Discerning Technical and Adaptive Challenges
There are a lot of different challenges that we face in life. For some people, they actually spell life, “c-h-a-l-l-e-n-g-e”. But not all challenges are the same. People who study these types of things differentiate between “Technical” and “Adaptive” challenges.
Technical Challenges are those we know how to solve, they are mechanical for most of us because we have the skills, experience or education to solve the issue. What you do to solve a Technical Challenge is to apply your current knowledge or the accumulative knowledge of experts/authorities to solve the challenge. What are some examples of Technical Challenges that you have faced or are facing in life?
Adaptive challenges on the other hand require change…they are challenges that test people’s minds and hearts. When you face a challenge you are never faced before, you have to learn new ways and even sometimes choose between what appear to be contradictory values. Truth is, if you throw all the technical fixes you can at the problem and the problem persists, it’s a pretty clear signal that an underlying adaptive challenge still needs to be met . Adaptive Challenges require us to learn new ways and usually are solved, not by experts or authorities but by the very people who face the challenge. What are some examples of Adaptive Challenges that you have faced or are facing in life?
Here are some examples for your consideration – most problems that you have with your home are technical challenges – if an air conditioner stops working, you can call or repairman. If you need to install a door, you can follow someone else’s directions or hire an expert. Now, societal problems are adaptive challenges…there may be theories on how to address society’s ills but no one has a set direction to instantaneously solve the crisis.
Followers of Jesus are facing an Adaptive Challenge in terms of how to live life as a faithful disciple in the midst of a rapidly changing and complex world. We don’t live in a world that is the same as the one our parents faced…without using too many “buzz” words, we live in world/culture steeped in a weird blend of modern and postmodern thought along with a post-Christendom, secularistic worldview. The “Church” is in a new world facing new challenges. It isn’t the Reformation any more…people don’t refer to themselves spiritually with denominational labels…there are no more “blue laws”…Sunday is just like any other day and it takes TONS of money to be able to run a typical congregational ministry with rising costs of personnel and facilities. Attendance and participation in “church-based” activities dropping…congregations are closing their doors never to reopen again…we might even be witnesses of the termination of one or more major denominations in our lifetime. Syncretism, pluralism, political correctness, materialism, consumerism, and secularism are the growing “religions” of our time. The Body of Christ is facing HUGE challenges. Faithful followers of Jesus as well as wise ministry leaders understand that we are facing issues that don’t have easy “technical” answers. There is no expert who knows how to navigate these new and ever-changing waters. Instead of posing as an expert or looking in the historical “rear-view mirror” and yearning for the good ole days, we need each other and the wisdom/power of God to be able to address these new challenges.
For example consider the situation – churches are closing around the country – what may need to be changed? Can’t do the same thing over and over again expecting different results…that’s the definition of insanity. What leadership skills would we need to employ to meet this challenge?
For a follower of Jesus, we need to adopt and apply ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP PRACTICES into our lives. Read over the following list and see what you think:
• Followers of Jesus must learn to identify adaptive challenges.
• We then identify what learning, new skills, behaviors need to be acquired to address these issue.
• We must learn to look at these challenges with “new eyes” and be willing to explore new “wineskins” (see Luke 5:35-39).
• We must learn to identify and accept what loss will occur when change is embraced in order to address these challenges.
• We must understand that Community and Relationships are no longer luxuries in God’s Kingdom but necessities – we need to be able to involve others and hold them responsible for their piece of the solution to the challenge (a new embracing of the theology of the “priesthood of all believers”)
• We must be able to embrace a desire to hold steady, not give in to a sense of defeat or retreat or backing down – in many instances, adaptive challenges are spiritual battles (see Ephesians 6:10ff). • As we address these challenges, we must get on the “Balcony” – in other words, step back and see the big picture. We need to see that in the midst of action, each person plays a part in God’s economy – each has gifts, abilities, passions and a unique perspective that is cherished and necessary in the development of a new praxis (action based upon principles and values). We not only need to see what every person can offer but also we must remove the constraints that are holding them back from acting in the situation to their full God-given potential.
• One critical, practical necessity in the midst of facing these challenges is = communication, communication, etc.
• We must also, as one person put it, “listen to the song beneath the words”, in other word, listen to what’s not being said.
According to Ron Heifetz (a man who studies and writes on the reality of facing adaptive challenges), “to lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear- their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking- with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility” (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002, p.2) .
