Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Apostles

from Wings of Desire - a film by Wim Wenders
Our congregation has been having a conversation -- one that many congregations are having, I believe -- about what our purpose is, and particularly about how our big old church building fits into that purpose (or not).

In the course of that conversation, one of our very long time members used the term "revolving door" to refer to the fact that, as a congregation in a vibrant neighborhood of Chicago, we attract lots of new, young members but many of those same members move to new locations after a short time.

My initial reaction was to groan and mutter, "Right: the 'revolving door problem'!" But then it hit me: maybe it's 'revolving door opportunity'?"

And in the slow dawning that followed, in which I can imagine an observer actually able to see the slow grinding of the wheels in my mind, I thought, "Could it possibly be that we're not supposed to try to hang onto people? Is is possible that we're supposed to prepare people, and then let them go??"

Is it possible that the "monument" that is St. Luke's Logan Square consists not of a brick-and-mortar building, but of a network of people who have experienced significant formation there, before going on to diverse other places?

Apostles Act

This vision of St. Luke's as a hub of active apostles is something about which our pastor, Rev. Erik Christensen, has talked about often. (See in particular his sermons on being a "school for prophets" and the simple need that "apostles act.") At St. Luke's, we often speak of "equipping" people, and we don't shy from asking, "Am I being effective?"

Peter Falk talks to Damiel (from Wings of Desire)
"I wish I could . . . tell you . . . so many good things . . . "
(watch scene on Youtube)
It occurs to me that we have a narrow window in which to equip apostles to act. When I'm thinking in nostalgia mode, cherishing memories from the New Jersey congregation I was a part of in the '60s and  '70s, I think in terms of membership measured in decades. When I'm thinking in here-and-now mode, looking at the way people live in Chicago in 2014, I think in 3-year increments.

If people are churning through our congregations at a fast pace -- and why shouldn't they be? they're apostles, they act -- don't we need to be extremely intentional about what we do to equip them for the brief time they're with us?

Shouldn't we be at least as organized and impactful as your run-of-the-mill business trainer?

And that's when it occurred to me, "Yes, this is sort of like Stephen Covey . . . . "

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Apostles

In the '80s, there was a small industry built around Stephen Covey and his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The habits that Covey championed -- be proactive, think win-win, sharpen the saw, etc. -- verge on common sense. But Covey did a good job of illuminating them with stories, and helping us see why we often behave in ways that prevent these behaviors from becoming habitual. (Hmmm . . . . )

I'm not sure the "7 habits of highly effective people" are necessarily identical to the "7 habits of highly effective apostles." But they do pose an interesting framework to consider building from.

Wings of Desire: Cassiel listening . . .
(watch scene on Youtube)


* Begin with the End in Mind - Offhand, I can think of a half dozen passages in which Jesus is trying to help people think about how they would live and act if they were to really see the big picture (including the span of their own years). Are the apostles that we are preparing today equipped with the habit of "beginning with the end in mind"? (How is this kind of equipping done?)

* Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood - A core of the Bible study and other small group activity at St. Luke's is an emphasis on listening more carefully -- to notice what's in the text, and to notice what those around us have to say.  What I've noticed is that listening is hard work. I wonder: what level of "equipping" might it require in order to make this a habit?

* Sharpen the Saw - We certainly circle around this habit when we talk about "self-care" and "continuing education" and the need to "avoid burnout" and the need for "sabbath." I wonder if this relates to the challenge we seem to face today in encouraging people (myself included) to value and engage in prayer. To put it simply: are we equipping our apostles to pray? (Do proactive apostles resist praying? Do they feel prayer somehow stands in opposition to action?)

Those are just brief thoughts on how a few of the habits Covey emphasized might be important habits for apostles.

What do you think? What do you think are the 2, or 3, . . . or 7 habits of highly effective apostles?

What is your congregation doing to equip apostles with these habits, so that they can go out and act?

Damiel in living color (from Wings of Desire)

Related posts

"Could it possibly be that we're not supposed to try to hang onto people? Is is possible that we're supposed to prepare people, and then let them go?" 

(See What I Learned in Church (7 Habits) )

We busted out of our big Neo-Gothic church building on Sunday and gathered for worship on the Boulevard. (Or, to be more precise, beneath the trees on the median alongside Logan Boulevard in Chicago, during the weekend-long "Boulevard Fest" sponsored by our congregation.) I've decided to embrace this new feeling of exposure and try to learn some lessons. I put them under the rubric "Congregations that worship in glass houses . . . (complete the sentence) . . . . "

(See Congregations That Worship in Glass Houses . . . )

In gratitude to John Kass, and in keeping with what I perceive to be our shared desire to place our faith "in the world" and share the good news (while at the same time not turning people off with too much Jesus talk) -- in short, keeping my tough guy cred intact -- I herewith share some scenes from my Holy Week 2014.

(See Holy Week 2014 in Chicago - Making a Spectacle of Ourselves )

Faced with chorus of voices saying, "Isn't it time for you to tone it down? Can't you be more reasonable? What is it you want, anyway?" Jesus kept right on doing what he was doing. And that was a sign to us about how to live our lives . . . .

(See WWJD? Occupy! )