A-Interpolators Tribe

  • Foreword: The Problem of Social Change
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Project Overview
  • 3. Topics / Tentative Chapter Outline
  • 4. First Words: Welcome to Our Tribe!
  • 5. What is the Interpolator Paradigm, and Who are Interpolators?

5.1 Learning and Living that are Interdisciplinary and Interlogical
5.2 Holistic/Systems Approach
5.3 Paradoxical
5.4 Culturally Fluid
5.5 Beyond Cultural Boundaries of Masculine/Feminine
5.6 Relationally Inclusive
5.7 Multicultural, Change-Oriented, and Intercultural
5.8 Entrustment, Power, and Leadership
5.9 Transformative Suffering
5.10 Aesthetics
5.11 Conclusion

Interpolators Tribe –

Intercultural Partners for Kingdom Culture Transformations

© 2006 Brad Sargent

This page originally appeared on my “futuristguy randomocities” blog. Added here November 30, 2007. Last update, January 16, 2006.

The following material is a draft of a book proposal I have worked on for many months. I am posting it on my blog because I think many who are Interpolators – cultural in-betweeners – will find validation for their perspectives and insights for their redemptive roles. In math, an interpolation is an in-between point between two known points. As I’m using the term here, an Interpolator is someone who embodies singificantly more “Kingdom Culture” than is currently the norm. So, they represent a role-modeling in-between position between our current state of Kingdom culture transformation, and out ultimate goal of living out Christlikeness in every dimension of life.

I would great appreciate your leaving comments about what you like or don’t like, what did or did not make sense, how it was helpful or not, etc. And I would also appreciate your prayers for getting this material published, if this is meant for such a time as this.

A couple of important notes: Please realize that it’s normal to write certain portions of book proposals in a more impersonal, third-person style. The actual book wouldn’t be that way. The current form is to overview the material for potential publishers. They need to know what the book is about, and whether you can actually writer, because publishing a book by an author they don’t know is like them taking you out on a $30,000+ blind date! Seriously! It costs a significant amount to publish a book by traditional methods and recoup costs. Anyway, once I have worked the proposal through again, maybe it will be time to send it to my literary agent and we’ll see what happens to it from there.

Thanks – Brad

Foreword: The Problem of Social Change

We hear a lot of talk these days about “transforming our communities.” But we’ve limited ourselves through over-reliance on singular visionary leaders who cast a vision for change, yet who generally do not yet embody what it is they advocate. So, while they may be genuinely visionary, their vision is just as clouded by cultural blind spots as anyone else’s.

Perhaps we’ve composited people into visionary leadership teams, and that helps reduce the number of blind spots. But usually we’re still dealing with abstract theories without concrete role models. And collaging a number of perspectives may be gluing them together at best, not necessarily integrating them into a coherent, holistic approach.

Thus, we continue to attempt culture shifts by casting forward a vision. Surely, there must be disciples out there who can help us “back-cast” realistic preparation for our changes, based on their own lifestyle that is closer to the Kingdom than ours. But how do we find them? Are they already in our midst, but we’ve overlooked them? Are they somewhere out there? How do we identify them? What sort of partnerships might motivate a collaboration?

Who are “Interpolators”? focuses on crosscultural partners. It gives a framework for embracing Interpolators – highly “intercultural” people who represent a median point between our current culture and our goal of Kingdom culture, and who can role model what a next stage of transformation looks like for us. The book also presents a theological perspective on the strategic roles played by bicultural, multicultural, and intercultural people in the Bible (e.g., David, Daniel, Esther, Paul, Barnabas, Lydia, Timothy, Apollos) and their mentors. It overviews an interdisciplinary understanding of the psychological, cultural, and spiritual processes by which a child naturally develops into a cultural Interpolator. It offers informal assessment tools for readers to understand their own cultural fluidity, and where their best roles in corporate cultural transformation might be, based on that particular kind and degree of ability. Finally, it suggests ways that adults can intentionally increase their skills in cultural connection, even if they will always do “interpolator-speak” as a second cultural language with an accent.

