Friday, December 17, 2010

141. Prophets, Incarnational Ministry, and Bono

This interview between Bono and Bill Hybels is an excellent example of how someone gifted as a prophet gravitates towards incarnational forms of ministry. Prophets call out the gap and identify with the values and pathos of God. It is interesting to note what Bono's favorite verse is, along with hos language about being annoyed and feeling like it is his job to call attention to the deficiencies in the churches posture and actions towards the poor and aids victims. Bono is a high profile prophet, and while he would probably not describe himself as such, his prophetic gifting is running wild in his music, his ministry to the poor, and his voice to, and against, the church. 

140. Bricollage, Bricoleur's and apostolic ministry

I started a curbside recycling business about 3 years ago, and one of the items I collect on my routes is aluminum cans. It is the only item I am able to sell to a local vendor and make money from it. So, about every two weeks, I go to Jones Recycling, the local metal salvage shop and sell my aluminum. Well, there is a dude that works there named David, and he has this uncanny ability to make and craft new things out of used technology parts. He takes random electronics or computer parts and assembles them together to make something meaningful and useful. This is the latest work of art he has built. It is a "briefcase"  laptop/desktop computer.

There is a word that describes this kind of talent and mojo to work with whatever makes itself available and assemble seemingly unrelated components into meaningful expressions, tools, technology etc. The French call it bricollage, and it is where we get our word collage from. Some people have a knack for seeing unique combination's of existing materials within reach and make useful, valuable creations of them. Those who engage in this often undervalued practice of bricollage are called bricoleurs. It is somewhat similar to the concept of entrepreneur, but differs in that rather than exploiting and taking advantage of opportunities to make money, they exploit the inherent potential in existing objects and materials, and find new potential and value oin those objects by combining them with other materials. IT is so cool to know there is a word out there that describes something you are good at. David is a natural bricoleur, and if you are able to get in touch with him, he just might sell this elaborate, recycled piece of technology.

I cant help but make application here to apostolic ministry. When you start a new community form scratch, you are engaging in bricollage. The assembling of seemingly unrelated part into meaningful expressions is exactly what forming a new community around the gospel is about. Genuine apostolic ministry works with what is present, what makes itself available at the time and works towards helping those parts assemble and mobilize into meaningful expressions.

In order to engage in bricollage you have to see value in every part. It not only requires imagination, although this is essential to the art of bricollage. It also requires an eye for beauty and usefulness. Every person brings something to the table. A bricoleur is someone who is able to see that value and creatively merge it with other parts for collective meaning and action.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

139. Michael Frost on what it means to be Missional

My good friend Nathan Capps sent this to me the other day and I just got around to watching it. It is quite motivational. Michael Frost unpacks what it means to be missional for him. I have to say though, as Michael has somewhat of a prophetic tone to his writings and gifting, his outlook on what it means to be missional is also flavored by a prophetic leaning. When I say prophetic, I mean that impulse that seeks to deepen our thoughts and actions in God, and thus leading us take on a very incarnational impulse. Either way, he hammers home the need for us to align ourselves with the missional God of scripture.

Here is his talk at Dallas Theological Seminary during the World Evangelization Conference.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

138. Grading APEST Content

I have been doing some research on the topic of "vocabularies of organization" (an interesting topic, I highly recommend diving into it.). As usual, I ran across some related material that fascinated me. There is something called The Jaccard Metric that helps analyze similarities between data sets. Dats sets can include computer code, statistics, guessed it....words and vocabularies. So for example, if you have a text, you can measure other texts by how similar or disimilar they are in terms of vocabulary, and even concepts. The Jaccard Metric helps you discover the "distance" between the documents. That is, it helps you gauge, or grade the semantic, linguistic or conceptual distance between the standard text and other chosen texts.

Well, as I was thinking the other day about the APEST ministry matrix, I was struck by the lack of literature available for the apostolic and prophetic functions. Then as I thought about it some more, I realized that the further you move back from the Teaching ministry, the less material you can find. In other words, there is a plethora of material out there about the teaching/preaching ministry, but when you move backwards from the Teacher gifting to the Shepherd/Pastor gifting, there seems to be a bit less. It gets even less when you move back to the evangelism category, and then it gets even worse with the prophetic and the apostolic. The apostolic is by far the most bankrupt of all the gifts when it comes to literature and material to explain it, train people, and explore the conceptual and pragmatic issues surrounding that kind of entrepreneurial, pioneering ministry. I diagram it like this.

