Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Wheel

You know the old saying, "Let's not reinvent the wheel." Don't believe it.

It might be possible to get really great results with minimum investment. Or you might get a boring speech, an experience that seems incredibly rote, or team behavior that prefers the status quo because that is what was done before. It will probably look a lot like just information. Not reinventing also usually means ignoring context and culture, paying little attention to fit and timing and having an excuse to be lazy.

Passion deserves an original outlet. Whether its motivating others, taking a journey together or empowering a team, creating it from scratch won't seem like work. Instead, you'll find you and your team operating at totally new levels of energy, intention and purpose. Inventing it over and over again repeatedly requires commitment to the core. Transformation starts at signing up.

You are welcome to everything here on the blog - feel free to take it and use it if you want. But use it to help you rediscover and reengage. If I can reinvent every time, so can you.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Nairobi A18 Coffee House

KellanD, the leader I have told you a little bit about, and his team hosted a coffee house over the weekend - a gathering to raise awareness and support for their team, which departs in late May.

Their team is serving in Nairobi, Kenya, primarily around Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world. Over 1 million people live in the size of about 1.5 square miles - the size of Central Park. Their team will be involved in projects such as soccer/sports activities, light construction, and serving in an orphanage, as well as other various small projects.

Hosting events to raise support for mission teams is notoriously difficult. Usually, there is way more effort than worth the support raised - except it's a great way to build team identity. It's also difficult to plan appropriate program elements. This team did it right: short, simple, one short introduction, video with pictures, three team members speaking via an interview format and one closing song. One more thing - check out the web presence for all of their teams for this year.

Photos: KD, right, speaking; @trevinhoekzema, KD and me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Notes - Axiom

Axiom by Bill Hybels

Catalyst sent me a copy of this and after the first chapter, I asked myself why I had never read Hybels before. This is a great book and although the lessons are short and succinct, it should make you ask questions about your leadership style and habits of influence.

Axioms that caught my attention:
Language Matters - the right words give weight to vision or ideas.
Make the Big Ask - let people tell you no instead of you thinking they won't.
Values Need Heat - practice intention and purpose around the values you want to have.
First Tested - never put someone in leadership without seeing them up close and personal.
Pay Attention to Greetings and Goodbyes - the most important part of a meeting is your personal greeting and goodbye [esp context of a board]
Give Me an A, B or C - grade every person on the team [not sure how I feel about this one]
Obi-Wan Kenobi Isn't For Hire - it's possible to be mentored by someone that you have never met. [yes, i do this, but don't call it stalking]
Read All You Can - self explanatory.
Lead Something - the best way for leaders to get better is to lead something that is not their 'main' thing.
Arrive Early or Not at All - promptness is about character.
Fight For Your Family - leadership's first test is the test of the family.

You should pick this up for yourself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Burn

::: Taking Students to Mexico?
"The consumerist, individualistic culture that our students are immersed in every day may not compromise their physical safety, yet it does do violence to their souls."
YouthFront's response to churches and parents inquiries about whether it's safe to go to Mexico.

::: Rwanda Rising
President Kagame's goals are ambitious: to boost GDP sevenfold, find paying jobs for half of Rwanda's subsistence farmers, nearly quadruple per capita income to $900, and turn his country into an African center for technology, all by 2020.
Link via Brad Lomenick

::: The Gospel Spectrum
...data visualization and data-mining to deconstruct and then visually reconstruct the story of Jesus as presented in the Bible.
This is a must see.
Link via @CatalystLeader

Monday, March 23, 2009

Moldbreaking and Significant

Loving the questions from the application for TED Fellows. Additionally, check out these questions from the reference form
1. What is your relationship to the applicant, and how long have you known him or her?
2. Do you feel that the applicant has achieved something significant? How is this evidence that he or she can do more in the future?
3. What is it about this individual that is moldbreaking?
4. Please provide an anecdote from time spent with the applicant that will shed light on his or her unique character.
Moldbreaking and significant - that's what the future needs.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Czech Bible done

I wrote earlier about efforts to translate the Bible into a modern day translation of Czech. It's now done - this is S and the printed copies. How cool. More here from Marc.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Latest Kindling

+ Two of the students that were on the SPACE Hungary 2008 team are volunteering with a nonprofit called FIRN - Foreign Born Information Network. "i like this kid named Rodrigo-he doesnt speak any english but hes my favorite." The world is coming to our doorsteps.

