thoughts

Friday, July 11, 2003

I will be out of an allelon office for the next weeks on a family vacation. I look forward to blogging again

peace

Todd
posted by todd 12:00 PM

Thursday, July 03, 2003

An Allelon coaching appointment I had this morning drives me to try to say something I’ve alluded to before, but I’m sure I’ve every clearly articulated it in this space.

Merely messing with models of church is not going to get us where we want to go.

Without a serious intent (For instance, check out William Law: A Serious Call to Devout and Holy Life.) to pursue spiritual transformation, our self-centered characters will overwhelm any system of church AND keep us from submitting our personal, God-given kingdoms to the Kingdom of God. I am not saying this to bash the church. On the contrary, I am wondering if the church or “how one does church” really matters or is at all to blame—within reason, of course. And of course there are some better ways than others. We are all trying to find a better one.

But, the people I most admire and respect in life are not focused on “church” as a place, event or thing. They just quietly participate in non-descript churches and submit themselves to be used by God, to be ambassadors of his Kingdom in those communities of faith…as everywhere else in there their life: no dualisms. That attitude—whole life self-surrender—is rooted in a different kind of life: life from above, eternal life. It is what we must pursue for our selves and those we serve. It will make most models work.

But again this does not mean we abandon our pursuit of better models. It means that models are second; spiritual transformation is first, in community, for the sake of the world.

For Christlikeness—life in the Kingdom will overcome:

The works of the flesh: selfishness, etc.
Paranoid fear of others, especially “leaders”
The need to get your own way
Meanness and manipulation
Doing “whatever it takes” to feel safe and secure
The routine ignoring of the Spirit
The routine ignoring of the agenda of the Kingdom
Etc.

Does this help, or do I just sound frustrated???

Your friend,

Todd



posted by todd 2:20 PM

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Debbie and the kids left for California early this morning. The 4th of July at her parents house is one of our most consistent family traditions. Plus they all needed to get out of our tiny aprtment: since school let out, they were all going a little stir crazy. So...this means I get lots of quite/silence time the next week before I go meet them for vacation. Then we return later in July and can finally move into our new home. This will be a great relief. A big load off my back...and then on to post-grad work at George Fox. I am really looking forward to this: I love learning and being around other motivated learners. It will be especially fun since several people from Allelon will be in our cohort. Plus, I'm sure we will make some new friends as well.

Peace,

Todd
posted by todd 10:08 AM

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I want to stay in the blog conversation, but do not have the time to write something new, so I am fudging again by posting part of an on-line dialog I had a few weeks ago with group of mainline demonational pastors.

I hope these thoughts stimulate some good discussion.

Todd

A Vision of an Eternal Kind of Life, Life in the Kingdom, Life in the Spirit

Perhaps nothing has hurt the cause of Spiritual Transformation more than the loss of our Story, the context from which and by which “words” and reductionistic slogans and bumper stickers derive their meaning. There is a “terrible” saying from systems theory that says: “Your systems are perfectly designed to yield the results you are now getting”. Lets agree with that assertion for the moment and add to it Bill’s statement that “probably only 20% of our churchgoers are Christians”. I call this systems quote “terrible” because it means that the church is not in this predicament in spite of our hard work, but precisely because of it. We are now living under the burden of decades (fifty+ years?) of constantly reducing our Story to “understandable” bits. . The problem is no one actually lives from bits of information, data or disjointed facts. We actually live from our imaginations, from a sense of story.

I’m, of course, not arguing that we should make things complex and hard to understand (though ironically, context-less theological tid-bits have done exactly that), I want to suggest that as a way to “evangelize” churchgoers, we learn to tell our Story again: ETERNAL GOD-CREATION-FALL-REDEMPTION-RENEWED COSMOS. This is a story—in the words of Stan Grenz and John Franke—“that is universal in scope, has a historical consciousness, a futurist cast, an eternal focus, and is directed to a telos [an end] of God’s choosing”. This is a Story and a context that can pull the best out of people; it has the capacity to become the organizing force for someone’s life.

This is the meaning of “storied”: a storied sports franchise (the Lakers or the Yankees), a storied corporation (Microsoft or Ford), etc. Storied refers to something that has a celebrated, interesting and important history. These storied atmospheres naturally draw out the best in people. This is what we have lost; it is the price we pay for alleged “easy to understand” Christianity. Actually, the loss of story has only made things harder.

So what are the elements that need to be regained for our Story to have a natural, compelling, organizing force in the lives of our hearers?

Jesus’ Gospel is an invitation into the Kingdom of God – the realm in which what God wants done is done. He is offering us a different kind of life. Eternal life is not spatial (out beyond the stars somewhere), nor is it chronological (out there waiting for us when we die). It is qualitative and it can begin now! When Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him, to lose our life in order to find it (Matthew 16:24-25), he is showing how to give up an inferior life outside the Kingdom for a superior life in it. A plant has one kind of life, an animal another and humans still another. “Born again” life is a different kind of life in this space/time, it not some sort of disembodied bliss after one dies.

Second, Christianity means belief in and interaction with the Spirit: being led by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, taught by the Spirit and “fruited” by the Spirit. It is Spirit from beginning to end. Because of my long history in the Vineyard (remember the Kansas City prophets and Toronto “barking”?) I know many people are confused about or scared of the Holy Spirit. But, here is the deal: it is not intellectually honest or useful to the Kingdom to sit on the sidelines and merely criticize those of us who were trying to take the Spirit serious—even if we did it way wrong (and we weren’t wrong about everything). The answer to misuse or wrong use is not “no use”, it is right use. So if one doesn’t like the way we did it they are obligated to find a way to do it better because THERE IS NO SUCH THING as Christianity without the regular manifest presence of God the Holy Spirit.

So—perhaps there is a fine three-point sermon:

1. Eternal life is a definite and different kind of life which one experiences now
2. Christianity is Life in the Kingdom as God’s cooperative friends—all by grace
3. Christianity is a Spirit-overflowing reality; a daily, on-going conversational relationship with God

Here are some ways we could interact—but please feel free to take this in any direction that is useful to you:

1. Do you resonate with my take on the power of story? Why?

2. Does my outline of the Story cause any theological re-thinking on your part?

3. How have your (or your congregation’s) experiences of the Spirit made things more difficult? How can we move forward from there…?


posted by todd 12:08 PM

Friday, June 27, 2003

Everybody's talking at me...every boomer reading this knows the song...maybe even some youngers :-)

It seems lately everybody is talking leadership and how in works/doesn't work in our cultural transition and in the "emerging church”. The last few years I have come to two key thoughts:

This is what I think is the right question regarding spiritual leadership: “What does it mean to lead a group of people who are supposed to be following someone else (God)?”

My answer: it means to coordinate, empower, bless, care-for and guide the sovereignly given activities of the Holy Spirit.

A few months back someone (sorry, can’t remember who) in our conversation passed on the following story. I think it is a great metaphor to get someone started down the road to effective, ethical spiritual leadership. It is from The book of Great Music by Isaac Stern in China.

"The conductor is not a powerful person. It appears so, but is not so. On the surface it seems that the music is produced by the power of the conductor to tell everyone what to do and when to it. He may have to do that, but it is not what makes the music. If he does too much conducting, the real music will not be heard, but only his idea of it.

A good conductor does not merely tell everyone what to do; rather he helps everyone to hear what is so. For this he is not primarily a telling but a listening individual: even while the orchestra is performing loudly he is listening inwardly to silent music. He is not so much commanding, as he is obedient.

The conductor conducts by being conducted. He first hears, feels, loses himself in the silent music; then when he knows what it is, he finds a way to help others hear it too. He knows that music is not made by people playing instruments, but rather by music playing people.”


I realize every metaphor breaks down at some point, but I thought this might be a good way to reshape our imaginations a little bit and shape our hearts a bit to hear the voice of God—follow him—in a way the liberates the God-calling and gifts of others.

Does it help?

posted by todd 10:24 AM

Thursday, June 26, 2003


I'm cheating a little today by posting an email that answers a quetion about what to do with children in adult meetings in these new fangled churches we are starting. I post it here not because I think it is the last word, but because I know it is a real and important issue and I hope it can start a mutual learning dialog.

Shout back and tell us all what you are learning in your context.

I'm not sure I am right about this--I know others disagree--especially some of the young PM people I have worked with, but I also do not see the beauty in miserable kids in a meeting designed for adults.

We had them with us any time we could, i.e. dinner, sometimes for singing, for communion, etc. But they simply could not handle long periods of "talking" no matter how clever it was. So, for the most part I took the children out side to play. I would take them on a walk, then we would come in for a snack and art work or some kind of indoor play.

I do have a theory that I think makes sense and is open to all manner of creative implementation: "Do for our children what we are trying to do for our selves--journey inward, journey outward, journey into community--but do it in age specific ways". Thus, a five year-old would be treated different than a 14 year old not because of some "value" difference, but because of "highly agreed upon by the experts" education theory.

So, I propose a mix: have them in when it organically makes sense and is peaceful; have them in their own thing when having them together tortures them and their parents and every one else. Again, not because they are a problem, but because it is the best way to do for them what we are trying to do for ourselves.

Hope this helps,

Todd

posted by todd 3:27 PM

I'm cheating a little today by posting an email that answers a quetion about what to do with children in adult meetings in these new fangled churches we are starting. I post it here not because I think it is the last word, but because I know it is a real and important issue and I hope it can start a mutual learning dialog.

