Genesis 17

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.’

God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.’

God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, ‘Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘O that Ishmael might live in your sight!’ God said, ‘No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.’ And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised; and all the men of his house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

The sign of the covenant between God and Abram, now to be known as Abraham, is circumcision. God appears to Abraham, promises an everlasting covenant with Abraham and all of his descendants. Isaac, a son, to be born of Sarah and Abraham will inherit the covenant.

To Abraham and Isaac and their descendants God gives them the land of Canaan. In exchange, Abraham and his descendants are to worship God. And the sign of this covenant is circumcision of all males in Abraham’s household.

This sign forever marks the Jewish people as alien, or other. They are being set apart by God from the rest of creation. God has chosen his people with who he makes a covenant. And this status as “other” is reinforced when the land promised to Abraham is none other then Canaan, the land in which Abraham currently is an alien.

This foundational story of the people of God cannot be understated in anyway. To be marked by God, set apart for God and chosen by God comes with benefits to be sure, new land, which will be theirs in perpetuity. But it also comes with consequences. Abraham’s people will now be other, set aside, set apart, different and alien in a world where cultural differences can lead to war and violence very quickly.

closing-the-dealIn Genesis to this point, God had made a covenant with Noah, to never again destroy the earth and all who live within. But now God has singled out a people who God has chosen. Abraham jumps at the opportunity, and who wouldn’t? Large amounts of land to be his and his descendants in perpetuity? Sounds like a great deal. Worship God, mark themselves as God and God will make his descendants as numerous as the stars in heaven and from Sarah will come nations.

Would you make that deal? Would you set yourself up as “other” in perpetuity?

Parallels

Fanshawe College is one of the largest colleges in Ontario, with satellite campuses in towns surrounding London and a campus in Downtown London, all of this in addition to the large main campus on Oxford Street in the east end. It is a major player in education in London and frankly, all of South Western Ontario. It receives millions in funding from the Provincial Government and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.

FanshawelogoFanshawe was the latest stop for Leadership London and the team of leaders who are training in the TOL methodology. Your Rogue Preacher and the rest of the team descended on Fanshawe College for a meeting with the President of the college, Peter Devlin to discuss leadership, what qualities make for a good leader and how to nurture those qualities. We toured the campus, got a behind the scenes look at the functioning of the college and were presented with a problem that the team would work through and present a solution, or possible solutions to Fanshawe College.

Without getting into specifics of the problem, it was very interesting for me to note that a college as large as Fanshawe, with a robust marketing team and state of the art technology still, like any other institution, had problems on how to isolate a specific demographic and attract the aforementioned demographic.

This perennial problem of Fanshawe reminded me of the church and the church’s perennial problem of attracting, retaining and connecting with millennials. The parallels were striking to say the least. And as the team worked through the OODA loop and processed the problem, possible solutions slowly began to crystalize. It was refreshing to see and experience.

I began to wonder, what could a team of leaders accomplish in the Diocese or the greater church if they were giving an opportunity to help shift the culture and establish new patterns. I began to wonder how the church can adapt to the culture around us and how the culture around us could adapt to us? I began to wonder what the vision of the future may be?

In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men dream dreams. Acts 2:17

Quick to Criticize, Slow to Praise

I, like many of us, have been quick to criticize and slow to praise. It is easier to tear something down rather then build something up. And my recent adventures in home renovations have taught me precisely that. I am not sure why we do this as human beings? But I found myself doing it far more often then I wanted.

Over the past 6 months or so though I have been more proactive about praising more and criticizing less. I have found it immensely helpful to remind myself that while I may not agree with the decisions being made by others, that their hearts is in the right place. There are after all very few truly “evil” people in the world.

For instance, I may not agree with decisions my bishop makes, or votes taking in deanery council, but reminding myself that all these people want to see the Kingdom of God grow and are just doing their best has helped me temper my criticism.

What has also helped me temper my criticisms of others is reminding myself that it is easy to criticize, but then asking myself, “what am I going to do about it?” I can, after all, join in a “bitch” session, or I can be willing to help others and offer constructive solutions. This has helped me not just to be more effective in church land, but to be happier.

This, of course, is not just a realization I have had on my own or a moment of self actualization. It is born of a couple of things. It is a process by which I am becoming more the person God wants me to be. Allowing the Spirit of God to work me over has had a dramatic positive effect. Also, having good friends has been key. Not just too debrief and complain with but also challenge me to be a better priest, and a better person.

