This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A REFLECTION ON THE CHALLENGES
By Rev. Ken G. Crawford 31 October, 2001
Later I will identify three practices that are.doc . Good or bad. faithful lives during this period of becoming. sometimes with blind and anxious experimentation like the restless husband who gets a new wardrobe. we honor a season of desolation by not making any changes. he would have known that a period of desolation is not necessarily a bad thing. it is a time of midlife crisis – an undercurrent of dis-ease that says the old ways of doing things will no longer suffice.There are intersections of life and faith where clarity becomes chaos. this desolation may be a gift from God. Rather. explores some of what is happening. study. while others experience the emergence from adolescence into adulthood. Ignatius says. Had he read Ignatius. essential for the clergy and laity as they seek to live through this season of crisis into the fullness of God’s dream for us. “What we were” is no longer enough.” (Bass. meditation. like me. and a new girlfriend (who looks remarkably like his wife!) all in the hopes of freeing himself from this disquiet. a thing to be avoided. a stirring in the soul of a person or group. that which Jesus regularly described as “the kingdom of God on earth…as it is in heaven.” as the title of Marshall Goldsmith’s book proclaims. In what follows. and how congregations are managing to live vital. Perhaps the church in the second decade of the 21st century finds itself in such a midlife crisis. direction becomes distraction. like so many at mid-life. in her book Christianity for the Rest of Us. said “Isn’t there Rev. shaking loose entrenched thoughts and habits. 42) Those people. I experience churches living in the midst of this struggle and grasping at anything that might settle the anxious soul. 2011 2 116296378. To some this feels like a death. but we are unsure of what we might become or how to get there. new hair. “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” WHERE WE MAY BE HEADED Diana Butler Bass. After describing what was in the first two chapters – “The Vanished Village” and “Remembering Christianity”. a new convertible. We find ourselves in between. in transition. I look at two studies that describe for us where some vibrant churches are headed. Surely God has something better in mind for us. For still others. I believe. A process of discovery ensues. Ken G Crawford. shunned or eliminated. and conversation.” She summarized a frequently heard critique of the church experience of our young adulthood – “These mainline congregations…paid little or no attention to people’s spiritual lives. she offers a word of hope in the next – “”The New Village Church” and “Finding Home. but rather wait till we experience returning consolation regarding a particular direction after long periods of prayer.
such as. I say. the church. congregations. and the world. one that may stir anxiety on the part of the church. Bass describes transforming lives.doc . in prayer. 2011 3 116296378.” suggesting a process to be followed. then why don’t they want to be with us (and why aren’t we more with them)?” We should not presume that we. Bolger.more?” and they began to wander. so… the church needs to be trained to look at Jesus” (48) with new eyes. stating “95% of the unchurched [in Seattle] have a favorable view of Jesus. These shifts seem to be true of congregations who are experiencing freedom from the frozen thoughts and habits alluded to above. they suggest that emerging churches who seriously and effectively respond to this midlife crisis of contemporary Christianity are marked by nine distinct practices. So. After outlining what she calls “Ten signposts of renewal”. But this is no documentary or “Idiots Guide to the Postmodern Church. one thing to do is learn to ask a new set of questions. Perhaps then. the church will be able to have conversation about Jesus with people in the culture. Could we even answer Jesus’ question? Do we even know “Who people say that [Jesus is]”? And then we are faced with whether we received from God an inner light Rev. those of the culture.” (23) What she proceeds to describe are congregations who have found ways to live Christianity incarnationally. She found in these churches three shifts in attitude and focus – “from traditionalism to tradition. where can we find help for the next steps in “Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures”? This subtitle to Emerging Churches (Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. the tone is more descriptive than instructive. “If we like Jesus. Ken G Crawford. study and dialogue with the community around us.” Rather. both of Fuller Theological Seminary) offers hope in the gerund verb form “creating.” “from purity to practice. In fact.13-16 and just parrot Peter’s answer rather than asking the question and seriously considering the range of answers. The first is “identifying with the life of Jesus. reflection. is almost a given of contemporary life. 45) They illustrate that these emerging churches began to look at Jesus differently.” “from certainty to wisdom” (45). she starkly states: “Nomadic spirituality. they argue. She identifies alternatives to the shallow acting out of a midlife crisis. So. to live their faith existentially – rising organically from the experience and meaning of their existence. but doe not help us navigate those dangerous waters. that sense of being alien in a strange land. Rather. can answer that question in isolation. This sounds like a risky proposition. We prefer to read Matthew 16. we explore together who Jesus is.” (Gibbs. and they like Jesus. What she does not offer is concrete guidance for how clergy and laity may live into such ways of being.
