Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas is About Incarnation

Christmas means, among other things, that we are incarnated and should always incarnate. In other words, we have bodies and those bodies aren't insignificant and we should always take that seriously.

The following is attributed to Saint Teresa of Avila and is especially applicable at Christmas.

Christ has no body now but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which
Christ's compassion must look out on the world.
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Catholic Morning Prayers

As we were packing up at the hospital last week, getting ready to take Corban home for the first time, morning prayers came over the loudspeaker (the hospital is under the auspices of the Catholic diocese of Richmond).

I was so moved that I called the Sister who read prayers for a copy. Apparently, I wasn’t alone. Several people had already asked her for a copy. Here it is.

Today is the feast of St Nicholas. He was a bishop who became the model for Santa Claus, exemplifying the art of giving and receiving.

“Even if you decide to choose love right now,

it doesn’t mean that you will get a new Mercedes.

Choosing love is a more profound choice because it is not just

the spiritual adult who must choose, but also the wounded child

who isn’t sure s/he is worthy of love.

You might have to realize you will have to confront the darkness

in order to find the light.

This isn’t the cotton candy kind of love.

It’s not the instant oatmeal approach to salvation.

It is the kind of love that takes a lifetime to learn to give and receive.

It’s the kind of atonement that happens in the trenches.”

--Paul Ferrini

O God,

Thank you for the graces we receive that enable us to give and receive.

Help us deepen our capacity and ability to give as well as receive.


Friday, December 14, 2007

One So Soon From the Throne (and, What's in a Name)

Shakespeare (I think) has a beautiful phrase somewhere that describes children as "those so soon from the throne." Newly minted souls. Freshly painted masterpieces with the paint still wet. Our newest, Corban Scott, arrived 12/03/07 at 3:16pm, tipping the scales at 9lbs. 4oz, 22".
Andrea and he are both doing great. Unlike his big brother, he is a champion eater and sleeper--a winning combo for the inevitable parental sleep deprivation experiment that is the first months of parenthood.

Hudson thinks he is great, always asking to "hold the bee-bee" and "kiss the bee-bee." He's a great big brother.

What's in a Name
His name is from the Hebrew root (QRB) which means "to come near or draw close to God." It's from a sacrificial milieu, so it carries the connotation of "sacrifice" or "offering" given to God. In Greek it comes to mean "gift devoted to God." Jesus uses it in that context in Mark 7:11. It also shows up several times in the Old Testament as well, places like Leviticus 1:2 and Leviticus 7:7-8 (both times translated as offering) - Here's a great article from Corban College about the meaning of the word. Corban is a gift devoted to God.
We mean it as a blessing for Corban--you are a gift to us and the world from God, and so we devote you to God and want you to devote yourself to God and his world in return. God stands behind his gifts and so is behind you through all your life.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Six Negative Influences Shaping Contemporary Evangelical Spirituality

This post is straight from New Testament Scholar Scot McKnight's excellent blog. His blog is substantive and worth reading.

Robert Webber, in The Divine Embrace, points six negative influences shaping contemporary evangelical spirituality. Here they are and what are your thoughts?

1. The dangers of legalism have been eliminated and now we are into anti-nomianism (no rules, no law, I can do what I want, I’m free). Freedom from legalism means freedom for Christ.
2. Intellectual spirituality has been exchanged for an anti-intellectual spirituality that does not approximate classic pietism. The way to know as a Christian is to reflect on Scripture in community.
3. Experiential Christianity is shifting into narcissism.
4. Worship has become far too narcissistic — “did I like the worship or preaching?” is the question. No, he says, this is not the question. The question is about theological fidelity and learning to live out the story.
5. We have now an emphasis on a romantic relationship with God instead of a focus on God and our union with him by his grace.
6. We have a consumeristic emphasis, a McSpirituality.

He points out that good writers today are Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and Eugene Peterson.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Good Leadership Defined

I found this in the middle of something my Aunt sent to me. It struck me so profoundly because of how I understand Jesus to be a leader. This is what leadership in the Kingdom means. A leadership that is "under" and not "over." Now how do we pattern our leadership after his?

Jesus had no servants, yet they called Him Master.

Had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher.

Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer.

Had no army, yet kings feared Him.

He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world.

He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him.

He was buried in a tomb,yet He lives today.
Feel honored to serve such a Leader who loves us .

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Up and to the Right in the Church--a new metric?

