Healthy distraction…

DistractionI was trying to think about something profound today…but my profundity index is low today…so I turned to my favorite distraction – G.A.S.  Gear Acquisition Syndrome is the name of the game.  My first stop, none other than my Internet pal "Guitar for Worship" nerd, Karl.  He has a great gear "shoot out" on a few efx pedals that are of HIGH interest to me…namely, overdrive pedal.  Of course, the one he "loves" is more expensive than the one I have…but that's just fine with me!  I gotta wonder for a while though…what does that young punk, Karl, do that he gets paid to evaluate guitar gear?  I mean, I have a real job!  Worship Leaders…just like all the comments I got over the years…don't they just work one day a week?  So, I look at that site for a bit…read and watch some stuff…laugh along with Karl…email him about his obsessions…do some surfing of the pedals he is talking about…watch his Edge worship video on the U2 Concert at the Rose Bowl…get even more distracted as I fall into the trap of hating that beany clad dude who has all the fun playing guitar for an incredible singer/front man like Bono…I surf over to some sites that talk about how to dial up Edge's delay tone and how much stuff he has that I don't have…then I surf over to Pedalgeek and ProGuitarShop and check out some more gear.  Then I take a few moments and wish there was a money tree in my backyard…but then have to pray for a while because I'm not "seeking first the Kingdom of heaven…".  As you can see, one distraction leads to a pit of time wasted…but hey, at least I had some fun for a while.

Back to work…maybe some profundity will knock me over the head!

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More from “Souls in Transition” – Young Adults and their outlook on Religion

This section of Dr. Smith's concluding chapter will tend to either depress or inspire you…it is not good news but it is information that can lead to new ministry perspectives IF taken seriously.

"Most emerging adults are okay with talking about religion as a topic, although they are largely indifferent to it – religion is just not that important to most of them…the best thing about religion is that it helps people to be good, to make good choices and to behave well".

In other words, moralism…that isn't necessarily personal or transformative…what "religion" is good for is to make "them", other people in the world/culture behave well and make good choices (whatever that means).  Moralism is essentially a religious "substitute"…it assumes that we need something to be able to set some sort of standard for behavior…if religion is helpful in doing that, then fine…but the exception?  Moralism is fine unless someone imposes their moralism on "me".  Dr. Smith continues…

"…once youth learn what it means to be good, there is no real need to continue being involved in a religious congregation.  The time comes to "graduate" and move on…few (young adults) name religious communities as important places of social belonging…religious beliefs do not seem to be important, action-driving commitments but rather mental assents to ideas that have a few obvious consequences". 

In other words, "religion" and spirituality is something else in culture to consume for personal, narcissistic reasons…to be able to get whatever "bang for the buck" or inspiration or snippet of meaning out of it so that it can be blended in with the prevailing winds of syncretistic belief systems.  It is "chicken soup for the soul"…or better yet a gnostic salve for feeling a little better about yourself when it comes to ultimate meaning in life as long as that meaning doesn't impinge itself on your personal preference or lifestyle choices.  It really is the individual in this case that is making the decisions that outline what is right and important for them…maybe they will get a bit more serious about it later on in life…when their children need to have the moralism fix but until that time, it just is not that important.

Now, like I said, this research has massive implications for ministry…maybe we'll theologize and brain storm on those implications in the days to come.  For now, simply absorb reality. 

More from “Souls in Transition”

Christian Smith had a provocative conclusion to his Soul Searching book about adolescence…he stated that parents still have a significantly high impact on the religious/spiritual journey of their teens despite the talk about the apparent waning of parental influence.  That was good news for some…bad news for others.  If you have a student ministry that is NOT taking parents and the "home" seriously, it might be that "your" ministry is short-sighted and, in the long-term, non-effective.

Interestingly enough…in his NEW book on "emerging young adults" (Smith uses that language due to the fact that he defines young adulthood as those individuals who are emerging into responsible/independent adulthood) he states essentially the SAME THING! 