1. Introduction

Sometimes you need an outsider to catalyze dialogue into new directions. With Who are “Interpolators”?, Brad Sargent injects an intriguing new voice into the intersecting dialogues on traditional, transitioning, and emerging church paradigms. A cultural interpreter, futurist, and Kingdom Culture practitioner, Sargent’s own Christian journey embodies many of the competing approaches in the current mix. He is post-liberal, post-fundamental, post-evangelical, post-seeker-sensitive, post-postmodern, and post-emergent … but definitely pro-Kingdom, pro-missional, and pro-cultural contextualization.

Sargent is an Interpolator – an intercultural representative of what the Kingdom looks like, who stands between that reality and the realities of those who are moving toward that destination. He writes as an insider of a specific Interpolator Christotribe that functions intuitively from an integrative paradigm. He shows and tells what this comprehensive integrative approach is and where it comes from. He speculates on why it thrives in the contemporary milieu of constant change, and shares a biblical prescription for what it should and should not become culturally in order to stay true to Kingdom principles. He also describes what redemptive roles Interpolators could play as Kingdom Culture brokers and peace makers in a world of increasing cultural change and cross-cultural conflict.

He addresses from personal and tribal experience typical hot-button issues and paradigm conflicts among Interpolators and other dialoguers on what the 21st-century church should be and do. This covers theories, theologies, operating systems, structures, methodologies, and practices. He hopes an understanding of his minority integrative paradigm and its differences from various majority views will help all kinds of disciples better understand a robust Kingdom Culture paradigm. But his deeper passion is to help everyday disciples with a practical system on how to move forward in a trajectory toward Jesus Christ and Kingdom Culture from their own unique personal and cultural starting places.

2. Project Overview

In Who are “Interpolators”?, cultural systems interpreter and futurist Brad Sargent makes the case that an intercultural approach to processing life will eventually become a dominant paradigm in the post-Christian West. This stems from an accelerated percentage of children being reared in situations of increasing complexity and conflict.

He posits that interculturalism is an organic development for some individuals who are reared in multicultural or other “in-between zone” environments, such as children with conflicting combinations of learning styles or cultural backgrounds, and children whose parents are of different races, different cultures, or divorced. Such situations set them up for a range of internal conflicts, such as cognitive dissonance, dissociative imaginings, emotional ambivalence, passive/aggressive behaviors, and culture shock.

As children move into and through adolescence, they process the internal conflicts caused by such issues. Some choose the route of integration in order to live in-between the tension, while others segment the opposites in order to reduce the conscious level of conflict. So, as these formative background social factors increase, the number of intercultural “Interpolators” will also increase.

The integrative Interpolator paradigm involves sophisticated modes of holistic processing. It is interlogical (draws on thinking skills of analysis, synthesis, symbiosis, and paradox), interdisciplinary (cross-pollinates academic disciplines from arts, sciences, humanities, and technology), and intercultural (draws in the best that other cultures offer that one’s native culture is missing). It is a universal experience that is intergender, intergenerational, and international – including men and women, girls and boys from different generations and countries, all of whom hold in common the results of broad cultural fluidity and creativity that arise from a profile of these unusual formative experiences.

Who are “Interpolators”?is a pioneering, intermediate-level introduction that describes the practitioner profile and internally consistent underlying systems of Interpolators – one tribe that lives out this paradigm. It focuses on Interpolators who follow Jesus Christ. These radical disciples tend to embody a holistic missional lifestyle in what are some of the edges of Western culture currently the farthest away from the reach of traditional, transitional, and even “emerging church” paradigms.

If the author’s conclusions on the origins, profiles, and plausible futures of Interpolators are even partially accurate, it follows that Interpolators are well-matched for missional living in the globalized cultures of the near future. This is because intercultural people know intuitively how to navigate differences, conflict, and change. This also makes Interpolators a “barometer tribe.” They indicate pressures toward change for the non-integrative Christian systems that typify most of the traditional, transitioning, and emerging church paradigms. The message embodied in the lives of Interpolators may seem harsh, but it is geared to contextualizing well in the world as it is becoming: Either adapt to the emerging world of globalization without adopting toxic elements from its multicultures, or continue declining into cultural irrelevance despite the eternal relevance of the Gospel. Interpolators offer a case study in a paradigm that shows us the way forward.