Bob Roberts Jr. is pastor of church in Fort Worth, TX that gets it.
They are one of two churches I know of who's stated vision is more for the community than for the church. Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City is the other (I'm sure there are more, I just don't know of them). They are, in a word, missional. It's not that other churches aren't (like ours for instance), it's just that the vision statements tend to be self-referential.

Bob's latest comment on 'New Metrics for the Church' rang my bell, so I commented on his comment (this whole blogging thing is also a little self-referential if I'm not careful).

Typically a church's metrics are butts in seats, budgets raised and buildings erected. Basically it's all attractional--"come to us for the goods." If those things are going up and to the right, then we're happy. Certainly some good is done with those things, but what if we changed the game entirely?

What if we instead counted number of butts outside the church walls we served, budgets given to serve the community, the poor and the needy, and building consensus and vision in our people and the community that creates justice in the world? Jesus "so loved the world", my question is do we? We can talk all we want about how we do, but until we put our metrics behind it, I'm not sure we're really doing it.

What’s so scary is that giving up the attractional paradigm means we don’t know where the money is coming from, if the people will “buy into” the vision (I think people have an innate sense that the church should be doing good–which is why they won’t give to a “keep the machine running” vision) and stick around, and if we can be important and influential without buildings. Thoughts?

Monday, November 26, 2007

The God's Aren't Angry (are they?).

I drove up to DC on Friday to see Rob Bell on his third speaking tour--The God's Aren't Angry: How Humans Invited Religion to Make Themselves Feel Better. (Fantastic interview with Rob about the tour and more here.)

I'm always moved by Rob. He brings ideas forward and says things out loud that I invariably find myself saying...why didn't I have the courage to say that? I am en-couraged when I hear him. Literally, courage is put in me. Thank you Rob!

I've been wrestling this idea about religion--ready to give up at certain points. Brian McLaren notes that the word itself means to 'rejoin ligaments.' In other words, to repair and restore. But my experience is that religion is in most parts seen, experienced and heard as anything but. More of a way to 'keep the man down' or 'drug the masses into submission' than lift us up to high places of the human spirit and bring about the flourishing of the human family.
So his premise intrigued me.

Here's a summary of his 1:30 talk (my notes won't do it justice).

Cavewoman and caveman started out noticing that there were things
beyond their control. 'The Forces' controlled what they couldn't: Plants needed for survival. The spirit of the hunt. The cycles of the sun & moon, mimiced in the cycles of a woman's body and in the bursting forth of life from the womb.

These forces were 'up' and they controlled things down here. So the altar became the 'high place' that was used to interact with 'The Forces.' This is the emergence of a priestly class who became the experts in how to deal with The Forces and get them to do what you wanted and to appease them.

A sort of primal anxiety emerged about relationship to The Forces.
When can we be sure we have properly appeased the forces? If we had a bumper crop and we did certain things in the high places, then to guarantee the same thing next season, we needed to do more. If things didn't go well, the crops failed, or a child died, then we would need to do more. When was more enough? We couldn't know.

The need to appease these forces still exists today. The prophets of Ba-al cut themselves to show their seriousness, hoping this would appease Ba-al. Rob met three young women in a short period of time who all cut themselves to feel better about themselves and their lives. This primal anxiety has not dissipated with time.

The Israelites introduced an entirely new idea (I think Rob used a helping hand here from Thomas Cahill and his excellent The Gifts of the Jews). The god's weren't angry and didn't need to be appeased. In fact, God (singular) was interested instead of blessing us. This revolutionized religion.

Abraham and his sacrifice of Isaac and his strangely automatic compliance with God's request got Rob's attention. Abraham would have likely thought "Well this, this is just the way you interact with the forces." What is revolutionary in the idea of religion is what happens next. (See Genesis 22 for the rest of the story.)

He then took a brief tour through Hebrews showing how the ritual of a sacrifice is for us--for the inner workings of the human heart that need some way to move beyond a grievance, a dissapointment, a sin--not for God. At the culmination of the ages Jesus reworked forever our relation to the forces.

Rob then spent the rest of the evening (I'm leaving a lot out) talking about how we are now invited to do good in the world. This is the one "sacrifice" remaining. His stories gripped me on a heart level. A family who bought a home for a single mom recently divorced and abandoned, an out of work family loaded down with groceries, a friend sitting across the table from him at a dark hour telling him his life could be different. His close felt a bit like a Nooma video (complete with music & and a blessing)--but it was powerful.

