Thursday, 3 June 2010

DECONSTRUCTION.3. – ‘Re-Imagining’

"Every day people are straying away from church and going back to God."

Lenny Bruce

This quote brings us abruptly to the point. If we don’t act now we face, well I’ll leave you to ponder that.

One thing is for sure there is wide spread decline across the breadth of the ecumenical spectrum. It encompasses the western world as we know it.

We need to undergo personal and corporate transformation, morphing, re-imagining, re-enchanting call it what you will.
“The Church in the west is well and truly in the midst of a post Christendom and pluralist position, we compete with a number of entities.” Eddie Gibbs.

"We live in extraordinary times in the western world, when church attendances are diminishing but spiritual hunger is rising." Dave Tomlinson.

Our mental models are deeply embedded within us; we are like a rabbit caught in the headlights of the world we live in; paralysed!
Are we in the process of losing our faith personally and corporately?

We have a direct need to Re-imagine our call and what it is we are supposed to do in the midst of the deconstructive process

1. By providing the arena and creating a safe space, people can find their vocation through experience, experimentation and connections. Interestingly Crep’s states that; ‘The Church’s job is not to save people but to shape the space in which God calls them to himself.’ I would go further and state the leader must set the pace and fashion this by his personal Missional life. This ‘Spatial Evangelism’ is not just done in a program or project and is not linear or two dimensional it has volume to it, three dimensional, spirit, heart and venue. It encompasses all of the week, time and space the leader works in. This space is made safe by core values and virtues: providing a positive culture to live and work in.

2. The next question is to ask what this means for the next generation of leaders. The leader’s shape in the 21st century needs to be aware of past and present but is not shaped by ‘being right’ or driven by ‘meeting needs’

3. Engage in the FOUR aspects of the journey which are interrelated, leading to one another and to action and back again. It’s messy and sometimes chaotic yet the leader embraces this as it reflects how life happens around them. What they try to do is to look for God at work and then ask;

How can I interact with this?

Cultural Reflection: - Culture comes from the Latin word culturus, from which we also get, cultivate. ‘Technically speaking, culture is the vast array of symbols (language, clothing, icons, ideas, hairstyles, stemware, obscene hand gestures and pretty much everything else) by which human beings cultivate our life experiences.’ Elsewhere Newbiggin defines culture as ‘Understanding the sum total ways of living developed by a group of human beings and handed on from generation to generation’
Understanding and the application of this is crucial for the leader if they are to position themselves to influence others in the next century. The leader is aware he can’t escape culture and doesn’t try to subvert it; rather he adopts a counter culture posture that doesn’t divide sacred and secular. By embracing this paradigm they show alternatives that people can chose without having sectarian threads embedded within them, its inclusive and not exclusive allowing people to join the movement.

Missional Reflection: - this component is always contextual and always situational to the present yet the leader holds a biblical narrative alongside it this allows them to shape a better future than currently expected. By being unashamedly spiritual, experiential and incarnational the leader shows by example how Christ can transform the arena by human interaction. The main advantage here is that it can work in all settings not just Church or Christian organisations.

• Spiritual Reflection: - This is no longer the realm of the professional clergy, but intrinsic to all believers. A priesthood for all, that includes more than the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, solitude etc. but because of reflection it promotes action, which forms habits and set the tone for the leaders life. Followers watch and repeat this cycle in a manner that is suitable for them in their context.

• Theological Reflection: - is linked to the mission and setting they find themselves in, Jones says: Theology; ‘reasoned discourse about God, religion and spirituality. Literally words about God, from the Greek word logos (word) and Theo's (God)’ the leader is cognisant that all truth is God’s truth and is happy that Christian theology does not have the sole claim to truth.

However the leader can translate the truth into the idioms of biblical narrative. A great example of this being the Apostle Paul and his visit to Athens, ‘It is plain to see you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, To ‘The God Nobody Knows’. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, knowing who you’re dealing with. Theology has a practical outworking and this relationship link informs each other about the outworking of mission.

What is interesting is that a linear sequence is excluded. Cyclical and seasonal influences are rhythmic and ritual to this process. I find this exciting as it reflects my own journey: I have become dissatisfied with next-level thinking and the next new thing. I feel more at ease exploring the dimension of the present. Webber explains how there is no ‘correct point of entry’, this allows free flowing dynamic and organic relationships and networks to be created.

