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

Advertisements

Critique of the “Church Clarity” Scoring System on LGBTQ Policies

Church Clarity is a recently-launched website that promotes churches — especially evangelical ones — clearly stating on their websites their policies on LGBTQ participation. In the homepage section “Our Solution,” they state “Church Clarity is not advocating for policy changes. Together, we’re establishing a new standard for church policy disclosure: We believe that churches have a responsibility to be clear about their policies on their primary websites.” They also state that they “believe that ambiguity is harmful and clarity is reasonable.”

To these ends, their team created a classification/scoring system for how a church website communicates their policies on LGBTQ. So far, their team has applied this system mostly to mega-churches, and they also provide a means for crowd-sourcing information and assessments.

I am for transparency and clarity. And on this issue in particular that has been so contentious, it seems reasonable to expect a church’s or denomination’s overall stance to be accessible and clear for those who seek that information. However, is that assumption fully and really so, does the scoring schema work for all contemporary systems of theologies and policies, and is this enterprise potentially about something besides seeking clarity in disclosure? 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).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

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

Review of *UnLeader* by Lance Ford

Hear ye, hear ye … I have just posted my first-ever book review on Amazon!

It is for UnLeader: Reimagining Leadership … and Why We Must, by Lance Ford (Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2012). I received a review copy in September 2012 and read it then — and have peeked at it (and the stack of notes I wrote!) off and on ever since. I was planning to post a review last year, but other circumstances took over for a while and many things disappeared into that vortex.

However, what the time-lag added to the writing of my review was the reality that for 16 months, UnLeader keeps coming back to mind as really something extraordinary. I hope what I’ve posted will give a fresh and helpful perspective on grasping the value of what Lance Ford has produced, and the gift it is to the Kingdom. I also hope you will buy a copy, read it, and be changed by the  powerful and empowering message that Lance Ford offers!

And here is that review … Continue reading

Thoughts on the Missional Movement ~ Part Nine

The Fragmentation of Evangelicalism
and the Precipitation of the Missional Movement

Part Nine: How These Frameworks Play Out in Our Overall Attitudes, Styles of Interaction, and Community Connections

Review and Preview

In Parts Seven and Eight, we looked at two key issues in how the organizations we create either enhance or hinder discipleship.

  • Access to Discipleship Systems – Is our entry/intake system radically inclusive, temporarily tolerant, or radically exclusive?
  • Discipleship Activities – Is our discipleship system grounded in license, liberty, or legalism?

Another way to consider these concerns is how they work (or don’t) to keep people in the game, so to speak. Have we established an open system, a “centered set” that enhances cooperation around what the Holy Spirit is doing in someone’s life, to keep people engaged and cooperating with God’s principles and His providence? Or have we created a closed system, a “bound set” that creates a competitive environment to shut out and shun those who don’t measure up to “God’s standards” (a term we often use to hide our own idolatrous ideals)?

In Part Nine, we’ll look at some details of how these open or closed systems affect individuals, relationships for peers or partner organizations, and community dynamics – again, using images to illustrate the concepts. Continue reading

Thoughts on the Missional Movement ~ Part Eight

The Fragmentation of Evangelicalism
and the Precipitation of the Missional Movement

Part Eight: The Big Picture of Features and Frameworks in Our Discipleship Systems – Approaches to Discipleship Activities

Review/Preview

In Part Seven, we considered what it looks like to be a congregation that either welcomes, conditionally accepts, or rejects specific kinds of individuals or groups who do (or might) want to follow Jesus Christ as His disciple. That was about access to discipleship. In Part Eight, we’ll look at these approaches’ potential companion parts in discipleship activities and their focuses. Continue reading

Thoughts on the Missional Movement ~ Part Seven

The Fragmentation of Evangelicalism
and the Precipitation of the Missional Movement

Part Seven: The Big Picture of Features and Frameworks in Our Discipleship Systems – Approaches to Discipleship Access

Review …

So far in this series, we’ve looked at how cultural fragmentation and re-formation plays out in the “missional” movement:

  • Underlying information processing modes (i.e.,epistemology) hide at the deepest DNA level of a paradigm system – but affect everything else in the system, both the seen and unseen.
  • That paradigm system is all inclusive of values (axiology), theology, strategies and structures for organizing ourselves, culture, behaviors/lifestyles, and modes of collaboration.
  • Based on some key paradigm differences, the generic “emerging” movement separated into six distinct streams.
  • Some of these streams are more likely to resonate with the missional paradigm and find a sort of magnetic attraction to it, and some not so much because they’ll find missional features more or less repulsive to their paradigm. Still, individuals within those streams might gravitate toward being missional.
  • Significant differences in paradigms often make it difficult for people or partner organizations to function together – constant culture clash on goals and means are indicators of potentially irreconcilable differences.
  • The systems of legalism versus license versus liberty are irreconcilable. Only liberty brings true freedom and healing; legalism and license bring bondage and wounds.
  • Three central features of being missional are: (1) Contextual – making truth accessible in the current culture’s language, without compromising the truthful nature of the content. (2), Incarnational – living out our faith so people can see what Christianity and Christ-like character looks like. (3) Sojourning – seeing ourselves as guests in our host culture, not controllers of it, because the Church is not a theocratic nation like Israel.

These aren’t just tasty little theoretical hors d’oeuvres for some nice theological snackathon. All of these elements have weighty implications. They affect how we go about our everyday lives as individual disciples, ministry teams, and communities of Christians. And to some of those key impacts we now turn. Continue reading