Tag Archives: #dmingml

Should I stay or Should I go?

I’m guessing when the Clash released their new-wave punk anthem that they didn’t have social organizations, governments and economic systems in mind.  Should I Exit or Should I voice?  But the entire time I ready through Albert O. Hirschman’s book on Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, I couldn’t get this song out of my head.  That probably says a lot more about me than it does Hirschman’s intentions.

Hirschman proposes that when an organization/government/economy/business etc. deteriorates in it’s performance, people generally respond in their disappointment in 2 ways:

  1. Some customers stop buying the firm’s products or some members leave the organization:  this is the exit option.  As a result, revenues drop, membership declines , and management im impelled to search for ways and means to correct whatever faults have led to exit. (4)
  2. The firm’s customers or the organization’s members express their dissatisfaction directly to management or to some other authority to which management is subordinate or through general protest addressed to anyone who cares to listen:  this is the voice option.  As a result, management once again engages in a search for the causes and possible cures of customers’ and members’ dissatisfaction.  (4)

The final part of Hirschman’s equation is a specific kind of “voice” customers that believe they have power or influence to ‘right the ship’ and not only voice their displeasure, but their attachments exhibit loyalty as a barrier to those who would exit.  “Loyalty can serve the socially useful purpose of preventing deterioration from becoming cumulative, as it so often does when there is no barrier to exit.”  (79)  Loyalty has a kind of gravitational pull to the organization and it keeps the person in the conversation seeking an alternative solution to that of exit.  It cares, it has deep attachments, invested interest, so it stays in the fight to see things made right.  It is not tempted towards exit unless it perceives itself utterly powerless and the future hopeless for the entity at hand.  Only at a place of powerlessness would loyalty break down to exit.

It would seem a great example of this with America is the strong push for a true alternative 3rd political party to the entrenched two-party system of Republicans and Democrats.  There is growing massive fatigue with gross bi-partisanship, sophmoric rhetoric, incompetent leadership and unsustainable economic decisions.  From within the conservatives up grew a loyal voice called the “tea party” movement.  Recently, from within the liberal side grew up a loyal voice called “Occupy Wall Street”.  Both are not pleased at all and are acting with fierce voices of protest, but neither are exiting the system.  They want to see a true alternative formed so that America can be great again.  They have sharply different ideas to do so, but they agree that what ‘is’ will no longer be tolerated and are ardently voicing their protest.  They believe within  democracy that they have the power to protest, gather, speak freely and offer harsh critiques of their governance.  If the established powers have any care for these passionate and loyal sects of Americans, they will listen and respect their rights of protest.  To disrespect these constitutional rights may eventually lead to the anarchy nobody wants and no nation could survive.

My fear is that the Tea Party will be completely co-opted by the Republicans and that the leadership and influence of #OWS will be co-opted by the Democratic party.  When the powers corrupt the upstarts, there is no hope for a true alternative 3rd party of loyalitst voicing their discontent.  They become a part of what they loathe, but I guess the positive is that they haven’t exited.

Should I stay or should I go when it comes to American politics?  Some days I wonder what is the best alternative, my loyalties are deeply tattered.

A Sacred Gaze

The Sacred Gaze, by David Morgan is about Religious visual culture in theory and practice.  I am a visually learner, I love to experience it all and breathe it in. Morgan ties the powerful connection between visuals and belief in history.  “Seeing puts believers in the presence of what they wish to see, what they wish to venerate or adore.”  (p. 259)  We as humans connect to what we see, it shapes much of what we claim to believe if we’re honest.

Here are a few noteable quotes from Morgan’s book:

“Vision happens in and as culture, as the tools, artifacts, assumptions, learned behaviors, and unconscious promptings that are exerted in images . . . A gaze consists of several parts:  a viewer, fellow viewers, the subject of their viewing, the context or seeting of the subject, and the rules that govern the particular relationship between views and subject.”  (p. 3)

“Images and objects can operate very powerfully in religious practice by organizing the spaces of worship and devotion, delineating certain places as sacred, such as pilgrimage sites, temples, domestic spaces, and public religious festivals.”  (p. 56)

“Communal existence is something both concretely experienced and shared at a distance over time.”  (p. 59)  Below is an experience I had where I powerfully felt connected in a visual space to it’s deep history. 