The focus becomes more communal. Neither work explains what the people of God are to do. and sent for further ministry (cf Mark 6. theological reflection. This brings us back into the cycle of formation with our experiences of ministry to be nurtured. forming a “cord of three strands that is not easily broken” (Ecc 4. they make a disturbing observation: “Emerging churches may not appear as legitimate forms of church to those who are not wrestling with the ideas of church practice” (95). How do we love and remain a part of the existing communities as they make the slow journey of transformation “by the renewing of [their] minds”? (Rom 12. and personal growth. more holistic. Ken G Crawford. mainline or evangelical churches that are struggling today) while living into the new work of God in the church and world? How do we love and serve the former while giving birth to the latter? We recognize that not all will make the journey to the new land (cf Num 32). “How do we love the place from which we came and those who raised us (the modern. equipped. Bass offers a hopeful vision of mainline congregations who are making the transition.17). itself and the world.doc . but I envision all of them together. They are spiritual formation. though. or do we simply say what flesh and blood have told us (cf Mt 16. Rev. though perhaps they too have left aside others “who are not wrestling” as Gibbs and Bolger say. Yet we all can still support and be supported. 2011 4 116296378.1) I suggest several categories of thought and practice. how we are to make this move.” (91) a shift from focus on the teachings of Paul to those of Jesus in the Gospels. A few pages later. Any one of them may help. HOW WE CAN GET THERE The questions I am asking are. traditional. This seems to suggest an inevitable split between those of the church that has been and those of the church that is becoming. 30-32). this emerging church moves from a focus on “gospel of salvation” one of “gospel of the kingdom. I will now offer three suggestions.613. To take just one more example from Gibbs and Bolger. if at all. challenged. edified. still understand and be understood as one people serving one God. This seemingly small change has dramatic impact on how the church thinks about God. more God focused. Each of these will help individuals and congregations move toward discernment. development and deploying of ministry. more outward focused.12).revealing to us who Jesus is for the world today.
Spiritual Formation Spiritual formation starts with the self as the active agent. one in which others may experience similar grace from God. The reality is otherwise. even if the presumption is that “those others are the immature ones. not just those who actively want to grow? Houdek indicates three traits present in those who are “ready” to begin spiritual direction.” My personal ongoing spiritual formation is grounded in the work of the Jesuits. not just what appears to be. which is enough for today. I move from being impatient with them. They are: 1) a sense of awareness of experience – “what is happening”. 2011 5 116296378. 17). Jesus presses the disciples beyond easy answers “You give them Rev. and I endeavor to share some of those prayer habits that have been helpful to me. The framework of spiritual direction is useful in spiritual formation. their pragmatism. when we find these traits lacking. provides guidance from a Jesuit model that I would apply to congregational leadership. this new life emerging in me. Not all people in churches (including some leaders) are interested in growing spiritually. I practice vulnerability and transparency. S. 3) verbal communication skills. we can intentionally work with others to develop them throughout the congregation. We see in Jesus’ teaching ministry a focus on reality – on what is really going on. even if not practiced in a traditional one-to-one relationship. knowing that God is at work among us. how does one discern among these. Frank J Houdek.J. The shift taking place in my heart through study and prayer then allows a peace to open around me. So. Ken G Crawford. One who is aware of the need is also capable of making change and progress in the spiritual life. and at the same time their wonderfully creative and expressive poetry and use of imagery. One might wish or even assume (as at times I have) that everyone in a church does or at least should feel this way. toward maturity in Christ. 2) the ability to reflect on these experiences. The leader might also look for these in individuals. through impatience for them. A starting premise is that good candidates for spiritual direction desire to grow “in awareness and responsiveness to the living God” (Houdek. and how does one serve the whole congregation. I talk with the congregation about what is unfolding in me. Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits (edited by Michael Harter) is a wonderful collection of poem prayers linked with the four ‘weeks’ of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. As I experience these transformations. As I pray with the Jesuits I find my heart opening and becoming increasingly tender towards the people I serve. I appreciate their intellectual rigor. and in the community as a whole system. one body. and finally to peace with where they are.doc . among groups. (16-17) As leaders. This peace leaves me no less hopeful for our full transformation and reconciliation as together we grow.
