05 October 2007

Wilderness Wanderings

It has now been 3 and ½ months since we set foot on this nation’s soil and it would seem that it is now time to get out of here. It has been an interesting few months filled with visits, phone calls, meetings, trips, fuel stations, restaurants, rain storms and sunny days. We have put over 5000 miles on our little Nissan Sentra and it is still rolling. We have hiked into some of the most beautiful county in God’s creation both in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness area in southern Oregon and in the Sister’s Wilderness area of Central Oregon. We were able to taste some of the best huckleberries in the world (the ones just picked off of the bush which don’t make it to the can) and enjoy the sound of the forest away from the highways and mechanized world we live in.

I don’t think one can beat the feeling of getting up in the early morning in the mountains, starting the fire while brewing coffee and watching the valley floor stir to life as the sun creeps up over the eastern trees and hills. It’s at moments like these that one is reminded that we serve an awesome God who has given us so much. It also forces one to reflect on the responsibility that we must have before God for the way in which we treat this creation. I don’t suppose that there are many other spots in the world where one gets such a profound sense of how great this world we live in really is. My guess is that if we were to live in Michigan, Georgia or some flat place like that, we would have a harder time coming to such conclusions.

Besides having been profoundly impressed and blown away by douglas firs, hemlocks, sugar pines, mountain lakes, springs and mossy glades, I have also found several books very interesting in the past few months. The one that topped my list for interesting recently has been The Starfish and the Spider – the Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. The basic idea is that, “If you cut off a spider’s head, it dies; but if you cut off a starfish’s leg, it grows a new one, and that leg can grow into an entirely new starfish. Traditional top-down organizations are like spiders, but starfish organizations are changing the face of business and the world.”

They go one to describe seven principles of decentralization in the first half of the book before trying to give meaning to the legs of a decentralized organization in the following section. They finish by pointing out that hybrid organizations might do better in situations where there is still need for a central clearing house approach to business, such as your bank or a flight program. One of the things that struck me in particular is the principle that a “starfish” organization finds its raison d’être in its ideology rather than in a strong leader at the top with a clear “vision”, such as it is, as with a spider organization. Wow! That has some serious ramifications. You gotta read the book!

Another book that I have been reading is Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse – How Societies choose to Fail or Succeed. Perhaps that is why I have been thinking about the beauty of Oregon so much recently. According to his tell (and one does need to take him with a grain of salt) we are not all that far from what could be the end of western societies as we have come to know them in recent history. Of course much of his discussion is centered around our use or poor use of natural resources that we have and the huge conflicts of interests that are played out in a single valley of the United States which are amplified a million times in other parts of the world with far more dyer consequences. He does a good job of pulling one’s head up and making one ask how he could be more conscientious in the use of the resources at his disposal. Of course as I read this stuff from the perspective of life in Africa it certainly has other implications that the average American may not pick-up on simply because the impact of global warming may not be as severe. That is not to say that there may not be implications but all indications are that the tropical parts of this world may be affected far more severely by global warming.

I have found it disturbing that more Christians do not give this issue much thought. It seems that global warming has become a “liberal” discussion point which simply means that we who follow Christ need not be concerned. I am concerned that the “labeling” of an issue like this has taken so many good thinking people out of the discussion. I guess I would hope that more of us would find the strength and courage to begin thinking about a more sustainable industrialized world. Walking the forest paths of Oregon, running down streams and swimming in pristine mountain lakes has moved me with a sense of our responsibility to take better care of this place.

Now before you write me off altogether, let me end these ramblings by making mention of another idea that has recently caught my fancy. I have been impressed by some of the articles one can find online concerning “missio dei” or the sending of God/mission of God. There is an excellent summary of this concept found on Wikipedia which I recommend. Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God.

“It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church. There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. The Church must not think its role is identical to the missio Dei; the Church is participating in the mission of God. The church's mission is a subset of a larger whole mission. That is, it is part of God's mission to the world and not the entirety of God's work in the world.”

“Our mission has not life of its own: only in the hands of the sending God can it truly be called mission. Not least since the missionary initiative comes from God alone … Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.”

Try wrapping your mind around that idea just a little. It has huge implications for us today. The reasons for the church’s existence have become fairly convoluted as the church and church organizations become more organized. This of course leads to a top down spider looking organism which no longer finds its life in an ideology but in its leader. When its leader falls the organization takes a hit and at times it is fatal. There is a foundational readjustment needed within the church to make the mission of God our raison d’être. This fundamental readjustment can make the difference between life or death of any given church. For too many years we have fought about the color of our floors, the songs that we sing, the clothes that we wear rather than the real reason that we get together in the first place.


shelly said...

Well this was a thinker of a post, now wasn't it?

I really liked your last sentence. We waste sooo much time and energy over things of so little import. I just want to pull out my hair whenever that old music debate comes up. I think you're right... we have lost track of what defines "mission". We think it exists because of something we do, not because of who God is. We really need to wake up and stop wasting so much time.

That said, I have come to the disturbing conclusion after reading this post, that my household is of the "spider" variety... only it doesn't die. Mom's out of commission and the giant, wounded, headless spider just continues crashing around, dirtying dishes, flinging dirty socks, and refusing to take out the trash. Think I'm going to go buy me a pet starfish and a can of Raid... (Ummm... just kidding... sort of...)

shelly said...

I'll look for an eco-friendly brand : )

Tiffany said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and have to say that Georgia is a lovely place and I'm sure you would enjoy the nature here as much as in Oregon. The state certainly isn't entirely flat...

Yes, I am from Georgia and felt I needed to share my thoughts about that statement in your blog.