A quick alert post!
My article is Trust: The New Commodity of Leadership
Enjoy it, read it, pass it along!
A quick alert post!
Enjoy it, read it, pass it along!
Some writing I’ve done elsewhere:
• Promoter and advocate for “Little Free Library” movement, which promotes generosity and literacy on a small but powerful grassroots level.
• Here’s my article at the BURNSIDE WRITER’S COLLECTIVE on “Blue Notes” (Jazz, God, and the human experience.)
2 books to which I’ve contributed. Blah, blah, blah.
Even though the misfit made belonging difficult it finally created the atmosphere for personal change and the beginning of a new journey.
The 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy a week from this Sunday. We will once again see images and recount the horrors of that day, and try in memorial to accept the reality of this world. Most of us don’t encounter death and our own mortality too often. Most of us don’t constantly see suffering, and witness grief and loss.
Please take some time today, or this weekend to remember that the events of 9/11 still bring pain to many. Loved ones are missed, and we can’t gloss over the national tragedy that left a collective hole in our hearts, even ten years later.
This seems a fitting time to discuss an author who is very acquainted with death. It’s his job to be, and his perspective can be very helpful to us. As promised a couple of weeks earlier, the following is my personal interview with blogger and upcoming author Caleb Wilde, a 6th generation Funeral Director, seminary student, husband, and expectant adoptive dad.
My Questions for Caleb:
1. Being a 6th generation funeral director, you have quite a unique vantage point on life, loss, and mortality. How do you think you live life differently than other Christians because of where God has placed you?
Caleb: In traditional religious calendars, the day in-between “Good Friday” and “Easter” is called “Holy Saturday”. “Holy Saturday” is the day the disciples’ hopes and beliefs were engulfed in death and silence, as they viewed their Messiah’s death without the knowledge of the resurrection.
In some sense, I live the life of Holy Saturday.
As funeral directors, we’re paid by families to be a human shield to death, whereby we make death somewhat easier, less real and more proper. As this human shield, I’m affected. I’m affected by the brokenness, by the grief, by the hopelessness I see in faces, by the newly fatherless/motherless children, the tragic deaths and the accidents.
All this has made my personal faith more sensitive to questions of God’s goodness and justice. It’s not easy for me to understand ideas of “eternal hell”, or ideas of “meticulous divine providence” or even “absolute foreknowledge” or “omnipotence”.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m still a Christian.
2. What do people misunderstand most about your work?
Caleb: We’re a lot like pastors. Our jobs are really quite similar, except that one is recognized as “ministry” while the other is “business.” That’s probably the largest misconception … there’s no way funeral directors can meet with grieving families through the most difficult time of their lives and come out on the other side as “business people.”
Everything else is true, though … we are dark and we are odd people.
In ancient times, death practitioners were ostracized from normal society by rule. Today, we’re partly ostracized from the norm of society by practice.
3. The constant stream of customers (people dying, and their families burying them) can make one grow numb or cold toward the concept and process of death and burial. Do things still surprise you or impact you? What kind of things?
Caleb: There’s something so unnatural about death that (save the very old) it’s difficult to become numb.
4. You’ve probably thought about what you’d want your own funeral to look and sound like. Can you tell us about that?
Caleb: About two years ago, I started taking one minute video clips of myself, so that by the time I’m 70, I should have a montage of age progression videos that can be used for my funeral.
I’ve also talked about recording a message from myself to my family and friends that could be shown at my funeral as the eulogy. But, by the time I’m ready to die, I figure they’ll have holographic projections, so I’ll wait for that tech until I record my final goodbye.
5. The saddest funeral I ever went to was for a 13 year old boy who took his own life. What have you learned about people during the time of more tragic circumstances that you’ve been a part of?
Caleb: Funerals/death are a perfect storm: you have death, the inheritance money, high emotions and family you might not like too much who are around you all the time.
Funerals intensify people’s real character. You see the best in people and you see the worst. The bad people will do horrendous things at funerals, like start fights, curse out their family members over money. And you can see Jesus in the good ones.
