loren Eric Swanson: June 2005

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Agustine's Confession Quotations

Last year I read, for the first time, Agustine's Confessions--recognized as the first true autobiography. As part of my DMin program I wrote up a book summary but as an addendum wrote out quotes that I wanted to have available. They are now posted here for you.

On the singularity of being and doing
“In you it is not one thing to be and another to live: the supreme degree of being and the supreme degree of life are one and the same thing.” P. 8

On love and lust
“The single desire that dominated my search for delight was simply to love and to be loved.” P. 24

To me it was sweet to love and to be loved, the more so if I could also enjoy the body of the beloved. I therefore polluted the spring water of friendship with the filth of concupiscence. I muddied its clear stream by the hell of lust, and yet, though foul and immoral, in my excessive vanity, I used to carryon in the manner of an elegant man about town.” P. 35

“I prayed you for chastity and said: ‘Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.’ I was afraid you might bear my prayer quickly, and that you might too rapidly heal me of the disease of lust which I preferred to satisfy rather than suppress.” P. 145

On the nature of God
“Your omnipotence is never far from us, even when we are far from you.” P. 25

“Lord, you are always working and always at rest.” P. 304

On obedience
“But when God commands something contrary to the customs or laws of a people, even if that has never been previously done, it has to be done. If it has fallen into disuse, it must be restored. If it has not been established, it must be established. If it is lawful for a king in a city within his realm to give an order which none before him nor he himself had previously issued, and if it is not contrary to the social contract of his city to obey. Or indeed if it would be contrary to the social agreement not to obey..then how much more must God, the governor of all his creation, be unhesitatingly obeyed in whatever he commands! Just as among the authorities in human society a superior authority has a greater power to command obedience than an inferior officer, so God is supreme over all.” P. 46

On sin
“But in me there had emerged a very strange feeling which was the opposite of theirs. I found myself heavily weighed down by a sense of being tired of living and scared of dying. P. 59

On friendship
There were other things which occupied my mind in the company of my friends: to make conversation, to share a joke, to perform mutual acts of kindness, to read together well-written books, to share in the trifling and in serious matters, to disagree though without animosity—just as a person debates with himself—and in the very rarity of disagreement to find the salt of normal harmony, to teach each other something or to learn from one another, to long with impatience for those absent, to welcome them with gladness on their arrival. These and other sighs come from the heart of those who love and are loved and are expressed through the mouth through the tongue, through the eyes, and a thousand gestures of delight, acting as fuel to set our minds on fire and out of many to forge unity. This is what we love in friends.” P. 60

And so I came to Milan to Ambrose the bishop, known throughout the world as among the best of men, devout in your worship. At that time his eloquence valiantly ministered to your people, ‘the abundance of your sustenance’ and the ‘gladness of oil, and the sober intoxication of your wine. I was led to him by you, unaware that through him in full awareness, I might be led to you. That ‘man of God’ received me like a father and expressed pleasure at my coming with a kindness most fitting in a bishop. I began to like him, at first indeed not as a teacher of the truth, for I had absolutely no confidence in your Church, but as a human being who was kind to me.[1]
[1] P.88

On faith
“Then little by little, Lord, with a most gentle and merciful hand you touched and calmed my heart. I considered the innumerable things I believed which I had not seen, events which occurred when I was not present, such as many incidents in the history of the nations, many facts concerning places and cities which I had never seen, many thing accepted on the word of friends, many from physicians, many from other people. Unless we believed what we were told, we would do nothing at all in this life. Finally, I realized how unmovable sure I was about the identity of my parents from whom I came, which I could not know unless I believed what I had heard.” P.95

On habits and spiritual bondage
“The enemy had a grip on my will and so made a chain for me to hold me a prisoner. The consequence of a distorted will is passion. By servitude to passion, habit if formed, and habit to which there is no resistance becomes necessity. By these links, as it were, connected one to another (hence my term chain), a harsh bondage held me under restraint.” P. 140

On conversion
“What I once feared to lose was now a delight to dismiss. You turned them out and entered to take their place, pleasanter than any pleasure…”
p. 155

On the happy life
“There is a delight which is given not to the wicked, but to those who worship you for no reward save the joy that you yourself are to them. That is the authentic happy life, to set one’s joy on you, grounded in you and caused by you. That is the real thing, and there is no other. Those who think that the happy life is found elsewhere, pursue another joy and not the true one. Nevertheless their will remains drawn toward some image of the true joy.” P. 199

