Archives For June 2007

Connecticut

kinnon —  June 30, 2007 — 2 Comments

Hanging with delightful friends in Connecticut, which is apparently the Native American word for “place where wealthy white people have homes after stealing land from us”…but I’m not sure. Off to New York in the morning to take our dear daughter to her place of residence – she’s at school on the Island of Manhattan (which also means “place where wealthy people have homes that rise up high in the sky after paying us for the land with beads”) for the month of July.

I don’t feel like blogging, so…………

This is an interesting article that Bob Sutton pointed to (almost a week ago – I’m still catching up on my Google Reader reading). Penelope Trunk in The Huffington Post:

…there appears to be little room for parenting if you’re at the very top.

Fortune magazine ran an article about Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony. He is married with two children and is quoted as saying at company meeting, “I don’t see my family much. My family is you.”

Fortune ran a profile of Jeff Immelt, chief executive of GE. Immelt said that he has been working 100-hour weeks for the last 20 years. He also said that he is married and they have an 18-year-old daughter.

I can’t decide which is more pathetic — the way these men approach their role as a parent, or the way that Fortune magazine writes about it without any commentary.

How can there be no mention of the fact that these CEOs are neglecting their kids?

We have a double standard in our society: If you are poor and you abandon your kids, you are a bad parent. But if you are rich and you abandon them to run a company, you are profiled in Fortune magazine.


Read the entire column, please.

I’ve had the misfortune of seeing way too much of this in the institutional church – often later accompanied by a heavy dose of nepotism in an attempt to compensate for the neglect. It doesn’t work. The church and the family both suffer.

A friend of mine and fellow blogger has asked me to publish this, as it might be a little too close to home for the congregation served. This friend, a good person and one I think highly of, would love your advice and response.

__________________________________________________

Dear Missional Friends,

Recently I have noticed a number of excellent posts in the blogosphere about flat leadership structures, the role of authority in missional church, and the kind of leadership that is necessary in the current cultural landscape. I am more than committed to all of these values. We are attempting to lead a church with nearly a 100 year history in an established denomination toward missional transformation. This is not an easy thing. We have focused on process rather than outcomes. We have sought to level the playing field so that every person can have equal input into the conversations we are having. We are working hard to hear the minority reports and the voices of the poor and brushed aside. All of this has been a challenging but rich experience. New leaders are emerging in this climate and taking up the challenge of leadership in the missional church.

But I am having a serious, recurring problem. Perhaps it is my extreme urban location, maybe it is my denomination which tends toward fundamentalist theologies. Nevertheless, here’s my challenge: into this open and inclusive process has walked some people who have their own very specific agenda, either to convert us to their theological program (in my case this is always fundamentalism with heavy apocalyptic overtones), or take over the church. When I say “take over the church” I literally mean that there is a group which has infiltrated the church and they are attempting to swarm their numbers and take over control of the church.

I have had members and non-members accuse me of being a hypnotist, a Scientologist, an atheist and immoral. Some of these accusations have come as loud outbursts in public worship services. Currently I have a visitor to my group who is passing around 10 and 12 page handwritten documents claiming that our church is part of a vast Satanic plot to destroy God’s people. The ironic thing is that this sort of propaganda gains traction among 10-20% of my church members. Enough to cause a serious problem.

Clearly, I have some thoughts about how to deal with this. And while you might think this is one isolated case, I can assure you that I have had a steady stream of these issues since I became the pastor two years ago. In one case a man was working his way into church leadership (in our open and flat structure) when we discovered, through some concerns raised by members, that he had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from his former church and was now entering into questionable financial relationships with our church. We have had one of our adult Bible teachers enter into a shady financial deal with another member in which the trusting member lost a significant sum.

Two thoughts keep coming to mind in all this, and then I’d like to hear from my missional and emergent friends about how our new approaches to leadership can handle the sickness and (can I say it) downright evil we sometimes witness in the church. The first thing that comes to mind is Alan Kreider’s book, The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom. In this book he discusses the challenges the early church faced in vetting new members. We are seriously considering such an experiment here. This would involve open and “flat” community, but within boundaries. The second thing I remember is that Jesus had Judas along side him all the way to the very end. I take it that Judas was trying to “help” Jesus see the light – set him on the straight and narrow.

What do you say? What kind of things should I be thinking about, because as much as I love the openness and inclusive nature of the new forms of church that are emerging, I’m a little nervous right now.

__________________________________________________

I look forward to the good people who read this blog helping my friend out. Some important questions are raised.

Erin has just published The People formerly Known as The Wounded. Please read it. ‘Tis a story of healing.

