"Often times people will tweak the existing model and think that this makes them radical."

Shannon Callan


Dating Advice to Gorillas and Poodles

One of the pressing issues facing the church today is the lack of unity. (OK so its been an issue for 2,000 years!) And one of the difficulties in working towards unity is the inherent pain that is caused when those who have power and privilege in the church try to 'help' those churches who lack power and privilege.  In particular, I am thinking of large, wealthy, middle/upper-class suburban churches that feel a calling to 'help the poor,' whether that is the poor in the urban slum nearby, or the third-world nation across the water.

A friend and I had a conversation where we compared that to a dating relationship between a gorilla and a poodle. The reality is that, no matter how much of a gentleman the gorilla is, if the gorilla is in charge, the poodle isn't going to fare very well. It is simply inherent in the power dynamic between the two.

So here is some advice to those of us in the church who are poodles dating gorillas, or vice-versa.

To the poodle:

1) God has brought the gorilla into your life (He makes poodles and gorillas for a reason and wants them to live together in harmony), submit to God in this and you will discover the strength of the gorilla at work on your behalf.

2) Don't be afraid to tell the gorilla when it hurts you. Feel free to call sin, "sin." But recognize that there IS a difference between intentional and unintentional harm.

3) Don't be afraid to take the lead with the gorilla. You need to teach the gorilla a different way of doing ministry.

4) You don't get to tell the gorilla to go away, or that it has nothing to offer. You need what the gorilla has to offer (above and beyond its sheer size and strength), and the gorilla has things to teach YOU about doing ministry.

To the gorilla:

1) You are not God's gift to the poodle. This is your greatest problem, you confuse your size and power with godliness, faithfulness, and effectiveness in the Kingdom. Repent.

2) Show up and help the poodle, but let the poodle tell you what help it needs! Be patient, poodles aren't used to polite gorillas, and have a history of being either ignored, patronized, or brutalized by gorillas. Be patient! Let the poodle take the lead. Offer suggestions, but ultimately let the poodle be the boss, and be patient. Remember, there IS a difference between hurting the poodle on accident and doing it on purpose, but if you are the poodle they both hurt exactly the same!

3) Show up to learn. Don't presume you know how to live like a poodle just because you are a gorilla. The poodles lack of size and strength has taught it to rely on God in ways you will never know. The poodle has a perspective that you cannot have because of your own perspective. Learn from the poodle.

4) Keep showing up and keep making the resources you do have available to the poodle. Offer your insight, your organization, your expertise, your strength, your size. Don't go away, and don't return to a lifestyle of ignoring the poodle, even if the poodle bites you! Remember, the poodle is biting you because you are hurting it! Keep offering your services, but don't forget point #2!!!

To both the gorilla and the poodle:

1) God made you both. That means you are of equal value. Each of you is necessary, which means you are both important in and of yourself AND you both need the other!

2) Be yourself. Don't try to be each other.

3) Love each other. It is a command AND it is wisdom.


Generosity and Ownership

Nothing that you have not given away will ever truly be yours.

C. S. Lewis


Jericho Road in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Health Clinic


Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

C. S. Lewis


Vision, Passion, Discipline, Risk

James Ryle gave this talk at the very first men's retreat I ever went to.




The after school program from our church wrote, filmed, and produced this:

The Millennial Generation: a Rock in the Path

In 1 Corinthians 1:23 St Paul refers to Jesus as a 'stumbling block.'   A stone that is in the way.  Something to trip over.  Something to prevent you from your headlong pursuit of your own way.  Something to impede your progress.

Not exactly flattering terms for our Savior.

The American Church is facing an interesting problem.  It's dying.  In short, the younger generation wants nothing to do with it.  This is true of those raised in church, and its true of those raised outside of it.   The church is growing largely irrelevant to the culture of America.   Some of us are seeing this trend and growing morose and resigned to our impending doom, others are growing more shrill and frenzied in an attempt to forestall it.   I suggest the radical middle; a different way of doing and being church that actually makes sense to the next generation.  In short, I suggest that we listen to those people who have rejected us, and we learn from them.  I think they have a lot to teach us about how to live in the Kingdom of God.

