The 4 Invaluable Laws of Leading Volunteers

This is a guest post from KC Procter (Twitter, Facebook, Blog). Data admin by day. Social media manager by night. Writer in the space between. He likes LEGOs.

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image credit: Cohemo.org

There are common themes to leadership. When your team is comprised of volunteers the value of these guidelines is amplified.

For the last 2 years I have had the privilege of working with a team of 100+ church volunteers each week. From a friendly smile to helping someone find a seat, we work to provide a warm and welcoming environment where people feel like they belong. Keeping volunteers engaged is crucial, and this is what I am learning from the experience.

1. Lead by Appreciation

You cannot over-appreciate your people. It must be genuine and frequent. Write thank you notes, give them a shout out on Facebook, and tell them you are grateful for their servant hearts. Volunteers work hard without compensation. They need to know you see and value their contribution. Acts of appreciation don’t have to be grand. Most of the time volunteers shy away from the spotlight. A simple handshake and a short conversation letting them know you care goes a long way.

2. Lead by Example

Never ask your people to do something you are not willing to do. Sometimes you need to get in the trenches and get your hands dirty. Everyone has their strengths, and it’s best to place people in a role that plays to their natural abilities. But that doesn’t exclude you from jumping in to fill the gaps. If your people see you hesitating to fill a need, they will follow suit and lose respect for your leadership. There is no task that is beneath you. After all, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. And they walked around all day in sandals.

3. Lead by Delegation

You can’t do everything. This was my biggest area of growth. Even if you are capable in each role on your team, you can’t do everything. And chances are people on your team fulfill these roles better than you. That’s why you are the leader. It’s important that you’re competent and willing to jump in when needed, but you need to let your team serve. Volunteering is a blessing to the one serving as much as to those being served. Don’t rob your team of a blessing.

4. Lead by Learning

You learn more from your team than they do from you. It’s simple math really. There is one of you and many of them. Many people can teach one person a whole lot more than that one person can teach many people. A few of my college professors might disagree, but I’m still paying off student loans so their vote doesn’t count. Odds are there are some wise people on your team whose insight can equip you. Just because they’re volunteers doesn’t mean they aren’t experienced or educated. Perhaps even more so than you.

Working with a team of volunteers presents its own set of unique challenges. However, it’s also a rewarding experience that’ll touch your heart and grow your leadership skills.

Question:

Do you work with volunteers? Any words of wisdom you’d add?

 

The 3 Failures of How we see Sin

This is a guest post from Tyler Braun (Twitter, Facebook, Blog). He’s a 27 year-old writer, worship leader, and pastor from Portland, Oregon where he lives with his wife Rose. If you don’t know Tyler, you should get to know him. He speaks winsomely and with great conviction for my generation. His blog (and his book) are worth the read for sure.

Tyler’s first book has just released, through Moody Publishers. If you buy a copy before August 10, he’ll throw in all kinds of goodies. Click HERE for details, and to pick your copy up.

AND…I’m giving a copy away here on my blog. Just leave a comment below with your mailing address, RT this post, share it on Facebook (being sure to tag me), and I’ll pick one winner.

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image credit: CreationSwap user uncredited

Sin is a subtle and deceiving creature. Often masked in my life as a new adventure, new opportunity, or new discovery about myself, sin pulls me away from the purposes of God into a world where I become the main character, rather than being a part of the subplot.

I often see sin being reduced to only the biggest of mistakes I’ve made in my life. Is that the totality of sin?

Sin is lying to our parents or children. Sin is committing adultery. Sin is breaking the law. Sin is slandering others.

Sin is all those things, but when we reduce sin to only the worst mistakes of our lives we’re slowly allowing sin to become a bigger part of our lives without ever noticing it. Remember, sin is a subtle and deceiving creature, and it goes far beyond the worst mistakes we’ve made in life.

I saw this happen quickly in my life while watching a few seasons of a television series. What pulled me in was the riveting storyline, but soon enough it was effecting my thoughts and how I lived my life. I noticed lust entering into my mind. I began to have more violent thoughts, and before long it was apparent all of my thoughts revolved around me. All this from just watching a television show.