and moves to a third: 3) an action in the world. so that we might gain new insights and not simply rely on what we ‘think we know. 2011 6 116296378. This habit frustrates and annoys his listeners.something to eat. At this point we also want to avoid making value judgments about the speech and behavior of others or ourselves. Clergy and lay leaders would do well to study this chapter and pursue the characteristics described there.” Jesus then asks questions of meaning. how does it square with them? Even when God does ‘a new thing’ it will be consistent with some underlying spirit or intent present in the ‘old thing (understanding)’. so it is worth being aware of and open to this variety. We are called upon to model these and other practices of spiritual formation and theological reflection. because that is what we have.” “Roll away the stone. What does my faith tradition say about what is happening? This includes several elements: a) The theology in my head – the stories and ideas that come to mind that seem immediately relevant and are a composite of ideas from my own faith development over time (embedded theology). Jesus calls on them to articulate – “Who do you say that I am?”. ‘as close as we can get’ to an objective description separate from our emotional reactions to what is happening.doc . and 2) a faith tradition.’ d) Revelation – As I pray (speak.” “Let the net down on the other side. “Which is the true neighbor?” Chapter four goes into greater detail on the traits necessary in the director. and some things that can be done to develop them. We then need to look beyond our perceptions. b) Scripture – are there texts that seem to speak either directly or indirectly to this situation or experience? c) Tradition – what has the church taught about this subject? Often there exists a variety of teaching on a particular topic. This work is best done with questions. Rev. We are aided in this by our own study of these two disciplines. We first need to begin with our perceptions. Theological Reflection Theological reflection as a learned skill brings together two elements: 1) an experience. but mostly listen) do I receive any new thought on the subject that does not seem to arise directly from one of the above sources? If so. “What is written?”. often in response to questions asked of him. and by working with a spiritual director ourselves. Ken G Crawford. Then. but pushes some of them to deeper levels of thought. What is happening? This is not as obvious as it seems.
we slow the pace with questions. as well as those who seek to model and teach them to others. in the midst of our faith community. emotional. and the techniques that currently fall under the broad category of ‘coaching’. We reframe conversations along these lines. I want to suggest that developing a working knowledge of Family Systems Theory. Personal Growth The third area of formation is Personal Growth – clearly a broad terrain filled with any number of challenges and opportunities. can be worked through in individual or group coaching using systems theory as a frame of reference. theological reflection.doc . what insights and understandings arise? What does God seem to be doing? What clarity is brought by allowing the ‘light of faith’ to shine on otherwise clouded and shadowy experiences and thoughts? What am I or others to do with this increased insight? So what? Theological reflection is incomplete unless it results in something concrete. 3). The works of Edwin Friedman and Roberta Gilbert have made Family Systems Theory more accessible. do or not do? How am I to love God and neighbor as self in the midst of this experience and in the light of this reflection? “What does the LORD require of me?” We learn these skills of theological reflection by working with peers and trusted guides. and ministry often shine light on these aspects of self. The book helps us understand and address those situations and relationships of conflict with calm reason. habitual and relational patterns which cause problems in our lives. We think and speak in these ways. inviting us to think about them and seek growth.What insight do I now have into my experience and my tradition? As I think and talk through the above.and emotions run strong” (Grenny. can go a long way toward helping leaders grow personally. and then we live them out. Some are so dramatic that we really need counseling or psychotherapy. skill. Crucial Conversations give us tools for better understanding ourselves and aiding others in the journey of self discovery. By ‘personal growth’ I have in mind transforming those mental. For the purpose of this paper. The Rev. A “crucial conversation” is one in which “the stakes are high… opinions vary…. Many. Stone and Duke’s book How To Think Theologically is a great introductory resource for people learning these skills. however. day by day. and then equipping them (us) to help others. we ask for faithful reflection. When anxiety begins to build. and humility. say or not say. Ken G Crawford. Intentional practice of spiritual formation. When people rush toward certainly. What am I (are we) called to be or not be. 2011 7 116296378.
