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Bobby Clinton website Tuesday, January 24, 2006 |

Bobby Clinton, the leadership guru, has a website that has a ton of great leadership resources - articles, lectures, materials, and even a list of the classes he will be teaching at Fuller. Definitely worth checking out...

Ed Stetzer - Who Can Plant A Church? Saturday, January 14, 2006 |

This article is less about the skills, personality and gifting required of a church planter(s), but more about "the patterns regarding the who of church planting" (Stetzer).

Here's the intro blurb:
In order to engage in church planting effectively, it is important to consider who can plant a church. Do only churches plant churches? What about denominations? What about an individual? For that matter, must an individual be ordained, formally trained, and sent out by an agency of the denomination? In both the New Testament and today, we see several patterns regarding the who of church planting. Read more...

Resurgence |

Thanks to Steve McCoy for the heads up on the new Resurgence website and blog... which looks like it will be a great resource for missional churches. Here's what Steve had to say:

Mark Driscoll's Resurgence website is now up. From Driscoll...

...our staff is constructing the mother lode of all websites, complete with an ever-growing library of free articles, curriculum, podcasts, book reviews, cultural commentary, teaching helps, ministry tools, and mp3s of sermons and conferences for a spring debut, this blog will help keep you up-to-date on the sanctified trouble we are planning. Some of the most successful pastors and most respected missional theologians are providing enough content to give even the most devout gospel and culture geeks a headache of Absalom-esque proportions.

From the "About" page...

Resurgence means to rise again, or to surge back into vibrancy. We believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ must resurge in every generation to meet the needs of people and their continually changing cultures.

Missional means that we believe Jesus Christ is on a mission to seek and save people, change their lives, and transform their cultures. Because of this we believe that Christians, Christian organizations, and Christian churches exist to join Jesus on His mission by immersing themselves in whatever culture Jesus has placed them.

Theology means that we believe that personal and cultural transformation is only possible by meeting the living Jesus Christ of the Bible through His gospel. Because of this we believe that culturally accessible mission also requires biblically faithful theology.

Cooperative means that we believe a team of missional theologians working together as friends and peers, sharing ideas, and correcting errors is the best way for learning to occur. Because of this we are a network of various Christian leaders, ministries, churches, and networks seeking to work together in providing the most culturally effective and biblically faithful missional theology.

At Resurgence you will find info for the Reform & Resurge conference in May, which I would give up one of my toes to attend. I'm planning on being at two conferences in April (one I attend, one in which I'm a speaker) and I'm still trying to see if I can make it to Seattle. Speakers include Driscoll, Ed Stetzer, Tim Keller, Rick McKinley, Joshua Harris, Darrin Patrick, Matt Chandler, and Anthony Bradley. From the website...

This is a conference that exists to provide encouragement, guidance, and instruction for the church and its leadership. Topics will address issues such as:

- Preaching the Christian Gospel to a secular audience
- The role of mercy ministry in cultural transformation
- Methods for engaging and decoding culture
- Practical tips for pastors
- Emerging theological errors in need of correction
= Crazy Delicious. (sorry, I did that)

More Ed Stetzer observations |

Ed Stetzer has an article called Understanding the Emerging Church that helps articulate the current trends, streams and overlaps in the "emerging" movement.

[ Thanks to Steve Addison's blog for the heads up... ]

Mark Driscoll now blogging... Friday, January 13, 2006 |

Mark Driscoll, who planted and leads Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and helped found the Acts 29 church planting network, is now blogging. Missional and thoroughly evangelical. Sweet...


Wes... |

I think Wes needs to start his own blog... Everyone else knows that he has a lot to say of great value, and they're just waiting for him to get up the nerve to do it.


Change in demographics in the U.S. |

Here's an article in the NY Times that highlights the obvious - the changing demographics of the U.S. over the last century. The article highlights the upcoming birth of the 300 millionth baby born in the U.S., and the different demographic that baby will be born into as compared to the 100 millionth, or 200 millionth.


