Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Moving From "Growth" to "Multiplication" Model

A helpful chart from "The Shaping of Things To Come" book (see below and archives for other posts out of this work), about ways to re-see what you do in the moving away from the old "attractional" system of hoping they will come to you and then be converted, one at a time, by what you offer them--to the newer (well if you forget the first 300 years lol) model of incarnational "multiplication" systems...

First the Attractional/Growth Model, then the Incarnational/Reproduction Model

Church culture vs. Mission Culture
Initial focus is on...
Individual converts vs. group conversions, e.g. households and networks (friends, etc.)
Believers turf, e.g. church services vs. Unbelievers turf
Finding Christians (fill in the blanks you UUs) to come to services vs. Finding persons of peace
Begin in the church vs. begin in people's homes
Large group meeting--celebration vs. small groups--cell fellowship
Scripture taught as academic information vs. Scripture taught as application
Build programs and buildings vs. build leaders

Pastor as lone ranger vs. apostolic/partnership team
Imported professional clergy vs. indigenous new Christians become leaders
Leader of participatory audience at best vs. Equipper of emerging leaders and reproducers

Funded church planter vs. bivocational church planter
Heavy financial investment vs. minimal financial investment
Resources are imported vs. Resources are local

Needs of the church vs. Needs of the community
Clergy-centered/driven/dependent vs. lay-centered/driven/dependent
For slow growth (leads to stagnation) vs. For rapid reproduction

I can see this working not only with new church planting, but also with established churches hoping to break out of their boxes and default modes and starting new ministries. Same principles apply.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Known Ways to the Unknown Future

Like the epistles of Paul, what you have below is just one-side of a conversation. I had such fun writing it a few minutes ago after receiving some questions this morning from a colleague, that I wanted to send it out here too. Without revealing anything about the other side of the conversation, the questions centered on speculation about the future of Unitarian Universalism (which always has an undercurrent of how you read the past) and its connection to the future of Christianity, especially in emergent varieties. What I like about my colleague's questions is that s/he isn't trying to tie in who we were or are with where Christianity was or is, but looking down the road at points of convergence, departure, etc.

Here is a one-sided response (I wonder if Paul ever had his scribe reread and change anything after he had composed it, probably not given the difficulty and expense of the writing then, perhaps another way in an ironic way that our 21st century communication mode resembles the first century way. And this reminds me to post soon about my continuing immersion in Paul studies, because of course they are crucial to planting God communities in the spirit of Jesus):

1. We have to move emergent and that means being incarnational which means finding ways to multiply ourselves, i.e. not starting churches but starting church planting churches that also are free to redefine what church means. So far David Owens essay in the Living the Call book (see www.allsoulschurch.org) is about the only other voice sounding this note, not only in UUism but throughout the mainstream liberal progressive Christian world too which has been so late on the bandwagon of emergent and now is getting it wrong a lot of the time when it does try to "do" it (myself included). Working on my own essay on all this. There are signs of this in the Episcopalians, but only among the more conservative dioceses; and there is a great initiative 2020 by the Disciples called 1,000 new churches in 1,000 new ways, so that every church can see itself as a church planting church regardless of its size, but there has been very little notice of this on the national level where we seem to be more interested in talking about how the Christian right is neither right nor Christian, which is of course correct but no one is paying attention to us because we aren't incarnating it.

2. Don't count out Buddhism, or some Christo-Buddhist Taize Contemplative Mindfulness Convergence that begins to mark what will be one part of two wings at least of what Protestantism will be, I think, the other being the more reactionary scarcity driven model of the Right (how it mutates or becomes its own retreat from the world in the succeeding generations will be interesting too; the emergent folks want to channel its energy but change it, whether they will succeed or be driven to the other wing i don't know). [I will add my own caveat and change to my response here, to say that narrative, or the stories, are all important. Not so much a clash of civilizations as a clash of story. In this way not sure what will happen in the future. The story of Jesus, and the stories of the followers of Jesus (those who gave their life not just for the religion of Jesus but the religion about Jesus and became a part of that very religion) is so powerful and revealing that for me it can't be equated on a one-to-one ratio thing with any other Great Story. But that's just me. New generations might have a different take, and different ways to see themselves as part of a Story of Freedom that more easily merges Jesus, Buddha, etc. and, the key point here, is able to incarnate the story in their lives and world. Always easier to focus the heart on one story, particularly such an unlimited one as the Christian story. ]

3. pagan/wiccan will i think merge with what Crossan calls the fantasy element of the spiritual life. He says this century will see the great divide not between liberal and fundamentalist but between religious and fantasy, with religious being denoted by the outward thrust of social gospel, politics in its polis nature, while fantasy (and that includes so many manifestations of popular culture now it is almost unbelievable, as many as there are religious denominations I think, from creative anachronism to entertainment driven communities, trekkies and successors, and on and on) will rise up for the personal communal needs of so many.

