loren Eric Swanson: Catching a Wave that Changes the World

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Catching a Wave that Changes the World

Lately I've been finding myself saying to others, "As difficult as it is to surf, it is far easier to catch a wave than to cause a wave." My point is that we need to be aware of the big things God is doing in the world and get in on them.

God has a plan. Recently I was talking with Reggie McNeal (The Present Future). Reggie made this metaphoric observation. "I doubt that God went to bed last night thinking about how many people you had in your church. Most likely he went to bed last night thinking about the two billion people that live on less than a dollar a day or the 30,000 people who died because they didn't have clean water or about human traficking or the genocide in Africa." When God wants to act, if the church is not paying attention, he will raise up whom he will...who have his full attention to bring forth his agenda in the world. Sometimes it is a Cyrus or an Artexerses or Nebuchadnezzar. Sometimes it is a Bono, a Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet.

Last week I had breakfast with my friends Dave Runyon and Kelly McFadden. Kelly recently returned from a year in England where her husband was getting an MBA from Oxford. Kelly comes from Mariners Church in Irvine California and is a leader in their externally focused ministry, leading Miracles in Motion (motel) ministry. While in England Kelly took a job with the Skoll Foundation. Let's look at their Website (www.skollfoundation.org):

About the Skoll Foundation
The Skoll Foundation was created by Jeff Skoll in 1999 to pursue his vision of a world where all people, regardless of geography, background or economic status, enjoy and employ the full range of their talents and abilities. Skoll, who was the first employee and first President of eBay, believes that strategic investments in the right people can lead to lasting social change.
The Skoll Foundation’s mission is to advance systemic change to benefit communities around the world by investing in, connecting and celebrating social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs are proven leaders whose approaches and solutions to social problems are helping to better the lives and circumstances of countless underserved or disadvantaged individuals. By identifying the people and programs already bringing positive changes to communities throughout the world, the Skoll Foundation empowers them to extend their reach, deepen their impact and fundamentally improve society.

"Many of the problems of our modern world, ranging from disease to drugs to crime to terrorism, derive from the inequalities between the rich and the poor … be they rich nation versus poor nation or rich community versus poor community. It is in the best interests of the well-off to help empower those who are not as well-off to improve their lives.” —Jeff Skoll

Social entrepreneurs see opportunities where others see problems and crises. They apply innovative solutions to social and environmental issues, empowering people and communities to envision and create positive change. They work in many kinds of organizations: nonprofits, social purpose ventures such as community development banks, and hybrid organizations that mix elements of nonprofit and for-profit organizations. The Skoll Foundation believes that social entrepreneurs represent a powerful force for systemic social change. Their work has the potential to reduce economic disparities, increase opportunities for the disadvantaged, promote healthy communities and increase the interpersonal and intercultural understanding that is the foundation for world peace.

Kelly said her time was amazing. But there was a conspicuous absense of leaders from the faith community. Here were some very innovative and intelligent people working on some of the big problems of the world--people with big heads and hearts but where were we?

When I was at Rock Harbor Church last month, a number of staff were wearing (RED) gear--T-shirts and the like. Mike Kenyon explained to me that (RED) (www.joinred.com) was part of the ONE campaign started by Bono and a few others where (RED) products are produced by GAP, Apple, Converse, etc. and half the profits are donated to aleviating poverty and purchasing AIDS medicine in Africa. (RED) is part of Bono's ONE campaign (the campaign to make poverty history) which has enlisted over 2,400,000 adherants including celebraties as varied as Ashley Judd, Warren Buffett, Lance Armstrong and Pat Robertson. From the Website (www.one.org): Part of ONE is another Bono brainchild DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa). From the Website (www.data.org) aims to raise awareness about, and spark response to the crises swamping Africa: unpayable Debts, uncontrolled spread of AIDS, and unfair Trade rules which keep Africans poor.
DATA is part of a rising tide of action by people like you to beat back these crises.
The organization was founded in 2002 by Bono, the lead singer of U2, along with Bobby Shriver and activists from the Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt campaign. At the core of DATA's mission is a view that these issues are not about charity, but about equality and justice.

If this is a wave God is causing, is this a wave we should be riding? In the Novemeber 13, 2006 Newsweek, Michael Gerson writes "I've asked young evangelicals on campuses from Wheaton to Harvard, who they view as their model of Christian activism. Their answer is nearly unanimous: Bono." (p. 40) A couple weeks ago I was with a bunch of Campus Crusade leaders who were working on establishing spiritual movements on every campus in the northeast region of the country (1/5 of all US college students). Perhaps the wave that God is causing is what we should pay attention to. Instead of thinking how we can get Crusade staff to bring their students to a certain beach project we should be thinking how to mobilize all the student groups on one campus to go to Africa and sink 20 water wells. It's not so much about wringing our hands, consuming ourselves about growing our campus groups from 60 to 80 (remember Reggie's words) but how can catelize the students on campus to change the world. Last spring Crusade mobilized 15,000 students (believers and non-believers) to work on the gulf coast. These shoulder to shoulder relationships spawned a hundred thousand unlikely conversations about Jesus. This was our "proof of concept." If Bono is universally admired by believers and unbelievers alike, why not show up on campus sporting (RED) gear, idendifying like-minded people and planting (RED) groups or ONE groups or Bono groups or U2 groups on campus and mobilize students for a global agenda sponsored by local businesses? Leaders can keep the spiritual agenda on the front burner and invite students to meet God through service to others (Matthew 25--"When you did it to the least you were doing it to me.") It is then the job of believers to help their friends interpret what they are experiencing as they give themselves to people on the margin. There is a groundswell of students that want their lives to count for something. We can be a catalyst (like we did around Katrina) and give leadership to fulfill that desire for purpose. It is always better to be in the business of satisfying demand rather than trying to create demand. Students don't want to be on the sidelines. They want a piece of the action.

Now, can you imagine movements everywhere on every campus where students are making a global, spiritual and material difference? Who wouldn't want to be part of that?


At Tuesday, November 28, 2006 7:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is IT. I know understand what I've been looking for. Thanks.

D Hab

At Wednesday, November 29, 2006 1:07:00 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

I love it!


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