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When Twitter Visited Third Baptist Church

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What Church can learn from Business #1: Acknowledge the Pain

Scene from a Sunday Service

Pastor Smith: We’ve jumped into the 21st century today with our projector up there tuned to the Twitter Channel! Today: don’t silence your smartphones. And you Twitterites, dial in your Twitter smart app and shoot your questions, comments and tweets to At ThirdBaptistRightNow. And remember to use the hash ticket number sign SubmitAndLove!

Acknowledge questions to unlock the door you’ve invited your audience to walk through

Acknowledge questions to unlock the door you’ve invited your audience to walk through

Pastor Smith: Open up your Bibles to Ephesians 5 and let’s get right down to the text and how wives need to submit to their husbands and husbands should love their wives.

@ElderEli: You’ll acknowledge how the passage has been abused for years, right? ThirdBaptist is just as guilty as anyone.

Pastor Smith: Now let’s start reading right from verse…what’s that? AtElderEli—I sort of mention that, but I’ll not spend a lot of time on it. Wait—let me see if I can work that in. Now, let’s start with verse…

@SingleSally: Go to the Bahamas in my mind or the coffee shop with my feet? Either way is more interesting than another sermon about marriage.

Pastor Smith: Now you stick around AtSingleSally, I can promise you’ll find something interesting in…

@ILikeBigBibles: Preach it! Submit and love!

@MsBankCEO: Before you go all gender-wars, can you at least acknowledge that in Christ there is no male or female (Gal 3.28). Seems worth mentioning.

Pastor Smith: Well now, AtMsBankCEO, this passage is pretty specific about the ancient household code, but, well. Let me think for a moment how that verse from Galatians might augment my comments about roles. But turn to verse 22 and…

@BlancheWife: You’ve got to start with 5:21! Mutual submission turns your old role argument on its head!

@BlancheWife: All that follows is an outworking of 5:1-21! Please at least acknowledge that!

Pastor Smith: Hoo boy. Preaching and Twitter make an uneasy couple. Let me do something different today. Blanche, why don’t you come up here and let’s start with an old-fashioned conversation. Just you and I and the microphone and all these fine friends out here. Let’s do something new and get your perspective…

@ILikeBigBibles: No! That’s not right. The brother should preach!

@SingleSally: You have my attention.

Consider Starting with People Rather than Texts

This is not heresy. This is basic pedagogy: when explaining an ancient text, gently help people over the hurdles by showing what it meant as well as how it has been understood over the years. Because your audience is thinking these thoughts already.

Twitter is a huge help in the work of naming the things people are already thinking. While churches are not likely to employ Twitter for anything beyond amplifying their monologue, they should begin to see that the conversations they once directed are happening without them.

Learning to listen and then getting at the truth together—that’s worth exploring.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

September 22, 2013 at 5:00 am

What Business Can Learn From Church: #1, #2, #3

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Written by kirkistan

September 9, 2013 at 8:52 am

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What Business Can Learn From Church #3: Build Relational Trust

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Trust Takes Time. Talking Helps.09092013-tumblr_msrss9QLMF1r918kto1_400

In conversation with Groundswell coffeehouse owner/Third Way Church pastor Seth McCoy, we discussed the overlap between business and community. Mr. McCoy pulled out a few business lessons that take a slightly different shape when seen from a faith perspective:

Mr. McCoy also noted how relational trust is essential for business and community.

Relational trust drives collaboration. Relational trust is what allows a collaborative leader to step away from shrill monologue and invite others to contribute their voices and experience. Leader trusts colleague (and vice versa) because they know each other’s intent and because they have recognized the giftedness each possesses.

Building trust things take time. Mr. McCoy voiced a principal that is worth examining: Make it easy to show up or leave a group. And make it hard to become a member. Because membership is the route of committing to shared direction. Spending a year in relationship with a person before marriage lets you see the person in all the seasons. Spending a year in a job helps you fully appreciate the economic cycles, urgencies and payoffs. Human just need time to process stuff. Over the course of four seasons, we interact, voice concerns, we are delighted at some things and taken aback by others.

The truth is that relational trust takes time and patience and lots of conversation. While there are no shortcuts, the words we bring to our time together have a way of spurring us forward and helping each other absorb the direction.


Image credit: we apologise for the inconvenience via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

September 9, 2013 at 8:45 am

What Business Can Learn From Church #2: Be Accountable—Especially After Conflict

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Stop to Honestly Revisit Decisions09062013-tumblr_msesjtBYDs1rbrhnko1_500

If everyone on your leadership team has an equal voice, how do you sort through conflicting opinions?

First, know that “equal voice” is as rare in teams as it is problematic. It’s likely some team members have a more equal voice—a voice that carries more authority (like the boss, for instance. Or the one who signs the bi-weekly pay stub). And, sadly, team-members willing to scream and throw a fit will often get their way through intimidation and/or sheer annoyance.

