Monday, May 31, 2004

Holman Christian Standard Bible

Just read that this version of the Bible has finally been completed and released. You can check out your favorite passages on Holman's Scripture Search Page and compare it to other translations at

the unofficial todd hunter journey

sivin kit provides us with thoughts and a helpful collection of links related to todd's move to alpha.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Intentionally Missional Communities: Leaving Space for Spirits

Both Todd Hunter and Rex Miller have told me that they're big fans of Max DePree . So during my Dallas trip last week I read Leadership as an Art.

Elsewhere, I've suggested some of the advantages and severe limits of organizational structures. DePree crafts a beautiful vision of what an organization can be. What's really impressive is that this vision was realized, at least to some extent, at Herman Miller, where DePree used to be CEO.

DePree sets relationship as central to the proper functioning of an organization. Organizational structures are nothing more than mere maps that designate the paths in which relationships flow, but such guiding structures are never to be confused with the relationships themselves. DePree states, "We should be concerned with intimacy when we design the organizational structures which, after all, are the road maps that help us to work together" (p. 55). He asserts, "Leadership is more tribal than scientific, more a weaving of relationships than an amassing of information..." (p. 3). "...Relationships count more than structure" (p. 28).

In what DePree characterizes as a covenantal relationship, the usual firm dichotomy of leader and follower is sometimes submerged. Rather, the positions dance in an interplay of initiation and response. "In almost every group nearly everybody at different times and in different ways plays two roles: One is creator, and the other implementer" (p. 33). The mature leader is ready at a moment's notice to subordinate his thinking to that of another. In fact, "Effective leaders encourage contrary opinions..." (p. 15) and leave room for others to shine. Leaders "abandon themselves to the strengths of others" (p. xxi) and, in a marvelous turn of phrase, are "vulnerable to the skills and talents of others" (p. 131). These leaders "give others the gift of to be what one can be" (p. 75)."

DePree summarizes, "the best management process for today's environment is participative management based on covenantal relationships" (p. 61). Interdependency thrives in such an organization in an atmosphere of "lavish communications" (p. 67). All of this combines to make the organization "a place of realized potential" (p. 85).

So much talk of organization and structure and implied hierarchy understandably make many of us in the emerging church very nervous. We just haven't seen that many leaders who excel at saying "I think you've got the right idea; what do we do next?" or the perhaps even more radical, "I was wrong." The default template of organizational leadership in our pain-induced paradigm is of rigid structures and non-relational procedures. We are, in fact, afraid of Gentile Lordship. We have experienced lifeless structure, arbitrary authority, and non-relational direction where we are not valued and we want nothing of it.

And so it's understandable that we may drift toward the opposite extreme. A completely flat organization. No defined leaders. No organizational map at all. Just amorphous group execution.

But, we suggest, such an over-reaction to the poor structures we've experienced in the past runs the danger of denying to the church both the gifts of leadership and that of intentionally missional community. Consider - without suggesting that the recent Emergent Conference in Nashville was the ultimate confab - think about the organization, the leadership, and the people-structure that coalesced to put on such an event. Then reread DePree's vision above and consider if such an organization could elegantly put on such a conference without quashing the spirit.

One can also argue that DePree's vision of organizational health is consistent with a Rortyian emphasis on community as a necessary context for truth acquisition, which some have identified as a major thought-thread of postmodernism.

We believe DePree gives us some hints of a more balanced organization that leaves space for both human and Holy spirits. This allows such a group to break out of the tight and tidy box of the modern corporation and into something more thriving, beautiful and human.

are you an emergent voyeur?

chris monroe asks the question.

the emerging church movement: differences in US and UK

rob gives a lengthy recap of a fascinating discussion he had with Gareth and jonny baker in nashville at the emergent convention on the differences between the emerging church movement in the United States and in Great Britain.

churchless christians

andrew jones brings our attention to Reinhold Scharnowsk's blog where he quotes John Barrett's estimate that there are 112 million folks who call Jesus Lord but don't attend any organized church.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

george bush talks religion

"President George W. Bush, in a rare on-the-record session with religion editors and writers on Wednesday, said his job as president is to "change cultures."

Writers and news executives included CT senior news writer Sheryl Henderson Blunt; James V. Heidinger II, president and publisher of Good News; Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis Magazine; James Kushiner, editor of Touchstone magazine; David L. Mahsman, Director of News and Information and Executive Editor for The Lutheran Witness and Reporter of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod; Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief, First Things; World Magazine editor Marvin Olasky; Catholic writer Russell Shaw; Stephen Strang, founder of Strang Communications.

