June 13th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Summer is the absolute best time to catch-up or get ahead on your reading.

There’s simply no way around it, the greatest tool for your personal development and growth is reading. Plus, it’s one of the few aspects of life you can actually control. As a pastor, writer, and leader, I have to read in order to fund my imagination, shape my vision, and develop as a person.

The same is true for you. If you want to take the next step in life, you have to read…and you have to read a lot. Reading will advance and educate you beyond your present capabilities, but books also help us mark life. I can point to particular books that I happened upon at just the right time. Those books changed my life. If you don’t have your summer reading list set, you need to get on it.

Here’s What I’m Reading:

Spiritual Formation-ish / Churchy:

Business-ish / Start-Upy:

Fiction-ish:

There you have it. I know it looks like a lot, but here’s my process for reading through difficult books. I hope you pick-out one or two books and give them a go.

Happy Reading.

Posted in books, reading
October 18th, 2012 | 6 Comments »

In a previous post, I began a conversation regarding reading scripture (The Bible)  and the process of deconstruction. This began for Rochelle and I several years ago through a confluence of personal and professional setbacks. Our inherited hermeneutic could not handle the weight of our experiences or the misguided, though well-intended, words and actions we received from fellow Christ-followers. So, we went on a journey that changed the way we read the Bible. We weren’t trying to read the Bible differently, we were just trying to make sense of the full witness of scripture and what we were experiencing.

It has been and continues to be a painful and beautiful quest.

The primary reason for the pain is that the pursuit of the God of scripture has often lead us to starkly different conclusions about who God is than the prefabricated views we were fed as children. A friend of mine, who has now come to read the Biblical text differently than he was taught, once said: “I wish my pursuit of Jesus did not put me at odds with the very people who taught me to pursue Jesus in the first place.” He lovingly meant that the process of deconstructing and rebuilding your approach to the Bible is difficult to understand by those who have chosen to ignore or abandon the process of deconstruction. For many in the church deconstruction and reconstruction can causes discord and consternation. Counterintuitively, the deconstructive process actually strengthens, beautifies and animates our faith to greater levels. The process is known as the “hermeneutical circle.”

French philosopher Paul Rocouer described the process like this.

The starting point is the First Naivete:

Read the rest of this entry »

March 27th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

Reading the Bible isn’t as easy as I was taught as a child.

For instance, a few months ago I walked a group of people through a class entitled, A Dangerous Word. Essentially we examined how we read scripture. It’s obvious – given the 1,000’s of Christian denominations – that people and ecclesiological traditions read the Bible differently. What’s less obvious – and this applies to all groups – is that “we” have a particular way of reading scripture. What’s more, “our” way of reading is largely culturally-conditioned and has it’s own beauty and it’s own blind spots. Texts that are crucial to one person or group are oftentimes marginalized or flat-out ignored by others – it’s called “privileging a text.”

This privileging of texts gets pretty astonishing at times. some traditions find themselves honoring and privileging one half of a sentence and ignoring the second part of the same sentence. For instance, the church of my childhood demanded that “Church of Christ” was the only proper name for a church because it was the only one mentioned in the New Testament (Romans 16.16). Yet, in those same churches, no one – and I mean NO ONE – ever exchanged a “Holy kiss” though that is also in Romans 16.16. As Scot McKnight has pointed out in his great book, The Blue Parakeet“every one of us adopts and (at the same time) adapts the Bible to our culture.”

In preparing the class I was once again reminded how difficult it is to peel back our constructs in order to build a better and more constructive one. Like many theology students, the death of our “first naivete” and the introduction of  the “hermeneutics of suspicion,” can be oft-putting. People, including myself, are resistant to the process of deconstruction.

For one, deconstruction is hard. In the process we have to examine our preconceptions and offer the lamb of our philosophical and theological constructs up for sacrifice. Only truth-seekers can truly do this. Those who desire to use their version of truth or partial truth reject the process out-right. There’s simply too much at stake – namely power. In order to get to the heart of truth one must be willing to clear the debris of partial truth, idols and comforting platitudes.

Second, the deconstructive process puts our past on the line. We are who we are because of our history. Even our painful experiences shape us. Since most of us like ourselves we protect our history. How disorienting it is to willingly engage a process that critiques both our current belief system and past beliefs…especially for leaders. We’ve given advice and walked through life with other people, offering the seeds of a belief system throughout the process. We bring into question the good we have done if we allow ourselves to questions the beliefs that gave rise to those good works. For Christians, this should be mitigated by belief that God is working through us and it was never about us in the first place.

Third, it’s easy to believe that if we don’t recognize or acknowledge something, it’s not really there. For instance, if we never talk about translation issues, hermeneutics, the role of genres, etc…then they don’t exist. Questions regarding the function of Genesis 1-12, Job, Daniel or Revelation aren’t easy to wade through, yet we need to nevertheless.

