The Enduring Flame: Guest Blog by Larry Osborne Larry Osborne By Larry Osborne September 21, 2016
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I’ve often talked about the problem of mission creep. I’ve even written a book about it. It’s a BIG problem that sabotages the gospel ministry of many a well-intentioned church. And in most cases, no one seems to notice it’s happening until it’s way too late.

Mission creep and calcified traditions are nothing new. As I’ll explain in my session at the Acts 29 US Southeast Network (Advance The Church), it’s been a major problem since the first century. It weaved its way into the very fabric of the New Testament church. It’s chronicled in the book of Acts and chided in the New Testament epistles.

So why does it happen so frequently? Especially when most of us have the best of intentions?

Bottom line, it’s our human nature. Ever since the fall we’ve had a troubling tendency to mess things up – even when we’re trying to fix things up.

Mission Creep and calcified traditions always start with a worthy goal (in our case, the desire for a Christ-honoring, gospel centered church).

To reach the goal, we begin to order our private and corporate lives around it. We institute personal disciplines and organizational structures designed to take us where we want go – and to keep us from veering off into the ditch. It doesn’t take long for those disciplines and structures to become “the-way-we-do-things-around-here.”Mission Creep and calcified traditions always start with a worthy goal (in our case, the desire for a Christ-honoring, gospel centered church).

So far, so good.

But the problem comes when these patterns, paradigms, and structures become unquestioned traditions and paradigms. Once that happens, things begin to go downhill rather quickly. It’s not long until protecting our current methods and structures becomes nearly synonymous with fulfilling the mission, and in many cases, more sacred than the mission.

It’s even worse when we’ve tacked a bunch of Bible verses onto our methods and structures. That inevitably turns any attempt to make needed organizational changes into a theological controversy. People confuse changing our methods with changing our theology. And if you think leading an organization through change is hard, wait until you see what happens when people confuse methods with theology. It’s not pretty.

This natural tendency to calcify our traditions, paradigms, and structures explains why the raging wildfire of Spirit-led movements and dynamic local churches eventually (dare I say inevitably) dies down to a smolder.

Strangely, I’ve noticed that it’s very easy for me to identify the structures, paradigms, and traditions that hinder the work of God in other tribes and churches. From the outside looking in, it’s obvious.

.@AdvanceTC, we’ll take a look at a biblical structure that fans the flame of God’s work. #Advance16

But it’s not so easy to see in my own church or tribe. Which is why I look forward to our time together in Orlando. We’ll be taking a deep dive into the importance of instituting and maintaining a genuinely biblical structure that fans the flame of God’s work. We’ll explore the important difference between the prescriptive and descriptive, and see how easy it is to confuse the two. And perhaps most importantly, we’ll discover how to create an organizational structure that is faithful to scripture, flexible in the face of changing realities, and laser-focused on our God-given mission.

I look forward to seeing you in Orlando on November 1-2 at the Acts 29 US Southeast Network Conference: Advance the Church.

Larry Osborne

North Coast Church


Larry is a husband, father, pastor, author and leadership consultant. He has a passion for helping Christian leaders in both the secular and church world succeed and bring glory to God. Since 1980, he has served as one of the senior pastors at North Coast Church in Vista, CA.  During that time, North Coast has grown from a fledging group of 128 meeting in a rented high school cafeteria to a multi-site church ministering to over 11,000 in weekend attendance. Larry has a passion for leadership, spiritual formation and discipleship.  As a nationally recognized trainer of leaders and pastors, and church planters, he travels extensively, speaking at conferences and mentoring events. His books include: Thriving In Babylon, Mission Creep, Accidental Pharisees, 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe, Spirituality for The Rest of Us, Sticky Teams, Sticky Church, Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret, and The Unity Factor. Larry holds both a Master of Divinity and Doctorate degree from Talbot Theological Seminary.  He and his wife, Nancy, live in Oceanside, CA. They have three married children and an increasing number of grandchildren.

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