Continuing with notes from last week’s Sweet conference…. what follows is a summary of some of the highlights. The one-liners I mentioned earlier I’ve mainly left out of the summary below. What follows is not truly a “summary,” but a compilation of selected material from my notes, lacking in the detail and context that they deserve, but preserving somewhat the flavour of the two days’ sessions. Some of it is in chronological order, and some of it has been rearranged topically, since several topics were revisited as the subject matter was more “interwoven” than the manner in which it is presented here. What I inadvertently omit or misquote should be blamed on me and not upon Leonard Sweet, particularly if these make his message unclear in any way. Sadly, I fear this is inevitable from my brief notes, but there should be enough topics and ideas here for much discussion. As I remarked to Soul Pastor immediately after the event, it feels like a couple of months’ worth of blogfodder. In any event….

1. Leadership
Summoned to Lead Summoned to Leada.k.a. “Forget the Vision thing, It’s all about Voice.” Apparently the publishers were less keen on this title though. Hymn: “Be Thou My Vision.” If Jesus gave us the Great Commission, why are we out looking for a vision statement of our own? Jesus is the vision.

Visions are heard, not seen. Like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, by the time you see it, it’s too late. Moses heard the burning bush before he saw it. Every bush is burning, we don’t see because we can’t hear.

A lot of talk and discussion was had regarding voice or sound, including mention of Stephen Covey’s new book, The 8th Habit : From Effectiveness to Greatness, which is all about “voice” as the 8th habit, the one without which the first 7 don’t work.

2. Theology of Change

  • The future is coming C.O.D. “Change Or Die.” A medical definition of death: a body that does not change.
  • “The Bread of Life is fresh-baked daily.” Jesus never changes, but is new every morning.
  • In a medieaval cathedral, they never took down the scaffolding after its construction because it was never complete — it was always changing.
  • There is now a whole genre of literature called “change studies,” a science of change. These come primarily from the business world, from cognitive neural linguistics, and from the medical community.
  • We now know what it takes to effect change. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Three things are required for change to take place:
    1. Change requires reframing
    2. Change requires big dreams
    3. Change requires emotional engagement

3. On Creation

  • Leonard Bernstein: God sang, “Let there be Light.” [Note in the first of the Narnia books, Aslan creates Narnia by singing it into being.]
  • The first command in the Bible is “eat freely.” The last command in the Bible is “Drink freely the gift of the Water of Life.” Everything in between is a banquet, a Messianic feast.
  • Adam was told to Tend and Till. Tend = “Conserve what I have created and honour what I have done.”
  • The oldest profession is gardening. Adam was the first gardener.
  • Jesus is the “Second Adam.” In his first manifestation following the resurrection, Mary thought he was ….wait for it…. the gardener.
  • Tend & Till = Conserve & Conceive
  • The church has not confronted the culture of consumption. Every commercial on television says the gospel is wrong: “The trees move the wind.” After 9-11, President Bush urged people back to normal, telling them to go out and spend, to consume.
  • The ultimate thing we conceive is Christ. The medieaval hallmarks of Christ are Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. Do we conceive these?
  • “The entire planet today is a suicide machine.” The only people in history who lived like we do today were literally kings.
  • Our job is not to create, but to join and continue what God is already doing — to conceive.
    • Christ is born in you when you conceive food at a food bank.
    • Christ is born in you when you conceive birthday greetings to a friend.
    • Christ is born in you when you conceive lessons taught to a student.
    • Christ is born in you when you conceive …..(etc.)

