Archive for the “Change The World” Category

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Nelson MandelaLong Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela, the man whose long walk to freedom transformed the evil apartheid system of South Africa, has died.

I will never forget the day I was lucky enough to be at Wembley Stadium with my friend Derek in 1990 to hear Nelson Mandela speak just two months after he was released from prison.  It was a day that shaped my life.

We watched him from high in the back of the stands off to the right of the stage.  We had spent the day watching some of the best bands on the planet but none came close to the charismatic presence of Madiba.

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

An astonishing man who rejected hate and embraced forgiveness. May he rest in peace and may we pursue his dream of a world where all are valued and equal.

 

Comments No Comments »

We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. (Simon Sinek)

In his TED talk Simon Sinek tells why the ‘why’ is important. Much more important than the ‘what’ or the ‘how’.

I work for a Church. I think my job is about the ‘why’ but very often it has little to do with ‘why’ and much more to do with ‘how’ and ‘what’.

Over the past 20 years the church in the West has declined. It’s a long and sad story that has been told often. In response to that story people have come up with plans, strategies and programmes. You’ve probably heard them all.

‘If we do this people will come’.

Sounds like ‘Field of Dreams’ doesn’t it? Except it doesn’t. Not quite. In the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ Ray builds a baseball diamond in his back yard against everyone’s advice. He goes on his journey to Fenway because he believes that he will find something significant there. He builds the baseball diamond so he can share what he believes. He doesn’t tell anyone what they should see, or how they can see it. Just that a bunch of dead baseball players seem to show up and play in his back yard baseball pitch.

Sinek thinks that ‘why’ is the golden question. I think he’s right.

People didn’t turn up to hear Dr King for him. They went for themselves. He didn’t talk to them about his plan, he talked about his dream.

Obama did the same. Remember the signs? HOPE.

The SNP did the same. ‘We believe in Scotland’. Relentlessly positive about what could be.

So what is the Church’s ‘why’?

People don’t follow Jesus because it will make their minister feel better. They don’t come to church to make the person who sits beside them feel better.

They follow because they believe. They follow because they believe that God’s grace and forgiveness will change their lives.

That’s not the story we tell. Our story is all about ‘how’ and ‘why’.

If you love God this is how you should behave.

You should love God because if you don’t you’ll go to hell.

That’s the story we tell.

We tell a story of joining a programme or a class or a group, not a story of lives and a world transformed. We tell a story where we apologise for being small or poor or not very good at this not of amazing things done by ordinary people helped by God.

We tell the story of Jesus like this:

“God sent Jesus to die on the cross because we are so terrible. Our sins are forgiven, but we need to earn that forgiveness over and over again because we are all still miserable sinners. Don’t do that. Don’t wear that. Don’t listen to that or love that person. Don’t have sex. Don’t have fun.”

Let’s contrast that with how Jesus asked people to follow Him…

“Follow me and your lives will be transformed.”

Nothing about Jesus invitation is about Him. It isn’t a command and it’s not even about Him. It’s about them.

I will make YOU different… Come with me and YOUR life will never be the same again.

OK.

Now, what is it you want me to do?

That’s not our story. That’s not the one we tell.

It should be.

But it’s not.

We explain the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. We call it theology or a sermon. We don’t tell people the ‘why’. Our ‘why’ is simple and strange and compelling and transforming.

God loves you.

Yes you.

Yes, even you.

Not just good people or straight people or white people or rich people or clever people or left footed people or any other label.

God loves YOU. He loves you so much that he sent his only son to die so that we don’t have to worry or be scared and so that we can live life free of guilt and shame and doubt and worry.

The ‘how’ and the ‘what’ are interesting. But the WHY… now that’s a story we should tell.

Update: Here’s the new Apple ad… If  you don’t believe what Sinek is saying.  Watch and see if they mention the ‘how’ or the ‘what’…

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr1s_B0zqX0 if you’re using one of Apple’s flash free devices)

Not once… but you want a macbook, ipad, ipad mini, ipod or iphone, even though they never mention any of them by name, tell you how much they are or even where you can buy them.

That’s the power of ‘why’.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments 2 Comments »

944223_10151811527570466_195877926_n

My race pack for the National Lottery Anniversary Run has arrived!  As you can see I’m number 248 and I’m in the red start wave.  That’s the first wave so I’m starting to worry that I put the wrong time as my prediction!!!

I’m really looking forward to the run.  The course is slightly different to last year, partly because all the temporary venues have been removed from the Olympic Park.  It’s still 5 miles and I’m still hoping for a sub 40 minute time but that’s going to depend on lots of things, mostly the weather and the volume of people.

The forecast for the weekend is looking HOT but I’ve had a few runs in the heat recently so I’m hoping I’ll cope.  I keep telling myself I managed to run 26.2 miles in 26C so this should be fine!

This time last year we were all still wondering what the Olympics would hold.  Would the opening ceremony be any good?  Would the British athletes cope with the pressure of a home games?  Would world records tumble?

