Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Blog-Ference Day 3--Fear and Hope

Here are some great comments from yesterday’s discussion. Once again I wanted to use our dialogue as a spring-board into today’s discussion.

I saw foundationless change. I saw leaders trying to be innovative and make changes, try new things, but get no where due to having no foundation to build on. In other words nothing was constant or sacred (including the principles needed to build anything).--Ken

I lead out of the present, self, known because it is much easier and it does not leave me looking foolish.—Josh Payne

For me, it's FEAR - fear of losing control, fear of pain and discomfort, fear of loneliness even, b/c the majority of the people won't get it or get you as you live in that space that is different from theirs.—Wix

I'm also concerned when I hear about "rapid reproduction," this sense that risky faith-filled ministry produces more sexy, crazy results.Aaron

It seems like the root issue keeping most all of us from leading out of the Future/Faith/Unknown is fear. Foundationless change can also be seen as a fear and lack of confidence that our plans are of the Lord in spite of the not working or happening perfectly. Josh touched on our fear of looking foolish—we all experience the expectation that as staff we are ‘supposed to know’ how to do everything well. Wix shared all the experiential consequences of leading in this manner, emphasizing how costly it is.

I also see hope as a major part of why we do or do not lead out of the Faith/Future. Walter Brueggemann, in his book The Prophetic Imagination, defines hope as this: Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion…hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretension of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question.

I fear that with so many different strategies rolling out every couple years, that we have hope fatigue. I sense that we have been doing so many things okay to below average, rather than a few things well, that many of us do not have something to point to that ‘proves’ so to speak that it’s worthwhile to hope. Personally, hoping in something that does not end up coming to being is extremely discouraging. It’s so easy for me to blame myself for a lack of faith/spiritual fervor/etc, question whether or not God really wants to work on campus, and wonder if being on staff is truly where it’s at. Especially when we have a culture that honors ‘success,’ I can easily start to believe I’m on the outside and not doing something right.

I would also go back to Brueggemann’s quote that emphasizes the subversive-ness of hope. It’s extremely hard to admit that what we have been seeking after things that are ‘just okay’ or ‘good but not great.’ Hope can be threatening—to ourselves and to others, as it opens up the possibility for God to work outside of the current structures/processes/etc that are set in place.

To bridge this gap between where we started as Campus Crusade and where we find ourselves now, I believe we need to look for ways to combat fear and foster hope, especially to staff on the field.

To start the discussion, I would ask these questions of you: 

Would those whom you lead describe you as hopeful? How do you communicate/reflect hope in your current ministry context? Do you have hope fatigue? What is the major cause of it for you?


Josh & Adrienne said...

Wow, those are great questions Brian, and (in my opinion) a very engaging discussion so far in general. My first thought is that being a part of Crusade as a student was what originally instilled a great amount of hope in my heart and soul. I believed those who taught me the Great Commission and my potential for eternal impact. I had read stories of the heroes of the past, Dr.Bright, etc. I had seen God do amazing things during my time at Davis. All of these things gave me great hope in phrases like "the best is yet to come" or "our best days lie ahead". BUT, since joining staff and facing the realities of ministry I have for some reason lost some hope. In light of our current discussion, I suppose that much of this could be attributed to my lack of doing ministry in faith and instead operating purely out of my skill set. Also, as I look around I am not as inspired by those who are leading the charge to change the world. I suppose, "the way forward" could be an opportunity for this to happen and in some ways it is happening but I am definitely instilled with hope by leaders who are hopeful AND lead courageously.
Lastly, Psalm 39:7 "And now , O Lord, for what do i wait? My hope is in You." Not to be preachy but I want my hope to be in Jesus because 1)He is " a better hope" 2) There is NO hope without Him and 3) People will let me down. Wow, so much to say, so little ability to communicate clearly. Keep up the fruitful discussion. Thanks again Brian.

kelly said...

i for sure have hope fatigue. i don't want to, but it creeps in. it's subtle, but it's real, and it's hard to lead from.

Jeremiah said...

A hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

I think if we consistently have our hope deferred (UNREALIZED), we grow weary and quit. For me, the way to keep going is seriously just to concentrate on what God HAS done as opposed to what hasn't happened. I think for me having specific strategy and ideas of what to do next also helps, because then it's not just pipe dreams but something we can do and see if God doesn't come through.
So having a plan helps me believe that the future CAN be better. So I guess I'm saying that the Strategic Planning Process done correctly really helps me.

Wix said...

Dudes, once again, great posts and questions! Yeah, recently, I've had hope fatigue too, lots of disappointments and frustrations, and some of them with my leaders and with our present ministry structure/systems. I agree with Jeremiah that it's the dreams that are unrealized that gets me hopeless. However, I think what's gotten me more hopeful are:

1.) Like what Josh said, knowing - like head-to-heart knowing - that Jesus is my only hope, so it's a reality that people will let me down. But, it's going to be ok in the end, yo.

2.) Knowing that I'm not alone, and that there are like-minded people on the same journey with me. For example, being part of this Blog-ference has really filled me with hope, and given me juice to keep going. That's why I feel this Bog-ference is AWESOME, so thanks Brian and all the hosts!

3.) Reading up on and hearing about how other people have faced and overcome adversity, disappointments, and frustrations on the way to realizing their dreams. I totally agree with John Piper about how we need to make it a habit to study the lives of, or listen to those who have gone before us, and get encouragement from their stories. You know, Hebrews 12:1 stuff.

DJ said...

I experience loss of hope because 1) In a general sense, life is hard, my sin sucks, and I forget the gospel and lose faith.

2) Within a Crusade context, I ABSOLUTELY feel what you said about hearing a new strategy that is going to change everything every 1.5 years gets really old. It feels like we come up with something new every other 18 months. I have not been on staff long, but I can point to several of these changes. And as I talk to older staff, they confirm that it has been like this for quite a while.

I think the Way Forward is a real shift, and is different, but it is hard to get 100% behind it when it feels like another things that will change in 18 months.

Re√ said...

I feel that for Americans Innovation is in our blood. I think it is a cultural gift that had has redeemed to bless the world-wide church. Just think about how many resources go out from the USA and how so few novel ideas come in. But the christians of other cultures have amazing gifts that put the American Church to shame.

Innovation is our american-blood response to problems and frustration. But innovation followed up with life investment requires a faith that is hard to muster. I see missionaries use the shotgun approach of trying every method and approach under the sun to reach a people for Christ. We who have hope fatigue are afriad to put our full investment in a new method -even if its our own- because if it fails, we fail.

I live with an unengaged people group (UPG). But there are churches in my city full of people from a similar people group! But tragically, the Christians here are like hope-sucking-vampires. I love them as brothers or sisters, but they have an irrational fear of this UPG. They don't know how to share with them, how to related to them, and they are afraid of getting in trouble.

I am sharing my vision for reaching this UPG with them, giving them practical new approaches they haven't tried yet. But from them all i get is silence.

I feel like local Christians are just watching me, waiting for me to fail so they can say, "see, i told you, they are too stubborn to believe the gospel."

I am not in a place where i can have a ministry partnership with them because they WILL NOT even try to share with this UPG. I love my brother's and sisters in this city, but i know that they cannot implement new strategies with them. And unless a miracle happens they will not have hope that this UPG can be reached unless they actually see it start to happen.

I don't mean this to be a put down on our brothers and sisters here. I just want to share with you what i am going through. I know sometimes in campus ministry the christian-sub-culture can be that way. They give lip service that we can reach such-and-such a group, but they won't even invest a little piece of their social life to try.

All i have is the hope that Jesus may take my work, breath blessing onto it, and bring into existence what others think is impossible: a faith movement in this UPG. I am terrified to the core of giving my youth, my health, my life to a strategy that may or may not actually be successful in the end. Seriously, i get a little teary eyed and shaky thinking about it at times. Half the time i just want to go back to America to my friends and family and nurse my wounds and pursue something i am capable of achieving without and exercise of faith.

It is so hard for us to scatter from the known and enter the unknown. But even harder to stay scattered and invest completely in new approaches among lost people where everything else has failed.

This UPG is worthy of my life if that is what God wants from me. But even with my whole life, it can be in vain. I can sit in a comfortable home all day and make up new strategies and critique existing ones. But when there is no one to invest their blood and sweat into them. Maybe the person who made the strategy should invest his life into implementing it instead of passing it along to others.

I'm wondering you guys can relate? Some of us can critique and invent new strategies all day. Only with faith and hope can we take our strategy commit it to God and invest as much as God require us to.

As long as we are Americans the endless cycle of strategies will continue like a spinning carousel that never stops. While we have hope fatigue we are just going to watch to the carousel go round and round. We need to use all the God-given discernment we have, mingle it with a leap of faith and take a ride.

I don't know about you but i got dibs on riding that that plastic sea-horse!

Ken said...

Hope is a funny thing for me. In some ways it comes real easy and I am an optimist who never grows tired of believing. But I have noticed that although my hope in God and His working seems to stay strong, my hope in people is usually pretty solid and if it gets derailed it bounces back quick, but the one place where my hope has seemed to bounce around more than ever has been organizationally.

I think the way forward is very exciting, and I see where it can go and the possibilities inherent, but I also see the slow process, the resistance the change, the behemoth systems that are hard to alter, and our fears of the unknown and losing control (and God forbid, losing donors). But I also see how when I think it is way too late, many think it is too much. When I see freedom, others fear shackles. When I have hope in where we can, and see that there is resistance, well this hinders my hope.

All in all, I think that is why on campus and with students I am full of hope and that comes out easy and I am a total optimist. But with the region, or national, or among other staff I can be a lot more negative (which I hate and is sin), and my hope wavers.

Does that make sense?

Brian said...

Hey Ken,
That totally makes sense. I would say that 'hope' and 'optimism' are similar, they are also distinct.

Dave G, future director of Davis, is optimistic like you. I however, am not optimistic like Dave, yet I have seen both us demonstrate hope.

I believe we have underestimated and are not fully aware of just how dramatic a shift has taken place on the college campus since the late 90's, and how quickly it continues to change.

I believe our national and regional leaders are great; I think that there is no way that the main strategy for the campus ministry can be dictated from the national level. Like you said, by the time it's worked out, things have already changed on the field, it kind of connects with the staff on the field but also kind of doesn't, which in turn leads back to the drawing board of a new strategy.

If the Way Forward could truly break this process and begin to significantly empower local movements with resources that are actually felt needs and not donor-driven gifts (like FSKs), then I would say that is a huge step forward.

Also, I think we should call it the Ways Foward, not the Way. 'Way' sounds modern, 'Ways' is much more postmodern :)