Ministry in the Media Matrix

Jesus Take The Wheel

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The man’s hair is greasy, and his eyes dart around the room as he relates to me the tale of his car accident. “It’s a miracle I’m alive,” he says.

I can smell him, and I wonder when he last showered. His shirt is on backwards, and the front of his slacks is unclasped (the back falls far enough to make plain he’s not wearing underwear).

“It was a quadruple spin that turned into a flip, and I walked away without a scratch, because of Jesus Christ. Because of JESUS CHRIST!” He punches his fist into an opposing palm for emphasis.

He is clearly not well.

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t right.

Written by Rocky Supinger

November 21, 2014 at 6:00 am

Posted in church

Trust vs. Structure

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You need trust–like personal trust in competent people to do good work and not foul things up.

You also need structures like rules and procedures to short-circuit the human tendency toward stupidity and short-sightedness.

Trust without structures causes problems. Structures without trust does too.

Tapestry is trying to preserve the trust the leaders have in one another as the basis for our work together, even as we kick around things we need to start doing to ensure quality. Some of us default to trusting one another and don’t need an outline of your retreat talk beforehand. Others default to creating structures and want all talks shared 30 days out. Here we are.

The PC(USA) has been roiled by the discovery that some denominational personnel used church grant money to start their own independent nonprofit. The personnel in question were aiming for “flexibility,” and it’s clear that they trusted each other and had the trust of others in the denomination. But they sidestepped important structures, and now they’re on administrative leave and the value of a terrific movement is now in question. Here we are.

Don’t tell me we need a “balance” of trust and structures. That’s too easy. Isn’t it more the case that we need to discern when one is more urgently needed than the other, and whether or not the urgent need for trust permits looser structures or the urgent need for structure puts trust in the backseat?

Can you have both all the time?


Written by Rocky Supinger

November 20, 2014 at 6:00 am

Posted in church

Stop Defaulting To “Home” And “Work”

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My preferred note taking app doesn’t work with the updated version of my phone’s operating system, so I went looking for a replacement. The first one I tried gave me default “Work” and “Home” to do lists, and the moment I looked at them I realized something about my life. Then I deleted the app.

“Work” and “Home” don’t make sense as separate vocational categories for me anymore. The projects I’m working on for my pastoral job do not feel more (or less) important to me than the projects I’m focusing on at home, the events at my daughter’s school or the meals I’m learning to cook at the end of each day.

This is a choice that privileged people get to make. I watched my dad endure a blue collar job for over 30 years, and he lived–absolutely lived–for his leisure time away from it. “Home” and “Work,” for him, were warring parties. That’s the norm for the majority of people.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m grateful for my work and my family.

Written by Rocky Supinger

November 19, 2014 at 6:00 am

Posted in church

Where Does Energy Come From?

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My church is doing the New Beginnings Assessment, and so we have been learning about organizational life cycles. One version displays the life cycle as a hill. Churches start at the bottom with lots of energy, and they climb by building significant networks of relationships, which give birth to programs, which, of course, require administration. On the decline side of that hill, things fall away in the exact same order; energy goes first, then the relationships, then the programs. In the end, administrative structures are all that’s left.

I’ve been part of new churches and established ones, and this setup seems right.

My far-sighted colleague observed to me that, at our church, we spend most of our efforts on relationships and almost none on energy. We’ve said for a very long time that administration needs to support programs and that programs are only valuable insofar as they incubate meaningful relationships. And we’ve stopped there.

What about energy, then? Where does energy come from? If a people is tired, how do they get rejuvenated? Surely this is a work of the Spirit, but, just as surely, there are things leaders can do to create energetic conditions, right?

15 years ago I was part of an “emergent” church before that’s what they were called, and that place was bursting with energy. Most of the participants were in their 20′s and 30′s (there was a nursery but no youth group), and the pastor was a terrific, thoughtful, musically talented guy. Every gathering created a kind of buzz that took a few days to wear off.

Is that the key? A demographic? A dynamic leader?

Is the creation of energy a leadership competency? If we don’t have it, where do we get it?

Written by Rocky Supinger

November 18, 2014 at 6:00 am

Posted in church

Monday Morning Quarterback

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Stuff I learned on Sunday.

Pilot Jay still snores like he did in high school. He’s crashed on my fold-out after a late-night landing. Who needs an alarm clock when you have this guy?

When you under-cook granola, it’s soggy. But when that sog consists of butter and sugar, who cares?