On worship music
“I feel that when the sacred words are chanted well, our souls are moved and are more religiously and with a warmer devotion kindled to piety than if they are not so sung. All the diverse emotions of our spirit have their various modes in voice and chant appropriate in each case, and are stirred by a mysterious inner kinship…Thus I fluctuate between the danger of pleasure and the experience of the beneficent effect, and I am more led to put forward the opinion (not as an irrevocable view) that the custom of singing in Church is to be approved, so that through the delights of the ear the weaker mind may rise up towards the devotion of worship. Yet when it happens to me that the music moves me more than the subject of the song, I confess myself to commit a sin deserving punishment, and then I would prefer not to have heard the singer.” p. 207

On pride
“Often the contempt of vainglory becomes a source of even more vainglory.” P. 217

On gender equality
“For you ‘made man male and female’ in your spiritual grace to be equal so that physical gender makes no distinction of male and female, just as there is ‘neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free person.” P. 293

On judging nonbelievers
“The spiritual person does not judge the storm-tossed peoples of this world. How can he ‘judge of those outside’ when he does not know who will come out of the world into the sweetness of your grace and who will remain in the permanent bitterness of godlessness?” p. 293

On good deeds
“You gathered a society of unbelievers to share a common aspiration, so that the zeal of the faithful should ‘appear’ and so bring forth for you works of mercy, distributing to the poor their earthly possessions so as to acquire celestial reward.” P. 303

Spiritual Life of Jesuits

Jesuits, unlike other monastic orders, were not known for their isolated spiritual disciplines. Each initiate went through an initial 30 days of "spiritual exercises"--four or five one-hour meditations and reflections on one's life and call. This so shaped the Jesuits that often they referred to themselves as "Men of the Exercises" as they felt bound to one another like men going through boot camp together. The Spiritual Exercises were “actions to be done, not rules to be read or studied.” Loyola wrote of the exercises, “For just as taking a walk, traveling on foot, and running are physical exercises, so is the name of spiritual exercises given to any means of preparation and disposing our soul to rid itself of all it disordered affections.” One of the purposes of the Exercises was "to make ourselves indifferent," what the author of Heroic Leadership calls the foundation to ingenuity. He writes, “Only by becoming indifferent—free of prejudices and attachments and therefore free to choose any course of action—do recruits become strategically flexible. The indifferent Jesuit liberates himself to choose strategies driven by one motive only: achieving his long-term goal of serving God by helping souls.”

Loyola also instituted "The Examen." Unlike other order the Jesuits learned to pray on the run.
They used the phrase, "Simuli en actione contemplativus"--Contemplative even in action. “Loyola used to say, "A truly mortified man needs only a quarter of an hour to be united with God in prayer.” The Examen consisted of prayer upon rising where one would give thanks and set goals for the day. After the noonday meal came more thanksgiving and an hour by hour review of the events thus far and a similar exercise after supper before retiring. Jesuits were encouraged to "find God in all things…in conversation with someone, in walking, looking, tasting, hearing, thinking, and in everything that they do.”

In mid career Jesuits were called back for a year of self-reflection and professional development. This was referred to as "The School of the Heart."

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Jesuits and spiritual movements

On the way back from Mexico I finished "Heroic Leadership--How a 450 year-old company changed the world"--and the title was an accurate description of the book. Founded by Ignatius Loyola, when he was 49, the Jesuits cut a huge swath across the globe, founding 30 colleges in 12 years, 200 in the first 60 years (and eventually over 700 secondary schools and universities) and by the 1800's one out of every five Europeans was educated in a Jesuit school. They crossed mountains, forged rivers, filled in many of the white spaces on the maps. They were the confidants to European kings, Indian Moghuls and Chinese emporers.

In 1540 there were ten Jesuits, by 1556, the year of Loyola's death, there were a thousand and by 1580 there wre 5,000 Jesuits. Vladimer Lenin once said sighing, that with only a dozen cadres as talented and dedicated as the Jesuits, his Communist movement would change the world.

Their mission: “The aim and end of this society is, by traveling through the various regions of the world at the order of the pope of of the superior of the Society itself, to preach, hear confessions, and use all other means it can…to help souls.”

Their values:

1.Self-awareness—understanding strengths, weaknesses, values and worldview
2.Ingenuity—innovate and adapt in a changing world—not just thinking outside the box but living outside the box
3.Love in deed, not mere words
4.Heroism—energize self and others for heroic action—choose heroism as a way of working and living.

Their motto: "Magis"--Latin for "more"--always something more...something greater

Their "modo de prodecer": "Equip others to discern, on their own, what needs to be done"

Their perspective: "The whole world is your house"--living detached from things and places

Their recruiting slogan: “quamplurimi et quam aptissimi”—”as many as possible of the very best”

As previously noted, Loyola described the ideal Jesuit as "living with one foot raised"--always ready to respond to emerging opportunities.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Mexico--the next day

The Mexican Pastors Conference finished up strong. Sam gave a strong devotional on God's heart for cities along with an overview of what we've seen God do in city-reaching movements around the world. I finished with a session on strategic planning along with a time for leaders from each of these cities to write out their plans and set their goals for the next six months. This is a fine company of people to be associated with.