Book Reviews Thursday, January 12, 2006 |

I have posted 4 new book reviews below. They are on the column on the right as well...


My Story... |

Sovereign Foundations
Sovereign change. Those are two words I would use to describe my path growing up, specifically, and my life in general. Before I turned 18, I had attended more than 13 schools. Change had become ordinary, almost anticipated. When I had transitioned into college, sown my wild oats, settled down somewhat, gotten engaged to be married, and chosen a career for which every choice I made seemed to be as if from the hand of Midas, suddenly God entered my world with a detrimental (at least in terms of my house of cards) flash of the obvious – “I’m in control, not you.” Change was now no longer ordinary, it was glorious.

You see, before, change seemed to be something drearily accepted as one accepts a bitter concoxion of medicines while suffering from the flu – necessary, but certainly not enjoyable. But now, as God flooded my reality with His reality, and brought to life all of those childhood stories of “Jesus loves me this I know,” change became what it was royally intended for… God’s glory. As my favorite poet once wrote,

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.1

I must admit, God’s bright designs are much easier to see when observed in retrospect, even if only casually glanced at as if looking at a rear-view mirror. The hills, valleys and mountaintops seem so endless and difficult during the hike, but so beautiful when conquered. Self-centered; driven; egotistical; prideful – this was my world when God broke me and brought me to Himself towards the end of my college career. Yet another change, yes, but one that would redirect the course of my self-absorbed life and bring it onto a path of a pursuit of Grace.

Discovering life…discovering leadership
It was during these spiritually formative years that I discovered many “firsts” that would become constant themes in my life. It was at this time that I went to my first prayer meeting, discovering, in the process, God and community through prayer. I remember that first prayer meeting – it was in the living room of the man that would become a great mentor and friend – John Bryson. As this group of 35 college kids came together to pray, I realized something – it was a feeling I had never felt before. Like a weary traveler after a long journey, I felt like I had finally come home. Prayer, especially with other believers, for the first time felt like home.

During those years, I went on my first mission trip, to Mexico, discovering some latent spiritual gifts – teaching and communication. As chaos reigned with the 50 little children in the mountainous Mexican village, I began to use the only Spanish words and phrases I could muster. Almost instantly the children were gathered around, and I, like the Pied Piper, was leading them in a Spanglish version of the Gospel bracelet. For the first time I felt as if God was really using me, bringing order to chaos and teaching His word to the children.

During those years, I led my first inner-city Bible club, discovering latent leadership gifts among the injustices of the poor and oppressed. I would show up to each club early, with my team in tow, leading them from mobile home to mobile home, looking for kids. I learned the joy of delegation and giving away opportunities to younger leaders. I was there for so many years that I actually moved into that forgotten trailer park and lived among them, anxious to lead them into a relationship with Christ. It was my first taste of church planting…and of failure.

During those years, I pursued my first mentors, discovering, in the process, the joy of being developed and equipped. I watched as they took me under wing, entrusted me with responsibility, risked their reputation by giving me spiritual authority, and taught me through their successes and their failures.

God is global?
One of the first things I ever did as a Christian was go on a mission trip, so I’ve had the unique opportunity to see God working in other cultures. From Cuba to China, Spain to Singapore, Ecuador to Indonesia, I have had the humbling experience of watching God work His magic in other countries. I remember one event in particular, set in a living room in Shanghai, China. There was a small, rag-tag band of Chinese college believers there, and as they starting banging out something on the only out-of-tune guitar they owned, I noticed something strangely familiar…worship. And as they continued in their heart-felt expression of their devotion to Christ, I could literally taste and see the book of Revelation, chapter 5, coming to life:

9And they sang a new song:
"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10You have made them to be a kingdom and
priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth."