The "distance", as Jaccard would phrase it, between the amount of literature available for the S-T vocations and the A-P functions is astounding. The deficit of material out there when it comes to the apostolic vocation is quite slim. How can we go for literally centuries and not have accumulated significant texts that dive into the apostolic function? It is really bizarre when you think about it. Any suggestions as to why this is the case? Let me hear from ya.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

137. "Lost in the forest" .... Bruce Mau talks about entrepreneurship, design, innovation and changing the city

I just recently discovered Bruce Mau and boy, is he a gold mine for missional thinkers. He is especially pertinent to a missional-incarnational venture that enters in a new area with the gospel and is looking to make a difference. If I were in the business of being on mission and making a difference in the city, I would find everything this guy puts out there, and soak it up.

Are you lost or on a picnic????

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

136. "The Tyranny of Structure-lessness"

Since I am on a roll with the whole structure and organization piece, are several excerpts from a  chapter in controversial book, but insightful nonetheless about group dynamics and structure. The book Radical Feminism was written to bolster and guide the feminist movement. This particular social movement had some pretty strong reactions to hierarchy, authority and power. There are some pretty obvious parallels with some of the folks who gravitate towards a more organic, simple church environment. Jo Freeman, in her chapter "The Tyranny of Structurelessness" (download PDF copy here), while speaking specifically to the feminist movement, has some insightful things to say to those who are over reacting to organization and structure and go to an extreme of saying they do not want any organization or structure at all.

"If the movement is to move beyond these elementary stages [of structurelessness] it will have to disabuse itself of some of its prejudices about organization and structure." p. 286

"...the idea of structurelessness does not prevent the formation of informal structures, only formal ones...Thus 'structurelessness' becomes a way of masking power...As long as the structure of the group is informal, the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is curtailed to those who know the rules. Those who do not know the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion." p. 286-287

"If the movement continues to deliberately not select who shall exercise power, it does not thereby abolish power. All it does is abdicate the right to demand that those who do exercise power and influence be responsible for it. If the movement continues to keep power as diffuse as possible because it knows it can not demand responsibility from those who have it, it does prevent any group or person from totally dominating. But it simultaneously insures that the movement is as ineffective as possible." p. 297

Those who have seen or experienced overly bureaucratized, authoritarian, or legalistic forms of organization and leadership need a time to detox and heal, but structure is neutral, not demonic.It is interesting that a refusal to put some level of structure in groups actually conceals the existing power relations in the group. Alliances form and people who are not included in the phone calls, the house visits and conversations that eventually contribute to the direction of the group are oblivious to the process of how the group is being shaped by people in the group. A formal process for making decisions, identifying people who make decisions helps hold those people accountable and also helps people know what the process is so they can either contribute to the process or opt out. Either way, putting the structure out there for people to see opens up the leadership t the group, but also allows people in the group to lead in healthy, accountable ways. The question is not whether or not you will have organization. The question is, will you operate off of purely informal structure or a blending of formal and informal. There are liabilities with each approach, but we have to know the liabilities if we are going to be able to negotiate them and avoid them when possible. We are all familiar with the liabilities of too much structure. But "structurelessness" is a myth. There will be structure. The question is, will it be formal or purely informal. To ensure everyone has the opportunity to exercise power, ironically, you need a formal structure, even though that very kind of structure can evolve in ways that disallow people to exercise power in the group. It is what Berg and Smith call a paradox.

It is interesting that Freeman notes that the thing that can pull a group out of this conundrum is adopting a task, or as we would say, a mission. Mission is the organizing principle of the church, which means you organize not for organization sake, but to accomplish the mission. If the structure impedes you from accomplishing the mission, you use another structure, or scale down on the existing one. Once again, mission comes to the fore as a healthy check on features that by themselves can become oppressive and paralyzing.