The New Missional Paradigm - Part 1: The Promised Land


This post is the first in a 3-part article called "The New Missional Paradigm"; it's something of a manifesto on the intersection of church, community and business management. It's quite long, and you really need to read the whole thing to understand what I'm saying... but each piece does provide something of the picture I have in mind. First, a definition for missional.  When I talk about missional anything, I am specifically NOT referring to the movement known as the missional church, rather, I am referring to the wider group of organization-like churches, ministries, para-church organizations, and any quasi-corporate entity staffed predominantly with Christian people. The new paradigm that I am writing about, is application to those kinds of organizations. Some would simply say "Christian organizations" but I don't believe the word Christian applies to anything other than people... so I shall shackle you with this obtuse definition, and use the word missional through-out. In writing this, I am very clearly addressing and referring to the organization I have the awesome privilege of working for, Catch The Fire. I don't have any special authority to say "this is where we are going", but it is what I feel in my spirit, and I do have the blessing of our founder and president, John Arnott, to publish this.

In this first part we look at what is happening in Toronto in response to prophecies received regarding a fresh outpouring of revival. I write about Toronto because that is what I know... but if what I am writing about is true and right, then I suspect that many others around the world will find that this applies to them. I sincerely hope so!

In the second part, we examine some radical experiments in business management, some of them are old, and some and very new. I'll be drawing from a number of business experts and what I've seen from my own experience.

In the final part I'll do my best to show how these new business initiatives give us insight into what God is doing... all so that we can then look at the incredible opportunity available for missional organizations. Like Catch The Fire... and plenty of others.

In writing this I stand on the shoulders of countless spiritual giants, genius authors, and business & marketing gurus so I’ve done my best to footnote sources where possible. If I've written about your ideas and not sourced you, please let me know and I'll rectify it.


Part 1: The Promised Land

The Old Testament tells the story of the people Israel, who spent 40 years wandering in the desert. While wandering in the desert, God’s presence was a free gift to them. Without their having earned it, intentionally sustained it, or regularly appreciated it, God tabernacled with his people through the desert. He provided food and water for them, and meet their every need, even preventing their clothes and shoes from wearing out. His presence with them was an incredible gift!  But... it was not His fullness, nor the fullness of His plan for them. Israel’s wilderness journey could have taken less than 2 weeks[1], but God kept them in the wilderness until they were ready for the promised land, just as He will do with us.

There are four habitats, or regions, in scripture that teach us about spiritual realities. [2]

  • Egypt represents the world system, the worldly principalities and powers, including wealth, pleasure, the easy life, and so on.

  • Babylon represents the system of religion. It is enticing: it has everything we need, neatly packaged, controllable, consistent. Or so it looks. Underneath, it is insidious, it destroys life, it makes its own children pass through the fire.

  • God draws us out of both Egypt, and Babylon, into the wilderness where we are stripped away. Where we learn to hear his voice, to trust him, and to believe in his goodness. To that end, he provides for us without fail, and he tabernacles among us.

  • But his temple is not built in the wilderness. While the free gift of God’s presence in the wilderness is wonderful, it itself is not the point. God’s intended habitat for his people,is the promised land. Interestingly, when we cross into the promised land, God’s provision dries up (at least the manifestations of it we saw in the wilderness). It is now our responsibility to pursue Him.

If the wilderness journey was successful, then in the deepest core of our being we will know that God is Good, and that he worthy of all pursuit. In 1994, a small group of believers in Toronto who were wandering the wilderness, found God’s radical provision. Since then, He has continually sustained those who tabernacled with Him.[3]  He has been faithful, year after year providing manna, giving us the wonderful gift of Himself, time and again. The richness of the Holy Ghost has been our portion! We have seen miracle after miracle, signs and wonders, lives radically changed, prisoners set free, and even those like myself who have come late to the party have been dramatically altered by an encounter with a living God.

But, I do not believe this is His fullness, nor is it the fullness of the plan He has for us. Thankfully, I'm not alone in this.

