Thursday, May 29, 2008

Looking Back for the Future

"The further back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see." - Winston Churchill

Churchill was a big believer in how history can inform current decisions. Nowhere do I believe this is more true than the church. The start of the church is the best place to be informed on the future of her direction.

Unfortunately, it is common (and easy) to read our own traditions into the formation of the church in the early days, and assume we are doing what they did back in the day.

This never hit me until I read Wagner's Acts of the Apostles, and I was blown away by his different perspective. Not that I agree with all of Wagner, but how he saw different and beyond my presuppositions. It opened my eyes.

Here are a few things that are intriguing from then to now.

  • There are no pastors in the book of Acts and yet this is our primary leadership structure.
  • There are no women pastors (no pastors at all), but women play a key role - even as prophets (Acts 21)
  • There is no systematic theology, or exegetical teaching.
  • Miracles are common - even expected as the gospel moves forward in power.
  • God speaks to people directly
  • New believers got baptized fast - when they decided to follow.
  • THE Apostles where not the only apostles (Acts 14).
There is more, but these are a few that I did not see because my tradition blinded me to what was really being said (btw - this is the same type of thing that got our boy Luther to post his 95 burs in the saddle on the door at Wittenburg).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Einstein on Influence

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.
- Albert Einstein (here sporting his 'regular guy at the beach' look).

General George S. Patton gave his version of 'management by walking around by saying - "no good decision was ever made from a swivel chair."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Listening to God

Sometimes (ok, often) my posts are kind of pointed and overly mission focused. I guess that is why I named this the rant. I wanted to speak freely - but sometimes it may be too much.

So that is to say, that the massive key to this whole thing is transformed lives and listening to Jesus. All the missional goobly garp in the world aint gonna make a hill of beans if this is not happening. This is the essence of discipleship (in my book).

On transformation - unfortunately we (the west) have gotten ourselves into program / attendance bind. We measure spiritual growth by who is showing up and how sweet the event went. I was a church planters conference recently and one of the key questions batted around in the halls was . . . 'how many you running?' They joked about this up front . . . but it is painfully how we have learned to keep score in western Christianity.

On listening to Jesus - there is a subtle but destructive force in the west that says that God ONLY speaks through scripture. What a bummer. Now I agree that he is not going to say anything that contradicts scripture, but to say that he cannot speak to me directly really undermines the whole idea of a relationship with him. What a bummer if my wife wrote me a letter when I married her and it contained all the information I would ever get in regard to her communication with me. No, I believe that it is key that we know, understand and practice listening to his voice. Then he will guide us in real time toward what we need to do.

Can you think of respected person in scripture, major or minor, who did not HEAR from God? . . . . me either. I believe this is key to what it means to be a disciple.

Dangerous and possibly hard to learn and teach . . . but absolutely key. If the young people get a hold of hearing his voice and doing what he says . . . all this talk is pointless and the craziness of a Jesus movement will blow us away.

I had to come back on and add this. If we taught this, we would never have to do placement again. We could allow the HS to place staff simply by telling them where he wanted them to go. You may think this is crazy, or would not work, or that the whole USCM would end up in Ohio . . . but this is exactly what we do internationally. No one gets placed in Kazakstan! You have to hear from Jesus and then you work the system to get there. It would be cool to set that system up for the whole of the US.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Leading My Friends

"Management is about how the job gets done. Leadership is determining what the job is and moving people toward getting it done." - Larry Winget

Larry is a business dude / speaker / consultant who does not mince words. Here I think he is on to something that we should be aware of. It is not about the how.

On DJs blog there is a good discussion of the four laws, but in reality it does not matter what the tool is . . . any tool will do. Invent some more. What matters in leadership is what the job / goal is and then the ability to build systems that unleash and empower people to get it accomplished. Is this the way we handle students on campus? or do we micro them with some 'training' and tools and then program our way forward.

Or, in leading, do we hold high the vision for the campus or city (this equates to the 'job') and then move them toward getting it done by believing in them, serving them and facilitating their dreams for their campus. How do we do it? Let these young inspired leaders figure that out . . that is half the fun of the mission.