In making sin out to be merely the worst offenses of our lives we commit 3 grievous failures.

Failure to See the Subtle Sin

Sins such as pride, a calloused heart, and lust can run so far underneath the surface of our lives that we never recognize how powerful they are until it’s too late.

Often we view living the Christian life as more of a sin management strategy than a pursuit of a deep relationship with the Creator. When we do this we become good at making sure we stay away from the “big” sins but often fail at evaluating how our hearts are wandering.

We’re all prone to wander. Failing to see the subtle sin can make the wandering devastating.

Failure to Recognize Sin’s Communal Repercussions

The ministries of many of the minor prophets in the Old Testament were often more focused on how our relationship with God flows naturally in how we relate with those around us. God used the prophetic ministry of Amos to the nation of Israel to explain His coming wrath against them, not for the sins of individuals, but the sins of the whole nation.

The prophets understood the reality of corporate and social sin.We look at sin as an individual, personal issue, often overlooking the overwhelmingly strong, yet difficult to see, connection between humans.

The sins impeding our lives affect more than just the person committing the sin.

All sin affects the whole body of Christ.

Failure to Understand the Sin of Not Doing What We Ought

We spend the large majority of our time focused on the sins of commission (the sins we commit) while failing to understand the sins of omission (not doing what we should).

The sins of omission are powerful because they take time to evaluate.

I try spend time every night evaluating the entire day in order to see where I missed opportunities.

It’s easy to overlook or brush aside not doing something we should. Be careful though, inaction is often the worst sin, because we slowly slide into a comfortable life where we fail to grow into who God desires us to become.

What failures do you see in how we view sin?

What other ways have you seen sin deceive you, or others?

 

 

Tip: Try to go home at 5:00

Josh Tandy is a student pastor. He’s written an ebook for “Rookie Pastors” that I think is worth checking out.

It’s called 30 in 30: How to Start or Restart Well. In the eBook you will find 30 practical tips for those just getting started in ministry and those looking to start over. Here is 1 of the 30 tips that Josh gives. It’s worth a look! 

Find out below how you can get it for free!

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Go Home at 5

First time parents talk about the adrenaline that gets them through those sleepless nights and the never-ending feeding/changing cycle. Much of this adrenaline wears off by kid #2.

As a Rookie Pastor, especially if it is your first paid ministry you are going to be pumping full of adrenaline ready to get after it. You can make the argument that you have to maximize the honeymoon period and get as much started as possible. Except you forget that in those first 30 days you have the unique opportunity to communicate some values and set precedents.

Going home at 5, or whenever the office closes up for the day, is going to be difficult for some but don’t underestimate the importance of it. So much of pastoring and leadership is about what you do and how those actions communicate what you value. Modeling what a healthy work/family balance has more impact than a sermon on it, and a great sermon will be undermined by a contradictory example.

When you join a church with multiple staff positions you can also give a gift to those you work with and/or supervise by going home at 5. Particularly if you are supervising other staff you are going to be setting the pace in those first 30 days. They will be looking to you to see what to expect moving forward, and I don’t know any pastor who would say they wish their boss would make them stay at the office more.

Use this time to stress the importance of good time management and maximizing time spent in the office, but give permission to others and yourself to go home. There will be times when 60-70 hour weeks are required but make that the exception not the rule.

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To get the rest of the book (for free) visit RookiePastor.com and sign up for the free email updates, on the right side of the page.

 

 

Markers

This is a guest post by Greg Bowman (on Twitter & Facebook) lives in Elgin, Illinois, where he is on staff with West Ridge Community Church as the Pastor of Spiritual Formation. He is co-author of Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders and co-founder of the Communitas Network.  This is a series of posts where small group experts share how group life has impacted them personally.  The entire series can be found HERE.

 

For more than 30 years I’ve been a fan, student, proponent, leader and practitioner of group life. Dozens of significant mile markers stand out in my journey, but none more than the first time I felt genuine love and the invitation to be vulnerable and open in community.