After the conference ended we went to lunch w/ Agustin and Lupita Garduno at La India Bonita restaurant. Great Mexican food, but I suppose by definition, all they eat down here is Mexican food... We took the 4pm bus to the Airport but because of traffic it took us three hours to get to the airport. We checked into the Hilton and grabbed dinner at an airport hotel--great tortilla soup and wonderful shrimp. We caught a morning flight on Mexicana back to Denver and got in yesterday around 12:30 pm.

Agustin is a leader. He makes things happen. He has an agenda for change and a heart for God and people.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Sam Williams and I caught a plane for Mexico City yesterday afternoon and arrived by bus in Cuernavaca around 10:30 last night. We are here for a "congreso de pastores"--city leaders from Guadalajara, D.F., Monterey, Oaxaca, Reynosam Minatitlan, Cuernavace, etc. who are part of their own three-year "learning community"--something Agustin Garduno started as a result of his own involvement in the "Global Learning Community." This is the second time Sam and I have worked with these pastors, having come here the first time in February. We started the congreso (conference) with "la comida"--the big lunch meal of the day, and then broke into Fast-fire Updates, with each city reporting out on
Greatest success:
What's working:
What's stuck:
Greatest surprise:

It was pretty cool to see what God is doing here in Mexico on such a big scale. One thing that many cities had in common was the lack of discipleship. Mexicans are very responsive to the gospel but not that many are followed up or become part of a church. It struck me that Mexico is home to spiritual orphans and spiritually homeless. This group that convenes wants to be part of the solution. Agustin says, "making disciples is the most important part in making an impact. To disciple a city is to transform the city. Cities cannot be transformed by evangelism alone." So how does one "disciple a city?"

After the fast-fire update, Agustin asked me to speak on characteristics of externally focused churches. My six distinctions were:
1. Perspective: They think "kingdom" and not just "church"
2. Focus: They choose the window seat, not the aisle seat
3. Purpose: They do weight training not body building
4. Partnering: They build wells, not walls
5. Empowerment: They teach people how to fish as well as giving people fish
6. Outcomes: They know its the game, not the pregame talk that counts

Well apart from a minor case of "locksmith disease" (every ten minutes I have to make a bolt for the bathroom door) this has been an enriching experience. We look forward to tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Evangelistic Apparel

Last Saturday a few friends and I helped build a trail on Davidson Mesa overlooking Boulder as part of National Trails Day. It was a first-time experience for all of us but a good way to build community as well as get to know some of my neighbors. It was the hottest day of the year (95+) and we were working wheelbarrows down hill and up. The work gave me great sympathy for any who built the ancient works (Great Wall, Pyramids, Roman Road, etc).

I wore a T-shirt with picture of Olympic wrestler, Dave Schultz, who was killed a few years back by John Dupont. Don, a city counsel man, saw my shirt and asked me about wrestling. He wrestled for Northwestern University and once I told him I was a grappler as were both my boys, we became fast friends...over this common ground. During the day we joked around and even locked up once or twice (you have to be a wrestler to understand this one). By the end of the day I was able to tell him some of what my passions are--about engaging the church in the needs and dreams of the community. He's on the board of the Y and is looking how to engage the faith community in their work. Imagine that?

I also wore my Cal hat and later on in the day another man stopped me to ask if I (and Don Wilcox--my buddy from Cal) went to Cal. When we affirmed we did, we connected around things only Cal people get excited about..."the Play," Tedford's contract, refurbishing Memorial Stadium etc--again the common ground. Now notice what is happening...people are approaching me...to engage with me about what they also think is interesting and engaging.

I think how different it may have been had I worn a t-shirt with "His Pain, Your Gain" or a hat that said "WWJD." Most likely it would have been hard to get someone to look me in the eye. So which type of clothing is more evangelistic? Which kind of apparel draws people to you? I think I'll wear my 2005 College World Series hat that I picked up this week at the Series in Omaha today...just to see what happens. Who knows who I might meet...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Embrace Teachers

Yesterday I was in Omaha with the externally focused leaders from Christ Community Church--Ian Vickers (www.vickersia.blogspot.com), Nancy Fager and Jamie Cogua. Among the many things they do, CCC is part of a growing team of churches that are serving their community through "Embrace Teachers." Here's how Embrace Teachers works...

In the summer of 2004, during a major denominational convention, a proposal was put before the voting body to withdraw all of the students from public schools, citing their dissatisfaction with the values, direction and performance of public schools. The proposal was defeated but nonetheless sent a message to the public schools of America that many in this denomination were unhappy with their performance. And probably many teachers would agree. With budget cuts, standardized testing and little public encouragement, teaching has never been more difficult a profession.

