I say, you hear…

Currently, my school studies center on communication within organizations. This is especially intriguing to me in the context of large/small scale communication within the church (anything from to one-on-one conversations, to addressing large groups.)

One of the most common means of communication within the church is the speech/teaching. It consists largely of “Information Transfer:” I talk (download), you listen, (upload). Information transferred & accurately communicated. Done.

Except not.

Stuff gets in the way, that keeps us from ‘getting’ it.

Stuff like INFORMATION OVERLOAD – at some point, there’s just too much information & the brain says “No más.” Which is unfortunate, especially if the speech goes on for another 15 minutes.

Stuff like NOISE – maybe its actual physical noise that distorts & distracts, like a baby crying or people talking; it might be internal noise caused by stopping “full listening” in order to think on something that was said; or it could be external noise that comes from the surrounding environment. Regardless, the end result is the person/individual stops processing.

Stuff like AMBIGUITY – words mean things, & often, the same word can have vastly different meanings depending on the person hearing it. For example, I could say, “We are wanting to bring more structure to our church.” You might hear, “Structure? You mean everyone gets put into a cookie cutter? No thanks.” What was intended by the word “structure” was a trying to create a more effective & efficient way to help connect people to/within the church body, to coordinate our efforts in mission & purpose, & to accurately & quickly get vital information to those that need to hear it.

Big difference.

I know what I’m saying, but I don’t know what you’re hearing. Anything that you hear that remotely resembles what I said, is a miracle – Jerry Cook

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #5

Jan picked me up as before & we made our way to his home in Gau Algesheim, a very rural town about 20 minutes or so out of Mainz. I’m a bit familiar with the place, as I spent some time there a couple of years back when I stayed there with my friends, Alex & Linda on the Laurenziberg, an expansive, rolling hill overlooking the town.

We immediately sat down to a quick lunch; barbecued chicken & rice. I couldn’t help but wonder if we were eating one of the neighborhood chickens… Our discussions over lunch & beyond centered on what is happening with Foursquare Germany. Jan told me of the “1/3” reality that exists, meaning that 1/3 of the churches are struggling, 1/3 are doing ok, 1/3 are thriving. He laid out some of the strategies he & his regional leaders are pursuing for the coming years, & went back & forth on some ideas about how the US church (our division/district specifically,) might be able to partner with them in their plans… to help & be a part by giving key resources (money, time, & people.)

Some things that stood out to me from our discussions:

    -There is a great desire & need in Germany for regional church planting centers, as that would also help with pastoral health & leadership development. Currently, there are no Foursquare churches in East Germany, & only 1 church of less than 20 people in the German capital, Berlin, a key & strategic city for Germany & for Europe.

    -The intention & focus of the leadership team is to plant a thriving, life-giving church in Berlin late Summer/Fall of 2011 by sending a pastoral team from one of the ‘thriving’ churches to Berlin to head it up. Jan is hopeful that outreach teams from other churches in Germany (& the US,) could come alongside for the ‘launch” of the church. One of the concerns they have is what will happen when the pastor of a ‘strong’ church leaves their current church & moves to Berlin – will there be a strong pastor & leader to replace the church planter so that the church left behind will continue to develop & thrive.

    -Our talks reminded me of the necessity to pray for workers – for people to declare the Good News, & also to be a part of the “making disciples.” The scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 9:38, when Jesus tells His disciples:

    The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Pray to the LORD Who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send out more workers for the harvest.

My heart was torn as I listened, & I’m determined to amp up praying for this.

In the late afternoon, the two of us took a walk through the vineyards, to & past the nearby Benedictine monastery, to a scenic overlook of the valley Gau Algesheim sits in. We spent some time there, under the waving flags of Germany & the European Union, talking & getting to know each other better. We discussed American & German politics; our wives & kids; the things we are most prone to struggle with, areas of weakness & temptation; what feeds our soul.

Back to the house for a quick bite (good bread & split pea soup, with a dash of vinegar to give it some extra bite,) & we made our way to Bingen, a town along the Rhein about 30 minutes away. We left a little early to be able to take a few minutes to walk through the tiny village.

