Six years. Or perhaps that should be 42 years. At least from a dog’s perspective. With all that has happened in my life, the life of my family and our glocal existence - six years as a temporal description hardly does this passage of time justice.
Yet. In the world of Kronos, six years ago yesterday, this blog launched. (Yes this is belated - which fits with what was inferred previously about my state of mind.) We had moved to another city, five months prior (September 2004) − 2,072km from our Toronto home. (1,287.5 miles for my metric-challenged American friends.) Imbi and I had been offered the positions of Co-Directors of Communication at a mega-church and we had accepted. (We had been consulting with this church when we were enticed to move.)
I named the blog “achievable ends”. Partially a pragmatic alphabetical decision in the event that other blogs might decide to add it to their blog lists. As well, I honestly thought I’d be able to point readers at ends that were achievable. (So how did that work for you?)
By early 2005, I’d been following blogs for at least three years. People like Kathy Sierra and Doc Searls were Generous Web practitioners in blogdom. Anecdotal evidence suggested blogs were an effective way to communicate ideas in the glocal world of the interwebs. With the “achievable ends” foray into blogdom, I hoped to convince the senior leader we worked with that blogging would be a worthwhile endeavour for them. (And since I did most of the writing that appeared under that person’s byline, this blog was effectively a test-run, as it were.)
Six weeks after this blog began, we were no longer Co-Directors of anything at the church. In fact, we were informed that we were no longer welcome on the church property. (The blog played no role in that chief executive decision.)
And the next stage in our family’s life journey began.
We retraced the 2,072 kilometres back to Toronto. I was profoundly depressed - though I would not acknowledge that for a couple of years. The blog became my therapy as I began to question the church world we’d been a part of for too many years.
As a result of this “church experience” Imbi and I had to restart our production business - after telling our clients less than a year before that we were making a dramatic change in our lives and going to work for a church.
Knowing the restart would take time, Imbi took advantage of available hours and began to work on her Masters in Theological Studies at the University of Toronto’s Wycliffe College. Her oft-mentioned documentary on Church Leadership for the 21st Century came out of her studies. (And it is not finished because of me - the editing load is huge - more on that in another post.)
The blog initially covered many things I was passionate about - media technology, production, leadership and yes, the church.
My two posts in the fall of ’05 and beginning of '06 on Killer Ideas vs Idea Killers will give you a sense of how my thoughts on leadership were developing. (I must note that much of the content of this blog is a direct result of conversations with Imbi - and the things we both read. Liam, Rylan and Kaili - the next-gen Kinnons - have also provoked much.)
In early 2006, my warped sense of humour was in evidence with a viral post I wrote, Microsoft Abandons PowerPoint. It was the direct result of a church service experience where PowerPoint assaulted the eyeballs of those gathered.
2006 was a year of theological change for me. Sixteen hours after returning home from a six week teaching trip to Kenya, Imbi and I were on our way to Boise, Idaho to provide production services for an Allelon Missional Church conference. In spite of having known Alan Roxburgh for 20 years, the “missional conversation” was not even on our radar. Pat Keifert, Craig Van Gelder, Mark Priddy (the first actual missional practitioner I ever met) and others (including Roxburgh, of course) changed that.
By that fall, I was working half-time with Allelon. And the focus of this humble corner of the pushed-pixel universe was firmly the church and it’s call to a mission-shaped reality.
One of the richest benefits of blogging has been the people I’ve met - both virtually and in 3D. Dave Fitch is one of these gems. His first book, The Great Giveaway further developed my changing theological understanding. We began to talk via our blogs and then I arranged to meet him (and interview him) when he was in Toronto in late March of 2007.
That interview turned into a four hour conversation about the Western church. And that conversation informed by others with bloggers like John Frye, Darryl Dash, Jamie Arpin-Ricci and Brent Toderash aka Brother Maynard, became the viral post, The People Formerly Known as the Congregation. It was a post that triggered many others. Many years later, it is still eliciting responses.
And that post is probably the most responsible for creating the group of friends known as the Missional Tribe 'Gators - Peggy, Linda, Sonja, Brad, Brent, Rick et moi. True friends for this journey. (And there are rumblings that we may launch a new MT. Stay tuned.)
