Differentiated Leadership

Well, that’s click bate title if ever there was one ūüôā

During my chaplaincy days, I was trained in family systems theory and then went on to take every seminary class offered in family systems theory. Edwin Friedman is the most famous proponent of using this theory for any and all organizational leadership and we’re now 4 years in to training our staff in this leadership posture. For those interested, here is a brief 7 minute video of the major concepts and approaches of differentiated leadership. I have found it essential in church leadership survival. Hope you enjoy!


Trump’s comments weren’t “locker room talk” and they weren’t simply “lewd.” Trump went way beyond lewd – he openly bragged about sexually assaulting women in front of several people.
I know many, many good men. None of them would talk anything near that way in a locker room or any room, None of them would privately think it. The reason is simple enough: they are decent people who believe in basic human dignity for all. Also they have wives, daughters, sisters, mothers and women friends. I am incredibly privileged to know Lisa, Kaylee, Toni, Gill and many women friends. Their impact is immeasurable. 
This isn’t about policy and party issues. I understand that both sides have compelling arguments: life, Supreme Court, poverty, care for the least, foreign policy, health, the economy, the massive unwieldy political system we all feel trapped in. And more personally, overt vs covert sins, cover ups, betrayals, political bullying and outlandish racist statements. I also understand that “sides” is part of the problem. No one side and no independent fully addresses¬†all that is needed in this country, so people are left choosing which issues are¬†most important. Both sides build an argument against, rather than a coalition toward.¬†
My hope is in a good, good Father who made women in his image, a reflection of the Imago Dei. Immeasurably valuable, 100% dignified.  
I’m especially grateful that God put in place this experiment called ‘church’ to show the love of God to all: love of neighbor, love of enemy, love of the unnoticed. The church is to offer particular welcome to those who society sends to the margins.¬†In the earliest days of the church, that included women. In the Roman Empire where women were mostly property or worse, this was truly revolutionary.¬†
In these more recent of days, we apparently need this reminder more than ever. The gospel of Jesus offers a revolution for any who wish to live different. Someone is going to be president of this country and no matter who that is, the church can still be the church, speaking up, loving neighbor, loving (political) enemy and most radically, inviting in.  


When Anne Patel Grey Blew My Mind

Part 2

As I noted prior, I was taking Dr Kip Elolia’s class on Liberation Theology and didn’t want the experience to end when the final exam was complete. I knew that God had vital lessons for me that I needed to keep learning, so after class ended, I kept reading liberation theology and was shocked to discover that our tiny seminary’s library had a robust collection of Aboriginal Theology.

How, you might ask, does a small seminary in upper east Tennessee* happen to have a selection of works from Aboriginal Australians? I have no idea, but I checked out, and subsequently own Anne Pattel-Grey’s “Through Aboriginal Eyes: The Cry From The Wilderness.”

For you liberation theology nerds out there, Pattel-Grey would be considered a Womanist Theologian, but her emphasis here is on general racism and white blindness to the gospel.  Continue reading

Cutting Room Floor: Bible


I’m starting a new series, mostly for our church family that are the research “left overs” from the most¬†recent sermon. ¬†Often an effective sermon comes down to what you don’t say as much as what you do, and thus editing out good material becomes essential.¬†Here, then are some of the leftovers from this past week’s message: ¬†They are somewhat random and unconnected, but for those wanting more thoughts on Scripture, they may be helpful:¬† Continue reading

A White Guy on White Privilege

Part 1.

I first heard the term “white privilege” during my second year of seminary during Kip Elolia’s class on liberation theology. Dr Elolia was brand new to our seminary so I didn’t know much about the content or professor, but take a squiz at this piece of Dr Elolia’s biography and see what you think:

As an African theological educator he tries to dispel the assumption that western theology is normative and universal while other theologies (African, Asian, Latin American, and Black) are local, contextual and limited. Therefore, in his teaching he engages students to be open to a broad theological curriculum and pedagogy that goes beyond the emphasis on the Global North (West) to include the experiences of the majority of Christians in the Global South.