In fact, what I would say about the 'Millennial Generation,' (specifically those raised in the church) is that it would be most helpful to think of them as 'third culture' people.  For example, Ara was raised in a home that was culturally and linguistically Greek, but went out into a world that was culturally and linguistically American.   This led her to become increasingly adept at navigating both cultures, while becoming increasingly uncomfortable in both, and ultimately led to a crisis of identity.  Not knowing who she was, hating one or both cultures, and even rejecting one or both cultures. Eventually, instead of trying to be Greek, or American, Ara figured out how to be Ara.

I observe that there is a group of people in the church (but probably not in fellowship) going through the same kind of struggle.  The difference being, they don't have the convenient cultural markers of language, food, etc. to distinguish between the two cultures they are navigating.  In short, very few people understand that this is a cross-cultural situation, including the people going through it.

Many are familiar with the conversations around the 'emerging church' and 'post-modern cultural shifts.'  This is, essentially, all I am describing.  The church and the christian home are one culture, the rest of society is another.  The Millennials are learning to navigate both cultures, but have a hard time articulating the disconnect between the two worlds.

Indeed the church doesn't see it either.  It is too simple to dismiss as 'worldliness.'  After all, the church isn't supposed to live the way the world does!  But that isn't what I am describing here.  If American culture truly is shifting into postmodernity right before our very eyes, then this situation is fundamentally not about rejecting worldliness in the church, but rather it is about learning how to be missionally sensitive to our culture.  We would find it strange if Congolese missionaries came to America and refused to worship in English because they didn't want to let the world into their church.

So, what are we talking about here?  What is this difference in culture?

There are many, but one of the key cultural markers of the Millennial Generation is the priority that is placed on the perception of authenticity.  (Emphasis on perception!)  The more slick the production, the more off-putting it is.  (Of course, advertisers are aware of this, and have long since learned to take advantage of this by simply changing their production techniques… but that is another story.)  When someone approaches a Millennial in an over-priced suit, with well-groomed mannerisms, a gleaming smile, and a perfect sales pitch, it doesn't matter if the product is a cheap gym membership, a great financial opportunity, or spiritual bliss, the Millennial feels for his/her wallet and slowly backs away...

"You can't trust a man with perfect teeth."  This is something that makes great sense to Millennials who prefer a matte finish to a high gloss (metaphorically speaking).

But who can blame them, they are inundated with sales-pitches and advertising slogans and they can smell an ulterior motive coming a mile away.  This means that many of the tools the church learned in the last 50 years are actually repulsive to people in their 20's not because of their content, but simply because of the glossy sheen.

It would be easy to discount the Millennials.   They won't just 'get on board' and 'get with the program.'  Indeed, they have become for us 'something to trip over, something to impede our progress.'

I would suggest, however, that they actually have quite a lot to offer us in our mission to reach the culture around us with the Good News that Jesus is King.


Mature Leaders Embody Love

This is from a friend of mine:

Mature Leaders are patient:
They don’t give up quickly.

Mature Leaders are kind:
They understand the power and value of gentleness, and the healing work of a soft word spoken in season.

Mature Leaders do not envy:
They rejoice as they see others grow and develop within the organization.

Mature Leaders do not boast:
They aren’t quick to share their own accomplishments but would rather see others receive credit they deserve.

Mature Leaders are not proud:
They are not insistent on their own way but are diligent about gathering the perspective of others.

Mature Leaders do not dishonor others:
They do not secretly point out the shortcoming of others, but consider how the gifts they posses can compliment and compensate for others.

Mature Leaders are not self-seeking:
They are thinking about how to serve their co-laborers.

Mature Leaders are not easily angered:
They do not quickly lose their temper, but are careful and guarded with their words, understanding that a single word misspoken can do more damage to an organization – or to a staff worker - than can years of service.

Mature Leaders keep no record of wrongs:
They are not one who will list out the mistakes of the past but instead have released them and forgiven them for their sake and for the sake of the work of the body.

Mature Leaders do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth:
They are grieved when there are failed relationships.

Mature Leaders always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere:
This is packed full of meaning – rather than exposing faults of other staff, they actively engage in protecting their reputation, their role, and their value within the organization.

Mature Leaders never fail:
They exhibit all of the above day after day.