So a big shout out to Kevin Dixon and Bill Ward. You guys have helped make me a better person, at least 8 times out of 10. (sorry Billy, couldn’t resist)

Vision, Mission and Purpose

I have been involved with the church for many years in one capacity or another. During that time I have helped churches and various congregations develop vision and mission statements and clearly articulate their purposes or goals.

As a quick recap, a Vision Statement is the pie in the sky idea, what one day long into the future an organization would like to see. The Mission Statement is the process by which the vision is enacted. And the Purposes or Goals are the daily means by which that mission is carried out.

Often this is seen as too corporate of an activity. It reminds people of the business world and we are church. Often, there is great resistance to this process. And when this process does get completed, there is very little buy in by parishioners or staff.

At a recent gathering of clergy here in London I asked how many of us knew the Vision and Mission Statements of the Diocese. I was not surprised too see no hands go up. After all my hand didn’t go up either as I shamefully had to admit that I too had to look up our Vision and Mission statements and could find no hint of our Purposes or Goals on any Diocesan communications.

Why do I mention this? Recently through Emerging Leaders and Leadership London I had the opportunity to tour a few non-profits here in London and how they have grown through the years and the work they are engaged in.

Our First stop was Y.O.U. (Youth Opportunities Unlimited). Over the past few years they have repurposed a building in the core of London to include classrooms, housing units and a café where skills are taught and resume building occurs. The rooftop terrace was impressive, the café was great and the building and the ministry being done to care for youth on the margins is incredible.

Our next stop was WIL (Originally Women Immigration London). This organization connects recent immigrates with employers, helps them navigate interviews and directly partners with the Federal Government in the immigration resettlement process. WIL began modestly in a church basement, and now own a large office tower in the core of London and helps to connects thousands of immigrants with meaningful employment.

Our last stop was Pillar Non-Profit. Pillar’s recent purchase of the Goodlife building in the core of London for the creation of a Social Innovation Shared Space is helping to change the direction of London and shape the future of the city. Pillar as a network of non-profits now has multiple staff and continues to advise and assist non-profits in London in a myriad of ways.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The social impact of these three organizations in London is impressive to say the least. How they got there is also worthy of note. Everyone I spoke to in each organization could clearly articulate the Vision, Mission and Purpose of their organization, everyone from Executive Directors to the receptionist.

Each employee knew what the organization was hoping to accomplish, how it was going to get there and what the daily task were. This got me thinking about my context and the church. Can we, as a church body, whether that be local parish or Diocesan structure, clearly articulate our shared Vision, our shared Mission and what our daily purposes or goals are?

Starting with better communications surrounding Vision, Mission and Purposes may help us grow and expand, reach more people and have greater impact in helping to build up the kingdom of God. And like Y.O.U., WIL and Pillar Non-Profit could also greatly increase our foot print in London and in the world.

Plans are Merely a Platform for Change

Shifting and changing culture is a difficult thing. While many may be on board with the need for a shift in culture, it is difficult to enact that change. There are three common ways in which change is often implemented.

  • Imitation
  • Importation
  • Revolution

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it will not help you change the culture of your church. What works at another church or diocese, will not necessarily work in your context. There are many reasons for this, but most notably the source of your imitation has invested greatly into their venture, raised up the right team, down missional listening and are now acting accordingly. Often we try to replicate what others have done, rather then looking for what God is asking us to do in our context. The desire to have a ready made program parachuted in is a strong motivation. The hope is for quick results, little work and easy decisions. If it is too good to be true, often it is.

Importation, another means of implementing change, is the dreaded consultant. Many churches will hire a consultant to help them move forward. This has a tendency to work in individual churches on a small scale where the individual congregation has already bought into the need for change, but often runs into problems on Diocesan levels were cynicism is aimed at the higher ups and buy in is low. It also can lead people to placing all expectations on one person, who will be the saviour. And when things naturally do not work out because one person alone cannot save the world, the horizontal church responds that we tried and change is not possible, status quo remains. Unfortunately this also creates a scapegoat and does little to build a team that will champion the need for change.

