Soularize 10 Years Later – Glad for Friends

The beginning of “the edge of the inside” dates back more than ten years ago. Back then the first iteration of this website was on Blogger under the name, Just Todd.

It would take some time to tell the story, but participating in a seminar led by Grant Lovejoy on narrative communication at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary led to my introduction to Walsh and Middleton’s, Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be. The event was the now no longer, Scholar’s In Ministry Week. Those with graduate degrees were invited for extended times of learning and interaction.

A few years later I took an online course with Grant titled Chronological Bible Storying and was introduced to N.T. Wright’s, The New Testament and the People of God. There were other texts, but this one is worth noting.

Eager to continue learning, I responded to an invitation to participate in a new learning community. Spencer Burke, who founded, extended the invitation. One of the learning opportunities was to attend and participate in Soularize held in Minneapolis in 2002. Read More

Three Is Enough … Todd Hunter

hunter1.jpgI met Todd Hunter about six years ago. Since that time we have hosted Todd on a few ETREK conference calls. He writes well about the missional turn. Yesterday Ed Stetzer posted the following release on his blog and today Jim Henderson with Off-the-Map included it in an e-mail. Todd’s new work should be a great contribution to and for us all.

Three Is Enough Groups â?? Spirituality For the Sake of Others
Todd Hunter, former CEO of Alpha USA, launches new ministry to focus on spiritual transformation

Boise, ID, April 2, 2008

Effective April 1, Todd Hunter (51) transitioned from his role of National Director at Alpha USA to launch a new ministry focused on helping pastors and lay leaders reach a generation that has become disenfranchised from the church.

Under the new non-profit, Society for Kingdom Living, Hunter will develop his writing, speaking and professional activities in the areas of conversational evangelism and the 21st century church. Hunter has a passion for evangelism but is convinced that Christianity in America has a massive image problem that stymies most attempts at evangelism. With the basic premise that Christianity needs to be re-practiced in order to help make followers of Jesus in this generation, he is developing resources and events that include writing a series of three books, the first to be published by InterVarsity Press, developing conferences, and teaching at key seminaries.

His first major conference to be held in Minneapolis on May 16-17 features conversational evangelism pioneers Mark Mittleberg, Becky Pippert, Dan Kimball and Garry Poole and Rick Richardson. Hunter has asked Jim Henderson and Off The Map to produce these conferences.

Hunter will begin this ministry by teaching and consulting on Three Is Enough Groups. These groups are designed to show people how to undo un-Christian faith by showing them that heaven is not the goal of Christianity – it is simply the destination. Being the servant – otherly people of God – is the goal.

Through his writing and teaching, Hunter will encourage churches and lay leaders to begin forming Three Is Enough Groups to help individuals pray, grow and serve. Keeping the groups small and focused insures that evangelism can happen anywhere, in the midst of peopleâ??s busy lives. Meeting in their most natural places of community â?? the workplace, school, or at the local coffee shop – Three Is Enough Groups will go on the Journey Inward of spiritual transformation and the Journey Outward of serving others. This will be done through the power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of others – the least, the last and the missing.

Hunter will continue to be a consultant to Alpha USA and will remain on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. He will have an active role in promoting Alpha, teaching on Alphaâ??s practices, building relationships and advising the organization on strategy.

Listening and relational learning

One of our favorite, and honest, phrases parenting our girls was, “There are two sides to every story.” Occasionally this was construed as either, ‘You don’t believe me,” or, “How come you won’t assume my position.” These interactions came during conversational moments where in relationship with our girls we were attempting to learn together in a way a particular event could be a moment of growth and maturity, even for we parents.

Frustration generally curbed or slowed all of our learning. We so wanted to be understood  that our only gauge for understanding was for the  “other” to “come over to  our side.” Our girls would on occasion feel as though their parents did not listen and we reciprocated with the same feelings.

This kind of impasse is often experienced in any number of relationships. What we must be careful of is asserting the “other” is immovable and thereby exhibits a flawed character. It could be the “other” listened but for a variety of reasons did not assume a posture of holding on to his or her position out of pride and belligerence.  It may well have been the “other” found merit in the “argument” presented and may have even moderated some elements of a position but nonetheless found confidence in the decision made.

Attempts to couch this experience in terms of antagonists limits what we may learn. In other words, it is easy to make ensuing conversations and descriptions part of an “us/them” framework. Doing so runs the risk of exhibiting both a lack of humility and an attempt to control and direct the “other.”

Pastoring often brings such a criticism when it is perceived a person is not “heard.” Listening in this context means the one casting an  accusation is more interested in “getting their way” than working toward understanding that may even result in disagreement but not the dissolution of the relationship.

Over this past several months I listened and learned from a group of students. Our conversations centered on leadership beyond power. The ways in which we exhibit power over the “other” often leads to a decline in powerful leadership after the manner of Jesus as each person is interested in “getting their way.” The subplot of the course found expression in the title, “Beyond Power: Leadership and Gender in a Flattened World.”

Students with differing views and perspectives made for an  interesting, even intense, first couple of days. Over the course of the semester learning from “others” took precedence over positions. This does not mean some fell pray to the proverbial slippery slope of giving up ground only to be come …. you fill in the blank. Instead, what ensued was a final two days together that exhibited just how those who differ can learn and love one another to a place of powerful learning – relational learning.

Creating an atmosphere where this may occur in all  relationships may result not in a particular hegemonic position, but a plurality that allows us to see in ways we otherwise would not. Our own confidences are refined as we embrace the “other.” Since we cannot “fully know” the position of learning from the “other” seems to be a better place from which to move forward in following Jesus and working with others to live what my friend John refers to as, “reconciled lives with God and with others.”

The Room Wins

etrek-1007_003.JPGLeadership beyond power took on an interesting twist as we gathered for our first of two days on the campus of Biblical Seminary. Sally works with a noted architect and together they use a phrase to describe the power of space, “The room always wins.” Rather than the normal setting for our course we adjourned to the chapel and a corner where we pulled up some chairs and couches to create a more “flattened” feel.

Most of our educational experiences take place in a face forward environment. We usually sit around tables in something of a horseshoe arrangement. While this allows us to see it does create a directional learning atmosphere toward the “speaker.” ETREK holds the value of collaborative learning in a facilitated context. The learning is facilitated by a “leader” who acts as a “fellow traveler” who may be a step ahead in the learning journey but is at the same time learning with those around the room (collaborative).

When Sally noted this morning the room wins, I immediately thought of the learning atmosphere where we found ourselves. Conversations generated from interactions with a couple of texts and those in the group contributed to the conversation giving multiple voices and perspectives. In the end the phrase “the room always wins” also contained a referent to the wrestling we would face thinking about leadership and power. If the room was so structured to create a particular atmosphere it did not matter its color, lighting or shape of the tables. When we moved to a different space the metaphor helped create a different perspective on leadership and in the end the room helped win the day for some healthy discussions around leadership and power, gender and structures, roles and systems.

We will have to move again tomorrow. I hope the room does not win and we continue to press the import of de-centered leadership where everyone finds value as both humans and participants in any organization including the church.