Two Reposts: Pursuing Questions That Lead to the Answer[er] & Finding a Culture’s Quest/ion

“Gold Guy With Question” (c) Scott Maxwell / Fotolia #16798720, Licensed to Brad Sargent.

Introduction (2017)

Questions are something I find central to pretty much everything I do in terms of professional work, personal ministry, and pastimes. Editing is about questioning a text to see if what it says makes sense — or, if not, how to work with the author to refine it so it does. Research writing involves questions that guide the search for details (Who did what?), timelines (When did that happen, and how did that shape the context of what happened?), personal profiles (Who are you, and what drives your life in the pathway that you’re on?), and practicalities (What went wrong, why, and how can we repair that?). As to hobbies, I especially enjoy movies because, it seems to me, each one typically wrestles with two or three Big-Idea-Earth-Shattering-Or-Life-Shaping Questions. So, if I can identify those questions, I have a resource to share with people who are looking for an answer, or who’ve been living out an answer that doesn’t really fit The Question That Drives Their Life.

Anyway, I recently became acquainted with someone who really, REALLY likes the topic of questions. So, I thought I’d edit and repost these for my new friend’s enjoyment. I wrote the first one for Advent almost a decade ago in 2008. That same year, I republished an article from 2004 about questions the catalyze subcultures — another topic I find very intriguing, especially since it ties right in with social change. (I first wrote about subculturization in 1997 and, if all goes well, I’ll be able to pick up that thread again sometime soon to revisit it from the angle of social movements and how social entrepreneurs can navigate them.)

  • Hope Awaits: Pursuing Questions That Lead to the Answer[er] (2008)
  • Finding a Culture’s Quest/ion and Shaping Their Transformative Trajectory (2004)

I hope friends old and new will find something of interest in these articles, in picking up new questions or polishing reflections from old ones. Continue reading


Five Reasons Why *5Q* by Alan Hirsch is a Need-to-Read Book

NOTE: The beginning section of this review is cross-posted on the Amazon site for 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ, by Alan Hirsch (2017; published by 5Q).

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I know it’s not normal to write a review before finishing the book. However, in this rare case of Alan Hirsch’s *5Q*, I am. That’s because I’ve read enough to know that I WILL finish it, because the first quarter of the book (preface, intro, and first two chapters) provided more than enough threshold details for me to recommend specifically why I believe you should read it, too.

In a nutshell: I am convinced from a combination of constructive and destructive experiences in 40-plus years working with non-profits, church plants, and social change activism that applying paradigm systems theory is essential to successful, sustainable transformation. And, the way I see it, *5Q* provides a conceptual framework for identifying deficiencies in our system compared to the revealed ideal, and a set of practical skills and tools for filling in gaps and filing off excesses in our systems.

This means 5Q can drive both context-based intervention when things have gone toxic, and prevention of problems in our start-up and sustainability efforts. So, 5Q is valuable to those working in situations that focus on Kingdom embodiment and personal discipleship: churches, church plants, social transformation endeavors, community development, missional impact metrics, and spiritual abuse survivor advocacy.

For those not yet acquainted with the core concepts of 5Q, here’s the kernel of the system. Ephesians 4:11-13 specifies a fivefold structure of giftedness in the Body of Christ. Using the acronym of APEST, these are: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers. The APEST giftings are meant to work together. Christ manifests all five and they are key to the Church universal’s genetic code. As with any genetic aberrations, a deficiency or duplication of any fivefold chromosomal element can lead to chronic illnesses, sterility, or even premature death of a body.

*5Q* is an intermediate introduction to Alan’s lifetime work in missional ministry. In it, he presents (1) the revelational and incarnational bases for the APEST typology as the Body of Christ’s genetic system, (2) practical outworkings of the system for individuals and organizations, and (3) solutions for addressing related problems. Additional component trainings and tools are available from “5Qcentral,” making this a robust, holistic system for context-sensitive ministry movements.

Here are my five observations from the first 25% of the book that convinced me to read the rest. I hope you’ll find reasons to read it in these as well! Continue reading

Thoughts on the Missional Movement ~ Part Six

The Fragmentation of Evangelicalism
and the Precipitation of the Missional Movement

Part Six: When Collaboration Just Won’t Work Well: Operating Systems of Legalism or License Instead of Liberty

Overview of Part Six

In Part Five we looked at five different ways of processing information – all of which have a unique realm of application to imperatives and principles and paradoxes in Scripture. I gave some initial analysis to show how those five epistemologies hold values that can keep us on track with liberty and freedom in Christ, or veer us off toward legalism (being rule-bound where Scripture isn’t) or license (being without bounds where Scripture is). In Part Six, we’ll conclude that exploration of legalism, license, and liberty. Continue reading

Thoughts on the Missional Movement ~ Part Five

The Fragmentation of Evangelicalism
and the Precipitation of the Missional Movement

Part Five: When Collaboration Just Won’t Work Well: “Irreconcilable Differences” on Operating Systems for Discipleship

Overview of Parts Five and Six

In Part Four, we looked at elements that potentially set us up for “irreconcilable differences,” when it comes to being part or partners in some kind of movement or ministry collaboration. I introduced epistemology (information processing styles) and axiology (values) as the core of the ministry systems and cultures we create. The key idea it led to was this: If we’re missing some biblical values, or our values are anti-biblical, we can easily end up with beliefs and behaviors, and lifestyles and cultures that go against Scripture