Following is an edited transcript of the May 26, 2004, session

a difficult collision with emerging church ethos

jason clark posts a thought-provoking letter with passionate observations on his experience with the emerging church atmosphere.

todd hunter press release

eric keck provides us with the official press release of todd's appointment as National Director of AlphaUSA.

a dallas adventure - the future of alpha

just had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with levi fuson in dallas and it was a complete blast - i love this guy. we had the chance to bring an emerging church perspective to bear as some alpha folks were doing some strategic planning for alpha's future. there are over 24,000 alpha courses running in over 130 countries. Over 1.3 million people folks in the United States have taken the course and it's currently in 7,200 churches. a huge draw is the course's dialogical nature and its emphasis on relationship.

what a wonderful and diverse group of folks. levi and i had the opportunity to share a rental car from the airport with dave nodar, who nicky gumbel asked to be the north america contact between alpha and the roman catholic church. bob buford, who founded the Leadership Network was there as well as ali hanna, who founded alpha in the united states. i think that under todd hunter's leadership (todd was there too, of course) we're going to see some very interesting things from this group in days to come.

levi and i also had the chance to have dinner at the wonderful blue mesa - a place with exquisite aesthetics and awesome sweet potato chips. rex miller showed up and ended up buying us dinner! All in all, a really great time.

Friday, May 28, 2004

british christianity & renewal article on the emerging church

The June issue of the british Christianity + Renewal magazine has a thoughtful article on the emerging church.

new kind of emergent convention

doug pagitt posts plans to change the way the emergent convention looks next year.

brian mclaren and chuck colson discussion

On 9 December 2003, Chuck Colson wrote a column in Christianity Today in which he began, "Is postmodernism—the philosophy that claims there is no transcendent truth—on life support? It may be premature to sign the death certificate, but there are signs postmodernism is losing strength...." Brian McLaren wrote a response to Chuck's column and sent it to him. Brian just revealed that in February of 2004, Chuck responded to Brian and Brian also wrote, "If you would like to dialogue about his article, my response, and his reply, may I suggest you start a thread at,, or I am not planning to reply, although there is much here that strikes me as deserving a response. My hope would be that some of Chuck’s close friends might engage him in dialogue about these matters, or perhaps he and I will have an opportunity to dialogue in person and in private in the future. This interchange at least makes our differences clear, and does so in a cordial way."

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

jen has second thoughts

jen comments on her earlier screedesque comments.

i left jen this comment:

k, here's what I think: i think that lecture, book, sermon, conference, learnings are *great* as long as we operationalize them. as long as we turn them into actions. as long as we make the propositional transpropositional. evangelicals (and others surely) tend to be addicted to mere propositionalism and emergers can easily be infected by the same disease if they aren't careful. jesus said the dual bottom lines are loving God and others so all that is learned *must* end up doing that or it's a waste of time. [stephen descends from soapbox]

dan & phil hate the term "emerging church"

more definition conversation

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

jordon points to si johnson who pointed to bono

a wonderful speech

jen lemen slams the info-centric life

jen said something like what i had said earlier, but she said it more artfully.

rex miller

just discovered that in my earlier comments on rex miller and his forthcoming book, The Millennium Matrix, i had the wrong link for his interview with NEXT.

Monday, May 24, 2004

All Consuming

Looks interesting...

"All Consuming is a website that watches weblogs for books that they're talking about, and displays the most popular ones on an hourly basis. "

Sunday, May 23, 2004

more on transpropositionality or information as the exclusive mode of spiritual transformation

In response to an earlier comment I made in the faithmaps discussion group, one of the 'mappers asked me,

Stephen, can you expand/clarify your point about your experience from Christian education institutions? I'm very curious. My own interest is what you have stated 'that my spiritual growth would be precipitated by information

While studying at Virginia Tech I decided that I wanted to teach Theology or New Testament at the graduate level. Accordingly, I transferred to Bryan College and ended up double-majoring in Bible and Greek (Classical and Koine). After I finished my undergrad work, I transferred to seminary to get an M.Div.

Halfway through my Masters I almost dropped out of school.

I had embarked on this course of study because I wanted to help prepare future church leaders by my teaching in some Christian institute of higher learning. That was my end in mind. But about halfway into my three year program, I came to the conclusion that seminary wasn't preparing men and women to be spiritual leaders but rather preparing them to teach and to study. One day one of my professors even said, "We don't train you how to be pastors; we train you how to answer Bible questions."

Now don't misunderstand; I don't mean to depreciate the nonnegotiable necessity of academic study. But intellectual knowledge is only a component of spiritual change, albeit a critical one. So I didn't believe the entire theological educational process was defunct; it was just that I had chosen this particular career path so that I might train future leaders.

But because I wanted to complete what I had started and because I believed that having an M.Div would give me more credibility in future efforts to craft a new (really an old) way of preparing future spiritual leaders, I decided to complete my course of study. And so I decided to do my Masters thesis on how pastors were developed in the first century and stayed in school.

The emerging church conversation and the pomoChristian critique of an inordinately modernized evangelicalism provided me a paradigm within which to understand my earlier concerns and a vocabulary to express them.

