The Box

In leadership circles we often hear of “thinking outside the box”, but it is much easier said than done. The first challenge facing many of us in the “establishment” of leadership is admitting that we are “in the box.” Most of us pride ourselves in being creative and responsive, but too often I find myself being much more like “old wineskins” than I want to admit. My 20/20 vision of the future too often is hampered by the 2×4 in my eye. Let’s face it “2×4” vision is not going to help us embrace the new realities of the Kingdom of God unfolding around the world.

When I was a student at Baylor in the 80’s we joked about the “Baylor Bubble.” It was our way of making light of the fact that most of us were very sheltered and isolated from the realities of the world around us, even the immediate neighborhood around the school. We walked the “green and gold” streets of Baylor immune in many ways from the harsh realities many faced. I am afraid I may have actually taken my “bubble” with me, and lived most of my life hiding behind stained-glassed windows.

As most of my readers know, I was chosen to be part of the Baptist General Convention of Texas “Future Focus” committee. We have been assigned the task of looking into the future and charting a course that will help us reverse the recent trends of decline, and open up new pathways for growth and vitality. Since, in many ways we will be working on cities we will not inhabit, I thought I would begin to read outside my usual circles and listen to voices that speak the heart language of a younger, daring generation.

One of the books I recently completed was written by Shane Claiborne entitled The Irresistible Revolution. I was totally unfamiliar with Shane and his story when I picked up the book while I was browsing at Barnes & Noble. (In some ways I wish I had never picked up the book, because his writing challenged me in ways I did not want to be challenged in. He forced me to take a hard look in the mirror and see things I did not want to see.)

This book is more of a chapter out of his life than a treatise. Shane simply tells his story of how a young man who grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee ended up being part of a Christian communal church and family in the inner city of Philadelphia. It is the story of how a “prom king” on the path to the American Dream takes a detour on the narrow path of life found in his radical relationship with Jesus Christ. Shane’s journey took him from a desk under the teaching of Tony Campolo at Eastern University, to the slums of India under the tutelage of Mother Teresa, to the suburbs of Chicago as he studied at Wheaton while an intern at Willowcreek. Needless to say, his path was quite an adventure.

Over the next few posts, I am going to explore how his “living as an ordinary radical” has stirred my thinking, and helped me to come to grips with the fact that I have made myself too comfortable in “my Baptist Box”. I am not sure where these ideas will take me, but I am excited about exploring “new” and “ancient” ideas about the Kingdom of God.

Shane wrote:

“Many of us find ourselves estranged from the narrow issues that define conservatives and the shallow spirituality that marks liberals. We are thirsty for social justice and peace but have a hard time finding a faith community that is consistently pro-life or that recognizes that there are ‘moral issues’ other than homosexuality and abortion, moral issues like war and poverty. So some folks just end up trying to save individual souls from their sins, and others end up trying to save the world from ‘the system’. But rarely do we see that the sickness of our world has infected all of us, and that the healing of our world not only begins within us but does not end with us”.

As I read these observations much of it resonated with me. I too have found myself trapped between spiritual forces driven by “either/or” thinking. Could it be the Kingdom thrives in the tension between the extremes and forces us to embrace a “both/and” reality? I am beginning to realize that thinking “outside the box” will not be as comfortable as you might think.

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10 Comments

Filed under The Box

10 responses to “The Box

  1. I suspect you and my son have the same problem to overcome, that is the box built for you by your preacher dads. I suspect your dad is like me in this respect…we are proud when our sons improve on what we taught them, and break out of the box with their own creativity. Most pelople do not realize how difficult that is for you.

  2. Cory O'Guinn

    I was also “knocked” outside of my box when reading Shane’s book. My Baptsit bubble had begun to burst a couple of years ago but writers like Shane have taken my life to a whole new level of conviction and confusion. I would encourage you to read Jesus for President, Shane’s recent book.