The answer was a resounding YES.  The opening was incredible, the athletes performed and world records were smashed.

Most of all we wondered what the games’ legacy might be?  Would they ‘inspire a generation’?

Well, the places for this run sold out in hours.  The places for the 2014 London Marathon ballot went in record time.  parkrun is growing every week.  Cycling participation is at an all time high.  And a Scot won Wimbledon.

It seems like something is happening…

 

Tags: , , ,

Comments No Comments »

recovery-sign-resizeIn the west, we encourage goal setting. In fact, we’re obsessed with goals – that end point we are striving so hard to reach.

We jump through hoop after hoop, stepping-stone after stepping-stone, sacrificing everything just to get to that finish line. But once we get there, we realize our thinking was flawed.

Now we’re unhappy again and need to set another goal.

We just spent however many hours, days, or years, sacrificing our health, our happiness, our every-single-day, to reach some goal – only to realize that it was the hours, days, months and years we skipped that actually was our life.

The Change Blog

How many ministers, deacons, church related community workers, youth workers and children’s workers do you know who work for a church or denomination and are quite simply knackered?  They are burnt out, stressed, worried, anxious and deflated.

How many people in churches do you know who are the same?

We, the western church, have fallen into the busyness trap.  We have bought into a ‘success narrative’ hook, line and sinker.  We believe that being busy, doing stuff, being productive is what we should be about.

I get paid to work for a denomination and they are entitled to have expectations of what I will do in return for that salary.

This isn’t a complaint.  I think goals and plans can be helpful, but I have the same feeling as the person who wrote the quote at the start of this post.  In fact I have a bigger question:

Does busyness build the kingdom?

I think we use busyness as a way of hiding from what being church is really about, relationship and service.  We get caught up in meetings, programmes, committees, initiatives, fund raising, groups, work parties and even worship.

We never take time to sit, talk, eat, relax, enjoy… to get to know each other, to share our hopes and dreams, our questions and worries.

We talk endlessly about prayer, meditation, retreat and relationship.  These are all those helpful, non-busy practices and then model the absolute opposite.  We justify ourselves by how much we do, how many hours over our contract we work, how many meetings we have been at this week.

Why?  Where in the Bible does Jesus tell us that we will get eternal life if we only work hard enough?

If the church is going to be a place that is helpful and healthy then we really need to break this destructive narrative of busyness. Busyness leads to stress, anxiety and depression.  We know it does, and yet we still plough on… even though Jesus says ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’

Recovery is about regaining balance.  Taking time to do the things which keep you well, which provide support and about creating a narrative of realistic expectations.

It’s not about settling for less, for an easy life, for never taking risks or pushing yourself, but it is about applying your energy in the right direction to the right things.

The next committee meeting you have, take some cakes and coffee, scrap the agenda and talk about why people are still here in the church.

Ask them their hopes and dreams.

Talk.

Then meet again and talk some more.

The last thing we should be doing is creating communities that people feel stressed and anxious in.  And busyness doesn’t work.

Beth Keith’s report ‘Authentic Faith: Fresh expressions of church among young adults’ give some very helpful insight into what does work…

 

Tags: , , ,

Comments No Comments »

What’s missing today is a high-quality discourse on rethinking the design and evolution of the entire system from scratch.

The quality of the results produced by any system depends on the quality of awareness from which the people in the system operate.

(Otto Scharmer)

Since writing the first batch of posts on Missing Generations I’ve been lucky enough to be part of two events and several conversations which have expanded my thinking on some of the topics I raised.  I think those events and conversations have at least begun to produce a quality of awareness…

 

The Church is perfectly designed to achieve what we are currently achieving. (Alan Hirsch)

Those were the opening words of Alan Hirsch at a recent conference, The Shaping of Things To Come… in Scotland.  He and Michael Frost were talking through some of the thoughts from the book of the same name (The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church) and Hirsch was basically saying that our focus on pastor/ teacher leads to a focus on an intellectual style of engagement.  We have pretty much ignored other forms of ministry like apostle, prophet and evangelist.  That means we skew our thinking in one direction and that has led to the church we have today.

That analysis would certainly explain our present forms of worship and even our liking of austere buildings.  We could trace that back to the reformation and tie it to the Enlightenment but it also chimes with a second conversation I was part of with Brian McLaren.  The link below is Brian’s podcast at a recent conference and he was saying the same thing at the event I was at.

Brian McLaren at children,youth and a new kind of Christianity  http://www.woodlakebooks.com/files/CYNKC-Brian%20McLaren-Christian%20Faith%20and%20the%20Next%20Generation.mp3

His assertion is that we are telling the wrong story, or at least telling the story in the wrong way.  That stems from even further back than the reformation and Brian blames those pesky Greco-Romans and their philosophy.  He says that the story we tell is transposed onto Plato’s ‘Cave’.

greek philosophy diagram

So our version is:

christianity diagram

McLaren’s assertion is that our story is something very different.  Our story begins with the Exile.  That cycle of exile, rediscovering a relationship with God, returning and forgetting again.  Genesis is the prequel and the sequel is Isaiah and his vision of the kingdom which leads us to Jesus and the incarnation.

