Culture Music

Sick Puppies – Maybe

When the generations prophets cry for change you have to ask yourself:

Am I a catalyst for the change they are calling for or am I the object the catalysts are fighting against?

Christian Living

Towards Simplicity

Photo by Steve Minor via Flickr (Creative Commons)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Simple Gifts – Elder Joseph Brackett, Shaker

This has hardly been our theme song for 2010. Yet, Kristen and I have made some serious moves towards simplicity this year. Ever since I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I’ve been fascinated by the concept that less is more in my life.

The Simple Things

  • Quantity time with the kids, individually. As the kids are getting older we are making sure to schedule time for mom and dad to spend big chunks of time with each of us 1-on-1.
  • Gardening. I can’t tell you how many deeply simple Biblical principles have been illuminated to us through our garden this year. For me, the biggest one has been– You have to prune daily, you have to weed regularly– Otherwise good things will take over your life and bad things will choke out your growth.
  • Staycation- I suppose not everyone lives in a vacation destination quite like we do. But there was something so beautiful about renting a house 45 minutes away and spending a week with family.
  • Financially sound – I was shocked when I looked at some graphs on the other day. I told Kristen, “We did a really good job this year. We’re ahead in every category and on target or ahead in every goal.” It’s amazing what can happen if you’ll just live within your means. In 2010, we were able to give or save 25.4% of our income.
  • Meaningful roadies- In November, I lamented a lot about being away from home 14 weeks in 2010. (27% of 2010) At the same time, most of those trips were really meaningful. And not all of that was away from family. (Including the mission trip with Kristen, probably the most valuable trips of our marriage.)
  • Friendship – It’s incredible to have a life full of friendships. (Or as a co-worker calls them, “Adam’s bromances and brarriages.”) While having a bunch of great friendships is huge to me… nothing has made me more excited than to see Kristen develop some deep friendships with a few women in our community group.
  • Real food – We’ve far exceeded our desire to buy/grow 25% of our food from organic sources in 2010. While it might not sound immediately like a step towards simplicity: Going to the farmers market (and even visiting the farm where our food comes from) has not only connected us to where our food comes from– we feel a lot better. There’s nothing finer than enjoying a salad or eating fruit that you’ve grown yourself.
  • Acting on convictions – Putting what you believe to action really is a step towards simplicity. That might not sink in at first, but remember that regrets and the conflict caused by sitting idly on your convictions creates stressful complexity. All year long I’ve asked myself, “Am I making the most of this opportunity? Am I acting on my convictions? Will I regret it if I don’t say that?”
  • Towards a small world – No doubt, I have many friendships all around the country and around the world. But taking the step to try to focus some of that energy onto the block we live has been rewarding. We’re looking to allocate more of our time/resources towards that in 2011.
  • Journalling – I’m headed into my seventh year of journalling my life online. This little discipline has transformed my life. It’s really interesting when I interact with people who are thinking about starting a blog. “When will I have the time? What will I say? Will people read it?” I come at it daily with the exact opposite thoughts. The time I spend journalling brings me life. What I write just comes out of my life. And I don’t care if anyone reads it.

It’s funny how simplicity is different for everyone. When I think of my life, filled with a calendar full of meetings, digital gadgets, hours online per day, on and on… I still consider it grounded in simplicity. Perhaps that makes me a digital simpleton?

I don’t have grandiose plans to drive this further in 2011. With baby #3 coming soon I think we’ll just be happy to hold on to the progress we’ve made in 2010. You know, keep it simple.

What steps towards simplicity are you taking? What are things you’d challenge me towards in 2011?

Social Action

10 Simple Ways to Change the World in 2011

You don’t have to be the President of the United States, Bill Gates, or Bono to change the world. Here are 10 simple things you can do to help make the planet a better place to live in 2011 and beyond.

