Friday, July 29, 2011

August Kindling

+ Debriefing the STC Baltimore team last night included the three topics of context, sustainability and indigenous. I continue to ask why hardly anyone is discussing these all important concepts with students. Interesting: a suburban youth ministry whose ethos included youth gatherings in the inner city with no big deal.
+ Grace high school team leaves for DC Sunday. They'll be working with CSM DC.
+ Happened to meet the owner and founder of Icing Smiles last month at a swim team event. They've experienced the kind of explosive growth that lots of starters could really learn from. She incidentally goes to our church.
+ There are probably some people in our churches that are doing amazing things but are unknown to all of us. That may have more to do with church leadership than you think.
+ Some of Ember's favorite people are coming home to disturbia in waves. Could you people be in the same zip code at the same time?
+ Met Kirk Crager face to face - he hosted a SPACE England team in 2008. Best insight - England is a culture that is highly segmented via economic strata because a class system has existed for centuries. No, not segmented like the US. Segmented like you don't go to the same church or live in the same community.
+ Sad that our guide gatherings are ending after the summer. Loved Wednesday evenings dreaming and executing with John, Trevin, Lexi and Tayest.
+ Deanna and I celebrate our 17 year anniversary this weekend. No it doesn't seem that long.
+ August is blog sabbath. See you in September.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Fantastic time with Serve the City Baltimore last night. They've done a great job in setting up some partnerships with some very cool organizations doing some neat things. Great group of young people. Just as interesting: the pagoda in Patterson Park, a youth ministry tied closely with STC, Patrick D who is in charge is in process of planting a church in the city, and lots of momentum in Baltimore right now around these kinds of kingdom things.

I'll be there again this evening with some of Ember guides - if you are local and want to drop in, get in touch.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One Paradigm

Like it or not, Starbucks has shifted the paradigm about size. Going to use this idea tonight at STC when talking about global, region and local.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The church gets in trouble whenever it thinks it is in the church business rather than the kingdom business....If the church has one great need, it is this: to be set free for the kingdom of God, to be liberated from itself as it has become in order to be itself as God intends. - Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church, quoted by Rob Fairbanks

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Long Tail on Serving

Dea and I and some of the Ember guides are hanging with Serve the City Baltimore for two evenings later this week. They've got a great group of organizations that they are partnering with and I'm sure the outcome will be beneficial on both sides. The students are going to challenged as their worldviews change. The organizations and staff are going to be encouraged that there are actually young people that will serve and care for others.

Lots of dynamics going on with serving today and young people are at the heart of it. There is the random acts of kindness idea - free hugs, washing cars, giving out water, making lunches for the homeless - all in efforts to bless the community. It's organic, semi-random, and can be creative. Somewhat seemingly on the other side is the partnering with organizations - going where God is working, serving with someone already doing something with a vision, structure and momentum. Both are good and both are needed.

My hope is that young people that are involved in both of these serving dynamics actually become people that create something out of nothing - something that marks humanity. They move a vision to execution. Mobilize people. Raise whatever funding they need. Catch and build momentum.

This might be the long tail on serving.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Burn

::: New SUV That Will Change Transportation in Africa
Link via becky straw

::: If US Metro Areas Were Countries

::: Overheard at Junior High Camp

::: Sanctuary transforms into community center
But after the last service is over, members of the congregation break down the rows of chairs, transforming the place of worship into a space for summer camp activities and basketball tournaments.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ember's culture

I had nothing to do with just about all of this.