One can argue that a modern Cartesian epistemology, with its emphasis on certainty derived from the human mind, lays a framework for an overdependence on information. Descartes is considered the father of modernity. In his Discourse, he wrote,

all things…are mutually connected in the same way, and that there is nothing so far removed from us as to be beyond our reach, or so hidden that we cannot discover it….

The mind is presented as omnicompetent epistmelogically. There is no category of knowledge outside of its reach. And so we suggest that linear, sequential and propositional knowledge becomes all important.

One of the beauties of propositional knowledge is that it's quantifiable and easily measurable. It's understandable that many would greatly desire for spiritual development to be something that could be gauged by correct answers on a test. Assessing successful information transfer is quantifiable, measurable and certain.

But it's far more difficult to evaluate me on, say, how I'm doing as a husband, as a father and as a son. Information transfer measurement doesn't capture how I respond when I'm unfairly and harshly criticized. And yet it is at these moments and in these contexts that my true spiritual mettle is exposed.

Propositional knowledge, what we've called propositionalism, is necessary but not entirely adequate for spiritual change. We've suggested that the transpropositional is also necessary.

Transpropositionality is a concept that the 'mapper community began developing three years ago. See Key faithmaps discussion group postings on transpropositionality
from the faithmaps discussion group
. In a nutshell, transpropositionality designates reality which cannot be readily captured in lexical symbols. The term addresses what words cannot convey. A very simple example would be a kiss. A kiss wordlessly communicates what cannot be entirely conveyed by sentences. For another example, consider the difference between an e-mail exchange between two friends and the same conversation over a fine meal.

We do not believe this is a new concept, just perhaps somewhat of a new formulation of it packed up into one word. We believe that Jesus transpropositionally developed his disciples to be leaders and that his followers did the same.

When Jesus chose his principal proteges, he did so "so that they would be with Him" (Mark 3:14a, all quotes New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted and emphasis mine). When the Jewish leaders saw how confident Peter and John, though "uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus" (Acts 4). Paul enjoined Timothy to consider the relational context of the things he had learned when he writes, "You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them" (2 Timothy 3:14).

When we think about the seasons of our life when we experienced significant spiritual growth because of outside influences, we don't normally think of books and lectures; we think of names. Similarly, first century spiritual formation wasn't just propositional but also transpropositional because it was so often occuring in relational contexts.

Paul tells the church in Corinth, "So I ask you to follow my example and do as I do" (1 Corinthians 4:16, New Living Translation). Their learning came not just through Paul's words but through Paul's example. He similarly speaks to the church in Phillipi, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:9, English Standard Version).

The relational, organic, holistic, transpropositional leadership development that we see in the first century is not collapsable to mere formulae. Rather, it's variable, real, dynamic and living. This observation doesn't imply a complete interdiction of structure. It does call for a skepticism toward the modern belief that the perfectly formed spiritual development program will yield the perfect result. Information is most definitely a component of this development. But it is only a component.

We've expanded on these thoughts in the "Delights and Dangers of Postmodernism" series and in "Christian Discipleship in Postmodernity: Toward a Praxis of Spiritual Friendship" found here.

more on the da vinci code

just discovered this special section that Christian History put together on The Da Vinci Code.

a to z of the emerging church

Marc van der Woude brought our attention to a feb 2004 post by steve taylor. I had missed this in my earlier around the room ab blogdom's 2004 Q1 discussion on defining the emerging church.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

emergent in nashville

justin baeder has done some nice and tidy summaries of some of the sessions he's attending.


is it just me or does every blog using typepad seem to load slower than all others? i haven't just noticed this today; anyone else experiencing this>

Objective and Subjective Truth

The 'mappers have been discussing Pagels:

One of the yin - yang struggles that has been addressed in the pomoChristian thoughtspace has been the tension between subjective and objective. In the Witherington article I referenced earlier today he writes of Pagels:

The New Gnostic Faith Some 20 years after she wrote The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels penned the beautifully written Beyond Belief. In a particularly candid and confessional part of the book, Pagels talks about how she had been alienated from Christian faith while in high school: She was part of an evangelical church when a Jewish friend died, and her fellow Christians told her that since the friend was not born again, she was going to hell.

Though this turned her off from the church, she maintained a lively interest in New Testament studies and the early church. While doing doctoral work at Harvard, she had an epiphany. She was reading the Gospel of Thomas when she came across this saying of Jesus: "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you."

She comments: "The strength of this saying is that it does not tell us what to believe but challenges us to discover what lies hidden within ourselves; and with a shock of recognition, I realized that this perspective seemed to me self evidently true."

Her comparison of the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of John reveals how far down this road she has traveled. In John, there is an "I-and-Thou" relationship, a vine and branches relationship, that involves an integral connection between the divine and human without identification of the "I" with the "Thou." But in Thomas, it is a matter of "I am Thou." The self is deified and is seen as the finish line of faith.