In Parts Five and Six, we will look at the “operational framework” – the sets of maco-level principles that guide our everyday beliefs and behaviors, interests and interactions. If we’re off center biblically in our epistemology and axiology, we’ll be even farther off in our operational framework, either in the direction of legalism or license instead of true biblical liberty and the freedom for which Christ set us free. Continue reading

Thoughts on the Missional Movement ~ Part Four

The Fragmentation of Evangelicalism
and the Precipitation of the Missional Movement

Part Four: When Collaboration Just Won’t Work Well: The Way We Process Information and What We Value Create “Irreconcilable Differences”

Overview of Parts 4, 5, and 6

This series has looked at aspects of the uncontrollable process we find ourselves in as a result of a global shift in paradigms and cultures. Some forces in the process work to fragment the old, others to reformulate the new. To my thinking, this has resulted in six streams in the post-Evangelical vein. Other forces, like the power of paradox, help us consider why the missional stream has more potential for drawing in a wider range of elements from other sources to create a more comprehensive structure and a more dynamic trajectory.

In the next installments (yes, it’s grown past four parts), we’ll look at some powerful principles that seem to have the opposite effect from paradox. In brief, they don’t provide a safe place for people to land while they sift through the complexity to figure out if they fit. Instead, some variations in these sets of frameworks set up conditions and pressure people to decide if they fit before they enter. Some don’t go anywhere once people have entered.

So, as to potential collaborations, they represent “irreconcilable differences” in terms of entry and trying to merge into the missional movement, or trajectory and trying to collaborate and journey toward a common goal, or destiny and what goals they would value. Even if they all apply the label of “missional” to themselves, it doesn’t mean they’d survive as a long-term part or partner in a coherent missional movement. Continue reading

Thoughts on the Missional Movement ~ Part Three

The Fragmentation of Evangelicalism
and the Precipitation of the Missional Movement

Part Three: Principles of Paradox, and Magnetic Attractions
and Repulsions in the Making of a “Missional Movement”

Part One looked at how different people have been viewing the fragmentation and re-formation of the “missional” movement. Part Two expanded on how there are six streams in what seems to be the next generation after “evangelical” – Emergents, Progressives, Evangelicals, Emergings, Neo-Reformeds, and Missionals – and how they seem to be identify with the “missional movement.”

As I mentioned in an earlier part of this series, I have been in all six streams (or their earlier prototypes) during my Christian experience. By that, I don’t mean just an occasional visit now and again, but extended periods with years of participation. As I’ve experienced a stream by immersing in it, I’ve come to see the pluses and minuses of it, and made adjustments. I think missional will end that series. It seems to integrate more of the pluses of all the other streams and fewer of the minuses. It’s complex, but it makes sense to me. Actually, I’ve been more missional than I realized for nearly 40 years … so, no wonder I didn’t fit in so well in so very many ministry situations before!

And since missional is my home base for “faith and practice,” I’m curious about how elements within these streams might connect or disconnect in a larger missional movement. So, my new questions arise (as always) more from reflections on concrete experiences I’ve had as an insider in them – not from reading books on abstract theory about how movements work or how things should be in the “ideal” church. And right now, I’m wrestling mostly with questions about where various streams will find their entry points into marrying with the missional movement, and what points or perspectives will prove barriers.

Here in Part Three, we’ll explore how “missional” often equates to a “third way” of paradox – those situations where polar opposites co-exist, and on the surface of things that doesn’t seem to make sense, but underneath it actually does. (I need to tell you up front why it’s paradox is crucial to understand, and that’s, because the ongoing worldwide paradigm shift is moving us toward paradox as the dominant way of processing life. If we don’t “get it” soon about paradox, we’re sunk. We won’t be able to navigate the present or the future.) We’ll also look at how paradoxes create “missional magnetic impulses” of attraction and repulsion that affect whether these streams can form a movement in the long run or not. In Part Four, we’ll look at how various discipleship systems and stances toward culture typical within the six streams compare and contrast, and provide either bridges or barriers for collaboration. So … take it slow, here we go! Continue reading

Thoughts on the Missional Movement ~ Part Two

The Fragmentation of Evangelicalism
and the Precipitation of the Missional Movement

Part Two: Six Streams in the “Missional Movement”

Missionary ~ Missional

A lot of individuals and groups use the term missional these days, but mean some vastly different things by it. For some, it’s about The Latest Program or add-on feature – a buzzword designed to attract people who are into what’s new and happening. For others, they seem to use it as a “big tent” concept for any group that holds to being something akin now that mirrors what evangelicalism was before.

For others (like myself), it’s the inverse of being a cross-cultural missionary where we’d go overseas, learn the language and culture, find the “people of peace,” and disciple them and others. Similarly but turned inside out, the missional-minded disciple moves in his/her own country where the Spirit leads, roots into a local neighborhood, listens and learns from the people right there, becomes a “person of peace” who welcomes all with respect and justice, and disciples others.

So, what sounds like group compatibility when we hear “missional” may actually turn out to be irreconcilable differences between underlying paradigms … It’s confusing, as the ways we perceive the world just aren’t the same, even if we’re using the same word to describe our approach.

Continue reading