Several churches in Omaha Nebraska are taking a different approach. Rather than pulling their children out and running from the schools, these churches are running towards 46 public schools in Omaha as part of the “Embrace Teachers” movement. The idea of “Embrace Teachers” was the result of a discussion among the pastors of three of Omaha’s largest churches (King of Kings Lutheran, Christ Community Church and Trinity Interdenominational Church), on how they could make a positive impact on the city. Begun in the fall of 2003, these churches and the other churches that joined them, which represent over 15,000 church members, came together to reach out to teachers through “random acts of kindness” to communicate their appreciation and commitment to the teachers of Omaha. When these parents show up they come to register compliments instead of complaints.

A little appreciation can go a long way and sometimes it is the small acts of kindness that have the biggest impact. This past year each school was “thanked” at least three times in practical ways by the churches of Omaha through gifts or acts of service—to let teachers know how much the community appreciated them. Some teams provided large sheet cakes for the teacher’s lounges on the first day of school. Other churches provided readers for the school reading program, painted halls and classrooms, redecorated and refurbished teacher’s lounges. The creativity of saying “thank-you” to those who give so much to the children of the community did not end there. Teams from churches provided teachers with supplies for the classrooms they might normally pay for out of pocket. They prepared homemade bread, brownies, cookies and soup for teachers during parent-teacher conferences. They supplied morning snacks for the teachers and brought balloons for teachers’ birthdays. Some teams picked up trash on the school grounds. Some went so far as to prepare pots of chili to take home so that teachers would have a night off from cooking.

“Embrace Omaha” has served in building healthy bridges between public
schools and local churches. Teachers and principals have responded with tears of gratitude. One school official recently stated during a school board meeting, "We are happy to open our doors to the churches from our community that are willing to reach out to the teachers and schools." Another school official wrote to Embrace Teachers, “This is an outstanding initiative and your support and recognition of the work of teachers in the Omaha public Schools are most appreciated." Still another official said, “This is where I see the church and school working together to serve the community.”

For Wendell Nelson, pastor at Christ Community Church, “Embrace Omaha” is part of the answer to the question that keeps him awake at night—“How do you turn the wounded, the consumers and the seekers into servers, lovers and givers?” “These teachers may never come to our church so the ROI (Return on Investment) might be low for our church but it is huge for the kingdom.” Christ Community is a church that is giving itself away to the community as an externally focused church. Nearly sixty people from Christ Community have been trained and are volunteering in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) and fifty students are learning English at Christ Community. They are making a dent and making a difference.

Nearly 100 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt spoke words that defined the difference between the armchair critic and the “strivers.” Most likely you are familiar with the opening lines but it is worth quoting the paragraph in its context.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier.”

Being involved in the life of the community is messy—filled with failure, daring, criticism and defeat but there are a group of churches in Omaha who, nonetheless have chosen to “quell the storm and ride the thunder.”

Monday, June 20, 2005


Our daughter Kacey has been dating the same boy since she was fifteen--four years ago. The first time we met Erik Olson we liked him...a lot. He walked up to Kacey at church and introduced himself to her and to us. Liz and I thought, regardless of where this relationship goes, you can't have too many good people in the lives of your kids. Weeks turned into months and into years. They survived a breakup where Erik followed the wise advise of our good friend, Scott Beck--"Just back off and go on with your life...just keep an eye on her from a distance." The advise proved timely and eventually my sweet daughter came to her senses (and I'm not writing perjoritively).

Well the love of emotion grew to become a love of commitment. Last month Erik called me and asked if he could take me to lunch. Instead he came over to our house for a sandwich. I was building a workbench and putting cabinets in my garage that weekend so for three hours we worked side by side working together. I figured this was the only time I had any real leverage on him. Then I asked, "So Erik, what's on your mind?" Liz came and joined us and we told him how proud we would be to have him as our son-in-law.

Two weeks ago Erik took Kacey on a hike in the mountains above Boulder. In his backback, he had stashed a tuxedo and on the ruse of another excuse, he slipped off and changed, came back with flowers and popped the question and slipped on a ring. When they returned home, Liz had a surprise engagement pary all set up with both family and friends present (we assumed she'd say "yes." It was really quite an occasion.

Erik will finish his Senior year in Marketing at University of Northern Colorado and they will be married over Memorial Day weekend of 2006. Kacey will transfer to UNC this year and will finish her last year after they are married.

