Archive for January 2008

More Ah-Hah’s About Connecting With Not-Yet Believers

It’s All Caught … Then Explained

Some think it’s clever to parrot, “That’s one of those things that is more ‘caught than taught.’” No longer funny nor clever. Please explain what isn’t caught. One thing – please. Somebody. ‘Bueller, Bueller, has anyone seen Ferris Bueller?’

When we serve others it is natural they ask, ‘So what’s this all about?’

Peter said, ‘Be ready to give an account of the hope that lies within you…’ Many have given their version of what Pete was alluding to. My shot in light of the context of his comments is this: His comments on this are located near the question of how to win a not-yet believing spouse. The answer is simple and by the way flies in the face of dozens of messages I have heard from well-intentioned teachers. Peter says, ‘Live a stellar life… be careful to not over-use words with those closest near you…’ That is a summary of course. You read it. If you hyperventilate I’m sorry but that’s is what Peter says. You may want to read it several times after breathing into a brown paper bag if the hyperventilation begins to occur.

Talk Less Or You Might Become Toxic

Peter is clarifying there comes a time when words can begin to cocoon people away from the message. “Uhh.” Words get in the way of the message? Absolutely. If you are an adult convert you understood this clearly once upon a time whether you can remember that now or not. In case you can’t remember that just spend half an hour at Starbucks and ask some friendly faces after you’ve paid for their venti sized coffee drinks. They will confirm Peter’s two thousand year old inspired insight.

“Might” become toxic – some have the learned skill of talking when its time to talk and listening in right proportions. Listening a lot is the way we earn the right to have the barest bit of integrity that allows us to become people who can connect with those around us who are in the funnel coming toward Christ.

Ever try to make a withdrawal without first a deposit in the account at your bank? You won’t get very far. I see people who are trying to ‘do evangelism’ (those two words are pregnant – “Can I do evangelism to you?”)

Deposits come in many ways.

Listening is one of the most profound ways.

Listening is perhaps most often done by us slowing down and literally using our ears – however, listening is a comprehensive activity. We listen with our entire being…

Body language communicates with our entirety that we are an audience to what the person in front of us is about – that what they are up to is IMPORTANT – to us… and guess what – to God.

No deposit. No right whatsoever to begin to make a penny’s worth of withdrawal.

Never again a conversation that has been memorized…

Hi, my name is uh… (now quickly glance at cue card in left, no, right hand) uh, Steve…
May I share something with you that is very, very important to me…?

The above actually does ‘work’ with those on the east side of town in Lemming, Iowa and Syracuse, East Virginia. But since 1974 no reports of church growth have been reported that are deemed credible.

Glenn Beck Near Death Saga

Since posting about Glenn Beck’s brush with death a few days ago I have carefully read his account of what happened on his day after Christmas ‘routine’ surgery (eerily similar to my ordeal in some ways – near Christmas, though when one completely bleeds out after 75 minutes at a BP of 30 over 10 it is difficult to compare experiences in all ways). 

The ‘I Don’t Give A Flying Rip’ Attitude of Inappropriate Medical Staff

Beck’s description of the nurse who was completely capable of helping him negotiate his way off the couch and out of the room, but didn’t lift a finger was very typical of what I have seen time and again in my medical journey with hospitals.  (Keep in mind, my initial medical melt-down has resulted in eight more surgeries so far – no more I pray!) 

The nurse he mentioned even went so far as to drum his fingers on the door as to say,
“Come on now – I have more important things to do…”  Yeah.  I’ve watched Gray’s Anatomy enough times – there’s a lot of action happening in the back rooms.  I have many doctor friends who have been through residency programs who have laughingly told me since that show has aired this is not far from what occurs – believe it or not – when docs and nurses work in close quarters for 48 plus hours at a time. 

All well and good.  It’s when basic human dignity is overlooked that I become at least a bit agitated. 

The average fourth grader is aware of the Hippocratic Oath.  That first line is a doozy – “First do no harm…”  Now that is the opening line of a novel based on Beck’s experience or mine turned into novel form – just waiting to be inputed into a laptop. 

Just to be clear, as with Beck, I was also saved by some amazing docs.  I regularly, prayerfully thank God for several of those doctors by name the way they live out the very definition of ‘Dedication.’ 

So what’s gone wrong with the system?  Wow – that’s a three day discussion that is perhaps better suited for a round circle discussion with a few ethicists, docs who get it, and a smattering of Beck’s and Sjogren’s to boot – then tape that sucker and play it in HD on pay-per-view. 

This is THE issue folks. 

Nationalized health care? 