On the broader picture . . . is this how we treat our staff organizationally? Of late, I have felt a whole lot of how and not so much what. All to often I think upper management believes the problem is on the local level and then tries to inform solutions (or like me in ESM . . . borrow some solution from another location and feed it to the whole). The reality is, most local leaders are leading bigger on the local level than any of the upper management ever did at the local level. It is, in fact, a different world - larger schools, broader geography and then the crazy ethnic landscape as well.

Crazy as it may seem, I believe the Cru system is built upon a strange unanimity that is debilitating. It is built to have poor leaders consuming coaching energy and forces good leaders to operate below what they could actually produce without having to navigate the system.

It is built to level the playing field and 'train' everyone to do much of the same things in the same ways. Oooops. The world (and the kingdom) simply do not work well that way. This is why DNA discussions and such are kind of boring and pointless.

"Please . . tell me what you are wanting me to accomplish (results), measure and reward me, and then let me make all the primary decisions (with who, where). Then we will see some new and awesome things begin to emerge."

The manager at Mickey Dees gets to hire his own fry cook . . . why cant the local leader put together his own team (without negotiating it with anyone above I might add).

Monday, May 12, 2008


So here are some wakjob ideas:

  • Launch 50 churches out of your current campus ministry (small little viral things with 21 year old elders and you as the master apostle - thats with a little 'a' in apostle btw). Tell the students that you will gather weekly to worship and train, but you want them each to start a simple viral church . . . . and you can show them how.
  • Start teaching students to baptize new believers and each other - push full obedience to Mt 28 baby! Forget decisions . . . measure disciples (those who are taking obedient steps) and baptisms.
  • Never speak at a meeting again - only lets students share what is on their heart in the mission each and every week. Let mission inform theology and worry about the messes as you move ahead.
  • Define the whole ministry in 5 words. Win, Build, Send, Campus, World.
  • Identify 50 clubs on campus and get a rad group of believers to join each one. Use a weekly meeting to 'rush' for each identifiable group. Infiltrate baby!
  • Form a non-profit on your campus and start hiring your own interns and staff. Or, get a local church to hire them for you.
  • Initiate more service projects than any other group on campus . . . and make sure to invite the whole campus to each one.
  • Never meet with someone one on one again. Only in small groups and only with someone besides you leading the discussion.
  • Start a covert underground Xtian sect that does radical stupid things . . . don't let anyone know about it except the first 10 people you invite in. See if you can grow it by adding and multiplying new believers only. Commit to never making a Tshirt.
  • Never get a new believer involved with what is already going on . . . really . . . only help them start something new in their existing community (like Zaccheus or that Ethiopian dude).
Any more? Sure you cannot do them all, and these may all be kind of lame. But if someone does not do something really really different . . . then we will continue with the exact same thing we currently have now.

Change Please

From my demented perch, change and leadership go hand in hand. If you are not leading positive change, then there is another word for what is going on . . . management.

Now, there is nothing wrong with good management, but I am not sure that is what we aspire to in mission. We usually enter a city or campus setting with the desire to render things different that what they currently are. This we understand - we role up our sleeves and tackle what needs to be done. But the rub is that often times we look behind us, or simply put new window dressing on current practices, and we end up with the same things we have gotten in similar locations (again, not bad at all, but not real change). This is ok if you are going from UCLA to UC-Davis, but may prove painful if you are going to Istanbul or Moscow.

Again, nothing wrong with doing what we know works well, but it simply will never get us anything different than what we are currently aware of. And I believe we are desperately in need of something radically different. The books of Acts was not a revamp of the existing synagogue system, but a whole new format for connecting with God. (new wine skins!)

A few weeks ago I was sitting with Alan Hirsch and a few others over dinner. Alan made a side comment (which are always awesome) about the need for some people in the west to simply go uncorked in experimentation. Not with a better band, or more stories in their speaking . . . but some stuff simply not heard of. What should they do? I don't know . . . . that is where the wild experimentation could really take root. This is where I believe the young and the restless of this generation will make their mark (so us old dudes best get out the way).

What are some ideas?