Mar 262009

pic_qja_mWhile in Austin last week for SXSW 2009, I enjoyed great food and good conversations at Galaxy Cafe. All 4 of us happened to order French Toast, unbeknownst to each other; Gideon Tsang, Paul Wang, Sam Lee, and me. The 3 of them are connected to Vox Veniae, an incarnational missional community in East Austin.

One of the conversations that came up was the health of the American church. Gideon asked if it was healthy or unhealthy, referring to large “big box” churches in the United States. In retrospect, I thought that was an unfair dichotomy, and I emailed back this addendum:

djchuang >> To elaborate on the question re: large churches being healthy or unhealthy– I’d add that size is not a determinent of whether an organized church is healthy or not.

Part of the social dynamics in the real world we live in, is power dynamics, personal and institutional. Given that there is power to be stewarded, would it not be better that followers of Christ steward that power than unfollowers? It can certainly be stewarded differently than how some of the spotlight churches are doing it, and that also be a good thing to explore– how can a large big box church be an advocate and champion for the marginalized, the orphans, the widows, the poor, the hungry.

pic of Gid and SamThen, Gideon Tsang replied back (note: these are just initial reactions, not well-formulated thoughts) :

I agree that size is not a determinant to health. I also agree that when power is given it needs to be stewarded with shrewdness.

However, what I disagree with is American Christianity’s addiction to, longing for and blatant uplifting (through conferences and growth organizations) of power and size. In American Christian culture there’s a trickle down paradigm (similar to right wing financial politics) that’s being sold to church leaders where if we can rise to the top as Christians and influence at places of power, then we’ll impact more people and in the end change the entire culture.

This in itself, is not logically flawed, but problematic for several reasons: (1.) money and power are not neutral. (2.) the paradox of the gospel.

The Kingdom of God is different than the Kingdom of America where we are called to be the last and the least. These should be our goals, not power and influence. Humility and grace, are the paradoxical forces that change human hearts. Centuries after Christ, the American church is still asking to sit at the right hand of the father. Those are the wrong questions and the wrong goals.

If the American church could detox from power and influence (and the toxic christian sub-culture we’ve created) and develop local, indigenous and sustainable communities, gracefully, humbly loving our neighbors and neighborhoods in the name of Christ, the power of the church will be subtly unleashed.

Regarding Big Box Churches (Walmart Churches) I could go on a lengthy discussion about how they’re taking other’s wineskins, thus removing life and character from faith (much like big box stores do to cities) how they require and exponentially more resources that are not sustainable (that’s why all these churches leave the city to build their walmart churches on large plots of land in the suburbs, using more energy, requiring people to drive further) and how they’re bad for local churches …

What would you add to this conversation about power and the American church? What kind of “carbon” footprint is the church leaving behind? Should the church be concerned for how it wields and stewards its power?

[The email thread above is posted with permission.]

Mar 232009

Rosa Parks, a seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama, would not give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955. Historians mark the date of her quiet-but-revolutionary act as the start of the modern civil rights movement in the United States.

But Rosa Parks was not just merely a seamstress. She had been involved as an activist for years: She attended a small black university in Montgomery for a few years and then worked for the Montgomery Voters League, the NAACP Youth Council and other civic and religious organizations. Having gained a reputation for getting things done, she was elected secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP in 1943.

Some people get really excited about starting a movement or being a part of a movement. What is a movement anyways?

Ken Cochrum describes the best definition he’s found, “A movement is a group of people who consciously, and at their own cost, connect to change the status quo.” Jay Lorenzen at founds this definition: “a collective action that leads to political, social or cultural change.”

Movement Defined from Movement Builders, “An ongoing, informal group action that is inspired by a passionately shared idea and directed toward positive change. describes How to start a movement in 7 easy steps:

Step 1: Know Your Movement
Step 2: Get Educated
Step 3: Make it popular
Step 4: Rally the troops
Step 5: Set up communication
Step 6: Get Noticed
Step 7: Take it easy

Continue reading »

Mar 222009

Got this announcement from Rob Davis, Director of Events at Vintage21 Chuch in Raleigh, NC.

We have put together a conference entitled Advance09: Resurgence of the Local Church in Durham on June 4-6, 2009. Speakers for this event include John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Ed Stetzer, Bryan Chappell, Daniel Akin, JD Greear, Tyler Jones & Eric Mason.

Advance09 is a conference committed to the resurgence of the local church for the glory of God. Our aim is to equip attendees with the Gospel so that the local church might become all that Jesus calls it to be. At this conference, we hope to ensure that on our watch and in our time we honor Jesus and see the resurgence of the local church. Advance09 is open to anyone, pastors and lay-leaders, church members and regular-attenders. We invite you to join us in this Great Cause.

Tickets have just recently gone online (early bird pricing of $75/$100) here:

( Nothing to disclose. First time I’ve noticed a church conference selling tickets online via ; the conference will be held at the Durham Performing Arts Center )

Mar 212009

Once in a while, I get a question via the contact page, and some of them are worth answering in the open for the benefit of all. Here’s one about why God made sex for marriage.