Big clue – take notes if you must – ain’t gonna happen – not in the lifetime of anyone reading this blog entry anyway.  If it did, you would really be taking your life in your hands if you showed up to be cared for in such a system.  Ask any Canadian or Brit about their system. 

The only place where such utopian systems come close to functioning are countries with very small populations that are highly capitalized – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland.  To boot, they don’t seem to mind living under the burden of a tax code that begins with each person shelling out 55% and some paying 90% of what they earn in income taxes.  ("Yes we have high taxes, but our children go to school for free and we have healthcare…")

Again, discussion circle needed. 

Back to the Begiune – try a little kindness.

“The kindness of God leads us to a radical life change…” Rom. 2:4, The Message.  How simply profound is that.  I am incapable of ever living in consistent positive attitudes of any sort.  It’s just not in me.

Purposeful Forgetfulness

The more the Servant Evangelism / Outflow message goes forward, the more I need to clarify what is not being said in all of this. 

The new edition of Conspiracy of Kindness is about to be released – great news.  However, many leaders – with whatever intentions, have taken the original concept I couldn’t have more clearly explained in terms of what wasn’t being conveyed in that book. 

Now I am adjusting the site regularly to bring this back to the pure expression of the powerful idea that it indeed is. 

It’s not doing something to get people to come to your church…

We serve because the spirit of Jesus dwells in us.  Our ‘new normal’ is to serve. We don’t take serving lessons.  We don’t manipulate others / anyone – anytime – in order to get them to listen to us – to respond to us. 

We serve in utter simplicity because it is normal for us.

And long-term we are changing the spiritual culture of a city – state – country – beyond. 

Each time we do even the smallest ‘Jesus thing’ we are in some small way extending the kingdom of God on planet Earth. 

In so doing we are leading people into the kingdom. 

Will churches focused upon such things grow?  Absolutely.

However if churches that do such things seek to grow by doing such things – (say that three times fast)

… they will sabotage the work of God’s Spirit in expanding the kingdom in their midst. 

Glenn Beck’s Near Death = Steve’s Invitation As A Guest

Looks like I will be a guest on the Glenn Beck Show one day in the next week or two.

If you are not a listener to him, (conservative discussion format),

– Beck (this one doesn’t play the guitar and doesn’t have many ideas about doing videos…)

– he had a brush with death during a flubbed surgical experience recently.

“The surgeons messed up? How weird is that…!”

I am downright enthusiastic about bringing this matter more into the spotlight. We are all aware that doctors have lots of rights. The question is, “When do we begin to ask about patient rights?” (Tomorrow ask that…)

Doctors have four or more additional years of schooling beyond what most of us have received – do they deserve those rights without question?

I have discovered in talking with a number of doctors who have served on medical school admissions boards. These people make the final decisions as to who is allowed in and who is rejected into med school. I always wondered what I.Q. admissions boards were looking for – inquiring minds want to know…

Care to take a guess?

There is an exact I.Q. though I suspect no one who has served on such a committee would allow themselves to be formally quoted on this.

The I.Q. being sought is… 122.

Let me rephrase that – just 122.

I am in sync with the numerous books written by Daniel Goldman that I.Q. is a poor indicator of one’s potential in life. Perhaps the case can be made, even, that unless we mentally impaired, all of us are gifted in some way – physically, emotionally, mathematically, etc.

However when it comes to the age old concept of I.Q. – meaning, one’s capacity to take on, assimilate information, creatively solve problems, I have this crazy idea that a surgeon who is in charge of me making it out alive from a surgery, ought to be as intelligent as me.

However, 122 is not even close to being in the ‘gifted’ range of I.Q.

My choice: When it comes to being worked on by a surgeon, turn to someone who is at least 20 points higher than your I.Q.

Apparently that is hard to come by these days.

‘Innovation’ – Or Can We Do Better? (Part 4)

(Continued from yesterday…)

4. We cannot violate who we really are.
People can see who we are. We cannot hide our stripes. Oddly, the longest term ones present are the only people who have convinced themselves that something ‘innovative’ is going on. As old-timers, we can try so hard to reinvent ourselves, we nearly hypnotize ourselves into believing we no longer need deodorant, that we are now unique, we don’t stink like everyone else! Yet, the truth is the truth. Look in the mirror right now and say, “You need Right Guard! That’s the truth.”

If we do violate who we are, we simply look utterly foolish and like robots marching forward.

If you haven’t seen Steve Martin’s The Jerk lately, rent it, better yet, buy it and force yourself to watch it somewhat regularly. This classic comedy is a metaphor of innovation that is false. “I was born a poor black child…”

When you are the only “black child” who cannot clap in syncopation, something is up! The truth is you are actually Norwegian! The straight blonde hair was the first sign of the truth. The clapping impairment was another sign.