Who are “Interpolators”?is the result of over 10 years of focused attempts to put language to what Sargent and other adult Interpolators do intuitively as their natural responses in life. He writes primarily for his own Christotribe, hoping many will find “ah-ha moments” that clarify and crystallize their indigenous identity. He also includes “translation” and “hot button” sections that pinpoint typical areas of confusion and conflict that Interpolators encounter with disciples from other paradigms.

For instance, disciples from less integrative paradigms and approaches frequently accuse Interpolators of being worldly, relativists, universalists, spiritual-cultural syncretists or even “new agers,” ditsy, random, chaotic, ADHD, and quite a series of other serious charges. To which Interpolators could respond that their critiquers often have a secular-spiritual split which manifests the essence of gnosticism. Or that some non-Interpolators overvalue rationality to the point of excluding the imagination or emotions or appropriate mysticism, and thus diminish the image of God in us. Or that some non-Interpolators attempt to convert people to their culture first before they can convert to Christ – a heresy that was dealt with at the Apostolic council in Jerusalem where they declared that gentiles did not have to become Jews first in order to become Christians. Or that some non-Interpolators have all the right parts to biblical Christianity, but in their systems, these parts are disconnected and thus lose their dynamism. Or that many views of leadership within Christendom are actually elitist and align more with the power structures theories and practices of Mao than with the Kingdom Culture of Christ.

Yes, there are many, many points of contention. Some will allow continued cooperative work together across paradigms, but many of them involve perspectives that one or both sides cannot (or will not) yield upon, and so, cooperative work may be difficult, if not impossible.

However, there may also be grains of truth in many of the critiques that others put forth to Interpolators. They (we) would do well to understand the dangers of overconnection to the point of toxic smothering. And of seeing too many things in terms of grey or rainbows instead of black-or-white when Scripture clearly presents something as an issue of obey or disobey with no room in between. And, given their conflicted complexities, the potential dangers of some kinds of Interpolators taking a lead role in situations where decisive actions are necessary.

Every paradigm and perspective has blind spots – gaps and excesses – and this includes Interpolators. In this book, Sargent presents a model for addressing gaps (what he also calls “spiritual osteoporosis”) and excesses (“spiritual bone spurs”) in any paradigm, as compared with the ideal of full-on Kingdom Culture.

In all of this, Sargent is careful to speak about and into his tribe. He does not speak for the tribe (nor does any other single person). But he has earned credibility in many circles – especially in transitional, emerging, and integrative realms – and perhaps he has reached critical mass in developing his material for just such a time as this. Brad Sargent is not well known. However, among those from a range of paradigms who are aware of his work, many tend to see him at least as a pioneering practitioner, if not as a paradigm shifter. He has worked in on-the-edge Christian training ministries and recovery movement agencies, as well as in church planting, community non-profits, and doing cultural systems analysis and missional strategizing.

Who are “Interpolators”?is the first book in Opal Systems – Sargent’s training series on integrative approaches to missional contextualization of the Gospel, personal lifestyle, and social systems among contemporary cultures and spiritualities. Graduate-level materials have already been written with an original, unified system that integrates epistemology, cultural analysis, contextualization, apologetics, and construction of theology. Intermediate training modules and media resources have already been outlined, based on the technical Opal Systems material.

3. Topics / Tentative Chapter Outline

  • First Words.
  • Inside the Interpolator Paradigm and the Interpolator Tribe (Introduction).
  • Who we are and what our paradigm is (Profile).
  • Where we come from (Social Set-Up and Personal Processes).
  • Why this paradigm works well in a milieu of constant change (Cultural Fluidity).
  • Who we should and should not be culturally in order to stay true to biblical principles (The Kingdom Culture Model).
  • What we could become: Redemptive roles Interpolators could play in the world (Culture Brokers and Peace Makers).
  • “Comparadigms” – Exploring confusion and conflicts among various layers of Christian systems (Translating Integration; Hot Buttons).
  • Moving together toward a Kingdom Culture paradigm (Trajectories of Transformation).