"What the best empirical evidence shows about the matter…is that even as the formation of faith and life play out in the lives of 'young adults', when it comes to religion, parents are in fact hugely important…furthermore, it is not only parents who matter in forming the religion of emerging adults…other nonparental adults in the lives of youth are often also important and, in certain circumstances, can actually 'substitute' for parents as formative influences in the lives of youth."  

Older adults have to have targeted and intentional life exposure to young people…that's a given.  Mentoring, spiritual guidance and modeling take place within relationships in community as all ages "rub shoulders" in life's journey.  I know in our family, this is often the most difficult thing to do but also the most necessary.  Parents have a tendency to "wash their hands" of the spiritual lives of their kids once they are old enough to "make their own decisions" or move away from the home.  Often, because these conversations at times get heated, there emerges an awkward silence regarding the faith journey in the midst of family.  To say it succinctly…that should not be.  Parents need to keep engaged in the faith journey of their kids even and especially as they move into older adolescence and young adulthood.  Be as it may, many parents are cowards…I say that because it is difficult to wrestle with a young adults confusion, life issues, and "necessary" struggle in owning their own spiritual journey.  Yet, nothing could be needed more…even though there are no easy answers, there are relationships that are essential for our uncompromising and deliberate action as parents/older adults.

I'm going to post more on the book over the next few days…again, Christian Smith is demonstrating why he and his passion for clarity when looking at the lives of those who are "younger" in our culture is doing the community of faith a huge service!

I’m not crazy about the title – but the info so far is fascinating and provocative

51wUhtJUo7L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_It sound like a book on disembodied souls…essentially a gnostic thought…but it is not.  It is Christian Smith's latest work which studies the religious/spiritual journey of young adults.  I found his first book not only helpful but revolutionary to my thinking about youth ministry.  If you haven't read, Soul Searching…you need to especially if you have a heart for students.  Christian's work on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism was explosive in how it brought substantial critique to the needs based, consumeristic, market-mentality/driven praxis that is often called, "youth ministry" in our culture.  If all we are "producing" in local church are narcissists who feel badly when they make a bad decision but then use God like he is a band-aid or a cheap suit to make themselves feel better, then we are in a heap of trouble.  All I can say is Soul Searching stands on its own as a fabulous analysis of what ministry has become. 

So, because of being so enamored with his work on high school adolescence, I couldn't wait to take a peak at what Dr. Smith discovered about young adults.  This is probably the sticky-est age group among most in institutional church.  I've heard more angst, frustration, confusion or out and out resignation of defeat among those who are in the seats of power regarding this age group than any other.  I'm just starting the book…so I cannot give you a definitive "thumb's up/down" review…but so far, take a peak at this:

"As a result of…complicated social transformations, the transition from the teenage years to fully achieved adulthood has stretched out into an extended stage that is often amorphous, unstructured, and convoluted, lasting upward of 12 or more years.  During this time frame, emerging adults experience a freedom that is historically unparalleled, a life structure that is often at most only loosely governed by older adult authorities.  This enables emerging adults for many years to explore, experiment, discover, succeed or fail, move on, and try again.  For many, this age is also marked not only by alot of fun and growth but also by a great deal of transience, confusion, anxiety, self-obsession, melodrama, conflict, stress, disappointment and sometimes emotional damage and bodily harm."

I couldn't agree more…the issue is that I know "emerging adults" in their 30's who haven't "emerged" into adulthood…they are still playing games with life and expecting "the world" to treat them kindly, fairly and with extravagant generosity.  In other words, many are "spoiled"…but that's for another post.  I'll give you an update as I make my way through the book…can't wait to see what more Christian Smith reveals…so, more to come…

Reflections on Middle Age…

I’ve discovered something  recently that I am having to accept as reality – being middle-aged.

I’m actually turning 55 this next month and I’m fairly oblivious to the actual amount of time I’ve spent on the planet.  You can blame that on hanging out with young people for years and years as well as having that rare disease that fights being a “grown up”…some of my closest friends not only call me immature but they have accepted the fact that there is nothing that they can do to help me be more mature.