In this space between work, craft and carrying out community described yesterday, Seth McCoy talked about a leadership style that didn’t set the founding leader as the all-knowing, final-answer seer whose verdicts were solid gold. Instead, passionate committed leaders bellied up to give their opinions, expecting always to be heard. To continue to get full engagement from these leaders and their wide-open thoughts, team decisions must be revisited and discussed after the conflicting decisions.

Say your leadership team is conflicted on a pivotal decision. You need everyone behind the decision because you know each leader will motivate themselves and their teams based on the urgency of the task. You need them engaged. Whether your team takes formal votes on decisions or just gives a thumbs-up/thumbs-down, the mechanism that allows your leaders to respond to a decision should not be the final word. Allowing the team to revisit decisions in conversation builds trust—but those revisiting conversations must be open rather than defensive.

What business can learn from church is to build enough human to human accountability to actually, really, truly revisit group decision. To ask whether it works or not. And to offer honest assessments. And to build a solid history of honesty.

This is how any organization builds relational trust.


Image credit: gh-05-t via 2headedsnake

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Written by kirkistan

September 6, 2013 at 9:11 am

What Business Can Learn From Church #1: Relational Trumps Transactional

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Identify and Hear Gifted Voices

Seth McCoy runs a coffee shop in the Hamline Midway neighborhood of St. Paul. Groundswell makes an irresistible Chai Cinnamon Roll—especially warm.09052013-192645_1939445287521_1284060023_32450336_4061200_o-150x150

Especially first thing in the morning.

Seth McCoy also pastors a church blocks away. A new sort of church that takes seriously the notion that people benefit more from dialogue than monologue.

Church and coffee shop each vigorously pursue their mandates: Groundswell makes tasty foods and strong coffee in a high-ceilinged, inviting neighborhood space. Third Way Church takes seriously the notion that community is much more than one guy sermonizing for an hour—you are likely to hear many voices if you show up at a gathering. Groundswell and Third Way Church inhabit the same neighborhood. This community connection also begins to bridge traditional divides, like the sacred/secular myth.

Talk with Seth the business owner and he may tell you how the leadership team works at Third Way Church: discussions can get “heated,” which is to say, leaders are passionate and vocal. One gets the sense they don’t hold back. On the church leadership team they’ve identified different giftedness or abilities in each of the leaders and they try to honor that particular voice. Often leadership voices in a church can follow some of the traditional patterns of prophet/apostle/evangelist/shepherd. Team members speak consistently from their expertise—which is also their natural bent—and they speak with authority.

Groundswellmn-09052013_edited-1Our businesses are typically more transactional affairs. Employees are hired with a set of expectations (whether narrow or wide) and expected to go about their business. Our best work situations are those that move beyond merely transactional and begin to see the various bits of giftedness each employee brings—and then honors that voice. Most of us who have worked in organizations and companies where we remained unheard—and those work situations number among our least favorite. And those best work situations were where we were identified as the person in the know on some particular aspect of the shared vision.

Business can learn from church by recognizing the gifts, abilities and particular bent of employees and hearing the authority that employee speaks from. No matter what position the employee has, there is some authority/expertise/giftedness they bring.

We owe it to each other to move beyond transactional to relational.


Going to Church Today? Consider This.

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expect a conversation that will help sort things

Probably someone will speak to the group—that’s typically what happens. And there will be singing. Prayers will be offered. You’ll shake a few hands. Maybe you’ll learn something new. Maybe you heart will be lightened. Your load lifted.

If heart-lightening or load-lifting happens, stop and think why. Was it because of magic words spoken from the pulpit? Not likely, as there are no magic words. But there are words that find a home in a person’s conscious thought and get absorbed there to do some work. One of the tests the old church fathers used to determine if a letter or text should be included in the Canon (our Bible today) was whether it had the power to change people—did the text speak with authority into a people’s lives? Did something happen because of hearing the text? When those old words get uttered from the pulpit today—they are not magic—but their truthiness has sticking power.

Just as likely: you meet someone who says something that affects you. Makes you think. Makes you reconsider an impending decision. And perhaps that same heart-lightening or load-lifting occurs. Sometimes we meet people who speak truth and it has the same effect.

And consider this: perhaps you go into that time expecting to hear something. What I mean is, sometimes we move into a situation actually expecting to hear something that could have the power to change how we think or act. You might call this listening. Or attentive listening. Or attenuated listening. Or listening on steroids. But whatever you call it, this is the most productive penultimate approach: listening with expectation. Then you pick up the tasty truthiness from any source.


Image credit: Douglas Smith via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

September 1, 2013 at 5:00 am

Church: Neither Benign Social Club nor Political Hack

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One Approach to Juxtapose


This is one concept as I work out the marketing messages for Juxtapose: How to Build a Church That Counters Culture.

If browsing in Barnes and Noble, would you stop and handle a book that looked like that?


Image Credit: Unknown. Do you know?

Written by kirkistan

August 9, 2013 at 9:56 am

Juxtapose: How To Build a Church that Counters Culture

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07112013-tumblr_mpqvswZg4K1qbcporo3_500Theological Roots and Practical Hope for Extreme Listening and Honest Talk

A couple nights ago Mrs. Kirkistan and I had dinner with old friends we’d not seen in some time. It was refreshing to catch up and there was lots of that free laughter that happens when old jokes and forgotten quirks reappear. At one point someone asked whether we were hopeful about the state of the evangelical church. We each offered an opinion.

