The City of Sodom: greedy, idle, proud and stuffed

I was reading last week and came across a really interesting connection and since I love interesting connections, I wanted to work it out a bit here.

At the time I reading, I was also preaching Matthew 6:1-18 over three weeks where, in the sermon on the mount, Jesus gives three basic instructions for the personal practice of religious righteousness for his listeners. He tells them to give to the needy, to pray and to fast. They are to do these things for the doing of the things themselves and to be rewarded in their practice by God their Father, not by public recognition.

Now, in the story of the Old Testament we find the story of the destruction of the city of Sodom in Genesis 19. The city was swept away in punishment after a particularly disturbing series of events, which ended up with a blind gang of perverted men violently wearing themselves out trying to break into a house.  The aggressive nature of the corporate sin is shocking.

Then, years and years later, the prophet Ezekiel lays down this charge, “As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.”

Ezekiel points out the characteristic sinful nature of Sodom which led to their doing of “an abomination”: pride, excess of food, prosperous ease, not aiding the poor and needy and being haughty. So the city of Sodom did not give to to the needy (even though they had excess), did not seem to express a dependence on God, which is prayer, and were gluttonous with their food.

So, these connections seem to be asking a lot of questions of us. At the very least, I believe, these Scriptures put together point to the character shaping value of giving, prayer and fasting in the life of people. These don’t seem to be sacrifices we make to impress God, but practices which impress on us what it is to live with God – and how God sanctifies us, or saves us from ourselves.

Then, I think it speaks to the “culture wars” we observe in the western world. Could a Christians shape culture better through giving, praying and fasting than through political actions – or even better – could giving, praying and fasting be political actions expressed as spiritual dynamics!

As you can see, this connection is interesting to me, and I hope God continues to shape my thinking in this area!

 

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Saccone, Protege

At the Grove we are spending all sorts of time developing leaders and influencing the future of our church and of the church, so it’s totally natural for us to be interested in what Steve Saccone has developed through the Protege program. This book, Protege: Developing Your Next Generation of Leaders is an inside look into the program that Saccone developed at Mosaic church in L.A. and is now being similarly run at a couple other larger churches (mainly affiliated through the Origins project)

Steve Saccone, Protege

Steve Saccone is currently a pastor in San Francisco, and he married a writer (Cheri Saccone), so his books are particularly better written than most by pastors. This makes Protege a great read, with a lot of ease to notice and pull out relatable principles to your local context.

The Protege program is built on (and the book is sectioned by) five  ministry leadership principles:

  1. character and spiritual depth
  2. relational leadership
  3. missional formation
  4. transformative communication
  5. entrepreneurial leadership

These were immediately attractive to me, as we carry these same leadership values at The Grove, so if we can get some help in developing leaders that carry the same values – we’re all over that. If you want some help structuring leadership development in your christian church or organization, Saccone does a great job, and you’ll get a lot of help through this book.

I read this book incredibly quickly for project research but still, here’s some stellar highlight material:

  • p.23, “My experiences and observations…have revealed that four critical things that church leaders continually struggle with are burnout, moral failure, irrelevance to the surrounding culture and division within.”
  • p.29, quoting Ruth Haley Barton, “We set young leaders up for a fall if we encourage them to envision what they can do before they consider the kind of person they should be.”
  • p. 29, “A character-driven leader is a leader who becomes a person with something to say.”
  • p. 35, “At the core, envy is really an aching dissatisfaction with who we are, or who we are not. It breeds a way of life that involves constantly comparing ourselves with others and quantifying our successes and failures against our own self-worth. It is actually no way of life at all. This sin leads to a slow death.”
  • p.46, “We’ll never see God-honoring fruit produced in our lives if we are not abiding in Jesus. We may see external success and growth, but never the true fruit of the Spirit.”
  • p.47, “Do you know that farmers don’t actually make anything? They aren’t the ones who produce the avocado or banana. That’s not their job. Instead, farmers cultivate environments where life has the possibility to grow. They partner with the powers of nature (water, sun, soil, etc.) to prepare a place for seeds to germinate and grow. Of course they do their part in planning and working hard, but ultimately the results of growth (bearing fruit) are not in their control.”
  • p.52, “He was plagued by the terrifying question, Who am I if I’m not the person I thought I was and if I don’t have the competence I thought I did?”

Fasting as Normal Relationship with God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At The Grove yesterday we spent some time hearing Jesus’ words int he sermon on the mount regarding fasting, and how Christians are to fast. It was striking to see throughout the Scriptures that fasting has always been a normal part of a person (and a community’s) relationship with God. I was really amped for about a month for this Sunday morning because fasting is an area which God has been leading me into in a whole new way this year; I naturally get excited when I can share with my awesome church the deeper and more powerful life of God that we can know!