However, of all the fellow bloggers who have influenced me, the one who had the greatest impact was Michael Spencer - and it hurts to write “had” and “was”.
I can’t easily pinpoint when Michael and I became friends but I can tell you that that friendship had a profound impact on me. Yes, Michael’s links to a number of my posts drove much blog traffic to what has become kinnon.tv. But what I truly appreciated were our email conversations. When I called the iMonk my iPastor, I wasn’t kidding.
Michael’s creative output was staggering. His writing at the InternetMonk could and should fill many books. His prophetic voice of one calling out in the post-evangelical wilderness drove many people crazy - but was fresh cool water to those of us parched in the midst of the Western evangelical circus.
Michael loved to start conversations - and willingly engaged in them deeply. The rowdy virtual pub known as the Boar’s Head Tavern was evidence of Michael’s desire for and encouragement of great conversation.
One of the BHT fellows, Bob Myers wrote this recently,
...there’s just no one on the web or leading in Christian circles like our beloved Internet Monk, Michael Spencer. He was willing to look at all angles of questions, had a healthy doubt of all the stuff Christians like and flock to, and yet was generous and gracious and kind even to those who were not any of those things.
He also could stir up a hornet’s nest of response, and much of it very, very, constructive. And of course, in the midst of it, sometimes it made me lose my drink laughing, snorting it out of my nose right in the midst of serious theological banter.All from a Kentucky school teacher. God sure placed him in an unusual ministry to make such a splash on the internet.
Anyways, I miss him a lot, as I know everyone in here does. I’m glad he left behind great writings, but what we miss is him alive and stirring us all up, questioning stuff, passionately confronting us with honesty that came from taking his mask off and by doing so removing ours too.
I could not express the sense of loss any better than Bob.
Michael provoked good and important conversation. Listen to Michael in this clip from Drew Marshall’s show that includes Darryl Dash and me. He’s brilliant and funny. (And yes, I wish I’d spoken half as much - with Michael filling the thus provided space.) Go back and listen to Michael’s podcasts . (And no, I don’t’ share Michael’s love of baseball but all the other content is very, very good.)
I had lunch with Darryl Dash recently and he asked me whether Michael’s illness and death had directly impacted my writing. The answer was and is yes. As much as I can intellectually understand that in a fallen world, as a consequence of that fall, millions get sick and die. Emotionally I struggle with the reality that God neither healed Michael nor prevented the illness in the first place. (I do not believe that it was part of God’s plan from the beginning of time Michael would get sick and die at age 53.)
Blogging has not been anywhere near as enjoyable as it was with Michael’s thoughts and provocations.
But Michael’s writing still impacts me. In his book, Mere Churchianity, he writes this;
The Holy Spirit transforms individuals into Jesus-followers, but Jesus was explicit about the purpose of the church, which is to make disciples. Does that mean the church replaces the Holy Spirit? No, it means the church is a community that the Holy Spirit uses to bring individuals to mature Christlikeness and genuine Kingdom usefulness. The balance between an individual’s faith, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit is vital and delicate. Once lost or distorted, it must be corrected, or a counterfeit Christian existence will grow in place of the real thing.
If you’ve read me in the last six months, you will see the influence of that statement. It resonates with what Chris Wright says in this interview clip from Imbi’s doc - paraphrased ‘before we worry about raising up leaders - we need to worry about making disciples.
So, on the day after this blog’s sixth birthday, what will be it’s future. I really don’t know.
I do know that I will continue to write as long as I have breath and can form a coherent thought. Some of what I write (and occasionally mash up in Photoshop) will offend some and make others laugh. (And then I will probably write something that will reverse the audience effects.) I will continue on the occasionally quixotic quest to convince those in places of positional authority that their primary role is to disciple. The consumer church will remain in my sites.
As I bring this much too long blogiversary historical post to a close, I’d like to thank the folk who have encouraged me to continue in what may be my role as a Christian gadfly (in Triple D’s words). I especially appreciate the encouragement from a recent email. Thank you, Mark B.
And if you've made it this far in the post, I apologize for it's length.