Here we find the appeal to personal impressions or experience as the final authority. The believer is not asked to believe specific things that come from without (by revelation), nor to submit to any authority but the self. Instead, we are to be the measure of ourselves and to find our own truths within us.

In this book, we see Pagels's story of suffering and feeling betrayed, and her long spiritual journey to a reconfigured form of Christianity—reconfigured as self-actualization. And it is evident that the gnostic texts have helped lead her in that direction.

Pagels is not a disinterested scholar when she writes about Gnosticism. Her spiritual journey entices her to look at the gnostic texts in a particular way, and to postulate an early and widespread authority for them—and then to suggest that the process of New Testament canonization was arbitrary. Orthodox scholars are similarly tempted in their own direction. I know I am. So we are wise to recognize this potential bias in evaluating any argument. But in the end, we still have to make arguments based on history, not on silence.


Apart from legitimate criticisms of Pagel's revisionist adventures, I think that this subjective/objective discussion is extremely healthy for Christ's church. As - and I paint with broad brush - the evangelical church as been addicted to the objective - the 'mappers usually say "the propositional" - I see movement toward the subjective (the "the transpropositional") as being healthy.

There are scylla and charybdis to be avoided here, of course. We've written reams of emails to one another in the 'mapper community about the problem with hyperobjectivism. But we also have to be wary of absolutizing the subjective. Error is possible on either extreme.

And there is a larger issue beyond the philosophical. We are the created and He is the Creator. We are ontologically relative to Him. We are epistemologically dependent on Him. We are neither the final criterion, nor the final arbiter of truth. He is Truth. His Truth is intensely objective in its solidity (clearly I'm lapsing into metaphor here) and rigorously subjective in the response it demands. We cannot apprehend it if we arbitrarily truncate it to the merely two-dimensional propositional. Truth - in its most holistic form - melds the subjective and the objective in sometimes indistinquishable ways.

Friday, May 21, 2004

The Da Vinci Code and Elaine Pagels

Asbury's Ben Witherington III takes on The Da Vinci Code and Elaine Pagels in an article posted today over at Christianity Today's website.

church of fools

rats! today i meant to mention to rex church of fools. very interesting project!

dj @ emergent

dj is really giving us a lot of emergent coverage.


truth is, I'm totally enjoying the cicadas. i think they're sound is beautiful! NPR ran a nice piece this afternoon if you'd like to hear what they sound like and learn more about them.

Rex Miller's The Millennium Matrix

Had lunch today with Rex Miller, whose Millennium Matrix is being published in May by Jossey-Bass and Leadership Network. Just over four years ago Jordon Cooper gave us a hint of what was to come with Mr. Miller and his ideas. LN's NEXT ran an interview of Rex and the Millenium Matrix that you can read here.

I love Rex's iconoclastic and original heart and mind. He's a wonderful synthesizer of information and is passionate on his subject.

the English Standard Version

One of the 'mappers commented today that he was enjoying the English Standard Version. I've been reading mostly the ESV for a few months now and it's replaced my former preferences which were The New International Version in the OT and the New American Standard Bible in the NT. I think it hits a sweet spot between the more literal translations (KJV, NKJV and the NASB)and the more paraphrastic versions (NIV, NLT, LB). For some more info see's section on Bible Translations.

technorati - search engine for live blog content

technorati enables users to search live blog content.

"Technorati provides search and notification services for active content on the World Live Webtm. We monitor over 1.8 million sources (weblogs, RSS) with over 10,000 new sources added each day, all with a median index update time of under 9 minutes"

See more on their FAQ page.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

honest talk from anil dash ab movable type 3.0's pricing and licensing fiasco

jordon alerted us to the fact that anil is moving to sf to be closer to the center of six apart's radar, and anil talks frankly about the controversy.

Main Entry: vine
Pronunciation: 'vIn
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Old French vigne, from Latin vinea vine, vineyard, from feminine of vineus of wine, from vinum wine -- more at WINE
1 : GRAPE 2
2 a : a plant whose stem requires support and which climbs by tendrils or twining or creeps along the ground; also : the stem of such a plant b : any of various sprawling herbaceous plants (as a tomato or potato) that lack specialized adaptations for climbing

from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

i've done it again. lately things have been going great at work, busy with a big project that was much appreciated. i'm doing some work/consulting with a national ministry that's been completely exciting and mentally stimulating. and i've been thoroughly enjoying jumping back into blogdom.

and then last night i realized that i'm once again lost in mission.

now there's a good lost in mission and there's a bad lost in mission. good lost in mission is when you are driven by love of God and others. when you are constrained because of gratitude for Christ's love. that is worship - pure and beautiful. love incarnate and holiness operationalized.

but, while i might be able to say that some purer motives obtain, sometimes when i get lost in busyness, God gets lost in the process. though my parents are wonderful people, for various reasons i grew up alone and very bored (there's a lot more detail behind that). so for the last 15 years or so my fear and loathing of being bored have driven me to lose my Lord in my frenetic efforts to escape ennui.

this makes my efforts too important. the exerting of effort itself becomes a fruit rather than that which produces fruit. though i may be involved in what prima facie appears to be perfectly valid and worthwhile activity, the very drivenness of it detracts. And - indeed -

"And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."