Since that event, every time I experience worship in other countries and cultures, I weep. Sometimes uncontrollably, sometimes inaudibly. But I cry. I can’t help it. There is something inside of me that pops like a cork coming out of a bottle of wine…and I cry. Maybe it’s the vision of a throng of peoples from every tribe and tongue and nation worshipping before the throne of God, as rapturously recounted in the book of Revelation, chapter 5. Maybe it’s the idea that God is doing a work so diverse that it refracts His glory like a kaleidoscope refracts light. Maybe it’s the out-of-this-world notion that we, in some small way, are getting an appetizer, a fore-taste, of heaven divine…that we are getting to sip of the wine of God’s presence in a way only dreamed about by the Prophets.

I don’t know what it is.

But I do know that God’s heart for the nations is drunken with love, and overflowing with tender mercies and inexplicable long-sufferings. From Genesis to Revelation, and even in the chapters of my own experience, I have seen and grown to love that heart. That heart that gathers up his robe as a searching Father and literally runs towards the Prodigal. That heart that sits at a hot and dusty well and waits patiently for the woman who’s had more husbands than she can count, and gently baits her into lowering her guard and drinking of eternal life. That heart that strains and works to care for the poor and oppressed and downtrodden. That is the heart that I have grown to infinitely respect, admire and love – God’s heart…for the nations.

An injustice to fight, a woman to rescue
As I finished up four years of post-graduate, church-based missionary training, I suddenly found myself with yet another one of God’s sovereign changes: moving to Memphis. Here I am preparing to move to Thailand and then to India with my perfect 2, 5, and 10 year goals neatly in place, and along comes the Sovereign and uproots my plans. As the opportunities in Thailand and India quickly and irreversibly closed like a coffin, I found myself at a crossroads of 3 decisions: go to Mexico and learn the language, go to Russia and attempt to learn the language, or go to Memphis and plant a church. What drew me to Memphis were two indelible hurdles: a racially and socio-economically divided city whose tensions seemed to simmer just below the surface, and a track record of traditionalism in the churches that seemed to lock progress firmly out of reach. I would hear the words of Bill Hybels that had been ringing in my ears now for quite some time:

“The Church is the hope of the world.”2

I moved a year earlier than the rest of the church planting team so that I could help transition a group of college students that had already started meeting into the church plant. It was during this year that God broad-sided me with the boulders of racial division, socio-economic disparity, and at-risk communities.

It was here that I learned that there was an injustice to fight. And it was in an encounter with Robert Lupton in Atlanta where I learned how to fight it – community re-vitalization and transformational development in the name of Christ. I was already living in the inner-city of Memphis, only because I sensed God wanted me there. But now I knew why He had me there – to bring attention to and tackle the issues that had been sorely overlooked in this once-great city. And all the while I would continue to hear the words of Hybels:

“The Church is the hope of the world.”3

As the church plant got on its feet in Memphis, God opened a door that brought me full circle back to missions. I am now Global Outreach Director of Operations at Hope Presbyterian Church, a church of about 7,000 people near Memphis. And, interestingly enough, our Global Outreach vision is to “develop churches…one leader at a time.” God continues to weave not only my passions, but my experiences together.

Looking through the rear-view
As I look back on God’s hand, it is much easier to see His hand weaving a tapestry of passions and experiences that have brought me to this point in my life. From sovereign foundations to discovering true life, from growing in leadership to understanding global diversity, from transformational development to missional church, it seems that God has woven into my heart the very embers He seems to want to fan into flames. May my goal continue to be the same: to be a blessing to others and learn from those who have been blessed in ways that I can only imagine. Who knows what the next sovereign change may bring. They are all a bright design that God has orchestrated, for I know that “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”4

1. William Cowper, “Light Shining Out of Darkness,” The Hidden Smile of God, John Piper. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books), p. 83.
2. Bill Hybels, The Great Commission, Individual Message. (www.willowcreek.com) June 24-25, 1992.
3. Ibid.
4. William Cowper, “Light Shining Out of Darkness,” The Hidden Smile of God, John Piper. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books), p. 83.