Shout back and tell us all what you are learning in your context.

I'm not sure I am right about this--I know others disagree--especially some of the young PM people I have worked with, but I also do not see the beauty in miserable kids in a meeting designed for adults.

We had them with us any time we could, i.e. dinner, sometimes for singing, for communion, etc. But they simply could not handle long periods of "talking" no matter how clever it was. So, for the most part I took the children out side to play. I would take them on a walk, then we would come in for a snack and art work or some kind of indoor play.

I do have a theory that I think makes sense and is open to all manner of creative implementation: "Do for our children what we are trying to do for our selves--journey inward, journey outward, journey into community--but do it in age specific ways". Thus, a five year-old would be treated different than a 14 year old not because of some "value" difference, but because of "highly agreed upon by the experts" education theory.

So, I propose a mix: have them in when it organically makes sense and is peaceful; have them in their own thing when having them together tortures them and their parents and every one else. Again, not because they are a problem, but because it is the best way to do for them what we are trying to do for ourselves.

Hope this helps,

Todd

posted by todd 3:26 PM

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I have another idea…

Peter Wagner—of church growth fame—used to quote a statistic that for every one hundred people who could successfully pastor a church (whatever “successful” means in a particular system of church), only one could successfully plant a church: a ratio of 1/100. In my experience, Wagner is roughly right: church planting takes a rare set of gifts, skills, experiences, temperament, right place, right time, right person, etc.

Now, what if we dare to re-think the function of what is normally thought of as pastoral leadership. What if it can (and I believe it can) be broadened from preaching the Sunday sermon and running staff or board meetings, etc. to include any kind of leading people on a journey of spiritual transformation into Christ-likeness, journey into ambassadorship in the Kingdom and journey into a supportive community focused on the above two things?

Here is what I am thinking: 1) We need a lot more focused and meaningful stuff happening and the “pastors” or planters cannot do it all—they are buried all ready. 2) I bet there is a similar ratio (1/100) between “professional” pastors (the one) and women and men (the 100) who could lead something like a book study group, a spiritual growth group, etc. 3) But these same men and women live under a dysfunctional two-fold burden: the professionalization of pastoring (only the “trained” can do it—not that training is bad) and that they do not have easy access to that training—in fact, they are often blocked from it--so they are stuck. 4) These new groups are much easier to start than a church (though they still take someone with at least minimal leadership to start and lead), and in a Kingdom sense, they are just as effective, and they can keep people in their current church—not feeling like they have to leave because the pastor is threatened, they don’t measure up, etc. ad nausea.

Church of the Savior in Washington, DC called these groups “mission groups”. (Though it had its heyday some years ago, it is currently my favorite model for church life and Gordon Cosby is one of my favorite models of what it means to be a pastor—though I tend to be somewhat more conservative theologically—big deal…whatever.)

These groups were something like what we Protestants might liken to an “order” in the Catholic Church. They were ALWAYS led by “lay” people and supported, empowered, equipped and applauded by Gordon who was never threatened by another persons gifts or calling; they were focused on the what COS calls “journey inward” (spiritual transformation), “journey outward” (taking on the agenda of the Kingdom as it’s ambassador) and journey into community (where one could find a loving, safe, supportive place to discover calling, mission, gifts, roles, etc.).

Here is the idea in summary:

1. Non-pastors start groups—call them anything, be creative—that are focused on:

a. Forming a safe, supportive community with a focus: B & C below

b. Giving a vision for and resources for spiritual transformation

c. Going on a journey to discover what God wants done in their sphere of influence (calling or mission or purpose, etc.) and then using one’s gifts, talents or skills to be the cooperative friends of Jesus with reference to what has been discovered as agenda of the Kingdom.

Wach ya’ all think?

I think it is beautiful… :-)

posted by todd 9:16 AM

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

I have “an idea”.

I know lots of people who are getting really worried about all things church. As the approach of the last 40-50 years (read marketing driven, church growth) is being questioned, if not thrown out, we are left with only the questionable results of our own approaches. I am not suggesting we go back and I am not putting any current work down. I am suggesting though, that changing models alone is not going to be enough: it is good, but not capable of producing real change.

This is true because the church is not “a thing”, it cannot be fixed with “tools”. It is a people and people have characters, a spiritually formed life that they bring into any setting. This is what must be transformed—lives. Otherwise, “people” just mess up our models.

Simple church can be just as political as a mega church when some one or some group is trying to get their own way in a manipulative manner. House church leaders can be just as controlling, fear based and performance driven as any mainline guy. I could go on, but I’ll bet your getting the picture…

I once asked Dallas Willard why he characterizes The Divine Conspiracy as “a moral revolution”? I think I now know why. God is transforming us into Jesus-kind-of-people so that we don’t mess up his cosmic model (Rev. 22:5), so that we become the trusted, cooperative friends of Jesus who can incarnate our selves into other people’s live with no agenda but to be an ambassador of the Kingdom. Note that “worthiness” (moral capacity which makes one trustworthy) is THE issue in Rev. 5. Take a minute sometime today to read it—it is stunning. Jesus’ kind of life, his attitudes and motivations are what the whole cosmic order hinges on.

I know we will never be perfect—that’s a lot for a perfectionist to admit! But, I also know that the lack of true godly altruism—wanting things for people with no expectation of getting anything back for your self—verses always wanting things from people is undermining, if not killing our approaches to church—simple or mega.

This is why I so respect the Church of the Savior in DC. They had a great balance of spiritual transformation and ministry to others in the context of true loving and supportive and limited size community.

I engage in re-thinking church and applaud others who are doing the same. But as we re-think church, let’s have people in mind—their inner states (think Jesus’ teachings on fruit tress, tombs and dishes) and not just models and approaches.

Just a thought…

Todd

posted by todd 8:49 AM

Monday, June 23, 2003

I'm BAAAACK!

Regular readers of this spot will already know that I am cyber-challenged, a total novice in the cyber culture and vernacular. Thus, I do not even know how to begin to apologize for not blogging. Wow, I can’t believe it has been over three weeks since I last blogged on May 29th!

I really, sincerely, enjoy the blogging interaction, so please don’t take it personal. I just got really busy. The week after the 29th I led an online seminar for a consulting company. I have a deal with my boss (Mark Priddy) that I would do this stuff on my own time (not that he is stingy, but I value the discipline of giving a fair hours work for a fair hours pay and I want to have—best I can—“a job” and “a boss” like the rest of you. I just happen to have a great situation here!), so it meant I was working early in the morning and late at night to do the seminar work. Plus, I’ve been doing a lot of work related writing that may have sapped my limited creative energy. Last, we are in the last stages of building a house: this takes tons of time and is a big energy drain too.

So…I promise to be back this week. I do have more I can say on Isaiah as I read. I also picked up The Divine Conspiracy (by FAR the best, most life giving book I have ever read. Dallas’ vision and explanation of God is truly inspired and life giving.) again last week which may provide more fodder.

See you tomorrow,

Todd

posted by todd 2:44 PM

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Thoughts on Evangelism--

The standard punch line in an evangelistic sermon is: “if you walked out of here right now, got hit by a truck and died, do you know for sure you would go to heaven?” My thought: I wonder if that is the best doorway into the all-encompassing Story of “God’s Will for the Cosmos”?

Better questions might be: “If you knew for sure that you were going to live tonight, tomorrow and for a L-O-N-G time after, who would you follow? Around what would you organize all the various aspects of your life? Or, when I find someone really struggling with belief in a god, or a Christian having a hard time with actual obedience, I sometimes ask “if it were up to you, would you like there to be a god?” “If so, would you want god to be fully god? To totally express his god-likeness? To completely have his way? This line of questioning has a way of clarifying for people the real issues that, from time to time, get buried or muddy for all of us. Sometimes the best thing any of us can do, Christian or not, is to think through what it is we ACTUALLY, REALLY believe about God and where we are in regard to issues of “control”. Sit down and think about it some day…

These thoughts come to me this morning on the heels of reading another chapter of Isaiah. Some day, Isaiah says, God is really going to express himself, totally dominate the scene, express the influence, authority and control he has over everything…

“Head for the hills, hide in the caves from the terror of God, from his dazzling presence. People with a big head are headed for a fall, pretentious egos brought down a peg. It’s God alone at front-and-center on the Day we’re talking about, the DAY the God-of-the-Angel-Armies is matched against all big-talking rivals, against all swaggering big names…the swelled big heads will be punctured bladders, the pretentious egos brought down to earth, leaving God alone at front-and-center on the Day we are talking about…[the Day] he will assume his full stature on earth, towering and terrifying.”

These are heavy words that few of us “get” and fewer like to hear. Perhaps we can take a different run at them—apart from “screaming preacher” moralisms, to something like: this Story has an author, a beginning, a middle and an end. This Author will make sure his end happens.

Maybe Isaiah is asking The People of God “do you like this?” Or, “how does it make you feel?” Or, “whose side are you on: the big-shots who are oppressing you, or the God you are afraid will oppress you?” Or, “Can you take this big picture and work it into you daily lives so that God is dominant in your attitudes and actions as you seek to live in his story as his ambassadors?”

