Church Innovations’ Partners Post

May 20, 2010

New Glasses

When I was about 11 I got my first pair of glasses. I could see everything clearly, suddenly!  Looking through those lenses, I was able to read and learn and pick up things I had been having trouble with. It was revolutionary and thrilling. I probably would have worn them no matter what they looked like, because what I was looking at was so much more interesting all of a sudden.


Now that I’m much older than 11, my vision prescription doesn’t change very much. My attention at the optical office is not on what I see when I look through the lenses as much as how the frames look on my face.  If it’s a kind of thrill to get new glasses, it’s much more about how I look than how the world looks to me.


What is happening? Am I taking for granted that I see clearly and accurately every day? I should not.  My husband could be the first to tell you (although he is so kind that he probably wouldn’t) that I completely fail to notice obvious things around me.  My vision may be corrected to 20-20, but what I see isn’t complete. Even what I see together with what two or three others see is probably not complete.  And not only that, it doesn’t revolutionize or thrill.


Missional Church thinking is like brand new first-time glasses. It can get us to look at our local church and its community in brand new ways, see things we have never noticed before, pay more attention to how others look than how we look. 

May 10, 2010

Upgrading a process: what do we need?

Filed under: Bremer Partnership,Uncategorized — ptellison @ 1:58 pm

To our dear Bremer Congregation friends:

As Scott and I work with our team to enhance the processes we brought to you, we are very interested in your feedback about what works and what doesn’t, what we should leave alone and what we should change.


Give us some comments on

1. the communal spiritual discernment conversation method

2. the Congregational Discovery interviewing you did and the report that came back to you

3. the Church FutureFinder project and the online tools


PLEASE!                     Peace to your house.   Pat Taylor Ellison

May 7, 2010

Are ALL habits bad?

At Church Innovations Institute, we often talk about communal spiritual discernment as a habit to be cultivated.


But we have recently been kicking around the idea that people think habits are bad. The word habit has a connotation of something to be cured of, or something that is unintentionally done repeatedly so as to become meaningless.


Is that true? Are habits exclusively considered bad?


What the best word for a habit you are trying to pick up, one that is intentionally learned in order that your life might be better?


Peace to your house. Pat

April 28, 2010

Communal Spiritual Discernment

Filed under: Uncategorized — ptellison @ 9:16 am

Church bodies these days struggle to find ways of being with one another, even staying together as the Body of Christ as considerable energy is spent in ways that tend to pull folks apart. 

The Church has vast resources of critical scholarship and confessional writing. We have a long history of valuing the Bible, lifting it as the norming norm for our life, not only as individuals but our common life. We have always been encouraged, by the very nature of God’s three-personness, to form and sustain Christian community.


So what keeps us from discerning communally, together, how to sustain our church, centered on God for the sake of the Gospel who is Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit’s power?


That is what I want to know.   Peace to your house. Pat Taylor Ellison

April 16, 2010

Taking the Form of a Slave

The Dwelling passage we use when we do spiritual discernment is Phil. 1:27 & 2:5-11, the latter verses often called The Christ Hymn.  In it, Paul uses metaphors to encourage a certain way of behaving when Christians are striving.  The image of “slave,” the mentality of a slave, are crucial in Jesus’ work in The Christ Hymn, since, by being a slave to human beings like you and me, Jesus frees us into a life with the Triune God.

My question today is this: what am I doing to be a slave who frees others into life-giving relationships with God and others?  For example, today when Scott, my colleague, defends his dissertation, how can I be slave to free him into live-giving relationship with God and others?  On this weekend when one of my lifelong friends flies into town to sit with her dying mother, how can I be slave to free her into live-giving relationship with God and others?  Dwelling in this Word is where I will be, discerning the answers.

Peace to your house.   Pat

March 26, 2010

Extremism Gone Wild

Why have I thought that congresspeople would be more level-headed than the rest of us? To those of you who have always known they’re not, good for you – you are more realistic than I have been.  These past couple of weeks have made me wonder what wounds are beneath all of the intensity we are hearing and seeing. What sense of being themselves threatened is causing people to threaten one another?  What deep fears are being felt and even exploited during the health care battles?

