I’m currently reading James Emery White’s Rise of the Nones. It’s all about how we engage the growing number of people who tick the ‘none’ box on the census’ religion question.
Emery White’s observations are based on the US scene but resonate very much with our own culture here in the UK. He argues that increasing numbers of young people are spiritual, but wary of institutional or organized religion. He cites a study conducted by Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman on people’s attitudes toward the church. Here’s their list of common responses:
- anti-homosexual (91%)
- judgemental (87%)
- hypocritical (85%)
- old-fashioned (78%)
- too involved in politics (75%) [surely more of a US problem!]
- out of touch with reality (72%)
- insensitive (70%)
- boring (68%)
- not accepting of other faiths (64%)
- confusing (61%)
Emery White offers a number of helpful insights and responses to the above including, later in the book, a helpful little two by two grid on grace and truth.
I think this is a helpful little tool to keep in mind as we engage our culture. Recent popularized responses to the issues around same-sex relationships have either been truth without grace (thereby confirming popular beliefs about Christianity as judgemental) or grace without truth (thereby failing to truly love people with God’s truth). A church with mission at its heart must seek to minister truth and grace together if we’re serious about reaching the culture with the greatest news in all of human history. This is one of the best books I’ve read in the last year and I’d strongly recommend it.
Here’s a little something my boss passed on to me which I think is insightful:
11 Paradoxes of Leadership
- To be able to build a close relationship with one’s staff and to keep a suitable distance
- To be able to lead and to hold oneself in the background
- To trust one’s staff and to keep an eye on what is happening
- To be tolerant and to know how you want things to function
- To keep the goals of one’s department in mind and at the same time to be loyal to the organisation
- To do a good job of planning your own time and to be flexible with your schedule
- To freely express your view and to be diplomatic
- To be a visionary and to keep one’s feet on the ground
- To try to win consensus and to be able to cut through
- To be dynamic and to be reflective
- To be sure of yourself and to be humble
Here begins our voyage of discovery through Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. Chesterton begins with his reasons for writing the book:
“The only possible excuse for this book is that it is answer to a challenge. Even a bad shot is dignified when he accepts a duel.”
His earlier book, Heretics, had criticised various contemporaries, who, in return, had challenged him to give account of his own philosophy. Taking up the challenge, Chesterton goes on to describe his philosophical journey as like the man who set out to sail the southern seas in search of new isles, and ultimately winds up landing in Brighton:
“There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. . . His mistake was really a most enviable mistake . . . What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? . . . What could be more glorious than to brace one’s self up to discover New South Wales and then realize, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales.”
He follows up immediately with the main question of the book:
“This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it.”
He returns to his own philosophical journey and search for truth:
“I fancied I was the first to set foot in Brighton and then found I was the last. . . I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the end of the nineteenth century. I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it.”
And so it begins. Chesterton’s aim is not to provide a sophisticated philosophy or apologetic. He simply describes his discovery of the world, and what he finds is that all of Christendom stands at his back.
I picked up the latest copy of Christianity Today recently and found some pretty alarming statistics on porn usage among Christian men and leaders. They did some anonymous research among 500 men and found the following:
- 30% of church leaders access porn more than once a month
- 42% of Christian men say they have a ‘porn addiction’
- 75% of Christian men say they access porn on a monthly or less regular basis
- 10% of Christian men say they have paid for sex
- 90% of Christians say the church does not adequately support those who struggle with pornography use
The real question is how to respond to this. It strikes me lots of people are too embarrassed to talk about this issue. One quote read something like ‘I’d rather admit to being a crack addict.’ People feel as though if they were to open up they would be judged and forever barred from any level of church ministry in the future. Of course Satan loves keeping it in the dark because there it remains undealt with. But how can we address this issue and help one another in a way that enables people to feel safe and cared for? Any thoughts genuinely appreciated.
This past weekend our elders enjoyed some time away thinking, reflecting, studying, and praying together. It’s an annual feature and something that’s really helped us focus on what we’re supposed to be about. This past weekend a fellow elder dug out a really helpful little piece on some research done by Google on what makes a good leader. You can read more about the research here. For now, here’s their eight rules in reverse order:
8. Have the key technical skills so you can advise your team
7. Have a clear vision and strategy
6. Help employees with career development
5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team
4. Be pro-active and results oriented
3. Express interest in employees well-being
2. Empower, don’t micromanage
1. Be a good coach – give specific feedback and have regular one-to-ones
What do you think? Any surprises?
A friend introduced me to a little management tool he’d come across that I thought was useful enough to share. First, a diagram:
The basic idea is that your staff (and you) will be happiest when you find your sweet-spot – that place where what you should do, what you actually do, and what you enjoy doing intersect. Of course there are seasons and activities which mean we’ll necessarily operate outside of the sweet-spot, but in general you’ll get most out of yourself and others if you operate mostly within it. The tricky thing (for most of us I suspect) is actually putting this stuff into practise.