This freedom to explore the dimension sets us free instead of being like salmon swimming upstream to spawn, trying to get up to the next rapids, only to find the next fish ladder and ultimately death. McKinley in his book talks about pastors and leaders and how they love to build the kingdom, but Jesus didn’t, he simply stated ‘the kingdom is…he simply invited his followers to see it, embrace it and believe in it.’ This enables the leader to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’.
The trouble is we like to think in levels of achievement as it gives us a sense of power and control; ‘if I work hard and do the right thing I can move to the next level.’ More appropriate leadership for the context of the 21st century in light of this discussion must be that the leaders ‘be’ first, and ‘do’ out of this sense of being rather than to ‘be’ as a result of doing.

Our previous models have at the centre of them works to achieve and build things, this is changing but it will take time and courage to achieve this.

Concluding Remarks.

If the 21st Century leaders can position themselves in the flux of learning, unlearning, being at home with experiments and tradition, paradox and chaos they can bring about a marked change in Spiritual climate we find ourselves in. One of the greatest skills a leader can learn is the ability to learn from their mistakes. We may get knocked down but we must get up again.

I finish with one last thought from the book Reimagining the Church, by Frank Viola.

But is the church really different in every culture? …..Or is it that the church has over adapted to modern western culture in its theology and its practice?

Speaking of the problem of over contextualisation, Richard Halverson writes; “When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.

hope you enjoyed this series;
speak soon

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

DECONSTRUCTION.2. – ‘Embedded Assumptions’

Today’s post sounds quite grand, it could almost be the title for a novel.

One day perhaps!

From yesterdays post we recall that:
Deconstruction instead describes a particular method of literary criticism that seeks to get behind the text to reveal “Embedded Assumptions” another word being our Mental Models.
What are Mental Models?

Models that shape how we act.

The classic thought behind this term comes from work presented by Peter Senge – The Fifth Discipline.

Senge sets out the thought that; The Art & Practice of the Learning Organisation has 5 “competent technologies”
What are Mental Models?

When brilliant strategies fail to get translated into action because they conflict with deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting.

All penguins do is think FISH!

What are Mental Models?

These are ‘deeply ingrained assumptions, generalisations or even pictures and images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action’ Chris Argyris – Harvard
Our “linear thinking” dominates most of our mental models Senge states that “ the learning organisations of the future will make key decisions based upon shared understanding of interrelationships and patterns of change.”

We need to be people, leaders who have a clear understanding grounded in the cultural and spiritual time frame they were in enabled these people to make correct judgments for their nation. An interesting point here is that this type of understanding has been quoted as being ‘Contextual Intelligence’: The ability to read the forces that shape the times in which they live and to seize in the resulting opportunities. In Their Time, produced by Harvard Business School.

A notable cross reference biblically;

1 Chronicles 12:32 The men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel, should do--200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command;

The question we must ask ourselves; Do we understand the times and seasons we live in and more importantly do we know what we should do?
In our deconstruction process the “Embedded Assumptions” are deeply ingrained within us, the primary influences being;

• Background

• Education

• Culture

• Values

• Ethics

• Spirituality

Which if that isn’t enough is mixed with the complexity of the 21st century is a major hurdle.

Our task first is to unlearn what we have learned. The futurist Alvin Toffler says ‘ the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn’L Sweet, Summoned to Lead.

Which reminds me of a scene from the film Avatar, where the Shaman of the tribe says to Jake Sulley “You’re are too full”

The question we must ourselves are we too full?

Tomorrows post. DECONSTRUCTION.3. – ‘Re-Imagining’

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Today’s post is the first of a three part blog.

“DECONSTRUCTION” is frequently used in society today; we hear that “Society is broken” we are in need of “root and branch” change, we are plagued with mantras and visual signs of ‘Change is Needed’ and ‘Its time to think again how we do things.’

Politicians build careers on it, businessmen build large empires on change and deconstruction.

But of what use is it you may ask?

When we see those who espouse it living in direct contradiction to what is being said.

To some deconstruction is a technical term that has often been misunderstood, it’s often perceived as threatening and confrontational and leads to DESTRUCTION.