Yesterday for Father's Day Kacey and Erik gave me a card...but more importantly a wonderful gift. They asked me to perform the ceremony. It doesn't get better than this. To walk my beautiful daughter down the aisle and then turn around and perform the service.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day Tribute

Most Birthdays and for three graduations (8th grade, High School and College), my dad gave me the same card that contained the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling. Though perhaps not as elequent as Kipling he lived and exemplified the truths within. Here's to you Dad...who's "if" for me is and has long been reality for you.

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, or being lied about, don't deal in lies, or being hated, don't give way to hating, and yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master, if you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools; If you can make one heap of all your winnings and risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings and never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, and--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!
--Rudyard Kipling

Friday, June 17, 2005

Living with one foot raised

Last night (between part A and part B of my pastor's birthday gathering) I went up to Fort Collins to speak to the new staff of Campus Crusade--a great group of young people entering the prime of their lives. One thing that I mentioned in passing is a book I'm reading called, "Heroic Leadership--Best Practices of a 450 Year-old Company that Changed the World." It is the story of the Jesuit. Author Chris Lowney writes,

Leaders make themselves and others comfortable in a changing world. They eagerly explore new ideas, approaches, and cultures rathern than shrink defensively from what lurks around life's next corner. Anchored by nonnegotiable principles and values, they cultivate the "indifference" that allows them to adapt confidently. Loyola [founder of Jesuit order] described the ideal Jesuit as "living with one foot raised"--always ready to respond to emerging opportunities....They were quick, flexible, open to new ideas. The same set of tools and practices that fostered self-awareness, Loyola's spiritual exercises, also instilled "indifference," freedom from attachments to places and possessions, which could result in inappropriate resistance to movement or change. The "living with one foot raised" message was reinforced constantly: Loyola' chief lieutennt barnstromed Europe reminding Jesuits that for men open to new and ever changing missions, " the whole world will become [their] house." He meant it literally, urging them to speed, mobility, and rapid response. But he was also describing a mindset for each Jesuit to cultivate.

A couple month ago, I read a short book called Impro--a seminal book on improvisational comedy. The way improv works is by "never refusing a suggestion." There was a salient quote that I will close with that captures the spirit of "living with one foot raised"--"There are people who are inclined to say "yes" and there are people who are inclined to say "no." Those who say "yes" are rewarded with the adventures that they have, while those who say "no" are rewarded with the safety they desire. There are far more no-sayers around than yes-sayers"

The challenge to new staff of Crusade and to 50-year-olds is to live life with one foot raised and saying "yes" to what God has for us. Think of the adventures we will have.....

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Preachers and leaders

Abraham Lincoln was once asked why he gave the same speech over and over wherever he went. He paused, stroked his beard and replied, "Well, it's easier to change my audience than change my message." Ronald Reagan responded to the same question in like manner.

The other day I was listening to Marcus Buckingham's latest book (I think its called The One Thing) and he told the story of Martin Luther King's 1963 "I have a dream" speech. King had been giving the "I have a dream" speech in churches throughout the south but civil rights leaders proposed he try something new for the march on Wasington. Afterall he would speak to two million people. They suggested he develop the theme of the constitution being like a promisory note that African Americans wanted to cash in on. King stayed up much of the night, crafting his message and that's what he began with:

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As King pressed forward with this analogy he looked over the audience and could see that he was losing his audience. So he did what every movement leader does. He reverted to what he knew would connect with his audience...what had connected so many times before.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

And so he shifted and connected to finish one of the most moving speeches in American history.

Preachers have a different message for the same audience. Leaders have the same message for multiple audiences. The burden of preachers is they must come up with different messages for the same audience week after week. The burden of movement leaders (and change agents) is they must not tire of saying the same thing to different audiences. They must not tire of hearing themselves say the same thing.

A few years ago I wrote out my goals. One big, hairy audacious goal that I wrote was,

"To engage the church worldwide in the needs and dreams of their communities towards the end of spiritual and societal transformation."

Looking at it now, it does seem presumptous but its still what I want to shoot for. But to do this I need a consistent message and multiple audiences.

Jesus had one message (the kingdom) and multiple audiences ("I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent."--Luke 4:43). Paul also lived out his life preaching the same message to multiple audiences.

"For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came o see him. Boldly and without hinrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:30,31)--same message different audience.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Why Layo is not celebrating 40 years of ministry

Last week at the gathering of the Global Learning Community in Estes Park, Layo Lieva shared a devotional that still has me thinking and reflecting. Layo Lieva will not be celebrating 40 years of his ministry's presense in El Salvador. But why?