Bingen is feeling the bite of the downturn of the economy – stores are empty, others are suffering as those that want to shop usually trek the extra few kilometers into Mainz or Frankfurt to buy what they want & need. It seems to me to be a town without identity – unremarkable. What I mean is that where many (most?) German cities have a distinctive downtown, with an open, spacious square & buildings restored to their 18th century look, Bingen is narrow, closed, & feels like being in an elevator; with the buildings reminiscent of 70s era Eastern bloc chic.

As usually happens, we found our way to an espresso bar & took turns pretending to be coffee aficionados. Pretending. ☺

Jumped into the car & found our way to the church. It’s an independent, non-affiliated fellowship that is looking to become adopted into Foursquare Germany. I asked Jan how this sort of thing happens here, as I know that Germans have a process for everything. I wasn’t disappointed.

The ‘adoption’ process is 3 years long; the 1st year is spent getting to know each other through hanging out together & attending Foursquare meetings & conferences. The 2nd year is more involved with specific, structured interactions, in-depth interviews, & examination on both sides. In the 3rd year, there are formal reviews, interviews, & a couple of month long evaluation by the regional leader, who at the end of the process, will make a recommendation, “yay” or “nay.” Then, the final decision on what happens is made by the Foursquare Germany board, consisting of the 4 regional leaders & the 1 national leader.

This church, the Brunnen Gemeinde (fellowship) is fairly established, & is unique in Germany in that they built & own their own church building. Nina, the pastor, is an olderish, motherly type woman who reminded me a lot of my mother-in-law, with her distinct & sweet singing voice, & quick, contagious laugh. The building itself was what theBean would say is “crisp & clean,” with an open layout, though in the sanctuary, the stage area took up almost 1/3 (!) of the entire sanctuary. There were about 10 of us total in attendance (the pastor, her husband, & some of the key leaders, Jan & I.) We gathered for worship, then made our way into a kitchen meeting room.

This time, I’d had a little more time to prep & more background info on the church for the talk I’d be giving. I was led to talk from Psalm 71 about passing on the great things God has done in, through, & around us. How it’s our responsibility to always be looking for those that Don’t Know yet – don’t know about the fingerprints God’s left on us personally & as a family. Don’t know what are we, who are we, & why are we. How this isn’t just the domain & responsibility of the individual & the family, but it’s also something that every church has to intentionally build into itself. It seems that the longer we’re in our church, & the more we ‘know” the history, the more likely we are to make the assumption & jump that others understand it in the same way that we do. We talked about different ways to bring these things up, talk about, rehearse & revisit them until they become a common thread woven into the fabric of our lives together.

I talked for about an hour, often referencing my own learning processes, shortcomings, struggles, & places where I had to grow, stretch, & be developed. Most poignant (to me) was the discussion on the pastoral role of ‘equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry;” growing in unity, & coming to maturity in the faith, as measured by us becoming like Christ. I reflected quite a bit on my & Hillside’s own journey through this process.

Then, there was another hour of questions – most in the vein of, “what & how” questions. A couple examples:

    -How do I find people to share my faith with? (Friends. Family. Co-workers. The people you see & interact with on a regular basis; those already in your life.)

    -What do you do if someone in the church doesn’t seem to want to grow or change in Christ? (Feed the hungry bird – meaning, spend as much time as you can with those that DO want to grow, that ARE there, that ARE looking to do whatever they can

    -Would you let someone who is knowingly in “bad sin” (their word) be on an after service prayer team? (No.) To which the response was a collective gasp. And Louie said, “Oops.” That wasn’t theoretical, was it?

After praying together, Jan & I made our way back to Gau Algesheim – the last couple of days have been a bit taxing, & both of us were pretty tired, but not ready for bed yet. So we sat in the darkness of his back patio, sipping a treasured 16 year old single malt, relaxing & talking about our favorite & most personally influential books, movies, & music. My kind of getting to know each other.

Finally, I made my way towards bed to try & catch a couple hours of sleep before starting my Friday. It was a great day, & I’m thankful for the growing relationship with Jan.

Musings on a Tuesday…

The 2-week break from school that my kids are on has provided me with an opportunity to take a couple of half-days to spend with them doing some of our favorite things. Today we went to see Avatar in 3D. It reminded me of a few movies, especiallyDances With Wolves. Had popcorn. With lots of butter. Yum.