Something like that…just some thoughts…



posted by todd 8:53 AM

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Just thoughts…mere thoughts…but thoughts none the less--

To me, historically, Isaiah is one of, if not the hardest to understand books in the Bible. But as I read Wright, Brueggemann, Willard and Peterson, etc., I realize how important it is to our Story. Desiring—no—dying to know our Story, and what it means to be the people of God, I thought I should dive in again. As a first, shallow-end step, I’ve begun to read Isaiah in The Message. Commentaries will have to wait…

I am not so much down on the church—and if I catch myself in such a state I severely rebuke myself—as I am “up” on figuring out what it means to be the people of God: from creation, to Israel, to the church, to the renewed cosmos. What is God’s ultimate intention in and through this Story? How do I align my life to it and help others (evangelism?) do the same? Upon understanding the Story, I want to know the nature of our role in it as Christians and churches. I don’t think I am alone in this pursuit. Hardly a day goes by without someone asking me “what is the church?”

Along this line there have come certain predictable sub-questions. First among them may be: “What should we do about meetings?” “Do we need to meet?” “Why: what should we be trying to accomplish through meetings?” “Who should lead meetings: i.e. what is the appropriate mix of human agency and the Spirit?”

This thinking about meetings can get a little scary reading Isaiah chapter one.

Why this frenzy of sacrifices? GOD’S asking. Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices…? When you come before me, who ever gave you the idea of acting like this, running here and there, doing this and that—all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?

Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way.


Ouch! I honestly don’t know exactly what to do with this. Like some others, I’m sure, I want to think something like: “Well THEY must have been REALLY bad!” Meaning, “this can’t really apply to us, could it?” Plus, I don’t want to say that it is bad to have a meeting.

Perhaps we just need to re-locate meetings on a map—or to switch metaphors--to locate them in a Story. A way forward could be found in the verses that follow:

Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.

Thus: “How will this meeting help us “wash up”…help us in our spiritual transformation into Christ-likeness?” “How will it help ALL the members of our community of faith discover their passion, find their mission—the defenseless they see--and learn about their gifts?”

There is much more than can be said in one post…what do you see? What does the Spirit say to you?

posted by todd 11:49 AM

Thursday, May 15, 2003

“If you fill your calendar with important appointments, you’ll have no time for God; if you fill your spare time with essential reading, you will starve your soul; if you fill your mind with worry about budget and offerings, the pains in your shoulder and chest will betray you; if you try to conform to the expectations of those around you, you will forever be their slave. Work a modest day, then step back and rest—this will keep you close to God.” (Author unknown to me)

My current work place—Allelon, and my current boss—Mark Priddy, and my favorite “roommate”, Eric Keck, are the most encouraging and enabling people I have ever worked with to “work a modest day and go home to family and rest”. Yet, I still have a hard time truly resting. I go home to family and work…real rest rarely seems to be found. Be clear, I’m not blaming anyone: this, AGAIN! is a condition of my heart.

Willard and Foster have often told me that this is why the basic elements of the spiritual disciplines are solitude and silence: stop all work and shut up! When we cease from work it shows we entrust God with running the cosmos. When we embrace silence, we have only the possibility of hearing two voices: ours (what is going on inside us) and God’s—what is REALLY going on, what he thinks, etc.

Why in the world do I resist this? Why so inconsistent in practice? What am I afraid of…?

Father, help me to slow down: my earth-bound life will be over so fast. Help me to make the second part of my life the best in terms of your Kingdom. Teach me to feed, not starve my soul, to fill my mind with the knowledge of your rule and reign, to banish worry with faith in your totally competent love, to not fret, but to just work an honest, but modest day and then be able, in reliance on you, to rest.

May it be so,

Amen

posted by todd 4:23 PM

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Choose evermore to have less than more. Seek ever the lower place and to be under all. Desire ever to pray that the will of God be all and wholly done. Thereby one enters the land of peace and quiet. (Unknown to me, but I think a Catholic saint; anyone know? Benedict?)

Lord, most of the time this kind of authentic spirituality seems like a big reach; I feel like a little boy reaching for his favorite snack in cupboard that is just too high up the wall. Help me to see and enter what you had in mind with a Christ-renewed, Spirit-energized humanity. Please take all the competing interests in my heart and mind and zip them together like the tiny bits of a zipper so that my life has obvious congruence with the rule and reign of your Kingdom.

Father, give me true faith, not just a positive outlook; give me genuine wisdom, not just “smarts” and courage and strength to follow that wisdom wherever it leads. Grant me free-flowing victory over my sinful appetites that run amok without your help, not just drudge-filled discipline.

Help me to find, in this life, for the sake of others, the land of peace and quiet—

Amen

posted by todd 9:01 AM

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Spiritual transformation into Christ-likeness requires a conscious, clear-headed and public commitment to living as a disciple of Jesus Christ: that is to a decision to give our lives to him as his constant students, learning from him how to live all aspects of our lives as he would live them. Evangelism should be understood as a call to receive the gift of such a life.” (Dallas Willard)

Lord, God help me to stay conscious—present to the actually moments of my life, in tune with the Spirit; help me to be clear-headed as a student of Jesus, to not back off, get comfortable or too tired in mid-age. Help me to live without compartmentalizing, to be intellectually and emotionally holistic, having all the components of my life open to you, your tutelage and care. Help to see such a life as a joyous adventure and not a burden. Help me when I get discouraged with myself and when I am tempted to not believe we can really make a difference with our service to the church so that the church can be your people making a difference in the world. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in my life and in the life of all I love. Amen

posted by todd 2:00 PM

Monday, May 12, 2003

I realized the other day that I’ve let my blog get pretty conceptual again, and not too personal. Sharing cherished beliefs is not void of my person, but none the less, I have been told that blogs are supposed to be a little like a diary. “Diary” doesn’t come easy to this boy.

I always have a few things I am “working on” for myself. I usually have an annual focus, with some spontaneity thrown in. I thought this week, rather than doing one large post about a key issue, I would say some things about the growth issues I am working on. They will come in the form of quotes from trusted guides.

“…in this life and in the world to come, those who follow Jesus will receive every thing they want, if what they want is to follow Jesus.” (Richard John Neuhaus)

Sometimes this sounds almost Buddhist to me (“all evil comes from desire”), but I know from simple observation of 47 years that Buddha wasn’t too far wrong on this one. I’ve seen “needs”, wants and desires destroy friendships, marriages, churches (think competing “agendas”) and working relationships, etc.

In the last couple of years I’ve discovered one of my best and most favorite leadership principles: I must want things “for” people, not “from” them. This has the possibility of making me a healthy and godly leader who brings out the best in others.

But how do I want things in any positive sense?

What if God/Jesus/Spirit wants me to want something—a la a biblical character that has heard the voice of God (this is where the Buddha comes up short)?

What if I “want” something “for” someone? Is everything then fair in “wanting” like in love and war?

No, even wanting things for others (including God) we can still ending up manipulating, nagging and controlling. Sometimes this is so because we are deceived, we really want the thing for ourselves (“my kid’s behavior, or my staff is making ME look bad…”, etc), but we baptize that desire in religious or psychological justifications.

A Willard-ism, which has helped me, comes to mind here: “Doing the things Jesus did IN THE MANNER IN WHICH HE DID THEM.” Jesus successfully wanted and achieved the things his Father wanted without ever manipulating or politically maneuvering a person against their will.

This was so because of his utter focus on the unseen world—his Father’s Kingdom. He knew he was always safe, and that he didn’t need to “win” anything. In doing and saying what his Father was doing, he was receiving everything he desired.

God help me to manage my wants and to do it in a way that liberates others while it accomplishes your will.


posted by todd 2:19 PM

Monday, May 05, 2003

I wrote the following thoughts for an Allelon meeting in January, but we didn't get around to using it. It captures several years of thinking in a handful of paragraphs. I hope it helps stimulate your thinking too.

Why is the approach to leadership we are suggesting better than other models (CEO/Senior Pastor, etc.)?

1. It happens from within the community, not above it or “set apart” (negatively understood) from it. Rather, it is consistent with the words of Jesus in Mathew 23 (see the Message). Thus, it includes every one. Everyone and anyone can feed, serve and be led by the Spirit; in short, all the basic stuff Peter and Paul and the others were commissioned to do (Cf. Gal. 3:26-29. Corporate structures by their vary nature exclude. They exclude or at best marginalize the young, the disadvantaged, the handicapped, women, retired people, the inexperienced, the less gifted, the less intelligent, etc.

2. It tries to take serious, in practice (and not just give doctrinal lip service to), the facts that: 1. The rule and reign of God our Father created the church (the people of the Kingdom); that 2. Jesus is the head of the church; and that 3. The Holy Spirit is Jesus’ Vicar (substitute or “continue-er”) on the earth today leading the church (Cf. John 13-17 and 1 Cor. 12-14). This does not set aside human, Spirit-led functionality, but defines it and sets its limits of power and authority. Working with people in their journey-of-being-led-by-the-Spirit is not a position of weakness; it is the strongest, most secure position. “When one chooses order and control over Spirit-freedom, you end up getting neither.” (Paraphrase of Benjamin Franklin.)

3. It tries to answer the question: “What does it mean to lead a group of people who are supposed to be following someone else—namely God the Holy Spirit”. It also suggests as a hypothetical answer: spiritual leadership, humanly speaking, serves and coordinates the divinely sponsored activities of the Holy Spirit among the gathered or scattered community of Christ.

4. It does not have the corporate culture of control and “pleasing those above you” that is implicit in hierarchical systems. No matter how good-hearted people are, layers of management and bureaucracy scream “CONTROL”! to those who are “underneath” and “below”. This may be appropriate in certain situations (Crisis? The military?), but it is not normative for the church. We are called to create environments where people can do without feeling threatened, restrained, or made to jump through unnecessary hoops in order to fulfill the dream God has put in their heart.