4. First Words: Welcome to Our Tribe!

Do you follow Jesus, but find yourself mystified or marginalized by the debates over what it means to be a Christian in contemporary Western cultures? Have experiences in churches and ministries left you wondering about the value of investing in such institutions? Do you long for the support of others in your risk-taking version of everyday discipleship where the integrity of embodying your beliefs is critical to an authentic identity?

I have long identified myself with this set of outsider Christoculture Tribes, but it has taken a long time to understand my own particular tribe, and to process with my friends on putting language to how it is we function. Starting in the mid-1990s, I discovered myself growing into roles as an “accidental elder” and a “holder of history” in a group that, for lack of a better term, embodies an “integrative paradigm.” Members of this distinctive multigenerational group are molded and motivated in directions that simply did not fit any existing spiritual systems anywhere within the traditional, transitional, or emergenal churches.

Our tribe has no formal name, but we do have a clearly describable identity. We are all about intentionally experiencing life in rigorous ways that yield redemptive change in the personal, cultural, and societal realms of life. We function intuitively in ways that are noticeably different from other churches and ministries.

We’d be recognizable by our drive to integrate life in ways that make us whole and holistic. That distinguishes us from most traditional churches, which … well … just have holes in their approaches to life. For instance, those based in liberal theology don’t emphasize personal morality, and those based in conservative theological generally don’t emphasize social justice or ecology. We function naturally in the new edge of Western cultures. So, being indigenous to the cultural spaces where change is makes us different from transitioning churches, because they are coming from cross-cultural approaches. Maybe we already represent much of what they’re trying to become like. And we’re intercultural and intergenerational, which sets us apart from emerging models that often orbit around multiculturalism and “monogenerationalism.”

It was like our tribe was separated at birth and then scattered to the four directions of the globe. Gradually, we’ve found people like ourselves through the most unlikely connections – one here, a few there – and on any continent, from any country. It doesn’t take a huge amount of interaction to know in our gut that God had set up a chain of “divine dominoes” in order for us to stumble across another one.

As a linguist, cultural interpreter, and futurist, I’m used to finding patterns in whatever datasets and domains surround me. Who are “Interpolators”? boils down over 10 years of my attempts to think about my experiences with other insiders and with outsiders, and put concrete language to the intuitive system of theories, paradigms, structures, and methods that drive our tribe. I trust that my descriptions won’t dissect our approaches in ways that kill them, but I do hope that the terms and metaphors I use help us amplify our activities for more intentional impact.

I also talk openly about the things we Interpolators both are and do that drive other disciples nuts about us. Compared with other life-ways, our integrative path to following Jesus does hold many differences – some quite stark, others more gentle. So, to encourage constructive consideration of our systems among readers from diverse Christian-cultural backgrounds, I include what I’m calling “comparadigm sections.” These overview typical points of conflict between our integrative intercultural systems and those of traditional, transitional, and emerging approaches.

5. What is the Interpolator Paradigm, and Who are Interpolators?

So, who are Interpolators, and why is it that we don’t fit in with churches, although we are definitely dedicated to following Jesus Christ, being transformed into His likeness, and seeing His Kingdom manifested in ways that transform our cultures?

Primarily, we are men and women who find we don’t fit well elsewhere because we naturally rely on some sophisticated mental models to processing and embodying Kingdom life. A lot of that just comes from the ways we’re “wired,” while other aspects simply take a lot of intentional effort. But that’s what spiritual integrity is all about: perseverance through difficulties and doubts in order to see our selves and our worlds transformed.

Here are some generalizations about our distinguishing trademarks of how we function in our worlds and in the world. I know they don’t fit everyone in our tribe, but I suspect a lot of us will resonate deeply with many parts of this profile!

5.1 Learning and Living that are Interdisciplinary and Interlogical

Though we may be theoreticians, we generally favor being practitioners with a strong passion for impact that transforms our spheres of influence in the world. We seek valid personal input from multiple sources – thinking, imagining, feeling, relating, praying, and reflecting – and seek to bring integrity into our personhood. We see the wisdom in a statement made by A.J. Gossip, a moderately well known preacher in his era during the mid-20th century: “A basic trouble is that most Churches limit themselves unnecessarily by addressing their message almost exclusively to those who are open to religious impression through the intellect, whereas … there are at least four other gateways – the emotions, the imagination, the aesthetic feeling, and the will – through which they can be reached.” Interpolators want to engage all of those human dimensions – it energizes us!