Questions for thought and Discussion – in your opinion, what are the challenges that the Body of Christ faces in the 21st century? What are the challenges that an individual follower of Jesus faces? How can we begin to address these challenges most effectively?
(adapted by Robin from an article written by St. Lydia's pastor)
Here is a simple but profound story! It is a story of one faith community that decided together to do church differently...to do something intentionally to act on the words of Jesus to "go, make disciples." In a world that magnifies success as large, numbers, money, etc., this congregation is not only an outlier but an example of what Jesus does in and through the lives of His followers in surprisingly delightful ways. So read the article and wonder/pray with me...what can God do in and through YOU?
One thousand square feet. It's not much space for a church. About the same square footage as two bowling lanes, to give you an idea. "Why so small?" you might ask. The answer is both economical and theological. Economically, this faith community/church is located in Brooklyn, and 1,000 square feet is what they can afford. Theologically, this congregation has discovered that building big community happens on a small scale: 30 people around dinner tables, sharing a meal they've made together.
St. Lydia's, the five-year-old church is a Dinner Church. This means that the people gather each week to share what they call a "sacred meal:" a worship service that takes place around the table. This meal is patterned after those shared by Christians in the first few centuries of the church, which evolved into our current day communion celebrations with participants sharing the bread and the cup. The congregation doesn't need much space, but after renting by the night for five years, they have found they were ready for a place of their own. And so in the summer of 2104, the church moved to a storefront in Brooklyn -- the kind of storefront that might be a restaurant or a shop but instead going to be a church.
Dinner Church takes place on a small scale. You might call it a micro-scale. In a macro-city like New York, one can feel like a tiny cog in a giant machine. Shuffled down crowded city streets, elbowed on subway train cars and stuffed into elevators, many of us feel nameless and unseen for much of our day. Enter Dinner Church, a gathering of 30 or so folks over a meal the people cook together. Everyone is known by name (they are all wearing name tags) and folks there for the first time are invited to chop vegetables or set out silverware.
This faith community sees the hunger for an experience of intimacy and the sacred reflected in the culture at large best understood around a table of food. Their renewed interest in the local, the artisanal, the reclaimed, seemed to the pastor and the congregation to be a yearning for a life that takes place at a smaller scale. They distinctly decided that they wanted to know the person who made our bread in a bakery, not a sprawling, steely factory in some distant, nameless place. They wanted to know the smell of the earth where our vegetables came from. They wanted to make things from scratch. In short, they wanted to know themselves and each other on a deep level.
Just like bread from the kitchen, St. Lydia's comes in batches. A church of 30 people can't hope to be financially sustainable, supporting a pastor and providing an operating budget. And so they planned to grow by batch number instead of by batch size. In 2014, they started worshipping (in the dinner church format) on Monday nights in addition to Sunday nights. They keep growing this way, adding more services as they go. In this way, a church the size of a couple of bowling lanes can sustain a pretty sizable congregation, and afford that New York rent.
And so, they are a church, with our thousand square feet. They designed a space for a Dinner Church. They have no steeple, no bell tower, no rows of pews or stained glass windows. During a community planning process, the architect asked the congregation, "What makes space sacred?" Quiet, they told her. Beautiful things made by hand. Natural materials. The way the light comes in.
The congregation designed a space to direct people toward God, not by turning their eyes to a far-removed altar, but by turning instead to one another. The most dominant feature will be three ovular tables for ten. The bowed shape ensures that everyone at the table can make eye contact with everyone else. In addition, they crafted a space that intentionally invites people to participate. Open shelves holding plates and glasses encourage newcomers to jump in and set tables. It's easy to see where everything is stored -- easy to take part. Like a Montessori classroom, the design to encourages interaction with both materials and people.
And what happens around those tables, designed to encourage the people of God to see one another, face to face? It starts small, with relationships built around the table. Every time a congregation sits down with someone from whom they would otherwise be divided, the Kingdom of God is experienced. The conversations...doing the dishes together...knowing people takes place on the smallest level possible: one human sitting down with another. But in doing so, we encounter something huge: the limitless presence of God.
So, what do you think? How could this be something that "works" for you as a faith community/church experience? Would you find yourself looking for a community experience like this? Any specific responses that you have to this vision?
First of all, ALL Jesus followers will be held accountable before God for our use of our giftedness. As Jesus said in one of his parables, Matthew 25, that there will be an accounting of if we "buried" our talents or invested them in a way that they multiply. I don't, nor have I ever, purposely criticize someone who is a brother or sister in Jesus. That's my rule. I'm sure I'm not completely outside of the realm of criticism or challenge. In fact, I welcome it. So, that's my take on that.
