Atlanta, Emergent, and Historic Civil Rights Moments

Last night I visited my first Atlanta emergent cohort meeting. It was a pretty good time and we had a pretty lively discussion on Joe Myers book ‘Organic Community’. As one who has spent more time with Myers’ other book, ‘The Search to Belong‘, I found this conversation as somewhat of an evolution on may of those terms and thoughts.
As Adam Walker Cleveland outlined:
Myers moves through a variety of changes in language that he thinks we should be making as we think about creating community in our churches and other places. Here are a few of his language moves that I particularly enjoyed.
PATTERNS | Spatial Observation: Moving from Prescriptive to Descriptive
Myers discusses the ways in which we begin to form patterns in our churches as we move forward with projects, and in a more general sense, discusses the power of descriptive language over prescriptive language for the church. Prescriptive patterns and ideas leave less room for change, for adaptation and for new ideas, than more descriptive ways of doing things.
MEASUREMENT | Recalculating Matters: Moving from Bottom Line to Story
Another issue he really goes after is that of measurement in churches – how do we measure success? Are we following the ways of corporations, or do we have a better, more Spirit-led way of determining whether or not we’re being “successful” in the church. And is that even a question we should be asking? He says that instead of a bottom-line form of measurement that includes numeric, linear and statistical evaluations (one that far too many churches most likely follow), we should be more interested in narrative measurement: “Stories not only inform how things are going, they connect with the stories of those who are leading and generate wise insights for the future. Stories enable leaders to form a better picture of the health of community than numbers alone ever could.” 2
POWER | Authority: Moving from Positional to Revolving
In this section, Myers looks at a different understanding of leadership, one that goes against the traditional idea of a hierarchical, positional understanding of power. He advocates for a more revolving understanding of power, one that lives by the motto, “the project holds the power.” The goal or project is what holds the power, and certain people are called upon to be stewards of that power from time to time – but those people will change. It creates a more dynamic power structure, than one that is static and leaves the same person in “control.”
COORDINATION | Harmonized Energy: Moving from Cooperation to Collaboration
This section may have been the most interesting to me, in that it really made me think about my understanding of the word “cooperation.” I’ve often thought of cooperation as a good thing – the idea of everyone working toward the same goal. Myers puts a different spin on it – he creates the image of a teacher in a schoolroom instructing her students, “Cooperate with me children. Cooperate!” 3 He writes about cooperation, “The trouble with this is that the spirit of cooperation is a rigid spirit, one that stifles creativity and discovery. It is more concerned with sequence than rhythm. It squashes the human spirit. The master plan becomes the master.” 4 Some would say that’s putting a very specific spin on the concept of cooperation, but I think it can often be like that. Someone calls a group together, presents a goal, and says, “Alright everyone – I’d love your cooperation with this.” Basically they’re saying, “Do this my way and we won’t have any problems.” However, the idea of collaboration is much different – it’s saying “Let’s actually work together, create together, come up with something new that really works together!”

By the time the meeting ended, I had a new feel for the group and its diversity. It is a very different group than I have experienced before, and I am very excited to see how I can participate in it in the months to come. I am so thankful to Troy for inviting my participation.
Also the last couple of days, I have been going through the orientation hoops at Candler. I am very excited to get started, and I think next week should be quite the experience. Tomorrow I get to meet the staff at the Genesis shelter and the other students who will be experiencing this placement with me.
And finally, I can not end the post without noting the historic nature of today in America’s history. Today, Barack Obama got the necessary votes at the convention to become the first non-white to receive the backing of a major party in American politics. Tomorrow night, he accepts the nomination on the anniversary of MLK’s speech entitled, I have a dream. Incidentally, Dr. King had planned this speech on the anniversary of the death of Emmet Till. If you don’t know this very historic and tragic story in American history, this video and song by Bob Dylan about the killing of Till will shock you. But it is part of this story. Part the American civil rights story. And part of the historic nature of tomorrow night.

So yeah, Atlanta is good but we are here in America for some real historic moments. For this we are very excited. Watch tomorrow night if you can, where ever you are! As Spike Lee said tonight on CNN, “The great world athlete’s always perform best on the biggest stages under the most pressure. Tomorrow night,” he said, “Obama will pull a Michael Jordan.”
wait for it….
jc

2 thoughts on “Atlanta, Emergent, and Historic Civil Rights Moments

  1. thanks man. I’ll check on that setting. whole of life is still active, but we need to do some updating on it.
    thanks again for reading…
    jc

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