  1. Become a mentor or tutor to an at-risk youth. Every community has students who need help. For just a couple hours per week you can make a huge difference.
  2. Shop local. Skip the big box retail stores/restaurants for local establishments. While you might not get the best prices or the widest selection, you are investing in the future of your community.
  3. Start a garden. Even if it is just a square foot garden on your apartments balcony. Everything you grow and eat makes a big difference.
  4. Loan some cash to a small business owner using Kiva. Starting at just $25, supporting small business owners in developing countries is literally giving freedom from oppression.
  5. Buy a share in a Community Supporter Agriculture farm. (CSA) Redirect some of your grocery bill directly to the farmer by buying a share. You’ll get farm fresh fruits and vegetables and you’ll help ensure that local farmers stay in business. Shocker: Our grocery bill actually went DOWN in 2010. CSA’s are in every state, find one here.
  6. Get to know your neighbors. This is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your neighborhood is a safe, friendly place to live and raise your family. Start with the basics– name, how long have the lived here, where did they grow up, what do they do for a living. Then sit back and be amazed.
  7. Pick a local board and attend their monthly meeting. Most people only go to city council, zoning board, or school board meetings when they are mad. Choose a board of locally elected officials and go to their monthly meeting, just to learn the issues facing your community. It’s amazing the voice you will gain just by showing up.
  8. Convert one week of vacation to a week of service. Naysayers call this a twisted form of tourism. That’s all they are– naysayers. If your heart is to serve, you can give a week of service in nearly any place around the world. I’ve learned from experience that this is the most rewarding/relaxing type of vacation available.
  9. Step down to allow someone else to step up. If you hold a position of leadership, maybe this is a good year to intentionally raise a new leader while you still stay involved. I think you’ll find that this is what it really means to be a leader.
  10. Support local middle school and high school sports. You don’t have to give money! Just show up and cheer for your local team.
hmm... thoughts

Open to Change?

My byline is: “Crazy enough to change the world.

Mutability. Change. Delta.

The concept of change is the fulcrum of the Gospel message.

Am I willing to look at myself in the mirror, accept who I am, (not) and commit to the hard work of change?

The Gospel message is about change. Changed hearts. Changed lives. Changed motivations. Changed intentions. Changed directions.

Without change– a life with Jesus becomes good information at best and good entertainment at worst.

Without change– the Gospel is devoid of value.

God changed the course of human history when He sent Jesus to die on a cross. He changed how he engaged humanity so you could change your life.

To anthropomorphize it, God changed in the hope that we would change.

Accepting Jesus is accepting that you need to change.

But I wonder how many people are actually open to change in their lives?

Am I open to change?

Are you?

Is change a part of your life? Or do you just talk about it, asking others to change, but you are too good for that?

Or are you afraid to appear weak, displaying a changed heart?

If my byline is “Crazy enough to change the world” that implies that I’m always on the lookout for people, organizations, groups who are willing to change.

Sadly, among Jesus followers, few seem open to change.

They refuse to accept who they can become, thus refuse to change.

Pride sets in, change becomes impossible, and we become “about the Gospel” without living into the Gospel.

Christian organizations would rather go out-of-business, accepting failure, than change.

Churches would rather reach a decreasing congregation in an increasing population than change.

This deeply saddens me.

Oh, that we might be a people changed by the Gospel.

Church Leadership

Leading Your Church to Reflect its Neighborhood

It’s been more than 40 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. quipped, “Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.

If we are honest with ourselves– churches are nearly as divided today as they were 40 years ago. We call it culture and we call it personal preference. But the truth of the matter is that we just don’t want to rock the boat. (We like the comfort, staff members like their paychecks.)

So we allow racism, sexism, and a lack of cultural diversity to run rampant in our congregations.

It’s time those of us called to lead, lead our churches into a new paradigm.

And it starts with a sober assessment of where our congregations are at.

Simple measurement tool

Make a written observation the demographics of your congregation this Sunday morning. (Age, marital status, socio-economic status, race, gender) Then compare what you observe at your church against what the data set of your churches zip code as provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

  • Does your congregation reflect its neighborhoods demographics?
  • Does your church staff reflect the demographics of the zip code?
  • If there is a disconnect, is your church leadership making serious, active efforts to close the divide?

Cutting to the chase: While most evangelical congregations don’t have white, middle class theology. They predominantly attract white, middle class congregations. And it’s scary how many church staffs are filled with white, middle class males. (Go ahead, look at the staff pages of 10 of your favorite churches.) That disconnect you observe should lead you to make changes!

Changing your behavior: If you are like me, a child of the 1980s, you were raised in a dogma of multiculturalism.

