Monday, August 31, 2009

All Choked Up!

A friend of mine (Ed Broussard) posted this on his blog. This is illustrative of institutionalism reaching the "puke" level. I think there's an ironic camel floating in the cup, but the gnat sure is gone.
Jesus report card

Since school has now started back…it got me thinking about new routines, tests, and report cards. It has been a long time since I received my last report card. If I remember right, I think I skipped my last final in college because the grade I had going into the final would allow me to graduate with a zero on the test; therefore, my last semester report card resembled my first semester report card. Neither one made my parents very proud. Apparently I chose to receive most of my college education as efficiently as possible (without the bother of going to class).

Maybe that is why when I ran across this (see photo) a few months ago, it really flew all over me? Does Jesus grade us with a report card? Why is preaching 20% and Bible 10% Do we get 20% for just being present with a 10% kicker for being on time? Isn’t 10% on the offering kind of a double bonus? Do we get to fill it in…or does HE fill it in? I grew up filling these out each Sunday morning before church. I didn’t care much for it then and I don’t think I am very comfortable at all with it now.

As a child I think it was the guilt that I experienced each Sunday in not living up to God’s requirements or…the church’s requirements? As an adult I am mystified how we as Christians take good disciplines and pervert them into legalities in order to measure ourselves.

Matthew 24
23"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Something We Wish to Avoid

Head's up for the future by learning through observation from the past.

Founder's syndrome is a label normally used to refer to a pattern of negative or undesirable behavior on the part of the founder(s) of an organization. The term is anecdotal/unofficial and does not actually refer to a medical syndrome. It is particularly common where there has only been one person leading the organization or the board of directors since its inception and is common in non-profit and commercial organizations that grow beyond their early stages.

The organization faces founder's syndrome as the scope of activities widen and number of stakeholders increase. Without an effective decentralized decision making process there will be growing conflict between the newcomers, who want a say in how the organization develops and the founder who continues to dominate the decision making process. This can be very destructive, both to the organization and to the individuals concerned and should be dealt with quickly and decisively.

There are a number of negative dynamics that can occur when an original CEO stays on beyond the initial growth period of an organization.

* The first is that the CEO's passion and charisma that initially created the successful organization starts to become a negative rather than a positive force. As the organization moves in to a more mature phase additional, professionally-trained and talented people are engaged and the board is expanded. The founder's domination of the decision making process can frustrate effective group decision making.

* The organization can, over time, come to be overly identified with the person or personality of the founder and experience a loss of public trust.

* During the early phases of the organization the board tends to be selected by the founder and are either like-minded individuals or people who can be trusted to 'rubber stamp' the founder's decisions rather than offering a more representative view.

Surviving Founder's syndrome requires acknowledgment of the problem, a plan of action, and ideally interventions by the founder, the board and also by other people involved in the organization. The objective of the plan should be to allow the organization to make a successful transition to a more mature organizational model without too much damage to either the organization itself or to the individuals concerned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Your Kingdom Emerging

"Thy Kingdom Come" is ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου and the verb can be translated, with the syntax used, as "emerge."

The whole context of Matt 6 is one of secrecy - where God's reign and influence are sneaking upon us. Interpreters often make the mistake of "will reward you" (vv 6:4&18)as something that awaits us above and beyond. I believe the rewards are expanding here and now.

Having my "sky-time" (bible & meditation) this morning - I realized a curious retrospective. Israel begs for a king. YHWH says they don't need one. They whine and like a loving parent a king is allowed (but with a lengthy "please be advised" disclaimer). They wanted a mere horizontal influence.

Then YHWH's people decide that a temple needs to be built. Again, God resists the notion. They persist and like a loving parent a temple is allowed (but with a lengthy "please be advised" disclaimer as well). They wanted a mere horizontal influence.

I read through the end of 2 Samuel and into 1 Kings (where David - "the man after God's own heart" releases his life-long bitter grudges and tells Solomon to "whack" a few guys he didn't like).

Solomon takes over and prospers big-time. He takes 7 years to build the temple and offers a very insightful prayer when it is dedicated. Then the narrative truncates his 13-year devotion to building his palace (something I don't recall ever being asked for and granted). I cringe knowing where all this will lead. I have read this story a few times before.

Within a handful of verses, Solomon finds himself being sucked down into a consequential vortex. All the peace and prosperity of his great horizontal influence turns out to be short-lived. Solomon dies and his son Rehoboam takes over.

The "kingdom" divides and many years of intermittent trouble and success follow.

Something that jumped off the pages (God's Word keeps doing that!) surprised me in the midst of the consequential conflicts and chaos. The words "this is my doing" made me realize the huge sovereignty God possesses.

1 Kings 12
22 But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 "Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to the whole house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 'This is what the LORD says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.' " So they obeyed the word of the LORD and went home again, as the LORD had ordered.

