2 Days with Rob Bell part 3

This is part three of a whole series of posts I’m doing on my trip to go hear Rob Bell in February 2014. If you want, you can start at the first post.

The sessions for my 2 Days with Rob Bell were held at a cool event hotel close to the ocean in Laguna Beach. The room was actually out doors, with 4 walls but just a tarp on pulleys if we needed shade. So strange to go from Oregon’s worst snow storm ever to an outdoor event with loads of sunshine.

Rob began talking about some of the issues that only leaders really face. Things like the lack of certainty, fatigue, going through trauma without knowing it was trauma and still carrying it around all beaten up from trauma exposure. What leaders must do is instigate and navigate change, which isn’t always approved of by the mothership – so leadership in the current cultural context can also be a bit about map-making because we (as a culture) are going to places that humanity has never been (and before you say there’s nothing new under the sun, talk to me about Moses’ iPad…).  Today, leaders have to build things even when the parts required to build those things haven’t been invented yet; they have to jump off the cliff when no one has ever learned about the landing!

During this start of the day I really thought it was interesting because the things that Rob described as experiences of a leader could be experiences of anybody. The room was filled with people that I didn’t expect to be there. It was about 1/3 leaders, primarily church leaders, especially ones who liked to talk about the controversial books they had read and the beer they drank now that they were emergent. Then 1/3 Rob Bell super fans, who sat in the front with thick rimmed glasses and wondered when Rob got rid of his and started wearing contacts. Then 1/3 people who really needed a therapist and thought Rob would do the trick, which he seemed to enjoy doing for them. All of these people were relating to what Rob was saying about the life of a leader, even if they were only the leaders of their own selves (and that was pending a vote). Isn’t it a totally different experience to lead abnormally large groups? Isn’t there something uniquely suffer-able to giving leadership to dynamic movements?

The major difference I see is the number of people who are going to suffer if you screw it up. For an individual the splash zone for screw-ups is a lot smaller. I can’t imagine the pressure that a leader of a large organization feels when dealing with massive decisions. We can’t empathize with a multi-national CEO when he signs an order to lay off 10% of the work force. We don’t get to pretend we know what it’s like to be criticized by people who don’t know us and never will but have built careers out of dismantling everything we do. We can’t think we know what it’s like to be the president and know the codes for weapons that can wipe countries off the map.

Everyone experiences a lack of certainty – but not everyone experiences that with a large group of people staring at them wondering what the answer is.

Everyone gets fatigued – but not everyone keeps going the next week and the next day just for the benefit of the group that they lead.

We can easily end up swapping stories of how hard-core we all are, but those things always bore me because I know that no matter how big of deal you have propped yourself up to be you’re not the president, you’re not employing tens of thousands of people, you’re not Rick Warren, you’re not Barak Obama, you’re not Justin Beiber (just had to throw that in :). If you need to explain how great of a leader you are, then I don’t think I believe you. Instead, I start looking around wondering why your “followers” aren’t saying the same thing…

Yet, even if you are the leader (even if you are a bad leader) of a very small group – like a family, or a marriage, or a classroom or a workshop – these very issues drain you and cause you to doubt and wonder if you have what it takes to lead these people. And if you quit, it’s not just on you – it’s going to hurt others – and that is the most incredibly terrifying reality.

So, all that to say that leading people is an incredible experience. It’s tough, it’s exhilarating, its terrifying, it’s joyous. It’s reality-altering.

It’s why the presidents are all friends after they are finished running planet earth. They have had a life experience that is completely different and never understood by anyone outside of those who have sat in that chair with that power. They have conversations with each other that they can never have with anyone else.

It’s why athletes who were rivals in the sporting careers become great friends after they retire. It’s why the very best of the best never experience that comradarie. I’m looking at you MJ.

It’s why church planters always seem to be able to find each other at pastors’ meetings. Their experience of jumping full speed off a cliff and hoping that somebody in the group knows how a parachute works is one that the pastor of an established church will miss (and no this doesn’t make them better, everyone is good and your objection is boring me, so go back to your office after your assistant gets you a latte from your personal espresso maker).

Blazing a trail always seems like such an exciting and sexy thing to do. When the road ends and you keep walking, people (and your own self talk) either think you are crazy or genius and the line between the two is blurry. So those who have had the unique experience also have a shared loneliness – that they can only find empathy for among others who have jumped, who have kept walking, who have made maps instead of just following them.




2 Days with Rob Bell Part 2

This is part two of a whole series of posts I’m doing on my trip to go hear Rob Bell in February 2014. If you want, you can start at the first post.

The day that I was to fly down to Orange County my road was snowed in by an epic winter storm, unlike any seen in the Willamette Valley as long as anyone remembered. Churches all over had cancelled services and I had a 4 wheel drive truck with chains on and I was still spinning out. Thankfully Russell, who is the best Oregon winter driver I know, came to my rescue. I actually had to walk down to the main road with my luggage and meet him as he came down the ruts and drove me down to Eugene. The main roads were totally fine, but getting to them was basically impossible. Then when I was at the airport, all sorts of flights were being cancelled because of thick fog! When our plane landed it was awesome and people were clapping and stuff – this is what it is like to fly out of Eugene. When I got into PDX, we were so late I had to run to catch my connector so I didn’t get to enjoy the most beautiful carpet in the world.

The coolest part of my trip was after I landed in Orange County, I used a company called Lyft to get a ride from the airport to my hotel. The company is set up as an app on my phone that you use to call for a ride and a guy shows up with his car and drives you. It’s terrible for cab companies, but a riot for people who think technology can bring us together! It was cool to be able to try out because I don’t live in a big enough city to have Lyft. Considering the safety factor, I imagine it’s easier for a larger man to try it out, but the company has done a good job ensuring safety and professionalism. To get back to the airport on Wednesday, I left before Lyft was open (they went 24-7 only recently), so I used a different app called Uber. Had another great experience and got to know another stranger!