A search in a dictionary reveals;

A philosophical and critical movement, starting in the 1960s and esp. applied to the study of literature, that questions all traditional assumptions about the ability of language to represent reality and emphasizes that a text has no stable reference or identification because words essentially only refer to other words and therefore a reader must approach a text by eliminating any metaphysical or ethnocentric assumptions through an active role of defining meaning, sometimes by a reliance on new word construction, etymology, puns, and other word play.

Deconstruction instead describes a particular method of literary criticism that seeks to get behind the text to reveal “Embedded Assumptions” another word being our Mental Models.

I wonder if subconsciously when we see or hear the word DECONSTRUCTION we see and think DESTRUCTION.

We need to begin a conversation and ask questions; start “to undo or take apart in order to arrive at a deeper understanding, allowing for a creative rereading” - Barbara Johnson – The Critical Difference.

Another term of phrase is Re-Imagining: – a term I will talk about in a later post. Eddie Gibbs in his book Church Morph, which I heartily recommend speaks of the transformation process (deconstruction) as the “morphing” of the church.

A search in a dictionary reveals;

The animated transformation of one image into another by gradually distorting the first image so as to move certain chosen points to the position of corresponding points in the second image.

Picture by Jade Ashcroft.

I like the term morph it creates warmth and certain safety somehow. It is derived from the Greek word morphe, which appears in the New Testament in a significant context. The apostle Paul writes to the Philippians 2:5-8

5For, let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus,

6who, being in the form [morphe] of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God,

7but did empty himself, the form [morphe] of a servant having taken, in the likeness of men having been made,

8and in fashion having been found as a man, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death -- death even of a cross, (Young’s Literal Translation).

Gordon Fee explains the meaning of morphe as denoting ‘shape’ or ‘form’. This is precisely what Jesus did as he embarked on His mission, It cost him everything; yet he gained more.

The paradox of Jesus' remark that we should ‘lose our life to save it springs to mind’.

Deconstruction is costly but worth it, before embarking hastily on our journey we should take care to understand the process the best we can having faith that once that God will journey with us.

What I would ask is that we see DECONSTRUCTION not as DESTRUCTION but as BREAKTHROUGH.
For deconstruction to be of any use to anyone it has to work on a personal level first it seems pointless to attempt to reshape, deconstruct, transform, re-imagining; anything without first applying the principles to our daily lives. Our lives have to morph in order to ensure that destruction doesn’t occur without it our rhetoric is useless, powerless and inept.

I hope this post has provoked some thoughts?

Tomorrows post. DECONSTRUCTION.2. – ‘Embedded Assumptions’

Friday, 14 May 2010

Rotational Slip.

Hello everyone,
Just lately I've been intrigued by large slips of earth and mud at the sides of motorways and roads. Having a Mining & Civil Engineering background I can't help but notice things like this.
So I thought it may be a good thing to blog about and try to put across a few leadership principles across at the same time.
First a definition:
Rotational Slip;

Form of mass movement where material moves suddenly along a curvilinear plane. Also called a slump.

The Principle being; Rainsplash is a microscale process that can be quite effective in moving material on slopes. The impact of rain droplets on the soil surface often detaches individual grains of soil moving them some distance from their source. On flat surfaces, the effect of rain drop impact is to redistribute the material without any net transport in a particular direction. However, on a slope the influence of gravity and slope encourage more material to be redistributed downslope rather than upslope. When slopes become 25 degrees or greater, almost all the redistribution occurs in a downslope direction.

Don't worry the car or the people inside the car were not harmed in any way during the making of this blog.

A variety of processes exist by which materials can be moved through the hillslope system. These processes are generically known as mass movement or mass wasting. The operation of mass movement processes relies upon the development of instability in the hillslope system. Under these conditions, failure of the slope material can occur on a range of time scales. Some types of mass movement involve rather rapid, spontaneous events. Sudden failures tend to occur when the stresses exerted on the slope materials greatly exceed their strength for short periods of time. In many cases, type of mass movement is produced by the operation of short term trigger mechanisms. Mass movement can also be a less continuous process that occurs over long periods of time. Slow failures often occur when the applied stresses only just exceed the internal strength of the hillslope system.