1 Cor 13:2 (all quotes English Standard Version)

The alternative for me? That place which I've sometimes touched but to which, from time to time, I have to bring myself back. A place of abiding in Christ. it's important to save that phrase from the trite and mundane and to recapture its original richness. it is, truly, an amazing johannine concept.

john's classic statement on the concept is in John 15:1-5

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

what does that look like? i freely admit i don't entirely know but i've gotten a taste.

scripture seems to indicate it involves:

.... choosing an extreme belief in Jesus.

see John 6:47 with 6:54a. i see "eating jesus' flesh and drinking his blood" in 6:54 as indicating the radical nature of this belief. see also 1 John 2:23,24, 1 John 4:15, and 2 John 9. Thankfully, this faith is not just dependent on our own strength. We know that God is the one who authors and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:2)

...choosing to bask in the love that God has for us.

see John 15:9 and 1 John 4:16

Also consider the enormity of what Paul writes in his letter to the church @ Ephesus

[Paul prays that the Ephesians] "may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (3:18,19)

Paul stretches to the limits of language in his effort to capture with words the transpropositional love of God. And don't miss that he connects our being filled with God directly with our consciousness of God loving us. And just as we saw that we cannot believe in God unless God authors our faith, so also here we see that God is the one who gives us the ability to even mentally grasp his love because Paul prays for it

...choosing to love others

see John 15:10-12, 1 John 2:3-7, and 1 John 4:12,13. And just as God authors our faith, just as God gives us the ability to begin to wrap our brains around how much he loves us, so also God enables us to love others, for love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)

there are, of course, myriad implications from all this regarding the ways that we cultivate abiding in Jesus. but there's one big implication: it's not just by trying harder. our choice is not one just of extra effort or new activity. our choice is one of extreme dependence - to throw ourselves upon Him because He's the One who gives us faith, He's the One who helps us accept the mind-boggling extent of his love for us, and He's the One who works in us to love others.

He saves us from the smallness of a life sucked in upon itself.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

emergent bloggers

emergent has posted their own nashville blogger list for the convention.

brian mclaren on abu ghraib

"Being saved, baptized, sincere, or even Spirit-filled is not a short cut to being smart or right or wise. "

"A friend at my church once told me, 'Brian, I think you’re right about 85% of the time. That’s what makes you dangerous. People will trust you for the 85% so they won’t question you for the 15%. Your leadership depends on you having the humility and second thoughts to be on guard for the 15%.' Could our nation and its leaders be in a similar situation?"

Brian's posted a thought-provoking piece on his website.

Brian's comments about America viewing itself as a "beacon of light" and Manifest Destiny reminded me of an Alan Johnson article called The Bible and War: An Historical Survey (on's War and Terrorism Page)where Dr. Johnson drills down on the history of the church in the United States and its relationship to US wars.

list of emergent nashvegas speakers

as andrew jones laments his absence from the confab, he also provides load of links to the speakers.

blogging @ the emergent convention in nashville

i am paradox lists folks blogging at the emergent stuff happening right now in nashvegas (he lets us know this is the proper designation). Thanks to DJ for the heads up on this link.

hey, if anyone finds some kind of definitive list of emergent gathering bloggers in nashville, would you comment?

free movable type blog hosting!

This still seems too good to be true, but there's a group out there giving free Movable Type hosting to bloggers who are affiliated with certain cities, like Baltimore (my city), Atlanta, Boston, etc. See the bottom of the Baltimore site for a complete list of cities.

I've set one up and am going to start playing with it and may make the switch. I do like MT quite a bit. But I also am enjoying the new blogger interface.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004 desperately needs a redesign

Though I have some broken links, I'm pretty happy with our content, but we really need a new aesthetic. Here are some of the sites I'm looking at:

If you see sites like this, please feel free to email me a url!

church online

mark van de woude has an interesting post on how church is being expressed in blogdom. He references Tim Bednar's article "We Know More Than Our Pastors: Why Bloggers are the Vanguard of The Participatory Church."

emerging "evangelism"

"Relationship is our mantra. Out of relationship equity can be built in a persons life, and out of that equity we can speak life, and awaken the need for an experience with the maker of the universe. "

Levi Fuson

Levi explores the intersection of emerging church and evangelism.

This is a conversation that needs to happen. Lots of questions; here's one: Is the word "evangelism" so hopelessly bound with the pre-modern and the modern that we need to craft a new term that captures its transcultural signficance?

Good to Great

USA TODAY ran a nice article today on Good to Great , written by Jim Collins, and its exploding popularity.