5. It is leader-full; a place where every member of the Body is a potential leader (situationally) as the Spirit enables them. It creates “places of realized potential” (Max DePree), giving people the opportunity to learn and grow. The role of leaders is to unleash “the leader” that is in every Christian. Other systems, claiming great leadership, with one man or a few people on “top” doing all the leading, are actually leader-less in comparison.

6. It puts the agenda of the Kingdom first, thereby automatically setting aside, or making secondary the agenda of “leaders” and “followers” alike. This will likely put most of us on a journey to confront (with the grace of God, the power of the Spirit, and the love of supportive community) our issues with fear, pride, promotion-of-self, lack of faith in the unseen world, control, power and authority.

7. It steers us away from the default position of the singular, white, male leader. (Singular leadership usually evolves into a hierarchy wherein the “leader” shares “his” power with others “down line”. NOTE: such an idea and such behavior are antithetical to point 4 above.) New models of leadership help us to not pour all the new, key ideas we are learning back into that old container, thereby releasing true, Spirit-led creativity.

8. It judges leaders not merely or primarily by the fulfillment of tasks, but by the quality of the community (the tone of the body) they form in the exercise of leadership and by the numbers and kinds of followers they obtain for Jesus, not for themselves.

posted by todd 4:06 PM

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Doing some work today I came across a book review in did in the fall of 1998: four and a half years ago! I was amazed by how much my excited agreement with it has grown. I believe in the principles I outline there more and more.

The book is little known: it is The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church by Roland Allen. I commend it to every one trying to start a new church with the hope of that new church becoming a “church planting movement”. It is also helpful regarding the conversations we have been having about the nature and role of Christian leadership.

As I, as National Director, tried to re-shape the Vineyard, nothing shaped my thinking more than this little book. I really hope, for your sake, that you will take 5-10 minutes to read the review, and then take 5-10 years to let it work on you.

http://www.allelon.net/resources/articles/aa/spontaneous_expansion.shtml

Tell me what you think after you have read it,

Todd

posted by todd 1:34 PM

Friday, April 25, 2003

My friend Winn, unbeknownst to him, gave me my inspiration to blog today. Look here http://drwinn.blogspot.com for his notions using "regime change" as a metaphor for the inbreaking of the Kingdom.

Reading Winn’s concerns reminded me of how “churchy” I really am. I’ve made a good career out of excelling in all things church. (Don’t worry, this is not a smack down of the church, it is a revelation of me.) I rose as high as one could go in my organization. I have sincerely tried to serve others in any position I have ever held. I heard the best teaching available at the time on the Kingdom (John Wimber). I believe it; I can imagine it…but I’m not sure I ever get there. I try, and if I do it comes out in my religious work. But in typing that last sentence, have I just stepped into the age old, harmful dualism of sacred/secular?

Maybe, but intellectual categories aside, I feel a deep longing to find a way to be co-laboring in the in-breaking of the Kingdom in the world; to change the regime of sickness, sin, injustice, self-centeredness and death; to help the world see more of God’s love, mercy, kindness, generosity and justice; to help people become what God designed them be. Last December I made the goal of having a family mission when we moved to Eagle in January. Reviewing my goals this week, I realized, here we are near the end of April and we’ve still not done it. Not we don’t show kindness to people and try to be generous with others, we do. Maybe what I’m searching for is “focus”.

I am getting pretty bored and frustrated with talking about how to do church. But I am smart enough to know that there is at least some connection between that conversation and moving to Kingdom work: meaning, I can conceive of church life that actually spurs people toward Kingdom ministry--Church of the Savior comes immediately to mind as well as some "Catholic" orders. But our present conversation rarely seems to move past the church part to mission--regime change.

I had this naïve notion that life in Eagle would slower, more simple. But, with trying to help a new ministry get off the ground, building a new house, trips to California, the death of a close friend, worrying about my community in So. Cal. etc. ad nausea…Duh, busyness, lack of focus is a condition of my heart—my own neurotic need to work hard, to produce, to not be bored and to take care of others, etc.

You’ve heard of athletes being “in the zone”; the game seems to slow down, they “see” in ways they don’t normally see, etc. This is what I want; to live in the conscious awareness of the Kingdom, God’s agenda, his rule and reign, the promptings of the Spirit, to be God’s ambassador—and to do it in my whole life, not just in my religious work. I want to actualize God’s intention for his people, to be a cooperative friend of Jesus, living a constant life of creative goodness in the power and leading of the Spirit…and not to earn anything, just simple, passionate cooperation with someone—Jesus—I deeply admire and want to mimic.

God help me…or maybe I should just go get a real job…no, there is that dualism again…this is not about how I derive a paycheck, it is about me…so God help ME!

posted by todd 8:48 AM

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Here is some interesting and useful feedback on leadership from the Quakers. I thought it fit better in this space rather than a shout out. I've pasted here the email exactly the way Diane sent it to me--

Todd,

I thought you might find this interesting. It’s from a tract put out many years ago by the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

"When Friends make a decision, they are not seeking a consensus of their membership. They are seeking the will of God in a particular matter. They have found the most reliable guide to that will to be the sense of the meeting. The sense of the meeting may be different from consensus because the sense of the meeting can arise only out of a membership which has in fact given itself over to seeking the will of God and has prepared itself spiritually for the search. It may be that some present have not yet come to that condition of seeking. It may be that some have come seeking that their own will be done—sometimes for excellent reasons. It may be that they come with a leading from God which is quite true for themselves but not a leading for the meeting as a whole.

"It is easy and tempting for Friends to fall into secular customs in the conduct of business: each one simply seeking, working, manipulating for one’s own point of view, attempting to control the outcome to the advantage of the position with which one has arrived. Unfortunately these methods tend to obscure the sense of the meeting rather than to clarify it. The sense of the meeting is better arrived at when each person present relinquishes control; to endeavor to see himself and others not merely with the mind’s eye but with the eye of faith; to discern not only his own leading but the leadings of others; to keep in mind that at any moment the most improbable person may be the prophet of God; to discern how the leading of the meeting may be different from the quite genuine leading of an individual.

"Ultimately the responsibility for discernment rests with the clerk. This is the one who must not only intellectually sift what is going on but—more importantly—must discern the spiritual dimension of the interaction. Yet it has been said with truth that the clerk can best clerk the meeting only when everyone present is also clerking. That is, everyone present must be practicing spiritual discernment to the best of his capacity, while recognizing that the clerk has been chosen for a special gift of discernment

"Friends’ spiritual process is extremely demanding, and it’s difficult to keep it sorted out from the secular models with which we spend so much of our lives. Yet the process is sufficiently precious to make it worth laboring to keep sight of its spiritual basis while we are in the midst of it. Otherwise it may become a set of empty forms used in a secular manner.

"One important effect of staying within the Spirit from which the process is derived is that it can keep us in unity even while our opinions diverge. Remaining aware that we are jointly engaged in the enterprise of discerning together the will of God for the meeting, rather than trying to advance or defeat a particular project, we can be held together in holy communion as members of the meeting and of the Society. We can only we divided if we put our partisanship ahead of the unity, order and love within the meeting."

I have been getting so much out of your bloggings and all the things posted on the Allelon website. Thanks to all of you.

I am a Vineyardite in Oklahoma City. I was in one of your workshops at the Vineyard Roots conference in the DFW area a few years back.

Diane Benton

posted by todd 10:59 AM

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

In the April edition of Seven—an on-line magazine—my British friend Jason Clark wrote an article assessing what is loosely called “missional communities”. After saying several positive things, Jason raises a couple questions that we all wrestle with. I want to interact with his observations about leadership theory within missional communities.

Jason wrote:

In missional communities leadership by people is often seen as unneeded, and the Holy Spirit becomes the group’s leader. Perhaps in reaction to the CEO leadership of the modern church, these communities embrace the Holy Spirit as their leader. This can lead to powerfully moving mutual submission to each other, or alternatively to people [being] unable to make decisions, and lead, as they are subject to community consensus of what the Spirit is saying. Aversion to pastoral authority and intervention can also leave the groups able to be very abusive, with no one able to call the group or individuals to accountability.

As I said above Jason is true friend, and I don’t have a beef with him; he is “in the game” and deserves to be heard. More than putting forward an argument, (in fact I think I could list more problems than Jason does) I want to describe a picture that may help us all down the path of this important—there is hardly anything more important—topic.

I sincerely want to know how to give more than lip service to the notions that “Christ is the head of the church” (cf. Mt. 20:25ff; 23:6ff, etc.) and that the Spirit is his present vicar, something like the “executive pastor” to the “head of the church” (John 14 & 16; I John 2:20, etc.). Now I know that the “pastorals” seem to present a more “human”, less “direct-God” form of leadership, but lets tease this out a bit further.

I wonder if we have focused almost solely on the pastorals because they fit our biases about leadership, while ignoring the Spirit-dimension because it seems too hard, too otherworldly and too messy for our efficiency, excellence driven church cultures. I am theorizing that more God-directedness and less entrepreneurial, CEO-ness could help us a lot. What do you think? How could we “organize” for such a thing (and I don’t mean to say it can’t be done)?

John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard and my earliest mentor, mentioned in his work on the gifts of the Holy Spirit that the Greek word for “manifestations” in I Cor. 12 is “phanerosis”. Mel Robeck, a professor at Fuller, I believe, says the word can mean something like “the dancing hand” of God, like a puppeteer (just a metaphor, I don’t mean to minimize the human element), moving on the gathered congregation, causing/spurring people to participate in mutually edifying ways.