Here are a few things that I have discovered recently (with the help of IMonk):

  • I’m old enough to be considered responsible and mature, but I’m not old enough to actually know what that feels like to be mature and responsible without a lot of effort.
  • I’m at the age where I’m pretty sure I’m incredibly boring and no one really wants to spend time with me, but I’m not yet at the age where I can do whatever I want and no one care.
  • I’m at the age where I’m considered a leader in ministry, but I’m not anywhere close to the point of actually feeling competent to actually lead anything.
  • I’m at the age where I’m supposed to be at the top of my game preaching, but everyone I know wants to hear a twenty-three year old with cool clothes, a tatoo and one good sermon.
  • I’m at the age where I’ve lost most of my vanity and have stopped worrying about being a balding man who battles being in shape…but my doctor has just started worrying about a dozen things I can’t see that can kill me.
  • I’m at the age where I am sentimental about all kinds of things, but I am not at the age where I can hold on to the moment and appreciate the gift of now.
  • I’m at the age that nothing makes me happier than to watch a movie with my wife but I can’t stay awake past 10:00 p.m.
  • I’m at an age where I have an array of big, hairy and bodacious ideas but only a miniscule amount of energy to accomplish them.

Someone I know once wrote, “Jesus left home at 30 and never came back for more than a visit. There’s not much in the Gospels specifically for us middle-aged guys.” When I read that, I really didn’t know what to think.  Eventually, I came to the point where I had to disagree and engage God in a new way…a middle-aged way.  For one thing, I have grown to rely on God’s mercy in a deeper and more meaningful way than ever.  I have learned to listen to the Spirit and then act.  I have learned that what God is doing around me, in others and in me is more important than what I am doing for God and for others.  I have joyfully accepted the fact that Jesus and His Kingdom must increase and that MY kingdom is trivial and meaningless at best.  I have come to realize that what is done for God’s glory and for the opportunity for ONE person to potentially see, experience and be transformed by the grace of Christ is more important than anything I can do to make myself feel better about who I am and what I do for God.  And finally, I have come to embrace the fact that serving someone in a humble and anonymous manner blesses God more than anything I can do where I get even an ounce of attention, positive feedback or public applause.  Maybe this middle-aged thing isn’t as bad as I think it is…I don’t know. I’m confused.  Maybe I’ll take a nap and get to thinking about it more later… 

Generation “M” Manifesto! From Harvard Business Blog…Take a peak…

Thanks to friend and uber-blogger and professor, Scot McKnight for pointing this out!  Gives pause…
The Generation M Manifesto posted on Harvard Business Blog:

My generation would like to break up with you.

Everyday, I see a widening gap in how you and we understand the world — and what we want from it. I think we have irreconcilable differences.

You wanted big, fat, lazy "business." We want small, responsive, micro-scale commerce.

You turned politics into a dirty word. We want authentic, deep democracy — everywhere.

You wanted financial fundamentalism. We want an economics that makes sense for people — not just banks.

You wanted shareholder value — built by tough-guy CEOs. We want real value, built by people with character, dignity, and courage.

You wanted an invisible hand — it became a digital hand. Today's markets are those where the majority of trades are done literally robotically. We want a visible handshake: to trust and to be trusted.

You wanted growth — faster. We want to slow down — so we can become better.

You didn't care which communities were capsized, or which lives were sunk. We want a rising tide that lifts all boats.

You wanted to biggie size life: McMansions, Hummers, and McFood. We want to humanize life.

You wanted exurbs, sprawl, and gated anti-communities. We want a society built on authentic community.

You wanted more money, credit and leverage — to consume ravenously. We want to be great at doing stuff that matters.

You sacrificed the meaningful for the material: you sold out the
very things that made us great for trivial gewgaws, trinkets, and
gadgets. We're not for sale: we're learning to once again do what is meaningful.

There's a tectonic shift rocking the social, political, and economic landscape.
The last two points above are what express it most concisely. I hate
labels, but I'm going to employ a flawed, imperfect one: Generation "M."

What do the "M"s in Generation M stand for? The first is for a movement. It's a little bit about age — but mostly about a growing number of people who are acting very differently. They are doing meaningful stuff that matters the most. Those are the second, third, and fourth "M"s.

