Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Keys to 21st Century Church Leadership

I have felt for a long time like the things I am learning here in my present crucible of ministry are lessons so valuable that they need to be shared with others. I have had thoughts of writing a book perhaps, or of somehow going out and sharing my ideas, but it always seemed like a monumental task - one that was relatively unattainable. Or it was an elephant that was so big that I know you're supposed to eat it one bite at a time, but where do you start?

However, early this morning it seems like the seed of an idea began to crystalize in my mind - there is not one key to church leadership in the 21st century, there are several. What if I began to write and document those keys here as a way to try and help my own mind begin to crystalize these ideas further? Perhaps it is a whole series of short, reader friendly books that a person could get and read in byte-size chunks? Maybe that is something that better fits our 21st century minds anyway as we constantly switch from one byte of information to another at the speed of light?

So in an attempt to allow the crystalization process to begin, I offer this initial post.

Honoring the Past
Much has already been written and communicated about us living in the postmodern world right now. Everyone seems to agree that we aren't in the modern realm anymore, but we don't really know what is actually coming next, so we are living in the post-modern world - the world right after modernity, but before . . . ? Since that is true, we have to understand that one of the keys to postmodern church leadership is honoring the past.

We live in a world where many of the modern people who helped create what exists today, are still here! Too many times we forget that we are standing on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us and that many of those giants, are still here! The people who have built our churches and laid foundations of leadership in our lives, are still here!

Those of us who are in the new era of postmodern leadership often act as if we know exactly what needs to happen as we move forward into the days ahead, and in many ways that is very true. But often we forget that we are here today because others have blazed a trail before us. These leaders have successfully navigated the church through the era of modernity so well, that we are now able to help lead the Bride of Christ into this new era.

Good, holistic, healthy leadership in the 21st century recognizes that past and is willing to honor and celebrate it. In fact, I think we could actually say that we must be willing to embrace it in many ways. We don't need to buy into the modern mindset or thinking because it won't help us in the new world, but we do need to understand that if we want to get where we are going, we must be willing to honor the past as we go. Here's why:
  • There is still viable ministry left among these giants. If we are willing to embrace them and allow them some of the same space and freedom to worship and live in relationship with God that we so desperately want, we will discover there is wonderful vibrancy there. And since I am getting older and grayer myself, one of the things I hope happens in my life is that the leaders I am trying to help raise up will help me finish well when they are the new leaders.
  • There are still people in this modern world who don't know Jesus. In our rush to get moving into postmodernity, we can't forget that God so loved the whole world. Sure it may be true that generally they don't have as long to live, but since when did God ever care about that? I could be dead from a car crash this afternoon, but that doesn't stop God from still reaching to me with his love and grace.
  • These modern giants have a heart for God's Church. They would not have invested the blood, sweat and tears they did over the years, if their hearts weren't in it. And that hasn't changed. A passion to see God's Church not just survive, but thrive, still burns deep within many of them! If we are willing to honor them, and embrace that passion, we can actually tap into it as a source of great power and encouragement for us.
  • There's a lot of bankroll in their pockets. Now that may seem crass at first, but sometimes the truth can sting. One of the characteristics of the postmodern worldview which seems to get a lot of attention is how passionate they can be toward their causes, so if you can get them on board with your cause, you've got some great champions. The problem is, sometimes their causes are so niche focused, that if your deal doesn't hit them just in the right spot, they are really not that generous of spirit. Not so with the giants of our past. It's true that everyone is willing to give of their resources to something they believe in (and we aren't just talking about money here). But I think the modern world helped to create a more general atmosphere of generosity. We would do well to not only tap into that generosity as we move forward, but to learn from it and discover how to help it spread in the postmodern world too.
So there it is. My first cognitive dump to try and unload all of these thoughts swirling around in my head and my heart.

Is it finished?


But it's begun.

Monday, February 2, 2009


This week we are studying the life of Moses and considering the discovery he went on throughout his life to find worth.

One of the first things that intrigues me about his story is his name.  Pharaoh's daughter named him Moses because that sounded a lot like "drew out" because she drew him out of the water.  The intriguing thing to me about that is initially he was also drawn out from among his people, and brought into the privilege of the Pharaoh and all his world had to offer.  That was something that God used to rescue him from death, but did that also lead to great confusion about who he was during the early years of his life?

I also think it's interesting that Moses is observing his people from a distance.  He was a Hebrew, but he was living in the Egyptian world.  In many ways it seems like perhaps he was a man without an identity.  He isn't a full participant in the Hebrew community, and he is ousted by the Pharaoh when the murder is discovered.  Could this be another issue that caused confusion about who he was and where he fit in the world?  Maybe he was confused about where real worth comes from in his life?