In October 2011 Dr. Arne Elsen came from Germany to give a word to Toronto that the new thing that God would do in our midst would not be like the last. He said that what began in 1994 was a free gift, but that what comes next, we must pursue. This word has been confirmed by other prophets around the world. In January 2012 I read From Eternity to Here, and was floored by the description of the spiritual habitats; the paradigm shift that occurs in transition from the wilderness to the promised land is exactly the word that Dr. Elsen delivered in Toronto. If that wasn’t enough, on February 18th 2012 a video was posted online [4] of Bill Johnson at Bethel Church sharing where he believes God is taking us:

I have felt for a while... I don’t have the best language for this yet... I’m going to keep talking until I say it right. Before you’re saved, you live in this natural world. Then you come into this supernatural revival climate, you see people healed, you see testimony; you go from natural to spiritual.  But what God’s doing now, is He’s wanting to give us a promotion, into a world that is supernaturally natural. It’s one thing to see a tumour disappear; I couldn’t have done that, that was God. Amazing! Here’s the problem with the promotion. Israel went from the wilderness, where God provided food every day, manna on the ground, water out of a rock... supernatural support. He took them from that, to the promised land. Remember that’s the goal, to a land where they would work. And they would have abundance provided for them. The goal isn’t hand to mouth, the goal is, move into a place where everything you touch is productive. It’s one thing to sit at your table and say “God we trust you again for provision” and then a knock comes at the door and you are fed. I think that’s the coolest thing ever, but where God’s taking you, is to where you’re the one knocking on the door.[4]

We are straddling the side of the new thing that God has promised to do in our midst. Since 1994, the Holy Spirit has been hovering over us, moving in our hearts and in our lives, throughout the wider community of those of who recognized His moving. And this certainly isn't exclusive to the Toronto revival; the Lord is always moving through all of his people, pushing them along this journey unto Himself. But I am talking specifically about what he is doing for us, now, and you don’t need to think I’m being exclusive. The present of the Holy Spirit has been rich in the last few years, and that collective saturation has conceived something within us. The object of that conception, that glorious promise, the great mystery, is what the Holy Spirit is always revealing: Christ!

The Father Heart of God has carved the truth of his goodness into our hearts. Through soaking and contemplation we’ve learned to clearly hear His voice. We have witnessed the power of God, and we have fallen in love. Now Christ is being birthed within us, and we are being called to give Him the glory he deserves. Patricia Bootsma’s vision of the three streams of revival also testifies to this. And I believe we in Toronto have begun to respond to that call, as have many other believers around the world. The worldwide growth of the 24/7 prayer concept, including the establishment of a House of Prayer in Toronto, indicates a new passion for Christ that comes of a revelation of His intrinsic Worth. The 10 Minute Worship concept centers our mind and heart around Him, all day long, giving Him the supremacy in our individual lives. These things are life changing and go a long way to relinquishing our control on Christ's body and giving Him the supremacy, but even these are not the fullness of His plan for us.

The great mystery of the ages, Paul reveals, is that the incredible all-sufficient Christ would come and dwell within us, give us his life, and make us all heirs. Just as the Holy Spirit conceived Christ’s first earthly body in Mary, the Holy Spirit then conceived the second Body of Christ into the gathered believers at Pentecost. Until His final return, Jesus has no body on Earth but the united host of those who love Him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of Christ existing as community, of the church becoming the presence of Christ in the world.

Look again at what happens in Acts 9:

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!

(Acts 9:1-5, NLT)

This is not merely some figure of speech. Saul was literally persecuting the person of Jesus Christ. This shed new light to me on the concept of man and wife becoming one flesh. You and I are becoming one flesh as the Body of Christ and as the Bride of Christ. Paul describes this as the eternal plan, the eternal purpose, of God.

Before time began, God conceived of an epic plan. We can appreciate the nature of this plan by looking at Adam, who while numbering the animals experienced the profoundest loneliness a man has felt, as he saw that he alone had no counterpart in creation. But you see, for eternity, God has been pouring out his extravagant love to his Son, and Christ has had no one on whom to pour out the outrageous love that his Father showed him. Of course he reciprocated love to his Father, but he had no one with whom to initiate Love. The Father noticed this, and he effectively says “It is not good that my Son should be alone”. Eternal plan = conceived. At his Son’s death on the cross, Father God takes lifeblood from Jesus’ ribcage and creates a mate from it. He takes the water of the Tree of Life that flows from Christ, and feeds this to the newborn Bride to sustain her. It all parallels what happens in the Garden... and we'll be back there again at the end of days.

So this new Bride, this new counterpart for Christ is made from Christ’s own flesh, is sustained by Christ Himself, and will become one flesh with Christ. That’s why sexual intimacy is intended as such a picture of God’s plan: it reunites man with the part that was taken out of him. The wedding described in Revelation reunites Christ with the part that was taken out of Him. And the cosmic conundrum of God is that all of time exists within God, so all of this has already happened, hence we have access to the present Kingdom of God on this earth, right now today.

