Archives For Culture Change

gaysandxtians

When I was in high school, one of my good friends came out to me as gay. And because I was a Christian, I broke off all relationship with him. I did this because I believed this is what I was supposed to do. At least, that’s what I told myself then.

But the deeper truth is, I did it because I was afraid. I was afraid he wanted to have sex with me, and if he did, I didn’t know how to handle that. I was afraid his influence might corrupt me or draw me away from my faith. I was afraid of what my Christian friends would think of me if I kept hanging out with him. Despite how coldly and abruptly I broke off our friendship, he was never harsh with me, and never judged me for my decision. His last words to me? “Anytime you need anything, call me.”

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3rdworld

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” ~ Mother Teresa

The old morality tales don’t work anymore. The world has got too big for them. And we, perhaps, have grown too small.

It used to be loving your neighbor was a relatively simple matter of noticing the need of the old widow two doors down, and doing what you might to meet it. Or seeing the mother overburdened by her children since her husband got taken by the war, and making the choice to take her in as a part of the family without really giving her any say in the matter.

To be a good neighbor is still all that (thank God), but it’s not just that anymore, because your neighbors are no longer just the people living on your street. Now, thanks to technology and social media, the whole world lives at your doorstep, which is to say billions of souls ~ the vast majority of them far poorer than you are (if you live in the West), many with no water, or toilets, or education, or meaningful opportunities to explore their potential as image bearers of God. It’s so overwhelming to try to take it all in that we invented a term to describe it:

Compassion Fatigue.

And yet, the world is here now, daily knocking on my television screen, buzzing on my phone every hour, and I cannot pretend any longer that the way I chose to live my comfortable life has no effect on how those souls on the other side of the world have to live theirs. Suddenly, I find compassion dangerous, because I know if I really let it take hold of me, it might completely unravel the life I have so carefully crafted for myself.

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whoisneighbornow

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa

Continuing my train of thought from last week’s post, here are five groups of people whom I believe fall under the category of “my neighbor” as Jesus described it in Luke 10:25-37.

  • Followers of Islam
  • The Third World
  • Gays & Lesbians
  • China
  • That “Other” Political Party

I’ll address each of these in turn over the next several weeks. I don’t pretend any of these are easy situations or relationships to address; but I do contend it is high time for Christ followers to start having honest, humble conversations about what it really means to love these neighbors in a way that authentically honors Christ.

This Week’s Neighbor: The Follower of Islam

In our ever-shrinking world, what is the proper way for a Christ follower to love the Muslim people? I think our great danger in engaging the peoples and nations of the Middle East is in our tendency to confuse an ideology with a human person. We wrongly think that standing against a belief system with which we don’t agree means we must attack or suppress or diminish the human souls who were born under that belief system or choose to follow it. I think this is both contrary to Jesus’ teaching and supremely ineffective at inspiring souls toward faith in Christ, which we must remember is the Great Commission every true follower of Jesus is bound by love to follow.

I have a friend whom I believe is living out the Good Samaritan teaching with our Muslim brothers and sisters in a way Jesus loves. She’s a single woman ~ blond, sassy, a bit of a princess by her own admission, and very American in every way we would all relate to and appreciate. But more important than her citizenship in the United States, she is a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. She’s in the Middle East right at this moment, serving refugees displaced by the Syrian conflict, and the conflict in the West Bank. She’s not preaching the gospel from a place of superiority and western arrogance; she’s living the gospel by standing with the oppressed and displaced human souls there and serving them in the name and with the love of Jesus.

Her example inspires me more than I can say. She’s a hero of the faith, and though you may never know her name I’m convinced she’s already famous in heaven, and her story will be told and celebrated by Jesus himself throughout eternity.

It is in large part her example that has led me to this belief: We should stop trying to defeat Islam, and simply start humbly loving and serving its people. That will do more to advance the Kingdom of God in the world than any debate or war ever could.

 

What do you think? Do you agree with my perspective? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Who is My Neighbor Now?

September 22, 2014 — Leave A Comment

whoisneighbornow

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing a handful of topics I believe are crying out to be discussed in a fresh, humble way within the Church, particularly here in the West. I’m calling this series “Conversations The Church Needs to Have.” This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I invite you to add your own ideas in the comments. My intention is not to dictate solutions, but to raise the questions themselves and invite my fellow leaders and Christ followers everywhere to begin to explore them in light of the changes happening to our world. The question I’m addressing this week is: Who is My Neighbor Now?

Jesus taught when it comes to living the life God wants for you, everything you need to know can be pretty much summed up by these two simple directives:

  • Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and
  • Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

Hearing Jesus point to these directives on one occasion, someone asked him: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded by telling the classic story of the Good Samaritan. You can read the story yourself by clicking here. Two important things to note by way of context in the story:

  • Jews and Samaritans largely hated one another. The Jews of the time, in particular, saw the Samaritans as half-breeds, forsakers of God’s command to remain set apart from other nations, and therefore worthy of contempt.
  • Jewish priests and scribes of the time were considered the most religious (and ostensibly, therefore, the most holy) of all the people in the land.