Also, we tend to have very broad intellectual interests that cross-pollinate one another. We are interested in a whole lot of everything – arts, sciences, film, social sciences, music, humanities, media, technology, business … in short, anything that makes culture tick.

In fact, we have so many interests, we’ve undoubtedly heard criticisms like: You need to focus! Why can’t you pick something and stick with it? You’ll never make a living unless you specialize. Sadly, what others may not realize is that we do focus – but our range of interests is usually far broader and deeper than theirs, and it often takes many more years of focusing and integrating multiple disciplines together before we can make our best contributions in work and the world. We do stick with many things in the long run, but only stay with it a while in the short run. So it appears we lack mental clarity or will-power, when exactly the opposite is true. It’s just that we’re also motivated by imagination and emotation, not just cognition or volition. When our interest in one subject area runs dry … temporarily … we shift to another discipline. So, give us enough years and you’ll see the pattern in our lives is actually a helicoid – not a mere circle, and not a linear path, but a three-dimensional spiral cone that goes broader and deeper through time – the union of both circle and line!

These may not be the typical ways that most people process life and learning, but it happens to be ours. That God made us complexly different is no reason to avoid validating us – or to think that we are invalids!

5.2 Holistic/Systems Approach

We process life holistically. We consider the whole to be more than the sum of the parts. Being holistic isn’t just about having all the right parts – that’s just being comprehensive. (As I coined the saying in one of my bumper-sticker theologs: “In ministry as in medicine, to dissect it is to kill it.”) So, being holistic is “also” about organic integration – having the right parts connecting in right ways that bring life.

Somehow, many of us Interpolators ended up with the ability to move back and forth between the forest and the trees, between the global big picture and the analytic details. It’s part of being paradoxical, but it is also a function of a systems mindset. We intuitively grasp implications of a complex system when changes occur within any one dimension of it. This means we see the holes and probable unexpected consequences in other people’s approaches and actions, which can either prove constructive or cause conflict, depending on the responses on both sides.

(P.S. Yes, we cannot or do not always perceive in ourselves the same kinds of flaws we can detect in others. Ahh … the foibles and follies of being human! This just proves that we need each other in a system of human community, because I cannot become more without my sum including someone else’s who have and live what I can’t, don’t, or don’t yet.)

Unless we have a bent toward expressing a personal mean streak, we really aren’t bring up all those “Yes, but …” statements all the time just to be a nasty nuisance and a blockade to progress. We want the best, wisest possibilities to flourish! But we are just wired in ways that make it so we can’t not see flaws, fixes, conflicts, constructive changes, etc.

It’s tough being an Interpolator … an “in-betweener. ” Our holistic systems perspective bugs some people because we bring up the problems. It bugs other people because we bring up possible solutions. It bugs us if we sit there and say or do nothing …

5.3 Paradoxical

We tend to be reflective about apparent opposites in life and process these apparent conflicts in ways that embrace the tension rather than seek to resolve it in a one-sided manner that removes the irritation. These opposites can manifest as cognitive dissonance, dissociative imaginings, emotional ambivalence, passive/aggressive behaviors, and culture shock. Sometimes we may feel that the tension will split us apart, and we have to work intentionally and perseveringly at turning them into dynamic tensions instead. And that’s exhausting work!

People who want to understand us need to know that we often feel tortured by the ways we are wired. We are not masochists, but these paradoxical tensions make it look that way. Imagine what it would be like to be stuck in emotional ambivalence for 24 hours, for instance. Excruciating! And “emotional ambivalence” doesn’t mean tiny twinges of emotional back-and-forth. It’s like being caught in between the tumultuous spray of two fire hydrants opposite each other, pushing you around like some limp rag in between them.