Despite that fact though, I believe it is important (as has been my blogging habit) to notice and comment on Contemporary Christian culture (especially churchworld, of which I am and have been personally invested for most of my adult life). It did grab my attention...this article, that is:
What else grabbed my attention is this:
you read that correctly...$200 million dollars. Now, I'm watching many of my friends (people I love and trust) comment on this article through facebook. I said publicly that I don't know how this continues to be a Kingdom "win." Here are some thoughts shared yesterday:
"I'm ambivalent about saddleback-I lived in OC when they started... Been to worship and to three conferences...but I really am having a problem with megas lately and the $$$ spent on facilities...one day saddleback will be the European cathedral on the USA...institutional life cycles and the reality of key leadership passing away are factors that can't be ignored... In addition there are faithful and vibrant ministries that lose out to the Christian corporation...for those planters and small church people in OC this is not a win for them."
I met Rick and I'm not saying anything about him per se. He is a godly man and I applaud all that he has done. My issue is with the concept of mega and the money and empire building and definitions of success in ministry and the dynamics that I've seen in my experience.
Well, you can imagine, we've had a "discussion" online about this issue. Praise God, at least for now, things are relatively civil (as they should be). But the "megas" are here to stay...in fact, I believe churchworld's future in the USA is going to belong to organic church and megachurch. Much of what many of us see as the "average" church, around 70-125, will be out of business because of an unsustainable economic model formulated from the past. Mega's will offer a consumeristic culture the programmatic and "event/experience" orientation that many crave and the organic church will offer more of the intense community and disciple-forming strategies that ground Jesus followers in God's call to faithfulness. Not that megas can't do the latter or that organics can't do the former. It is simply that there will be many, many who will attend the megas for the "show" and many who will imbibe in the organics for a more personal connectedness. As you know if you have tasted the mega world, ONLY the top tier of participants really get to be involved in the show...performance standards eliminate the average. In the organic world, every person is a "player"...that egalitarian character will be affirming to so many who have gifts that they would like to share.
So, is there anything wrong with mega? As I said, I'm ambivalent for MANY reasons. What saddens me is the "assumption" that just because mega's are culturally successful in one location that they need to plant as many franchises as possible in order to grow their success. Megas would call that expansion just another way of looking at growth...I don't see it that way. Every franchise runs headfirst into existing ministries...every franchise assumes that mother church's "product development" is worth sharing with the world ad nauseam...every franchise DOES end up not only competing but, in many cases, obliterating local fellowships already existing for what I am convinced are purely market driven realities. In other words, it is hard for a "mom and pop" store to deal with Walmart moving into town. That's the sad thing about it...not too many smaller churches can step into the batter's box of attractional ministry NOT when it costs $1000's simply to get a decent picture up on a screen much less have the talent and expertise to run the damn system in the first place. I let that go a long time ago....there is no way our small, mature, and growing small fellowship can compete in that market. Put it this way, I'm not going to go and pay $10 or more to see a movie in a run-down theater showing films with non-digital projectors and using sound systems that were built in the 50's. I want the best...and that's the way it is in this culture with those who's emphasis is on the show.
There is no doubt, from an exponential perspective, that megas bless the Kingdom. But friends, it is a matter of perspective...and it is a "numbers" game. For every one or two a church like "mine" reaches (average attendance of 90) of course a church of 1000's is going to reach more. It is simply a matter of math. Even so, I do remember a time where I was encouraging a youth worker from a small church who had 25 kids coming to youth group. He was despairing that he didn't have "mega" numbers until I told him to "do the math." He had a potential youth group of 40 kids (if you counted every high school kid in that church's sphere of influence). He was running a 62% attendance rate. I told him that the local mega had 150 at their youth group but that they had the potential of over a 1000. They were running a 15% attendance rate. I tried my best to encourage him...and thank God, he got it!
I have friends who are invested in all possible "churchworlds." Buddies of mine are planters, mega leaders and small ministry pastors. I see every person's perspective. AND I love and celebrate every Kingdom win. But I also listen to my friends who are DONE with church. They see millions spent on facilities and expansion and wonder about the "Jesus" in that. Here's the word of someone I've know for years:
I told Robin today that I am one of the "Done's". I am done with church because of accusations like this. I have left for my own sanity, peace of mind and for relief. I have been put down, stomped on, disregarded and accused unjustly. If this is what the church is today, I want no part of it. I am not alone. There are millions of us. We love God but cannot continue in a church setting. Wounded souls who need mercy and to be shown compassion. Will you be a person of love and mercy?