  3. “Love Not The World”

    ”For the WHOLE world is under the control of the evil one”(I John 5:19)

    “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world will pass away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of The Only True GOD will abide for ever.” (I John 2:15-17)

    “If you were of the world, the world would love it’s own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his Master. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:19-20)

    “Where do wars and fighting among you come from? Do they not come of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is to be at enmity with The Only True GOD? Therefore whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of The Only True GOD.” (James 4:1-4)

    “The world cannot hate you; but the world hates Me, because I testify that the works of this world are evil.” (John 7:7)” and “The Messiah gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of The Only True God, Our Father.”(Gal 1:4)

    The Messiah testified: “If the world hates you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”(John 5:18) Truly, Truly, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life in this world shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall have it unto life eternal.” (John 12:24-25)

    John testified: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you.” (I John 3:13) “ James testified, “Whoever would be a friend of this world is the enemy of GOD”(James 4:4)

    The “earth” is The Creation of The Only True GOD, Father of ALL! The “worldly” systems are the creation of, and under the dominion of “the god of this world”, he who is “the father of lies”, he who “has blinded the minds of those who believe not The Messiah”! All the nations of this world are under the dominion of, and serve, the evil one for he provides the fuel that feeds mankind’s “imag”ination and mankind’s “imagination is destroying and perverting Creation(land, air, water, creatures, Truth, Love, Peace, Faith, Simplicity, .etc.) ;-(

    And the “strongest thing” in the evil one’s worldly systems? “Woman”…… yet The Truth, that which is of The Only True GOD, is stronger even than woman. (read I Esdras 3&4 of the Apocrypha) And Truth, Love, Peace, Faith, Mercy, Hope,,,etc,,, all that is “good”, is of The Only True GOD and is of HIS Spirit, not of this world. Those born of The Spirit, those born of The Only True GOD, are the brethren of The Messiah, for they received “a love of The Truth that they might be saved”. Reborn!

    And those who have “received a love of The Truth” have separated themselves from this world and those of this world, for they have taken heed unto The Call of The Only True GOD to “Come out of her MY people.” They are “in, but not of this wicked, evil world”, and The Only True GOD has received them, and is “A Father unto them, and they are HIS sons and daughters”. And they follow, and desire to be like their Master and Brother, The Messiah, He Who was “the firstborn of many brethren”. And as “The Messiah was a servant of The Only True GOD”, so also His Brethren are “servants of The Only True GOD.”

    The called out ones are not “adulterers and adulteresses”, they are not “friends of this wicked, evil world”, they do not “fornicate with the god of this world” for they know that “to be a friend of this world is to be the enemy of The Only True GOD.” They are at war against the evil spirits that possess those of this world.

    And they do not “allow that woman Jezebel, which calls herself a prophetess, to teach. For she teaches others to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. The Only True GOD gave her a chance to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.” (Rev 2:20-21)

    “fornication” and “adultery..” in that which is recorded above signifies spiritual fornication with “the god of this world”, which is to love that which is of his world.

    Once again, the “earth” is The Creation of The Only True GOD, Father of ALL! The “worldly” systems are the creation of, and under the dominion of “the god of this world”. Those who “love this world” all serve “the god of this world”, and play their part in the processes that seek to destroy The Creation of The Only True GOD. “And The Only True GOD will destroy them who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18) Global warming, polluted air, land and waters, toxic wastes, sexual perversion, evil inventions of destruction, greed, hate, carnal warfare, dis-ease ,,,etc,,, are all destructive processes that have their root in “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life”. And as stated, “woman is the strongest thing of this world”. Yet stronger than woman is The Truth, which is in those who have “received a love of The Truth”. The Truth Is Alive in those who have been born of The Spirit for “they no longer love this wicked, evil world and it’s things, nor do they love their own lives in this world”. They but seek and desire The Will of GOD, as they await their final transformation. “Caterpillar to Butterfly” ndeed and Truth!

    Now “the ground was cursed for Adam’s sake” because he “hearkened unto the woman”. Adam listened to a woman rather than obeying The Only True GOD. Yet because of Faithful Noah, The Only True GOD “no longer would curse the ground for man’s sake” because Noah obeyed The Only True GOD! (Genesis 8:21-22) And the Faithful today are exhorted to “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” And Faithful women are exhorted to “be in silence.” “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. For I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” “For Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:11,12,14) A man and woman joined together in obedience and submission unto The Only True GOD are blessed indeed. All who are not obedient, all who will not submit themselves unto The Only True GOD will have to answer to HIM..period.. Be not of those who deny and defy “The One GOD, Father of All”. Be not of those who are destroying and perverting HIS Creation(land, air, water, creatures, Truth, Love, Peace, .etc.)!

