Saturday, May 29, 2010

117. Apostolic Ministry and Suffering

I can remember the first time I read Kraftchick's chapter Death in Us, Life in You: The Apostolic Medium. The bombs were just going off left and right about the nature of apostolic ministry and how it is intimately linked and patterned after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Ever since then I have had a deep appreciation for people who are going through difficulties related to apostolic ministry. I often wonder about the super apostles of today who have so much glamor and success but have no stories of suffering or hardship. Paul is often mistaken as a masochist of sorts because of his interpretation of authentic apostolic ministry being characterized by suffering. But isn't suffering an inherently foundational element of pioneering work? All pioneers suffer because they move out form under the canopy of the institution and plow new ground. Paul is no masochist. He is what Schon would call a "reflective practitioner." Paul interpreted his experience as an apostle through the pattern and master story of the gospel. I sometimes meet people who I know are in the midst of apostolic types of ministry and they can come off as a bit weird, unsociable, and sometimes a bit needy or insecure. Chalk it up to personality or whatever you like, but I think this is what being on the frontier can do to you. It is a place where your strengths are tested. The challenge of the frontier always transcends the strengths of the apostle. It is no wonder Paul writes so convincingly about weakness. He experienced it and, as he looked out from his experience onto the canvas of the gospel he saw a mirror of his own experience in the narrative themes of the gospel. Suffering and weakness go with the territory of apostolic ministry.

I ran across this diagram today while perusing a used book store in Nashville. Paul talks about suffering and prayer in Romans 8:26. It reminded me of the contextual nature of Paul's discourse in Romans 8. Paul is not just waxing eloquently at the climax of his treatise. He is pouring out some real life experience here. The idea is that at some point the depth of your experience transcends the available language to express it. Paul says that it is at this point in time that the Holy Spirit intercedes for you.

To all of you pioneers out there who are wrestling with the challenges of the frontier, this post is a reminder that the Spirit intercedes for you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


FWUAS8WY783Z It seems odd that technorati would want you to put a private code onto a public blog to verify your blog, but they do. So here it is.

Friday, May 21, 2010

116. Tokbox A Free Tool to Send Video Email Messages

My good friend Jason Gayton introduced me to Tokbox today. It is such a cool little tool to send a short video through email. ever gotten those boring update emails from folks? Or maybe you just get tired of reading emails. This tool allows you to record yourself and send it through email No typing on your end and no boring emails on their end. It is a great personal touch to communication.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

115. Innovation: The Apple or Google Way?

I was talking to a friend of mine who is a technology junky. I asked him what was new in the technology world and he told me google is doing their session this week, sort of a state of the union for google. I was immediately interested

We eventually got into a discussion of comparing apple and google and how they innovate. The following are some the high points that flowed out of this discussion for me.

1. Apple gets a product 100% complete before they drop it into the market. Steve Jobs gets up and announces the new thing, and bam! It hits the market and is ready for consumption. If they talk about it, it is ready to be consumed. No forecasting about what is in the future. The trick for apple is to get better and better on existing products or to pioneer an entirely new product. Google, on the other hand, drops a beta into the world. It is an unfinished product, with all kinds of improvements needed to make it a success.

2. Apple innovates entirely in secret. It is pioneered in a closed system and done in behind closed doors. This assumes a high level of understanding of the market and the consumers. Google still pioneers, but it only comes up with the prototype. The users actually help google finish the product by their use and feedback. Google listens to the people as they are innovating and refining the product.It is an open system, crowd sourcing if you like. The clear and present example of their cell phone technology that allows the user to customize the phone, It is hacker friendly and essentially says to the user "You know best what you want your phone to look like and do." Google listens, Apple speaks.

3. Apple rarely has failures, but they have a very limited product line compared to google. Google has more failures than Apple, but they have a lot more diversity in their scope of innovation. In fact, here is an interesting blog post about some of google's failed products that were introduced to the public, but did not make it into the survivor list of google products.

