Crush It!

“The internet is 15 years old, it hasn’t even had sex yet” – Gary Vaynerchuk (Le Web, December 18, 2009)

In 2009, at a real bottomed out low-point for me professionally, I came across this video and this book by Gary Vaynerchuk.    Now, take away the enormous amount of colorful expletive language (I posted the censored version) and underneath it, I found some real genius and some God-given inspiration.  His New York city gumption certainly resonates with the irish-philly boy in myself.  I don’t pretend to fit the mold of the conservative churchman, but I also don’t promote rebellion for rebellion-sake, that’s often shallow and unprofitable.  I am interested in a proper rebellion, one that is for the healing of the nations.  (Ezekiel 47)


I see great parallels between the potential of social media for your voice/business/organization and the ‘open source’ theory proposed by Cory Doctorow in Content.   If you have a business idea, if you have an organization you want to promote, if you have a cause you want to voice:  in today’s/tomorrow’s world, it can’t be done without a real comittment to understanding the open source and exponential impact of the internet. 

One of the main reasons I chose GFU’s DMin in Global Missional Leadership was because it was pushing the boundary for using social media and open sourcing it’s content through the blog world.  This shows a real understanding of how networks and conversations happen in the world of the future/present.  I am openly fascinated with the missional potential of open-soure information attached to social-media relationship networking for the future.  I see amazing potential in the exponential nature of the connections for the call and response to a Kingdom-centered life.  

Doctorow says, “Our ability to make our art (authors) is inextricably linked with the billions of Internet users who use the network to talk about their lives.” (p.70)  Doctorow is in the habit of giving away digital copies of his books to those who wouldn’t buy it otherwise.  He believes that this ‘open handed’ practice actually gains him future consumers.  “Most people who download the book don’t end up buying it, but they wouldn’t have bought it in any event, so I haven’t lost any sales, I’ve just won an audience.”  (p. 71)   If you care more about your message/your voice/your art than you do credit or immediate sales, then you must understand the genius in this ‘open source’ practice.  This is not micro-thinking, this is Macro.  What your real mission/passion is will dictate whether you push for micro-results or open up for a dangerous macro tipping-point.  As a missional leader, I’m somewhat obsessed with that macro-tipping point, it’s what I pay attention to.

So, consider me a voice and a proponent for a future of ‘open source’ ministry when it comes to church.  I think, if we care about our faith message, if we are devoted to the missional impact of getting it ‘out there’, then being a church without walls is embracing an open source voice to our teaching and relating.  John Wesley said, “the world is my parish”.  If he lived in 2011, would he be an avid blogger and user of social media?  I think if he were alive, he’d say he would have preferred facebook and twitter over long horseback rides in the cold rain from town to town to get his passionate message out.  I don’t think it’s our job to control what happens after the proclamation of our voice has left our mouths or our typing fingertips.  Misperceptions and being taken out of context can happen in real time and in the same room in the same way it can happen in an internet cafe thousands of miles from your ‘send’ button.  Doctorow adds, “Complex ecosystems are influenced, not controlled.” (p. 190)  Is our job to control or to proclaim?  Do we want to influence, or do we want to own the process?  The leader/proclaimer of the future will see what they do as more art than science, the mystery of it all will replace the security of the corporate strategies. 

I am most concerned about the church and I worry about her future, particularly in my US context.  We seem to be headed towards a world Recession economically that may very well define what ministry will look like for the next 10-20 years or more.  In the consumer age, we created churches/ministries with crippling overheads that may or may not survive the transition.  Financial debt and senses of entitlements may die a slow death, or at least a severe correction.  I foresee a period of grieving and lament for the American church and that is understandable and quite natural.  If our comforts are taken away, adjustments will hurt. 

My million dollar question at that point is “now what”?  Will we fall into a crippling lament of inactivity of what Doctorow refers to as ‘Lapsarianism’?

The idea of a paradise lost, a fall from grace that makes each year worse than the last – is the predominant future feeling for many people.  It’s easy to see why:  an imperfectly remembered golden childhood gives way to the worries of adulthood and physical senescence.  Surely the world is getting worse:  nothing tastes as good as it did when we were six, everything hurts all the time, and our matured gonads drive us into frenzies of bizarre, self-destructive behavior. (p. 141)

My hope is that after lament, we will be filled with new found inspiration to be creative and look for inexpensive ways to continue to be church and proclaim the truth of our Gospel and shout the hope of a sure Kingdom to a world of torrential loss of securities.  My hope is that we will act with the kind of inner-city gumption of Vaynerchuk, we will “shut up and get back to work”!  It may be in this very time that the internet is opening us for a new opportunity as the church to CRUSH IT!



The Sickness of Leadership

“The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation.”  Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus


I contend that leadership is a sickness, some have it, some don’t.  Some have a lethal case of it, some have the more mild annoyance that just is a part of their normal.  Some have it so bad it festers within them and won’t them them sleep comfortably.  The sickness of leadershp is a give and take, very little glory and a lot of pain.  Some are born with the sickness, some develop the illness as they go. 

