loren Eric Swanson: July 2005

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The power of Ops and Systems

A couple of nights ago, Liz and I went out for coffee with Bob and Barbara Francis...two of the very best people with Campus Crusade. Bob served as the National Director of Staffed Campus Ministries since 1999. Under his leadership, the number of students involved with Campus Crusade doubled. He's a passionate and very effective leader. Recently Bob was asked to step away from the Staffed Campus job and take over as National Director of Operations. Operations?!? What's that all about? Let's think about it for a moment.

The power of capacity is found in operations even more than strategy. When the right systems are put in place they provide the back end operations that allow multiple strategies and tactics to be more effective. Remember Moses' dilemma in Exodus 18 that he reviews in Numbers 1. He was totally exhausted yet prayed that God would multiply the Israelites a thousand times. It was his Mideanite father-in-law that advised him correctly regarding the selection, training and empowerment of leaders. No amount of talent, drive and hard work can overcome a bad operational systems. Bad systems are those where even the best people are reduced to mediocrity. On the other hand good systems allow everybody to function at their maximum capacity and ability. Because Moses was freed up from much of his sun-up to sun-down responsibilities, he had time to do that which he needed to do...write the Pentatuch!

Now think about Acts 6, when the widows were being overlooked in the serving of the food. Rather than taking a behavioral approach, the church leaders took an operational approach by creating the office of diaconate--to oversea the physical needs of the church. Nearly two milennia later we are the benefits of their decision.

Good systems cause good things to happen even if no one is paying attention to them. If you have automatic withdrawal from your checking account to pay your regularly scheduled bills you understand the power of a good system. Operational systems wedge between your vision of what you want to see happen and what actually is happening. If the behaviors or outcomes are not aligned with the vision, the problem most likely lies in operational systems. Like an iceberg, the behavior is what you see on the surface but what's under the surface is what leaders need to pay attention to. Systems drive behavior. What do I mean?

Steve Douglas, president of Campus Crusdae has a "stand-up" desk. That is, there is no chair at this desk. Any desk work that he has to do, he does while standing. He has no other option. Now if you can't sit at a desk you probably only are able to stand for so long. Douglas determined that his was not a desk job. He had to be close to the field to really understand what is going on. So he put a system in place to help determine the outcomes he wanted. This frees him up to meet students weekly on campus in Orlando. Imagine that!

Steve Sellers, vice-president of the Americas for Crusade takes the system one step further. He doesn't have a desk at all! Visiting him in his cubicle there is a chair and a small loveseat and a small table with a lamp and family pictures. "I find that if I don't have a desk, people can't drop work off on my desk--'Steve, I put something on your desk I'd like you to take a look at.' 'Steve, I've written a draft and put it on your desk. Would you mind...'" Without a flat surface to set stuff on people just walk away.

The restructuring of the Campus Ministry in the 90's is another good example of how structures determined behaviors and ultimately growth of the ministry. By creating and staffing the Catalytic, WSN, and Ethnic Student Ministry, by definition, these created the strategies and tactics to win, build and send thousands more students. The ministry grew exponentially beyond anything we'd ever seen. The mindset that "ministry is where the students are, not just where the staff are" drove many innovations. In a good system the good get better and the beginners get braver.

St. Patrick had a system for evangelizing Ireland and he stuck to it. After attaining a critical mass of converts, Patrick left two of his leaders in the village and took two new converts with him. This way he always had an inexhaustible supply of leaders. In his 27 years of ministry he planted over 750 churches and ordained over a thousand priests!

Real leverage (getting better results with less effort) is always found in operations and systems...even more than tactics and strategies.

Is Bob Francis the right person for the job? Absolutely. We wish you the best Bob.

Monday, July 25, 2005

How to act like a designer

In June 2005 edition of Fast Company there are several helpful articles related to the topic of design and innovation. One of the questions posed was "How can civilian sales reps and IT geeks incorporate a design sensibility into their work? Here are five suggestion:
1. Keep a design notebook. Buy a small notebook and carry it with you. When you see great design, make a note of it. Do the same for bad design. Soon you'll be looking at graphics interiors, and more with greater acuity.
2. Create an inspiration board. When you're working on a project, turn your bulletin board into an inspiration board. Each time you see something you find compelling--a phontoo, a piece of fabric, a type font, a word--take it on the board. You'll also start seeing connections between the images and ideas that will enliven and expand your work.
3. Particpate in the "third industrial revolution." Mass customization is cobining buying with designing. Try designing your own shoe--with the color, pattern, and image that's right for you--at Nike (nikeid.nike.com)
4. Put it on a table. Design Continuum's Dan Buchner suggests you find an object that's special to you and put it on a table. then ask: How does it connect to your senses? Wy does it tickle your emotions? ?Developing the ability to select designs that connect with our emotions," he says, "should help us populate our lives with meaningful, satisfying objects.
5. Read design magazines. It sounds obvious. but if all businesspeople are designers, then all businesspeople should start reading the top design magazines. Some of the best: How, I.D., Metropolis, and Dwell.

Design Blog sites:

Remember, everything that God did not leave us in nature has to be designed by someone. This includes processes as well as products.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson

“When you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas…The Medici Effect comes from a remarkable burst of creativity in fifteenth-centruy Italy. The Medicis were a banking family in Florence who funded crators from a wide range of disciplines. Thanks to this family and a few others like it, sculptors, scientists, poets, philosophers, financiers, painters, and architects converged upon the city of Florence. There they found each other, learned from one another, and broke down the barriers between disciplines and cultures. Together they forged a new world based on new ideas—what became known as the Renaissance. As a result, the city became the epicenter of a creative explosion, one of the ost innovative eras in history. The effects of the Medici family can be felt even to this day" (p. 3)

The Medici Effect describes the creative process where insights are gained at the intersections of disciplines. “‘The more mutually remote the elements of a new combination, the more creative the process or the solution.’ In other words, if the concepts combined are very different, the new idea will be correspondingly more creative” (p.69). This means that if we want to think differently about ministry, movements everywhere, the externally focused, church, etc. then most likely breakthrough insights will not come from thinking about ministry...as strange as that might seem.

Johansson makes the distinction between "directional ideas" and "intersectional ideas." "Directional innovation improves a product in a fairly predictable steps, along a well-defined dimension... Intersectional innovations, on the other hand, change the wolrd in leaps along new directions. They usually pave the way for a new field and therefor make it possible for the people who originated them to become the leaders in the fields they created" (p. 19). Now here is an interesting sentance: "Intersectional innovations also do not require as much expertise as directional innovation and can therefor be executed by the people you least suspect" (p. 19)

"Intersectional innovations share the following characteristics:
  • They are surprising and fascinating
  • They take leaps in new directions
  • they open up entirely new fields
  • They provide a space for a person, team or company to call its own
  • They generate followeres, which means the creators can become leaders
  • they provide a source of directional innovation for years or decades to come
  • They can affect the world in unprecedented ways" (p. 19).

The Medicis lived at a time of liminality--the state between two paradigms (dark ages and Renaissance). There are many who have lived in this space but also played a part in what the next paradigm would become. Jeremiah's ministry was covered the time before the captivity (when he preached impending judgment) and during the captivity (when he preached pervasive hope). Augustine and Patrick lived and ministered as the Rome fell (406 AD) and the Barbarian hoards crossed over the Rhine and flooded into Europe.

Remember liminal states are times "when what has worked in the past no longer works but what will work has not yet been revealed." The opportunity before us is we have an opportunity to shape what may / will work in the future. But this future will not be created by repeating / doing more of / doing with more effort only what has been done in the past but rather by looking afresh at the timeless desires of God and the timely intersections of today.

