Category Archives: Articles

Butt Friction

Matako ghawi ghaleka cha ku kwenthana

(Two buttocks cannot avoid friction)

—Malawian Proverb

Niyi Gbade and John Becker start off their article “Buttocks, Bridges, and Kola Nuts”with this Malawian proverb in the most recent Missio Nexus Anthology (Vol 4 No 2 October 2016) on Conflict.

It is now my favorite African proverb.

My first take on this was that the proverb is prophetically or tongue in cheek using the metaphor of butt cheeks to connote how people in conflict can be, pardon my language, asses. But that is not the emphasis of this saying. Gbade and Becker reinforce that this speaks to the dynamics that proximity leads to inevitable conflict. Closeness leads to tension, to friction.

I’ve never thought about this reality through the metaphor of friction producing buttocks, but it’s hard for me to imagine a more memorable metaphor that normalizes conflict in relationships.

The article also includes the following Nigerian proverb as well:

In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges
and the foolish build dams.

In my PhD cohort I have the privilege to study with a couple others from Nigeria and there’s an abundance of storytelling and these types of sayings that provide such a grounded way of thinking about social wisdom.

If you have access to Missio Nexus I recommend checking out the latest Anthology on Conflict as there are great cross-cultural and north-south intercultural insights for conflict resolution and partnership.

But what’s most important now is that as you go about your day taking stride after stride, you now can reflect deeply about conflict through the gentle reminder of your own butt friction.

Quick Review: Encounters With Jesus

A while back I picked up a few books in Gary Burge’s “Ancient Context Ancient Faith” series.  I was an ancient history major as an undergraduate and my dominant strengthfinder theme is context so I was really intrigued by this series as an introduction to context and culture of the first century when the New Testament was written.  This is the first of the series I’ve managed to find time to go through and I’m really glad I did.

The book explores a lot of ancient near east culture and geography related to some of the more notable encounters Jesus had with different types of individuals in the Gospels.  This book highlights 5 specific encounters in addition to an initial overview of some of the key geographic, political, and socio-economic realities that help the reader understand the fullness of what is really going on in some of these stories.

The author highlights the Demoniac/bleeding woman/Jairus’ daughter narratives of Mark 5, Zacchaeus, the woman at the well in John 4, the Centurion in Capernaum and the Greek woman in Tyre. This includes a lot of general information as well about Roman government, Jewish politics, and the economics and customs of the times.

I found the Mark 5 section extremely compelling and thought it alone was worth the read of the book.  It really opened up those narratives to me and has helped give me some new eyes to see similar elements in other passages.  The Zacchaeus encounter was similarly fascinating and while not definitive in its conclusions, it opened up whole new readings.  For example – I was fascinated that there was a good argument to be made that Zacchaeus wasn’t necessarily short.  There’s a case to be made that the word often interpreted as “short” refers more to status.  Regardless, it opened up new possible interpretations that are powerful to consider.

The others were interesting too, the least interesting was the woman at the well, only perhaps because I have heard so many bring out the cultural elements of that passage.  It had the least amount of “new” information, but it was still quite good.

These books aren’t particularly long and they are written in a very easy to understand way.  I think it’s a great introduction to the 1st century culture and context of the Holy Land and would really help the average reader expand their awareness of what is going on in the Scriptures.

I also think this would be an exceptional resource for those in women’s ministry as three of the narratives deal with three of the most prominent or potentially impactful narratives outlining encounters between Jesus and women. That’s not relevant just to women, but this would be a great resource in developing talks, sermons, or other content related to these encounters.

I wrote an article last year on the interconnected disciplines of developing a cross-cultural capacity in studying the Scriptures while practicing cross-cultural ministry. Each one enhances the other.  If approaching Scripture cross-culturally is an area you want to explore more, find the article here: http://www.brianvirtue.org/2015/02/three-cultures/ 

 

 

New Article: Stewardship and Results-Based Leadership

Stewardship and results is an area where most leaders typically can really benefit from sound grounding as well as development.

I’m teaching a course on Strategic Planning and Organizational Leadership right now.  In my preparation I found something I had written several years ago and thought it would help fill one of the content needs of the course so I updated some things and am releasing this brief, 4 page article on Stewardship and Results-Based Leadership for Christian ministry leaders.

Feel free to read online or download the article for later.

A Three Cultures Approach to Engaging Scripture and Cross-Cultural Ministry

Have you thought about the way culture and the Study of Scripture interact?

Have you thought about how the intersection of these two things are essential to ministry effectiveness across cultural difference?