From kindergarten I was taught that all the cultures in my community have value, deserve equal rights, and should be given access to the same things I am given access to as a member of the dominant culture. That value may have been taught to me from a secular perspective, but I believe it also reflects a biblical perspective on how Christians are to live in society as well!

If you want to express that same value on Sunday morning you need to take some steps (maybe radical ones) towards that value.

In other words– Maybe you need to change churches? Maybe you need to stop funding something that doesn’t reflect your values and start funding a congregation that does? Maybe you need to lead the way and stop waiting for church leadership to lead you?

Personal testimony– This is what I’ve done. For the past 2+ years my family has been a part of a congregation that works hard to reflect its neighborhood. At times, it is simply beautiful and at other times it is wholly awkward. But it’s been a radical transformation for my walk with Jesus. So, know that I’m not just pushing an idealism, I’m encouraging you to participate in something that I’m finding tremendous joy in.

If you are a church leader who is taking a serious look at bridging the divide between the Sunday morning demographic you have today and the one you’d like to see in 12 months, may I suggest some action steps?

5 Radical Steps Towards Becoming a Congregation which Reflects its Neighborhood

  1. Hire staff members that reflect the demographics of your zip code. (Race, gender, marital status, age)
  2. Require all paid staff, from the janitor to the senior pastor, to live within the zip code of your congregation. (Give them a few months to move, make it financially possible, remove staff members who won’t move within 12 months.) Take it a step further by requiring all board officers to do the same.
  3. If you live outside of the neighborhood, lead the way by moving into the community your church is trying to reach. Don’t contribute to the disconnect– lead the way!
  4. Get involved in neighborhood issues. Lead the way on issues of justice, advocate for the poor, let your congregation be a voice in the community. (Here’s 10 suggestions for your church to be good news to the neighborhood)
  5. Adopt a local public school. The local schools are the access point to the people your church is called to reach. Get involved, not as an agent of adversary, but as a community partner. (Here’s 10 suggestions for your church to be good news to the local schools)

Is this a magic growth formula? Of course not. But as you take these steps you will earn the trust of a community who has learned to ignore you. When you care about what they care about and when you reflect who they are, you will be amazed at the social currency this will earn your congregation.

I recognize that these steps may seem extreme. (And I’m certain someone will tell me that firing staff for this is unbiblical) But that’s the nature of leadership, isn’t it? Sometimes God asks you to push past what you are comfortable with or what feels right to do what is right. Remember the rich young man in Matthew 19? He asked Jesus how he might enter the Kingdom of God, but he left disappointed because the cost was too high.

The reality is that if those in leadership don’t take radical positions so that their actions reflect their theology, the church will never change.

We simply cannot survive as a viable faith if we continue to act as agents of discrimination on Sunday morning. The church cannot be the most segregated place in our culture. It is time that the church take a good, hard look at who they are in their community and make some radical changes.

It’ll never get any easier or cheaper to do so than it is today.

Christian Living

Change my heart, first

I’m a pain in the neck to be around.

When I’m “on” I have the ability to poke holes in everything. I always see things from another point of view. I can find fault in any system, organization, strategy, person, nation… darn near anything.

My personality is a double-edged sword. Sometimes I see things so clearly and I think, “If things are going to change I need to change THAT.” That’s the positive side of my personality. The negative side is that I am slow to look at myself and say, “Before I can point out the speck in that persons eye, I need to deal with the plank in my own.Matthew 7:3

So that’s my prayer. When I am anxious for change I need to pause and ask God, “Change my heart, first.

Church Leadership

What motivates people?

Some stuff to chew on, right? How does this correlate to church leadership?

We spend a lot of time talking about ownership. But I don’t hear a lot of talk about autonomy.

Ultimately, church is just a closed system.

Books hmm... thoughts illustrations

Stop reading books!

No seriously.

Books are great. Reading is fundamental. I’m all about practical resources and history and stories that carry you away to far away lands.

But lets not get to the point where we stop thinking creatively about resourcing ourselves. Or acting in a way worthy of a historian writing about us. Or living a life that is a fantastic story which carries us to far away lands.

You don’t change the world by sitting on a couch and reading a book. Change is an action.

Don’t use books as a way to wuss out.

Think for yourself.

Act for yourself.

You can create.