Johansson, Frans, The Medici Effect, Harvard Business School Pres, (2004)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

John Wesley's Class Meetings by D. Michael Henderson

John Wesley was a man with a mission and a vision—“to redeem the nation” and “to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.”[1] In a country where in “1736 every sixth house in London was licensed as a grogshop”[2] England was a country of drunkenness, despair and moral decay. Children as young as 3 1/2 worked in the mines, the mills and brickyards and “[l]ess than one in twenty-five had any kind of schooling…”[3] The rural poor migrated to the cities in droves looking for works as the primitive wheels of the industrial revolution began to turn, creating urban slums never seen before. "The reins of economic power were completely in the hands of the wealthy few. Beneath the sophisitcated veneer of the governing classes, the English populace was gripped in a vise of poverty, disease, and moral decay." Where was the church?

The Church of England catered to the upper strata of society. Churches were subidized by the government and of th 11,000 pastors who were on the payroll, 6000 of them never set foot in their parishes but resided in England or on the continent, farming out their ministry to underlings.

Wesley’s goal was formidable but his mission was clear. Preaching to the masses alone was insufficient, as his contemporary, George Whitefield, who would often preach to crowds exceeding 20,000, had proved. (Ben Franklin once calculated that he could be heard by 30,000.) Near the end of his life Whitefield called his converts “a rope of sand.”[4] Building on Whitefield’s “field preaching,” Wesley added his class meetings and it was these class meetings that shaped a people and began the redemption of the nation.

The shaping of Wesley
John Wesley is the product of his parents. His father Samuel was a Anglican clergyman and scholar. His mother, Susanna Wesley took parenting seriously and believed that “the mastery of the child’s will to be the decisive factor in character-molding.”[1] Self-will was the root of sin and misery. Understanding “will” shaped John Wesley’s methodology. In contrast with his Calvinist antagonists (and they were often so) Wesley believed that people were free moral agents who could choose or reject God and the accompanying life-changes. He was optimistic enough to expect change but realistic enough to provide grace when his converts stumbled.

Wesley was also shaped by his contact with the biography of Catholic nobleman Monr. de Renty (1611-1649). “Throughout his life, Wesley continued to refer to de Renty as the epitome of Christian holiness coupled with concern for the poor and effective methodology.”[2] De Renty’s small groups formed the model for Wesley’s class meetings. More importantly de Renty helped shaped Wesley’s spiritual growth model.

The focus on the Anglican groups was personal growth through careful attention to themselves; de Renty concentrated on personal growth by ministering to the needs of others. The Anglicans hoped that Christian service would be the eventual outcome of their quest for personal holiness; de Renty viewed Christian service as the context in which personal holiness developed…. [F]or Wesley, de Renty’s model of growth-through-service enabled him to steer his groups around the dangers of morbid introspection and mysticism.[3]

In the providence of God ,Wesley was also introduced to the simplicity and organizational skills of the Moravians. As with the case of a good mentor, Wesley eventually broke away from them but it cannot be denied that he was greatly influenced by their lifestyle and methodology.

Something to think about
John Wesley may well be the understatement of the past two and a half centuries. His revolutionary concepts and methods of what church could be, shaped not only what has become a denomination but how a generation came to think of themselves as equals in a stratified society. Bankers and coal miners sat side-by-side in small groups confessing their faults to one another. Women were given leadership roles, once only the province of males. There is much to learn from Wesley.

Issues to consider in launching spiritual movements
Target audience: Though highly educated Wesley chose to work with the poor because he followed the example of Jesus. The outcasts were ready for Wesley’s life-changing message.

Style of communication: “I design plain truth for plain people; therefore, of set purpose, I abstain from all nice and philosophical speculations; from all perplexed and intricate reasonings…”[4] Most people would rather be instructed than impressed.

Place of Scriptures: “…his appeal would be almost entirely based on Scripture rather than Scripture plus the accumulated thoughts of the learned…”[5] This is a key decision.

Growth model: Wesley believed, like his historical mentor de Renty that growth comes through service as opposed to growing into service. “Mission was not the end product of his discipleship, but the means to further it.”[6] Before going to Georgia he wrote, “My chief motive (in going) is the hope of saving my own soul. I hope to learn the true sense of the gospel of Christ by preaching it to the heathen.”[7] This is a very important distinction for Wesley that separates him from most evangelicals today. As a friend of mine said a few days ago, “Most pastors are equipping the saints for works of service that they will never do.”

Systems: Jim Collins says that good systems cause good things to happen even when no one is paying attention to them. That means, once a system is in place, like Wesley’s classrooms, etc, he could easily (or at least efficiently) oversee 30,000 believers. One thing I’m learning about systems is the place of small groups in externally focused ministry. If service outside the church becomes part of the DNA of every small group in a church, then the ministry of each small group takes on a life of its own. Without this someone always has to be pushing programs.

Wesley was big…not just for his time but for the ages. Thank you John Wesley.

[1] P. 35
[2] P. 48
[3] P. 50
[4] P. 71
[5] P. 73
[6] P. 46
[7] P. 46
[1] P. 21
[2] P. 19
[3] P. 19
[4] P. 30

City Reaching Bibliography

City Reaching Resources
Recommended by Eric Swanson

Understanding City-Reaching

City Reaching: On the Road to Community Transformation
Author: Jack Dennison, Publisher: William Carey Library, 1999
City of God, City of Satan
Author: Robert Linthicum, Publisher: Zondervan, 1991
City Impact
Author: Daniel Bernard, Publisher: Chosen Books, 2004
City-wide Prayer Movements
Author: Tom White, Publisher: Vine Books, 2001
Better Together : Restoring the American Community
Author: Robert D. Putnam, Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2003
Loving Your City Into the Kingdom: City Reaching Strategies for a 21st Century Revival
Author: Ted Haggard and Jack Hayford, Publisher: Regal, 1997
Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing it Together and Doing it Right
Author: John M. Perkins, Publisher: Baker, 1995, 2000
Signs of Hope in the City
Authors: Carle and Decaro Jr., Publisher: Judson Press, 1999
Somebody Cares
Author: Doug Stringer, Publisher: Regal, 2001
Taking Our Cities For God: How to Break Spiritual Strongholds
Author: John Dawson, Forward by: Jack Hayford, Publisher: Creation House, 1989
The Triumphs of Joseph: How Today’s Community Healers Are Reviving Our Streets and Neighborhoods
Author: Robert L. Woodson, Publisher: Free Press, 1998
The Revolution of Compassion
Authors: Dave Donaldson and Stanley Carlson-Thies, Publisher: Baker Books, 2003

Churches Engaged in Community

The Externally Focused Church
Authors: Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson, Publisher: Group, 2004
The Church of Irresistible Influence
Author: Robert Lewis, Publisher: Zondervan, 2001
Conspiracy of Kindness
Author: Steve Sjogren, Publisher: Servant Publications, 1993
101 Ways to Reach Your Community
Author: Steve Sjogren, Publisher: Nav Press, 2001
Churches That Make a Difference
Author: Sider, Olson, Unruh, Publisher: Baker Books, 2002
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire
Author: Jim Cymbala, Publisher: Zondervan, 1997
Meeting Needs, Sharing Christ
Author: Charles Roesel, Publisher: Lifeway, 1995
Restorers of Hope
Author: Amy Sherman, Publisher: Crossway Books, 1997
Street Saints
Author: Barbara J. Elliott, Publisher: Templeton Foundation Press, 2004
The Church That Never Sleeps
Author: Matthew Barnett, Publisher: Nelson, 2000
The Way of the Bootstrapper: Nine Action Steps for Achieving your Dreams
Author: Floyd Flake, Publisher: Harper Press, 1999
Turn Your Church Inside Out, Author: Walt Kallestad, Publisher: Augsburg
Fortress Publishers, 2001
Urban Churches: Vital Signs; Beyond Charity Toward Justice
Author: Nile Harper, Publisher: Eerdmans, 1999
Transforming Power
Author: Robert Linthecum, Publisher: Intervarsity Press, 2003