Mine: “No.”

It’s actually a qualified “No”: my sense is that the evangelicalism has largely lost its way following industrial-strength, church-growth formulas and it has also sold its soul to political machinery. Following these tangents we’ve lost the essence of what it means to counter culture by speaking the words that stand outside of time.

I’m actually quite hopeful about what God is doing—especially in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. We’ve seen a number of groups trying very new things while employing deeply-rooted devotion to sacred texts and veering from partisan nonsense. So my sense is that evangelicalism is morphing and, frankly (I hope) growing up.

For a couple years now I’ve been laying down about a thousand words a day toward this book dealing with the theological and philosophical roots of communication. It’s been a one-step-forward-seven-steps-back process. But I’ve just finished Chapter 8 and by the end of July I’ll deliver the manuscript to my editor friend. I’ll likely self-publish it later this year—I’ll probably have to pay people to read it (Know this: I cannot afford more than $5 a reader. So both of you readers give a call when you are ready. I’ll put a fresh Lincoln in the Preface.)

The book offers new ways to think about the ordinary interactions we have every day. It draws on a few philosophically-minded thinkers and reconsiders some old Bible stories to reframe the opportunity of conversation. It also provides a kick in the butt to move out of our familiar four walls to engage deeply with culture—but not from a standpoint of judgment, rather from a deep curiosity and love. I’ll be sharpening the marketing messages over the next few months, but here are the chapter titles so far:

Would you stop browsing at Barnes and Noble long enough to pick up a book that looked like this?

Would you stop browsing at Barnes and Noble long enough to pick up a book that looked like this?

  1. The Preacher, Farmer and Everybody Else
  2. Intent Changes How We Act Together
  3. How to be with the God Intent on Reunion
  4. Your Church as a Conversation Factory
  5. Extreme Listening
  6. A Guide to Honest Talk
  7. Prayer Informs Listening and Talking
  8. Go Juxtapose

Let me know if anything of what I’ve said sounds like you might actually be interested in reading. However: I can only afford to buy a limited number of readers.


Image credit: Daniele Buetti via 2headedsnake

What Question Consumes Your Church?

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Not so easy to answer for most of us.

Church is not a place of questions. It is a place of sameness and routine, where old stories—even ancient stories—are retold. We go to church to be reassured, right? Reassured we are forgiven, for instance. Reassured that I am personally going the right direction, and perhaps even welcoming that kick-in-the-pants reminder of how I veered off-course—yet again. Reassured there is a God. And that God has something to say.

No, church today is not a place of questions. It is a place of answers.

It was not always so.

I’ve been reading through an ancient text that documents the questions the early church was trying to sort out. One primary question was, “What is this thing?” A question even more visceral was surely muttered silently, “What the hell is going on here?” And after that, questions tumbled forth from any and every quarter:

  • “How can this possibly work?”
  • “How could I be friends with you?”
  • “Is this belief so dangerous that I am hunted for it?”
  • “Why are you sharing your fortune with me?”
  • “Am I ready to die for this?”

Questions everywhere because what was happening was outside the control or vision of one or any individual. Questions because they were watching God do stuff. Extraordinary stuff.

Today we have it figured out. Programs and formulas and seminars and best practices—just like with any industry. We’ve got experts who know stuff.

But every once in a while, I see something in a church and say under my breath, “What the…? How can that possible work?”


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Written by kirkistan

September 30, 2012 at 5:00 am

I Wish More Churches Observed This Convenient Fiction: Outsiders Are Among Us

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Outsiders seeking truth won’t settle for bland spirituality

Our church is at its best when we say to ourselves there are people here kicking the tires of Christianity. I think it can be true, but in the church I attend, I rarely meet anyone who has not already bought the car. Still—don’t we all keep kicking the tires?

Saying there are outsiders lets us drop the clichés and insider language. It lets us jettison the assumptions about being good or put together. It makes us all a bit less stodgy and a bit more honest. Even the most deeply devoted person keeps thinking through the issues of her or his life where they are still kicking the tires: can I trust God in an economy that keeps swirling in the toilet? Or to guide my grown-up kid to make good choices? Can I still trust God when (perhaps) more years lie behind me than before me? Life constantly changes, of course.  There is always more living than there is faith to meet the next challenge. But then we watch together for how God intervenes even with faith to move forward.

I like boiling down clichés and disposing of the club mentality that insider language inevitably fosters. But this is not the same as the traditional understanding of seeker-sensitive, where actual content is tossed aside in favor of a bland spirituality. No, Christianity has some barbs that are difficult to understand and hard to come to peace with. The key is to present the barbs honestly and admit we struggle with them too. All while hearing regularly from the ancient texts that have always informed the church. That is a text that speaks to any outsider willing to listen–and is the time-honored antidote to bland spirituality.


Image Credit: Max Streicher via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

June 24, 2012 at 5:00 am

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