The God of heaven and Earth, the God who created all we see, dwells in each of us as the simple followers of Jesus. As I ponder this profound truth, my anticipation for seeing seminal ideas appear in my life rises greatly.

“God, we must hear from you or we are sunk!” Now let’s walk in expectancy.

‘Innovation’ – Or Can We Do Better? (Part 3)

(Continued from yesterday…)

3. Talk of innovation can easily become a derision to God.
When we over-talk about the power of innovation we are, wordsmithing aside, beginning to tread upon thin ice with God. We come very close to insulting God when we overly trust in our creativity. God is interested in receiving glory and credit for what is accomplished in his church as momentum occurs. His nature is to draw attention to himself. That is worship.

Over-dependence upon pseudo-creativity versus the God-inspired seminal factor looks like this:
When the focus begins to shift onto the style versus the content with our message, we have likely crossed the line of appropriateness.

If we are doing a series built loosely around the TV series “Heroes” (as thousands of churches have done in the past eighteen months) we need to ask:
“What is the ‘eye roll factor’ present here?” That is, how many are going to groan when they see the elements of the TV show we are inserting each week in this series?

At the end of the day ask, “How many had to choke down the corniness of what we tried to convey, even though we convinced ourselves that this was a ‘culture current’ metaphor…when the most culture-current people present were so embarrassed they stopped bringing their friends during this series? (This is a real example I am aware of that happened in several churches across the U.S. with series based upon that show)

(Continued tomorrow…)

‘Innovation’ – Or Can We Do Better? (Part 2)

(Continued from yesterday…)

A couple of thoughts to ponder:

1. Perhaps the word ‘Innovation’ is not what most of us aspire to in fact.
“Innovative” means “To take what is and improve upon it.” But in fact, is that all we aspire to do in our lives as we walk in this life, in the Spirit, in sync with God’s word? Not me.

Innovation is a great word for people who are operating on their own strength with the assumption that God is not going to show up.

In the landmark business book The Japan That Can Say No, author Shintaro Ishihara points out that the key to the Japanese business success is this word – ‘innovation.’ The classic Japanese success model, according to this Ishihara, is to take an original idea created elsewhere (Ford Motor Company), and simply improve upon it (Toyota Motor Company).

Innovation is wonderful when it comes to improving upon a car, but we are ultimately dealing with that which is everlasting – people. I’ve read somewhere in the scriptures that God is madly in love with people. He is highly interested in providing the wherewithal needed at every level for us to be effective in seeing his kingdom move strongly forward.

(Continued tomorrow…)

‘Innovation’ – Or Can We Do Better? (Part 1)

As we launch into the new year new ideas are naturally on the horizon.

It is also time to consider putting to bed some old ideas – er uh, make that, terms that are less than helpful to us.

I move that we take a break from using the term ‘Innovation’ for a while.

When we use words that cause others to stop, listen and ask,

“Uh, what do you mean by that?”

…often we are making progress in our communications.

‘Seminal’ is a great word that is similar to the “I” word, but it gives room for God to get the glory – as well it removes the focus upon the human element.

“That which is done or expressed that has never been put to words before…”

As we enter into the new year I move this:

Let’s make this the year of asking God for, and anticipating, “Seminal” thoughts!

To achieve effectiveness in our various leadership capacities we need God’s Spirit to deposit his original applications of everlasting truth in the mainline culture we are reaching – that culture that is evolving continually. Never in Church history has a generation of leaders more needed to be aware of the seminal heart of God than now!

There is a great increase in the chatter with people who are expressing the same sentiment these days about the word ‘innovation.’ Outreach Marketing, Inc……., the highly lucrative advertising business based in the San Diego area, has unilaterally stirred this term with their frequent uses of it their publications in recent years.

Ubercreative C.E.O. Scott Evans and his writing staff have promoted the “I” word over and over, even listing the “Most Innovative Churches in the U.S.”

(Could someone explain to me what distinguishes the 27th Most Innovative Church from, say the 24th Most Creative Church in the U.S.? I get confused easily these days…)

I am certain Outreach Marketing, Inc. has had all great intentions in their heart of hearts with their most recent promotion drive. Yet, backlashes are popping up on the radar screen with increasing frequency. This reactions are not occurring simply among extremist watchdogs on the blogging scene. In just the past week, a number of ‘Reader’s Digest’-ish types have asked me about this matter.

(Continued tomorrow…)