I wrote most of this article about two and a half years ago but never released it because it felt incomplete. Over the past year after reading a few new resources and after a couple years teaching in a multi-ethnic and multi-national context in a different country, I was able to finish some of what I started.

This is not a short nor an overly academic article, but an overview and introduction to some perspectives that have greatly enhanced my ministry effectiveness as well as my study of the Scriptures.  I believe they may be able to help you and enhance your own ministry and experience of the Scriptures as well.

There are two books that were released after I wrote the bulk of this article that perhaps do a far better job in introducing some of the same concepts. If you get a chance I suggest you read Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes or The Global Gospel. In the meantime I hope this provides some food for thought and reflection!

My Best Posts of 2012

It’s a few days late, but per tradition I wanted to post some of my best or most viewed or engaged posts of 2012. My blogging pace slowed down, but I enjoyed putting more focus into the themes of servant leadership, measurements, ethics, and power.  I’ve put up what I think are the top 10 general leadership posts as well as a few other links related to different interests.  See the bottom for links to more in depth resources – articles and e-books. Enjoy!

Leadership / Ministry / Culture / Ethics

Dangers for Discerners: Elementary

Maturity Is Contextual

The Praying Prophet

The Rush and Good Feeling of Progress (On Ole Miss & James Meredith)

Green Zone Leadership: Agendas

Stats Lie: Large Underwear

Stats Lie: The True Image of Man’s Existence

Why Self-Forgetfulness is a Poor Paradigm of Sanctification

Carver’s Do Not Faces Make

20 Year Anniversary Reflections on the LA Riots

 

Family or Fun

Star Wars and Personal Accountability

Preschool Theology: Wretched Man!

We’re Moving to the Philippines!

 

Resources from 2012 I wrote or collaborated on:

The Epic Resilient E-Book: Some of the Best Articles and Blogs from Epic Staff during the 2011-2012 School Year

The New Edition of My Paper/Article of Why Ethnic Minority Staff Leave My Organization

An Article By My Friend and Teammate Adrian Pei “Rethinking Culture and Mission”

 

 

Article: Rethinking Culture & Mission

I wanted to highly recommend an article that I helped edit and spent some time on this year.  This is an article on culture and mission by a teammate of mine Adrian Pei who has done great work here.

This article to me represents the future of a lot of ministry discussions about contextualization and how to navigate culture and ethnicity in ministry.  It’s worth the read!

http://resources.epicmovement.com/rethinking-culture-and-mission/

Epic Resilient E-Book

This past week was the national staff conference for my ministry (Epic) which I had the privilege to direct with an awesome design team and the help of many. As part of the conference I helped put together an e-book from many of the different great writings from Epic staff this past year.

I hope you enjoy it if you ever get the chance to check it out. It’s starts with a series that we ran on the Epic Resource site called, “Nine Elements of a Servant Leadership Reproduction Culture” with an additional intro and conclusion to it.  Part Two is my friend and teammate Adrian Pei’s new article called “A New Kind of Charge: Reframing Contextualization and Mission.” Part Three is a collection of 23 blogs from Epic staff from 2011-2012. Then finally, there’s an article I wrote after coaching many of our staff last summer in an Introduction to Hermeneutics course on the connections between Hermeneutics and doing cross-cultural ministry.  It’s called “A Three Cultures Approach to Engaging Scripture and Cross-Cultural Ministry.”

Both mine and Adrian’s articles are drafts so feel free to pass on any thoughts.  All in all – 101 pages of resources from about 17 authors (all Epic staff and interns) in total.

The mobi version works if you have a kindle or a kindle app on some other device.  If you can’t upload it manually to your device, you should have a kindle assigned email that allows you to send it to your kindle app.  I included an epub as that’s a common format for many other ereading devices.

Right click and save as…..

Epic Resilient E-book Kindle Version (mobi)

Epic Resilient E-book    .epub format

And for the non e-reader folks….here the pdf version…

Enjoy!

 

 

Using the 5 Postures As a Coaching Tool

I was just asked to write up some thoughts on how to use “The Five Majority Culture Postures Towards Ethnic Minority Ministry” article in coaching settings to be used on Gilbert Kingsley’s blog and resource email hosted here:  http://gilbertscoachingtips.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/majority-culture-postures/

All this is there, but thought I’d post what I wrote up here for those who don’t track Gilbert’s blog/email regularly.  But it’s a great resource that you should check out related to movement launching. This coaching tip just went up today at Gilbert’s blog.