+ Not only did K&K help out with the NYC weekend, they also spent a week in Portugal a few weeks ago seeing if it was a possible overseas gig they want to do. Most insightful issue was personalities - personality of the overall organization, team leaders and individual team members. 50% of new people serving in cross cultural environments leave because of interpersonal issues.

+ There is a team leader I'm informally coaching - KellanD - who is helping lead a team to Kenya in late May. The past few weeks have been very tough for him and his team. He got sick with the flu, his cell phone broke [he's in his younger 20s, so you know this is a big deal] and his car broke down. One couple on his team had to deal with the death of a family member and then their house being broken into. In other words, attempt to do something significant and get ready for some weird stuff to happen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday Burn

::: The Cult of Done
My favorites:
4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
Link via Dan Pink

::: Migration Flows in the US
note the interactive maps - how cool
Link via kotkke

::: Diffusion of innovation scale - by area of the world
Link via Derek Webster

Monday, March 16, 2009

New York 2009 Mission Cast

I had a great time in New York City this past weekend serving alongside a fabulous team of mission catalysts - our goal was to facilitate a weekend comprised of service experiences, cultural exercises and team initiatives for two teams from churches that are within our network of friends.

I learned a few things this weekend, like always:
- This was the first time doing anything like this for a team of adults. It was unknown and a little bit intimidating. But the team that came was full of passion, wanting to grow and desiring to serve. One of their team goals was to be "be poured out completely by the end of the weekend." We had a very full weekend and didn't have very much downtime - I believe all of them took in whole experience, fully engaged and poured their whole selves into what we were doing.
- The serving experience is easier to facilitate than you think and there is great value when you serve someone less fortunate than you. What is much more valuable is when someone can help you process that experience in light of a team, a bigger view on the world today and the unique role that all of us play. Serving can easily be very transactional or it can be part of transformation [This concept of transaction vs transformation is not originally mine.]
- Facilitating requires that we fade out as time moves on, while the localized leaders become more visible.
- If you know me, you know that I'm not always the most punctual. This gets reflected in teams I lead - not a good thing. On Friday, we were about 90 minutes late to our destination. That doesn't make things any easier on our hosts.
- The rest of my leader team made this weekend. These guys and gals are so affirming, engaging and experienced and they bleed global cultures, intention and leadership development. They visualize what we are trying to spark. Amazing team - so fortunate to be able to work with them.
- We had to adjust slightly on Saturday night due to our hosts having double booked. Although I know our team was slightly disappointed in having to skip something we originally planned, they took it in stride and we were able to rotate small groups in anyway.
- Our 11 year old daughter came on this one - she did an amazing job serving, engaging and being a part of our team.
- Hostel=ear plugs.
Below are the specifics - as always, use what you want.

+ Schedule
09.30am - Depart Baltimore on the megabus.
12.45am - Arrive NYC and meet CT teams in Grand Central Station.
04.30pm - After checking into hostel, big game of kick ball at GenXcel.
06.30pm - Send teams on urban trek [get to multiple locations as a team, sort of play "Bigger or Better" on the way] while lead team connects and has real time decompress on weekend so far.
09.30pm - Decompression with all teams.
09.00am - Day starts with more team thinking. Love languages, personalities, and how you work together as a team. Team stages = Forming -> storming -> norming -> performing.
10.15am - Arrive at Abounding Grace, start working on sorting clothes pantry.
12.15pm - Continue cleaning out vault/storage area.
01.30pm - Quick lunch break. While teams are eating, they are engaging strangers with the idea of "What is Church?" Lead team eats together for decompress.
03.15pm - Teams clean out kitchen #1. Approx 20 bags of clothes are dropped off at the Bowery Mission.
05.00pm - Teams take a break to do a cultural activity with world maps and strangers - where are you from?
06.15pm - Change in plans from serving with Apple Core to cleaning out kitchen #2. Fed 21 people for $86 - New York pizza. Spend too little time hanging with Jeremy Del Rio.
08.15pm - Decompress on church structure and global urban migration.
08.30am - Communion together as a community
11.00am - Facilitators decompress the weekend.
01.30pm - Home on the megabus