4. M.R.I. = Missional, Relational, Incarnational

  • Missional: how to tell if your church is on a journey or not.
    1. you have a different kind of imagination, a missional imagination
      • you have a “foot” imagination: walking… the Bible is filled with travel images
      • you’re on a journey and you’re not sure where the path will lead
      • you trust God for the path… like the labrynth, you don’t find the path unless you walk it
      • there aren’t trails out there, you’ve got to blaze them, making them as you go along, constantly making course-corrections on the fly
      • to be more “on the way” is to be less “in the way” of the Spirit
      • if you don’t meet God on the journey, you won’t meet him at the destination
      • church/world is a false dichotomy, the veil between the two has been rent
      • Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose was a way of getting discipleship into homes — like marketing for Amway, Avon, or Tupperware. Barna’s Revolution of churchless christianity is the same thing.
    2. Are you prepared for surprises? Do you like surprises?
      • “Footloose and fancy-free” — a trip forces you to leave the safety of your enclosures.
      • The only way to survive a trip is to inhabit the culture you’re in, not try to take yours with you.
      • How does your church (group) like to embrace surprises and suffering?
      • “Travel” is from the French “travail”, to suffer.
      • How well do you do “random”?
    3. A pilgrim people are a learning people.
      • Greek mathatos disciples, learning. How open to learning are you, and to adjusting based upon what you are learning?
      • The half-life of an education in biology is 6 months… in 6 months, all you learn will be wrong. The church is operating from learning that is so old, it’s rancid.
    4. Are you taking risks? Is your church a safe place to take risks?
      • We are not venture capitalists, we are venture conceivers.
      • The ultimate risk is not to take any.
      • In an emerging sense, the more risk we take, the more likely we are to survive.
      • “A church that should be bursting with creativity is basking in boredom.”
      • We need a theology of risk, which is best found in the parable of the talents.
      • “Let it RIP” – not “rest in peace” but rest in the Prince of Peace… e.g., Jesus sleeping in the boat in a storm.
  • Relational
    • By and large, our churches are not designed for relationships. The more vicarious our relationships are online, the more we hunger for real (Read: IRL) relationships… see
    • In the church, we have become propositional communities, not relational communities. And we are some of the last ones to “get” this.
    • The world steals our best lines because we don’t know we have them. Chase Bank: “The right relationship is everything.”
    • In EPIC (which is Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich, Connective), connectivity is the keey, it’s all about connectivity.
  • Incarnational
    • Dwell withing the culture until you find your dwelling in that culture.
    • Like water, take the shape of whatever you’re in without changing the nature of what you are.
    • There are certain aspects of the gospel that we will never understand until it is incarnated in Inuit (or Swahili, or…) culture… this is why the church hasn’t reached “fulness of stature” yet. For example, “Jesus is the way, the truth, the life” but the verse is far more beautiful in Italian, where Jesus is “la via, la verita, la vita.”
    • All cultures need Christ incarnated… even postmodern culture. We must open ourselves to receive Christ in all these cultures.
    • Colonial is taking Jesus so you can be like me. Incarnational is finding Jesus already there.

    5. The Times We’re In
    We are living in a world now where the planning model is bankrupt… and the church doesn’t know it yet. In the parable of the bridesmaids, there are 5 Scouts (Motto: “Be prepared!”) and 5 strategic planners. 5 who can’t possibly plan, and 5 who know it and were simply prepared for anything. Who got into the wedding banquet?

    The church right now is in perhaps The Perfect Storm, and it may be the church’s first perfect storm. Never before in history have we seen a perfect storm like this… we have seen one weather pattern before, never two… but now there are three. And we have to steer the ship. The weather patterns which are creating this perfect storm into which the church is sailing are:

    1. Post-Modernity
    2. The Bible is 500 years old (in general distribution), prior to which the church “read” the cathedrals — the artwork, the stained glass, the carvings, the tapestries taught the stories. For 1500 years there was a different way to be a christian. The world that print culture created is over; we have a whole new epistemology now. Our brains are literally wired differently.

      Can we live in the simultinaity of pre-modern, modern, and post-modern? Postmodernism is more premodern than it is modern… some people are therefore leaping modernism and going directly from premodernity to postmodernity. For example, countries (e.g., Brasil) that don’t have wired telephone technology are skipping past it and going directly to wireless. In South Africa, the minibus transit system was attempted to be modernized with routes and schedules, but it failed miserably… and they returned to a form of “fractal traffic” which works much better for them.

    3. Post-Christendom
    4. The 11th century is comparable, but not really — this is the biggest shift since Constantine. There are no more “home games,” the church has lost the “home-court advantage.” At best, the culture says to christians, “Sit down and shut up, you’ve had your chance.” At worst, the culture says to christians, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Previously, being a pastor in town could get you onto boards and committees, now it will keep you off them.

    5. Post-Humanity
    6. We are all becoming part cyborg… part born and part made, whether that refers to a pacemaker or a pair of glasses; it could include an antibiotic, through which we are part “made.” Children who are under 10 years old today are 22nd Century kids… technology could keep them alive that long. (They have a 70% chance.) In 2030 you might have an artificial leg, hip, heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver… cyborg, but still human. (Moore’s Law: computer processor power doubles every 18 months while the price drops in half.) When Bill Clinton took office, there were 50 websites; he only sent one email, and that just so he could say he sent it. The interface exists today between the brain and the computer.

      We now live on a global scale; there are 39 people in the world with avian flu — we know them all. Anything that happens in the world now happens to all of us. When Princess Diana died, we all knew it right away; Pearl Harbour wasn’t that way, it was something that happened “to those people” and wasn’t immediately known to everyone.

      Today, we would kill the last dodo bird (or sturgeon or passenger pigeon), knowing it’s the last one. If ever there was a need to focus more on Christ, it is now… we are post-humanity.

    There were many other subjects covered and much more said about the ones mentioned here, but this should give a sense of the subject material covered.

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