Book Review: Spiritual Leadership - J. Oswald Sanders |

Sanders, J. Oswald. Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994.

In an age of frivolity and shallowness, Sanders book strikes at the core of leadership to uncover its essence. His title is revealing - Spiritual Leadership. In an age of unethical triumphs, Sanders calls us back to biblical character and integrity. In an age that wreaks of manipulative methods, Sanders calls us back to true influence through prayer, dependence on God, and other essential qualities of spiritual leadership. With insights from the leadership of Peter, Paul and even Nehemiah, this book calls leaders to count the cost, serve instead of be served, develop emerging leaders, and live selflessly for the cause of Christ.

In what ways does this book define and contour what it means to be a "successful" spiritual leader? In other words, what is true success when it comes to leadership? Sanders gives 3 indicators of success: selflessness, spiritual formation, and servanthood. We are bombarded every day with different benchmarks for success, but Sanders immediately reorients the focus with an admonition: "We must put more into life that we take out," and that history will only remember a man for "the quality of his deeds and the character of his mind and heart" (p. 15). Success, therefore, is the selfless act of giving one's life away for God's purposes. Success is also viewed in terms of spiritual formation: "If those who hold influence over others fail to lead toward the spiritual uplands, then surely the path to the lowlands will be well worn" (p. 19). In terms of servanthood as a success factor, Sanders puts it this way: "The Son of God became the servant of God in order to do the mission of God." (p. 125) In fact, all of ch. 3 is devoted to this tenet that servanthood is the foundation of leadership, and the greatest clue to whether or not that leadership is successful.

In what ways does this book help identify and develop the attributes, attitudes, characteristics and heart of emerging leaders, one might ask? In other words, how can the concepts and ideas in this book help in identifying and developing emerging leaders? Sanders relates that "perhaps the most strategic and fruitful work...is to help leaders of tomorrow develop their spiritual potential" (p. 148). In chapters 8 and 9 he gives a few of the essential qualities of leadership. These should be developed in every emerging leader: discipline, vision, wisdom, decision, courage, humility, integrity, sincerity, humor, righteous anger, patience, friendship, tact, diplomacy, inspirational power, executive ability, the art of listening, the art of letter writing, (p.51-77) and last, but certainly not least, prayer (ch. 11). These are all essentials, and should be benchmarks in cultivating emerging leaders in any spiritual organization.

This book always helps reset my compass. There were 2 key areas in which I was convicted and encouraged to change. "Humility is the hallmark of the spiritual leader." (p. 61) I really pray that God would continue to sow the seeds of humility in me, and not give up until my dependence is truly rooted and grounded in Him. On prayer: "Prevailing prayer that moves people is the outcome of a correct relationship with God." (p. 91) That is the essence of influence, and the essence of leadership - a heartfelt dependence on God through prayer. Tact and diplomacy, although skills that are a vital part of leadership, need to be brought under the guiding influence of the Spirit. What is healthy and the essence of spiritual leadership is the simplicity of calling on God to do not only what I am incapable of doing, but also what I am capable of doing.

Sanders book is an insightful compass that points back to the nature of true leadership - spiritual influence. From understanding the motivating factors to lead and assessing the viability of leading, from giving the essential qualities of leadership to helping count the cost of it, from giving specific essential qualities of leadership to casting the vision of developing the next generation of leaders, Sanders has written a classic guide for any leader who desires to spiritually lead.

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Book Review: Life on the Vine - Philip Kenneson |

Kenneson, Philip D. Life on the Vine: Developing the Fruit of the Spirit in Christian Community. InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Starting with a strident analysis of our current cultural context, Kenneson deals with the impediments to and practical steps for cultivating the fruit of the Spirit. Cultivating this fruit is analyzed within the context of the cultural minefield that we must navigate in order to realize a life of grace through God's perspective, not tainted by the quicksand of our Western biases and viewpoints. Kenneson reaches in to explore each fruit of the Spirit, helping give us tools to guide our ship with the North star of grace-driven Christlikeness, not the Western compass of market-driven self-centeredness.

