“Culture eats strategy for lunch” is how the one liner reads. It’s true but neither of these is really a thing.
Culture is simply a collection of behaviors and choices made by individuals and groups.
Strategy is simply a collection of tactics and choices made by individuals and groups.
The whole game here is observing results and perspectives and calling out balls and strikes. Each of us makes choices. It is only by measuring and evolving those choices that our constantly changing culture can inform and support a winning strategy.
The bottom line is: choices and behaviors make the winners and the losers. Yes, culture eats strategy for lunch, but I choose my tactics and results follow. The good the bad and the ugly are opportunities for different behaviors. That might just be a cultural strategy.
I have attended church and worked/led in churches for over 30 years now. In March of 2021 that all changed. I have not attended anywhere regularly since then, for over a year… shocking to consider but true.
Typical church leadership drama played out at my most recent position but that wasn’t the issue. My recognition of reality is what hit me.
The churches that I see are fully committed to their building, their programs and their existing group of attendees. They expect the rest of world, community to fit into their way. This is fundamentally and perhaps irreparably broken.
Covid exposed the reality viscerally. Most of them are already dead and just waiting for the current member to physically pass on. In Covid, Churches retreated from fellowship and faith into consumerism watch on TV telechurch. They embraced the concept that watching a sermon and writing a check was enough. Sunday schools in most shut down. Fellowship Meals disappeared. Choirs stopped rehearsing. Funerals and wedding were not allowed because government said so. Catastrophic does not even begin to cover it.
Reality check. This model was already entrenched in minds of nearly all. Covid devotion must accelerated and exposed the death curve. Bold leaders and faith communities were judged and cancelled. It happened and it is done. It is finished.
So now what?
A church at its core must exist as a fellowship of believers choosing to serve together. Sermons, education, choirs, and the myriad of programs are important but secondary to the people. A church can exist and worship without almost all of those. Think : where 2-3 are gathered… The programs are derived FROM the fellowship, not to the fellowship.
I’m actively looking for a community like this. Alive and committed to one another above all. But that commitment must balance to some unbalanced number in service to be true to great commission. Maybe 70/30 external/internal. Maybe even 90/10. Every fellowship community must decide for themselves what their devotional notion is.
When the balance tips to managing and maintain the internal above the capability to serve outwardly, the church is officially dying.
That 2 or 3 number is conceptually more of a maximum for me rather than a minimum. Smaller numbers of believers gathering and loving and serving are the foundation.
I don’t honestly know if God will provide me this fellowship regularly as I’ve conceived of it in the past. I long for a place to devote my musical skills to encouragement and service. We shall see.
If you read this, Contact me. Is your church dead or dying. I’d like to put them on my prayer list and you as well. I’m sure God has answers and I don’t. The obstacle we face are our way forward. #1 obstacle I see is authentically LOVING one another. We don’t love a place or a class. We love one another and we then must put that love into practice with bold passion and resolute discipline. Love ya. Jeff
Finding the line in 2022 is a challenge. How much involvement with a friend is enough? FaceTime, face to face, texting, email, social media, tik tok. All of these are channels for connecting and communication and yet our society seems more disconnected than ever.
I honestly don’t know how much time to give or expect anymore. Assumicide runs rampant ate every level and the consequences of mistakes are visceral. Was I supposed to know that? Was I supposed to ask about that? Do I call too much? How do you know?
Shared lives are connected by social lines. Those lines connect and divide, often based on assumptions, context, culture, and history. To answer who my friends are forces me to prioritize. Friends DO have expectations of one another. That is how the world works.
Applying this logic to family get much more intense. Stakes are higher. In theory the grace should be more abundant and forgiveness easier. This is rarely true when the assumicide weapons of digital communication are deployed.
the 2022 social lines are drawn. The courage to cross them and love and expect and be accountable for consequences of choices is rare. I aspire to be so much better at all of this. Cest la vie.
I lost connection to to many friends and families during the Covid panic. The prevailing logic was to just use social media to stay “aware” but this proved to be false and even worse than no connection at all. In reality, the incessant whining and searching for relevance and popularity empowered the FBs to control my life and actually divided and disconnected us all even further. The Rules of appropriate and respectful caring connection communication are non existent or at a minimum severely perverted in the digital realm.