Electronicsdump

Dan Edelen is a blogger I read consistently in Google Reader. He’s a lot harder nosed than I am and I occasionally find a perceived level of infallibility in his posting (at least in the comment section).

That being said, Dan has a prophetic voice and my reaction to it would not be atypical for the average Israelite. (Dan doesn’t speak in the standard charismatic positive personal prophetic voice. He’s a tad more Old Testament in his gifting.)

His letter to Rich, A Young Ruler, well skewered me. If you read my blog, you know I have a mild addiction to things shiny and new. Dan unpacks that addiction in a post that features the iPhone.

After explaining the meaning of the word, profligate, Dan tells Rich:

I  can’t help but think, Rich, that since perfectly good cell phones can be had for $50, the desire for one that costs ten times that much seems…well, profligate. No doubt, the iPhone reeks of style and trendiness, and no doubt, many people who claim to follow Jesus will buy one. I’m not sure, though, that those buyers understand the word profligate.

Let me tell you about some people I know. I know a couple who bought a small home in one of the worst neighborhoods in our city. He has a good job and could afford a much larger home, but he and his wife elected to use their extra money to meet the desperate needs of their poorer neighbors. I know a man who forgos the expensive medication he needs to feel better so he can help a woman who has no health insurance pay for the even more expensive cancer medication she needs. I know a family who sent $1000 of their hard-earned money to help an unemployed couple they had never met in person make a house payment so they could keep their home. I know a man who gave every cent he owned in the world to fund a missionary couple who would have been recalled. Those missionaries were in the middle of their translation of the Bible into a new language. They would’ve had to come home unless they raised enough money to complete the translation.

My blog friend, Greg Laughery appears to be on the same wavelength in his post, Christian Idolatry:

I want to explore some thoughts on consumerism and a cleverly devised Christian spirituality, which really speaks more of our impoverishment, than of being in community with God. I’ll begin with this.

Eugene Peterson in his outstanding, Living the Resurrection, (36) has some provocative words for us on this subject:

“There are books, videos, and seminars that promise to let us in on the Christian ‘secret’ of whatever we feel is lacking in our life – financial security, well behaved children, weight loss, sex, travel to holy sites, exciting worship, celebrity teachers.

It isn’t long before we’re standing in line to buy whatever is being offered. And because none of the purchases does what we had hoped for, or at least not for long, we’re soon back to buy another, and then another. The process is addicting. We become consumers of packaged spiritualities.

This also is idolatry. We never think of using this term because everything we’re buying and paying for is defined by the adjective Christian. But idolatry it is, nevertheless. It’s packaged as a product – God depersonalized and made available as a technique or a program. The Christian market in idols has never been more brisk or lucrative. The late medieval indulgences that provoked Luther’s righteous wrath are small potatoes compared with what’s going on in our evangelical backyard.”

Greg goes on to say: 

The plight of a Consumerist world view and spirituality is that it ends up sucking the life out of whatever crosses its path, as we risk falling deeper into patterns of idolatry: self and other consuming. Jesus won’t buy it. He’s not for sale.

Peterson’s The Message translates the end of the Rich Young Ruler story, in Mark 10, this way: 

Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, "There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me."

The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.

What future moth-eaten and rust-potentialed things do I cling to? God help me!

UPDATE: Let me add this from one of my favourite bloggers, Erika Haub:

Our invitation to generosity is not occasional. It is not reduced to our tax-deductible charitable gifts that we make in December. It is daily and weekly and sacrificial and self-denying, and it goes against every message our culture gives us concerning how we should think about ourselves. And while we should of course love people in ways that work against damaging forces of dependency, we should not chafe at the continual stream of need that is brought to our feet. We dare not, like the early disciples Ananais and Sapphira, decide that it really isn’t required of us to bring all of our excess to the table ready to share.

What would you do with a Naked Pastor? I’d suggest you read him.  His 10 Tips for Increasing Church Growth and Income is a primer for way too many church leadership folk.

3. Reward those who give with frequent public recognition and praise.
4. Teach that giving to the church is what gets God acting on our behalf.
5.Always concoct the impression that something great is just about to happen so that the level of anticipation keeps people coming, expecting the special event to happen at anytime. Keep the excitement level high and eliminate the darker realities of human emotions from the service.

And today,  another brilliantly pointed cartoon from the pen of the pastor:

Dhaywardsufferingsuccess

David and Brant (see below) are two of my must read blogs. This cartoon just seems to fit with Brant’s post. Not sure why. 