How do we cultivate a life marked by God's love in a culture saturated with self-concern? First, it was helpful to hear Kenneson talk about the centrality of love in the Christian life. "Love ought, therefore, to be the primary disposition of the Christian life" (p. 37). And if it is central, then it is also necessary to know what it looks like and how we can recognize it. Kenneson begins by highlighting several aspects of God's love, namely, that God's love is completely undeserved, is steadfast, is a suffering love, and knows no bounds (p. 38-39). He notes that these serve to "remind us that the defining feature of God's love is its 'other-directedness'" (p.41). This definition is key in beginning to cultivate a life marked by love. But, in order to cultivate this life of love, we must understand also what impedes it. He mentions 3 things that hinder the cultivation of love: "Promoting self-interest; putting a price on everything (and everyone); and contracting relationships" (p. 42-47) But, in our market-driven culture, how do we not just understand the barriers to love, how do we cultivate it? Kenneson addresses this by giving 3 practical steps to cultivating love in our cultural context:

- By "paying attention to others" (p. 47). People are not objects or commodities to be exploited. They are human beings made in the image of God. He mentions that this objectivication is best erradicated in the context of worship. When we truly worship God together we put aside the interest we have in furthering our own agenda or using others as we focus on God.

- By "receiving and giving graciously" (p. 49). God has given to us in abundance. We should therefore have a spirit of giving - the kind of spirit of giving that reaches out in unfettered grace to others.

- By "sustaining stewardship" (p. 50). He reminds us to remind ourselves of what it means to be a steward, not as an excuse to hoard or protect, but to "embody God's presence through creation" (p. 52). In other words, acting on behalf of God with our resources, not seeing them as primarily our own. This brings a great deal of freedom.

How do we cultivate a life marked by gentleness in a culture saturated with aggression, one might ask? In order to cultivate this life of gentleness, we must understand what impedes it. Kenneson mentions 3 things that hinder the cultivation of gentleness: "Fostering aggression and self-promotion" (p. 208). He goes on to say that "the dominant culture worships strength and power," he writes (p. 208). Our society's obsession with violence and aggression only work to undermine the cultivation of gentleness. "Aspiring to positions of power" is another obstacle to cultivating gentleness (p. 210). Ambition, as Sanders also referred to in Spiritual Leadership, can sink many a leaders' ship. Grasping for power can, unfortunately, take on many subtle forms. Therefore we should be wary of its steely forms. Now, Kenneson does suggest ways to cultivate gentleness. One is by "altering our posture through prayer" (p. 212). He mentions 2 reasons for stating this case. One is that we find it "much more difficult to rail against those who have wronged or angered us when we speak of them to God" (p. 212). Secondly, he notes that "we… enter into prayer and God's presence with a profound sense of humility" (p. 212). With those 2 factors at play it becomes very difficult to harbor anger and aggression. Another practice that Kenneson commends in order to cultivate gentleness is "hanging out with those of 'no account'" (p. 214). This is the flip side of not mainting image and status, which severs the ability of aggression. When we associate with those who are not on the "fast track" we put ourselves in a position of humilty, thereby engendering gentleness. This is a novel way to cultivate the meekness of Jesus.

What about this book can we pass on to the next generation's emerging leaders?
First, Kenneson is adept at seeing what cultural narratives, values, and practices work to impede our pursuit of godliness. This ability to look under the hood of our own cultural bias and disect the barriers to Christlikeness is a skill and gift worthy of passing on to tomorrow's leaders. "Those who would follow this crucified Messiah must recognize that following him involves cultivating different sensibilities than those promoted by the dominant culture" (p. 203). For emerging leaders to be able to navigate the cultural reefs of our day means that they must be able to pick up the scent of a cultural trail that will lead to destruction, and paths that lead to despair. Emerging leaders, especially faced with tectonic shifts in Western culture, must be able to cultivate "different sensibilities" that may be in direct conflict with the dominant culture. To be able to see these differences, ackowledge them, and navigate around them is a skill (and heart) worth cultivating in the leaders of the future. Second, emerging leaders need to know how to proactively apply godliness withint the context of their culture. It is not good enough to be able to discern where and how our culture has negativelly influenced our pursuit of Christ, we must also be able to readily apply that pursuit to everyday life. Leaders especially need to have this value and heart.