So you’re offering to expand my world as someone from outside my worldview?

Sold.  Continue reading

On Plagiarism and Preaching

stop-plagiarismScot Mcknight hosts one of the finest curated blogs today over at Jesus Creed. Recently he posted an article about the problem of plagiarism in the pulpit. I thought it might be helpful for folks, particularly folks in my church to understand how we approach this at Discovery.

To me, plagiarism comes down to two primary issues: the intent to mislead and the lack of attribution to the original author/thinker.

A preacher gets up and shares a story in the first person that did not happen to him. He read about it or heard it in a sermon or it happened to a friend but he tells it as if it happened to him. Plagiarism

A preacher shares an idea that she heard without appropriately attributing the source implying that it is her original idea. Plagiarism.

Plagiarism is the short cut solution to appear more impressive than you are, to appear smarter than you really are. But it doesn’t relieve that pressure, it just feeds it. Plagiarism is a secret sin, sometimes found out, but often not, making it more powerful than a public sin. It is not a kind taskmaster. At Discovery, we relieve the temptation to appear impressive in three ways. Continue reading

Spiritual Appetite Suppressants

Sabbatical was a rare gift of some lessons I am still very much processing, so this post is somewhat of a work in progress.

Most of my sabbatical was spent in summer time, half of it overseas in cultures that move much slower than ours, even western cultures. The other half here at home, living a loosely structured rhythm of serving, learning and playing. I also had the rare privilege of being unplugged from my cellphone and email for 14 weeks, so all of this coalesced to provide insight into how our culture affects our soul’s ability to connect with God.

My conclusion is this: pace and pressure are spiritual appetite suppressors. I don’t imagine you read that statement and declared, “what is this new teaching?” You know this already, but I thought I knew it already as well. Continue reading

Sure Is Quiet Around Here…


I changed my phone number before going on sabbatical and Sharon, who is God’s gift to any church staff agreed to manage my email which is a kindness I can never repay. These two simple choices became a game changer in the amount of noise I experienced on Sabbatical.

I think most people grapple with email, social media and correspondence in general. Even¬†on days where I intentionally reduce noise or even turn off communication, it piles up waiting for the next morning. You are probably in much the same situation. But during sabbatical, it didn’t pile up, it was managed by someone else, so it wasn’t a cumulative noise waiting for my return, it simply wasn’t there. Continue reading

Preaching Simmer


I knew that sabbatical would generate some deeply needed, overdue lessons for me and the first lesson struck me earlier than expected. I was in Nairobi, Kenya just a few days into sabbatical and was hit with it while preaching at an outdoor crusade.

Usually when I preach it is after¬†a long time of study, reflection and prayer. I almost always come into a pulpit with much more material than I plan to use and because I believe in God’s Spirit’s leading as I’m preaching, I can draw from a simmer of options and directions, prompted (I believe) by God’s Spirit. But this time as I was preaching I reached for this pot of bubbling resources and found that not only was it empty, it wasn’t even there!

Now granted, an outdoor Kenyan crusade with an interpreter is a preaching challenge at the best of times. I have, at times, preached to more goats than people in Kenya, and once I even preached to people who were beating a goat which added to the challenge for me and for that poor goat.¬†But this time the challenge was heightened by this overwhelming feeling of “there is nothing there.”

I preached the crusade message as best I could and when I wrapped up, the interpreter looked at me accusingly and said, ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs it???‚Ä̬†I tried not to laugh at the absurdity of it. Kenyans are incredibly polite to westerners, the message had to be pretty bad for him to offer that uninvited critique. It was pretty bad. So¬†was the next one and the next. I preached 6 times in Kenya and didn‚Äôt find my rhythm until 4 sermons in. That‚Äôs a rough average by anyone‚Äôs measure. Continue reading