Also, our deep, paradoxical sense of mystery about God’s involvement in all things gives us natural bridges for relating with spiritual people of all kinds. Also, we generally do not hold to rigid cultural stereotypes of masculine and feminine. Thus, our tribe’s men are often emotionally aware and sensitive, and our women are rational and strong. (After all, since we are meant to become more like Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we integrate into ourselves the reflections of all His character into all of our personhood, regardless of whether we are male or female, and regardless of what our surrounding culture says is appropriate to masculine or feminine?)

5.4 Culturally Fluid

We relate easily with people from a wide range of subcultural backgrounds. We enjoy talking with senior citizens and playing with children. We consider people as peers we can learn from, regardless of their economic class or educational background. We may pick up local dialects and accents easily, as the word choices and speech patterns of other ring like beautiful music to us.Perhaps we’ve had people say things like: I don’t know why I’m telling you this, because I hardly ever share about [fill in the blank]. Or something like, I can’t believe I just told you that – I haven’t even talked about it with my therapist! Or, You’re so easy to talk with …Are walking around with an invisible-to-us flashing neon sign over us that says, “This person is safe. Tell him/her anything.” In fact, it’s as if we are harbors with hundreds of places where people’s boats can dock safely. Or, as I often talk about, we are like mega-Legos, with lots of “landing sites” where other people can connect in with who we are, our interpretations of life, and/or what we do. Or, we’re like “cultural tofu,” able to absorb the local cultural flavors quite easily, making ourselves and our hosts or guests feel comfortable about our presence. Ironically, because we can do many things and fit in everywhere, we often feel we have no identity of our own anywhere. This sense of global citizen who feels lonely may be one of the tell-tale signs of being an Interpolator.

5.5 Beyond Cultural Boundaries of Masculine/Feminine

Interpolators tend to be “psychologically androgynous.” We present all kinds of evidences of not fitting into the traditional cultural compartments of roles exclusively for men or for women. We bridge beyond the traditional stereotypes of masculine and feminine, drawing together the positive human qualities from each. For instance, Interpolator men tend to be in touch with emotions, enjoy spending time with kids, and may like to cook or do other supposedly women-only activities. Interpolator women can analyze objectively, start businesses, and trouble-shoot management problems.

I’m not advocating psychological androgyny per se, but instead, a biblical integrity that gives us far more freedom to embrace and express the full range of God’s character qualities. In Scripture, God presents himself with a range of terms, images, and metaphors, some masculine and some feminine. If we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, then we should not be bound by a truncated, non-Trinitarian list of men-must-act-like-this and women-must-act-like-that, as dictated by any culture – sacred or secular. We can/should integrate all those character qualities, because all of us are made in God’s image.

In fact, I think this sort of integrating of the broadest imageness of God in us is part of biblical mysticism. And, this process of integrating as complementary what our culture says are conflicting or opposites, is one way that Interpolators become bicultural. But it also tends to put Interpolators in a position where they are not in the mainstream of their social surroundings, as they are far more culturally fluid than the average person.

5.6 Relationally Inclusive

We welcome relationships with people who are different from ourselves. We are often what the New Testament calls “people of peace.” We respect and welcome a wide range of people from various ages, races, national origins, genders, and (sub)cultural backgrounds.

Perhaps part of why we are so open to so many kinds of other people is that we tend to perceive universal human patterns that cut across any kinds of unique differences. For instance, since we have usually experienced a strong degree of marginalization by others, we relate with and befriend the sojourner who is an outsider in our land. We tend to believe God has implanted Kingdom destinies in both individuals and cultures, so why shouldn’t we be willing to embrace those from other starting points who are on a different trajectory toward becoming Christlike and manifesting Kingdom Culture?

Part of this has to do with trust and patience and letting God change people on His timetable and issue agenda, not ours. As one acquaintance observed of me and contrasted with himself, “You’re more likely to start with somebody at one hundred and see if they lose any points, while I start with them at zero and see if they earn any.” (P.S. A down side of this is that we can be naïve taken in by others who use others to advance their own purposes. But if the opposite evil to be so cynical that we fail to develop relationships, is either one less bad?)

5.7 Multicultural, Change-Oriented, and Intercultural

We respect the diversities that God created among people, and find beauty in differences. Related to this, we thrive in situations of change, because we are already used to diversity. In fact, we intentionally seek out diversity because we know we grow when we are immersed in situations with people different from ourselves – they help us see our gaps and excesses, as we do the same for them.

