Wednesday, December 15, 2004

words that freeze

I’ve begun to notice a bit of a trend as I interact with young leaders longing to live an unconventional Christian faith. It seems that some of the youngest and brightest are immobilized; unable or unwilling to move towards their dreams of creating new communities of faith. What’s derailing so many? The usual suspects are an intense desire to be "unique" and a ruthless commitment to be "organic".

What’s wrong with that?! Those sure sound like qualities worth fighting for. How can those desires leave visionaries sitting on the sidelines or on a barstool? Well, here’s my take:

When our dreams are driven by a desire to be unique, to be unlike anything else out there, we inevitably wake up to Solomon’s sobering words, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Dreams that are driven by a passion to be unique seem to lose their mystique the moment we discover that someone else is already doing something a lot, (or even a little), like what we wanted to do. And without the distinction of being wholly unique, dreams formed around that center are often abandoned before they are ever lived.

Now, most of us want to be unique at some level, and when we boldly exercise creativity we are reflecting the image of our Creator God. It’s inspiring to engage in the creative process, and I’d be the first to admit it feels good when people say things like, “NieuCommunities is so unique; it’s not like anything else I’ve ever seen; you guys are really thinking outside the lines.” That’s nice to hear, but the truth is we didn’t set out on this faith journey to be unique; we did it to be faithful. We began NieuCommunities because we believed God was calling us to do a very old thing once again. We were under orders. It didn’t have to be unique. It didn’t even have to be creative. But it did have to be attempted. And at the end of the day, faithfulness is what God requires of us, not uniqueness.

The other culprit I often see derailing dreamers is the commitment to be organic. Why would that trip people up? Isn’t being organic a good thing? You bet it is. The problem comes when being organic is unnecessarily juxtaposed against being intentional. It is falsely assumed that to be organic means you can’t be intentional. You can’t have design. You can’t have structure or systems. You can’t plan or set goals. You can only be spontaneous and just kind of ooze. That’s what is assumed to be natural and organic and therefore godly.

But one only needs to look at nature or their own bodies to see that there is nothing inherently contradictory between intelligent design and being fully organic. Life is made up of intricate, interactive, and completely natural systems. The challenge is not to abandon intentionality, but to be intentionally organic. To partner with God in ways that are consistent with the natural rhythms of life. In NieuCommunities we have intentionally designed our year to follow what we believe is the natural, organic rhythm leaders experience when attempting to live as “sent ones.” It’s a way to move forward intentiaonlly and organically. It’s certainly not the only way.

I had dinner the other night with a fascinating guy who was full of dreams. He has also been on the sidelines far too long, paralyzed by the need to be different (unique) and organic. I love the fact he wants to do something really radical. But his dreams—and ours—will remain nothing but dreams unless we faithfully and intentionally go for it…even if it’s been done before.