+ Read through the Bible on your digital device.
+ Don't sweat hustling frequent flier miles from friends and family. South Africa and China are just mere points away.
+ Have a tattoo of Africa on the top of your foot.
+ Notice subtle things about culture like how in Mozambique, the biggest things sold on the street are shoes and cell phones or how some inner cities have a stoop culture. And why those things matter.
+ Believe that service opportunities are explicitly tied with a belief in Jesus.
+ Love hearing about people creating something from nothing.
+ Dream of team building exercises in their sleep. And then actually build them from a random pile of stuff.
+ Are really nice, pleasant people. To kids, strangers, people they meet while traveling.
+ Jump to experience a different expression of Church.
+ Live in the tension between extreme affluence in suburbia and being agents of world transformation.
+ Are always on the lookout for the emerging or the indigenous.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Catalyzing Mission Trip Preps

This is Lexi, one of our newest Ember guides on the far right, talking to a student missions team about rural, suburban and urban contexts and how being on a missions team requires you to know something about the context of the environment you are traveling to. Lexi's got the perfect blend of experience, audacity and optimism : her grandparents are career missionaries in the Far East and she believes that every student we serve has the potential for world transformation. You can see why she's an Ember guide.

Other components of this session with one of Grace Community Church's [my home church] high school teams included charting all of the teams Myers Briggs personality types and running through a bunch of team building exercises. Along with talking about people groups and contextualization, we think the combination of all of these topics form a pretty good entry point for preparing student teams. Our guides also see themselves as catalysts - the rest of the work is still up to the team leaders. But hopefully we've given them a good jump start.

Prepping a student team or thinking about how to decompress/debrief a team after they get home? Ember can help.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Notes - Do The Work

Do The Work By Steven Pressfield

Babies are born in blood and chaos; stars and galaxies come into being amid the release of massive primordial cataclysms.

Three mantras:
1 - Stay primitive
2 - Trust the soup
3 - Swing for the seats

On research before you begin:
You are allowed to read three books on the subject. No more.

On first drafts:
One rule for first full working drafts: get them done ASAP.
Only one thing matters in this initial draft: get something done, however flawed or imperfect.

On ideas:
Ideas come according to their own logic. That logic is not rational. It's not linear. We may get the middle before we get the end. We may get the end before we get the beginning. Be ready for this. Don't resist it.

Sometimes when Resistance is kicking my butt (whcih it does, all the time), I flash on Charles Lindbergh. What symphony of Resistance must have been playing in his head when he was struggling to raise the funding for his attempt to fly across the Atlantic solo?

"You're too young, you're too inexperienced; you've got no credentials, no credibility. Everyone who's tried this has failed and you will, too. It can't be done. Your plane will crash, you're going to drown, you're a madman who is attempting to impossible and you deserve whatever dire fate befalls you!"

What say Lindy through. It can only have been the dream.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes from The Domino Project.

[Related - 3 Questions with Steven Pressfield, Book Notes - The Art of War]

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Burn

::: But the stunning fact is that, gone unnoticed, the goal to halve global poverty was probably reached three years ago.
We are in the midst of the fastest period of poverty reduction the world has ever seen. The global poverty rate, which stood at 25 percent in 2005, is ticking downwards at one to two percentage points a year, lifting around 70 million people - the population of Turkey or Thailand - out of destitution annually. Advances in human progress on such a scale are unprecedented, yet remain almost universally unacknowledged.
Link via praxisinfo

::: Tips for speaking English abroad
Link via Dana

::: Visiting Angola

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Storytime with John

This is one of our very jet lagged Ember guides, JTimmons, telling a little story from his 3 week missions trip to Mozambique. A few years ago, he was a pretty normal suburban kid.

JT 2011 from theembercast on Vimeo.

One of the resources we used with middle school kids, and with some contextualization on our part, for Ember Orlando. Contact me if you are interested in getting more information about Ember's middle school missions content package.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Notes - On The Verge

On The Verge is a deep and challenging text for the future of the Church. It's what you would expect from Alan Hirsch including lots of paradigms, filters and lenses as well as lots of diagrams - and yes this is a good thing. I also appreciated narrative from Dave Ferguson too, which combines that deep thinking with some practical examples of execution. There is a ton of stuff in this book, so any review or notes here is going to lack. In the meantime though, the authors draw from a ton of other critical and important voices and resources in organizational strategy, movement thinking, organizational dynamics and catalytic leadership, such as: Dan Pink, Rob Wegner, Jim Collins, Blue Ocean Strategy, Steve Addison, Erwin McManus, Alex McManus, the Diffusion of Innovation scale, Scott Belsky, The Tipping Point, Bob Roberts and Made to Stick, Neil Cole and David Garrison. If any of those voices or resources resonate with you, you'll probably love this book as well. Also, if this 60:40 problem makes you want to do something, you should read this book.