Then I had one of those cinematic flashbacks of the history that followed (sounds strange putting it that way).

The kingdom goes awry and the temple is dashed to the ground. Then the temple gets rebuilt later and is dashed to the ground. Then the temple gets rebuilt later and is dashed to the ground.

Hmmm. It's still absent and there is no earthy monarchy where God's people have prevalence. Which returns me to the ideas that Jesus promoted in his lengthy discourse on a hillside.

Our influence was never intended to be exercised and experienced on a mere horizontal plane. Jesus advocates drawing on the invisible influence and reign of God to allow his pure dominance to flow through us to others - without calling attention to ourselves (that's one reason I don't where an advertising team T-shirt when I'm participating in a "mission project").

And the increment of this is a daily one. How often I overlook the "divine encounters" because I've got this idea that it will all happen in some venue that has yet to arrive in some type of form that would correlate to a king and a temple. I guess that's why I really went to seminary - so I could be the "pastor" of a "church" and then I could really accomplish so much more for God.

Such a journey continues. It's a very intriguing one. YHWH's Kingdom is continually emerging. There's nothing that should keep us waiting until something else happens or arrives.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So I Didn't Set Myself Up for Disappointment - and it Worked

So the architect was correct. The city has to justify its existence. Got an e-mail from the city. IOW: "Planning and Zoning - Approved;" "Fire Status - Approved;" Building Status - Disapproved." Round 2.

11 more days of free rent anyway.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Insight from the "Outside"

A good friend of mine (Tom Lindholtz) is a fellow follower who exercises his pastoral gift in its biblically designed function. In other words, he's never been paid a penny to pursue his passion to shepherd other followers in any kind of conventional form.

This has kept him at an advantageous perspective of being able to view "ekklasia" from the outside in. He has provided insight for me (some of it "provocative" in its pure sense) over the last 15 years.

Since Teena and I have recently found ourselves outside of the institutional framework of "ministry," I have realized that some of the insight I have gained about the vast array of kingdom opportunities beyond the four walls of a "study" have come from Tom's own journey. He has had a natural-flowing rapport with many who are spiritually hungry, yet without the artificial wall the erects itself by an ecclesiastical prefix. He's just "Tom" and not "Pastor/Rev/Father/Dr..."

He has been a grand encourager when I have found myself without a "job" in the field for which I was "trained." He was the one who helped me realize that a verb is always more productive than a noun. He takes to heart the depth of the Great Commission where Jesus implores us to "...go and make disciples of all nations..." He's out there (sometimes in satirical form ;-D )and has been out there for most of his life "making the most of every opportunity."

So now that we find ourselves out there we have discovered how extremely vast the "harvest field" is. Where we were tempted to be disheartened that we were no longer in the form and venue we thought we were supposed to be, we have made a profound discovery.

Out is not such a bad place to find oneself. It actually ends up being the destination of "Go!"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Put Your Sword Away!

I'm still very frustrated about the experience a family member encountered recently. It seems that while attending a particular church, the "pastor" (or more appropriate: "pester") made it clear that anyone who read or watched "Harry Potter" was inviting evil into their lives.

Why do some put it upon themselves to make a distinction on what particular brand of fiction/folklore is prohibited among those who seek God and desire to follow Christ? For instance - Halloween is bad; Christmas (celebrated very close to the pagan observation of the winter solstice with lights and greenery) is good. Harry Potter is bad; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (chock-full of magic and fantasy) is good.

Without naming names or particular groups of people who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, I can’t help but notice that some among us are still wielding swords to force the advancement of the Kingdom.

What follows will be some random thoughts and passages in context to this dilemma that have been insightful and profoundly inspiring to me as I endeavor to follow the teachings of God's Messiah - Jesus. In short, he never told us to take things upon ourselves for apart from him we can do "squat." (Greek double negative οὐ οὐδείς)

John 18
10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)
11Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"

“The Cup” includes “it is finished” - what Jesus uttered as he was dying.

Matthew 16
18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades ("Some people call it 'hell' Mhhmmm") will not overcome it.

John 12
31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Romans 12:21
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1 John 2
13I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father.

John 6
14After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." 15Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Galatians 2
14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

Matthew 21:32
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Matthew 16
11How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

What IS the “leaven of the Pharisees?” - It's sad to conclude that it's in a lot of places today. We bear it and we battle it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Java Journey will be a “Third Place” and “Social Condenser” -or- The Mars Hill Approach Continues

Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean." (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) – Acts 17:19-21

The Cheers song has been overused for illustrative purposes, but for good reason. The part of the lyrics that states “You wanna go where people know, people are all the same, You wanna go where everybody knows your name…” is, without question, resonant to a majority. “Cheers” (the fictional tavern itself) is a “social condenser.” It is a “third place.”

Below is an excerpt from A Multi-Site Church Road Trip (Zondervan 2009) edited by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon and Warren Bird. “Third place” is very well defined.