Theology of City-Reaching / Community Engagement

A Biblical Word for an Urban World
Author: Raymond Bakke, Publisher: Board of International Ministries, 2000
A Theology As Big As the City
Author: Ray Bakke, Publisher: Intervarsity Press, 1997
Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets
Authors: John P. Kretzmann, John L. McKnight, Publisher: ACTA Publications, 1997
Ministries of Mercy : The Call of the Jericho Road
Author: Timothy J. Keller, Publisher: Zondervan, 1998
Revolution and Renewal
Author: Tony Campolo, Publisher: John Knox Press, 2000
The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person
E. Stanley Jones, Publisher: McNett Press, 1972
A Clarified Vision for Urban Mission
Author: Harvie M. Conn, Publisher: Zondervan, 1987
The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal, Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries
Author: Rodney Stark, Publisher: Harper, 1997
The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society
Author: Lesslie Newbigin, Publisher: Eerdmans, 1989
An Unstoppable Force
Author: Erwin Raphael McManus, Publisher: Group, 2001
Beyond Charity
Author: John Perkins, Publisher: Baker Books, 1993
Divided by Faith—Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
Authors: Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2000
The Black Church in the African American Experience
Authors: C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, Publisher: Duke University Press, 1996
The Tipping Point—How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Author: Malcolm Gladwell, Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2000

Church Planting (“Movements Everywhere”)

The Shaping of Things to Come--Frost and Hirsch
Houses that Change the World--Wolfgang Simson
Liquid Church--Pete Ward
The House in the Church...a Return to Simple Church--Bob Fitts
Cultivating a Life for God-- Neil ColeThe Global House Church Movement--Rad Zdero
The Celtic Way of Evangelism—George Hunter
House Church Networks--Larry Kreider
Planting New Churches--Ed Stetzer
John Wesley's Class Meetings--D. Michael Henderson
Community of Kindness—Steve Sjogren

Positive Deviants

Positive Deviant
by David Dorsey
Jerry Sternin's job was to help save starving children in Vietnam. Faced with an impossible time frame, he adopted a radical approach to making change. His idea: Real change begins from the inside.

If there is one profession that owes its existence to the new economy, it is the change artist. Change artists can assume various forms: They are the men and women from world-class consulting firms who drop in to companies with their patented change programs. They are the business-school professors who pen prescriptive books about the latest change offering.
And sometimes, they are the motivational speakers who stand up in front of corporate audiences and make passionate pleas for new beginnings and self-belief.
Change artists come into town, offer their wisdom, collect their fees, and then head home, where they design more offerings, conduct more research, and pen more books. In a time of dizzying change, change programs are a growth industry. And not surprisingly, these change programs almost never work. The consultants decamp, and the company reverts to form. The book gets read, maybe even passed around, and the company reverts to form. The motivational speaker leaves to applause, and the company reverts to form.

Maybe, says Jerry Sternin, the problem isn't with the outside experts or with the company. "The traditional model for social and organizational change doesn't work," says Sternin, 62. "It never has. You can't bring permanent solutions in from outside." Maybe the problem is with the whole model for how change can actually happen. Maybe the problem is that you can't import change from the outside in. Instead, you have to find small, successful but "deviant" practices that are already working in the organization and amplify them. Maybe, just maybe, the answer is already alive in the organization -- and change comes when you find it.
At least that's what Sternin thinks. And he should know -- not because he's charged corporations millions of dollars to lead them through change efforts but because he has helped save thousands of children's lives by embracing an approach to change that intentionally, forcefully, dramatically, and successfully flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
Sternin's approach traces back to work done by Marian Zeitlin at Tufts University in the late 1980s. At the time, Zeitlin was doing research in hospitals in developing communities to find out why a small handful of malnourished children -- the "deviants" -- were doing much better than the majority. What enabled some children to rehabilitate more quickly than others?
From this research came the idea of "amplifying positive deviance" -- a theory that Sternin and his wife, Monique, put to the test in the 1990s in a dramatically different setting: Vietnam. As staff members of Save the Children, the Sternins helped create a Vietnamese branch of the organization in response to a request by the Vietnamese government to help fight the problem of malnutrition in the country's villages. But once there, the reception accorded the Sternins and Save the Children by the Vietnamese government was less than cordial: They had six months to produce results -- and then it was time to head home.

Faced with a difficult task and an impossible time frame, Sternin reached for an unconventional solution: amplifying positive deviance. "We call conventional wisdom about malnutrition 'true but useless,' or 'TBU,' " says Sternin, sitting high above White Pond, not far from Walden Pond, near Boston. Sternin is on one of his brief stays at his home in the United States before he returns to his work with Save the Children in Myanmar. "It's all about poor sanitation, ignorance, food-distribution patterns, poverty, and a lack of access to good water. Millions of kids can't wait for those issues to be addressed. While you are there, things improve, but as soon as you leave, things revert back to the baseline. Nothing has changed. The solutions are yours. The resources are yours. When you leave, everything else leaves with you."
When Sternin and his wife first arrived in Vietnam, nearly half of the country's children were malnourished. The TBU model simply wouldn't work -- not in the six months that they had to make a difference. Half in desperation, half in inspiration, Sternin turned to the theory of amplifying positive deviance: In every community, organization, or social group, there are individuals whose exceptional behaviors or practices enable them to get better results than their neighbors with the exact same resources. Without realizing it, these "positive deviants" have discovered the path to success for the entire group -- that is, if their secrets can be analyzed, isolated, and then shared with the rest of the group.

In Vietnam, Sternin proved that the theory worked. Now he's spreading the word around the world. The groundbreaking work that he did in Vietnam has served as a model for rehabilitating tens of thousands of children in 20 countries.

Sternin himself is proving to be a positive deviant. A few consultants, and the companies that they serve, are starting to listen. The change model is being tested at Hewlett-Packard and at a number of other companies. The process isn't complicated or esoteric. When people discover how it works, Sternin says, the truth seems self-evident. "It's so exquisitely simple," he says. "Once you hear it, there's this automatic recognition: 'Oh yeah, of course.' "
Based on an extensive interview with Fast Company, here are Jerry Sternin's steps toward adopting positive deviance as your change program.

Step one: Don't presume that you have the answer.
"We were like orphans at the airport when we arrived in Vietnam," Sternin says. "We had no idea what we were going to do. We had no delusions of grandeur. Our attitude was, Oh my God, what's going to happen?"

When Sternin and his wife arrived in Hanoi, they started with a clean slate, a beginner's mind. They were ready to listen, not to talk. They knew little about Vietnam, but they were certain that the only way to come up with a plan to fight malnutrition was to discover it within the Vietnamese village culture itself.

The Sternins, along with the Vietnamese Save the Children staff and a Vietnamese volunteer named Nguyen Thanh Hien, helped mothers identify the positive deviants within their villages -- the mothers whose children were not malnourished, the mothers who had discovered ways to feed and care for their children effectively. They then enabled everyone else in the village to practice those survival behaviors on their own.
Step two: Don't think of it as a dinner party.

Lots of change programs emphasize the importance of cross-departmental teams. Sternin's approach takes the opposite tack: When defining the community that you want to change, you shouldn't mix people from different social groups or departments. Your aim shouldn't be to produce a lively conversation among diverse individuals, and you shouldn't mix and match people to jump-start the flow of creative ideas. Everyone in the group that you want to help change must identify with the others in the group. Everyone must face the same challenges and rely on the same set of resources to come up with answers. If group members don't see themselves as working on identical challenges with identical sets of resources, then positive deviance won't work.

