The following was the introduction to one of our online coaching seminars.

Reconstructing Ministry Around Paul’s Missionary Band
By Dan Reeves

Click here to enter the forum after April 8.
I love the EBA format with all its elevated learning and widespread rippling of seminal ideas. I also am impressed by the common threads which we’ve been hearing since January, particularly from Mark, Todd, and Brian. Several bushels of what Bill would describe as “clues” for 21st century ministry have already been gathered. Before we launch our discussion with the metaphor of Paul’s Missionary Band I will try to list some of the most important concepts that we will build upon from these recent seminars.

And of course, some of the best insights on similar themes will undoubtedly follow  in the months ahead from Erwin, Leonard and others.  I can’t wait to see how Bill summarizes and synthesizes all of this material by year end.

Fairly significant syncretism occurred during the 80’s when the ceo model robbed the church of so much of her essence. What little missiological thinking was in place in the U.S. was gradually replaced by principles of marketing and management. The kingdom of God has always been advanced during various historical waves of missionary movements by  creative reformulations of an indigenous Gospel, in particular places and in response to particular issues. Heart allegiance and humble service have always manifested themselves as the hallmarks of authentic radical Christian movements, spurred primarily through the power which is released by diligent study of God’s transforming Word.

As Brian has pointed out, goals and plans are still acceptable, but they functioned so much more predictably in a stable world. Today we can still hold to and be confident of our destination. But we must settle for short term mapping, with enormous amounts of flexibility.

Our focus during the seminar will be primarily on relationships and reproduction within outward focused communities, groups and teams.  I also concur with Brian that size never has been an issue.  During the last 50 years there have been only two primary choices for healthy, advancing congregations: expand (get larger), or extend (get serious about church planting).  After 25 years of trials and numerous errors, multi-site ministry has only recently emerged as the third and most favored option in most situations.

This pattern of slow, quarter of a century development is also similar to what has occurred in the reproduction of cell driven and small groups ministry. Willow Creek has invested more than most congregations in the challenging search for authentic community. Earlier this month on a CCN broadcast many of us received an update on Willow’s now proven approach known as a church of (rather than with) small groups.  With 18,000 participants in 2,700 groups and 200 staff assigned to nurture all of them, these autonomous outward looking fellowships sound quite similar and probably just as authentic, do they not, as Todd’s missional communities.

We will attempt during this seminar to move the discussion another step forward by asking how we can better organize and accelerate the witness of missional communities, without sacrificing authenticity, through a fractal team approach.  And Paul Nixon will certainly offer additional team options and suggestions during his subsequent seminar, April 22-28.

An Introduction to the Metaphor

September 11, 2001, with it patriotic spike, seemed at first to indicate at least a temporary reversal of the deconstruction period which began picking up momentum during the mid-1960’s. For congregations which are positioning to reconstruct Paul’s Missionary Band serves as a useful metaphor.

The case for this concept as the heart and soul of 21st century ministry can be seen in much of the literature which I have listed in the next section. Please try to select one or two that you have not yet read that look interesting. Then please share whatever points seem relevant to our discussion.

Primary Texts: Strongly Recommended
1. Erwin McManus,   an unstoppable force: daring to become the church GOD had in mind (Group, 2001).
2. Wayne Cordeiro,   Doing Church as a Team (Regal, 2001).
3. George Hunter,   The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach The West…Again (Abingdon, 2000).

Secondary Classic Texts
Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Pauls or Ours?
H.G. Barnett,  Innovation: The Basis of Cultural Change
Melvin Hodges, The Indigenous Church
Charles Kraft, Christianity in Culture
Louis Luzbetak, The Church and Cultures
Donald McGavran, Bridges of God
Leslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
Eugene Nida,   Message and Mission: The Communication of the Christian Faith
Edwin Orr,  The Eager Feet: Evangelical Awakenings 1790-1830
Howard Snyder,  Liberating the Church
Alan Tippett,  Verdict Theology in Missionary Theory
Charles Van Engen,  God’s Missionary People
Ralph Winter,   The Warp and the Woof: Organizing for Mission
Tetsunao Yamamori and Charles Taber,   Christopaganism or Indigenous Christianity

Secondary Contemporary Texts
Gilbert Bilezikian,  Community 101
Rodney Clapp,  Peculiar People: the church as culture in a post-christian society
Jack Dennison, City Reaching: On the Road to Community Transformation
Bill Easum,  Leadership on the OtherSide: No Rules, Just Clues
Randy Frazee, The Connecting Church
Eddie Gibbs,  ChurchNext: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry
Dean Gilliland, Pauline Theology and Mission Practice
Michael Horton, A Confessing Theology for Postmodern Times
Robert Lewis, The Church of Irresistible Influence
Brian McClaren, The Church on the other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix
George McKinney, Cross the Line:  Reclaiming the Inner City for God
Steve Sjogren, Servant Warfare: How Kindness Conquers Spiritual Darkness
Michael Slaughter, Out on the Edge
Chuck Smith, Jr., The End of The World as We Know It: Clear Direction for Bold and      Innovative Ministry in a Postmodern World
Howard Snyder, ed., Global Good News
Leonard Sweet,  Post-Modern Pilgrims
Charles Van Engen, Mission on the Way
Peter Wagner, Churchquake
Woodberry, Van Engen and Elliston  Missiological Education for the 21st Century