What are the sources of the stresses and strength acting within hillslope materials? As we have noted, a major source of stress is the gravitational force. The magnitude of this force is related to the angle of the slope and the weight of hillslope sediments and rock. The following equation models this relationship:

F = W sin Ø

where F is gravitational force, W is the weight of the material occurring at some point on the slope, and Ø is the angle of the slope.

The Cyclist just manged to escape the slip but strained his left thigh as he peddled quickly away.

I appreciate that most of you who usually follow my blog will by now be wondering what I am going to say, hopefully you are still reading this.

Well a few comments;

  • When all looks well and a new project has just been finished a few drops of rain can test the stability of what you have accomplished.

  • Gravity is a great leveller.

  • Understand the materials (people) you are working with.

  • Mass movement often causes great holes somewhere.

  • Sudden failure happens when we put too much stress on a certain area of the organisation.

  • Be careful about the hill (project) you may be ascending, make sure you know what lies beneath.

  • The Magnitude of the slip is related to the slope and angle you are working at, take care its not to steep.

  • Regular inspection of your working environment is required.

The following pictures where taken along the newly built B6474. the slip occurred as a result of the prolonged rain spell we had a few months ago.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Mission & Evangelism

Mission and Evangelism.

Having been involved in many aspects of mission and evangelism for twenty eight years I have seen many initiatives come and go. My preferred combination is one of personal lifestyle witness and corporate (both local and national church initiatives).

The gospel I share with people is first and foremost modelled by my life. I am the message as this is the first thing many people see. I endeavour to be Christ to everyone I meet, and I always look for God in them. I find that this enables mutual friendship and often leads to ongoing conversations. I believe that Christ died for us and rose again; giving us the opportunity to share with Him in His life and that by his Holy Spirit he is ever present help to us, this is a process we are in and not an event.

Hopefully my life story to date shows that my faith in Christ is real and that without Him I would not be here or more importantly be sustained by Him. My encounters with the risen Christ are the major driving force in my outlook towards mission and evangelism.

Proclaiming this message needs to be done in varying degrees and guises as not one size fits all. This is the uniqueness we have in the gospel; God meets us where we are at, this incarnate Love of God has more power than we realize, the joy we see when this is in action is unsurpassable.

The gospel message that the local and national church shares should mirror that of the Transformation that occurs within our lives and should embrace a Missional mind set. I like the phrase Transformissional , this embraces both concepts of the gospel message and allowing the message of God change our lives causes a centrifugal force that sends us out missionally into the communities we live and work in.

Although the word Transformissional sounds so vogue really it’s a re-working of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission .

I take the view that church whatever shape or size or context should embrace a simple model that gives Clarity, Movement, Alignment and Focus . People are hungry for simple because the post-modern world we live in has become so complex and peoples live their lives on information overload, being able to interact with the world in an instant. These words should be the filter we look through when we consider our message, lifestyle and fellowship, our mission and evangelism.

• Clarity – is it clear that God is at work within us?

• Movement - Are we moving towards Christ?

•  Alignment - Is what we do aligned within the scriptures?

• Focus - Has God got all our focus/attention?

This frees us from a defensive posture and enables us to serve one another, which is attractive to others. It enables people to become who they are meant to be in Christ instead of just trying to keep the lights on and a few leadership positions filled.

My preference is that we should embrace a mixed economy with regard to traditional, fresh expressions, communities of interest and church planting, within the local context of parish ministry and at diocese level, having a clear and positive agenda is paramount; and I admire the five values of a missionary church as mapped out in “Mission Shaped Church” 2nd edition 2009 . This report helps us to map out the simple church model as previously described. A continuation on and working out from this is the paradigm of “go to them” instead of “come to us”; this is a relational model which has long lasting effects within the communities where it has been pioneered.

This relational model starts with Community which finds its own ‘Missio dei’ (Mission from God) which leads to Worship .

Mission and Evangelism like Church will never be easy, its messy and difficult and we need to acknowledge this but the structures we employ can be simple and how we flow, move within it from one to another should be simple, therefore simple is challenging but also rewarding if we are prepared to make it less complicated.

The vision of the Church in its collective mission should encompass territory, neighbourhood and network . Working in all three areas should promote a healthy and balanced view to the communities we live in.

• Territory - parish system

• Neighbourhood - attention to population movements involving cross boundary working.