What if leadership can be a “touch” from God just like a “word” or a healing, etc.? This way everyone could legitimately think of himself or herself as a potential leader. Everyone could lead from time to time as the Spirit enabled. Now, as Jason suggests, this does not and cannot work when people are seeking their own way, their own agenda or seeking to “win”. This will only work, and even then with some difficulty, when everyone has agreed to make the agenda of the Kingdom, as led by the Spirit, and the growth of the community's members preeminent.

Next, what if “a touch” could (and I believe this is possible) last for years or decades? Then we would still need a way to keep potential, Spirit-led leadership in the imaginations of every member of the community. We would also have to provide resources and create environments of risk taking that do not punish intelligent failure.

Well…this has gotten too long. What do you all think? What problems do you see? Opportunities?

Todd





posted by todd 2:39 PM

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Easter Morning


After reading the passion narratives on Good Friday, I always read the Resurrection narratives on Easter Morning. This year I read them in The Message.

The common, human aspects mixed with the most amazing “supernatural” aspects strike me most. You have bribes and angels; crooked religious people and a man raised to life, etc. Reading it made me feel a little naïve about my criticism of some contemporary religious leaders. Leading form selfish motives seems to be as old as “other” forms of prostitution. I guess we will always have a mix of stuff. God help me to be a “truly good person” for the sake of others.

Second, and I don’t mean to start an argument here, but it is very noticeable, and radical for Jewish people of Jesus’ day, that the women were the first to tell the Story of the Resurrection—and that the guys didn’t believe it, which makes the women the first evangelists/apologists: beautiful; I love it! God seems to delight in using the “little”, but devoted (at the tomb) people. Maybe there was “Billie” Graham before Billy?!

More about the angels: They “scared people to death”… “Made them so frightened they couldn’t move”. Then said, “There is nothing to fear here…” This is funny/ironic/weird, but also instructive: there is a dimension to the cosmos that is more real than the material world. It is natural and intuitive to “the angels”, but starling to us. The reality of it (think C.S. Lewis or Willard here) is more than we can take. To use a cheesy example, like meeting a really famous person who up to then you had only seen pictures: the “reality of their being” can be overwhelming. For instance, I felt a little that way when I first met Billy Graham. I imagine people feel that way around the Pope too.

The immaterial is not less real, it is more real and it is the dimension we will live in for eternity. This “more real world” is the place from which we can secure our selves in this life. Seeing it and believing in it is our only hope to be truly free, giving people. Jesus saw it (think of the angles he could have called to help him at his arrest in the garden), Daniel saw it in the lions den; Paul and Silas knew it in prison and sang hymns; Elijah saw the chariots of fire, etc. The only decent, caring, safe people and leaders are secured in an unseen reality. Not in some psychotherapy way, but they lived into and then out of, or from an unseen reality (from within the closet, not letting their right hand know what their left hand is doing, putting in their two mites, doing none of this to be seen of men, knowing their Father who is unseen will reward them, etc.).

Or family is going to visit a church this morning, so I gotta go, but not before my favorite part:

“…the moment they saw him they worshipped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about “worship”, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge (the great commission)…”

Who needs a debate or sermon on grace after reading that? Thank God that he is “undeterred” in his will for you and me.

God, today I place myself in your unseen realty; the kingdom of God; the place of true and free grace, the place of genuine, unsurpassed power; the reality of boundless and fully competent love. Thy Kingdom come and thy will be done in my life and the lives of all I love. Amen




posted by todd 10:09 AM

Friday, April 18, 2003

Good Friday

I have a many years long custom of reading through the passion narratives (this year in the Message) in the four Gospels on Good Friday morning. I did so again this morning and want to journal some of my responses in the space:

Jesus said, “Don’t play games with me Judas.” God, forgive me for all the times I play games with you by not being totally honest, for not even being centered enough or self-aware enough to do so.

Jesus said, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want? God, please help me to always, at all times and all places, ask this question of you and follow what I hear with good cheer.

Jesus said, “Stay alert…there is part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there is another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Lord, you know this is true of me; maybe not lazy exactly, but not “ready for anything” either. Help me not to be so self-conscious, cautious and filled with fear of failure. Help me to be truly free by finding ultimate security in you.

Jesus said, “All who use swords are destroyed by swords.” Nothing has been more discouraging or depressing to me in my Christian walk than the meanness and fighting Spirit I have seen in others and sometimes even in myself. God, please deliver us from this temptation so that all people will know you exist by our love for one another.

But when the accusations rained down hot and heavy from the high priests and religious leaders, he said nothing…Jesus kept silence—not a word from his mouth. The governor was impressed, really impressed.” God, help me to know that silence can be golden. Give the wisdom and courage to speak when I should and the patience and discipline to remain silent when that is most appropriate according to your plan.

"What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.) This is just flat fascinating! Anybody who thinks Christianity is mainly “cognitive” and not beyond the merely rational is just not “seeing” these types of thing in the scriptures.

“Joseph of Arimathea…was a man of good heart and good character…one who lived in alert expectancy, on the lookout for the Kingdom of God.” Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear what you are doing and have the settled character and intent to be an ambassador of your Kingdom.

Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. But Jesus intervened: ‘Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It’s not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act he part of the servant…now I confer on you the royal; authority my Father conferred on me so you can…be strengthened as you take up your responsibilities among the congregations of God’s people.” Jesus said, “I am not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.” God, I think I have issues with power and authority. I have seen it so misused is my religious experience that now I don’t want any thing to do with it, yet it is clear you give it. Plus I know intellectually that to not use legitimate power or authority for the good of others is as immoral and abusing power. Please help me to land in a healthy place with reference to power and authority for the sake of your church and for the good of the world.

Pilate announced: “here is the man.” THE Man! Perhaps the greatest insight I have received from Tom Wright is notion that on the cross we not only see the Lamb (substitution), but we see humanity as God intended it; Israel as God intended her and the church as God intends her. Lord, help me to be obedient no matter what it costs or where it takes me.

“The eyewitness to these things has presented an accurate report. He saw it himself and is telling the truth so that, also, you will believe…these things that happened confirmed the Scripture…” I know there has been a lot of angst in the postmodern discussion about he authority of any text, but especially our sacred text. I am open to various ideas about, “theories” of, and doctrines of the inspiration of scripture and also I think the “Verbal plenary” theory could use some criticism and sprucing up, but for me and my house, I still hang with the scripture as the best, most reliable written guide we have for the content and practice of our faith. It’s like theories about the atonement; okay we can have different theories, but we can’t do without the atonement. Similarly, we can different theories on the inspiration of the scriptures, but I think we must hold to their essential place in the life of our communities.

Lord, help me show how much I value your word by not only hearing it, but by doing your word too.











posted by todd 11:39 AM

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Here is some more Dr. B. to chew on.

I think I must like him because I probably would have been one of those “kings” or even common Israelites who often found themselves in despair, too emotionally tired to rise up and articulate a preferable future; too pessimistic to believe that important change that pleases God and benefits real people could actually come to pass. I’ll bet I would have been one of those people “who needed a prophet”… Dr. B.’s next chapter (4) is on “prophetic energizing and the emergence of amazement”. Thank God, B’s work energizes and fills me with amazement. Here are some sample quotes with my thoughts…

“…The alternative community is concerned both with criticizing (as per last post) and energizing…the task of the alternative community is to present an alternative consciousness that can energize the community to fresh forms of faithfulness and vitality.”

I know from my former group in OC and from my thousands of hours of “coaching” that this business of starting alternatives to “church as we have known it” is demanding—emotionally, intellectually and even relationally. I had hoped to find an easier, peace-filled alternative. I think with reference to “church” it is true; but with reference to the “prophetic” aspect of calling the present into question, well that is a different matter…

“…The royal consciousness (the ruling way that things presently are) militates against hope…the present ordering claims to be the full and final ordering…that claim means there can be no future that either calls the present into question or promises a way out of it. What is most needed is what is most unacceptable—an articulation that redefines the situation and that makes way for new gifts about to be given…[for] we have been nurtured (in the status quo) away from hope, for it is too scary. The question facing ministry is whether there is anything that can be said, done, or acted in the face if the ideology of hopelessness.”

Thus, a big part of our job is to provide a rationale for creativity, to create communities that celebrate risk and do not punish honest failure, and to generously share resources; resources of every kind--education, money, visibility. These are not just for the “ruling class”. We must equip and empower the whole people of God for the whole work of God. This does not take “level ten” people…well not unless you are thinking of church as a big corporation. Most ministry is never seen and never will be; we are deluded by the culture of Christina media and the clergy class into believing otherwise. Humble, unseen ministry, enabled by the Spirit, empowers invisible people to do invisible, but amazing things. This is how the Kingdom marches on.

“The task of prophetic imagination and ministry is to bring to public expression those very hopes and yearnings that have been denied so long and suppressed so deeply that we no longer know they are there…hope-filled language cuts through the status-quo despair and hopelessness; it is the language of amazement. Amazement works against despair the way grief works against numbness…the hope announced is not a nice feeling or a new inner spiritual state. Rather, it is grounded in a radical discernment of [our] worldly situation.”

I find a big part of my work is to provide hope—to myself first and then others. In fact, it is a major reason my blog has taken the shape it has over the past few weeks. Providing hope is also a huge part of the task of Allelon; it is a driving force behind every conversation I have.