Kenneson's analysis of Western culture is painfully accurate at places, and seeks to lance the boil of self-centeredness and market-driven exchanges that can denigrate the very image of God that we carry with us. He is quick to point out the quicksand of trusting the prevailing winds of the day, and he points to the high ground of cultivating a lifestyle of giving ourselves away for the Kingdom of God. This is an enriching book that is not only a critique on modern-day values and practices, but also helps point us to a path of deeply cultivating the fruit of the Spirit for God's glory.

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Book Review: Cultivating Communities of Practice - Wenger, McDermott and Snyder |

Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William M. Snyder. Cultivating Communities of Practice. Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

Knowledge, best-practices and expertise are ubiquitous to our work environments. But can this knowledge and expertise be harnessed to improve organizations? In this book, Wenger, McDermott and Snyder argue that not only can they be harnessed, but that there are principles and practices to better develop these groups of interaction. In a nutshell, "communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis" (p. 4). These are not just people who rally around one problem, only to solve it and disband. "They find value in their interactions" (p. 4), say the authors. And this value can be encouraged and developed for the better of the organization.

How are communities of practice cultivated? While many groups like these can form naturally, the authors of this book make the case that "organizations need to cultivate communities of practice actively and systematically..." (p. 12). But how can this be done in a systematic way? Are there principles that can encourage the growth of these groups? Yes, in fact, "organizations can do a lot to create an environment in which they can prosper: valuing the learning they do, making time and other resources available for their work, encouraging participation, and removing barriers... giving them a voice in decisions and legitimacy in influencing operating units, and developing internal processes for managing the value they create" (p. 13). In fact, creating this environment is crucial in the success of the communities of practice. There are also what they call "fundamental elements" to a community of practice which include "a domain of knowledge, which defines a set of issues; a community of people who care about this domain; and the shared practice that they are developing to be effective in their domain" (p. 27). So, a domain of knowledge, a community of people who care about that domain, and the shared practice are 3 key elements that must be a part of a successful community of practice. Without each of these, there really is no community of practice. They also mention 7 principles for "guiding these communities towards life:

- Design for evolution
- Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives
- Invite different levels of participation
- Develop both public and private community spaces
- Focus on value
- Combine familiarity and excitement
- Create a rhythm for the community" (p. 51)

What are the inherent down-sides (risks) involved with cultivating communities of practice, one might ask? While it is true that there are many benefits to communities of practice - shared knowledge, improved processes, better business practices - there are some downsides to this as well. "Communities of practice, like all human institutions, also have a downside" (p. 139). Not only can they have their downsides, but "a shared practice is a liability as well as a resource" (p. 147). There are several ways they can become liabilities instead of assets. They "may violate some of the basic principles" of healthy communities of practice (p. 140). Sometimes, because the group becomes too familiar and too comfortable with each other, "a lot of implicit assumptions can go unquestioned" (p. 141). "The intimacy communities develop can create a barrier to newcomers, a blinder to new ideas, or a reluctance to critique each other" (p. 141). Intimacy and comfort levels aren't the only things that can be the unraveling of the group. "Pride of ownership can induce a fall. Sometimes the enthusiasm of the domain leads to excessive zealousness" (p. 141). Sometimes that "excessive zealousness" is fleshed out because "focusing on areas members are passionate about can lead a community to think that their domain is more important than others or that their perspective on the domain should prevail" (p. 142). Now, it is natural for a community to take pride in its work, "but taken to the extreme, this can result in members being overly concerned with themselves" (p. 143). Again, a too narrowly focused attention on the importance of the group can create inherent problems. Other issues include marginality (they are not taken seriously), factionalism (deep disagreements that cause fractures in the group), clique-ish groups (group relationships dominate all other concerns), dependence, stratification, disconnectedness, localism, dogmatism and mediocrity (p. 143-149).