4. where will uu as we know it be in 2025-2050-2075?
my hunch is that our basic theological thrust has always been connected to being connected to Christianity, and that when we moved outside of it, we lost the context which drove our constant radical motion, hence we have been standing still which means losing ground in the changing world. this is a kind of hegelian understanding, i admit, betraying my own philosophical underpinnings of my theology. This is kind of what I hear you saying about the connect with Christianity at large as it changes to come closer to where we were/are.
But...I think theology often changes due to organizational change (this is something I was taught and borrowed from X who got it from Y (don't want to guilt folks by association without contacting them first, which is something fortunately I guess Paul wasn't able to do with Jesus lol) who got it from god knows where; think historically of the organizational changes due to the destruction of the second temple; of constantine's change of the church; of Luther, of the Puritans, etc.) and, here is the kicker that they didn't apply to it but which I do, coming from the emergent folks and schaller and some new testament work with my advisor in seminary, organizational change is due in large part to communication or media change.
So, how will internet and its reated media changes and what god knows is still yet to come, change the UU organization, both association wide, but also what it means for a church to be church, and how will the spirituality of the net and its effects create theological change? Where and how will God be conceived then, and how will the church be formed in response to that--note the difference, that the church doesn't conceive God and find ways to get that message out, promote it, etc. as in the past, the church doesn't have a mission but is a mission of something larger than itself. [I think the conception of God will then most likely come from outside the "church" but then I'm a Spirit-centered theologian, and the church that thrives will be that which responds to the new conception} one of those shifts that i think is often lost on those of us born before 1963, even 1975, but which will seem like a duh to those born afterwards, particularly those born after 2006.

So....for one scenario, maybe we will go the way of the museum churches of Europe, and be like the International Order of Odd Fellows (to which my father still belongs, bless him and them). And/Or, we let loose our churches and those that survive are those that connect with emergent ways and other churches doing the same by whatever name, and the names Unitarian Universalist may drop by the wayside in the process, attached to those museum churches. And/or maybe there will be a decentralizing and there will be a core church in a core city that keeps the old name but sees itself as spinning out all these new ways of incarnating faith in its city, some of which will be Christian in the newChristian way, and some may be Buddhist in a newBuddhist way, and some newPagan, etc. In this way, the "church" which will be more seminary and missionary-sending in pluralistic settings and it will not be defined by central act of worship, central act of theological identity, or central building, but by its effectiveness in infiltrating the surrounding culture, becoming native to its place, and connecting and nurturing its diverse missionaries. One step toward this---taking our covenant groups and small groups that we have begun nurturing and that reflect often a pluralistic range, and charging them with being the church themselves in their community and finding ways to multiply themselves.

Well, I didn't have time for this today lol but thanks. Hope I have muddied things up for you.
Looking forward to more chat,

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A few tension points: Children, Class, Theology and Heresy #2

Few areas of exploration and questioning for planting "new/next/organic/emergent/liquid/pomo/micro church":

1. Children:
How to use same principles to grow relationships in God's spirit here in new ways? Want to get beyond "Sunday School" model, focus on helping them connect with others, to learn to be in relationship with God in the spirit of Jesus, helping them to see themselves not as consumers but producers and co-creators too, to plant the vision in them in some ways no matter how young. But there are tension points here. Emergent seems easier or at least has more experience with adults. Not a big problem. As you help adults and parents deepen and begin to grow and spread their own Spirit, children will be the beneficiaries. But for the gatherings? How to be organic here and not fall into the same default mode? So far trying to balance group time for all, with special focus on children. But as we stress it isn't a one-size fits all world or church anymore, yet the small size of these planting groups, this micro-church, pulls against that by defacto being one and all related, and different ages existing together sort of like the old one-room school house (and yet are we retrofitting to that; I hate the bigger boxier one grade for 700 kid school centers and much prefer the other model updated.) My hunch is to face that fact and go with it and when the times are intergenerational be intergenerationally related, and keep looking for ways when the Spirit will be deepened with other micro-connections even among our small micro-group. Looking at getting children together leads to notions of looking for ways of getting just women together and just men together, just this or that connected folks together. Reminds me I have to remind folks that they don't have to feel like they have to attend everything we do as we go inward or outward; that freeing themselves from that will move us from obligation to opportunity thinking and creating more. But seems like more is needed in exploring this aspect of church planting no matter the model that is being used. A big tension point. Radical solution might be to eventually move toward multiplying into a family micro-church and an adult-only micro-church and a mixed micro-church, or at least seeing how the existing group can rotate its own incarnational sense of all three. Anyone following?

