Archive for October, 2009

Get your own stimulus cheque!

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The commoditization of spiritual content

Looking at how much time we do it I’d say the evangelical church assumes that the most important ministry in the church involves having specialists pass on teaching, challenge, knowledge and wisdom on to those who aren’t specialists.  We spend a lot of time and money on Sunday school, small group curriculum, sermons, conferences, books, and Christian higher education and all of these forms of ministry follow along this similar track. 

If we go back far enough we see most churches located in small rural communities because most people lived in on farms or small towns.  In such a town there would be a smattering of educated people like teachers, doctors and clergy.  In this situation the pastor or the priest would be one of the more educated people. 

Fast forward to 20 years ago.  Western society is now thoroughly industrialized.  More people live in cities than in the country and many more people are educated.  Television, tapes and books are used extensively by the church.  The local church no longer held the monopoly on spiritual content.

Now fast forward to today.  Information on many topics has been thoroughly commoditized.  The knowledge that used to be difficult or costly to access is as available today as tap water. This includes spiritual content. As people tap in to teaching that is cheap, easy to access to often even better than what they get at church they are beginning to wonder why they bother attending.

There is a great scene in Good Wil Hunting that demonstrates how information has become commoditized, and how formal education has become something of a racket.

A few friends I’ve known that post their sermons online have observed a consistent surge in traffic  on their websites on Friday and Saturday. In many churches what we hear on Sunday is a warmed over version of what the pastor found online the night before.

As information becomes as accessible as tap water it isn’t appreciated near as much either.  People are drowning in a sea of information.  It isn’t always quality content but there is a massive amount of it.  People are saturated in it.  There just isn’t that much more capacity to absorb. 

I think this might be one reason why many evangelicals have shifted over to the Orthodox or other traditions with a more formal liturgy.   The heart of their church gatherings isn’t passing on information.  They seek substance, divine connection and participation in the sacraments.  It doesn’t necessarily rock my socks but I understand the desire to go in this direction. 

One reason why people leave the church without leaving their faith is they believe what the local church offers them isn’t significantly different from what they could get with Itunes and youtube.  The currency of the church must shift down the spectrum from knowledge to love.  Immediately people will object by saying we can’t cast away knowledge because we will end up becoming ignorant and futile.  I’m not arguing that we cast away knowledge.  It isn’t an all or nothing thing, just that we need to rebalance things to the point where people feel a tangible connection with others.


Its not easy being an ENTP


I love the Meyers/Briggs personality test.  Of all the tests I found it to be the most insightful as I attempt to understand myself.  Not everyone gets the same mileage out of it but it is worth checking out.

In this approach to personality people are understood using four indicators that go one of two ways. E/I, N/S, T/F, P/J.

E – Extrovert
Energized with lots of social interaction, process things externally
I – Introvert
Prefers less intense social interactions, needs time alone to recharge
N – iNtuitive
Idealistic, abstract, beyond surface, imaginative, what could be
S – Sensory
Realistic, concrete, interested in physical world, what is
T  – Thinking
Value truth, critical, cold/impersonal,
F – Feeling
Value harmony, emphatic, softy/personal
P – Perceiving
Adaptable, spontaneous, carefree
J – Judging
Likes life firm and controlled, planner, serious

I am an ENTP.  There are a couple recognizable ENTP characters in TV/Movies.  Gaius Baltar, Tony Stark/Iron Man, Calvin (of Calvin/Hobbes), Gregory House and Indiana Jones are some of my favourites.

The people I get along with the easiest are other NT’s and SF’s.  I love the NT’s because we can sit down and discuss the deeper meaning of things.  Apparently we make up about 10% of the population which is probably why we feel we are constantly surrounded by a sea of insanity.

I love some of the SF’s like ESFP and ISFJ.  The ESFP is the quintessential party person.  Not terribly responsible but they are an incredible amount of fun.  The ISFJ’s are the quiet responsible people who take care of things with a deep sense of loyalty and devotion.  I have one of each in my immediate family.

Being an ENTP means I have some serious weaknesses.  I forget details, I get bored incredibly easily, and I really have a hard time with irrational people messing with my life, and I’m fiercely independent.  I can handle working with ENTJs, who are pretty much the army generals of the world, because they are rational.  I’m not generally a fan of anyone telling me what to do, but if someone is running the ship and they competent I am ok.  I don’t generally like being in charge because all the details of managing the real world bore me incredibly.