    “The Only True GOD is The HEAD of The Messiah, The Messiah is The Head of the man, and the man is the head of the woman”. Multitudes pervert GOD’s Order because they have been seduced by ” the commandments and doctrines of men and devils”. Multitudes are seduced by the religious systems that are in and of this evil world. Seduced because they love this evil world and their own life in it! “Set your affections on things above”. Desire heavenly, eternal things. Quit serving ‘time’ in the prison that is this world and take heed unto the call to ”Come out from among them and be separate!”

    Once again, “Come out” of the worldly systems, which are the product of mankind’s “imag”ination, especially the religious systems. “Come out” from among those who are destroying and perverting Creation and be of those who follow The Messiah on “The Way to The Truth of The Life”.

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world……. francisco

  4. Ken,

    Thanks for your encouragement. To be fair to my dad, most of the pressure came from within not without. I am deeply indebted to him for his example in my life.

    That said, I must face the reality I live in a new day with new challenges. I must be willing to fly with the winds of the Spirit and be and do as the Lord pleases.

    David

  5. Cory,

    Thanks for the recommendation. I have already skimmed the book you mentioned and plan to read it soon.

    David

  6. Ellis Orozco

    David:

    Great post. Thanks for your transparency as you wrestle with your place in God’s Kingdom work. Admitting that we fall short is the first step.

    In my experience, what most Baptist Churches would call “out of the box” thinking or ministry is not “out of the box” at all … it’s just a move to another corner of the box. That’s not an accusation … it’s a confession. I’m pretty much in the box with you.

    Jesus Christ called us to be a certain kind of community. He called us to be “the salt of the earth,” and “the light of the world” … “a city set on a hill.” The biblical norm for the church, therefore, is to penetrate and transform the culture for Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, in most places, the church is simply unaffected by the pain of the culture and, therefore, irrelevant. Even when the church is able to identify the pain of the culture … she offers no solutions to the problems of the culture, and as a result, becomes invisible to the culture (the opposite of “the city set on a hill.”) Frankly, most churches are willing to change very little about themselves in order to penetrate and transform the culture. Most churches simply do not have the spiritual ethos required to break out of the box. It’s just too uncomfortable … even painful. The problem is that the American Church has become so abnormal that when we find one that is approaching normal, to us it seems abnormal.

    I’ve heard of Shane’s writings and based on your recommendation I’m going to read it.

    I’m praying for you and the “future focus” committee. I’m glad you’re on it.

    blessings,
    ellis

  7. Ellis Orozco

    David:
    On my previous post …
    The smiley face winking is a typo.
    I typed a semi-colon instead of the closing parenthesis.

    Sorry about that …

    ellis

  8. Lee

    Well said as usual, David. So you guys at Baylor had a bubble, too, huh? And all this time I thought Grand Canyon University was the only place with a “bubble,” at least, that is, until I went to Southwestern Seminary. 🙂

    I’m sure you didn’t write this post to add to your own personal reading list, but since you are on that committee, I would suggest both Unchristian, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, which is a well researched view from outsside the Baptist perspective. To me, it is a more honest presentation of the reality of the current situation, and there is no denominational “sensibility” to protect. They don’t have to worry about research exposing flaws that Baptists aren’t willing to admit exist.

    I would also suggest “Reveal: Where Are You?” by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson. It’s the result of professional research done at Willow Creek as the result of some recent revelations there about the spiritual maturity and depth of their congregation, and the surprising results they’ve discovered about those things as a result of years of being a “seeker sensitive” congregation. It, too, contains admissions of reality that Baptists, in our “bubble,” aren’t ready or willing to admit.

    I don’t believe a denominational structure, whether it is an association, state convention or national body, can come up with a program or a solution to problems that are essentially faced and either dealt with or ignored by each local church in its own setting. Collectively, though, I think a denominational body can help churches find solutions to common problems. There are a few individuals on that committee whom I think are able to steer it in the right direction, you are definitely one of those, and I will be praying for you.

  9. Lee,

    Thanks for the reading list. I would appreciate any insights you or others have into good books and information. I have read “unchristian” it is a very eye-opening book on where we stand today.

    I will look into “Reveal”.

    It is clear God is going to have to bust our “bubbles” if we are going to embrace the new realities of today.

    David

  10. If our experiences define our box (this would include exposure to other thinking through reading, etc.) then we can never escape it — we can only make it bigger to encompass more. Should we perhaps examine our box and make certain that it is in order before focusing on expanding it?

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