Bless me reader, for I have sinned. It’s been 202 days since my last post. And what does it take to get me to stick my nose back into this conversation? Disgust, naturally, and something of a rant. A disgusted rant.
…which for some may include a bathrobe in their parents’ basement. Or something like that. The Nines is a live-streamed series of 9-minute presentations today, 09/09/09. (Free, organized by Leadership Network and Catalyst.) I heard about this from Bill Kinnon and Andrew Jones, and have had it on in the background for a little while now. Missed Skye Jethani’s presentation, which Bill says was good, but caught Reggie McNeal and Len Sweet. Some of the presentations are… less good, ranging from same-old, same-old to really insightful, but overall a good undertaking and most have a good tidbit to offer up. For example, Teresa McBean just said that churches/leaders need to challenge their assumptions. Right on… but if you don’t like one of the presentations, just wait nine minutes and there’ll be another. Also see the running commentary on Twittter.
I love the TED site and the many Talks thereon. (I’d love to attend the conference someday.) Today I gave a listen to Barry Schwartz‘ talk titled “The real crisis? We stopped being wise.” I’m all about wisdom. Not that I necessarily have any, I just know how important it is, and how difficult it is to attain. I enjoy the book of Proverbs for this reason as well, in the hope that I might glean something to help my pursuit of wisdom. That could be why I enjoyed this talk… or it could be because I’ve never been much for rules and incentives, which Schwartz also tackles, suggesting that they can tend to work against the cultivation of wisdom. Considering the workings of legalism in institutional/hierarchical structures, I’d have to say that he’s onto something.
Jonny Baker has some good thoughts on the gift of not fitting in, which is an interesting turn of phrase of itself. And as anyone who has this particular “gift” will know, it often feels more like a curse than a gift. This “not fitting in” describes more than simply those who are “different,” the non-conformists conspicuous for their external similarities. What makes these people not fit in is far more fundamental — it’s a way of thinking, an outlook. The thing that makes them not fit is that they look at things as everyone accepts them to be, and they not only ask why they are this way, but why everyone accepts them to be this way. In asking the question and beginning to imagine an answer, they begin to imagine an alternative, and to see a way to change. Sometimes they even begin living according to the alternative way, clashing in the process with the accepted way of things.
Vineet Nayar in a Harvard Business publication says It’s Time to Invert the Management Pyramid, which Ryan Bolger follows up by saying We Must Invert the Pastor Pyramid. I’m not really very big on chasing down business strategies to apply to the church, but it’s always striking to notice how all the really good organizational ideas that the churches adopt are ones which the business realm has had a grasp on for a decade or more. With this in mind, whether one takes the result as a prescription or not, it is instructive to take note when the business realm begins to find fault with their old organizational method and begins imagining or suggesting an alternative structure. The Harvard article states,
I recently finished Scot McKnight’s latest release, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. I have a habit of noticing ideas and examples that may be tangental to the author’s point but which I still make a point of applying in a slightly different context — as I did yesterday. And here comes another one, on authority.
Today I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s latest book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. I began over breakfast in a local hotel restaurant, where I’ve been known to show up for breakfast with no companion other than a book. (Today it was also a prelude to an oil change.) As I read along quite enjoying myself, I arrived at page 79.
Fear, Faith, and Religion
People who challenge and then change the status quo, do something that’s quite difficult. They overcome the resistance of people they trust, people they work for, people in their community. Every step along the way, it’s far easier to stop and accept the thanks of the balloon factory workers than it is to persist and risk the humiliation of failure.
- Grace: “Hype: Myth-telling that manipulates herd mentality that desperately needs a metanarrative to indulge its gross egocentrism.”
- Bono: “It’s extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion dollars to saved 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.” … “‘Bankruptcy is a serious business and we all know people who have lost their jobs,’” Bono said, referring to the bankruptcy declared by Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. ‘But this is moral bankruptcy.’”
- Julian, the last Roman Emperor: “Nothing has contributed to the progress of the superstition of these Christians as their charity to strangers, the impious Galileans provide not only for their own poor but for ours as well.” — Tim Keller: “The early Christians were promiscuous with their charity.”