6. Do you find your work mostly depressing, hopeful, profound, mundane, etc.? Would you recommend this vantage point to others?
Caleb: It’s a tough ministry that has little boundaries. Many funeral homes are also generational, so many of us work with our dads, grandfathers, uncles and cousins, which can make this at-need work that much more difficult to set up healthy boundaries.
Similar to any ministry, I think there should be a passion for death work … a calling of sorts, whereby you know this is what you’re supposed to do. And being a “calling”, few have witnessed this vantage point.
7. Do you want to stay in the family business? Why or why not?
Caleb: Next question : )
8. Tell us a bit about how you view suffering, pain, and death from your unique perspective…which probably has a lot to do with the message in your book.
Caleb: I’ve built my understanding of God around suffering, pain and death. It’s a local theology. And my understanding of God, suffering, pain and death in light of my faith is the content of my upcoming book, “Confessions of a Funeral Director.” Hopefully, it will be out in less than a year. You can get an idea of how death has affected my view of God at my blog, www.calebwilde.com. My book, though, will contain much more narrative than my blog.
9. What’s your best idea for a Smart Phone app.?
Caleb: I live near Lancaster County (PA), home of the Amish and Mennonites, so there’s a lot of intermarrying in these parts. Not to mention, most of the towns in the rural areas of Pennsylvania have families that have lived there for centuries, so many of them are related.
I have an idea to partner with Ancestry.com and create an app the lets you bump smart phones with another person and it will tell you how you’re related to them. My theory is that this will greatly help the evolution of humans by creating a purer gene pool. The apps name is “Bump it before you Hump it”.
THANK YOU, Caleb, and best wishes on your book. I’m really excited to get a copy.
The working title for Caleb’s book is Confessions of Funeral Director. A bit more on that here.
So, my reader friends, what are you curious about? Ask Caleb your deep, dark, or even silly questions!
What a HUGE temptation to be self-satisfied as we acquire knowledge.
We soon secure a kind of confidence (or inflation) when we know things others don’t. Too little does our increased knowledge humble us as we recognize all the many things we do not know.
Our opinion of ourselves may intensify and improve, despite not using our gain for the benefit of others. It’s a strange irony. And I’ll bet it’s far easier to see this in others than in ourselves. What do you think?
It reminds me of the fish you see here. The porcupine fish (often confused for the pufferfish) have the ability to inflate their body by ingesting water or air, and swelling up. At 2 times their size vertically, they try to avoid death by scaring off smaller-mouthed predators. Their pointy spines, distend outwards when the fish is inflated, and some species are poisonous. A tetrodotoxin resdies in their internal organs, such as the ovaries and liver. This neurotoxin is at least 1200 times more potent than cyanide (from wikipedia).
One downside to furthering education is the routine bypass of true humility once some comprehension has been achieved. Knowledge ends there, perhaps. We like it because it helps us somehow comfort ourselves. It gets ingrown and fetid. Too often it is used to showoff, or deflect others when we are threatened, or to feel superior inwardly. Too often it is not united to wisdom, which should be our true goal. In wisdom, knowledge and maturity converge to bless others. Wisdom helps our knowledge to give back, and reproduce goodness in kind.
Knowledge without mindful experience won’t produce wisdom. A wise one is continually teachable, and can learn from any other person. A solely knowledgeable person compares themselves to others, and feels confident or insecure depending on who they are stacked against.
It’s not that education, knowledge, and learning is negative, on its own. It is the way we use our new understanding and expertise that is the issue of greatest import.
I have to keep a close watch that my knowledge does not trap me into a foolish corner where wisdom cannot be found. I have to be mindful that I bless and not oppress others through gained knowledge. My God grant me his grace and nature to do it.
Who in your life has impressed you with his or her humility coupled with knowledge?
For me, I find Jesus a great example here. Also some of my learned professors have had incredible humility coupled with awing intelligence and academic achievement. It is a beautiful display of the Fruit of the Spirit.
How do you struggle with this, at times?
What helps you keep in-check?