Whatever the circumstance, my friend is right. People are seeing this churchworld stuff and saying, "no maas." I don't have an answer but I do see the fact that the local paper is making a BIG DEAL about a 70 million dollar campaign for expansion while NOT covering a "rebirth" of ministry in an abandoned, downtown, rundown building with 12 people who love God and want to see Jesus move in that neighborhood as putting the culture's sights on only what the culture brands as "successful." My biggest concern is the definition of success...if Saddleback is it, then all the rest of us in the remaining part of churchworld are losers in so many ways. If success is measured by a situation I ran into this week where ONE Jesus follower had a BBQ in their backyard and shared their faith with a neighbor who was struggling with depression (a contact that cost pennies vs. millions)...if that is success, then I'm not only "in" but I can say to myself and the people I shepherd, "we can do that!"
More Both/And than Either/Or
I’ve long believed that life is more about paradox and “dialectic” mental, spiritual, and emotional processing than it is about right and wrong, good or bad, black or white, etc. I remember when I first started to wrestle with this idea when I was in college. My advisor “hammered” home the idea that we could not continue to interpret the bible or even “do” theology from a “hardline”, “I’m right and you are wrong” perspective. My professor, Dr. Kallas, was the first person that introduced me to the concept of Mystery. In other words, there are simply things that we cannot sort out conclusively and that leads to the appreciation and embracing of paradox.
The concept of Mystery originates within the scripture…you might say that it is captured by the essence of the word, “holy” (that being, something truly different or set part from that which is innately human). Something considered “holy” was/is to be understood as that which stood outside of human definition and categorization. It was wholly “other.” Mystery is also something that the Apostle Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13 when he exclaims that we see in a “mirror dimly but one day we shall see things face to face.” Again, there are things that are simply beyond our human experience to define. Thus what appears on the surface to be contradictory and “enemies” to be separated (e.g. Jesus’ divine/human nature; the interplay between the love of God and judgment/justice of God; the being/doing aspects of what it means to be a disciple; etc.) are really examples of a broader conceptual partnership. Confused? How about this - Paradox can be defined this way:
A statement that appears to contradict itself…a paradox can be defined as an “unacceptable conclusion” derived by apparently acceptable reasoning from apparently acceptable premises. Unlike party puzzles or brainteasers, many paradoxes are serious in that they raise serious philosophical problems, and are associated with crises of thought and revolutionary advances. To grapple with them is not merely to engage in an intellectual game, but to come to grips with issues of real import. One well known paradox was written by the Greek stoical logician Chrysippos. The poet, grammarian and critic Philetus of Cos was said to have died of exhaustion attempting to resolve it.
1. A Cretan sails to Greece and says to some Greek men who are standing upon the shore: "All Cretans are liars." Did he speak the truth, or did he lie?
2. A week later, the Cretan sailed to Greece again and said: "All Cretans are liars and all I say is the truth." Although the Greeks on the shore weren't aware of what he had said the first time, they were truly puzzled. If someone says, "I always lie", are they telling the truth? Or are they lying?
In the last few years, this idea has been “reshaped” linguistically to be recognized more under the banner of “dualistic thinking.” So, what’s the point of all this? To get to this sentence for you to consider in your heart and life:
“You no longer need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally right or totally wrong, with me or against me. It just IS. This calm allows you to confront what must be confronted in life with even greater clarity and incisiveness.” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
There is a BIG difference between being a person who can truly be fueled by dualism and a person who, in fact, has left that which can and is the “small and petty” to allow God to use them in new ways. Remember, dualistic thinking and living is a well-practiced pattern of always knowing and interacting with life by the rule of “comparisons.” It puts us in the position of constantly being the “judge.” Just think how easy it is to “label” things – come on, be honest! Notice your thoughts and reactions to things in life. You will see that you will move almost automatically into a pattern of:
“…Up or down, in or out, for me or against me, right or wrong, black or white, good or bad…it is the basic reason why the ‘stinking thinking’ of racism, classism, religious imperialism, and prejudice of all kinds is so hard to overcome…” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
The dualistic mind and heart always compares, competes, conflicts, conspires, condemns and cancels out any contrary evidence and then, as Rohr says, it crucifies with impunity. And as long as you and me are thinking like this we will stay stuck in our little, sheltered world of personal preferences and be unable to live God’s Kingdom out in our lives with the same generous grace and mercy we have so wonderfully received from God.