One of Hirsch and Frost’s thoughts is that we focus too much on one particular end of the story of Jesus.  We focus on the cross, resurrection and the return.  We forget the incarnation.  We forget an amazing and hugely significant part of the story, the life of Jesus, here on Earth.

Michael Frost talked about ‘excarnation’, the opposite of ‘incarnation’.  Excarnation means stripping away flesh.  I wonder if that’s what we have done in the way that we tell the story of Jesus, or in how we behave as Christians?  It would seem that rather than being an incarnational community, a community in the flesh, we have become in many ways an excarnational community, a community of thought.

If that is true then it has some serious implications for us.  We are, again, telling the wrong story.

And that leads to us doing the wrong things.  We focus on learning rather than sharing, study rather than community and maintaining an institution rather than participating in a movement.

Hirsch asked the question: Did you get into this to run a club or build a kingdom?  Why do we spend all our energy doing the former and not the latter?

I’ve come across this video in a couple of places now.  I think part of the trap of the club is that we are stuck in a cycle of property ownership and wages.  What if money was no object?  What would you do?

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

Is the Church, all wretch and no vomit?

A final thought for now:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Einstein

 

Tags: , , ,

Comments No Comments »

How people learn has changed.

I talked about learning preferences in part 1.  This video shows just how much teaching and learning has moved on since I was at school.

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

I wonder how much church has recognised and embraced these changes?  Or, if the church has actually been at the forefront of them?

I see live streaming of services, websites, video in worship and even some mobile phone apps but these changes in learning are not just about embracing the technology.  For the most part churches are using tech to produce a new shiny version of what they have always done.  It’s just about better visuals.  And that’s good.  Production value is important.  But…

The ‘flipped’ learning model in the video gives an illusion of control to the learner.  They can learn whenever they want, in a way they want… but the teacher still sets the agenda.  There are things that have to be learned… and tested.  All that has happened is that the instructional part of the class is delivered on video so replaces the homework bit.

That in itself is interesting.  What if church had stuff to watch, read or listen to before you showed up?  What if the sermon or teaching was delivered via video so you could watch when you want, read up a bit, think it over so that on Sunday you came with your questions?  Instead of 5 hymns, 3 prayers, a children’s talk and a sermon we could actually talk about what the passage means to us, what we think about it and how it might impact how we live.  Would that work?

Perhaps the real revolution needed in church learning isn’t shown in the film above.  The real learning revolution is something deeper.  And the church should be at the very heart of it.  After all, we started it.

Jesus came to set us free.  But how?  From what?

We could say that it is freedom from sin.  OK.  That would be good because I think that freedom is as much about freedom from the political structures and expectations of the world, the exercising of power over another, the need for wealth and status and the exploitation of others it is about anything else.

The Brazilian educationalist and theologian Paulo Freire talks about “the practice of freedom”.  Why?  Because education and freedom are so closely linked that it’s hard to imagine one without the other.  But education is politically loaded.

Knowledge is power.

I often wonder how much the church’s insistence on a professionalised, theologically trained (look up the meaning of that word) ministry has led to the liberation of people through education, or if it has led to a dependency on ‘the educated’?

Institutions maintain culture.  It’s what they are for.

We use all kinds of things to maintain power.  We dream up systems of governance that require large majorities or complex procedures to make change.  We load decision making bodies with experts because they know best.

What a church looks like where the minister, the teaching elder, was tasked with enabling the discovery of knowledge, not by telling people what things mean but by pointing people in the right direction, assisting in their search, asking good questions, building confidence and empowering people… and the people wanted to learn?

That requires a certain level of self-confidence, to lay down your position, your status and your power.  But then I’m fairly sure that’s what Jesus did.

How many questions did Jesus answer with a straight answer?  How many questions did he answer with another question?  Or with a story?

I think our role is to help people discover what they already know.  To share the God they bring with them, not to tell them that their God should be the same as the one we brought.

But, here’s the problem… people don’t like this.  It’s too hard.  It takes lots of time and commitment.  People also buy into the systems that control and dominate them.

This kind of learning community will challenge everything about who we are, what we do and why.

But it works.

And it’s worth it.

Comments 3 Comments »

Remember Caine’s Arcade?  Well, the idea of encouraging kids to build and play with cardboard has grown… lots.

6 October 2012 is build day for the Imagination Foundation’s Global Cardboard Challenge.

This fall, the Global Cardboard Challenge invites the world to build anything awesome out of cardboard, recycled materials, and imagination. Cardboard Challenge events can be of any scale and are being planned around the world. The Cardboard Challenge culminates on October 6th – the one year anniversary of the flashmob that made Caine’s day – with a Global Day of Play: On October 6th, communities around the world will be able to find local Cardboard Challenge events, and come out to play, celebrating the creativity and imagination of kids everywhere.

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

Why don’t you build something with your kids, Sunday School, class at school, kids club, youth group, messy church…

Comments No Comments »