Put the books down and get outside– live a story-worthy life.

Inspiration is one thing. Inaction is unforgiveable.


Best of 2004

Note: I’m on vacation this week. My family has a rule for daddy– It’s not a vacation if daddy brings a computer. Each day this week I’m highlighting my favorite post from the archives. These are oldies but goodies.

Yes, I am Wasting My Life

August 31st 2004

Again this month we are short financially. Grad school came calling. Preschool came calling. Uncle Sam gets his cut in a few days. A combination of expected and unexpected expenses draws a little more money from savings to checking in a constant game of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Life’s expenses are again expensive. Each time this happens to me I start to reminisce about what life could have been like for Kristen and Megan and Paul. Had we stayed on the path of corporate success in Chicago we wouldn’t have this to worry about. The bills always got paid in full. There was always a little extra at the end of the month. We could always surprise someone with a special gift. Vacation? No problem. New tires? How about the best? New clothes? Why not. Yet in the same moments I recall the emptiness I had as I laid in bed at night, longing for my life to be wasted for something more important than getting richer… or more precisely, helping rich people get richer.

Read the rest

It’s 2010. I am still here. I am still wasting my life. And I still love every minute of it.

Church Leadership

Affluence, Influence, and Activism

Photo by lewishamdreamer via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The byline of this site is: Crazy enough to change the world. On Twitter I alter this slightly, my bio line says, “The sane need not apply for the position of world changer.”

Both of those boil down to a basic question in my life.

How do I maximize whatever leverage I can acquire to help Christians be more Christ-like?

Within the church there seems to be two primary ways to gain leverage.

  1. Affluence. The American church is pretty simple to manipulate. It pains me to say it but we all know it to be true. We even come up with cute little phrases to put in books affirming it. “An unfunded vision is just a dream.” Affluence is the fastest way to exude leverage on a Christian organization for change. There are a lot of Christian leaders who would balk at that– I don’t care, you know it’s ultimately true. If you are a leader of a Christian church or organization in America, budget is the fourth member of the Trinity. Budget is the silent elder. Budget is the ultimate accountability partner. We refuse to learn how to do ministry for free, so budget is power. So if you want to exude some leverage in any Christian organization, write a big check. Heck, just waving a big check is generally good enough.
  2. Influence. This is the great hope of all of us not born into money or lucky enough to buy Apple stock at $27. Many of the great voices in the American church today were not born into it. They acquired leverage through wise use of talents. (Either gifted by the Holy Spirit or just flat out gifted) These written/oral communicators are, in many ways, prophets to the church. In many ways, the local church leader is looking at these national church communicators and emulating them. People study their speaking mannerisms. People dress like them. People flock to hear them speak. People buy their books. And when a leader gets really powerful people model their churches after these prophets.

An observation

There are too many in category two trying to leverage their influence to affluence.

There are not enough leveraging their influence to actualized change.

Just because affluence is the fastest way to change any Christian organization– this doesn’t make it right. And, as we’ve seen over the last 50 years, leveraging affluence to change the church doesn’t make the church more Christ-like. It seems to just make the church more church-centric and less community-centric.

Where are the activists?

On Saturday, I watched a documentary about Paul Watson. Where is that guy in the church? The dude took a bullet for a freaking whale!

On Sunday, my pastor talked about Nelson Mandela. Where is that guy in the church? 26 years in prison for his cause and came out hating no one.

Where are the Martin Luther King, Jr’s? Where are the Mahatma Ghandis? Where are the César Chavez’s?

Why is there no one in the American church willing to take a stand and leverage their influence for real change?

There are a lot of strong opinions. But no one seeks to offend even when the offense is offensive. There are a lot of great ideas, but none of the people espousing those ideas are willing to spend the night in jail. There are a lot of offenses in the American church, but no one is wearing a bullet proof vest to preach on Sunday morning because we are offending people with truth to the point where we think someone might take a shot at us.

Why is that?

As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the solution. We believe that Jesus didn’t just come to save us, we believe we have been placed here on this planet to make things better.

Do you want to know who is worth following? Find a man or woman who is calling Christians to love their neighbors like Jesus did, love justice like Jesus did, and leverage their influence for big/little things that matter.

Follow those people.

God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. Ephesians 2:10 The Message