Bosons and Leadership

Everything I know about physics I’ve learned from Sheldon Cooper, Howard Wolowitz, Leonard Hofstadter and Rajesh Koothrappali who are characters on the TV sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”. You can deduce from this confession that I’m not a science guy and never, ever in any time or space will I be a leader in the field of physics.

Yesterday in Cern it was announced that real life physicists had finally discovered the Higgs boson. Christopher Llewelyn-Smith, Lyn Evans, Herwig Schopper, Luciano Maiani, and Robert Aymard apparently spent a lifetime searching for the “God particle”. They believed it was there, it just took awhile to find it. Peter Higgs, for whom the boson was named following his 1964 paper on the topic, seemed surprised when told of the find, “I never expected this to happen in my lifetime and shall be asking my family to put some champagne in the fridge.”

Let me get this straight. You wrote and published a scientific thesis in 1964 and nearly 50 years later you are surprised this universe super glue was found. Talk about your needle in a hay stack.

The leadership lessons which Higgs teaches in all of this is that leaders sometimes have to be incredibly patient, dogmatically focused on the task at hand and if success comes be surprised then celebrate with family.

So if you’re having a tough day and you think the sky is falling you can relax because the Higgs boson is apparently holding the sky in place. Therefore, you can be patient and focused as you lead.  – BB

 

Advertisements

Women, Love and God

Today, 8 March, 2012, is International Women’s Day and so it is fitting for us to make a special note of the strides made and not made to bring about gender equality in our communities.  Though most of us can list extraordinary women who have had and continue to have a global impact, I want to focus on one particularly special women – my mother.

My father passed away when I was twelve and so I credit my mom for teaching me how to be the best man I could be.  Though I wasn’t always the best son (especially during those teenage years), my Mom’s enduring love for me never ceased.  She never gave me a reason to question her love for me.  Her ability to always find the good in my life and her never dying belief that I always had the imagination to pull through any situation gave me the assurance to step out and take risks.  All this while society kept telling her she was of the lessor gender and weaker without a husband to take care of her.  Even today Mom’s gentle encouragement to me, even while she is struggling daily with her own health woes, never ceases to amaze me.

As I reflect on Mom and her life and the life lessons she passed my way, her most important lesson to me is the reminder that God’s call to each of us to live a life of Love.  1 Corinthians 13 is a reminder of this love.  Thank you Mom for reflecting God’s love to me in ways only a mother can to her son.  And may I as a man find the strength and courage to pass on this love to my daughter, son & wife. – JM

Rip Those Pages Out

Last week, over a simple meal, some friends and I were discussing the merits of the Old Testament.  Can we as followers of Christ in the 21st century do without the Old Testament?  What is the real value of this text to the person in the pew?  As a Mennonite, I often struggle with the “God as Warrior” image of the Old Testament.  Or even the “vengeful God” imagery.  It would be so easy to rip those pages out of the Canon.  And yet, there they are glaring at us. 

Johnny is a close friend of mine who lives in South East Asia.  He frequently shares stories of his displaced friends living on the Thai-Burma border.  Johnny is an ardent promoter of just peace making.  This deeply rooted belief has put him on various government target lists.  He has been prohibited from visiting dear friends and places and even spent time in prison for this belief.  As he watches his displaced friends on the border continuing to suffer, he asks me (his institutional administrator friend), “as a leader, how often do you consider how your decision impacts the poor?” 

This question came roaring back to me last week.  Here we were in Lancaster County, USA discussing the merits of the Old Testament wanting to rip pages out of the Bible to suit our perspective on just peace making.  Meanwhile, the displaced in SE Asia find comfort in the arms of a God who is on their side and would be willing to fight and take revenge on those who were continually maiming, raping and killing their families.  So, if we are to truly seek the welfare of the poor, should we be ripping pages out of the Bible or releasing our dogmas to God? – JM

ReThink Everything

What we plant determines what we grow.  Farmers understand this but for an urban guy like me, it has taken a while to figure out.

For 25 years, I’ve been involved in what evangelical-Anabaptists refer to as, “church planting.”  The Christian world can be divided into those who think church planting is a good idea and those who are actually doing it.  I’ve lived in both camps, and I think that some of my fellow-travelers (myself included!) have been involved in a great adventure in missing the point.

 Leaders have engaged in church planting as institutional formation.  We focus on executing strategies that attract a collection of people who we hope find spiritual meaning in the church plant’s wonderful programs.  Growing a church requires the planter to commit to sustaining program excellence, manage costs, and form relational bonds through customer intimacy.  Mission agencies sustain this model by offering venture capital to the church plant with the expectation that a sustainable and self-funding church will emerge that supports the mission agency in return.  In short, the system demands we plant churches as institutions.

