Leading in liminality

13 02 2009

canyouheargodnowWhat is needed from spiritual leaders during this time of uncertainty?  I keep bumping into what I think are a few keys to answering that question.  One of those keys is spiritual discernment – finding out what God is doing in our church and community.

I thought Ruth Haley Barton did an excellent job of articulating this critical leadership role in her article titled “Can You Hear God Now” that was published in the Summer 2008 issue of Leadership Journal.

Following are a few highlights from her article:

  • “At the heart of spiritual leadership is discernment-the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God both personally and in community.
  • …discernment does not take place in a vacuum, nor by accident. Spiritual community is the context for discernment, so the first move in cultivating a culture of discernment is to establish the leadership group as a community for discernment.
  • Discernment requires us to move beyond our reliance on cognition and intellectual hard work to a place of deep listening and response to the Spirit of God within and among us.
  • Seeking discernment with others at the leadership level requires an extraordinary amount of safety in each other’s presence, along with great clarity about what values govern the process… We cannot just assume these values. We must talk about them and seek to live them with great vigor and intent.
  • The discernment process requires a commitment to listen on many levels.
  • …discernment is not the endgame. The endgame is to actually do the will of God.

Thomas Merton

13 12 2008

Please avoid reading anything written by Thomas Merton – you will probably not sleep well. Thomas Merton exposes more than most of us want to see – he looks at life very seriously in stark contrast to most of us busily being busy. I’ve started reading Merton and not I’m sure what would be safe to post … well – here’s something short that may not cause much harm:

If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person. 

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the end of Thomas Merton’s life (1915-1968 ) which is being commemorated, in part, by a documentary produced by Morgan Atkinson that will air on PBS beginning tomorrow. Locally WFSU-TV didn’t place it very well on their schedule so set your DVR to record at either 2 or 4 am Monday.

Passion through imagination and values?

11 06 2008

I’m convinced that our imaginations are so often blocked by the artificial limits we place on ourselves.  I was thinking about the results of our recent survey and our discussion of passion (or lack thereof) at our meeting last Thursday.  What would be helpful for us to gain passion?  I think it has to start with getting in a place where we can imagine again and getting out of the rut of always doing things in the same limiting ways. If we apply this to our life together as a church – we need to be imaging what we could be and do together untethered to the way we do things now.

Earlier this week a friend of mine told me about some imaginative “core values” he saw on a church web site. The core values I’m used to seeing are always normative – these were much more inviting to imaginative applications.  So maybe this a place for us to start gaining passion?

Gospel Transformation

An understanding of the gospel of grace as the dynamic for all life-change and ministry.

“Religion,” the default mode of the human heart, is “I obey-therefore I am accepted.” But the gospel of grace is “I am accepted through Christ-therefore I obey.” Nearly everyone thinks Christianity is another form of “religion.” But when the gospel is communicated clearly, it not only amazes and attracts those who don’t believe, it helps Christians grow in grace who are mired in the self-righteousness, pride and anxiety that moralism produces.

Authentic Community

A heavy emphasis on small groups and the necessity of deep community.

God’s purpose in history is not simply to save individual souls, but to create a new humanity, a people with a communal life that reflects, to some degree, the future kingdom of God. We are to see people united in love who could never have been brought together without the power of the gospel to humble, affirm and transform their identity. Christians are, therefore, not to simply come to church to receive inspiration and information, but are to give themselves to real community and personal relationships.

Missional Living

A welcoming orientation toward secular people who don’t believe in Christianity.

The gospel removes any sense of superiority toward those who don’t share our beliefs. We respect and remember what it is like to seriously doubt Christianity. We therefore expect not-yet-believers in almost every facet of SRPC’s ministry and we make every effort to engage and address their questions and concerns.

A holistic emphasis on ministry in both word and deed and a concern for the poor.

Jesus didn’t save us just with words, but mainly through his deeds…his work. The gospel demands that every recipient of God’s grace surrender the illusion of self-sufficiency. This removes all superiority toward the poor. It equips us to use our gifts and resources to love our neighbors not just in word, but through deeds of sacrificial love.

A goal of equipping people for cultural renewal through the integration of faith and work.

The gospel brings us a unique perspective on God, human nature, the material world, the direction of history, and the importance of community. All of these inevitably influence the way we work, whether in business, government, healthcare, service industries or the academy. Therefore, we help Christians integrate their faith with their work in order to serve the common good of the whole city.

A commitment to the planting of new churches.

The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for the numerical growth of the Body of Christ, the renewal of existing churches, and the overall impact of the church on the culture of our area. Nothing else-not crusades, outreach programs or para-church ministries-will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting.