The Deep Connection Between Story and Respect

Posted by on Jun 24, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Want to know how I can tell if you have respect for someone?  I listen to the words and tone you use when you tell a story about them.  Respect comes to life in relationships and story.

FiveTwo’s second core value is “Respect for All.”  Story and respect are soulmates.

Leona Elenora Renatta Richter Fischer

It was a long name, given by her German parents, who also gave her Jesus.  Whom she in turn gave me.  My grandmother was my spiritual mentor.  She poured Jesus into me for decades.  And she embodied FiveTwo’s value “Respect for all,” perhaps because she remembered her past.  From a poor family in The Grove,Texas, her and Papa were sharecroppers early in marriage, eventually working their way up to delivering Lone Star beer and packing boxes of Hefty trash bags on an assembly line.  When I lived with them my freshman summer of college, I made more money than both combined while interning at Texas Instruments basically doing nothing.

Yet theirs was never a regretful or bitter story.  Instead, thankfulness and respect poured from them.  Whether the waitress they met for the first time or the friend of mine I invited for Christmas dinner, all were welcome.  All were worthy of belonging simply because all had a story.

Which was one of grandma’s hallmarks: she wanted to know your story.  Really know.  She’d ask questions about your family, your loves, your career.  She listened now and later would remember the details and pray for the struggles.

No one had ever taught her knowing someone’s story communicated great respect for a person.  She never openly said that to me.  But that’s what happened when she was in the room.  Respect flowed from her as she listened to your narrative.

What’s Your Story?

When I ask about your story and take your story to heart, connection happens.  We now have shared history.  I understand why you don’t like pastors since that one wouldn’t do your dad’s funeral.  I gain insight into why love vacations since you never had one growing up.  I appreciate your addiction to pizza and abhorrence of Chianti.  That Italian aunt really did a number on you.

Getting to know your story allows me to understand why you are you.  And when I allow your story to become part of my story, why you are you becomes part of why I am me.  My life is richer, and your heart, fuller.  Listening to story demonstrates respect and creates respect.

Are you able to respect someone if you don’t know their story?  I would hope so.  Respect for someone shouldn’t depend on their story; it should flow from their person.  Specifically from the fact they are a person.  They are one of the crown creations of the Creator.  They are worthy of our ears.

But if you want to create respect and start off well, then get to know their story.

It’s the sacramental way.

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Leave It To Beaver, The Walking Dead, and FiveTwo

Posted by on May 2, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

The world has shifted from Leave It To Beaver to The Walking Dead.  Your grandmother could not have predicted 15.7 million people watching zombies after church on Sunday evening.  My kids loved Lucy and laughed at Gilligan on TVLand, but they’ll be the first to tell you zombies rule the world. 

This fundamental cultural shift leaves many of the congregations we attend reeling and retreating.  They lack a language – they lack a love – that embraces the unique opportunity before us.  They have forgotten the power of the Sacraments and what it means to live those out in real time and space.

While it’s been said that the Church in the West is hemorrhaging, the Church of the Scripture is anything but.  It realizes the personal, sacramental role it plays.  Thriving and vibrant, it seeks to join the Father in expanding His Kingdom in today’s world.

Jesus followers don’t ignore the radical shifts in culture nor do they deny the mainline Church’s seeming inability to speak into them.  Their hearts break over both the condition of our country and the condition of local congregations who adopt a Sargent Schultz attitude.   How they address this new world, however, is at the core of their effectiveness. 

Do they simply dispense spiritual goods and services like your office vending machine?  Do they hole up in a Christian cave, shopping only at Christian bookstores and consuming only organic Christian food produced by organic Christian people while listening solely to indie Christian radio?  Or do they go on the attack, picketing their neighbor’s lifestyle, demeaning their neighbor’s children, and avoiding their neighbor’s need?

Dr. Robert Webber writes: “Christians in the postmodern world will succeed, not by watering down the faith, but by being a counter-cultural community that invites people to be shaped by the story of Israel and Jesus.”

My discontent in years past centered on the Church’s lack of counter-cultural community coupled with a lack of desire to truly invite ‘outsiders’ inside.  Often we became vending machines, dispensing what we wanted or what the culture wanted rather than wrapping what the culture needed in a language it could understand, in a food it loved, in a meal that truly satisfied. 

We counted inputs – people needing discipling – rather than outputs – regenerated, transformed followers of Jesus.   Or when no inputs desired to be put in to, we counted faithfulness, wrapping fondant around our unwillingness to change, hoping it looked like love.

Nothing wrong, mind you, with inputs.  You need them and you should count them.  Nor with trying to meet people where they are.  Read 1 Corinthians 9.  Frankly, too many congregations who love the sacraments on Sunday refuse to be sacramental – the real presence of Christ, offering grace and mercy in real-time, tangible history – the rest of the week.  They do church on Sundays rather than be Church on all days.

It was this reality, coupled with a passion to act rather than task-force our way into a thoughtful stupor, that in March 2009—after a few years of talking about it—nine church planters gathered in a makeshift conference room in a Lutheran community church in Katy, Texas. Three other guys couldn’t make it or there would have been twelve of us.

We brought in a high-powered vision guru, Will Mancini, and asked him to help us stop talking and start doing. He did.

After 24 hours of praying and dreaming and cigar smoking (not the entire time), we arrived at FiveTwo. Actually, the name careened out from the doctored brain of Scott Rische who deftly explained the community impact of the feeding of the five thousand, that everything the planter needs to feed his community is already in the community. It just needs to be brought to Jesus for blessing.

We all sat in silent awe.

Silence led to light bulbs and the birth of a church planting network specializing in the “personal how.” When it came to planting churches—immigrant, suburban, high cost, low cost, more traditional, and crazily progressive—this crew knew how.

And we were sticklers for personal. To a man, we had all been encouraged, inspired and coached by someone. We each had a guy we could pick up the phone and call when we were disappointed or confused. Which happened often.

Great consensus broke out, and we white boarded the steps to launch a network that brought “personal” and “how” together for those front-line harvesters in the US and around the world.

Since then, we’ve expanded FiveTwo to help existing churches as well.  We’re no longer just for church planters.  We now help existing congregations sharpen their community focus so they can start new ministries for Jesus’ lost people.  We want to help ALL apostolic leaders start more effectively.

So FiveTwo is here because The Walking Dead is here.  The Church never retreats.  It reforms, reshapes and redeems.  It starts new to reach new.  That’s the FiveTwo journey.  I hope you’ll join us in birthing spiritual communities of passionate disciples of Jesus that transform their worlds.

What thoughts or questions do you have?  Give us your comments below!

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