One of the other authors I read a few years back wrote a book called, Generous Orthodoxy. The title alone took my breath away because I had NEVER experienced orthodoxy as generous NOR had I ever experienced genuine generosity in a pre-planned, systematically driven manner. The words seemed to be oxymoronic…but that was his point. Orthodoxy, though somewhat important, is more about judgment and exclusion than it is about love and understanding. What the world needs to see now more than ever is love, understanding, gracious listening, and acceptance especially from people who follow Jesus.
I believe the culture has seen enough battle from believers especially when it appears that Christians are the first to take up a “weapon” and condemn others. Remember when Jesus says things like, “the Father’s sun shines and the good and bad, his rain on the just and unjust” (Mat. 5:45) the “dualist” inside of us wants to yell, “STOP Jesus! I thought WE were your chosen ones!” But I know it is time for another way. I believe, like Rohr does, that one of the HUGE reasons Jesus changed the world is because he was a non-dualistic religious teacher. Nothing is going to change in our lives if we continue to be those who constantly argue about the strength of our facts over against any other person. Instead of splitting “hairs” we ought to be those who embrace Mystery and look for healing. When we are profoundly made “whole” by the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives, it is our calling to promote wholeness in our world. People who created splits in everything and everybody may, in fact, be those people who have not experienced the healing that Jesus says comes along with the gift of God’s grace and mercy.
We assume people (let me say it truthfully, Jesus following people) who think differently, believe differently, and see the bible or theology differently to be automatically wrong. We condemn them and separate ourselves from them under the banner of doctrinal purity when at the same time they are praying to the same God and attempting to faithfully listen and respond to the same Spirit. There have been many times that I have shared with friends some of the books I’ve been reading when I’ve heard the words, “you can’t read that!” “That book isn’t (fill in the blank).” Even so, I find it extremely enlightening and challenging and “growth enhancing” to expose myself and my heart to other ways of seeing the Jesus following journey! I might not always agree but, I tell you, I have grown SO MUCH from considering other perspectives on issues of which I had my mind made up. God has more to teach me!
So, how about you? Are you more about conflict than consensus? Finding wrong than looking for right? Pointing out the bad versus looking for the good? Calling out that which divides than searching for that which can open up a conversation and a relationship? Remember, life in God’s Kingdom may be more about “both/and” and either/or…it may be more about God’s YES than God’s NO. Give it some thought and prayer, OK? That’s what I’m doing! In fact, in the next post, I might share some stuff that I'm "relearning" based upon some new perspectives. How about that!
I spent a few moments today, as usual, skimming my usual blogs. ONE article was a stand out today! If you have any interest in "churchworld," or what some would refer to as "contemporary Christianity," this perspective will be a challenge to you. It has now been over a couple of weeks since the latest Pew Forum study on religious practices. I've read all sorts of spin and have seen all kinds of analysis based upon findings that clearly indicate that Christianity in America, though according to some is "doomed," is declining. Call it what you will, the onset of Post-Christendom paired with Post-modernity and the increasing influence of secularism, individualism, and moral relativism, has taken and is taking its religious institutional toll.
The article is worth reading...it is a short "take" on the Pew research but includes, most importantly, some key phrases that are telling. Read it for yourself...but look carefully at:
"Faded into broader culture"
"Collapse...of religious belief as civic assumption"
The distinction between, "repressed remnant" and "joyful minority"
I think that there are some good points in this article especially when its author rightly points out that the church's role is society is perceived with an "angry and anxious public face." Those words alone should be a wake up call to those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. How the culture perceives Jesus lovers is how the culture will respond to Jesus lovers. If that love cannot transcend the increasingly secularistic cultural norms, than churchworld will continue to decline. A "new model" of social engagement must emerge from the halls, pews, chairs, auditoriums and sanctuaries of churches. Pure and simple, that's his encouragement. Frankly, I think it is wise advice!
I was on my way to Encinitas beach a while ago (Southern California near San Diego). I had planned on bringing my “sponge” (surfer lingo for a boogie board) with me so that I could catch a few waves prior to a meeting I needed to attend. I hadn’t been surfing in quite some time so I was “stoked” about having some moments to relive the glory of my youth. When I got up for my drive to the surf session, I couldn’t contain myself with excitement. Then it hit me…I wasn’t properly prepared. In my enthusiasm to get out of town, I hadn’t spent the amount of time that was needed to make the day happen. Yes, I had my board and I had a car to get to the beach…what I didn’t have was the rest of the stuff I would need to make the day what I had hoped it would be. I forgot to bring my wetsuit and I grabbed the wrong swim fins. So, in a matter of moments, my excitement turned into frustration.