Drawing on Grudem’s Systematic Theology and Jentzen Franklin’s Fasting, I gave 7 reasons why we fast:

  1. Jesus fasted. That’s really enough right there. If we are going to live and follow Jesus, we’ll do the things Jesus did.
  2. Fasting impresses on us our need for and dependence on God. It defines for us who we serve above all.
  3. Fasting gives us focus and time for prayer.
  4. Fasting is a sacrificial symbol or a reminder of our commitment of our whole lives to God.
  5. Fasting promotes discipline, which builds endurance in our battle in temptation and against sin.
  6. Fasting develops our spiritual awareness. God may be working around us but we are too busy ordering at the drive through. God may be speaking to us, but we cannot hear over our own chewing.
  7. Fasting expresses the urgency of our prayers.

A great number of people then committed to be fasting. Some who are experienced committed to three week Daniel fasts, some who have never fasted committed to single meals or partial refraining from foods; every single person took a step of obedience in the direction of God’s great joy for them and for our church! We believe that fasting is obedience, which puts us in position to receive from God what He has for us – and He has infinite resources to give to us. This isn’t a health. wealth and prosperity issue either; we want to be in position for God to give us in accordance with the missional mandate He has for the Grove – to live for Jesus, love our cities and see lives transformed! I am typing this with great anticipation of what God will be able to do – things that He already wants to do – in The Grove and through The Grove because of the position that people’s repentance and obedience creates in God’s ways.

Fun Friday

It’s the weekend! Here’s some fun and interesting web fodder I glanced at this week!

Organizational Analysis

Education is quickly shifting as the world is changing it’s view on the price of content and the value of a traditional degree. Information is free, relationship is where the cost is developing. That piece of paper on your wall…it’s quickly depreciating.

The online education gateway, Coursera, is creating an educational portal where you can get real education online, for free! You don’t get any official recognition, but if you learn and you do your work better, you get recognition (and impact) that actually matters.

On Monday, September 24th, I’m starting my first course from Stanford University, (Go Cardinal!? Beats USC?!) on organizational analysis. The syllabus says we’ll cover  decisions by rational and rule-based procedures, by dominant coalitions, and in organized anarchies, developing organizational learning and intelligence, and an organizational culture, managing resource dependencies, Network forms of organization, and institutions and organizational legitimacy. I’ll be watching lectures online (instead of checking out TLC’s newest and weakest attempts at television programming), reading and maybe even writing a paper or two. All while building skills, experience and language that will help me serve organizations I lead.

While I am leading our church, The Grove, it’s radically important that we do well, because actual people’s souls are on the line – we share life in Jesus with other people. So we want ensure that our organizational structure doesn’t get in the way, but it serves the people who are on mission with Jesus!

So, any leaders out there want to take a course from Stanford on Organizational Analysis with me?

 

How you do is what you do

What you are doing isn’t the point, how you are doing what you do is the point. If you or your organization or your church does something there’s someone or some thing out there that does it better, faster, cheaper… What makes you stand out is how you do what you do.

It’s not exactly revolutionary to know this, but it seems to be something that trips many organizations, especially churches.

Churches do not merely spread the message of hope and love through Jesus – they must live it out. It’s in the living that the message actually makes sense. It’s where and what you actually believe.

Every Christian church in the world is proclaiming almost the exact same message. Every evangelical church in the United States is proclaiming the perfectly exact same message. So what is it that makes some of these churches vibrant, healthy and growing? It’s how they do the things they do.

Many people will ask vibrant churches what it is that makes them attractive, and they are looking for a programmatic answer; something they can duplicate. The truth is, however, that culture can be radically different and produce radically different results even if churches are running identical program strategies.

The answer isn’t in your ministry programs.

The answer isn’t in preaching through the Bible verse by verse.

The answer isn’t in being missional.

The answer isn’t in your worship, systems, outreach or small groups.

How all of these things happen and the behavioral culture that exists in the local church is the distinctive that matters and the major element that the senior leader(s) must be taking responsibility for.

Elmore, Generation iY

Tim Elmore is incredibly helpful to me through his organization, Growing Leaders, which creates resources to help develop and equip emerging leaders in today’s culture. When I used to have an office I kept an article of his (That Sucking Sound You Here) right above my light switch so that it was the last thing I thought about every single day. It also generated a lot of interesting discussion, especially with aghast members of the Boomer generation.

Generation iY, by Tim Elmore

This book, Generation iY, calls leaders of organizations (especially churches) to radically rethink the way in which we relate to and train up future generations. Elmore is incredibly insightful in his theories, yet provides real, practical challenges that can actually happen in a local context. At the same time, Elmore provides a growing global outlook, as the global climate will continue to increase it’s affectiveness in the previously isolated USAmerica. He does, at times, come across as a bit alarmist, but he’s passionate about these issues and the book is better for it.

This is the kind of book that leaders should read to stay well-engaged to rising generations. Youth pastors should suggest to their senior leaders that they read this together – and not critique the text, but develop understandings of how organizations can respond to the changing culture. It’s a useful primer that way and will help to grow an organizations plans for continued impact in rising generations. If you are a leader and you want to have a legacy impact you need to be understanding rising generations because we are in a time of monumental global shift, and this book does a great job of helping in this area.

I read this book extremely fast for research, so I didn’t underline many quotes, but took a lot of them and put them into some other work I am doing at The Grove in leadership development.