Question: I need some help. I am doing a talk to teens on sex and abstinence. I saw some stuff on your blog that was helpful. The question I never really see get answered by anyone is this: why is sex part of God’s plan for married people? I see lots of stuff on why we should wait, but not why God made it this way or when it became that way? Obviously Adam and Eve were the first 2 people around and so that was the only option for them, but when did it become only for married couples?

djchuang >> God’s plan for sex in marriage was right there from the beginning, in Genesis 2, i.e. the two shall become one flesh. While it may not have been spelled out as “thou shalt not” in Genesis, the sacredness of sex in marriage is repeatedly mentioned throughout Scriptures, e.g. Thou shalt not commit adultery (Ex 20), Jesus’ teaching on marriage (Mt 19), and Eph. 5‘s teaching on how marriage is the real-life example of how Christ loves the church.

That was my quick summary answer in a minute. What would you add?

Mar 172009

When it comes to vision and values, I wasn’t sure how that actually plays out, how to translate those values into reality, and what it would look like in everyday life. So when I got the latest issue of Bob Buford’s Muse-Letter (v 5.4) email newsletter, he shared the lifetime values he developed working with Peter Drucker, the ultimate global thinker. And now that I’ve been a part of Leadership Network, an organization he co-founded 25 years ago, I can see how these play out in the organization, and in his life too.

Here are his Top Ten Values as Peter taught them to him over their 20-year relationship:

  1. Build on the islands of health and strength.
  2. Work only with the receptive and only on what’s trying to happen.
  3. Go big or go home. Focus, don’t do dribs and drabs.
  4. Giving is not a result – changed lives are.
  5. The fruit of my work grows up on other people’s trees.
  6. The entrepreneurial-style leader is where the leverage begins.
  7. Bet on a great leader with a big idea.
  8. The essential ingredient for success is a steady stream of innovation.
  9. “It’s your job to release and direct energy, not to supply it.”
  10. Structure follows strategy, and strategy begins with clear desired outcomes. To What End?

Continue reading »

Mar 162009

Today’s the big day for a blog book tour on Dave Browning’s Deliberate Simplicity.

Dave’s clear on the mission of the church, and cuts out the complexity that can so easily distract. The book takes its time to unpack how the church has gotten so complicated, filled with many stories and examples of what happens with this complication. Then proposes a simpler way to be the church, and the basic ingredients (or principles) to have a simple church that’s scalable and shifts the focus towards the people being the ministers. Having met Dave on several occasions, I can see how he lives that out, as he is very approachable like an everyday average Joe; he doesn’t come across domineering dominant as some leaders seem to project that kind of a personality.

Follow the blog book tour via Google Blog Search.

Get a copy of Deliberate Simplicity: How the Church Does More by Doing Less via .

See the book website at

See Dave Browning’s blog at where he archives his weekly “Dmail” to leaders.

Watch video of Dave describing why he wrote the book.

[disclosure: the book is a part of the Leadership Network Innovation Series & I'm an employee of Leadership Network]

Mar 062009

Continuing the series on “Developing emotional maturity – part 7 of many”. [cf. part 1: what is emotional maturity? part 2: how to develop emotional maturity; part 3: spiritual maturity; part 4: emotional intelligence; part 5: emotional immaturity; part 6: depression]

The analogy that I’ve been kicking around in my head is how some people seem to behave emotionally like a child vs. a teenager vs. an adult. And adults (people who are f adult age) don’t like to hear that they’re like a child emotionally. (After all, they’re going to act like a child upon hearing candid feedback, throw a tantrum or something.)

I found these Eight Stages of Development (developed by psychiatrist Erik Erikson in 1956) to be a useful list:

  1. Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust (Hope)
  2. Learning Autonomy Versus Shame (Will)
  3. Learning Initiative Versus Guilt (Purpose)
  4. Industry Versus Inferiority (Competence)
  5. Learning Identity Versus Identity Diffusion (Fidelity)
  6. Learning Intimacy Versus Isolation (Love)
  7. Learning Generativity Versus Self-Absorption (Care)
  8. Integrity Versus Despair (Wisdom)

To developing emotionally could be described as, “… a learning – teaching process that… results in the [person] moving from its infant state of helpless but total egocentricity to its ideal adult state of sensible conformity coupled with independent creativity.

How can those emotional maturity be developed? Let’s not the “child” designation trip us up. Maturity is not mastery or perfection; most of us have areas where we can develop more emotional maturity.

