Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Wednesday morning

Part-way through a coffee, feeling various pulls about what to post, wondering if not posting at all is better than saying anything.

So I finally decided that I cannot continue in a huddle, and that the book I mentioned a while back - Building A Discipling Culture - contains too much that is contrived or simply plain wrong.

And this bothers me.

A lot.

It's one thing to stand back and chuck the odd rock at the Church of England, because it's been built up over generations by some guys that were godly and some that were the opposite, and it's been constructed from parts borrowed from each generation that's passed through it's doors. But it's quite another to see people who I've known and trusted, at least to some degree, picking up something that looks increasingly unhealthy and start building it into a church group that I feel I've had a hand in building.

I mentioned there's a lot of crank stuff out there about Mike Breen and 3DM, and I don't know what truth is behind it (masonic - really??!) but one more sensible review I came across that didn't seem like that was here on The Schooley files.

I never refused to be part of a church initiative before, even when I didn't like it. Guess there's a first time for everything.

*edit* When I was a new-ish Christian and really determined to be radical and 'go for it' as hard as I could, the guys doing the heavy shepherding (as it became known) seemed really good. What could be better than following directions from Godly men who were sensitive to the Holy Spirit and bulding the church. Then I saw some of the effects, and how the guys doing it were just normal Spirit-filled christians who made mistakes, were sometimes self-serving or unable to step out without an OK from the guy they were following. And then I saw the church splits, not first hand, fortunately.

A key difference is that heavy shepherding only really happened in relatively few streams, while this is seeping into many streams that have no natural connection to 3DM.

In other news, I have started running again, and while the knee is reminding me to take it easy, its not bad either.

And my assistant arrives here in 2 weeks. :-)


  1. 3DM is something I haven't particularly noticed before - it sounds like the efforts of some people who would love the world to work in a neatly systematic, simple way without appreciating the beauty and truth of complexity.

    Reading Schooley's review, some of the terms seem familiar from Cell Church literature I explored in some depth 10-15 years ago - eg. 'kairos', 'up in out triangles'. It's not all necessarily bad but there is a danger in finding some neat hooks for teaching and then getting carried away trying to continue the series - that's where reality can be come distorted rather than understood. I think the church I was in had three dimensions of ministry (up, in, out), four parts of a cell group meeting (welcome, worship, word and witness/works) and five-fold ministry (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists); however, I don't think we carried it on beyond that and even those areas have nuances (pastors / teachers sometimes get bracketed together, while we could never decide whether the final section of the meeting should be called witness or works).

  2. Interesting that you mention Cell Church, Wulf, because that's very much what came to mind (the organised structures, the "you will grow like this and then divide" "each meeting must contain welcme, worship, word, witness" etc level of directiveness) when I was reading some of the material. It would not be a surprise to find that Cell Church was one of the major influences for Mike Breen.

    I only discovered 3DM late last year after being invited into a huddle. The manner in which the movement seems to spread is through personal invitation that is very discrete, bordering on secrecy, at least in our church movement. I was quite surprised to learn that the guys in leadership had been in a huddle or 2 for some time.

    There's a lot of really good stuff in there, but the packaging isn't right.

  3. There are lots of good ideas in the Cell Church material and it certainly gave the home groups in that church a real boost. We never really got the hang of "multiplication". In the UK contexts I have experienced, people are often quite conservative about their home groups and struggle with the idea of working to expand the group because that means running into the arms of radical change.

    I've also come across "huddle" as a substitute word for home group in another church setting although, in that case, people were free to sign up for the one that interested them (and they would often have a finite life span); it was more a case of finding a cosier, less churchy sounding word than of being secretive.

    Excessive use of novel vocabularies always makes me a little suspicious. I appreciate the need for efficient communication (I belong to enough clusters that have their own languages - like musicians, computer geeks and, of course, churches - to understand that) but that is different from groupspeak to promote groupthink.

  4. I think there's a tension for housegroups between the need for a small enough group of people with whom one can relate like church family, and the need for a place that will welcome new people and build them into family.

    In our last church you could never get rid of people after a Sunday meeting because they were so hungry for Christian relationship, and housegroups were discouraged for a long time. There was also a problem with relatively few sticking around for long, because it was difficult for many of them to be built into something and form deeper relationships. I'm pretty much sold on housegroups as being the model for a healthy church, pastorally speaking, and I *think* that reflects a biblical model too.

    The problem, to me, of using them for outreach, is that the older model of inviting someone along to church no longer works - we need to go out and meet people where they are. In the old days we'd invite people into these centres of pastoral care and see them flourish and grow, usually becoming Christians after a few weeks or months. Alpha was the last update of this model for effective outreach, and while still relevant, seems far less effective now than 10 years or more ago. The CoE have an advantage for a little while longer over the other church streams, with ordinary people far happier to walk through a CoE door, still willing to 'come to you' instead of having to go to them, but that's not going to last another generation as society drops pretence of a Christian faith.

    How to do outreach now? I'm not really sure, other than to be living as Christians in front of people, praying for them when we can, loving them, being Jesus to them, being honest with them. I don't see that being suitable for group activity *most* of the time, though there are of course exceptions.

  5. Thanks for the link, A.M., and for the kind words regarding my review of Building a Discipling Culture. The response in the comments section was astonishing to me, and let me know that there was some substance to the concerns I felt regarding the teachings in the book. Looking back on it, it seems to me that the major failing was an intense focus on what we do, in imitation of Jesus, with very little emphasis on what Jesus has done for us and is doing in us. It's all about our effort, which is a recipe for burnout.

    Toni Ertl brings up a really relevant question of how to do outreach now. If you'll forgive the advert, I've written a book about that, entitled What's Wrong with Outreach. You can find an excerpt that deals with the central question here. Basically, the Great Commission covers something much broader than what we think of as evangelism or outreach, and the fact that we all have different gifts means that we all have different parts to play.

    God bless.

  6. Hi Keith - I'm the Ancient Mariner. Thanks for wandering over: I wasn't sure your blog was still active, since it's been quiet recently (as with so many other blogs). The book review was appreciated because it was nice to have someone else independently come to similar conclusions from the material vs scripture, and in general overview.

    And thanks for the link to that section from your book - certainly something to digest. Is the rest of the book similar in approach, or does it look at outreach in 21st century America? In the UK the church hasn't really got past the idea that you outreach by inviting people to church, which is what I was alluding to, and hasn't found a way of meeting people in the 'market place'. There's a lack of people to baptise and make disciples of, and I rather wonder if that's why some parts of the church are converting the bits that previously made disciples into evangelists through missional communities.

  7. Nuts, it's only a couple of quid to find out what the book says - guess I'll find out soon enough. ;-)

    1. Very kind of you to check it out. Thank you. Much of the book is pretty similar in approach to that excerpt. I'm trying for overall themes, so the downside is that it isn't too specific to certain places or times. Anyway, I hope you like it.


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