Layo has been in ministry for over 30 years so he has the long view of ministry in one country. He told us about how, when he was a student, he and his friends would dream of what their country would be like if a third of the people in El Salvador knew Christ. "What if....? grew legs as they began strategizing on reaching their country. Now, 3o years later, 32% of El Salvadorenos are believers, the country has statistically been evangelized at least three-times over and there is one church for every 700 El Salvadorenos. (The Saturation Church Planting folks suggest that one church for every thousand people is saturation.) Christian TV and radio stations abound, missionaries flow freely into the country and visiting Christian dignitaries often visit the country's president to pray with him and have their photo taken. There are Jesus marches replete with banners and bands. Layo notes that there is "a festival of Christian work." By many accounts there is much cause for rejoicing. So why is Layo so discontent? Why is he unwilling to have a celebration of his ministry's 40th anniversary in this country? Let's take a closer look...

Layo says that the mental and moral infrastructure of the country is destroyed. Nine people a day die by violent crimes. Drug use is out of control. 35% of people are unemployed. Gangs are prolific and violent. One study showed that 32% of gang members come from evangelical homes. The most common complaint to the police is "evangelical noise"...preachers who drive through the streets blaring their message from speakers mounted atop their cars. The country is much worse off now than in 1980 when there were only 5% believers. So what went wrong? Layo gives us his deliberate thought...

"We don't need to do better but we do need to do different. I'm not sure if we need any more church plants that are like the ones we have. We need a different kind of church."

El Salvador, in some ways is a laboratory for ministry methods. We can see the end game of simple saturation strategies. We can learn a lot about tactics, strategies but most important "the gospel." One might conclude from El Salvador that the gospel not efficacious. But maybe the problem lies not with the gospel, in all its fullness, that Jesus preached and what we have passed off as the gospel. Its not the gospel plus something else but a matter of unpacking the genuine gospel. In other blog entries I'll give my thoughts on this but I will tell you that from what I understand it is about the King and the kingdom; Its about Ephesians 2:10 as well as Ephesians 2:8,9; It's about loving one's neighbor as well as loving God; It's about community transformation as well as personal transformation; It's about you...and about me.

Ministries and Movements

Last week Layo Lieva from San Salvador contrasted the difference between ministries and movements of God's Spirit. It is very informative and challenging and part of a greater message some of which will be articulated in another blog entry.
Ministry is conversion--Movement is transformation
Ministry is control--Movement is empowerment
Ministry is one generation--Movement is 4 generations
Ministry is short term because one generation runs out--Movement is long term
Ministry consumes resources, always a need for subsidy--Movement produces resources
Ministry is tiring and frustrating--Movement is renewal and strength
Ministry ends with you--Movement goes on with out you
Ministry is protective of turf because there is only one generation. Playing it safe--Movement is risk oriented. You put it all on the line for the movement
Ministry is limited scope of one audience or one place--Movement is unlimited in scope
Ministry is leader centered. Pastors or staff do everything. Like people watching a tennis match. The pros do the work, the amateurs watch--Movements make people lead. The leader’s role is to resource but not to shine
Ministry ends in death--Movement ends in reproductions

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Amish Honeymooners

Last week, while we were in Estes Park, Colorado for the Global Learning Community, ten of us drove into town to go around the track at the local go-cart and fun zone. As we were standing in line purchasing our tickets we couldn't help but notice three young (late teens / early 20's) Amish couples all dressed as...well Amish--the girls in bonnets, aprons and long skirts and the boys w/ pants without back pockets, C. Everett Coop beards and Dutchboy haircuts.

Bob Roberts(http://www.glocal.net/blog/), from Northland Church for the Communities and Glocalnet, engaged them in conversation (imagine that!) and found out that they had all gotten married in the previous year and they were taking a group honeymoon by train from Ohio to Fort Collins. It's amazing how well these Amish could drive, once they mastered the fundamentals. On a high banking turn young Ishmael Boorg dropped to the inside without touching the brake and passed Layo (from San Salvador) and me. For two of the three guys, driving was a first time experience. The third fella had left the community and "dressed like one of you," got his driver's liscence and kept it when he returned to the community. So he was able to rent a car in Fort Collins to get them to Estes. While the young men circled the track, their wives stood behind the fence smiling. Now it gets more interesting. Bob Roberts bought another twelve tickets and gave them to the Amish men on the condition that their wives get behind the wheel. Their response was gracious--"We've never met (English) people like you before!"

Now picture this; three Amish girls, who have never driven anything, circling the track with their bonnets pinned back from the wind, white knuckles gripping the steering wheel while their husbands passed them by with grins spead wide on their partially bearded faces. It was a site to behold.

What we can learn from the Amish go-cart driving experience:
1. Mario Andretti could be part Amish
2. Driving is more nature than nurture
3. Even the peace-makers can be very competitive when the occassion arises
4. Adventure is found in many daring forms
5. What happens in Estes...stays in Estes!

see also: http://www.movie-pages.com/movie/for-richer-or-poorer/0783226896/ and

Clause A and Clause B of Genesis 12:3

Yesterday I received a note from Pastor Peter Morin of Faith Lutheran Church in Golden, Colorado. Faith Lutheran is living outside itself and beyond itself. He writes:

I thought this editorial captures much of the heart that I have for seeing us become more effective in serving and reaching out to our community. Read and enjoy.