2. Cultural Creatives/Economics/Pyschographics: How important is place?
Probably have written some on this before. Mentioned it during the emergent workshop at the summer church institute (see post below or in archives). It came up there. It came out of Neil Cole's Organic Church. On one hand, he is saying that the middle class suburban or yuppies or whoever thinks they have their lives on track, upward and onward forever, probably irregardless of theological bent, won't be the place to respond to church planting at least in its sense he sees it as fostering life transformation groups that multiply themselves. He says go where the people are obviously and obviously to themselves hurting, to the places known to be full of addictions, violence, desperation. Those with money have these problems but they have the wherewithall to hide from them; they are going to gravitate toward communities that help them to continue to do so.
So on the one hand going into a place where people have hit bottom gives the church planter relationship builder an advantage.

But, is there a correlation with areas or neighborhoods with high percentages of people in some kind of transition, in blue collar or unemployed areas, with high rates of high school dropouts or those who only went to highschool, with high rates of retired folks who were in blue collar jobs, and with a reluctance to be early-adapters of new ways of being new church? Is there a reason why there seem to be so many emergent gatherings in the Pacific Northwest, in Minn., or in the places where young professionals congregate no matter where the urban area? Is it a new urban thing, in keeping with many other new urban and new design patterns of living?

Sometimes I think living as I do in a place where so many have so few resources to be consumers it has made them more connected to churches that will produce "free spiritual stuff" for them to consume rather than helping them to create and produce for themselves and others. It is part of that culture of scarcity that can drive them. Now it is true that for those who do connect and do stand out and get the culture of abudance, sort of like the few that got it when Jesus was living it among them in that kind of place and time too, then the emergent way can really be a powerful experience, and that experience more than makes up for the numbers who don't won't can't get it.

Plus throw in the political dynamic of those who fall to the "left" and "right" on issues such as immigration (a key sorting issue I think and one the Precept used to use, ahead of its time I guess, in their demographic analysis) and the "culture wars.' Makes it all the more difficult to be new church in a new way in an old place. Those on the left, who feel estranged from the culture around them (around here anyway; I think the same might apply in reverse in other places) will tend to gravitate toward existing communities where they will find instant community and support and that will tend to turn them inward in terms of evangelism and church planting because of the inherent threat such new outreach brings in disruption to the homeostasis they have sought in their liberal conclaves. It makes it tough to get them to join smaller newer more mobile groups, especially ones that seek by nature to build relationships with those who are near and around them, those who hold the very political positions that cause the estranged to seek shelter in the first place. Takes a lot of "meeting Jesus" time to get beyond that inner impulse.
So, place and all that it means, is another tension point.

3. Third Tension point, especially for Unitarian Universalists, but to a lesser extent for all religious liberals, is Theology, particularly Jesus. I'll have to get into this in more detail in the future. But it is a major tension point. Can you plant if you don't have a common core theology among the leadership? I doubt it. Even if you have a common core theology, and it doesn't include Jesus in the center, can you plant a church? Yes, a church, or maybe, or even on some days I think doubtful, since I think the world is shifting away from church that is just church. What I mean is there was a time when we could plant humanist churches (or for other denominations fill in the blank as appropriate, such as theistic or world religious or inner light or whatever) and people who didn't fit into the church of their upbringing would help us fill them because they still "needed" to be in church; it was after all, a churched world at the time. They wanted community but not Jesus and it was tough to find that because the choices were so few (by the way check out Lyle Schaller's latest book, all about the context of competition and choices and conflict). But of course today the choices for community, even spiritual community of many kinds, abounds. Connectional opportunities abound, with the internet added in as well. Why go create church then in this new sense if you are only after community with others of similar values? The rewards aren't worth the conflict, the sacrifice, the money, etc. I say, however, maybe or yes, though, on most days because of experience and the world is still in flux. But, I would say no if the question were about planting churches that could plant other churches, which I think will be the key to success in incarnating into the next 100 years. I have serious doubts that you can plant those kind of church movements without Jesus in the center of your communal life. That's heretical point #2. And it cuts both ways, because I have a strong hunch that those who say they plant with Jesus in the center but who are really at heart doing it with Doctrine and Creed at heart, rather than story and action, will also fail to be able to reproduce through multiple generations in the next 100 years. And as I say all of this is worthy of much more reflection and discernment (which I will do with some thoughts that have grown out of just getting into my reading of Pete Ward's Liquid Church) and probably eating crow because of course I am biased. But then, what are biases for?