Gen M is about passion, responsibility, authenticity, and
challenging yesterday's way of everything. Everywhere I look, I see an
explosion of Gen M businesses, NGOs, open-source communities, local
initiatives, government. Who's Gen M? Obama, kind of. Larry and Sergey. The Threadless, Etsy, and Flickr guys. Ev, Biz and the Twitter crew. Tehran 2.0. The folks at Kiva, Talking Points Memo, and FindtheFarmer. Shigeru Miyamoto, Steve Jobs, Muhammad Yunus, and Jeff Sachs are like the grandpas of Gen M. There are tons where these innovators came from.

Gen M isn't just kind of awesome — it's vitally necessary. If you think the "M"s sound idealistic, think again.

The great crisis isn't going away, changing, or "morphing." It's the same old crisis — and it's growing.

You've failed to recognize it for what it really is. It is, as I've
repeatedly pointed out, in our institutions: the rules by which our
economy is organized.

But they're your institutions, not ours. You made them — and they're broken. Here's what I mean:

"… For example, the auto industry has cut back production so
far that inventories have begun to shrink — even in the face of
historically weak demand for motor vehicles. As the economy stabilizes,
just slowing the pace of this inventory shrinkage will boost gross
domestic product, or GDP, which is the nation's total output of goods
and services."

Clearing the backlog of SUVs built on 30-year-old technology is
going to pump up GDP? So what? There couldn't be a clearer example of
why GDP is a totally flawed concept, an obsolete institution. We don't
need more land yachts clogging our roads: we need a 21st Century auto
industry.

I was (kind of) kidding about seceding before. Here's what it looks
like to me: every generation has a challenge, and this, I think, is
ours: to foot the bill for yesterday's profligacy — and to create, instead, an authentically, sustainably shared prosperity.

Anyone — young or old — can answer it. Generation M is more about what you do and who you are than when you were born. So the question is this: do you still belong to the 20th century – or the 21st?

Love,

Umair and the Edge Economy Community

A Total Breakdown in telling the Truth

PF_1520826~Integrity-PostersThere are many reasons to look at the issue of telling the truth.  Not only because we have the issue discussed within the Torah (Decalogue specifically – in other words, the Ten Commandments) but also there is something powerful that is communicated to humanity when Jesus Himself declares that He is truth incarnate.  IT would seem reasonable to me that IF you were to adhere to the Lordship of Jesus in your life that you would strive to not only LIVE the truth but embody the best of truth telling in your heart and life.  There are numerous symbols and metaphors throughout scripture that spell out clearly God’s desire for us to be walking and living in the fullness of truth.  Not only does truth-telling build relational trust (“we are only as sick as our secrets”…in other words, lies break down trust because trust defined is “truth in relationship”) but it also is one of the ways that we discern whether or not we are “walking in the light”. 

A long time ago, I struggled with truth telling…I had to deal with the reality of the fact that my personality M.O. was driven more by placation than by the truth…it became real to me when my desire to make people happy (especially those closest to me) came at the expense of my integrity in terms of communicating the truth.  After a while of struggling with this issue, I had to go to “graduate school” in my heart in an attempt to regain the passion for the truth even if it wasn’t what made people happy with me.  Those were tough but liberating days.  Why?  Because we were designed by God to live in the truth…no shadows…no exaggerations…no fear about being suddenly unmasked as a person who plays loose with reality. 

That’s why it is especially distressing to me how far our culture has deteriorated in terms of truth-telling…people are told what the communicator perceives they want to hear…individuals will manipulate the truth in order to gain their will over others or people’s applause.  Since it is apparent that people will say just about anything they want and that lying is one of many options that a person will use in their arsenal to imposing their will upon others, we are moving more into cultural meltdown.  And, the tragic thing is that it is happening at the highest places of public trust.  I don’t know about you but I have gotten to the place where I do not trust anything that a public official has to say.  When former President Clinton utilized the infamous “it depends what your definition of is is” argument, there was a line in the sand in truth telling in public that was obliterated.  There is such a cynicism about truth telling now that no one knows WHO and WHAT to trust.

