Monday, November 03, 2008

Death, then life

To any who still read this: I've decided that I needed a fresh start if I was going to ever get in the rhythm of blogging. So, to that end, I've decided to kill this Leaf-blog, in order to start another one at wordpress. So, please update any links, and head over to The New Leaf-Blog. Thanks!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quick Clarification

I just spoke with a good friend, who misunderstood what I wrote in my last post about support, and I understand why. I meant to communicate that my salary and livelihood comes 100% from people's generosity and support, not that I'm at 100% support. We're close, but not there yet.

Sorry for the confusion (to the one person who's probably read this).

Monday, October 20, 2008

I suck at blogging...nonetheless

Five months ago I started another series. Yeah, five months ago. All 8 of you that probably read this blog already know what's going on in our lives, but I'll give an update anyway, along with a reason why I might, just might, start keeping this thing updated.

I resigned from my youth pastor position at the end of June, and joined the staff of YouthFront, a youth ministry, church-assisting organization in Kansas City. I am now funded 100% by support, so that has meant a busy summer and fall of meeting with people almost daily and inviting them to partner with us in ministry. Never thought I would do this in ministry, but its actually pretty fun to share our story with others. Maybe I'll post on the theology of support-raising sometime. Anyway, in the midst of raising support, almost a month ago now, Amy and I had our second child, Svea Joy Leafblad on September 24. She's beautiful and Soren loves her. Hence the picture above.

Amy and I are moving to KC in November, and can't wait to get started with the daily routine of ministry at YouthFront. This is a reason why I think I might start posting more often. We have committed to keep our supporters updated by a newsletter every other month, but I'm thinking it'll be good to post some thoughts from ministry on here for supporters, and others, to interact with. Part of my role is to be in conversation with various youth pastors and youth workers, so I'll be thinking a lot about ministry and theology, so this might be a good outlet. But, then again, I've said that before, right?

If nothing else, visit me later this week as Zondervan Press kindly sent me a review copy of Scot McKnight's soon-to-be-released book The Blue Parakeet so I'll be posting a review of that shortly. So maybe this blog lives. Maybe.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Intuitive Leadership Series

Today I finished probably the best book I've read in over a year, Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel. It is a book rich with metaphor, story and insight into church leadership in our changing context. I am still not sure I have adequately taken in all that this work has to offer, and so to that end, I begin a series on this book. I'm not sure how many posts it will cover, but I plan to work my way through this book again, slowly and intentionally, highlighting important themes, ideas, and implications. As a way of introduction, let me offer one general insight.

It bears noting that Keel does not seek to offer a leadership manual for the Emergent church, or postmodern context. This is crucial for in so doing he offers, in large measure, an implicit ecclesiology that is deeply conversant with sociological, cultural, and scientific research; a truly interdisciplinary based theology of leadership. Throughout, I remarked in the margins how at the core of Keel's analysis and proposal was an unspoken question of ecclesial identity: who are we church?

This may seem somewhat passe, yet the incredibly rich context of Keel's own church, Jacob's Well in Kansas City, enlivens what on the surface could appear to be a somewhat mundane question. To be fair, Keel never directly asks this, but my read is that this question is constantly hovering in the background. And because his ideas are embedded in his own local context, Keel calls forth fruitful possibilities and genuinely new horizons for the church and her leadership. All throughout I continually found myself asking how this would play out in my own context, precisely because I was invited into Keel's. This put flesh on the question of identity, and forced me to consider how leadership ought always to be attendant to this question.

For the systematicians there is probably a prior question, I'm sure (Christological in nature...never fear Barth still casts a long shadow over my thinking). Yet, it is with this basic ecclesiological question that I wanted to begin as I look forward to unpacking this book more thoroughly. If you have not read it, please pick up a copy. I'd love to hear your thoughts as I wade through it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Princeton... that Temptress

So somewhere Jesus talks about the devil masquerading as something good, an angel of light or something like that. Makes discernment kinda tough sometimes. I get that passage a whole lot better today.

I'm in Princeton. Amy, Soren and I flew in to Philly last night, and spent the evening with our good friends, Raymond and Heidi Bonwell (and their three kids). This morning I met my other good friend, Jonathan, for breakfast at PJ's Pancakes, a wonderful little establishment on the famed Nassau St, that I did frequent enough during my three years here. After a delightful breakfast, we made our way to Small World, the best coffee in Princeton. Then I walked the few blocks over to campus, and my academic senses perked up. I miss this place. I miss the conversations. Right now, I'm eavesdropping on a conversation about the canon. Some may think such conversations are mundane, unnecessary, a waste of time. To me they are invigorating and help fuel creativity for ministry. I feel this lure, a seductive beckon, to return.

"Come, walk among the endless shelves of books again, Erik," she says. Enthralled with her beauty, I am tempted. Someday, I am sure, but not now.