Thinking out loud here, and treading on ground that has dangerous currents in it of class issues especially. But then, this is the place for that.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More on The Shaping of Things To Come

My own church planting group has been going through a gradual restart and revision the last two years as I continue to try to shake off the default of church organization to organic church, from modernity to emergent, etc. (see the post below on church plant killers in my own experience). This book The Shaping of Things To Come (see post below) has captured for me the essence of what we are shifting from and toward.

Primarily, it is from church as Attractional to Incarnational. When we moved into this rented space the signs went up on the windows and building, plastering them so to speak. "Free Universalist" "In The Spirit of Jesus" beautiful celtic cross in one window and chalice/cross in the other, and up on the roof was the message, God's Love Is For All" and the church name, first Epiphany and then The Living Room, and then one with the times of the worship and study on Sundays and Wednesdays. You couldn't miss that it was a church building now, and it was message or slogan or religious icon driven. Most of these are still up on the building, except for the one about when we meet (you at least have to walk up to the door to get that information, see post on heresy number one below). We were trying to attract people to come into us. Now we were also doing all kinds of beyond church walls stuff, and that sustained us and helped us make connections, but it was still primarily come into us and be us first and then we will go out and do things for or with others. It is not that I want to be seeker-sensitive and remove religous imagery, etc. which the boomer churches and mega-churches did; I just want to move them from being upfront to being part of the church. For you congregationalists, think of the old parish-church relationship. The outer is for the parish which is the village outside; the church is for the disciples that are made and their leadership support.

If I had it to do all over, and we might have a good chance to do that real soon, it would be to go into a larger space and transform it into a Community Center (might even call it that, no fancy attractional word especially for our immediate context of our area, but that might be a part of it in the future, something like PassionSpace or OurSpace) and put in a computer center, library, reading space, tv space, bigger area for more frequent coffeehouse concerts, turn the spaces over to our leaders and their ministries, use the space to partner with other area groups, have a perpetual giveaway space for reusing items, a recycle center bigger than we have now (we did just move our own inhouse recycling outside the building so it can be used by anyone passing by), a dress for success center to help folks here be able to prepare for job interviews, to be a clearinghouse for social services since there aren't any in our area, a place to showcase our projects like Let Turley Bloom and Saving Pets of Turley and other ventures.

Then whenever we made relationships in and from this space, we would invite folks to become part of the LivingRoom Church experience when we gathered for our events. The information about the church would be at the very bottom of the window of the space we ourselves are renting and producing for the community. We are becoming guests in our own space.

Instead of trying to attract people with our message about Jesus' radical, inclusive spirit, in a world saturated with messages, we would incarnate Jesus into our world by partnering for transformation and becoming something broader than our worship, our study, our identity as people belonging to a set group.

As Kyle Meador www.reflectionsofchrist.blogspot.com said during the workshop with Sally Morganthaler, how many Christians can envision being Christian if they aren't at a worship service? Or bible study, or church mission project even, something that signals that they belong to this or that God group? Expanding here on Kyle's point about worship, but applies I think.

The other pivotal points in The Shaping of Things to Come are being Messianic and not Dualistic. The focus here is on grounding more in the Hebraic spirit than the Hellenistic one. To me that means focusing more on community and not individual enlightenment. I could argue with the historical and theological lines drawn here, and the impossibility of doing so, but then I take Paul to heart more I think than the authors do, even by their own admission, and Paul moved beyond Jerusalem-Athens-Rome dichotomies even though they were each part of his own default mode. The major point though of focusing on individuals or focusing on communities of individuals is key, something that is still working its way through me, and part of why progressives have a problem with church planting, being community-phobic because being hurt by communities who excluded in the past (at least one of the reasons). So I will be looking for ways to be more rooted in the Jewish roots of Jesus spirit, at least as a motivating gestalt.