I also got to go for a run Monday morning that was simply amazing – up to the top of the hills in Laguna Beach. 1,000 feet of elevation gain in 2.5 miles! It was so rough I had to walk a bit, but the views from the park at the top of the hill were superboss.

the $12 million view

This is all preamble to an awesome two days, but it’s so much fun to be alive at such an incredible time of transition in our world. Everything we thought we knew about how to function in society is up for grabs – which is so terrifyingly awesome. There’s a lot of opposition from the structure that built the culture we live in, but to hold on to it is to deny the very spirit that built it. It’s not about staying at some kind of pinnacle, it’s all about taking the next step, going to the next level. Really, this is why I went to 2Days with Rob Bell, so, in a way, I got started before I got started.

2 Days with Rob Bell

This is part one of a whole series of posts I’m doing on my trip to go hear Rob Bell in February 2014.

The second week of February I was able to get down to Laguna Beach to attend a 2-day event with Rob Bell. It was an amazing chance to back up from the week-to-week grind and get some perspective on where we are going and what my role is in all that God is doing with The Grove. I’m going to blog about it just to process some things for myself, and put this out there for anyone who is googling the event in the future and wondering if it’s something that would be helpful for them. I’m not sure he’ll do anymore because of new Oprah-tunities that are coming Bell’s way, so this may be more for me than for the internet, but having it on my searchable blog will be helpful.

If you don’t know of him already, Rob Bell seems to be every former baptist’s favorite heretic. He was a regular, ordinary, run-of-the-mill conservative evangelical who planted a church in Michigan that took off and created all sorts of hype around him. From there he started making videos called Nooma, that became Zondervan’s hottest products. Finally, Bell started writing books that got him in increasing amounts of trouble with the conservative evangelical machine. The final bridge burner was Love Wins, where Bell (through a whole series of non-committal questioning) basically proposes a protestant universalist purgatory. I first listened to Rob Bell at a Youth Specialties conference way back in 2003 and it was so amazingly helpful to me that I have been listening and reading almost everything that comes out over the past decade. It’s interesting to me to see the transition in him (just like you can see in other pastor/leader/authors, i.e. Brian McLaren and Don Miller) away from the church and towards an individualistic expression of what it is to be a Christian. A lot of the noise around these leaders is about their liberal transitions in their positions on the bible, salvation, politics and, (the noisiest) homosexuality and Christianity. The deeper issue, I think, is the transition in their thinking from a Christianity that is rooted in a tradition that you join and it helps define you, to a Christianity that is rooted in traditions that are self chosen and self defined.

So, it wasn’t especially for theological orthodoxy training that I went down to Laguna Beach – which Bell announced anyways when he talked about how it is not his desire to be more orthodox-er. Rather, I appreciated Rob Bell for his ability to express in words the inclinations I tend to have about God, Jesus, what it is to follow Jesus, what Christian leadership looks and feels like and how preaching sermons is a beautiful art form. I learned an incredible amount in a short period and have many threads that I need to follow and work through that will take all year. So, it will take a whole series of blogs, but it should at least be interesting!

Manny Harris and Being Graceful

The Lakers are straight terrible this year and everybody knows it. Even Kobe’s knees know it and they refuse to heal so that they don’t have to be a part of this embarrassment of a season. Then last night, Manny Harris put on a demonstration of personal responsibility and grace that demands attention – and has positioned him as a desirable free agent heading into the second half of the season.

Manny Manny going 8-11 for 19 points and 8 rebounds on his final night as a Laker.

To catch you up, before last night’s Lakers game (a 10 point road loss to the Timberwolves) the Lakers respectfully let Harris know that he wasn’t going to be signed for the remainder of the season – his two consecutive 10-day contracts would be the end of their professional relationship (two is the limit for 10-day contracts in an NBA season). Most NBA divas would have reacted negatively – put the lowly Lakers in their place and go out in a blaze of self-indulgent glory. Harris, in a move of sheer grace, played the best game of his season, scoring 19 points on 8-11 shooting and adding 8 rebounds. A remarkable stat line for a guy who has no future with this team. Then after the game, Harris went on social media – the best place for people to humiliate themselves by posting when they are emotional – and posted a gracious thank you to the organization.

313manny5resh: I would like to thank the lakers for giving me a opportunity to be back at the Highest Level! Didn’t end like I wanted but I understand it’s how the game go! #GreatOrganization #GreatFans #GrindDontStop #OnToTheNext

What a refreshing move! This is the kind of attitude that I want my children and other kids I coach to emulate. Work as hard as possible inside the lines, do your best, and be appreciative of opportunities given – because your opportunity is not earned, it really is given (there are plenty of players better than you who aren’t getting the chance that you are!).

This is the kind of move that I wish I saw more often. While Harris would have been justified to tweet out a slam to the Lakers for not keeping him on after demonstrating his abilities – he extended grace and demonstrated to 29 other NBA teams the kind of person he is and the benevolent attitude that he would bring into their locker room. Harris has gracefully made himself the preferable free agent for a team who needs some help at the guard spot going forward.

Extending grace is incredibly easy, yet so difficultly humbling. It is the more difficult move when given a chance at self-righteousness. However, at every single moment, grace is beautiful. It is remarkable. We love to look at it, to talk about it, to tweet it out so everybody can experience grace! So be like Manny Harris – put forth your very best in your game and extend grace to everyone you can!