He never mentioned grace. Never mentioned atonement. Never mentioned church (except to paint a picture of the good done through God's people)--yet the ideas were vivid and present. See the movie when it comes out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Anothenon and Other Useless Greek Words

I wrote this short article for a newsletter our Church is getting ready to launch. It's some thoughts that have been rolling around in my brain.
I've been thinking of late about birth. Maybe that's because Andrea is getting ready to go through, for the second time, the bloody, messy, somewhat terrifying experience of birthing a child.

Seriously, it's not pretty.
But life is the result.

And so that's got me thinking about the whole process of birth and rebirth and how to get at the real experience of the thing we call life. There are many systems of belief that talk about this. Let me name a few (pardon the gross oversimplifications):

Fashion :: Ever bought a new shirt or shoes and felt like you were a whole new you? Somehow better? A little more valuable? Be reborn at J. Crew.
Health :: Have you been to the gym on January 3rd? You can barely move for all the breathless New Year's Resolutions sweating their way to rebirth.
Business :: Beating someone else is the key to the life of your business. Don't let any one take advantage of you. If you've been doing that, stop it and you'll be reborn as business.
The East :: Do well in this life and maybe you won't come back as a toad in the next one. Rebirth is the result of my efforts in this life.
The West :: Do well in this life and you'll have a big house, fancy car and all the happiness you can possibly want. Rebirth is the result of my efforts in this life (huh, that sounds familiar).

My point is that the discussion isn't actually a religious one. It's a human one. How do I experience life and be reborn into something more than I am? It's basic human longing 101.

Enter Jesus into this whole discussion. He is talking with a religious leader about the subject in John 3 and makes this interesting statement. "No one will see the Kingdom of God unless he or she is anothenon." And in saying it he characteristically reorders the discussion.

Anothenon, often translated "born again", is more accurately translated "born from above." When the whole discussion of rebirth is on how I can make some fundamental change and change myself, I am literally left to my own devices. And so out of practical necessity I adopt the story of fashion or health or business or the East or the West. A story that's 'down here.' A story that gives me some way forward to what I want. They become my birth canal to a new life. In themselves fashion, health, business are fine...just don't go looking to them for rebirth. They make wonderful friends but terrible gods.

But Jesus describes rebirth as happening outside the system. He describes a renewal of who I am that comes from Someone Else. And, as he continues to tell the religious leader, it's a mysterious thing, like the wind. "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." Maybe we could say it like this: 'We don't find life, if we are open to it, Life finds us.' And since Jesus described himself as "the life", I would take that to mean that this whole process of being born from above has to do with trusting Jesus.

But because wind isn't clear cut and easily nailed down, rebirth can be messy and terrifying. But as Andrea and I discovered with our first child, life is the result.

So how many birth canals do we have to go through?
How many New Year's Resolutions need to fail?
How many times do we have to reinvent ourselves?
What's the way forward we are counting on?
Are we instead open to the mystery of birth from above?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Quotes from the Beginning

Phineas F. Bresee was one of the founders of the Church of the Nazarene (of whose succor I have been a life-long recipient). I ran across these quotes of his and thought they were worth sharing:

“The first miracle after the baptism of the Holy Ghost was wrought upon a beggar. It means that the first service of a Holy Ghost-baptized church is to the poor; that its ministry is to those who are lowest down; that its gifts are for those who need them most. As the Spirit was upon jesus to preach the gospel to the poor, so His Spirit is upon His servants for the same purpose.”

“We want pastors who will go out and find the poor that nobody else cares for.”

“That a people are poor and weak and despised is no shadow to dim their hope. If theyhave God’s gift of the Holy Spirit there is nothing to which He calls but that they may do.”

"Let the Church of the Nazarene be true to its commission; not great and elegant buildings; but to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and wipe away the tears of sorrowing, and gather jewels for His diadem.”

“Our church is a missionary church. It knows no difference between home and foreign fields - in these days all fields are near.”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When Nothing Else Works, Try This

The news agency Reuters ran this story: Airline sacrifices goats to appease sky gods

It can be a bitter truth. In this case, bitter for a goat. In other cases, bitter for a family, or a relationship or a nation: However, whoever or whatever you see as ultimate determines your actions.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Left Behind (The Rapture Song)

This is too good not to share. Remember the "Thief in the Night" movies about 20 years ago that scared everyone and their mother into heaven?

