Algorithms and Allegories  

Posted by Mike Sharrow in , , , ,

Some friends at another church in town are releasing devotionals for Lent, and this is today's entry...good for us all to celebrate and remember...

1 Corinthians 1:26-27 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Recently I was explaining to a friend that algorithms (a fairly simple procedure for solving complex mathematical problems) and allegories (a convoluted method of teaching simple truths through symbolism) had similar Latin roots. The major difference was that Allegories had a double “l”, which made it more complex. She suggested that I was crazy (probably true), she did not know what algorithms were, except that they were mentioned in the TV show NUMB3RS, and they were not simple. To prove my point, I showed her that the word alga (or algae) started with the same sound as algorithm; and alga were simple one-celled plants, while allegro had the double “l” and meant fast (complex). She countered that I could allege anything I wanted, but it did not make it true.

While my friend will never accept that algorithms are simple, she knows a lot of allegories from the Bible:
Jesus’ parables,
Jesus as the Good Shepherd,
Jesus as the Lamb of God,
The symbol of the cross which stands for the blood that was shed at Calvary.

Meanwhile I will go through life praising God and thinking that algorithms and alga are simple, and allegories and allegro are complex.

Lord, thank You for making Your truths so complex that scholars have trouble understanding them, but so simple that a child can understand them. Amen.

Anthology of Leadership Bytes by the Kingdom Blogosphere  

Posted by Mike Sharrow in , , , ,

So some guys in the network world graciously pulled together an anthology of sorts of the leadership related blog entries by some of the top bloggers in the church planting, pastoring, leadership, church ideation world. You can read it, print it, keep it and kick it around HERE.

L-D Tension - Interplay, Distinction and Opportunity  

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I've discussed the distinction between "leadership" and "discipleship" before. They are two disciplines/functions that have so much interplay that they are often blended together, which can be hazardous at times.

In a recent discussion about cross-cultural leadership/discipleship issues within the context of global missions, Keith Anderson reiterated how much a healthy understanding of the relationship and distinctions between L&D is to the deployment of healthy practices - particularly with church planting.

Before referencing some outstanding scholarship that has been produced recently around cross-cultural leadership dynamics (GLOBE project), he highlighted how the sequencing and confusion of these 2 practices can play out in church planting contexts...

(1) You can focus on leadership principles alone. You must wrestle with effectively transmitting the principles in ways that are transferrable to that culture, of course. (something Enrique Fernandez succinctly captures in his teaching on Leadership Extrapolation) The hazard is that you can create dynamic organizational structures and learning systems that fail to draw people to Christ, transform the world or truly touch the Kingdom agenda of God. Certainly, followers will be created ("disciples"?), but not necessarily growing towards Christ and by Him.

(2) You can focus on discipleship. This is most commonly the practice in church-planting, and logically so. You send a team, proclaim the Gospel, teach people to read, pray and go share the story of Christ, rinse-lather-repeat. A by-product of this is certainly that "leaders" are generated as the recipient of the Gospel who turns and shares with others inherits leadership responsibilities and influence over them. This is the primary commissioning of Christ-followers and is the ground floor for reaching new people groups. However, the practices of initially seeding disciples are not effective at cultivating healthy leadership that is sustainable, replicable, and developmental in nature.

(3) You can disciple with a plan for intentional follow-up and leadership development. This is (as you've guessed) the recommended approach. In this you lead off fundamentally, but have the discipline and commitment to follow it up with continued learning, investment and equipping so that indigent leaders can be supported in their generational work of living out our shared Commission in their locale.

I've certainly seen these principles validated - in Haiti, Honduras, Argentina, Mexico, Ireland and the US. Myopic emphasis on just L or D creates an organizational anemia that hinders the Body and creates cyclical resource expenditure by congregations that fail to accumulate for net progression. There is incredible opportunity, however, when a healthy outlook is achieved that allows for seasons, stages and a metamorphosis-based approach.

The principles are not just a function of scale - it works down to the ministry team, small group and similar level. As a leader, are you differentiating between the functional purpose of development efforts - to disciple, to infuse with leadership to further the cause of Kingdom advancement, additional discipleship to provide the depth from which to lead spiritually even further, etc? Have you seen hazards from L&D being confused, or a lack of any intentional plan to develop along either tracks?

L-D Tension - Missions Without the "S"  

Posted by Mike Sharrow in , , , , , ,

Enrique Fernandez was asked for some key axioms pertaining to the local church effectively engaging cross-cultural missions, leadership and discipleship based upon his work and experience. His response:

The local church must take the "s" off of Missions, and instead focus on the Mission of God (singular). The world-wide mission of God is one of restoring all people to relationship with Himself and ushering in His Kingdom. The work of the local church is to participate in this universal Mission. The implication is to approach each culture, destination or people group with a mindset of discerning what His work is in that place and determining our role in participating.

This kind of mindset demands a vulnerability to reflect upon our own agendas and presuppositions of culture and consider that of our surroundings. it requires us to commit not to a single location as much as God's work there, listening and learning. It involves thinking about sustainable efforts and long-term investments that are about seeing God's design fully lived out in that place over attainable projects for us to come back from having touched.

Certainly this axiom, while spoken in relation to outbound missions, has application for leaders in any context. How often do you step back and wrestle with the Mission of God for the people you're interacting with, versus making "a mission" out of your efforts? How effective, when working with people from another culture, are you at discerning between the form of your own American culture from the essence of Christ in evaluating their situation?

*Quote from goLead Cross-Cultural Leadership & Discipleship Symposium (2009, Wayside Chapel)