Sunday, October 30, 2011

179. An Encouraging Word for Church Planters form Ben Sternke

I have several blogs I read on a regular basis to stimulate thought and to vicariously participate in peoples apostolic journeys. Ben Sternke is one of those guys I read and reflect on. He has a great post for church planters I want to re-post here.

A Word for Church Planters from Haggai

by BEN STERNKE on OCTOBER 23, 2011

This morning I was reading the Scriptures from the Daily Office Lectionary and felt like God encouraged me with one of the passages from Haggai. I also felt like it might be an encouraging word for others out there who are planting new expressions of church. So if you’re doing the slow work of rooting a community of faith in discipleship and mission, this one’s for you!
The context is the rebuilding of the temple after the exile, and the Lord has “stirred up the spirit of the whole remnant of the people” to work on the building the house of the Lord, a place for him to dwell on earth. They begin in earnest, excited about the vision and expecting great things.
But pretty soon discouragement sets in. The work is hard. They are remembering the good old days of the former temple. They’re really not sure anymore if it’s going to be worth it in the end. So God sends them a word from the prophet Haggai:
“Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong… all you people of the land… and work. For I am with you,” declares the Lord Almighty… “And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.”
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory… the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house… and in this place I will grant peace.”
I think it might be a message for discouraged church planters, too. Those who are trying to plant churches rooted in discipleship and mission are often discouraged at the immensity and slowness of the task. It would be far easier (in some ways) to gather a crowd of eager consumers and give them what they want each week. When people are leaving and finances are tight, it’s hard to resist the temptation toward spiritual feudalism, where we as leaders act as providers of goods and services in exchange for a better paycheck and more people.
We are trying to build on an entirely different foundation (discipleship to Jesus). The foundation is the most important part of any structure, but it’s slow, messy, difficult work that doesn’t yield a lot of visible progress at the end of the day. If we’re discouraged about “results” the temptation will be to cut corners on the foundation.
So the encouragement for me this morning (and maybe for you) is simple, and straight from Haggai:
“Be strong and work, for I am with you.”
Though it doesn’t seem as impressive as other ministries or what you were involved in before, be strong and work, for I am with you, and my Spirit remains among you. You are digging deep and building strong foundations for a house that I can dwell in, a community I can live among. And while things look small and insignificant now, the glory of what is coming will be greater than the glory of what was.
Keep building the foundations of a house for me to live in, because this is ultimately what the world needs and desires. When you build with discipleship and mission, you are building on the unshakable foundation of my kingdom, and it will stand. I will fill my house with glory in time – for now, be strong and work, for I am with you.

Friday, October 28, 2011

178. Discipleship and the Person of Peace Part 3

The more I have been reflecting on the three components of Observation, Demonstration, Invitation, I realized I may have left out a really important component: Revelation. Selecting people to disciple and invest our life in is probably one of the most important decisions we can make. As such, hearing form the Father on the matter becomes really important. If you notice in Luke 6, when Jesus selects the 12 out of the larger group of disciples, Jesus spends all night in prayer.

Why so much time in prayer, seeking the Fathers counsel and revelation? Why not just trust your intuition and observations? Well, inviting people into a discipling relationship means you will be doing several things:

1. Investing a lot of time in them.
2. Investing a lot of your spiritual capital in them.
3. Investing your reputation in them.

With all of this investing going on, you want to make sure you will be able to get a return on that investment. Paul had this same thing in mind when he said in II Timothy 2:2 "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Paul was directing Timothy to invest his life, his time, his spiritual capital, not in just anybody. No, you don't just invest really important things arbitrarily. Even Jesus alludes to this principle when he tells us not to cast our pearls before swine. Paul tells Timothy to invest in people who had demonstrated faithfulness, and had the capacity to transmit the message onto others. So putting these three principles together of Observation, Demonstration and Revelation, I have come up with a triangle to illustrate the principles behind Invitation. 

The idea here is that before you invite someone into a relationship where you will be pouring all kinds of valuable things into them, there should be a period of observation where you can see what kind of person they are and whether or not there is any chemistry there. They need to be able to demonstrate that they are teachable and have the capacity to pass along what you will invest in them. And before you jump to conclusions, you should spend some time in prayer and seek revelation from the Father as to who you invest in.  Once you have passed through observation, demonstration, and revelation, you are ready to initiate a formal invitation for someone to come along side of you for a season and be trained by you in the ways of following of Jesus.