"You can't find someone whose uncle in the next village gives the family free medicine," Sternin says. "That solution won't work for everyone, because not everyone has such a resource. A solution has to be repeatable. It's the same thing in business. If you try to change behavior in order to enhance sales, productivity, or communication, positive deviance can work. However, when you define the community, you have to be careful to use a definition that's acceptable to the group. If the group feels that you're going outside to where things are so culturally different, then it's just another way to impose best practices, and you're not using positive deviance."
Step three: Let them do it themselves.

Set up a situation in which people -- including those who need to change the way that they operate -- can discover, on their own, a better way to do things. Raise questions, but let the group come up with the answers on its own. Establish research guidelines that isolate and analyze the behavior of positive deviants inside the group itself -- and that highlight the superior results that the study achieves.

"We said, 'Let's test this theory out,' " says Sternin. "We went into four villages. We trained women to chart growth by age and weight. They compiled a list, and then we asked them if they knew of any children under age three who came from poor families but were well nourished. The answer came back: 'Co ( pronounced 'Gah' ), co, co,' " says Sternin, using the Vietnamese word for yes. "Then we asked, 'You mean it's possible today in this village for a very poor family to have a well-nourished child?' Again, we got the same answer: 'Co, co, co.' "
The Vietnamese women were amazed by the discovery. Their reaction: Let's go see what they are doing -- today, before anything changes. "That's how it starts," says Sternin.
Step four: Identify conventional wisdom.

Before you can recognize how the positive deviants stray from conventional wisdom, you first have to understand clearly what the accepted behavior is. Establish what it is that most group members do. Clarify the conventional wisdom of the average and of the majority.
In the case of the Vietnamese children, Sternin asked his village volunteers to observe how all mothers fed their children. The conventional Vietnamese wisdom was that certain foods were low-class, common food, even though these foods were nutritious. In general, mothers didn't actively encourage eating. Some believed that it was not good practice to feed children with diarrhea -- another tenet of conventional wisdom that led to worsening conditions.
"Conventional wisdom said no to eating certain kinds of nutritious foods," says Sternin. "Most people were too busy working to take an active role in feeding their children. They just left food around, and if it fell on the floor, the children might eat it. Or they fed their children once or twice a day. In contrast, the positive deviants fed their children small portions many times a day, because there's only so much rice that a starving child's stomach can hold."

Step five: Identify and analyze the deviants.
As you track how all people in the group go about their tasks, and as you begin to list the behaviors that they all have in common, the positive deviants will naturally emerge. At the same time, it will become clear that the deviants have found a better way; their results will prove it. If you've defined your community effectively ( in such a way that everyone has the exact same set of resources ), then the people who need to change can see how to do it -- if you help them identify the positive deviants. Just as important, they won't feel that an outside solution has been imposed on them. They will have discovered a new way of doing things themselves, making it their discovery, not yours. Analyze and list the set of behaviors that the deviants have in common. Single out exactly what makes them successful.
Certain practices became apparent among the positive deviants. These mothers used alternative sources of food, and their children thrived. In addition, they broke from conventional wisdom in a number of other areas: feeding children even while the children had diarrhea; feeding children more frequently; and making sure that the children actually ate, rather than hoping that the children would take it upon themselves to eat.

"The positive deviants were going to rice paddies and collecting tiny shrimps and crabs to mix with the rice," says Sternin. "They also collected sweet-potato greens -- which conventional wisdom considered low-class food -- and mixed them with the rice. They were supplementing the carbohydrates with protein and vitamins. And positive deviants displayed all kinds of caring behaviors: frequency of feeding, active feeding. They fed children who had diarrhea, for example, even though conventional wisdom said no to this."

Step six: Let the deviants adopt deviations on their own.
"The next step is critical," Sternin says. "Once you find deviant behaviors, don't tell people about them. It's not a transfer of knowledge. It's not about importing best practices from somewhere else. It's about changing behavior. You design an intervention that requires and enables people to access and to act on these new premises. You enable people to practice a new behavior, not to sit in a class learning about it."

Sternin makes a point of emphasizing the distinction: Don't teach new knowledge -- encourage new behavior. Let the people who have discovered the deviations spread the word in their group. Don't require adherence to the new practices, but do offer incentives for it.
In Vietnam, for example, a health volunteer would invite 8 to 10 mothers into her home for medicinal-food training. As a price of entry, the mothers were required to bring a contribution of shrimp, crabs, and sweet-potato greens. The volunteers and the mothers would then use those ingredients, along with rice, to cook a meal for the entire group. After two weeks of this, the session was over. Most of the group would continue to gather shrimp and greens, and their children would continue to recover. Those mothers whose children didn't rehabilitate could re-enroll and go through the two-week process again, over and over, until their children were rehabilitated and the behavior became habitual.

Step seven: Track results and publicize them.
Save the Children's next step: Post the results, show how they were achieved, and let other groups develop their own curiosity about them. Celebrate success when you achieve it. Go back on a periodic basis and observe how different groups have changed, and track the results quantitatively to show how positive deviance works. Chip away at conventional wisdom, and gradually alter low expectations by showing, in indisputable terms, the results that come with doing things differently.

"It was wildly successful," Sternin says. "We saw malnutrition drop 65% to 85% throughout the villages in a two-year period. But that's not all that's thrilling: The Harvard School of Public Health came to the four original villages and did an independent study. They found that children who hadn't even been born when we left the villages were at the exact same enhanced nutritional levels as the ones who benefited from the program when we were there. That means that the behavior sticks."

Step eight: Repeat steps one through seven.
Make the whole process cyclical. Once people discover effective ways to deviate from the norm, and once those methods have become common practice, it's time to do another study to find out how the best performers in the group are operating now. Chances are that they've discovered new deviations from the new norm. The bell curve of performance keeps moving up, as long as you disseminate the best deviations across the curve and continue to discover new examples of positive deviance among the next group of best performers.
Sternin took his positive-deviance program to a total of fourteen Vietnamese villages after succeeding in the initial four. As the program grew, it uncovered new solutions in new localities -- sesame seeds, peanuts, snails. The answers were never quite the same. Different solutions grew out of different soils. But the process remained the same: Discover original local answers to the problem, and then give everyone access to the secrets.

"Save the Children came up with the idea of a living university," says Sternin. "We took the first 14 villages in different phases of the program and turned them into a social laboratory. People who wanted to replicate the nutrition model came from different parts of Vietnam. Every day, they would go to this living university, to these villages, touching, smelling, sniffing, watching, listening. They would "graduate," go to their villages, and implement the process until they got it right. Then they would use their village as their own mini living university to expand the program locally. In effect, the entire village itself would become the positive deviant for the neighboring villages. The program reached 2.2 million Vietnamese people in 265 villages. Our living university has become a national model for teaching villagers to reduce drastically malnutrition in Vietnam."

Over the past decade, positive deviance has been applied to the problem of malnutrition in more than 20 countries through Save the Children. Other non-governmental organizations have applied it in many countries as well, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
News of Sternin's work in Vietnam spread rapidly among a variety of non-governmental organizations. Positive deviance is now being applied around the world to change behavior in a variety of other social and organizational situations, such as the spread of AIDs in the Third World and ethnic conflicts in Africa.

Although he has not worked as a consultant within a business setting himself, Sternin says that the HR department at Hewlett-Packard has shown interest in using positive deviance to identify ways to improve quality of work and worker satisfaction. And the European offices of management-consulting group Rath & Strong have applied the practice within many manufacturing companies.

"A very successful pharmaceutical company had one unit that far outsold all of the other groups," Sternin says. "They believed at the time that the more sales reps you had and the more calls you made on customers, the more you would sell. The positive deviants within the company, the most successful units, had fewer salespeople, and they made fewer calls. They made one-third the number of customer visits per day. They found that these reps were spending far more time with individual doctors, educating them on the benefits and the uses of the products that they sold, talking about research. And they were outselling the others by a big margin."

