Thursday, March 28, 2013

On the Resurrection

Every sermon preached by every Christian in the New Testament centers on the resurrection.  The gospel or “good news” means essentially the news of Christ’s resurrection.  The message that flashed across the ancient world, set hearts on fire, changed lives and turned the world upside down was not “love your neighbor.”  Every morally sane person already knew that; it was not news.  The news was that a man who claimed to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world had risen from the dead.

From The Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics, page 69.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lead Like Jazz (Part 2), Scott Olson

Lead Like Jazz (Part 2)(Part 1 here: Lead Like Jazz, Scott Olson)

From Leadership Journal: Lead Like Jazz (Part 2): How to help your team find their groove. Here are some sound bites (pun intended):

I often see other leaders in my organization, regardless of whether or not they've ever picked up an instrument, as musicians that I may get an opportunity to play with. While most people lean more toward one leadership style than another, the ability to move between styles and remain fluid can be a tremendous asset to any team…

In jazz, the "groove" created in the moment determines the outcome (sound, emotion, feeling). In classical style, the composer and conductor have predetermined the outcome. When a leader and team find that "leadership groove," where they mesh creatively and challenge the sheet music, they can move into an incredible place of synergistic collaboration…

To find the leadership groove, you gotta know what song you're trying to play, you gotta know when it's your time to play…

Leaders need vision. We may not always know how we are going to get there, but we do need to know where "there" is. Bill Hybels once said, "A leader's job is to move people from here to there." Andy Stanley described "there" as a "clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be." Stephen Covey described "there" as "beginning with the end in mind." While jazz musicians are able to improvise and make things up on the spot, great band leaders are visionary and strategic, always knowing what song they are playing and what song they're going to call next…

Can you see the tremendous potential that exists when jazz leadership smacks up against the daily grind of your leadership journey? Leading like jazz opens new doors for leaders. There are certain moments in life for which there is no script. Our formal training and preparation can take us far, but sometimes not far enough. Sometimes we just need that extra "something." The ability to apply jazz leadership from time to time can be an incredible addition to your and the people you work with. You can't play the right notes (or make the right strategic moves) unless you're listening to what's going on around you. Healthy teams and dynamic organizations need people who can play classical and jazz…

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Exegeting Culture with Lingenfelter

For those who want to be be able to exegete their context and the cultures they live in, including their own, I recommend Transforming Culture: A Challenge for Christian Mission (1998) and Agents of Transformation: A Guide for Effective Cross-Cultural Ministry (1996).  Transforming Culture lays out the blueprint of culture and the roots of cultural bias, and Agents of Transformation goes deeper and provides tools for analysis.

According to Sherwood Lingenfelter, there are five “social games” people play based on their culture and personal bias (1998). This theory is based on the “grid-group” classification of cultures proposed by Mary Douglas. The classifications run along a continuum and the two axes are plotted against each other to form four dimensions. The “grid” dimension describes the place and role of individuals, and the “group” dimension describes the degree of social solidity. In weak grid cultures, people can interchange roles easily and are more homogenous in their place in society. In strong grid cultures, people are distinguished and classified according to roles, and there is a sense of entitlement. In weak group cultures, people are more isolated from each other, whereas in strong group cultures there exists a strong sense of unity and people are bonded together.

The first culture, Authoritarian (the Social Game) and Bureaucratic (the Environment), is a defined by weak group, strong grid. Here there are great differences between people, but they do not feel close together. The second culture, Hierarchist and Corporate, is defined by strong group, strong grid. This is the collectivist culture that feels a strong solidarity with one another, and each person has a defined place in society. The third culture, Collective and Egalitarian, is defined by strong group, weak grid. Here there is less difference between people, and they all share a common identity. The fourth culture, Individual and Individualist, is weak group, weak grid. In this culture, individuals are less controlled by a central authority, and each person is free to create her own identity. The fifth culture is known as Hermit or Autonomy and this person lives in isolation as a social dropout. Important to note is that all cultures play multiple games depending on the context, and each cultural above should be viewed as a “prototype” because in reality there are endless variants. “Each of these five social games is potentially present in every sociopolitical context, often in variant cultural forms… The individualist and hierarchist games are typically the central and dominant paradigms, while authoritarian and egalitarian games constitute border or peripheral options” (Lingenfelter 1996, Kindle Location 295 - 316).

According to Lingenfelter, a Christ follower is a pilgrim in the sense that she can serve the gospel while participating in any of the four social games above. “Once you have an understanding of your social values and the social games that you prefer, you will be able to identify the social roots of situations of conflict and tension and apply Scripture in an appropriate way to help you and others live transformed lives” (1998, 38). The Christian pilgrim’s goals transcend each culture because they oriented towards the Cross and serving others.