Most of us who take Kingdom work seriously are planners. Jesus followers tend to be driven by passion, inspiration and enthusiasm to do the will and mission of God. That is the way that the Holy Spirit works. But if you are like me, my enthusiasm often drives me to be more impulsive than strategic in accomplishing what I believe needs to be accomplished. It’s the only way to combat that oft times irresponsible spontaneity. Consequently, planning needs to be a part of the DNA of who we are. We need to have a detailed enough plan to be able to launch and live Kingdom priorities in a fruitful manner. Even so, before you plan, plan on planning. In other words, before you plan, before you sit down with a blank sheet of paper praying for creativity and the envisioning “muse” to lead you, don’t end up at the “beach filled with frustration.”
Here are a few suggestions:
1 – Before you plan, make sure you set aside ample time. Your ally in planning is time. You need time to be your friend. You need a lot of it. You need it be time when you are at your best. You need time without distractions. You need time where you actually struggle a bit with boredom. When I’ve been tempted to get bored or distracted during my planning times, I find that I am just at the cusp of a good idea or perspective. If you are not pacing a room, or tempted to call it quits, or looking for an excuse to do something else, you probably have not set aside enough time to plan.
2 – Before you plan, prepare for your time. I have discovered that almost all of my times of planning and strategizing rose or fell based upon my preparation. In other words, ask yourself the question, “What will be the focus of my plan?” Is this a plan for YOU? Your church? Your ministry? Your schedule? Your family? Is this plan going involve anything specific in YOU, your church, ministry, schedule, or family? Do you need any documents, computer files, minutes from meetings, notes or journal entries you’ve made where you may have scratched out a few ideas that you need access to as you plan? What books or articles you’ve read recently would you want to refer to as you put together a plan? I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve sat down to do some planning and strategizing and have gotten frustrated because I didn’t bring something that I needed for that session. It might sound redundant but it is helpful to remember that you need to plan for your planning.
3 – Before you plan, ask yourself, “Who are the people in my life that this plan will affect? Do they need to be part of this planning process?” This is a factor that you need to take seriously. All of Kingdom planning is “community” planning. In other words, just as our lives in Jesus are a relational journey so is the formulation of a strategy. We don’t plan in isolation. You may think you do but every plan or strategy that you devise has relational implications. And, as we are apt to do, don’t let your enthusiasm for a plan divorce you from the obvious need for relational feedback and accountability. The worst plans I’ve implemented are the plans where my “killer” idea was launched in a relational vacuum.
4 – Before you plan, get a Coach. I’ve been intrigued over the years with the idea of having a personal “board of directors,” that being, a select group of people who were invested in me, the vision and mission that I adhere to for my life. I’m still striving toward that goal. But in the meantime, what I’ve discovered of late is the INVALUABLE asset of having a COACH as a vital part of my life. In actuality, my COACH has been my personal “board” over the past months giving me piercing feedback, wise counsel, priceless perspective and appropriate life challenge to make the changes, plans and strategies that I need to make. At FIVE-TWO we are “big” on the value of coaching. If you don’t have one, get one. Planning and strategizing that is not consistent with who you are, your mission for your life and an “incarnation” of your deepest dreams and aspirations will bound to be flat and ineffective over time.
5 – Before you plan, ask yourself, “Is this plan going to include some change? In me? In my organization?” Any plan that instigates change needs to have clarity on what dynamics you will be facing when any change is actualized. I’ve been “obsessed” with studying the dynamics of change and the fluidity of organic systems. Churches are living organisms impacted by change. From fear to anticipation, from disillusionment to renewal, change dynamics will affect your plan. If you need a good read to build your knowledge of what you face in change, read ANYTHING by John Kotter and/or the Heath book, Switch OR the Starfish and the Spider. Know these dynamics well and your plan will be served well. 6 – Before you plan, read the book, Five (Zadra, Dan. Five. Seattle: Compendium. 2009. ISBN 978-1-932319-44-6). Reminding me again that you can teach “old dogs new tricks,” a friend of mine bought this book for me and serendipitously placed in my hands. I’ve been working my way through it for over a week. I find it to be a book that asks the right questions that will provide a helpful framework for your planning. One question that is very helpful is this, “Is your planning consistent with your long-range plan?” Short term plans are good but NOT good if contextually out of synch. Good planners are contextual planners…they know how today will fit in with the flow of history and the visions of the future.