That’s why a person who is a follower of Jesus MUST become a ruthless truth teller.  It is the ONE WAY that many people can see and experience our dedication not only to the principle of truth but to the person who incarnates truth – Jesus Himself.  I’m not going to bore you with proof-texts from scripture about truth telling but, trust me, there are many that span the expanse of the scripture.  I would challenge you to look them up yourself…but what I challenge us more to do is to LIVE THE TRUTH!  Counter the lies!  Live as a subversive…tell the truth!

A Potential “Covenant” for a Missional Journey

CovenantsIn the ministry project that I am facilitating, we are considering a Covenant for Missional Living…this is not a unique action for people in a journey of faith like this…it is simply our way of attempting to articulate the lifestyle agreements that will bind us together as a community as well as actions that we will promote that will underscore our Project's values.  Take a peak…this is the second draft…it is a work in progress…would love your feedback!

Potential Covenant of the Faith Communities Project (www.faithcommunitiesproject.org)

Introduction by Robin J. Dugall

The Bible says clearly that each and every follower of Christ is “called of God” (Ephesians 1).  Have you ever wondered, what Jesus calling us “into”?  What are you, as a Christ-follower supposed to embrace?  Let me assure and challenge you to consider that Jesus is not just calling us to accept a set of beliefs, believe me!  Way too many who claim to be people of Jesus talk a good line…they believe the right things but they don’t LIVE THE LIFE of the Kingdom. We have mentioned in our Faith Community Project journey “orthopraxis (faithful action) is just as important, if not more important, than orthodoxy (faithful doctrine/thought)”.   Jesus doesn’t call you to a set of faith statements.  He rather calls you to follow Him and to live a lifestyle that has as its prime example, the life of Him who we claim to love.  The following Rule or Lifestyle Covenant is an attempt at clarifying a lifestyle that provides a framework from which to actualize this goal of Kingdom Living.  

The Vision of the Faith Communities Project is to build a movement of like‐minded followers of Jesus for the purpose of actualizing the Great Commission of God (Matthew 28:16ff).   To accomplish this vision, we are committed to do whatever is possible to encourage full devotion, spiritual transformation, develop/deepen spiritual maturity and provide “training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) among members of the Project.  Another aspect of that vision is the disciple making process.
In order to be committed to disciplemaking, disciples are called by Jesus to live and incarnate the values of the Project…in other words, we can’t talk discipleship unless we are living as disciples.

This Covenant articulates a lifestyle that is meant to be voluntary and self-perpetuating.  It is foundational only in that it consists of practices that a community of emerging Christ-followers choose, for themselves, to live.  It is not meant to be applied in any manner that would “prove” a certain level of spirituality or give rise to pride, condemnation or division.  It is purely a commitment to a missional and incarnational lifestyle through Vows and Practices. This covenant is established through the context of the mission of the Faith Community Project:  

“The Vision of the Faith Communities Project is to build a movement of like-minded followers of Jesus for the purpose of actualizing the Great Commission of God (Matthew 28:16ff).  The vision is to initiate as many new faith/missional communities/relationships as the possible through the leading of the Holy Spirit in partnership with the “sending” church of Friendship Celebration Lutheran Church (FCLC) and the Northwest District of the LC-MS.  The Vision of this proposal is simple – Let us venture in partnership to take the Great Commission seriously in a creative manner.  In a consensual partnership, let us commit to building the Kingdom of God through the intentional planting of missional communities/relationships wherever the Holy Spirit may lead.” 

The Covenant calls its adherents to enter the following engagements (obligations) as a way of life:

o    God-centered life
o    Partake in A community of relationships which recognize “church” as being defined as the living and organic body of Christ rather than just a gathering of individuals or a physical institution.
o    Live incarnationally in and for the neighborhoods, communities, campuses, networks and world culture in which they live.
o    Commit oneself to spiritual formation and development
o    Agree to live out of the Vows, Principles and Practices of the Project.