What if we did gospel planting instead?  What might it look like if we see every follower of Jesus as a church planter and believe every church can plant another church?  What if we incarnated the victory news that Jesus is Lord of everything?  

Gospel planting requires leaders to re-think everything:  our definitions of mission and church; our leadership cultivation and discipleship formation; and the way we use money in the formation of church plants.

Our current church planting models grow from the same Christendom assumptions that have informed much of the way we have done church over the past 1700 years.  Instead, let’s start planting the gospel, and experience the church fruit that grows from that seed.

 Scary, huh? – JW

Rezoning

When we started this church, one of our goals was to bless and serve the community that we were in as a church. I was convicted through a question posed in something I’d read which said, “If your church left, would the community notice?” We do this serving through a whole variety of events geared at sharing God’s love in tangible non threatening ways including neighbourhood parties, playing with kids in the park, Easter egg hunts, youth after school programs, etc. Our ability to engage the community has increased through a “community space” which our church leased just over a year ago across the street from the school where we meet Sundays. Getting the space was a succession of miracles, including getting the site rezoned to have a church group using it. In order for that rezoning to happen, the city does checks with the residents within several hundred meters of our building. At our annual community pancake breakfast last month, a woman came up to one of our pastors and said, “Someone came to our door asking us to sign a petition because they didn’t want the church in the area. But I told them, “The church comes to bring life not death. They have helped my children. I’m not signing this petition. So I started one of my own to support your church…” I didn’t know this person, and we didn’t get wind of either of these petitions. But I could not help but think that our presence in the community through acts of serving, helped give legitimacy to our being here. -JLT

 

Jim and Casper

It sounds like the set up for a classic joke:  “A Christian and an Atheist walk into a church together…”  But it’s no joke, it actually happened.  In the summer of 2006, Jim Henderson, a former pastor, and now publishing executive went on a road trip with his best friend, Matt Casper, an avowed Atheist.  They visited eleven churches across the USA:  mega-churches with superstar preachers and mainline congregations with mind-numbing liturgy and an Anabaptist-related house church (way to go, Jason!).  They pooled their insights into a book:  Jim & Casper Go to Church (Barna:  2007).  www.amazon.com

At the end of the book, Jim reflects: “Casper saw and experienced – over and over and over again – what Christians do when they do church.  He saw it done with big budgets and no budgets, in large stadiums and in small buildings.  The same format repeated itself regardless of the setting.  The greet-sing-preach-collect-present form played out in front of us with unrelenting predictability.  And when it was all done, he would turn to me and ask, ‘Jim, is this what Jesus told you guys to do?’”

Ouch.

Jesus told us to go into the world and share the victory news that God does not hate anyone for anything; that God loves everyone, all the time.  Only then can we baptize – forming communities of Jesus followers.  Together we figure out how to live faithfully, in love with Jesus.

Yes, sometimes we get it backwards. We figure out how people should live; try with all our might to assemble a group of those folks; then tell them God loves them.

Is that what Jesus told us to do?  What would it look like to start a church whose focus was not on the “show” or the “shoulds” but on the good news?

Burning to Call Out Leaders

“God loves you…and Jeff has a wonderful plan for your life!”   

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that leaders must assist others into leadership roles and into God’s missional purpose.  Of course, the struggle is in trying to make sure that the invitation I’m extending to others is just that – an invitation, not an expectation. 

This is not an exact science.  There have been plenty of “oops!” moments over the years.  As I’ve invited others to lead I’ve been burned on occasion and I’ve accidently burned others. We all know being burned is painful. Nevertheless, I won’t quit. I can’t stop seeing the possibilities that emerge when someone yields their leadership potential to the transforming power of God.

I’m reminded of Moses, once a powerful member of Pharaoh’s household, now reduced to tending sheep for his father-in-law.  Moses is getting on in years and while he has married well and raised a family, his dreams have been unfulfilled.  Then, out of nowhere, God in the burning bush asks Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It is the act of letting go of those last vestiges of Moses’ self identity which allows Moses to become what God called him to be; a leader in Israel’s redemption.

God still has a mission – the redemption of everyone and everything.  God is still calling people to lead the effort for the redemption of everyone and everything.  Perhaps the voice doesn’t come from the burning bush but the voice is still very much there. Or maybe God needs us to be the burning bush calling a modern day Moses to lead. – Jeff