The only solution is live face to face contact. To talk, to sing, to eat, and to celebrate together we MUST be together. Even calling and messaging cannot and will not substitute for physical time. This reality is subject to the overly committed personal calendars which each of us freely build. It seems that our “social” society, at least mine, has decided that other priorities are more important. This is lunacy.
My solution is to set aside time and let my crew choose. I model a spirit and practice of hospitality. I seek to build in the expectation that they are welcome, as a regular ritual. We work together, we talk, we eat and sing and try hard to avoid any and all judgement. The time makes this real.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. At the core all I can control is my own behavior and choices and I respect others’ above all. My friends and family must choose to be social, real and present. This exposes us to emotions and failures for sure, but it opens us to celebrations and life together.
What is the alternative to this time committed and connected? Disconnected delusions of connection where the illusion of caring substitute for authenticity is a recipe for full scale cultural chaos. It cannot be mandated. It cannot be dictated.
How does the priority work out for this time thing?. It goes like this.
The sabbath is and was set aside to remind each of us to stay connected. We used to do this by going to church. In the world today, we have come to understand that we ARE the church. The social Sunday sabbath provides the very essence and foundation for success in every facet of life, if priorities are in order.
Start somewhere. Will you, can you, do you choose to make time together a priority. Choose wisely. Your future and your family’s future depends on it.
“So let’s do it— full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:22-25
We are the church.
We choose to connect.
We choose relationship.
We choose what worshiping means and how it is done.
The framework and timing is in the book.
The choice remains. What will you choose? Who will you choose? How will you choose?
It is possible that I am not a nice person. Perhaps I just “play one on TV”. As a performer, I certainly learned to play my role, and wear the mask as Pagliacci brutally illustrates.
I prefer to think that I am actually a passionate person, with high emotions, and ability…. Who under adverse conditions can to be too aggressive. The more personal and higher the stakes, the farther I will push the limit. Is this nature or nurture. I don’t know. It just is. This is viewed and consumed as “Not nice”, in overly simplistic terms.
If I were willing to play the victim card, I could blame society, my family, my mother/father, even my community and church for oppressing me. I am not willing to play the victim. I own my choices and actions. My results and achievements, both good and bad, are on full display.
That is another aspect of being a performer at heart. I’m not all that subtle and smooth, even when I think I am. I can only control what I do and say, not how it is perceived. I am accountable for both the intention AND the result of those words and actions/choices.
Perhaps, I am not nice. It is possible.
I will always be here for you. Until I’m not. That day and time is not known to either of us and it is not to be feared.
Your life is yours. Your success is yours. Your failure is yours just as my failures are mine. I’ve failed a lot. I got up and kept on going down my path. I want you to do the same but not have to get up as much as I did.
Seeing you fall/fail hurts me. I have to walk the line allowing for your free will but I never want you to fail and I want you to succeed period. For you. Not for me.
My path is mine. I walk it and you are bound to it as my child and as commanded in scripture. I chose you as your parent. As an adult. You must choose me as an adult. Freely. This is not trivial.
Your path is yours. I want to be nearby and walk with you often but choosing the direction is for you. I am bound to it as your father and as commanded in scripture. If and when I can help you, I will.
I am still walking my path. I figure this stuff out one step at a time and I often make it up as I go along. You are doing and will do the same.
I do not want to control you. I yearn to be able to protect and guide you whether you need it or not.
God willing, I’m not going anywhere any time soon.
I will always be here for you. Until I’m not. That day and time is not know to either of us and it is not to be feared. I know this because God loves you and me both.
We are specific beloved firstborn children of God above all. Both of us.
Unmet expectations cause injury. Period. Met expectations have a short lifespan in memory. All too often they are taken for granted. The focus always turns to the mistakes and misses. This is human reality and requires constant intention to remediate. The consequences of assuming are bad.
Expectations that have not been communicated, clarified, AND agreed upon will not be met. This is a foundation for progress.
Advent simplicity that we don’t know.
The advent season reminds, restarts, and renews. As we remember and celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, everything literally stops and holds. The focus is on the star, the child, the light.
