back in DC for a day
Returning home from an 18-day journey cross-country, having had many great conversations, meeting old and new friends, and also quality time with my family. Met up with 2 old pastor friends I’ve not seen for over 5 or 6 years included Ray Chang and Ed Lee, with whom our lives first intersected in Dallas when I was preparing for the pastoral profession. Lots of shop talk with them. Also saw John Teter, who is developing More Than Conquerors into a church plant, scheduled for a August 2006 launch in Compton, CA. And saw Chris Fukunaga, who pastors the church currently known as INTE (and going into hibernation, to be relaunched in August), facilitated an interactive art mural at Tour des Artistes. Very bohemian.
A number of insights have settled in my mind, and there’s a few that may last for a long haul. I’ll share 3 here for posterity. (No, this is not a meat-and-three, popular Nashville area dining combo)
Candor. I learned this new word from Dave Gibbons during Velocity. My core value for honesty, transparency, and vulnerability is most consisely described by this word. When the core value was in formation earlier in my life, I used the word truth, but now find that word to be too cognitive, impersonal, and overloaded with other connotations. What I really value is conversations with people in a safe place. The place to talk about personal issues, struggles and weaknesses, to share heart to heart, where there’s no judgment or condemnation or pretense or knee-jerk reaction or offense taken. Gibbons described candor as having relationships where you can honestly talk about the stuff that really bugs you. It bugs me when people are unapproachable and guarded.
Power. Perhaps it’s a part of the created order (to borrow a Cloud and Townsend term) that there is an authority and power structure in society and organizations. Even in the most organic communal gathering. And one of the ways that it works, I’m thinking of in terms of leadership development, that the leader has the power to bestow or share his power with someone else, as a coach or mentor to someone who has less power. The notion of Elijah passing the mantel on to Elisha. While many leadership seminars talk about anyone being able to become a leader, or forming moral character, or developing skills of competency, few talk about the power dynamics of a seasoned leader, or a person with a leadership role with an organizational position, and how that actually works. Part of how it works, from what I can tell, is that the power has to be shared and given away to someone else, through coaching and mentoring, and then organizationally, through hiring or appointing. No level of skills, competency, moral reputation, or experience can access that. It’s a power dynamic of decision making, authority, and/or institutions.
Newsong. My 2nd time to attend their annual leadership conference. I am glad that their main sessions for the past few years (if not all 8 years) focus more on personal and interpersonal (relational) development, rather than the technical or spiritual. What I picked up, intuitively, is the health and quality of the leadership team (aka pastoral staff). I also am amazed at the effectiveness of their communication as a church – even in casual conversation with average attenders, they know what Newsong is doing. Someone asked for a play-by-play rundown or color commentary, but I won’t be doing that. I could have live-blogged it, since they did open up their usually secured wireless network for free access just for the weekend (someone asked + they delivered; thank you, Newsong!) Cloud and Townsend were the main session speakers, and they shared from their book titled How People Grow. Excellent insights. Very helpful to debunk the overspiritualized teachings about Christian life, where most of it only talks about spiritual disciplines or theology and fails to talk about the reality of everyday life, as if to say all you have to do is pray and study the Bible and do nothing else. Character is more than moral or ethical behavior; character is the ability to meet the demands of reality. Grace is unmerited favor, and it comes in many forms (1 Peter 4:10). Grace is so much bigger than forgiveness and acceptance. We must have grace to grow. It not only comes from God, in some spiritual sense, it comes from the Body of Christ, the people that you avail yourself to, in community, in relationships.
Frailty. Today I found out that my 1st spiritual mentor has decided to stop chemo and radiation, and is in hospice care in his last days. We first conversed online via his SMCIS bulletin board (BBS), before the days of the Internet, back in 1988. Then I enjoyed his family’s hospitality almost every night. Buggs Bugnon was the one who had formative spiritual impact on my life, showing me much acceptance and love, showing me that the Christian life could be lived with candor, and prayed me to seminary. His body has suffered much since his Navy days, with heart surgeries and other recoveries over the years. Now he’s living his last days on earth, and soon to be with the Lord. I hope I get to talk with him one more time.