This is called poetic justice.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Team World Vision 2007

15 million children have been left orphaned by HIV/AIDS. It's not just an 'issue', it's a pandemic.

I'm running in the NYC Marathon this Fall as part of Team World Vision. You can be part of it here.

What Makes Community Suck

It seems that diversity is bad for community.

In a recent massive study, Harvard's Robert Putnam (of _Bowling Alone_ fame) found, much to his chagrin, that diversity is a detriment to real community.

The more diverse, the less volunteerism, the less trust, the less social capital. It seems that homogeneity is good for community.

He did find one exception that actually gives me hope, since what I do for a living is about creating community out of diversity. But you'll have read the article at the Wall Street Journal to find out where that place is. Hint: Can anyone say "resurrection?"

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pizza, Prayer and Leadership

Ate at John's Pizzeria in New York City, just off Times Square this week. My wife and I were on a short vacation to the Big Apple while Grandma watched Hudson, before baby #2 (name and sex TBD) arrives on the Marshall scene.

Many hail it as the best pizza in NYC. I'm not one to argue, it was pretty freakin' good.

What interested me more was the setting. It used to be home to the Gospel Tabernacle Church, led by AB Simpson in the 1880's. Stained glass and an balcony grace the open and airy setting--lending a sort of 'heavenly feel' to the place. Who knows, maybe the heavenly taste is a physical manifestation of metaphysical realities?

The place is beautiful. And that got me thinking: This used to be a place of worship, and now it's a pizzeria (discussions of the eschaton as a wonderful meal notwithstanding), why? I'm sure wonderful things happened during it's former incarnation. Lives were transformed. People lifted out of destructive lifestyles. Families restored. In fact, AB started the place to reach "the neglected peoples of the world with the neglected resources of the church." But now, a 100 years+ later, the only vestiges of the ministry I can see is the pizza pie gloriously gracing my table.

Is this okay? What can we learn from this? Here's my short working list. What do you think?
  • Leadership is about the next generation. Transformation is as much about future generations as it is about our generation. We've lost the sense that our children to come will inherit our work of today. Evidence? I don't hear this topic in books or seminars. We are very moment centric (how though, to reconcile with Jesus'--"tomorrow has enough trouble of its own."??)
  • Building a ministry to last for a 100 years must be different than building it to last my lifetime. Is that what we are to be about? Deep roots into the past, strong presence in the present, long reach into the future? How do we prepare for this without getting in touch with the past?
  • Sometimes its okay for a thing not to last. In fact, maybe this is necessary. Is wisdom the difference? For instance, Nyack College and the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church are still functioning parts of his legacy.
  • I'm thinking of changing my name to SW Marshall. It just sounds so impressive.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Running Poverty into the Ground

November 4th I'll be in the Big Apple with 35,000+ other runners in the ING New York City Marathon. It'll be my third marathon.

I hope to finish the race in $1,000. You heard that right, $1,000 is my target pace.

I'm running for World Vision and hope to raise $1,000 (all of which goes to World Vision's relief efforts). You can donate $1 or all $1,000 by visiting the mini-site I created to give to that cause.

I'll do the running, you do the paying--and a child's life will be saved.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Things You're Not Supposed to Find in Your Office

This slithered past my desk this morning. It was about 2 ft long and sat nicely in the box until I returned him to his woody environs.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lessons from Children

Some lessons I've learned from children as of late:

On limits & longing
Hudson: *from out of sight, noises of straining to reach something* "Daddy, I can't reach it."
Me: "What can't you reach Hudson?"
Hudson: *more emphatic* "I CAN'T REACH IT DADDY!"
Me: "What son?"
Hudson: "The sky daddy, I can't reach the sky."

on grace
Background: I'm performing a wedding of two divorced people. Both went through hell in their previous marriages, and now God has brought them together. The woman has a 3 year old daughter. As part of their ceremony, the man made a promise to the little girl. Holding hands in a new family circle, the following interchange took place:

Man (looking at the little girl): "I promise to care for you, love you, provide for you, etc"
Little girl: Looks up adoringly
Me: *thoughts* She won't remember any of this. In fact, she doesn't even understand what he is saying to her. And furthermore, she didn't do anything to deserve these kinds of promises and doesn't have the capability to even receive them.

on joy and anticipation
Background: On vacation staying with one of my close friends. He has a six year old son.

