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a beat down

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It was a beat down. Michael O’Leary had 15 minutes to present ideas on innovation from Ryanair–the Southwest Airlines equivalent of Europe–to the Innovation Convention at the EU. Within the first 30 seconds, he was skewering the EU. For the next 15 minutes, he continued in the same way. To say that it was a blistering presentation would be an understatement.

So, while this is not a political forum, I thought it interesting to point out this video because it was interesting to me to watch the uncomfortable chuckles that came from the session moderator who was miked up and the audience as the camera pans out to capture the grimaces on a regular basis.

This is illustrative of a natural response to criticism. The presenter gave an in your face effort to force some level of disorientation for the audience, but the response of the moderator at the end of the video shows the resistance to really considering Mr. O’Leary’s point. It was an effort to defend the present based on actions taken some time prior. Mr. O’Leary quickly addresses the point and seems to make a mockery of the whole thing.

As it is easy to see the awkwardness that comes with a hollow self-defense, it is an opportunity for us to see the strange responses we are apt to give to criticism. The Pharisees did it when they were skewered by the rabbi claiming to be the Son of God. We do it in defense of church as is. What if we really were to evaluate criticism that comes our way to see if there was any truth to what the speaker was communicating?

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a look back

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Happy New Year!

I have enjoyed a sabbatical from email, blogs and the like for the most part over the past weeks, but am slowly getting back into it. For 2012, I have been doing some reflecting, goal setting and prioritization. As a result of this, I am planning to write more. A LOT more. While that doesn’t necessarily mean more frequent blog posts, it does mean more candid. It also means that some other projects are receiving more attention. More on these in the future.

If you find these or future writings here helpful, feel free to add this to your RSS feed and/or recommend it to others. We don’t do a lot of self promotion around here. That’s probably not going to change a whole lot in this new year.

To help me ease back into the blogging thing, I thought it easy enough to put down my coffee long enough to post a look back at the top 10 posts here over the past 12 months. Please note that I promised this as easy, whether or not helpful is up to you. Some of these are mine and some are from my old friend, but new cohort here–Grady Bauer. I hope to see him around these parts over the next months a lot more. I’m sure he will be candid too.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for interacting. Thanks most of all for seeking to live life for His glory and the furtherance of His Kingdom! That’s what matters.

  1. launch this – a challenge that church planters face
  2. then and now – an amazing pic w/ history rhyming
  3. i collect bad wines – go Grady!
  4. response to Long’s piece – ideas on Southern Baptists, mission strategy, UUPGs & swarm theory
  5. who will speak into their narrative – call for missions to influence the church – go Grady!
  6. brewing conversation – umm, I’m not exactly sure
  7. humility and shame – another story
  8. simply UK – helpful for those interested in understanding the UK
  9. a glimpse of the missio Dei – several have and continue to ask for this image
  10. the story of a man and his country – this was a story that fascinated me

And again, a heart-felt Happy New Year!

Categories : communication
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religious politicking

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With the political campaign season well under way already and only one very long year of adverts and debates to come, evangelicals are starting to make their voices be heard with recent forays into the national scene by Jeffers’ with his comments on Mormonism and Mohler’s piece about whether or not evangelicals are dangerous on CNN’s site. We can do litmus tests on these comments, wordsmith them for future conversations, or adopt them wholeheartedly. Or maybe we can take another tack.

Some time ago when reading Covey Jr.’s Speed of Trust, I came across what was almost a throw-away sentence in his book: In a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing, and people will still get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured, even precise, and they’ll misinterpret you.

True that!

When speaking through national, secular news agencies, evangelical leaders are speaking to a majority of people that do not have a high-trust relationship with the speaker or his worldview. If in fact there is a low-trust relationship with the majority that will listen to or read these comments about what is almost always a controversial issue, then miscommunication or misunderstanding is inevitable.

For controversial issues, perhaps we can save these for situations with a little less fanfare when speaking to those that are like-minded. If drawing any national attention, we would do well to focus on a  message that communicates without so much controversy but is even more profound. We follow the One who sought to bring about justice and restore relationships. These are the things that we are to be living out and speak about. This is the message that will help to create high-trust relationships on a small scale. We should be prepared to speak about this often as long as it is in keeping with our actions. Other topics may be better reserved for kitchen table conversations.