Ray Oldenburg is credited with coining the term “third place” in his book The Great Good Place. A third place is somewhere outside the first two spaces in our life: work and home…

Ray Oldenburg believes that bars, coffee shops, general stores, and other third places are central to developing a vital community. Some call such places “social condensers” – places where community is developed, cohesion is retained, and a sense of identity is created. In the business world, the third place concept has become a buzzword for retailers as a “place to aspire to become.”

Oldenburg lists the following eight characteristics of third places:

1. They are located on “neutral” ground.
2. They are “levelers” where rank and status don’t matter.
3. Conversation is a main activity.
4. They are easy to access and accommodating.
5. They have a core group of influential regulars.
6. They have a low profile instead of being showy.
7. The mood is playful.
8. They feel like a home away from home.

Ed Stetzer, president of research with LifeWay Research, in a February 2008 study conducted for Cornerstone Knowledge Network, asked, “What kind of places do the unchurched like to come to?”…

According to the survey, the reason why people choose particular locations to meet with their friends is because these places are relaxing, casual, and fun. When asked to describe in their own words design features of the kind of place where they’d like to meet a friend, responders mentioned a quiet environment, comfortable seating, and a spaciousness and openness.
This is precisely what drives the vision that Teena and I share, along with a “core group influential regulars.” Our design is purposeful so that folks will walk into the place to meet a friend, of just sit comfortably. Our mission is stated as being a place which: “provides hope and restoration to the hurting and broken by sharing Christ's story, showing His love and by empowering the restored to serve others.” We believe deeply that the only way to do this is to gain a trust and a rapport with fellow human beings – and the means to establish that is provided by an environment that maintains “a low profile instead of being showy.”

We grow more and more excited each day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Faith Minus Expectations

What a renaissance on Sunday! Our simple gathering was plagued with technical difficulties and other glitches. In days gone by, both Teena and I would have to fight off anxiety and anger (in accordance with institutional expectations) so that plans would come off smoothly and without "distractions" (or as one former fellow staff person put it "we want everything to be 'clean and classy'") for visitors and guests.

Thank God we had listened to the wise counsel of Reggie McNeal who implores leaders to put "preparation" above "planning." With a handful of relatively fresh Christ followers, it was so invigorating that the strong community ambiance within the room overwhelmed all expectations that everything HAS to be smooth and without any proverbial "hitches." It's amazing that those with limited institutional experience become the most encouraging and composed.

Conversation during the teaching flowed as though someone more powerful than all of us was actually leading.

Why has it taken us so long to realize that this One's leadership is far above any so called leadership and direction we can provide?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Plans Dropped Off

The Architect completed the plans with the details requested by the city. I dropped the required 5 sets off Thursday morning. When he handed them to me, he gave me a heads-up about what the city seems obligated to do (being elected/assigned folks). "It most likely will be rejected at first" says he. "I've never seen anything fly through in one try."

It takes wisdom in knowing how to follow up. Do we become pests if we call too much? Do we risk the left hand and right hand not communicating if we lay back? We have 3 weeks left of free rent, but are not allowed to build anything until the city says "ok." I'm looking for heart here since we are non-profit and dependent on donations and volunteers. But reality and a few places in a book I read often suggests that it's not to be expected.

The last word used there has been a lesson in faith for us. The depth of faith nearly always challenges our "expectations." Everything to this point has clearly been a result of divine design. The reason we can say that is because almost nothing we imagined has taken place. Yet, the development and process that has led us to this present point is far superior to anything we could have envisioned or schemed.

Thanks for your prayers. Continue to pray for patience and resources. Feel free to contact us if you have questions or would like to support us.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

From My Hebrew (Me-ah) "Heart"

Lord. Thank you that Teena and I are both sensing the fulfillment of taking some risks in obedience to your teachings. Admittedly, we have battled fear at times but we both agree that we are willing to trade any ridicule of perceived failure for the frustration of approaching the end of our lives regretting that we served only in a "safe" mode. I.J.N. Amen.

One More Month of Free Rent

Looks as though we may run into September and part of October. We have an architect working to help us finish the "mechanical" (plumbing/electricity) portions of our plans for submission to the city. We can't start putting things in or up until they have been approved.
We are still tearing away at old stuff. The biggest challenge has been scraping away nearly 40 years of floor crud. Since we want to restore the original slab to a stained/polished look, we've worked extremely hard at peeling (actually "chipping") away the layers: Indoor/outdoor carpet on top of adhesive on top of latex paint on top of oil based paint on top of adhesive. We've had lots of advise on the best way to do it, but we've found that a heat gun and a sharp scraper are the most thorough.
We have had 2 people donate significant amounts toward the build out. If you would like to help financially - your gift would be tax deductible. Just send me a private e-mail using "javajourney (at) embarqmail (dot) com." (Be sure to remove the spaces and replace the symbols). We would be very grateful.