Me (to the 6 year and my 2 1/2 year old): "Boys. Tomorrow, would you like to go swimming at the pool?" (the city they live in just built perhaps the greatest public pool I've ever seen.)
Boys (in ecstatic, jubilant unison): "YEEEAAHHHH!!!"
The six year old (at the top of his voice): "I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS DAY TO BE OVER!"

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Richmond's Sordid Past

At the height of slavery in colonial America, Richmond, VA was THE crossroads for slave trading. The warehouses sitting next to the James River where they were unloaded as "cargo" are today renovated high-dollar lofts. And in 1860, Virginia had more slaves than any other state in the Union. For Virginia's culpability in perpetuating this evil, the VA State Assembly recently issued a formal apology stating their "profound regret."

As a physical step of amends, three identical Reconciliation Statues were commissioned and erected; One here in downtown Richmond, one in Liverpool, England (where many of the slaving ships originated) and one in Benin, West Africa (where many Africans were wrongfully enslaved). The other day I met a friend for lunch just a few blocks from the statue and took some photos of it. It is a sign of the Kingdom!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Virtue Deconstructed

I came across this quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel, the great Jewish thinker.  It is rattling me.

"Greek philosophy began in a world without God. It could not accept the (mythical) gods or the example of their conduct. Plato had to break with the gods and ask: What is good? Thus the problem of values was born. And it was the idea of values that took the place of God. Plato lets Socrates ask: What is good? But Moses' question was: What does God require of thee?"




Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tragedy at VT - what to do about evil?

On Monday we hosted the funeral for one of the victim's of the Virginia Tech tragedy on Monday. His family belonged to a church here in the area. Their sanctuary wasn't large enough, so they asked for our help. It was a moving ceremony as 900+ packed the house to honor this promising young man. I'm looking at the program from the funeral and his winsome smile is looking back at me.

There really aren't words for a tragedy of this magnitude, or any magnitude for that matter. So here are some random thoughts on evil in general and this evil in particular.
  • "Evil", as Scott Peck's child noticed, "is live spelled backwards." The essence of evil in any form? Taking life. See Scott Peck's chilling work on the psychology of evil: People of the Lie.
  • Cho emerged to fit the profile of all the other shooters. Loner, ostracized, unresolved junk from the past. This only shows the dark side of our being made in God's image: Without good relationships, society suffers. Community benefits society.
  • John Donne was right: "No man is an island. If one part of Europe falls into the sea, the rest is affected." There are no "isolated", "private" acts. That's an illusion perpetrated by radical individualism and an illusion we all too readily buy.
  • Whether or not we suffer is not the issue. A life skill is that we must learn to suffer better. Christians as a rule don't know how to suffer and grieve, which is ironic given that the majority of literature in the Old Testament was written in and to a context of suffering. (And never mind that our savior suffered and told us we would too).
  • God is not responsible for suffering. If God were, we would be puppets in some divine play (and I know some think this is so). We are free moral agents--able to choose. This is a reflection of being made in the image of God.
  • Tears are the price of love. If we love, we hurt. The two aren't separable.
  • We are "but a mist that appears for a while then vanishes" as James, Jesus' brother reminds us.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Big Things Can Be Scary

On my birthday Hudson and I headed to Lacy Auto Parts at the invitation of our friend David Lacy.

He purchased a 1970's era fire truck and invited us to go for a ride before his customer came and picked it up.

Hudson loves fire trucks.

So we set off. We pulled up and Hudson almost jumped out his skin to get to the Fire Truck. I put him on it and he crawled around and generally got excited. I put him in the drivers seat, took some pictures, got in alongside him, honked the horn, cranked the siren (one of the old crank up kind).

And he started to get scared.

So David's son Graham fired up the truck. He got even more scared. He was tucked in next to me and I could feel him clinging to me internally. As we rounded the first corner, his fear gave way to screams and tears of terror. So we backed up, turned it off, and got out to cries of "I'm scarewed daddy, I scarewed!"

That's when it hit me: big things can be scary.

As a leader I know that "big" is "supposed" to be what I am aiming at. But big things can be scary. They look great from a distance, sound great when playing with small models, feel fine when we pull up to them. But get in, turn the engine on and start moving...and things can get scary. I'm still chewing on that.

We Theology

I've been thinking about spiritual growth and how we measure it.

As Americans/Westerners everything is about the individual. Almost all of our efforts in churches are geared toward the individual. The very few matrices/assessments I've seen for spiritual growth are generally geared toward the individual--asking how "you" can grow and measuring how "you" have grown.