Leveraging knowledge and best practices is essential to any successful organization, even churches and ministries. To do this well, it takes understanding the processes of growth, and the inherent pitfalls in cultivating, encouraging, and developing communities of practice. These communities of practice can be intentionally unleashed in organizations for their benefit and the benefit of the individuals involved.

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Book Review: Dialogue Education at Work - Jane Vella |

Vella, Jane. Dialogue Education at Work: A Case Book. Jossey-Bass, 2004.

Vella's book is a collection of case studies of people that have applied the principles and practices known as dialogue education. "A case book is a presentation of action research. Each story tells what happened in a learning event..." (p. xiii) From University Education to the Public Sector, from Not-for-Profit Organizations to International Education, there is a wide variety of learning environments that are explored and used as examples of the potential of dialogue education when applied to everyday opportunities and challenges.

What is dialogue education and what distinguishes is from other forms of education? There is a fundamental difference in dialogue education and traditional educational models. Vella describes dialogue education as "a finely structured system of learning-focused teaching rooted in a research-based set of principles and practices." (p. xiii) That means that the focus is on the process of learning. "In contrast, problem-posing education or dialogue meant that concepts, skills, or attitudes were presented as open questions for reflection and integration..." (p. 1)

Through each case study we are reminded that learning is not about the teacher, it's about the learners. Elena Carbone, in chapter 2, made an astounding and paradigm-altering (for me at least) observation - "Initially, I found my traditional content-heavy, teacher-centered course nearly impossible to translate into a dialogue-based, learning-centered format." (p. 25 italics mine) This should be the goal of all education - learning! Not necessarily providing the teacher with an outlet for all of his or her information-laden brain. I know this sounds simple, but most of the educational models that I have experienced are teacher-centered, not learner-centered. In chapter 4, Marianne Reiff describes how she used to prescribe to the teacher-centered model. "I would have used the texts, my knowledge base, and my assumptions to construct presentations that would work for the students." (p. 48) I concur that, until reading Vella's book, that was my primary paradigm for education.

What drives education for the dialogue educator, though, is the question, "How will I know if the students are learning?" (p. 29) And as Carbone goes on to explain that "less is more," keeping the focus less off the content and more on the learning process. (p. 25) An excellent illustration of this emerges in Vella's book - that of the Midwife. "Perhaps an apt image is that of a midwife presiding over birth: during the difficult stages we offer encouragement and assurance, bearing witness to the pain and struggle, and when the miracle of new life emerges, we celebrate." (p. 171) I thought this a perfect illustration for the differences between dialogue education and traditional education. A midwife is an encourager, facilitator, coach and cheerleader. In traditional education, the teacher is a lecturer and giver of information. Very different in both approach and format.

What concepts, ideas and tools are immediately transferable and applicable to my current context, and how can they be transferred and applied? When I briefly looked at the overview and contents of this book, I sensed that it was going to have a profound effect pedagogically on many of the leadership development programs, structures and systems that I have built or am building. Because this is a "Case Book" I realized that the "what" and "how" would be inherently linked and woven together, so I have combined these 2 questions into one response, with both the "what" and "how" interwoven together. Here are just a few of the vast number of concepts, ideas and tools that I found to be transferable and applicable:

- The overwhelming necessity and benefit of a comprehensive and informed needs assessment before the class begins. "My first task was to design a learning needs and resource assessment (LNRA), which invites learners to share information about what they already know about the subject and what they believe they need to know." (p. 26) It was obvious that the needs assessments done throughout the cases (p. 26, 38, 49, 63-64, 165, & 197) worked to provide a basis which informed the learning tasks, objectives and direction of the course. It wasn't about pushing a grid onto the learner's grid, it was about finding out their needs and assets, and using those to build the learning environment. There was even an example of a woman who made personal visits in order to do the needs assessment. (p. 137-138) I found this to be a great example of a way to gather real-time information that can help move the learners toward success.