- Sara Savage and Eolene Boyd-Macmillan, from The Human Face of the Church: A Social Psychology and Pastoral Theology Resource for Pioneer and Traditional Ministry: “”…The sociologist Max Weber observed a cyclical process among religious movements that he called ‘the routinization of charisma’. Weber argued that any great vision requires a human process to carry it through time, sometimes in the form of ‘a man, a mission, a movement, or a monument’. Even with the Body of Christ, the life-giving charism has to be embodied in a routine – in some form of human organization. Yet, life-giving visions do not fit easily into neat boxes. So, the very process that gives the vision continuing life also begins to kill it. When the maintenance of the institution (which protects the charism) becomes the institution’s primary purpose, the death of the charism is on the horizon. Only a spiritual revival or reform will re-ignite the gift. In our era, fresh expressions of church and the re-traditioning of familiar forms of church march alongside many initiatives to re-ignite the gift…”
- Len Sweet: “So far… rather than reach back into 2000 years of Church history, Emergent stopped at the ‘liberal turn’ wherein the Gospel became all social and no gospel.” and “The emerging church has become another form of social gospel. And the problem with every social gospel is that it becomes all social and no gospel. All social justice and no social gospel. It is embarrassing that evangelicals have discovered and embraced liberation theology after it destroyed the main line, old line, side line, off line, flat line church.”
- Len Sweet (via Jordon Cooper): “…musing about how I am SO tired of the church viewing the world more as a market than as a mission.”
- via Frank Viola:
“The real trouble is not in fact that the Church is too rich, but that it has become heavily institutionalized, with a crushing investment in maintenance. It has the characteristics of the dinosaur and the battleship. It is saddled with a plant and programme beyond its means, so that it is absorbed in problems of supply and preoccupied with survival. The inertia of the machine is such that the financial allocations, the legalities, the channels of organization, the attitudes of mind, are all set in the direction of continuing and enhancing the status quo. If one wants to pursue a course which cuts across these channels, then most of one’s energies are exhausted before one ever reaches the enemy lines.”
– John A.T. Robinson
Last summer, I asked if Jesus was a failure as a visionary Leader. I think I mostly made my point, but there will remain some who are unconvinced, I’m sure. To suggest anything wrong with the way our Lord did things is a serious breach of Christian etiquette, perhaps enough to get one run out of town on a rail. But there it is. I left it alone for a while, thinking maybe I’d write further on it at some point, but never did. This spring, Ruth Tucker posted a “provocative” piece on Acknowledging Jesus as a Failed Leader, which received a fair bit of blogosphere linkage. I had hoped to resume this dialogue sooner, but Tucker’s post disappeared for some time, reappearing online just recently. She may be even more provocative than I was:
I’ve actually been meaning to post this for quite some time now, but I’ve been reminded of it again and am finally getting around to it. I have in my 20-year-old NIV Study Bible on page 1599 a 3″x4″ Post-it Note affixed overtop of the notes on the bottom of the page. It contains three bullet-points referring to a text on that page, with a few brief notes about each one. The note represents advice at-the-ready that I could share with a group for anywhere from 5 minutes perhaps up to full sermon length. It always seemed a good idea to have something at the ready, and it is a bit of advice that I shared with leaders and leaders-in-training and people in ministry training or prophetic ministry. And now here it is on the blog. I say there are three lessons, but really it’s a single lesson in three points, designed to remind us who we are and put us in our place.
The TED site is a fantastic source of inspiring videos. I must say that I’m not exactly taken with all of them, but when you hit one that stands out, you generally have the urge to share it. Yup, that’s what’s coming. In this TedTalk, Ben Dunlap tells the story of Sandor Teszler, a Hungarian man he met at Wofford College. Teszler’s story covers the Holocaust through the American Deep South of the 1950s, confronting racism and oppression on both ends as he builds a successful career in textiles — not once, but twice. After all he had seen, Teszler still considered people to be basically good. His escape after being arrested by the Nazis produced a jaw-dropping moment for me, but the talk is inspiring throughout, including powerful ideas about justice and lifelong learning.