I was the group’s pastor, and our group life ministry was in its infancy. We were in the honeymoon phase where everything was wonderful. We couldn’t even spell the word conflict in our groups.

In the church a series of events had led to the dismissal of a much loved staff member. The rumor mill was working overtime and people were hurting. An emergency leadership meeting forced a hard call–I needed to miss our life group on Monday night in order to attend.

Unfortunately, yet predictably, the church-wide pain spilled into the group that night. The lesson topic for the night was set aside and the group spent the evening questioning the wisdom of the church’s. At least that was my take on what happened when my wife filled me in later.

I spent the following week preparing to rescue the group from the conflict at the next meeting. I had it a great discussion scripted out. But it didn’t quite go as I planned.

After the usual coffee and snacks we gathered in the living room. I opened brilliantly. “So I am aware of the discussion last week, and I’m glad for the openness and honesty we feel as a group. I’m just wondering how is everyone doing this week?” There. It’s out in the open.

What happened next is what blew me away. From across the room one of the group members looked me in the eye and said, “We’ve all been in conversation with each other this week, Greg. We’re all fine. We support the leadership and we understand the decision. But knowing what you have been through, our question is, how are you?”

I was completely caught off guard. It was a level of maturity and care beyond what I was expecting from the group. Instantly I broke. To be honest, in the three months of conflict I had been through no one had cared enough to ask me that question. And so we processed my pain as a group. And then they put me in the center, laid hands on me and prayed.

That moment marked me. I realized that I could no longer simply teach community, or lead community in the local church. From a leadership perspective that’s inauthentic. From a personal perspective it’s not how I want to do the rest of my life. I want and need to do my life connected deeply to people who are authentic with their struggles and successes and who are open to share life in the context of community.

What experiences have marked you deeply in community? Helped form your core values?


 

Leveraging Blogging

I don’t write my blog posts so that I would hit the Top 100 Christian blogs (though I do love the stuff that Kent, at ChurchRelevance.com puts out).  I write them because I process things externally.  The best way I work out my thoughts is to put them out publicly for people to see and critique.

It’s just how I’m wired.

Which means that this blog benefits me more than it will ever benefit someone else.

But, since I’m writing it on a consistent basis, I thought it prudent to leverage the platform to the best of my abilities.  So here’s some suggestions I’ve got for you if you care to leverage the power of blogging.

Leveraging your blogging platform

1. Consistently write posts. Don’t let weeks or months go by without a post.  You gain influence through consistent posting.  Even if it’s once/week, consistency is important.

2. Write substantive posts. Deal with real issues that people face.  Answer questions people are asking.  Dig into issues that are important.  Pictures are great…but if you want to leverage influence, put some substance in there.

3. End your posts with a question. I always try to invite dialog, because I am not simply trying to broadcast information.  My aim isn’t to put together a good monologue.  I want criticisms, questions, comments…and I’ve found that others want the ability to chime in.  Ending my posts with a question help people know how to best jump in the discussion.

4. Make your posts shorter. My rule of thumb is to keep my posts less than 500 words.  I know that if I get over 500 words, I lose people’s attention.  So I try to get rid of the fluff, and get right to the meat of what I’m trying to say.

5. Read other blogs and comment on them. Engaging others on their turf, on their platform, is a great way to interact.  And if your goal is to leverage influence through blogging, this is a great way to do it.

6. Connect your ideas through other social networking platforms. Broadcast updates through Twitter and Facebook.  Add your info to Networked Blogs.  To PostRank (see my thoughts HERE on measuring success by social engagement).

7. Move beyond the screen. Don’t let interaction stop at the comments section of your blog.  Schedule up a face-to-face conversation.  Get a TokBox going.  A great value of social media is that it can get you further relationally with those you’re developing a network with online.

What am I missing?  Would you add anything to this list?

Have you worked on any of these things?  Any success?

 

Are small groups essential?

This is a guest post by Matt Harmer, small groups pastor at Manna Church. You can find him on Twitter HERE and on Facebook HERE.  If you’ve got a small groups story to share, or a unique perspective on small groups ministry, and would like to guest post on this blog, please see these guidelines HERE.