Moses then goes away and ends up marrying Zipporah and they have a son and name him Gershom.  They name him that because  Gershom sounds like the Hebrew for "an alien there," because he felt like an alien there in a foreign land.  Once again he seems to be confused about his identity.  Could this theme of confusion be a contributing factor to him not knowing where he gets his worth?

As Moses and God are talking by the burning bush, Moses keeps referring to the Hebrews in the third person (the Hebrew people, the Israelites, etc.).  It's only after he has gone through all of his excuses and God has gotten angry at him, and then he goes back to talk to Jethro that he says, "I want to go back to my people."  Does this mean that Moses didn't really find his identity until he had personally encountered God?  Does it mean he didn't find his true worth in life until he had gotten to the end of himself and found his value in God?

How does this relate to us finding our worth in life?  What impact does this have on our learning to live worthwhile lives?

Friday, January 30, 2009


So Esther....

As I read through the story of this woman and all the circumstances that were involved in her life, I was intrigued by several things:

1 - The process of choosing the new Queen is quite involved.  These young women are placed into a harem of virgins and then given 12 months of "beauty treatments."  Then when they are ready to go into the king for their "tryout."  After that night, if he seems impressed, he can make her the queen.  Otherwise, she is transfered to the second harem, and is now apparently one of his wives. What a fascinating ritual, that certainly keeps the king in charge!

2 - The turning point in the flow of the story seems to come when Esther makes her decision about going to see the king and she calls everyone to 3 days of prayer and fasting.  What must have transpired during those three days?  Did she waver in her decision during that time?  What must she and Mordecai have felt as they were praying?

3 - After those three days, it seems like Esther takes control of making the decisions.  She is now telling Mordecai and the king what to do.  What happened to her during those three days?

4 - Where is God?  There is not one instance of the mention of God anywhere in this book!  Was that on purpose by the author?  What might the author been trying to say by not mentioning God?

5 - There is an amazing amount of irony involved in this story.  The way some of the circumstances "work out" seems to set up and create multiple "ah ha" moments along the way.  Perhaps this is part of the reason there isn't any mention of God in the book?

Sometimes I am amazed at how much natural drama is involved in the naked scriptures!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Deliberate LIfe

This week we are considering the life of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they portray a very deliberate life for us.

Some preliminary thoughts and questions:
  • These guys were some of the brightest and best from the land of Judah.  King Neby brought them into the palace in Babylon (along with Daniel and others - they were a part of the first wave of the exile) in order to retrain them.  He wanted to reshape their lives and their identities to make them into the best and the brightest in Babylon.  But right away they take a very deliberate stand against this system of "re-calibration."  They knew they had to maintain their identity as Hebrew men of God.
  • Does this mean that they were able to be so deliberate in their actions later because they maintained this identity?
  • 3:6 - They obviously knew the consequences ahead of time for their actions if they didn't bow down to the statue.  Later in 3:15 King Neby once again makes the consequences very clear, and even challenges their god in the process.  In other words, it was clear they were headed for the furnace if they didn't comply.
  • What does this say to us about the way we live our lives?  Do we recognize that sometimes in order to be obedient, or do what is right, we will know we are walking right into the furnace?
  • 3:16-18 - I am fascinated by their very deliberate response to Neby.  They don't argue with him or get into some kind of power struggle.  They say they don't even need to defend themselves, that God will be their rescuer, so they obviously believe in His power and ability to do that.  But even beyond that, they acknowledge that even if he doesn't rescue them, they will not bow down and worship!  They are so determined in their faith in Him, and perhaps they are so secure in their identity in Him, that they are completely willing to face the flames no matter what the outcome may be.
  • This raises to me many questions about the source of this very deliberate strength and response.  What was the source of their great strength and determination?  What caused them to be so deliberate and so bold in their response to King Neby, clearly knowing the consequences of their actions?
  • 3:20-25 - Within these few verses the text references 4 different times the point about them being bound or unbound.  Their being bound prior to being thrown into the furnace, and then being unbound once they were in the furnace, seems to be quite significant.
  • What is the point of the mentioning of this fact?  What conclusions might we draw simply from thinking about them being bound and then unbound?  And how does that relate back to our idea of deliberate?
  • 3:25 - The fact that King Neby saw a fourth man in the fire with them, and that he looked like "a son of the gods," seems pretty important here too.
  • Was this Jesus himself who came and walked through the fire with them?  What it a heavenly being of some kind who was sent by God?  Is it so obvious that this is God being present with them in the crucible of fire, or is there a deeper level of meaning we can take from this?
Well, those are some of my initial thoughts on Rach, Shach, and Benny as the Veggie Tales so eloquently put it.  I am very open to your thoughts, comments and explorations too!

Deliberately Posting,