Saturday, June 03, 2006

Chicken Little and My Mixed Metaphors

I've been reading this awesome new book by Alan Roxburgh called The Sky is Falling: Leaders Lost in Transition. I'm only about 70 pages in, but so far Roxburgh has proven himself to be a smart, balanced person with an enduring commitment to long-term kingdom growth.

Playing off the Chicken Little story Roxburgh's title calls back to the chick who runs around calling, "The sky is falling!" after one acorn strikes her on the head.
Roxburgh makes a case for why Christians need to become more comfortable with a sense of disequilibrium noting that our culture/time in history is marked by more than continuous, understandable change. He calls it 'discontinuous change.' Here are a few quotes I've been enjoying:

"Discontinuous Change is an all-out acorn assault. Because there's no discernible pattern to the changes[;] the attacks seem to come from all angles and directions. Discontinuous change literally feels like the sky is falling. It exhausts our physical, mental, and spiritual resources by its sheer magnitude." (pg 29)

"The real challenge facing [t]his generation was determining which changes to pay attention to." pg 26

Quoting R.R. Reno's In the Ruins of the Church, "At the heart of modern Christianity is a dislike of 'organized religion,' a distancing habit that keeps at bay the demands of a suffering intimacy with the concrete and particular forms of the apostolic witness."

Roxburgh describes two present-day Christian tribes with a missional focus: 1. The Liminals (those missionally focused who remain at the threshold of the Institutional Church -- my wording, not his) and the Emergents (those missionally focused who step outside of the IC to find a new practice). Roxburgh writes, "It's my conviction that without dialogue and cooperation between these two tribes -- the Liminals and the Emergents -- we will never be able to discern the shape of the communities God truly wants to call forth."

I think he's onto something. It's worth the read. The pages of my book are filling up with ink - which, in my world, is a sure sign that I'm loving what I'm reading.

In another couple months I'll be at the 4-year mark having left my liminal threshold to stand out in the emergent desert that has seemed more like a wasteland for my cares, affections and sense of security than the lush garden I came in search of. Over the last 4 years there have been times I felt like my whole world had been tipped on it's head - lack of job, relationship, miniscule community and excessive confusion ... hunger for something more, something different, something new, something familiar all at once. Other times I felt like my world wasn't just upside down, but rather that it was spinning, a never ceasing motion of confusion and change. I'd catch glimpses of what I was looking for; and, scents of it would go wafting by. There'd be conversations and stories full of it; but it was much more fleeting and momentary in life experience. Unlike the church where I used to work or my favorite scripture verse I never could find the address of missional community.

For a while I kept trying to figure out which way was up so I could regain my sense of balance and stop the spinning motion; but, when you're spinning, 'up' is a relative concept. If anything is tangible it's throwing up. Much to the chagrin of many family members, friends, colleagues, and mentors I've been unable to stop the spinning ride. Some have fallen into a sense of despair or disappointment at my 'lost potential' and stepped back from the wind generated by all the spinning in my life. Others have weathered the tornado-like gusts and maintained an encouraging posture toward me. Nonetheless, the whirling continues.

I think, at long last, I'm beginning to acclimate to this continuous sense of uncertainty. - I don't necessarily like it; but, I think I'm getting used to it. Kind of a vertigo as a state of experience with grounding only in love and Emmanuel as reality. Thankfully, I think I'm finally starting to accept that God's point in all of this is not in my finding a new equilibrium from my daily experience. The point? ... I'm still figuring some of that out; but, I think in its simplest form it has much to do with finding Him.

One last quote from Surfing the Edge of Chaos (great title of a book I've only yet read in citation) "At certain scales (i.e. small) and in some time frames (i.e., short), equilibrium can be a desirable condition. But over long intervals of time and on very large scales, equilibrium becomes hazardous. Why? Because the environment in which an organism (or organization) lives is always changing. At times, it is turbulent. Prolonged equilibrium dulls an organism's senses and saps its ability to arouse itself appropiately in the face of danger."


At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Ryan said...

You write: "Some have fallen into a sense of despair or disappointment at my 'lost potential' and stepped back from the wind generated by all the spinning in my life."

People can be so lame sometimes. I think you still have a ton of potential. It's just that life looks a whole lot different now then it did four years ago. I wonder if people thought that Jesus was missing his potential when he died on the cross and did not usher in a new political kingdom to defeat the Romans. Each person always has his/her own take on what others should do. I suppose though what matters most is that you are living out the sense of calling that God has given you, whether that looks like you are living up to your potential or not.

Here's to a spinning world...

At 10:45 PM, Blogger Hamilton Clan said...

This is sure some stuff to chew on. It is so relevant to what is happening in the church as a whole today. Thanks for all the things to think about.

At 10:47 PM, Blogger Hamilton Clan said...

Hey friend,
These are definitely some words to chew on for awhile. This is so relevant to the church as a whole. There is some definite God stuff going on. I am proud of your tenacity with all that has been going on in your life. I believe God has you standing on the edge of something big.

At 7:23 AM, Blogger House of Grace said...

Ryan -
Thanks for your encouragement. Cheers!

Hamilton Clan -
I'm glad to hear you haven't lost hope.
Happy Chewing.


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