In August, 2010, I was taking a few personal retreat days in York, England before I met up with my new doctorate cohort for the first time.  One of the reasons I chose York was to visit York Minster.   I love history, but I was blown away by the presence of this place.  I felt immediately connected to every medieval worshipper whoever stepped foot in this space.  The carvings, the tombs of former cardinals, the crypt, the spires, the bells, the windows, the woodwork, the smells, the sound of a choir etc.  It all had me blown away and taken back to a time 500-700 years earlier.  People who worsipped the same God I do, working it out in their everyday and ordinary lives.  I was blown away by the perspective in my sacred gaze.  Below is my journal reflection after that visual experience:

“York Minster was as impressive a holy site as I have been to.  I was struck by the presence of the place.  It had been prayed over for hundreds of years. I was hushed to a kind of reverent silence.  The presence of God in the history of those stones was overwhelming to me.  I felt undone.  The spacious expanse, the arching buttresses, the innumerable and ornate stained glass windows, the stone floors and walls . . . just stunning to me.  The architecture all points upwards, it leads to elevated thinking and most certainly prayer.  Yesterday I went and visited, saw the crypts, climbed the 275 spiral stone stairs to the tower for the view and did what a tourist should do. Today, I went back to the Minster to be a pilgrim.  I went to pray, I went to look within.  To be honest, it was difficult.  I felt broken, I wanted to repent of everything within me that does not reflect the holiness of my God and well, that takes some time.  I went and prayed for my family, I prayed for my community, I prayed for our world.  This is the kind of place that you could sit and pray all day without any problem.  Most certainly, this was a thin place.  A place where the veil from this world and the spiritual is so thin, its almost permeable.  It’s humbling.  Very, very humbling. Then I walked out into the streets, into the world of the bustling people and I just began to ache.  I felt the longing of God for his Creation.  We, as a  people, can tend live our entire busy lives and never look up.  Never stop to commune with the One who made us and governs the universe.  I felt God longing for more of me, I felt him longing for my neighbors, I felt him longing for the restoration of all things.  I wanted to stay in that “space” in York and just pray and sit in it.  But then I heard him say “Go”, it was time to get going, get a train to Oxford and continue this pilgrimage.  It is God who says go, bring the sacred in the land of the secular, make all places holy.  My heartfelt thanks to the Minster at York, another thin place visited in my life’s pilgrimage.”

Great Leaders aren’t impressed with themselves


Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

– Mark 10:42-45

Reading through Jim Collins‘ book on leadership, “Good To Great”, I couldn’t help but see the connecting points to the thing I am most passionate about, that is leadership in the Church.  I find that I can be quite critical about Church leadership and it’s not because I don’t care, it’s because it’s what I care most about.  I long for her (the Church) greatness and anything short of that just feels like compromise. 

By greatness, I don’t mean in a hyper-driven performance kind of way, I mean it in the sense of not settling for anything less than our full capacity spiritually, missionally, and in all the ways it means to be the peculiar people of God on earth.  “Good is the enemy of great.  And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.”  (p.1) 

Great leaders don’t think too highly of themselves

  • “Good to great leaders do not talk about themselves. . . . They are described with words such as “quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated and did not believe his own clippings.”  (p. 27)  
  • “The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes.  They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons.  They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.” (p. 28)

In a world of consumerism and the pursuit of entertaining pleasures, are we okay with pastors/ministers/leaders who are not the most charismatic, but actually get the best results because they shepherd with an ear to ‘The Shepherd’ as opposed to a focus on themselves?  Do we believe the meek will inherit the earth, or are we hoping Jesus didn’t really mean that part? Collins actually believes that having the CEO kind of charisma is an inhibtor to greatness, not the very thing that propels you there.  “You can overcome the liabilities of having charisma, but it does require conscious attention.”  (p. 73) 

I have long chewed on these words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realised by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of the brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.   (Life Together p.  27-28.)

Leading the Church cannot be about us.  If it is, then we are train-wreck waiting to happen.  Leading has got to be about serving, listening, following and denying ourselves.  It is not our ministry, it is his.  What we put into it is that we care so deeply about his bride that we desire the very best.  We are most passionate and work towards her greatness.