Skipping one of these components can set you up for making a bad investment. Even Jesus had one of his 12 not give a return on investment. Using the economic metaphor, the investment in Judas Iscariot went bankrupt. Return on investment (ROI) was nill. 

Part of being and making disciples is stewarding the spiritual capital that God has given us and investing it wisely. Could this, in part, be a link to understanding some of the parables Jesus tells in the gospel of Luke pertaining to the investment of talents etc. ??? Something to think about.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

177. Discipleship and the Person of Peace Part 2

When it comes to inviting people into a discipling relationship, if we look at Jesus in the gospel of Luke, we see Jesus moving through a process of:

1. Observation: Jesus observed people before he invited them closer, and people typically had time to observe him before they decided to follow him. 

2. Demonstration: Jesus demonstrated an area of mastery in areas other people were wanting to excel in. People demonstrated an openness to Jesus and his leadership before they were invited by Jesus into a discipling relationship. 

3. Invitation: There was a formal invitation to follow. There was a second formal invitation to the 12, constituting them as a sodality. 

Jesus did not have a cheat sheet when it came to inviting people to follow him, or selecting the 12 for that matter. He had to observe them, demonstrate his own capacity as a leader, and make formal invitations to those he wanted to invest in.  

We noticed in the last post that chemistry, among other factors, was one of the indicators as to whether or not someone should be invited into a discipling relationship (as well as sodalities.) So what about chemistry? Why would this be a part of the equation? Shouldn't we be open to discipling everyone? How can we make such distinction when it comes to obeying Jesus' command to make disciples? Isn't this whole chemistry thing a bit....well...selfish? Is the whole chemistry discussion an excuse not to love people who are different form us?

Chemistry is essential in a discipling relationship (and therefore sodalities) because in a discipling relationship, interaction will tend to be more intense and therefore will need to have higher levels of synergy in order for it to sustain that more concentrated interaction. If the person you are thinking about discipling is not open to you as a leader then it will be really hard to calibrate invitation and challenge (emphasis on the challenge part) in the relationship. If you already rub someone the wrong way (or if they rub you the wrong way), then imagine what introducing and ever increasing level of challenge will do to that "rub" in the relationship. There will be some serious friction...otherwise known as conflict!

Jesus, as a wise leader, knew what role chemistry played in the discipling relationship. Mark even says in his gospel "And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach..." Even though Jesus is speaking only about the twelve here, we can extrapolate a general principle for the discipling relationship. Jesus invited people into a discipling relationship who had:

1. Openness to him as a leader
2. Chemistry with him

It is important to notice the difference between these two things. There is a difference between being open to a leader and having chemistry with the leader. The leader holds forth vision and values that set the center of gravity for a community to gather around. Someone can be open to your leadership based on the vision and values, but not necessarily have chemistry with you. No, chemistry is a personal thing. It goes beyond the vision and values of the leader. It goes to the level of cohesion between personalities.  This means you can lead people but not necessarily disciple them, but you can not disciple someone without leading them. 

If you noticed what Mark says, Jesus chose the twelve that they might "be with him." That means they would be around each other a lot! If there is no chemistry, then this can be a real problem....for both people involved, not to mention the rest of the group. Chemistry is the permission structure for challenge to take place in a discipling relationship. 

Yet discerning chemistry is not always so easy to identify or detect. It is not always mutually perceived by both people. This can make the process of inviting people into a discipling relationship a bit tricky. The leader may not have a lot of chemistry with one person, while that same person may actually experience, on their end, a higher (sometimes unusually higher) level of chemistry with the leader. Chalk it up to charisma, gravitas, or whatever. 

This can also happen on the leaders side of things where they think there is a high level of chemistry on both ends of the relationship, where in actuality, it is only on the leaders side. The other person could have virtually no chemistry with the leader at all. So how does this play out? What are the implications for discipling relationships when there are varying levels of chemistry in the relationship? I began thinking about this for about two or three weeks and came up with this diagram. 


Flop happens when someone is invited into a discipling relationship and the leader over estimates the chemistry in the relationship. If the potential follower is not open to the leader, and is not able to receive an ever increasing scale of invitation and challenge, it can make it quite challenging. In the long run, the relationship will be a flop. It will not be very effective at all. 