P.S. I don't think Princeton is the devil.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Spider and the Starfish

I recently completed an interesting book geared toward business leaders, entitled *The Spider and the Starfish: the Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.* Anyone reared in the Internet age knows the ascendency of Napster, the consequent legal wrangling with major record companies, and then the subsequent development of more open source, file-sharing networks like Kazaa, and eventually (one I've never heard of) eMule. The authors of this book use this recent history as a foray into the world of open-source, decentralized and networked leadership within business. Their argument, which was quite compelling, was that when the big boys (i.e. hierarchical, CEO-driven companies) try and take on the up-and-comers that have little to no centralization, they may win small battles, but ultimately lose the war.

The decentralized, starfish organizations self-replicate. If you cut off a leg, another starfish is born and it actually leads to further decentralization and thus is harder to stop. They used Al-Qaeda as an example. The hardest part of fighting this so-called war on terror has been trying to actually find an enemy. Contrary to perception, bin Laden is not the leader, but merely a catalyst for terrorist cells, and if you root out one cell, others quickly fill in the gap. They also looked at the unsuccessful attempts by the Spanish to control and overtake the Apaches in the Southwestern United States. As a decentralized community of Native Americans, you simply couldn't attack a chief or leader like the Spanish were able to do with Montezuma and the Aztecs. The Apaches were too fluid, too able to adjust their ways and continue. It wasn't until they introduced cattle into their culture, thereby eliminating their nomadism and creating a type of hierarchy that the Spanish were able to stop them.

They also looked at the way in which this flattened approach to reality was built upon the idea of community. They used Wikipedia as their example of this (along with craigslist). Here the members care about one another, so that when things that are detrimental to the organization start to happen, self-policing takes place and the problem is quickly remedied. Of course there are drawbacks, and so these authors were not suggesting completely leaderless approaches to business. Businesses still want to make money, and there is not much money to be made when there is complete decentralization. Instead, they argued for a hybrid organization, like Amazon, Google and Ebay, which have done a remarkably successful job of implementing decentralized ideas and elements within a bounded framework. This creates a feeling of that there is direction and some leadership, but it is a leadership concerned with creating contributors. That is, the leadership is flexible and responsive to its community members, and the success depends less on their final decision-making power and more on their ability to catalyze its members to make decisions which build the community.

I'm not all that interested in business, but what drew me to this title were the parallels to how many Emergent and younger generation churches approach their communities of faith. I saw considerable overlap with the picture of church painted by Acts and the hybrid organization. There were leaders, but they were about empowering their community to be Christ's witnesses in their world. They made less decisions, and instead equipped their community to make decisions within a guiding framework.

I am less interested in simply importing these ideas into the church, as if we only need to take our leadership advice from the business world. I think a robust theology of the laity and a better understanding of what we as the church have been called to do will lead to the same structural insights and developments as this book points out, within a more theological framework. But, in a world where, for some reason, business leadership ideas tend to hold more weight than theological visions of leadership, this may be a nice conversation starter. The idea that we don't need church CEOs and it won't destroy our ability to actually get something done is foreign, it seems to me, to many church leaders. Here now are some business leaders saying the same thing, and arguing it might be more effective in our emerging world. Perhaps this could serve as a catalyst for renewed thinking on how we can be a decentralized church, mobilizing the people in our churches for the calling that is theirs in Christ. Its definitely scarier because we as pastors have less control, but, to quote Bill Parcells from my favorite Coors Light commerical, "That's a good thing. Not a bad thing."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Relaunch of sorts...

I've really been thinking about this blog for awhile now. What do I want to use it for? Do I want to maintain it anymore? Do I want to use it constructively, that is, as a way of constructing new ideas? I don't think I have the time or energy to dedicate myself to a series, unless I really put some structure in place and managed it that way. I don't want to do that, though. Ergo, the missional theology for youth ministry series. I started reading Thomas a Kempis, and thought about offering thoughts on my readings. I have decided I'm not a fan of this either. As I've been reading, I quickly realized when I read with the idea of posting something about it, I didn't read to absorb the words, to be challenged and convicted by them. Rather, I read with the idea of posting something insightful or meaningful. This completely defeats the purpose of why I was reading Thomas a Kempis. I've shared random thoughts on experiences from ministry. I'm sure some of these will still make their way onto the blog from time to time, but I'd like to give a little more focus to my postings. Again, the question, what is the point of this blog, or how ought I to use it?

I read quite a bit. I spend at least an hour everyday with my nose in a book. I am thinking, then, that I'll start to use this blog to interact more publicly with those books. I still don't think I'll post everyday. With a family, a job in youth ministry, and frankly a life, I'm not sure I can make it happen in the substantive fashion I imagine (or maybe I'm not that substantive, but I'll pretend anyway). I'm guessing that as I go a significant amount of my comments and summaries will somehow pertain to youth ministry, but that makes sense, doesn't it?

So, anyway, there you go. I'm trying to bring a little focus and purpose to this blog, and if it doesn't work, I'll probably shut it down.