But the effect of the positive-deviant model for change can't be measured entirely by the numbers, or by the obvious results. The people Sternin has helped throughout the world have invariably felt that he not only solved problems by showing them how to change but also altered their lives in fundamental ways too deep to measure. The message that Sternin carries with him as he continues his work as his own form of a positive deviant comes from a Bangladeshi village woman. "Let us tell you about the changes in our lives," the villager told Sternin and his wife. "We were like seeds locked up in a dark place, and now we have found the light."
David Dorsey ( dedorsey@rochester.rr.com ) is a best-selling business author and a novelist. contact Jerry Sternin by email ( jsternin@scusmyanmar.org ), or visit Save the Children on the Web ( http://www.savethechildren.com ).

Lincoln's desire for legacy

"His friends were worried that he was suicidal and removed all razors and knives from his room. Throughout the nadir of Lincoln’s depression, his best friend, Joshua Speed, stayed by his side. In a conversation both men would remember as long as they lived, Speed warned Lincoln that if he did not rally, he would most certainly die. Lincoln replied that he was more than willing to die, but that he had “done nothing to make any human being remember that he had lived,” and the “to link his name with something that would redound to the interest of his fellow man was what he desired to live for.

"Even in this moment of despair, the strength of Lincoln’s desire to leave “the world a little better for my having lived in it “carried him forward. It became his lodestar, providing a set of principles and standards to guide his everyday actions.

"Not long after he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, his old friend, Speed, visited him at the White House. Lincoln reminded him of their talks during his depression two decades earlier. “I believe that in this measure,” Lincoln said, referring to the proclamation, “my fondest hopes will be realized.” Nearly two centuries after his birth we can say with certainty that the ambition that powered Lincoln from his earliest days—the desire to establish an admirable reputation on earth so that his story could be told after he died—has been realized far beyond his fondest hopes."

TIME, July 4, 2005, p. 54


Several months ago I picked up a book entitled, Mission After Christendom by David Smith. The opening line in the Forward captured my attention: "The church must forever be asking, 'What kind of day is it today?' for no two days are alike in her history.'" Smith outlines the history of Christianity and concludes that today we are in a state between two paradigms (on the cusp betwee the modern era--which Smith says, ended in Europe during WWI, and the post-modern era). Quoting Darrel Guder: "We ring our bells, conduct our services...and wait for this very different world to come to us. Pastors continue to preach sermons and carry on internal polemics over doctrinas as though nothing outside has changed, but the reality is that everything has changed and the people are not coming back to the churches" (p. 33).He posits that we are in a time of transition or limbo or "liminality."

A liminal state describes young boys in tribal socieities who are pulled from their mothers and live together for a season before their initiation into manhood. No longer children, but not yet men. Liminality describes Israel, when they were carried off into captivity. Everything they trusted in...that worked in the past no longer works. In a liminal state, what used to seem true and work no longer works and what will work in the future, has not yet been fully revealed...liminality. In liminal times there is confusion. As I have the opportunity to speak to Christian leaders and pastors I often ask, "If you know, with confidence, what you are doing in ministry, please raise your hand." There is much more laughter than hand raising.

Now, here's the good new: "...despite the feeling that we are in a dark tunnel, the present liminality 'offers the potential for a fresh missionary engagement in a radically changing social context" (Quoting Alan Roxburgh, p. 34). "We too face a point at which God appears to be terminating our known world and inviting us to a new world in which the true nature of the church and its mission can be recovered" (p. 35) This means that this is a time to experiment and discover. There is a lot of white space on the map.

One more quote from Smith that I liked:
“In crossing cultures, the missionary teacher becomes a learner, the one who is in possession of divine revelation discovers new truth, and he who seeks the salvation of others finds himself converted all over again.”

Friday, July 15, 2005

How the Irish Saved Civilization

This past couple of weeks during my Nordic walking I've been listening to Thomas Cahill's "How the Irish Saved Civilization" on my IPod. Today I'll talk about this at our 4pm meeting of Books and Brew. Cahill traces history from the fall of the Roman empire and the sacking of the Roman empire by the barbarian invasion, beginning in 406 AD to take us nearly to the present. Because of Patrick, Ireland became an island of scholars and saint who delighted in books and took upon themselves the laborious task of copying the great works--especially the Latin works into books of their own. As Roman civilization fell, books and libraries burned and knowledge lost and even the memory of knowledge lost, Ireland's civilization rose and when stability returned to Europe it was the "white martyrs" (those who left Ireland for the sake of the gospel) who took the gospel and their beloved books with them establishing monestaries and towns throughout Europe. In the 12th century Ireland was attacked by the Vikings and eventually succumbed to their force. But they left their mark on all of Europe and us as well.

Cahill argues that Christianity in Europe, after Constantine was suspiciously political since it was a political advantage to convert. Ireland "was the only nation where the gospel did not come by force" so Patrick had to persuade these Irish folk to become Christ-followers. A wonderful complementary book to this is "The Celtic way of Evangelism" which is worth serious contemplation.

Friday, July 08, 2005

My Life as a Knowledge Worker

A few years ago I stumbled across this article by Peter Drucker on life-long learning and events that shaped the path, values and direction of his life. It's a keeper.

My Life as a Knowledge Worker
by Peter Drucker

I was not yet 18 when, having finished high school, I left my native Vienna and went to Hamburg as a trainee in a cotton-export firm. My father was not very happy. Ours had been a family of civil servants, professors, lawyers and physicians for a very long time. He therefore wanted me to be a full-time university student, but I was trying to be a school boy and wanted to go to work. To appease my father, but without any serious intention, I enrolled at Hamburg University in law faculty. In those remote days, the year was 1927--one did not have to attend classes to be a perfectly proper university student. All one had to do to obtain the university degree was to pay a small annual fee and show up for an exam at the end of the four years.

The First Experience
Taught by Verdi

The work at the export firm was terribly boring, and I learned very little. Work began at 7:30 in the morning and was over at 4 in the afternoon on weekdays and at noon on Saturdays. So I had lots of free time. Once a week I went to the opera.

On one of those evenings I went to hear an opera by the great 19th-century Italian composer, Giuseppe Verdi--the last he wrote, Falstaff. It has now become one of Verdi’s most popular operas, but it was rarely performed then. Both singers and audiences thought it too difficult. I was totally overwhelmed by it. Although I had heard a great many operas, I had never heard anything like that. I have never forgotten the impression that evening made on me.

When I made a study, I found that this opera, with its gaiety, its zest for life, and its incredible vitality, was written by a man of 80! To me 80 was an incredible age. Then I read what Verdi himself had written when he asked why, at that age, when he was already a famous man and considered one of the foremost opera composers of his century, he had taken on the hard work of writing one more opera, and an exceedingly demanding one. “All my life as a musician,” he wrote, “I have strived for perfection. It has always eluded me. I surely had an obligation to make one more try.”

I have never forgotten those words--they made an indelible impression on me. When he was 18 Verdi was already a seasoned musician. I had no idea what I would become, except that I knew by that time that I was unlikely to be a success exporting cotton textiles. But I resolved that what ever my life’s work would be, Verdi’s words would be my lodestar. I resolved that if I ever reached my advanced age, I would not give up but would keep on. In the meantime I would strive for perfection, even though, as I well knew, it would surely always elude me.

The Second Experience
Taught by Phidias

I t was at about all the same time, and also in Hamburg during my stay as a trainee, that I read a story that conveyed to me what perfection means. It is a story of the greatest sculptor of ancient Greece, Phidias. He was commissioned around 440 BC to make the statues that to this day stand on the roof of the Parthenon, in Athens. They are considered among the greatest sculptures of the Western tradition, but when Phidias submitted his bill, the city accountant of Athens refused to pay it. “These statues,” the accountant said, “stand on the roof of the temple, and the highest hill in Athens. Nobody can see anything but their fronts. Yet you have charged us for sculpting them in the round--that is, for doing their back sides, which nobody can see.”

