Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Once Was Lost

I was recently loaned Don Everts and Doug Schaupp's book, I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus, (IVP, 2008).

Though I am just in the process of becoming familiar with the book, I like what I see already. First, it starts with the audience. Perfect for the CoJourner paradigm (think, Explorer) and much preferable for our audience, as well!

Second, they emphasis the "path" to faith. How much more CoJourner-esque can you get. "Everyone is on a spiritual journey".

But the really valuable contribution is "the five thresholds" that mark similar "seasons of growth" or stages on the path to Jesus. Here is the essence:
  1. The move from distrust to trust.
  2. The move from complacent to curious.
  3. The move from being closed to change to being open to change.
  4. The move from meandering to seeking.
  5. The move across the threshold of the kingdom itself.
Note the progression. Understanding the path helps create true empathy and understanding.

Can you see your own path to Christ through these "thresholds"?

I identify with 2-5.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Explorer's Invitation

If you are familiar with the CoJourner paradigm, you know the first role in conversational witness is that of the Explorer. Your ability to help someone progress in their spiritual journey will be tied to your understanding of who they are, where they are and what they have experienced.

So what's the key to effective exploring? Asking questions and listening.

The primary questions (phrased in different ways in different settings) are really variations of a simple invitation, "Tell me about yourself."
  • Did you have any church or religious background growing up? How was that for you?
  • What have you tried in your spiritual life or journey?
  • Where are you at now spiritually?
  • What do you wish were true for you spiritually?
  • Etc.
The key is empathy - listening to genuinely understand. Exploring is taking a genuine interest in the other person and their spiritual experience. Its not just finding a transition to a different subject. You will discover that good exploring will open the door to a deeper relationship and often lead to a conversation about your story and the gospel.

Keep sharpening your skills as a CoJourner with others in spiritual journey.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Radical: Whose Reading it?

Just posted a blog ("Radical: Whose Reading It?") on the newly deployed CruPress Green. I would copy and paste it here, but hey, its just a click away. Plus, you will get to explore all the goodies at CruPress Green, at which new goodies are being added each week.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Characteristics of a Movement - Tim Keller

Interesting and short piece by Tim Keller on Four Characteristics of a Movement Vs an Institution over at Catalystspace.

While the body of the article is solid, but not particularly surprising, the conclusion is what caused me to pause and reflect:
...part of what makes a movement dynamic is a unified vision, and that always requires some codification and control. As time goes on, to maintain the main engine of movement-dynamics - a unified vision - a ministry must adopt some of the aspects of institutions. A strong movement, then, occupies the difficult space between being a free-wheeling organism and a disciplined organization. A movement that refuses to take on some organizational characteristics - authority, tradition, unity of belief, and quality control - will fragment and dissipate. A movement that does not also resist the inevitable tendency toward complete institutionalization will lose its vitality and effectiveness as well. The job of the movement leader is to steer the ship safely between these two opposite perils (emphasis mine).
I have felt that tension many times!

(Thanks to co-worker, co-leader, Holly, for bringing this article to our attention!)

Sage Advice on Using Research

I like research, especially when it done by someone else. This is not because I am lazy (though that could be discussed among friends.) It is because I know my strengths—my training, experience and expertise—and high-level statistical social research isn't included. Let’s say I have a BA in Speech Communication and a Masters in Divinity. ‘Nuff said.

I also like all I’ve read by Christian Smith. He is what I am not (a sociologist) and does what I don’t (high-level statistical studies on our audience, particularly youth and emerging adults.) But today I am reflecting, not on his research, per se, but on his sage advice to us who rely on other’s people’s research and ideas. These excerpts are taken from a lecture he gave at Princeton in 2005, following the publication of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Ponder these excerpts:
To begin, we suggest that faith communities would do well to stop accepting and promulgating what may be simplistic generalizations about American youth that originated from various popular book authors, substandard research studies, journalistic coverage of youth, common stereotypes about teens, and so on.
Note the key phrase: "simplistic generalizations"!
We have observed a noticeable tendency when it comes to youth—including among youth ministry workers—to overgeneralize, overstate issues, frame situations in alarmist or fear-based terms, and latch onto simplistic answers to alleged problems. But the fact is that the lives, including the religious lives, of American youth are diverse and complicated.
Four sins (Am I guilty?) or tendencies:
  • To overgeneralize
  • To overstate issues
  • To frame situations in alarmist or fear-based terms
  • To latch onto simplistic answers to alleged problems
Why these are wrong? Because “the lives, including the religious lives, of American youth are diverse and complicated.” (You can say that again. Oh, I think I just did.)
Thus, religious communities may do well to learn to be more discerning, more skeptical of alarmist claims, less captivated by trendy popular books, and more perceptive about the diversity and complexity of the experience and situation of U.S. teenagers. We suspect that they would likely then be more effective in planning programs, prioritizing initiatives, and working with teens in ways more true to their own traditions and identities and more effective over the long run.
So what we need to be is...
  • More discerning
  • More skeptical of alarmist claims
  • Less captivated by trendy popual books
  • More perceptive about the diversity and complexity of the experience and situation
What outcome should we expect? We would no doubt be “more effective in planning…, prioritizing…, and working…more true… and effective over the long run.”

Nice lecture from the esteemed professor of Sociology. Wonder if we have to know this for the final?