Again, don’t embark on your planning journey without a plan for your journey! Simple…obvious but profound!
I do a lot of writing on a day to day basis. Sometimes it is meaningful...sometimes? Well, you can imagine. Despite my writing habits there are authors and bloggers who "take my breath" away with their insight, prophetic voice and challenge. One of those authors is Ann Voscamp. I've been so thankful to God that Ann's blog was brought to my attention. I'm never disappointed in her artistic and poetic posts as well as her subtle encouragement to deepen a walk with Jesus as well as join in the mission of the Kingdom of God.
This post has not left my imagination or my heart for several days. It is powerful and heart-breaking but calls from Jesus followers a deliberateness in seeking God, actually, pleading with God for action.A friend of mine is critical of our country's administration regarding Iraq and, truthfully, I understand the criticism. But this takes more than criticism...this post talks about a travesty of justice and such outrageous brutality that it alone should spark some moral clarity within anyone who has a soul. I don't know what to do...there's a part of me that says, "we have to do something militarily to stop this"...there is part of me that bristles against war of any kind and remembers what happened and the destruction and death that occurred during the Iraq war. I'm stuck...but my heart hurts for these young girls and the massive amounts of people who are suffering. Our past mistakes can't immobilize us from action. Something needs to be done...pray with me that that will happen soon!
I can't remember where I got this article. It is good...really good. I adapted some of it...but otherwise it is 80% of what the original author wrote! To whoever wrote it, bravo! And thank you for writing this...for my friends, take a good look:
"Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind."...And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you." And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?"And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:31-35
Most Jesus followers aren't like Jesus...isn't that obvious? Should we even try to or expect to be? Isn't that impossible?
None of us can be like Jesus perfectly, but the Gospel of the Kingdom calls Jesus' disciples to hear his call and set the goal and direction of their lives to be like him. For a follower of Jesus, Paul's words of "follow me as I follow Christ," are translated simply, "follow Christ in every way possible."
Ghandi said "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.
They are so unlike your Christ."
Ghandi is far from the only one to have made that observation, and those critics aren't holding anyone to a standard of perfection. They are simply looking for enough congruence that the claim to be a follower of Jesus makes sense. Christians have gotten very good at explaining why they really shouldn't be expected to be like Christ. At various points, these explanations are true. At other points, they start sounding like winners in a competition for absurdist doublespeak.
Perhaps many Christians don't resemble Jesus because they don't really know what Jesus was like. Or- more likely- they assume Jesus was very much like themselves, only a bit more religious. Getting our bearings on being like Jesus will start with something very important: discarding our assumption that our personal and collective picture of Jesus is accurate. One of the constants in the Gospels is the misunderstanding of Jesus. The list of mistaken parties is long:
The disciples were certain Jesus was a political messiah/king who would bring the Kingdom through miracles, but just at the moment they were most certain of who and what Jesus was, he turned everything upside down. Only after the horror of the cross was past and the Spirit opened their minds and hearts to the truth did the disciples begin to see Jesus clearly. Thomas mistook Jesus for a dead man. Like the blind man in Mark 8, the disciples had partial, unclear sight that required a second touch for clarity. I believe Judas misjudged Jesus. Saul the persecutor certainly did, as did Pilate and the Romans. If you got all the people who misjudged Jesus into a room, you'd need a bigger room.
A friend of mine has a son who is a big fan of wrestling. Every wrestler has a signature move to end a match, a move that no one does exactly like they do. When I read Mark 11 and the story of Jesus turning over the tables of the merchants and moneychangers, I believe Jesus' signature move is turning over the tables of expectations about who he is and what it means to follow him. Read back through the Biblical examples I've cited. In almost every instance, it's Jesus who overturns the tables of expectations and preconceived notions. It's not just a discovery by a seeker. Jesus is the initiator of the big surprises.
Part of what it means to be a Jesus-follower is to have your notions of religion, life and God turned upside down by the rabbi from Nazareth. So is Jesus like today's Christians who so easily assume they know what Jesus is all about? I'd like to suggest that the answer is, NO! Jesus isn't like today's Christians at all, and a large portion of our failure of Christlikeness comes down to a failure to know what Jesus was like.
