symantec means "bad incarnation"

i was sitting here trying to figure out how best for me to process the idea of "incarnation." when, just like that, God gave me the perfect example - now, the example is not in the form of what it means to be incarnational; it is actually in the form of what it means be "non-incarnational" but i think i can turn it around to explain what i mean. but first, the beginning of the story:

i was sitting in my home office the other day, working on my lap when some ad keep popping up. this was impossible, my system is protected and i have all the live updates to keep it current. in any case, there was a "thing" in my system and it was driving me crazy. i was ok, i figured i had symantec's "norton internet security;" you know the one with the virus stuff, pop-up stuff, spam stuff the whole nine yards. after all, i paid a pretty penny for it too; we have five computers in the house [three lap and two tower] and all of them have it, and all are set for live updates. so why the problem? i am not sure, while i do not what to get into the quality of the product, i will let others speak to that, i desire to speak to the quality of what symantec calls "customer relations" and "tech support" because they showed me the elements of what it means to be discounted to people, to be "non-incarnational."

you see the church is much like symantec's customer relations and tech support, they are not listening to the voices around them; they have disconnected from the people; they have become their own best listeners. they are hearing their own voices on how good things are going, but they are not hearing the voices of others. you see, the way i see being incarnational one must be willing to be real at any cost; listen to the needs and desires of others; seek out what it means to be connected; while having a heart for change.

being real:
in my dealings with symantec tech support i have to say they were not very real. i dealt with guys [males] named "blessings james" and "smith robertson" and "james west." now, there is something very "not real" about dealing with a man with an indian accent who tells you his name is "james west" or "blessings james." for some reason, my "are your being real" radar pops on, and my trust level falls way down. it is hard to trust a man you feel is lying about his name.

i know his name is not "blessings" and when i ask for his real name all i get is "my name is blessings, my parents gave me that name." and i believe that to be real, you see i have a friend who trains tech support people in india and when given a list of names to pick from that "sound american" he asks the trainees to go home and have their parents pick the name - because when they say, "my parents gave me that name" they are being "real."

in this is also the idea of living with "broken promises." on symantec's end, that came when i was promised phone calls at certain times and they never came, not that they came a few minutes later - they never came at all.

i think the church does this in many ways, as symantec has problems with being real, so does the church. we tend to hide who we are, but, being incarnational means we are real, we are who we are and we accept that people either like us for that or not. there is no need to hide who we are when we are incarnational. being incarnational means that being honest is a core to who you are as a person of faith. it shows that when you say "yes" you mean yes, and when you say "no" it is no

when you are real in the church people trust you, they count on you; you do not make promise that can not be kept. too many people in the church are not honest - trust is down because promise' have been broken and i believe the only way to bring it up is to just stand firm on the honest issue. as it seems that honesty is not part of the fabric of symantec, we find that honestly is not part of the fabric of the church. but, when we are incarnational we thrive on living in the light of honesty.

man, i hate it when i am not being heard. sure, some listen, but i mean being heard. having someone know the issue and seek to solve it; not someone who repeats everything you say and still not understand what you are talking about. when i first called symantec i was given a "case number" that was suppose to help if i ever had the need to call back on the issue. well, every time i spoke with a person, and every time i sent an email out - i put out the case number; because that is what i was told to do. none of the people connected saw the need to read what was said before, and every single one - without exception - asked that i explain what happened, again. i was talking but no one was listening.

being incarnational means we live life hearing the words of others; we truly listen. we listen, we express emotions and we truly desire to be part of the conversation. we interact based on the conversation and not on what one wants to talk about. in too many dying churches the core reason people tell me they are leaving is because they believe no one is listening to them. just like companies that do not listen will soon die and be replaced with companies that hear the words - so it will be with churches,

being connected:
as i strive to get this darn thing out of my system, i called every number symantec has [and even emailed them] and no one would, or could, help. it seems that all numbers lead to a one call center and no one there could get any higher - there is no way to connect with people in the organization that make decisions - it is a very disconnected place. no matter how i tried, i could not get a single person to connect with me and help with the issue. it was worse then being ignored; it was being ignored and hearing everyone say, "we do apologize for this, but..."

to be incarnational one must be connected to others, and never hide. i am amazed at the people who think they are so important that they need to place layers of people between them and others. this layering does not allow for connections. in fact, i believe if a person is so removed from what people are needing, they lose the ability to know the hearts of the people they serve. in the church today, people use the excuse that "we are still human" as an excuse to hurt, ignore and disconnect from others.

like symantec will not change based on one little blog, or one little customer, the church will not change for one [actually a very large group] group of people who are striving for the incarnational living. but to be incarnational one must be willing to change and "go with he flow."

just as i have decided to never use a symantec product again because of this experiences i wonder how many people refuse to attend a church because of past "symantec experiences?" in a world were smiles are not found and "no, we can not do that" will kill business we need to open our hearts and minds and be far more missional in our walk.