“You are wrong,” Phidias retorted. “The gods can see them.” I read this, as I remember, shortly after I had listened to Falstaff, and it hit me hard. I have not always lived up to it. I have done many things that I hope the gods will not notice, but I have always known that one has to strive for perfection even if only the gods notice.

The Third Experience
Taught by Journalism

A few years later I moved to Frankfurt. I worked first as a trainee in a brokerage firm. Then, after the New York stock-market crash, in October 1929, when the brokerage firm went bankrupt, I was hired on my 20th birthday by Frankfurt’s largest newspaper as a financial and foreign-affairs writer. I continued to be enrolled as a law student at the university because in those days one could easily transfer from one European university to any other. I still was not interested in the law but I remembered the lessons of Verdi and of Phidias. A journalist has to write about many subjects, so I decided I has to know something about many subjects to be at least a complete journalist.

The news paper I worked for came out in the afternoon. We began work at 6 in the morning and finished in the afternoon, when the last edition went press. So I began to force myself to study afternoons and evenings: international relations and international law; the history of social and legal institutions; finance; and so on. Gradually, I deceloped a system. I still adhere to it. Every three or four years I pick a new subject. It may be Japanese art; it may be economics. Three years of study are by no means enough to master a subject, but they are enough to understand it. So more than 60 years I have been studying on one subject at a time. That not only has given me a substantial fund of knowledge. It has also forced me to be open to new disciplines and new approaches and new methods--for every one of the subjects I have studied makes different assumptions and employs a different methodology.

The Fourth Experience
Taught by Editor-in-Chief

The next experience to report in this story of keeping myself intellectually alive and growing is something that was taught by an editor-in-chief, one of Europe’s leading newspapermen. The editorial staff at the newspaper consisted of very young people. At age 22 I became one of the three assistant managing editors. The reason was not that I was particularly good. In fact, I never became a first-rate daily journalist. But in those years, around 1930, the people who should have held the kind of position I had people age 35 or so were not available in Europe. They had been killed in World War I. Even highly responsible positions had to be filled by young people like me.

The editor-in-chief ‘ then around 50, took infinite pains to train and discipline his young crew. He discussed with each of us every week the work we had done. Twice a year right after New Year’s and then again began in June, we would spend a Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday discussing our work over the preceding six months. The editor would always start out with the things we had done well. Then he would proceed to the things we had tried to do well. Next he reviewed the things where we had not tried hard enough. And finally, he would subject us to scathing critique of the things he had done badly or had failed to do. The last two hours of that session would then serve as a projection of our work for the next six months: What where the things on which we should concentrate? What were the things we should concentrate? What where the things each if us needed to learn? And a week later each of us was expected to submit to the editor-in-chief our new program of work and learning for the next six months. I tremendously enjoyed the sessions, but I forgot them as soon as I left the paper. Almost 10 years later, after I had come to the United States, I remembered them. It was in the early 1940s, after I had become a senior professor, and begun to publish major books. Since then I have set aside two weeks every summer in which to review my work during the preceding year, beginning with things I did well but could or should have done better, down to the things I did poorly and the things I should have done hut did not do. I decide what my priorities should be in my consulting work, in my writing, and in my teaching. I have never once truly lived up to the plan I make each August, but it has forced me to live up to Verdi’s injunction to strive for perfection, even though “it has always eluded me” and still does.

The Fifth Experience
Taught by a senior partner

My next learning experience came a few years after my experience on the newspaper. From Frankfurt I moved to London in 1933, first working as a securities analyst in a large insurance company and then, a year later, moving to a small but fast-growing private bank as an economist and the executive secretary to the the senior partners. One, the founder, was a man in his seventies; the two others were in their mid-thirties. At first I worked exclusively with the two younger men, but after I had been with the firm some three months or so, the founder called me into his office and said, “I didn’t think much of you when you came here and still don’t think much of you but you are even more stupid than you have any right to be.” Since the two younger partners had been praising me to the skies each say, I was dumbfounded.

And then the old gentlemen said, “I understand you did very good securities analysis work, we would have left you where you were. You are now the executive secretary to the partners, yet you continued to do securities analysis. What should you be doing now, to be executive in your new job?” I was furious, but still I realized that the old man was right. I totally changed my behavior and my work. Since then, when I have a new assignment, I ask myself a question, “What do I need to do, mow that I have a new assignment, to be effective?” Every time, it is something different. Discovering what it is requires concentration on the things that are crucial to the new challenge, the new job, the new task.

The Sixth Experience
Taught by the Jesuits and the Calvinists

Quite a few years later, around 1945, after I had moved from England to the United States in 1937, I picked for my three-year study subject early modern European history, especially the 15th and 16th centuries. I found that two European institutions had become dominant forces in Europe: the Jesuit order in the Catholic South and the Calvinist Church in the Protestant North. Both were founded independently in 1536. Both adopted the same learning discipline.

Whenever a Jesuit priest or a Calvinist pastor does anything of significance--making a key decision, for instance--he is expected to write down what results he anticipates. Nine months later he traces back from the actual results to those anticipations. That very soon shows him what he did well and what his strengths are. It also shows him what he has to learn and what habits he had to change. Finally, it shows him what he has no gift for and cannot do well. I have followed that method for myself now for 50 years. It brings out what one’s strengths are--and that is the most important thing an individual can know about himself or herself. It brings out areas where improvement is needed and suggests what kind of improvement is needed. Finally, it brings out things an individual cannot do and therefore should not even try to do. to know one’
s strengths, to know how to improve the, and to know what one cannot do--they are the keys to continuous learning.

The Seventh Experience
Taught by Schumpeter

One more experience, and then I am through with the story of my personal development. At Christmas 1949, when I had just begun to teach management at New York University, my father, then 73 years old, came to visit an old friend of his, the famous economist Joseph Schumpeter. My father had already retired, but Schumpeter, then 66 and world- famous, was still teaching at Harvard the American Economic Association.

In 1902 my father was a very young civil servant in the Austrian Ministry of Finance, but he also did some teaching in economics at he university. Thus he had come to know Schumpeter, who was then, at age 19, the most brilliant of the young students. Two more-different people are hard to imagine: Schumpeter was flamboyant, arrogant, abrasive, and vain; my father was quiet, the soul of courtesy, and modest to the point of being self effacing. Still, the two became fast friends and remained fast friends.

By 1949 Schumpeter had become a very different person. In his last year of teaching at Harvard, he was at the peak of his fame. The two old men had a wonderful time together, reminiscing about the old days. Suddenly, my father asked with a chuckle, “Joseph, do you still talk about what you want to be remembered for?” Schumpeter broke out in loud laughter. For Schumpeter was notorious for having said, when he was 30 or so and had published the first two of his great economics books, that what he really wanted to be remembered for was having been Europe’s greatest lover of beautiful women and Europe’s greatest horseman--and perhaps also the world’s greatest economist.” Schumpeter said, “This question is still important to me, but I now answer it differently. I want to be remembered as having been the teacher who converted half a dozen brilliant students into first-rate economists.”

He must have seen an amazed look on my father’s face, because he continued, “You know, Adolph, I have now reached the age where I know that being remembered for books and theories is not enough. One does not make a difference unless it is a difference in the lives of people. One reason my father had gone to see Schumpeter was that it was known that the economist was very sick and would not live long. Schumpeter died five days after we visited him.

I have never forgotten that conversation. I learned from it three things. First, one has to ask oneself what one wants to be remembered for. Second, that should change. It should change both with one’s own maturity and with changes in the world, finally one thing worth being remembered for is the difference one makes in the lives of people.

I am telling this long story for a simple reason. All the people I know who have managed to remain effective during a long life have learned pretty much the same things I learned. That applies to effective business executives and to scholars to top-ranking military people and to first-rate physicians, to teachers and to artists. Whenever I work with a person, I try to find out to what the individual attributes his or her success. I am invariably told stories that are remarkably like mine.