These are two very different approaches to innovation. The point here is that google is not afraid to put an incomplete product out there and ask people to help them improve it. They are saying "We don't know what will work best until you tell us." They are telling us that they want to listen. There is a lot of risk out there too when you do this. Some products don't fly, they don't even crawl. And failure is very public in this model. However, they have made incredibly successful products as well, like google books and gmail.

Apostolic ministry, if it is going to engage new cultural contexts with the gospel is going to have to embrace innovative forms of mission. The question is, what kind of innovation? I think apostolic ministry should look more like google than apple. It should not be about "better" innovation, but "beta" innovation. I will let you run with the analogy here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

114. A Mamoth Cultural Exegete

This is the first time I have heard Barry Taylor, and all I have to say is wow. This is the kind of guy you want to kidnap and make him tell you everything he knows. This video is so jam packed with nuggets, I am not even going to try and unpack it or tease you with one. You just have to listen. I got this from Home Brewed Christianity .

This definitely relates to the apostolic because as custodians of the DNA of the church and the gospel, apostolic ministry is tasked with embedding the gospel into diverse cultural contexts. This guy does a masterful job of dissecting the culture and showing how magic, and religion surface in the gap between technology and our understanding of how technology does what it does. This is an amazing insight and quite useful as we continue to reflect on how the gospel can be perceived in a democratized-techno-self culture.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

113. Replicating DNA

This video shows the replication of DNA, which a foundational metaphor when it comes to planting the gospel and starting movements.

It is interesting to observe that there is a real process taking place here. Replicating DNA does not happen by accident. There are some insights here about embedding missional DNA into a community. It takes processes, and this implies structure. However, the trick is to find structures that are simple and reproducible. DNA has found a way to do an extremely complex task in an efficient way. Alan Hirsch in his book The Forgotten Ways talks about mDNA, or missional DNA. He identifies 6 elements which, when they come together, create the environment for a viral Jesus movement to take place.

 When you finally catch on that Jesus came to start a movement, and not just an institution, this kind of thinking becomes vital to what it means to be missional. Alan has done so much to helps reawaken the missional imagination of the church here in the West.

112. Life Shapes

Spent this past week around 3D Ministries, a really cool organization based out of South Carolina. Mike Breen is sort of the architect of the organization. They specialize in missional tools, beginning with the foundational capacity to build a discipling culture. He has developed some material called Life Shapes to help in this process. It is quite brilliant actually.

The Circle—Choosing to Learn from Life

Identifying the events in our lives that affect our emotions and actions and that represent opportunity for learning and growth.

The Semi Circle—Living in Rhythm with Life
A process that helps us identify rhythms and patterns of work, rest, fruitfulness and abiding in our lives. Recognizing these patterns will prevent us from becoming overstretched.

The Triangle—Balancing the Relationships of Life
Three areas of life that Jesus modeled to maintain a balanced lifestyle:
   • Up—developing intimacy with Him
   • In—building the Church community
   • Out—reaching the unchurched 

The Square—Defining the Priorities of Life
Four stages of team development modeled by Jesus. These are the stages that result in any team striving to reach maturity, fruitfulness and multiplication.

The Pentagon—Knowing Your Role in Life
Five key roles (apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist, pastor) that each of us are designed to fill. Put together, they make up the church identified in Ephesians.

The Hexagon—Praying As a Way of Life
Six petitions of prayer modeled by Jesus in Matthew 6:9-13. Learning to apply this prayer to your daily requests will strengthen and renew the prayer life of your church. 

The Heptagon—Practicing the Principles of a Vital Life
 Seven principles of growth that apply to all living things, including God's people. The anagram "MRS GREN" can help you learn how to grow a healthy church. (Movement, Respiration, Sensitivity, Growth, Reproduction, Excretion, Nutrition)

The Octagon—Living a Mission-Minded Life
Eight evangelistic strategies for a comprehensive outreach approach. This model will help you discover the Person of Peace and how to process works from God's perspective. 

