By Dick Scoggins
Our Early Years
Over 25 years ago, Jim Frost and I began a training program to equip a new generation of innovative church planters (whom I like to call apostles). Neither Jim nor I had attended Bible school or seminary, having both come to faith in mature adulthood. Rather, we learned about Jesus and His Kingdom by reading the Word and trying to follow Him while being coached by more experienced “followers of the Way.”
By the mid-1980s, we were working among unreached, inner-city immigrants in Rhode Island while being coached by Harvey Conn and George Patterson. Both men encouraged us not to use traditional evangelical methods like formal preaching or holding large, organized Sunday morning gatherings. Instead, we met with hungry new believers (who were primarily non-literate) informally in their homes, discussed the stories of Jesus, and how they could apply His teachings to their lives. These new followers never got a formal Christian education, but they lived out their faith by dealing with issues of alcoholism, drug addiction, wife beating, sexual abuse, pornography, and poverty around them. Jesus’ teachings and His Story were immediately applicable to their reality, and He brought radical change to their lives in very practical ways.
After nearly 30 years of training people to focus on living out the Kingdom of God, rather than just learning about Christian theology, we have formalized what we call The Guild. We offer practical training for expanding the Kingdom of God among the unengaged peoples of the world. We focus on orthopraxy (right actions) rather than the Western emphasis on orthodoxy (right beliefs). As Jesus put it, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17). To some degree, we are intentionally swinging the pendulum to bring balance between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It is not unlike the time of the Reformation, when orthodoxy was re-introduced to the strong Roman Catholic orthopraxy of the time, which had strayed far from the teachings of Jesus and his disciples.
We are speaking to this era, and echoing the words of Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Immediately, Jesus goes on to talk about supposed followers who could do great miracles, but had actually miss out on the Kingdom. We are attempting to train a new generation of apostles who will meet the complex needs of this point in history.
…we will post Part 2 of this discussion next week.