• Networks - formed by socially and culturally not by physical area.

At this moment we are living in a Liminal Space , betwixt two worlds and we have a tendency to flip from one to another, one author calls the age we live in The Great Emergence . We are then at the crossroads of time and we need clear and effective strategies and the appropriate people with a skill set able to may a way forward in the time and place where we live. The statistics we currently have only serve to back this thought up, we have roughly;

• 40% De – churched: (20% closed de-churched & 20% open de-churched)

• 40% Non – churched

• 10% Regular attendees

• 10% Fringe

Therefore this gives clear evidence that a mixed mode of mission and evangelism should be deployed to ensure maximum effectiveness. I do take the positive stance that we can do it rather than allowing the figures to overwhelm us and cause us to freeze at the size of the task at hand.

What do you think,? has anything I've said cause you to agree or disagree, I would love to begin the conversation.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Ketchup Christianity

For Christmas this year I received a copy of one of my favourite writers, Malcolm glaldwell’s book; What the dog saw. Having just finished reading the Ketchup conundrum article in part one of the book, I found myself thinking of how ketchup and Christianity have certain links and cross cutting themes, which I hope whilst reading this blog, you can see and more hopefully that cause you to think is my (our) Christianity anything like Ketchup?

The main aspect for me after reflection is that we confuse Ketchup and Christianity. We must remember Ketchup is a condiment and Christianity is a way of life.

Of course it is you are saying, but how many of us like to have just a little ketchup to add spice to our lives, or make a dull life palatable?

Regardless of who and what our beliefs are, we are bombarded with condiments to add sparkle to our dull and dusty lives, Consumerism is alive and well throughout our world and christianity is alive to this and offers various condiments to help us enjoy this life and make our existence more pleasant; such as worship, prayer, fellowship, preaching and liturgy.
Which when added to our life help us become better people.

We have in our minds that there is such a thing as the ‘platonic dish’ – something that we have is just absolutely right and we must tell everyone that our brand is ‘the right one’

Gladwell speaks of Howard Moskowitz who stood up to the Platonists and said there are no universals, and that it is human variability and the AHHH factor that awakens ones senses, and this should be considered when we address our reveal.

In short variety is the spice of life and our Christianity should reveal and reflect this rather than having platonic Christianity.

Speaking in the first instance about mustard in its differing types and how it’s marketed he goes on to say that the reveal. The point where you state what, where or who you are is a vital component of your strategy; as far a Christians and Churches in general is concerned my overriding thought was we aren’t very good at this. We all too often proclaim, state and overstate who we are and why you should be like us, often making the individual (consumer) guilty in the process.

One aspect in particular s our web presence reveal: as an avid reader of all things from Tony Morgan I hope you take time to look at his blog and thoughts on web presence.

I would ask therefore that as Christians and Churches we consider very carefully our reveal and put it into context with our culture and community setting.

Back to the ketchup conundrum, if you look at the Heinz website you can see the story unfold,

In the beginning....

Our ever-popular Heinz Tomato Ketchup has been part of our range almost right from the start. It was launched in 1876 just seven years after Henry J. Heinz founded the company.
The idea behind Tomato Ketchup was that it was a tasty convenience food, “a blessed relief for mother and other women in the household”,

As an aside notice the Christian notes in the message, ‘in beginning, a blessed relief, which conjure up aspects of story and blessing.

One thing that Henry Heinz did was to change the flavour of ketchup and make it universal. He used the 5 known fundamental tastes in the human palate; salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami.

Umami is the proteiny, full bodied taste of chicken soup, or cured meat, or fish stock, or aged cheese, or mother’s milk…. Its adds body.

The condiment known as ketchup now pushes all our primal buttons and taste receptors on our tongue. This concept is unique and is the main reason why ketchup has amplitude which suits the majority of us.

From a Christian view point all too often we conceptualise that our brand of Christianity is right and others have something missing, our umami is the brand that makes it universal, therefore we can become the dominant brand.

My final thought, sometimes we think that in making our Ketchup Christianity brand the best, we will in some way usher in a new kingdom. We must realise that;

A) its only ketchup and it’s a condiment

B) Whole food is required and variety in life is vital.

hope you enjoyed my blog; I would love to hear from you and your thoughts.

Take Care.