There is a dirty little secret that comes with the sickness of leadership.  At some level, leaders need to be needed.  There is an air of self-importance, a filling of an insecurity that they matter. . . that they really, really matter.  Some leaders cope with the sickness at the surface level, they seek power from the acquisition of roles and titles.  They don’t go beneath the surface to ask the hard questions, the fear of the hidden truths are just too painful and overwhelming.  The waves craching on that shore are just something they’d rather not have to see.  They fill their lives with a lot of activity and busyness as a means of distraction for themselves and their followers looking on.  To appear busy is to put on the air of importance, they must be special and its important others see them that way.  If you’re busy with lots of activity, you must be a leader, you make things happen.  We as a culture honor busy leaders with accolades and promotions, we stroke the bruised ego.  Success becomes a drug and the addicted leader copes with their sickness by looking for the next fix.  Perhaps the next success, the next accolade with be the final thing that makes them feel okay inside, only then could they be finally whole.  But sickness doesn’t heal, it just makes you more sick. 

How leaders deal with this part of the sickness happens in a part of them that others can’t see, it’s their inner life.  In some ways, we don’t want to know the inner life of a leader.  We want to assume they are whole and have it all together, there must be some people ‘out there’ with all the answers.  The shallow leader is sucessful as long as those around them buy this misperception.  Manfred Kets De Vries lays much of this ‘inner life’ of the leader out in “The Leadership Mystique:  Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise.”  De Vries states:

In discussing these issues, I’ll demonstrate that an individual’s leadership style- a synthesis of the various roles that he or she chooses to adopt – is a complex outcome of the interplay of that person’s inner theater, as expressed in core issues (which are influenced by traits and temperament), the competencies that the person develops over the course of the lifespan, and the context in which the person is operating.  (p. 7)

De Vries refers to “emotional intelligence” as the understanding of the leader’s inner motivational forces for themselves and others.(p. 5)  Becoming free of the tyranny of the broken side of the leadership sickness is to increase and grow one’s own emotional intelligence.  A self-awareness of who one really is, what they have to offer and how to pull out the best in others for the organization.  This is the part of the sickness that many choose not to pursue, growing in one’s emotional intelligence is often painful but often liberating.  Rather, the sickness makes the leader prone to “the public self that we choose to share generally bears little resemblance to the private self, a self so private that even we ourselves may know it only slightly.” (p. 65)  The leader can live in the oppression of a world of deception. 

Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to a leader deep in their sickness is to get a shakng wake-up call.  De Vries speaks of the surgeon Sir William Osler who said in the late 1900’s that “the best thing that can happen to a person is to have a mild coronary at midlife.”  Lying in a hospital bed with tubes coming in and out “forces people to reflect on the priorities in their life, to determine what it is that they really enjoy.” (p. 106).  If we’re not blessed with a coronary, then leaders would be wise to take the time for disciplined reflection.  This allows the leader to help see their blind spots, look introspectively for the things that are yet sick within.  Evaluate goals and longings, question motives, analyze activities and plan enjoyment.  This kind of reflection leads to more wholeness. the gravitational pull of being centered in a calling and not tossed and turned by the waves of the sickness.

By far, my favorite book on Christian leadership is “In the Name of Jesus” by Henri Nouwen.  In fact, if you’ve not read it, it’s probably best you don’t, it’s far too dangerous and it’s more convenient if you remain in the place of not knowing.  Nouwen speaks to the sickness of leadership; the desire to be relevant, spectacular and powerful.  He calls the leader to “die to their neighbor so that they can actualy love them.”  It is only after we die to our neighbor that we don’t need anything from them (like being needed) and thus are finally free to love them without conditions.  This all requires us to anchor ourselves deeply in another place, not in our own abilities, but in the residing presence of being the ‘beloved’ of God.  Resting in this, leading out of this place makes us truly powerful.  This kind of power is something the sickness of leadership knows nothing of. 

“Now I realize that the real sin is to deny God’s first love for me, to ignore my original goodness.  Because without claiming that first love and that original goodness for myself, I lose touch with my true self and embark on the destructive search among the wrong people and in the wrong places for what can only be found in the house of my Father.”  – Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

The kind of leadership that De Vries and Nouwen are speaking of is to finally come home.  Leave the sick life of helter-skelter activity, self-indulgent accomplishments and the tary of power acquisition.  Come home and rest in who you really are, find the truth about who you are and where you belong.  It is out of this center (in Christ), that the Christian leader becomes truly powerful.  No longer sick, he/she is whole. 


A beautiful future

“Africa is beyond bemoaning the past for its problems. The task of undoing that past is on the shoulders of African leaders themselves, with the support of those willing to join in a continental renewal. We have a new generation of leaders who know that Africa must take responsibility for its own destiny, that Africa will uplift itself only by its own efforts in partnership with those who wish her well.” – Nelson Mandela

This sums up well the spirit of what I’ve been learning from African leaders here in this critical land of what holistic development looks like. It’s about true partnership and not dependency on the West, Africa has all it needs within itself for a beautiful future. We get the opportunity to learn and serve with them.  #dmingml