“Get involved in something that you care so much about that you want to make it the greatest it can possibly be, not because of what you will get, but just because it can be done.”  (p. 209)



Leading with some Soul


Who do you follow and why do you follow them?  Is it because you like their management approach of dehumanizing you to a set of quantifiable tasks and functions in which they exert their control?  I’m guessing not.  Unless you’re a robot, humans like the idea of living and working in freedom where meaning and purpose drive functions. 

Perspectives on Leadership by Gilbert W. Fairholm is a classic text on leadership vs. management styles.  He contrasts management as attached to the hard sciences of modernism and introduces spiritual leadership as a path towards a more holistic future. 

“The manager role involves insuring that group activity is timed, controlled and predictable.”  (1)  The only problem is that human beings are fickle to being controlled and are rarely predictable.  Management at its worst dehumanizes people as merely another cog within the system of productivity towards desired results.  Fairholm suggests that this is a very low level of leadership regardless of results attained.  For too long we have equated critical management tactics as the definition of true leadership.  Have we become machines?  Managing risk is not the kind of leadership that people follow, it’s for those who are ruled by fear, not freedom. 

A spiritual core lies at the heart of all human life.  It expresses itself in beauty, aesthetics and in our relationships with others.  We need to reconnect to the fact that our hearts and minds, and not just our bodies, are dominant in our business relationships.  For life is about spirit, and we humans carry only one spirit that manifests itself in both our life and our livelihood.  (113)

We are to see, inspire and lead people, not control them. 

Fairholm lays out 4 Process Technologies of Spiritual Leadership:

  1. Building Community – being free but acting in harmony with others
  2. Setting a Higher Moral Standard – modeling the natural consequences of doing the right thing
  3. Wholeness – being concerned for the whole person, inspiring their future capacity
  4. Stewardship- trust is earned, but only for a temporary period of time, so act in it

People are not machines, they have souls.  They are capable for more than they realize and it is the role of the leader to get them there.  As a red-blooded American kid, growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s, one of the most inspiring stories of my childhood is something known as the “Miracle on Ice“.  That is where the US Olympic hockey team led arguably the biggest upset in sports history against the Soviets during the height of the Cold War.  It was a time where the country was fragile and vulnverable, we didn’t know what to think of ourselves. 

A group of late adolescent amateurs for one night realized their full capacity and beat the best collection of professional hockey players in the world at the time.  For most of their training, they hated their coach and his seemingly cruel tactics.  But Coach Herb Brooks wasn’t there to manage what they knew they could do, he was there to lead them to what they didn’t know they had the capacity to do.  He led by example, he earned their trust, he galvinized a community of brothers to see themselves as a team and not a collection of individuals.  It would take a team to beat the unbeatable Soviets.  Coach Brooks increased their capacity to it’s fullness, that’s leadership with some soul. 

Where are our leaders with some soul?  The world is waiting . . .

Street Crossers

Street Crossers , by Rick Shrout  is now out and I’m pretty excited about it!   Let me warn you, I’m pretty biased on this one. 

Chapter one is my faith, ministry, life-story of sorts of how I came to be a planter/leader of missional communities.  Rick and I were introduced years ago through some mutual friends at George Fox University and it has turned into a friendship and partnership along the journey.  I am  quite honored that Rick told not only my story, but the story of my spiritual home, Ordinary Community Church

As well, I couldn’t be more excited than to be neighbored in the book with my brother/friend and co-conspirator in Jason Evans as his story is chapter two.  Jason and I have kindred communities and our stories have long been inter-twined together from the same roots, and now you can see it in book form together.

For many like us, over a decade ago when we embarked on a different journey of church planting, there was little to no one willng to listen to our perspective, let alone take the time to really hear the callings on our hearts.  Rick has become a voice lending credibility and affirmation to missional leaders because his desire is that the Kingdom would continue to come ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. 

Much thanks to Rick for listening and telling our story.

When Hope is your home, and not your home

Tragedy in La Limonada


I can’t shake this story from my friends in Lemonade International.  I just want it not to be true.  This is not the created intention for this 15 year old girl wanting to escape the clutches of evil.  Deep, deep loss.  My heart saddens for her family, friends and community.  Christ have mercy.