I recently traveled to a nearby city to meet with a Small Groups Pastor friend of mine for a time of connection. It was the first time we’d actually met face to face, although we had quickly become e-acquaintances (twitter friends, really). As we sat in his office and began to talk, one of the first questions that came up was, “So, how did you end up as the Small Groups Pastor?” The stories unfolded…

“Well I did this job for a while, and I interned here. I worked as this while I obtained my degree from such and such, and then someone came along and said, ‘We think you’d be great at doing the Small Groups stuff.’ And that’s how I ended up where I am.” We laughed and joked about how it seems that small groups people have the best stories.

In this post I want to unfold for you not so much the story of how I ended up in the small groups ministry at Manna Church, but how small groups got into me.

A common misconception is that small groups are just another aspect of local church ministry. Even as I considered taking the position, I viewed it as a small component of our church’s life – my primary responsibilities being to process the data and plan the events, and basically just “keep that thing going.” As I began to dig deeply into importance of what I was doing, my thinking about small groups, ministry, and Christian life in general changed. Essentially, I had “ended up” in a position where a powerful philosophy of ministry was able to be inculcated into my thinking. The result of this change of view was a fresh vigor for the task of “keeping that thing going” – knowing where you’re going makes the driving to get there worth it.

In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve learned:

Every person who has received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior is absolutely called to the “game” of ministry, and it’s absolutely necessary that each individual engage in that call. We must be a people who take seriously the responsibility to be ministers for Him. That being so…

Small groups are where the “game” is played. It’s in Biblical community that believers receive mentoring, encouragement, support, prayer, challenge, teaching, etc… (It’s important to note that both the group leader and members receive the benefits this community has to offer.) Moreover, it’s through community (small groups) that the unreached are reached!

The life of any church is in the relationships the people have with one another, and small groups facilitate the building of those relationships. I know now that what I’m doing in processing the data, planning the events, training leaders, and launching them into the game is THE thing. It’s not some small aspect of church life – it’s a part of it, yes – but it’s the most important aspect…

If we don’t have small groups…if we don’t have people who understand biblical community, build it, and DO their Christian lives together while reaching out to the unreached around them…if we only have a bunch of people who gather on Sunday mornings to sing some songs and hear a great message and then go home… Then all we have is a Christian social club, and that’s not what the Church is supposed to be.

 

Guest Post: Tolkien and the Gospel

Brett Vaden and I go way back.  We grew up going to the same church, went to the same middle school, high school, college, and graduate school.  Though our lives have parted ways because we don’t live in the same city, we’re still good friends.  I love when Brett and I get to hang out, reminisce, and talk about what God’s doing in our lives and ministries.  Brett’s got a great heart to minister to people, and his passion for spreading the Gospel to all people is infectious.  If you spend much time around him, you’ll pick up on that really quickly.  Brett’s also got an incredible mind, one that can distill difficult information and help people grasp deep truths.  I’ve always been blown away when he’s preached, because he’s explained difficult things in a way that I understand.  This blog post is yet another example.  If you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings, you’ll appreciate Brett’s take on it.  If you want to not waste your life, try picking up a copy…you won’t be sorry.  You can read more of Brett’s thought on his own blog here.

Tolkien Won’t Waste Your Life

Here are three reasons why reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s popular fantasy novels (i.e. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), is not a frivolous, escapist, life-wasting use of your time. As Tolkien himself argued in “On Fairy Stories”:

1. Fantasy helps recover a clear sense of the world by re-presenting a world similar to ours yet strikingly wonderful. Postmodern art often tries to recast the world by twisting and darkening it. It takes what is familiar–perhaps so familiar it bores us–and manipulates it into something clever, heartless, and godless. Fantasy, however, takes something as simple and familiar as an oak tree and reminds us of its beauty, wonder, and created-ness.