+ Twitter summary
Home. Glad to not be on a moving vehicle. 7:04 PM Mar 15th
On the mega bus 1:19 PM Mar 15th
Breakfast communion close out other team has left we now travel home 9:57 AM Mar 15th
Plan b worked out fine. Long day after decompress on culture, global urban migrate and exp of Church. Tomm am is closing the weekend 10:39 PM Mar 14th
Executing plan b with @jeremydelrio 7:01 PM Mar 14th
Setting up for apple core coffee house. Cool example of simple church 5:38 PM Mar 14th
Team out doing cultural activity 4:47 PM Mar 14th
@jeremydelrio yeah man will be great to see you! 4:15 PM Mar 14th
My daughter is an ordinary superhero. Like all of us. 3:25 PM Mar 14th
Lunch with lead team at chipotle while other teams do 'what is church structure?' 12:31 PM Mar 14th
Sorting clothes for apple core 11:22 AM Mar 14th
Forming storming norming performing 9:25 AM Mar 14th
Keely and farr running session on high impact team roles - follow up with urban trek from last night 9:09 AM Mar 14th
Decompress in the hostel in the boys rm. Andy is point. So the room smells just a tad 9:47 PM Mar 13th
Spanish tapas with lead team while others are on urban trek 7:20 PM Mar 13th
@JoyceElizabeth thanks its going well so far 6:51 PM Mar 13th
Kickball at Gen xcel comm dev and lead dev in lower man nyc 4:29 PM Mar 13th
@timtjones thanks bro! 3:00 PM Mar 13th
Ah central park hostel home away from home 3:00 PM Mar 13th
New York how I've missed you you have so much influence over the world 12:26 PM Mar 13th
@trevinhoekzema ha yup thanks for praying the norms and the bowns are here with me too 12:25 PM Mar 13th
@trevinhoekzema yeah going to lots of fun doing some of the same stuff we did last year the bridge church in groten 12:05 PM Mar 13th
@trevinhoekzema I'm on the way to nyc to facilitate a weekend for a church mission team 11:58 AM Mar 13th
@JoyceElizabeth ha ha yes one advantage to riding on a bus 11:57 AM Mar 13th
New jersey is more fun when I'm driving 11:35 AM Mar 13th
On the megabus. Not front seat but near boys room so that will do 9:49 AM Mar 13th

Photos: The team from CT; kickball at GenXcel; craft time with Andy; Andy and the 25 bags of clothes for the homeless.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Big Apple

By the time you read this, I'm hopefully en route to NYC with a team to facilitate a mission experience for some friends and their community. We would really appreciate your prayers - for safe travels, for eyes to be opened to seeing the realities of the future, for hearts to engage the epic story in all of us. And of course, pray for me and the 3 hour bus ride up and back. You know how that goes. And, a slight twist to this weekend, Kt our 11 year old is joining me and the team for the weekend - it will be fun to have her along. I'll be updating via twitter when I can. Click here or read along in the left sidebar.

Those that have traveled with me before know that I almost always put together a leader reading packet. Some of those are listed below. And to you, thanks for reading, following and praying - I share the packet with you as well. Tell you more next week about the investment you are making.

Your Future Comes From Your Free Time
Peer Pressure
In Search of Dolphin Leather
Those With No Religion Fastest Growing Group
Primates on Facebook

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Andrew Murray

Steve Knight, blogger, communication coordinator for SIM and friend of mine from the Internets, sent me a notice about a new devotional blog starting today based on the writings of Andrew Murray.