I post it today for your personal reflection. Sometimes we don’t make the time to collect ourselves this way. Here’s a our chance today. Maybe it’s also something you’d like to share with someone else.
Let us receive Your words
and treasure up Your commandments within us;
Make our ears attentive to wisdom
and incline our hearts to understanding;
yes, may we call out for insight
and raise our voices for understanding.
Let us seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
that we may understand the fear of the Lord
For You, Lord, give wisdom;
from Your mouth come knowledge and understanding.
(Share your comments and reflections)
In his new book, boneYARD: creatives will change the way we lead in the church, John O’Keefe tackles an issue rampant in the United States: the overwhelming trend of dying and dead churches. He also speaks to a pet topic of mine: the prevalent misguided practices that give churches supposed membership growth. [What I've called, "Poaching from the Choir".]
You may know of John through his creative project ginkworld.
Here are his interesting answers to 6 questions about the issues discussed in boneYARD. Your comments or questions are welcome.
1. John, you use the terms “industrial church” and “conceptual church”, and so on, referring to eras. Can you briefly explain the terms you use; and -Do you think most churches are caught somewhere in the middle, or have they been fallen behind?
The industrial church is a church that centers on the principles of “Maxwellian Leadership.” The ideas that grew out of the Industrial Revolution, where there needs to be a “CEO” (Pastor) and “Vice-CEO” (Associate Pastors) to control the organization. The central motive of this style of leadership is to see the church as a business, and everything the leader does centers on benefiting the organization. People are seen as assets and they are used to benefit the organization – “what will help the church.” They are very logical, linear, and focused on profit. For them, profit is defined in terms of the offering and getting people in the pews. But, if the attendance is going down, and offerings are going up they do not see a problem. I read an article earlier where it explained how the Evangelical Lutherans are declining in numbers (most churches are), but that there was no reason to fear because giving was on an increase.
The conceptual church is forming today. Leadership (if that is even a valid term in a Conceptual Age) focuses on the organism; the organization holds little value. Everything a conceptual leader does focuses on the person, the organism, and centers on how we relate to others. In the Conceptual Age we think in terms of personality traits of a conceptual leader; people have personalities, machines have qualities.
While some are in the middle, struggling to find their voice, even fewer are in front of the curve, in my research I have found most churches are far behind the curve. They are stuck in the idea that they need to keep doing what they have always done, and those outside the church need to change to fit into their world.
2. Do you think it’s apt to say that for a great many churches, an increase in membership has more to do with (as I like to say) “poaching believers from other churches”? (Or poaching from the choir.)
I love the visual of “poaching.” Sometime back I wrote an article entitled “Three Kinds of Fishing” where I saw the possibilities as pole fishing, net fishing, or tank fishing, but I love the visual of poaching. I believe most churches are growing because of poaching. Poaching is easy for the church. I love churches that advertise on Christian Radio; the question we need to ask is “Who are they trying to reach?” I don’t know any “non-follower” listening to Christian Radio. Churches that advertise on Christian Radio prove the point. Their ads are targeted to those already going to church and say, “Come to our church, our pastor is cooler, our music is better, our service is exciting, and we will not bug you to get involved.”
Some churches even go as far as to count people who come from other traditions as “new believers.” The Baptists and the Non-Denominational Church of Christ are the ones who do this the best. I use to attend a church is Las Vegas called Central Christian (Currently about 15,000 people), when it was just over 300 people. One of my family members was attending the church also and he was required to be “re-baptized” in order to become a leader in the church. Even though he had been a follower for years before he attended the church. They counted him as a “new believer.” Soon, he left Central and started to attend a Southern Baptist Church in the area, and was required to be “re-baptized” and was counted as a “new believer.” These churches count everyone who was not baptized in their method as a “new believer.” This inflates numbers, sure – but more than that, it tells everyone who is not “one of them” you are wrong and we are right.
3. What’s the difference between church growth and kingdom growth? and, What is your best nugget of advise for those in ministry regarding church growth and kingdom growth?