When neither the leader or the potential follower have any chemistry, then discipling rarely happens. There be may some transfer of information, but neither one of them necessarily says to themselves "I think I might like to spend some more time around that person."  Cause and effect typically keep this kind of discipling relationship from happening. 


Drop happens when someone is genuinely open to you and is open to being discipled by you, but you do not share the same level of chemistry, or you simply do not detect the chemistry on their end. A good way to limit the number of opportunities that we drop is to develop a routine of praying about people who are within your social reach. More often than not, we drop opportunities when we are not being sensitive to who the Lord is putting in our pathway. Sometimes someone may be open to you, but they may communicate it in ways that you don't recognize. Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before he selected the 12. There are obvious spiritual implications to this, but I can't help but wonder what kind of revelation he received during the night from the Father that maybe caused him to change course and select Andrew instead of .....Mathias? 

A word of caution: It typically requires a certain degree of maturity in the leader to effectively disciple people he does not have chemistry with. This has to be discerned, just like Jesus, in prayer and reflection. It also really helps if you have been able to observe them over time and they have demonstrated an openness to you as a leader.


The basic definition of a Person of Peace is this "You like them and they like You." When you have a moderate to high level of chemistry with someone, this elevates relational capital and creates an expansive domain in which a discipling relationship can flourish. If discipleship is about imitation, this person needs to be drawn to you as a leader, demonstrate an openness to you, and somehow signify they would like to spend more time with you. 

I have experienced a FLOP and a DROP before, and each time, hind sight 20/20, a good amount of observation (and revelation in prayer) would have probably steered me into another course of action. As I mature in becoming a disciple, I find that I am more keenly aware of where I am in relation to other people, and where they are in relation to me as a leader. 

So, has anyone else experienced a stop, drop or flop in your discipling relationships?

Friday, October 21, 2011

176. Discipleship and the Person of Peace Part 1

The concept of the person of peace is typically applied to evangelism. The basic description of a Person of Peace is that you like them and they like you. Another way to say this is that there is a significant level of chemistry there. Building relationships with people you like to be around, and they like being around you, is a sure way to naturally share Jesus. 

What about other aspects of ministry? Does the person of peace strategy have anything to say about other domains of helping people?  I have been reading through the gospel of Luke and asking myself this question: how and where does the Person of Peace strategy show up in Jesus' ministry. I thought I would have to wait til about chapter 9 to get some juicy stuff on this, but Luke 4-6 actually illuminates the Person of Peace strataegy in an area I wasn't expecting.....discipleship.

I used to imagine Jesus walking along the road and seeing someone like Phillip or Judas, for the first time, and saying to them "follow Me." They suddenly entered a weird zombie like trance and dropped everything they had, and followed him.

Jesus' selection of Peter, all the way from inviting him to become a fisher of men, up to his selection as one of the 12, is actually quite the opposite. In fact, the way Jesus goes about the process of inviting Peter closer and giving him ever increasing access to his life is, according to Luke 4-6, is quite methodical.

Check this table out that highlights the process of interaction between Peter and Jesus.

This somewhat progressive, ascending pathway of moving into a formalized process of discipleship (and apostleship) with Jesus is quite instructive for anyone wanting to disciple people. If I were to break this down, I would say there are basically three components under girding this process:

1. Observation

This is a two way street. Not only did Peter have time to observe Jesus, Jesus had time to observe Peter. There was something about Jesus that Peter was drawn to...a certain chemistry between them. It was more than just the fact that Jesus healed Peters mother-in-law. Peter was still hanging around him after that. There was more than a transaction of resources taking place, there was chemistry there. Who knows how long it was between the healing of his mother-in-law and the Luke 5 fishing episode. However long it was, it was enough time for Jesus to notice Peter and see the potential and openness he had to becoming a follower. It was also long enough for Peter to develop an affinity for Jesus where he may have said something like "I am not totally sure who this guy is, but I would love to spend some more time around him."