2. Fantasy helps us escape not like a man deserting the front lines, but like a man escaping a prison. While the world still retains much that is good and beautiful, it is presently ruled by Satan, and there is much that is ugly, deceiving, and fallen about it. There are evils like pollution and the wasteful destruction of God’s creation for human convenience. There are worse evils like injustice, abortion, murder, greed, envy, and deception. And there is the result of our sin: condemnation, depravity, and death. All these evils threaten to obscure the created goodness of our world, the sovereign purpose of God at work within it, and the ultimate restoration of it. Fantasy helps us escape this world where evil seems to pervade and triumph into a world in which we can remember what is true (e.g. good will triumph over evil, the meek will inherit the earth, spiritual things are just as real as the material).

3. Fantasy helps console the soul of man, which is burdened and blinded by sin, with vivid pictures of redemption, or what Tolkien called, “eucatastrophe.” There are moments throughout these stories where all seems hopeless and evil will triumph, but then a joyous turn bursts into everything like lightning, and all that was lost is redeemed.

It is not hard to see the gospel in these elements. But what of it? Can’t we get the gospel in other places, especially Scripture, without having to look for it between the lines of fantasy novels that take hours–precious hours–of our life to read? Yes. You don’t have to read Tolkien to know the gospel or understand the world. But if you want to see the gospel and our universe with clearer, sharper, more potent vision, read Tolkien. It won’t be a waste of your life.

 

Part 2: Guest Post: A Review of McLaren’s “The Secret Message of Jesus”

Yesterday I posted the first half of a review of Brian McLaren’s book, The Secret Message of Jesus, from one of my friends, John Mark. You can read that post here. In this post, John Mark will continue to interact with the worldview of Brian McLaren. The reason that I find this helpful is that I evaluate curriculum a lot as small groups pastor. I want to make sure that I find the most Biblical, relevant, and helpful curriculum to put into the hands of the small group leaders at Grace Community Church. John Mark has done a masterful job evaluating McLaren’s book, fairly interacting with McLaren’s view, and showing where he feels it is strong and where he feels it is weak. We need to be careful when we recommend books and/or curriculum to others, and John Mark’s careful eye will help you think critically about The Secret Message of Jesus. To read more of John Mark’s thoughts, check out his blog.

The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren, Review part 2

How are we to relate to people with whom we have (sometimes serious) disagreements?

In the case of conversations and most lectures, I think too much important information is either tacitly assumed by the speaker and/or forgotten and misunderstood by the listener(s). I think McLaren probably spent most of his talk in the outermost ring of the target – on issues that he believes are contemporary implications and applications of Jesus’ message about the kingdom. He could assume much of the important interpretations of Scripture passages or mention the center and an arrow or two in order to justify his focus on caring for the poor (which was a/the major theme of the lecture).

Since McLaren did us the favor of putting his interpretation of Jesus’ message in writing, here is where we find the important beginnings (avoiding the metaphor of “foundation” out of deference to McLaren) of his worldview. There is plenty of lucid expression of important biblical teachings and relevant historical background to the Bible in this book. McLaren expresses appreciation for the writings of NT Wright several times during the book, and I noticed that influence during sections about competing Jewish sects during Jesus’ day, as well as in the chapter on the storyline of the Bible and the McLaren’s ubiquitous emphasis on the here-and-now transformative power of the good news about the kingdom of God.

McLaren’s defense of Paul as translating Jesus’ message into new imagery for the Gentiles, (and so) agreeing with Christ essentially is succinct and generally good (ch. 11-12). His chapter on conversion (“Getting It and Getting In” ch. 13) explains that process in five “moves” that admirably describe how to become a follower of Jesus (without using church language!). These strong points must be noticed as I evaluate the book; though I disagree with McLaren’s views at some major points, there is much that is good here.

I wrote notes in the book as I read and reviewed, so I could be nit-picky about everything. I’ll mention three major points that, if McLaren altered his views on these three things, would dramatically overhaul his worldview. First is the center of your diagram: what did Jesus (and the Gospel writers) mean by “the kingdom of God/heaven”? McLaren discusses it so much that I can only summarize his view. The kingdom of God is the inclusive movement Jesus began and the community it created. Jesus’ teachings, if followed, “would give birth to a new world” (4). The diagram you drew shows that Jesus and his disciples want to reorient people around Jesus’ teaching, and so change the way this world works.