And that Kingdom of God is by definition, dominion, where Christ rules. Where Christ is Head. Both Egypt and Babylon teach us to look to human leaders to be Head for us. All of Israel had the opportunity to interact with God themselves, as He always intended, but they elected Moses as head instead. They later repeated the mistake with Saul. But if we give Christ room, he will become Head. The last 2 years my family and I have spent pursuing organic church have shown us that Christ is absolutely willing and ready to take the lead if you give him the chance. And the many words given to us in Toronto regarding what God will do next, all echo this heartbeat: pursue me, push into me, desire me, give me the supremacy that I deserve.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything  in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see   and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.    Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning,   supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.

(Colossians 1:15-18 NLT)

So what is this expression of the Body of Christ that the Holy Ghost has conceived with us? What is this new thing that God has promised us in Toronto? What is His fullness and the fullness of His plan? I’m not audacious enough to claim I know everything he has in store for his worldwide Body, or those who have embraced his recent moves around the world, but I believe that he is revealing elements of his plan right now to many of us day by day. And as for the fullness of God’s plan, that's actually easy... because it's scriptural: it's the eternal purpose!

I believe what God is doing in Toronto now:

  • Will reflect the eternal plan of God, that is: Christ glorified, Christ in us, the Bride and the Body one flesh. Fundamental reconciliation. If you think we already see this, then you need to broaden your horizons!

  • Is an invitation to say goodbye to the last trappings of Babylon and Egypt entirely. That means the ways we have conformed to the world, and the ways we have conformed to religion. This will involve discovering, exploring, and displaying the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. And much of this will no longer be done as individuals, but with our brothers and sisters. Incidentally, the rampant individualism in our Western society is a "way of the world" and is not Biblical or Godly.

  • Saying goodbye to the last trappings of Babylon and Egypt may involve the giving up of things, even good things, for the person of Jesus Christ, the best thing. It will involve stopping the way we do certain things. It will involve cleaning out our houses and our hearts. There might even be families turned against one another in this process... though there is always hope of reconciliation.

  • The Body of Christ when expressed through us as humans, exhibits true spiritual community.

In true spiritual community[5], the healing water of Life flows between brothers and sisters. In true spiritual community, there are no orphans. True spiritual community is the safest place on earth. There is no death, only life eternal. True spiritual community is full of mystics, full of lovers. In true spiritual community, the Body is Christ is fit together not just for a prayer night or a worship meeting, but foremost to shame and wage war against the principalities and powers by declaring “HERE IS CHRIST! HE LIVES!

True spiritual community exists beyond individuals, and it moves beyond all of the varied expressions of the church we've seen. I have no interest in decrying any of these movements, trends and expressions, as God always has all of us on an onward journey... but the fact remains that true spiritual community exists beyond traditional church, beyond house church, beyond Bible Study, beyond cell groups, beyond mega-church, beyond multi-site church, beyond evangelicalism entirely... to seeing Christ enthroned in glory, and His Body, His Bride, His priesthood, and His house, being found within united brothers and sisters, here on earth.

I believe true spiritual community is only found in the Promised Land, and I believe that God is inviting us to go there, right now.

This is the first part in a three part series called "The New Missional Paradigm". In the next part, we’re going to examine some radical new experiments in business management, and in the final part we’ll use these new business initiatives as a lens to re-examine true spiritual community, and what this community means for missional organizations. If you'd like to be notified by email when the next parts in the series are available, look for the "Subscribe to email" block below and to the right of this post.


[1] See Deuteronomy 1:2.

[2] In “From Eternity to Here,” Frank Viola writes the most compelling description of the 4 habitats I have ever heard. I am drawing heavily from his text when I write about the habitats, and when I write about the eternal purpose, which I’ll get to shortly.

[3] I refer to those people who embraced the outpouring of the Spirit in 1994, whether they lived in Toronto or otherwise. There is no need to draw specific us/them arguments from this... I simply have to write this regarding someone. From 1999 onwards that included my family and I, as we had moved to Toronto by this point.

[4]I have paraphrased slightly for the sake of clarity. The original video is available here: I’ll share more of Bill’s message in the 3rd part of this series.

[5] Becoming a True Spiritual Community, by Larry Crabb, is one of the most incredible books you will ever read. This section is informed heavily by the beautiful picture he paints in his book.


The image of trees is called "Aspens":

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