My arch nemesis is the ESFJ, well it is more like I am their arch nemesis.  They tend to be very traditional and seek to establish and enforce harmony in any situation.  ENTPs are relentless learners, and innovators that hate static situations.  We are constantly analyzing things critically and are always pushing towards change.  We don’t necessarily care about the traditions we offend or the disharmony this might bring about. 

In fairness not everything should change as much as we ENTPs might want it to.  ENTPs have to figure out they will always want to be 3 or 4 steps ahead (or off to the side) of almost everyone else.  The world doesn’t change as much as we want it to because it would be all chaos all the time if it did.  The other thing we have to learn is that feelings matter because people matter.  Our Intuitive side can pick this up, if we don’t we end up like George Carlin ranting about all the people we perceive as worthless and stupid in the world.

The people most likely to drive me crazy are the NFs.  The NFs are the idealists.  I connect with them on the N side of things, especially their ideals and values but its the F side that just seems to derail things.  I find myself thinking, ok, I just disagreed with you about an idea why are you taking it so personally?  ENTPs like to debate things, for us it is kind of a sport.  NFs like to debate too as they can be deeply passionate people.  Sadly many of them can throw a punch way better than they can take one.

Some NFs are pretty good at “reading” people but unhealthy ones are less likely than other types to understand how much their own feelings and insecurities can bias the conclusions they reach.  To the NTs of the world they can come across so completely irrational we think they are insane, and we really don’t know what to do with them.  The worst NFs take things to the next level and are so wrapped up in their emotions and issues they just erupt like some geyser projecting indiscriminate emotional napalm over most of the relationships in their life, and still manage to blame everyone else for it.  I had a pastor like that once, it was a frickin disaster.

That isn’t to say I haven’t worked well with NFs even in conflict.  The key to resolving issues doesn’t lie in words but in actions.  One has to clearly, genuinely and concretely demonstrate your care and concern for them.  At certain point words become empty to the NF and even harmful because they may not be taken at face value. 

For me this is a small price to pay to restore a relationship.  However If I have to go through this process several times over the temptation to jettison the relationship becomes very strong. ENTPs can be coldly rational and impersonal.  We will sacrifice relationships for the truth and the less noble among us will dump someone just because they are no longer useful to us.  If someone comes across too irrational too often the cold calculating Thinking side takes over and we cut bait. 

We don’t like to lose, or give up the last word.  Which means we often get suckered in to endless meaningless debates.  Sometimes we hurt people in these debates.  For years my blog was a freaking battleground until I realized the futility of it all.

There are a lot of great things about ENTPs.  They are always striving to make things better.  We are really good a assessing a situation quickly and can be incredibly clear thinkers in the midst of crisis.  No other type can match our ability to see how things connect together or analyze the impact of things upon other things.  It makes us great problem solvers, although we aren’t necessarily attentive to enough details to avoid some problems in the first place.  Our other rational NT cousins are much more attentive to details in a specific field, but few can match the depth of our knowledge across different fields.


Mennonite Irony

Sitting through a 5 minute introduction mapping out the anabaptist value of community hermeneutic  then sitting down with a few hundred others to listen quietly to one person with a boatload of academic accomplishments speak.


More doing than thinking

I was thinking the other day about how much my blog so rarely reflects what I’m doing and going through.  I used blog lots about church but I’m kinda stuck on that topic until my the way I live my life catches up with the ideals I’ve arrived at.  As much as I enjoy thinking about things at a deeper level the concepts and ideas I wrestle with always have to connect to the world I live in.  I’m not one to deepen knowledge just for its own sake.

For me most of the questions about church have been settled, for now at least.  I doubt that I’ve arrived at the best approach but I see enough of a positive difference in people I’m pretty happy.  I don’t have this nagging feeling that I’m contributing to something so complicated it is hard to know if anything is really happening. 

Outside the realm of my church involvement I’ve been really disappointed by some people and some decisions.  If I were to go in to detail I couldn’t do it here or now.  I’ve got a number of people in my life that are much more sceptical of institutions than I am.  It is getting more difficult for me to respond with honest answers to their criticism.

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