Monday, September 29, 2008

Social Economy executives like to occupy the moral high ground

There are some humbling insights here for those in church leadership-

Due to the lack of resources, Social Economy executives tended not to benefit from the scope or extent of professional development in general management as their counterparts in the private business sector might. Consequently they have potentially lower general management capability and knowledge. There may be a number of consequences of this situation. Defensive mechanisms can develop to protect their position. Self-interest and ego may lead to an inflated view of that position or individual worth. When self interest as vested self interest takes over, some form of egoism occurs.

For-profit executives who haven’t spent much time in the sector might understate the full complexity of the challenges faced by Social Economy executives and their organisations. This naivety might create a false sense of confidence, exacerbating the gap between the for-profit and Social Economy executive in their communications.

But at the same time, due to the altruistic nature of their work, Social Economy executives like to occupy the moral high ground. As a cohort they also tend to be better educated (higher rate of higher university degrees) than their corporate peers. Thus, “crossed communication” can occur where both parties simultaneously adopt a superior, or “parent”, tone. The communication is not sustainable and breaks down in time. Contrary and Congruent Views of Leadership and Management in the Australian Social Economy. pg 93
So the challenge is a co-operative partnership that values each others contribution and deals with the old enemy pride.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Do you have enough courage?

As a third culture kid this kind of thinking has a deep resonance.

The courage to break his cultural and familial ties and abandon the gods of his ancestors out of allegiance to a God of all families and all cultures was the original Abrahamic revolution. In the same way Christians ‘depart’ from their original culture. Christians can never be first of all Asians or Americans, Russians or Tutsis, and then Christians. Christians take a distance from the gods of their own culture because they give the ultimate allegiance to the God of all cultures and his promised future. But [now in Christ] departure is no longer a spatial category; it takes place within the cultural space one inhabits. It involves neither a modern attempt to build a new heaven out of the world nor a postmodern restlessness that fears to arrive anywhere. When they respond to the call of the gospel they put one foot outside their culture while the other remains firmly planted in it. Christian distance is not flight from one’s original culture, but a new way of living within it because of the new vision of peace and joy in Christ. — Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace
Three observations:
  • For those with no particular "cultural home" the idea of a new way of living within culture(s) (Christs way) is a wonderful source of comfort and a very useful in thinking through issues of identy formation and personhood.
  • The quote links with the thinking I have been doing around our engagment with the world around us.
  • It takes courage to live like this. Prehaps we should talk more about the courage needed. Do you have enough courage? I hope your answer is no.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Leaders Really Do

Management is about coping with complexity.

Leadership is about coping with change.

Managers promote stability while leaders press for change, and only organizations that embrace both sides of that contradiction can thrive in turbulent times. LEADERSHIP IS DIFFERENT from management, but not for the reasons most people think. Leadership isn't mystical and mysterious. It has nothing to do with having "charisma" or other exotic personality traits. It is not the province of a chosen few. Nor is leadership necessarily better than management or a replacement for it. Rather, leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Each has its own function and characteristic activities.

...Good management brings a degree of order and consistency to key dimensions like the quality and profitability of products. Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change...

...These two different functions-coping with complexity and coping with change-shape the characteristic activities of management and leadership.

Leaders : They don't make plans; they don't solve problems; they don't even organize people. What leaders really do is prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it.

By John P. Kotter December 2001 HBR

Ok so that's not all you could say but I like what it does say. Any Comments?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Free- Preaching Christ in a postmodern world

Just found this amazing series on preaching Edmund Clowney and Tim Keller-35 sessions . You have to have iTunes to download but it is free!!

The lectures come from the Reformed Theological Seminary which has many of it's lectures free online!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Christians in society –a more nuanced response needed

We had the privilege of meeting with Andrew Cameron at our recent staff retreat. One of the things I am particularly keen to do is to help us think through our engagement of the world around us-particularly as we launch into Connect 09. My concern is that as evangelicals we seem to have a limited range of responses to the world around us with both an under-realised eschatology and an over-realised eschatology playing significant roles. As we talked Andrew suggested some categories that would be worth exploring (amongst others). Christians are called to (bible references mine):

With these categories in mind I think the responses that we make to our world will be far more nuanced and require thoughtful and wise engagement with the issues at hand. Not all will apply every time.

Three questions-
  1. Can you think of other categories?
  2. What might be examples of each?
  3. How would you put this into a sermon series?

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Complexity of Leading Churches

One of my former lecturers has been involved in writing the following report:

Contrary and Congruent Views of Leadership and Management in the Australian Social Economy.

For those who are overseeing a church it has good insights and is well worth the read even if it is not all relevant. I thought I would post some of the things that stood out-mainly because I agree with them.

Managing an organisation or program in the Social Economy is more difficult than in the for-profit sector because:

1. There are more issues / variables to be managed;
2. Each of the issues has the same or greater uncertainty; and
3. The uncertainty extends over longer timeframes.

Take revenue as an example. For-profit organisations generate cash from the sale of products and services, and the utilisation of debt and equity. Organisations in the Social Economy have these options available to them, but in addition may also utilise grants from philanthropic organisations, donations from the public, government funding as well as fundraising events and activities.

Managing an organisation’s human resources is also more difficult. Not only do non-profit organisations need to manage all the same technical and psychological issues that forprofit organisations must, but they have to do so while paying up to 30% less in salary. The task of managing volunteers creates added pressure and complexity.Pg 26
This may sound like the social sector blowing it's own trumpet but I do think there is truth in the observation. Do you agree?