All of our worldly “lights” dim in comparison in respect and deference to the source. Don’t get me wrong, I love the candles, and the bells, with choirs and songs and stunning experiences envisioned and executed by men old and new but the simplicity of the child is unparalleled in its message and personal connection to my heart mind and soul.
For too long, I’ve focused on the buildings, the smells, sounds, and the singing. What matters is the smiles and the eyes of the hearts as they open and understand. The advent of the true king is a spectacle beyond the imagination of men. The best we can do is focus on a child and fall on our knees. We humble ourselves at the manger with its ugly, loud, decidedly unchurchy vision. The ox and the ass bow along with the sheep. The angels and the shepherds give honor and praise.
The king is here in this moment. He was, is, and will always be. Emmanuel, God with us, reminds us of HIS amazing love. He reminds us that OUR work is only just beginning. Advent is indeed the end of the beginning. The story we find ourselves in is not written nor is it complete even as it is fully known. It just isn’t known by you and me and that is alright.
Top 5 reasons to DUMP social media
I’ve had more than a few insightful moments since I flew the coop and left social media behind. It is really interesting to consider how blinded I was up until the last month.
I remember the first time I sang the Messiah solos of Comfort ye and Every Valley. It was in the chapel at Princeton Seminary for a wedding. I wonder how good I was as a 19 year old. Today, I heard my son sing his first pass at the Messiah solos at Ardmore Baptist in Winston Salem. He was so much better than I was at his age. Style, composure, artistic message, command, and fine, elegant singing. Tenors are a funny stressed bunch of souls. Singing comfort ye is not comforting normally. Today, I was calm and comforted for lots of reasons.
The artistry of the the PrillaKids is well known to most but today it feels like the first time I’m comfortable that the coming valleys will indeed be straight. I’ve sung that line hundreds of times, but clearly I need to listen more than talk more often. They have got this.
First time I’m comfortable saying that I’ve turned the page. Every day is a chance to step back and see that all we like sheep have gone astray and yet Hallelujah and amens still happen in spite of us. Our masks are ripped off and the face is there for all to see.
I am thankful for an end to this year and another day tomorrow.
I am thankful for the lessons I have learned.
I am thankful for my children’s transition to adulthood.
I am thankful that I have a place to be me.
I am thankful for my job and the opportunities it provides.
I am thankful that I live in the greatest country in the world.
I am thankful for my health and prosperity.
I am thankful that I can sing.
I am thankful for the examples around me, showing me who I do not want to be.
I am thankful for connections and community.
I am thankful for my brothers : the Brandon Bacon Bunch
i am thankful for the engineers and technology tools enabling me.
I am thankful that God loves me in spite of me. It is amazing.
I am thankful for warm fires, cool pools, fields to work in, and the ability and desire to work and provide for others.
I am thankful for the abundance of food and drink in my life, including bacon.
I am thankful for the freedom provided to me by the sacrifice and service of so many before me.
Sunday dinner was never about pressure. It was about priority. We go to grandma’s house because family and time is precious. Of course the food is important. Yes it is nice to watch football and maybe even have a fire. Ultimately it is about making people the priority in your life and showing respect for that blessing. Every week isn’t required. Grandma understands. It is the ritual of prioritizing and choosing to spend the rare and precious time of a blessed day with people that matter that matters most of all.
Each of us chooses our example and making the effort in spite of the constant challenges and obstacles is what this whole life thing is all about. Be. Love. Serve. Repeat.
Willful ignorance, intentional elevation of buffoonish behavior, unchecked doublespeak, bottomless hypocrisy, laughing it off but not changing anything — signs of #idiotsincharge that make me insane and wake me up in middle of night
These “metrics” are prevalent In failing institutions everywhere, from churches, to schools, to governments, to families. The outcome is always the same. Failure.
Mixing virtual and in person. Reducing in person Increasing online components- flipping the classroom. Maybe 3 days in 2 out?? Education not a daycare function but has to solve for parents timing needs.
Shorter classes and face time. More motion and movement though modules/classes.
Must be willing to test and learn. Identify 10-20% of failing or under producing practices and change them up annually.
