist theology, I'm talking about a strong biblical mandate for each of us to take an honest look at the Bible to determine who God says we are and what he is calling us to as women. As we join with our brothers as partners in bringing the gospel (both truth and acts of compassion and justice) to the broken around the world, we will rock God's Kingdom. Starting of course, in our homes and backyards. What could happen if we answer the call? This book will answer questions you didn't even know you had.

Here's the review I posted on amazon:
Carolyn Custis James' carefully-honed theology offers a razor-sharp look at God's vision for all of his daughters. What works for the Western middle-class women in the church pew must also work for the millions of women globally who suffer from sex-trafficking, forced marriage, genital mutilation, and more--or it doesn't work at all. The holistic gospel is the answer, and Half the Church proves it is possible to move past the tired complementarian/egalitarian debates to embrace God's indisputable blueprint for his image-bearers around the world. A must-read.

View the book video trailer here. Follow author Carolyn Custis James' blog here

And here's your chance to win the book! Comment below by Friday, April 8, telling me why you want to read Half the Church. I'll pick a winner and announce by the end of the week. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

"I will wait for you"

A video for "single Christian ladies" that moved me to tears. I may not agree with this sister's every word, but in the main, she gets it and she's expressed the expectant ache of a Christian single desiring marriage...breathtakingly, achingly beautiful.

What moved you about this video? What do you agree or disagree with--both biblically and personally?

Friday, April 1, 2011

She shines: one woman in Nigeria

*Every so often, I'll post "she shines" stories, featuring one woman God is using in His kingdom.*

Last night, Wycliffe Bible translator Rachelle Wenger blew me away. She rushed into our class with some of her Mennonite family members in tow--in a skirt, with a beautiful scarf wrapped around her hair as a head covering and a face that radiated joy.

In a class of 25 people, you could have heard a pin drop.

Rachelle is in white at the front of the photo. (wengerministries.org)
Rachelle explained that she is a 35-year-old missionary in Nigeria, where she ministers to the nomadic Fulani people, who are mainly Muslim. Her main work? Translating the Old Testament from Hebrew into the Fulani language. To accomplish this feat, she trained with Wycliffe and learned the Fulani language, but she also attended Hebrew University in Israel where she learned to speak and write fluent Hebrew. She also happens to know Greek--but only to write it, not to speak it fluently. And she says everyone should apply themselves to learn the biblical languages.

Her talk was colored with stories of tricky translation issues, with the joy of seeing some elements of the Old Testament culture firsthand in Nigeria, and with the adventure of engaging two Fulani to help her in translation efforts.

Many times she is the only Westerner in her area, but when asked if she ever feels isolated, she said no. The Fulani have loved and accepted her so well, although she is different, that she feels peace and joy in her work. I got the feeling Rachelle was born for this.

When I approached her afterward to thank her and to tell her how she shines with God's love, I mentioned that I knew very few women who are interested in studying biblical languages, and she seemed surprised. I mentioned that we need more women to learn them and to offer their unique perspectives on biblical scholarship, and she was unfazed. "Everyone should do this," she said. "Man or woman."

You can't fit Rachelle Wenger into a box or a category. I won't even try. But you can see her mind and her heart are wrapped up in a glorious calling that only the God of the universe could have prepared her for. Now I am happy to say I know a female Hebrew scholar, who resides in West Africa, with a calling that cannot be questioned.

Do you feel it's important to learn the biblical languages? In your opinion, what keeps many women (and men) from attempting this?