Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

Month: October 2016 (page 2 of 3)

The Great Spiritual Migration: A Review

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McLaren, Brian D. The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to be Christian. New York: Convergent Books, 2016. 274 pp. $21.00.

When you read the book title, maybe you thought the same thing I did, “Good luck!” I mean, Christianity is truly like the Titanic except that it has a few other giant sized ships cruising right next to it and even a few more trying to stay close to it but losing distance as they lose their way. For thousands of years of splitting hairs and in some case Greek letters, Christianity has divided, come together, divided in other ways, and yet again tried to find pathways forward in unified beliefs.

What am I talking about? Denominations.

As a disclaimer, I am not against denominations and varied beliefs systems. Why I bring it up is that it affects the way Christianity moves forward in a unified manner in this century. Fortunately, for decades now, we have seen denominational lines blur, churches spring up somewhere in between two (or three) denomination beliefs and praxis. Nevertheless, we have also seen other denominations hold their ground, holding tight to certain beliefs that define (or separate) them. Whether one sees the glass half empty or half full, there has yet to be a time such as this for large scale change.

Here is where McLaren’s The Great Spiritual Migration becomes of unique use. Click To Tweet.

For those who have followed McLaren’s prodigious writing career over the last two plus decades, as I have done, this book comes as no surprise. Perhaps, next to A Generous Orthodoxy, this will be named as one of McLaren’s standout works of his lifetime. I do not say that because of McLaren’s ability to make the change, but his uncanny ability to see changes take place and be on the front line of explaining them and providing ways forward for those who want to see Christianity form and shape subsequent generations.

Of course on the flipside, I cannot ignore the landslide of those against the writings and teachings of Brian McLaren and the short-lived Emergent Church movement. (The Emergent Church movement should not be confused with books and teachings on the emerging church topic as they are loosely connected but not the same idea.) He has been lumped in with others who only sought new and radical ways to do church, while he has truly added deeper dimensions of thought and praxis to those seeking to be a new kind of Christian.

I have put beliefs I found sound in McLaren’s books in practice over almost two decades of ministry and found them to be solid ways of living and being Christ in an ever changing, confusing, and chaotic new world. Others, I simply dismissed as all thinking people should do if they do not match up with their deepest held beliefs. Growing up in a rural community, I would hear, “Eat the fish, but spit out the bones.” Who knew how simple yet crucial that would be as I encountered new beliefs throughout my life? Country folk have sound wisdom.

The Great Spiritual Migration is divided into three large sections hitting the overall ideas of spiritual, theological, and missional migrations of Christian belief and praxis. Within those parts, he takes a closer look at the landscape of each, not only in America but especially in other countries, as many third world areas are creating theology and missional beliefs for all of Christianity, replacing America in sheer numbers of followers. America and Europe continue to have the most prestigious religious institutions, yet as when Christianity moved from the East to the West, it may be seeing yet another large scale migration that will literally change the way we live and believe as followers of Jesus.

Part I on The Spiritual Migration, I found as typical discussion of moving from only holding a belief to allowing that belief to be expressed and challenged by living out a more robust love for all of mankind. His other books elude to this either in teaching or in narrative as he has taught these ideas since the beginning, along with many other emergent and emerging leaders. I do not feel the need to spend time here.

Part II on The Theological Migration is a bit more unique in teaching but still addressing the greatest challenge and question Christians face from opposition – the Old Testament God of genocide and the New Testament Jesus of love. If God and Jesus are one and the same and God/Jesus is love, how do we reconcile the genocide found all throughout the Old Testament? Here McLaren describes how we meet God and then over our life we develop upgrade on our knowledge much like a computer upgrades as it gets smarter. Here he believes that an answer can be held in God 5.0.

With God 5.0, we learn to see that Christian history, teachings, and violence have been done in ignorant at best or totally abusing uses of Scripture throughout history. Supremacy has been done to many who are deemed lesser in the name of God. But is there a better way? Of course! We must all repent of our history and migrate to a move loving and deeper embedded belief in Jesus of Philippians 2. In summary, God 5.0 as seen in Jesus of Philippians 2 is a God who moves us away from the Christian love affair with war and violence to humility, peace, unity, and social change.

Also of note in this section, McLaren joins the voices of those seeking to interpret the Bible in more meaningful ways. Do we always interpret literal? Do we allow only liberal and fanciful interpretations? Can we only trust the highly conservative, don’t-ask-any-questions teachings? Is there a better way? Many have offered solutions, and McLaren adds his voice with the idea of seeing Scripture in the light of not liberal or literal but literary.