Teachers. Tech savvy. Willing to embrace new way. Capable of change and outcome thinking over incremental thinking.
Solid Stable metrics to evaluate student progress.
Pedagogy is important but it is only piece. The teacher mindset and enablement is the critical enabler.
Using arts to enforce a “creator” based framework. As teach them to create art, (music, art, drama) barriers to learning fall away.
Athletics and competition are attractive and exciting. Choose a lane to start. Use a publicized mix/ratio.
Parent empowerment and choice. Offer parents solutions to teach and be involved… but don’t require.
Multi generational perspectives focused on today. Not yesterday.
Incentivize acceleration and achievement beyond standards. For teachers, parents, and students.
School is equally about the teaching teacher community as it is the student community.
There are people that want to have eliminate advanced diplomas, lower standards to accommodate more at the expense of the few, and teach that success and livelihood is based on your race. They need choices.
Ban Critical Race Theory. Open charter schools now. Kids Lives Matter.
Va must vote for hope and change. Vote for Glenn Youngkin for Governor.
What will you do when they (cancel culture victimization culture, blame game types) come for your family, your friend, your neighbor?
When “they” attack the character of a person you know... when their livelihood is threatened….
Will you stand with your friend, family, neighbor supporting their God given right to disagree, even with you? That is a damn good question and test my friends.
If I don’t trust and rely on you, then distance and boundaries are increased. Separation can and will occur and it could be permanent. #musingtime
The culture around me tells me that I am a victim. Everyone is a victim of some oppression related to race, money, age, weight, parents, gender… you know how the story goes. We are told to wrap ourselves in blaming others and be dependent on ???
This is all a lie. I don’t know why so many are wired to think this way but it is toxic to life.
As a retired performing artist, perspective is important to me. I see and think about what I am seeing constantly. My life is filled with challenges just like yours. My life is NOT an exercise in suffering. Every day is an opportunity to do something, to improve, or maybe just to rest but it is not a burden to bear. Each day is a blessing and a gift. It is from God, bestowed on me, not because of my worth or my deeds, but because of Gods extraordinary love.
The constant complaint, blame game, victim approach is a construct, a choice, that destroys relationship. This is from Satan. It separates us from one another and most importantly it separates us from God. This is sin my friends. The seed may practically originate with your mother, your neighbor, your Sunday school teacher, even your wife and children but it is of the devil.
Life, my life, your life, is about loving and doing in spite of the human challenges which we all have. Living is not about fear and control and the constant envy of what could have been if… this is foolish fallacy.
I am not special. I am a specific, beloved, first born child of God. The systems of men always fail. Gods love does not. I am destined for glory in God, but not because of what I do here and now.
1. see the behaviors which are rooted in blame, victimization, and self
2. reject the victim mindset and choose to be grateful. Focus on blessings. They are always there.
3. Live into the future however it comes. Choose wisely, but choose. Don’t let others choose your thinking.
as to all of that blame and victimhood and pain… it is real. To move ahead, you must let it go and forgive everyone. Period.
To have a cohort where you can just be and speak freely... where you can eat and drink and be merry... all while understanding and appreciating authority and consequences…
this is a retreat and a blessing from the world we all live in. It is not a vacation. It is a cleft in the rock to recover and restore as the storm rages contemporaneously crushing so many.
There are plenty of people that i consider to be friends who are not.
There are plenty of people that I consider to be enemies who are not.
Family is not a blood thing but blood helps.
Most people don’t really care at all. Period. Most are self focused and self involved above all else.
Social media is a semi public, artificially created, construct of community. It is not community and it is a fleeting reflection of what authentic living together encompasses. #WakeUpAmerica
Social media is a pandemic public health crisis which is actually undermining society. No different than drugs, alcohol, big tobacco, gambling… it is an addiction that requires treatment and detox.
If another chooses to share with you. JUST Listen and be with them. Do NOT equivocate and do NOT share how much you know because of YOUR pain. They wish to heal and seek the light not wallow in the morass of self pity. Beware dragging them into your story. Be with them In theirs. Resist the urge to solve. Seek solutions with them not for them. Period. And only if they ask. Above all be with them. Be. Love. Serve. Repeat. Does NOT mean to turn the issues and topics to you. True friends can do this as hard as it is.