Monday, July 04, 2005

My son stands watch tonight

My son stands watch tonight as July 4th sees its final hours in Baghdad. The fireworks he has seen today are not symbolic--they are the "bombs bursting in air." He has seen the "rocket's red glare."

The youthful days of backyard barbecues and sitting on a blanket at the golfcourse looking with other innocents into the Colorado sky have been replaced with the soldier's reality of peering into the Baghdad night.
Because he is awake we sleep in peace.

His celebration of freedom will have to wait. One day he will return again to warm summer evenings with his wife by his side and his children at his feet. They will lie on their backs gazing into the sky watching the fireworks. And perhaps his mind will think back to this July 4th in Iraq, when he was setting the captives free.

He stands watch tonight to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of people he will never meet and for their sons and daughters yet to be born.
He stands watch tonight for ideals too important to let die...so he puts his own life on the line to preserve and protect them.

My son stands watch tonight.
If I could I'd take this watch for you so you could be home for a few hours and lie on your trampoline with your wife in your back yard and talk about your dreams together. But for now all we can say is thanks...for standing watch tonight.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A Primer on the Kingdom

Last summer I did a study on "the kingdom" simply because I found myself talking more about the kingdom of God but really understanding little about it. So I just printed out all 170+ references in the New Testament and began reading them every day for a month. The following is the fruit of my inquiry.

A Primer on the Kingdom

To understand the “kingdom of God” we have to go back to the prophetic book of Daniel. During the time of Daniel, the Jews had been conquered by the Babylonians and dragged off to Babylon. The Babylonian captivity (605 B.C.) “marks the beginning of the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24), the prophetic period when Jerusalem is under Gentile control.”[1] The time of the Gentiles ends when the Messiah returns. Babylon’s king, Nebuchadnezzar had a perplexing dream about “an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance” (Daniel 2:31), and where the king’s soothsaying “magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers” (Daniel 2:2), in trying to interpret the dream, could only fumble around and stare at their shoes, Daniel steps forward, not only with the interpretation of the dream, but recalling the details of the very dream itself. The four metals of the statue symbolize coming empires that would influence and rule the world—Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and finally the Roman Empire. Daniel ends his interpretation with the hope of the coming kingdom of God—“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44).
Later Daniel has a dream of four beasts, again representing four kingdoms that dominate the earth. His dream ends with “one like a son of man, coming in the clouds of heaven [who was] given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14). His dream ends with the hope that “the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever” (Daniel 7:18). “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him” (Daniel 7:28). The stage is set for the coming kingdom.

The birth of Jesus
By the time Jesus was born Israel had been chafing and languishing under foreign control for over six hundred years. By the time B.C. turned the page to A.D. the Babylonians had been supplanted by the Media-Persians who were in turn conquered by Greece who succumbed to the power of Rome. The Romans were the kingdom de jour. Every Jew, who understood history and the Scriptures, knew that the next kingdom on the horizon was God’s kingdom as prophesied by Daniel and the air was thick with anticipation. The births of John the Baptist and Jesus had been foreshadowed with prophecies and speculations that pointed to a coming king. John would do the lead blocking as the one who would go before Jesus who would “rescue [them] from the hand of [their] enemies” (Luke 1:74). The angel Gabriel visited Mary and told her, “You will…give birth to a son, and …he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:31-33). Jesus was the coming king! Shortly after the birth of Jesus, the Magi from the east came in search of the “king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1,2) and they were not disappointed. Their gifts and homage were proof that they believed they found the king. When the baby Jesus was dedicated in the temple the 84-year old prophetess, Anna, got fired up as she “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel” (Luke 2:26-38). Many reflected the anticipation of Joseph of Arimathea who twice is described as one who was “waiting for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 23:53, Mark 15:43).

Centrality of the “kingdom message”
Matthew records John the Baptist’s first public words—“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” and with anticipation, the crowds from Jerusalem and Judea, responded by confessing their sins and being baptized in the Jordan (Matthew 3:4-11). If the king was coming, they wanted to be ready. After Jesus was baptized by John and returned from his desert temptation, he found himself in his hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30). When the scroll of Isaiah was handed to him, he found Isaiah 61—“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” This verse and the verses that followed fleshed out his “great commission.” Isaiah 61:1-6 depicts the gospel being preached through proclamation (“proclaim”) and demonstration (“bind up the brokenhearted,” “to comfort those who mourn,” “provide for those who grieve,” etc). The kingdom becomes a place of beauty, not ashes, gladness not mourning, praise and not despair (v.3). The transformed people—referred to as “oaks of righteousness,” are those who “rebuild, renew, and restore the city.”
As Jesus began his ministry, the words of his first public sermon were, the same message as his older cousin’s—“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15). Jesus was announcing the coming kingdom. What shape that kingdom would take would unfold through his actions and teachings over the next three years. But wherever he went he spoke to people about the kingdom—“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). “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35). (See also Luke 4:43, 8:1, 9:11) The first petition that Jesus taught his disciples to pray pertains to the kingdom and is found in Matthew 6:10—“…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
His message was not confined to his own preaching. When he sent out his disciples (Matthew 10:7, Luke 10:9), he instructed them, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near’”—the same message he and John had been preaching. In the book of Acts (1:3), in his post-resurrection appearances “He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” The central teaching of Phillip (Acts 8:12) was “the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ…” Similarly the apostle Paul preached the kingdom of God. When Paul was arrested in Thessalonica his accusers underscored the central message of his teaching—“These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here…they are all saying there is another king, one called Jesus” (Acts 17:7). When Paul came to Ephesus for three months he spoke out boldly, “arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8). For two years he set up shop in the School of Tyrannus where he taught about the King and the kingdom (Acts 19:9). In Paul’s farewell address to these same Ephesians he says, “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again” (Acts 20:25). The closing curtain on the book of Acts finds Paul under house arrest welcoming all who came to see him “and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:31 [see also 28:23]). In Paul’s writing he refers to the kingdom no less than sixteen times.

A kingdom must have a king
But make no mistake about it, people polarized around believing or not believing Jesus was the king. The bookend passages of Jesus’ earthly life centered around his kingship. He was king in the manger (Matthew 2:1,2), he was king before Pilate—“You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world…” (John 18:37[i]) and even king on the cross, it was the thief that recognized his kingship by being asked to be remembered when Jesus entered his kingdom that Friday afternoon (Luke 23:42).

What is the kingdom of God?
The kingdom of God is any place over which God has operative dominion. Although “[t]he earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1) the kingdom of God extends only to those sections of geography or chambers in the hearts of people where God is honored as sovereign and his values are operative. The kingdom of God has a king. His name is Jesus—Matthew 2:1-12, John 18:37. To preach the kingdom is to tell people about the King and the type of things he values in his kingdom and the world he wants to establish. Isaiah 65:17-25 gives a picture of what community life is like when God’s reign is fully operative in the renewed community.
There is joy—v.19
There is absence of weeping and crying (v.19)
There is no infant mortality (v.20)
People live out their full lives (v.20)
People will build houses and live in them (v.21, 22)
People will sow and reap (v.21, 22)
There is fulfilling work (v.22)
There is confidence that their children will face a better life (v.23)
People will experience the blessing of God (v.23)
People will have intergenerational family support (v.23)
There will be rapid answers to prayer (v.24)
There will be an absence of violence (v.25)
So any place where there is sorrow, weeping, infant mortality, premature death, etc. is actually an affront to the kingdom of God. This also helps explain the actions and miracles of Jesus. When people were hungry, it was an affront to the kingdom, so he fed them. When people were sick or paralyzed that also was an affront to the kingdom so he healed them. When people died prematurely, that was an affront to the kingdom also so Jesus raised them from the dead. Through his miracles he was presenting attractive illustrations of what the kingdom of God is like. When Jesus sent his disciples out to minister, they too were to preach the kingdom and do the same things Jesus did to show people what the kingdom of God is like (Matthew 10:7,8, Luke 9:2).