Lingenfelter’s main thesis…

“…is that Christian cross-cultural workers will desire to be agents of biblical transformation, rather than agents of sociocultural change. An agent of sociocultural change brings new economic, social, and cultural interests and facilitates the change process so that members of a local community adopt ways of education, economy, and lifestyle common to the industrialized nations of the world. While change agents may have a positive effect in the development of communities in the two-thirds world, and some Christian workers may legitimately serve in this role, the primary objective of much Christian cross-cultural ministry is to help people come to know Christ, and thereby to become his disciples” (Agents of Transformation: Kindle Locations 16-20).

These two books though are about more than just context analysis; they are actually a cross-cultural hermeneutic to understand Scripture.  Lingenfelter uses many Biblical case studies as examples and has challenged my thinking on many key issues of theology.  His writing style is dry, and the material is complicated, but Lingenfelter helps us include a much needed (albeit small) slice of anthropological theory in our missiology.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What size should a church planting team be?

From From Seed to Fruit, The Gathering of Teams of Laborers, page 141:

Fruitful Practice #2: Aiming for a Large Enough Team

This implies that team size matters, and it does. The average team size of
consultation participants was nine adults (the number being raised by a few very large teams) although the majority of teams were less than nine in size. Team size in itself is not the key to fruitfulness, but a survey of the teams represented at the Consultation indicated the following:

>> Teams with fewer than four adults showed a greater probability of
not planting even one fellowship or church.
>> Teams with eight or more adults had a greater probability of
planting at least one fellowship.
>> Teams with twelve adults showed a greater probability of planting
multiple fellowships.

It would seem, therefore, that if our desire is to see church-planting movements, we need to be aiming for larger numbers of laborers in each team, supporting the strategy of sowing widely. Research suggests that five or six team members should be the lower limit of a team size.

Thoughts? Counter evidence?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

How do you teach people to obey?

From Bill Mounce:

Jesus does not tell us to teach data; he commands us to teach people to obey what they are learning. How do you do that?

This is one of those questions that is more easily answered by saying what it is not.

  • Lecturing to a class does not make people obey.
  • Knowledge that doesn’t move to wisdom isn’t obedience.
  • The purity of academics, while essential to the process, is only half the process.

The only way I know to teach someone to obey is to do so in community, in relationship. Jesus preached to thousands but discipled 12, and it was those 12 who turned the world upside-down by fulfilling the Great Commission through the power and leading of the Spirit.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Problem-Solving, Opinionated Americans

From Leadership Journal, The African Planter: Nairobi Chapel pastor on mission trips, and working well across cultures. An interview with Oscar Muriu (quoted in Leading Across Cultures: Effective Ministry and Mission in the Global Church pgs 110-111):

Americans have two great things going for them culturally. One is that Americans are problem-solvers. Every time I come to the U.S., I like to spend a couple hours in a Wal-Mart. I find solutions to problems that I never thought of!

The rest of the world, even Europe, isn't so intent on solving inconveniences. We tend to live with our problems… Americans don't easily live with a problem—they want to solve the problem and move on…

The second great thing for Americans is that your educational system teaches people to think and to express themselves. So a child who talks and asserts himself in conversation is actually awarded higher marks than the one who sits quietly.

Those two things that are such great gifts in the home context become a curse when you go into missions. Americans come to Africa, and they want to solve Africa. But you can't solve Africa. It's much too complex for that. And that really frustrates Americans.

And the assertiveness you are taught in school becomes a curse on the field. I often say to American missionaries, "When the American speaks, the conversation is over."  The American is usually the most powerful voice at the table. And when the most powerful voice gives its opinion, the conversation is over.

I tell Americans: "We're going into this meeting. Don't say anything! Sit there and hold your tongue." When you sit around a table, the people speaking always glance at the person they believe is the most powerful figure at the table. They will do that with you when you're the only American. And at some point, they will ask you: "What do you think?"

Don't say anything. If you say anything, reflect back with something like "I have heard such wisdom at this table. I am very impressed." And leave it at that. Affirm them for the contribution they have made. Don't give your own opinion.

Americans find that almost impossible. They do not know how to hold their tongue. They sit there squirming, because they're conditioned to express their opinions. It's a strength at home, but it becomes a curse on the field.

In a sense western missions has been marked by that. But isn't it strange that Jesus not only entered society incarnate at the weakest point, as a defenseless child who needed the care of his host community, but he also told his disciples: "Do not go with money; do not go with a second pair of shoes; go in a stance of vulnerability; be dependent on the communities you visit"? Isn't it interesting that for 30 years he doesn't speak out; doesn't reveal himself; he remains quiet, and only after 30 years of listening and learning the culture does he begin to speak…