The problem is “…we have all made commitments to what we are now calling into question”. Which means, for Christian “leaders” like me, we are calling our very lives into question. This is the heart of it. This is what demands “metanoia”, repentance; the reconsidering of our whole way being in the world, which if you think about it, our “church work” is only a small part that whole.

Okay, I want to get back to some different stuff on this blog, so here are the last Brueggemann quotes and then you’ll have to go buy the book—

The effect of Isaiah is to energize Israel to fresh faith. But notice the radical, bold, even revolutionary form energizing takes. The prophet employs no psychological gimmicks and no easy meditative steps because the issues are not private, personal, spiritual or internal. The only serious energizing needed or offered is the discernment of God in all his freedom, the dismantling of the structures of weariness, and the dethronement of the powers of fatigue…it is the business of the poet to drive the exiles to a decision about sovereignty because exiles do not want to choose; depressed people do not want to act, and despairing people think it does not matter. But the first step out of exile/despair is the clear embrace of a faithful sovereign [God]…the poet engages in the kind of guerrilla warfare that is always necessary on behalf of oppressed people. First, [the dominant status quo] must be ridiculed (Rhetorically? I think I know what he means here, but I want to be careful about the ethics involved; I want to treat people the way I would want to be treated. But maybe that is why I am not a prophet J) and made [understood], for then it can be disobeyed and seen as a nothing who claims no allegiance and keeps no promises. The big house yields no real life, need not be feared, cannot be trusted, and must not be honored…adherence to it and its definition of reality make people weary and hopeless…but a re-articulation of the old Story sparks the imagination, turns despair into energy, and gives people back their faith.” (All the above from chapter 4)

With you on the journey into spiritual transformation into Christlikeness for the sake of the world,

Todd



posted by todd 12:19 PM

Friday, April 11, 2003

Quotes and comments from “The Prophetic Imagination”: Weekend Edition

“Jeremiah asked only that the community face up to its real experience…” (Page 47)

Facing up to the experience of the contemporary Christianity is what messed me all up. I could not and still can not read the statistics people like Barna, Gallop and the sociologists of religion give us, know what I know form the insides of denominations, etc and not HAVE to do something about it; my conscious constrains me! Not because I am down on the church, quite the opposite, I am up on her future. I just want to help shape and form that future, to re-shape our imagination about “church”.

Jeremiah’s grief: “…that no one would listen and no one would see what was transparent to him.” (Page 47)

Better to let Dr. B. comment here: “My judgment is that nearly every situation of ministry includes this component of deception and the terrible dread of letting our rule come to and end, whether it is no more than tyranny in a marriage or supervision of my favorite anger or hatred. We want nothing that secures us to die.”

This may be one of the biggest reasons we have such a hard time making big, key change. Most of us are secured by all the wrong things. Look at how hard it can be just to change the time of a Sunday service or something. Church splits have happened over less.

Let me bring to bear here my favorite mentor, Dallas Willard. He has said to me: 1. “The open secret of the church is that when push comes to shove, he pastor will do WHAT EVER IT TAKES to hold onto control.” (I’ve discovered that this behavior is not limited to pastors. Almost everyone engages in it. It is the ugly side of consumerism that “demands its own way”.) 2. If we are to be really free to serve and love, we must secure ourselves in the “invisible world”, the rule and reign of God, wherein we are always safe; to live seeing “the chariots of fire” and not just the enemy; to see the legions of angles and not just the court of Herod, etc. I find this to be totally true. I cannot make myself safe by anything in this world; if I try, I will, in B’s words always “be eating from the table of my hungry friends”, using people, making every relationship open to utilitarianism. In the past few years, I have found a key to this kind of leadership is that I cannot want anything “from” people, I must want things “for” people and to create a community in which that is the behavioral norm. When that is the case, everyone’s “needs” are met.

May “the ache of God” break the “numbness” of my life; may the goodness of the rule and reign of God make me safe to lead others into that reality in truly altruistic ways. Amen
posted by todd 11:59 AM

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Have you ever--in the midst of all the challenging changes we have been trying to make—felt depressed, not sure you really care enough or have enough emotional reserves to keep pressing on; that it might be easier to not ask the hard questions? Ever had the secret thought that it might be easier to slip back—if you could do it un-noticed—into the mainstream? This is what Dr. B. calls “the absence of pathos”. It is numbness, apathy or the inability to care or suffer. Most of the time, I know I would do almost anything to avoid suffering. It is too hard, especially if you can’t know for sure if you are right about a given thing or that your cause is totally just.

Established, bureaucratic systems embody numbness. But it sneaks up on reformers too. Dr. B. gives some hints about how the prophetic imagination can cut through numbness and penetrate self-deception so that God can break through.

B. says the prophetic task here is “quite elemental and modest”--

Offer symbols that are adequate to confront the experiences that evoked numbness and denial. Reactivating old symbols seems to work best. The exodus is an obvious key metaphor.

Maybe the early Anabaptists could be a symbol for us? I know the Anabaptists were not right about everything, and I’m not a professional historian, but it sure seems to me that the Reformers failed to move from rhetoric to praxis on some key issues (the priesthood of all believers for one) that the Anabaptists tried to remedy. Second, it seems to me they were more willing to live in tension with he culture; i.e. to be Christians before they were British, American, etc. Just a thought…symbols get me a little out of my competency. Rise up oh artists and help us here! We need new songs and poetry and liturgy, etc.

Bring to public expression our truest thoughts and concerns. B. says we ought to use metaphor and evocative speech (speech which causes emotion; i.e. Jesus’ words about hell or his words against the Pharisees, etc.), not analytical language. Again, this is not strength for me; I tend to think analytically. Actually, I do not usually like emotional communications. But some of you do this well and need to do it: do it filled with love and humility and we will be fine.

I often have the experience of people saying to me, “Todd, you are articulating what I have been thinking but I was afraid that I was the only one thinking these thoughts…” I witnessed the same phenomena in the early Wimber years as he helped people to come to terms with the person and work of the Spirit.

B. encourages us to speak metaphorically about the concrete reality that spiritual “deathliness” is all around us, hovering over us and gnawing within us. “Speak neither in rage nor with cheap grace, but with the candor born of anguish and passion.” He says, “The prophet does not scold or reprimand. The prophet brings to public expression the dread of endings [change], the collapse of our selfmadeness, the barriers and pecking orders that secure us at each other’s expense and the fearful practice of eating off the table of a hungry brother or sister [rather than serving and giving].” “…It is the task of the prophet to invite [the status quo] to experience what it must, what it most needs to experience and most fears to experience, namely the end [of itself, which can be the beginning of God].”

For me, this “experience” has been no fun. It is not cool to know you have been wrong about significant things. But, at the end we do meet a very patient, kind and loving God who is delighted to work with us to shape us into the kinds of people who will rule with him forever in the renewed cosmos.

Peace,

Todd



posted by todd 12:13 PM

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

The last couple of weeks I have been musing with you in this space about moving to praxis from the stirring rhetoric, concepts and ideals we read in Willard, Wright, Missional Church, etc. We took a detour at my hypothesis that the difficulty may be more “personal” than intellectual. Now I want to come back to The Prophetic Imagination by Brueggemann.

Prophetic Criticism and the Embrace of Pathos (grief):

Grief:

For me, the first reason for grief is the knowledge that “all of us” are caught-up in, committed to and thus part of the problem of the old reality (what Prof. Brueggemann calls “the royal consciousness” which stands opposed to the alternative, prophetic consciousness). None of us, to my knowledge, have a privileged place to stand from where we can pass judgment. I do not primarily have in mind here the postmodern concern over absolute objectivity, though I understand it. I have in mind something that seems to me more like a “moral” issue; the knowledge that we are to some varying degree responsible for the state of the very things we are now trying to change.

Criticism:

The above leads Prof. B. to ask: “How can we have enough freedom to imagine and articulate a real newness in our situation—meaning in our historical space and time”? VERY IMPORTANT: this is not the same as asking if our dreamed of changes are realistic, or politically practical or economically viable.

I think my comment here would only take away from Dr. B. here, so I’ll leave you today with a couple cool quotes:

“To begin with such questions (realistic? etc.) is to concede everything to the [old system] before we begin. We need to ask not whether it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable. We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the [old system] that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought.” (Page 39)

“The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same [old system] consciousness that makes it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened by the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the [old system] wants to urge as the only thinkable one.” (Page 40)

This says to me that words that articulate a renewed imagination are still important, but not without actions that demonstrate the new reality to which they are pointing. Dr. B. helps me stay in the game. Because I sometimes think I am crazy or going too far, he gives me the courage to keep going.

God…help me to stay positively and intently moving forward. Help me to get the log of the old system I HELPED BUILD out of my eye before I try to “help” others. Help me to truly love the whole body of Christ while simultaneously pressing for a preferable future. Help me to do all this with both courage and genuine humility. Amen
posted by todd 1:56 PM

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

(If you looked at my friend Winn’s blog, here is my interaction. He raises the usual questions; some new one’s as well and provides some stimulating thought from the Apostle Paul.)

Thanks for the interaction Winn. I suppose you know I am not advocating "a list of things that must be done to please God or be authentic". I'm simply looking for a style or pattern of life that leads to better followership of Jesus in the Spirit. I agree with your emphasis on community as we pursue disciplines of any kind--Paul's--or Paul's successors in church history. Where I myself have got stuck at times and where I see others stuck, is HOW to put off, put on, and mortify.