Bless This House? Why efforts to renew the church are often misguided
by Brian McLaren, Leadership columnist

I often hear someone say, "We're exploring new ways of doing church." Or "We're seeking church renewal." Or even "We're developing a postmodern church service. It's very cool. We're very innovative." In all these ways, my colleagues and I, for all our good intentions, show that we may not be likely to succeed.
These efforts overlook one small detail. Whatever we change (style of music, style of preaching, use of art, candles, incense, etc.), we're not changing the thing that needs changing most.
Which is? One might recall Jesus' words about saving our lives and in the process losing them. Could it be that the church is as it is in so many places not because of a lack of effort or a lack of sincerity or a lack of spirituality (or even a lack of money, commitment, or prayer), but rather because our sincere efforts, passionate prayers, and material resources are all aimed in the wrong direction—the direction of self-preservation, self-aggrandizement, self-improvement?
What if saving the church is a self-defeating mission?
Lesslie Newbigin often spoke of the greatest heresy of monotheism (in its Jewish, Christian, and Islamic forms): cherishing Clause A of the Abrahamic call while conveniently suppressing, forgetting, or ignoring Clause B. So, we want to be blessed (big, exciting, vibrant, wealthy, healthy, wise). We want to be great (a great nation, a great denomination, a great congregation). To this end we pray and pay and read and plead and strive and strain and yearn and learn and groan and labor. And we give birth to wind.
Meanwhile, might God be otherwise occupied, scanning the earth for people who will also cherish Clause B: to be made into a great blessing, so that all people on earth can be blessed through us? Are we seeking blessing so as to be a blessing to the world God loves?
Do you see the difference between renewing the church as our mission, and blessing the world?
Our persistent "bless-me" bug, like a nasty flu into which we keep relapsing, creates what some of my friends have called "the great commotion," a close approximation of the Great Commission, but a miss nonetheless. Seminar junkies accumulate plastic-covered notebooks that could fill an oil tanker. Authors like myself write books whose combined gross weight may exceed the weight of our congregations after a pot-luck dinner. But not much changes.
Our efforts are all bent to renew or strengthen the current systems, which are perfectly designed (as Dallas Willard has said) to deliver the results we are now getting.
So if we are a self-centered church in America, it is because our systems—including our theological systems—are perfectly designed to produce such a church. It has been said that the greatest obstacle to the coming of the kingdom of God is the church, preoccupied with her own existence. Could our preoccupation with making better churches rather than better blessing the world be the heart disease that plagues us? And could our Clause-A theological systems be the high-fat cause of that heart disease?
This is what's really going on beneath all the superficial talk of "emerging church." Far more than cosmetics are under consideration: the very purpose of the church, the gospel, and the pastorate are being re-thought. If that doesn't disturb, surprise, or excite you, you don't understand what is being said.
Everywhere I go, on the fringes and in unexpected places (including in all the wrong denominations where this sort of things shouldn't happen), I discover churches and leaders who are grappling with these deep questions. They want to be blessed in order to be a blessing to the world. Their dream does not stop with the church. They're thinking about God's kingdom coming on earth as in heaven.
These are good signs. Hopefully, the early signs of even better signs yet to come. How ironic if the church were to find life by losing it, by giving it away.
Brian McLaren is pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland.
To respond to this newsletter. Write to Newsletter@LeadershipJournal.net.
Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.Click here for reprint information on Leadership Journal.June 29, 2004

Monday, June 13, 2005

Boulder Sharefest Update

The Sharefest was great yesterday. We finished up the work at our school by washing the windows in Principal's and Vice Principal's office. They had been egged a few times over the years. At the end of the day and a half, the school sparkled and looked spectacular! (There was also a group that wrote cards and notes of appreciation to the faculty and staff of each of the schools.) From the school we went over to the University of Colorado Campus for a three church celebration with 1,600 people. After a bit of worship music, and a driving video of the five school project, the project team leaders were recognized and principals and school district officials were brought up on stage to a standing ovation. Paint-spakled Pastor Tom Shirk said, "We want to stand with you and help make Boulder County Schools the best in the world." School board officials, in gratitude, said that the 1,400 people, working on five school campuses had saved the school district an estimated $300,000. One school board member said, "Apart from all the painting and landscaping and clean-up you have filled these days with the kind of love that only a community can provide fo schools." Afterwards Tom prayed a blessing on those who serve our schools...for joy, health and provision for those who serve in Boulder Valley Schools. It was great. Pastor Harvey Friesen of Boulder Valley Christian gave a brief message on Jeremiah 29:7--praying for and seeking the prosperity of Boulder. "We give our service to you as grace." And all those who were served could say was "amazing!" There was joy in the city.
After the 55 minute service we had a great barbecue on the lawns in front of Mackey Auditorium. All we could say was "How great was that!?!?"