Categories : communication
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toward kinder drubbings

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Over the past weeks and months there have been several “let me fix you” drubbings in the evangelical blogosphere over theological issues. In response, I would like to offer some thoughts.

First, in the words of Bob Newhart, “Stop it!…Just stop it!”

Second, maybe these interactions could happen behind closed doors more often. It seems that Christ said something about going in private to a brother that has offended you. Maybe we should actually try that. Seems like we are also supposed to be about encouraging one another as the day approaches when we meet together. Going out on a limb here, I am going to offer that our responsibility as leaders is not to rip somebody a new one in public which I think would include the blogosphere, the twitters and any other social networking hot spot.

Third, consider the context. Isolating a sentence or a paragraph out of the whole of a talk or a book and measuring the whole of the talk or the book based on a single passage is poor form at best. A journalist that reviews books based on the copy on the back of the book or the introduction would lose their job rather quickly. As people that are to have integrity, we would do well to review a book or critique a work only after we have reviewed it thoroughly. Better yet, we would do well to read multiple books from the author we are taking to task in addition to the questionable material to put the whole into an even larger context. At times people may say something stupid–I have on a number of occasions. Also, I’ve expressed myself poorly a number of times as I’m sure we all have. Further, I have many times been communicating with someone that did not understand the whole of the conversation as they could not see anything beyond their own paradigm. Each of these miscommunication issues would be improved if the listener seeks to understand through a larger context.

Fourth, back off on the theological certainty. Let us “know Christ.” We should be about trying to comprehend just a little bit more of the height, depth and width of His love. We can’t understand it fully in the here and now. For the person who thinks they understand God fully, I encourage a re-reading of Habakkuk. If that doesn’t make you scratch your head in wonder then either you are way super smart or you aren’t really being honest. I would guess the second, but allow that the first may be possible. If you fall into the first, then go get completely comfortable with Ezekiel–and good luck.

Fifth, if nothing else, consider a helping of mercy and grace in your thoughts and speech. When I lack these, I usually end up looking like an idiot. Thankfully this happens less frequent than it used to. Still, these are things I need more of in my life. I suggest probably we all do.

Sixth, we are to be about His glory, not ours. If ever there were an occasion where we were attacking in the blogosphere for the purpose of increasing visibility or readership then it would be about the glory of me rather than the One who is actually worthy.

Finally for this post, let’s focus on what is important. When we are spending time and energy arguing with each other, we are not spending that time and energy on making disciples. Maybe we can “put aside some of the things that hinder and the sin that so easily entangles so we can run with perseverance.” I remember reading that once and thinking that was some pretty good teaching so I thought I would include it here.

Categories : communication
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glimpses of beauty

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This past week I had the privilege of being at a children’s camp sharing about mission and enjoying time with my family. While away, there were several delightful things that I saw as beautiful. Thought I would share a few here.

  • nature – The handiwork of God. Breath-taking. Enough said.
  • children – I loved being able to hear stories and see the energy and enthusiasm of so many youngsters. It was infections.
  • faith – While this goes back to kiddos also, it was beautiful to see the purity of child-like faith.
  • family – It was so good to spend time with my family and create some new memories. I also thoroughly enjoyed watching my kids interact with other kids and adults. (Thanks to all of those that cared deeply about my kids!) I was reminded that they are growing up in so many ways. Finally on the family note, it was also a blessing to see other families that are seeking to walk with God.
  • sacrifice – Those who shared their lives as sponsors and cooks, leaders and administrators were giving their time for others. These were beautiful expressions of service and love.
  • friendship – This week was also a week to reconnect with some who have been instrumental in my life. Thanks so much to them! This was a blessing and our time together last week as well as over the years was, for me, a glimpse into the goodness of God.
  • God – Sharing with others about the missionary God that calls us to be a missionary people and in turn requires the church to be a missionary church was, as usual, helpful for me in reflecting on how beautiful is the plan He made. How beautiful what He has called us to be about.
Categories : communication
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join this conversation

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In one week I’ll be in Prague, Czech Republic with some friends old and new as we JetSet there and in Budapest, Hungary. Together we will be seeking to continue on a journey to learn and live the ways of Christ as we sharpen and encourage each other along with other planters both expat and nationals. One overarching question for our time together will be the hallmark issue of The Upstream Collective–What does it look like for the church to think and act like a missionary?

Throughout our time from April 12-20 we will have as special guests Michael and Caroline Frost. As he has played such a huge role in helping to shape my missiology and ecclessiology, I am confident that they will be a blessing and challenge again to me but also to others.