The historic answer, Prot, Cath, Orth, Pent, etc. has been some strategy or practice whereby in a group (like AA or Wesley's model), with a guide/director, practiced certain activities or "disciplines" in grace inspired, Spirit empowered ways. This is not done to "please God" (especially if "salvation” is in view), but to grow in one's ability to actually follow/obey Jesus. Nor were these signs of advanced spirituality or boundary markers of any sort. If they were signs of anything, they were signs of "need for improvement"; like an over-weight person joining a gym, a golfer flailing away on a driving range, etc. The "most spiritual" person is the one who has mastered putting off, putting on and mortifying and thus doesn't need the "discipline" any longer--they have trained themselves to do it in easy and natural ways...the way Tiger hits a golf ball...with room for the occasional mistake! FORE!

A couple more things about the disciplines, and then back to Brueggemann tomorrow:

“Grace” is opposed to “earning” not effort; look again at Phil. 3:7ff; James 2:17 and scores of other similar passages. Grace aligns with our effort and works against—in a correcting, teaching sense—our “earning”.

The disciplines are just a way “to make space” (Nouwen) in our life to hear, see and experience God—like Jesus often in prayer at night or early in the morning or fasting, etc. He didn’t need to “please God” (Mt. 3:17) or earn anything from him, nor was he interested in any socially conceived “boundary marker”. It is deeply instructive to ask, “What WAS Jesus interested in”? What was he trying to achieve when he practiced activities or disciplines for the Spirit-life? Why did he practice prayer, etc? Could it have something to do with his lifestyle of: “I only do and say what I hear and see the Father doing…I do nothing on my own, but only what the Father instructs me”, etc.

I hope all you blogger friends know that I am not expert at this stuff, conceptually or in practice. In fact, I was thinking yesterday about the irony that as I’ve been saying all this, my own disciplines need spruced up. But that is the nature of these things…it is a constant adventure. I just try to make it peaceful and joyful, not “religious”, legalistic or socially driven (pleasing or impressing others).

Remember, the point of departure was the almost universally held view that we are all having a hard time moving ourselves and our communities forward from rhetoric to praxis. My thesis is that the challenge is “personal”, not intellectual. I would be grateful to hear a better, alternative thesis. And if someone knows of a better pattern for doing so than the one Winn puts forward (put off, put on, mortify…) or that I put forward I would be delighted to hear it. I am not trying to win an argument, I’m trying to help me and my faith community actually embody the reality of living under the rule and reign of God and to be it’s ambassador.

Hope this helps,

Todd



posted by todd 8:53 AM

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Debbie, Mom and I had a great drive yesterday. Idaho has some spectacular scenery—some of it literally world class. It will be nice, over the next few years to experience the Northwest of our country. I have never been to many of these beautiful places.

As I promised yesterday, here is the deal with the disciplines. (Remember, the context is my hypothesis that moving from rhetoric, concept and ideal to embodied practice is less about intellectual rigor and more about who we really are as persons. Thus, how do we really change so that things like generosity of spirit and self-less love become routine or “positive addictions”. By the way, for a better treatment of this subject, see Dallas Willard’s “The Spirit of the Disciplines” and “Hearing God” and “The Divine Conspiracy”; see also Richard Foster’s “The Celebration of the Disciplines”. Then follow their bibliographies for more good stuff, a la Nouwen, O’Conner [from Church of the Savior], etc.)

Spiritual disciples—done in reliance on the Spirit and the Grace of God—remove the causes of our personal failures. This is true because the disciplines work on the inner or hidden part of our lives from which our “automatic” actions come; things like cussing at or giving particular hand signs to people who drive in ways we do not appreciate.

Think here about Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:33-35—good tree (inner DNA), good fruit; bad tree (essential inner nature, DNA), bad fruit. Any thing else would be biological chaos. Apple trees easily and naturally produce apples. But no matter how hard they may try, no matter how much they may sincerely groan and “religiously” agonize over it, they cannot produce pumpkins. Finally, Jesus says, “The good man brings good things out [from the inside or hidden part] of the good STORED UP IN HIM, and the evil man brings evil things out [from the inside or hidden part] of the evil stored up in him”.

How does one “store up good things in them” so that they can then easily and naturally act from them? The grace inspired and Spirit empowered disciplines. Obviously, there are whole books written on the topic; surely more than I can say in a blog entry. But, let me try to say a couple more helpful things:

Ø If Jesus, our master teacher, is to be believed, life is lived from the inside out (See MT. 23: 25-28. This passage has Jesus’ lessons from dishwashing and grave cleaning.) This is why ideas and words—exterior things—lack transformative power. Not that they are bad, just impotent (when they stand alone) when it comes to spiritual transformation into Christlikenes so that we can embody being the sent people of God.

Ø The disciplines are “indirect effort”. In practicing them, we do what is currently under our control with the intent, hope and expectation that they will enable to do what we dream of in our idealistic language. Watch The Karate Kid” with his in mind. You will see how Daniel-san learns karate in very indirect ways. By doing what he can—scrub floors, paint fences and waxing cars—he becomes the kind of person who can naturally and easily defend himself from even expert karate punches and kicks. Lesson: we cannot “try” to be good (remember the apples and pumpkins); we must “train” (“store up good in us”) to be good.

Darn, there is still more to be said, but I’ve got to go again. My mom is leaving this morning to visit a friend in Ogden, UT and I’ve got to take her to the Greyhound station. I’ll finish tomorrow and then well get back to “professor” Brueggemann…


posted by todd 9:04 AM

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Sorry for the blank blogging week…my bad. I had a busy week and was out of the office one day. Ask Keck for details on this; his reply should be better than most $8.00 movies. I know I never stop thinking about this stuff and I know many of you enjoy the interaction as well, so I am truly sorry if you came looking for a friend to interact with this week and there was “no one home”. Okay, enough of that; I know you let me off the hook…

We left off thinking (with the help of Walter Brueggemann) about how one moves--ourselves and our communities of faith—from concepts or good ideas to practicing, or better yet, naturally and easily embodying these new realities. Keck gave me a cool new phrase yesterday as we were talking about taking on new habits: “positive addictions”. It resonated with the phrase because it felt so “real” to me, so “Romans 7”. I often feel trapped in addictions to bad behavior, errant thoughts, messed-up emotions--anxiety, depression, fear of failure, etc.

This of course always drives me back to the “inner” or “hidden journey” where I have to work on (read spiritual disciplines) what “kind” of tree I am, because a bad tree (in its inner DNA) cannot produce good fruit—God help me! This understanding—that we act from inner, hidden parts that are addicted to sinful stuff—is in my judgment a helpful bridge from rhetoric to praxis.

Here is what I mean: most of this stuff is not rocket science or brain surgery. Concepts like love, generosity, otherliness, etc., are not intellectually rigorous. Rather, being very intuitive to most people on a conceptual or rhetorical level, they expose our addictions (think of Jesus’ words about dirty insides of cups, bad DNA and insides of tombs) to selfishness, self-protection and acquiring more goods.

This is a bleak picture—and this all that many people ever see. Only seeing the bad DNA of their own souls they remain ever stuck in the thought and its accompanying reality: “I can never change; when I try, I fail; when I try harder I just end up a more religious, but less good human being. Take heart, there is a fruitful, natural way forward to honest spiritual transformation into Christlikeness. It is the historic, 2000-year way of the spiritual disciplines.

I’ll come in again early tomorrow morning and say some more about the grace-oriented, peace-filled way of the disciplines. When “I work WITH them”, “they really work ON me” and give me hope for taking on some new “positive addictions”.

Then next week I’ll come back to Brueggemann. He helps us see how the prophets broke through the fog of bad praxis (Israel is almost never rebuked for bad doctrine and almost always for failure to practice their parts in God’s Story) to move Israel to be the Sent People of God. Brueggemann looks at Jeremiah as an example of how passionate grief-filled criticism is a part of the prophetic way.

Gotta go…my mom is in town from southern California and Debbie and I are taking her for a drive through the Sawtooth Mountains to Sun Valley & Ketchum.

God willing I’ll be back here tomorrow…

posted by todd 9:36 AM

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Our blogging community has been talking a great deal about “words”; “mere" words, the usefulness of words, etc. We care about this because in some sense, all of us are trying to change ourselves and be “change agents”. We are attempting to help people see what is means to be a Christian, to be the church, to develop authentic spirituality, to engage in proper and healthy ways with reconceived-of Christian leadership, to go on the inward, outward and community journey, etc.

A few months ago, I realized this was “prophetic work”. Prophetic in the OT (up to John the Baptist) sense of seeing that God has “struck a line” on a board and that he expects us to build with reference to that line, to be “square with it” (cf. I Cor. 3:10, etc.). I could see that we were telling (with the help of Willard, Wright, Newbigin, Peterson, etc.) a vastly different Story, that calling people to live by it was not a normal, Sunday school, bible study kind of thing. It rocks people’s world, makes them question long-standing beliefs, etc. This brings up the “pastoral” (walking with people through this hand-in-hand once they “get it”) elements of our work, but that is a discussion for another day.

It was the "rocking people’s world" part of this that led me to search for a competent guide for prophetic work. Brueggemann is, in our day, the best of those guides. What you will get from him is conceptual. As you read these highlights I have selected, keep before your conscious mind the question “how can I use this, put it into practice, shape my acts and words as a change agent?”

