Tweek, Dec. 19
December 19, 2008, 7:09 pm
Filed under: Seattle, twitter

Our tweet for the week comes to us from Seattlite Joshua Longbrake (blog here / Twitter here):

thelongbrake The weathermen in Seattle can’t even predict the past.
Wed, Dec 17 08:21:12

What to blog about when you haven’t blogged lately
December 19, 2008, 11:13 am
Filed under: Christendom, denomination, evangelism, spiritual formation, theology, twitter

Despite the fact that my paycheck comes from a major Christian denomination, I don’t typically like to blog about them, er, “us.”  Partly because I shudder when using that word – us – because it means I’m complicit in a lot of things I detest.  Partly because it’s embarrassing.  Partly because I think it’s irrelevant to this blog – I’ve been blogging a heckuva lot longer than I’ve worked for the denom, so what’s it to them (er, us)?

Once in a while, even when I do mention the denom, I’ll do it without naming the denom.  All the same reasons as above.

Yesterday, a classmate tossed up a link on Twitter, to a news story that talked about our mutual denomination, and evangelism programs.  I literally laughed out loud at points.  Laughter was inappropriate, though, because a) it wasn’t supposed to be a funny piece, and b) I should have been grieving.

The article is about how poorly we are doing with our evangelism programs.  O.k. STOP, and re-read that last sentence there . . . I’ll wait.  Multiple items to chew on there.  First, “poorly” is an indicator of success/failure . . . which, of course, we measure . . . by number of baptisms.  Not transformation, not community impact, but baptisms. 

Next, evangelism programs.  The apostle Paul instructs Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist.”  Evangelism isn’t a program, it’s the behavior that arises out of an identity.  Programs aren’t automatically bad, but the history of evangelism programs – both in our denom and elsewhere – is that they have to be promoted.  People in our churches apparently do not do evangelism, therefore, they must be convinced to do it and then trained to do it through these programs.  We try to be clever with these programs, and give them catchy campaign names.  Like “EKG” – Empowering Kingdom Growth.  Like “What Now.”  Like “Who Cares.”  I swear to you, I’ve made none of those up – they are actual campaigns. 

If people aren’t doing evangelism according to our programs, that could indicate a few things.  For one thing, it could mean that since we’ve counted previous baptisms, not transformation, we’ve not seen true conversions take place – evangelism is  a natural behavior, driven by the Holy Spirit.  For another, people who have been converted resist these marketed programs because they inherently know they’re cheesy, ineffective, manipulative, or aimed at the wrong result.  For another thing, we’ve turned God into a commodity that needs to be sold.

If we are experiencing God and his Kingdom, Jesus, and the Spirit in a way that changes us deeply, helps us to see the world in a different way, and challenges us to live into a different reality, evangelism will happen all by itself.  Not as a result of a program or a marketing scheme.

Tweek – Dec. 12 edition
December 12, 2008, 8:17 am
Filed under: friends, humor, twitter

This week’s top tweet comes from JB. He’s a school principal – an elementary school principal.  Enjoy . . . or, you know, be frightened, whatever.

Got a spreadsheet listing injuries at school – one reads “middle finger pain due to overuse” LOL

Thu 12/11/2008 10:48 PM

On Being a Tortured Idealist
December 8, 2008, 11:18 pm
Filed under: spiritual formation

Without going into all of my motivations for this, I’ll say that the past month or so of my life has been an intense time of introspection, inventory, confession, and renewal for me.  One of the things that I’ve recently been coming to grips with is the degree to which over the past seven or eight years I’ve taken on the role and mental state of a tortured idealist.  I think I’ve always been pretty idealistic and a perfectionist, but usually infused with a healthy dose of optimism . . . up until the tortured idealist phase, that is.