Here's some highlights from the book:

Core Concepts from Good to Great by Jim Collins

Level 5 Leadership

• “Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.” p. 39

• “set up their successors for even greater success….” p. 39

• The Window and the Mirror: credit others with success, blame themselves for failures. p. 39

• Usually arise from within the organization p. 40

First Who…Then What

• The primary leader is not a “genius with a thousand helpers” p. 62

• Take your time in hiring decisions. Make people changes quickly if changes are needed. p. 62

• “put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.” p. 62

• These management teams debate openly and then unify behind the decision.

The Stockdale paradox

• Confront the Brutal Facts but never Lose Faith

• “A primary task in taking a company from good to great is to create a culture wherein people have a tremendous opportunity to be heard and, ultimately, for the truth to be heard.” p. 88

• “Creating a climate where the truth is heard involves four basic practices:

• “Lead with questions, not answers.
• Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion.
• Conduct autopsies, without blame.
• Build red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored.” p. 88

The Hedgehog Concept

· What’s the “Big Idea” of your company?

• The Three Circles

• What are you deeply passionate about?
• What you can be best in the world at?
• What drives your economic engine?

A Culture of Discipline

• “A culture of discipline involves a duality. On the one hand it requires people who adhere to a consistent system; yet on the other hand, it gives people freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system.” p. 142

• “The single most important form of discipline for sustained results is the fanatical adherence to the Hedgehog Concept and the willingness to shun opportunities that fall outside the three circles.” p. 142

• “’Stop doing’ lists are more important than “to do” lists. p. 143

Technology Accelerators

· Technologies that optimize a companies strength and drive its growth

The Flywheel and the Doom Loop

• “Sustained transformation follow a predictable pattern of buildup and breakthrough. Like pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough.” p. 186

• “…the good-to-great transformations never happened in one fell swoop.” p. 186

For a nice summary and thoughts on Good to Great see this Fast Company article on Good to Great. Also check out other Collins' articles @ his library

Sunday, May 16, 2004

helpful cautions against ethnocentric emerging church analysis!

I received a very helpful comment from Matthew Glock in response to my note on describing the emerging church that helpfully knocked off, for a few moments anyway, my ethnocentric glasses. Matthew, who works in France, gently reminded me that the state of conversation in the States and in the larger English-speaking world is not necessarily representative of Christian subcultures across all countries. What's "emerging" in the English-speaking world isn't necessarily "emerging" everywhere. In a telling post, Matthew comments, "your average French Christian could care less about understanding the modern/post-modern transition." Matthew asks some good transculture questions that help to diagnose exacly what emerging needs to occur in whatever context:

"Are we loving God with all that we are?
Are we loving our neighbors as ourselves?
Are we inviting people to join us in our journey?
What are we doing that is tied to cultural norms that are not relevant those who are outside our community of faith and don't find their place in the Bible?"

Matthew also turned me on to the comments of Jonathan Finley, also in France, who posted The Metissage of the Church.

Jonathan notes:

"it seems to me that the "emerging church" discussion has essentially grown out of a cleavage between sub-cultural expressions of the church within Anglo-Saxon cultures. i suspect that the usage of the word "culture", as in the "emerging culture", springs from an essentially monocultural world view and actually means "subculture". anyway, the "emergent culture" seems to be an essentially english-speaking, white boy's world (sorry girls and the rest of the planet). it seems these boys don't want their "father’s Oldsmobile" anymore (yes, girls and boys, i’m provoking you). i must agree with this much: someone has disengaged the parking brake on this shiny relic, the “modern, western church,” and has sent it coasting driverless (even purposeless ;-) toward an eminent and brutal collision with a post-modern present. I'm not claiming to even know what post-modern means (before you do, read this), but i do agree that the shift is real, radical, and sprawling. "

but then says

"However, I don’t find much in the “emergent” conversation that helps me to understand the multi-cultural suburbs of Paris...."

Jonathan and Matthew's comments both cautioned me not to look at things emergesque from such a narrow perspective and I appreciate the yellow light.

meeting fellow emerging bloggers in realtime

Beth and I and the girls visited Cedar Ridge Community Church where Brian McLaren pastors and where Beth and I met, got married and attended for 13 years. It was a wonderful visit! We went forward to speak with Brian and Grace and finally got the chance to meet fellow blogger jen lemen! she filled us in on her recent adventures in taking dancing lessons and beth and I told her about how when I dance (very badly), I have a look on my face as if I'm trying to solve the national debt.