Church growth centers on growing an individual church, so taking from another church is seen as an easy form of church growth. Kingdom growth centers on growing the Kingdom, and sees people in other traditions as part of the church universal. Kingdom growth centers on not caring what church the person is involved with, but that they understand the love and grace of God. When I was at 247 we use to have teens coming to all our events, and many times those teens would ask about our services. I would encourage them to get connected to the churches their parents attended and go as a family.
I think the best thing I can share with churches today is to not concern yourself with growing your church, center on growing God’s Kingdom. When we focus on growing God’s Kingdom we move out from the walls of the church, and into the communities we are called to serve. We desire to share the message of hope with people, who need to know the love of God through Christ, and we are avatars of Christ to the world around us – we are the incarnation of Christ to the world. Our care is more for inviting people into God, and not into our church.
4. There will always be left-brained thinkers. If the new era of leadership is right-brained, as you say, what should these people do?
Change, embrace their right side. Keep in mind, being right brain dominate does not ignore those who are left brain dominate. The idea in a Conceptual Age is that right brains will be the dominate side and left brains will play a subordinate role. In my research I came upon a study I mention in the book that says 98% of us are born right brain dominate and creative, while 2% are born left brain dominate. Over time, our educational system causes those numbers to flip, causing 2% to be right brain dominate and 98% left brain dominate. It is amazing that our educational system flips the numbers to left brain dominance. This is because, in an Industrial Age, we need more left brain thinkers to “oversee” others.
5. In your opinion, does the “bone yard phenomenon” (of vast numbers of churches closing) have anything to do with apprehending church and/or the church building from a materialist and modernist vantage point? And how can we do better?
While I believe it matters little where a community of faith gathers, for the industrial church the building has become an albatross. Some churches spend more on building upkeep then they do on ministry and care. Between salaries, mortgage payments, utility bills and upkeep a major part of the budget is spent just to keep things going. Because of that, the leadership focuses on keeping the building afloat, and less on reaching those who are not followers of Christ. So, they strive and strive to increase the numbers in their pews to fill their coffers and less on bringing people into a life changing reality that Christ offers all people. This is one of the reasons I believe the church is comfortable with poaching. If they are poaching they are attracting givers who will help keep the building going.
6. With all the churches closing, and new ones not meeting the needs, is there any way out of the boneyard?
You bet there is. I see all the churches closing as a good thing, not a bad thing. I see the churches failure to reach a new generation as a good thing as well. Why? Because it is causing us to wake-up, and move out of the church. Many churches are waking up to the realization that what they are doing is not working, so they are now open to change. The only thing that is holding them back is that they do not know how to make the change. Keep in mind, deciding to change and actually changing are two different things.
Conversation about change is a waste of time, we simply need to change. The future looks bright for the church willing to make the change and reach a conceptual mindset. While boneYARD is not a program, I believe it is a good starting point to make those changes.
Thank you, John.
I will be graduating this May, and I cannot say enough about the wonderful school I have been attending!
The students, staff, and professors form a beautiful community, rich in love, thoughtful in understanding, and dedicated to helping others live–not just know–the gospel, and the deep, high, long, and wide love of God. The transformation God has done in my heart, by way of this place-during my years here, is difficult to sum up. But, my life is forever changed and renewed. My character, and love for others is stronger, my understanding of my God and my purpose and meaning in this world has blossomed. And, I am far better prepared for the next adventure God has for me since I followed a call to come to ETS. What an immense joy it has been. I’ve loved it the whole time, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Perhaps you’re at a crossroads, or may you feel the tug of God to go deeper to learn, serve, grow, and love your Creator and Redeemer. This school, my school, Evangelical Theological Seminary, would be a fantastic way to move along on your journey. The upcoming Open House is a great way to find out if this path would be a one for you. April 8th you can talk to and hear from students and faculty, tour the campus, ask questions, and learn more.
Here is a bit of information, (and the day’s schedule) for the upcoming Open House, April 8th.
Leave any questions you have here, or contact the ETS office 777-866-5775.