2. Demonstration

If you notice, Jesus demonstrated a level of competency in an area that Peter wanted to excell in...catching fish. Part of what happens when we observe someone is that we sort of, sometimes without knowing it, size them up. One of the things that catalyzed the formation of a discipling relationship between Peter and Jesus was Jesus demonstrating a level of mastery in an area that Peter was seeking to develop in his own life...catching fish. Discipleship, if we want to take the mystery out of it, is a lot like a basketball coach working with a player to help them become a better shooter, dribbler, defender etc. When we want to excell in a particular skill or practice, we seek people out who are better than us in that area and somehow say to them "Teach me how to do what you do." This is the nature of a discipling relationship. If you want to know where you will find someone to disciple, it will be the people who have a chance to observe your life, and after observing it, they say to themselves something like this "I think I could be a better person if I hung around this person more."

3. Invitation

If you notice, there are actually 3 invitations in the narrative. First, Peter invites Jesus into his personal space...his house. One of the signs that someone is open to you is if they invite you to move closer into one of the four spaces. Jesus knew Peter was someone he should pay attention to because he was willing to invite him closer into his personal space.

Jesus also made two invitations:

1. Don't be afraid, from now on you will catch people.
2. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.

It should be clear form Luke 6 that the twelve were not the only dudes following Jesus at the time. He actually called all the current disciples and selected 12 guys out of that larger group. So how did he make the choice? Well, this is debatable. However, it is interesting that this second invitation necessitated a second choice on their part as disciples. In Ralph Winters words, this kind of group actually constitutes a sodality, or what some might call an apostolic band of people who covenant together to go on mission. Isn't this exactly what is going on here? I think so. Jesus is selecting a team fof people to represent him in his mission (apostolos). You dont just pick anyone to represent you. For one, you only want those who are open to your vision and values. Second, you have to consider things like character, capacity, and....the one we seem to struggle with most....chemistry.

Realizing there were two invitations, one to follow, one to be trained for a specific task, is helpful because inviting people into a discipling relationship should first be preceded by a time of observation and demonstration. There should be something going on between you and the person being discipled. Where the relationship comes under more scrutiny and filtering is if you are going to be functioning as a sodality, a band of people working together as leaders for a specific mission. 

Next post will look at some of the dynamics of chemistry and how to negotiate the process of selecting people to disciple.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

175. MBTI and Apostolic Ministry Part 2

This is part two of a series of post son MBTI and apostolic ministry. (Part One Here.) The more I dive into the MBTI and it's connection the fivefold in general, and the apostolic in particular, the more illumination I get in how the apostolic functions and the way it differs with the other ministries of Ephesians 4. one of the ways I gather insights and ideas about the correlations are from MBTI forums. I rans across a really good post the other day that my buddy Andrew Vescovich pointed me to here. My contention is that apostolic folks are always going to have the NT temperament that Kiersey describes as the rationals. It does not mean all NT's are apostolic, but it does mean all apostles will, as a general rule, be NT's.

to substantiate this idea, lets look at the distinction between Sensers and Intuitives. Then we will look at the distinction between Thinkers and Feelers. Consider this initial diagram:

If the red dots represent components (people, ideas, or objects) then Senser's tend to see these components as isolated and stand alone entities. The may see some connection or pattern, but they tend to see things for face value, as they are, in the present. Intuitive's, on the other hand, see the same components, but they notice connections and relationships between the parts and are prone to recognize patterns. These patterns create the framework for new relationships, new meaning, and hence new possibilities. This is one reason why intuitive's are visionary and senser's are not. Intuitive's see more possibilities and what could be by re-arranging the component parts and extrapolating meaning out of ne configurations. Apostolic people will always be intuitive's because they are visionary. Like before, I am not saying all intuitive's are apostolic. What I am saying is that all apostolic people will be intuitive's because they will tend to zoom out of the particular and view reality from a higher altitude that provides them with the necessary perspective to see the big picture, relationships between the parts, and the various patterns that emerge from these clustered relationships. The intuititve sees reality as a matrix of inter-related components that are pregnant meaning and possibility. One way to say it is that the Senser tends to see the trees, while the intuitive tends to see the forest.

What about Feelers and Thinkers? Lets start with the Feelers. The Feeler, brings together perceptions in a wide, holistic manner, establishing zones of value and symmetry between multiple components throughout the matrix. Any decisions taken by the Feeler must maintain the integrity of these value-systems and their interdependent connections, and not just the immediate structure pertaining to the given situation. Each component within the zone has intrinsic value. To a Feeler, when you hone in on one component, it is ignoring or marginalizing the other components. You can not just deal with one component. You have to deal with all components in the zone (circle) or you can not effectively deal with any of them. 