Here’s a great list of practical how-to’s from Enhancing Children’s Emotional Development (Leah Davies, M.Ed.) In essence, it’s facilitating someone to handle their emotions by processing them together. [read the entire article for full context]

  1. Help the children gain an understanding of their feelings through the use of … interactive storytelling or role-plays.
  2. Teach children to identify and verbalize their feelings, as well as to read the emotional signals from other children and adults.
  3. Watch a child’s facial expressions, posture, play or art work for signs that a child is experiencing a strong negative emotion. Then offer constructive ways to defuse it…
  4. Accept emotional responses as legitimate, even if you don’t like the behavior the feeling produces.
  5. Communicate understanding and empathy by reflecting the observed emotion.
  6. Observe the child’s nonverbal behavior for clues as to how he or she is feeling.
  7. Avoid negative statements like, “Can’t you do anything right?” or “What’s your problem?”
  8. Avoid moralizing, humiliating, lecturing, denying, pitying, and rescuing. Instead, listen patiently and nod your head appropriately.
  9. Problem solve with the child by encouraging him or her to think of options and decide what constructive action to take.
  10. Keep lines of communication open.

This article titled “Social and emotional growth,” summarizes 4 practices for emotional development:

  • Continues to expand her circle of trusted adults. At the same time, maintains a closeness to a few special people.
  • Gains self-esteem from feeling capable and demonstrating new skills.
  • Uses more complex language to express her understanding of feelings and their causes.
  • Uses physical, imaginative, and cognitive resources to comfort self and to control the expression of emotion.

Developing emotional maturity is no cake walk. It takes a lot of patience combined with good judgment and warm, nurturing relationships to raise emotionally healthy, comfortable and cheerful children. [replace "children" with "person" or "adult"] It’s about developing concepts like trust, choices, limits, and knowing you’re free to feel what you want, and to control what you do.

Mar 052009

Today is the one-day blog tour for Dave Gibbons‘ new book, The Monkey and The Fish. And that means Dave will be roaming the blogosphere for conversations with you! He took a moment to answer a couple of my questions:

djchuang: What’s been your most surprising reaction to someone who’s read your book?

Dave: That they love it! I honestly thought the book was okay. I guess we’re our worse critics.
Monkey and Fish
djchuang: How do you encourage (the majority of) people who don’t like change, especially in the midst of a changing culture & changing world?

Dave: It’s definitely the work of the Holy Spirit! To ask people to enter into pain and suffering, eat foods they don’t like, hang out with people that make you uncomfortable is counter-cultural. I would say the key is for the one who does understand third culture to start living out the third culture life. Personally, before the movement became church-wide, I felt God telling me I had to live it out more intentionally. So my family and I moved out to Bangkok. It starts with leadership and prayer. As one engages real suffering and poverty, clarity emerges.

As you live out third culture, invite others with you on the journey. I still remember taking a group of friends with me on a third culture vision trip about 5 years ago. We have never been the same. The impact now goes beyond personal to people all over the world.

Also visit the other 10+ blogs that are part of this blog tour, where Dave answers other questions. Plus, you can watch my 15-minute interview with Dave Gibbons, visit his website at, and download a free sample chapter from The Monkey and The Fish. (or via Scribd)

By the way, is now powered by wordpress too!
Plus, Eugene Cho interviewed Dave this past weekend; watch the video at >>

Mar 012009

Holy holy. The Idea Camp finished last night in the 8′ish hour. A bonus session with‘s Scott Harrison followed after a brief intermission. theideacamp.comThe entire hybrid unconference was so much more than an experiment. It’d be too pithy to call it an experience. Some of what I loved about being there:

  • lots of younger people in the audience eager to learn and connect.. I believe the ideas and dreams God has planted in them has been watered and cultivated all the more; the $0 registration opened the doors wide for anyone and everyone to participate
  • porous-ness of the gathering, with room to breathe between sessions, people could come and go, ideas could flow and combust
  • how it connected the online and offline worlds, e.g. we had as many people online as in-person at the event, Q&A was interaction with both onliners and offliners, relationships initiated online came together in person, etc
  • the steps for turning an idea into reality was unpacked, in many different contexts, perspectives, and methods via workshops, Q&A, and examples
  • minimal use of paper connotes creative uses of digital technology, eco-friendly consciousness, frugal stewardship, and that hip cool factor too
  • it’s less about content and so much more about connections and courage and compassion
  • every main session and workshop was setup in a conversational format; we get more than enough lectures in the classroom and elsewhere
  • Charles Lee showed incredible generosity to organize, to share his social capital by inviting a buncha A-list conference-circuit-rider speakers / presenters/ facilitators, to thoughtfully plan the flow, to keep it open source, to be fully present with everyone during the event, to honor the dignity of each person by giving space and voice so they can have an opportunity to be heard

There’s so much more I loved about The Idea Camp, partly because I’m an ideator (i.e. ideation is one of my top StrengthsFinder talents). Gallup describes ideation as, “People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.”

Starting points for reviewing and connecting with the conversations that happened during and following The Idea Camp, via Google Blog Search for “the idea camp”, Twitter Search on hashtag #theideacamp, the Facebook group, the Ning-powered site at,

I’m more than happy to explore percolating ideas with my fellow campers and be part of seeing it become reality — video chat via tokbox, and/or meetup in person. Signal me any time. [Aside: psst, this blog post was composed on a MacBook Pro]