The kingdom of God is multifaceted and at times paradoxical
The kingdom is both future—“your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10) and present—“Since the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing” (Matthew 11:12)
Internal—“The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21) and external—“I will not drink af the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25).
The kingdom is something we possess—“he…brought us into the kingdom of the son he loves (Colossians 1:13) yet something we will inherit—“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28), “…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
The kingdom is not something to be observed—“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But no my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36) “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation” (Luke 17:20) and something that can be observationally anticipated—“Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:31)
The kingdom is a place where we dwell—“He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13) and a place where we are going—“You will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). “The Lord…will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34
The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking—“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17) but there is feasting in the kingdom of heaven—“I tell you, I will not drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29).
The kingdom of God is a place for believers but will also have, for a limited time, have a number of unbelievers present (Matthew 8:12, 13:31ff, 13:47ff).

The kingdom is not realized in its fullness until Revelation 11:14 when the final transformation occurs—“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

Parables about the kingdom of God
When Jesus preached about the kingdom of God he frequently used parables to reveal the differing facets of the kingdom. Each parable, in itself is incomplete in describing the workings of the kingdom but taken together, they provide a good picture of principles of how the kingdom operates. The kingdom of God is like:
A man who sowed good seeds in his field--Matthew 13:24
A mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field—Matthew 13:31
Yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough—Matthew 13:33
Treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field—Matthew 13:44
A merchant looking for fine pearls—Matthew 13:45
A king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants—Matthew 18:33
A landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard—Matthew 20:1
A king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son—Matthew 22:2
Ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom—Matthew 25:1
A man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them—Matthew 25:14
A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he doesn’t know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—Mark 4:26,27

Teachings and values of the kingdom
The kingdom of God is a place where worldly values are turned upside down
Children are valued and held in high esteem—Matthew 18:2, 19:4, Mark 10:14
The poor are blessed—Luke 6:20, James 2:5
Those persecuted for righteousness are blessed—Matthew 10:9
Servanthood is valued over power--Matthew 20:21ff
The wealthy have a hard time entering in--most likely because of the humility and servanthood that is required (Matthew 18:24,25)
We love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who cures us and pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:27,28)
It’s a life filled with faith and free from worry (Matthew 6:25-34)
It’s a life of giving (Matthew 6:1-4)
It’s a life of prayer (Matthew 5-14, 7:7-12)
It’s a life of fasting (Matthew 5:16-18)
It’s a life of love (Matthew 5:43-48)
It’s a life of forgiveness (Matthew 6:14, Matthew 18:23ff)
It’s a life where marriage is honored (Matthew 5:27-35)
It’s a life of reconciliation (Matthew 5:21-26)
It’s a life of good deeds (Matthew 5:16)
It’s a life of honesty (Matthew 5:33-37

What is kingdom work?
First, in the broadest sense, any time we are involved in making this world more reflective of the place that God will ultimately make it in the coming kingdom, we are involved in kingdom work. So, because the kingdom is a place of beauty, cleaning a park or painting a mural that covers graffiti can, in the very broadest of terms, be considered “kingdom work.” Isaiah 61:4 talks of transformed people who “will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” So if we are involved in rebuilding, restoring and renewing the city, this too can be considered kingdom work. When we are involved in correcting and making right any of the social ills, injustices or wrongs of this world, because they are an affront to the character of God, we are involved in kingdom work. Any time we are involved in healing the sick, preventing illness or building a hospital…this too is kingdom work. Anytime we are caring for children as Jesus did, this too is kingdom work. The peacemakers of the world and those who work towards forgiveness and reconciliation are involved in kingdom work. With this view of the kingdom a second implication is the possibility of involving many more people in “kingdom work” than would be involved in what we would normally refer to as “direct ministry” of evangelism and discipleship. We can affirm acts of kindness and mercy, done in the name of Jesus as “kingdom work.”
As this point it is important to affirm that kingdom work does not in any way, shape or form, merit our entrance into the eternal kingdom. Jesus gives this ultimate disclaimer when he says,

“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles”’ then I will tell them plainly, ‘ I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:21-23

How do we enter the kingdom?
There are four verses where Jesus gives the requirements for entrance into the kingdom—each affirming the simple faith that is required. In John 3, in his discourse with Nicodemus, Jesus told him, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit… I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3-5). To the multitudes Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). In the Scriptures, righteousness is something that is imparted to us and never merited (Romans 3,4). Jesus told the disciples, “” tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you willnever enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Child-like faith, a new birth and imputed righteousness is what brings us into the kingdom. So, any time we are involved in introducing others to the King and teaching others about the kingdom we are involved in kingdom work. Paul referred to his companions who shared in this labor as his “fellow workers for the kingdom of God” (Colossians 4:11).

The kingdom without a king and a king without a kingdom
As we move forward in our work of the kingdom we need to keep in mind that the kingdom always includes a king. Historically the church (God’s workforce for expanding the kingdom) has drifted to one side of the pendulum or the other—trying to bring the king to people without helping to bring the kingdom or bring the kingdom to people while failing to tell them about the king. Both are less than Christian. The kingdom, by definition includes the King and this King has a kingdom. To be kingdom Christians, we must be about both.

Implications for the church
“Kingdom” is mentioned 121 times in the gospels. “Church” is mentioned three times. Have we settled for too little in thinking about what God has for us? It’s about the size of the kingdom, not just the size of the church. If we are kingdom Christians we can truly rejoice anytime the kingdom is expanding, whether it results in our particular church growing or not. The kingdom is not the exclusive property of the church. We are to seek first (in priority and importance) his kingdom (Matthew 6:33). We are called to be the church and to build the kingdom
[1] Unger’s Bible Handbook, Merrill F. Unger, Moody Pres, Chicago, 1967, p. 383
[i] Jesus claim to be King, see also John 19:12, Luke 23:2

Book resources for church (movement) multiplication

Church Planting (“Movements Everywhere”)

The Shaping of Things to Come--Frost and Hirsch
Houses that Change the World--Wolfgang Simson
Liquid Church--Pete Ward
The House in the Church...a Return to Simple Church--Bob Fitts
Cultivating a Life for God-- Neil ColeThe Global House Church Movement--Rad Zdero
The Celtic Way of Evangelism—George Hunter
House Church Networks--Larry Kreider
Planting New Churches--Ed Stetzer
John Wesley's Class Meetings--D. Michael Henderson
Community of Kindness—Steve Sjogren

School of Leadership

A couple of months ago Rich Swanson asked me to take a morning and address the Campus Crusade's School of Leadership. The topic I requested was "Movements everywhere." The "school" consists of 20 days of classes and attracts movement leaders from the campus ministry, military ministy and others intent on honing their leadership skills.

The gauntet that Crusade President, Steve Douglas has laid down is this--"Launching movements everywhere so that everyone knows somebody who truly follows Jesus." To me that is captivating and compelling. How do we do that? For pioneers there (by definition) can never be a manual, but we can learn from others who have gone before. So my presentation was on principles of movement launching from others who have been successful or thought deeply abou this topic. So I addressed six areas we could learn from:
1. The church multiplication movement
2. Lessons from Layo Lieva (see earlier blog)
3. Lessons from St. Patrick and his ministry to the Celts
4. Lessons from John Wesley
5. Lessons from Luther
6. Lessons from the Jesuits

The class then broke into six different groups and constructed a movement launching model based on the best practices of the above six topics. They really did a great job integrating these lessons into applications for their ministries. Thanks for the opportunity to speak to this group Rich.