There is also a ton of stuff from The Forgotten Ways [which is one of our favorite books to use with students] so On The Verge is kind of like a second volume, with more details in how to actually navigate those ideas from a leadership perspective. Here's some of the stuff that jumped out at me. Really though, you should probably read it for yourself.

One of the biggest cultural shifts of our time is the increasingly multiculture nature of the West. The brute fact is that most of the evangelical church leaders who will read this book will be white, suburban and middle-class, and the equally stark reality is that within decades, Anglo-Saxon Americans will be in the minirotiy in the US - yet our churches don't seem to be responding to this reality.

...suggest that every church, indeed every believer, has the full capacity for world transformation within, and when we can believe that, then we will begin to see the church very differently. In every apple, there is an orchard. [written in a different section...]

Our best estimate is that 10 percent of the people in most churches seem to understand that they are sent by Jesus and that they are Spirit-empowered to incarnate the gospel in their context, as Jesus was. [this shocked me. what about you?]

Entrenched myths as part of the institutional paradigm:
- Build it and they will come
- The church is the bastion of family values
- The church is the guardian of society's morals
- We need clergy, buildings and Sunday services in order to be a real church
- We are a Bible teaching church.

Dave and Alan are both 'fuzzy complementarians' - I want to know what that means. [tangent]

The movement itself is its own R&D department.

[Also, lots of talk about ethos: spontaenous recurring patterns of behavior... - probably one of the most valuable leadership principles I've ever been taught]

Bob Roberts Jr says that every church that values multiplication will measure success or failure outside its walls.

Network Like Mad - This principle of church can become an extremely powerful practice. We know from networking theory that it not only bolsters the relational fabric of the church and forms the basis of decentralized movements but also is the source of much innovation and creativitiy. so the practice of networking - getting everyone connected, everyone commissioned, and everyone accountable - can be powerful if you can figure out ways to enshrine it in the rhythms of the church.

The new vision [at Dave's church] was a dramatic missional shift toward what we called the Sixty-seven and the Twenty. If the world were a village of one hundred people, sixty-seven of those would be far from God, and twenty of those would live in extreme poverty.

We told people, 'If you aim for Acts 2 community, you will expeience real community,' but what we discovered was that Acts 2 community only came as a result of Acts 1 mission. - Austin Stone

Verge leader
1 - leads from the front, not the back
2 - leads with curiosity, not with certainty
3 - leads with a yes and asks how later

democratize innovation
Let me be clear: Yes doesn't mean you will fund the idea. And in most cases, you absolutely shouldn't fund the missional ideas of others. You may do more harm than good. Yes also doesn't mean you'll assign a staff person to oversee it.... Yes simply means you really do believe that what they are describing is needed, and by using their giftedness with God's help, it could be accomplished for the good of the Jesus mission.

Out of the box cultures
1 - beta, not better
2 - trusting, and trustworthy
3 - permission is assumed and forgiveness is expected
4 - hurry up … wait
5 - fail forward fast
6 - love the edge
7 - they put their money where your mouth is
8 - everyone gets to play
9 - no R&D department

Keeping the ethos of movement strong: ordain every Christ follower.

8 movement rules
1 - there are no rules
2 - the small rules
3 - the simple rules
4 - the reproducible rules
5 - the apprentice rules
6 - the network rules
7 - the sustainable rules
8 - the spirit rules

I have little doubt that the biggest blockage to people-movements is the professionalization of the ministry of Jesus Christ. It has two effects: 1 - it limits ministry to an elite group which inevitably replaces the priesthood of all believers/apprentices, and 2 - it lets the people of God off the hook of their God-given calling to be apprentices who are agents of the King in every sphere and domain.

The great Christian revolutions come not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when someone takes radically something that was always there. - Neibuhr

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you. II Tim 1:6

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Can Spend Some $$

My tweet from a few weeks ago:
3 summers ago i helped lead a team of 26 people to europe to run a kids camp for a missions agency. total cost = $73,230.56.