Brant Hansen on LifeChurch.tv

kinnon —  June 25, 2007 — 3 Comments

I really meant to get to Part II of Instant Missional today, as it would seem that I’ve confused some of my friends who drop by this little part of the interweb. But my day gig hasn’t allowed me the time (and besides, I slept in this morning after reading two novels yesterday).

While I’ve been slaving over a hot Mac, Brant Hansen has been blogging up some grins as he does a little commentary on world-wide-world mega-phenome church, LifeChurch.tv. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

They’re taking it to the next, and logical, level.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

LifeChurch.tv is a chain church, now nation-wide, and in South Florida. The church promises excellence in church experience. Every time you choose LifeChurch.tv, they assure you: You will get “powerful worship and a life-changing message.”

You don’t get worship gatherings, or even gas-station-esque “services” — you get “weekend experiences.” These weekend experiences last one hour, precisely. Not a minute more, not a minute less, the site guarantees.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

You should hypertext link on over to the Hansen-powered pixels to read the whole thing – especially as Cranky Eugene Peterson was Unavailable for Comment.

I had my own GMaB comments on the LifeChurch.tv folk last November – with their Money Back Guaranteed Tithing Offer.

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Instant Missional

kinnon —  June 23, 2007 — 6 Comments

I like things quickly. Whether an answer to a question, a meal, or some desperately needed consumer device. I’d really rather not wait. Patience is not a virtue I’ve practiced particularly successfully. There are a few people like me.

I grabbed a fast lunch in a West Vancouver restaurant yesterday with Al and Mike. The food arrived at an appropriate pace…for me (even if the person serving was a tad too perky). The three of us talked about the previous week’s conference, about the 25 million North American Christians who no longer attend “a church of their choice” and about the church in the developing world.

We spoke of the kind of Christian community we’d like to experience. A community focussed on the other – both locally and globally. Where the generosity of the group would be expressed in open hospitality. Where 80 – 90% of raised funds would not go to paying for buildings and employees. Where our responsibility would be to the powerless – both here and in the developing world.

We spoke of practical ideas like micro-finance. I wondered why it was a Muslim (Nobel prize-winning Muhammed Yunus) who had blazed the trail and not a Christian.

In this wonderfully generative conversation, I was struck by how I wanted these things now. Where would I find this group when I returned home? What number would I call? Which Toronto blogger could point me to that community? Where would I find Instant Missional?

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John Santic has had the great and much desired opportunity of meeting the one and only Most Reverend and Very Bishop Dr. Larry Newinskin. This event took place a few years ago, and John has finally gotten around to sharing that experience. (Not sure why it took this long. Perhaps John was overwhelmed by the experience.)

A brief quote from the Q&A John did with the Most Reverend Bishop Dr.

JS: Tell me what you’re thinking through theologically these days.

BLN: Wow, good question. My thoughts are deep, somehow too deep to recall at times. All I know is that the church is declining in the UK and abroad and that God is up to something mischievous these days in the post modern world. So…to answer your question…I am thinking a lot about premillenial eschatology, you know, rapture stuff and the cessational-type things some churches believe.


Rumour hath it that Brother Santic may be a long lost relative of the highly esteemed (at least around these parts), Brant Hansen – him of the Sacred SqueezeBox. Brother Hansen recently found himself being interviewed on Home Church™.

So, you really love the “home church” model. I’ve heard about that model. That’s a cool model, the “home church” model.

Uh…I’m not interested in “home church”, to be honest. No offense to committed Home Church people. Or any “model”, I guess. The combined phrase “Home Church Model” makes me…fight to…stay…awake…

But that’s your thing! But you meet in homes and stuff, right? You’re a Home Church Person. That’s the box I’ve already put this in. Please stay there.

Well, homes are where the furniture is, and the fridge. But there’s nothing magically delicious about homes. I don’t think it much matters.

Oh. I thought you were all against buildings and staff and stuff. I thought that issue was your big priority.

I’d suggest I’m not the one making it an issue. I think American churches will spend, oh, $30 billion plus this year on staff and buildings. Apparently that’s somebody’s issue.

I await, with baited breath* (which does not mean I have a worm on my tongue), Brant’s interview with Bishop Larry. Maybe John could set it up, eh!

It was a busy day for us at the SI in Vancouver. Sara Jane, Imbi, Al and I were there very early in the morning setting up. Alan delivered a powerful plenary later in the morning and Al Hirsch spoke on the themes he develops in his book, The Forgotten Ways. I’ve done a report at the Allelon Missional Journey blog.

A highlight of the day for me was having a chance to grab a quick lunch with Mike Todd. I look forward to spending more time with him this week.

I’ll attempt to write something substantive later this week. These two weeks on the road have been a bit of a blog holiday for me.

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