Due to holistic zone of integrated values established by Feelers, they tend to be concerned with people rather than things in and of themselves, bringing about a sense of integrity, morality infused with relational and organizational loyalty and responsibility. Feelers give priority to personal values and consider the more holistic impact of decisions on the other components and are willing to alter their choices if one effecting one component will adversely effect another component.

Thinkers, on the other hand, do not assign equal value to all the components. If Feelers assign intrinsic value, Thinkers analyze components for extrinsic value. That is, something is only valuable if it is useful to the challenge or situation under consideration. Change the situation, and immediately the list of valuable components changes to another list based on the circumstances being negotiated. Thinkers will look at a particular situation, and then analyze all the components to see if they are relevant to that particular situation or challenge. They will hone in on the components that present themselves as extrinsically valuable to the situation at hand, and then logically, and objectively prioritize and arrange those components into a linear framework that systematizes how each component will be integrated and utilized for the situation at hand. So for Thinkers, the components are linked together, but not by holistic framework, but by a more linear, logical connection that only exists because of the current situation. It looks something like this:

Now that we have looked at the basic building blocks of Intutives and Senser's, Feelers and Thinkers, lets hone in on how these combine for Intuitive's. First, we will look at the NF temperament labeled by Kiersey as the Idealist. This temperament is often mistakenly labeled as apostolic because it too can be visionary and highly influential. So lets look at how NF's differ from NT's.

Intuitive Feeling

NF's see the big picture and their connections, but they tend to place equal value on various components, ideas and people, and collect them into a holistic framework that distributes value through out the whole framework or zone.

This holistic and integrated view of reality (situations, ideas or people), while being a foundational ingredient to the NF's visionary capacity, also comes with a challenge: it makes it hard to prioritize and make tough decisions, which makes it challenging to think strategically. When various components within a framework all hold equal value, then to emphasize one part of the whole over another part of the whole is to threaten the integrity of the whole. Prioritization of the parts within the framework (the circle in the diagram), to an NF, unnecessarily devalues and dis-integrates the whole. This difficulty with prioritization can translate into a difficulty with strategic planning and decision making. Strategic decisions are essentially value judgments pertaining to a course of action. In order to prioritize on action above another, you have to first distill the situation into its essential parts, separating them into their functional domains and potential consequences on the goals at hand. 

This process, as we will see, comes natural to NT's, but it can be quite challenging for NF's. Distilling a situation or challenge into its essential components, defining them, and then prioritizing them into a hierarchy of value runs counter to the NF's impulse to retain integrity and harmony within the current matrix of reality. To an NF, distilling reality into its functional parts can be annoying because it isolates some components, allows them to be elevated above others, and essentially vandalizes their holistic view of reality. If everything is connected, and needs to retain its holistic nature, than to distill means to discriminate and potentially devalue the parts that make up the NF's matrix of reality. In Hebrew terms, it vandalizes their Shalom. 

This has implications for how the NF tends to interact with strategy, map making, form and structure. Being strategic means prioritizing some actions above others. It means mapping out a course of action that, by default, ends up devaluing or marginalizing other courses of action. To divide and define (as NT's do) the components into a hierarchy of value or a prioritized sequence of action, can feel constricting and a bit claustrophobic. NF's need that broader zone to fit all the things they see as being valuable and important into their paradigm. When you start narrowing down the components and classifying them, you begin to move from holistic to heuristic, and this can seem unnecessarily restrictive to an NF. (This feeling is amplified if the NF is a P) From the NF's perspective, to distill can equate to disintegrating, and can lead to potentially ignoring the intrinsic value and integrity of the whole. As such, to an NF, this whole process of distillation, strategy, and structure is sometimes perceived to be annoying or even unnecessary, making things more complicated than they really ought to be.  

Intuitive Thinking

Now for the NT's. As the link above states, "The Thinking function establishes linear connections based on specific properties. When making decisions, the Thinker only has to maintain the immediate matrix structure that may be affected by any ensuing action. For this reason, this type will disregard all that is not directly related to the decision at hand, and may often appear cold and impersonal. The connections established by this function are highly specific and often provide insight and understanding. While Feeling is essentially a holistic process that perceives the world as an interconnected web, Thinking is linear, logical and analytical." 

