Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Seth Godin, Lizard Brains, and the Church...

This morning I listened to an interesting interview between Seth Godin and Merlin Mann.  (Seth is a marketing guru, and Merlin is a productivity/software guru.)  In the interview Seth explains a concept about multiple minds (see his brief blog post on the same idea here,  or a video of a talk about it here.)

He suggests that we each have two minds - the rational mind and the "lizard brain".  The rational mind is what you would think. We consider concepts ideas and reason.  The "lizard brain" is that part of our mind that is concerned about survival.  When we go through threatening or challenging times, the "lizard brain" takes over and over-rules the rational brain at times to try and maintain survival.

By now you may be asking - so what? Right?

Well here's the deal.  Have you ever been in the midst of a life-changing decision and all the sudden your brain just shut down?  Or been on the precipice of launching some really cool idea and all the sudden fear jumped in and you ended up playing it safe?  That was the "lizard brain" jumping in to ensure survival.  Its not concerned about success or new ideas.  It wants to maintain the status quo.  Maintaining existence is its goal.

Yet we were created for more than mere maintenance of existence.  So much more.  Yet when we begin to take steps move beyond our comfort zone that darned "lizard brain" tempts us back to quo.

So as I listened to Mann and Godin discussing this idea, Godin stated two ways to defeat the "lizard brain":  1. Ignore it OR 2. Soothe it.

Ignoring it means identifying when that portion of the brain rears up its ugly, lizard-head and doing the opposite.  Going with that hare-brained scheme that might work.  Launching an entreprenurial endeavor you have always wanted to try.  Reaching out to a complete stranger in compassion regardless of the fear of appearing weird.  Risking telling an acquaintance who is going through a dark time that you are praying for them.

Soothing the "lizard brain" means trying to retrain it to realize that some of those things that it things are threats aren't really threats.  Susan Boyle seems to me to be a perfect example of someone who soothed that lizard voice to try something really challenging (singing before a live crowd and a national TV audience).

So what does this have to do with the church?  Maybe one of the reasons the church in North America is declining is because we have listened to the "lizard brain".  We (the church) has become more concerned about existence and survival than the mission to which God is inviting us.  And so we maintain a dying institution.  We don't want to rock the boat to try something new, different, or ground-breaking because that requires stepping into the unknown and letting go of control.   For those of us who a part of a worshipping congregation - how much of the budget is for mission/outreach and how much for maintaining structures? It seems we've become more interested in maintenance than  mission.

God is all about new life.  When God created the church I don't think the goal was to create an institution.  Rather I believe God was creating a living entity with a life-giving purpose.   I believe we experience new life the most when we are willing to leave behind  that safe environment to which the "lizard brain" seeks to keep us, for the uncertain, life-changing, and at times ambiguous, mission to which God calls us in Jesus.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Checklist for life?

Check out Mark Oestricher's blog for an interesting list of ways to live each day uniquely.  My favorite is #3  and the one I need to heed the most is #6.  How about you?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shifting into Next Gear?

Scot McKnight over at Jesus Creed asks an intriguing question:  

How much of our vision for what God is doing in this world is shaped by a belief that God saves us in order to have an intimate relationship with him (personal piety) that flows over into fellowship with others, rather than Jesus' bigger kingdom vision of what God is doing in this world and that personal piety is designed by God to prompt us to work for that vision?

This is something I have been thinking a lot about as I've been reading Alan Roxburgh's book Introducing the Missional Church: What it is, Why it Matters, How to Become One, and as we have been preaching a series at church called Shift...

It seems to me that the church needs to shift in several ways.  

  • First we must recognize that we are not an ends in and of ourselves. Rather we are to be the means or methods to God's ends or purposes in the world.  
  • Second we must shift our model from information to transformation. Right now it seems the goal of Bible study is to gain as much knowledge as possible about the content of the Bible. (not that that's a bad thing) I would suggest that Bible study should be more about letting the text shape and mold us as we read about God's story and see how our story fits into it. 
  • Lastly, I think we need to shift from maintenance to mission. Where do we direct the majority of our resources in churches? Towards buildings and staff or towards mission? Where do we focus our energy and effort? Towards maintaining an ineffective structure focused on survival or structuring to launch people into the world as everyday missionaries? Are we more focused on adding names to the roles or making disciples for the transformation of the world?

God created the church. I don't think its going to disappear anytime soon. However I do think that ineffective and self-centered models of church will die away. Maybe its time to crucify those models, for out of crucifixion comes resurrection.

Resuming Writing...

After a 7 month hiatus, I have decided to resume writing on the blog again.   At this point I haven't decided how often I will post.  But I am looking forward to writing on the blog again.