We need the deconstructive process for one simple reason: Truth! Many Christians live with false, ultimately indefensible, and theologically poor paradigms because we have simply swallowed  what was spoon fed us as children, teens, or when we first came to have a life-changing, though rudimentary relationship with Jesus. Yet, for many, the process is simply too painful to embrace.

But I don’t know anyone who deeply wants to live with an ill-concieved or false worldview. We don’t reject deconstruction because we desire falsehood, we reject it because it’s painful. Yet, it is Jesus who assures us that the truth will set us free. Therefore, when we examine the scriptures, we are seek nothing less than truth. The best Bible readers – both laity and clergy – seek truth with the fundamental belief that whatever else we sacrifice on our journey to truth is worth sacrificing.

February 28th, 2012 | No Comments »

This past Sunday was my last as the Senior Minister at Redwood Church. It was more than I could have hoped for. My family’s time in California, in the grand scheme, has been brief, yet extraordinarily fruitful. I can’t speak for the congregation, but Rochelle and I are different and better people. We’ve learned much about leadership and loving a church. Mostly, we’ve learned the hard way. And we are eternally grateful for a congregation that allowed us to test, experiment, fail and recover.

Here are a few of our unexpected lessons learned the hard way:

1. Conviction Is Key. In the life of a congregation there are thousands of decisions. In fact, there are thousands of different and difficult decisions to make everyday. This means that leaders need to lead by conviction; knowing what they believe and how to achieve. Andy Stanley says  in Visioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision that engineering a vision is both knowing what your vision is and having the conviction to bring it to fruition. Leaders who lack conviction will have their vision blown to and fro by the changing winds. In addition, without conviction, slights and criticisms weigh more than they ought. If you’re going to succeed or fail do so under the pressure of your own God-given vision.

2. There’s A Thin Line Between Love & Hate. That’s an overstatement…sort of. In her book Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith Barbara Brown Taylor writes of her leaving congregational ministry. As she exits the pastorate she is reminded of the words of one of her ministerial mentors. He said, “The people who hate you don’t hate you as much as you think they hate you and the people who love you don’t love you as much as you think they love you.” It’s wise counsel. As a leader, you cannot avoid criticism. You will have both detractors and fans. Therefore, you can’t allow other’s opinions to shape your self-perception. And you certainly cannot allow other’s opinions to shape your activities. This is where Jesus’ ministry is key. In the course of a week, our Lord went from celebrated hero to Gethsemane. Crowds are fickle. Always have been.

3. Stay Ahead / Stay Fresh. For a leader to succeed s/he must be ahead of the organization. The leader is hardly ever the smartest person in a group, but they must be the one looking farther down the road. Church world is hectic. And when the leader has to teach and preach each week, looking forward can easily become the first thing to fall by the wayside. It can’t. A few times I struggled to get ahead, to know what was coming in 3, 6, or 9 months. When I stayed ahead, the entire organization functioned better, when I was scrambling we all suffered.

4. Love Before You Lead. I once heard Francis Chan say that he knew he could lead a church, he just didn’t know if he loved his church. That was powerful. And it changed my view of leadership. Recently a friend of mind stepped into a senior ministry position. He called to ask my thoughts. In response I told him that the first thing he should do is make sure that everyone in hos new church knew that he loved them. The apostle Paul was right, the greatest thing you can do as a leader is offer love. What’s more, if people’s hearts aren’t open to you, then you’re dead in the water.

What unexpected lessons have you learned about leadership and church life? What wasn’t covered in class that might help us all lead our churches to greater heights in the God’s kingdom?

February 23rd, 2012 | 2 Comments »

One word can change the way you do everything. One word can refocus your attention, focus your energies and create a new outlook in an instant.

Since I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, I decided this year that instead of picking one habit to incorporate, jettison, or enhance, I wanted to do something that would effect my entire life. I wanted something that would effect my church work, community leadership, reading, blogging, writing, speaking, investment in others, marriage, parenting, everything.

I chose one word.

One word to remind, inspire and focus my energies. The word? GRIND! (I know, it’s rife for humor as a word. I get it) Anyway…

Everyday Is A Grind

Grind reminds me that at any time when I feel a lull in enthusiasm or energy, there is something I could be doing – creating blog, sermon, or class content, exercising, returning e-mail, deepening and communicating my vision for organizations I partner with, investing in relationships with my wife and daughters, sharpening my mind or bettering my story-telling through reading and writing, or simply working on some unfinished project around the house. It reminds me that life is work, and to get the most out of it is a grind. All I have to say to myself is, “Grind!” And what was about to become a time suck – flipping channels, YouTube, worrying about something I can’t control, etc… – gets turned into opportunity moment. I then can transition into something that will actually benefit someone. Recently a friend asked me how I was managing to spend time with my wife and kids, say goodbye to friends, pack boxes, make arrangements for moving, blog, preach and launch a new venture. The answer: Grind! It’s my word. GRIND! reminds me that I can be making something in my life better.

You need a word too.

You need a word to agitate your laziness into action.

You need a word to give clarity to moments of fuzzyheadedness.

You need a word to keep you moving toward your goals.

You need a word.

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