In contrast, I think the kingdom of God is the active work of God through Christ and the Holy Spirit to bring creation under the authority of Christ (and his Church). McLaren makes an ancient interpretive mistake when we makes God’s reign equivalent to the sum total of Jesus’ disciples (most often) or to the disciples’ efforts to promote Jesus’ teachings (a few times in the book). Clarifying what I mean: when Christians obey the Great Commission (Mt. 28), we’re not “expanding the kingdom” – we’re calling on rebels and traitors (among whom we were born) to acknowledge that the King has already begun reigning and subduing his enemies. He grants clemency (forgiveness) to rebels who will switch their total allegiance. The Church expands.

The second major issue falls in the inner ring that touches the center of your diagram: how McLaren understands Jesus’ vagueness and use of parables. These elements are present in the Gospels. Yet they are not the total picture of Jesus. For instance, take Matthew’s Gospel. Other than the parable about forgiveness (ch. 18), the parable about laborers and reward (ch. 20), and those about the “end of the age” (ch. 25), most all the parables are spoken to the general public (esp. ch. 13, 21-22). Jesus tells his followers (13:10-17 and parallels) that he uses parables to intentionally exclude the masses and include his disciples. McLaren suppresses this explanation for Jesus’ use of parables. Other public parables were usually very clearly understood (21:45). Besides the parables, Matthew records long sections of direct, clear teaching from Jesus (ch. 5-7, 10, 12, 16, part of 18, 23-24). The times that Jesus was vague and used parables had purposes to them (that can usually be understood in their written context); we should follow the example of the disciples who understood Jesus’ message and were clear and direct most (or all) of the time.

The third major issue surprised me the most when I found it in ch. 8 of The Secret Message of Jesus. After observing that exorcisms as recorded in the Gospels may not be palatable to some worldviews today, McLaren says those exorcisms might point to larger problems. “What if it [practice of exorcism] is yet another sign and wonder pointing to his larger, less obvious strategy: to draw corporate or even cosmic evil out from the shadows and into the broad daylight, so that it can be seen and named and rejected and banished?” (63) McLaren lists some of the habitations of corporate evils spirits: government, political movements, religious parties, religious structures and hierarchies, professions, and family systems (65). Jesus particularly confronted the Roman Empire and the religious establishment of his day, says McLaren, the doing of which got Christ killed. In so doing, Jesus exposed the systemic evil in those institutions and was vindicated for letting himself be killed by rising from the dead. In effect, the cross of Jesus accomplished (or was intended to accomplish) a big, “scandalous” exorcism of corporate evil (ch. 8) and became God’s “repudiation of violence” (153). Suffice it to say that I don’t think this is a defensible interpretation of exorcisms, and it plainly is far from Jesus’ and the apostles’ interpretation of the cross.

It’s just a small step from McLaren’s abstracting of individual exorcisms on a corporate scale into a plan for nonviolent confrontation with any modern institutions or groups (the discussion guide encourages readers to find analogies to the political and religious factions of Jesus’ day). McLaren finds in Jesus a prophetic voice (ch. 3) that would encourage his followers to challenge the status quo of our day. Especially in view of the interpretation he gives to the cross of Jesus, I can understand how McLaren promotes the sorts of political and social activism I’ve heard he does. How would your views look on the diagram?

 

Guest Post: A Review of McLaren’s “The Secret Message of Jesus”

John Mark is one of my good friends. I served on staff with him in Taylorsville, KY, for a little over a year. He still serves there, in a small church, in a hard place of KY. I am thankful for his faithful preaching of the Word and his belief that the Gospel changes lives. I am thankful for the investment that he made in me, and the risk that he took in bringing on a young seminary student to lead the student ministry for the church whom he served.