Perhaps that is the influence of Descartes (of "I think, therefore I am" fame), but I don't think it is in rhythm with the New Testament and OT, lest I engage in some sort of super-sessionism.

The controlling metaphor, it could be argued, in the NT for Christians is "the body of Christ." Now as I understand it, when my lungs go someplace, my liver usually goes along for the trip. For instance, I am currently in Tulsa, OK wrapping up a wedding. None of my body parts decided to pre-emptively stay home in Richmond. All of me went along.

If that is the case, and it is what Paul was meaning when he used that metaphor, then shouldn't spiritual growth be measured by how WE are growing rather then simply how I am growing?

If I read my Bible, love more, serve more, etc. but we don't all take steps forward, then is spiritual growth in NT terms actually happening? Or I am just on a personal growth plan that essentially says "to hell with everyone else" but has been unwittingly endorsed by the current system of Christianity? Maybe Moses understood this when he told God if his people were going to be cut off, then cut him off too. (See the tail-end of the story in Exodus 32:30-33.) This just doesn't make sense in our individualistic "make-sure-you-yourself-know-where-you-will-spend-eternity" ethos.

New Name

I changed the name of the blog to be more in line with what I want God to do both in me and through me.

For me, it's a title of hope. For all the places the people around me, the world and me are mis-formed, mal-formed and de-formed, I understand the Gospel to be the message that we can all be re-formed.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Church Needs Toyota

The Big Three auto makers are closing plants, laying off workers and losing billions of dollars. But not Toyota. Why?
One of the differences is the Big Three's ethos of change. It's discontinuous. A change is a big deal, gets a power-point and publicity splashes across the company.

But not Toyota. Changing the process continually is simply part of the way they see the world. A 1% change by the end of the month (all the time) is de rigeur rather than shooting for 15% by the end of the quarter. And not only that, problems are expected and talked about. "Problems first" is one of their mottos.

What if the church was the same way? We are a lot like the Big Three. We grab the latest model, program fad and make a big splash. What if we went for continuos improvement and tweaking? "How can we do that a little better" instead of "what program, tool, idea will change everything?"

Check out the article from Fast Company.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Getting it Right

The Church of the Nazarene is rearticulating it's mission in a simple, to the point statement.

I'm downright proud. Resources and reasons for the change can be found here.

God the Leader

I had this email interchange with a friend the other day. I usually think best by writing, so this got me thinking:

I've been thinking about God and leadership lately. For the whole earth to rejoice when God reigns, he really must be the most splendid leader and provide the most amazing leadership. I don't think I've ever thought about God from that perspective until lately. Leadership can produce (in the people following the leader) anxiety, tears, fear, dread, tension and that's just my list! For most of us, that is our picture of leadership. There is some form of pressure inherent in the "I'm following this person" system. And so we think that must be true of God. If there aren't going to be any tears in the age to come, and if one (significant) source of tears is leadership and what happens in and with it, then God's leadership must be absolutely brilliant for there to be no tears.

I think one of the reasons the whole idea of God's leadership is foreign to most of us is because the Gospel (as commonly presented) has nothing to do with it!
It is entirely a legal framework wherein some arbitrary payment is made for my sins making it possible for me to go to heaven when I die.

There is nothing in that description of good news that makes me think about what that future might be. My fears and natural instinct for self-preservation are played to.
But Jesus message: "Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand" is ALL about God's leadership and reign. God's reign is here and it is unspeakably good. All of our emphasis is on the repenting (and we do need to do that), but again, there is no vision for what life can be in that schema. Jesus, a great leader, cast the most compelling vision of all time--a vision for life under the rule and reign of God.

1 year, 10 times

Stopped by St Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Richmond at lunch today. They do a yearly Lenten preaching series where they serve lunch and then invite various preachers to their pulpit. St Pauls is a historic Church. Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee both worshipped there during the Civil War.

Today's guest was Lance Watson from St Paul's Baptist here in town (10,000 or so strong).
My boy can bring it. Makes me sorry to be white. Seriously.

Subject: New wine requires new wineskins.
Some nuggets from his sermon:

"This next year guarantees new problems, new pressures and new possibilities."

"New problems require character.
New pressures require conviction.
New possbilities require courage."

Somewhere in his rising crescendo of a sermon he said this that literally left me breathless:
"Instead of living ten years, many people live the same year 10 times. They have no more compassion, no more joy, no more intelligence, no more enthusiasm, no more excitement, no more goodness. They live the same year, 10 times."

