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The Failure of Imagination
“Some see things as they are and ask why.  Others dream things that never were and ask why not?”--George Bernard Shaw
One of the greatest challenges that Jesus seems to have encountered with his disciples was a lack of imagination.  He used parables and illustrations to explain his vision of the Kingdom and expand their perception, but their responses were often tied to the old paradigms; for example, “Who will sit on your right hand and your left hand the kingdom of God?” (see Matthew 20:20-28)
Although Jesus built upon the Hebrew teachings about the Kingdom of God, they only provided a beginning point for him.  He was not interested in the preservation of the Temple in Jerusalem and its sacrificial practices.  He was not concerned about elevating the people of Israel to the top rung of civilization.  He could care less about the place of Israel in the world economy of the day.  Jesus was invested in fulfilling the promise of God to Abraham that through his li…
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Changing the Missions Paradigm

The idea of how a church pursues missions has changed drastically in the last fifty years. Although my perspective comes from being a Baptist in the South during that time, I believe that many of the changes have also impacted churches of all denominations across the United States in some way.

The paradigm in which I was indoctrinated saw “missions” as something that was done somewhere else by people who were specifically called to leave their homes and do evangelistic and philanthropic work in strange and exotic places.  The denomination had overseas, domestic, and state mission boards who were responsible for this work.  The role of those of us in local congregations was to pray for the missionaries, learn about their work, provide the funds for them to pursue their ministries, and give them a platform to tell us about what they were doing.  There may have been a few local mission opportunities such as a “rescue mission” for the down and out, but we more often supported this type of…

The Thin Book of SOAR: A Review

I was sitting in a conference room with several other people a number of years ago.We had gathered to create an organization that would raise funds for Baptist collegiate ministries in underserved areas of the United States and Canada.A consultant who was volunteering his time led us through a planning process called SWOT--strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The process made sense at the time, gave us some direction in the formulation of our plan, and I even used it in a couple of other settings, but I began to be a bit uncomfortable at the negative connotations of parts of the process.

In recent years, I have come to use an Appreciative Inquiry process in consulting--one that identifies and builds on the inherent strengths of an organization.  I was pleased, therefore, when I discovered that someone had taken the SWOT approach and transformed it into an Appreciative Inquiry process.
In The Thin Book of SOAR: Building Strengths-Based Strategy, Jacqueline Stavros and Gin…

Review: Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates

The United States has provided the environment for many titans of industry--such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller--to flourish.Although many of these individuals used extreme tactics to build their empires, they tended to become philanthropists in their later years and turned their attention to the good of humanity.Most invested their income in benevolent causes, but few invested their knowledge.Bill Gates is different.
Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, at age 63 is now the second richest person in the world (behind Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon). In Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,  a new three-part documentary  series on Netflix created and directed by Davis Guggenheim, we are exposed to an in-depth look at the mind and motivations of Gates.
Each episode introduces a challenge that Gates and his foundation has addressed and counterbalances that with both backstory a…

Raising the Standard

Several years ago, the New Yorker magazine featured a cartoon with several people sitting around a board table with the chairperson standing and holding a telephone.The caption read, “Miss Jones, will you please send someone in here who knows right from wrong?”Sometimes a fresh perspective if needed when it comes to ethical conduct.
When we are young, it seems so simple doesn’t it?  We know the right thing to do, even if we don’t actually follow through.  As we grow older, situations seem to become more complex and lines appear to become fuzzy.  We often settle for the acceptable rather than the best in our ethical decisions.
Every three years, I am required by the International Coach Federation to renew my coaching credential.  One requirement is a course on Ethics.  This deals not only with appropriate relationships with clients, disclosure of session content, and contractual obligations, but also agreements with third party payers or compensation for referrals for other services.  So…

Trends in Coaching and What They Mean for Faith Communities

Coaching in various forms is increasing, so it is getting more attention.  This means that change is at hand.  In a recent blog, Edmée Schalkxaddressed “Trends in Coaching 2017-2022” and specifically noted what this means for users and coaches.
As one who believes both in the effectiveness of coaching and its usefulness in religious settings, I suggest what these changes in coaching means for those of us who work with churches.
First, faith communities will recognize that they need trained coaches. Churches, judicatories, and other faith-based institutions will discover that coaching promotes retention, provides focus, and maximizes use of resources.  With less to work with, coaching will increase the impact of the work of faith-based organizations in all areas of ministry.
Second, seminaries will give more attention to teaching coaching skills and integrating coaching into the curriculum. Seminaries and church related colleges will add certification and degree-level educational programs…

Six Qualities of Successful Pastoral Entrepreneurs

I talked recently with a judicatory leader who is launching an initiative to develop pastors as social entrepreneurs.This type of minister would fill a pastoral role in a congregation but also initiate another ministry to serve the community that would be supported either through fees or grants or some combination of the two.  This would really be a bi-vocational or dual call for these ministers.
Not everyone can assume such a role.  In How to Change the World, David Bornstein identifies six qualities of successful social entrepreneurs.  How might these apply to pastoral entrepreneurs?
Willingness to Self-Correct.A successful entrepreneur not only expects failure but is committed to learn from it.Rarely in the church do we provide this level of grace.Many of us confuse ourselves with God.God is perfect, but we are not.When we take a risk or try something new, we may not accomplish everything we wish, and we might even fail.If we learn from our failures, we can make corrections and impro…