Murray [the picture is Murray, not my friend Steve :) ] was one of the founders of the Cape General Mission, which later became known as Africa Evangelical Fellowship (AEF). AEF continued until 1998 when it merged with SIM (Serving In Mission).

Some of you readers here might be interested in checking this out. Murray famously said, "Missions are the chief end of the Church ... The chief end of the ministry ought to be to equip the Church for this. Each congregation is meant to be a training class." That should pique your interest huh?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


on this.

my name - before I was born.
mouth like a sharpened sword.
polished arrow.

Monday, March 09, 2009

So You Have Plan A...

We are in the final prep for this weekend's NYC experience. Lots of fun and been great working with this team. We think we have plan A down - we'll see about plan B, C and D...

Note the 'Follow Up' column - every significant component of the weekend has something for this column. This is how we give it away.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Book Notes - Culture Making

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch.

Tons of stuff in this book - too much to actually really go into here. Long time readers will read about familiar themes, including: creativity, being a student of the culture around you, and the different types of postures we take in a given environment. But there is loads more.

Probably the most helpful and tangible for me was the five questions about a cultural good listed in chapter 1 and the discussion on scope, scalability and the 3:12:120 pattern of influence in chapter 15 [does this remind you of the rule of 150?].

Highly recommended. Personal notes below, use them as you will.

Part 1 - Culture
1. The Horizons of the Possible
This, then, is the picture of humanity we find in Genesis: creative cultivators.

Culture is what we make of the world.

So how do we make sense of the world? The two senses turn out to be more intertwined than we might have thought. We make sense of the world by making something of he world. The human quest for meaning is played out in hman making: the finger painting, omelet-stirring, chair-crafting, snow-swishing activites of culture. Meaning and making go together - culture, you could say, is the activity of making meaning.

"Every human society is an enterprise of world-building" - Peter Berger. Culture is not just what human beings make of the world; it is not just the way human beings make sense of the world; it is in fact part of the world that every new human being has to make something of.

1 What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world is?
2 What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world should be?
3 What does this cultural artifact make possible?
4 What does this cultural artifact make impossible?
5 What new forms of culture are created in response to this artifact?

Culture is the realm of human freedom - it's constraints and impossibilities are the boundaries within which we can create and innovate.

2. Cultural Worlds
Some people choose a set of cultural ripples that was not originally their own. When they do so in pursuit of economic or political opportunities, we've traditionally called them "immigrants"; when they do so in pursuit of evangelistic or religious opportunities, we've called them "missionaries." But as the wheels within wheels overlap more and more in a mobile world, most of us have some choice about which cultures we will call our own. We are almost all immigrants now, and more of us than we may realize are missionaries too.

3. Teardowns, Technology and Change
[Stewart] Brand's most important insight is that there is an inverse relationship between a cultural layer's speed of change and it's longevity of impact. The faster a given layer of culture changes, the less long-term effect it has on the horizons of possibility and impossibility.

Even the resurrection of Jesus, the most extraordinary intervention of God in history, took hundreds of years to have widespread cultural effects.

But there is one more easy abstraction we need to clear up in order to appreciate how culture changes. To define culture as what human beings make of the world is to make clear that culture is much more than a "world-view."

The danger of reducing culture to worldview is that we may miss the most distinctive thing about culture, which is that cultural goods have a life of their own. They reshape the world in unpredictable ways.

4. Cultivation and Creation
fundamental rule - The only way to change culture is to create more of it.

human cultures have the strange yet fortunate property of always being full.

Human nature abhors a cultural vacuum.

Cultural creativity requires cultural maturity.

5. Gestures and Postures
Condemn, critique, consume, copy -> culture. A gesture moves to a posture.

Part 2 - Gospel
6. The Garden and the City
Creation brings being out of nothing.
Creation is relational.
Creation requires cultivation.
Creation leads to celebration.