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my "abc's" of the emerging/evolving:

my "abc's" of the emerging/evolving:

a is for accepting - all peoples, no matter their walk in life
b is for buoyant - where love always comes to the top
c is for collective - because we are all in this together
d is for diversity - because we are all different colors, shapes and sizes
e is for engulf - because it is always bigger then we are
f is for fluid - because things change
g is for generative - because things always move forward
h is for hearing - because it takes more then listening
i is for interpersonal - because connecting is key
j is for just - because we need to be
k is for kept - because we need to hold things close
l is for loved - because too many places never make one feel that way
m is for mutual enrichment - because it benefits us all
n is for neo-orthodox - because new is cool
o is for open - because people are welcomed when things are open
p is for play - because things should always be fun
q is for quick - because for many, slow means stop
r is for revolution - because change is needed
s is for servanthood - because no one is called to "lead"
t is for transforming - because with christ we are
u is for umbrella - because it protects us from the rain
v is for vested - because all should be
w is for wanting - because we should strive to fill
x is for xenogenesis - because sometimes it's true
y is for yielding - because in community there is give and take
z is for zealous - because we should be living our faith

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change or die?

i'm always hurt when i read articles telling how many old-line/mainline churches are dying. recently, i had a conversation with a evangelical lutheran pastor who pastors a church right next door to a lutheran college. in that conversation i said, "you must have killer college energy in this place." and he said they did not, that his congregation was aging, so he shared this story with me:

he said, "recently, we had a couple visit our fair church who were moving to the area from florida. it had been the first time in a long time we actually had visitors to our church who seemed to like what we were doing. i decided to visit and welcome them to the area and share a bit about our church, our vision and our ministries. they were a great couple, returning to the area after living for a while in florida. they seemed to like what we were doing, at least they were not negative about it. they told me they liked the music; they like the look of the building; they liked the message. they were drawn to us because we were right next-door to a college, and they felt the church would have a large college age gathering. in our conversation the husband shared that while they liked it all, they did not feel "comfortable" with the average age of our church. the husband said, 'we were hoping to find people our own age; there were too many old people.'"

that was nothing new to my ears, so i said, "well, i am not trying to make an excuse for the couple, but a younger generation is always looking to have some friends their own age."

he looked at me and replied, "maybe so, but the husband was 67 years old. the average age of our church is in the mid-80's. he told me that he did not want to have to make new friends every five years. we are, and i hate to say this, one bad flue season away from closing the doors."

as i think about this, and how crushed the minister was about the story, i am reminded how many in old-line/mainline churches ignore the problems facing them - sure, the lutherans are just one group that seem to not understand the need to reach out with a different mindset to a new people - with the exception of people like my friend karen ward the idea of "different" is not a thought in the elca, and other denominations - take for example the june 3rd article in the christian post.

the presbyterian church, usa is dying on the vine, and they seem not to get that fact - every year from 1966 on the pcusa has declined in membership. while most years have been 1% or maybe 1.5% this year was the first time the church has lost over 2%; if that keeps up within the next 10 years they would lose about 17% of their current membership ["all things being equal']. for a denomination that could claim at one time having over 2% of the american population as members, today it is .78% - a very large drop - there are [as a percentage of the population] less people in the pcusa today then there were in 1870 - the decline is all across the board. why? what is the issue? some in the more conservative churches say it is because they are "liberal" - i am not sure that is the case - i think it is because they, like many old-line/mainline churches, are irrelevant to the times.

most old-line/mainline churches have become boxes that refuse to change to meet the times. sure, they can point to one or two plants where they are reaching a new generation, but all in all the plants do not equal the closings. i have found that many are building walls to retreat behind, and minister to "their own." it is hard to see the future of the church in a denomination the size of a dinosaurs, when it take the speed and agility of a gazelle to minister in our culture.

just my thoughts, what do you think?

