Just as it's starting to slightly warm up here in Germany, I'm off to Siberia. Kelley and I are heading to Chelyabinsk for a board meeting. The church in Chelyabinsk is doing very well and just recently planted a new congregation in the city. As their ministry expands and they stand on their own two feet, they are asking us to serve on a board that will help to provide guidance and accountability in the future.
This is a very wise move on their part and one I would encourage all churches and organizations to do. You need outside perspective and accountability to prevent churches or your organization from being run by one person, one family, or tribe. Churches often seal themselves off from this kind of accountability and transparency and when the troubles come, the bullies can easily win. It often does NOT come down to Biblical standards or organizational standards, but to subjective preferences. So this move by the Russian church is a very wise one.
Even here at Three Worlds we already have a layer of accountability toward Global Missions. And we have another layer by utilizing a team approach where we all see what's happening and we can all contribute to the dialogue and decisions (not just Jamie and I). But even though these two layers exist, we are adding a third layer in the near future. This third layer will consist of supporting church pastors and wise leaders who will make sure that Three Worlds stays the course and makes decisions wisely and with integrity. You'll hear more about that later in the year.
We have to make a lot of tough decisions and we think the more accountability the better, so our system is designed to bring more people in and keep transparency levels high.
Unfortunately this is not true of many Christian organizations and churches. Evangelical Protestantism--particularly free church movements--are especially bad about allowing everyone to become the Pope. Subjective experience wins the day, and it's just a matter of whose hands get to control the concentrated decision-making power. Everything rises or falls on that one person's wisdom, giftings and experience which are inevitably limited. And their motives. This is dangerous. It's one of the reasons why Pentecostal churches in particular can be so prone to division. Because there's never any outside authority empowered to look at things objectively. Everyone can claim their own version of reality. The downside of too much hierarchy is inflexibility and stagnation. But the downside of too much subjective freedom is lack of accountability and division. It's a tough balance, but it can be done and should always be tried.
It's exciting to see that the CHOG in Chelyabinsk is doing this of their own accord.
A few weeks ago our friends Alexei and Katya passed through Berlin and stayed with the Philips who were missionaries in Russia. Some of you will remember them from our previous trip to Russia 5 years ago, as well as their visit to Hong Kong about 2 years ago. It was very nice to see them again and now Kelley and I will be staying at their house during this Russia trip. We will also be joined by Jim Lyon of CBH Viewpoint and Madison Park Church in Anderson.
Time to bundle up. Not sure what the internet will be like, but I'll post when I can. Enjoy one of my typical, poorly lighted, blurry, low quality shots.