We probably ran around with kids from multiple cliques or were in various kinds of clubs during our teen years in school. We may discover that one of our friends can’t stand another person who is our friend, but we can get along with both of them … even if they choose to keep separate from each other. And, if we were starting a new company or non-profit agency, and had to pick a board of directors, it would naturally represent as broad a range of people types as we could get.

However, being multicultural is not enough – it often remains a relatively static acceptance and appreciation of other people. We Interpolators find that cultural diversity brings an important potential dynamic to personal and social change, but that possibility is only activated when we integrate interculturally – actively learn from the differences between ourselves and other individuals and cultures, in order to complete our set of perspectives and practices that make for a more holistic personhood and culture. But intercultural integration has to start somewhere, and that is with multicultural relationships – which is a natural perspective for us anyway.

5.8 Entrustment, Power, and Leadership

We manifest a flexible leadership/followship model of mutual-respect give-and-take community-building. Our perspective on cooperative enterprises focuses on “entrustment” in people’s desire to connect and participate. Entrustment is based on an organic metaphor of symbiosis (two organisms living in mutually beneficial ways that make both far more together than each could be alone). This organic view of power makes our intercultural outworking of leadership quite different from a typical financial metaphor of “investment.” Investing in others often expects there to be relational pay-offs, as I share the best of what I have with you, so that I can do something productive with the overflow of my assets. But entrustment requires me to rely on you to share your best, while I do the same, and we trust that in this new connection, we will also draw out from each other what has been underutilized in each of us.

In the entrustment model, every person is a “leader,” based on his or her giftings. Thus, we instinctively defer to those with specific gifts, while at the same time we all show a willingness to serve in any area so that the needs of the group are met. This makes sense according to the New Testament, where the “one another” passages are the realm of responsibility for all who follow Jesus Christ and where spiritual gifts are sort of espresso versions of the one-anothers. So, no act of service is below our dignity, although not every kind of service counts as the best stewardship of our spiritual gifts in the long run. We must counterweigh whether we are letting our general responsibilities or our spiritual giftings ruin the dynamic tension (there’s that paradoxical approach again).

We Interpolators tend to resist systems where one person is “the leader” and is “in charge.” Instead, anyone who “charges the system” is a leader. And yes, this system is imperfect because we are flawed. However, entrustment holds far greater potential for sustainable Kingdom Culture movement because it truly respects the leadership potential in every person, in contrast to many existing models where the people upon whose efforts “the leader” builds his vision are treated more as bits of energy for the project system than as members of a Body. (And, if I recall my studies of Maoism accurately, the Christendom view of leader-as-director shockingly echoes Mao’s view of manipulating people as elements of power to accomplish the leader’s vision! Selah …)

5.9 Transformative Suffering

Interpolators embrace suffering as an opportunity for transformation at the deepest levels of who we are. This is neither “spiritual masochism” nor a “spiritual power-trip.” We don’t like to undergo difficulties and conflict and feeling the weight of consequences to the sins and brokenness of ourselves and others. But we do see how suffering can spark something radically redemptive.

In fact, we look for the redemptive angles in activities and relationships. So, we are likely to remain in some kind of connection with people who may have wounded us deeply, in order to be available to them, should they come to the realization of their deeds and seek to change. Our tribe’s men and women become spiritual-surrogate fathers and mothers to those who are literal or figurative orphans. Members of our tribe may stand in the gap to serve churches and other organizations where we ourselves have been wounded by people and paradigms. We seek to flush out toxins from the Body of Christ, which often means being an instrument of peace-making who will be impacted adversely in the process – but only temporarily.

In a way, we approach the concepts of redemptive transformation and suffering far more concretely than philosophically. For instance, instead of just praying for God to redeem a situation and bring good out of evil, we could “interpolate” ourselves back into situations as a concrete answer to prayer. We could go into difficult places and spaces in order to demonstrate Christ’s love because how would these people experience good that overcomes evil otherwise? This is not the same as the older theologically liberal notion of changing the evil structures of society through socio-political activism, and thereby “saving” people. It is becoming the good that overcomes the evil through relevance with righteousness and compassion without compromise, so those who have been oppressed by the Evil One can experience the fruits of Kingdom Culture (i.e., socio-cultural Christlikeness) here on earth.

