Thursday, May 18, 2006

Axiom #3

A lot of the time
you have to explain to people what they really want.

A little riff in Jamie Smith’s book (page 78) goes right along with this thinking:

Worship should be an event of cross-cultural hospitality. Consider an analogy: When I travel to France, I hope to be made to feel welcome. However, I don’t expect my French hosts to become Americans in order to make me feel at home… I’m expecting things to be different; indeed, I’m looking for just this difference. So also, I think, with hospitable worship: seekers are looking for something our culture can’t provide.

Then Jamie pulls an illustration from a Perspectives article (the article is a quick read, found here) that proves the point through Starbucks’ success. For a number of years I’ve been using this quote from Howard Schultz’s biography:

First, every company must stand for something… Second, you don’t just give customers what they ask for. If you offer them something they’re not accustomed to, something so far superior that it takes a while to develop their palates, you can create a sense of discovery and excitement and loyalty that will bond them to you. It may take longer, but if you have a great product, you can educate your customers to like it rather than kowtowing to mass-market appeal.

Isn’t this just a really straightforward definition of leadership? Leadership is more than just asking people what they want and giving it to them, and it is certainly more than deciding for people and forcing it on them. Leadership holds out a better destination and makes a way to get there.

So… our churches fail when we simply try to christianize what might be popular on television, or in a night club, or in the marketplace, or at a concert or sporting event. We have something better; we have something much better… and if it takes a bit of time and education to “develop their palates” so people can see what they really want, then so be it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Axiom #2

I think axiom #2 might be:

God saves us individually, yet saves us to be a people.

I’m about 50 pages into Jamie Smith’s “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism.” What he wrote on pages 29 and 30 really resonated with me:

… there simply is no Christianity apart from the body of Christ, which is the church. The body is the New Testament’s organic model of community that counters the modernist emphasis on the individual.
The church does not exist for me; my salvation is not primarily a matter of intellectual mastery or emotional satisfaction. The church is the site where God renews and transforms us – a place where the practices of being the body of Christ form us into the image of the Son.
… Nothing is more countercultural than a community serving the Suffering Servant in a world devoted to consumption and violence. But the church will have this countercultural, prophetic witness only when it jettisons its own modernity; in that respect postmodernism can be another catalyst for the church to be the church.

Who knows if it is wiring or training… but modernity comes naturally for me. I’m a fact guy, I crave solutions, and I most easily think more as an individual than as a member of a community. I can find myself in a worship service and be focused entirely on my own consumption of spiritual goods, experiencing no more connection with those around me than the connection I might have with fellow consumers in a random Wal-Mart.

But when I approach the New Testament honestly and understand what it says, I have to agree with Jamie when he says that there is “no Christianity apart from the body of Christ.” We don’t need the church for salvation; we only need Jesus. But in order to live this Christian life, for Christianity, we need to be the church.

I’ve heard a number of Christians say “I don’t need to go to church.” And I’ve heard lots of people explain that they need to go to church for Bible study, and discipleship, and fellowship… we need the stuff we can get at church. Bah! We don’t need to go to church… we need to be the church. When God saves us He saves us individually; yet He saves us to be His people. The only way to be an obedient Christian is to be an active, integrated, caring, useful member of the Body of Christ, in a church.

Friday, May 12, 2006


There are a handful of axioms by which I try to live and work. It could be that axiom #1 is this:

I take my work very seriously,
but I don't take myself seriously.

It isn't that I'm not confident, or don't like myself, or don't care... it is just that I see so many people bogged down in taking their positions, or ideas, or reputation, so very seriously. I'm glad that I have meaningful work, and I'm really glad that I know how lots of other people could do this work... probably better than me. So I work hard and laugh a lot. I bring everything I can to the work, but always realize that there are lots of right ways to do most jobs.