Anyone with seminary training knows this view and its dominance in theological studies, but McLaren provides a way for the masses to see and understand. Not going as far as other popular theological teachers, like Marcus Borg who promotes the way of myth and metaphor over literal, Brian McLaren demonstrates the power of knowing the literary way of reading Scripture places the Bible where I belongs, a book that molds and shapes us through the power of story, literal or not.

Part III on The Missional Migration takes advantage of the popular but often misunderstood or misused buzz word of today’s pastoral leadership. The overarching idea is that many are weary of organized religion (which has been proven for over two decades of research) so no surprise there. The answer?

Missional movements that are organizing in nature not organized. There is a freedom in continually organizing and not being stuck to an organized and set system, especially in a post-postmodern worldview.

A concept that I found especially helpful was his primer on social movement theory. Social movement theory revolves around three concepts: communities, institutions, and movements. To over simplify for brevity, communities are the groups of individuals bound together because of a dependence on the same surrounding environment. Institutions spring up among a community to serve them for the safety and welfare of the gathered community. Yet, when institutions fail and are more harm than good, movements arise that challenge the institutions behavior and demand reform.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how social movement theory explains so much about the church as an institution for the communities welfare and why movements over centuries have risen up to challenge the church when more harm was done than good. Think how nice this sums up behaviors of those heroes in the Bible and beyond. Moses, David, Nehemiah, Jesus, Paul, Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr and so many more. Yet, as we celebrate these today, in their day they were seen as adversaries to the good and holy church, heretics all of them. So next time you cry heretic at a social movement leaders, be careful as that same person may be known as a hero of social reform among civic, religious, and educational institutions.

Overall, I give this book four stars because some of it is repeat, but there is enough new and unique to allow this book to stand on its own. Plus, those who may encounter McLaren for the first time will find a great and quick primer to his overall theological and missional thoughts. I honestly believe that his small dealing with social movement theory will create a greater rise and interest for Christian pastors and leaders and thus spur on soon coming books if they are not being written already.

I recommend this book to three types of people: seekers, disillusioned pastors, and movement shapers. All of these types of readers and thinkers are seeking books such as these to help them place language to the inner issues they struggle with and need answers and way forward. Seekers will find the discussion on God 5.0 a help when they have so many questions on the OT God and the NT Jesus. Disillusioned pastors will find tis advantageous as they know there must be a healthier way to do church, especially when reform is desperately needed in their community or context. Finally, movement shapers need this book as they often need more boundaries and, dare I say, meat to their activistic nature. We have all encountered passionate activists who could use a major boost of theological mooring.

If you are tired of the same old run of the mill Christian thought books, The Great Spiritual Migration may just put a smile on your face and keep you up late at night reading, thinking, questioning, and asking…is there a better way?

Work Hard, Rest Hard

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Note: Guest post author kept anonymous due to the sensitive nature of missions work in certain areas. 

Faithful Christian men and women pay my family thousands of dollars to minister to the unreached in the Arab World. People who live paycheck to paycheck manage to write a $20 check to our account every month. That sweet grandmother gives a portion of her social security check with a diligence that would put the most successful CEO to shame. But when it comes down to it, we could sit down on the couch, kick back, and watch Netflix all day. Any of us could. We could avoid relationships that hold us accountable, show our face in the appropriate places, at the appropriate times, and just… coast.

And unfortunately, many Christian ministers do. Too many.

“We should be the hardest working people in the world.” It’s something I’ve often heard repeated by a mentor.

And not only in order to be good stewards of that grandmother’s faithful offerings, but also, and perhaps more importantly, because we have been entrusted with a task. As vocational ministers we are to grow the Church, to reach the world with the gospel of Christ, our Lord.

But sometimes it’s all we can do to survive.

We’re tired— exhausted even— just from the day-to-day life of overseas living. Our minds are exploding from learning one of the most difficult languages in the world. Our emotional energy is stretched by co-workers, local friends, and those we are mentoring. Our bodies are maxed out from carrying groceries home, walking upstairs, and trekking across the city via public transportation.

It’s all completely and utterly draining.

But… we press on.

We find that last ounce of energy to knock on our neighbor’s door to offer a plate of food in hopes of another gospel-centered conversation. We wake ourselves before the sun and before our children so that we can spend our first quiet moments of everyday seeking the Lord. We stay that extra hour after our painstakingly long Arabic lesson is over in order to get a head start on our studying. We have a job to do.