Security = Comfort?

I keep coming back to this observation:

The role of a democratic leader is to insure that the "bad" does not inflict the mass population who generally seek only to lead quiet, comfortable and prosperous lives.

John Howard and the Art of Democratic Leadership, Gregory Melleuish-Quadrant July-August 2006

For me it sums up some of my frustration with the Christianity of middle class suburbia. As this observation suggests Australians aspire to live secure lives, lives that are focused on being risk adverse, materially comfortable and contained. As a Christian living in middle class suburbia I regularly feel the tug and embrace of this seduction.

My wresting with this issue is not that I don’t want security or enjoy good things it's that settling for this kind of security is like settling for a mud pie when a pecan pie with vanilla ice cream is on offer (lemon meringue comes close -with apologies to C.S Lewis) .

1 Peter 2:9-12 puts it like this

9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, ......10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

That's true security! Take a moment to feel its warm embrace.

The purpose:

9 ..that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

There appears to be two implications of true security.

1. True security leads to the praise of God (Psalm 61 has the same flow) Away from our self focus and into the presence of God. The more security the more praise?

2. If we accept John Dickson’s argument this praise is also an “act of announcing to the world the good news of the Gospel”. True security leads us to take more “risks”. I take it this is what is implied in the next few verses.

11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12

So if our security is found in God’s mercy it leads to a kind of praise which I think puts us (in the terms of this world) at greater risk. It seems at odds with leading quiet, comfortable and prosperous lives. When I think of it like that I am always amazed that I find mud pies so attractive.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Do you feel trapped? 2 Solutions

Solution 1:

"Only one who is guided by the moral self is truly free. The imperatives of the moral self are given to us not by our conditioning, nor by any outside agency, nor by the state or God or philosophy; they are given to us by our own inner nature. It is thus only by acting according to the lessons of the moral self that we can achieve autonomy...

...Inner freedom, then, means allowing oneself to be guided by the moral self.Clive Hamilton's The Freedom Paradox 2008 pg 219

Solution 2:

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8: 34-36

Jesus says freedom is about belonging to his family-so if you are feeling trapped the answer is to sink deeper into his family-not morality:

Monday, September 08, 2008

Preaching- more conflict is needed

I had the great privilege of spending some time with Peter Jensen last week. Our small group of Senior Ministers talked about many things including sermons. One thing Peter said was that he thought sermons often did not have enough drama in them. He went on to say that one thing essential to drama is conflict. So find the conflict. For example, the texts we deal with often have conflict in them, notice and use this tension in sermons.

When it comes to the implications of the text (he said application was over rated) show how implications conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil. Some of this seems to resonate with what Tullian Tchividjian says about Tim Keller’s preaching.

To be a great preacher, one needs to be tri-perspectival in their exegesis. That is, they need to be committed to the exegesis of the Bible, the exegesis of our culture, and the exegesis of the human heart. Some preachers claim that if you exegete the Bible properly, you don't need to bother yourself with the exegesis of our culture or the human heart. The problem with this view, however, is that the Bible itself exhorts us to apply Biblical norms to both our lives and to our world.

So exegete and show the conflict.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Freedom Paradox

I have just been reading (bits of) Clive Hamilton's The Freedom Paradox 2008 (see the online link for a lecture which is also worth listening to) where he observes that many think freedom is about having the opportunity to "author our own lives", but in fact this has produced devastating results:
The very openness of modern life-the demand for independence that has left us with the freedom and the obligation to ‘author’ our own lives-entails forms of risk to which we were previously immune. For if we must take responsibility for our own lives we are confronted daily with the possibility that we will take the wrong path: what was once in the hands of the gods, the landlord and the boss is now a personal gamble. More choice is accompanied by more stress and making mistakes and ending up a ‘loser’; more money means more anxiety about our wealth; more personal freedom imparts more insecurity in our relationships; and our longer life spans still do not afford enough time to achieve all the goals we set for ourselves. The spectre of personal failure haunts us at every turn.
In contrast, for the Christan, true freedom is found in the humility of letting God be the author of our lives.
29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30
Any comments?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Help me out -a hunch about Romans 8:29

This weekend I am preaching on Romans 8:28-38, it’s context is freedom from condemnation and the reality of suffering.

In my preparation I always ask; What in the text may be difficult for a non -believer or a new Christian to accept? Then if I was to address this what would I need to acknowledge and what angle would I take to deal with this 'defeater belief''? My aim is to help Christians think through the issue and address the concerns of others.

My hunch with Romans 8:29 is that the more affluent and western you are the more you believe you are in control and the more sceptical you are of ultimate claims/authority. The idea that God is in control and will direct the world to His purposes is extremely confronting and is a 'defeater belief'.

So acknowledge the power that affluence gives you but point out that in regards to ultimate questions of control we are all in the same boat and that it is a delusion to suggest otherwise.

Then consider the other option: What if the God didn’t “horizon beforehand” (foreknow) the people he wanted to call people to himself and it was totally our choice? That would make some people better than others more intelligent more gifted/educated at hearing God ETC (also a temptation of the affluent)–the risk -loss of Grace alone.

I think it comes down to a matter of reasonable trust-is their evidence that God cares for this world and loves it –yes in the death of his son 8:31-37 do we trust God?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Preaching Notes

I am always interested in how people go about their preaching. Check this out - Josh Harris has asked some big name preachers for their preaching notes-the results are are very interesting. In most cases only the preparer would have any chance of preaching from them!