To be sure, God has provided the raw material - the garden, the animals themselves and Adam's very breath. But now the Creator graciously steps back just enough to allow humankind to begin to discover what it means to be a creator. Adam, like his Maker, will be both gardener and poet, both creator and cultivator.

Our world is unevenly divided, to say the least, between wilderness and theme parks. Most of humanity lives all too close to wilderness, at the mercy of a creation whose original good wildness has been made implacable hostile to human flourishing by the Fall. A privileged billion or so can choose to live in theme parks, where neither the dangers nor the beauty of the created, fallen world intrude on a manufactured environment of amusement. But we were made for neither theme parks nor wilderness - we were made for the place where we are challenged to become creators and cultivators. We began as gardeners.

Interlude - The Primordial Story
7. The Least of the Nations

8. Jesus as Cultural Maker
Jesus as cultivator and as creator
Jesus as creator - altered practice of meals, stretched the horizons of rituals, confronted head-on the most powerful cultural institution of first-century Judaism, the temple in Jerusalem.

Of all the things cultures conserve most carefully - of all that they are most committed to cultivating - among the most important are ritual and time. For several thousand years, in the midst of a bewildering variety of geographic locations and civilizations - even as their own language and cultural practices changed in myriad ways - the Jews have never forgotten which day is the sabbath. The observance of the sabbath is written into the Ten Commandments as the story of creation itself and was sustained in Jesus' time, as it is now, as a profoundly countercultural act with little or no support from the surrounding society. And yet, within a few years of Jesus' death, we have clear evidence (from Luke, Paul, and John in the biblical canon, and from writers like Ignatius just a few decades later) of a group of largely or exclusively Jewish believers, living within sight of the temple no less, who have shifted their primary day of worship from the seventh to the first.
To grasp the cultural significance of this, imagine leaving the United States for a decade or so and returning to find that while the wider society continued to get up on Monday and go to work and school, a substantial number of churches left their buildings dark on Sunday and gathered for worship on Monday instead - perhaps getting up before dawn to do so, perhaps gathering after the work day was done, perhaps skipping work altogether - and, for good measure, now called Monday, "the Lord's day." You would conclude that something absolutely extraordinary must have happened - or at least that they believed something extraordinary had happened.

9. From Pentecost
10. ...To Revelation

11. The Glorious Impossible
In a lovely Christmas book for children, Madeline L'Engle called the incarnation "the glorious impossible" - an unthinkable idea that nevertheless shines with possibility and hope. It's a good description of the gospel as a whole. And it is precisely the impossibility of the gospel that makes it so culturally potent and so perennially relevant. The gospel constantly challenges every human culture with the possibility that we live within misplaced horizons.

Part 3 - Calling
12. Why We Can't Change The World
Which leads us to the deflating observation that not a single human cultural artifact has changed the world at that scale - neither the compass nor indeed any other application of magnetism, the Gettysburg Address nor any other work in the English language, Einstein's theory of general relativity nor any other set of mathematical formulas. Even the color mauve hasn't change the world in that sense.

the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions.
what are the all-important sufficient conditions for cultural influence? The sobering truth is that at a large enough scale, there are no sufficient conditions for cultural change.

Our ability to change culture is a matter of scale. On a small enough scale, nearly everyone has the power to change the world.

So can we change the world? Yes and no. On a small enough scale, yes, of course we can. But the world is sufficiently complex, not to mention sufficiently broken, that the small scale of our own cultural capacity is never sufficient.

Our central story begins with a Creator who set into motion a cultural process that had myriad consequences that were never within his original intent. Because all culture is shared and public, all culture is also a risk, dependent on the cultivation and creativity of present and future generations. Adam and Eve certainly did "change the world," but not in the way their Creator had surely hoped.

Changing the world sounds grand, until you consider how poorly we do even at changing our own little lives.

Is there a way to change the world without falling into one of the many traps laid for would-be world changers? If so, it will require us to learn the one thing the language of "changing the world" usually lacks: humility, defined not so much as bashfulness about our own abilities as awed and quiet confidence in God's ability.