I would be honored to have you follow along and participate in the conversation that will be happening both in person and online. Feel free to check in here often as Grady Bauer, myself and most likely some other special guests will be sharing their thoughts and responses as the conversation unfolds and at the UC site, the Twitterverse (#js2011) and other blogs and Facebook pages.

Finally, I want to strongly encourage you to consider not just taking this virtual trip with us, but also to consider walking through it with others you are doing life with. It will be, I believe, a very worthwhile investment of your time.  I am including a video of a previous JetSet trip in which I was privileged to participate to help give you a better idea of some of what this virtual experience could be like.

Hope to see you there–virtually.

Categories : communication, video
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Here are some of the more recent quotes from church leaders and consultants that have caused me to wonder if maybe there was a bit of confusion somewhere:

Shared with church leaders during a seminar:
“You need $100,000 to get into the game.”

This is a good time to launch with a core group “followed by public grand opening…”

One pastor to another regarding his church’s effectiveness at developing future preachers:
“I just beat you….”

And, finally, here is signage that is spread throughout a seminary campus:

This is the fourth post in this Say what? series. Some previous quotes and an image may be found here.

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signs of the times

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Here are some signs and billboards from churches in the central part of the U.S. observed recently. As usual, I present them here without comment.

– Like-ability–we have it.
– Want a change of heart? Come try us.
– Running low on faith? Step right in for a fill up.
– God deserves more than casual.

This is the third in this Say what? series. Previous quotes may be found starting here.

In addition to other quote entries, here is another recent post on the theme–Signs.

Categories : communication
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Still Partying

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Continuing with celebration and reflection, here are a few more things from the past and a glimpse from the future.

Many have asked over the past year, “Why almost an M?” This is a question I tried to address in the first post of this blog. Not sure it was adequate, but Shakespeare and Missiology was an attempt.

There are two collective bodies of work associated with this blog which I feel contribute something worthwhile to the conversation. Both remain unfinished, but are nearing their completion. The first of these is a non-book entitled Great to Good. This piece will be finished soon. At that time I plan to put it into a more readable .pdf format possibly with some small expansion of some ideas in order to make it more accessible.

The second body of work that I am thankful to have been a part of making available is a series of interviews with Michael Frost. I always appreciate his thoughts and the challenge and encouragement he offers the western church. There will be another installment in this series coming soon. (As for the quality of production, it is not top shelf. However, for the tech gear used and a whole bunch of filters later, the look is at least interesting. What he shares, though, is very worthwhile.)

In the upcoming year, I plan to finish these two projects and start a new one. I have another non-book outline developing. It will be similar to the Great to Good effort in a number of ways. More on this soon….

Thank you for reading and participating in the conversation!!!

Categories : communication
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Celebrating One Year!

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I cannot believe that it has already been a year of blogging here. The Almost an M blog has been a healthy exercise for me and, I hope and trust, a worthwhile contribution to the church conversation happening in the west.

In celebration and review, I am listing the 10 days with the most traffic over the past 12 months and the posts that were the primary cause. Based on clicking, here are the top-rated posts:

1. JADED is coming to you and JADED Reviewed – The introduction, launch, and review of “the conference event of the year!?!” (For any who are a touch on the gullible side, I will point out that these posts were done on April 1.)

2. Quick Star Approach – A video clip where a non-believer shares, “I’d like to say something about Christians trying to convert non-Christians.”

3. God’s Stories – Spreading the word about a new video tool that communicates His stories from a middle-Eastern perspective. If you have not seen this before, you need to check it out!

4. London / Paris JetSet Tour Continues – This video clip is from the latest Upstream Collective JetSet tour which I participated in.

5. Farewell Starbucks – A recent post about some life changes and the corresponding missiology that impacts that.

6. Am I crazy? – This has a compelling story and original video piece with Michael Frost about what to I do if a person is frustrated with church as he or she has been experiencing it.

7. Where are you going? – A missiological approach to entering a new place.

8. Six Keys to Save the Church in the West – A review of the key points from Alan Hirsch’s video during The Nines video conference event.

9. The Fight – Here is a touch of story about a fight and a lot of story about our family’s Christmas plans and the discipleship process.

10. Really? – Some quotes from U.S. church. That may not  be a good thing.

Categories : communication, fun
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