Pilot Jay does not like sweet soggy granola.

Apparently, telling police officers that you’re a pilot is a great way to get out of traffic tickets. Pilot Jay tells this to a 10th grader in Sunday school who immediately demands to know EXACTLY-HOW-THAT-WORKS.

The newest acolyte is a kid after my own heart. Moments before worship starts, this fourth grader says, “O.K., one more check, just to be sure: light the candles, hand the lighter to you, go to the podium . . .” She’s got this.

The candles don’t care about the acolyte’s checklist. They’re not lit by the end of the Introit, and the Call to Worship is happening without her. I should have bailed her out sooner.

The term “Mount of Olives” is hilarious to a five year-old.

When the preacher cracks an inside joke during the sermon, it’s much less fun when the butt of the joke isn’t in the room.

The answer to the question, “Why did Wife and Daughter suddenly disappear from worship?” is: because Daughter puked.

You can resist the Sunday school donuts before church, but never after. Never. After.

Daughter is just wiped from a week of dress rehearsals and performances. Doesn’t seem to be sick.

With the third kitchen chair broken, a plastic lawn chair must suffice for lunch with Wife and Pilot Jay at the dining room table.

My weight combined with a plastic lawn chair combined with a wood floor adds up to falling.

It’s fun to have Daughter school Pilot Jay on her favorite iPad games as he’s getting ready for a flight. He’s annoyed, but really polite about it.

Pilot Jay taught daughter to take a screen shot of the iPad. Goodbye memory.

Pilot Jay looks rad in his pilot getup, even though he doesn’t do the hat.

Aviator shades on an actual aviator look so much cooler.

In addition to 11 pm on a Saturday, 2 pm on a Sunday is a fantastic time to drive to the Orange County airport. Pilot Jay convinced Southern California’s reputation for bad traffic is a lie.

A Sound of Music sing-along at church is as much fun as it sounds.

I’m not the only one wearing that tubby German guy with the protruding chest hair T-shirt!

There are few sights more exciting than that of a Der Weinerschnitzel truck in the church parking lot.

My church is a amazing.

Spaceteam is a thing, and the Flexor Toggle must be set to 4. Now!

If you give Daughter a graham cracker snack before bedtime, she will break it into four equal parts which she will arrange on her vanity before ordering you to leave the room so she can eat them alone.

There’s a clergy couple edition of Monday Morning Quarterback!

Written by Rocky Supinger

November 17, 2014 at 5:56 am

Me And Laura Podcasting, Episode 2

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Two words: “You’d puke.”

Written by Rocky Supinger

November 14, 2014 at 6:00 am

Posted in church

Beans And Toast

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Mark Bittman’s latest cookbook is really good because it cares more about helping you cook your own food than it does about showing off the author’s technical arsenal. The book is not meant for food critics or chefs, and it deliberately thumbs its nose at tenets of gastronomical gospel like mise en place. Here’s how one reviewer describes that move:

Bittman argues that mise en place, the time-honored approach of prepping ingredients ahead of time, is an obsolete concept in the contemporary, time-depleted kitchen. He believes those idle minutes waiting for water to boil, ovens to heat or vegetables to cook can better be spent chopping onions, grating cheese or mincing garlic. As such, “Fast” features recipes that ask people to prep as they cook, providing tight windows to complete the tasks. Aside from certain master recipes, such as those for stocks and beans, every dish here is engineered to take 45 minutes or less.

I love this book. It has prompted a couple of thoughts:

1. Before you can do something fast, you have to do it well. This is the fifth version of How To Cook Everything, and the first to focus on speed. There’s a bunch of basic teaching stuff at the beginning that aims to share the fundamentals of knife work and the like with the beginner. But beginners will still struggle, because if you don’t know how to chop an onion slowly, there’s no shortcut to doing it quickly (this is another version of the Godly Play idiom, “Know the rules well enough to break them effectively”).

2. Focus on outputs. Bittman has become concerned in his columns about the connection between obesity in America and the declining rates at which people cook their own food. So he’s trying to help more people cook at home. You don’t need sexy food pics to do that, so there aren’t any. You also don’t need a lot of “shoulds,” since the should he cares most about is already accomplished when you fire up the burner. Instead, the instructions are an innovative layering of cooking and food prep that is finished before you know it.

One more thing: I’ve had beans and toast from this book for lunch two days in a row. My mouth is happy.

Written by Rocky Supinger

November 13, 2014 at 6:00 am

Posted in church


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