John Mark is a thinker, and I highly value my time when I get to connect with him. He helps me categorize difficult things, and make those difficult things seem…well, not so difficult. One thing that I love to do is read. I enjoy reading a broad variety of content, and so I often read books whose authors I disagree with. John Mark has written a review of Brian McLaren’s book, The Secret Message of Jesus, in which he fairly critiques McLaren’s worldview. He disagrees with McLaren, but I hope that you can see and appreciate how John Mark picks out the helpful content of the book, yet disagrees in a non-attacking way with the overall philosophy. I hope you find this helpful. To read more of John Mark’s thoughts, visit his blog at http://jmandlaura.blogspot.com.  I’m going to post his review in two parts, so make sure to check back tomorrow for the rest of his review.

The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren, Review

The Secret Message of Jesus is Brian McLaren’s attempt to help people look at the message taught by the historical Jesus, so that people can then look through Jesus’ message to see how it can change everything (xviii). In the introduction, McLaren asks critical readers to keep in mind that he is not writing an exhaustive, technical, or even systematic book. Even so, I have tried to diagram the connection between the different chapters (each chapter seems to present one idea – sometimes two chapters present one idea together). I could not put all the pieces together until I drew it all with bubbles and arrows. I’ll describe my diagram as I go, but remember that McLaren does not endorse our graphic summary of his thought (He might disapprove of even trying to systematize his thought!).

Draw a target with at least three rings around the center. In the center is “the kingdom of God,” the major theme of Jesus’ teaching and his actions. In ch. 1 McLaren asks “troubling questions” that turn out to be modern implications and applications of that central theme; (Hint!) these areas would go just inside the outermost ring of your target diagram. His playful, original title tells you where he believes Jesus’ message will change everything: The Secret Message of Jesus: His Surprising and Largely Untried Plan for a Political, Social, Religious, Artistic, Economic, Intellectual, and Spiritual Revolution (4n1). The idea McLaren finds in Jesus’ teaching is something that could change our world today, giving “birth to a new world” (4) in our day and time. It is a realizable goal for the future derived from the Bible (=eschatology).

Draw arrows from the center to the words political, religious, and spiritual, because these three are the themes of ch. 2-4. McLaren says Jesus challenged the political & religious status quo of his day with his kingdom message. Jesus consciously fulfilled the storyline of the Bible, which addresses the problem of evil in the world (per McLaren) – a revolutionary, spiritual solution.

diagram1

Write these phrases in the inner ring that touches the center: vague metaphors, parables, signs and wonders, and exorcisms; draw arrows from them into the center and label them interactive relationship; draw lines from them outward to the other two rings and label those arrows confrontation, reconciliation, and cross/pacifism. McLaren says Jesus’ ministry both exposed people to the kingdom of God – the inclusive movement he started – and actually did the work of that movement. “Jesus resists being clear or direct” (39), and he never explained the kingdom in clear terminology (51). Jesus’ vague words draw people into conversation with him, and his inclusive and wonderful actions clearly demonstrate what the kingdom community should do by confronting the status quo.

diagram2

Write these phrases in the middle ring: disciples, Paul the Apostle, and expanding movement; draw arrows from this ring toward the middle and label them conversion and learning Jesus’ message; draw lines from the middle ring to the outer ring and label them different metaphors, new imagery for kingdom, prayer, longing, conversations, and realizable success. Paul in particular translated Jesus’ message into new figures of speech, but McLaren does not agree with scholars who think Paul started a different movement from Jesus. The disciples continue Jesus’ movement by picking fresh illustrations, by including anyone who is willing to radically rethink his/her life according to Jesus’ teaching, and by nonviolently confronting the status quo.

Now write harvest = consummation around the outside of the outer ring. McLaren believes Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God is “a glorious present reality that expands into an even more glorious future” (183n1). This includes the resurrection and the establishment of “God’s domination-free order” (190, from Walter Wink’s The Powers That Be, 64). **You have completed the diagram!

diagram31

A week ago a friend described a lecture by Brian McLaren that he recently attended. The crowd seemed to be largely favorable to McLaren’s view of Jesus (my friend was not among McLaren’s sympathizers), and my friend said one unsympathetic question toward the end did not receive a satisfying answer. How are we to relate to people with whom we have (sometimes serious) disagreements?

Check out the rest of John Mark’s review tomorrow!