When you put the Thinking function with the Intuitive function, what you get is a big picture visionary, but with a twist. Rather than maintaining a holistic view of the situation, an NT will analyze the whole and break it into its parts in order to organize a strategic course of action. It is kind of like taking a engine apart and recognizing all the parts and their functions, then rebuilding the engine according to the needs at hand. We might be able to put it like this: If NF's tend to see the forest, but not the trees, NT's see the forest and the trees. Because of this dual vision for the macro and the micro, NT's will also envision the most efficient pathway to make make it through the forest. They will design a strategic course of action to move through the forest. So their matrix of reality would look something like this. 

Intuitive Thinking

In essence, NT's are map makers, and are strategic thinkers. They do not see everything as equally valuable. Value is determined by whether or not it will help you get to the desired destination. It is utilitarian in some sense. So the NT does not mind assigning value to one idea or course of action, and not as much value to others. NT's are ok with bypassing one "dot" and connecting with another one because it is advantageous, based on the situation, to do so. The destination is not a generic zone, but a specific point on the map, and the NT knows exactly what path they should take in order to get there. If it means some "dots" don't connect with the overall strategy, and get left out....this is a necessary evil. Its not that they don't see them. They see all the dots and how they relate to each other. It is this precise comprehensive vision of their inter-relatedness that allows them to chart the new course and make the calculated, necessary steps to get there. NF's get the basic idea, but to them everything holds equal value, so it is impossible for them to imagine singling out one dot above another or bypassing (neglecting) one dot in order to connect with another. The NT often can come across as cold or insensitive. This may be true at times, but really we are just rational :-)

This tendency to envision the essential components for success, and organize strategic courses of action to navigate the challenges of the forest flirts with one of the metaphors Paul uses in I Corinthians 3 to describe apostolic ministry. When Paul says apostles are "master builders" who lay a good foundation, he use the word "arki-tekton" which is where we get our word "architect"  from. This word carries with it strong overtones of design, strategy, structure and organization. Apostles, in my opinion will always be NT's of some sort (ENTJ, ENTP, INTP, INTJ). Actually, my hunch is this: All the NT's are apostolic to some degree, whether it is their primary or secondary gifting. 

ENTJ: Apostle/Teacher
ENTP: Apostle/Evangelist (Evangelist/Apostle)
INTP: Apostle/Prophet (Prophet/Apostle)
INTJ: Teacher/Apostle (Apostle/Teacher)

Apostles see the big picture, but they see behind the picture to the essential design and organization that allows that picture to emerge. They see the beginning phases and the initial frameworks that need to be deisgned and established in order for the building to emerge. NT's design the blue prints that serve as the initial template and primary design to lay a foundation for future building. To put it another way, while NF's see the forest but not the trees, NT's see the forest and the trees, which allows them to design (and blaze) the trail to maneuver and navigate the foreign terrain.

It takes strategic thinking to map out a venture and take the necessary steps to see it come to fruition. An NF will see the vision, but they will not have a strategic approach. They most likely get paralyzed by decisions that require them to make value judgements, or that require them to ignore some things/people in order to focus on other things/people. To NF's that is naughty, to an NT, it is a necessary evil that must be practiced if the venture is to reach a level of quality and sustainability. 

So in some ways, NT's are mapmakers. They sketch up the rough draft blueprints that give structure and direction to new ventures. They create the systems that allow the community to operate in their absence. They draw out the architectural dimesnions of the foundation and chart the course for exploration. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

174. MBTI and The Fuzzy Front End of Innovation

As an iNtuitive on the MBTI, I am always living in the world of ideas, concepts, paradigms and templates. My extroverted function leads me to engage this iNtuitive function not only in a verbal way, but also in a visual way. As you can see from reading this blog, I am a diagram junky. I am an ENTP, so the Perceiving function only amplifies the NT portion of my rational side, giving it a sort of roaming, explorative side to it.

In the book I am writing with Alan Hirsch on apostolic ministry called The Permanent Revolution, due out in February, we discuss the concept of The Fuzzy Front End of Innovation. This is a known concept in the world of innovation, but it has specific application to apostolic ministry and the way in which apostolic people steward the innovative (iNtuitive) nature of their ministries.

Innovation is a process in which something new comes into being. However, this new thing does not just emerge all by itself. Someone has to see a pattern, link disassociated ideas, or wrestle with ambiguous data and circumstances and draw out meaning and useful strategies to move forward and harness that chaos towards productive ends.