We also had a the chance to catch up a little bit with DJ Chaung who multi-churches at Cedar Ridge and elsewhere.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

wrapping the brain around the emerging church

Earlier this year, there was quite a bit of talk in emerging church blogdom about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of declaring it a movement or defining it or attempting to put any lines around it at all. Andrew Jones may have begun the ball rolling after a British magazine queried him for a definition. Just the day before, Alan Creech encouraged us not to think of the emerging church conversation as a movement. Steve Knight does a good job at picking up the narrative from that point bringing us up to do Brian McLaren's February 2004 Letter to Friends of Emergent where he says the idea of a postmodern church is ridiculous. This got Brian in a bit of trouble and he later nuanced his earlier statements by acknowledging that he was being somewhat iconoclastic in his earlier missive. Around this same time, Dan Thompson provided a definition of "emerging church" to Wikipedia and then later blogged some more quite excellent thoughts about the emerging church. Andrew also did finally formulate his shot at a definition and, later in February, Mark van der Woude interviewed Andrew again for even more thoughts on the topic. Reading all of these contributions to the topic is truly an education and genuinely does aid in understanding this movement/conversation/thing we term "emerging church".

One could curmudgeonly argue that any attempt to nail down a definition by such a self-confessedly postmodern group of folks is self-referentially incoherent (think smoke coming out of the back of the android’s head while Spock intones, “Everything I say to you is a lie.”). After all, postmodernism itself is summarized, albeit questionably, as denying the human mind’s ability to define anything and language's ability to communicate accurately. And while many have argued against that old saw as not being a legitimate reason to completely ignore all postmodern thoughtthreads, nevertheless emergers do typically embrace mystery and are hesitant to rest calmly in the comforting bounds of a definition or some finite list of characteristics.

Nevertheless, there really does seem to be a loosely configured, cross-organizational group of folks that swim in the same kind of faithsea together. Consider: one does tend to lump brian mclaren with leonard sweet, len with spencer burke, and spence with john o’keefe. So if you’re nodding your head right now, there are reasons you agree with me. Why do you agree? What do they have in common? Somehow you intuitively know that these thoughtleaders and many others share some common list of characteristics. Why do they all seem to be swimming in the same direction? So call it a movement or a conversation or just “emerging church” there is a ... something!

So while I’m not going to attempt to provide a definition or a definitive list of characteristics, let me at least provisionally suggest two primary characteristics. Then, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to engage in the very modern enterprise of suggesting steps of emerging church development. And I don't mean to suggest at all that churches can't skip steps or that it typically plays out in this way. I mean the steps to be more of a logical (oops, modern word) sequence (oops, another modern word) rather than a suggested chronological description of a common progression.

I suggest that many emerging faith communities have in common one of two primary characteristics and sometimes both: they’re speaking-out or they’re speaking-in.


They are either “constrained”, to use Darby’s wonderful translation of 2 Cor. 5:14, by love of Jesus to translate spiritualities into a language that the folks in their postmodern community can understand (think jew to jew, greek to greek ).



Similarly, these or other spiritual communities are moved by their love of our Lord to evangelize their fellow Christians to understand that perhaps they’ve been duped by modernity into believing that they’ll grow to love God and others more merely by information transfer or program or structure or rote or whatever. Speakers-in want to convince everyone that spiritual formation is much more organic and dynamic than that. They seek to convert their Christian friends to a more transpropositional mode.

Dan Thompson, in discussing the definition of “Emerging Church” resonates with this speaking-in motivation when he notes , “I get the sense that the people who would identify themselves with the Emerging Church movement are all either trying to deconstruct, or reconstruct Christianity.” He also well notes: “I think the predominant deconstructionists are going to be suspicious of the predominant reconstructionists because it feels like they’re building just another meta-narrative to oppress them with. Meanwhile, I imagine the predominant reconstructionists are there wishing the predominant deconstructionists would stop being class half empty kind of people intent on questioning nearly everything they try and do.”

Emergent Stage One

Extending Dan’s fine analysis: I just met someone who moved across the entire country to join a church staff after they convinced him that they were bona fide, cutting edge, pomoChristian emerging. But after he arrived he came to believe that they only had a “candles and incense” emergent aesthetic as they were still encouraging him to grow disciples in a way my friend found non-relational and by the numbers. These types of churches are commendably striving to speak-out, to speak jew to jew and greek to greek. Let’s call them Emergent Stage One. Some people stop here and do wonderful things for God. Some folks are more resonant with what we would call more modern presentations of spiritual truth.

Emergent Stage Two

But other spiritual communities are realizing that the emerging church conversation speaks to more than mere translation. Leaders of these bodies are realizing that the emerging phenomenon (and Bill Bean likes that word best) does more than merely provide them with an alternative vocabulary. Rather, it critiques not only their style of church but also the very way they do church. Church communities do sometimes need to be critiqued when they’ve been inordinately modernized. They’ve reached Emergent State Two. This is a stage of questioning, analysis and evaluation. But, as Dan intimates, this stage can be dangerous because it’s possible for a community’s leadership to stay in deconstructive mode beyond its time of effectiveness.