Do you like grape Kool-Aid? When I was a kid, I always loved the taste of grape Kool-Aid on a hot day. Have you ever tasted grapes? Do grapes taste grape Kool-Aid? No, they don't. But you could easily imagine a child who loves grape Kool-Aid eating a grape and saying "Yuck!! This doesn't taste like grapes at all!" The real thing has been replaced by the advertised replacement so long that there's genuine confusion and disappointment at the taste of a real grape. So it is with Jesus. The version of Jesus that dominates so much contemporary Christianity is the grape Kool-Aid version of a real grape. And many, many Christians have no taste for Jesus as we find him in scripture, especially the Gospels.
Where would the real Jesus perform his signature move of turning over our popular misconception of him? Here's just a few tentative and preliminary suggestions.
Jesus calls all persons to follow him as disciples in the Kingdom of God. This invitation doesn't look identical to the experiences of the apostles, but the claims and commands of Jesus to his apostles extend to all Jesus-followers anywhere. God is revealed in Jesus in a unique way. What God has to show us and to say to us is there in Jesus of Nazareth. All the fullness of God lives in him, and to be united to Jesus by faith is to have the fullness of all God's promises and blessings. Jesus didn't talk much about how to get to heaven, and certainly never gave a "gospel presentation" like today's evangelicals. Nor did he teach that any organization of earth controlled who goes to heaven. Jesus never fought the culture war. Jesus was political because the Kingdom of God is here now, but he was the opposite of the political mindset of his time as expressed in various parties and sects. Jesus was radically simple in his spirituality. Jesus was radically simple in his worship. Jesus fulfills the old testament scriptures completely, and they can not be rightly understood without him as their ultimate focus. The only people Jesus was ever angry at was the clergy. He called out clergy corruption and demanded honesty and integrity from those who claimed to speak for God and lead his people. Jesus embraced slavery and servanthood as the primary identifiers of the leaders of his movement. Jesus didn't waste his time with religious and doctrinal debates. He always moves to the heart of the matter. Love God, Love Neighbor, Live the Kingdom. Jesus expected his disciples to get it, and was frustrated when they didn't. Jesus died for being a true revolutionary, proclaiming a Kingdom whose foundations are the City of God. Does this sound like Jesus as you've encountered him in evangelicalism? That's the sound of tables turning over. That's the taste of a real grape, not the Kool-Aid. That's why so many Christians aren't like Jesus. They have no idea what he was really all about.
This past weekend I had a chance to live stream into a conference called, “Simply Jesus.” The Simply Jesus conference was profound and life/ministry affirming in so many ways. First of all, one of the aspects of Simply Jesus that really made an impact on me, my wife and another couple who watched the live stream with us over the weekend was the breadth and experiential range of the storytellers. It was one of those God moments where the diversity of God’s presence and the myriad of ways that the Lord acts in, loves and challenges His people were vividly displayed. In other words, there was no “boundary” on the richness of the sharing and the theological scope that was apparent in the room and during the event. The Simply Jesus team is not afraid to have Jesus shared and experienced outside of the conventional “box” that is often driven by denominational categories and theological roots. So often within denominational Christianity we end up focusing so much time and energy in only speaking to our own tribe. I see that in almost every denomination and church movement that is alive today. We end up “speaking to ourselves” and staying comfortable within our own “box,” I believe, because of fear of being exposed to something that might make us think or even question or embrace new ways of experiencing (and articulating) faith. Again, something that really was amazingly transformative about Simply Jesus is that speaker after speaker brought not only a story that affirmed a Jesus focused life but almost every one made me see something about a walk with Jesus that was “new” to my experience. I can’t even begin to summarize how many times I simply just remarked out loud…”woa, that makes me feel uncomfortable.” Spiritual discomfort is a good thing and it should be happening more and not less. It was a prophetic experience capitalizing on bringing discomfort to the comfortable and fresh perspectives to those who often find themselves spiritually and theologically stale. I believe that faith communities will only grow and discover new ways of being faithful to the Missio Dei by hearing voices and new stories from outside the bounds of conventionalism. We need not be afraid of being bold in exposing the movement’s constituents to these voices and experiences. Jesus “grows” as we see Him in other people and ministries outside of our comfort zone. Every time I heard another story this weekend, Jesus got “bigger.” That’s exactly the experience I believe we are seeking if we love and follow Jesus. When we only speak to our tribe from our tribe’s collective, agreed upon experiences our Jesus stays “small.” I know you want a “big” Jesus…and I do too!