each year, for the past 8 or so, about 20 middle school ministry specialists from around north america have gathered for a few days of fun and discussion. this year’s participants were: myself, Corrie Boyle (Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids, MI), Kurt Brandemihl (Sunset Presbyterian Church, Portland OR), Jeff Buell (McKinney Memorial Bible Church, Fort Worth, TX), April Diaz (NewSong Church, Irvine, CA), Ken Elben (Christ United Methodist Church, Memphis TN), Heather Flies (Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, MN), Andy Jack (Christ Church of Oak Brook, Oak Brook, IL), Mark Janzen (Willingdon Church, Burnaby, BC), Kurt Johnston (Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA), Brooklyn Lindsey (Highland Park Church, Lakeland, FL), Sean Meade (Stuck in the Middle, Andover, KS), Alan Mercer (Christ Community Church, Leawood, KS), Jason Raitz (Willow Creek, S. Barrington, IL), Alan Ramsey (Fellowship Evangelical Free Church, Knoxville, TN), Ken Rawson (First United Methodist Church, Wichita, KS), Nate Rice (Forest Home Ministries, Forest Falls, CA), Christina Robertson (Journey Community Church, La Mesa, CA), Johnny Scott (Jr High Believe, Oronogo, MO), Nate Severson (Hillcrest Covenant Church, Prairie Village, KS), Phil Shinners (Mariners Church, Irvine, CA), and Scott Rubin (Willow Creek, S. Barrington, IL).
for the past few years, we’ve invited a guest to join us for a half day, to present some stuff that would become discussion fodder for the rest of our time. we’ve had chap clark, scot mcknight, an adolescent brain specialist, and christian smith.
this year, our guest was dave gibbons, pastor of newsong church in irvine, CA, and author of the monkey and the fish. we talked about third culture, adaptability, leadership, fringes and vortexes, and a variety of other stuff.
i’ll be posting edited notes from our discussions here in a series of posts. our hope is that these discussions will be helpful to others also…
part 1 is from dave’s talk to us:
Intro to Dave Gibbons:
Dave comes from a biracial family; his mom is Korean, his father is Irish. He came to states at 3 and grew up in a white middle class church. Things started to unravel for him in the machine of church. He was wrestling with things in a place where it was really hard to change. He decided to investigate the world and has seen how much the world has really shifted and how much we often times do not really see it. Currently there are 1.5 billion dollars shifting from the West to the East every day. The intellectual power is shifting in the world. Students in America study for a few hours a day where Eastern children are studying for eight to ten hours a day – they study hard for their families to survive. If they don’t study, their hopes and ambitions will die. They think more communally rather than individualistically. If they fail, they see themselves as failing not just themselves but also their family and country. They also think generationally (“how is this going to impact the generations that follow me?”).
International students now come to America for an education and then go home because the opportunities are so much better. America is behind the curve on almost every angle. Even some of the things that we see as large, like the Passion movement, are very small in comparison to the church in the world. The largest churches in the world are in Korea. We’re talking 1,000,000 members, not 20,000 like our big churches have.
Time warps every culture. We have suburban or urban enclaves. Although things are shifting all around us, it is very easy for us to be stuck in the past. Honor the past and feel the fringe. We don’t want to get stuck, but we don’t want to forget our past either.
How do we honor the past and feel the fringe? We need to affirm what is going on in our culture and congregations. Immigration patterns of the past – when people like the Swedes came to America – were preservation oriented. They wanted to keep their family together. The next generation wants to branch out. When we work in the church, our work is love, learn and serve, not change the church.
When we understand the wineskin principles we can do well. You can’t put new wine in old wineskins or it will explode. If you let each go its way, both will be preserved. We need to lift up the old wineskin, but we must also create new forms for the new wine. We must be geared to R&D and innovation. We need to try out new things or we will start to vortex around the center. When you do this, you lose the fringe. How do you affirm the zealots and the fringe players who really help keep you going? That’s the liquid idea. The ability to adapt is often very painful.
Let’s not knock the form of things like the mega church. They don’t need to be bashed because they were (or maybe still are) innovative. The question is more “what are the forms?”
Three form questions that should drive us
• Context you live in
• Calling of the leader
• Capacity – do you have the tool set to do the work?
o Skill set or tools
Things that might help us navigate the epic shifts that are coming (mindsets – when you get the mindset, the how-to’s fall into place).
• It’s more about your pain than it is your strength – do you see your pain as your strength? We have commoditized our people to a point where our pain is something viewed as weak not strong.
• The old school system is a system based of strength, gifts, passion, and assessments. When we live in this kind of a world and system our outcomes tend to continue in a place where ten to twenty percent of our people are the radicals.
• If we use our assessments not as an end, but as a beginning, a window into the soul – we can really see what a person is all about. We tend to use the assessment as a quick way to get people plugged in. We don’t have the time to really hear the soul beats. We just use them to see strengths. What we need to use these for a way to really see the pain in a person because people will really work hard within their pain. Pain is a launching pad. If you don’t have pain in your tone, you are seen as inauthentic.
next up: the questions we asked dave…