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the foster kid

when i was a kid i had a good bud who lived in a foster home. as i look back, i would have to say he was not what i would call a "happy guy." sure, we had a blast growing up, but he spent more time at my house then his own. one day, while we were at my house getting ready to head to the beach, i started to complain about how my dad always got drunk. he looked at me and said, "yea, but at least you got a dad who loves and cares." i looked at him like he was crazy, he then added, "being a foster kid i don't have a home, sure i have a place to live and a roof over my head, but i don't have a home. when i go to bed, i hear my 'mom' say to me 'good night bob' as i walk down the hall to go into my room. when her son says good night she says, 'good night sweetheart' and gives him a big hug and a kiss. i get the smaller portions at dinner and am usually served last; i get the hand-me-downs from their younger children or my clothes are bought at the goodwill; when i get a skinned knee i get handed a band-aid and am told to 'go wash it off and put it on,' yet when my 'brother' gets a skinned knee my 'mother' takes him into the bathroom and washes it off, kisses him and puts the band-aid on. when i need a hug, i get a pat on the back, when i need to be punished i am ignored. in their house i am welcomed, i am not in the way but i an very much not loved. while i live there, i know i live their until they do not want me any more, or i get old enough to move out of the system. they will never offer me college, a car, help in finding work or anything else offered to their kids - i'm just the foster kid."

i could not believe my ears. how could a person belong to a family and not feel loved? how could a person be viewed as "just a foster kid" and never really part of the family? how could any person not give as much love to one child as they did another - that i could not understand [and by the way, i still don't understand it]. all this came to me because i have been processing what it feels like to be in a faith were you are defined by your "lineage," being "born into the faith." it's true, for all the talk of being "evangelical" and "being children of God" people who claimed to be christian are seen as "more" christian when they come from a christian home, have christian parents, can show a christian heritage that goes back to the birth of christ or at least one of the main apostles [not one of the minor ones]. people who are new to the faith are viewed as "foster kids" - you know, you take them in because at some level you have too. sure you have a "love for children" but you never really see them as your kid, or your siblings. besides, the state kicks in a few bucks to help cover the costs - so the "out of pocket" is not that bad. so, what brought this "hidden emotion" to the surface?

over the past few months i have been openly seeking a dialog with different denominations to see where we could find a "theological" home [not only me, but also bring the church i serve into their fold]. the leadership team at our church asked me to call a few denominations to see how "the water was" - and i have to tell you, the water is rather cold, shallow and still. out of the four i had contact with [the american baptists, the presbyterians, the episcopal, the lutherans and the methodists], two never returned my call [i called four times]; i had a meeting with two, one of the leaders did not remember our meeting [which lasted over two hours]. while the other kept promising me that they would be sending me something to help explain the process - and nothing has ever come. the fifth, well we just started to call [our desire was not to play one against the other, so we contacted them one at a time] and they are now at an annual meeting and will be getting back with me next week - maybe?

why are we looking? the same reasons my friend was always searching for a home - we desire a love in community greater then the love we have for each other in our local community. we desire accountability, greater then the accountability we have with each other. we are seeking to belong to something bigger then who we are that will not stop us from being who we are. we desire a connection that is larger then the local church, and smaller then the kingdom of God.

the impression i received from the different groups? they were amazed that we would even ask to join. in fact, many did not even have any idea how to take us in; as one of the bishops old me, "this has never happened before." yet, the overwhelming response was "you want to join us? but you were not born a ________ [you fill in the blank]." the impression i was left with was that because i was not born into "the family," [the denomination] the best i could ever hope for was to be a "foster kid" [kind of welcomed, but with no real family ties to speak of] - sure, they would give us a roof over our head, but would they love us? they would feed us, but how would they introduce us at the family pick-nick? they may say "good night" but would they add "we love you" and give us a kiss? so i wonder. i have not tried to contact any of the denominations after the fourth call, i figured four calls was enough to get the ball rolling. i kind of feel like my friend, looking to be in a loving home and not finding it in the places we look and simply waiting to "age out of the system." now, don't get me wrong, of the two groups we have spoken with [the episcopal and the lutherans] we have been please with the people we have meet at the local churches, the ones who gave us contact info for the "higher-ups." they have been very supportive and i see a relationship that will continue over time. but that impression was not one we felt at a higher level.

i wonder how these groups accept those who simply desire to join the local church? i am amazed at how closed many christian denominations are, and how closed many churches are also. many claim to want new people, but many simply do not know how to welcome new people into the fold. some see new people as a threat to the way of doing things. in one conversation i had with one of the denominations [the presbyterians], the conversation never went past the women who answered the phone. she informed me that they did not "need" us, and that if [a very big if, mind you] they welcomed us in it would be a favor to us and we would need to change our ways. needless to say, they never called me back, i wonder if she even passed on the message? well, while our hope is always in chirst let us see what happens when the united methodists give us a call next week - i guess our saving grace would be that i have a mdiv from drew [united methodist] and served in the united methodist church for a few years - but one never knows.

but if anyone knows of a denomination looking to help a growing emerging gathering let me know - who knows, we just might find a home.

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