Thursday, May 28, 2009

Truth Through Tension

I've been watching several YouTube clips by various pastors and christian leaders ripping into the "emerging church" - "post-modernism" - "missional"  movements that have been birthed over the last 10 years.  If you're not familiar with these terms please take advantage of some wiki links to get a quick thumbnail sketch: 

The central stream of conflict and debate seems to be around the issue of truth.  Is there (or isn't there) a universal claim (aka - truth) that is binding on all everywhere?  A Meta-Narrative.  How does one's cultural context limit their ability to attain or engage with that meta-narrative?  Is there a middle ground between the two extremes of complete relativism and objective truth certainty?

Without getting into deep philosophical waters, I'd simply like to offer something I've found to be true in my own experience that this debate over truth has surfaced.  I find Jesus at work in places of tension more often than in places of agreement.  Not to say that Jesus isn't at work in places of agreement, but that He is uniquely found in places of tension where disagreement, struggle, debate, and conflict abound.  Counter-intuitive as this may be, I'll offer a few quick thoughts for my reasoning:
  1. Tension reminds us that we who follow Jesus are diverse WHILE being united.  That the diversity of experience, opinion, belief, and understanding in the body of Christ is a gift - not a curse.
  2. Tension reveals our inadequacies and demonstrates our need for God.
  3. Tension allows us opportunity to listen and learn from people not like us.
  4. Tension results in more critical thinking, thoughtful analysis, and better decision making.
It isn't that agreement is bad or unhelpful.....but that the tension born of disagreement is a gift because Jesus meets us differently and more powerfully in those places.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Creativity, Failure, and the Church

The video I linked in my earlier post claimed that outside-the-box thinking (aka - creative and/or lateral thinking) is a discipline to be developed more than an opportunistic spark that simply hits on occasion. He posited that there are societal and systemic reasons for the restraint and/or the unleashing of creativity amongst people. I completely agree.

"there is no word in the English language that communicates: a fully justified venture which, for reasons beyond your control, did not succeed. We simply say mistake - and people see mistakes as problems, barriers to advancement, etc..."

Erwin McManus ( says:

"there are all different aspects and forms of creativity. It isn't limited to artists. All of us have creative expression to discover and unleash, and it is how we contribute to bringing God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven."

Every organization wants to succeed; the church included. Often our desire to succeed (or fear of failure - which is a fear of insecurity) inhibits freedom to risk and mitigates lateral/outside-the-box thinking. There never seems to enough time, energy, or willingness to entertain ideas that may be a "fully justified venture" but stand a strong chance of failure. In this reality success will only last as long as the current modus operandi brings it. We see this happening to GM. They are captive to old paradigms and riding them all the way down. Their window to risk, try new things, and learn new paradigms to reach a changing market has closed.

I would argue that the paradigm and operating idea of the christian church in America is changing rapidly and our fear of failure, our unfamiliarity with creative thinking, and low tolerance for risk are undermining our ability to adapt and solve new problems. This statement, of course, is a sweeping generalization. There are several churches and Jesus movements across America that are pioneering new territory and thoughtfully trying new and radical ideas; but they are miniscule (in my opinion) compared to the majority that are entrenched and often blind to the realities leading to their demise. If they wait much longer they will follow in way of GM.

Working towards a solution - 3 things that will help bring change:
  1. Empower (no...require...demand....provoke) your church community to dream. If Erwin is right (earlier quote) then they have a calling and imagination that will be critical to the future...just as much as the dreams and imagination of the staff.
  2. Change the culture of your leadership by rewarding risk and lateral thinking. We learn more when we fail than when we succeed.
  3. Take a long and hard look at reality. Get to know the stats about the church in America. Understand the perception that many in your community have of your church. Keep it Real.

Creativity & The Brain

Great (and short) video by Dr. Edward de Bono ( on creative thinking and how our brain functions.

I've been thinking quite a bit on creation. Not God's act of...but on our involvement and participation in the process of creating. Do we create - are we creative - how involved are our imaginations in any part of our lives? How would life change if we harnessed our ability to imagine, dream, and create towards those dreams. Artists do this....but they are a slim percentage of the population.

Watch this video and leme know your thoughts....I'll be writing more on this tonight.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cultura: To Cultivate

This blog should have happened long ago. Many of you have been encouraging me to do something like this for years and I'm grateful for your relentlessness.

I am passionate about helping the American Church discover and embrace the diversity of cultures outside its boundaries and often self-imposed limitations. I hold a core belief that God is far larger than any single culture could ever fully express. That through the tapestry of diverse expression we are able to experience and know God more deeply. That the ever expanding cultural diversity and pluralism of America is a gift to the American church, to our theology, and to our ability to see God's Kingdom increasingly realized on earth (as it is in Heaven).

My hope is that this blog does a worthy of job of exploring such a huge topic; and make NO mistake about it....culture is a HUGE topic. That single word embraces ethic identity, values, beliefs, stories, mores, political ideas, artistic preferences, tribal realities, etc... My hope is that you'll join me on occasion - that you will chime in with your thoughts, opinions, stories, and that you will enrich this discussion.

Culture comes from the Latin "cultura" - stemming from "colere," meaning "to cultivate." That is posture I want those of us who follow Jesus to take towards cultures different than our own. We need to cultivate the good, fan the flame of God who is busy at work within culture, and allow our own perspectives and thoughts on God to be stretched as we see him in new and often challenging ways. God is not limited or threatened by cultural diversity - Jesus was not limited by the cultural realities of His day - Paul was a brilliant student of those cultures he ministered within - and the Christian Gospel has the incarnational power to enrich, empower, and redeem every single culture that has existed (and has yet to exist)!

can I get an AMEN ?