Noting how the media pick up the sensational bits and magnify them so effectively for the rest of us, I was remembering the first section of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” the prologue about the mirror that the devil made that magnified any speck of wrong so that the speck overpowered all the goodness that might be present alongside it.  Do you remember that story? The mirror was taken up toward the heavens and, in the story, all the goodness of Heaven finally overpowered the mirror and broke it into thousands of shards and even mirror dust. But instead of eliminating the mirror’s effect, the explosion resulted in the shards and dust falling to Earth and landing in some people’s eyes, preventing their seeing the good right before them and concentrating on the wrongs, the ills, the woes.

It seems to me we are beset by such evil shards and dust these days.  Andersen’s story had sacrificial love overcoming the ill effects, of course – true friendship and long-suffering quest cured the evil. What do you think? What sort of long-suffering quest of love will overcome our current threatening condition?     peace to your house.  Pat


March 10, 2010

Extremism, Lead Time, and Gifts

Is it my imagination or do people’s reactions these days tend to go to extremes? Do we label people as extremists too readily? Do we generalize too quickly? Why is this happening?


When there is pain and anxiety in the system, and especially a perceived lack of time, we often get reaction, reactionary-ism, even. I don’t know what systems you are a part of, but I am in several who are feeling pain and anxiety, and who seem to be under time pressure. So it is no wonder that I feel reactive and see that reactionary-ism embodied in some of the folks around me. What I’m interested in is this: who’s NOT being reactive? Who seems to be being PROACTIVE, thinking AHEAD OF THE CURVE? Finding that sort of person and learning from that sort of person is what I want to do.


Leadership is in large part about LEAD TIME.


As Christians, we have all the time in the world. Eternal life. Our Triune God created mountains and rivers and oceans and planets, for heaven’s sake.  There is time for everything. And each of us is endowed by that same Creator with certain particular gifts, to be used for the good of the neighbor.


Leadership is also about knowing your place; that is, knowing what gifts you have that are called for to free others into the relationship we share with God. If my gift is creative engineering, for example, how am I to listen, learn where that gift is called for, and use it for the benefit of others’ relationship with God?


Just thinking about that, I feel less anxious and reactive. I feel more purposeful. I am surely more alert and even, possibly, slightly less bothered by extremism.

March 3, 2010

A simple story of pushing through pain


I know one congregation that is experiencing painful division.  


Divisions can happen over decisions of a greater church body, over planning by a local church council, or even over disagreements between particular staff members, paid or unpaid.


This division is a painful one, such that the parties have a hard time even hearing one another.  The pain is real.  And yet, they keep coming together, using our model for spiritual discernment (Church Innovations’ Box and Triangle one that you know so well), and they keep listening to God and to one another, pushing through the pain.


And what has happened?


They have discovered that their local church’s mission is bigger than their differences, and they have pledged their energies toward that shared mission which hasn’t gone away just because they are divided.  They are willing to work with those they disagree deeply with in order to co-create with God a trustworthy world.


Do you know other stories like this one?


Peace. Pat

March 1, 2010

Why would we sacrifice for one another?

Money. Time. Effort. Caring.  They all cost us.  Plenty.


What would make us give any of them up for one another?

Why would we work to benefit somebody else?


OK, look at the Haiti efforts – quick and huge and dramatic.  People without jobs are donating time and money to people who’ve lost everything, people whom they’ll never ever meet to be thanked.


And why?

A.   It just seems like the right thing to do.

B.   I have compassion on people who’ve lost everything.

C.   If it were me, I’d hope folks would help.

D.   I feel guilty when I see the pictures.

E.   My team/group/coworkers started a fund.

F.    Other reasons


Now what about a tough decision that has to be made in your congregation – related to staffing, budget shortfalls, a quarrel among members, worship styles…


What would make us give up money, time, effort, caring to help find a way forward for our local church?


And what would make us give those things up so that the solution would work to benefit somebody else?


Peace. Pat

February 24, 2010

When do congregations learn new habits?

When do congregations learn new habits?


Congregations learn new habits only when they have to – just like the rest of us.

When our backs are to the wall

When we’re in danger

When we get bad news

When we want to be helpful but don’t know how

When we realize we’ve lost something important


YES? NO? What do you think?

Peace to your house.


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