Thursday, March 29, 2012

Plain & Simple - Discipleship 166

I've been thinking about how I use language lately.

As a parent of two young "parrots" I've often found myself choosing to use different words for fear that one day my kids will repeat something I wish they hadn't heard from me.

I wonder how often we as communicators and leaders would say the same thing? A good friend of mine once shared with me the burden he feels as a worship leader to help create a worship vocabulary for his community. He chooses every song carefully with this thought in mind: how do these words help edify the God we serve while drawing people closer to Him?

What a great challenge!

So, when we communicate with others, are we desiring to pursue clarity or confusion as our end result? My hope is that I can provide clarity to those who I may be sharing with verbally. Here are five things that I'm learning about how to communicate both plainly and simply so I can be understood.

1.Talk with someone, don't talk to them. Interaction is key to enhance understanding.
2. Choose different words. Some of the leadership, theological and parental terms bring more confusion than clarity. It's important to know your audience and know what sort of language use is appropriate.
3. Be consistent. Any parent will tell you the value of this principle...same goes for leadership. Be consistent in how you communicate and when you communicate. Waiting to communicate often leads to a heightened emotional response...and sometimes these responses can be avoided and/or stabilized with consistency.
4. It's okay to be different. Don't be someone yourself. Communicate with others through the lens of your life's story and journey with Jesus. If your story is rooted in Jesus, your story is more powerful than you can imagine.
5. Relax. In our over-stimulated society, it sometimes takes time for a message to be translated, decoded and absorbed by your audience. Don't fret if you cannot see an immediate response to your communication strategy. Instead, rest in the fact that you aren't asked to do it all, you are simply asked to play a role in God's unfolding story...plain & simple.

What do you think, are there other communication lessons you are in the process of learning?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Entitlement - Discipleship 165

Entitlement seems to be the word du jour that many adults use to describe the emerging youth and young adult culture. Quite frankly, I myself have used this word in this same regard.

What I'm learning more and more about these days is how the emerging youth and young adult culture seems to be a mirrored reflection of the natural human condition, in addition to learned behaviour from previous generations.

I have 3 pre-school aged kids. Today we have been celebrating my oldest son's third birthday. With every birthday in the Frizzell house comes the opening of gifts, the eating of cake and other fun memories. I find it very interesting how each of my kids has developed a sense of ownership and entitlement when it comes to these birthday traditions. They argue over toys, they make sure that they are heard and they voice there opinion in no uncertain terms.

I challenge you to do a social experiment sometime this week. Try to observe a group of kids, youth or adults interact with each other. You might notice that in each instance there is always posturing for position, a desire to be heard and some sort of element of entitlement.

I've been drawn to a story Jesus told about a group of workers. In this story, workers are invited to harvest a field. Three different groups of workers are hired at three different times: early in the day, mid-day and in the last few hours of the day. At the end of the work day, the boss calls all of the workers together in order to hand out their compensation. He pays each of them equally...which frustrates the first two groups of workers. These people cannot understand why the boss would allow those who were hired towards the end of the day to share equally in the bounty.

Entitlement seems to fit as a definition for the reaction of the first two groups of workers. These workers are so focused on getting what they believe they have earned, that they miss out on the lesson they are being shown. Life is about generosity...freely giving of yourself and of your stuff to others. Entitlement gets in the way of living life according to this rhythm and design. When we allow ourselves to be consumed by our desire to gain rather than our ability to give, we lose sight of what is really important.

I desire for my kids to know the beauty and the simplicity of living I will desperately fight against my natural entitlement tendencies.

The next time you are with a group of people ask yourself these question, are you fighting to make sure you get what's yours, or are you fighting to pursue a life that is steeped in generosity? What defines a disciple best, someone who gets what they think they deserve, or someone who is willing to give of themselves for the sake of someone else?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Filter - Discipleship 164

The recent bombardment of social justice initiatives via social media has illuminated the deep-seeded desire that exists for a single individual to make a difference in the world at large. One of the many great aspects of being a pastor to youth is the fact that this emerging generation has a natural inclination towards compassion, social justice and world change. And recent world events and statistical data have shown the growth and progress towards social justice issues such as world poverty and clean drinking water are being made.

The problem with this natural inclination is that many other people who may not be naturally wired in this way seem to be intimidated and afraid of it...both inside and outside the church.

The question I'm left asking myself is not only how I may respond to the emerging justice issues of the day, but more importantly, how am I going to filter what I see, hear and experience?

I would suggest that there are only three responses to issues of social justice and poverty. These three distinct responses are illustrated by a story Jesus told called the Good Samaritan.

The basic synopsis of this story is as follows:
- a man experiences injustice
- two men see the injustice and respond with both ignorance and fear
- a third man sees the injustice and chooses to get involved.

The first response to social justice is ignorance. The word ignorance basically means choosing to believe something doesn't exist or matter. This is one way we can choose to filter our experience with justice issues...we can simply choose to try and ignore them.

The second response to social justice is fear. We may not choose to ignore the issue, but because of the complexity of the issue or the potential of getting hurt or experiencing some pain by getting involved, we simply choose to refrain from pursuing justice as a result of our fear.

The third response to social justice is to get involved. Getting involved doesn't mean that one person can solve every issue that exist, but it does mean that one person can make a difference by doing something. When people think about changing the world they sometimes buy into the mentality that changing the world means doing everything, and that's simply not true. Changing the world begins with one act of intentionality at a time. When those who follow Jesus choose to say that are going to be an agent of change by verbally and tangibly demonstrating love for others, the world in which we live benefits. We do what we say and we say what we do...and our doing comes from understanding what it means to be human and in the case of those who know Christ, what it means to be a Christian.

Being a Christian means valuing what Jesus valued...and Jesus values justice.

As our world experiences growing pains and with it more opportunities for change, my hope is that we filter our response to these issues through the lens of both love and compassion. We all have a filter, the challenge is utilizing a filter that doesn't belong to us, but allowing God's filter to be the one that helps us to determine how we might respond to acts of social justice.

What's your filter? How does it need to change to become more in line with God's?