For those of you who are wondering how my paper turned out, I got a 95. I guess that means that 95% of the stuff in there is right, and it’s up to you to figure out what the other 5% is. The only negative comment was that I left my name off the cover page and didn’t use the correct formatting. How’s that for doctoral level proficiency?! At least there were only 8 students in the class, so the prof didn’t have too much difficulty figuring out who had written the paper.

As much as I have missed Maureen, Jeremy, and Jonathan this week, it has been a good time to get away and have some quiet, prayerful reflection as well as to have my thinking stimulated. The stuff we’ve been talking about hasn’t been particularly heavy, just rich.

Monday we took a bus and went into inner city Chicago to visit the ministry of the Lawndale Community Church and the Christian Community Development Association. There’s really no way I can describe to you what is going on in what used to be one of the roughest neighborhoods of Chicago. Have a look at the web sites or read Wayne Gordon’s book, Real Hope in Chicago. Wayne is the founding pastor (no, I don’t like using the word that way, but that’s how everyone thinks of him), a white man who moved into inner city Chicago when he was just out of college. He was the only teacher at the Lawndale high school where he coached football and wrestling who lived in the community. Thirty years later, he’s not called “pastor” but “Coach” by all the people in the community.

For dinner, we ate at the Lawndale branch of Lou Malnati’s Pizza, which consistently earns awards for the best pizza in Chicago. Their pizzas take your basic Dominios to a whole new level. When the Lou Malnati’s chain had opened its 9th restaurant in Chicago, Wayne talked them into opening a 10th restaurant in Lawndale as a “tithe,” so that the community could have one sit-down restaurant and so it could provide jobs. The church bought and renovated the building. This restuarant still doesn’t turn a profit (largely due to the fact that they don’t serve alcohol), but the chain has spread to 24 branches, so they must not be hurting too badly.

On Monday, Don Cousins, one of the founders of Willow Creek Community Church, spoke to us. Don left Willow Creek several years ago when he found that the ministry no longer fit his gifts as a starter and builder. Don now works as a church consultant, and talked a lot about finding the right fit in ministry. He talked about the “Leadership heresy” and how the church often lets the world define what leadership is. I’m sure glad that’s the only thing we let the world define for us.

Along these lines, think about this quote that was shared today:

“God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself …” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cousins also contrasted an “Institutional” model of ministry with a “Biblical” model. Of course, that just happens to be his model as well. Here is how he constrasts them. (I’ve changed some of hte terminology to suit our church polity.) What do you think?

Institutional Model

  • The Elders Lead
  • The Staff Serves
  • The Congregation is Served
  • The World is Ignored

Biblical Model

  • The Elders Protect (They protect the unity and purity of the church, they see that the Word is faithfully taught, they protect the church through prayer, and see that the body of Christ functions as it should.)
  • The Staff Leads (This is not just the paid staff, but anyone in a position of leadership.)
  • The Congregation Serves
  • The World is Served

Is he on base? Are we off?

Here are a couple of more snippets from Cousins:
“God doesn’t call us so that we can do something for him. He doesn’t need us. He has called us so that he can pour out his blessings through us for his glory.”

“Great leaders surround themselves with people who know more than they do and are more competent than they are. Non-leaders surround themselves with people that they can stay on top of.”

Well, there’s more, but that’s enough for one post. I’ll be flying back to Birmingham tomorrow (Friday) morning; say a prayer for safety.