Saturday, December 6, 2008

Living with joy and challenge within unhealthy institutions

This week I've been learning about ways to live joyfully within imperfect institutions, while also moving toward the development of alternatives to those institutions. I've been thinking about how Jesus worshiped in the Temple in Jerusalem, while also challenging the institutional powers connected with the Temple, and planting seeds for new forms of religious communities. I've recently talked with people in both religious and secular institutions who find a way to live within imperfect institutions, while also planting seeds for alternatives to those institutions.

One of those people I talked with was Jin Kim, the pastor at Church of All Nations in Columbia Heights, MN. Their members include people from more than 20 countries, and no one ethnicity is a majority within the congregation. The church describes themselves as a "high risk, low anxiety church." They seek to embody the changes they envision in the wider church, in ways that are radical, nonviolent, and humble. I am inspired by their example. Here's a sermon that Jin gave about their church's vision.

I sometimes get confused about whether I should be working for revolution or reform in institutions that I work with. The examples of Jin and others I've talked with, and the stories of Jesus remind me that it isn't always an either/or choice. We can live now in the spirit we are seeking to bring about, recognizing the ways we are intertwined in the oppressive systems we are working against.

In the consulting work I do, I find that almost all organizations have some harmful patterns that seem to suck people into negativity. I also find that every organization seems to have at least a couple people who have a gift for addressing the unhealthiness without being caught in it. They are able to remain both joyful and realistic when there is a lot of blame and despair around them.

How do you balance loyalty, reform, and revolution in your relationships with institutions?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Greg Boyd: Theology applied to institutions

I sometimes say that Greg Boyd is my "online pastor." He is the pastor at Woodland Hills Church in the Twin Cities, and he's written several books. I often listen to mp3s of his sermons, but I'd never actually met Greg before this interview. I have found his ideas about how to live out Jesus's example of "power under" leadership within corrupt systems to be quite helpful. He has shown up on CNN, the New York Times, and many other places for his challenges to some of the directions the Evangelical movement in the U.S. has gone. Here is a video excerpt from our conversation about theology and institutions:

In this clip, Greg talks about 'power over' and 'power under' in organizations. He says, "Always understand that 'the Powers' are trying to play you."

How about you? How do you think spiritual forces impact organizations?