- Learner-process focus as opposed to teacher-content focus. As Meredith Pearson noted that "this...project has required me to place the highest priority on the process of learning rather than on the content of learning alone." (p. 43 italics mine) Throughout these cases it became obvious that content-driven education was largely ineffective in the learning process. Focusing on the process of learning by creating highly structured systems seem to have a higher degree of success in achieving the objective of learning. (p.25, 38)

- There are certain principles and practices that create an environment of effective learning. Meredith Pearson suggests 5: respect, a safe learning environment, group discussion and interaction, praxis (reflection and action), and evidence of transfer. (p. 41-42) Providing learning tasks (p. 65-68) and even posting them in the class (p. 50) were effective in motivating the shared learning experience. Defining roles, expectations, and standards creates a healthy environment. (p. 50-52) And especially the 7 Design Steps helped to flesh out all of the necessary elements of creating a healthy learning environment. (p. 140 & 231)

"Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value" was the admonition by Linda Gershuny in her case study about schooling in Haiti. (p. 255) What makes Vella's book unique is it's contribution, by virtue of the volumes of successful development and practice, of the ideas and concepts that make up the foundation of dialogue education. Learner-centered, objective-based education that asks the question, "How do we know they know?" is the foundation for the collection of these case studies.

I had a hard time finishing this book. Why? Because there was so much RICH material that had application to my current context. I found myself diving into different aspects of each case study and gleaning practice after practice. The notes above are just the tip of the iceberg.

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Trying out for Ninja school Wednesday, January 11, 2006 |

If you're thinking about trying out for Ninja School, you may want to check out this video:

Ninja School


Church Planting Observations by Ed Stetzer |

I ran across this article in the Acts 29 newsletter by Ed Stetzer on church planting observations, specifically observations on the state of North American Mission Strategies (From Journal of Evangelism and Missions, Fall 2005).

It is an overall positive picture of the growth of church planting (CP), CP support systems, CP networks, house churches, and church planting resources over the past few decades.

It even touches on the implications of the PEACE plan coming out of Saddleback. Having been to their PEACE briefing, and seen the implications myself as we begin to implement this strategy, this is going to have HUGE worldwide effects on mission, church planting, mercy ministries and a whole slew of other things. More on that later...

In 2004, the Church Planting Group of the North American Mission Board asked me to undertake a study of the state of church planting in North America. When I led the Church Planting Institute, part of our responsibility entailed contacting every major church planting ministry with a web presence in order to ask them some key questions about church planting. We identified and contacted 124 organizations, denominations, churches, and agencies. They were asked several key questions including, but not limited to, the following:

• Has interest in church planting increased or decreased in your sphere of influence in the last 10 years?

• Describe your church planting systems including recruitment, training, and multiplication.

• How do you recruit and involve sponsor churches?

One noteworthy finding was that not one respondent indicated a decreased interest in church planting. In fact, all but two of the groups indicated an increased interest and none indicated a decline in such. Moreover, many indicated that their interest in planting churches had increased dramatically. Read more...


Church planting & church planting movements Monday, January 02, 2006 |

I've been thinking, reading, dreaming much about church planting and church planting movements. Here are some websites and articles that have been churning my heart and thought processes most:

:: by Tim Keller ::

Globalization, Urbanization, and a Post-secular America - advancing the gospel by planting churches:
Advancing the Gospel

Post-Christendom church planting:

Cities, and specifically Global Cities, are becoming a strategic and important nexus for church planting. To understand why, read this article on a biblical theology of the city: