For many years I have dreamt about someday visiting Europe, especially the city of London. This past September my dream came true, and it certainly did not disappoint. In late September, my wife and I boarded a plane for London to participate in my second travel advance through George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Throughout my time in London I learned many things, but none greater than the insight of connections. Connections with dear friends, historical places, a new age and missional movements. These connections, much like London’s subway system named the UNDERGROUND, took me to new places in my soul, mind and understandings. I am deeply grateful for these connections. The following learning synthesis is a reflection on how my time in London changed my soul and is still currently forming me.
Personal Interests… It was my first time on the London “UNDERGROUND”, we had been riding for approximately 10 minutes when I heard the over head announcement, “Next station, Oxford Circus, this will be the connector for the brown line.” Little did I realize that over the next ten days I would be connecting to more than colored subway lines via the UNDERGROUND, but rather significant soul shaping ideas, sights and people. As I reflect upon my time in London, four significant areas of connection emerge. First, the connection with dear friends. As I began my time with LGP3 almost 16 months ago, I remember our first significant meeting. Excitement was mixed with being nervous, in fact, if I’m honest it felt a little like my first day in Jr. High. People were great, staff was amazing, cohort members were personable, yet, if you asked me, “How deeply will I get to know these people over the next three plus years?”, I’m not sure how I would have responded. Entering the doors of the Hotel in London, I was caught off guard by the depth of relationships which have been formed among LGP3. I would truly count each of them as deep lifelong friends. These friends have taught me about their respective cultures but even more about myself and the culture in which I come from. Their perspectives, friendship and care for each other became so evident throughout our time. A powerful example of this depth came on the day of the LGP3 presentations. As each person presented, fellow cohort members were helping each other, cheering one another on, and truly capturing a team dynamic. There was no competition! We truly desired for each other to succeed, be sharpened and the kingdom built.
Second, I was struck by the impact, visiting historical places had on me in a formational way. Evensong at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, communion at Westminster Abbey, visiting the London Tower and watching the sun set over Big Ben and the Parliament while dining along the Thames. Each were profound moments in connecting to historical figures and those who have gone before us. What I had read about all my life, I was now experiencing first hand. On the last day of our time in England we were able to travel by train to Oxford. While in Oxford, we were able to visit the Bodleian Library and dine at The Eagle and Child. The simple yet profound connection to scholars such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien is hard to describe in words. Below is two pictures from our time.
Fourth and lastly, I was struck by missional movements happening in profound ways throughout London. Sitting with Jeremy Crossley, while next to the Bank of England and listening to his heart on simply being present with God and then others. Simply profound! As I am reflecting, I can’t help but connect Jeremy and his leadership to what Friedman spoke of in his book Failure of Nerve: Leadership in an Age of the Quick Fix, specifically in the area of leading from a position of health in the midst of a potentially hostile environment. Equally as impacting to Jeremy Crossley was Steve Chalke from Oasis Church. Steve’s passion, drive and conviction in which he spoke, was inspiring. Uniquely his ability to release well, and model a form of the hedge hog concept written about by Jim Collins in his book, “Good to Great”, has allowed Steve to grow Oasis hubs all throughout Europe. His lack of need to control was inspiring. I also respect him a great deal for his position on using influence and speaking into significant issues of our time.
New Knowledge… In the area of new knowledge, three key themes emerged during my time in London. First, a new global society is being birthed from among an old world. Buildings and streets which have stood for hundreds of years or maybe even a millennium, are now being dwarfed by new neighbors which capture a new global identity. This new society immersed in a digital landscape, runs parallel to the old modern world while at the same time being its own distinct reality. Global cities such as London, provide opportunity to influence and lead culture change. These key cities transform culture, which in turn impacts a greater society. In this new coming world, the ancient and the future live simultaneously.
A second theme which emerged is the need for the church to be embedded into society. With society moving so quickly, immersed in the need to produce, a great need for parish modeled churches is beginning to arise. These parish churches being geographically located in the tribe of their neighbors. No longer asking others to come to them, or having to produce the best attractional entertainment to build sustainable numbers, churches are confronted with a simplistic return to offering the sacraments to others. This same reality I am currently observing here in the United States, predominately in city centers. Third, I observed and experienced the need to think globally while yet living locally. This is easier said than done! I use this language all the time, in fact I even teach a course named the Glocal Church. Yet, once returning from London, the stark realization is that so many locally simply only know local. Sharing with this community must be thoughtful and well contextualized. Otherwise, your voice becomes white noise in a sea of information.
Practice… Since our advance in London, I have continued the process of working out digital influence within the bounds of keeping a healthy formation and rule of life. After beginning to see and understand the future, through witnessing a global city like London, I have become even more intentional in crafting my formation through a balanced perspective of ancient practices combined with futuristic digital influence. These connections have proved to help in the area of capturing Sabbath well. A second practice I have implemented since my time in London is body power dynamics. After listening to MarkKate Morse speak on this subject, I realized I’ve thought about this subject, but never really have taken the time to develop my formation around these engagement principles. Throughout the fall I have been intentional about body presentation within individual and group meetings. These principles have been simple, yet profound. This area of study has added a new paradigm of relational dynamics in which i will continually be developing through years of life and ministry.
Application… My practice and application since the London Advance parallels my connections stated in the personal interest section. First, caring for and staying in touch with dear friends from around the world. This fall I have been more intentional with praying for, speaking words of encouragement and catching up via skype and facebook. These connections have been profound for my own growth, encouragement and ministry. The sharpening which has taken place has refined my thoughts, interactions and professional ministry. Global relationships such as these have enabled me to live out of what Charlene Li calls, open leadership. Open leadership being a place where social technology parallel with global relationships provides a platform where one can be refined and lead from an open authentic posture. The second of these connections, historical places has continued to shape my understanding of global Christianity. After having visited Westminster Abbey, Saint Paul’s Cathedral and The London Tower, my understanding of history has been transformed. I love history, and particularly European mid-evil and renaissance history. Experiencing each of these places has given profound understanding into the church of the past and how we have arrived at the church of the present.
Prior to joining LGP3 with George Fox, I was beginning to retract from technology and the emerging digital society. Not for reasons of disagreement, but rather to gain health and sustainability in life. Since participating in LGP3, I have regained a new understanding and skill set in the area of leading by influence through a digital society. This has allowed me to continue in the process of living out of a place of healthy rhythms. It has also given me a platform in leading others within my current organization to a healthier influential place in the area of education, training and soul shaping.
Synthesis & Methodology… Throughout this fall, cohort reading selections have again transformed my thinking. These authors along with their concepts have refined my thinking in multiple disciplines. Each has made a contribution to the my over all dissertation research in the area of, “Restoring Burnout Ministry Leaders Within A Western North American Society.” The following is a visual journey of London and my experience this past fall.