Archive for the 'Community' Category

Looking for Community

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

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“I don’t look for community. My responsibility is to be community to those whom God brings across my path.” – Sherwood Lingenfelter

At the most recent meeting of the CRM-US Board in San Francisco, I shared dinner across a platter of Ethiopian food with Sherwood Lingenfelter, the provost at Fuller Seminary whose wife, Judy, serves on our board.

We got into a discussion about “community” and because Sherwood has a book coming out soon on the topic, I was fascinated by his observations. This was one of the notable take-away lines that doesn’t need any commentary.

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(Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership)

Leadership and “Community”

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

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There is a perception, which has existed throughout Christian history in various forms and expressions, that the best form of decision-making exists when the “community” together determines the mind of God.

Such an egalitarian view has obvious strengths and there is truth to such a perspective. It has served as a much needed corrective to authoritative, dictatorial leadership and hierarchical structures that have thwarted God’s plans and purposes. Democratic theory is based, to a degree, on the concept that better decisions can be made when multiple eyes are brought to bear on an issue. And if we take seriously the concept of human depravity, the checks and balances of those around us can provide necessary adjustments to the limited and perhaps skewed perspective of one individual.

In modern leadership theory, much to do is also made about “goal ownership” and the importance of everyone “owning” the goals and direction of a group. Giving everyone the chance to feel good about a decision and to believe that their voice has been heard certainly makes the carrying out of any decision easier. Also, in cultures where democratic values are in the warp and woof of the value system, there is often a deep-seated sense of entitlement that everyone should have a say, regardless of role, responsibility, or giftedness.

On the other hand, communal decision-making also has its weaknesses. It can evolve, as DeTocqueville so eloquently pointed out, into the “tyranny of the majority.” Just because the community believes something or decides a particular way, does not make that decision right. Nor does it insure the presence of the Spirit of God in the process or the outcome.

Shirley Jackson’s sobering play, The Lottery, comes to mind where a small town American community ritually selects one of its citizens every year for stoning in order to insure a good harvest. Or on a larger scale, we see that democratically choosing leaders does not insure a moral or right decision. Adolph Hitler, who was democratically elected , is a good case in point. Communal decision-making does not necessarily equate with good decision-making and can descend into group grope.

One unsettling aspect of communal decision-making is the fact that in certain forms, it can neuter the biblical gift of leadership and see leadership as primarily a facilitative function. Anyone who attempts to lead is simply the “facilitator-in-chief.” True leadership is abdicated to the group and in some modern and increasingly postmodern settings, this abdication is justified as “good process.”

Gibbs and Bolger in their book Emerging Churches, devote an entire chapter to this issue and how one of the characteristics of many emerging churches is “leading as a body.” This is clearly a reaction to the hierarchical and controlling models of leadership all too characteristic of modernity, which of course are anathema to “...many younger leaders who represent a culture of networking, permission giving, and empowerment.”

What is unfortunate is that in embracing “leading as a body” as these authors describe it, the proverbial baby may be thrown out with the bathwater. Such a reaction guts the legitimate exercise of the gift of leadership and leaves it impotent. When “all are welcome at the leadership table,” those with the gift of leadership are dis-empowered. It is a misconception that genuine servant leadership, when framed by kingdom values, must always be expressed by democratic, egalitarian, and consensual process. That’s hard to justify theologically, biblically, or sociologically and the final result is no leadership at all. In the end, genuine community is the real loser.

You can see it in their eyes …

Monday, July 30th, 2007

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It’s hard to quantify. Hard to describe. It simply happens whenever we gather together a group of folks serving with CRM from anywhere around the world. There is a unmistakable sense of something that permeates such gatherings.

There is a kind of energy and passion about our shared calling that works as a mystical bond. Even when we may not have seen one another for months or perhaps years, there is an intensity that pervades the relationships and things quickly go deep. As one person commented this past week in Vancouver, “You can see it in their eyes …” There is a quality and contagiousness that is tangible, a commitment to the pursuit of God and his kingdom agenda. These are people with whom one is invariably drawn to do life and ministry, to love, fight, laugh and perhaps die with.

Underlying it and perhaps the real reason behind it all is simply the supernatural anointing of God. The Triune God has for reasons beyond my understanding chosen to rest his hand of blessing and his supernatural presence on these people. It’s what the old-timey saints called “divine unction.” And it is an umbrella of spiritual reality and power that has permeated this outfit since 1985.

May it never lift. May it never cease. May it only grow and deepen so that the name of God may be renowned among the nations.

Conversation on Holism

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

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This was the scene today in Vancouver, B.C. where 20 CRM staff from around the world gathered for a four day Theological Conversation on Biblical Holism and the Recovery of the Gospel.

That’s a mouthful. But what we are focusing on is simply the totality of the good news in the bible and how our own cultures can act as unintended filters to keep us from seeing what these implications are both personally and corporately. We are also considering how this applies to CRM as a whole around the world regarding the types of leaders we mentor, coach and train and the types of churches that we want to see evolve and emerge from our work.

In the photo, we’re wrapping up an afternoon of labor in a community garden that our NieuCommunities staff are cultivating in an urban neighborhood which is having multiple layers of impact on those who live around them.

One of the best parts of this conversation was the variety of perspectives in the dialogue from folks living and ministering is places as diverse as South Africa, Cambodia, Australia, Hungary, and various locales throughout North America

Collectives vs. Communities

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

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Our friend, Evan Howard, a present-day monastic whose Spirituality Shoppe is an evangelical center for the study of Christian spirituality in the mountains of Colorado, writes in his latest newsletter:

“The difference between a collective and a community is care. Collectives gather together, do the same things, perhaps wear similar clothes. Communities give themselves for each other.

In communities people matter to each other. In community we are an issue for each other. At times this can indeed be a cause of suffering. But our Three-personed God designed this dynamic to be a means of the relief of suffering. A community wherein the other matters is basic to what it means to be human and it reflects the very character of God. No wonder we long for community!

An so you say to me, ‘I just can’t seem to find community.’ I ask you, ‘For whom do you care?’ You ask me, ‘How do I start real community?’ I say to you, ‘Start caring for someone.’”