Emergent Stage Three

Other healthy communities have survived Stage Two trauma; they’ve actually kept what they needed to have kept from pre-Stage One and Stage One; and they’ve made critical reconstructionist changes in light of Stage Two insights. Somewhat stabilized and confident – not in their knowledge but in their Lord - these spiritual communities break out of critical self-absorption and return to the very legitimate State Onesque love for their larger communities. They now translate well and as they draw others within their circle through Jesus’ love (and not primarily through their electronica and multimedia) they more organically and holistically help them to love God and others. They are at Emergent Stage Three.

And they will be happy there.

Until the inevitable moment when they’re confronted with the need for Post-Emergent Stage One. And then, of course, someone from a magazine asks one of Andrew's kids for a definition....

dj's who joke about beheading are fired

i would certainly hope so.

brian mclaren

found a nice brian mclaren page this morning, courtesy of dj chuang.

david and melissa hopkins announce kennedy elizabeth hopkins!!!

Born: Tuesday, 5/11/04, 2:50pm (CST)
6 lbs, 3 oz., 19"


Friday, May 14, 2004

death of a dream, birth of a dream

wonderful story about Phil Vischer, VeggieTales, & the fall of Big Idea.

yahoogroups archiving solution!?

Thanks to Dean for providing me with a potential solution and for the offer to help! Unfortunately, I don't know Perl or Dean's email address but I've asked the 'mappers to pitch in!

apparent deletion of archives on yahoogroups

I was surfing john o'keefe's Postmodern Theology Discussion Group when it seemed that I could not surf earlier than message #3157

This hasn't happened in the faithmaps discussion group yet, but I seem to remember that yahoo announced they were going to begin doing deleting older messages to save space. I really HATE this because I like have a written record of the history of our online communities and there's no easy way I know of to archive old messages other than doing so one at a time. Before 'mapper jon gold passed on I valued his contributions to the 'mapper community so much that I actually archived and indexed his posts (jon was a brilliant professional philosopher, a pastor, and a dear friend). It was a labor-intensive process and I honestly can't see doing for the 10's of 1000's of 'mapper posts.

Moreover, I view the archives of this and several other emerging discussion groups as a rich repository of information. One could argue that a significant portion of the history of the emerging church movement has been in these groups. I think a long time ago I emailed yahoo inquiring as to whether archived messages might be avail for purchase, but I don't think I've ever received a response from yahoo about anything I've ever emailed them about.

ugh - any brilliant ideas?

NT Wright

Jason Clark found a very nice NT Wright site.

Articles of Note

Christianity Today reports on the Evangelical Press Association's Higher Goal Awards of which the publication won 32. Be sure to check out Agnieszka Tennant's award-winning interview with Anne Lamont and Ted Olsen's piece on Tony Campolo.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

More Christian Groups Respond to Abu Ghraib

Ted Olsen reports that more groups have responded.

Christianity Today Selects 2004 Book Awards

NT Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God and Dan Kimball's The Emerging Church are among the winners.

Five All Time Favorite Business Books

Someone just asked me to give them these so I thought I'd blog it too:

In no certain order:

1 - The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner


2 - Built to Last by Collins and Porras


3 - Good to Great by Jim Collins

4 - The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge


5 - Primal Leadership by Dan Goleman


jordon cooper's the ooze blog roundup

the amazing jordon cooper provides us with The Ooze Annual Blog Tools Roundup.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

rachel cunliffe speaks

if you are looking for some wonderful blog designs, see rachel's wonderful colllection of notable blogs.

Major General Antonio M. Taguba

The Washington Post ran a good article (free registation required) today profiling Major General Taguba of whom I blogged yesterday.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Abu Ghraib

Major General Antonio M. Taguba, who, according to the Washington Post, is "the second highest-ranking Filipino American in the U.S. Army" advised the Senate Armed Service Committee that his investigation revealed that the six or seven MPs who abused Iraqi prisoners did not do so as a result of orders from their superiors. He nevertheless concluded that there was a "Failure in leadership...from the brigade commander on down, lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision."

Ted Olsen provides us with a round robin of Christian commentary on the incidents, including a mention of which organizations have not yet commented. Yesterday Jordon Cooper also let us know of a couple of interesting quotes from various politicos and bloggers on the subject.

These actions were reprehensible. The American government is responsible to investigate these inhumanities thoroughly and bring justice to the situation.

trolling for emerging alpha users

do you use alpha?

are you under 35 years old?

or do you know someone like this?

would you send me an email letting me know?

todd hunter, alpha's new president in the united states, is looking for jesusfolk of this flavour to provide feedback about their thoughts on all things alphaesque.

we're also especially interested in church planters who also meet these two criteria.


Monday, May 10, 2004

todd hunter - new Alpha USA President

emerger coach todd hunter has accepted a position with alpha as their new president! (also see their more robust international site). todd recently gave an interview to off-the-map. and he asked eric keck to announce it in the blogosphere. the 'mappers have been discussing this and there's also a good bit of discussion about it on the off-the-map site. as todd says, he still plans to stay very much in the emerging church conversation and, in fact, alpha has asked him to do so.

the great blog relaunch

love it!