13. The Traces of God
When God acts in culture, he used both the powerful and the powerless alongside one another rather than using one against the other. To mobilize the powerless against the powerful would be revolution; to mobilize the powerful against the powerless would simply conform 'the way of the world.' But to bring them into partnership is the true sign of God's paradoxical and graceful intervention into human history.

I believe this pattern - God working with the poor and the rich, the powerless and the powerful - serves as a kind of template for seeking out what God might be doing now in our human culture.

Q: What is God doing in culture? What is his vision for the horizons of the possible and impossible? Who are the poor who are having good news preached to them? Who are the powerful who are called to spend their power alongside the relatively powerless? Where is the impossible becoming possible?

14. Power
For nearly all of us, becoming a celebrity is completely, categorically impossible. For all of us, becoming a saint is completely, categorically possible.

Cultural power can be defined very simply as the ability to successfully propose a new cultural good.
No one every knows how much power they have.
And no one ever has enough power.

One of the basic disciplines I have put in place in my own life is travel outside the developed world, about once a year if our family budgets of time and money allow....

What does it mean to embrace stewardship as a spiritual discipline? It is different fro service, which requires setting aside our power entirely for a time.
Stewardship means to consciously take up our cultural power, investing it intentionally among the seemingly powerless, putting our power at their disposal to enable them to cultivate and create. This is different from charity, which is simply the transfer of asses from rich to poor. It is closer to investment.

Q: Where have we successfully proposed a new cultural good? With whom am I sharing my power? Is my transformation keeping pace with the cultural power I have been given? Are we engaging in acts of service that take us into places of anonymity and invisibility?

15. Community
Is there any sense to the idea that "all culture is local"? Mandarin Chinese, Coca-Cola, the common law system of jurisprudence and the twelve-musical scale form the horizons of possibility for millions or billions of people. They are as far from "local" as you can get, and they are cultural goods of tremendous importance, for better or worse.
And this mans that no mater how complex and extensive the cultural system you may consider, the only way it will be changed is by an absolutely small group of people who innovate and create a new cultural good.
The pattern of 3:12:120 - pattern of relationships, scale and influence.
And yet the almost uncanny thing about culture making is that a small group is enough.
Q: Who are your 3? Who are the few people you trust enough to risk creating something together? Who might be members of your 12?

16. Grace
I believe the single best question for discerning our calling is Where do you experience grace - divine multiplication that far exceeds your efforts?


I get spurts of requests for recommendation letters and I love to do them. I'm on the tail end of one of those spurts right now, having written a handful of letters in the past few weeks. I really do love writing them when they are right person - people who I have served with closely, people who have demonstrated their reliability and passion, and people that are fun to be with.

I'm filling out one more form this week for a leader that I've worked very closely with and they are applying to a internationally known nonprofit - very exciting. It's always interesting to see what organizations value and good gauge is what they ask for on recommendation forms.

In this case, the reference [me] is asked to rate the candidate on:
Critical Thinking
Organization Ability

What gets measured gets done. When it comes to building teams, the precursor is that what you strive for is what you get. So be clear about what you want out of your team. And then ask for it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Watch Out Willow

Sometimes, believe it or not, we skip church on Sundays. And every once in a while, we do Shengchurch.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tuesday Burn

::: Richard Florida - How The Crash Will Reshape America
Fascinating article about demographics, human capital, and suburbanization.
Perhaps no major city in the U.S. today looks more beleaguered than Detroit, where in October the average home price was $18,513, and some 45,000 properties were in some form of foreclosure...
New York is more of a mecca for fashion designers, musicians, film directors, artists, and—yes—psychiatrists than for financial professionals.
Last year fewer Americans moved, as a percentage of the population, than in any year since the Census Bureau started tracking address changes...
Link via TallSkinnyKiwi

::: 40% of 7,000 languages are going extinct
One language dies every two weeks.
Language technology kits include a laptop computer, a digital camera, a digital audio recorder, and a still camera.
80% of the world's languages are not documented.
Link via kottke

::: Starbucks (Red) Card
Link via Made to Stick