If that ain't enough to think about for a few weeks...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More Good Thinking

More Good Thinking that makes you say, "now why didn't I think of that?" from a pastor of a church in Fort Worth.
A few nuggets to pique your interest:

"In kingdom work, we make a mistake when we start with ecclesiology. We should start with Christology. Our first approach should be "How can we live out the love of Jesus in this society?" It's not "How can we start a church?"

"If my church is primarily about the Sunday event, then doing kingdom work is secondary and actually unnecessary. If the Sunday event and church programming is primary, then I'll spend all my time, money, and energy what happens inside the church.
For so many pastors, church is about what happens on Sunday. Well, I really disagree with that. Church is not supposed to be a Sunday event. It's supposed to be salt and light in the family, in the community, and around the world."

"At our church we say, "Kingdom in, kingdom out." When the kingdom gets inside of you, then missions is not an occasional project you do; you live out your faith constantly for God's kingdom."

"Even if we get people into small groups, how many groups are really turning people into disciples that engage the world for God's kingdom?" (That one is just a kick in the pants for me and my role)

"We Aren't About Weekends"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Good Leadership (It might not be what you think)

Good thinking on any given issue, for some reason, is always counter-intuitive. This is some good thinking on leadership by Dee Hock, leadership guru.

PhD in Leadership, Short Course:
Make a careful list of all things done to you that you abhorred. Don't do them to others, ever. Make another list of things done for you that you loved. Do them for others, always.

Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all the other qualities.

Employing Yourself:
Never hire or promote in your own image. It is foolish to replicate your strength. It is idiotic to replicate your weakness. It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective,
ability, and judgment are radically different from yours. It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom.

Money motivates neither the best people, nor the best in people. It can move the body and influence the mind, but it cannot touch the heart or move the spirit; that is reserved for belief,
principle, and morality. As Napoleon observed, "No amount of money will induce someone to lay down their life, but they will gladly do so for a bit of yellow ribbon."

Form and Substance:
Substance is enduring, form is ephemeral. Failure to distinguish clearly between the two is ruinous. Success follows those adept at preserving the substance of the past by clothing it in the forms of the future. Preserve substance; modify form; know the difference. The closest thing to a law of nature in business is that form has an affinity for expense, while substance has an affinity for income.

The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a room packed with archaic furniture. You must get the old furniture of what you know, think, and believe out before anything new can get in. Make an empty space
in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.

Here is the very heart and soul of the matter. If you look to lead, invest at least 40% of your time managing yourself -- your ethics, character, principles, purpose, motivation, and conduct. Invest at least 30% managing those with authority over you, and 15% managing your
peers. Use the remainder to induce those you "work for" to understand and practice the theory. I use the terms "work for" advisedly, for if you don't understand that you should be working for your mislabeled "subordinates," you haven't understood anything. Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers, and free your people to do the same. All else is trivia.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Babies

My buddy Josh just had his first baby--a girl, Cadence Joy.
He thinks about the world in good ways, loves God, follows Jesus with passion and will be a great dad.

Photos for the interested are here.

Christianity in 90 minutes (plus Q&A)

Through an unexpected series of events, I am teaching a class on the Christianity for a county organization. They maintain an institute on LifeLong Learning for people 50 and older and this particular series is on World Religions.

By divine providence or luck of the draw [I'll decide after the class is over :-)], I am the guy to put out the claims of Christianity.
And I have 90 minutes to do it.

So my mind has been twirling around the idea. What do I say in 90 minutes that encapsulates Christianity? For so many, Christianity is a religion of pejoratives--in other words, a way to "beat the man down," not "lift the man up."

In the technical sense, Christianity is a religion. Religion: From the the Latin--"to reconnect ligaments;. To put things back together." Christianity is, then, all about religion. Rejoining people to God, to each other, to themselves, to creation itself.

But in the popular sense, Christianity is anything but a religion. Religion is humanity's attempts to make things right, to rejoin with God, each other, ourselves, the creation. Do this, say that, stand this way, hold your hands like that. And something gets lost in all that.

Christianity is about Christ. "Christian" was itself a term of derision for the first followers of Jesus--as in, "Oh, they think they are little Christs." And it's stuck ever since.

So I'll be working through this--hoping I do it well so people get a glimpse into the wonder and beauty and goodness that Jesus came to bring into the world. I'll let you know how it goes...