One such technique is to “start with heart” which includes answering three questions: “1) What do I really want for myself? 2) What do I really want for others? 3) What do I really want for the relationship?” (34) Asking these questions helps us move away from short sighted reactive behaviors that undermine our real goals and hurt others. Rev. and we see it mirrored in the gospels as people struggled with trying to believe that the promise of a coming kingdom was real. can sit down with this model and begin to get a handle on the complexity of a congregational system. will say. Learning Loop. Working in a coaching model – asking questions rather than telling information or opinions.doc . including the leaders. Ask for others’ paths. or back to Israel from Babylonian captivity. even do well. with support. Encourage testing (140). either from Egypt to the Promised Land. That freedom. One great value of this book for the transformational leader is the ability to work through the perennial questions. Along the way many. slow journeys. and allows people the space to live with their anxiety while trusting in the ultimate safety of the relationships. and Forwarding the Action (Crane.authors lay out various specific techniques for leaders – things we can understand and do. What do I do now? Indeed! Working with a coach. which is a web of systems within systems within the system – all of which are made of triangles. Later they lay out a technique called “STATE” – Share your facts. On that journey. while walking the long road with them. anxiety abounds and any skill that helps reduce or manage it is useful. “What’s going on? AND What do I do now?” Along with systems theory and the work of Grenny and others. and all of which are then connected to innumerable external systems. Ken G Crawford. so the reader knows specifically what to try – some are optional. and over time. More importantly. He then outlines steps within each phase. Tell your story. This skill teaches us to have a difficult conversation while reducing the risk that others or we will become defensive – a particularly good skill when working with a group on the journey through a liminal space from what no longer works toward something yet to be discovered. those who wish to remain fully committed to the existing communities of Christian faith. or group. are vital tools for transformational leaders. or both. “Let’s just stay here. are long.” or “Let’s go back. Talk tentatively. 2011 8 116296378. 44). A leader. and developing coaching skills. it then helps us think through what to do. also helps reduce defensiveness.” The Hebrew Scriptures tell us this story repeatedly. Either. others are presented as necessary. Crane’s book can help us understand what’s going on. Thomas Crane’s book The Heart of Coaching methodically describes his understanding of “transformation coaching” in three phases: Foundation.
New York. 2002. That who I have been does not have to define who I can become. 1020. 1996. Crane. Bolger. San Diego. Minneapolis. Gibbs. and personal growth – we will be better equipped to serve the church. Chicago. Guided By The Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective on Spiritual Direction.peace. Houdek. McGraw Hill. theological reflection. Marshall. ISBN 9780801077154. et al. ISBN 0071401946. FTA Press. Harper Collins. Grenny. Eddie and Ryan K. Howard W. Frank J. Grand Rapids. The Heart of Coaching: Using Transformational Coaching to Create a HighPerformance Coaching Culture. every day. Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith. 2011 9 116296378.J. ISBN 9780829408591. joy. as disciples of Jesus Christ. Fortress Press. Joseph. ISBN 0800638182. Loyola Press. on its better days. New York. God. Harter. have been called. on our better days. Loyola. ISBN 978-1401301309. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High. This is the work to which we as ministers. Works Cited: Bass. Stone. Thomas G. Rev. Hyperion. Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures. Diana Butler. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. We. & James O. This is Good News. want this for the church. New York. Ken G Crawford. Hearts on Fire: Praying With The Jesuits. for and through the church. ISBN 9780060859497. The church. Duke. for the sake of the world Christ came to save. wants this for and from us. Michael. As we engage these three processes – spiritual formation.doc . 2007. Goldsmith. ISBN 9780966087437. wants this from us. How to Think Theologically.. 2008. Chicago. 2005. 2007. ISBN 9780829421200. to equip Christians for the work of ministry. Baker Academic. 2006. and new life were real. S.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?