The Fuzzy Front End is where the mental space is populated with ideas or data. It is fuzzy because, at first glance, this space seems random, disconnected, and incoherent. Populating this first space with ideas requires a certain level of ambiguity tolerance. No ideas are off limits. No concepts are too far out. It doesn't even have to make sense or seem related. If it come into your head, it goes into the front end.

The next phase is pattern recognition. As you reflect and discuss the seeming disparate ideas, meaning and patterns begin to emerge, and a sense of form and substance begins to percolate in the back ground. In fact, several patterns or meanings may surface. The important thing is that begin to connect the dots and recognize patterns.

The next phase is characterized by the process of constructing a prototype. This is the juncture where the idea or pattern of ideas begins to take on a more visible and tangible form. You begin to get a general feel for what the big idea is and what it could possibly look like if it materializes. It is the early beginnings of a working model.

The next phase is a pilot. This would be when the prototype is actually put to use and tested. This is when the rubber meets the road and a working model is not only fashioned, but deployed for experimentation in the real environment in which it will eventually enter.

The last phase is production. That is, you actually begin to release the innovation into the public sphere and it begins to generate both it's designed outcomes, and the unintended outcomes that accompany any innovation  on the back end.

So what does this have to do with apostolic folk? 

Apostolic people tend to find themselves gravitating towards the fuzzy front end of innovation because this is where iNtuitive activity takes place. This is where possibilities, and potential live. At this stage, creativity, ambiguity, imagination and discussion are the order of the day. 

As the ideas and possibilities begin to take shape and find definitive forms and solid trajectories, the iNtutitive folks begin to lose their interest. This is where the Sensing folks come into the process and help operationalize the ideas and bring them into some form of linear process where it can be developed into a reality, a real actualized product.

The trick is to invite Senser,s into the flow of innovation closer to the back end than to the front end. Senser's don't live in the realm of possibilities. They do not thrive on ideas or imagination. They thrive on the realities of the here and now. If you invite a Senser into the front end, odds are, you may never make it to the back end! They will likely want to narrow the funnel too quickly by shutting out all the possibilities and ideas that seem out of touch with reality or the present scenario.

My wife is a Senser, and I have learned to invite her into my crazy ideas, not up front when I first have them, but later down in the process when my ideas have taken shape and found some sense of stability and form. This allows my ideas to not only develop and move further down the funnel, it also makes her a lot happier to have something more concrete and tangible to look at and give me feedback on. For a long time, I invited her in to my innovation schemes at the front end, and we both got frustrated really quick. Now, I see how valuable her feedback and contributions are as I move closer to the back end.

I would say Sensers should enter into the process of innovation somewhere in between the prototype and pilot phase. At this phase there is enough form and detail present to give them something of substance to work with. It also allows them to feature their best knack for paying attention to detail and the hard realities of how things will work on the ground, in the real world.

Now that I know this, both me and my wife are a lot happier now. I know not to throw all my discombobulated ideas at her and expect her to dance and roll around with me in the sheer potential of it all. And......this means I no longer feel like she is shooting down my ideas before they take flight. Some of my ideas need to land on the ground and become a reality, but it shold be a steady, controlled descent, not a wailing drop from the heavenlies :-)

Also, from her end, she doesn't feel like I am dragging her into the irrelevant, nonsensical world of theory and imagination. We respect each others preferred domains, and happily engage in the process of innovation from those domains.

So when it comes to the timing for the iNtuitives to reveal their ideas and visions to Sensers, the funnel would actually be inverted. The rate of exposure is limited at the front end, but as the process moves forward, Sensers should play an ever increasing role in fleshing out the intricate details that will make the idea become a reality. So it might look something like this:

Everyone needs to contribute in the process of innovation, but not everyone contributes the same way or necessarily at the same time. Us iNtuitives need the Sensers to help ground our ideas into the realities of the context we are innovating, but there is a time and place for landing the plane. It needs to fly around in the clouds for a while in order to gain perspective and entertain all the possibilities. Innovation requires deferred judgement, which means ambiguity and fuzzy front ends. But don't expect to deliver your idea with out the Sensers, they will be your best friends in making your idea a reality if you will let them.

If apostolic ministry requires us to engage in the process of innovation, (and it does) then it not only means stewarding the ideas, it also means stewarding the process by which you draw people into the process of making those ideas a reality.