Revolutions meanwhile are often successful, but they require a crisis situation. Through crisis the need for change is fostered when the church is willing to look for new leadership, new vision, new methods, new practices, new rewards, new principles, a new approach to hiring and formation, and a new way to promote those within the organization. This type of change is effective for it breaks with traditions, the same policy traditions that have created the crisis in the first place. After all, doing the same things and expecting a different results is not just a logically fallacy, it is also Einstein’s definition of insanity.

changeTo help enact revolution, a collaborative team of leaders needs to be brought together. Power needs to be decentralized so that decisions can happen quickly and efficiently and for team members to have some skin the game. The buck doesn’t stop at the bishop, but rather at the team who are responsible to each other and also the organization, the church.

In this manner, the structure of the organization shifts from vertical to horizontal. More individuals are giving responsibility for the enacting of the vision, mission and purposes. The delegation of decision making is not an abdicating of responsibility of the leader (the bishop), but rather is putting individuals in positions to succeed and to advance the vision of the church.

Revolutions require new leaders in many ways. They promote from the bottom up. Traditional paths to the operational power are replaced by assigning task to the people best suited for the responsibility, regardless of tenure, age or experience.

All of this sounds great, but operational integrity must be maintained throughout and adherence to the execution of the intent of the church must inform all actions of the organization. Being focused, and making sure all decisions flow into the agreed upon vision, mission and purpose is simply a must. It is easy to go off the rails, to get distracted and for individuals to have pet projects or concerns. But in a crisis, all need to pull together, in the same direction as a team.

This building of a collaborative team to help enact a revolution and to carry forward the vision, the mission and the purposes of the church flows from the principle that there can be no expertise without collaboration (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) and success depends on the collaboration of experts.

#ToL and Leadership London

What is #Tol? It is a Team of Leaders and a leadership methodology brought to civic affairs by The Center for Collaborative Command and Leadership. This program has been brought to London by Emerging Leaders through the Leadership London program and part of the Emerging Leaders mandate to retain, attract and connect young talent in London On.

Taking directly from the #ToL website, #ToL is describe as,

The concept of Teams of Leaders has been developed by the US Army to help it to interact with the civilian world of the post-Cold War era, and to promote utilization of the immense intellectual, business, and logistics capabilities of the Army in the service of the civilian authorities. In addition, the ToL concept served to strengthen the existing relationships with the long-standing allies of the US, and to form new ones with the large number of rapidly emerging partners.

The original goal of the Teams of Leaders concept was to fill the structural gap in situations where a single authority and a single shared purpose were typically either unclear, subject to external manipulation, or entirely absent. Hence, the driving force behind the Teams of Leaders approach was the wish to promote an environment that builds common understanding, and develops mutual trust and confidence among a wide variety of professional, organizational, and national teams forced to act jointly in the often turbulent setting of the contemporary political, economic, and social world.

Ultimately, ToL policies, programs and practices were found to be equally applicable across both the military and civilian governmental, non-governmental, and corporate entities acting in the joint, inter-agency, inter-governmental, and multinational (JIIM) setting of globalized activities. The transition of ToL from the military to the civilian sphere of activities was largely afforded through the work of the Center for Collaborative Command and Leadership (CCCL, formerly Center for Collaborative Leadership in Healthcare – CCLH). Presently, the ToL concept serves as the unique and exceptionally well suited tool in the development of collaboration among entities involved in missions executed at all levels of the civil society and of the corporate world.

Marty@ToLOn October 4th, your Rogue Preacher began his first session with #ToL and Leadership London. It was an exciting day of learning the methodologies and practices and collaborating with an exciting group of Londoners, of leaders, who are seeking to become citizens of action committed to reshaping London for a better future.

Each month we will meet and tackle problems in various sectors of London and thereby gain valuable insight across all of London while putting into practice the methodologies of #ToL. These sectors include:

  • Non Profits
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Technology
  • City Government
  • Economic Development
  • Our Place in the Region
  • Our Heritage
  • Arts

There is much to be learned and much to be shared. There will be techniques of building teams rapidly, developing solutions to long standing problems and rapidly responding to new problems as they emerge. It plans to be an amazing journey of discovering London, developing leadership skills and team building methodologies and most of all continuing as a life long learner.

I will endeavour to share thoughts and insights, especially as they pertain to the church. Hopefully as I blog my way through this project there will be insights that can be applied directly to the church, its long term problems, rapidly developing problems and help foster a stronger and better teams of leaders throughout the church.

I will try to not be critical of the church, but at times I will have to be. My critiques will not be about pointing out problems and assigning blame, but rather will be about offering ways we can name our problems, but also tackle them to help further God’s Kingdom and build up the church here in London.

So check back periodically, and hold on…we are going to plunge deeply into the heart of London.