Kingdom work is the thread that is woven through every aspect of our lives. Click To Tweet

We wake in the morning with Him on our minds and in our hearts. “How can we grow His kingdom and glorify his name in our lives today?” As Americans, we generally approach life from a position of selfishness: “What can I get out of this?” “How can I make this situation easiest on me and my family?” “What is the best outcome for us?” —but Christ turned that upside down when he said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

There’s very little self-concern involved in those two responsibilities. In fact, the Scriptures command just the opposite. We are called to die to ourselves again and again. So we use 100% of our time, energy, and resources to the best of our ability in order to grow His kingdom— no excuses— for six days out of every week.

And the seventh? We rest. We rest hard. We replenish our souls so that we can glorify God faithfully and diligently in our consistent, repetitious work.

Too often in our culture, we exalt and even celebrate the one who “doesn’t have time for a sabbath” or the one who is “too busy for a vacation.” Surely they are more “holy” than the rest of us (as if our own personal strength is a sign of holiness.) At the most basic level though, it isn’t noble to work long and continuously without resting— it’s disobedient. The Creator of the universe rested one of the seven days in the formation of the cosmos and all that is found within, so with what standing do we approach the throne as if we are above the need of rest?

My family and I have been ministering to the unreached of the Middle East for over a decade, and I’m just beginning to deeply understand the sacredness of the sabbath. Each morning, we draw ourselves from our beds before the sun has peeked over the horizon.

We saturate ourselves in His word in the quiet pre-dawn hours. And then we hustle.

We teach English, study Arabic, minister to our neighbors, and share the gospel with those have never heard it. We shuffle our kids to and from school, attempt to decipher their homework—all in Arabic of course, and help them navigate their relationships with local friends. We mentor new workers like ourselves, lead and attend team meetings, and remain faithful in communication with our support base back in the U.S.

But every Friday, we roll out of bed late, create and play with our kids, order dinner in, read from our favorite thinkers, relax with friends, and replenish our souls. It’s not a luxury but rather a necessity.

If we as leaders are working to our fullest capacity and being faithful in all that we do— as we should be doing— then, in tandem, we must also faithfully rest well.

Work hard, rest hard. Click To Tweet

Is your sabbath a priority, or do you simply view it as a luxury, an extra, an “if we have time for that?” Do you clear your schedule and vigorously protect it, or is it an afterthought each week? If we are to see this good work to its completion, we must commit to be in it for the long haul. For as noble as our efforts out of our own strength may seem, what value do they have if we are snuffed out?

Friends, may we run our race well … and may we also see to it that we finish well.


The author has been serving as a missionary in the Middle East since 2006. She, along with her husband and three children, are currently forming a team in order to plant the Church among the unreached in a neighboring war-torn country. But in her times of rest, she thoroughly enjoys eating gourmet foods, traveling to new countries, staying up way too late playing cards with friends– and she can whip up a mean chocolate chip cookie.

#ThankfulThursday

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This originally appeared on my Facebook wall, but I wanted to share it with a broader audience. Those who read my posts deserve to know the voices behind my voice that have shaped me.

Plus, I hope everyone would start doing #ThankfulThursday posts all year long and not simply the token month of November.

#ThankfulThursday: I am thankful for Bob and Sharla Roche. When people see me leading today, they have no idea the issues I had in the past. People often think leaders just pop out leading and doing good in life, but every leader I have ever met has a rich heritage of people who came alongside them and smoothed out their misunderstandings, rough edges, and idiosyncrasies.

Bob and Sharla put up with my teenage mood swings, my resistance to authority, and my tendency to over-react. They also taught and demonstrated to me what a Christian man looks likes and how he behaves, what a church leader should focu on, and what a solid marriage looks like. They gave me my first paying youth pastor job after college, and smoothed out my post-college I know everything attitude, my propensity to over-think and plan, plan, plan instead of actually doing something, and especially my love for peoples of other cultures and social economic status.

In Chicago, Bob and Sharla were living out and teaching Lynette and I that #BlackLivesMatter #LatinoLivesMatter and #PoorLivesMatter before it was the “cool and popular” thing to do. (We didn’t even have social media or hashtags back then…LOL).

So when you look at a leader today and give them praise, I hope that leader is doing what I am doing, and saying thank you, but also reflecting back to the men and women who loved, guided, and shaped them before they ever had a leadership platform of their own.

My challenge for all is to think of the people, institutions, books, teachers, businesses, conferences, and so much more that has shaped you and post a #ThakfulThursday posts each week till the end of the year (not just November when everyone expects us to be thankful).

#Legacy #LeadershipMakesAllTheDifference #Leadership #Discipleship#Church #Ministry #LeadingHappy

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