Jesus’ story illustrates his bold assertion that loving your neighbor means loving the “other” ~ that is, the one who is not of your tribe, the one who is not like you, the one you think of as an enemy, the one you consider worthy of contempt.

Each year, the world gets a little smaller. Through technology, world markets, and population growth, more and more people of different tribes and often oppositional worldviews are getting pressed closer and closer together. We can’t distance ourselves from those unlike us as we once did. We can’t make believe we are safe across an ocean anymore from those who say they hate us and want us dead.

In this brave, new, shrinking world, I think Christ followers need to begin having fresh conversations around the question, “Who is my neighbor now, and what does it look like for me to love him?”

What do you think?

We’re All Wrong

April 28, 2014 — Leave A Comment

“We don’t see things the way they are, we see things the way we are.” ~ The Talmud

When coaching leadership teams, one of the foundational agreements we make going into the work is “Everybody gets to be right…partially.” For any team to become fully empowered and effective, this agreement is essential, because it allows for the basic fact that nobody sees the complete picture of any situation or challenge facing the team, and that every person’s perspective includes some truth that the team needs to hear and integrate into its decision-making.

Beneath the clever verbiage, it’s really just a way of agreeing to be humble with each other…to not assume that you (and you alone) have all the answers and see everything perfectly, or that “they” (that is, whoever sees things differently) are utterly misguided and wrong (and possibly evil) and have nothing of value to teach you at all.

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dis-agreeI recently had this conversation with a faith leader of a large organization. I thought I’d share it with you, because this is an issue lots of faith leaders struggle with: How do you deal with voices of resistance within your own staff?

“I think it’s time I laid down the law!” he said. “All these complainers spouting their objections are just slowing us down. I can’t lead by consensus. We’ll never get anywhere that way.”

“What do you mean by ‘laying down the law’? I asked. “What would that look like?”

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changeahead

“Being well-taught is not the same thing as being transformed.” ~ Ruth Haley Barton

All people everywhere possess a natural, inherent bias in favor of status quo. We resist change, and prefer keeping things just as they are because change involves risk and stress (even good change, or change from worse to better), and we are naturally wired to reduce risk and stress wherever and whenever we can.

The problem with this natural bias, of course, is that all true learning and discovery, all personal development and growth, and every experience of authentic transformation, happens ~ and can only happen ~ outside that protective “status quo” bubble.

Simply put, you cannot be changed and be comfortable at the same time.

Authentic transformation happens outside your comfort zone. Risk and stress are intrinsic aspects of all true personal growth and transformation. There is no way around this fact: To be changed, you must first be uncomfortable, and you must remain in that uncomfortableness for as long as it takes for the change to become, in essence, the “new normal.”

It’s one thing to study Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler (Mark 10). It’s quite another to actually surrender all our money to God, or (for many of us) to surrender even a tithe.

Yet it’s through just such transformational experiences that all meaningful change and growth happens.

In fact, recent studies in neuroscience have revealed that in order for any learning experience to be truly transformational (i.e. life-changing), it must include these four elements:

1. It must be interruptive & immersive ~ The experience must take people out of their established routines and immerse them in something novel and different. For example, relocating a group from its regular gathering place to someplace different or unexpected, such as a riverbank or downtown coffee shop.

2. It must be emotionally compelling ~ The experience must matter to people on an emotional level. This can be accomplished in several ways ~ for example, by engaging their compassion (as in feeding or clothing the homeless in your community), by challenging their fear (as in spending the night in prayer alone in the wilderness), or by appealing to their sense of adventure (as in inviting them to join a mission team to an exotic location)…to name a few.

3. It must be kinesthetic ~ Counter to the practice followed by public school for many decades, we learn best when our bodies are actively involved. This could be as simple as taking a class on a walk as you teach a lesson. The best experiences, though, engage the body in ways that mirror or amplify the primary lesson of the experience, such as taking a trust walk or a wilderness hike as a study on what it means to walk with God.

4. It must include an “anchor memory” ~ When people experience significant change, they almost always point to a specific moment or memory when “everything changed.” In the same way, transformational experiences must include a ritual, shared experience, or other kind “crossing the threshold” moment people can later use as their “anchor memory” ~ the defining moment they identify as the turning point when everything changed.

Now, consider all the educational programming pieces currently in play in your church or faith-based organization. This includes any Sunday morning program (if you’re a church), or any leadership development or training programs you have in place.

Based on the elements listed above, which of your programs are the most authentically transformational? Which are the least transformational? I encourage you to make a list, from most to least, then for each explore this question:

How could we redesign this to make it more authentically transformational?

Interruptive, emotionally compelling, kinesthetic, and memorable ~ 4 key ingredients for designing learning experiences that are not only “accurate,” but life changing.

If you’d like help redesigning your education, training and events to be more transformational, drop me a line. I’d love to help you explore the possibilities.