Willow Creek REVEAL Part 2-Externalizing My Probable Willow Creek Reveal Study Plan

SUMMARY. This post represents a stream-of-consciousness approach to trying to “externalize” my thinking process on why I see certain things as of critical importance in what I examine during my own REVEAL study. It includes a list of issues that a thorough analysis should include, from my perspective as a paradigm/cultural systems analyst and futurist:

  • Content analysis and concrete analysis.
  • Concepts
  • Context
  • Consequences
  • Consistencies
  • Conduct

Okay, so it’s been a while since I posted noticed that I intended to blog through a paradigm/cultural systems analysis of Willow Creek’s Reveal self-study. Actually, it’s been about three weeks. This is something that needed to percolate, and I’ve continued to mull over how best to approach this study.

I decided to “externalize” some of my meta-processing about how I will process their self-study. Externalizing is another type of “talking out loud,” but far more intentional than just a burbling stream of conscious. When we verbalize our thinking process as we are doing it, we walk listeners through how we process information and make decisions. We shouldn’t assume people know how to do that automatically. It just ain’t so …

So, I’m trusting that externalizing will help some readers understand better how I reach whatever conclusions I come to and why, rather than my just giving what my conclusions are. Hopefully, that is at least something that, in the biggest picture of things, can spur replication of more thinker-producers instead of just reader-consumers.

Sidenote: I learned this technique of verbalizing my thinking process from my friend Kathy Koch. I’ve mentioned her and her writings/teachings before. Let me add here that Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids, Inc., is one of the three best teachers I have EVER experienced … and frankly, I can’t remember who the other two are at the moment. Anyway, externalizing is something Kathy herself practices, and it’s led me and others I’ve observed into ah-ha moments of realization. Insofar as possible in virtual print, this is what I’m trying to do in my blog posts. And now you know where it comes from – thanks Kath!

Back to meta-processing: So, I started to conceptualize various basic approaches for doing this study. One approach is to just start reading the Reveal book and as things come up, blog about what comes to mind and how and why I think that. Another is to lay out my basic system in advance and refer back to it as necessary. I tried to see if there were other basic approaches, but nothing came up.

Then I did a more focused mental comparison and contrast between the different ways of doing things. Of course, some of this was already underway as I worked on simply identifying the possible approaches. But now it was more detailed.

On the side of the “unfold” approach where I just start reading and blogging, that would be organic. Stuff would come up when it comes up, so there is an immediacy to the descriptions of issues I’m struck by and what I’m thinking and the explanations for how/why. Yes, organic is good …

But then, this Reveal thing is probably going to be a really complex study. Since I’ve already chosen to zoom in on the underlying paradigm and the cultural context in which this controversy is occurring, that means an unfolding approach could lead to more confusion. There might be way too much for readers to sift through, to get from my system to some kind of systematic understanding for them.

But wait! Confusion is okay! … at least, for those who don’t mind wrestling with chaos in order to find the order underneath it. So … who really is the audience I’m intending this for? Besides myself, of course. Who has actually shown up here and read the dense and intense stuff I’ve already posted? Are they nestlers who want the comfort of a pre-processed space? Or are they wrestlers who are okay with not-so-comfortable disgorging of emo-thots?

Hmmm … if I go toward the up-front systematic framework approach, can I modify it so it is clear but also provocative? How would I do that? That’s a good question …

Okay, how about laying out the framework in advance, but also including all the questions I’ve already come up with about Willow Creek’s apparent paradigm, methodological model, etc.? And add some more! That seems doable.

Yeah, definitely yeah … [Yo! Shoutout to Dr. Jeb!] [It’s an in-joke, people.]

That sort of blends the approaches. So, framework first, then go through Reveal and see what pops up as issues, talk about them and refer back to the framework for details. That lets me accomplish a couple things simultaneously – finish putting together a framework, plus also respond in the moment. The latter is important, because emotions/gut feelings are important barometers to the fact that something is not sitting right, or that something is really great. Kewl!

So, seems like a somewhat blended approach is the way to go. Huh. I didn’t expect that. But okay, I’ll assume the Holy Spirit is in the process to make it providential.

What goes into this up-front framework?

Well, let’s see … guess I’ll need to go back to the notes I took over the past few weeks and check out what’s there …

[We interrupt this broadcast for a short break to find the notes.]

[Okay, we’re baaaaaaack!]

Thank goodness for scrap paper – and thereupon have I scrawled the key notes needed, and OMG! It actually is in alliterative format! But then, see, even we who are considered “postmodern” because of our non-linear processing and our preference for assonance can accommodate the modern-friendly alliterative list format. Just a matter of commitment to cross-cultural communication, eh? Okay!

