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.
“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.