I think in my shifting toward a radical deconstruction of theology, church culture, calling, and direction there have been a lot of temporary phases.  The “angry young man phase,” the “revolutionary subversive phase,” the mystical phase, etc.  I’ve cycled in and out of these phases multiple times – let’s keep in mind, that these are postmodern and non-linear phases!  But the one that seems to have occupied a larger portion of my life is the tortured idealist.  This is the phase where I look at scripture, look at life, look at the Church, look at church history, look at the church of my native culture, and I lament the incongruence of it all.  I try to “reimagine” new directions and initiatives, create small spaces of growth, and move forward (whichever direction that may be), but it never seems to be good enough.  I feel stunted a lot of times, realizing that when I bring about good changes in one area, I create problems in other areas (kind of like all the well-intentioned ethanol as cleaner fuel folks, who inadvertently complicated the world food crisis by re-allocating farm land for fuel production).  I’ve taken on exciting new ventures, and done some very cool things, which have allowed me to meet amazing people, be creative, chart my own course, and “be the change I want to see in the world.”  And yet, it consistently comes back to the tortured idealist thing – the things I create, the relationships I engage, the work I do seems to fall short of my idealistic/perfectionist notions, and so I’m tortured.  Woe is me . . . and unfortunately, woe is anyone who has to spend time with me.

I’ve spent long hours lingering in cynicism.  I actually do believe that cynicism has been a major asset for me, but it most certainly has a dark side.

So the question for me here is how to embrace the hopeful things, the small steps of progress, the little glimpses of the Kingdom breaking through, even if I realize that I’ve still got a long way to go?  It’s time to embrace those things, and move forward in them with the confidence that “better” may not be perfect, but it’s still better.  Otherwise, I take the blessings I’m given, the opportunities I’m given, the gifts I’m given, and I call them rubbish – devaluing those who bless and those who give to me.

I’m committed to living into a different reality going forward.  I will likely still cycle through the phases of tortured idealism from time to time, but while it may be a good place to visit, I don’t want to live there any more.

Strategically viral?
December 7, 2008, 12:00 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

My friend Petey and I talked on the phone for over an hour the other day.  We were talking ’bout “missional” leadership styles.  He asked what I thought about decentralized forms of leadership and organization, like the concepts and examples discussed in the book The Starfish and the Spider.  I told him I was all for that   approach to leadership, but we have to be honest and admit that it’s a tough way to  run an organization.  Over and over I have found myself having to reassure those who follow my leadership that they DO have permission and encouragement and empowerment to go do things, get involved in projects, participate in activities.  We still live solidly within a leadership paradigm that forces people into top-down modes, and people still have a hard time believing that it’s o.k. to step out of that mode.  The “leader” is still seen as the one to catalyze things into action.  Leaders bring vision, provide the road map, energize the followers to action, and send them out with a pep talk.

And yet, it sure seems like the whole “viral” thing is what is really bringing about the most change in the world.  The book referenced about gives lots of internet examples of movements and companies that took off because they had a decentralized structure that allowed for more fluidity, responsiveness to challenges, and grassroots energy.

Viral seems to be the way to go these days.  But getting back to the concept of missional leadership, the question is, how do we go about giving leadership in such a way that viral movements are stimulated and grown?  In other words, is it possible to be both strategic and viral simultaneously?  That’s tricky business.  Providing enough of a vision, enough of a compelling call to change, enough of a push to get people moving, but not so much that it become too leader-driven, structured, or mapped out ahead of time that there’s no room for creativity in the moment for people.

I do think it’s possible to be strategically viral, but it’s so hard to know how.  I think it involves being highly experimental, knowing that you’re going to fail many more times than you’ll succeed.  And the things that you will come to call success may look like failures for quite a while before they’re understood in different ways.  It involves creating environments more than game plans.  It involves developing an ethos among people more than a list of rules, behaviors, and marching orders.

What do you think?  Am I full of hot air?  Are strategic and viral mutually exclusive terms?  Why? Why not?

December 5, 2008, 5:45 pm
Filed under: twitter

After a week off for Thanksgiving, here’s my favorite tweet of the past week.  It’s from my professor, Len Sweet (Twitter here / website here):

Love this quote: “We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them.” Charles West
Thu, Dec 04 18:52:48

Merry Christmas from The Purple (and Gold) Door
December 5, 2008, 11:31 am
Filed under: the purple door

IMG_0264 Last night after our community meal at The Purple Door last night, we busted out the Christmas music, painted ornaments, decorated stockings, hung lights, baked sugar cookies, and made lots of crafts out of pipe cleaners.  We also gift wrapped the door . . . the formerly Purple door.

Most of our students will have gone away by the time Christmas actually rolls around, so last night was our time for fun . . . right before finals begin.

The inside of the door is still purple . . . but for the next few weeks, we’ll have a different answer to the question I’m very frequently asked – “Is the door really purple?”