What do we think of hope in a time and place of such darkness?  As followers of the Christ, we have only one thought in regards to hope.  Hope is our home, and moment to moment we realize we are not home.  We long, we yearn, we wait . . . we hope.  Our Hope is in a Kingdom that has come, and a Kingdom that is yet coming.  Hope is our home, but we are not yet completely home. 

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity puts it this way in his chapter on Hope:

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. . . . If I find in myself a desire in which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. . . . Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. . . . I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find til after death; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”  (p. 136-137)

Today I mourn with La Limonada, and today I Hope with La Limonada.  We are not home, but we don’t leave this world as it is. 

What do we do against such heavy darkness when hope feels like a faint echo?  What do we do when the stench and sting of death pierces our senses?  We do what we have always done, we follow the Resurrector.  We do what is written in our soul, we read words of life.  We in no uncertain terms, RISE AGAIN!  We know no other way, we are people of the Resurrection.   

So hear is my prayer today for my friends serving in La Limonada, go in the Spirit of the One who created it all and proclaim your hope this day.  Proclaim the Hope of the One who is Resurrected.  Serve, love, give mercy, sing, dance, worship, feed, educate, clothe, persevere amidst long suffering and all in the name of the Hope that has come.  Show the children what Hope looks like.  They long for the ‘other’ country, a place where it is as it should be.  Reveal to them the Hope just on the other side of the veil.  Let the light come in and pierce the darkness.  God as you once did, I pray you push away the stone in La Limonada and release your Resurrection of Hope. 

When I have no more words to say in this regard, I fall on the words of my brother who has passed on to Kingdom fullness who knew this hope full well.  These are some of Mark Palmer’s final words and I pray them over La Limonada this day:

“When it seems that hopefulness is the least appropriate response in this situation, let it rise up even more. Whisper your hope when you lie down at night; scream your hope when you wake in the morning. Live your hope as if it is the one and only thing that sustains you in this ravaged world. You will not be disappointed.”

May Hope be your home today in La Limonada, even though you are not yet home. 

towards noise or meaning?


Sitting in St. Peter’s church  here in London in a Social Media bootcamp for people who care about the voice of the church and how it may be used as a relevant platform for that voice.  Dave Merwin has a brilliant mind and a heart for his world and shared his insights with us this morning.  Perhaps no other issue challenges to live out the postmodern ministry cliche of “ancient-future” more than this.  Is this what the church should be moving toward?  Or is this something the church should counter-cultrually transcend and go against?  I have a gut-feeling towards both.One of the statements from a gentleman giving a question from the audience said something like, “Jesus would not be personally branding himself if he were here today.”  While, I agree, Jesus was quite counter-cutural as well as unassuming in his recorded social interactions.  But I am also not sure that he didn’t engage in the kind of information clarification of his day.  In particular, the way he was very strategic and careful about the title the general populace referred to him as.  Was he the “one”?  Was he the “messiah”?  Was he the “revolutionary”?  Was he a “prophet”?  Was he coming to be “King of the Jews”?  Jesus care about how he was perceived, over and over again, unassuming as he was, he spoke into these perceptions and argued for his space to clarify.  He “branded” himself with the title “Son of man”.  He wanted to show that his power was to serve, not to dominate.  He wanted to communicate that he was a different kind of “Lord” than Caesar.  Others wanted to brand him with their perceptions, “friend of sinners”, “a new kind of teacher”, “blasphemer”, “greater than Moses”, “magician” etc.  In his interactions, I observe Jesus branding himself to bring clarity to his person and purpose.  His attempts were to brand himself for clarity and for purpose.The other side of social media is the manic nature of constant noise and exponential interactions.  It is quiet easy to ask the questions of humility, purpose, busyness, participation with the world’s rythymns, a panic pace, relationship with stuff over people, an inherent narcissism where the world is revolving around me and frankly just too much output where there is not quality, just quantity.  Earlier I tweeted a bit of this quote from Henri Nouwen:

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure”

Should we be putting out more noise, or should we be teaching contemplation?  Should we participate with the stuff of busyness, or should we show an alternative way?  A way grounded in the experience of the communion with the Spirit of God in solitude and reflection, instead of noise and manic.  These are my questions.

No real answers, just asking the questions.  🙂