Here are three quick points to help us get started, to give you a taste of Brueggemann. Remember, go slow; the idea is to shape your imagination so that you can shape the imagination of others.


The Prophetic Imagination
By Walter Brueggemann

Hypothesis:
“The task of prophetic ministry it to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to consciousness and perception of the dominant (in our case religious) culture around us.”

1. Prophetic ministry in the Bible meant rather regular, direct and confrontational encounters with established power(s). This approach seemed to “fund” and “authorize” bold, courageous and obedient lifestyles. But, in our cultural situation the church has been so co-opted by the world that we can’t do this—we as “insiders” (to some degree co-opted ourselves) need to be more cunning, more nuanced and ironic.

2. Prophetic “acts of imagination” offer and propose “alternative worlds” which the community can live into and practice. Human transformation depends upon transformed imaginations.

3. But, how does one act out imaginative alternatives in a community of faith (i.e. Israel in Egypt; us in a consumer culture) which on the whole does not understand that there are any alternatives or is not willing to embrace such if they come along?

I'll do more tommorow--I'm out of time. Hmmm...telling an alternative, subversive Story; offering an alternative world, shaping an alternative imagination and consciouness...I gotta go think, speak and act on those for a while...

Hope this helps, your friend,

Todd

posted by todd 8:39 AM

Saturday, March 29, 2003

I said a week or so ago on my blog that I was wrestling with the whole idea of words and their power—or lack thereof—in the work we are doing. I easily resonate with what my friends Mark, Alan, Eric and Jason—among others are saying. I know that I am very frustrated about not “doing” more of what I dream about. I haven’t started a “mission” yet in Boise, nor have I started a new missional community.

I’ve had what I thought were good reasons for this. We just moved, I wanted to focus on helping my family get through the transition, we are building a house, my long-time close colleague, LeAnn, died; I wanted to get to know the people in Rembrandt’s Community, etc. I still don’t think those are bad reasons and only less than three months have gone by…but still, I learn and grow best and help others best when I don’t MERELY “peddle rhetoric” as Mark encouraged us the other day. I couldn’t live that way with a good conscious. None of us want to do that…

Peddler: one who sells merchandise (i.e. fruit, etc.) on the street or from door-to-door; one who deals in or promotes something intangible (immaterial, i.e. without “matter”).

Rhetoric: the art and skill of speaking or writing effectively; insincere or grandiose language.

It seems to me that we do want to “sell” (as a metaphor) something; but we want to make it “material” through the living of a Kingdom-oriented life and through the creation of Kingdom/missional communities. Further, we do want to communicate effectively. (At least I do, as someone who is often used by God in the gift of teaching. Take rhetoric—positively conceived—from a teacher/coach and there is not much left. But I’m sure you do as well no matter what your main gift pattern may be.) But (and I think this may be what my friends are getting at), we need to make our words “sincere” and “material” by our works. Wimber was pure gold here: words and works go together, always. Jesus “worked” (did stuff) THEN he explained it.

This, I think, is Mark’s proper burden: let’s make some of the missional communities that actually live out the implications of the new way we are learning to understand the Gospel (i.e. Willard, Wright, etc.), THEN lets talk about it; or do both simultaneously. The bottom line: talk ALONE won’t get it done.

Thinking about this for the last week or so reminded me of reading The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann last fall. I enjoy writing book summaries of good books I read. I view it as way to “allelon” my friends and colleagues. Tomorrow I will come in early (before going to hear N.T. Wright speak—can you believe he is going to be in Boise! Ya hoo! What a hoot!) to do a summary of TPI. I think Brueggemann can really help us think through the prophetic aspect of our work to call forth in ourselves and in the people with work with a new way of being Christian and of being the church.

Just a teaser hint: You’ll see that “prophetic” means words and deeds, rhetoric and action. And…that it is all pretty scary. There is a reason “no one wants to be a prophet…” And one way to avoid it is to avoid half the work: to use rhetoric alone…

Blog with you tomorrow,

Todd

posted by todd 9:21 AM

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Rant: “to talk in a noisy, excited, bombastic, extravagant and declaratory (to set forth or explain) way”.

Well, here goes, another first for Hunter…my first cyber-rant!!!!!

It’s been week since I last blogged. I didn’t have any inspiration. Even this morning my all-things-technology-coach, Eric, was imploring me to write—still no inspiration. Then I checked my email… I am normally a VERY patient person; ask anyone who knows me well. But, this (just so happens, Vineyard) pastor ticked me off. He told a lady in his church “he had problems with my ‘re-imagining’ God.”

First, I’ve never talked or written about re-imaging God. I’ve talked AND WILL CONINUE to talk about re-imaging the church and what it actually means to be a Christian. I am not ashamed about trying to align my life with the aims of God with regard to his desire for an obedient people who would live in his Story as the ambassadors of his Kingdom. If this makes me dangerous, “unbiblical and questionable”, then bring it on!

I am in good company with all the reformers—not least Wimber. (I can remember when the Vineyard was reform and change minded, not defensive and protectionist of a past that will never be recaptured or relived. Get over it—do what your hero Wimber said, “take the best and GO!” Move on, grow, have his guts, don’t become like one of his many critics sitting in the stands commentating and criticizing while others are actually being players) Not that it ultimately matters, but I feel I am in line with Wimber trying to understand the full implications of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Doesn’t it make sense that if we are to do this it might require re-thinking some theology?

Second, bring before your conscious mind your imagination about God. Do you suppose that imagination is absolutely, 100% correct? If not, and I’m sure mine is flawed, what would be wrong, theoretically, with “re-imagining God”? I am a biblically and theologically driven person. I would never change except as guided by superior insights. I would happily admit to being wrong about something and change. Does this make me a dangerous person? I think the dangerous person is the one unwilling to change and grow as the Spirit gives more insight (See John 14-16, I John 2 & I Cor. 12-14). The questionable person is the lazy pastor preaching “Sermon Services” sermons and refusing to become a learner for themselves. No significant move forward for the church has ever came that way; nor can it.

For the life of me, I cannot imagine why anyone would be satisfied with “church as we have know it”. And aren’t current forms of church rooted in our imaginations about church/Christianity/God? Further, they are rooted in a “reality” that no longer exists in their former ways—modernity and Christendom. To quote my friend Brain Mc Laren, “if you have a new world, you need a new church”. Not in a pragmatic sense (at least not for me), but PM and PC provide a “prophetic” reason to re-examine our approaches to theology and church. Thank God, or I may have never done it. I may have stayed in the conservative evangelical reductionisms of “being a Christian means saying a prayer so that you can go to heaven when you die”.

How can anyone defend the “born again” church people like Barna (thank you George), Gallop and the sociologists of religion describe? And be sure, this form of religion is rooted in deficient ideas/imaginations about God/Jesus/The Spirit/their aims, etc. And if you can’t defend it, then darn it--get busy changing it! Forget the carping, fearful, lazy—I can’t do too much change --I might lose my paycheck—people.

Wow, rants sound more defensive than I like to be…oops…I guess I need to learn to rant.

posted by todd 10:23 AM

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

HOPE & A MODEL; that’s what I got out of my Message reading this morning. I am still ruminating over the whole issue of “words” (postmodern, community, kingdom, missional, etc.), “getting it” verses posing, helping others “get” things and all the legitimate frustrations that go along with it.

In that state, I read the passage in the Gospels where the mom of James and John asks Jesus if her two sons could sit “at the seats of power” (one his right, one on the left) in Jesus’ kingdom. The two boys go along with it, the other ten find out and are furious that someone could push them aside and away from what they covet for themselves. Now talk about “not getting it”! If Jesus modeled and taught anything it was service, self-sacrifice, death to self, etc. One needs to look no farther than the amazing passage in Phil. 2 for the connection between Jesus’ model and the expectation that we would mimic a Jesus kind of life as we live out our lives in God’s Story.

The “hope” part came with the knowledge that even Jesus’ closest friends didn’t always get it. So, I don’t need to feel like such a loser when people around me don’t get it; AND, I sometimes don’t get Jesus as well, but like the 11+Paul who ended up radically effecting the world, I can still be in their company.

The “model” part came in Jesus’ response to the twelve:

You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.

This is a classic example of something, God as my witness, I am trying to “get”. I want to be a different kind of leader. The phrase “servant leader” alone does not have the power to transform me. So, what do we do with that? Perhaps we are putting too big a burden on “words”? They can be markers, pointers or “prophets” (as I said yesterday), but it seems to me that moderns (in their “definite” way) and postmoderns (in their deconstructive way) are, while trying to get to reality, tangled in a mess over words.

When I try to actually live out Jesus’ words, I feel like a loser; like an inept leader; I get confused and depressed. I feel like it goes against everything in my being. Furthermore, the people around me “don’t get it”, and feel uncomfortable (see my March 3rd entry) because they have a certain role they expect to play and they expect me to play it in a certain way.

Now, I’m not saying I’m doing it right, or that I am some sort of a hero. In fact I’m quite sure I am mostly a failing novice at this. But am I to quit talking about it? Quit using the words associated with my struggling journey? Am I “poser” because I talk about things I cannot yet live?

I’m not sure, but I do have hope for me and you and all I love because the 11+ others made it. And, I have Jesus’ model, something far more powerful than words that I can try to mimic/imitate.

Striving with you--by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit--to shape myself into the kind of leader that can shape communities of faith that take up God’s agenda for the world,

Todd

posted by todd 9:21 AM
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