The Covenant of Lifestyle for the Faith Communities Project.  We covenant to live out these practices:

1.    Mutual Support – Participate regularly in the lives of other members of the Project for encouragement in living out the mission of the Kingdom of God.
2.    Worship – Worship within the context of the fellowship of believers @ FCLC on a regular basis on Sunday mornings.  As well as participate in the once a month worship celebrations specifically designed for Project members.  These once a month celebrations are for the specific purpose of supporting the overall vision and mission of the Project.
3.    Daily Discipline of Prayer – A lifestyle of daily Prayer.  
4.    Prayer Partnership – Form a relationship with a Prayer Partner.  This Prayer Partner will be chosen at random on a semi-annual basis.  The Prayer Partners are encouraged to pray for one another and meet at least twice during the six month period for the purpose of sharing, support and relationship development.
5.    Life embedded in Culture – We embrace the challenge to live as “church” without walls, living openly amongst unbelievers and believers.  In this way God in our lives can be seen, challenged or questioned. This will involve us building friendships outside our Christian circles not just with purely ulterior evangelistic motives, but because we genuinely care and love as we have been loved.
6.       Pursue the “planting” of Faith Communities/Relationships – We are committed to bear and bare the light of Jesus to a dark world (1 John 2:6-11) even though we may be, at times, one little light in a dark place.   We covenant together to be committed to plant Christ-honoring communities/relationships as “Gardens, not Grocery Stores”… committed to long periods of habitation, gestation in and among a chosen neighborhood, long-term relationships, and investment in our geographical place of living. 

•    We are committed to put down roots, take up jobs, and live in our neighborhoods. To love, live and walk with lost people in the rhythms of everyday life in order to cultivate relationships.  In this way our lives will be a witness to Christ, as they incarnates His presence in and among this neighborhood of people.
•    To be bearers of the gospel of salvation in Word and deed.  Never with coercion, only as invitation into the life of God through Christ our Lord.
•    If you choose to view the world as a place of danger to be avoided, it will become that—a lawless jungle in which we humans are trapped. If instead you choose to view the world as a garden to be tended, as a great gift given us by God, it will become what God intended it to be—a place of great beauty and happiness.  Do not flee the world.  Enter joyfully into its problems and possibilities.

7.    With God’s help, we will be committed to Practices that give the Holy Spirit “room” to transform our lives.

•    We are committed to regular practices of spiritual formation that center one's life in Christ and in His Mission.
o    This includes regular Scripture reading, scriptural study, prayer, submission to God, confession of sin, repentance and reconciliation, working out one's struggles, pains and joys as part of God's work in you for His Mission.  
•    We dedicate ourselves to a lifetime of conversion.
o    To be a Christian is to follow Christ, in every way.  It is to live one’s life in such a manner that nothing is excluded. We must change.  We must become radically different if we want to follow Christ, if we want to be truly alive, as he was truly alive.   This is a journey that takes a lifetime.

8.       Love the Church – We are part of the Church.  By church we mean, the “Body of Christ” as scripturally defined:

•    God has worked in and through the Church throughout history.  
•    We  will remain active members in our church family.
•    However, You are called to be different than other Christians within the church body.  In that you view church as not ending Sunday morning, but rather as any time 2 or more are gathered in HIS name.  
•    Remember that this is only so that you can be models for others in the church congregation. Your task is not to be superior to them, but to be their servants by equipping them for their own ministries.

9.       Passionately pursue your mission, and persevere in it – It has been said that “Purity of heart is to choose one thing,” and the lives of the great followers of Jesus, from Saint Paul to Mother Teresa bear this out.   

•    Those who have followed Christ most successfully in the past have chosen one thing – to passionately pursue the embracing of our identity as a person (or: a people) defined not by the church we attend but by the mission we live.
•    Those agreeing to this covenant commit themselves to this specific identity so that their commitment could be reviewed regularly and their actions measured against it.  Each follower of Jesus needs to know how God has gifted them with specific gifts and abilities for ministry and then use that God given “wiring” for the purpose of mission and ministry.  God has called us to be who we are (Who He has created us to be)  not who we are supposed to be (by another human’s standard).  All God asks is this – “be who you are for Me and let Me take care of the rest”.  We ultimately rely on the Holy Spirit to bring about all fruit of our commitment to the mission and ministry of this covenant.