When we were standing in line for the popcorn, the person in front of us ordered popcorn & specified “Very light butter.” I was incredulous – Very Light Butter? Isn’t the very purpose of movie popcorn to soak it in so much Real Movie Popcorn Butter that every time a handful is taken, it requires a full napkin to address the mess left on your hand? So I asked for the butter on mine that they should have put on the other person’s popcorn.

Pasty is in Tennnessee… Cookeville to be precise. Visiting his girlfriend & her family. It was all he wanted for Christmas, so he’ll be there for the next few days… And that event marks the entrance to an interesting phase of life: the parenting of an adult.

Which reminds me: today at the movie theater, I was waiting for theWeez to come back from the little girls room. Out of the blue, a pretty young thing came up to me & put her arms around me. Whoa. It was theWeez. Here I was, waiting for my little girl, & here I am confronted by this beautiful almost woman. Goodness, time flies.

This evening, I met with 3 of our 4 church team leaders for the 1st time in a couple of weeks; normally we get together every week to communicate – to bounce ideas off of each other, talk about recent happenings, & plan for upcoming stuff. With Christmas & its festivities, we missed a couple, which I didn’t think would be a big deal. Turns out I was wrong – communication means the need for more communication, clarification, knowing & being known. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it, or how good it would be to catch up. I’m thankful for those guys.

Woke up this morning with the feel of sand & sun lingering from a vivid dream… only to find a cold, foggy, & snowy day awaiting me. I’ve never been a beach guy, & my perfect days have always revolved around the indoors. But man, I sure could go for some sand & sun about now. And a nap.

Complaining doesn’t help bad or uncomfortable situations. It just takes me deeper into a hole, & requires that I ignore the areas of life where God is actively, consistently, faithfully at work in & around me. And I’m not gonna waste the energy on it.

Booyah. I love that word. Booyah. It is a great transitional word that says Nothing & Everything at the same time.

Thoughts while traveling in “the Freezing Fog…”

I was up early this morning, & out in the 5 o’clock hour. Not just for fun, but so that I could get to the hospital to wait with a friend for her husband to get out of surgery. It’s normally a 15 minute drive, so I gave myself 30 minutes for travel, parking, & navigation of the maze that the hospital has become due to New Construction. Plenty of time.

Hadn’t planned for “The Freezing Fog,” which is what the guy on the radio said that Reno was experiencing. Visibility wasn’t bad… I drove Vista to I-80 with no trouble; however, when I tried to take the 395-S exit, & came to just about a dead stop. Baaarreeeellyyy moving. Inching along. Sigh.

Changed the radio station, & the Voice said that travelers should try to avoid 395-S & the Mill Street exit. Which is where I was headed. Too late. Bummer.

The unforeseen ‘down-time’ in the car left ample time for thinking – it was way too early to have the radio on… I think its because loud noises in the morning push my buttons & grate on me. So instead, I thought…

What came to mind was a series of interactions that I’d had over the last week; blunted ‘discussions’ really, marked with misunderstandings. Assumptions. Over-reactions. Defensiveness. Low-blood-sugar responses.

In the quiet of the car, & the stillness (my car included,) things I’d said & done bounced around my mind. It struck me that I had spent a lot of time trying to BE understood, & to MAKE myself understood, instead of trying to understand…. Funny how I hadn’t seen or even considered that due to a myopic self-focus that had majored on thinking of me & my needs, instead of considering those of others…


The cars were still just barely inching along. Making negligible progress.

What to do, what to do? Communication is more than just talking increasingly slower & louder until the other person gives in understands. I think I know what might help. Listening intently (as opposed to formulating responses to partially heard expressions. You don’t do that too, do you?) Asking clarifying, not condescending, questions. Listening some more. Talking.

Came across the reason for the traffic jam: an 8-car pileup @ just past the Glendale exit, caused by the culprit, “The Freezing Fog.” Off to the right of the accident, I saw a guy with a camera-phone that had climbed up the overpass, to film the crash. KOLO TV… Good news is no news.

And then, the traffic cleared. To the hospital.

I want to listen better. More fully. Be fully present in the conversation, & not merely be crafting rebuttal’s & counter-arguments. Starting now.