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Crossing cultures is hard work and it often reveals so much under the surface in life and relationships that sometimes we take for granted if we live life in communities that think and look like us.  Launching and building movements across cultures requires intentional personal and ministry development because there is always so much learning that must continually take place.  As white staff working in ethnic minority ministry, some of us came together to document some of our own learning and insights to assist others who are starting out in that same journey.  We called this article, “Five Majority Culture Postures Towards Ethnic Minority Ministry.”

If you are an individual going through this article, our first suggestion is that you take the initiative to do it with a group.  It’s in community where some of the insights and connections in this article can be best made and applied.  So while it might be fine to read it yourself and journal your thoughts, try mobilizing a group or small group to go through it together!

As a coaching tool, this has individual and group possibilities for cross-cultural and ministry development.  Here are some thoughts on how to best use this article to coach people and groups based on our experience with it thus far.

Before the Conversation
Before a coaching call, meeting, or group discussion, it’s important for the coach or facilitator to have gone through it first themselves so that there is some readiness to lead through some of the paradigm challenging perspectives in the article.  One of the postures speaks to an approach to culture and ethnic difference in which the goal is to always have everyone together as an expression of unity.  This thinking is so ingrained in many places and for many reasons, that it’s a really challenging idea to see unity and ethnicity from a different lens.  This is the hardest concept in general to lead majority culture ministers through, so it’s worth taking some time to get coaching yourself first or just making sure you are prepared to handle the inevitable questions.

During the Conversation(s)
When discussing the “Five Postures” article or some of the themes within it, continue asking questions that surface peoples’ views about culture – especially even about their own!  There are questions on the last page that can be used to this end, but part of the value of this is to help majority culture ministers, who often have not had much need to think about the role of culture, begin to recognize their own assumptions and that they actually have a culture themselves.  The article speaks to dynamics that can impact evangelism, pioneering a new movement in a new context, partnering with ethnic movements or churches, and leadership development for both ethnic majority and ethnic minority staff.  You can ask questions that fit the specific ministry situation being faced.  But in general, the greatest value of this tool is facilitating honest engagement with our assumptions and heart condition related to crossing cultures and being willing to adapt and learn for the sake of others.  So safety and grace are vital elements to any conversations about crossing cultures.

After the Conversation
Schedule another conversation!  Make sure you keep coming back to these questions and make them normal parts of your coaching discussions.  These themes and dynamics never go away to where we can stop learning and paying attention to our own heart.  Make discussions about culture and power as normal as any other ministry discussion.

Wrapping Up
We wrote this because we felt there was such a great need to help people talk through these things and provide a way of seeing our own hearts and assumptions that influence what we do and why.  But one of the powerful things God has shown us is that every culture has beauty and things Christ wants to redeem.  In our society today, we’re praying that white ministers would begin to embrace a vision of how God could use them as redemptive figures (not Messiahs) to bring healing and reconciliation between communities, as well as see new movements raised up that proclaim Christ to a broken world.  Many white staff don’t cross cultures out of fear of offending and making things worse.  It’s important to help people connect with the truth that God can do great things with those who are humbly willing to follow Him and build learning relationships across ethnic lines.

The Five Postures is hosted on the Destino Yearbook or you can download the pdf of “Five Majority Culture Postures Towards Ethnic Minority Ministry”. There is a sister article Six Postures of Ethnic Minority Culture written to help ethnic minorities assess their postures towards the majority culture.

Leaders Help People Become Uncomfortable

I came across this quote and thought it was genius and very much in line with several recent posts about human anxiety in systems and in general bad and destructive behavior.

“A task of leadership is to help people “become uncomfortable with their inappropriate behavior” and to focus on the possibilities that change presents rather than the pain that accompanies it.”

http://congregationalresources.org/leading-congregation-through-change

At the link above you can access a free pdf download in the arena of leading congregational change.

Leaders set culture not just by their strategic efforts, but by what they allow to take place and what they permit to happen. 

Most people who like to talk about culture – all those people today adding “cultural architect” to their job descriptions frequently focus on what they want to cultivate and build into the environment. Culture change is as much about setting limits on toxic, immature, or even just irresponsible or non adult behavior than it is about what you try to positively instill into a community of people.

And just to make the connections to my last post, this is a clear argument that leaders do have the task of helping monkeys grow uncomfortable with their behavior of throwing poo at others.

How do you think leaders best execute this task of helping people grow uncomfortable with their bad behavior?  How do you avoid inappropriate shaming, but still help people feel the weight of their behavior or even sin?