So, this will stop the externalizing for a while, as I have to compile thoughts from multiple scraps of paper, and ooh! There’s my inked-up napkin from my end-of-the-week break at the local coffeehouse. Here are the issues that a thorough analysis should include, from my perspective as a paradigm/cultural systems analyst and futurist:

Content/Concrete. Describe what is actually there, what is observable in the item itself. In developing a “case study” of the item, use content analysis [words] for any written materials, and concrete analysis [visuals, sounds, textures, etc.] other media.

Concepts. Describe what is abstract, what is not directly observable but can be intuited between the lines. Concept discernment could involve comparisons and contrasts, clusterings and categorizings, – all kinds of tools for interpreting the invisible (but very real) integration points and interconnections among discrete (individual) parts within the whole. Attempt to discern whether the creator intended these connections, or whether the reader/viewer has superimposed them onto the work. (Sometimes all it takes is asking, or finding an interview about the creation of the material. Other times, there is no choice but to project what is most likely about the creator’s assumptions and conceptual framework.)

Context. Describe the external situation or circumstances that surround the item. If the item is like a picture, then the context analysis is about the picture frame, the setting in which the picture exists. Is the framework a utopian or dystopian perspective? Is it meant for use in a homogenous cultural situation, or cross-cultural, intercultural, or pancultural (universal) situations?

Consequences. Describe what this material claims to do constructively for readers/viewers, i.e., what is the “spiritual DNA” of the author’s/creator’s declared intent, and what are the natural results both short-term and long-term when this DNA takes root and comes to fruition. Describe what this material appears to do constructively for its readers/viewers, and also what it appears to do destructively to them. What spiritual/cultural gaps does it fill in or create? What spiritual/cultural excesses does it file off or create? What trajectory changes does this potentially or actually implement? Or does it send the reader/viewer into an orbit that has the appearance of movement but is actually as stagnant as a journey that has stopped? Is it primarily: Mentally provocative –  thoughtful or dulling? Imaginatively provocative – hopeful or nihilistic? Emotionally provocative – compassion-producing or inflammatory? Relationally provocative – reconciling or rending? Reflectively provocative – paradoxical or ironic? Volitionally provocative – integrative or insulative?

Consistencies. Describe the system of actual and possible consequences as compared with God’s intent and design for individuals, groups, and societies. Does the new eventual endpoint of this item’s trajectory constitute a healthy or unhealthy goal, and why? Are the consequences purifying and ennobling, or polluting and corrupting? What responsibilities and accountabilities are appropriate, given the overall impact caused by the agency of the creator and his/her followers? Does he/she deserve kudos and compliments and commendations? Or censures and corrections and compassion?

Hmm … this is interesting – I think this framework works for the rest of what I have planned for the concrete analysis on The Golden Compass cultural materials, as well as the Willow Creek Reveal study! The more things a theory or framework can cover, the better its overall “explanatory power,” and that’s a good thing. A very good thing indeed!

Okay, that seems to be enough for now. My next step is to take those stages and cross-reference them to specific “chunks” I need to develop for the Reveal as a written content analysis, and anything left for The Golden Compass as a concrete media systems analysis. (Oh, how Wilberesque, eh?)

Later P.S. – It occurred to me (of course, within 90 seconds of hitting the “Publish” button) that this framework needs another “C” word to round it out: Conduct. We can do all the “what” and “so what” analysis we want, but if we never get to the “now what” action stage, we have remained theoreticians and will lack in our being practitioners.


If you want to engage in some learning-preparedness exercises, consider making your own grid of items:

  • That you think I think need to be in each category.
  • That you yourself think need to be in each category.
  • Bonus points: That you think I think you need to think need to be in each category.

Did I really just say that? I think so … and now, yikes! Yo! I gotta go!

Jump back to Willow Creek REVEAL Part 1: Preparing my own self-study on Willow Creek and REVEAL.

3 thoughts on “Willow Creek REVEAL Part 2-Externalizing My Probable Willow Creek Reveal Study Plan

  1. Dude, absolutely awesome! Great grid for processing anything. And another reminder why you are one of my favs: you are one of the few people who understand my need to process externally in order to understand what I am thinking and are able to help me process what I processed! I did not know that this was something described by Kathy Koch…but I do remember you mentioning her name, so you may have shared that connection with me before. It will now be better seated!

    I’ll have to think about what you and I think I should be thinking about… ;^)


  2. Lovely! thanks for the behind-the-scenes how-to. i appreciate the idea of treating readers as indirect collaborators and thought processes as share-ware… thanks for leaving more than enuf behind for us gleaners! as always, nice to see wilber get props on a christian site. and lastly: diy, i think i need a nap.

  3. D.D. – you crack me up! However, some would suggest that is already a permanent condition that I suffer with. Ah well. But you are right, externalizing really is a cool way to give readers lotsa “blast-off sites” for doing their own thinking, perhaps in ways that fully formed conclusions and polished writing can never quite do, even if it does help spark new thoughts. Thanks for dropping in, to see what condition my condition was in …

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