 My wife and I are going to attending one of their "taster" events in Lexington KY in June. You ought to check it out. I hear that there is nothing like this anywhere.

111. Alan Hirsch and Missional Logic

This is a great session with Alan Hirsch breaking down the logic of missional engagement at Q Ideas Conference.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

110. Apostolic boldly go where no one has gone before

I have been trying to think of a song that fits with the essence of apostolic ministry. Fortunately, I stumbled upon this by accident as I was searching youtube videos for "adventure". How much closer can you get to an accurate theme song than the original Star Trek monologue? Ok, so its not a song. But it sort of is...I guess. There is music in the back ground, so in my book that brings it close enough to qualifying.

Apostolic ministry is aground breaking, pioneering form of ministry. It is characterized by an affinity with the frontier. I thought it was interesting that Kirk says their mission is for 5 years. This is sort of the point in time that the apostolic itch, if it has not already set in, begins to move you out of your comfortable settings and forces you to adjust your life. Star Trek and the apostolic, I would have never thought of the two in the same sentence. But now that I think about, it is spok on :-)

109. Dwell, Dig and Discover

If there is anything that I have learned along the way in life, it's that I typically do not know as much as I initially think I do. Life is complex, and so are people. This means organizations and communities are bound to share in this complexity. In fact, most communities are quite complex with a host of intersecting relational and organizational dynamics. Varying interest are always floating around and do not always broadcast themselves in readily perceivable forms. Politics are an inescapable factor of all communities, even if it is down played or simply unacknowledged. Interests are tied to resources, and when there are conflicting interests, there will almost always be politics.

When you think about it, the role of a consultant can initially seem quite arrogant. Who are you to go into an environment you have never experienced before and give advice about what they should do? The consultant is often seen as the answer man. Indeed, to claim to be a consultant implies some sort of expertise or in depth knowledge of a particular field.

Yet a consultant can only be effective at giving advice if they truly understand what is going on. They have to have some inkling of where the community is, how they see reality, how they understand their dilemma, and especially how they understand themselves. Sure, you can walk in with some degree of intuitiveness and emotional intelligence and pinpoint some surface level issues in a community. But the value of a consultant is not just in their ability to identify things that are out of sync. A consultant must be able to discover the root issues, the foundational dynamics at work in a community that are not only impeding the organizations development, but also the institutional dynamics that end up concealing and even deceiving those within the organization from seeing the real issues at work right under their noses.

One of the benefits of a consultant is a fresh pair of eyes. They are, as Thom Wolfe says, the "essential outsider". They ideally do not have a stake in the power plays, politics and personality conflicts that seem to so effectively paralyze the human capital in an organization. However, as any outsider worth their while will tell you that there is always more to a situation than meets the eye. The first thing a consultant should do is literally get a panoramic view of the situation. This not only includes a horizontal look at all the personalities and organizational dynamics, but also the vertical sections of the situation. The vertical side of the equation includes the hidden ideological and theological assumptions that make up the clients worldview. You have to dig in order to find this. There is some what of an intuitive side to this, but it is also an analytical process of probing and drilling down into peoples ways of seeing. It involves the art of drawing out peoples hidden expectations, frustrations and assumptions

The first role of a consultant is that of learner. Every community is unique and has its own set of challenges that have been selectively chiseled out by their own people and context. The art of asking questions, drawing out the hidden assumptions and paradigms is an art that has to be learned. The discovery phase is not about discovering solutions. It is about discovering the obstacles, the challenges, the deficits, the incongruities in a community, along with their strengths, inherent capacities and untapped resources. Consultants are explorers who go deep into the heart of the organization and mine it not only for faulty foundations, but also for the precious jewels of human, social and systems capital. It is this dual nature of the dig and discovery that gives the consultant a prophetic tone in their relationship with their clients. They unearth what is really going on in the world of the community. Dwell, dig and discover are interrelated activities that reinforce one another. They go hand in hand and form the essential foundation of the consulting process. Another way of saying it could be Engage and Excavate.

Next, we will look at Digest, Distill and Define.