There should be more songs about this.
Inspired by the fellowship of the ring.
I’ve spent many days worrying about burning bridges. All good things come to an end is another important idea that I embrace. The reality is that In the last two years a ton of people chose to burn bridges to me and my cohort with their authoritarian behaviors, condemnation, and disregard of my and my fellow citizens agency. From speech, to firearms, to respect and even singing… and music making.
The wounds were frequent personal and sometimes vicious and even as I chose to suck It up buttercup, the indignant behaviors continued. I guess It wasn’t always malevolent intent. Often the outcomes were rooted in immaturity and pure incompetence. The results of those two realities are often identical.
So Many chose to embrace only their ways and treated me and mine with rank disrespect. Perhaps I’m just older and crotchety now. Maybe I’m wiser, maybe I’m foolish. The truth is… I’m not really interested in spending the time and energy required to rebuild most of those bridges.
Perhaps this is a character flaw. Perhaps it isn’t. There is a peace in personal liberty and morality. When I put aside what you think of my choices I am free to look to brighter choices, new bridges and spectacular new lands. I’m have some clarity now. More will come.
The fog will clear and it is my goal that those who chose to burn ties will find new ones elsewhere. Not sure mine can even be rebuilt. Grief cycle is real. Exploration is ways off but coming.
Assigning blame and convicting a leader is a weekly reality in most churches. Punishment is death. This is how the majority of the world of “church politics” acts in response to a message of hope, plans of action, and accountability for results and better choices. This is a story we all know and relate to viscerally. Apologies and reconciliations are rare indeed but they are a foundation for healing.
Couple of weeks ago I was attacked by friends in public, in my church. It is true that I was to blame for many results over the past year. It is also true that I deserve credit for inspiring, desiring more, and delivering when most did nothing and continue to do exactly that even today.
My choice as a leader was to stay and fight on terms of men or withdraw and let God work in hearts and minds. I and family made a hard choice based on principles, plans, and hope for a future for everyone involved. The pain is still real. The grief is stifling. This is the life we are provided. Every day is an opportunity to be. Love. Serve. Repeat. Some years go better than others.
Results can’t be determined one day at a time but my decisions over time will show that I’m proud to say. Look at what I did when I stand for judgement.
I’m pretty sure that I retired from vocational music ministry this morning officially. 25 years of doing the job, fitting in, and going along for the greater good with notes, rhythms, and service design are over in my mind.
I actually resigned from First Baptist Ridgeway for any that don’t know. No hard feelings but plenty of anxiety.
Ministry is guaranteed to always be part of my future. I’m a musician so there is that, but I can’t see a job for me which forces me to fit into a box anymore. The old Jeff, the tenor, the performer, the passionate powerful presenter has been in a chrysalis for a long time. Maybe I stay in there. Maybe I come out a moth. Maybe I come out a glorious butterfly. Who know? Only God knows.
I hope that I’ll be afforded and opportunity to lead again in the future. I adore choirs. I revel in live music making with passionate and skilled collaborators. I also love preaching and teaching scripture and leadership and using technology.
the future is bright but the one thing I know for sure is that it won’t be like it was. I’m grieving that loss. I’m a change champion but even for me it is exhausting and the cost is high.
What you do when someone says “I am not okay.” Says a lot about you.
Most people will never answer that way because they don’t trust. They expect judgement, condemnation, fixing, and controlling behaviors to follow such a personal admission. Fear is in charge.
What do they most often need?
Acceptance, attention, time... relationship and connection. LISTENING and Sitting/serving, maybe studying, eating or just silence.
Are you okay? Don’t ask the question if you aren’t prepared to put in the time, sacrificially, to love and serve.
Local churches too often thrive on a culture of control. We set a standard of fear and condemnation based on an unachievable standard and spend our precious relationship cycles telling people what they can’t do. Our control choice inhibits the mission of spreading good news.
We should be focusing our leadership and congregations on what they CAN do. That is GOOD News of great joy. God is love. We the people are charged to live in that example. The entire garden of Eden is ours and yet we focus on control and the one tree. That power choice controls us.
Intersection of principles and practices...