Redemptive acts are a mystery. They cannot always be entered into intentionally, but if we are intentional about counteracting evil we likely we find that God providentially put us into such situations. Sometimes, to paraphrase Soren Kierkegaard, We can only interpret such acts looking backwards, but we must do them living forwards. For instance, 1 Corinthians and Romans help us understand what I have called the “agent of damage/agent of healing” principle. Just as through Adam – the first male – sin entered the world, and death by sin, by the Last or Second Adam – the perfect male, Jesus Christ – the penalty of sin is paid for and the power of death is broken. Sometimes there has to be an agent of healing who fits the same category or profile as the one who inflicted the wounds.

I’ve recently been in two situations where I served as an agent of healing. In one, a man had wounded a particular woman emotionally and spiritually. My presence offered a safe and trustworthy male to help this woman process that relationship, validate her perception of having been hurt, and pray for our Father’s comfort to be with her as 2 Corinthians 1 promises. That was an unintentional agent-of-healing situation. I just “happened” to be available and it made a difference for her.

Also, I will soon finish an 18-month project that I undertook to help correct an inadequate ministry internship system that led to my being wounded deeply a number of years ago. When I heard this job would be open, I decided to apply because I believed I could make a difference for all those who come after me. And many of the specific flaws in this system have been corrected – not all by me, but many with my influence and intensive labors to make things right.

Meanwhile, I am not only participating in Christ’s Kingdom by being an agent of healing, I am participating by being a recipient. Although I cannot go into detail at this time, there may be a time when I can reveal more. The basic situation is that someone who invalidated my approach to ministry as being useless to any church has been “cosmically counteracted” by a parallel kind of person who has asked how to disseminate my ideas. Who knows …

Social change is highly valued by our Interpolator tribes. But redemptive transformation rarely happens spontaneously, direct from the hand of God. It seems that usually, He brilliantly places His people into providential positions where they can live out the Kingdom in ways that catalyze change in others, while they undergo the fires of filling up the sufferings of Christ in ways that also refine and transform self.

5.10 Aesthetics

As I use the term, aesthetics is not the same as creativity. They are related, but creativity is more about production based on imagination, while aesthetics is more about interpretation based on a paradoxical-tension understanding of polar opposites: form and function, abstract idea and concrete manifestation, chaos and stability, etc.

This means we can find beauty in far more than just human art or God’s art – nature. My sense of Interpolators is that we see patterns of elegance in more places than most people do, because we have developed into interpreters of many things – seeing or assigning significance to events, objects, teachings, relationships, etc. We can even find beauty beyond suffering, by seeing how God is at work in subtle and overt ways to bring personal and social transformation in and through His Kingdom people.

5.11 Conclusion

This is not a typical paradigm within the Church, although various parts of this profile might be found in many corners of it. Nor is our approach dominant at this time (though it there is good reason to believe a non-Christian version of it could well emerge as the primary paradigm in the global culture of the near future).But so what? So what if only a minority of those following Christ are Interpolators?

Well, if it is an accurate conclusion that the world has already been moving in the direction of this paradigm, then Christians embodying an Interpolator lifestyle and worldview could make for a world of difference!

The “scorecards” that interpolators use to define success for new ministry development are contextualized for the world as it is becoming, even though it does not resonate with the churches as they generally are. That is worth thinking about …


3 thoughts on “A-Interpolators Tribe

  1. Brad, this is a good proposal for a book. It resonates with me in lots of ways. The practical applications of how this tribe lives out their particular paradigm helps to anchor it, so you can identify with it more easily. It helps unpack the density/complexity of thinking.

  2. BRAD!
    I have been trying to find you for months!! Can you send me your contact info? (We met at Exodus US Conference at Asbury in KY back in the mid 90s where I led the worship that year, if you remember.) Your insights are extremely needed in the eastern and southern church now more than ever. I need to speak to you if possible. Every Blessing,
    Clay McLean

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