Saturday, October 10, 2015

today's workshop ...

Hey there - if you were a part of today's workshop and are after the slides - here they are ... and if you weren't and would like them, that's fine too ;)

just stop talking

(this post is a follow on from previous - 'the big story')

The power for learning is in your own hands - literally.   

Last night David Kinnaman from the Barna group shared an interesting statistic at NYMC: “There are more cell phones in the world than toilets.  That means there is more crap going into our brains than we’re getting rid of.”

Aside from the obvious humour of this statement (and some might suggest the obvious crassness), this serves to illustrate a clear reality in the culture of the emerging generation.  That is, that while human desires haven’t changed historically, access to explore those desires has. Technology is more readily accessible to this generation than it ever has been before - and not only technology - information ... and competing worldviews.

In the midst of us bemoaning the danger this might be to the soul - it’s helpful for us to notice what this means for how the emerging generation accesses education.

In my family, when one of our kids asks a hard question, the most common response?

“Google it.”  

Now, we try and coach our boys in testing the accuracy and agenda behind the information they’ll interact with, but this phrase reveals a fundamental shift in who holds the power in education.  

I’ve seen this shift even in my own behaviour - when I read an article, or hear a great speaker - I research, cross reference, and begin to draw my own conclusions on the information being thrown my way - then and there.  I’ve come to expect that my learning is in my own hands.

I can't help but think that this is the reason why young people are so willing to accept the invitation of discovery-based learning.  A key feature of the new paradigm - the new operating system - isn’t just about using technology, but about learning how this technology has changed the behaviour of people.

When we deny people permission from participating in their learning - they will simply check out.  It’s time for us to implement (and some would say rediscover) participative learning in our bible engagement and discipleship.

This is hard - much of our church programming is around the corporate gathering where an “expert” teaches the rest of us - but we must adapt.  There are few arenas left in our culture where we are forced to become spectators OF something - we simply must invite people to be participants IN something.

So, we have decided to stop talking at the outset of learning.  We invite people into a discovery-based process, and as they accept that invitation, the depth of their learning is often far more significant than what it would have been if we just kept on talking.

Friday, October 9, 2015

the big story

(this post is a follow on from previous - 'applications & operating systems')

As we think through reaching a generation with the gospel, it has made sense for us to ask ourselves the question “what do we mean by ‘the gospel’?”  

Probably the most helpful book for me in wrestling through this question has been McKnight’s “The King Jesus Gospel” where he succinctly helps us make the important distinction between the gospel and salvation - without dismissing the latter.  

The gospel - the good news of Jesus - is not primarily about my personal salvation. It is the story of God making all things right under the reign of Jesus - the Anointed One.

A welcome consequence of this story is that Jesus is the way for me to be made right with God - personally.

It won’t really be a surprise to say that we’re seeking to reach a generation who have no idea who Jesus is.  Sure, they might hear the name thrown around as an expletive once in awhile, but aside from that, there’s no real familiarity with Him or His story.  

So, in the face of broad-scale biblical illiteracy the church has brought out some really cool “apps” to help engage the emerging generation.  It’s been so encouraging to see really good resources emerge that present “the whole story of God” - but app development without an upgrade of our operating system is always going to be a problem.

For some years, missiologists and leaders have stressed the importance of “telling the whole story” when we present the gospel - helping those far from God hear the message of Jesus in a larger context.  But this needs to be more than just a neat gospel tract, this is more about our operating system than it is our applications.

Something needs to change inside us.

Often we are trying to convince people of their need to step into God’s story when we ourselves are hardwired with a “bridge to life” or “four spiritual laws” operating system alone.  A true presentation of the gospel as the whole story of God will only have integrity if those presenting it have wrestled with the gospel as the whole story of God themselves.

If we truly desire to reach a post-post-Christian generation, then our discipleship and equipping should reflect a framework that accounts for the entire narrative of Scripture.  The gospels and the book of Romans should no doubt receive their deserved attention, but in the context of the whole story.  We need to raise up a generation of “meta-narrative theologians” who are able to inherently discern how the story of God fits together, and how to engage those who are far from God and His story.

This is something we have discovered in facilitating Verge - when young people are given the space and permission to wrestle through the narrative of Scripture, it’s often like pressing the reset button.  

You can see that in a Facebook message I received yesterday - Jed was keen to share with me his story from his current Bible College application:

“Around 2010 I went on a youth camp. The camp told the story of the bible, but instead of just viewing all the separate stories of the bible ... it linked them all together into a bigger picture, I hadn’t really thought of it that way before. The gospel was no longer just the story of Jesus Christ, but the story of God from beginning to end and the story of us. With this newfound understanding I spent my last two years at school being comfortable with who I am through Christ, caring more for how God saw me not the world, and stoked to be different.”
(Thanks Jed!)

As people come away from our flagship experience, not only have they been able to engage with God, but they re-enter their own mission field with new eyes, new language, and renewed passion.

A primary feature of the new paradigm is seeing followers of Jesus equipped in “The Big Story.”

Thursday, October 8, 2015

applications & operating systems

Apps are easy.  Find something you like, download it, use it.  Simple.  Maybe you pay for it, maybe you don’t - maybe you tango with the in-app purchase cycle in the process.  But by and large, access to apps isn't all that complicated.

Operating systems can be a different story.  You get the notification in your settings, or, if you’re super-keen, you read up on the latest version through the company press-release … and you make a plan. If you’re like some people I know, you may make a plan to avoid the download … or you make a plan by scheduling in some device-free time (horror of horrors!), plugging it into the charger, and letting the update loose on all your not-yet-compatible applications.

And, once it’s installed, the time has come to discover all the new features (and the features no longer available!)

Whatever you think of it, your operating system is the thing that enables all your cool applications - it might be inconvenient to update it once in a while, but unless you hit download, your device will soon be behind the game.

I remember a conversation along these lines with the National Director of the mission organisation I was a part of.  Back in 2011 I was appointed as National Leader of the youth ministry arm of the organisation, and I received some sound advice: “Trav, you need to be clear on your applications and operating system.” 

I’ve thought about this conversation - a lot.  I was recruited into the mission organisation for the specific development and implementation of a new “ministry application” - and now I was faced with the responsibility of guarding the integrity of the “operating system.”  But I carried a tension - from my perspective, the development of the application revealed the need/opportunity for an upgraded operating system - and not just in the organisation - this was something far bigger. 

For over 30 years faith-based organisations across the globe have been extremely successful in delivering an excellent operating system.  Building spiritual movements through principles based on the life of Jesus, in my opinion, has revolutionised the paradigm through which ministry practitioners operate in countless places around the world.  These principles will continue to shape the practice of kingdom work for generations to come, but I’ve become convinced that for them to continue to take root in the emerging generation, the operating system needs to be upgraded.

It might sound a little pretentious, but as I reflect on the last few years, this is the reason why I stepped away from the larger organisation and founded AccessTheStory - to help others in their discovery or recognition of a new paradigm.

There will be a number of well-researched people who may articulate the dynamics of this new paradigm far better than me, but over the next couple of days, I’d like to suggest two features that we have discovered to be key in the delivery of our initiatives.