Finally, they encourage moving from hierarchical to apostolic in leadership orientation. To many progressives, making apostolic the opposite of hierarchical might seem weird, connecting the apostolic movement to movements that are led by a single charismatic leader who drives all decisions and passes on the baton, ala Oral Roberts to Richard Roberts, etc. That's pretty hierarchical. But again though I might not choose the descriptive words that they use, but the point they are making is that apostolic means sending people out to be with others and help transform lives, and that everyone can be an apostle of some kind, using their gifts and passions, and it is this that is collaborative, flat leadership, one based I would say on gifts and roles and responsibilities and even trial and error and not on what position one holds on what committee or by what ordination. This is definitely something for me to move into, scraping my plans and instead casting seeds and visions as part of conversation that allows others to do the same, allowing their seeds to take root in my planter soul/soil and growing together, even more than what I have been trying to do by casting my own into others. The bigger picture that holds all accountable is God's mission where we are, who we are, when we are, limited and finite we are blessed be.

I am still working on my critique of all the message-driven books produced by the religious left these days, wonderful though they be, and part of my critique is summed up or pointed to in this book when it titles one chapter as The Medium Really Is the Message and We are the Messages. Which brings us around to incarnational all over again.

I think, again, that even for churches that don't have Jesus in the center, and for established churches, there is much here that will help revolutionize your leadership and your possibilities for transforming your church and releasing its people and energy.

Sally Morganthaler on Leadership

Just came back from two day workshop with Sally Morganthaler on leadership for our emerging times, culture, church, etc. She wisely moved what they wanted her to originally focus on, worship (and the worship "wars" I suspect), and chose instead to follow her own bliss and passion now and focus on leadership. Perfect. Why try to spin wheels on programming choices when it will only wind up reproducing same old thing and same old stunted leadership? Focus on cultivating leaders and that naturally transforms everything leaders touch.

A few questions to focus on, according to Sally....and I will post again when I have my notes with me :).

What is the bravest thing you have done in the past year? What are three things your community needs? What is one thing your church needs to focus on? What is your biggest dream for your vision (not the mission, but the specific and contextual vision)? Now double, now triple that dream? What stands in the way of you being able to lead toward that dream? More to come...Mostly what stands in the way is the fear of being collaborative, but more on that too.

Most important part I think is her four part "this-isn't-a-model-model". Leaders are called to see reality, to interpret reality, to help change in reality, and release people into the new realities. Kept coming back again and again in different ways to the importance of knowing what is driving your default mode and how it presents a different reality than is really there. (There is a kind of addiction-kicking thing underneath all this I think, how we become addicted to false realities, and try to fill up our lives, our church lives too, with them instead of the real God thing. I know Tom Bandy has picked up on this in a few of his older books like Kicking Habits but I think there could be a real connect here from her and maybe there will be in her new book that is coming out next year...www.trueconversations.com). Anyway I am reminded of William Ellery Channing, 19th century preacher, advice to ordinands that the job of the minister is "to teach them how to see."

Lots of good resources mentioned, like Liquid Church by Pete Ward, and The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley and Margaret Wheatley's leadership books.

Anyway, if Sally presents a workshop near you, don't miss it. It just felt good to hear the organic/emergent/ancient-future, et al, etc. being spoken.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Black and Blue Church

If you haven't read this book yet by Becky Garrison (Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church: Eyewitness accounts of How american churches are hijacking Jesus, Bagging the Beatitudes, and worshipping the almighty dollar) it's a fun keeper. Thought I would pass on a handy reference she has in one of her appendices...

"Where I Reflect"
www.beliefnet.com, www.ChristianityToday.com, Evangelicals for Social Action at www.esa-online.org, www.internationaldayofpeace.org, Joan Chittister's Weekly column at www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/fwis/index.html, www.therevealer.org, Sojourners at www.sojo.net, SoMA: A Review of Religion and Culture--Society of Mutual Autopsy at www.somareview.com

"Where I laugh"
Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian at www.bettybowers.com, www.comedycentral.com/tv_shows/thedailyshowwithjonstewart, www.landoverbaptist.org, www.theonion.com, www.presidentialprayerteam.org, www.ship-of-fools.com, www.wittenburgdoor.com.

"Where I pray"
www.emergentvillage.com, www.greenbelt.org.uk, www.henrinouwen.org, and www.sanctuaryny.org

What I like about the book beyond the obvious is how, at the end, she mentions finding the emergent church and its inclusive Christianity. She doesn't go into church planting (and yet I bet she could really give it a good and hilarious going over) but she does briefly mention the community forming of the emergent movement and Tikkun's Network for Spiritual Progressives. Which is more than any other more serious book of the many many this year on taking back faith, God, Jesus, Church, etc.