Thursday, October 18, 2007

Conflict = Intimacy

I listened to Nancy Ortberg at the Catalyst Labs in Atlanta a few weeks ago. Her workshop was titled "Authentic Leadership" and was good, but one sentence became defining for me this past week. "Conflict is the only way to intimacy." I was intrigued by it at the time, but it has come to embody so much of what we have been through for nine years.
I am not drawn to categorical statements like this one. I tend to see things in shades of gray rather than black and white. "Conflict can't be the only way to intimacy," I thought, there must be some other paths. There may be, but we experienced the power of conflict in a leadership meeting last week and it did bring us to the place of intimacy. And there are other applications as well.
The first and most obvious reality here is that the determinate conflict of the cross produced the ultimate opportunity for intimacy for the entire human race- any who will respond. The battle raged in the twisted and bloodied body of the Savior and broke a course for us to enjoy the real and awesome, intimate and personal presence of the Father.
Likewise, a birthing mother emerges from the grueling battle to tenderly embrace the little one in the epitomic act of intimacy. Without her struggle there would be stillbirth. Her conflict forces life out of her and into the child. We pray for her in the struggle, and celebrate with her in motherhood.
I am testing this truth in other places too. As I enter the conflict of my 50th winter, with all it's winds and bitterness, I do so anticipating the tender quiet walks in the warming spring air that will inevitably be possible on the other side. The conflict helps me appreciate the peace and growth that will surely come.
Our church is located in an old coal mining culture that has made an art out of conflict. Our church family has been through some major battles in the past 25 years, and some casualties have fallen. Having weathered some conflicts here myself in the past nine years I have wondered if anything good can ever come from the splits and quarrels that have sometimes divided us. Now I have some hope that we can transition into a culture of peace and close realtionship, modeled by our leadership, if we will learn to allow the conflict to create intimacy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Disturb me Lord

Craig Groeschel of made reference to an old prayer by Sir Francis Drake while speaking at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta last week. It's good...

Disturb me, Lord, when my dreams come true, only because I dreamed too small.

Disturb me when I arrive safely, only because I sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb me when the things I have gained cause me to lose my thirst for more of You.

Disturb me when I have acquired success, only to lose my desire for excellence.

Disturb me when I give up too soon and settle too far short of the goals You have set for my life.

Sir Francis Drake

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Catalyst Labs stimulate and challenge

The annual Catalyst Conference here in Atlanta is always preceded by what are called Catalyst Labs. These are workshops with amazing speakers (last year I got to meet Eugene Peterson among others) and I find it more helpful and exciting than the arena event which attracts 11,000 people. Here is a bit of my experience. Click here for Catalyst site

First of all Catalyst Lab speakers included Mark Batterson, Chris Seay, Matt Chandler (he was great), David Batstone, Leonard Sweet, Ron Martoia, Jud Wilhite, Nancy Ortberg, Reggie McNeal, Tim Elmore, Brad Powell, Ed Stetzer, Gabe Lyons, Rick McKinley, Shane Claiborne and many more.

I am always alone when I come here so it can be hard because I am a social creature. I long for discussion and fellowship but have to be satisfied with information and inspiration. Fortunately, as we were waiting to enter the venue for the evening session on Wednesday I asked the man next to me where he was from. "Newfoundland" he said. I was thrilled because we have a lady in our church from Newfoundland. But it got better because he was from the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland, serving as their Secretary/Treasurer. Turns out he had no transportation to and from his hotel, so I had a spirit-filled buddy for the next two days!

I love this conference because of the diversity, not just in subject matter, but also in terms of attendees. There is also a sense of expectancy and excellence that I rarely find elsewhere. A man named Reggie Joiner always opens with a Pre-Lab session, and he is very creative. He shared is views on ministry and used ten words to characterize the transitions we need to make in the coming years.
  • From focus on Students to focus on Leaders. We need to begin to see those who sit in our classes as potential leaders being trained for ministry instead of mere pupils being filled with our great wisdom.
  • From Content to Experience. It's the difference between a classroom and an apprenticeship. We must flesh things out and show how the scripture works in the real world.
  • From Production to Relationship. People are more important than the show we perform each week.
  • From Age-focused to Family-focused. We must stop dividing families during the church ministry time and give parents tools to share their faith with their most important mission field- their children.
  • From Growth to Service. We must mobilize to serve a broken world and leave the growth to God.
    Reggie Joiner is head of RETHINK, and is worth listening to.

I love Leonard Sweet's brilliance. He is a futurist and is always thinking in terms of what is next. His job seems to be to prepare and warn the church so we can be more effective and not miss the waves of change that come like continuous ripples, faster and faster it seems. He explained how the classic bell curve with it's large middle and diminished ends has been replaced by the "well curve" with almost no middle and large ends. We see it in economics (the diminishing "middle class"), politics becoming polarized, and even in the church where we have mostly large or small churches, but very few medium sized churches. He encouraged us to build bridges between the ends, because that's what Jesus would do. He also called us to be MRI- Missional, Relational and Incarnational. Leonard Sweet

I came away from the Labs with many good ideas, but more importantly I am reconsidering the way we do things at Mountainside. I can see more clearly where we ought to be going and how we might get there. All I ask of a conference or gathering these days is two simple things. I need to be inspired to give my life more fully and purely to the cause of Christ, and some effective and meaningful ways to motivate others to do that with me.