Tom Shirk just sent an email to all 700 Sharefest participants from Calvary Bible Church. He ended with these words:

Serving together in SHAREFEST 2005 was the richest experience of joy we have ever known. I want you to know how very proud I am of you as a disciple of our Lord and member of Calvary Bible Church. I am filled with joy in you! Thank you for making this weekend the high-water mark for our church.
As I leave on sabbatical, I am going with such happiness in being your pastor! I will be praying for you; thanks for praying for me and my family. I love you very much.

Pastor Tom

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sharefest in Boulder

Yesterday (Saturday) three churches in Boulder took on the painting, cleaning, landscaping, window-washing of five public schools in Boulder. My wife Liz, daughter Kacey and her fiance Erik Olson painted the front office of a middle school which we will finish this morning. From my church, 700 people (of a church w/ a weekly attendance of ~1000) took on three schools. It was quite "amazing" as on vice-principal said. Last year our church did the same thing but this year was different. Last year we refurbished three different schools. We did it FOR these folks. This year we did it WITH them. So my family passed the day with the vice-principal, some with the principal, a secretary and her husband. We talked about life, we talked about faith, laughing and working side by side. Today we will finish our work (all church services are cancelled) and then go to Mackey Auditorium at the University of Colorado campus for a joint worship service.

Well, my friend from Oslo, Jan Siervaag, has come up and is instructing Don Wilcox, Rich Lotterhos, and John Lamb in the use of nordic walking sticks. We are learning to "walk like a Norwegian"--four miles! These Norwegians are tough. A few years ago, Jan lost 68 pounds. As he told his wife,"He was fifty, fat and finished" but now is proclaiming that he's "sixty, svelt and sexy."

Quiet Time for Secular Man

Bob Buford gave me a valuable gift when I stopped by his office a couple of weeks ago. It is a book called, "The Daily Drucker"--366 days laid out like "My Utmost for His Highest." The editor perused articles and books by Drucker and has extracted the gems. So after a Psalm, a Proverb and Book of the Month, I delve into Drucker. If you are not familiar with "the father of modern management" this book is a great place to start...on whatever day you start. In the forward by Jim Collins, Collins talks about stopping by to interview Drucker in his home.
"At one point during my day with Druckier, I asked, 'Which of your twenty-six books are you most proud of?' 'The next one,' snapped Drucker.'

Collins concludes, "Most management gurus are driven to say something; Drucker is driven to learn someting. Drucker's work is interesting--he is interesting--because, to borrow a phrase from the late John Gardner, he remains relentlessly interested.

Books and Brew

I've started something new for the summer, we are calling "Books and Brew"--a gathering of the curious at my house, every Friday afternoon from 4pm-5:30 or6pm to simply interact over books we are reading...mostly around the big things God is doing in the world. Books and Brew is about collaborative learning and stimulation. It is similar to the group CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were part of in their "Inklings." But don't you think "Books and Brew" sounds a bit more fun? The books we talked about on Friday were:
The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman--an update on on globalization and The Lexus and the Olive Tree
China Today
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolome de las Casas
Jack--the story of CS Lewis
Passages by Gail Shehee
Present Future by Reggie McNeal
A Shaping of Things to Come--Frost and Hirsch
An Unstoppable Force--Erwin McManus
And other assorted books whose titles escape me at the moment

The group is composed of young men in their 20s to young thinking men in their 50s. What we have in common is a passion for the work of God, lifelong learning and the belief that the best years for every one of us are still ahead of us.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Global Learning Community

Today we finished up with the fourth day of what we are calling "Global Learning Community"--a gathering of city leaders--half from the US and half from outside the US. We will meet six times over a three year period at Lost Antler Ranch in Estes Park Colorado. This was the second of our six meetings. The gatherings are built on the premise that all of us knows something, but none of us know everything about reaching the cities of the world. The qualifications to be part of this group are those who are practitioners and have the ability to convene the different sectors of their cities. Between the gatherings, each city team works on their "Action Plans" which flow from their "Strategic Plans"--a snapshot of their best thinking regarding bringing the life of the kingdom and the King into the city. We also read two or three cross-sector books between these gatherings and share with others what we are learning and how it applies to our situation. After presentations of information we propose questions like, "What did you hear?" and "What does it mean?"

To read a live blog capture of what we did, link to www.globallearncomm.blogspot.com