One of the most challenging and amazing experiences of my life. I remember basking in the afterglow of the success of our high school students who created a 5 day kids camp from scratch, eating cheap sandwiches for lunch on the steps of Schoenbrunn castle, meeting another one of our student teams in Paris and worshipping together in our hotel lobby, watching some of my mentors and friends speak life into our high school kids. For how great those memories are, I live in the future. And in the future that begins now, I can count at least 20 of this team, 3 years later, doing remarkable things.

9 weeks in Kenya, 2 weeks in Mozambique, praying over blind women, loving orphans, dreaming about organizational systems that help indigenous leaders, teaching middle schoolers about global migration and cultural distance, studying economic variables in South Africa, consistently running an after school club in Maryland. This is probably not normal.

Every summer, the age old missions conversations starts again - are short term trips too expensive, do the ends justify the means, how much harm do they do, do these trips really change people? Don't get me wrong - these are good conversations to have. And I might be the worst offender on many parts, having spent about $160K in 6 weeks in that oh so interesting summer of 08.

You know 11 young men propagated a different world view 2000 years ago. What could 20 do tomorrow?

Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Teenagers revive dead lanaguages through texting
Link via kottke

::: Tips for creative meetings at Catalyst

::: REACH - church planter event south of DC

::: Stop funding church plants
Instead of funding one entrepreneurial pastor, preacher and organizer to go in and organize a center for Christian goods and services, let us fund three or four leader/ or leader couples to go in as a team to an under-churched context

::: An obituary for the American church

Thursday, July 07, 2011

No Big Deal

One of our big ideas from Ember Orlando - you are not too young to make a difference in the world right now. Image from The Girl Effect video.

Contact me if you are interested in getting more information about Ember's middle school missions content package.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Serve The City - Baltimore

I was first introduced to the Serve the City initiative from some friends at Christian Associates. Since then, I've seen some of the neat projects that run in their cities connecting people who are ready to serve to established service organizations that are serving people in need.

STC Baltimore is a fairly new creation and Trevin is helping coordinate their big week this summer. That week is July 26-30 and Dea and I will be down there for at least one evening. If you've got a small group or missional community or a youth group that might be interested, let me know and I'll connect you.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Ember Orlando

Phenomenal time with middle school kids and staff at Lake Aurora Christian Camp last week. My friend Chris Marsden is one of the trustees at the camp and in mid March, approached me about Ember being adopted by his week of camp as the 'missionary' of the week. He's been a constant encouragement since even before Ember started so it was great fun to work together on a project with him.

The original intent was to do some video teaching since 'missions' time was only 1 hour every day. Since I wasn't leading a student team this summer, I decided that we could probably make it work to be at camp in person for at least a few days and also combine it with a family Orlando visit [you know us and Florida...] We were fortunate that Trevin Hoekzema could be an integral part of the planning and execution of this project too.

I'm most proud of the content of our teaching. Obviously, teaching to middle school students is challenging enough as it is. The content of what we chose made it even more tough - adults don't always get concepts like contextualization and global migration. But that's the part I loved the most - we taught about concepts that most adult Christians have never heard of, much less students. Like I've felt and said for years, there are significant concepts about 'missions' and global leadership that no one is teaching to students. I also loved having our two girls talk for a minute or two about their experiences and how they made a difference as 'kids'.

In terms of execution, Monday bombed. Tuesday and Wednesday worked much better, probably because Trevin and I went back and spent a good amount of time putting some visuals together, including pictures, some additional video content and more interaction. We did a quick review at the end of Wednesday and were amazed at the amount of material some of these kids could recall.

We are probably going to try to package up some of this material. Not a full blown curriculum per se, but something a little more transferable. I'll post some ideas about that later, in the meantime, let me know if that might be something you are interested in. Thanks to those of you that prayed and helped finance this. I'm keeping my eyes on the community around this little obscure middle school camp knowing that God will finish what He started.

[Twitter hashtag #emberorlando and more photos here.]